• Tag Archives Socialism
  • The Democratic Socialist Platform Echoes the Madness of the Khmer Rouge

    In 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took over, they quickly emptied the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. This was to be year Zero; a rebirth of Cambodia as an engineered egalitarian, classless rural society with “the corruption and parasitism of city life” eliminated. Several million had to leave at once, including hospital patients. Those who refused were summarily executed. Those who left were forced to work in fields, where many died while being fed starvation rations.

    Genocide against their own citizens resulted in up to 2.5 million dead out of a population of 8 million. Over 1.3 million of the dead were executed.

    Driven mad by class politics, Khmer Rouge soldiers dehumanized their victims. Khmer Rouge soldiers “fired aimlessly at innocent civilians as long as someone offended them in any way.” They reserved special brutality for those in Cambodia’s middle class, “the doctors, bankers, teachers and merchants, the people who read books and even the ones who just wore glasses.”

    Dehumanizing those you murder is characteristic of totalitarian regimes. Hitler killed Jews. Stalin killed kulaks. Mao killed landlords. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge took the “most violent and ignorant people, and…taught them to lead, manage, control, and destroy.” As deranged cadres murdered, some chanted the couplet taught by their leaders, “To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss.”

    You want to believe that such madness could never visit America. Yet, a cancer of identity politics, with its concurrent demands for social justice, continues to grow. A mindset of dehumanizing those who are not in your tribe is taking root in more people. After all, the “other” is just someone who is in the way of a more “just” society.

    Writing in his book Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy, Jonah Goldberg observes, “Identity politics in all its forms is just a subset of this worldview. It says ‘My tribe deserves more than your tribe.’”

    If my tribe deserves more than your tribe then, in Goldberg’s words, “objective standards of merit or notions of free speech are invalid, even racist, if they perpetuate the amorphously defined evil of ‘white privilege.’”

    Goldberg explains succinctly why those demanding social justice aim to dismantle the rule of law:

    Spend a few minutes actually studying what activists mean by “social justice” and you will discover that it is often a reactionary effort. It claims the rule of law is a rigged system designed to protect the interests of the patriarchy or white privilege or the “one percent.” Social justice holds that abstract rules or timeless principles are inadequate if they do not lead to “redistributive” or “economic” justice.

    While great attention has been rightfully placed on the potentially destructive force of the Green New Deal, other alarming parts of the democratic socialist platform have slipped under the radar. Consider this part of their platform:

    Although a long-term goal of socialism is to eliminate all but the most enjoyable kinds of labor, we recognize that unappealing jobs will long remain. These tasks would be spread among as many people as possible rather than distributed on the basis of class, race, ethnicity, or gender, as they are under capitalism. And this undesirable work should be among the best, not the least, rewarded work within the economy.

    You might wonder who will do the “spreading” and “distributing” of jobs. The democratic socialists write, “For now, the burden should be placed on the employer to make work desirable by raising wages, offering benefits and improving the work environment.” Impatience with “progress” will quickly morph into demands that the government rectify perceived injustices.

    You might also wonder who will decide what is undesirable? The democratic socialists offer no answers. Answers will be provided later, based on the tribal politics en vogue.

    If you think Americans will categorically reject such vague foolishness, think again. Rather than associating socialism with government ownership of production, today more Americans think socialism means “equality.”

    If too many “ethnic and racial undesirables” are represented in high-paying jobs in the medical community, will doctors be forced to trade jobs and salaries with medical aides? Will software engineers trade jobs and salaries with office custodians? How likely is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to trade jobs with a coal miner in Wheeling, West Virginia?

    To achieve the goal of distributing “undesirable” jobs would require no less than complete totalitarian control of the economy. Democratic socialists will enforce the rule of tribal power in place of the rule of law.

    In Volume 2 of Law, Legislation and Liberty: the Mirage of Social Justice, Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek challenges us to consider “whether it is possible to preserve a market order while imposing upon it some pattern of remuneration” based on “social justice” criteria and imposed by “an authority possessing the power to enforce it.” Hayek’s answer is “no.”

    Why, then, is the concept of social justice so popular? Hayek provides an answer:

    The results of the spontaneous ordering of the market [are] interpreted as if some thinking being deliberately directed them, or as if the particular benefits or harm different persons derived from them were determined by deliberate acts of will.

    In short, someone did it; so someone needs to fix it.

    Using Hayek’s lens, we can see that a belief in injustice could begin in childhood and extend into adulthood. Who has received everything they felt they deserved from their parents, from school, from work, or from life?

    We tell ourselves stories about our second-grade teacher who forgot about us, a parent who didn’t understand us during our teenage years, or a boss who didn’t recognize our talent. Looking through the lens of the “story of me,” we feel like victims. This is why stories of victims and victimizers dominate the media. Looking for who is at fault can become a full-time occupation.

