Uncle Bernie and socialist darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have seized the imagination of the American Left and the so-called Trump Resistance with their ideas about universal healthcare, guaranteed government jobs, free college, and open borders. Their promises of sunny socialist plenty are becoming increasingly mainstream among American Democrats who believe they represent the best chance to unhorse Donald Trump and retake Congress this fall.
I have a question for these Democratic Socialists:
Why is Kim Jong-un so fat?
Seriously. Have you seen him? The North Korean leader is rotund. In a place where the United Nations reports that two of every five people are chronically undernourished and a famine in the 1990s wiped-out 5% of population, the Dear Leader’s bourgeoning belly and double-chins are unusual among his countrymen.
How can this be? North Korea is an avowed socialist country where inherent inequality and the corruption capitalism breeds have been completely expunged. (Including anti-socialist karaoke rooms.) Private property does not exist. Faithful to socialist theory, there are no capitalist overlords exploiting workers in North Korea. There are no markets. There is only The State where central planners apportion the fruits of the workers’ labor so everyone benefits, not just a select few at the top. Or to borrow language from Uncle Bernie and a growing number of Democrats, socialist governments ensure the nation’s wealth isn’t concentrated in the “1%.”
The North Korean government - like all socialist governments - decides what its citizens get, when they get it, and how much.
Which brings us back to the corpulent Mr. Kim.
It could be that he is a chubster because he doesn’t like to work out. Maybe classes at the Pyongyang Soulcycle (isn’t there a Soulcycle everywhere?) don’t mesh with his schedule. Perhaps he has as an unusually slow metabolism. After all his father, Kim Jong-il, and grandfather and founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, were portly fellas too.
Or maybe Mr. Kim is fat because he gets more food than everyone else in North Korea does.
While children in his country are stunted because of malnutrition and others survive by stripping the bark off of trees and eating rice plant roots, the North Korean government has decided its scarce resources are best used so that Mr. Kim is able to eat so much imported Swiss Emmental cheese that his face actually swells. (He loves the stuff so much that he reportedly tried to send envoys from North Korea to France to enroll them in cheese-making courses.)
Uncle Bernie and his supporters might respond to news of the turophilic Mr. Kim by saying he is both a bad example and a bad guy, and by allowing this to occur demonstrates his country isn’t a true socialist state. They might even go further and say that socialism itself isn’t inherently bad but the people who’ve tried to implement it are. Mao’s China, Stalin’s USSR, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua, and the worker’s paradise Fidel Castro founded 90 miles off of Key West are examples of socialism being implemented by bad guys in the wrong way.
We’d put the right people in charge and do it the right way, the American Democratic Socialists would say.
The dirty little secret is that there isn’t a right way to implement socialism any more than the list of historical failures are the byproduct of the wrong people being in charge. Socialism, democratic or otherwise, will fail regardless of whether its implemented by Uncle Bernie, a 28-year old bartender from Brooklyn, or by Karl Marx himself for exactly the same reason.
Whether it’s the called the Council of Ministers, the People’s Standing Committee, or the Ministry of Plenty, in any socialist state there are only a handful of people who hold the levers of power. The paradox of socialism is that the philosophy of collectivizing property and the means of production actually requires that these things be consolidated under the control of a select few people in the government. Centralization is a necessary prerequisite for state control.
History shows that those in power will invariably exercise it to their advantage and do whatever is necessary to keep it. (Read: there’s a reason that where there are socialist governments there are almost always re-education camps to help those who find it difficult to relinquish their bourgeoise ways.)
With the exception of climate deniers, it’s unlikely the American Democratic Socialists will open re-education camps anytime soon because Uncle Bernie and the Brooklyn bartender will assure us their version of socialism will be different.
That’s not who we are as Americans. We’ve seen how other countries have tried to implement socialist policies and we’re not going to repeat their mistakes. Don’t worry, American Democratic Socialists are not going to follow Mao or Stalin or Castro. We’re smarter than that.
(That last paragraph is best read in scolding, professorial Barack Obama voice.)
But as long as there are a handful of people who get to decide who gets what, when they get it, and how much of it they get, eventually there will be people stripping bark off of trees to have something to eat.
It is also inevitable there will be fat guys in government who make themselves sick on imported Swiss cheese.