Shocking, I am Venezuelan, a Venezuelan that left the country because of policies that were hindering the countries’ economic growth (among other things of course). I have always repeated to friends and other acquaintances that “socialism doesn’t work.” Then I dare write a post with the opposite title, claiming that it does. That it works perfectly well, that it worked so well that a country that used to be above world average on economic freedom according to the Heritage Foundation is now one of the most economically repressed.
I am talking about a country that used to be one of the richest, and most stable economies in Latin America. A nation where the average Venezuelan was earning three times what the average Colombian in the neighboring country was making. At the time of its economic prosperity, Venezuela was surrounded by failing governments and dictatorships across Latin America. Everyone and their brother wanted to move to the nation producing this prosperity, Venezuela experienced decades of immigration right after the 2nd World War from European citizens looking to rebuild their lives, and then as the economic prosperity improved as a result of these hard working immigrants, it opened its doors to more immigration from the poorest sectors of Latin American society in the 70s and 80s… not too long before its economic decline.
I painted the picture, so now let’s go back to the topic at hand: Socialism. A lot of people – myself included – hold the position that this economic system doesn’t work. I read an article recently that claimed otherwise. I was momentarily annoyed at the author of the article. “How dare he say Socialism worked in Venezuela?” I thought. Of course, after reading it, I reconsidered my position. Perhaps I’ve been looking at the purpose of socialism from the wrong point of view. I’ve been saying that it doesn’t produce wealth; that it doesn’t produce freedom. Of course it doesn’t; but who ever said that the aim of socialism is to produce either of those things?
Socialism could never produce the good results “evil capitalism” creates. Did it ever claim to generate wealth? No. It promises the redistribution of already existing wealth, not to produce any wealth whatsoever. Well what happens when the redistributed wealth is used, or spent. Does it create more? Hardly. Socialism divides wealth, and when does dividing ever result in the multiplying of anything?
But the socialists of today will point to the Scandinavian countries. They will say how wonderfully socialism works in Sweden or Denmark. The problem with that argument is that these countries are not actual socialist countries. They didn’t achieve wealth because of socialism, but are rather rich despite of high tax policies. They might have high taxation, but the government doesn’t own the means of production (kind of a key aspect of socialism); not to mention corporate taxes are actually lower in Sweden than they are in the United States. Surprised? I definitely was. My opinion of socialism was starting to shift because of these myths. Fortunately people like the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen stepped up and said Denmark is not socialist. Others have followed in Sweden and cleared up this Scandinavian myth, but there are still plenty that believe it.
On the other hand, we have places in the world were socialism has been put into practice; places where their leaders upheld the socialist banner and proudly claimed to be socialists. Were they lying? Were they just trying to soil Socialist as an economic theory? These nations have put into practice socialist systems. They have put into practice its rules. Examples would be the Soviet Socialist Republic in Russia under Stalin; The National Socialist German Workers’ Party under Hitler; and most recently, The United Socialist Party of Venezuela under Chavez.
Socialists of today will look at those examples and say they none of them are examples of real socialism, or that in these cases, socialism wasn’t implemented correctly. There is a kind of arrogance with a lot of socialists in that they always believe they would get to power and immediately do things better than those who tried it before. Well, if they didn’t do it right, can you find an example of someone who has done it well? Again, don’t mention the Scandinavians.
There’s a famous and overused quote that states that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Perhaps these well-intentioned socialists are actually insane. The other ones could possibly just hate the rich.
The Colombian President of Venezuela agreed that the socialist model failed the economy. He admitted this. Did he become a capitalist then? Did he change his tune? No, absolutely not. Because socialism is not in any way about economic prosperity, but about the control of government in all aspects of society. To run a socialist nation peacefully you need collective agreement.
We are supposed to trust that the government can manage and run the country better than its citizens. We are supposed to give them power over business and enterprises. What happened in Venezuela is no different. Maduro’s predecessor, and creator of the “Revolucion Bonita” (Pretty Revolution), expropriated businesses left and right. Same thing happened in Cuba. The private sector suffered, and must of those businesses were either run into the ground, or given to a friend with the right connections to Chavez and his regime. Of course, others were subjected to price controls and were also run to the ground. Facing the harsh economic policies, many businesses left the country, giving those jobs to other nations. Is this surprising at all? It shouldn’t be.
Marx knew perfectly well socialism would wreck the economy and that it was quote “insufficient and untenable” as he wrote. It seems as if he felt some moral superiority and just wanted the proletariat to take things away from the bourgeoisie. It’s not about love for the people, it’s about resentment, coveting what others have. Socialism is very very successful at making everyone equal, but of course equally poor… except for the new bourgeoisie, the new elite running the government.
As George Orwell puts it in his book Animal Farm: “four legs good, two legs bad” then turns into “four legs good, two legs better.”