Economist Walter Williams: Socialism vs. Economic Freedom – A History Lesson

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A recent survey conducted by the Victims of Communism and interviewed by YouGov, a research and data company, found that 70% of millennials are likely to vote socialist and that one in three Millennials see communism as “in favor.”

Consider this tragic vision in light of the recently published Fraser Institute annual study “Economic Freedom of the World”, prepared by Professors James Gwartney, Florida State University; Robert A. Lawson and Ryan Murphy of Southern Methodist University; and Joshua Hall, West Virginia University, in cooperation with Economic Freedom Network.

Hong Kong and Singapore have maintained their lead as the most economically free countries in the world, although China’s heavy hand threatens Hong Kong’s top row. The top 10 is completed by New Zealand, Switzerland, the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Mauritius. By the way, after dropping to 16th place in 2016, the United States has returned to the top five economically free countries in the world.

What statistics go into the Fraser Institute’s economic freedom calculation? The report measures the capacity of individuals to make their own economic decisions by analyzing the policies and institutions of 162 countries and territories. These include regulation, the freedom to trade internationally, the size of government, a strong legal system, private property rights, and government spending and taxes.

Fraser Institute researcher Fred McMahon says, “Where people are free to pursue their own opportunities and make their own choices, they lead more prosperous, happier and healthier lives. The evidence for its assessment is that countries in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average GDP per capita of $ 36,770 in 2017, compared to $ 6,140 for countries in the bottom quartile.

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Poverty rates are lower. In the top quartile, 1.8 percent of the population experienced extreme poverty ($ 1.90 per day) compared to 27.2 percent in the bottom quartile. Life expectancy is 79.5 years in the top quartile of economically free countries, compared to 64.4 years in the bottom quartile.

Fraser Institute rankings of other major countries include Japan (17th), Germany (20th), Italy (46th), France (50th), Mexico (76th), India (79th) , Russia (85th), China (113th) and Brazil (120th). The least free countries are Venezuela, Argentina, Ukraine and almost all African countries with the most notable exception of Mauritius. By the way, Argentina and Venezuela were wealthy until they joined socialism.

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During the Cold War, leftists made a moral equivalence between communist totalitarianism and democracy. WEB Du Bois, writing in the National Guardian (1953) said: “Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century come close to his stature.”

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Walter Duranty called Stalin “the greatest statesman alive … a quiet and discreet man”. George Bernard Shaw expressed his admiration for Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith visited Mao’s China and praised Mao Zedong and the Chinese economic system.

Gunther Stein of the Christian Science Monitor also admired Mao and said ecstatically that “the pioneer men and women of Yenan are truly new humans in spirit, thought and action. Michel Oksenberg, President Jimmy Carter’s Chinese expert, complained that “America (is) doomed to decay until radical, even revolutionary, change fundamentally alters institutions and values,” and urged us to “borrow ideas and solutions” from China.

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Leftists have exempted Communist leaders from harsh criticism directed at Adolf Hitler, even though Communist crimes against humanity made Hitler’s slaughter of 11 million non-combatants seem almost amateurish. According to Professor RJ Rummel’s research in “Death by Government”, from 1917 until its collapse, the Soviet Union murdered or caused the death of 61 million people, mostly its own citizens. From 1949 to 1976, Mao’s communist regime was responsible for the deaths of 76 million Chinese citizens.

Today’s leftists, socialists and progressives would be outraged that their program differs little from that of the tyrants of the past. They should keep in mind that the origins of the untold horrors of Nazism, Stalinism and Maoism did not begin in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. These horrors were simply the result of a long evolution of ideas leading to a consolidation of power within the central government in the quest for “social justice”.

Walter E. Williams is Professor of Economics at George Mason University. To learn more about Walter E. Williams and read articles from other Creators Syndicate authors and designers, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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