Clueless in the Bronx

July 25, 2018

I received a thoughtful response to my recent post of a friend’s parody song lyrics about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“I’m Just A Wide-Eyed Socialist”), defending socialism and using Finland as an example of a place where socialism works.  To show that I do read the comments and appreciate the chance to have a friendly discussion with people who disagree, I thought I would write about the rise in popularity of socialism among American Democrats, particularly young ones.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:  FUN WITH SOCIALISM: a song parody tribute to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


First, I’d note that one of the most shocking things about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is not that someone who’s an avowed socialist would win a Democratic Congressional primary in New York (sadly, not a surprise at all), but that someone with an economics degree (!) would not only embrace socialism, but prove to be so clueless on so many aspects of Econ 101, such as thinking that the unemployment rate is only low because “everyone has two jobs” (A. They don’t; and B. Having multiple jobs doesn’t affect how your employment is counted.) 

 



There’s also a popular meme going around the Internet that claims that if you like Social Security, Medicare, public education, infrastructure, police, firefighters and the military, then you already like socialism.  Putting aside the fact that the first two are in desperate financial straits, the third is widely criticized, and even liberals are always attacking the fourth, none of those things are particularly “socialist.”  Using taxes to pay for common societal needs is a characteristic of virtually all forms of government.

 

I think all this provides pretty solid evidence of the low quality of economics education that today’s students are receiving.  Don’t forget, college freshmen in 2018 have never even known a world in which the pound sign wasn’t called a “hashtag,” much less lived through the horrors of 20th century communism.  If their only knowledge of socialism came from their biased leftist professors, no wonder they think it’s just peachy.  It’s always easier to convince people that socialism can work when they’ve never seen with their own eyes how it really, really doesn’t. 

 

It’s also easier to get someone to swallow poison if you put chocolate frosting on it.  Hence the current popularity of the term, “Democratic Socialism.”  As in, “Oh, this isn’t the kind of socialism that has Venezuelans going without medicine or toilet paper or being forced to eat zoo animals.  This is ‘Democratic Socialism!’’’  That mindset inspired a great Internet meme showing a doctor telling a patient, “The bad news is, you have herpes.  The good news is, it’s ‘Democratic Herpes!’” Adding a meaningless adjective doesn’t make it more palatable. When the government is so big it controls every aspect of your life, democracy becomes irrelevant.  Or as one fed-up Finn put it, what choice of education do parents have when all the schools you can choose from are run by the same government?

 

Defenders of socialism usually point to the Scandinavian nations, where the so-called “Nordic model” of “socialism lite” allegedly works so well that Bernie Sanders wants America to become Sweden West.  In fact, those nations are not socialist: they are capitalist nations that thought their economies were so strong, they could afford to experiment with high taxes (around 45% on every level of income) in exchange for free health care, college, etc., for everyone, regardless of income.  As any Garrison Keillor fan will recognize, they had largely homogeneous populations of Nordic Lutherans who believed it was their duty in life to work hard and demand little in return, and that should be the perfect lab for socialism. 

 


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But even these nations are abandoning the limited elements of socialism they adopted, because they’ve found that even small doses of socialism prove toxic over the long haul, like adding just a little pinch of arsenic to your spouse’s oatmeal every morning.  It’s still deadly, it just takes a while.  Letting government take half your income, make all your decisions and provide all your needs with no options was destroying the fabled Scandinavian work ethic, exacerbated by the decline in traditional religious beliefs and an influx of migrants who realized they could enjoy the same handouts whether they worked like dogs or slept like cats.

 

I recently ran a link to an article about how Swedes are getting fed up with ever-rising taxes while the quality of public services keeps declining.  Also, Finland is ending a failed experiment in giving people a guaranteed monthly income after two years.  While it was still income redistribution, the hope was that giving people cash to make their own consumer choices would allow the government to cut the expensive social services bureaucracy that now employs a third of the population, and encourage people to take lower-paying entry level jobs.  Instead (surprise!) handing out free money just encouraged more sloth, dependence and entitlement. 

