John Stossel: The socialist fantasy |
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John Stossel: The socialist fantasy

People collect water from a truck that delivers water during rolling blackouts, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 12.

Venezuela is a disaster.

Yet 20 years ago, it was the wealthiest country in Latin America. It still has the world’s biggest oil reserves. It should be a happy and prosperous nation.

But then Venezuela went socialist. Democratic socialist to be exact. They voted for it. Hugo Chavez promised the poor “social and economic reforms.” The majority of voters believed him.

So did many American leftists.

But now that the socialists created much more extreme poverty, I would think that progressives would realize that democratic socialism is not the route to paradise.

But no, nothing convinces a dedicated socialist — or much of the media.

A popular Vox video titled “The collapse of Venezuela, explained” never once mentions socialism. Instead, it says Venezuela collapsed because “oil prices plummeted in 2014 and President Nicolas Maduro failed to adjust.”

Venezuela didn’t collapse because of socialism, added comedian John Oliver. “It’s a story about epic mismanagement.”

But mismanagement is what happens under socialist governments. It always happens. That’s because no group of central planners is wise enough to manage an entire economy. Even if they have good intentions, socialists eventually run out of other people’s money.

In Venezuela, the solution was to print more money. That caused massive inflation.

When businesses raised prices to try to keep up with inflation, Chavez and Maduro called that “profiteering” and punished many by confiscating their businesses.

The socialists claimed they would run those businesses better than greedy capitalists could because they weren’t obsessed with profits. Without the “excess” profits, prices would be lower and more money would go to the poor.

But pursuit of profit is what makes an economy work! I’d think the collapse of nations such as Venezuela, China, Russia, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba would have taught the socialists that. But no.

In America, progressives claim that socialism is succeeding in much of Europe. Oliver claims, “There are plenty of socialist countries that look nothing like Venezuela.”

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders agrees, saying: “When I talk about democratic socialism, I am not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark, like Sweden.”

But those countries are not socialist. Yes, they have big welfare programs, but their economies are more capitalist than America’s.

They set no national minimum wage. They impose fewer regulations on businesses. Their leaders even go out of their way to point out that they are not socialist. Denmark’s prime minister went on TV to respond Sanders’ comments by saying: “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”

Not only are Scandinavian countries not socialist, lately they’ve reduced government control of their economies. Denmark privatized the national phone system and the railroads — and sold the Copenhagen airport to a private company.


Sweden reduced government’s role, too. It privatized businesses and even instituted school choice.

The progressives are just wrong. Scandinavian countries that they call “socialist successes” are not socialist, and they’re moving toward more capitalism. It’s astounding that the progressives keep winning votes peddling economic nonsense.

As libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote: “The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement… They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office, every man but one a subordinate clerk.”

Until progressives learn that, tragedies like Venezuela will happen again and again.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

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