The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Empire signaled a stern warning that in the long run stealing does not pay, even when committed by the government of a huge country. All socialists who have ever risen to lead a country have ended up in hell — all, from Lenin to Stalin, Tito to Zhivkov, Enver Hoxha to Mátyás Rakosi, Sékou Touré to Nyeree. All had their days of temporary glory, but all ended in eternal disgrace. A few remnants, like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, are still hanging on, but they certainly have a place in hell reserved for them. (Update: Chavez has died since the writing of this post.) In this year that Marx’s Manifesto turns 164 years old and should have long been discredited, there are still some foolish countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus, Italy, and Spain that are being devastated by a misplaced trust in its advocacy of “to each according to his need” and its consequential redistribution of the country’s wealth.
There are myriad reasons why socialism can never succeed. One is the irrational socialist attitude toward money. Marx’s socialists always depicted money as an odious instrument of capitalist exploitation, and they always preached the gospel that in the utopian socialist society there would be no money, no prices, no wages. Until that day, however, they admitted that money was unfortunately a necessary evil that had to be retained during the transition period from capitalism to socialism — because the socialist leaders were unable to offer anything to replace it. Nevertheless, in the socialist Soviet empire, money lost its economic regulatory function as well as its status as a measure of wealth, becoming merely an instrument for expressing domestic wages and prices. Irrational, unpredictable and chaotic, the socialist attitude toward money brought nothing but economic anarchy. I saw that with my own eyes during the 20 years I was involved with Romania’s financial system, as I went from being deputy chief of the country’s trade mission in West Germany to economic advisor to the Romanian president.
Thirty-four years ago, when I broke away from my life in the top circles of the Soviet empire, I paid with two death sentences from my native Romania for helping her people to stop thinking of government as a boon bestowed from on high, and to free themselves from the clutches of socialism. Alas, now I see the socialist plague of “to each according to his need” beginning to infect my adoptive country, the United States. On Feb. 7, 2009, the cover of Newsweek magazine proclaimed: “We Are All Socialists Now.”[ii] That was just what the official Romanian newspaper Scînteia proclaimed when my former boss, Nicolae Ceausescu, began changing Romania into a monument to himself. Two years after seizing power, the socialist nomenklatura of the U.S. Democratic Party produced the same results as Romania’s socialist nomenklatura did — on a U.S. scale. Over fourteen million Americans lost their jobs, and 41.8 million people went on government food stamps. The GDP dipped from 3.4% to 1.6%. The national debt rose to an unprecedented $13 trillion, and it is projected to reach $18 trillion by 2019.