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Op-ed Placement

Book Review: Rand Paul Makes The Case Against Socialism

BY Jason Pye
10/17/2019
Originally Published in The Daily Caller by Jason Pye on 10/17/19.

As self-proclaimed “democratic socialists” continue to rant and rave against capitalism, the need for principled, liberty-minded leaders is more imperative now than ever. Rather than being assailed from without by communist foreign powers, American liberalism — defined by its belief in the power of personal liberty and economic freedom – is being infiltrated from within.

Fortunately, the battle for the soul of America is not yet lost. Though few and far between, there still remain dedicated men and women willing to wade into the intellectual fog-of-war that is American politics and stand resolutely for those our nation’s founding principles. Chief among these champions for liberty is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

In his latest book, “The Case Against Socialism,” Paul — in typical fashion — refuses to pull any punches. Rather than kowtow to the prevailing winds of revisionism seeking to paint world history in broad, red strokes, Paul directly challenges proponents of new-wave socialism like Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). What’s more, he unabashedly demolishes the Oliver Stone-esque perception that socialism “really isn’t that bad.”

Before even concluding the introduction, Paul jumps straight to the heart of the matter, informing the reader that “[t]his is the story of an evil well documented and yet somehow still enticing … of socialism in all its drab and dreary machinelike destruction of individual thought, creativity, and ambition.” He continues, “This is the story of socialism in all its violence, bloodshed, and tyranny. It is a cautionary tale of how America has so far eluded the siren call of something for nothing … but also of how close we still are to succumbing to socialism.”

To begin his unvarnished look into the history of socialism, Paul wastes no time in attacking the misinformed “Hollywood socialists” who praise the likes of Hugo Chavez, Nicolás Maduro, and Fidel Castro. He reminds us that, not very long ago, important American figures like Noam Chomsky and then-Representative Bernie Sanders praised the election of Hugo Chavez, pointing to poverty statistics as evidence of socialism’s virtue.

Yet, as history has consistently proven time and time again, the fruits of socialism quickly give way to oppressive violence, food shortages, and utter devastation. Contrary to what “democratic” socialists in Congress might have you believe, in the words of Venezuelan professor Daniel Lahoud; “I have known the reality of the failure of socialism in my own flesh. And as I live in Venezuela, I want to show that this is an absolute failure always and everywhere.”

Simply pointing out the failures of despotic socialist regimes is not sufficient for Paul to fully discredit socialism. For this, he addresses the common misconception of Scandinavian socialism. Countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are often used as props that American socialists can point to as evidence of socialism’s success. Unfortunately for them, this assertion falls flat once it gets beyond a sound bite. So strong is this misconception that the Prime Minister of Denmark reprimanded Sanders “and asked him to stop insulting his country as ‘socialist.’”

According to Paul, the apparent successes of Scandinavian socialism are leftover byproducts from pre-socialist policies. For example, longitudinal analysis of Sweden’s economic development shows consistently strong growth from the 1870s until the rise of socialism in Sweden in the 1970s.

Since then, Sweden has seen massive increases in government spending as a percentage of GDP that correlates with a faltering economy as a direct result of socialist policies. In deriding the left’s obsession with Scandinavia, Paul correctly points out that Scandinavian countries have been moving further away from socialism as they have begun to feel the long term effects of such policies.

Socialism is a scourge on the human condition. Time and time again, elites and intellectuals have sought to remold society only to fail miserably. What’s more, the centralized planning of men like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot resulted in some of the worst atrocities in human history. Yet, democratic socialists in Congress continue to believe that things will be different this time. This time socialism will work. Such a belief is not only foolhardy and ill-informed but downright dangerous. To make matters worse, this notion is once again being promoted from the ivory tower by political elites and intellectuals, not everyday Americans.

In an essay published in 1967, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” Friedrich Hayek tackled a similar rise of socialist intellectualism in the United States; pointing out that the move towards socialism has always started with the elites and intellectuals. At the conclusion of this essay, Hayek cuts to the heart of the issue:

“We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage … We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote.”

The case against socialism is simple; it has never worked and it never will work. No amount of flowery campaign speeches or enraged table-thumping will change this. For this reason, it is important that, in such a divisive time as this, we support those “who are willing to work for an ideal … [those] who are willing to stick to principles,” which are, the principles of liberty. It is just as important that we support those who are willing to stick up for the truth of history against the revisionism of political elites. Paul is each of these things, and I am proud to consider him such a strong ally in the battle against socialism.