- - Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Why in the world would sane people living through one of the most prosperous periods in national history ever consider voting for socialists? “The problem with socialism,” said Margaret Thatcher, the last successful British prime minister, “is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

That’s precisely what happened to the Evil Empire, once the great hope of socialists across the globe, the Marxist policies of which led to national bankruptcy, running out of other people’s money, including their Soviet vassal states, which could no longer pay tribute. The patterns are always the same. In Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez, who funded his socialist programs for eliminating income inequality with oil money and tributes from wealthy sources, reaped international praise — especially, as Sen. Rand Paul puts it, from “his Hollywood supporters.”

But when Nicolas Maduro came to power in 2013, writes Mr. Paul, “the mirage of Venezuelan socialism vanished, only to reveal a disaster of immense proportions …. an economic catastrophe that included hyperinflation and mountains of debt and food shortages never before seen in modern Venezuela.”

Yet here we are again, in a period of unprecedented national prosperity, living with politicians who seem perfectly comfortable flirting with socialist concepts or even socialism itself, apparently incapable of understanding why we’re prosperous as a nation, and getting more so.

That seems especially true of the strange crop of odd Democratic presidential candidates, the top three having enriched themselves either by playing the corporations they profess to loathe, or, in general, taking full advantage of the opportunities for easy money available to Washington legislators. All the while, at least two of them spouting pap about programs that could easily be labeled socialist — a system, if ever instituted, under which they’d all eventually be branded as bourgeois parasites, except, perhaps, for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the affable old Stalinist who took his honeymoon back in the USSR and refuses to condemn some of today’s most oppressive socialist dictators. 

And there’s Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the center of whose campaign is proposing a totally unneeded and superfluous plan for socialized medicine that will cost some $20 trillion, and cause massive social and economic disruption. And drain other people’s money. 

The economic failures of socialism are well-documented, as is its inevitable descent into authoritarianism. As Mr. Paul points out, “One of the greatest ironies of modern political history is that as socialists around the world rose up to overthrow authoritarian regimes, they ultimately replaced them (despite their promises to establish free democracies) with authoritarian regimes of their own.” 

Whether it’s the czar’s overthrow giving Russians Stalin, Batista’s giving Cubans Castro, or Somoza’s giving Nicaraguans the Sandinistas; whether it’s in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea or North Korea, the regimes style themselves as socialist. And in each case, writes Mr. Paul, the result has been “rule by an elite that degenerates into rule by the few or even rule by one, often with the democratic title of president, but with the ominous subtitle — “for life.”

Nor should we forget that both Hitler and Stalin thought of themselves as socialists. As Mr. Paul points out, most of the particulars in Hitler’s first 25-point plan for National Socialism, minus only the racial animus, “could be found in any Bolshevik platform.” And of Stalin’s commitment to socialism, as leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, there can be no doubt.  

That there was much in common between them was demonstrated some 80 years ago, when both men signed the famous Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact, allowing them to continue the process of dividing up Europe into socialist states, and for a time throwing the international socialist/communist movement into a dialectical frenzy. 

“What is it about socialism that casts such a spell that people refuse to acknowledge history?” One answer to that question, especially given the popularity of socialism among young people, is that history is less and less being treated as a major discipline, or increasingly taught with a distinct leftist bias, dominant in the academic world. The New Left may have lost the war in the streets in the 1960s and ’70s; but they did win the hearts and minds of many of their academic descendants, who pass on their teachings.

To counter that influence, we’re going to need books like this, both strongly written and highly readable, for which we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Paul and his wife, Kelley Ashby Paul. As Tucker Carlson puts it, “You wouldn’t think a book like this would be necessary, but it is. And thank God we have it.” 

• John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley).

• • •


By Rand Paul

With Kelley Ashby Paul

Broadside Books, $28.99, 354 pages

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