Socialist ideas are enjoying an unfortunate resurgence in our political debates.
The United States is not a pure free-market economy, but we generally look toward the private sector to create wealth, innovate, and increase living standards for all. Proposals such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal would radically shift the country toward government control and redefine the relationship between citizens and the state.
If someone needs to be reminded of socialism’s peril, he or she should look to the south of the United States, toward Venezuela.
Venezuela was once a model for South America. Its bountiful natural resources powered a strong economy. But the late socialist ruler Hugo Chavez seized many of the country’s major industries, and his successor Nicolas Maduro continued state control of the economy.
Now the people of Venezuela endure shortages of basic needs such as food and medicine, soaring inflation, and routine blackouts. People are fleeing the country and businesses are shutting down operations.
The Maduro regime increased political repression to stay in power, stifling dissent and disqualifying his major opposition during the 2018 presidential election to rig it in his favor.
Even in countries that manage to avoid political repression when implementing socialist policies, troubles abound.
Britain pursued socialist policies in the decades after World War II, and by the end of the 1970s was crippled by labor strikes, high unemployment, and slow growth. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher campaigned on ending “the slither and slide to the socialist state.” While not reversing all socialist policies, she rolled back many and freed up the private sector, reviving Britain’s economy.
Even so, the prized British National Health Service has long suffered problems, including lengthy delays.
Maduro hasn’t followed the Thatcher model of reversing bad socialist policies. Instead, he has opted to increase political authoritarianism.
One of Maduro’s few allies among foreign governments today is the Communist nation of Cuba.
Longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is gone, but the evil he did lives after him through the country’s socialistic regime. I recently had the chance to hear firsthand about its broken promises and harsh privations when Enrique Padron, the southwest Florida director for Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and a refugee from Cuba, spoke to the House Republican Conference.
Mr. Padron wrote an op-ed for the New York Post, and I encourage you to read the whole piece. He described growing up with his mother and brothers in a house with a dirt floor, no refrigerator, and no door in the back. They had to go to their local member of the National Assembly for approval to buy simple items to improve their home, if the items were even available.
He wrote in the Post:
Can you imagine going to your congressional representative to ask for permission to buy a box of nails? Or roof tiles? Or roof paper? It seems unthinkable in the United States. But in Cuba, where we lacked the necessities of life, we had to. And when we complained, the authorities scolded us to be grateful for free education and free health care.
He added during his talk to Members of Congress that Cubans received free burial, too.
Further, health care in Cuba may be “free,” but the doctors who provide it earn the equivalent of 25 cents an hour.
Food is rationed in Cuba, as are clothes. You might get a coupon to buy some socks or a shirt, but you’d have to choose one or the other.
In 1994, Mr. Padron fled Cuba to the United States in a boat. He has since been a restauranteur, radio show host, author, and now a congressional staffer, opportunities he knew he wouldn’t have enjoyed in his native country.
Stories from Cuba and Venezuela should be warnings to anyone contemplating socialist policies in our country. We have problems that leave people rightfully frustrated. But socialism cannot solve them, and in the process of failing would strip away freedoms we treasure.
Freedom of speech, the press, and assembly are dangerous to socialist governments. So is the right to bear arms. Some conservative media outlets poked fun at MSNBC when one of its reporters noted when discussing Venezuela:
You have to understand, in Venezuela gun ownership is not something that’s open to everybody. So, if the military have the guns, they have the power and as long as Nicolas Maduro controls the military, he controls the country.
We have witnessed socialist experiments fail. Rather than imitate them, learn from them. Resist the siren song of socialism. Instead, let’s work to improve the system that has already brought us great prosperity, and let’s protect the freedoms we hold dear.
For questions, concerns, or comments, call the Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or email at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.