The Bern of Socialism

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world


Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-Socialist) has been running an energetic campaign for the Democrat presidential nomination. So successful has he been that, but for the “super delegates”– the ones bought and paid for by the Clinton machine – Mr. Sanders would be neck-and-neck with former Secretary Hillary Clinton (D) in a primary race that was supposed to be a coronation walk for Ms. Clinton. It is virtuously impossible to determine whether Democrat voters are enamored with Mr. Sanders’ old-line socialist beliefs, or they simply so dislike Ms. Clinton and all of the corruption, ill-temper, and lying she represents that they would accept anything but her.

Be that as it may, I have a fascination with Mr. Sanders. He is one of the few people running for president who actually believes what he preaches. (Surely, he is wholly unlike his primary opponent, Ms. Clinton, who is quick to preach about how you should earn and spend your money while using her position in government to amass a fortune of which she shares precious little – her charitable contributions inure almost exclusively to the Clinton Foundation which can best be described as a “slush fund” for her political activities.) He rails fervently against  “income inequality” as well he should since it has increased under the tenure of his hero, President Barack Obama. And yet here he is with a lifetime of experience surveying the successes and failures of mankind and their governments and he still chooses to champion socialism as the solution.

He does that in spite of the fact that there is not a single instance in modern history where socialism has worked in a country that, in addition to its social and infrastructure responsibilities, accepts primary responsibility for its own national security. This past weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal carried an editorial piece that best summarized it:

“Jubilant Brazilians took to the streets Thursday to celebrate Dilma Rousseff’s suspension from office for the next six months. Whether this means the end of her presidency will depend on the outcome of an impeachment trial, where she is accused of violating Brazil’s budget laws. But her political comeuppance is more evidence that a sad era of progressive Latin American politics is ending.

“Ms. Rousseff’s legal troubles stem from allegations that she used bookkeeping tricks to disguise the size of Brazil’s budget deficit on the eve of her closely fought 2014 re-election. She denies this, but there’s no denying the parlous state of Brazil under her left-wing government. The economy shrank 3.8% last year, the jobless rate is above 10% and inflation is running north of 7%.

* * *

“With notable exceptions like our Mary Anastasia O’Grady, few observers noticed the scale of mismanagement until the commodities bust. ‘Just to be clear, I think Brazil is going pretty well, and has had good leadership,’ Paul Krugman wrote in 2012, while praising Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s regime in neighboring Argentina. Whoops. Argentina defaulted on its debt in 2014, and Mrs. Kirchner’s left-wing Peronists were voted out of office last year in favor of right-of-center Mauricio Marci.

“Elsewhere on the continent, Venezuela is in the midst of a political crisis as Hugo Chavez protégé Nicolas Maduro tries to prevent a recall vote on his presidency. Price controls are creating food shortages, and inflation runs at 180%. Another worker’s paradise, Bolivia, voted in February to stop Evo Morales from running for a fourth term in 2019.”

“The good news here is that Latin American publics are wising up to the political swindle of socialism and statism, and we can only hope that it leads to a rediscovery of a better tradition in Latin American economics, championed by the likes of Peru’s Hernando de Soto and Brazil’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Some of Ms. Rousseff’s former cheerleaders in the U.S. could learn something from that, too.”

One can add to the list, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cuba as nations who have experimented with socialism only to watch their economies collapse. Of course, Cuba is the “poster boy” for the failures of socialism where under fifty years of the brutal authoritarian regime of the Castro brothers, Cuba has remained firmly mired in the 1950’s. In Cuba all are equal. They have the same living quarters, the same furniture, the same fixtures, the same appliances (none) and the same food allotments – equal in poverty.  But not exactly equal. The Castro brothers and their families along with the apparatchik of the Communist Party live in comparative luxury and without the inconvenience of living like those they oppress – like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “some pigs are just more equal than other pigs.”

In Venezuela, the self-aggrandizing Hugo Chavez addressed income inequality by attacking business and the wealthy through a series of ruinous taxes and actual confiscations. In the end he eliminated “income inequality” by making the wealthy (or at least those who could not exit Venezuela on a timely basis) as poor as the destitute. In the end, the poor fared no better under Mr. Chavez and, in fact, probably much worse. But then, Mr. Chavez and his friends accumulated and hoarded millions for themselves.

It is the same in every instance. While the advocates of revolution and socialism weep crocodile tears for the downtrodden, they line their own pockets while destroying opportunity for others: Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Kristina Kirchner (Argentina), Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela), Fidel and Raul Castro (Cuba), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Salvador Sanchez Seren (El Salvador), and the list goes on.

And in virtually every instance one of the first ventures of the socialist regimes is to silence critics. Not surprising is the fact that many of the same people supporting Mr. Sander’s “revolution” are the same people attempting to suppress speech in the name of “safe spaces” (spaces where contrary opinions are snuffed out) on America’s university campuses.

Yet in every generation there are a multitude of intellectuals, labor union activists, and professional agitators that ignore the failures of socialism. It is the same crowd that bemoans the failures of government spending by claiming that we just didn’t spend enough (Mr. Obama and his trillion dollar stimulus failure). In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens (yes, the same moron who opined that the best thing for the Republican Party was to elect Ms. Clinton) wrote regarding a response to his son’s question about socialism:

“I told him it’s an economic system in which the government seizes and runs industries, sets prices for goods, and otherwise dictates what you can and cannot do with your money, and therefore your life. He received my answer with the abstracted interest you’d expect if I had been describing atmospheric conditions on Uranus.

“Here’s what I wish I had said: Socialism is a mental poison that leads to human misery of the sort you see in these wrenching pictures (images of Venezuelan hospitals and operating rooms in filthy conditions with patients lying in pain and wallowing in their own blood and bodily discharges). [Bracketed words supplied]

“The lesson seems all the more necessary when discredited ideologies are finding new champions in high places.

(Had Mr. Stephens exercised similar reflective thought on his comment about the election of Ms. Clinton, I’m sure it would have been much more probative.)

Ignoring the misery of socialism is akin to the cheating husband saying: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes.” Socialism may indeed be a form of “mental poison” – at the very least it is a form of myopia.

A revolution contemplates throwing out the status quo – not trying the same old thing. More importantly, doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result is a form of mental defect – or at least a form of stupid. If you really want a revolution, you might think about breaking the stranglehold of the ruling class – a class that includes both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, as well as thirteen of the sixteen Republican presidential candidates. Think about it. What we are doing now isn’t working very well, although it is better than socialism which isn’t working at all.

And so back to the Beatles:

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait.