Mark Tapson is the Shillman Fellow on Popular Culture for the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Socialism is all the rage among young Americans these days. Not the kind of socialism that has never worked anywhere in history. Not the kind that drove Venezuela from South America’s most prosperous economy into a failed state in a mere two decades. Not the kind that wreaked essentially the same havoc upon once-thriving Cuba. Not those real-world examples, but the new-and-improved, democratic socialism, which, as MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle recently assured viewers, is “a lot different” from those other forms of socialism.
Those young Americans who are enamored of such icons of democratic socialism as lifelong communist Sen. Bernie Sanders and economics-challenged, radical Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez desperately need to read Paul H. Rubin’s short but vital book A Student’s Guide to Socialism: How It Will Trash Your Lives, a joint publication of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Bombardier Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.
As the title indicates, the book is aimed at young readers and is thus a quick, easy read, tailored to their tragically short attention spans and tenuous grasp of economics. Its purpose is not simply to rehash abstract, theoretical points of contrast between socialism and capitalism, but to explain to those uninformed (or misinformed) young people exactly how socialism would impact them and affect their future if it were actually to be adopted here in the United States, as polls indicate an alarming percentage of young people would prefer. Put simply, it answers the question, “What will my life be like if I live under socialism?”
Mr. Rubin is Emeritus Dobbs Professor of Economics at Emory University and a former economic advisor in D.C., including for the Reagan administration as Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers. The author of a dozen books and dozens of Wall St. Journal op-eds, Rubin not only knows whereof he speaks but knows how to communicate economic ideas in clear, jargon-free, unbiased language – a skill that eludes most academics and economists. In A Student’s Guide to Socialism, Rubin shrewdly chose not to speak down to, or talk over the heads of, the audience who most needs to absorb his message that life under socialism will not be the egalitarian utopia its adherents fantasize. On the contrary, as the book’s own subtitle bluntly tells readers, “it will trash your lives.”
Rubin divides the book into two parts – the applied part, wherein he lays out what one’s future would be like under socialism (“If you only read this part, the book will have fulfilled its purpose”) and Part II, which gives some background on socialism and compares it with capitalism. “If you are still curious after reading Part I, then Part II is for you,” he writes. Part I offers up a dozen short chapters and – for those students whose social media-diminished minds can’t handle even that much – concludes with a three-page summary. Part II consists of three more brief chapters and another short summary.
Citing real-world evidence to debunk any notion that socialism will eradicate the “unfair” extremes of poverty and wealth, Rubin picks a few worst-case studies that would leap immediately to mind for older readers but not the history-challenged students in his target audience: pre-Berlin Wall Germany, for example. “Capitalist West Germany was vastly more successful and richer than Communist East Germany,” he notes, so much so that the East Germans had to erect a wall between the two – and it wasn’t to keep out a flood of West Berliners from enjoying the utopian prosperity and freedom of their socialist counterpart. In fact, he points out, preventing citizens from leaving is standard procedure in communist countries. Needless to say, that’s a pretty good indication that socialistic societies are more dystopian than utopian.
(Rubin is careful to clarify that socialism doesn’t have the same track record as communism, and he’s not claiming that Bernie Sanders’ form of socialism will lead to the kinds of astronomic numbers of deaths under communism; nevertheless, socialism moves in the same direction and it is important to highlight the danger.)
Rubin also addresses the European examples of “democratic socialism” that its fans so often point to as models to emulate. “It is not correct to call these countries socialist,” he states, “and it is still true that no socialist country has been an economic success.” Indeed, the only so-called “democratic socialist” countries have actually “used the democratic part of ‘democratic socialism’ to eliminate the socialism part.”
To sum up his arguments, Rubin demonstrates that socialism will reduce his readers’ lifetime earnings; it will lead to reduced choice in the marketplace; it will lead to higher taxes and reduced risk-taking in terms of technological innovation; and perhaps most significantly, it will reduce their freedom, because “free markets are the source of most of our freedom; government generally restricts freedom, and socialism increases the power of government.” He also emphasizes that wherever and whenever socialism has been tried, it has failed, usually spectacularly. This latter point may not convince aspiring young socialists who always fall back on the old cliché, “this time we’ll do socialism right,” but the book’s overall truth is compelling and undeniable, and will be eye-opening for the naïve and uneducated.
Paul Rubin’s highly readable A Student’s Guide to Socialism should be as ubiquitous in high schools and colleges around the country as Howard Zinn’s subversive, mendacious People’s History of the United States – but it won’t be, of course, because as we all know, American education is hopelessly in the grip of Progressive radicals. All the more reason it is vital to get the word out about this book. Regular FrontPage Mag readers may not need to be educated about the failures and dangers of socialism, but this book is instructive nonetheless in how to clearly, logically, and calmly enlighten those who desperately need to get wise to the seductive but empty promises of socialism. Get it for yourself, to help you clarify and simplify your own arguments, but more crucially, get it for young friends, neighbors, and relatives who won’t hear this message otherwise.
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