Millions of people were killed in the 20th century for a utopian socialist dream
By Dawn Hoagland
Why are we even talking about socialism? Why do so many Americans support Bernie Sanders, who is a self-avowed socialist? Who forgot to spread the word that socialism is a dangerous idea that promises utopia but actually delivers death? Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Castro killed millions of their own people to establish their utopian socialist dreams. What a bloody fiasco!
Socialism insists that life would be better for everyone if everybody made roughly the same amount of money. Removing the incentive for individuals to make and keep as much money as they can has been proven over and over to result in an unwillingness to work hard. (Ask any waiter if they prefer pooling tips or keeping their own.)
The central tenet of socialism that people will work as much as they can and only take what they need goes against human nature. People have different levels of conscientiousness and energy, as well as very different penchants, desires and abilities. They are innovative and productive when they are free.
Marx loved to talk about “liberty, equality and fraternity,” but in actuality, he didn’t think much of an individual’s desire to be free at all. He was concerned with equality of outcomes, not equal opportunities and free choice. He wanted to erase class divisions, but he didn’t care about individual aspirations.
East Germans chanced being shot to escape to the West
The contrast between what happened to East and West Germany after WWII provides a cautionary tale. In Western Germany, capitalism rebuilt the devastated country into a great political and economic power in Europe. Its people enjoyed lives with all the pleasures that wealth, modern technologies and quality free time could provide.
By contrast, East Germany’s socialist policies created a state that was unable to meet the needs of its people. The people were much poorer; did not own property; and had to deal with scarce and expensive food. Material goods were available mostly to Communist Party elites; spies were everywhere, and people were summarily arrested and jailed. People were unhappier and died younger in East Germany.
As it turned out, the “greedy capitalism” of West Germany did not create a state where a few people became the rich elite, while the vast majority were left as deprived masses. Capitalism gave all people an opportunity to succeed. Our young people do not understand that the so-called “social injustices” they love to rail about have only become apparent because capitalism has been so effective at eliminating gross poverty and death.
Capitalism has eliminated gross poverty and death in the US
College students would not be discussing “race and gender equality” if they did not have food on the table and gas in their cars. Innovation and productivity in a market-driven economy have created a level of prosperity in the United States that was unfathomable a century ago. Capitalism has lifted all boats.
Socialism, by contrast, promised East Germans the best that life had to offer, through rights guaranteed by the state. These included “human rights” to employment and living wages, time for rest and leisure, health care and elder care, guaranteed housing, education and cultural programs. The East German government had to build a wall. They had to shoot their own citizens for trying to flee to the West.
Bernie Sanders and the Socialists are promising the same pie in the sky now. Bernie says that free healthcare is a human right. He wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That sounds good until you follow it to its logical conclusion, which would produce less employment for everyone and higher prices for everything.
Coercive force is required to redistribute wealth
Taking money from some people to give to other people is theft, even if it is voted on and enforced by law in the form of taxes. Socialism relies on coercion through force to redistribute wealth. Bernie thinks the one percent who he has targeted to pay for everything will not leave the U.S. or hide their money. He’s dreaming.
Bernie talks about other countries having “free” healthcare for all as if the welfare states of Europe actually meet the needs of the people. He should ask anyone in England if they love the NHS. Brits have to wait and wait to see a general doctor for eight minutes who does not have the expertise needed to take “care” of them. Then they wait a month to see a specialist. Is it worth the high taxes and low wages they endure? Hardly.
First American colonies were socialist disasters — until they allowed ownership of property
America experimented briefly with socialism in two of its earliest settlements, Jamestown and the Plymouth Colony. They both experienced starvation while insisting on community ownership of all property. They learned quickly that private ownership of land and houses is a necessary incentive for hard work.
Both of these colonies started out with the idea that the land would be owned communally, everyone would work their fair share, and everyone would benefit from the work equally. The Governor of Plymouth, William Bradford, reported, “The community was afflicted by an unwillingness to work, by confusion and discontent, by a loss of mutual respect, and by a prevailing sense of slavery and injustice.”
It was not the pressure of the investors back in London who were expecting a 50% cut of all profits of this settlement that was the problem. It was the resentment created in both Plymouth and Jamestown when people who did not work very hard received the same benefits as those who woke early and worked late.
A lack of incentive to work set in and starvation in Jamestown ensued. This was corrected when people were allowed to own their own houses and land and make improvements that would benefit their individual families. You could say that even before the Declaration of Independence, our nation-building began with the creation of private property within 10 years of the first settlers’ landing.
Individual freedom is the key to prosperity
In 1616, the Virginia Company of London made 50-acre land grants to its investors in lieu of a dividend that it was unable to pay from profits. Those grants became the New World’s first land patents owned by common citizens, instead of by the monarchy, aristocracy or the Church. By 1623, the Company had converted all landholdings to private ownership.
Individual freedom to own property where you can work and play and worship as you wish is the key to prosperity and happiness. If the government owns all the property and controls where and how you work as well as play and worship, prosperity disappears and despair sets in. The United States is the most prosperous and free country on earth. It is not perfect, but it has the right idea, capitalism creates opportunity for all.
According to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which commissioned an opinion poll in 2018, the report found that 52% of Americans younger than 35 are dissatisfied with the current economic system. They think that socialism may be a good option. About 45% of young people say they would vote for a socialist candidate for president. That means we have done a terrible job educating our youth about the superiority of capitalism.
Social injustice is greatest when government exerts the most control
Socialism is appealing to high-minded people interested in social justice but does the system actually achieve those results? Social injustice is the greatest in countries where the government exerts the most control. Social injustice in China, North Korea, and Cuba is obvious. The leaders of these countries live well, while most people have a low standard of living. When the state claims all of the resources and owns all of the businesses, corruption abounds. Flourishing Venezuela, rich with oil, is now a failed state because socialism doesn’t work.
Why is the United States headed towards socialism? The historical evidence of East and West Germany has provided a stunning example of capitalism vs. socialism. East Germans were willing to climb, swim or run to freedom even though they knew they might be shot trying to escape to the West.
It is obvious that capitalism is the superior system, not perfect, but the best we have come up with so far. We can’t allow socialist pied pipers like Bernie Sanders and the other Democratic hopefuls to play their happy tunes and lie about a utopian world where everyone magically gets everything for free. Spread the word, history has emphatically already proven over and over again that socialism doesn’t work. Case closed.
Dawn Hoagland is a writer and a teacher who lives in upstate New York.