The left’s new favorite political darling is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who, like Bernie Sanders, is a self-described socialist. However, unlike Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez is young and for many she represents the new trend on the left: someone who is young, a socialist, and not afraid to say it. Headlines like “Relax, boomers: Socialism is Good Now” sum it up well.
The problem for young socialists like Ocasio-Cortez is that they have no idea what they are talking about. Ocasio-Cortez is really passionate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a firm advocate for Palestinian rights against the Israeli “Occupation of Palestine.” Ask her what she means by this occupation and she cannot answer basic questions about her own beliefs. She thinks unemployment is low because people have two jobs. When citing the wonders of socialism, she cites public libraries. The appeal of socialism for young people rests on ignorance and a lack of seriousness, but do not worry, she has an economics degree.
The ignorance of history is one reason why socialism has great appeal to young people. These are folks who think the worst thing in the world would be for a McDonald’s to open up in Havana. These are the people who wear Che Guevara shirts while claiming to stand for the marginalized. They do not remember the empty shelves, long bread lines, or mass starvation in the Soviet Union. When confronted with the example of Venezuela they have all sorts of excuses: drops in oil prices, CIA conspiracies, or it is not real socialism. The labor camps and political executions that were necessary to maintain socialist equality, uniformity, and utopia in the Soviet Union, North Korea, East Germany, Cuba, Cambodia, China, Romania, or Hungary, just to name a few were not real socialism either. If they do remember history, they romanticize it. Sure, they say, Mao had some unpleasant qualities about him, but after he died China saw a rise in income inequality.
But surely one can be a socialist and not favor labor camps and firing squads. For a moderate and relevant example look to Britain. Sure Britain was the sick man of Europe in the 70s, but Margaret Thatcher’s policies caused a rise in inequality and that is simply not acceptable. The young people in Britain today who support Jeremy Corbyn do not remember the days where trade unions essentially ruled the country, used Marxist mob tactics on anyone who dissented from their striking tactics that could bring the country to its knees, or how the unions and their Marxist leaders, nationalization, and inflation nearly destroyed the British economy and the country’s finances. They do not remember how socialism turned the once proudest nation in the world to one that was content to manage its own decline.
The other type of young socialist is the kind that says, “We don’t want to be like those countries, we want to be like Denmark.” This was Bernie Sanders’ preferred line and it was one that led Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen to say that, “I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.” In fact many of the left’s socialist models actually rank higher than the United States on Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom. New Zealand (3), the UK (8), Canada (9), Denmark (12), and Sweden (15) are all economically freer than the US (18).
What these types of socialists really mean is that they want the free stuff. When you tell them the downsides of nationalizing industries they retort with: “Why do you hate sidewalks?”
The difference between us and the Soviet Union, Venezuela, or Greece, is that we are a rich country, so we can afford it. They fail to see the reason we became such a rich and successful country is because we ignored people like them. Venezuela was once and should be one of the richest in the world, instead the people starve. They think that the United States is different, that we can defy the laws of economics, that we will not eventually run out of other people’s money if we pursue a “something for nothing political agenda.
They do not know how we will avoid bankrupting ourselves. A recent study said that Medicare For All would cost $32 trillion and advocates of single payer proclaimed it to be a cost-saving policy, but that number was based on generous assumptions and represented the best case pie in the sky scenario. The number is either much higher if you were to bring Medicare reimbursement rates inline with current private rates or if you could continue to force hospitals to take Medicare rates while continuing current capacity and willingness to prove services only in Fantasy-land.
They also propose some tax increases or cuts to military spending, but if they are honest they sound like MSNBC host Chris Hayes who suggested on Twitter that “We’ll figure it out.”
Today’s self-proclaimed young socialists think they are advocating for new ideas. They are not. Some are ignorant of socialist history. Some think socialism is just about the freebies. All are prepared to surrender individual freedom by tying their livelihood to the state just so they can have some “free” health care at the point of use. What all socialists ultimately want is an ever-increasingly powerful state because after all, “The gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves.”