 

The excuse when socialism inevitably fails is that the “wrong people” were in charge, or that other countries prevented it from succeeding (a popular excuse for Venezuela), or that it didn’t go far enough and “real socialism” hasn’t been tried yet.  This is all nonsense.  While socialism has many definitions, it’s basically “the workers control the means of production,” which is Marxism.  Naturally, “the workers” can’t run all the industries that government is meddling in or do all that redistributing of wealth themselves, so politicians and bureaucrats must do it “on their behalf.”  And that, in a nutshell, is why it will never…NEVER…succeed.  Because socialism, communism and all such collectivist isms fail to take into account human nature.  It doesn't matter who's in charge; if humans are in charge, it's destined to fail. 

 

Ronald Reagan articulated one of the immutable laws of human nature that socialism violates when he said that if you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it.  This is why I think we should have a consumption-based Fair Tax instead of an income tax: we punish people for working harder, being more productive and creating jobs. Socialism punishes productivity and innovation and gives equal rewards both to those who work hard and those who do the bare minimum.  Guess what the results are? 

 

Another reason socialist systems always fail (there are many such variations, but they all have this in common) is that they violate the law of human nature that the people who are most attracted to government positions involving great power over others tend to be the worst people to whom to entrust them (or as I call that: the Hillary Clinton Rule.)  Capitalism has its flaws, and it does require government to insure a level playing field and free markets and to police unfair business practices.  But at least the ultimate power of the purse rests in the hands of consumers.  If the people really decide that a company isn’t acting in their interests, they can withhold their patronage and kill it overnight.  That’s real “power to the people!”

 

But when you have a government system that redistributes vast amounts of wealth, the power inherent in that job attracts the most corruptible people.  This insures that under a socialist system, the only people who are rich are the existing tycoons who are able to buy government influence and crush any rising competitors (hence the saying, “Only the very rich can afford socialism”) and the politicians who control the redistributing and snip off a piece of every transaction for themselves.  The late Hugo Chavez, who infamously brought socialism to Venezuela, loved to rail that “being rich is bad.” Yet miraculously, his daughter ended up as the nation’s richest woman with an estimated $4.2 billion in foreign banks.  Baaaad daughter!  She claims she made it by selling hand creams. That’s right, blame capitalism!

 


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In fact, many young Americans have been taught to blame capitalism for everything.  They pull on their Nikes, hop in their Priuses, and head down to Starbucks to use the free wi-fi to connect their iPads and iPhones to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and post about how capitalism has never done anything to improve the lives of people like them.  They’ve been misled into believing they’re living in the worst of all possible times when, thanks to capitalism, they’re actually blessed to be in the cleanest, safest, most abundant, best-fed, most medically- and technologically-advanced era in history, a time when even Americans below the poverty line enjoy benefits that royalty of a century ago couldn’t imagine. And they believe that only by replacing capitalism with socialism can things change. 

 

Well, they’re right about that.  It would change things for sure. But to quote yet another piece of eternal wisdom they probably never learned from their college professors, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.”  

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Comments 1-25 of 62

  • Robert Burton

    07/30/2018 08:37 AM

    Socialism: You just said it all. Now, can you get 'em to read it?

  • Jo Hier

    07/29/2018 06:30 PM

    Love love love your commentaries and read them religiously - YOU MAKE SENSE! Anyway, this Ocasio-Cortez woman says so much stuff that makes my brain hurt just trying to figure out what the heck she is trying to say - SHE MAKES 'NO' SENSE!

