by Aaron Tao
Proud, self-described socialist Bernie Sanders is running for president again and has already raised over $10 million for his campaign. Rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also a proud, self-described socialist, has promoted a Green New Deal, which has whipped up a frenzy among young populist activists and “emerged as a key litmus test for prospective 2020 presidential candidates,” drawing support from Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and—of course—Bernie Sanders.
Even if one assumes that the shift of mainstream progressive politicians towards the far Left is a calculated, self-serving act, the renewed calls for massive government interventionism and, worse, the rising acceptability of socialism, should concern all of us who wish to preserve a free society.
For the purposes of this article, I will use the Library of Economics and Liberty’s definition of socialism: “a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production.” This is synonymous with communism. The end goal of socialism is to abolish private property, free markets, exchange, prices, and profits, and substitute collective ownership and decision-making to determine the allocation of resources. Throughout history, socialism’s advocates and practitioners have made heartfelt appeals in the names of fairness, egalitarianism, and humanitarianism.
Many millennials lived through the 2007–8 financial crisis and graduated college with uncertain job prospects and crushing student loans. Gen Z (iGen), the newest kids on the block, grew up with smartphones in their pockets before they started high school and “do not remember a time before the internet.” Living in an economically uncertain world, in which anyone with a smartphone can easily document an unjustified police shooting, it is understandable that many young people are drawn towards social justice activism. Thus, it’s unsurprising that radical ideologies such as socialism, with its promise to deliver a fairer, more equal, and more just world, are gaining in popularity among youth.
Real injustices and systemic oppression do exist in the US. But, as a young, first-generation Chinese-American immigrant, I have a message for my peers and fellow American citizens: socialism is not the answer. Despite its lofty promises to deliver freedom from want, perfect man (and even transform human nature itself), and ultimately usher in heaven on earth, socialism has instead resulted in hell in every place it has been tried. The gruesome historical evidence is well documented in sobering books such as Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow and Frank Dikötter’s Mao’s Great Famine. Today, the ongoing collapse of socialist Venezuela continues to bring untold suffering to its people.
No political experiment has ever been tried so widely, with so many disparate people, in so many different countries (with such different histories) and failed so absolutely and so catastrophically. Is it mere ignorance (albeit of the most inexcusable kind) that allows today’s Marxists to flaunt their continued allegiance—to present it as compassion and care? Or is it, instead, envy of the successful, in near-infinite proportions? Or something akin to hatred for mankind itself? How much proof do we need? Why do we still avert our eyes from the truth?
In sum, socialism has failed empirically and morally. So, why are so many young Americans, enjoying political freedom, stable institutions, and economic opportunities envied and desired by so many other people across the world, willing to sell their birthright for a failed, regressive ideology?
I’m not sure I can add much to the powerful cases against socialism made by Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. But, knowing how my generation values personal essays and lived experiences, I think first-generation immigrants and those with family from former and current socialist countries have a unique voice to add.
Writing in the Harvard Crimson, Romanian student Laura Nicolae lambasts her peers for strutting around on campus in Che Guevara T-shirts and romanticizing communism:
Roughly 100 million people died at the hands of the ideology my parents escaped. They cannot tell their story. We owe it to them to recognize that this ideology is not a fad, and their deaths are not a joke.
Communism cannot be separated from oppression; in fact, it depends upon it. In a communist society, the collective is supreme. Personal autonomy is nonexistent. Human beings are simply cogs in a machine tasked with producing utopia: they have no value of their own.
In USA Today, Venezuelan student Daniel Di Martino recalls living under and fleeing Chavez/Maduro’s socialist regime and warns his adopted country not to embrace the failed statist policies that destroyed his homeland:
I watched what was once one of the richest countries in Latin America gradually fall apart under the weight of big government.
I didn’t need to look at statistics to see this but rather at my own family. When Chavez took office in 1999, my parents were earning several thousand dollars a month between the two of them. By 2016, due to inflation, they earned less than $2 a day. If my parents hadn’t fled the country for Spain in 2017, they’d now be earning less than $1 a day, the international definition of extreme poverty. Even now, the inflation rate in Venezuela is expected to reach 10 million percent this year.
Venezuela has become a country where a woeful number of children suffer from malnutrition, and where working two full-time jobs will pay for only 6 pounds of chick