Tag Archives: Socialism

“Real Socialism” Has Indeed Been Tried — And It’s Been a Disaster, by Ryan McMaken

Every time something called socialism collapses, the true believers say that it wasn’t “real socialism” that collapsed, because “real socialism” has never purportedly been tried. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:

May 5th marks the 200th Anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, and in spite of inspiring a wide variety of political movements that have caused countless human rights disasters, Marx continues to be an object of admiration among many intellectuals and artists. One such example can be seen in Raoul Peck’s new film The Young Karl Marx which portrays Marx is a principled radical with a laudable thirst for justice.

Fortunately for Marx the man and his reputation, he never personally gained control of the machinery of any state. Thus, the dirty work of actually implementing the necessary “dictatorship of the proletariat” was left up to others. And those who attempted to bring Marxism into the light of practical reality, quickly found that applied Marxism brings impoverishment and the destruction of human freedom. 

Nevertheless, after a century marked by brutal socialist regimes based on various interpretations of Marx’s ideas, Marx’s rehabilitation often rests on the idea that “real socialism” has “never been tried.” That is, a truly “pure” socialist experience — as Marx presumably wanted — has always been tainted by the presence of bourgeois ideas or lingering capitalistic habits present in the state apparatus.

A typical example of this sort of thinking can be found in Noam Chomsky’s insistence that the obviously socialist regime in Venezuela is really “quite remote from socialism.” And it’s also notable in philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s 2017 article ” The problem with Venezuela’s revolution is that it didn’t go far enough” at The Guardian. 

In Zizek’s view, it seems, socialism can work if the habits and customs of the status quo are destroyed utterly and replaced by entirely new ways of thinking. Or, as Zizek’s describes it, old proverbs (i.e., modes of thought) must be totally replaced by new proverbs. For example:

Radical revolutionaries like Robespierre fail because they just enact a break with the past without succeeding in their effort to enforce a new set of customs (recall the utmost failure of Robespierre’s idea to replace religion with the new cult of a Supreme Being). The leaders like Lenin and Mao succeeded (for some time, at least) because they invented new proverbs, which means that they imposed new customs that regulated daily lives.

Thus, the problem in Venezuela is not that countless private business have been seized, property rights been destroyed, and countless citizens deprived of basic freedoms. No, the problem is that the Venezuelan regime was too conservative and failed to implement a total break with the past.

To continue reading: “Real Socialism” Has Indeed Been Tried — And It’s Been a Disaster


5 Ways Capitalist Chile is Much Better Than Socialist Venezuela, by Marian L. Tupy

One country moved towards market-based capitalism; one country went socialistic. One country prospered; one country impoverished itself. From Marian L. Tupy:

The story of Chile’s success starts in the mid-1970s, when Chile’s military government abandoned socialism and started to implement economic reforms. In 2013, Chile was the world’s 10th freest economy. Venezuela, in the meantime, declined from being the world’s 10th freest economy in 1975 to being the world’s least free economy in 2013 (Human Progress does not have data for the notoriously unfree North Korea).1. As economic freedom increased, so did income per capita (adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity), which rose from being 31 percent of that in Venezuela to being 138 percent of that in Venezuela. Between 1975 and 2015, the Chilean economy grew by 287 percent. Venezuela’s shrunk by 12 percent.

2. As its economy expanded, so did Chile’s ability to provide good health care for its people. In 1975, Chile’s infant mortality rate was 33 percent higher than Venezuela’s. In 2015, almost twice as many infants died in Venezuela as those who died in Chile.3. With declining infant mortality and improving standard of living came a steady increase in life expectancy. In 1975, Venezuelans lived longer than Chileans. In 2014, a typical Chilean lived over 7 years longer than the average citizen of the Bolivarian Republic.4. Moreover, more Chileans of both sexes survive to old age than they do in Venezuela. As they enter their retirement, the people of Chile enjoy a private social security system that was put into place by Cato’s distinguished senior fellow Jose Pinera. The system generates an average return of 10 percent per year (rather than the paltry 2 percent generated by the state-run social security system in the United States).5. Last, but not least, as the people of Chile grew richer, they started demanding more say in the running of their country. Starting in the late 1980s, the military gradually and peacefully handed power over to democratically-elected representatives. In Venezuela, the opposite has happened. As failure of socialism became more apparent, the government had to resort to ever more repressive measures in order to keep itself in power—just as Friedrich Hayek predicted.

