A recent letter to the editor took exception with Lowman Henry writing “It is important to remember that communism and socialism are two sides of the same coin.”
The author was “irritated at what seems to be a blatant attempt to associate two different political and economic theories” and claimed that “socialism is not necessarily a bad system.”
However, Lowman Henry was right.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, socialism refers to “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. A system of society or group living in which there is no private property.”
Communism is defined as “a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. A theory advocating elimination of private property.”
These definitions are very much two sides of the same coin.
Socialism has been tried throughout history leading to the impoverishment and death of millions of people.
For example, Mao embraced socialism for China saying “In China the struggle to consolidate the socialist system, the struggle to decide whether socialism or capitalism will prevail, will still take a long historical period. However, we should all realize that the new system of socialism will unquestionably be consolidated. We can assuredly build a socialist state with modern industry, modern agriculture, and modern science and culture.” During the resulting famines, tens of millions of people died. When Mao died, only 60 to 70% of youth were literate and 20% of the population suffered from chronic malnutrition. If you want to truly understand what happened in China’s embrace of socialism, I encourage reading Frank Dikotter’s trilogy of books on China’s liberation, famine and cultural revolution.
Hugo Chavez led the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, as the country transitioned from the richest in Latin America to one of the poorest in the world. According to Chavez, “everyday I become more convinced, there is no doubt in my mind, as many intellectuals have said, that it is necessary to transcend capitalism. But capitalism can not be transcended through capitalism itself; it must be done through socialism, true socialism, with equity and justice.” Today, over half the Venezuelan population lives in extreme poverty.
Politicians claim that we will get socialism right if we follow the democratic socialism of Scandinavian countries. But, according to the Human Freedom Index ( https://www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/human-freedom-index-2019), which measures personal and economic freedom, these countries are far from socialistic. Denmark ranks # 6, Sweden # 11, Norway # 17, Iceland # 18 and Finland # 21 of 162 countries in personal and economic liberty.
Perhaps, we should consider the other side of the coin as we try to create an improved world with better education, health care and reduced poverty. Instead of more “socialism”, i.e. centralized, bureaucratic government control from Harrisburg and Washington, we should turn over the coin, reduce politicians control over our lives and unleash the marketplace power of individuals and entrepreneurs.
S. Douglas Leard