The problem with socialism in America is that intentions are always elevated above results, hopes above reality and promises above performance, writes Neal Larson.
Every so often, humanity insists on learning lessons the hard way.
Were it not for a rigged nomination process at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, it’s very possible that socialist Bernie Sanders would be our president today. Weeks ago, a young, proud and self-professed socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slayed establishment dinosaur Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District primary race. She’s nearly certain to win in November.
While the two optically could not be more different, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez span the gender, age and race spectra perfectly. The appeal of socialism knows no demographic boundaries. The two immediately gravitated toward one another, even campaigning together to share the intoxicating promises of socialism. They are not alone. Socialist candidates are appearing on ballots across the country. While nobody predicts massive socialist wins in November, it’s telling that campaigning on an agenda garnished with Marxist ideology is no longer taboo.
The socialist wish list is long and sounds desirable: Health care for all, zero-cost education, a guaranteed federal job, guaranteed housing, and a big list of social causes as well. All of them sound like wonderful ideas. One thing the list never contains, however, is its price tag. If we look to Europe as any guide, where each nation seems to have its own flavor of socialism, somewhere around half of a nation’s GDP is funneled through government channels.
But America’s system of government contains an inherent hostility toward collectivism. Our Bill of Rights are a recognition of largely individual rights. The Constitution is a limiting document, reserving most political power to individual states. Whatever enumerated powers are allowed at the federal level are dispersed across three distinct branches. Our Founders knew too well what ills come when too much power aggregates around too few.
The robust centralized power needed for the massive taxation and bureaucracy that’s baked into the brand of socialism promising to deliver free education, housing, employment and health care — is precisely the power distribution our Founders insulated us from. Despite the halcyon snapshots of Nordic or European socialist models presented by America’s most vocal advocates of the ideology, it’s clear over time that collectivism does not elevate a nation to greatness. For every Norway, there’s a Venezuela and a Greece. Even horror flicks have a few pretty scenes.
Today’s socialists in America want a government that runs the V.A. to manage your healthcare, too. The same folks who want to bring the whole nation guaranteed housing are still having trouble explaining over $500 billion worth of HUD accounting discrepancies under Obama. And free college? What could possibly go wrong? Even if the socialist model could work on paper, or in theory, where in American government are these paragons of competence and virtue that will show up to run it?
The problem with those pushing socialism in America is that intentions are always elevated above results, hopes above reality, and promises above performance. If socialism takes deep root in America, it can only do so (for a while) by plundering the fruits of generational individual initiative. In the end, an economic model that cannot be sustained will be made to look like it can only because it’s propped up by one that does.
When you have a few spare minutes, ponder the long list of history’s most oppressive dictators. How many of them have been capitalists? We do indeed learn things the hard way.
Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson of Idaho Falls writes at www.neallarson.com. He is also the author of “Living in Spin.” He is a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 106.3 and 92.1, and also at www.kidnewsradio.com. “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00. His email address is email@example.com.