July 25, 2016
What’s the Problem with Socialism?
Let’s start with...everything. So says bestselling author and professor of economics Thomas J. DiLorenzo, who sets the record straight in this concise and lively primer on an economic theory that’s gaining popularity—with help from Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders—despite its universal failure as an economic model and its truly horrific record on human rights.
In sixteen eye-opening chapters, DiLorenzo reveals how socialism inevitably makes inequality worse, why socialism was behind the worst government-sponsored mass murders in history, the myth of “successful” Scandinavian socialism; how socialism is worse—far worse—for the environment than capitalism, and more.
As DiLorenzo shows, and history proves, socialism is the answer only if you want increasing unemployment and poverty, stifling bureaucracy if not outright political tyranny, catastrophic environmental pollution, rotten schools, and so many social ills that it takes a book like this to cover just the big ones.
Provocative, timely, essential reading, Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Problem with Socialism is an instant classic comparable to Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.
July 25, 2016
Congratulations Tom DiLorenzo on your new book, The Problem with Socialism! As the DNC Convention kicks off this week, what a fantastic time to remind people why there are some problems with socialism. Give us an overview of your book.
The target audience is the millennial generation (and their parents), so many of whom have expressed support for socialism, of all things, with hundreds of thousands of them becoming Bernie Sanders supporters. This is a shocking development, a quarter of a century after the spectacular worldwide collapse of socialism. It is the consequence of several decades of extreme political correctness in our educational system where conservatives who might have educated our young people about the reality of socialism have been so effectively censored.
So I’ve written what I believe is a straightforward, easy-to-understand book with sixteen short chapters that explain why “millennials” should not want socialism in their future. Some of the topics include why socialism makes inequality in society worse; the evils of the bureaucratization of society; the brutal death toll of socialism in the twentieth century; the myth of “successful” Scandinavian socialism; how fascism was a form of socialism; why socialism is far worse for the environment than capitalism; how welfare harms the poor; the destructiveness of the “progressive” income tax; and the second plank of the ten planks in The Communist Manifesto.
So what is the “problem” with socialism?
Where to begin?! A big problem is that a Pew Foundation poll recently found that 69% of voters under the age of 30 said that they would vote for a socialist for president.
The main problems with socialism is that it will destroy your economic future – and your children’s future; it creates an unjust society where a small political elite enriches itself by imposing a regime of equality of poverty and misery on most everyone else; it has been associated with the worst crimes in human history, as documented in The Black Book of Communism, among other places
The socialist welfare state also harms the poor by destroying their work incentives, crowding out private charities, and causing family break-ups where fathers are replaced by government checks; and it destroys personal freedoms by using governmental force in pursuit of “equality.” That’s just for starters.
You discuss in your book that politicians, like Bernie Sanders, use Scandinavian socialist political systems as the standard-bearer for ideal socialist societies. Why is Bernie Sanders wrong?
One of the chapters of my book is entitled “The Myth of ‘Successful Scandinavian Socialism and addresses this question. The reality is very different from the rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and his political clone Hillary Clinton.
Sweden, for example, was one of the wealthiest countries in the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries thanks to its large degree of economic freedom and a culture of entrepreneurship and capitalism. It produced many great inventors and entrepreneurs such as Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, the people who created Volvo and Saab automobiles, and much more. Sweden enjoyed the highest per-capita income growth in the world from 1870 to 1950.
But Swedish politicians began experimenting with fascism in the 1930s and then socialism, with the nationalization of many industries, a large welfare state, super-progressive income taxation, and onerous regulation and regimentation of private industry. Sweden began “eating up” its accumulated capital, created by previous generations of capitalists, so much so that according to the Swedish Economic Association, Sweden did not create a single net new job from 1950 to 2005.
Because of this economic destruction the government resorted to printing massive amounts of money in an attempt to bail itself out, resulting in 500% interest rates. That in turn led to a Thatcher-like revolt that reduced marginal tax rates, privatized many industries, deregulated bank lending, retail, telecommunications, and airlines, and imposed deep spending cuts. But fifty years of Swedish socialism is hard to recover from: the Swedes still have a per-capita income level that is lower than in Mississippi, our lowest-income state.
So the reality is the opposite of the story told by Bernie Sanders. It is very telling that when he was recently interviewed by a Latin American journalist from Univision and asked about the economic implosion in “democratic socialist” Venezuela and Argentina he had nothing to say – for the first time in his adult life!
Are you concerned that nine out of ten Millennials who identify as Democrats overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton throughout the Democratic presidential primary? What can conservatives do to help educate them?
I consider Hillary Clinton to be just as much a socialist a Bernie Sanders is. The only difference is that she doesn’t use the “S” word. When Chris Mathews asked her recently what the difference was between a Democrat and a socialist she refused to answer the question. This leads many to believe that she must think there is no difference. She and Bernie are ideological soul mates. After all, she is the author of the failed “Hillarycare,” an attempt to impose Soviet-style central planning on the entire health care sector.
