Socialism Sucks

Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World

[Amazon Link]

A fun book which (somewhat surprisingly) was purchased by the Portsmouth Public Library. Author Robert A. Lawson is one of the co-authors of the Economic Freedom of the World (EFotW) report put out annually by the Fraser Institute. Benjamin Powell is an econ prof at Texas Tech. They are no fans of socialism. But they are fans of drinking and strip clubs. So they got the bright idea to (or near) various socialist utopias, and try to have some alcohol-fueled fun.

It turns out that's hard to do. The fun part, that is.

First, they dismiss Sweden, and the similar countries Bernie et. al. like to use as examples. They aren't free-market heaven, to be sure, but they regularly rank pretty high on the EFotW measurements. (Sweden is #35 out of the 162 countries scored.)

Countries considered:

  • Venezuela, dead last (#162) in EFotW. Worried about kidnappers, Bob and Ben don't get into the country itself, but visit a Columbian border town, where Venezuelans try to get goods that are impossible to buy in their own land.

  • Cuba (unranked at EFotW because of lack of data).

  • North Korea (also unranked at EFotW). Again (unsurprisingly) Bob and Ben just look across the border (from both China and South Korea).

  • China (#113) is cited as "fake socialism". Sorta-capitalism is combined with ruthless suppression of anything the rulers consider to be dangerous to their system.

  • Russia (#85) and Ukraine (#135): "hungover socialism". Two countries that can't seem to make the transition to freedom.

  • Georgia (#12) is a success story, however. Adopting some heavy market reforms helped, and even though it's still kind of poor, it's on a pretty decent growth path.

  • And finally, the good old USA (#5), or is that the USSA? Bob and Ben visit the July 2018 "Socialism Conference" held at the Chicago People's Collective Hotel of the Revolution Hyatt Regency. They are taken with how little socialism is discussed or defended; instead it's the usual left-wing array of issues: white privilege, immigration, feminism, gender, … All topics worthy of discussion, of course, but where's the socialism?

All in all, not a lot of surprises here, but the authors do a good job of reporting.

To the folks who gripe: that's not real socialism. Well, sorry, it is.