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Let’s visit the idea of socialism again

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

I last talked about socialism in a column here on Nov. 12 of last year. I've been thinking about the subject more since then.

Socialism works in small groups. Families have a socialism element to them. Parents earn a living and lovingly share it with their children in the form of food, shelter, education, entertainment and so forth. This is universal, regardless of economic standing. It works in slightly larger groups, too. Our Amish and Mennonite friends practice a form of socialism. It works well.

In both families and these slightly larger groups, socialism works because no one is anonymous. Everyone knows everyone – knows their quirks, weaknesses, strengths and so forth. The older and wiser, or more experienced, counsel the weaker in a loving, caring way to bring them along, show them they are loved, show them ways to improve their failings. In larger settings, this empathy is lost.

It is often cited by those pushing socialism in this country that they want socialism like that in Scandinavia. What is the nature of the Scandinavian countries? They are very homogenous, have long established cultures, very few immigrants (at least until the big push that started in 2015 – and which has not gone very well).

They are a big version of the family or the Amish or Mennonite cultures. Big, but not too big – they have a strong sense of patriotism and togetherness as countries. As a whole, Scandinavians have even adopted complementary national flags – the pattern is the same, only the colors change to recognize the slight individuality differences of each country.

The 20th century saw a push toward socialism, in this case communism (socialism’s big brother) in big countries – notably Russia and China. In both cases, disastrous outcomes were the result, assuming you agree with me that killing 70-100 million people is a disaster. In large populations, it is impossible to have the familiarity that one finds in smaller, more intimate groups. So, the efficient way to get people in line with your policies – for they will resist otherwise – is through draconian, despotic measures. That means lots of murders by various means.

Despots are required in both socialism and fascism in order for the rulers to bend the population to their way of thinking. The result of despotism is clearly stated in Rodney Stark’s book, “The Victory of Reason.”

On Page 73, Stark states, “..command (read: despotic) economies neglect the most basic fact of life: all wealth derives from production (Stark’s emphasis here and below). It must be grown, dug up, cut down, hunted, herded, fabricated or otherwise created. The amount of wealth produced within any society depends not only on the number of people involved in production but on their motivation and the effectiveness of their production technology. When wealth is subject to devastating taxes and the constant threat of usurpation, the challenge is to keep one’s wealth, not to make it productive.”

History is teaching us where to bracket the tipping point whereby socialism might work (Scandinavia) and where it is a disaster (Cuba and Venezuela).

The common counterpoint when one brings up Venezuela to socialism proponents is, “But that is not the kind of socialism we’re talking about.”

Do you think today’s Venezuelan economy is what Hugo Chavez was promising in 1999 when he started the country down this disastrous path? Of course not, he was promising them wine and roses – just like the politicians and others in the U.S. are promising now.

I was at Disney World about the time Chavez came into power, and there were lots of Venezuelans there cheering Chavez on. In those days, they could afford to fly to Florida for a holiday at Disney World. Today, they can’t find anything to eat or medicine for their babies.

The other falsehood about socialism is, to a person, everyone I hear supporting it thinks they are going to get something from the “fat cats” (Wall Street bankers, business executives, you name it – whatever they want to describe as fat cats). It doesn’t work that way.

If you doubt this, you might ask the descendants of the peasants of Russia (if you can find any). Actually, there are some in Canada and Belize – they were Mennonites who escaped this period in Russian terror when collectivism was forced on the rural societies.

According to Wikipedia, “As part of the first five-year plan, collectivization was introduced in the Soviet Union by general secretary Joseph Stalin in the late 1920s as a way, according to the policies of socialist leaders, to boost agricultural production through the organization of land and labor into large-scale collective farms (kolkhozy). At the same time, Joseph Stalin argued that collectivization would free poor peasants from economic servitude under the kulaks (farmland owners).

“Stalin resorted to mass murder and wholesale deportation of farmers to Siberia in order to implement the plan. Millions who remained did not die of starvation, but the centuries-old system of farming was destroyed in a region so fertile it was once called ‘the breadbasket of Europe’. The immediate effects of forced collectivization were reduced grain output and almost halved livestock numbers, thus creating major famines throughout the USSR during 1932 and 1933. In 1932-33, an estimated 11 million people, 3 to 7 million in Ukraine alone, died from famine after Stalin forced the peasants into collectives…”

Now, take a country the size of the United States with the diversity of cultures we celebrate. We are not Scandinavia – we are too large, and we are certainly no longer homogenous in our culture, if we ever were. We could easily become Venezuela, should we believe the siren song of those promoting socialism here today.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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