What people who have lived under socialism, good and hard, will tell you about it

I have been blessed to have lived and/or worked in many countries.  Some are socialist.  Others were socialist cubed. They all have negative effects, and the real world experience people take from it matters.

Look at socialized medicine.  Sally C. Pipes, who's the president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute and from Vancouver, Canada, has expressed her dismay with Canada’s socialized health care system. Sadly, her mother perished while waiting for proper treatment, because of all the long lines for treatment.  It was almost as if the system wanted to get rid of her elderly mother. Remember Sarah Palin’s warning about Obamacare death panels? 

I have worked in Canada and Australia. Their medical systems are similar.  Here is how they work: A patient needs to go to a general practitioner first for whatever ails him or her, then must get a referral to a specialist, regardless of circumstance.  I had a broken ankle in Chile and transferred to Australia to run a project.  But once in Australia, the trip to the GP was the mandatory first stop to get a referral to see an orthopedist. My foot was in a soft boot with a broken ankle and the orthopedist turned me away because I had to get the referral from a GP or else no treatment.  On another bout of life in Australia, I had cataracts in my right eye.  I knew the issue since I had them in the other eye six years earlier in Spain.  Still had to get the referral or else no treatment for me.

In Spain, you had the choice of waiting months for the state clinic to get you an appointment or pay cash upfront and get the care you needed.  The same ophthalmologist that I could have waited months to see, also had a private practice.  He would work his state job in the morning and by the late afternoon he had a private clinic for patients who could pay his fees.  It worked the same for dental care.  Greece definitely had this model as well when we lived there.

My engineering manager on three projects today in Asia is Chinese.  He told me about how fortunate he was that his dissident father returned from a Mao Zedong reeducation camp after several years as he was completing high school.  Had his father not returned, he would have suffered the fate of his older brother and sister who were not permitted to go to college. My friend’s daughter has been educated in Canada since age 12.

It's not just China where this sort of thing goes on, but also socialist Mongolia. I've worked there and Mongolians are some of the warmest and happiest people on earth despite the rigors of their climate and lifestyle.  They are proud, mostly nomadic people, descendants from Genghis Khan.  They lament the nearly 2,000 Buddhist monasteries that were destroyed under Soviet times and the nearly 20,000 monks who were murdered.  Half of the country's three million-strong population return every winter to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, living in their Ger’s (circular tents with camel hair blanket insulation), surviving the brutal climate.  One of the most prized items that Mongolians can buy freely in stores reasonably today which was unavailable under Soviet times is chocolate.  The project we built constituted a third of the annual GDP of Mongolia. 

The energy industry is highly internationalized and I have had people working for me on a single project who originated from 30 different countries.  Large numbers come from socialist countries and it's possible to learn what socialism looks like on the ground from their stories.

Young Russians said that they were so happy they could move freely and work outside Russia - under the USSR, they weren't. They also liked be paid a higher salary; and the ability to return to Russia to have a better life for their families.  In Kazakhstan, I have had Kazakhs tell me various stories under Soviet socialism versus the preferred lifestyle they enjoy today, too.  One woman said that her mother never saw a banana until she was 19 years old, post-Soviet Union. Another said her mother craved apples during pregnancy yet one apple was 10% of her husband’s monthly salary.  The old capital, Almaty, literally means “apple” and under natural conditions, they are abundant. But they are not abundant under socialism.  Another said that her father, an electrical engineer, was paid in eggs, glass jars (like Mason), rice, and other commodities during Soviet times.  He would then have to barter with those items for other food.  Without a doubt, everyone said Party must come first if you wanted to be treated “well.”  Most despised this treatment, but they said they knew they had to toe the line.  A grandmother of one of my employees told me how she loved capitalism and choices whether it be food, clothing, or a place to live.  She said she would never revert to socialism.  She did not like looking over her shoulder to monitor whether she was sufficiently obedient to the party line.  Even though everyone was supposedly equal and had to pull their own weight, it always amounted to some more equal than others.  Lo and behold, people who had to live under these kinds of socialism earlier now had prized items such as vodka, which was rare outside the mother country.

My wife is Venezuelan.  We were married before Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez was elected president and made Venezuela his socialist "sea of happiness."  There were no empty shelves in supermarkets.  Medicine was available.  Johnnie Walker Black Label consumption at New Year was the second highest per capita in the world.  Duty free areas were established in states such as Falcon, where electronics were sold at bargain basement prices.  Costco-like Macro markets stocked a similar variety of foods and household goods.  But that's now a distant memory now. Socialist elites took care of ruining a burgeoning middle class.  They robbed oil wealth and caused petroleum production to drop to 40% of what is was 20 years ago - or even more, according to some estimates.  They expropriated other industries such as steel and aluminum production.  Private property was confiscated.  If a property was vacant, Chavez let squatters claim it as their own.  Check out what socialist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has started in Mexico City.  If someone declares that they cannot pay rent, eviction is not an option ... so what's happening that always happens under socialism ... has started.

When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez extols the wonders of socialism and the perils of racist white cauliflower, ask her if she will share the wealth with those less fortunate. She's been collecting a lot of wealth purportedly through her campaign chairman of late.  Ask Sen. Bernie Sanders if he will house the poor in two of his houses that he does not occupy full time.  Maybe he will share some of his proceeds from book-writing.  After all, everyone must get his fair share.  Is that not right, President Obama?