    No wonder there are so many angry and bitter individuals; they are still trying to get others and life to conform to their expectations. Taking responsibility for our experience of life begins with understanding that life will never conform to our imagined ideas about how things should be.

    In his lifetime, Hayek earned a fraction of what Stephen King has earned, and no one is at fault. Hayek writes,

    Incomes earned in the market by different persons will normally not correspond to the relative values of their services to any one person … the performance of a Beethoven sonata … or a play by Shakespeare have no “value to society” but a value only to those who know and appreciate them.

    In other words, there is no objective value.

    Should a tax be placed on Stephen King’s novels to ensure that unpopular writers are better compensated? We can only reach what we see as “justice” by mistreating some people. Hayek writes:

    To assure the same material position to people who differ greatly in their strength, intelligence, skill, knowledge, and perseverance as well as in their physical and social environment, government would clearly have to treat them very differently.

    Hayek points us to look in a different direction where “only the conduct of the players but not the result can be just.” Of course, democratic socialists argue the opposite—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said a society that “allows billionaires to exist” along with extreme poverty is “immoral.” Ocasio-Cortez didn’t say billionaires are immoral, but by conflating billionaires and poverty, Ocasio-Cortez is implying cause and effect.

    The murderous Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, in a 1979 interview said, “Our policy was to provide an affluent life for the people. There were mistakes made in carrying it out.” In one of history’s great understatements, Pol Pot allowed, “Several thousand people may have died.” Good intentions don’t matter, totalitarian social justice policies are antithetical to fostering human well-being.

    Take a moment and reflect on the breathtaking progress that has occurred in the world due to capitalism. Alexander Hammond observes, “in 1820, 94 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day adjusted for purchasing power). In 1990 this figure was 34.8 percent, and in 2015, just 9.6 percent.” Perhaps those living in 2219 will wonder how we, in 2019, could live on such meager earnings.

    Democratic socialists are tirelessly working to subvert progress. Their policies will destroy the economy and shrink the economic pie. Tribal conflicts, steadily diminishing in the West under capitalism, will rise again to threaten the peace and prosperity of humanity.

    Today, some use violence to prevent free speech. We can shudder to think what tribal violence is possible in a future America when citizens are morally and economically impoverished by democratic socialist totalitarian doctrines.

    Barry Brownstein

    Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. To receive Barry’s essays subscribe at Mindset Shifts.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

  • Ponzi Schemes and Socialism Rely on the Same Economic Snake Oil

    Below is an excerpt from George Will’s op-ed in Friday’s Washington Post, “It’s common to praise socialism. It’s rarer to define it,” (bold added) that starts with this summary of Marxist/socialist philosophy from Karl Marx: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

    After many subsequent dilutions, today’s watery conceptions of socialism amount to this: Almost everyone will be nice to almost everyone, using money taken from a few. This means having government distribute, according to its conception of equity, the wealth produced by capitalism. This conception is shaped by muscular factions: the elderly, government employees unions, the steel industry, the sugar growers, and so on and on and on. Some wealth is distributed to the poor; most goes to the “neglected” middle class. Some neglect: The political class talks of little else.

    Two-thirds of the federal budget (and 14% of gross domestic product) goes to transfer payments, mostly to the non-poor. The U.S. economy’s health-care sector (about 18% of the economy) is larger than the economies of all but three nations and is permeated by government money and mandates. Before the Affordable Care Act was enacted, 40 cents of every health-care dollar was the government’s 40 cents. The sturdy yeomanry who till America’s soil? Last year’s 529-page Agriculture Improvement Act will be administered by the Agriculture Department, which has about one employee for every 20 American farms.

    Today’s angrier socialists rail, with specificity and some justification, against today’s “rigged” system of government in the service of the strong. But as the Hoover Institution’s John H. Cochrane (a.k.a. the Grumpy Economist) says, “If the central problem is rent-seeking, abuse of the power of the state, to deliver economic goods to the wealthy and politically powerful, how in the world is more government the answer?”

    The “boldness” of today’s explicit and implicit socialists — taxing the “rich” — is a perennial temptation of democracy: inciting the majority to attack an unpopular minority. This is socialism now: From each faction according to its vulnerability, to each faction according to its ability to confiscate.

    I’ve lately been recording and watching episodes of the fascinating CNBC series American Greed. I’ve noticed a common theme in these episodes, and perhaps that theme is one explanation for the eternal fascination with, and perpetual attraction to, the fantasies of “getting something for nothing” and “prosperity for everybody without sacrifice” known as “democratic socialism.” As I wrote in my 1995 article “Why Socialism Failed“:

    Socialism is the Big Lie of the twentieth century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.

