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Socialism as the world’s worst idea

Kevin Williamson of National Review Online ponders the lingering appeal of a destructive political program.

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be interested. In the upcoming issue of National Review, I will have an essay on reading Karl Marx, and I do not have to worry about why people are interested. The world’s worst idea will not die. …

… I am not entirely convinced … that countering socialism is a “communications challenge.” The defects of socialism have been very thoroughly communicated — the photographs of the Holodomor are available online, the records of mass murder and spoliation are quite easily accessed, the stories of Cuban refugees are at our fingertips, The Gulag Archipelago is only a click away.

It is not a communication problem but a spiritual problem.

Reading Julia Lovell’s fascinating new Maoism: A Global History is, among other things, a dive into a complex political story that has at its heart not an ideology but a cult. The Maoism Lovell describes is in many ways an identifiably religious phenomenon, complete with devotion to a sacred book, adoration of icons, rites of confession and penance, and a benevolent god–man/prophet. It speaks to the same anxieties and needs as religion. It offers a moral principle — however insane and murderous — around which a life might be organized. …

… Lovell’s Maoism is not only a Chinese story — it is a Malaysian story, a Peruvian story, a Cambodian story, an Indian story, a Zimbabwean story. And it is, in part, an American story, too. …

… If socialism is a kind of cult, then there is a market for it — a wide-open market, in fact.

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...

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