Before I ever cracked open U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s new book, “The Case Against Socialism” (released nationally Tuesday by Broadside Books), I wrote down a few things …
• U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
• U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
• Karl Marx
These are all things I figured Paul would at least touch on within the first 50 or so pages of the book.
I was wrong. It took until page 60 or so before he really delved into Sweden and Scandinavia.
My point is, given the author, and the clarity the title gives to the book’s subject matter, you are going to get in “The Case Against Socialism” just about exactly what you’d expect to get.
Socialism, as an economic and political system, suffers a good butt kicking.
Paul starts with the pretty dire situation in Venezuela — a good worst-case-scenario example of how socialism, taken to its logical end, has ended in economic ruin and misery.
He points out that Socialism was an intrinsic part of some of the most rotten and repressive regimes in the history of the world. Pol Pot in Cambodia. Chairman Mao and the Communist revolution in China. Germany’s Nazi party has it right in its name — The National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
You might say: “OK, but what about Sweden and Norway? Scandinavia is an example of a place where Socialism has worked. Right?” In some of his most interesting chapters, Paul takes on the notion that those countries aren’t really Socialist any more at all, pointing out that they practice another “–ism” economic system, “Welfarism,” which he really doesn’t like either. He argues that the success of these countries really began when they learned to embrace Capitalism, and lower business taxes.
Paul certainly does a bang up job hitting all the high points here. Socialism leads to corruption and cronyism, purges of detractors and eugenics. Where he makes a really astute observation is that the allure of Socialism lies in the fact that it makes so much sense, as a mental exercise. It should work. But the problem is it requires that people — and by that I mean EVERYONE —act morally and true and in the pure interest of the common good.
NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN.
It’s unrealistic, and that’s its major failing.
So, then, we have Capitalism. Often maligned. Brutal and unfair. It doesn’t seem so intuitively kind at first blush. But it’s the outcomes that matter, and Paul hits real home runs, I think, when he turns his pen to writing love letters to The Big C.
Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations,” which I personally believe is one of the greatest, most influential books ever written, lays it all out so clearly. Division of labor. Free markets. “The Invisible Hand.” Paul likes it too. Matter of fact, if you read “The Case Against Socialism,” it wouldn’t be a bad idea to brush up on Smith’s old classic. What Paul is really doing here is writing a strident defense of Capitalism. He succeeds.
It’s clear Paul is bothered by what he perceives as a rise in the popularity of Socialism in the United States, sometimes now dubbed “Democratic Socialism” by self-described Democratic Socialist like Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders. So, “The Case Against Socialism” is a response to that, too. Sure, we have a mixed economic system. Mostly Capitalism with a dash of Socialism. But, the less Socialism the better is his argument. It’s a good one. Despite it’s perceived and real flaws, Capitalism is pretty much the prettiest girl at the economic prom. No matter how much rage against the rich there might be, or how much class warfare is waged, one thing is for certain: essentially everyone has gotten wealthier under Capitalism.
“The Case Against Socialism” is not a boring read. Paul has a fairly snappy writing style. I always wonder with authors like this if they actually do the writing, or have some staffers plugging away, then slap their name on it when it’s done. Having heard him speak many times, this is most definitely Rand Paul at work. It does have some genuine insight, keen observation and wit going on within its 300 pages.
He can be a polarizing figure, but honestly, I think in “The Case Against Socialism” Paul makes a pretty compelling argument.
Worth a read.