I want to challenge you.
Could the United States—the beacon of freedom, an economic and military superpower, and perhaps history’s greatest anomaly—ever fall as far as Venezuela?
Before we get back to that, let me give you a brief crash course in what South American friends are currently enjoying.
There’s no food. Imagine being so hungry that you’d break into a zoo to eat the animals, or hunt stray cats and dogs for a meal.
There’s no hope. Imagine being so wildly at your wits’ end that you’d set someone on fire for allegedly stealing.
There’s no such thing as “the basics.” Finding diapers or toilet paper is like striking gold.
There’s no justice. Scores of people have been hauled away for daring to protest the government’s dictatorship, where they face torturous imprisonment.
So, could we ever get to such a point?
Come back stateside with me as you ponder that. Campus Reform recently interviewed college students in Washington D.C.—asking them 1) whether or not Socialism was a good thing, and 2) if they knew what it meant.
You can watch the video here, but let me sum it up: 1) yes, and 2) no, not really.
These students aren’t exceptions to the rule; millennials in the U.S. overwhelmingly (69%) support the idea of a Socialist president.
Ironically, (as this video illustrates), they can’t define the system they believe would be so helpful to America. (For the record, as defined, it is collectivism and wealth redistribution enforced with varying degrees of oppression and often violence.)
By and large, people believe that Socialism simply helps people. They just don’t quite know how to bring this system to fruition … which brings us to Venezuela.
Venezuela, formerly the richest country in South America, saw Socialism take root firmly when Hugo Chavez was elected. Chavez decided to start taking his oil-rich nation’s money and redistribute it to “eliminate” poverty. At the same time, Chavez nationalized (read: took over) oil, agriculture, banks, cement and glass production, gold, steel, telecommunications, electricity, transportation, and tourism.
Then oil prices fell—which is bad news for a country that relies on oil for 95% of its export income.
Naturally, with a drastically reduced oil income that can no longer support the redistributive social programs Chavez enacted, and with vast swathes of the nation’s industry nationalized, (meaning that they’re not doing much good in terms of producing anything of value), it’s no surprise that the people are suddenly impoverished … and livid about it.
Chavez artificially “helped” his people by redistributing the nation’s wealth; that money was only there because the rest of the world was willing to pay that price for that oil at that time. Instead of unleashing free enterprise and the ingenuity of mankind to create diverse sources of prosperity, Chavez paid off his people with social programs while carefully taking over the industries of his nation.
So, for Maduro (Chavez’ successor) to keep it up, he must force it. Indeed, you need increasingly more force to enforce that which does not work (which is exactly how you get oppression).
Fact: there isn’t a single truly socialized nation that hasn’t been utterly destroyed. (And no, the Scandinavian nations and their temporarily less destructive hybrid of redistributive policies and free market principles don’t count.)
I’m talking about nations—like Venezuela—that got very serious about collective ownership of private property and redistribution of wealth.
Every nation that has enacted collectivism in any of its forms has eventually spiraled into some form of what Venezuela’s got today. Upwards of 6 million people died when Stalin collectivized the farms in Ukraine during the “Holodomor.” 65 million people died under Mao in China. In the last ten years alone, there have been 18,000+ political prisoners in Cuba, with tens of thousands more killed on the tiny island nation since the Castro family took power.
In total, 94 million people have died at the hands of Communism (the natural progression of pure Socialism) in the 20th century.
From China to Venezuela— it’s all the same story.
It’s a far cry from what our children are being taught it means—that it’s somehow Mother Teresa, Santa Claus, and perpetual prosperity all rolled into one.
Here’s the thing: there’s a reason why people like Mother Teresa are so revered. It’s because they’re rare. True selflessness is tough to come by because we’re all humans with beating hearts, which subsequently means we’re all subject to thinking about Numero 1—something that makes a collectivist Utopia unrealistic (and this is, of course, assuming that Socialist leaders actually want only good for their people, and not simply foolproof way to get rich and powerful quick).
In collectivist ideologies, everyone involved must suppress their own wants and needs. That destroys incentive, which destroys ingenuity, which destroys new, better and more successful ideas.
Not only does collectivism destroy the engines that drive economic growth, but government involvement (in anything that the free market could solve on its own) is the kiss of death. There’s a reason why we talk in terms of “bureaucratic red tape;” there isn’t a single government program that works well. Seriously, I dare you: name me a government program that works efficiently, on budget, and without limiting freedom or hurting someone. For example: Lyndon Johnson’s massive welfare state (the “War on Poverty) prompted over 22 trillion in government dollars spent to combat poverty, and yet somehow the poverty rate hasn’t budged. Medicare and Social Security are both projected to run out of money in 12 and 17 years, respectively. Millions have lost their insurance, and millions have seen massive premium hikes thanks to Obamacare. And we’re in unimaginable debt as a result of it all—yet still, we embrace greater and greater government control over the private sector.
So let’s recap. Defined and implemented exactly as outlined by its founders, Socialism ruins nations and impoverishes, oppresses, and kills millions of people. Our up-and-coming generation thinks Socialism is great but really can’t define it (which means they’re oblivious to its dangers). And we’re slowing embracing its principles and becoming numb to the effects of every new government takeover (healthcare, anyone?) and each new government goody.
So let me ask it again, in a different way. Not, “could it happen here,” but rather— knowing what we know about Socialism, and as our society embraces big government and Socialist tendencies more closely than ever before—what precisely would convince you that it can’t?
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, M-F, 3-5. ET). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree