What to Do About the Growing Popularity of Socialism

Brad Wenstrup  August 29, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, defeated the third-most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives, Joe Crowley. (Photo: Marco Garcia/Reuters/Newscom)

Twenty-eight-year-old democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez jumped into the national spotlight when she defeated longtime Congressman Joseph Crowley in the New York Democratic primary in June.

Many view her, along with socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as carrying the mantle for a renewed socialist trend in the United States among millennials. Indeed, socialism enjoys stronger support among millennials than any other generation today.

What would socialist policies mean for our country’s future?

To me, it’s pretty astounding to realize that a whole generation has grown up for whom the Soviet Union is just a distant historical memory. They don’t have a personal memory of when the Soviet Union came crashing down in 1991—dramatic proof that its socialist system was a dismal failure. They can’t recall the feeling of national pride over the fact that, in contrast, the free economy of the United States had succeeded in producing the highest standard of living and greatest material wealth in world history.

So perhaps it is understandable that for a new generation, the old, empty promises of socialism seem to carry a new allure.

Socialism by definition is the political and economic theory of social organization whereby production, distribution, and exchange should be owned and regulated by the community as a whole. In other words, what is mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. It holds a strong appeal for many people because it addresses legitimate concerns over inequity and injustice.

The problem is that, for all its high-minded fairness, socialism doesn’t work. It’s not just a castle in the air—it’s the promise of a palace that is really built on quicksand.

You don’t even have to look back to the Soviet Union to see this. Venezuela is just the latest tragic example of socialism’s devastation.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Venezuela was one of the top 20 richest countries in the world. Today, its poverty rate is 87 percent and its inflation rate is predicted to be approaching 1,000,000 percent. Once, its capital was a tourist destination with thriving culture. Today, it is the crime capital of the world.

This crisis is the result of the redistributive policies and the systematic destruction of economic freedom by a current corrupt, elitist administration. As President Donald Trump said in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.”

It’s a sobering reminder that while socialism’s torch bearers may change, the havoc it wreaks with its hollow promises remains the same.

What we must remember is that America is not immune. As President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.” Socialism, faithfully implemented, could cripple our nation’s peace and prosperity over time just as it did in Venezuela.

We must continue to speak out boldly—not based on fear, but based on facts. We must continue to tell the truth, regardless of its popularity. We must continue to implement policies that unleash the power of our free economy and create more opportunities for all Americans—like the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act with its bipartisan opportunity zones.

It’s my firm belief that, in the marketplace of ideas, freedom will always win out over socialism on the basis of merit, evidence, and facts—but it cannot win if no one is making the case.

Let’s continue to stand up and speak out. Let’s make the case.

Brad Wenstrup is the U.S. representative for Ohio’s second congressional district.

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