The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Jockey and the Horse

Yesterday's post on Venezuela got me to thinking about socialism in general. In many other posts over the years (e.g., here, here, and here), I've commented on the continuing failure of the socialist model everywhere it has been tried. And yet, Democrat politicians like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tom Perez insist that their brand of socialism will work. Polls indicate that many progressives and millennials agree, more out of ignorance and emotion than a detailed examination of just what socialism is.

Paul R. Gregory dissects the history of the socialist experiment. He begins with this reality:
The analogy of the jockey and the horse explains the continued appeal of socialism. Socialists believe that socialist regimes have chosen the wrong jockeys to ride the socialist horse to its deserved victory. Bad jockeys such as Stalin, Mao, Fidel, Pol Pot, and Hugo Chavez chose tactics and policies that led their socialist horse astray. But actually, a look at how the Soviet Union actually worked reveals that it’s the horse itself that’s the problem.

After gaining power a century ago and then holding onto it through a civil war, the Soviet communists were intent on building a socialist state that would overwhelm capitalism. State ownership and scientific planning would replace the anarchy of the market. Material benefits would accrue to the working class. An equitable economy would supplant capitalist exploitation and a new socialist man would rise, prioritizing social above private interests. A dictatorship of the proletariat would guarantee the interests of the working class. Instead of extracting surpluses from workers, the socialist state would take tribute from capitalists to finance the building of socialism.

The basics of the Soviet “horse” were in place by the early 1930s. Under this system, Stalin and his Politburo set general priorities for industrial ministries and a state planning commission. The ministers and planners worked in tandem to draw up economic plans. Managers of the hundreds of thousands of plants, factories, food stores, and even farms were obligated by law to fulfill the plans handed down by their superiors.
And therein lies the fundamental and irreparable flaw in the socialist model—the conceit than any central group can control something as enormously complex as an economy and establish "plans" that would lead to robust growth that benefits the "workers." Even more ridiculous is the notion that government, you know, the government that does almost everything in a plodding, inefficient, and cost-ineffective manner, can somehow execute the "plans" and the economy to near perfection.

Everywhere this conceit has arisen, it has failed and failed miserably, sometimes catastrophically (think: Venezuela), yet socialists blame the jockey.

It's the horse, and despite the emotional appeal of a worker's utopia, the horse should once and for all be sent to the glue factory.