Hamilton: Socialism: Theory vs. practice
Among certain circles of younger Americans, Socialism is enjoying a revival. Given that today’s younger generations would have no direct knowledge of the horrors that 20th Century Socialist dictators inflicted on millions of people, this should come as no surprise. Then too, their teachers may be preaching about the evils of Capitalism while failing to give equal attention to the evils of Socialism.
In theory, Socialism sounds like the Sermon on the Mount. But, in practice, government ownership of the means of production (Communism) or private ownership of the means of production under strict government control (Socialism) never seems to produce the promised “people’s paradise.” Recommended reading: Marxism: Philosophy and Economics by Thomas Sowell (2012).
To borrow from Robert Frost: Something there is that doesn’t love Socialism, that sends a frozen ground swell of Capitalist innovation under it. In Moscow, in the late 1980s, our band of American journalists saw how the consumer-goods starved Russian Proletariat found ways around the “system.”
When entering the “people’s paradise,” even we non-smokers packed our bags with cartons of Marlboros, making sure one carton was readily reachable. Miraculously, the carton would metamorphose into approved entry papers. To leverage interviews with top-level Soviet bureaucrats, we packed bottles of duty-free single-malt Scotch.
Browsing through one of Moscow’s ubiquitous open-air flea markets, we saw a make-shift booth offering burnt-out light bulbs for sale. Our guide told us: “People buy these burned out light bulbs and take them to their place of work which, like everything here, is government-owned and managed. They find a light bulb that works and they replace the good bulb with a burned-out light bulb and sneak the good bulb home.
“Eventually, another state employee will come along inspecting for burned-out light bulbs. The state employee replaces the burned-out light bulbs with good light bulbs. Then, he takes the burned-out light bulbs to a flea market and sells them.”
Drivers who forgot to secure their windshield wipers at night would often find them in some flea market the next morning.
One evening, we attended a banquet for over 500 journalists in a nice Moscow hotel that was only available to tourists and to the KGB-trained hookers stationed inside the bar. In addition to salad, some potatoes and other veggies and the promise of dessert, the main dish was to be beef steak.
Back in the kitchen, a blowtorch was applied to each of the steaks, leaving a thin layer of black char on the outside of each steak. Otherwise, the meat inside was totally raw. Someone at our table tried to send his raw steak back, insisting his steak be cooked properly. Within moments, our waiter came back with a steak that was burned to an inedible crisp.
Resignedly, everyone pushed their steak aside. Immediately, an army of waiters appeared to whisk the uneaten steaks back into the kitchen where the black char was washed away. Before dawn, those steaks would be in the black-market restaurants, affordable only to the Nomenklatura, the Soviet elites.
They say traveling is broadening. Maybe today’s budding socialists should travel to such socialist paradises like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. See what life is like. Might change their worldview.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. In 2015, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Nebraska. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). “Central View,” can also be seen at: http://www.central-view.com.
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