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Socialism’s Endless Refrain: This Time, Things Will Be Different

Germany’s socialist left is currently embroiled in a row over the correct stance on Venezuela. The conflict came to the fore at the February conference of Die Linke, the country’s main socialist party, when a group of Nicolás Maduro fans stormed the stage, chanting slogans and waving banners with pro-Venezuela messages.

Nicolás Maduro is the successor to Hugo Chávez, and has served as Venezuelan President since 2013. The legitimacy of his presidency has been in free fall in recent years, and many now call him a dictator. As Maduro’s popularity has waned, his tactics have become increasingly brutal. In 2018, a panel of legal experts convened by the Organization of American States recommended that the regime be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Many members of the Die Linke party establishment, however, still side with Maduro, whom they see as a comrade under siege. Others, especially in the party’s youth organisation, take the opposite view—which is why the February conference was contentious. One young member describes the party’s in-house Chavistas as “die-hard reactionaries, who have an antiquated understanding of socialism.”

This has been widely portrayed in the German media as a struggle between reformists and fundamentalists, with the battle lines running loosely along generational lines. In this version of events, the older crop of socialists tend to have a more rigid, dogmatic understanding of socialism, while the newer generation is more open-minded in its approach.

This coincides with the portrayal, and the self-perception, of “millennial socialist” movements across the Western world. A lot has been written recently about the resurgence of socialism among young voters. Socialist candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France have seen huge surges in popularity. And while the candidates themselves span the age spectrum, they all find their most enthusiastic support among young people.

This socialist revival is, of course, neither a homogenous movement, nor a fully worked-out policy program. But if there is a common thread, it is the belief that emerging forms of socialism could be completely different from anything that has flown under that ideological banner in the past. For these new socialists, socialism doesn’t necessarily mean a society run by large, hierarchical government bureaucracies. Nor does it mean a command-and-control economy, directed by a distant, technocratic elite. It means experimenting with new forms of social ownership and democratic decision-making, devolving power to the grassroots, and empowering ordinary working people.

Since earlier socialist projects didn’t develop in this way, modern socialists tend not to identify with them; and sometimes even reject the idea that these precursors were even “socialist” at all. If one had to summarise the public-facing posture of modern socialism in one sentence, it would be: “This time will be different.”

The problem is that it won’t be. Notwithstanding the often sympathetic media portrayal lavished on modern socialists, there’s little reason to believe that the governments they produce, if elected, will differ in basic structure from those of their ideological forebears.

Even in the above-cited example of Die Linke member attitudes toward Venezuela, I see little evidence that young socialists are taking any sort of radically new approach. They are simply too young to have any kind of strong, active memory of a time when Venezuela represented the great white hope of socialism. Chavez died in 2013, before many of today’s 20-somethings became politically active. They have not made the same emotional investments in personalities, parties, movements and whole nations as their older fellow travellers. As a witty headline writer put it in 2012, “To college freshmen, Kurt Cobain has always been dead.” Similarly, to today’s college freshmen, Venezuela has always been in crisis.

As it happens, I remember the beginnings of Venezuela-mania in the mid-2000s quite well. I was not a socialist, but I spent a lot of time arguing with socialists—because, well, I was a student in Berlin, and there was no one else to argue with. There was just the left, the far left, and the very far left.

On the one hand, there were (typically older) socialists who still felt varying degrees of attachment to the former German Democratic Republic (the GDR, i.e., East Germany) and its “big brother,” the Soviet Union. They did not want to reanimate the GDR, and they condemned the Stasi and the Berlin Wall. But they could not completely let the dream go.

On the other hand, there were (typically younger) socialists, who felt no such attachment. They saw themselves as the vanguard of a different kind of socialism—less rigid, less dogmatic, less ideological. They saw GDR nostalgists as die-hard reactionaries. And when they looked around the world for a place where socialism was evolving in a way that was new, exciting, flexible and democratic, that place turned out to be Venezuela.

This was not entirely an act of political self-delusion. When Chávez outlined his vision for a “Socialism of the 21st Century” at the 2005 World Social Forum, he defined it explicitly in opposition the socialism of the USSR. Soviet socialism, in Chávez’s words, was a “perversion.” This time would be different.

And notwithstanding the chaos and cruelty that has unfolded in Venezuela, Chávez and Maduro really did try to build something new. There were genuine attempts to create alternative models of collective ownership and democratic participation in economic life. In particular, the government heavily promoted the formation of worker co-operatives and various forms of social enterprises. We now know that nothing much would come out of those efforts, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

In the mid-2000s, things were looking up. Oil prices had more than quadrupled in real terms since Chavez first came to power in 1998. And as a result, the Venezuelan economy was booming, flooding the government with petrodollars. Chávez could afford to spend lavishly on social programs and public-sector projects. Western socialists finally had their proof-of-concept. Here was a country whose success seemed to prove that socialism could be economically viable, democratic and (for a time) respectful of human rights. And so it’s not surprising that many on the left built up a strong emotional attachment to Venezuela. There was even a fad for a political ideology known as Chavismo—a mash-up of socialism, populism, Latin American internationalism and recycled Bolivarianism.

Back then, it was the Chavistas who would look down on nostalgic comrades who still retained an attachment to earlier, discredited socialist projects. Now, suddenly, they find themselves in that same unfashionable role.

This has happened many times before, and is part of a predictable cycle. As I show in my new book Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies, socialist projects always go through honeymoon periods, during which they are enthusiastically endorsed by Western intellectuals. But since socialist policies generally lead to economic failure, and sometimes even political repression, those honeymoon periods typically don’t last for more than a decade. Then these foreign example fall out of fashion, and get retroactively reclassified as counterfeit socialism. The USSR, North Vietnam, Cuba and Maoist China all functioned as utopias du jour. In the 1970s, some Western intellectuals even pinned their hopes on more obscure areas of the world, such as Cambodia, Albania, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola and Nicaragua.

One common, backward-looking delusion in all of these cases: When explaining away the failures of the past, it was assumed that the hierarchical, stratified character of failed socialist projects had been a result of some deliberate political choice. Which is to say: It was believed that previous socialist experiments had failed because the leaders of these movements caused them to be centralized and autocratic as a matter of design—as opposed to a democratic socialist system based on mass participation and a radical decentralisation of power.

But the truth is that mass participation and radical democratization always had been idealized by socialists, including by socialist leaders who led successful national movements. But these dreams never survived, because it simply isn’t feasible to run a large society and a complex economy in this kind of participatory way. Democratic socialism works perfectly fine in small, self-selecting and homogenous high-trust communities with relatively simple economies, the prime example being the Israeli Kibbutz. But that model is not scalable (and hasn’t even aged particularly well in Israel itself). There is a reason that, even at the height of the Kibbutz movement, Kibbutzim never grew beyond a certain size. There seems to be an upper limit of around 1,500 people, and even that is rare: Most Kibbutzim have fewer than 500 members.

Regardless of what socialists say they want to build, socialism can only mean a society run by large, hierarchical government bureaucracies. It can only mean a command-and-control economy directed by a distant, technocratic elite. The reason it always turns out that way isn’t because revolutions are “betrayed” by selfish or undisciplined actors, but because no other path is possible. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that every generation needs to learn for itself—which is why each cohort is sneered at by its younger counterparts.

At the Die Linke conference, it was a fight about Nicolás Maduro and the fate of Venezuela. A decade from now, the spectacle will be repeated—with different names and flags. When it comes to socialism, hope springs eternal, even as socialism’s victims inevitably fall into poverty.

 

Dr. Kristian Niemietz is Head of Political Economy at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Follow him on Twitter at @K_Niemietz.

Featured image: A poster depicting “Workers, peasants, soldiers, intellectuals, re-enforcing the ranks of the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia”

182 Comments

  1. Marc Domash says

    Well, there’s socialism and socialism. Worker representation on the boards of German corporations works well, and German GDP per capita is near the top of the world. The Scandinavian countries are also often referred to as socialist, and I believe Bernie Sanders referred to Denmark in the 2016 campaign as an example for the US to follow–Hillary replied “The US is not Denmark.” And Bernie Sanders describes himself as a socialist.

    The problem in my opinion is when prices start to be fixed by some non-economic process. Prices are an efficient way of directing efforts towards production, assuming competition (Elizabeth Warren makes this same point). I’m for well-regulated capitalism (no monopolies, campaign financing through public monies, trust-busting (including generational), subsidizing those who cannot earn a living wage (Earned Income Credit)).

    • PrimaVista says

      “Socialism’s Endless Refrain: This Time, Things Will Be Different”

      Well , there’s socialism and there is socialism….classic. Well, there is National socialism and there’s National Socialism….Having a worker on boards means socialism works sometimes. And if Bernie says something it must be true. Come on buddy.

      Scandinavian counties and Denmark are not socialist countries, no matter how often they’re referred to as such. Denmark has a monarchy for God sake.

        • Ben neviss says

          Young ignorant people: “But, Norway…etc.”

          Compared to the US, Norway has a miniscule population which is very homogenous. Norway is, in fact, a monarchy, with gvt-owned petroleum industry and one of the highest percapita oil profits in the world. Norway has a pitiful military and has not contributed anything of agricultural, technological, medical, or industrial significance to the world in 150 years. How exactly is that “miracle” supposed to be replicated here?

          • Tom Mein says

            Plus their government passed a law stipulating that 3% of GDP must be saved each year, as opposed to socialist governments who borrow 3%+ each year relying on their children and grand-children to fund their excesses.

      • Stacey J. Pokorney says

        Format of government is not the same thing as form if financial system.
        The USA is a representative Republic, and has a capitalist financial system.
        The Nordic Nations are monarchies, perhaps nominally, but that fact alone does not prevent them from having Socialist financial systems, which they do.

        • Roger Barris says

          Stacey, don’t tell Danish PM Rasmussen that the Scandis are socialist. He would disagree. The Scandis are capitalist societies with a high degree of social welfare programs and taxation – although dramatically lower than the levels of social welfare and taxation they had in the 1970s/1980s, which they found DID NOT WORK. These economies are routinely rated some of the freest – from a business perspective – in the world. Do you want to know a country that is much closer to socialist than the Scandis? The French government spends/taxes a higher percentage of GDP (the highest in Europe). It has a much higher level of government ownership of companies. It has much more restrictive business laws in general and particularly relating to employment. It has higher pension payments as a percentage of GDP and less individual savings for retirement. It, like the Scandis, has universal healthcare and college. In every respect, France should be even more the socialist paradise that people imagine the Scandis to be, yet no one ever mentions this. But I do know one group that outperforms the Scandis on virtually every socio-economic indicator: income, education, divorce, crime, etc., etc., etc. Do you want to know it? Is
          Scandinavian-Americans. Culture matters! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8POYeCQo9c

      • It is not just that they have a monarchy. After all, thus concerns an economic, not political system. The Scandinavian countries have capitalist systems, but with strong social welfare safety nets.

        • Marilyn says

          Absolutely. And remember, it wastheDamish pm who said, basically, do not call us socialist—we are capitalists. The Scandinavian countries like their capitalism.

      • doug deeper says

        I would suggest that the reason Germany does very well, and the other less successful Western Euro countries do reasonably well has very little to do with socialism.

        All, until the influx of Muslims, have been nicely HOMOGENEOUS with little hospitality to their non indigenous people. The French have been miserable to their North Africans, the Germans maybe slightly better to their Turks.

        Second they are basically CAPITALISTIC favoring huge companies such as BMW, and pretty stifling to startups. That is why so many Europeans who want to start a company desperately try to get into the US.

        Third, they have generous social safety nets. To the degree they are more generous than the US may have something to do with the fact THEY DO NOT PAY FOR THEIR OWN DEFENSE, the US does. And this has been a hefty bill given the Russians are next door.

        The ONLY long standing genuine socialist success has been the Kibbutzim of Israel. BUT, this only lasted during the startup of Israel when the pressure from the hostility of their Arab neighbors forced a certain collectivity highly unusual in human affairs. The Kibbutzim started with uber socialism where no individual even “owned” their own clothes, and children were reared communally, separate from their parents. These extreme measures were the first to be eliminated. Today the “socialist” kibbutz is largely a relic of the past. As the need to “circle the wagons” and live communally declined with more confidence in Israel’s military; the young people found the Kibbutz stifling and left.

        Genuine socialism provides insufficient incentive for most humans to create and go to great lengths to do something exceedingly difficult when the individual is no longer acknowledged and rewarded for her achievement.

        • Marilyn says

          Best comment yet, doug deeper (love the name heh heh heh). May I borrow with attribution?

          • doug deeper says

            Marilyn,
            Borrow the comment, borrow the name, attribution or no attribution,
            …….. just fight for freedom before it is too late.

    • C Young says

      @Marc Astonishingly ignorant. Germany and Scandinavia are social democratic not socialist.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @C Young

        Astonishing ignorance, or perhaps using somewhat ambiguous terms not in exactly the way you prefer? As for me I keep forgetting that ‘social democratic’ and ‘democratic socialist’ and ‘socialist’ are supposed to mean different things. Perhaps to some pedants this is important, but more charitable people understand that folks do use those terms somewhat interchangeably.

