Why socialism always fails

Mark Perry:
Slightly more than 20 years, I wrote the article “Why Socialism Failed” and it appeared in 1995 in The Freeman, the flagship publication of the Foundation for Economic Education. I think it was the first essay or op-ed I wrote for a general audience following graduation in 1993 from George Mason University with a Ph.D. in economics. Note that the title of the article (“failed”) implied the past tense, as if I perhaps assumed the failures of socialism were so apparent and obvious (I called it the Big Lie of the 20th century) that it would be forever considered only as a discredited system of the past, and never as a viable option going forward into the future! Of course, at the time many parts of the world were moving away from collectivism and central planning and towards free market capitalism – the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, and China was opening up its economy and re-established the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 1990, etc.

Given the recent resurgence of socialism, especially as it is now being embraced by young Americans, I thought it might be a good time to re-visit my 1995 essay to review why socialism: a) failed in the 20th century, b) is failing in the 21st century (e.g. Venezuela, see photo above), and c) will always fail. And that’s because it’s a flawed system based on completely faulty principles that aren’t consistent with human behavior and can’t nurture the human spirit.

Here’s are some excerpts of my 1995 essay “Why Socialism Failed”:

1. Socialism is the Big Lie of the twentieth century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.

In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may show early signs of success. But any accomplishments quickly fade as the fundamental deficiencies of central planning emerge. It is the initial illusion of success that gives government intervention its pernicious, seductive appeal. In the long run, socialism has always proven to be a formula for tyranny and misery.
There is much more.

One of the real educational failures of this century is the failure to teach students why socialism is a failed ideology.  That is one of the reasons that so many young people support Bernie Sanders and his irrational policies.


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