  • Barbara J. Raley

    07/29/2018 02:59 PM

    Gov. Huckabee, being a native Arky, but in Tucson, Az since 1959, want to say, again, how much we appreciate you! You have a delightful way with words that makes me smile...interspersed in all the "bad stuff" Such as: As in, “Oh, this isn’t the kind of socialism that has Venezuelans going without medicine or toilet paper or being forced to eat zoo animals. This is ‘Democratic Socialism!’’’ That mindset inspired a great Internet meme showing a doctor telling a patient, “The bad news is, you have herpes. The good news is, it’s ‘Democratic Herpes!’” .............and the slow moving Arsenic. And you have one amazing Daughter speaking for our POTUS! THANK YOU!

  • patricia connell

    07/29/2018 10:25 AM

    You are such a smart man! I love reading everything you write because it all makes sense to me. Common sense has gone out the window for a big portion of our society & thank God we still have some.

  • Amelia Little

    07/29/2018 09:57 AM

    In the paragraph about Social Security, medicare, public education, etc that socialists (or at least this first-time politician) being part of socialism, you note that Social Security and medicare are in desperate financial straits. It would have been an opportunity to point out that Social Security is NOT "tax dollars" but dollars contributed by workers and their employers. NOT TAX DOLLARS. And, while there may be some tax dollars used for Medicare, I know for a fact that my check also had a deduction paid to medicare. A point of SS not using tax $$ is that our beloved politicians have chosen at various times to "borrow" the money we put in for SS. If any tax dollars would be attributed to paying SS--it would be REPAYMENT OF A "LOAN" of OUR money. Maybe, since THEIR monthly retirement payout is from our tax dollars, the politicians, many of whom must not have ever worked in the real world to note deductions from pay checks, must think that tax payers are footing the SS bill. Well, we are, to the extent that the money came out of paychecks of tax payers.

  • David Wilson

    07/28/2018 05:00 PM

    Once again Mike thanks for the succinct explanation of how socialism and its various forms are not succeeding better indeed failing! You were spot-on again and I hope everyone that has the ability to read will read what you've written! Thanks for adding Clarity to a confused group of younger people that haven't lived through the time you and I have!

  • Tom Simpson

    07/28/2018 04:50 PM

    The article should be required reading in the appropriate class during high school and any basic economics class in college!

  • Donald Eddy

    07/27/2018 08:07 AM

    You are way too smart to get elected, but keep up the good works.....

  • Henning E. Andersen

    07/26/2018 10:35 PM

    Mr. Huckabee, you have heard from my Swedish wife Eva, now it is time for me.
    I was bien in Denmark just as WWll was beginning. We were blessed to be living there. King Christian did the right thing for his people, I am thankful for that. We had our Danish version of soft socialism for which I am also greatful. I had a ruptured appendix at age 7, after the war. I was rushed to the hospital and later was told I had only 10 minutes to live. They took good care of me, I spent 12 days in the hospital and when the day came to go home, my mother merely signed me out. There was no way to pay, there was no cashier. As it was, mother could not have been able to pay, she could barely pay the rent on our apartment. I should add, my father had spent the war at sea, on a merchant ship, transporting AMERICAN troops to the North African theater of the war as well as other areas for troop deployment.
    We never saw him until the war was over. We applied for visas to emigrate to the USA and mother and I arrived in Philadelphia in August of 1949. THIS PLACE IS UNBELIEVABLE! (Socialism in whatever form it was, it was good for me)
    There is so much more I would love to share with you. You have my email address, if there was some sort of reply, I would happily share my amazingly wonderful life here in the greatest country in the world.
    Very respectfully submitted,
    Semper Fi.

    Hemi...

  • Jeffrey Hampl

    07/26/2018 07:48 PM

    Capitalism is goods distributed according to greed.
    Socialism is goods distributed according to deed.
    Communism is goods distributed according to need.

    I'm not a pro-Socialism advocate, but I will point out that the world has never seen a truly Communist state. Even the USSR was a federation of "socialist states," although most people called the USSR "Russia," except during the Olympics when we were reminded Russia purported to be just one member "country" within the sovereign USSR.

