Economics

Center on Wealth & Poverty

Weapons of Mass Disinformation

If someone advocates an ideology that has contempt for the individual and has caused untold economic misery and the deaths of hundreds of millions at the hands of their governments, what would you think of that person?

The ideology I refer to is, of course, socialism and its numerous variations, including the utopian socialists, the Fabian socialists, the National Socialists, and, naturally, the communists. Socialism is simply an economic system where the government (or collective) owns and controls the means of production. Given that the two centuries of socialists’ experiments, whether by utopians, Marxists, or Fabians, always ended in economic failure and a loss of personal liberty, why are people around the globe still proudly proclaiming themselves socialists? Socialist parties are still popular in parts of Europe, Latin American, and in much of Africa. Socialist parties have been elected to power in both Spain and Portugal in recent months. Many college professors and students on U.S. campuses claim to be socialists.

The “national socialists” caused the death of tens of millions of people. The communists in Russia, China, Cambodia and elsewhere caused the collective deaths of more than 100 million people and impoverished billions of others. (I happened to be at the Kremlin in Moscow in August 1992, when the Russia demographers announced they had determined there were 63 million “excess deaths” in the Soviet Union during Josef Stalin’s reign — 1923-53.)

The Third World socialists have kept their countries unnecessarily mired in poverty for a half-century. The democratic socialists gained control in England in 1945 under Clement Attlee. As a result, the British economy was run into the ground. Hence the British people voted to reprivatize their economy under Margaret Thatcher beginning in 1979.

Other democratic socialist economies had the same types of failure, so by the 1980s privatization became the vogue as it was obviously necessary to re-ignite economic growth.

Yet, the socialists keep coming back. They deny or ignore previous failures and say the next time “we will do it right.” Socialism only fails and will continue to fail because its theory is as flawed as its practice.

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Trapped

Assume you are a legal political refugee in the United States from a communist country. You are not well educated and have limited skill with the English language, but you are a master stonemason — a real artist in stone.

Because of your skill, you have no trouble getting jobs, but by their very nature your jobs are limited and transitory. In the warm months, you most often work in the Northern states, and in the winter in the Southern states. You do not have one regular employer because you go from specialized job to specialized job and often are paid in cash.

You occasionally want to send money to your elderly parents who still live in the old country, but you cannot use a bank because you do not have a bank account. The reason you do not have a bank account is are required by domestic and international financial regulatory bodies to “know their customers.” Your lack of a permanent address, a regular employer and close family in the United States means you do not meet the banks’ “know your customer” tests. This even though you have a good yearly income, are hardworking, constructive, and law abiding.

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Rolling Disaster

William Tucker is a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute

End of the Line: The Failure of Amtrak Reform and the Future of America’s Passenger Trainsby Joseph Vranich
(AEI Press, 204 pages, $25)

Once again, Amtrak is before Congress asking for another handout. Having lost $600 million last year — about average for the 34 years of its existence — the company is once again begging Congress for money.

This time, however, the Bush administration plans to end the charade that Amtrak will one day become profitable. It wants to end the handouts, making Amtrak compete like any private company. Democrats, of course are opposed. They love any government program — even those created by the Nixon administration. Before they begin their annual last-ditch stand, however, they would do well to read Joseph Vranich’s new book.

A former public affairs spokesman at Amtrak, Vranich has one thing to say about Amtrak — it’s a rolling disaster. The government-owned corporation now regularly requires nearly $1 billion a year in subsidies. It is drowning in debt. Two years ago it mortgaged New York’s Penn Station for $300 million to pay three months’ operating losses.

Nearly empty trains roll through Iowa and Montana, subsidizing passengers at a rate of $300 per ride. Meanwhile New York’s cross-Hudson tunnels are a disaster waiting to happen because Amtrak won’t spend the money to improve fire protection and escape routes.

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Forum: The U.N. – An Economic Menace

The United Nations fancies itself a vehicle that reduces global poverty and increases economic wellbeing. But, in fact, the U.N. advocates policies that will do the opposite. U.N. reports and committees issue a steady stream of demands for tax increases. Most would fall on Americans and citizens of other very successful countries, with revenues given to the U.N. and leaders Read More ›

Pricey Regulatory Tab

How much lower is your real income because of excessive regulation? And how much higher is unemployment because of too much regulation? Economists have been trying to answer these questions for the last several decades. Great strides have been made, and now Steve Entin, former Treasury official and president of the Institute for Research in the Economics of Taxation (IRET), Read More ›

Best for Business

Which countries do you think have the best business environments? Economists, politicians and business people fiercely debate this question. There is obviously no one correct answer because there are many variables, depending on such things as whether a particular business is capital- or labor-intensive, import- or export-dependent, etc. Forbes magazine has just issued its list of the “2000 biggest, most Read More ›

Global Protectors or Oppressors?

Are you aware we are increasingly regulated and even taxed by international organizations that are undermining the protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution? The “Oil for Food” and other recent U.N. scandals made many aware the U.N. is quite literally out of control. What is not well known is that the U.N. is only one of now dozens of international Read More ›

Tax Rates vs. Revenues

The U.S. Treasury has just released some new data that will bring cheer to the advocates of lower tax rates and heartburn to those who advocate higher tax rates. By way of background, for the last three decades, there has been a fierce debate about which tax rates maximize tax revenue. Economist Art Laffer drew a curve that merely illustrated Read More ›

Drifting From Freedom

Do you feel more or less free today than you did 10 years ago? If you happen to be a property developer, sit on the board of a public corporation, often travel by air, like to spend your own money supporting political candidates and causes you believe in, or are outspoken in your Christian beliefs, you almost certainly answered the Read More ›