92,000 104,000 116,000 121,000 130,000 142,000 160,000 people and counting. I must have hit a nerve here…. Welcome to all of you, even the trolls (of whom there are many, and yes, dear trolls, I am ignoring you in the comments section).]
My older Little Bookworm can vote in the upcoming election, so she’s paying a bit of attention to things. She told me that, on her SnapChat and Facebook pages, all of her friends are mesmerized by Bernie and most of them are getting information from a website called “I Like Bernie, But….” I checked out the website, didn’t like it, and created my own website called “I Don’t Like Bernie, Because….” The following is my first post at the new website:
The website I Like Bernie, But… takes it upon itself to answer concerned readers who ask “Isn’t Bernie a socialist?” It assures these people that Bernie isn’t a socialist socialist. Instead, he’s a democratic socialist, which the website promises is something entirely different:
The above conclusions are just wrong, and they’re so very wrong that they need to be corrected and explained in a lot of paragraphs. Here goes:
To begin with, you need to understand what it really means to be a socialist. Only then can you understand that putting the word “democratic” in front of “socialist” doesn’t change anything.
So what is a “socialist” system? Think of the realm of available politics as a line moving from left to right. On the far left side are totalitarian regimes, which means government has all the control and the people have none. At the far right side is anarchy, which means there is no government at all, although the resulting chaos usually means that people have no control either. (Ironically, anarchy usually ends when a strong man takes over and creates a totalitarian regime.)
All political systems fall somewhere along that line. The further to the Left they are, the more likely it is that power is centralized, and the further to the Right they are, the more likely it is that there is minimal centralized power, leaving more power with individuals.
Socialism, by definition, is a system that vests power in the government. The government owns all of the means of production, as well as all of the things produced. All people work under government control and all goods and services are handed out pursuant to government mandate.
Theoretically, in a socialist country, the people and the government are one and the same. The reality, though, is that you can’t have millions, tens of millions, or hundreds of millions of people in management.
What actually happens, therefore, is that all power resides in a tightly-controlled government group that makes all decisions about everything. It decides what the country as a whole will build, produce, sell, etc. As part of this, the government has to to control every aspect of citizens’ lives, in order to make sure that its social and economic goals are met.
Over the last 100 years, socialism has taken on many guises, from hard to soft. In today’s world, North Korea, which vests all power in one member of one ruling family, is socialism’s most extreme face. We know that hundreds of thousands of people who have displeased the regime live in concentration camps where those who survive work as slaves.
A small percentage of those North Korean citizens who are connected to the ruling party live good lives, with food, shelter, and other creature comforts. The military is heavily supported, because socialist dictatorships are paranoid. But for everyone else — well, famine is a common occurrence in North Korea because, as you’ll see repeatedly in socialist countries, government types are horrible economic managers.
The government also fears its citizens (because it treats them so badly), so they are spied on constantly and punished firmly. When you concentrate all power in one entity — that is, all police and military power — you’re going to have an entity that can do a great deal of harm, both at home and abroad.
The former Soviet Union wasn’t much better back in the day than North Korea is now. In its heyday, the Soviet politburo controlled every aspect of people’s lives. During the 1930s, when Stalin headed the nation, he decided that the Kulaks in Ukraine, who were small farmers with privately owned farms, had to be destroyed to make way for large collective farms run under government control.
When the Kulaks refused to cooperate with Stalin’s grand plan, he used his vast government power to steal their grain and starved them to death. Millions died.
During the 1950s through the 1980s, China had the same repressive government as North Korea and the Soviet Union. During the 1960s, when Chairman Mao announced his Great Leap Forward, which was intended to take China from a medieval economy to a modern one in around five years, tens of millions of people died because of starvation, torture, slave labor, and execution. Low estimates say that 40-50 million died. High estimates say that as many as 75-100 million died.
The Nazis, whom everyone today accuses of being on the “right,” were also socialists — that is, people of the Left. Their full name was the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party.” Where Nazi Germany differed from a hardcore communist country like the Soviet Union, China, or North Korea, was that the government didn’t take over all the businesses. Instead, it allowed businesses to stay in private hands — as long as the government made all economic decisions.
The government in Nazi Germany was still running things and the people had no choice but to go along with the program. Those who didn’t were imprisoned or killed. Add in the toxic ingredient of nationalism, and you have a government engine primed to think it’s entitled to and can achieve world domination.
Modern Europe has been the softest side of socialism. It lets people have their own businesses, but keeps services such as health care, railways, and heavy industry (coal mining, steel production), under its control. It also buries its citizens under regulations. Every single aspect of life in a modern European socialist country is regulated.
For a long time, Europeans thought they’d found the perfect solution in this “loving” socialism. Their citizens could run their own businesses and make money, so they had some economic growth. In addition, in exchange for extremely high taxes, the citizens got “free” medical care (which they’d prepaid with their taxes), low-cost train and bus fares, and good elder care. It all looked so beautiful in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
What the Europeans conveniently forgot was that, after WWII, it was American money that rebuilt their infrastructure. This meant that Europeans didn’t have to repay capital investments.
Europeans also liked to ignore that, during the entirety of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, America paid Europe’s defense costs. That free up money for all the free medical care and cheap train fare that Europeans liked to boast about as a sign of their superiority. None would admit that they didn’t have “free” medical care — they had American-funded medical care.
