[This article was published by the Independent Institute on November 27, 2017]
Benjamin Powell – May 2, 2018
This month’s 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution is an appropriate occasion to remind us of the human atrocities committed by communist regimes. But we also should take time to reflect on the progress that has occurred since the fall of the Soviet Union and its socialist economic system in 1991.
A recent poll of millennials found that 51 percent of them identified socialism as their favored socioeconomic system, with an additional 7 percent identifying communism as their favored system. Only 42 percent favored capitalism.
Most millennials I’ve met—and I meet quite a few as a college professor—are nice enough people. Most have no desire to see their fellow humans suffer. So I’m left to conclude that they have no appreciation for how socialism actually works in the real world.
Socialist regimes—through executions, intentional starvation and brutal prison-work camps—killed more than 100 million of their own citizens in the 20th century. In places such as Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela the atrocities continue.
Such atrocities are no accident. The nature of a centrally planned economy reduces humans to labor inputs who must be coerced to perform a part of someone else’s economic plan. If people are permitted to make their own choices, no economic plan is possible. A socialist system naturally selects leaders willing to exercise coercion to see that the plans are carried out.
The economic track record of socialism is as dismal as its human rights record. But we need not direct millennials to history books to see it. They need only look at what has happened to former socialist countries during their own lifetimes, as these countries have moved away from socialism and towards capitalism.