        • ga gamba says

          … charitable people understand that folks do use those terms somewhat interchangeably.

          Perhaps. Perhaps not. I would be much more charitable if a person had to dash off to the library to research it, but it was closed, so s/he is winging it. But, having much of the world’s information at their fingertips, it think they’re behooved to take better stab at it.

          There are two reasons for this not to happen. Laziness, as in the person couldn’t be bothered to check out the nonsense people like Bernie Sanders said, and deceptiveness. Seeing the goal of the incrementalists’ march for that it is, I’m inclined to think it’s the latter when the person doesn’t fess up to an oopsie. “Oh, Bernie was wrong. He should’ve gotten that straight.” That’s forgivable and a charitable response may be offered.

          If there were a person who asked to govern a large part of you’re life, would you want them to be ambiguous or precise? When a person gives you a list of things that aren’t true as examples of what they intend for your life – “I’ll give you socialist Sweden” – how do you understand the person’s motivations? Would you still be charitable? The person has misidentified Sweden’s economic foundation, and that mistake is likely to lead to other mistakes, is it not? Accurate: Sweden is a capitalist country with a generous welfare state supported by high personal income tax and low corporate income tax. Inaccurate: Sweden is socialist.

          Words matter. Without clarity, and our insistence of it, the deceivers have an easier task. That people won’t do so ought to give you pause.

          • @ g g

            What you said is undoubtably true but still rather technical and somewhat off the point of the article.

            Niemietz, himself, raises a different point. He suggests that democratic republicanism rather than democratic socialism or social democracy (I’m not sure this is a widely recognized term) is the better framework for discussion.

            As I recall my marxist socialism, the governing class, their agents, their retainers and their dependents are all parasites. Niemietz seems to argue that these parasites are best dealt with locally and that the working class, which is sovereign, is best served by representatives whose only loyalty is to those who elected them.

            Niemietz seems to be arguing for constitutional democratic republicanism where the fundamental political unit is something like the open town meeting and the franchise to vote for candidates for wider offices at the county, province and national levels is limited to people who are employed outside of government. This is very much like what the Levellers argued for in their several Agreements of the People in the late 1640s.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ga gamba

            That’s a stern cautionary tale. Alas much of our vocabulary has meaning dependent on context and point of view.

            “Sweden is a capitalist country with a generous welfare state supported by high personal income tax and low corporate income tax. Inaccurate: Sweden is socialist.”

            Sweden is what Sweden is. Bernie is not trying to claim Sweden is not like Sweden. He knows as well as you and I that your description just above is accurate. This is quite simple: he is saying that Sweden is more socialist — more to the left if you prefer — than the USA.

            If people choose to use the word that way, then that’s what the word means because words have no absolute meaning only the meaning that people give them. We can talk about absolute socialism, or — as people commonly do — relative socialism. To whit: Sweden is more socialist than the US. Come to that, virtually every Western democracy is more socialist than the US. You try to scare us by saying that one step to the left and the next thing you know, it’s the Killing Fields. Please sir.

            Canada is several paces to your left and we don’t have Gulags yet. Mind, they are coming soon enough for the unPC. Sheesh, a Canadian conservative is to the left of Bernie. Bernie is not claiming that Sweden is communist, he is merely stretching the word ‘socialist’ to include whatever it is that they do in Sweden, which he seems to advocate. If Sweden is capitalist, then Bernie is advocating capitalism, no? Too far to the left for me, BTW, but the hysteria is not warranted. I’m not hugely familiar with Bernie’s history but I understand that he was governor of Vermont, and the streets didn’t run with blood, nor was the entire economy nationalized. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Gringo says

            Ray Andrews:
            I’m not hugely familiar with Bernie’s history but I understand that he was governor of Vermont, and the streets didn’t run with blood, nor was the entire economy nationalized. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

            Bernie was Mayor of Burlington before he became a US Senator. While he was Mayor, Bernie expressed his affinity for Latin American Marxist despots on numerous occasions- as he had been doing since the 1960s. xxx

            But despite its aversion to elections, brutal suppression of dissent, hideous mistreatment of indigenous Nicaraguans, and rejection of basic democratic norms, Sanders thought Managua’s Marxist-Leninist clique had much to teach Burlington: “Vermont could set an example to the rest of the nation similar to the type of example Nicaragua is setting for the rest of Latin America.”

            Bernie also informed us proles about the “almost religious” devotion the Cubans had for Fidel. Of course, such devotion couldn’t be tested by elections.

            Sanders had a hunch that Cubans actually appreciated living in a one-party state. “The people we met had an almost religious affection for [Fidel Castro]. The revolution there is far deep and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values.”

            Bernie Sanders Praising Bread Lines and Food Rationing (In Sandinista Nicaragua)

            Bernie Sanders: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: the rich get the food and the poor starve to death.”

            Food lines in the first go-round of the Sandinistas were a consequence of collapsed agricultural production, which was a consequence of “land reform” and various government controls- including price controls- on farmers.

            Perhaps Bernie’s position was that while Marxist despots wouldn’t cut it in Vermont, they were just fine for the little brown people south of the border. 🙂

          • Gringo says

            Ray Andrews
            I’m not hugely familiar with Bernie’s history
            I suggest you read this Quillette comment, which was a reply to

            Characterising someone like Bernie Sanders as belieiving in ‘socialism’ defined as full state control/ownership of industry is deliberately mischaracterising him and his policies

            .The point is that Bernie Sanders has long been affiliated with groups advocating substantial government ownership- not just Scandinavian social welfare policies applied to a capitalist economy.

            Here is Bernie defending Fidel Castro. a href=”https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2725548-Sanders-Freeman-Writings.html”>Sanders in the Vermont Freeman _”Cuba: The Other Side of the Story.” [1969] [page 5).

          • Stacey J. Pokorney says

            To-may-to, To-mah-to… When a government takes the majority of the citizenry’s money to fund general welfare projects, that’s income redistribution, AKA socialism, no matter what label you slap on that government.
            Financial system is not the same as political system. They affect one another, but do not equal each other.

          • Harbinger says

            @ga gamba

            What did you think of Neimeitz’s analysis that socialism will always fail because direct participatory politics and economics does not scale beyond the clan level? Thought it interesting myself. Coincides with the regressive attitudes of the far left towards growth and development generally.

        • Daniel Schegh says

          But herein lies the problem. If the members of a movement do not have a coherent system they are supporting, and do not support even the same type of economic structure, they aren’t on the same side. At some point they will have to put policy into place and the democratic socialists and the social democrats will be in direct battle. They think they are supporting the same thing, but they are not.

          For example, almost all capitalist societies have universal health coverage. Canada is not very different from the U.S. in terms of economic structure. Scandinavia is not that different from Canada. All are capitalist societies with some taxpayer-owned and supported assets. Universal health coverage is just insurance. In capitalist countries with social democratic programs, they’ll use taxes as the based for paying the insurance bill instead of people paying directly, and there’s a single insurance organization instead of many, which makes things much more efficient (because of the nature of insurance as being a cost passthrough mechanism, not because markets aren’t good at efficiency). Even insurance in general is a collectivist activity of the many payers paying for the few in needs, whether private or public insurance.

          Social democracies are, in essence, individual policies that are based on how insurance works.

          Socialism is very different. It public ownership of the means of production, and ranges from the removal of markets themselves to even the elimination of money.

          If you support social democracy, but elected a democratic socialist thinking they were the same thing, you are in for quite a shock when policies get put into place.

          The details matter dearly. We need to be clear on just what policies each person supports. They are not interchangeable; not even close.

          • Jayden Lewis says

            There will always be the “useful idiots” that just love socialism and will never question exactly what it entails.

          • Robert Kough says

            An argument is being made that Sweden is socialistic, no…its capitalistic with a strong welfare system. I have never been to Sweden, but I understand that its beautiful. All that I know about Sweden is from the movie “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. The girl Lisbeth Salander has been declared ‘incompetent’ by the ‘state’ and her meager wealth is placed under a ‘state’ run guardianship. The rest of the story you probably know. Its the ‘state’ run guardianship that bothers me. Regardless of whether Sweden is socialistic or capitalistic with a strong welfare system is not what we should be concerned with. The threat is that the ‘state’ can and will control your life…and define it how you want…but socialist, democratic socialist, socialist democracy or whatever…is a thing that we should all reject.

          • Ed H says

            “If you support social democracy, but elected a democratic socialist thinking they were the same thing, you are in for quite a shock when policies get put into place.”

            Yes, precisely. Words matter. They allow us to evaluate the actual track records of the options being proposed.

            Social Democracies exist. They have various pros and cons that can be observed and compared to other approaches in real time.

            Democratic Socialist countries do not exist. More accurately, they are sometimes formed and exist for short periods, but they quickly and inevitably devolve into non-democratic socialist countries.

            There is no great mystery why. Socialism by definition requires resources to be allocated according to collective social objectives, not for self interest. It turns out that the only reliable way to ensure this takes place is political force. Socialism and economic freedom are inherently incompatible, ergo socialism and political freedom are incompatible. This is the clear lesson of the 20th century.

            But next time will be different, we promise.

        • ALAN WHITE says

          Which leads to people talking past each other rather than to each other. Perhaps that’s useful in these matters…

        • ALAN WHITE says

          And more devious people encourage ambiguous use of the term for their own reasons…

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ALAN WHITE

            And other devious people make innuendos that dark, hidden agendas are afoot, couched in doubletalk.

      • David of Kirkland says

        That’s what most of the young want, not a central tyranny.

        • tarstarkas says

          To paraphrase Mencken, they’ll get what they voted for, good and hard. Too bad we’ll have to pay the price for their choice.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Gringo

          “Bernie was Mayor of Burlington”

          That was it, thanks. And an unsuccessful run for governor. As to the quotes, I’m very suspicious of selected quotes of anyone carefully assembled and explained by their enemies. I know Bernie’s policy from what he himself has said out of his own mouth, mostly during the ’16 campaign, and he sounded pretty moderate to me. I doubt he’s a Maoist.

          • Gringo says

            Ray Andrews.
            As to the quotes, I’m very suspicious of selected quotes of anyone carefully assembled and explained by their enemies.

            There is some circular reasoning there. Granted, Bernie Sanders and I are political enemies. Bernie Sanders is my political enemy because for a half century he has been a very vocal fanboy of Latin American despots. It is not that, having decided that Bernie Sanders is my political enemy, I searched far and wide for selective evidence against him. Perhaps you have no problem with those who support Latin American despots. I, for one, have problems with someone who supports Latin American despots- and has done so for a half century.

            If you consider his support of Latin American despots to have been a trivial part of Bernie’s political life, I suggest you research his cheering for the Sandinistas when he was in his forties and was Mayor of Burlington. “Bernie Sanders, the Socialist Mayor” will locate an article in The Atlantic. It is difficult to describe Bernie’s support of the Sandinistas as something he did when he was “young and foolish,” as Bernie was then in his forties. Moreover, it is not difficult to find out that from the beginning. the Sandinistas were fervid supporters of Soviet imperialism. Carlos Fonseca, one of the three founders of the FSLN, wrote Un nicaragüense en Moscú, about his visit to Moscow. Fonseca parroted various Soviet propaganda themes, such as “Fascists” were behind the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.Either Bernie had no problem with the Sandinistas being supporters of Soviet imperialism, or he wasn’t aware of it: knave or fool. Take your choice. ( Un nicaragüense en Moscú is readily downloaded, and there is other online evidence about Sandinista support of Soviet imperialism, but too many links will hold up a comment.)

            I know Bernie’s policy from what he himself has said out of his own mouth, mostly during the ’16 campaign, and he sounded pretty moderate to me.

            One reason that Bernie Sanders “sounded pretty moderate” during the 2016 campaign, is that he dodged questions on Venezuela.Bernie Sanders Isn’t Interested In Answering Questions About Socialism In Venezuela.

            LEÓN KRAUZE, UNIVISION: I am sure that you know about this topic: various leftist governments, especially the populists, are in serious trouble in Latin America. The socialist model in Venezuela has the country near collapse. Argentina, also Brazil, how do you explain that failure?

            BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: You are asking me questions…

            LEÓN KRAUZE, UNIVISION: I am sure you’re interested in that.

            BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: I am very interested, but right now I’m running for President of the United States.

            LEÓN KRAUZE, UNIVISION: So you don’t have an opinion about the crisis in Venezuela?

            BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: Of course I have an opinion, but as I said, I’m focused on my campaign.

            In 2011, Bernie’s US Senate website told us proles that Chavista Venezuela was a model for the US, just as he told us in the 1980s that Sandinista Nicaragua was a model for Latin America and Vermont was (could be) a model for the US.Bernie Sanders US Senate website:

            These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger. Who’s the banana republic now?

            The American dream is more likely to be realized in Chavista Venezuela? What utter nonsense. In order to distribute more money, you need more money to distribute. By 2011, it was evident Chavista economic growth lagged well behind the rest of the world, even with the trillion dollars of oil revenue, which meant that claims about “income equality” and “poverty reduction” were chimeras, smoke and mirrors. If Bernie didn’t realize that, he was a fool. If Bernie realized that, but still parroted Chavista talking points, he was a knave. I vote for fool.