This article first appeared in Reason.

Socialism, from The Burning Platform


“Liberal Socialism” — Another False Utopia, by Richard M. Ebeling

Good ideas are often ephemeral; bad ones have life everlasting. From Richard M. Ebeling at mises.org:

Very often bad and failed ideas do not die, they simply reappear during periods of supposed social and political crisis in slightly different intellectual garb, and offer “solutions” that would merely help to bring about some of the very types of crises for which they once again claim to have the answers. Socialism in its various “progressive” mutations represents one of the leading ones in our time.

The latest manifestation of this appeared on August 24, 2017 in the New Republic online in an article by John B. Judis on, “The Socialism America Needs Now.” He is heartened by the wide appeal, especially among younger voters, that Bernie Sanders received during the 2016 presidential contest. He thinks that this may herald a rebirth and a renewed possibility for a socialist alternative to the current American political and economic system.

Having traveled over the decades from the 1970s to the present from being a radical, revolutionary socialist to a more “moderate” one today, Mr. Judis admits that the Marxian-style socialism of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries is now long passé. The embarrassing experience of “socialism-in-practice” in the form Lenin and Stalin created in the Soviet Union or by Chairman Mao in China will not fly anymore.

From Soviet Central Planning to “Liberal Socialism”

Central planning seemed not to work too well, and the “communist” variation on the socialist theme also had a tendency to be “authoritarian” with some drawbacks for human life and liberty. (He tactfully avoids mentioning that Marxist-inspired regimes in the twentieth century murdered well over a 100 million people — with some estimates suggesting the number might have been closer to 150 million or more in the name of building the “bright, beautiful socialist future.” See my article, “The Human Cost of Socialism in Power”.)

He turns his mind and ideal to the “democratic socialist” parties and regimes in Western Europe in the post-World War II era, or as Mr. Judis prefers to call it, following John Maynard Keynes, “liberal socialism.” What makes this form of socialism “liberal”? It is belief that there can be a “socialism with a human face.” In other words, a form of “economic” socialism that leaves in place democratic politics with a respect for a broad range of personal and civil liberties.

To continue reading: “Liberal Socialism” — Another False Utopia

Venezuela: Dictatorship, Collapse, And Consequence, by Brandon Smith

Socialists blame everything but socialism when socialist states collapse. From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:

If you want to outline the numerous failures of ideological and economic socialism, just name any socialist nation and you are sure to uncover an endless supply of examples. In fact, many countries where socialism is not total but making considerable inroads often suffer from severe decline — the U.S. being one of them. Whatever socialism touches it destroys, because forced interdependency does not work. It is a broken concept with no large scale successes (this includes China, which suffers from considerable poverty and a totalitarian government despite it being the most successful garbage economy out of a host of other garbage economies). Yet, proponents of socialism keep trying again and again claiming that “this time is different.”

So ample have been socialism’s failures in the past several years that socialists have resorted to a classic blame game in order to maintain the delusion. You see, when you bring up nations at the very end of the socialist cycle on the verge of extinction — nations like Venezuela, all you are going to hear is the argument that it was “the evil western capitalists that sabotaged the experiment.”

This is a fascinating journey into cognitive dissonance. Because in order to believe this nonsense, you have to first ignore the cold hard reality that socialist policies and politics have permeated every aspect of most western nations to the point that they can no longer be called free market societies. The fact is, IF sabotage of Venezuela can be proven as the cause of its economic ills rather than the inherent pitfalls of socialism, it would merely be a group of socialist nations sabotaging another socialist nation. “Capitalism” plays no part in this mess whatsoever.

In fact, it has been international banks like Goldman Sachs that continue to fund failed socialist projects like Venezuela through bond investment.  If anything, the banks have been artificially keeping the government afloat when it should be allowed to fail so that it can be replaced.

Venezuela is perhaps the easiest of modern examples of socialist collapse, and maybe it is lazy to pull the Venezuela card when discussing these issues, but consider for a moment that the country is important exactly because it is a cautionary tale. Venezuela as a disaster state is at the end of the path ALL other socialist nations are traveling down. Venezuela is the future, and the future is bleak.

