This article was originally published by The Hill on May 15, 2019.
While politicians, pundits and college professors heap praise upon the supposed benefits of socialism, the reality is unfortunately all too clear for Venezuelans. Years of economic mismanagement and political instability that led to mass shortages of food, medicine and other necessities has culminated in recent weeks to rioting in the streets and an ongoing, violent political tug-of-war over the nation’s leadership.
And while socialism remains unpopular among most Americans (especially non-coastal elites), there can be no doubt that socialism seems to be enjoying a resurgence among many members of the millennial generation.
How can we explain this, especially given recent events in Venezuela?
What do college students even mean when they use the word “socialism”? Do they mean basic economic fairness or increased spending on social programs, or do they mean the system that runs counter to basic human nature (and basic economics) and has failed every single time it has ever been attempted?
How does one go about refuting socialism when its proponents themselves appear unclear on what it is they actually are advocating? “Socialism” becomes whatever policy proposals progressives happen to prefer at any given moment.
Maybe a better approach would be to start with what socialism is not:
Socialism is not new: Despite the social media savvy or slick rhetoric of many of the new socialists, socialism in no way is a new or “progressive” political philosophy or approach to government. In fact, varieties of socialism were directly responsible for the deaths and misery of millions throughout the 20th century.
Socialism is not working in Europe: This is one of the favorite tropes paraded by the new socialists: “Look at Sweden! They are socialist and thriving.” However, Sweden is not socialist. Instead, Sweden’s recent prosperity is the result of free-market deregulation. If you want to see how socialism works in actual practice, check out Venezuela.
Socialism is not more fair or just: How much wealth is “too much”? How much independence should we have when making our own economic decisions? Why is that a matter for the government to decide? “Soaking the rich” by arbitrarily deciding who has too much wealth is not only not fair, it doesn’t make sense. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have done more to improve the lives of millions throughout the world through investment and the provision of valuable goods and services than any government bureau could ever dream of. We should want more millionaires and billionaires in America, not fewer.
Socialism is not superior to capitalism: Capitalism is the best system thus far discovered by mankind to most effectively provide quality goods and services to society, at competitive prices, all the while lifting the maximum number of people out of poverty. And all through voluntary exchange without the need for coercion by the government or other entities.
Socialism is not better for the individual: One indisputable fact we can take from the 20th century is that socialism does not lead to greater freedom or dignity for the individual. Socialism, by its very nature, requires force. Pursuant to the good of society you will be told how much of your money you can keep, what you can buy and what you can do. Or else. This is not freedom; it is tyranny. What matters is the actual proven results of public policies, not the supposedly good intentions of those who enact them.
In the end, the only reason the new “democratic” socialists (because voting for tyrants to take your rights is so much better than their just doing it directly) have the ability to decry the alleged injustices and inhumanity of capitalism is the wealth, development and material comfort capitalism has provided for them.
When you are starving or struggling to survive, you don’t have a lot of time to complain.
But sipping their lattes from corporate coffee shops, tweeting from their iPhones while wearing designer clothing from head to toe, the new socialists may appear either disingenuous or downright dumb.
But most are likely just ignorant.
The remedy to this affliction isn’t to call them names or question their motives. Instead, we should strive to help them understand the economic and political realities they seem to disregard so that we can work together towards a brighter, more prosperous future here in our own country.
Timothy Snowball is an attorney for Pacific Legal Foundation, which litigates nationwide to achieve court victories enforcing the Constitution’s guarantee of individual liberty. Follow him on Twitter @TSnowball_Esq.