News flash (again): socialism is a stupid, rotten way to run a ...

Ideas

News flash (again): socialism is a stupid, rotten way to run a country

This supposed paradise has never been achieved anywhere - how many times must we try it out to see it doesn't work?

James Bartholomew


I was quietly waiting at a bus stop last week when a troupe of fresh-faced, earnest schoolgirls passed by carrying banners declaring their support for socialism. It is extraordinary that this sort of thing is happening.
How many times does socialism have to fail before everyone accepts that it really doesn’t work?
According to Marx, socialism is the stage we inevitably must go through prior to reaching the utopian state of communism in which money and property magically become redundant. This supposed paradise has never actually been achieved anywhere, ever. But my goodness, we have certainly tried out socialism.
We have had the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which was such an economic disaster that millions died of starvation. Oh, and there was mass slave labour, torture and executions of political opponents, too. Then came the People’s Republic of China: pretty much the same thing. East Germany was one of the least bad attempts at socialism. Guess how many households had a telephone before the residents finally started hacking down the Berlin Wall. The answer is further on.
There were more than 20 attempts at socialism in the 20th century, and every single one ended in economic failure and political terror. Most recently, Venezuela has had a go. Yet again, it has ended horribly. If you tried playing golf using a spoon you would find the ball did not go very far. After trying a dozen times with different techniques, you would probably accept there was something inherently flawed about using a spoon to play golf. So why don’t people similarly realise that socialism is a rotten way to run a country?
A lot of people have wrestled with this puzzle. Kristian Niemietz, in Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies, reckons it’s because our brains are those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors who co-operated to hunt and then shared out the food. This way of thinking is therefore hard-wired into our brains. You might think that, being rational creatures, we would nevertheless learn that this system does not work in a modern economy. Unfortunately, it turns out that we do not use reason to create our views. We have our views and use our reason to justify them and diss any evidence to the contrary.
This is a theory first proposed by the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. There is another, more cynical theory. Our academics and teachers were often clever children who did well at school. They have belatedly found that some thicko at the back of the class has gone into the doughnut or women’s underwear business and made buckets of money. This persuades them that the world is deeply unjust and that expropriation of the rich is the only fair answer. They then teach young girls viscerally to hate capitalism and enjoy the delicious fantasy that, via socialism, they can make the world a better place.
By the way, 16% of East German households had a telephone in 1989. In capitalist West Germany, the figure was 99%.
– © The Sunday Telegraph

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