What do ‘real socialists’ think of democratic socialists?
Democratic socialism has been much in the news lately what with the primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Bernie Sanders running around the country preaching that it’s “Time for socialism.”
But what do real socialists think of their ideas? Authors Anthony Davies and James Harrigan point out that Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders don’t have a clue what real socialism is all about.
“In Denmark,” he said, “there is a very different understanding of what ‘freedom’ means.” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen disagreed, pointing out in a speech delivered at Harvard that Sanders missed some important details in his attempt to make America Danish. “I would like to make one thing clear,” Rasmussen said. “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”
Sanders has a solid track record for ignoring evidence, and Ocasio-Cortez is following in his footsteps. She recently declared herself “not the expert on geopolitics” — while appearing on national television to discuss geopolitics. And despite studying economics, she remains confused as to how something as simple as unemployment is measured. What neither seems to realize is that they inadvertently make the case not for socialism, but for economic freedom.
Economic freedom, the ability to engage in transactions free from government interference while simultaneously being protected from fraud, theft, breach of contract and other malfeasance, is at once a measure of limited and of effective government. While there is no perfect way to measure economic freedom, competing methods yield consistently similar results. The most recent of these, the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, lists the United States as the 18th (out of 180) most economically free country in the world.
This is far short of the No. 4 ranking the United States held in 2007, the decline from which coincided with a dramatic increase in the scope of the federal government’s power and spending following the housing crash.
The US has no “Five year plan.” There is no total government control of labor and capital as there is in real socialists countries like North Korea or Cuba. There is, indeed, interference in markets by government in the US. But “interference” is not “control” and for either the left or the right to refer to what is being espoused by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez as “socialism” is just plain wrong.
The so-called Scandanavian Model isn’t socialism either:
Democratic socialists in the United States call for us to be more like Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Yet two of those countries, Denmark and Sweden, are more economically free than the United States, sitting at 12th and 15th in the Heritage rankings. Though at the bottom of the list for freedom from taxes (180th and 179th), Denmark and Sweden score much higher than the United States for freedom from government spending (13th and 3rd), effectiveness of their judiciary (9th and 5th), and business freedom (3rd and 11th).
Socialism has a consistent track record for any who care to take a sober look. The Soviet Union and Venezuela tried it and disintegrated. China and North Korea tried it and suffered mass starvation. Every country that has ever tried socialism has either retreated toward economic freedom, or has employed mass violence to force its people to remain socialist.
All of this should be perfectly obvious to American socialists, but they are as resistant to history as they are to economics. Consequently, they learn from neither.
Words matter. Definitions matter. Using the term “socialist” as a political attack on Democrats might be convenient shorthand but it’s as irrelevant as when the left calls those on the right “fascists” or “Nazis.” Without a general agreement on what these terms mean, there can be no intelligent conversation or debate about the direction the US should take.