There's No Such Thing as 'Democratic Socialism'
The new darling of the Democratic Party and the liberal mainstream media is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the bright-eyed twenty-something who upended long-time House member Joe Crowley in a New York state Democratic primary a few weeks ago. In their breathless, frenzied rush to anoint Ocasio-Cortez as the coming of the Savior of the Nation, liberals across the land have wholeheartedly embraced her call for “Democratic Socialism.”
Ignoring the fact that Bernie Sanders espoused essentially the exact same things in the last presidential campaign but was unceremoniously and dishonestly pushed aside by the Democratic Party in favor of Hillary Clinton, what exactly is this “democratic socialism” that seems to have everyone on that side of the fence so atwitter these days?
What Democrats think it is sounds good: income equality, a fair living wage for everyone, plentiful employment opportunities, quality healthcare coverage for all, affordable college education for all who want it, easy access to affordable, quality housing, and a tax system where the so-called rich pay their “fair share.”
While they’re at it, the Ocasio-Cortez’s of the world would also abolish ICE while ending most immigration restrictions, end what they see as our destructive international interventionism and put a stop to Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestine. What these last three have to do with either “democracy” or “socialism” is unclear, but there it is anyway.
Implicit in the entire discussion of their prized new order is that everything about the American economy, way of life and culture that is to their liking would remain securely in place, unaffected by the transition to democratic socialism. That, of course, is preposterous. The aspects of daily American life that people like and take for granted -- plentiful food available at well-stocked supermarkets, instant access to news, sports and music, the ability to get product information, make purchases and have them delivered the next day, cheap and plentiful fuel availability, an uncountable variety of nonessential consumer goods, from toys to fashion clothing to jewelry to entertainment electronics and their associated services, and millions of other items -- are all made possible by the capitalist/profit-oriented structure of our economic system. If the private business profit incentive is removed, as is the case in a socialist economy, the underlying competitive impetus for providing those goods and services disappears. It’s a zero-sum game: the more “socialism” that is introduced into the economy, the less efficient that economy becomes, because lessened private competition results in fewer choices and a diminishing incentive to increase efficiency or reduce costs.
Proponents of democratic socialism never actually explain where the money needed to pay for all the largess will actually come from. There is a limit to how much simply taxing the rich will produce. Taxes on services and sales transactions would need to be raised to a stifling degree, with a commensurate negative effect on economic activity.
Europe’s supposed nirvana of universal healthcare is, in reality, a boondoggle of smoke and mirrors, where the average person has limited access to what we would consider routine medical care, at a level far lower than the average American could ever imagine. In Italy, for example, patients usually bring their own metal eating utensils and towels with them, since those are often not provided. Toilet paper is often scarce in the hospital as well. For childbirth, expectant mothers usually bring her own topical medicines, sanitary products and newborn diapers. Visitors are not asked to leave by 8:00 P.M. as is customary in U.S. hospitals. On the contrary, patients are advised to have a visitor stay overnight with them, because nurse staffing levels are far lower, as a matter of normal course. Bedding is not provided for overnight visitors, however.
Patients do have access to doctors and medical care via the national health system, but noncritical conditions and injuries receive lower priority and delayed attention. If a patient desires American-style “on-demand” care, they must simply pay for it out-of-pocket, an option not possible for all but the wealthiest citizens.
I know this from an American family member living there for fourteen years and having had three children in Italy. She is fortunate enough to live in a high-income household, well above the European norm. They get around the limitations of EU-styled universal healthcare by being able to pay for any extra care they need. But that access is simply not available to the average Italian, heavily-taxed $8.00/gallon gasoline notwithstanding.
Let’s look at one other fantastical promise of democratic socialism: affordable college for anyone who wants it. The government can’t make college “affordable.” When the government artificially corrupts the education marketplace by injecting billions of dollars into the mix in the form of aid, scholarships, stipends and the like, they don’t reduce the ultimate cost of college. They increase it. Secure in the knowledge that a very significant portion of their students get artificially low-rate loans and generous grants/financial aid, the colleges themselves simply raise their tuition, salaries and fees -- at a rate far in excess of inflation -- confident that the government will be handing out money to the students so they can pay for a significant portion of their college expenses.
What’s needed in the education marketplace is less government involvement, not more. Government-provided funds distort and obscure the real cost of education. College pricing is higher, not lower, because of government money. Remove the artificial effect of the government’s likely one-third or more share of the $70,000 cost at Boston University and virtually no one would be able to go there. If government-subsidized financial assistance was removed from the equation, then colleges would be forced to compete with each other in the open market for their “customers” hard-earned money. College costs would go down and the services and value they offered would go up, as the free market imposed its ruthless, unapologetic competitive lessons on the various college “brands.”
Capitalism is the best answer for raising the standard of living and delivering greater opportunities to more people. The more government is involved -- funded by higher and higher taxation -- the more six-month waits we have at VA hospitals, the more $70k tuitions we have at colleges, and the more $50 hammers we have being purchased by the Pentagon. Capitalism is far from perfect and not everyone benefits to the same degree -- but it’s fundamentally superior to everything else. It’s like what Churchill said about democracy: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
“Democratic socialism,” as envisioned by its proponents, doesn’t exist. Not in the real world. It’s just another pipe-dream fantasy with which hucksters like Ocasio-Cortez hope to fool unsuspecting, uninformed, entitlement-minded voters. Or worse yet, themselves.