Former Senator Judd Gregg has written an opinion piece for the Hill in which he argues a very straight-forward premise: Socialism is still a bad idea. Gregg writes in response to the strong showing of self-described socialist and belated convert to the Democratic party Bernie Sanders. If Sanders is able to win nearly half of Democratic primaries and delegates what does that say about the party’s base. Gregg believes it says the enthusiastic young people supporting Sanders don’t know history:
When so many young people express so much enthusiasm for the idea of socialism and want to try it again, you have to wonder if they have ever been taught the history of the twentieth century…These students may wish to turn to historical sources and study recent efforts to create socialist economies and societies. The lessons are clear, so this research will not take long.
They might start with the experience of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Notice the name. Or the National Socialist movement called Nazism. Notice the name again. Or Maoist China, a socialist state again in name. Millions of people died under these banners of socialism and millions more were impoverished.
If those examples seem too extreme, try some of the countries that have pursued socialist government while still remaining somewhat democratic.
Greece comes to mind. It has seen a massive reduction in the standard of living after years of socialist, democratic government. You can also add in Portugal, Spain and, to a significant degree, France. All of these nations have suffered at the hands of socialist leadership that has fundamentally undermined their standard of living.
In the Americas, Venezuela and Argentina are two nations blessed with an incredible abundance of natural resources and wealth. Both, in the not too distant past, were economically vibrant. They are now suffering massive reductions in the standard of living of their people.
It’s worth dwelling on Venezuela which embraced socialism with the arrival of Hugo Chavez and has experienced a gradual decline which in the past two years has led to shortages of basic goods like food, toilet paper and medicine. People in Venezuela are forced to spend hours waiting in lines at supermarkets, not knowing what items will be waiting on the mostly bare shelves when they finally get inside. The country eventually instituted a system that allows each citizen to only purchase certain items once a week. The official inflation rate in Venezuela is the highest in the world and the unofficial rate is well over 100%.
In addition to the economic chaos, Venezuela has the 2nd highest murder rate in the world. Exact figures are not available because the socialist government stopped publishing crime statistics on a regular basis in 2003. What we do know is that the man responsible for the Caracas morgue is unable to keep up with the number of dead bodies:
“What can we do?” Mr Mejía asks. “Give up.” The morgue employee in charge of handling the corpses notes that a decade ago he received seven or eight bodies every weekend. These days, he says, that number has risen to between 40 and 50: “This is now wilder than the wild west.”
Despite the fact that this is happening now under the banner of socialism, it is rarely if ever mentioned in connection with Bernie Sanders would-be political revolution here at home. Some in the U.S. media are clearly eager to connect Donald Trump to the rise of strongmen abroad and in the past (Elizabeth Warren used the phrase “history’s worst authoritarians” in a not-so-subtle nod to the Nazis) but the same media seems less than eager to make the same sorts of connections for Sanders. Why is that?