Many advocates of socialism argue that what they want is Scandinavian socialism or European socialism. The problem with that is those countries they point to are economically very free market economies. Real socialism is ugly and destructive.
Truth About Scandinavian Socialism
Self-described socialists point to various northern European countries as socialist models that the United States should adopt. They point to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland. They’ll also point to Germany and the UK.
The problem is, though, that all of these countries rank as some of the economically freest in the entire world. These rankings are based off of respect for private property, access to free trade, relatively low levels of taxation, low levels of regulation, and low levels of government spending. And in many ways several of these countries are more capitalist and free market oriented than the United States is.
Yes, some of these countries have policies such as universal healthcare, strong labor union laws, and universal basic income, but these policies by themselves don’t determine whether a country is socialist or not. Instead what that means is these countries are liberal market economies that have government welfare and healthcare programs attached.
The United States has massive welfare programs, healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and economic regulations such as minimum wage laws and labor union laws. “Capitalist” America isn’t that different from these countries. Many of these European countries have lower taxes, lower levels of regulations, and much lower levels of government spending. In many ways America is more socialist than these European countries.
The Real Face of Socialism
Over the decades, supporters of socialism have pointed to countries as examples of successful socialism, and time and time again these countries ended up disappointing. For example, look at the Soviet Union, Cuba, and now Venezuela.
It was not too long ago that socialists were pointing to Venezuela as a shining success story of socialism. Venezuela was the richest country in South America. It has the world’s largest oil reserves. Its economy was prospering. And as Hugo Chavez began implementing his brand of socialism - nationalizing industries, including the oil industry, instituting strict price controls, cutting off free trade, and seizing private means of production, the country began to spiral into chaos.
Massive starvation, economic collapse, and social unrest have all defined Venezuela over just the last couple of years. Inflation has been mind-bogglingly high, in the thousands of percents, and in an effort to combat it President Nicolas Maduro has raised the minimum wage higher and higher, of course inevitably failing to do anything of benefit.
Socialism requires an authoritarian regime in order to institute its economic planning. People can’t own their own property. Prices are not set by freely transacting people, but instead by coercive and arbitrary government mandate. And sadly economic authoritarianism breeds political authoritarianism. Free speech and protesting is outlawed. Political dissidents get imprisoned and jailed. This is what socialism always devolves into.
Never before has it been more clear: markets create abundance, prosperity, economic opportunity, and peaceful society. We can see this in the European and Scandinavian countries and we can see this in the United States. These countries aren’t 100% free markets and they aren’t perfect, but they are not even close to being socialist centrally planned economies.