    As you alluded to, the US is not purely a capitalist state either. We have Indian Health Services, Veterans Affairs, Medicaid, etc. (Social Security and Social Security Disability Insurance [SSDI] have sovereign funds generated from payroll deductions, which makes them insurance programs, not products of Socialism.) Public goods such as police and fire departments are more socialist than capitalist. These are provided to all, regardless of social status, through tax dollars. We don't expect police to serve only those who pay their salaries, which is what pure capitalism would require.

    Since the US clearly has socialist-by-nature-if-not-in-name public offerings, what I resent is the GOP's absurd stance against universal health care. In America, losing your job is synonymous with losing your health insurance. This is devastating, I know from experience. As someone with a disability, losing my health insurance was as devastating as losing my job. Through no fault of my own, I had the dilemma of drowning in medical debt (ie, the leading cause of personal bankruptcy) or not having the medical care and medications I need. I ended up getting married. How's that for the GOP promoting family values? (I was in love but wouldn't have gotten married if it weren't for being uninsured.)

    This issue is broader than just losing employment-based insurance. Health care in the US is in shambles. We consumer pay MUCH more for services and medications than people do in other developed nations, which, of course, have universal health care. The federal government pays MUCH more for health care than do developed nations that provide universal health care. Our vital statistics have been horrific compared to peer nations that provide universal health care, largely because of the egregiously high number of people who had NO health insurance AT ALL prior to Obamacare.

    Politicians are wrong to believe that capitalism is how health care works. It's decidedly not. Offering consumers choices is the exact opposite of how health care pricing works. With one or two or so insurance choices, hospitals, doctors, etc., will be motivated to work with insurance plans and compromise on health care costs because not doing so will limit the number of patients who will pay to see them. THIS is ECON 101, but most of the GOP are too close-minded to recognize the reality.

    It's time to recognize that capitalism and health care are incompatible, that Obamacare is (was, if the GOP keeps working at depriving the poor of health care) a reasonable compromise, and that the individual mandate is perfectly compatible with the Free Commerce Clause (see Katzenbach v. McClung).

  • Eva Andersen

    07/26/2018 07:35 PM

    Mr. Huckabee, it’s always a pleasure to read “The Right On Articles” you publish and this about Socialism is no different.
    I was born and raised in Sweden and no about socialism pretty well back in the 40’s and 50’s. Parents were taxed to the brim BUT you got FREE lunch 6 days/week, yes we attended half day on Saturdays...FREE doctor and prescriptions and if you were having gallbladder attack’s you had to wait your turn to be seen at the hospital, maybe 6 months later ( true story) but the person insisted she was staying until admitted and at the end it worked...Talking about being a “Number only”...
    United States Of America Is Too Large, Has Too Many People And Too many State laws for Socialism to Ever Work..
    God Bless You..
    Eva Andersen

  • Michael B. Aronson

    07/26/2018 01:42 PM

    You reinforce my beliefs with such clarity and simplicity. Your articles are brain candy to me!

  • Betty Jo Simone

    07/26/2018 01:29 PM

    This was such a good article, so well written and thought out. I wish this could go out to everyone, especially to our young people. They so need some education on these types of subjects.

  • Margo netherlands

    07/26/2018 10:26 AM

    socialism is a TRANSITION betweet capitalism and marxism.

    #educateyourself marxs & engels communist manifesto.

  • Denise A Wright

    07/26/2018 02:19 AM

    Governor Huckabee,
    Loved your commentary "Clueless in the Bronx". What wisdom, wit, and common sense insight you have in writing this! My husband and I always enjoy your newsletters from top to bottom. This one was right at the top of our favorites.
    The paragraph about the young Americans who have been taught to blame capitalism for everything was spot on. As you so correctly stated..."They pull on their Nikes, hop in their Priuses, and head down to Starbucks to use the free wi-fi to connect their iPads and iPhones to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and post about how capitalism has never done anything to improve the lives of people like them."
    Thank you again Governor for brightening up our minds and making our day a little more educated and thought provoking. God bless you and your family.
    Bob and Denise Wright

  • Tom Barnhart

    07/26/2018 12:55 AM

    Dear Mike,

    All of what you said here is spot on! I wish you'd include an explanation of the Democrats' worldview of government and their application of that worldview to their obstructionism and resistance to President Trump's administration and America's welfare. Perhaps you could explain what the application of their worldview will look like if implemented by a Democrat majority in Congress and/or the Presidency.

