The Problem with Socialism Defined

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Our youngest son Dan, born in 1987, claims socialism is good. Like many other people in his Millennial Generation born 1982-2004, despite growing up in a home with libertarian parents, he backed Bernie Sanders and thinks socialism works. A case in point, he argues: “Look at Sweden. It works there!” My wife and I have tried to dispel this notion and other collectivist views he holds since he attended and graduated from college, without effect.

When I learned that Tom DiLorenzo had written a new book titled The Problem with Socialism, for release on July 18, 2016 I pre-ordered a copy on Amazon. Sure enough, on Monday morning July 18 UPS delivered it to my door. I read it at once.

In this relatively short book, in a clear, engaging, and concise fashion, Professor DiLorenzo explains what socialism is and why it doesn’t ever work. One quickly sees that he has put the same care into writing The Problem with Socialism as he has done with his other, longer books, notably The Real Lincoln, Hamilton’s Curse, Lincoln Unmasked, and How Capitalism Saved America.

socialist_small The Problem with Socialism Defined

At 192 pages in a 4-by-7-inch (hardback) format, The Problem with Socialism is a quick read. A narrator spends 3 hours and 51 minutes reading the book aloud, unabridged, on audible.com. (It is available also on Kindle).

DiLorenzo begins by showing why socialism poisons economic growth and prosperity and why it always and everywhere turns into an economic disaster. Three problems plague socialism, he writes: incentive, knowledge, and economic calculation problems. Key among them is an enforced lack of market prices, making it impossible to craft rational economic decisions.

He dispels a number of socialist myths and superstitions about capitalism. These include the capitalist myths of “subsistence wages,” the “abusive factory,” “robber barons,” “predatory pricing,” and the “Capitalism-Causes-War” myth. Free market capitalism is about trade. “It is about the free exchange of goods and ideas, which encourages peace and mutual understanding.” Free market capitalism keeps wars at bay. It prevents war, not cause them.

On the back side of the book’s dust jacket, Tom Woods writes:

“Ever wonder what one book you should give a young person to make sure he doesn’t fall for leftist propaganda? You’re looking at it…. Dance on socialism’s grave by reading this book.” [italics his]

To answer our son’s assertion on Sweden, DiLorenzo shows, in Chapter 7, that Sweden doing well is not a result of its having adopted socialism. He writes:

“The real source of Sweden’s relatively high standard of living has nothing to do with socialism and everything to do with Sweden avoiding both world wars and jumping into the industrial revolution when its economy was one of the freest, least regulated, and least taxed in Europe.”

Current-day Swedes are living off the hard work, investments, and entrepreneurship of previous generations. But it won’t last. They are running out of those other people’s money. Sweden is now “poorer than Mississippi, the lowest income state in the United States,” and it has begun “privatizing portions of its socialized healthcare, social security, and education sectors.”

A promotional statement on an inner leaf of the book’s dust jacket reads:

“Provocative, timely, essential reading, Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Problem with Socialism is an instant classic comparable to Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.”

I agree. The Problem with Socialism will stand alongside Hazlitt’s classic 1946 introduction to free market economics. (Economics in One Lesson is a touch longer, 6 hours and 56 minutes on audible.com.) The two books complement each other. Together they show in a readable and easily understood and essential way why free market (Austrian) economics works and why socialism always fails, no matter who may happen to run it.

Tom Woods conducts an engaging interview with Tom DiLorenzo on his Tom Woods Show the day the book was released. It is Ep. 696 “The Problem with Socialism: Tom DiLorenzo Educates Socialist Millennials.” That he does! You might enjoy listening to this 26-minute interview, available here.

Some 85 million Americans are Millennials, whose birth years 1982-2004 make them part of the Millennial Generation.  This generation of Americans was not yet born, or too young to have witnessed the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991, which for adult Americans living then and seeing this thoroughly discredited socialism. One thing that stimulated him to tackle and write The Problem with Socialism, Tom DiLorenzo says, was seeing an opinion poll which showed that 59 percent of Millennial Generation folks polled think it is OKAY, even a good idea to have a socialist as president.

We all should read this book. People in the Millennial Generation, however, Americans now age 16-34 especially need to read The Problem with Socialism, before they wind up finding themselves living in a world that has become like Venezuela.