Maggie Thatcher, who was the conservative Prime Minister in England during the 1980s, famously said “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.” In Europe, American money started vanishing when the Cold War ended.
In addition to losing American money, beginning in the 1990s, Europe had a few other problems maintaining its “friendly” socialism:
(1) Its population began to age — people in socialist countries tend not to have lots of children — so more people were taking medical care and elder care than were working and paying into the system.
(2) The 2008 recession affected the entire world’s money supply, decreasing drastically the wealth in Europe.
(3) Europe invited in millions of immigrants who were not on board with the social compact that controlled European socialism.
In the years after WWII, Europeans collectively understood that, if everyone worked when young, then everyone would be cared for when sick or old (at least as long as the Americans took care of the defense bill). The problem was/is that the new immigrants, primarily from Africa and the Middle East, didn’t sign onto this compact. They came, got welfare, and stayed on welfare, letting the Europeans work for them.
European socialism is in big trouble now that money is tight, the population is old, and the immigrants are continuing to pour in.
By the way, the semi-socialist programs we have, such as Medicare or Social Security, are also running on empty. The younger generation is just barely paying enough in taxes to keep those programs funding old people. However, when the generation that’s paying for Medicare and Social Security now ages up to those programs, the best estimate is that there won’t be anything Left for them. As Thatcher knew, government always is a remarkably poor money manager.
The minimum wage isn’t anything to boast about either. Even the New York Times, before it slipped its moorings, understood that the minimum wage is a way to keep unskilled labor out of the job market entirely. Rather than paying people a living wage, it means that more people are paid no wage at all, putting further strain on social welfare systems that are barely in funds now.
That’s what socialism is. It puts power in the hands of poor managers who too often abuse that power. It’s a lousy system and has failed everywhere it’s been tried, whether we’re talking about the Soviet Union, China (which is now trying a weird controlled “market” economy), Cuba, North Korea, Europe, and every failed socialist experiment in Africa.
And what about that “Democratic” part? Here’s the truth — that word is meaningless.
“Democratic” means that citizens get to vote for their leadership, but it doesn’t say anything about the political system itself. China styles itself the “People’s Democratic Republic of China,” but no one looks at it and thinks “Wow, that’s a free country because it’s got the word ‘Democratic’ in its name.”
North Korea, the most repressive country in the world, has as its official name “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” Again, as in China, people in North Korea don’t have a right to vote, meaning that it’s a voluntary activity; instead, they are required to vote, or else, and they’d better vote for the people their government has already handpicked as the winners.
During the Soviet Union’s heyday, that nation always liked to boast that it was more “democratic” than America because it had a higher voter turnout on election day. Somehow it never mentioned that a person who failed to vote could end up in prison or that, when voters showed up, they had about the same number of candidate choices as they had food choices as the grocery store . . . which is to say, none.
Here’s one other thing you ought to know: Bernie’s never been shy about being called a socialist. It’s only now that he’s succeeding in the Democrat primaries that his supporters are trying to whitewash that “socialist” label.
And what about the other side of that line . . . the Right side. On the right side, as long as you don’t stray too far into anarchy, you have small government and individual liberty. People get to decide what they want to do with their lives. They get to try to invent, build, serve, sell, buy, work, play, and anything else they please as long as they don’t harm others. They get to buy what they like when they want to. Because they are allowed to own their own homes and cars and businesses, they have a stake in the success of each of those endeavors, and they work hard to achieve that success.
A free marketplace isn’t controlled by a government that calls all the shots. It’s controlled by every person, with their organically combined skills, knowledge, desires, energy, and ambition coming together to create the most prosperous economic engine in the world. And if you think that’s a bad thing, think again. Thanks to market-driven First World capitalist energy, people live longer, healthier lives than ever before. Even poor people in America are rich and successful compared to poor people anywhere else in the world.
Here’s a good summation of America’s virtues, for rich and poor alike, back from the 1960s, when the hippies thought they knew it all:
Oh! One other thing: Totalitarian societies have no social mobility. Whether the society is a monarchy, aristocracy, military junta, or a socialist “paradise,” you’re either in the ruling party/class or you’re not. Those with power and wealth hold on to it tightly and scatter just enough food, money, and medical care to the masses to prevent a bloody uprising.
In a market economy, though, not only does a rising tide lift all boats, wealth constantly moves around. Yesterday’s immigrant may be today’s innovator. And that rich grandfather might have seen his son waste all the money and his grandchildren become quite poor.
If you figure out how to use the internet well, you may get rich. On the other hand, if you decide to spend your time smoking pot and playing computer games, you’ll probably be poor (and burn through whatever money Mom and Dad left you in their wills).
People who make smart choices can rise up; those who don’t . . . well, life can be hard. But I’d rather live in a world that offers the possibility of success as opposed to a world that keeps everyone firmly down in the mud.
I don’t like Bernie because he is a socialist and that’s a bad thing in all places, at all times.
[If you’re interested in the next installment in the series, I’ve written about the claim that only the rich will get taxed under Bernie, while everyone else ends up flush with cash; .the reason Bernie is actually correct when he occasionally supports the Second Amendment; and the many problems with Bernie’s promise to socialize American medicine.]