    I supported your run for President, Ted Cruz's attempt and voted for President Trump, but I continue to hope you'll not step away from serving in some capacity in your own future administration as a Senator, Congressman or eventually President. We need your wisdom, knowledge and Christian faith to keep America great.

  • Old Whitebeard

    07/25/2018 10:14 PM

    Great article.

  • Tommy Heider

    07/25/2018 08:52 PM

    Competition for the highest possible quality by a team driven through collaboration and cooperation puts fun into work, Team accomplishments and personal achievements will eventually displace the false promise of socialism and intersectionality.

  • Cheryl Davis

    07/25/2018 08:38 PM

    Thank you for your piece on socialism, I have been wanting someone to point out the dangers of socialism.

  • Joseph Behrendt

    07/25/2018 08:00 PM

    Well if that 28 year old twit is what the Democrats are relying on for the future then the Party is already lost. She has to be the dumbest person (next to Pelosi an Watters) I've seen to date . She truly is a product of Democratic education an teachers. This should scare the bajezzes out of young people to know when they graduate college that will be them.

  • Ronnie Brackett

    07/25/2018 07:52 PM

    SOCIALISM vs CAPITALISM; Let's keep it simple; You are in high school or collage and you study really hard, don't go to parties if you haven't finished your homework, you have 'top quality' in every report you turn in, give total dedication to bringing the best grade to your report card, and you make straight A's!
    You feel your work has been justified and you are very proud of your accomplishments.
    Now let's say you have a 'socialist' teacher who thinks that everybody's grades should be averaged together so everyone will pass and no one would get a failing grade! That would make everyone equal!...And your grade is put as a 'C'.
    WOULD YOU FEEL THAT IS FARE? The students who partied, goofed off, and didn't study got the same grade as you! THAT'S SOCIALISM! NOW, HOW HARD WOULD YOU STUDY FOR YOUR NEXT SEMESTER GRADE? WHY WOULD YOU DEDICATE YOURSELF TO BE YOUR BEST?

  • Sharon Jessup

    07/25/2018 07:19 PM

    I love your articles they make so much sense. You are so right anyone that believes in socialism doesn't understand its never worked never will. Keep up the good work and thanks

  • Catherine Haenze

    07/25/2018 07:09 PM

    I was 19 when I got my first job. I was paid $1.25 (ish...1958) Within six months the first time. I experienced and hourly wage backed by the government which saw me getting 1.32 (ish, lot of time under that dam.) BUT, even at 19, and without college, I saw almost EVERYTHING go us: rent, gas, food, electricity, movies, busses, you name it. It was far beyond what my paltry sum could swallow. But this is the formula:
    pay+government imposed pay raise=raising prices. With this formula, you can never catch up, much less get ahead.

  • Sam Sullivan

    07/25/2018 06:25 PM

    What a wonderful commentary on the ills of socialism. I so wanted you to be the Republican nominee for president in 16. We need your voice of reason in that office...keep up the good work.

  • John Lee Knoefler

    07/25/2018 05:40 PM

    By now almost everyone with a functioning brain has been laughing at this silly girl. If she actually wins her campaign it's going to be hilarious for anyone NOT in her district. I did post this article to Free World News at https://www.reddit.com/r/freeworldnews/comments/91w4fb/clueless_in_the_bronx/

    Everyone is welcome to post news worthy articles from around the world so long as they are in English.