          • Gringo says

            @ Ray Andrews
            I know Bernie’s policy from what he himself has said out of his own mouth, mostly during the ’16 campaign, and he sounded pretty moderate to me.
            Both “pretty moderate” Bernie Sanders and Maduro likened the 2016 impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff to a “coup” – an impeachment process that followed Brazilian law. Apparently following the law is, to a lefty, a “coup.”
            Maduro labels Rousseff impeachment “A USA coup.”

            Venezuela’s socialist government on Thursday condemned the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff as a U.S.-inspired mockery of popular will and a menace to Latin America’s now-diminishing leftist bloc.
            Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party has long been a strong ally of Rousseff’s Workers Party, especially during the rule of her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
            “I have no doubt that behind this coup is the label ‘made in USA,’” President Nicolas Maduro said in a speech on state TV.
            “Powerful oligarchic, media and imperial forces have decided to finish with the progressive forces, the popular revolutionary leaderships of the left in the continent,” he said.

            One can find English language translations of Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry calling it a “parliamentary coup” and Spanish language videos of Maduro calling it a coup.
            Bernie also called Dilma’s impeachment a “coup.”Sanders Condemns Efforts to Remove Brazil’s Democratically Elected President.

            “I am deeply concerned by the current effort to remove Brazil’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff. To many Brazilians and observers the controversial impeachment process more closely resembles a coup d’état.

            Both Bernie Sanders and Maduro called her impeachment a coup, though Bernie waffled by saying “to many Brazilians and observers.” As Bernie didn’t express any contrary views, it is safe to conclude that like “many Brazilians and observers” – and like Maduro, Bernie considered Dilma’s impeachment a “coup.”
            If Bernie is “pretty moderate,” then why does he agree with Maduro that Dilma’s impeachment was a “coup?”

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Gringo

            Fair enough. You might be right to oppose Bernie, and he could even be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Your quotes are not without effect, but surely we should be careful what we hear from a person’s enemies as opposed to what they say themselves. We have all seen someone we support butchered thus, have we not?

            “Perhaps you have no problem with those who support Latin American despots.”

            I do, but if I were to hear Bernie himself say that he’s (still?) an active fan of, say, Maduro, I’d take it without reservation, whereas if I hear it from Bernie’s enemies, I will be suspicious.

            “It is difficult to describe Bernie’s support of the Sandinistas”

            I remember being cautiously supportive myself for a while. They seemed like an improvement over the previous butchers. It turned out to be a dashed hope, but hopes are often like that. What does he say now? As many have noted, communism is the illusion that never goes away, and for obvious reasons. I can forgive an idealist for being seduced for a few years — but I also expect them to grow up eventually.

            “Bernie Sanders Isn’t Interested In Answering Questions About Socialism In Venezuela.”

            If I see that happen — evasion — Bernie will loose my respect. Please understand, I’m not an acolyte, Bernie is too far left IMHO, and I could be persuaded that he’s a commie, but for now he seems sincere. And I’d take him head and shoulders above Hillary.

          • Gringo says

            Your quotes are not without effect, but surely we should be careful what we hear from a person’s enemies as opposed to what they say themselves.

            The Daily Beast article quoted Sanders from the 1980s, mostly from The Burlington Free Press .BERNIE SAID THOSE THINGS to the press. The problem is that information is not online.

            Bernie praising (Sandinista) food lines: video. Straight from the horse’s mouth. No way you can deny that.

            Bernie not expressing an opinion on Maduro and Venezuela in 20165- while the video has dubbed Spanish translation, the original English dialogue is printed out. No way you can deny that.

            From The Daily Beast articlde, I took several quotes./When Bernie Sanders Thought Castro and the Sandinistas Could Teach America a Lesson: about Cuban “revolution in values” and Cuban attitudes towards Fidel Castro, and about Vermont setting an example for the US, as Nicaragua is setting an example for Latin America. The Daily Beast took most of this material from the Burlington Free Press in the 1980s, which is apparently not material that has made it online.

            Was The Daily Beast article accurate? Consider this quote from The Daily Beast.

            Reflecting on a Potemkin tour of revolutionary Nicaragua he took in 1985, Sanders marveled that he was, “believe it or not, the highest ranking American official” to attend a parade celebrating the Sandinista seizure of power.

            From Outsider in the White House.

            In 1985, I was invited by the Nicaraguan government to visit Managua for the seventh anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution. I was—believe it or not—the highest-ranking American official present. The competition wasn’t too keen. I think the only other elected American official was a school board member from Berkeley, California.
            The trip to Nicaragua was a profoundly emotional experience. Along with other “foreign dignitaries,” I was introduced to a crowd of hundreds of thousands who gathered for the anniversary celebration. I will never forget that in the front row of the huge crowd were dozens and dozens of amputees in wheelchairs—young soldiers, many of them in their teens, who had lost their legs in a war foisted on them and financed by the U.S. government.

            Which corroborates The Daily Beast.
            The Daily Beast article mentions that Mayor Bernie established sister city program wiht a city in Nicaragua.From Bernie’s book:

            One of the most moving experiences of the trip occurred on our very first day there. Shortly after we arrived in Managua, we boarded a small plane and flew to the town of Puerto Cabezas, on the Atlantic coastline. Before I left Burlington, the city had agreed to develop a sister-city program with Puerto Cabezas. I went there to meet with local officials and work out the details

            Which corroborates The Daily Beast article.

            The Daily Beast article mentions a trip Sanders took to Cuba in 1989.

            Ah, yes, let us not forget the democratic socialist Shangri-La in Havana. In 1989 Sanders traveled to Cuba on a trip organized by the Center for Cuban Studies, a pro-Castro group based in New York, hoping to come away with a “balanced” picture of the communist dictatorship. The late, legendary Vermont journalist Peter Freyne sighed that Sanders “came back singing the praises of Fidel Castro.”

            Outsider in the White House makes cursory mention of the trip.

            Jane and I visited Cuba in 1989. I had hoped to meet with Castro, but that didn’t work out. But I did meet with the mayor of Havana and other officials.

            Which corroborates The Daily Beast article, if not in such detail.

          • Gringo says

            As to the quotes, I’m very suspicious of selected quotes of anyone carefully assembled and explained by their enemies
            Your quotes are not without effect, but surely we should be careful what we hear from a person’s enemies as opposed to what they say themselves. …

            I dealt in Bernie Sanders quotes, which is WHAT HE HIMSELF SAID. How accurate are my sources? Pretty accurate. Read on.

            Daily Beast:

            Sanders had a hunch that Cubans actually appreciated living in a one-party state. “The people we met had an almost religious affection for [Fidel Castro]. The revolution there is far deep and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values.”

            Archive Search at The Burlington Free Press turns up the Bernie quote from March 28,1989. page 6

            The Daily Beast quotes Bernie on food lines- for which I have provided a video. Straight from the horse’s mouth, as they say.

            The Daily Beast quotes The Burlington Free Press:

            The Burlington Free Press mocked Sanders for playing the role of internationalista dupe and lampooned him for expressing, after just a brief, government-guided tour of Nicaragua, “such approval of the Sandinistas on the basis of what was at best a cursory inspection,” an instinct that “says more about his naïveté in the foreign policy field than anything else.”

            Archive Search at The Burlington Free Press turns up the quote about Bernie from July 23,1985.

            From The Daily Beast:

            “I think there is tremendous ignorance in this country as to what is going on in Cuba,” Sanders told The Burlington Free Press before he left. It’s a country with “deficiencies,” he acknowledged, but one that has made “enormous progress” in “improving the lives of poor people and working people.”

            Archive Search at the Burlington Free Press turns up the quote about Bernie from March 14,1989, page 15

            In addition, the Vermont Freeman article on Cuba that Bernie Sanders wrote in 1969, which I linked to, has a similar narrative to what The Daily Beast reported Bernie saying about Cuba in the March 14 and March 28 1989 issues of the BFP- even though they were two decades apart.:
            1)Cuba, Bernie informs is isn’t perfect- it has political prisoners. But the US isn’t perfect either- we have unemployment etc.. (Source March 28 Burlington Free Press, Sanders Praises Imperfect Cuba)(¡Que bolas!)
            2) But you ignorant rubes should know the following: (March 14 ’89)
            3) The great progress the Totalitarian Socialist Fidel Castro has made. (Well, Democratic Socialist Bernie never called Fidel a Totalitarian Socialist, but that’s what Fidel was.)

            From The Daily Beast article:

            And help him answer a question posed by a Burlington Free Press journalist in 1985, who wondered if his useful idiot trip to Nicaragua would come back to haunt him in a future race.

            “The answer is ‘probably.’ But I’ll be damned if I know how.”

            Archive Search at the Burlington Free Press turns up the quote about Bernie from July 28,1985, page 17

            I haven’t found another source for this Bernie quote:” “Vermont could set an example to the rest of the nation similar to the type of example Nicaragua is setting for the rest of Latin America.” But it sounds just like Bernie, and reminds me of Bernie telling us in 2011 that the American dream could be better realized in Chavista Venezuela than in the US. Bernie just loves to shame and scold us rubes here in the US.

            If you believe that Bernie Sanders hasn’t been a supporter of Latin American despots like Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro, I will make no more attempts to dissuade you. If you believe that Bernie Sanders didn’t avoid answering questions about Venezuela during his 2016 campaign, I will make no more attempts to dissuade you. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

            https://burlingtonfreepress.newspapers.com/# Archive Search
            https://www.thedailybeast.com/when-bernie-sanders-thought-castro-and-the-sandinistas-could-teach-america-a-lesson

      • Michael K says

        We know that but leftist Democrats are desperate for examples of success and allege these are examples of Socialism. Bernie used Finland as an example of a successful “Medicare for All” type of medical care. Shortly after, the Finn government had the effrontery to collapse because of the cost.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Marc Domash

      The right like to suppose that we either do things Wall Street’s way, or we do things Mao’s way. As you point out, there is a seamless spectrum from communism to laissez-faire capitalism. Virtually every liberal democracy is somewhere in between the extremes. Faced with the success of countries like Germany and the Scandinavians, the right play definition games — whereas Denmark is almost universally called ‘socialist’ or some variation of that, the right like to say otherwise because they don’t like to admit that some degree of socialism can work very nicely.

      • Thing is Denmark is not socialist. They themselves have come out and said they are not. They are a capitalist society with a huge welfare state and social programs. But that was set up during a time of increasing wealth. But since then with high tax rates the wealth as it always does fled. Now they are faced with cutting all these programs because as is often said; the problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money.

      • Socialists often talk about how well the Nordic countries work, but leave out the fact that, until very recently, they were very small, homogeneous societies with cultures of self-reliance and responsibility. They didn’t abuse social welfare because it was not in their culture to do so. Now that they are less homogeneous they are working far less-well, and economic problems are mounting.

        • David of Kirkland says

          Same for Japan where it’s only a modern thought that government was there to support you personally. And of course that was “white culture” some time ago, doing your best and relying on yourself, your family, your friends and your neighbors.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Farris

          All the hair splitting about definitions is a distraction. One can be ‘more socialist’ than someone else. I think that’s what people mean. No, Denmark isn’t communist, they have capitalism but with all sorts of ‘socialist’ policies as well. I think most of us know how the Nordic model basically works, and it is more in the direction of socialism than what you have in the USA. But saying that Denmark isn’t socialist doesn’t mean that they are comparable to the US either. I’d put them half way between the Yanks and the commies. Our self-described socialist party in Canada, the NDP, is perhaps better called ‘social democratic’ … or is that ‘democratic socialist’? … or just ‘socialist’ for short which is what everyone calls them.

          • Farris says

            @Ray

            I put my faith in the Danes. If the Danes say they are not socialist but rather a free market economy, I take them at their word. If Canadians claim to be socialist or social democrats I do likewise. It’s is not a matter of ambiguity. The real question is why do some feel the need to label the Danes other than what they purport to be.
            From the article:
            “As Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen himself put it, in reaction to this fictionalized vision of his country: “I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”

            It appears the Danes take exception to being referred to as socialist.

          • Stephanie says

            Ray, the problem with acting like the definitions don’t matter is that the ambiguity can obscure vital details. It matters a great deal if socialism means nationalizing the means of production or expanding the welfare state. Bernie’s obfuscation of the term can only be considered deliberate, because he’s old and experienced enough to grasp the nuance. Given that, should we believe him when he says he just wants to make the US more like Denmark? Or should we look at his honeymooning in the Soviet Union and singing the Soviet national anthem with his comrades as a hint that when he says “socialist” he means “socialist?”

          • Jay Salhi says

            I will believe Bernie wants Nordic style democracy (as he claims) only if and when he categorically repudiates his past support for Castro, Ortega et al. As it stands, he cannot even condemn Maduro. Ideologically, Sanders has more in common with Latin American left wing despots that he does with Nordic social democrats. That is where his heart has always been and continues to be.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Farris

            “If the Danes say they are not socialist but rather a free market economy, I take them at their word.”

