They Tell Me It's a Nice Idea

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jan 03, 2006 7:25 PM

So, conversations with socialists. I have them. A lot.

I have them with that special brand of socialist-- the 20-something post-collegiate angsty intellectual who has the luxury of saying Fidel Castro "has some pretty good ideas" because, for him, it's not a national talking point enforced at the muzzle of a gun and the blindfolded brink of a ditch. That kind of socialist.

They're good folks. They truly do want the best for people. They think "equal" necessarily equals "good." They, therefore, want equality enforced.

Sometimes during these conversations, my big-government buddies concede, "All right, so maybe it doesn't always work in practice, but it's a nice thought."

I used to concede that point. "Yes, it's a nice idea in theory," I'd say, "But it never works in practice. In fact, it's disastrous, deadly, and scoops out people's souls like so many cold lumps of cosmic ice cream, splatted on the sidewalks of humanity. But you're getting the picture."

In the last couple years, I've had to revise that. The truth is that it is not a nice idea, in theory. Well, not if you actually think about what the theory implies.

Socialism is enforced equality. But someone has to enforce. Someone has to take all that a country of dynamic, amazing, different people has produced and slice it up into dull, government-approved parcels that go to each according to his need. So much for diversity, right?

This means that no one owns anything except for the guy doing the enforcing of equality, who without fail, feels a lot less strongly about his own equality with the proletariat than he does about the rabble's equality with each other. That's how Fidel Castro ended up on the Forbe's list of richest people.

This guy inevitably gets a little testy when folks step out of line by wanting to own the things they earn, thereby cutting down on his net worth. And by testy, I mean blood-thirsty and murdery.

It also means that if everyone gets what they need regardless of how much work they do, no one wants to do any work. Which I guess could be doable if we could go on producing things without, you know, working to produce them. But we can't.

So, no reason to work, no tasting the fruits of your own labor? No work gets done, nothing gets produced, no one eats. Hence, the practical non-workingness of socialism. We all end up sitting around, baby-bird-like, mouths open, but there is no momma to bring a worm, baby, and no worms left to bring.

Last, it means robbing each and every person in a country of the pride of a job well done. No work ethic allowed. How gauche, the socialists say, to want to produce and provide for yourself, for your family. Don't you want to help your fellow man, they ask, ignoring the fact that providing for yourself allows your fellow man to live his life without carrying you around like a sack of sand, which is one of the greatest services you could render.

I could go on and on, but those are the basics. Crime against humanity for all those who die. Crime against the human spirit for all those who live. Pretty much fills out my bad idea check list.

Why do I bring it up now? This year marks the 47th anniversary of Castro's drive into Cuba. Carlos Alberto Montaner reflects on those 47 years on Real Clear Politics today.

First, why has a man as eccentric and absurd as he -- capable of carrying out feats as improbable as the destruction of the centenary sugar industry, multiplying by 10 the number of prostitutes, executing or eliminating 16,000 people, and pushing into exile 15 percent of the Cuban population -- lasted so long in power?

Nobody doubts that his administration is the worst the country has ever endured, incapable for the past half century of allowing Cubans to have drinking water, electricity, food and shelter in minimally reasonable amounts.

Forty-seven years. Forty-seven years of crimes against humanity and the human spirit. Generations lost to a world without freedom and self-determination.

And, it's happening again. I was on my way home from Costa Rica earlier this year, browsing in the San Jose Airport. I came across an issue of Newsweek lauding the "charismatic" Latin American leader sweeping the southern climes with his anti-capitalism and Bush-hatred-- Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Hurricane Hugo, the magazine called him.

On the wall opposite the magazine rack was a large advertisement aimed at foreign businesses. "Outsource to the Right Place," it said, with a picture of three suit-clad businessfolks rowing a canoe through tropical waters.

A whole region of the world, frightfully nearby, must choose between those two forces. Right now, Costa Rica is listed as a "mostly free" country in the Index of Economic Freedom. It is no coincidence that it is also relatively prosperous and attractive as a business and tourist destination. As I looked from Hugo's military garb to the light-weight wool of Western business suits, I wondered which garment this lovely country would choose to wear in the future.

Jeff Harrell wrote about the stakes of succumbing to Hurricane Hugo and his ilk:

Planned economics — socialism, communism, post-colonialism, revolutionism, whatever you want to call it — is a plague that enslaves societies for years or decades, kills thousands or millions, subjugates entire generations, then collapses on itself leaving a clean-up job that makes Hurricane Katrina look like an overflowing urinal...

Purely selfish interests aside, there’s a moral issue at hand. A fire is smoldering in the mountains of South America, and it threatens to erupt with explosive speed and engulf the entire continent. How many millions will die this time, starved by criminal attempts at industrialization or worked to death in the 21st-century equivalent of the gulag archipelago? Even if we turn our backs on the threats to our economy and our safety, can we ignore the plight of a continent on the brink of the abyss?

Read the whole thing. Jeff addresses the danger of Bolivia's own hurricane, Evo Morales, who is already aligning himself with Chavez and Castro.

There is a whole region of the world at stake, along with generations of the people who live within it. When I see these things, I wonder how people can be taken in yet again by a theory proved wrong so many times over.

Charismatic leaders, the promise of something better, and an idea that sounds nice. But it's not nice. It's brutal in practice and soulless in theory.

Socialism is a nice idea, in theory, they tell me. I won't be conceding that point anymore. Too many have conceded it for too long, and too many have been fooled into thinking it can work-- again. And, the costs of that particular thought are just too high.

If you're so inclined, a donation to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation is a great way to help everyone remember the victims of this theory.