It’s easy to believe in socialism in modern America. It’s easy to hear about everyone working together for the common good, the government making sure everyone plays nice, and free and affordable everything for everyone and think, “Well that sounds like a great idea.” But the only reason it is so easy to believe is because we have never lived in a fully socialist country. We don’t know what socialism actually costs. Or what it actually looks like.
There’s an interesting story about Boris Yeltsin, then head of the Soviet Union, coming for a visit to America in 1989. He visited Johnson Space Center, but that nexus of technological wizardry didn’t turn his head. What did turn his head was an informal visit to a local Randall’s grocery store:
About a year after the Russian leader left office, a Yeltsin biographer later wrote that on the plane ride to Yeltsin’s next destination, Miami, he was despondent. He couldn’t stop thinking about the plentiful food at the grocery store and what his countrymen had to subsist on in Russia.
“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people,” Yeltsin wrote. “That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it.”
So there you have it. Socialism works only on paper. And it works on paper only in an environment of wealth. You look around you today in the US and you think, “A small percentage of people have such fabulous wealth. If only we could spread that wealth around, then everyone would be happy.” Yet you don’t realize that wealth has already been spread around.
The tragedy of socialism is that it destroys all the wealth in a country in an attempt to create equality. It happened in the Soviet Union. And in China. North Korea. Vietnam. It’s not as if we don’t have plenty of case studies of the failures of socialism and communism. They litter the road of history like discarded bags of half-eaten takeout.
Now is the only time when socialism makes any sense. When there is still wealth enough to go around, but it’s not going around quite like you’d like. That’s when socialism makes the most sense. But give into it, and it pulls its bait and switch. The reality of socialism fully unfurled is greater injustice, totalitarianism, and abject poverty. Ask anyone who has lived through it. Ask Boris Yeltsin. All it took for him to abandon socialism was a trip to an American grocery store. What’s our excuse?
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