            Fine. You know, I’m not arguing that the Danes are socialist, I’m arguing that folks are too worried about who uses the word, how. Pre caliphate Denmark seems to have been a rather nice place, so both sides want to claim it as their own and they try to do that by hosting the flag with their label on it. Lefties want to be able to hoist their flag over something that has not been a disaster, so they try to hoist it over Denmark, but the righties hate to admit that a country with very many social programs could be anything but a sh**hole or a Stalinist hell, so they try to tear that flag down and hoist the Free Market flag over it instead.

            It reminds me of those otherwise very nice astronomers trying to scratch each other’s eyes out over whether Pluto is a planet. Pluto is exactly like Pluto and doesn’t give a damn.

            “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”

            Yes, that’s a statement of descriptive fact as opposed to a religious creed. ‘Socialist’ is a religious term, which one church considers holy, the other an abomination unto the Lord. It is lobbed around the way ‘Bigot’ and ‘Xenophobe’ are lobbed around. All I am saying is that, in common practice, folks do use the word ‘socialist’ in a somewhat relative way. Folks like yourself of E or Ga might well call me a socialist, but folks like K might call me a rightie, because I’m left of yourself, but to the right of K.

            I’m a centrist, which means you might say that I’m moderately socialist — folks would know what you meant. A moderate, balanced position is tenable. Call Denmark anything you want; with reservations I admire their system. As my uncle Ivan used to say: “Call me anything but late for lunch.”

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Stephanie

            “Bernie’s obfuscation of the term can only be considered deliberate”

            Folks do that sort of thing don’t they? Freedom! Ah yes, but Freedom is Slavery.

            “Or should we look at his honeymooning in the Soviet Union and singing the Soviet national anthem with his comrades as a hint that when he says “socialist” he means “socialist?”

            We should ask for detailed clarification of exactly what he means when he says ‘socialist’. And we should pay careful attention to what he has done. What a person does is a far stronger signal of their intentions than what they say. But the least useful signal of what a person wants is to throw label-bombs around.

            Take immigration for example: “An Islamophobe! An Islamophobe!” Never mind the nuance in your views, you’ve been labeled a heretic and you must be burned. See? “A Socialist! A Socialist! We’ll not have Red Guards here!” It’s the same sort of hysteria. I don’t care about the label-bombing of Bernie. I care what he articulates. Even more, I’d pay attention to his behavior.

            Oh, and I’d also not forget that a person can learn. So many authors here are reformed lefties, no? Perhaps Bernie, in his youth, was a real commie and has learned better? What did he do as mayor of Burlington? Red Guards? I understand that he was reelected several times. Call Bernie anything you want, the people — remember them? — seemed to like it. As for me, safe here in Canada, Bernie strikes me as an honesty guy. He’s far to my left, but I like him and I don’t care what labels anyone pastes on him.

      • Dan K says

        The American left talks about taking from the rich and giving to workers, which is classic socialism and has killed 100 million plus. Scandinavian countries leave business alone and tax the shit out of workers to fund the welfare state. They are also largely ethically and religiously and societally homogeneous (among many others). Those societies have not been shown to scale up 30 fold and they are crushed when a welfare class is imported from shithole countries. Socialism destroys wealth and kills people.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Gringo

        Ok, so he was a frank commie in the 80’s. I’d like his views today. People do change you know. As I said, if I hear Bernie say out of his own mouth that he retains those views, then he’s ‘gone’ in my opinion. Again, I’m not that big a fan, I just thought he was more honest than Hillary.

        • Gringo says

          Ray Andrews

          @Gringo
          Ok, so he was a frank commie in the 80’s. I’d like his views today. People do change you know. As I said, if I hear Bernie say out of his own mouth that he retains those views, then he’s ‘gone’ in my opinion. Again, I’m not that big a fan, I just thought he was more honest than Hillary.

          More honest than Hillary, but that is a very low bar to jump over. Bernie was secretly paying journalist David Sirota as a speechwriter and advisor for several months while Sirota pumped out tweets attacking Bernie’s opponents. The Atlantic recently exposed this last month, which resulted in Sirota deleting a whole bunch of tweets and Sanders finally openly hiring him- though some say that many or most of the deleted tweets preceded his being hired. Speaking of Venezuela, Sirota is infamous for having written an article for Salon in 2013 that touted “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle.” IOW, Sirota is a damned fool. Anyone who had minimal knowledge of the Venezuelan economy knew that there was no economic miracle there. (As I have written enough on the economy,I am not going to repeat myself.)

          ‘He is not going to be the nominee’: Dems slam Sanders over Maduro stance.The just-announced 2020 contender declines to say whether the socialist Venezuelan dictator should go. Bernie wouldn’t recognize Guaidó as the interim President.

          Sanders did not embrace Maduro in his Tuesday interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos, who quickly touched on Guaidó being declared the interim president of Venezuela by the nation’s National Assembly following Maduro’s questionable election.

          But when he was asked whether he recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of the country, Sanders answered, “No.”

          “There are serious questions about the recent election. There are many people who feel it was a fraudulent election,” Sanders added.

          Bernie was reluctant to call Maduro a dictator.

          In a follow-up question, Ramos asked Sanders if he thought Maduro is a dictator who should step down. Sanders refused to say yes or no.

          “I think clearly he has been very, very abusive,” Sanders replied. “That is a decision of the Venezuelan people, so I think, Jorge, there’s got to be a free and fair election. But what must not happen is that the United States must not use military force and intervene again as it has done in the past in Latin America, as you recall, whether it was Chile or Brazil or the Dominican Republic or Guatemala.”

          How there are going to be free, fair elections without Maduro being gone is apparently something that Bernie Sanders hasn’t considered.

    • Joe says

      “The four most dangerous words in investing are ‘this time it’s different.’”
      –Sir John Templeton

      When you’re young there’s a lot to learn, whether in politics or finance. Like it or not, some beasts are by nature never-changing.

      • Marc Domash says

        To me “socialism” is the ownership of the means of production by the “people.” There are almost no socialist states (Cuba, North Korea, and maybe Venezuela, though the latter still has private companies that have been run into the ground). In the US, things such as air traffic control are owned by the “people”, things such as utilities are highly regulated by the “people”, and things such as tech companies are pretty much left to do what they want (though Zuckerberg is now calling for government regulation).

        My original point which some commentators grasped is that there are degrees of interference in the marketplace by government. This is a necessity–do you want a toxic waste dump going up next door to your residence? The debate should be over what degree of interference is appropriate. A generic term such as “socialism” is pretty much useless in discussing the correct degree of interference.

        One point that was not emphasized enough in the original article is that the nature of so much government control over the economy inevitably leads to oppression. The problem becomes when the command economy doesn’t work the ruling party needs to decide whether to change the command structure or impose its preference for control through force. In this case the experience of the USSR is instructive. Racked by non-production and strikes in the early 20’s, Lenin instituted the New Economic Policy which was essentially capitalism. Things worked fairly well for a while until Stalin obtained control over the Party and was able to establish five year plans and collectivization, leading to the mass repression and famine as the populace resisted.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Socialists operate on the basis that government planning is superior and a first resort. For socialists it is not about people, but about the State.

          • Farris says

            Socialist frequently decry monopolies as evidence of the evils of capitalism. Oddly enough their solution is to give government a monopoly over the means of production.

          • Harbinger says

            @ P from Oz

            Dead right there Peter. Direct participatory politics and economics, is how things work at the level of the clan, And in clan structures, the clan comes before individual members. (I live and work in a community which is still substantially clan based.) As Neimeitz points out in the article, that structure does not scale however. Essentially, the perennial pining for socialism in the West, is a form of nostalgia.

      • Neal Mcelroy says

        In the real world, socialism never works, and it never has, and it never will. The reason is it doesn’t work. You cannot create utopia. It’s not possible. It is humanly impossible. Yet people continue to try it, and the reason that they continue to try it is because it’s the fastest way to cement themselves in power.
        The very people they claim to be looking out for, the very people they claim to be representing are the biggest victims of their supposed compassion. Yet they don’t pull back; they keep adding on to it. You would think after all this money, you would think after all of the grievances that have been addressed, you would think that after all the promises that have been made, you would think there’d be some measure of satisfaction, some measure of happiness, some measure of contentment.
        But there isn’t. It’s worse. So it’s never going to work. It is impossible. It never has worked. The most prosperous nation in the history of humanity is this one, and that happened when it was, for the first time, it was full-fledged capitalist. This is resented by the left for a whole host of reasons we’ve been through over and over again.
        Liberals must be defeated not convinced

    • Peter from Oz says

      The idea of taxpayers paying politicians to campaign is abhorrent.
      By all means ban corporate donations, but do not expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab. That’s just another way to milk us of our hard earned money for the non-productive shysters in politics.

      • The campaigns should not be publicly financed, but, as part of the overall need to reform the election process, it makes sense to give politicians the airtime and billboard space rather than have them buy it at exorbitant market rates. If we want representatives to work for constituents, we should not obligate them to peddle their votes with corporations and big lobby groups that can afford the millions of dollars that it currently costs to get elected in the United States. It is the lesser evil.

    • Well theres falling and theres hitting the ground, and they are clearly different things. If you can just manage to keep falling indefinitely ana never hit the ground, everything should be fine This time.

    • Phoenix44 says

      If you think the workers on German boards ever make decisions, you have never worked with a German company. The decisions are all made by the board above that board. And Scandinavian countries are more free market than most European countries. They have higher tax rates but very, very little state ownership and state interference in the economy.

    • Dougie Undersub says

      Worker representation on boards has appeared to work well, while the German “economic miracle” was still continuing. Or, more accurately, the detrimental aspects of worker representation have been harder to detect (and no-one was much motivated to look for them) while the economy was growing strongly. The current travails in the German car industry will perhaps reveal whether the model can survive in harder times.

  2. Jean Levant says

    Short but very good article. The scale issue is an interesting point that is new for me.
    Nevertheless, I would not doom socialism entirely.
    Il you are pro-free-market (and I don’t know if I am) you usually say something like that :
    – Capitalism (or free market if you prefer) is necessary to have more competition, hence lower prices, etc.
    – but capitalism or free market has a nasty (and human) habit to form cartels in the real world, not in the brave new world of old and neoliberals, in order to keep prices higher and win moaarr
    – Yes but how do you enforce the law of the free market which is competition, hence lower prices, etc.?
    – You have to put some enforcement of the law in the game: its name, you know it, is government, and a government, by definition, is socialism.
    – So you have to have socialism in some extent to have (good) capitalism.

    Tout est dans tout, as the saying goes in France.

    • Farris says

      @Jean

      “…in the long run of the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralized decisions of government; and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.”
      John Cowperthwaite Financial Secretary Hong Kong 1961-1971.

      • Jean Levant says

        Certainly, Farris, but it wasn’t my point.
        In my opinion, you can’t have an optimal (I don’t say an utopian) society, even in the field of economics, without a mix of individualism and collectivism or to put it another way, a mix of capitalism and socialism. You just have to choose where you draw the line. Me, I don’t know.

        • David of Kirkland says

          You draw the line at equal protection under the law. Once any law applies to one group, but not others (say “tax the rich” or “aid for the poor”), you’re probably on the wrong road for government.
          We all understand that families tend to help each other, that those with more power and money help those with less (parents to children), and this could easily be expanded to suggest that a wealthy government ensures no citizen goes hungry, thirsty, homeless or suffering from treatable medical issues. You don’t need central planning for the economy, but you can use the proceeds from that economy to provide for your people just as parents work in the economy to provide for its people.
          Individualism doesn’t create, protect and freely trade on its own. It requires oversight as some individuals will always try to scam the system and others.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ David of Kirkland

            I’m confused, first you say that “aid for the poor” is wrong, then you say:

            ” but you can use the proceeds from that economy to provide for your people just as parents work in the economy to provide for its people”

            … which seems pretty reasonable to me.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Jean Levant

      Not all government action is socialism. SOcialism occurs when the State becomes more important than the individual

  3. Jon says

    AOC knows what’s best for the USA. She has a degree in economics and she’s a strong Latinx woman! Plus she waves her arounds around a lot and is super morally correct.

    • JimBob5 says

      All very good points in AOC’s favor. But you forgot to mention how much more important it is to be morally correct than it is to be factually correct. AOC herself has noted this important distinction as one of her hallmark virtues.

    • Craig Willms says

      @ Jon.
      Hilarious, turn down the sound and watch AOC wave those arms, it’s like a dance. Same for Beto O’Rourke, he’s a serial arm waver. It just means they care, they really care so much more than capitalists.

  4. johno says

    Socialism has one fundamental flaw: it depends upon the people in power being altruistic. That noble idea runs into the pragmatic concept of ‘power corrupts’. While Chavez might have had lofty goals early on, the power tended to corrupt him, and especially Maduro who has actively moved to cancel whatever value elections might have had in that country. Note that much the same sort of tribal dictatorship happened in Zimbabwe, which collapsed more quickly, as it had no oil revenue.

    We’re left with the embarrassing spectacle of an oil rich nation collapsing financially. Even the Arab oil nations with their tribal monarchies never screwed up that badly. Socialism itself may not be directly responsible, but the more socialist the nation, the more prone it is to that sort of creeping dictatorship.