To continue reading: Venezuela: Dictatorship, Collapse, And Consequence


Take Ownership of Your Bolshevism, Bernie! by William L. Anderson

Somehow you can chop down all the tall trees, which socialistic egalitarianism demands, without actually hurting the trees. From William L. Anderson at lewrockwell.com:

Once upon a time, the Great and Learned People of our society believed that we could have our own form of communism without all of the starvation, mass executions, and imprisonment that marked the establishment of communism abroad. When Leonard Silk, economics editor of the New York Times,wrote The Economists in 1978, he named his chapter on John Kenneth Galbraith, “Socialism Without Tears.” Yes, “American Exceptionalism” also extended to the imposition of socialism that would bypass the death and chaos that marked the communist “experiments” in the USSR, China, and Southeast Asia.

Galbraith believed that the Soviet economy would be superior to the distasteful market economy that plagued the USA, and so did Paul Samuelson, whose famed text showed how in due time, the Soviet economy would grow faster than that of the United States, and someday be more productive. All that was needed was the political will for Americans to reach for the Horn of Plenty, something that evil capitalists did not want to see happen.

Enter Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate who could argue forthrightly that Hillary Clinton and the party leadership stole the election from him. Bernie promoted socialism, although socialism of the “right” kind, something practiced in Denmark and Scandinavia. (That those countries have lower taxes and fewer regulations on business enterprises is not something Sanders would admit aloud, as such information would have been anathema to him and his followers.)

That Bernie wanted a “nice” socialism, a “socialism without tears” is supposedly his political salvation. There is no need for the murder and violence that accompanied the Russian and Chinese communist revolutions, although even there one had to remember that many prominent Americans, including Galbraith, were effusive in their praise of the results of those revolutions. Galbraith even had been to China, was wined and dined, and wrote “A China Passage” as a tribute to the utopia that Mao and his underlings had created, and it is clear that Galbraith saw China as a shining example of what an “egalitarian” economy could be, plain shops and all.

To continue reading: Take Ownership of Your Bolshevism, Bernie!

Why Do Half-Measures Work for Markets, But Not for Socialism? by Ryan McMaken

The proponents of socialism proclaim that you need the whole loaf or socialism will fail. Proponents of capitalism don’t have to make such claims. Usually just moving in that direction leads to improvement in economic well-being. With a hat tip to SLL reader ikdr, from Ryan McMaken at mises.org:

Socialists have attempted many times to put their ideology into action. Socialism has been applied in the Soviet Union, Cuba, China (before Deng), North Korea, and by many other less-famous regimes.

In each case, the result has been economic impoverishment and political authoritarianism.

But the die-hard socialists refuse to give up. “Don’t judge communism based on these results, ” we’re told. “Socialism has simply never really been tried.”

Socialism Doesn’t Work Unless It’s Pure Socialism

Indeed, in a recent back-and-forth between John Stossel and Noam Chomsky, Chomsky denied that the Venezuelan regime is socialist at all:

I never described Chavez’s state capitalist government as ‘socialist’ or even hinted at such an absurdity. It was quite remote from socialism. Private capitalism remained … Capitalists were free to undermine the economy in all sorts of ways, like massive export of capital.

The thinking goes that socialism cannot work unless it progresses all the way to “full socialism.” No partial effort will suffice, we are told, and socialism keeps failing because the some elements of “private capitalism” remained. 

So long as any aspect of a state is not full-on socialism, the thinking goes, then the regime is not really socialist. Moreover, the failure of the regime’s socialist policies — such as expropriation of private companies and expansion of government-owned industries — are to be blamed on capitalism, not socialism. 

RELATED: “Why the Left Refuses to Talk About Venezuela” by Ryan McMaken

Naturally, were socialism able to achieve it’s final state — and all elements of capitalism expunged — we’d know it by its ushering in of a society marked by unparalleled prosperity and total equality.

Nevermind that for all intents and purposes, Lenin did achieve nearly complete and total nationalization of the economy during the Russian Civil War in 1922. The people began to starve soon after, and Lenin retreated to the partial socialism under his so-called “New Economic Policy.”

To continue reading: Why Do Half-Measures Work for Markets, But Not for Socialism?