    In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may show early signs of success. But any accomplishments quickly fade as the fundamental deficiencies of central planning emerge. It is the initial illusion of success that gives government intervention its pernicious, seductive appeal. In the long run, socialism has always proven to be a formula for tyranny and misery.

    The fascinating common theme I’ve observed in episodes of American Greed is the ubiquitous fallibility of even well-educated and financially-successful people for the financial Ponzi schemes of serial con artists. In episode after episode of American Greed, there are countless examples of Americans with life savings of $1 million or more who have fallen prey to the seductive, financial Ponzi schemes promoted by skilled investment con artists and who then lose their entire life savings. As I wrote in 1995:

    The temptress of socialism is constantly luring us with the offer: “give up a little of your freedom and I will give you a little more security.” As the experience of this century has demonstrated, the bargain is tempting but never pays off. We end up losing both our freedom and our security.

    Likewise, the seductive temptress of “financial get rich quick schemes” is constantly luring gullible Americans, even those with substantial life savings in the millions of dollars that characterize somebody who has worked hard and been financially successful, with the offer from the financial con artists profiled on American Greed: “Give me your millions of dollars in life savings, and I will generate higher-than-market returns for you and make your rich.” As the experiences of thousands of victims of Ponzi schemes so clearly demonstrate, the bargain of abnormally high returns and guaranteed easy riches is tempting, but it never pays off in the long run. Investors eventually lose all of their money, and their financial security evaporates.

    Like the con artists profiled on American Greed (now mostly incarcerated) the “democratic socialists” of today, like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and AOC, are trying to sell you “the economic snake oil of socialism” that is as worthless and bankrupt in the long run as the numerous Ponzi schemes being profiled regularly on American Greed that leave investors penniless.

    The greedy attraction to “get rich quick schemes” featured regularly on American Greed helps explain the eternal temptation of socialism that is gaining popularity today despite the mountain of evidence that Ponzi schemes always fail in the long run, which equals the mountain of evidence that socialism fails in the long run. The temptation of both Ponzi schemes and socialism are based on two seductive factors common to both fantasies: a) the initial success of both Ponzi schemes (early investors temporarily get high returns in the beginning of the financial con job/flim-flam) and socialism (Venezuela seemed economically successful in the beginning of its socialist con job), and b) the attraction of both myths of getting something for nothing, i.e., they are both “get rich quick schemes,” or “get rich at the expense of somebody else schemes.”

    So if thousands of financially successful Americans with lifetimes of work experience and millions of dollars in savings fall for financial Ponzi schemes so regularly on the American Greed TV series, is it any wonder that millions of millennials with limited life experience and limited financial savings are now falling for the economic snake oil and economic Ponzi scheme known as “democratic socialism” being peddled today by AOC, Warren, and Sanders?

    This article was reprinted with permission from the American Enterprise Institute.

    Mark J. Perry

    Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

  • AOC’s Green New Deal Is a U.S. Version of Mao’s Disastrous Great Leap Forward

    In what its supporters have claimed is “visionary,” congressional media darling Alexandria Occasio-Cortez (AOC) has released her short-awaited Green New Deal, and she has called for nothing short of the destruction of life as we have known it:

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she has no qualms about acknowledging a so-called “Green New Deal” will mean unprecedented governmental intrusion into the private sector. Appearing on NPR, she was asked if she’s prepared to tell Americans outright that her plans involve “massive government intervention.”

    On one level, AOC is being honest; such a plan would be unprecedented, at least in the United States, but it would hardly be the first government-led massive intrusion into a nation’s economy. The 20th century was full of such intervention, beginning with World War I and continuing through the years of communist governments. The century was full of intervention, and the earth was full of the dead bodies to prove it. What AOC and her political allies, including most Democrats that have declared they will run for the U.S. presidency, are demanding is the U.S. version of Mao’s utterly-disastrous Great Leap Forward.

    For all of the so-called specifics, the Green New Deal (GND) reads like a socialist website that is full of rhetoric, promises, and statements that assume a bunch of planners sitting around tables can replicate a complex economy that feeds, transports, and houses hundreds of millions of people. The New York Times declares the plan to give “substance to an idea that had been a mostly vague rallying cry for a stimulus package around climate change, but its prospects are uncertain.”

    Actually, there is nothing we can call “substance” in this proposal if we mean “substance” to be a realistic understanding that it would be impossible to redirect via central planning nearly every factor of production in the U.S. economy from one set of uses to another, since that is what the proposed legislation actually requires. For example, the following is what AOC and others call the “scope” of the proposed law:

    (A) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall be developed with the objective of reaching the following outcomes within the target window of 10 years from the start of execution of the Plan:

    1. Dramatically expand existing renewable power sources and deploy new production capacity with the goal of meeting 100% of national power demand through renewable sources;
    2. Building a national, energy-ef