    • Jackson Howard says

      Well that ehat you get when one uses oil money to pay for the nice stuff directly, and cut oil and infrastructure investments when price go down along with unattractive salaries for oil specialists to compensate for the shortfall.

      Then to really go the extra mile with mismanagement, promote on fealty rather than competence at the management level and borrow against future oil production and spend the money on proping up the socialist living standards.

      Subsidise standards of living dependant on oil money and imports rather than using oil money to diversify the national economy. Keep your econ dependant at 90% on oil. All great ideas…

      Resource curse with socialist mismanagement vs Resource curse with kleptocracy (the previous right wing gov). Both terrible options.

    • E. Olson says

      johno – actually the fundamental flaws of socialism are much more comprehensive because it goes against human nature . As you correctly point out, socialism gives absolute power to leadership to control the economy and redistribute resources and wealth, but erroneously assumes this absolute power will never corrupt the leaders. Second, socialism fails because it assumes that rewarding “victims” with “free” stuff paid for by the productive in society will not increase the number of “victims” demanding “free” stuff. Third, socialism assumes the productive and innovative people who create the economic value needed to pay for “free” stuff will continue to work the same way without reward as they do with reward. Once the “revolutionary zeal” wears off and/or the obvious corruption and waste of the leadership becomes apparent, any altruism remaining among the productive and innovative quickly disappears and they consequently hide their wealth or stop working and jump on the “free” stuff gravy train, which means socialism will always require an every larger state apparatus to coerce the productive members of society to continue working without proper reward or resources.

      • Tim says

        @ E. Olson Thanks for pretty much the most succinct explanation of why socialism is always doomed to fail.

      • Furthermoreover says

        @E.Olson
        Really insightful summary of the wilfully unrealistic fantasy-utopia that is real-world socialism.
        I’ve copied it for further pasting, if you permit. Credit will be given.

        • E. Olson says

          Tim and Furthermoreover – thanks for the kind words, and feel free to use it.

    • dirk says

      It is funny that wealth due to fossil fuels afford socialist as well as capitalist nations to spend lavishly, and not on sensible matters or programmes of course.In fact, I wouldn’t know whether I find the (onetime) exuberances of Venezuela any better or worse than those of Brunei or Qatar. Fossil fuels, the curse of healthy national development.

      • Kauf Buch says

        Dirk, the local Apologist For Communism, thinks the unbridled greed of Marxist Venezuelan tyrants is mere “exuberance.” Thanks, Dirk, for showing everyone here how “creative” Communism’s Useful Idiots (look up the term…) are with language….

        • dirk says

          Exuberance is relative here Kauf B., Venezuela was long time much richer than the neighbour Latin Nations. Thanks to that oil of course, not due to the remnants of capitalism or socialism. Chavez as Santa Claus.

    • Muumipeikko says

      Socialism has one fundamental flaw: it assumes altruism is a virtue and gives the state the power to enforce it.

    • David of Kirkland says

      That’s the same flaw of individualism without oversight.
      The USA’s ideals as enshrined in its Constitution seeks to balance the greed and unpredictability of individuals and their potential wealth/power, with serving the common good. Equal protection is fine ideal and constitutional right that has yet to meet its actual implementation, but the idea remains correct. It just needs better citizens to achieve it over time. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    • Jay Salhi says

      @johno

      “While Chavez might have had lofty goals early on, the power tended to corrupt him,”

      You give him too much credit. Chavez is the embodiment of H.L. Mencken’s maxim that “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”

      Years before he ran for office Chavez attempted to seize power in a military coup. After he was elected years later, he almost immediately sought to consolidate power by getting rid of term limits and setting himself up to be ruler for life.

    • Gringo says

      @johno
      While Chavez might have had lofty goals early on, the power tended to corrupt him,</b.

      In his 1998 Presidential campaign, Chávez frequently denounced corruption in Venezuela. His denouncing corruption certainly gained him votes. Chávez was inaugurated in February 1999. By early 2000, which would be early on in his time in office, Chávez indicated that he would tolerate corruption from his cronies.Corruption in Venezuela.

      In early 2000, Chávez’s friend and co-conspirator in the 1992 Venezuelan coup d’état attempts Jesus Urdaneta was appointed head of Venezuela’s intelligence agency, DISIP. Urdaneta began receiving reports that Chávez’s allies, Luis Miquilena, leader of the National Assembly and José Vicente Rangel, Chávez’s foreign minister, were keeping public funds for themselves. Urdaneta brought this to Chávez’s attention, but Chávez ignored his advice saying that he needed the political experience of both men in order to establish power.[40]

      I first read about this in Rory Carrol’s Comandante, which is also the source for Wikipedia.

  5. Barney Doran says

    I believe the correct name for these new-age socialists is anarcho-syndicalists or socialist libertarians. If you think those terms sound whacko, you should do yourself the dis-service of reading about them.

  6. dirk says

    I’m amazed to read here the upper limit of 1500 people for a viable socialist community , this was exactly the number as put forward by Charles Fourrier , a pre-Marx French socialist, for his Phalansteres. Coincidence? Or a number resounding because of this early estimate? See also the recent article of Chris Arthur on Marx’s German Ideology, here on Quillette. Marx was an admirer and critic of Fourier. Why not also more attention on Quillette for those early socialists (to hammer down of course), in stead of always that poor Marx as main culprit and inspiration.

    • David of Kirkland says

      In a free country like the USA (with all its warts, of course, perfection not being part of the human condition), you can move to places and control the local government and live the lifestyles many propose. Not the other way around. That is, you can’t live a capitalist life in a communist nation, but you can move to a town and create a society that is communist democratic. Same for those who claim racism is everywhere; they can buy land and create their own “single racial paradise.” These do exist, and many of course were of a religious persuasion in practice. But they never really catch on because few actually want to be forced to live their so-defined good life. Christians don’t actually prefer poverty to wealth, to accepting harm and offering the other cheek, to be meek and humble rather than proud and bold, to give all in charity. They say they do, but they rarely choose to live it.

      • ms100 says

        @David of Kirkland

        There is nothing to stop progressives from implementing their socialist utopias in any number of blue states to show us how “successful” it can be. A few years ago, VT tried to implement single payer healthcare but balked at the price tag. Same with California. It’s quite a conundrum, wanting to implement socialist policies yet not willing to pay for it because you know that many businesses and individuals will flee the resulting heavy taxation. Yet, shouldn’t many rich progressives flock to the state so they can enjoy(and pay their fair share of) the socialist paradise? The reality is that progressives are hypocrites so the left usually opt to try to force their policies on the federal level so that the misery is spread to everyone and there is no escape. It’s exactly what happened with Obamacare.

        It’s enjoyable watching the spectacle of NY’s budget woes as the wealthy flee to Florida.

    • tarstarkas says

      dirk, in Hutterite society, when a colony starts approaching 300 people (approximately the maximum number a normal person can remember and/or interact with) they hive off and form a new colony.

      • dirk says

        So, 300 for the Hutterites. I wonder how much it was for the Neanderthalers and early Cro Magnons, there must have been a minimum AND a maximum for the roaming bands, depending on the ecology of the geographical area.

  7. asdf says

    Scandinavia is group of high IQ high trust homogenous rule followers. They have implemented what is essentially mixed market capitalism that is the same as every other OECD country. The only difference is that their middle class pays slightly higher taxes (primarily due to a VAT on consumption) and then pays that money back to themselves via higher state benefits. There is some mild subsidization of their working class, but nothing like permanent substantial welfare transfers to a underclass.

    So yeah, I guess we would have slightly higher taxes to pay slightly higher benefits to ourselves to the extent we had similar demographic profiles to Scandanavia. It’s hardly a socialist revolution though. It’s not even much of a wealth transfer. Their Gini coefficient has a lot more to do with the narrow shape of their demographics bell curve.

    Chavez was more classical socialism. Demonize an exploiter group (lighter skinned Hispanics), pay out a bunch of state benefits you can’t afford, run nationalized industries based on selling natural resources to capitalists into the ground, have a crises based on falling commodity prices, that you respond to with full retard socialism.

    • Muumipeikko says

      “Scandinavia is group of high IQ high trust homogenous rule followers.”
      Funny, how the impression of Scandinavia is always from the 90’s. We’ve spent decades importing the worst of the worst, trust is gone, homogeneity is a shameful memory and the rules no longer mean anything.

      • David of Kirkland says

        This is the real conundrum. Once you provide great services to your citizens (treating them with the love and respect you’d hope we’d have for one another in a family, for example), you are forced to restrict immigration to just those few you truly need.
        It’s just an example of reality to idealism; you can want robust social services, but only at the expense of limited liberty. Otherwise we’d all just move to wherever has the benefits we need at a given time. No, social-service-based society requires that “others” be kept out, just as liberty-based society requires self-control.

    • Jay Salhi says

      “The only difference is that their middle class pays slightly higher taxes (primarily due to a VAT on consumption) and then pays that money back to themselves via higher state benefits.”

      Slightly higher taxes? Their codes are much more regressive. In the U.S., nearly half the population pays no federal income tax. The Nordic model is too tax everyone to death including the middle and working class. The American middle class would never tolerate Scandinavian tax policies.

    • ms100 says

      @asdf

      Slightly higher taxes? The Swedish middle class pays out 70% of their income in the various taxes like 23% VAT and $7/gal gas. Fiscal imbeciles like Bernie talk big about Sweden’s generous benefits without being honest about who’s going to pay for it. He and the progressives who talk about the “rich” paying for all the “free stuff” is out and out lying. It’s a bait and switch. All the generous European welfare states heavily tax the middle class because that’s where the real money is. The US middle class will not agree with that level of taxation, particularly while the left is busy encouraging illiterate 3rd world illegals to feast on the existing welfare state.

      https://www.thelocal.se/20121018/43900

      • E. Olson says

        MS100 – all the “free” stuff turns out to be very expensive.

  8. Donnerhauser says

    It’s always the “mistakes” of socialism, mistake after mistake after mistake. We are assured that this time it will be different, this time we will get it right. There is this apparently humanistic, utopian nugget in a pile of shit.

    And when it invariably doesn’t go right and the bodies start to pile up in the streets, you just shrug your shoulders, say it wasn’t real socialism and try again in 20 or so years. Rinse and repeat.

  9. Marty says

    The Venezuelan dream was financed by petrodollar revenues which had quadrupled in Chavez early years. Think about that – for socialism to work you need a capitalist economy.

    Maggie Thatcher was right – ‘The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money’

  10. Alfons Kuchlbacher says

    I’m a little confused about your statement “die Linke, the main socialist party”. So you consider the SPD not as a socialist party? Or the Greens (I know, they are behind in actual seats in the Bundestag, but in polls they are far better then Die Linke, in some they are even higher then the SPD)? And I would have liked also to have some comments on how “left” (in the traditional thinking) the CDU/CSU went under chancelor Merkel. So in some sense, as I see it, it is a far more dangerous development, as the “socialist” ideas and ideologies also conquer even conservative or liberal parties (so to mention the not very liberal FDP, or even the “far-right” AFD has some socialists thoughts about economy). I think of Hayek’s dedication in his Road to Serfdom: “To the socialists of all parties”. So in the end we have the real struggle between individualism and collectivism, and I see no party which prefers the former.

  11. Bring socialism to a country of thieves and murderers and guess what? The new government is run by thieves and murderers.

  12. Pingback: Sozialismus: Utopie des ewigen Scheiterns – ScienceFiles

  13. Jan de Jong says

    An economy runs on incentives, incentives, incentives. It’s not harder than that.

    • David of Kirkland says

      Well, an economy is also controlled by disincentives. Compulsion without control will not turn out well. Equal protection under the law is far more important than having no laws.
      Externalities are a real output, so if not accounted for, they are exploited as cost-free harm.

  14. dirk says

    I wonder about that intel-lectuals on the banner of the illustration. Why that – dash? And why there? Any meaning, distrust, contempt?? Of course, if a socialist, it’s better to belong to the obrers and the camperols, even nowadays!

  15. Pingback: Socialism’s Endless Refrain: This Time, Things Will Be Different | Sassy Wire

  16. Grant says

    Socialists like AOC haven’t any idea how much expertise goes into maintaining and growing a large company let alone a stable society. When she talks about her green deal it is apparent that she believes she has all the answers. Inequality, she believes can be solved by forcing the replacement of fossil fuel industries with renewables.
    Chavez had the same simplistic idea that fossil fuels would create equality. And so besides looting the industry to buy popularity, he also used it to reward his cronies by giving them positions of authority within those companies. Problem was, they had no idea what they were doing.

  17. I don’t see any of the author’s fears playing out here in the US. Our new socialists are just fighting for government supplying more of what people need, health care being one of the biggest. They are using “socialist” to distance themselves from the GOP’s deliberately bad governance sold as “small government”. Perhaps a few dabble in anti-capitalism but they won’t get far in this country. Most are more anti-oligarchy than anti-capitalist. To connect any of them with failed socialist states around the world is just fear-mongering, plain and simple.

