December 7, 2000. I was sitting at the Greyhound Bus Station in Springfield, Missouri, waiting to board the bus to Detroit. My friend Will and I were watching CNN on the TV set in the lobby. CNN was reporting about the shortage of electric power in California, the blackouts affecting hundreds of thousands of people, and then Governor Gray Davis’ intention to declare a state of emergency.
Will, who had lived in California most of his life, couldn’t believe California could have such a crisis. “What do you think caused this, Bojidar?”
To explain it to him, I told him a joke of the times of the Cold War, one of those that were very popular on the other side of the Iron Curtain, one that could send you to a concentration camp or at least get you a good beating by a KGB officer:
“Two guards, Ivan and Johnny, pace their ranges on both sides of the border between a Communist and a capitalist country. It’s 8 pm, Johnny’s side is brightly illuminated, a small town in the distance shines like a Christmas tree with all the street lights and buildings and houses. Ivan’s side is dark, being in a constant blackout because of shortages. Johnny cheerfully shouts at Ivan: ‘You all have no electricity!’ Ivan is silent, he doesn’t know what to say, truth is truth, they have no electricity.
“As soon as he is back from his watch, he approaches his commissar and asks, ‘Comrade, I want to be ideologically strong, but I have no answer to that.’ ‘Oh, that’s easy,’ the commissar replies, ‘tell him, you all don’t have socialism.’
“The next day Ivan is on the border for his watch, ready for his ideological battle. Johnny appears and shouts, ‘You all have no electricity!’ Ivan replies, ‘You all don’t have socialism!’ Johnny is quick to answer, ‘Ha! Big deal! We have money, we can buy socialism.’ Forced to find a quick reply, Ivan automatically shouts back: ‘Then you won’t have electricity!’”
That’s what happened to California. It used to be the most capitalist state in the USA. The people made lots of money, then they bought socialism with it, and as a result they didn’t have electricity.
These days the president of Venezuela warned his countrymen not to sing in the shower and wash in three minutes. The reason is power and water shortages in a country that has enormous oil reserves and has a humid tropical climate. “I take shower in three minutes,” he said, “and I don’t stink.”
Maybe he doesn’t stink. What stinks though is socialism. It stinks shortages. Every country that has been affected by socialism in one or other degree has experienced shortages of one or another commodity, or of everything. Soviet Russia, the nation with the largest area of fertile land, managed to have several famines and imported food during all 70 years of its existence. Just five years before the Communist revolution, the “backward peasants” of Tsarist Russia exported more grain than all of Western Europe combined. Nations like Ethiopia or Cuba had the same experience. Sweden, with more land per capita than any European country and stagnant population, manages to have housing shortages. The French healthcare system, the pride of the French governments, experiences severe shortages of qualified physicians. Germany has the same problem with computer specialists. My own home country, Bulgaria, was a net exporter of vegetables and other foods to both Germany and Russia in the interwar years. Under Communism we had to grow our own vegetables— unless we wanted to spend hours waiting for the limited quantities that made it to the grocery stores.
On the other hand, capitalism, like Karl Marx rightly pointed out, has the opposite problem: overproduction, i.e., surpluses of goods. (I’d take surpluses over shortages anytime, thank you very much.)
No matter how carefully you introduce socialism, no matter how “scientifically” you build it, no matter how many educated socialists there are, no matter what natural and human resources a country has, socialism produces shortages every time, in every place. By its nature, socialist ideology makes the woefully unrealistic assumption that production of goods and services remains a constant irrespective of economic and political systems, and therefore all that is needed is distribution and redistribution of the goods and services. And of course, every redistribution of resources has one major consequence: It discourages initiative, industriousness, courage, and long-term planning. The result is decreased production, and shortages. Always.
These are common sense facts and truths, and I shouldn’t have to even write about them, if it wasn’t for so many of our Christian brethren who have fallen prey to lies and deception believing that “Christian” socialism can be better than “non-Christian” socialism, and that the Bible advocates socialism. Supposedly our “Christian duty” to show “love” and “compassion” requires that we engage in a large-scale redistribution of wealth.
What they need to learn is that this country started as an experiment in failed “Christian” socialism. (Read more about it in Gary North, The Puritan Economic Experiments.) And the Puritans’ “Christian” socialism ended as all other socialisms do: It created shortages and famine. And shortages and famine never helped anyone, and certainly never helped the poor and the weak.
Therefore, if you are serious about helping the poor, rally against socialism. Look at what admittedly creates surpluses: Capitalism. Work for capitalism and create surpluses. And then you’ll have enough to feed your poor.
The alternative has proven a failure, every time it has been tried. But if you want to try it yourself, try it on a local level. Get a small group of people, make money and buy socialism. And then see what happens.