America will never be a socialist country. So spoke President Donald Trump at his State of the Union address. Prior to making that statement, he said that Americans are born free and will stay free. He understands that you cannot have a controlled economy and maintain a free society. What does this mean? Why did it need to be said?
As a professional economist who studied global economic trends during the 20th century, I find it astonishing that these questions have to be asked. And yes, they must be answered.
Socialism in its various statist forms — Communism, Fascism, Nazism, etc. — is about government ownership or government control over the economy. It killed more than 120 million innocent civilians during the 1900s.
Those were men, women, and children who just wanted to live their lives free of government oppression.
This is “Democide”, death by government, and does not include the millions more killed during wars spawned by this deadly ideology. One hundred and twenty million dead innocents.
The lesson? Obviously, not enough. Let’s try it again.
Supporters of socialism respond that it is a good idea that went bad. This time, especially in America, we will get it right. But socialism will never work precisely because it cannot work.
It has been tried in so many places at so many times that if it could have worked, it would have.
Let me explain, and begin with a definition. “Socialism is an economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are owned or controlled by the government rather than by private enterprise.” Government need not go all the way to communism with total ownership of what was once private property. It is sufficient to have administrative control over such.
If government controls your private property through taxation and regulation, that is just a small step from government ownership. It is a matter of degree. If you cannot control your own property, how can it truly be said to be yours? It is not. Government control is akin to government ownership.
Karl Marx wrote this in his Communist Manifesto, “The theory of the Communists can be summed up in this one single sentence: Abolition of private property.”
Yet the wish to have private property is human nature. Any parent will tell you that one of the first words a child speaks, is “mine”. To abolish it is to abolish human nature, to create what Marx called “New Soviet Man”, somehow free of self-interest and desire for ownership. But to abolish human nature is do abolish humans themselves.
That is why socialism fails every time and results in such bloodshed. It is the ultimate death cult, no matter how pretty a face is put on it nor how well-intentioned are the useful idiots who want to install it in America.
Paul Prentice is a fellow in economics, Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University.