    • David of Kirkland says

      The slippery slope is alive and well. Trust me, I’ll just put the tip inside…

    • K. Dershem says

      @Paul, I think you’re exactly right. Corporate lobbyists have a tremendous amount of influence over our political system and would not permit any significant movement toward state control of industry. For example, the AMA and associated trade groups have repeatedly blocked single-payer health insurance systems in the U.S., which helps explain why we’re the only industrialized country without universal coverage. Obama couldn’t even get a public option included in the ACA despite having a majority of Democrats in the House and 60 Dems in the Senate — a handful of conservative Democrats forced its removal. Although many Democrats have moved left on this issue and now support some version of “Medicare for All,” sweeping legislation of this kind has virtually no chance of passing given the united opposition of the AMA, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. Even in the extremely unlikely event that it did pass, it would follow the Canadian model of government-provided insurance instead of the British NHS — so the government would not take over the health care industry. The obstacles to seizing the “means of production” are even higher in other areas. To the contrary, there’s a trend in education and incarceration toward the privatization of public institutions. Although private schools and private prisons still serve a small percent of students and prisoners, respectively, conservative legislators are pushing policies to expand their scope. There’s a legitimate debate to be had about what parts of society should be governed by the free market and what parts should be operated as public goods. Fear mongering about the slippery slope to Venezuela does not contribute to that debate … but false promises about “Medicare for All” that don’t account for obstacles and costs are also part of the problem.

    • Stephanie says

      Paul, all the freshman Democrats generating excitement are not just dabbling in anti-capitalism, they are card-carrying members of the Democratic Socialists of America. The DSA say on their website that they are for the destruction of capitalism and worker control of industry.

      Far from being anti-oligarchy, the Green New Deal would simply create a new class of oligarchs, ones that would never have been successful without government mandating every building be retrofitted and all every produced by “renewables.”

      • K. Dershem says

        Stephanie, I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but only two Democrats in the House are members of the DSA, AOC and Rashida Tlaib. In fact, many of the incoming Dems are moderates who won in districts formerly held by Republicans.

  18. Kauf Buch says

    The whole irony of the “this time will be different” approach is that its “success” (AKA doomed failure for the rest of us) depends on The Left erasing how “the last time” went….

  19. “I spent a lot of time arguing with socialists—because, well, I was a student in Berlin, and there was no one else to argue with. There was just the left, the far left, and the very far left.”

    ROFL.

    I spent some time hanging out at the TU in the mid-80s, and the political spectrum wasn’t much different even back then.

  20. Malek al Kuffar says

    “when Venezuela represented the great white hope of socialism”
    WTF?
    I’m an old geezer and I’ve been tracking Venezuelan affairs for decades. I caught on pretty quickly that Chavez was just an old-fashioned Latin American populist. He actually hired some of Juan Perón’s advisers quite early on. And as far as I know no economic planning body was ever set up in Venezuela. The seizure of private capital followed a logic of weakening the bourgeoisie politically while plundering their wealth. It was never conceived in terms of economic rationality.
    During the petroleum boom the amount of Venezuelan land devoted to farming shrank swiftly, reflecting reckless food imports. That’s a typical market response to increased availability of foreign exchange. It has nothing to do with socialism. Moreover it reflects a complete lack of prudent planning.

    • dirk says

      Fully agree Malek. Even Chavez felt somewhat ashamed to admit, at a certain stage of that dependence on oil money and imports, that the country even had to import their beans, a stronghold (and easy to grow crop ) of any Latin American nation, after the maize for the arepas the second important crop. Yes, it was a shame (but similar things happened in Nigeria). Every peasant without any means (except his own labour and a small piece of land) can grow the beans for his family and a few sacs for sale. But the oil rich nation Venezuela (with a lot of fertile soils and so many rural inhabitants) cannot, or forgets, or refuses??

      • dirk says

        But with those jute sacs, and a hoe, of course!!

    • Gringo says

      He actually hired some of Juan Perón’s advisers quite early on.
      Yup, and as I recall, he had some wild-ass anti-Semitic fantasies.

      And as far as I know no economic planning body was ever set up in Venezuela.
      While there has been economic planning, it has made Soviet economic planning an exemplar of genius. Type in “Jorge Giordani” “Planning Minister” into a search engine. Rather interesting character.
      2014 The End of the Monk (UPDATED)

      Jorge Giordani, who as Planning Minister has done more damage to Venezuela’s economy than any single thing since Zumaque I, has been shunted out of the cabinet altogether for the first time in 15 years.

      Official titles don’t come close to capturing his influence. A Utopian socialist with a soft spot for Kim Il Sung, Giordani is the architect of much of the deranged macro- and microeconomic framework Venezuela has run on since 2003. The intellectual father of the multi-tier exchange system, the hyper-regulatory raj and the Fair Prices Doctrine, Giordani proved a consumately skilled player of the Carmelitas power game.

      Consider Giordani’s praise of North Korea. From The Devil’s Excrement blog: A view into the brain of the “intellectuals” of XXIst. Century Socialism in Venezuela. Jorge Giordani was co-author of a paper on the North Korean economy published in the mid1990s. Here is an excerpt from Giordani’s paper.

      “But all of a sudden the USSR desintegrated and among the diverse causes of having copied the functional science of the West and not put it at the service of the economy and the basic needs of the population.(sic, what does this sentence say?) Eastern Europe abandoned the route to socialism imposed and now its new rulers tried to impose a market economy. The recent industrial and technological advance of Japan-based on the massive copying of advance technology, a competitive and technocratic education and the harsh treatment of the worker, which is the reason why it can not be a model of high quality of life, but has been imitated later by other Asian countries, presenting themselves today as another neoliberal development style. Socialism maintains itself, with great efforts, in China, where it could end with centuries of hunger and misery, in <b.North Korea which, although isolated and solitary, has managed to have a solid economy …

      Miguel Octavio, the blogger at the Devil, finishes with this comment.

      Note that the North Korean famine began in 1995 and lasted until 1997, so much for the “solid” economy of that country. As for Chinese “socialism”. I think I don’t have to explain myself.

      This is what the “minds” of Chavismo that control the country’s economy today were thinking 15-16 years ago. Clearly their view of the world is as out of phase today, as it was at the time.

    • Gringo says

      He actually hired some of Juan Perón’s advisers quite early on.

      Norberto Ceresole was a Peronista, but of the left-wing Montonero variety. I have not seen any indication that he was ever an adviser of Perón. Ceresole was born in 1943.Perón returned to Argentina in 1973 and died in 1974. Moreover, Perón turned against the left-wing Montoneros/ERP etc. However, Ceresole was an adviser of General-President Velasco in Peru, so he did have a talent for attaching himself to power at an early age. Yes, anti-Semitic.

  21. Chad Chen says

    First of all, socialism has transformed both Russia and China into industrial societies. Both of these are monumental achievements that did not cause more human suffering and death than would have occurred anyway if Russia and China had remained backward agrarian societies subject to recurring famines.

    Second, the failures of socialist governments in both Cuba and Venezuela are the result of Latin American indiscipline and a huge capital and brain drain–property owners and professional elites abandoned both countries for the United States, taking most of their money with them.

    What is the alternative to socialism? In Africa and most of Latin Ametica, capitalism has failed to bring prosperity to the masses, so socialism remains the only hope for salvation.

    • ALAN WHITE says

      CChen, So after 100 years of failed socialistic experiment around the world, success has finally been achieved by introducing capitalist practices into China. And prosperity has been introduced into Zimbabwe by introducing socialism…..

      • Womba Son of Witless says

        Any moment now, I predict that Chad Chen will pop out of a giant cake and greet us with “APRIL FOOL!”

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Chad Chen

      “First of all, socialism has transformed both Russia and China into industrial societies.”

      I don’t believe anyone would describe Russia as a socialist country today.

      As for China, it is now on its way to being one of the world’s great oppressors with its predatory lending policies to third-world nations. Transformed, indeed.

      • Chad Chen says

        You are missing the point. Stalin industrialized Russia and made it a great power when it was a socialist country. The Russian economy has stsgnated since the Communist Party was thrown out of office.

        • Gringo says

          You are missing the point. Stalin industrialized Russia
          Actually, industrialization was going on in Russia before the Revolution, and rather well.
          From Utopia in Power, by Mikhail Geller & Aleksandr Nekrich pg 15-16.

          Six months before the war started, the French economist Edmond Théry published a book entitled The Economic Transformation of Russia, in which he presented some rather eloquent figures. In the five-year period 1908- 1912, coal production increased by 79.3 percent over the preceding five years; iron by 24.8 percent; steel and metal products by 45.9 percent.1 From 1900 to 1913 the output of heavy industry increased by 74.1 percent, even allowing for inflation.2 The rail network, which covered 24,400 kilometers in 1890, had grown to 61,000 kilometers by 1915,,,

          Edmond Théry emphasized that Russian agriculture had made as much progress as industry. From 1908 to 1912 wheat production rose by 37.5 percent over the preceding five years; rye by 2.4 percent; barley by 62.2 percent; oats by 20.9 percent; and corn by 44.8 percent. Théry commented: “This increase in agricultural production served not only to meet the new needs of the population. … It also allowed Russia to expand its foreign markets significantly and, thanks to its earnings from grain exports, to end its unfavorable balance of trade.” In good harvest years, such as 1909 and 1910, Russian wheat exports amounted to 40 percent of world wheat exports. Even in bad years, such as 1908 and 1912, they still accounted for 11.5 percent

          Which reminds me of de Toqueville’s remark that revolution occurs when a bad government improves.

        • Womba Son of Witless says

          “Stalin industrialized Russia and made it a great power when it was a socialist country.” Oh. This assertion that fails to explain why Stalin, to supplement his political purges, precipitated starvation on vast tracks of the Soviet Union and a death toll well in excess of 20 million. Are you… 1) from a new generation of the invincibly naïve? 2) the ghost of Walter Duranty? 3) pushing a major April Fools caper on us?

    • K. Dershem says

      @Chad, China was an economic backwater that could barely feed its own people until it abandoned Communist dogma and allowed free market reforms. Its remarkable economic growth in the past several decades is attributable to capitalism, not socialism. India didn’t open its markets to foreign investment until 1991, which helps explain why a larger share of its population still lives in desperate poverty. Please name a single country in Africa which is prosperous due to socialist policies. It’s true that capitalism creates winners and losers — and therefore inequality — but Communism only produces equality because virtually everyone is poor.

      • Chad Chen says

        Reality check. China is a socialist country run by a Communist Party. Its economy has been growing at double digit rates since the Communust takeover in 1949. Except for two interruptions (the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution) which lasted a total of five years, the pace of economic and technological transformation under the Communust Party has been stunning. Russia provided detsiled blueprints for the atomic bomb and more than 1,000 factories in the 1950s.

        Without the command and control nature of the Chinese economy, it would have been impossible for the Chinese government to force technology transfers from Western firms operating in China. So socialism has been essential for Chinese progress.

        • Stephanie says

          Chad, in the three generations before the socialist takeover of Russia, they had gone from an agrarian serfdom to a rapidly growing and modernizing economy. Indeed, France foresaw that Russia would become equally developed with it so soon that Russia would no longer be reliant on French loans, and feared what that would mean for their strategic alliance against Germany. That is why France suggested to Russia that France would join the war if Russia came to the defense of Serbia against Austria-Hungary. Far from Russia being stagnant and undeveloped, its budding strength and the urgency that invoked among the French was a (if not the) principal factor in escalating the Austro-Hungarian-Serbian war into a world war.

          It is very difficult to imagine that Russia wouldn’t have done better than it has if they hadn’t purged their most productive citizens, stifled free speech and inquiry, embraced pseudoscientific ideas like Lysenkoism, and starved millions of people.

          As for China, the degree to which their economy has been successful is the quiet adoption of capitalist elements after Mao’s death, and is nonetheless still dependent on favourable trade deals designed to grow China’s economy and rampant intellectual property theft.

          • Chad Chen says

            When will Americans cast off their primitive ideological blinders? Capitalism has failed in most of the world.

            When Russia and the Ukraine disposed of their Communust leaders, we were told their economies would grow rspidly. Instead both countries have suffered prolonged economic stagnation. Agriculture continues to underperform in the Ukraine, which has some of Europe’s best soils, 25 years after the overthrow of Communism.

        • Ted Talks says

          The Cultural Revolution stated in 1966 and didnt end until Mao’s death in 1976. The GLF was about 3 years. So you need to almost triple your numbers.

          • Gringo says

            Chad Chen
            Agriculture continues to underperform in the Ukraine, which has some of Europe’s best soils, 25 years after the overthrow of Communism.

            FAO stats tell us otherwise.

            Ukraine: Net per capita Production: 2016/1992
            Crops (PIN) 2.25
            Cereals,Total 2.24
            Food (PIN) 1.55
            Agriculture (PIN) 1.55
            Livestock (PIN) 0.68

            The only underperformance I see is your ability to get fools to swallow Commie propaganda.

            Back in the day, from my workplace I knew a couple who lived through the Holodomor in Ukraine. Several decades later, I had a neighbor whose aunts,uncles and cousins did likewise- though not all survived.

            http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QI

        • Brent says

          China is not a Communist or socialist country, it is a totalitarian regime and has been since Mao took over the country by force.

    • dirk says

      Indeed Chan, and many agronomists at the time were stupefied , H.G.Wells wrote about the miraculous transformation by the 5 year plans of Stalin, that immense state of many millions of mainly selfsupporting peasants in their mud houses, their meagre horses , a dozen of chickens and 1 pig in the sty, within no time a modern production sector, run by engineers, vets, and an army of tractors and harvesters and modern science. Amazing! Unbelievable!! And a great example for Tanzania and other African nations!! (Note: this is a picture as seen through the eyes of the era of then, not that of now of course).

      • dirk says

        To compare the agriculture of the communist time with that of after the change/shock is a special case, Gringo. Imagine, what to do with those old sovchozes and kolchoses? I once visited a reformed dairy farm in Slovakia(see also your FAO figure for livestock, Ukrain). The director (!!) now told me that, just after the wall fell, the new government had wanted to divide all those dairycows and cattle among the former workers, but nobody wanted to have them (came to 5 or 10 cows per worker). Imagine, what you need in capital, knowledge, perseverance and passion to start with dairy, all those workers live now in nice apartments in town or city, nobody wants to return to the land and become a farmer again. Once farmer-off, never more a farmer, farmer you become because your father was one, and that, I think, is quite special.

        Does not mean that some there (those oligarchs) start dairies of 10.000 animals (always subsidized) or even chicken industries of 5 or 10 million , of course. But that I don’t consider farming anymore. That’s one step further than that (and comes with a lot of complaints of the people living upto 10 miles around those industries, horrible).

    • dirk says

      Having worked in Africa and Latin America, Chad, I fear you are very right here. Most commenters here are very happy with capitalism, not realising that it only fruits well , like precious, GM seed, if planted somewhere with the right soils and growing conditions (like in US, Europe (West only) Japan and down under. But what else can one expect??
      Globalism does not yet mean universalism, oh no!

      • Gringo says

        Two points.
        1) Interesting point about livestock/milk production change w fall of Communism. As dairy farmers have to wake up before sunrise every day, that life requires a great amount of individual initiative. As you said, easier to have an apartment in town. Both Ukraine and Russia showed milk/livestock decline after 1990.

        2) As I pointed out in the Kundera thread, Eastern European nostalgia for the Soviet bloc era doesn’t reflect the fact that for most Eastern European countries not formerly part of the Soviet Union, per capita income is much higher than during the Soviet era. In addition, the Baltic countries that left the Soviet Union also have much higher per capita incomes compared to the Soviet era.

        For those former Soviet bloc countries with much higher post-Soviet per capita incomes, nostalgia for the Soviet era constitutes, for the most part, Kundera-style amnesia.

        Off the top of my head, Moldova and Ukraine have lower per capita incomes compared to the Soviet era. In the former Yugoslavia, only Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina have substantially higher per capita incomes compared to before the breakup.
        3) Judging by World Bank per capita income figures, most countries have done well in the last 20 years.

    • Defenstrator says

      That’s a moronic statement. Industrialization would have happened regardless of socialism. And having to been to both when they were a lot more socialist than they are now it was very clear that their industry cared nothing about the well being of the people living there. That’s why everyone has to buy drinking water.

      All you have to do is look at how poverty plummeted in China once they embraced capitalism compared to their 3rd world socialist days to see how stupid your statement is, and how obvious an attempt it is to white wash a disfunctional system.

    • Harbinger says

      Chad, people are attracted to socialism’s participatory framework, because that’s how things used to run, and still do, in clan based societies. As the Neimeitz article intimates, what works for an extended family structure, such as a kibbutz, doesn’t scale up. That is especially the case at the level of the nation state,or empire. Humanity is not going to find salvation by regressing to clan scale economics and politics. On the contrary, that will simply revive the endless internecine warfare which has characterised most of human history.

  22. ALAN WHITE says

    Humans more readily fall ill from a bacterial infection if their immune system has not been exposed periodically to small amounts of the infection. In the same way, it may be important to keep a few samples of infectious socialism alive in the world even it requires periodic injections of capitalist aid.. In the long run, there is nothing quite like having a few (barely) surviving examples of actual socialism in the world to bring some young people to their senses. History books and university professors don’t seem to be able to cut it.

  23. the gardner says

    For a nice historical summary of attempts at socialism— all failures, by the way, see “Heaven on Earth” by Muravchik. He traced global socialist societies in the US in the 1830s to the Kibbutz’s of the 1970s. The common theme in all these failures was the belief that human nature could be changed. Man could be made to care more about a collective and work for it unquestioningly vs the normal human instinct to work to benefit oneself and one’s family. But invariably hard workers came to resent the slackers who got the same pay. And invariably some in the community became more equal than others. Pigs vs sheep. One cannot change basic human nature, even this time.

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  25. Gringo says

    In the mid-2000s, things were looking up. Oil prices had more than quadrupled in real terms since Chavez first came to power in 1998. And as a result, the Venezuelan economy was booming, flooding the government with petrodollars.Chávez could afford to spend lavishly on social programs and public-sector projects.

    When Chávez was elected in 1998, Venezuelan oil was selling for $10/BBL. In 2008, the price of oil rose to $145/BBL before crashing to the $40s. Venezuela’s economy was growing through 2008, but declined in 2009. However, even with the petrodollars, Venezuela’s economic growth from 1998-2008 was lower than most countries,

    GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $), increase 1998-2008
    Upper middle income 70.6%
    East Asia & Pacific 63.0%
    Middle income 61.5%
    Low & middle income 58.7%
    South Asia 57.2%
    Sub-Saharan Africa 31.8%
    World 31.4%
    Latin America & Caribbean 19.0%
    Venezuela 16.5%

    In addition, all those touted social programs etc had accomplishments that generally did not match the claims made for them. The Atlantic (2008)Does Hugo Chavez help the poor?Meagan Mcardle mainly quotes from a Foreign Policy article that Francisco Rogriguez wrote.

    There are many aspects of the well-being of the poor not captured by measures of money income, and this is where Chávez’s supporters claim that the government has made the most progress — through its misiones, which have concentrated on the direct provision of health, education, and other basic public services to poor communities. But again, official statistics show no signs of a substantial improvement in the well-being of ordinary Venezuelans, and in many cases there have been worrying deteriorations. The percentage of underweight babies, for example, increased from 8.4 percent to 9.1 percent between 1999 and 2006. During the same period, the percentage of households without access to running water rose from 7.2 percent to 9.4 percent, and the percentage of families living in dwellings with earthen ?oors multiplied almost threefold, from 2.5 percent to 6.8 percent. In Venezuela, one can see the misiones everywhere: in government posters lining the streets of Caracas, in the ubiquitous red shirts issued to program participants and worn by government supporters at Chávez rallies, in the bloated government budget allocations. The only place where one will be hard-pressed to find them is in the human development statistics.

    Remarkably, given Chávez’s rhetoric and reputation, official figures show no significant change in the priority given to social spending during his administration. The average share of the budget devoted to health, education, and housing under Chávez in his first eight years in office was 25.12 percent, essentially identical to the average share (25.08 percent) in the previous eight years. And it is lower today than it was in 1992, the last year in office of the “neoliberal” administration of Carlos Andrés Pérez — the leader whom Chávez, then a lieutenant colonel in the Venezuelan army, tried to overthrow in a coup, purportedly on behalf of Venezuela’s neglected poor majority.

    Chavismo was smoke and mirrors, even at the peak.

    https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.KD

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  27. Ashley says

    Excellent article. I’ll be picking up a kindle copy of your book in the very near future.

  28. Craig Willms says

    There are examples of small ‘socialist/communist’ enclaves operating in California. My best friends sister and husband participate in one. They still smile and claim it’s a roaring success, but privately bitterly complain about the freeloaders and hoarders. Essentially a few work externally and shoulder the real-world financial burdens. The others are then supposed to pickup the local chores for the well being of the compound. You can guess who ends up doing the chores…

    Even in small operations where theoretically it should be utopian perfection it’s a mess.

  29. fred roellig says

    Please no more false capitalism vs. socialism dichotomies on Quillette. There is only a continuum. (For most phenomena, there is only a continuum.) Germany and Belgium lay to the left of the USA on this continuum. They do not have our embarrassingly high medically uninsured, homeless and prison populations, or embarrassingly low life expectancies. All you lefties, well, profit motive motivates, better than anything anyone has invented so far. To all you righties, well, wealth condensation is a thing. An obviously real thing. In a radically laissez-faire capitalist system, it condenses wealth to unhealthy extremes.
    If Quillette can’t handle this “complexity”, where am I supposed to go?

    • Harbinger says

      @ Fred R

      …….the function of Quillette is as much about the exchanges in the comments, as the articles themselves, because resolving a better consensus reality at the requisite level of complexity requires a large majority of individuals to participate.

      Relax Fred, but do continue to say your piece.

  30. Womba Son of Witless says

    “All the Animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” — Orwell

  31. Jim says

    I am happy to see all the Socialists suffer under their own most energetic assertions that their peoples and policies thrive – wherever people have the weakness of mind to adopt whatever Socialism.

    Enjoy your Socialism – knock yourselves out

    Sitting in the Dark in Chavismo-land in Latin America where you eat from Socialist Garbage Piles and eat your dogs – – or – – sitting behind barbed wire under guns of Eastern Europe and Chinese and Soviet Socialists

    Wow – Socialism is just too wonderful to not share

    Dig right in and take a big bite – before it disappears again under the guns of the Next Grand Socialist Pig.

  32. LDRider says

    I want to know what happens in this democratic socialist structure if the people vote to reject socialism.

  33. Tim H says

    Has anyone here ever heard of the calculation debate? Socialism and in fact pretty much any government program cannot work because it cannot tell what resources are considered most valuable by folks that use them.
    Healthcare . . . produced by capitalism? in this country? Ridiculous. Rent seeking behavior, barriers to entry, capture of the regulating bodies, destruction of incentives by regulating true insurance, government mal-investment in technology and technique, tremendous real fraud and opportunities for fraud . . . Any of this sound familiar? It’s the utter destruction of the market that has almost killed healthcare in this country. And now that all this has happened you blame the market and want the entire system to be run by the folks who brought us the VA debacle. How much failure has to occur before the more-government-is-the-solution side finally gets a clue.
    Venezuela is same thing on a national scale. The initial capital is pretty decent and the market helps this gas limp along. But sooner or later reality sets in. Resource misallocation and the complimentary capital misallocation comes home roost. It often takes decades. That’s the tragedy. The people there at the beginning are almost never there at the end. So the newcomers can always blame the oldsters. Please go study some actual economics. Understand the underlying theory.

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  35. Acemkr says

    What’s amazing is the people who have never lived in socialism tell us how great it is and the people who left socialism and have moved to the US are asking what are you thinking! But why would a leftist ask an ex leftists the leftists is always right!

  36. Shawn T says

    I think it boils down to fair versus just. Not enough space or time, so I hope I don’t butcher the notion. Any society putting its trust in the government being fair expects that government to make it so and that usually means knocking one side of the equation down. Trying in vain to be fair, the government will always eventually make everyone equally miserable. Who has more? Who works harder? Who deserves what? The government tries to find a way to balance and eventually must resort to force balance and end with owning all means of production. Many people mention Scandanavian and other versions of socialism as successful. They appear successful because they have not experienced unforeseen disruption to the makeup of their societies…but they eventually will. The current migrant idiocy sweeping Europe is disrupting the more or less stable state of fairness. It will not last. The newcomers will demand fairness and those systems will implode attempting to achieve it. A just government is different. It is a referee without guarantees of outcome. So long as your dealings do not directly harm someone else, you are free to operate as you will. The government should not concern itself with individual notions of fairness. Even social programs aren’t about making things more fair, they are about not allowing people die or suffer. It is not just to try to guarantee a level of success for those people. It is just, however, to guarantee them the opportunity to improve themselves. The argument is then made that some people are prevented from succeeding. They are not prevented so much as having to overcome more obstacles.Tough childhood? Tough neighborhood? Death in the family? Circumstances beyond your control? There is no way to make it fair without force and harming others. There is also no zero sum equation: when Bill Gates makes another billion, it isn’t at someone else’s expense; there is not a cost of one billion to somebody else. He has earned and earns what he rightfully worked for. It isn’t fair, but there is no way to guarantee fair, only a just opportunity to fail or succeed. The successful then give much back in education, the arts and countless charity organizations. In a just society the government shouldn’t force everyone to make things fair, the successful typically do much to help others. Minimum wage, student loan forgiveness, universal healthcare (or insurance), guaranteed housing, guaranteed income, open borders…these are all demands that government make life fair and this cannot be achieved, only attempted until collapse.

    • Craig Willms says

      Interesting that the the societies always held up as shining examples – Sweden, Norway and Denmark are tiny homogeneous (for now) nations with really high taxes. The United States which gets bashed both form the inside and outside is the third largest nation in the world by population. It’s also the least homogeneous. The Scandinavian countries are equal to one small state. It’s not a valid comparison.

      Compare the U.S. to China, India and maybe Indonesia and Brazil. Of the big five which nation are people climbing over walls to get into?

