Pouring cold water on the socialist myth

Charles Calomiris explains in an Economics21 column that socialism is “the opiate of the corrupt and ignorant.”

The overarching message of “The Opportunity Cost of Socialism”—a study recently released by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA)—is that the advocacy of socialism cannot reasonably be based on policy preferences; its attraction has always been grounded in a combination of wishful thinking and ignorance. For example, the new CEA study shows that the socialist approach to “single payer” health care advocated by many on the left would cost much more and deliver much less, resulting in the significant worsening of mortality and morbidity, not just higher taxes and reduced economic growth. …

… Obvious facts about socialism are not discussed enough. Few people are willing to read 50-page studies like the CEA’s, and there has been very little media coverage of it—journalists or politicians who could summarize the CEA findings haven’t seen sufficient reason to do so (or may themselves be among the uninformed advocates of socialism). That is too bad because the ignorant advocacy of socialism is currently a significant threat to our democracy. …

… The difference between market-based and socialist economies is not the presence of redistributive policies per se. For over a century, around the world, market-based economies have taxed and redistributed wealth, and provided a host of services such as public education and care for the poor, sick, and elderly. The difference is that in market-based systems taxation is regarded as an unfortunate burden, which is employed out of necessity to ensure that other priorities are achieved. In contrast, in socialist regimes, taxation is not regarded as an undesirable consequence, but as a means to prevent individuals from counterproductively controlling their collective economic destiny.

Socialism’s appeal has always been its false promise to create wealth better than capitalism can.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...