Margaret Thatcher defined socialism as “equal shares of misery for all,” the best definition I’ve ever read of the economic theory and subsequent reality.
The following is a more matter-of-fact explanation that I got when I googled “socialism,” looking for the exact definition.
“a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole;……
- (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.”
Basically, what it’s saying is that government controls everything and it’s a stepping-stone to communism. Keep in mind that Marxists believe that, when communism is achieved, everybody lives in paradise – although, of course, they don’t actually believe in paradise, heaven or any other nirvana.
The reality, of course, is that people actually live in hell.
The best example of communism today is North Korea, where everything is controlled by the government, even thoughts.
Another example is Cuba, where almost everything is controlled by the government.
China is not a very good example. Not any more. Whereas the government still controls every thought, the economy is more of a free for all. So long as you keep your mouth shut, you can be a millionaire!
Until the latest British election, many people thought socialism was dead. Mrs. Thatcher herself had rolled back socialism in the UK and helped the nations of Eastern Europe send the communists packing. But the latest election in the United Kingdom showed that socialism is alive and kicking – and may even be the next government.
Why the appeal? Because when people feel the inequities of capitalism, they naturally favor the opposite, thinking everything will be put right by the firm hand of government.
Somebody once said that “conservatives believe in the exploitation of man by man; while socialists believe the exact opposite!” Think about it before moving on!
Venezuela has been in the news a great deal over the last few days. There, an incompetent socialist government has destroyed the nation’s economy. An attempt was made by a member of the country’s military to overthrow the government. The sight of the helicopter flying over the capital city of Caracas brought back memories of a similar situation in Ghana almost 40 years ago.
Ghana is a case study in the failings of socialism, well-meant but a disaster.
Ghana got its independence from Great Britain in 1957. It was the first black African country to receive independence, first because it was the most promising, with the greatest number of highly educated citizens and the most money in the bank. Within four years, it was bankrupt and a dictatorship. Eventually, the military had to take over to save the country.
A second attempt was made at democracy, which also failed; the military then took over again. Whereas the politicians were generally well educated, military men were not well-versed in running an economy. Soon, there was a high rate of inflation and serious shortages. These led to a coup on June 4th, 1979, a coup my wife and I experienced first-hand.
The helicopter flying overhead, filmed by somebody on a balcony, reminded me of how Diane watched a similar scene during Ghana’s coup. In Ghana, the helicopter opened fire and she quickly went indoors. At the time, I was trying to get back to the house using side roads to avoid the fighting. At one point, I was held up at gunpoint by rebel soldiers who wanted to take my car.
The coup was successful. A new government came to power led by Flight Lt. J.J. Rawlings, an avowed socialist who was enamored by the way things were done in Eastern Europe. The people said the “J.J.” stood for “Junior Jesus.”
He immediately started setting things right, freezing the price of eggs at 8 cedis a dozen and controlling the price of beer, two priorities! The problem was that farmers could not produce eggs to sell at that price as chicken feed was too expensive; with beer, there was a shortage of hops. I thought that a national shortage of beer would lead to revolution fairly quickly, but I was wrong. Ghana remains the only African nation I know of that did not experience civil unrest when the beer ran out!
Serious shortages became a major problem. Supermarkets had next to nothing on their shelves. Basic commodities could only be obtained through barter – I remember bartering shirts for gasoline and toilet paper for rice!
As the economy went into freefall, so the government was made more oppressive. Foreigners were blamed for just about everything – in August, we were told to leave the country.
Elections had been scheduled before Rawlings took over. Under pressure, he allowed them to go ahead and a new, still socialist, government came to power, led by a nice man who was also an alcoholic. At least beer was now available!
Eventually, he was overthrown and J.J. was back, followed by even greater economic disaster. It wasn’t until Rawlings started to reverse socialism and encourage free enterprise that things started to improve.
Government control of the economy = disaster. Mrs. T got it right!
So why is socialism “in vogue” again? The rising gap between rich and poor is one answer; another is the youth vote – most young people have no memory of when Europe was largely socialist. As Winston Churchill once said: “If you’re not a socialist at 20, you’ve got no heart; if you’re still a socialist at 30, you’ve got no head”.
In I Samuel 8 we read an account of how Israel wanted a human leader like all the other nations around them. God warned the people that it would mean greater financial hardship, as government would constantly expand and the people would have to pay for it. The warning was of 10% taxation. Today, taxes run much higher.
10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. 11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men,[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”
Don’t just assume that this only applies to kings and kingdoms. In the last century, new nations have come into existence, most of them with a president rather than a king. It turns out the kings were cheaper. Note the following from Ecclesiastes 10:16-17:
“Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
17 Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time—
For strength and not for drunkenness!”
Elected politicians think they have an automatic right to take everybody else’s money and spend it how they want. Again, Margaret Thatcher put it well when she observed: “the trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money!”
That’s exactly what Jeremy Corbyn of Britain’s Labour (socialist) party is promising the people – more taxes to help government expand.
That’s what Venezuela got with Hugo Chavez, the socialist president who presided over the collapse of the country’s economy. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has not been able to improve things.
The great lesson here is: there’s a lot of evils in capitalism, but don’t think government will make things better!
Just ask the Venezuelans….!