      I’m not saying go easy on the U.S.just keep things in perspective.

  37. “Yeah, oooh, aaah, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running, and screaming.”

  38. ColinB says

    At heart, socialism and fascism are merely 2 sides of the same coin. I’m still trying to work out the difference between Stalin and Hitler.

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  40. Governments in Japan, The USA, UK and EU have progressively redistributed the wealth of their electorate without asking, through creeping big government central control. They have all used Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) to get the public with savings to chase yield in equity rather than bonds to bail out failed and reckless companies and governments. The hope and future of the working- and middle-classes has been destroyed as their earnings and savings were sequestered by big government central control, free movement, globalist, corporatists without their knowledge.

    This globalist corporate communism of controlling the population through debt has led to the rise of populism which threatens the wealth sequestration of the ruling elite. The ruling bodies will not give up their ill-gotten gains, so the outcome will most likely be ugly.

    • Tim says

      @ David Aha, was hoping someone would chime in with this. If socialism is a monopoly on power, what we see today is also starting to look like a global monopoly on power via the issuance of debt which enslaves both governments and people.

      There was a tv programme in the UK that was talking about dirty tricks used by mortgage companies, all technically legal, and I turned round to my wife and said that it’s quite understandable why people would be seduced by socialism. The legally enforced corporate parasitism is out of control, and is really no different from socialism if your savings are taken away from you under the rule of law.

      Capitalism is still the least worst of our systems, but right now there is a danger that it has gone too far and will usher in something else. Incidentally, I was speaking to someone who I respect that had a rather interesting and most likely extremely politically incorrect long term view about this particular subject.

      Regarding the current immigration issue, they were of the opinion that the real reason for the importation of Third World migrants was down to their lack of education combined with the relative lack of importance that they assign to education. Also, the importation of Islamic societies was part of this idea, combined with the fact that those who live under Islam are used to, and more comfortable with, living under one party rule. The combination of a marked increase in a population that lack education and the will to improve, combined with a monotheistic culture, means that we will be more easily controlled in future as this will filter through society.

      I struggled when they came up with this idea. I have always felt that there was a globalist element to running the world as no matter what country votes in a different government, the same policies seem to be enacted with the same effects, and every country appears to be in the same situation both financially and socially. Their central thesis was based on the idea that they had gone to visit Notre Dame and were struck by the fact that it was planned and built over the course of a few hundred years. So there is clearly an element of forward planning that is possible. Then ally this idea with the uninterrupted concentration of wealth and power that has occurred with no calamitous asset appropriation, and little political upheaval in the UK and US over the last few hundred years. Centralised power and and wealth creation over hundreds of years with an eye to keeping it that way. I’m probably doing a bad job of explaining it but that thesis did have a sense of logic. The fundamental question would be whether this is possible, but hard power can be wielded softly. We only have to look at the corporate capture of democratic government to see that something is going on….

      • The only way a country can grow it’s GDP is having it’s people do stuff more efficiently and be more productive or get more people in. Blair and Brown knew this and very cleverly operated their open door immigration policy. From 30th April 2004, hundreds of thousands of the brightest kids in Eastern Europe made their way to Britain and their industry and ingenuity has been amazing for the UK. Merkel wanted to do the same thing for Germany with Middle East refugees, but the cultural differences take time to adjust. Controlled migration is a very good thing and Britain is the most racially tolerant and social accepting society on the planet.

        The whole Brexit populist thing has little to do with immigration or the economy; it is about big government central and wanting to control your own destiny.

        The Conservative party are no longer free market, low tax, small government capitalists, but have become big government central control, free movement, globalist, Blairite corporate communists, with the TIGger/ Chuka/Soubs cheerleaders as the problem not the solution.

        True capitalists need to divorce the high tax big government globalist corporatist Blairites form a new Thatcherite conservative party in the image of the Selsdon Group.

        • tim says

          :@David With respect, your idea that “hundreds of thousands of the brightest kids in Eastern Europe made their way to Britain and their industry and ingenuity has been amazing for the UK” is rather one sided. There have been many studies to show that at best nothing has improved, whilst the UK struggles with very real infrastructure issues (school places, not enough houses, higher welfare payments+masses of new govt employees required to cover all the social welfare elements) due to a massive unplanned influx combined with higher birth rates. Add in Bastiat’s costs which are unseen and you’re looking at a fairly desperate situation and not one that I see reflected in your comment!

  41. Yelo says

    One central principle to me, that I think is true: Power corrupts all people and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    This principle doesn’t seem to concern socialists much, but if you look at history, you can see the pattern repeating itself over and over in socialist states. This inability or unwillingness to study history is replaced by a “tabula rasa” (blank slate) mindset, that leads to a belief that humans are moldable to the overarching goal of society. This might be possible with absolute power among the leaders, but will also undoubtedly infringe on individuals rights. And there’s the central dilemma for all socialists nations.

    Btw, I oppose too much power within a capitalist societies as well, the big tech companies have way too much power currently IMO.

  42. Jean-Pierre Rupp says

    If I may correct you, Venezuelans were not doing great in the mid 2000s. I know because I was there. My sources of income started drying up beginning in the early 2000s, infrastructure such as water services and roads were failing more regularly, with water rationing more prevalent even in Caracas. Private business was in decline. It is possible that even though day-to-day life in Venezuela was worsening, some numeric indicators may have improved for awhile.

    Perhaps the oil exporting business was going well, which mostly means politicians were getting lots of money, as the oil industry in Venezuela is an obfuscated government-owned enterprise whose impact on the population boils down to extremely cheap gasoline being available to those fortunate enough to own a personal vehicle that can take advantage of this.

    Venezuela started its decline shortly after Chávez got in office, and continued steadily from then on. I left in 2008 a country that was much worse than it had been a decade prior to then. A few years after indicators started showing to the world a reality that was already familiar to us locally.

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  44. Etiamsi omnes says

    Back when their country was called the USSR, the Russians had this joke:

    This guy dies after a life of dissipation and hard partying. He is summoned before St. Peter, who greets him with these words:

    My dear fellow, I’m sure it won’t come as too much of a surprise to you that, after a life like yours, you’re going straight to hell. But, because we are, after all, in the business of mercy, even in this dire extremity you still have a choice.
    Really? How so?
    Well, here it is: you get to choose between Russian hell and American hell.
    Ok, so what, for instance, is Russian hell like?
    Well, in Russian hell there is this big cauldron, with red-hot coals underneath, that’s filled with boiling oil: we plunge you into this and whenever you try to get out, little devils push you back in with big long pointed spikes.
    I see.. Well, and how about American hell?
    Oh, American hell is like this: you have this big cauldron with red-hot coals underneath, that’s filled with boiling oil. We plunge you into this and whenever you try to get out, little devils push you back in with big long pointed spikes.
    Gee, they sound pretty much alike… Is there one of the two you would recommend over the other?
    (St. Peter, winking) Oh, Russian hell definitely!
    Why so?
    Well, in Russian hell one day they’re out of coal, the next day there’s no more oil, the other day it’s spikes they’re running out of. This and that…

  45. Enjoyable article and comments. I am missing, however, an acknowledgement of context: that the system of worldwide trade, developed by England, France, the Netherlands, Spain, inherited and expanded by the United States, is the default base. Any upstart newcomer that wishes to displace the old regime gets a predictable pushback from the old regime and those who are currently profiting from it. You know, the CFL is a better game than the NFL, but the NFL has the market pretty well sewn up and has no incentive to adopt the three-down game. I don’t know that any socialism could result in the worker’s paradise, but if their products are sanctioned, trade curtailed, how can they ever be anything but failures?

  46. LargeMarge says

    The author of today’s article makes an excellent point:
    *** resource extraction == petroleum == allowed Venezuelans to temporarily prosper.
    The resource diminished and the market for the resource died; the socialist economy had no ‘fall-back’ position. Collapse is inevitable.

    What resources does the European continent offer? Few forests are left to plunder. Coal? Iron ore? Is collapse inevitable?

    What resources does north America offer? Farming requires enormous applications of petroleum-based chemicals… in addition to enormous amounts of fuel to transport agriculture products to consumers.

    With global transportation reliant on petroleum, but that resource dwindling as we speak, is global collapse inevitable?

    Is Normalcy Bias a delusion? Everything always was that way so everything will always be that way?

  47. Brent says

    The definition of socialism is “An equal sharing of misery. Always has been always will be and before you pull up any of the Scandinavian countries as examples dig a little deeper and do your homework.

  48. gmcurrie says

    Socialism – nice theory – wrong species.

  49. Visi Guest says

    100% of governance is collective action
    The vast majority of governance is reaction to bad behavior

    Is profit:
    1)Whatever the market will bear?
    2)Commensurate with the value added?

    Answer Key:
    1=Capitalist
    2=Socialist

    #1 Oversight is on the honor system, operates assuming enlightened self interest , every transaction has it’s own rules which may or may not be documented

    #2 Oversight is provided by an outside entity, probably government, the amount of rules & level of documentation proportional to the amount of abuse

    Organizations need:
    Due Process
    Transparency
    Effective Oversight

    Find the missing component, fix the system…

  50. Daniel E Hofford says

    Here is the core, eloquently stated: “[One] cannot help but wonder (and fear) how many more such economic disasters it will take before it becomes clear that socialism of all shapes, sizes, and
    degrees, is unrealizable, unbearable, and unforgivable.” Carmen Elena Dorobăț

  51. Marilyn says

    FYI, the pharmaceutical industry in Sweden is privately owned. And it’s huge. That’s called capitalism (and they love their capitalism!). A Swedish friend said what someone else suggested: kucking in 50% of their paycheck for social welfare wasfine…when they were all Swedes, because they knew that at some point, the takers would have also been contributors. But once immigration caught hold, the Swedes started getting more protective of their dollars, thinking it wasn’t fair for all those immigrants—who looked nothing like the Swedes and who hadn’t contributed anything themselves to their fellow man’s well being—tostart reaping the benefits of the hard work of the Swedes.

    The Swedish people are NOT happy.

  52. Isaias says

    As a former communist voter for decades, I am all too familiarized with this. It is the famous quote, ‘If in your 20s you are not a communist, you’ve got no heart. If in your 40s you’re still a communist, you’ve got no brains.’
    Millenials may feel attracted by communism out of genuine good intentions (I don’t doubt that in many, many cases), but also, and more importantly, out of sheer ignorance. Yet, their ignorance is not (entirely) their fault, in the sense that, after all, our educational system is fully packed with left-oriented teachers, who, needless to say, will contribute to legitimizing communism, downsizing its horrors and repeating the mantra mentioned in the text, ‘This time will be different.’ And I’m not speaking on hearsay: that was my direct experience in my highschool and college years, and it continues to be this way now that I am a teacher myself and I look at my colleagues.
    But if I say it is not entirely their fault, it is because there is a significant difference today when compared to when I was in my teens or early 20s, which is the internet. Back then you only had the traditional media or the public television, which limited the amount or the depth of what you could know. But not today, when we’ve got immediate and instantaneous access to virtually anything we want, any piece of news, or any kind of analysis tilted towards this or that direction.
    Apart from this, present day society has no religion, or at least no religion in the traditional sense, which is not bad in principle. As a non-believer, I have no interest whatsoever in what we in Spain used to call nationalCatholicism, and by and large it is an excellent thing that religion be left to one’s private sphere.
    The problem is that, whether we like or not, religion has left a void, and, as we know, nature doesn’t like voids. Which means that void will inevitably be filled with something else, in this case communism. That communism is a kind of secular religion is not new, of course, and it has been clearly explained by many historians why. The difference now is that these millenials have their minds brainwashed with apocalyptic hysteria 24/7, be it because of climate change, of environmental disasters, of the so-called rape culture, the pay-gap, or because lions do not eat tofu instead of zebras… The fantastic thing is that the solution for all these tragedies is the same, namely communism. That communist China is by far the biggest polluter today or that many of the worst environmental disasters in the last 50 years took place in communist countries doesn’t count. Or that sex violence is far worse in non-Western countries, or that Venezuela’s rate of violent crimes can only be found in war-striken Syria, a traditional USSR friend, by the way.
    So, it is not exactly ignorance but rather voluntary submission paired with hypocrisy. Because, of course, all those German sympathisers of chavismo will NEVER move to Venezuela to enjoy the Caribbean weather, exactly the same as those who, back in the 1970s, did not even consider moving to Cuba or Vietnam. Or in case they ever travelled there, they would do it officially invited by the regime, staying in the best hotels and enjoying all the comforts the local population could not even dream of. That is to say, millenials are communist by proxy, which is perfectly logical, after all: you can exhibit all your tons of syrup of good intentions, while still suffering all kinds of comforts and advantages in the oppressive capitalist West.
    The best summary or diagnose is the fact that all those millenials. talking about oppression, injustice, and so on, live comfortable bourgeois lifes, going to college, enjoying their solidary holidays in poor developing nations that until very recent times suffered communist regimes, and whose main concern is having access to wi-fi, or whether their internet connection is a 4g or 5g one. It would be great if they asked their co-millenials in Venezuela about those issues.

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