A 2022 Pew Research Center survey found that an alarming number of people still believe that socialism “gives all people an equal opportunity to be successful,” with 52% agreeing this statement is at least somewhat true for socialism.
Fortunately, 64% agreed that statement is at least somewhat true for capitalism.
Still, it is evident that most people who favor socialism don’t understand it or its negative consequences. Apologists for socialism need to understand what the late economist Friedrich Hayek said: “There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal. While the first is the condition of a free society, the second means, as de Tocqueville describes it, a new form of servitude.”
Socialist economies surrender class distinction by giving up freedom to politicians in the marketplace, including work, education, healthcare, and more. This is the exact opposite of “free.” Nothing scarce is free because there are trade-offs that come with every decision. Nations with socialized labor, schooling, and medicine must fund them at the expense of taxpayers, from the lost productivity that results from less economic growth, and from the lost opportunities with each of those taken dollars.
People in socialist economies work under a glass ceiling that they can never break. They surrender so much of their resources to the government that it contributes to a forced mediocrity. But in capitalist economies, the ceiling is much higher. People have more potential to prosper because the means of capital and labor are owned by them personally, not by politicians.
Greater economic freedom under capitalism tends to yield higher life expectancies, higher incomes, greater per capita GDP, and less poverty when considering countries or states .
But when the government is empowered instead of its citizens, people are left with few options for innovative solutions in the private sector. This destroys organic competition, where the best solution can be the most successful. This bears out the experience of socialist economies, that the government institutions dominating the provision of services typically have low quality at high cost.
Some socialists claim that their preferred system of pooling resources for everyone is a superior way of helping people than philanthropy or the work of employers, churches, or charities. But this assumes that a one-size-fits-all approach will work for everyone. In reality, each person is different with unique needs, which is why making ways for entrepreneurs to create new solutions is critical. A system run by politicians can never fully satisfy the needs of its people. It makes winners of the politically connected and losers of everyone else.
One reason that people, especially young adults, may find socialism appealing is because it appears compassionate on its surface. A paradise where everyone is clothed, fed, and happy sounds like something to desire. But that’s never the outcome when liberties are surrendered to leaders.
The lack of belief in free markets is really the lack of belief in free people. Too many on the Left and the Right fail to understand this fact with their big-government solutions.
The world is witnessing this reality unfold in real time in the once-thriving nation of Cuba . Cubans embraced socialism 60 years ago with high hopes and are now impoverished and starving, waiting in line for hours with hopes of getting some bread , while politicians spend their money on sports teams and hotels to impress outsiders. By its nature, socialism disempowers people and forces them down the road to serfdom.
Capitalism, with a free market economy of voluntary exchange and limited government, allows spontaneous order with a well-functioning price system to best allocate resources to those who value it most. This results in a compassionate system for people rather than for politicians.
Socialism hasn’t worked, other than to impoverish many people across the globe. Stop its expansion and instead return to the antidote: free market capitalism.
Originally published at Washington Examiner.
America is in the midst of an identity crisis, and it’s probably not the kind you’d think. Our nation is wrecked by an abysmal economy and unhappy people losing confidence in their country. In such unhappiness, people on both sides of the political aisle too often propose “solutions” that grant the government more control of our lives, even though that control is usually the source of the problem.
The American experiment has paved the way for millions to escape poverty and build a better life via a free-market system with a constitutional republic that encourages innovation and results in more human flourishing than ever before. We need to get back to those roots.
I had the opportunity to discuss this phenomenon with Dr. Samuel Gregg, author of the book The Next American Economy and distinguished fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, who said this country’s founding values are based on “liberty and personal responsibility.”
What set America apart was a vision for commoners to determine their own future, and we continue to rank as the most entrepreneurial country in the world. American’s earliest ideals demanded liberty and responsibility, rejecting directives from a distant King. As a result, the roles of the federal and state governments were carefully managed by a system of federalism, with checks and balances to restrain overreach and protect liberty. According to Gregg, this ongoing experiment is why immigrants are continually inspired to leave their homes and venture to the United States.
These core tenets of America have become less defined over the past century. America has increasingly chosen big government over individual liberties, thereby reducing the benefits of free-market capitalism.
The major expansions of government started in the progressive era, with Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Herbert Hoover. Those historic expansions were put on steroids by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” which prolonged and deepened the Great Depression. Likewise, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” program ballooned government through the creation Medicare and Medicaid, among others. The results have been massive government spending with increased dependency on government programs.
President George W. Bush’s expansion of Medicare with Part D provided some prescription drug coverage for seniors, with questionable results, at a massive cost. President Barack Obama’s Obamacare expanded government control, contributing to the high cost and declining quality of US healthcare. President Trump’s attempt to punish China with tariffs actually punished low-income Americans most. Most recently, President Biden’s 2022 “Inflation Reduction Act” further grows government, without reducing inflation and at a huge cost to taxpayers.
Inflating the role of government in an attempt to solve underlying issues created by big government created a vicious cycle that continues today. Government meddling distorts the economy by blocking and confusing free people’s choices. This results from a cultural shift, where Americans increasingly seem to believe government can solve problems better than markets or individuals.
This belief is contradicted by the evidence. The lack of belief in free markets is really the lack of believe in free people, as the market is nothing but people. Big government is usually the cause of economic and social problems, so trying to solve them with more government just exacerbates the issues. A severe deficit in the knowledge of history, both of culture and economics, helps explain why post-modern socialist solutions increasingly entrance younger generations.
Unlike older countries, America’s identity comes from the “texts, documents, and debates” that created our founding, says Gregg. Surveys show that only 1 in 3 Americans can pass a citizenship test, because most of them aren’t familiar with the foundational ideas outlined in our texts and documents. A national identity crisis is near-inevitable, when we forget our core values of liberty and personal responsibility
The further we stray from the principles that made our nation great (including free-market capitalism, a constitutional republic, and personal responsibility) the more swiftly we head down what economist Friedrich Hayek called “the road to serfdom.”
Only by learning our unique history, and grasping the principles of free-market economics free from burdensome interference, can Americans embark on the next American economy.
Originally published at AIER.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D.