 

Image credit: Screen grab from 1985 Wendy's Soviet Fashion Show ad, via shareable YouTube

I have been blessed to have lived and/or worked in many countries.  Some are socialist.  Others were socialist cubed. They all have negative effects, and the real world experience people take from it matters.

Look at socialized medicine.  Sally C. Pipes, who's the president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute and from Vancouver, Canada, has expressed her dismay with Canada’s socialized health care system. Sadly, her mother perished while waiting for proper treatment, because of all the long lines for treatment.  It was almost as if the system wanted to get rid of her elderly mother. Remember Sarah Palin’s warning about Obamacare death panels? 

I have worked in Canada and Australia. Their medical systems are similar.  Here is how they work: A patient needs to go to a general practitioner first for whatever ails him or her, then must get a referral to a specialist, regardless of circumstance.  I had a broken ankle in Chile and transferred to Australia to run a project.  But once in Australia, the trip to the GP was the mandatory first stop to get a referral to see an orthopedist. My foot was in a soft boot with a broken ankle and the orthopedist turned me away because I had to get the referral from a GP or else no treatment.  On another bout of life in Australia, I had cataracts in my right eye.  I knew the issue since I had them in the other eye six years earlier in Spain.  Still had to get the referral or else no treatment for me.

In Spain, you had the choice of waiting months for the state clinic to get you an appointment or pay cash upfront and get the care you needed.  The same ophthalmologist that I could have waited months to see, also had a private practice.  He would work his state job in the morning and by the late afternoon he had a private clinic for patients who could pay his fees.  It worked the same for dental care.  Greece definitely had this model as well when we lived there.

My engineering manager on three projects today in Asia is Chinese.  He told me about how fortunate he was that his dissident father returned from a Mao Zedong reeducation camp after several years as he was completing high school.  Had his father not returned, he would have suffered the fate of his older brother and sister who were not permitted to go to college. My friend’s daughter has been educated in Canada since age 12.

It's not just China where this sort of thing goes on, but also socialist Mongolia. I've worked there and Mongolians are some of the warmest and happiest people on earth despite the rigors of their climate and lifestyle.  They are proud, mostly nomadic people, descendants from Genghis Khan.  They lament the nearly 2,000 Buddhist monasteries that were destroyed under Soviet times and the nearly 20,000 monks who were murdered.  Half of the country's three million-strong population return every winter to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, living in their Ger’s (circular tents with camel hair blanket insulation), surviving the brutal climate.  One of the most prized items that Mongolians can buy freely in stores reasonably today which was unavailable under Soviet times is chocolate.  The project we built constituted a third of the annual GDP of Mongolia. 

The energy industry is highly internationalized and I have had people working for me on a single project who originated from 30 different countries.  Large numbers come from socialist countries and it's possible to learn what socialism looks like on the ground from their stories.

Young Russians said that they were so happy they could move freely and work outside Russia - under the USSR, they weren't. They also liked be paid a higher salary; and the ability to return to Russia to have a better life for their families.  In Kazakhstan, I have had Kazakhs tell me various stories under Soviet socialism versus the preferred lifestyle they enjoy today, too.  One woman said that her mother never saw a banana until she was 19 years old, post-Soviet Union. Another said her mother craved apples during pregnancy yet one apple was 10% of her husband’s monthly salary.  The old capital, Almaty, literally means “apple” and under natural conditions, they are abundant. But they are not abundant under socialism.  Another said that her father, an electrical engineer, was paid in eggs, glass jars (like Mason), rice, and other commodities during Soviet times.  He would then have to barter with those items for other food.  Without a doubt, everyone said Party must come first if you wanted to be treated “well.”  Most despised this treatment, but they said they knew they had to toe the line.  A grandmother of one of my employees told me how she loved capitalism and choices whether it be food, clothing, or a place to live.  She said she would never revert to socialism.  She did not like looking over her shoulder to monitor whether she was sufficiently obedient to the party line.  Even though everyone was supposedly equal and had to pull their own weight, it always amounted to some more equal than others.  Lo and behold, people who had to live under these kinds of socialism earlier now had prized items such as vodka, which was rare outside the mother country.

My wife is Venezuelan.  We were married before Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez was elected president and made Venezuela his socialist "sea of happiness."  There were no empty shelves in supermarkets.  Medicine was available.  Johnnie Walker Black Label consumption at New Year was the second highest per capita in the world.  Duty free areas were established in states such as Falcon, where electronics were sold at bargain basement prices.  Costco-like Macro markets stocked a similar variety of foods and household goods.  But that's now a distant memory now. Socialist elites took care of ruining a burgeoning middle class.  They robbed oil wealth and caused petroleum production to drop to 40% of what is was 20 years ago - or even more, according to some estimates.  They expropriated other industries such as steel and aluminum production.  Private property was confiscated.  If a property was vacant, Chavez let squatters claim it as their own.  Check out what socialist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has started in Mexico City.  If someone declares that they cannot pay rent, eviction is not an option ... so what's happening that always happens under socialism ... has started.

When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez extols the wonders of socialism and the perils of racist white cauliflower, ask her if she will share the wealth with those less fortunate. She's been collecting a lot of wealth purportedly through her campaign chairman of late.  Ask Sen. Bernie Sanders if he will house the poor in two of his houses that he does not occupy full time.  Maybe he will share some of his proceeds from book-writing.  After all, everyone must get his fair share.  Is that not right, President Obama?

 

Image credit: Screen grab from 1985 Wendy's Soviet Fashion Show ad, via shareable YouTube