One of the mysteries of our age is why socialism continues to appeal to so many people. Whether in the Soviet Union, China, Eastern Europe, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia or Venezuela, it has resulted in the suppression of free speech, the imprisonment of political dissidents and, more often than not, state-sanctioned mass murder. Socialist economics nearly always produce widespread starvation, something we were reminded of last week when the President of Venezuela urged people not to be squeamish about eating their rabbits. That perfectly captures the trajectory of nearly every socialist experiment: it begins with the dream of a more equal society and ends with people eating their pets. Has there ever been an ideology with a more miserable track record?
Why, then, did 40 per cent of the British electorate vote for a party led by Jeremy Corbyn last June? It wasn’t as if he acknowledged that all previous attempts to create a socialist utopia had failed and explained why it would be different under him. There was no fancy talk of ‘post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory’ or ‘pre-distribution’, as there had been by his two predecessors. No, he was selling exactly the same snake oil that every left-wing huckster has been peddling for the past 100 years, and in exactly the same bottle. He reminded me of a pharmacist trying to flog thalidomide to an expectant mother while making no attempt to hide the fact that it has caused the deaths of at least 2,000 children and serious birth defects in more than 10,000 others. And yet, nearly 13 million Britons voted for Corbyn. Could it be that they just don’t know about all the misery and suffering that socialism has unleashed?
That’s a popular theory on my side of the political divide and has prompted a good deal of head-scratching about how best to teach elementary history — such as that more people were killed by Stalin than by Hitler. (To read more, click here.)