I’m convinced that the vast majority of the millennials who say they support socialism have no idea what it is, and are simply seduced by political demagogues who offer them free stuff. But when I point out to my students that I do not work for free, and neither does my doctor, so that education and healthcare could not possibly be “free,” they react a bit shocked since no one has ever pointed out to them before that there is no such thing as a free lunch, as the saying goes.
Some of them become resentful or angry that politicians like Sanders tried to make fools of them. This makes me optimistic that if I put in the hands of conservative college students a book like this, they can use the intellectual ammunition in the book to persuade their classmates that freedom and not socialism should be the wave of their future. It’s not hard to sell young people on freedom.
What books, authors, or conservative-themed book influenced your political philosophy and outlook on life?
I was an economics major in college and my first major influence was Milton Friedman. I was very impressed by a book of his collected Newsweek columns from the 1970s entitled “An Economist’s Protest.” I loved his clear writing and logical thought, and decided that I wanted to be able do what he was doing.
I also discovered The Freeman, the magazine published by the Foundation for Economic Education, and that introduced me to many of the best-known conservative economic and political writers of the time. I became interested in the ideas of Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock of the “public choice school.” They were both graduate school professors of mine. Anyone with this kind of educational background is bound to be a conservative or a libertarian.
I was also influence by “Old Right” writers such as Frank Meyer, Frank Chodorov, John T. Flynn, and H.L. Mencken. I’ve also been a student of the Jeffersonian tradition of the American founding, reading the writings of Jefferson himself and his intellectual heirs such as John C. Calhoun whose 1850 book, A Disquisition on Government, is one of my favorites.
July 22, 2016
Ghostbusters director Paul Feig decided months ago to frame legitimate concerns over his reboot of the 1984 classic as sexist rantings. The smear campaign (director Judd Apatow said critics were "excited about the Donald Trump candidacy"), prompted many reviews that tiptoed around the truth: Ghostbusters came with a weak script, which no amount of star power — male or female — could overcome.
Mr. Feig gave an interview shortly before the release of Sony's tentpole film where he lamented "getting yelled at by middle-aged men for two years," but overall that criticism had nothing to do with the casting of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. They appear to have done an admirable job with the material they were given — they just weren't given much.
The plot of Sony's new film is taken, almost beat for beat, from director Ivan Reitman's efforts decades ago. Anyone who has seen Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz, Dr. Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore in action knows exactly where the story is going: A band of oddball scientists and one regular New Yorker team up to prevent a paranormal apocalypse and close a portal the spirit world before it destroys the city. Skeptics and the federal government make their job difficult, but they prevail anyway.
Neil Casey, who plays the film's villain, is a perfect example of Ghostbusters' poor script. "Rowan" is a hotel janitor who primes certain points across the city to bring millions of ghouls into the world, but his motivations are not known aside for a passing reference to childhood bullying.
The Ghostbusters suffer a similar creative fate. Leslie Jones plays a Metro worker named Patty Tolan. She quits her job to become a part of the team, but there is no discernible reason why she wants a career change — she just does because Mr. Feig needed this film's Winston Zeddmore.
Kate McKinnon brings plenty of energy to her role as Jillian Holtzmann, but it appears as though the director relied on her improvisation skills to cover for his weak script (co-written by Katie Dippold). She eats Pringles, winks, and brings plenty of sass to the character, but she never gives the audience a reason to believe she is capable of putting together inventions at breakneck speed, aside from the fact that they work.
The same goes for Melissa McCarthy as Abby Yates, Kristen Wiig as Erin Gilbert, and Chris Hemsworth administrative assistant Kevin. At one point Kevin, who seems... challenged, goes into an extended joke about his dog, which he calls "My Cat" and "Mike Hat" to inadvertently confuse his employers. Fans of the 1984 version are likely to yearn for Annie Potts' superior secretary, Janine Melnitz (who has the best cameo).
Finally, the climax is a mess. A Michael Jackson-inspired "Thriller" sequence was obviously filmed and then left on the cutting-room floor. This would not be so bad if not for the fact that Rowan freezes an army of law enforcement personnel in a classic "Thriller" pose. The Ghostbusters find a way to thwart Rowan's plans, but their success begs the question: Why did the villain paralyze everyone who challenged him except the Ghostbusters?
Ghostbusters, whether director Paul Feig wants to admit it or not, comes across as a cash-grab by Sony, which hopes to sucker older fans in by appealing to nostalgia. There are few reasons to see this film at full price, even with cameos by Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Bill Murray. Take the kids if they want to see someone get slimed, but otherwise stay home.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Original CBC review by Doug Ernst