Warning: Conservatism is surging, but socialism is ‘only one generation away’

by WorldTribune Staff, January 12, 2018

Even with overwhelming evidence of its failure “everywhere it has been tried,” socialism remains a threat to freedom, two analysts said.

A 2016 Gallup poll found 35 percent of Americans viewed socialism favorably. Among voters younger than 30, that number was an eye-opening 55 percent, Garland S. Tucker III and Jon Pritchett wrote in a Dec. 28 op-ed for the Carolina Journal.

U.S. soldiers stand at Checkpoint Charlie, the best-known crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. / Image courtesy of Pixabay

“Socialism has crippled nations and impoverished their citizens. The evidence is clear. Yet despite this, lots of people in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe want more of it,” wrote Tucker, a retired chairman/CEO of Triangle Capital Corporation and senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation, and Pritchett, senior vice president of the John Locke Foundation.

The Democratic Socialists of America, the analysts noted, which is the largest Marxist organization since World War II, has 25,000 members — up from just 8,000 members in 2015, when it endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. The DSA has chapters in 49 states.

“As free-market capitalists and advocates for liberty, it’s clear we have work to do,” Tucker and Pritchett wrote.

In a recent report, the Legatum Institute, a London think tank, found widespread public support in the UK for re-nationalizing railroads, banks, and utilities. In the report, Legatum’s Matthew Elliott wrote: “We find that on almost every issue, the public tends to favor non-free-market ideals rather than those of the free market. Instead of an unregulated economy, the public favors regulation. Instead of companies striving for profit above all else, they want businesses to make less profit and be more socially responsible. The capitalism ‘brand’ is in crisis. It is seen as greedy, selfish, and corrupt.”

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn “has called repeatedly for higher taxes, more regulation, and re-nationalization of major industry,” the analysts noted.

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair “has warned his party against reverting to policies that failed so miserably. Few voters seem to know – or care – about the paralyzing malaise that Margaret Thatcher so completely reversed with her free-market policies in the late 1970s and 1980s. The ideological battle had seemed at an end when Blair rejected Labour’s historical program of socialism in the 1990s,” Tucker and Pritchett wrote.

“But memories are short. In 2017, Blair warned Labour, ‘I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.’ Understanding the dangerous and ill-founded allure of socialism, Blair went on to caution, ‘Anyone who supports Corbyn in their heart needs to have a heart transplant!’ Blair’s admonition, coupled with Corbyn’s strong support among young voters, recalled Winston Churchill’s famous quote: ‘If you are not a liberal at age 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative by age 30, you have no head.’ ”

The analysts also noted the underdog presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016.

“A generation ago, it would have been the kiss of death for any American politician – no matter how liberal – to have been called a ‘socialist.’ A liberal like Hubert Humphrey spent a lifetime vehemently denying he was a socialist. Suddenly, an elderly senator from the backwoods of New England mounted a viable national campaign as a self-proclaimed socialist. His support was especially strong among young voters. But there are older citizens and leaders throughout the world who should know better.”

Tucker and Pritchett noted that, in his famous treatise, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith “showed us that government doesn’t need to attempt to manufacture a central plan to accomplish the greatest value to all because individuals, who are pursuing personal gain, will accomplish this on their own. In essence, Smith correctly viewed the ‘invisible hand’ (individuals responding to market signals and pursuing mutually beneficial voluntary exchanges) as a powerful mechanism to provide benefits to the whole of society. Today, in our free-market system, the only way a person can create great wealth is to provide valuable products and services for which millions of people are willing to pay voluntarily.

“Thanks to John Locke and his brilliant ideas of a system of private property rights, which were codified in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, Americans have the equal opportunity to pursue their own interests and passions and to enjoy the fruits of such pursuit. This pursuit, rather than being a source of inequality, neglect, and exploitation as people like Corbyn, Pope Francis, and Sanders would have us believe, actually facilitates more common good, moral action, equality, opportunity, and prosperity than any economic or cultural system ever tried in the history of the world.”

A generation ago, the analysts write, Thatcher’s dismissal of socialism was well-known and generally accepted: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money,” she said.

As economist Thomas Sowell wrote, “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.” China, Russia, Zimbabwe, India, Argentina, etc., have all flirted with socialism with uniformly disastrous results. The latest economic disaster is Venezuela.

President Trump’s analysis is right on the mark: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.”

But, Tucker and Pritchett write, “do young people understand what Trump is saying? For those of us old enough to have witnessed the many failures of socialism or to have read about them, the words of Ronald Reagan ring true. ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,’ the 40th president said. ‘We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.’ ”

Tucker and Pritchett conclude: “Somehow the next generation has to grasp the wisdom of Churchill’s warning: ‘Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.’ Hopefully the U.S. – and every other nation – can heed the brilliant teachings of Adam Smith and John Locke and the overwhelming evidence of history without having to experience the painful failures of socialism firsthand.”

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