In this season of political argument and division, I can understand arguing over relatively minor differences, like optimal tax rates or the details of how to best vet would-be immigrants. What I can’t understand is how we can still argue about the big picture, which (at the risk of oversimplifying just a wee bit) is that leftism doesn’t work.
Since the Russian leftists pulled off their revolution in 1917, we’ve had a century to watch the competition between the big ideas of the left (a gigantic, centralized government controlling most aspects of life from the cradle to the grave that will allegedly give the most help to most people) and the right (that government is best which governs least).
The leftist cause looked good on paper in 1917, and sounded more compassionate, but in real world practice, it was a dumpster fire.
Speaking of dumpster fires, look at the American cities that have been governed almost exclusively by leftist policy for decades – Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, DC. Sure, parts of each town are nice, and there are good people in all of them, and God bless them for swimming against the tide. But would you put your kids in the public schools of any of them? Would you buy property in any of them?
Look at the bluest states: NY, CA, IL, MA, NJ. Even with everything they’ve got going for them, they’re bleeding productive citizens, and their budgets are as unbalanced as Ashley Judd with a microphone in front of her.
Look at nations. When a free market democracy builds a wall it’s because tons of people want to get in; when a socialist workers’ paradise builds a wall it’s because the workers want to get out. When socialists take over an island nation, there is soon a small flotilla of desperate people scissor-kicking out into shark-infested waters, pushing vessels that look like Gilligan and the Skipper made them out of coconuts and twine.
And you can’t get a better empirical experiment than the one that happened in Germany. The same people – with the same culture, history, language and ancestry – are divided in two, with the East being run on leftist principles and the West on at least quasi-free market ones.
Forty years later, the West was prosperous and advanced, and crawling with BMWs and Mercedes. The East was an impoverished rust belt with gulags, crawling with… less pleasant crawling things. (And even those crawling things were crawling toward the wall, hoping to get out.)
In the West, adorable brunette lip-syncing women were going on about 99 luft balloons in a German-language video that you should all stop and watch on Youtube right now. I’ll wait.
There. Was I wrong about her being adorable? Sure, she spells “Nina” wrong, and the guys in her band have horrible 80s clothes and haircuts. And the keyboard player is a poor man’s Leif Garrett at best. (And has anyone anywhere ever been damned by fainter praise than “the poor man’s Leif Garrett?” Leif Garrett himself was the poor man’s Leif Garrett. He was seven iterations down the talent scale from Peter Frampton, and Nena’s guy was a notch below him. But in East Germany, the second-rate Leif would be a rock god.)
But here’s the thing: our bands had haircuts and clothes that were just as bad back then. Those were the best we could do, for some reason.
But how were they doing in leftist East Germany? Who was the (really, really) poor woman’s Nena on the other side of the wall?
Nobody. Because they couldn’t afford skinny jeans, or lip gloss, or sparkly, dangly earrings. (God, I love Nena! Has anything ever been cuter than the way she says, “Captain Kirk?” She brings an erotic frisson to German song lyrics. Which is a phrase connecting two things that you’ll never hear together again if you live to be 106.) Or smoke grenades. Or reliable electricity to power up that wicked keyboard. Or even balloons.
That’s the measure of leftism vs. free markets in a nutshell. Leftism produced a grand total of zero Nenas. And capitalism produced one, which is just the right number. (I mean, she was singing about her fears that the West was going to start a nuclear war, or something. Which is why no one has ever said, “As a sophisticated political thinker, that Kierkegaard is no Nena.”)
Anyway, I know that my leftist friends will dispute my contention that leftism produces a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland entirely devoid of Nenas, and thus does not work. But even they, when confronted with the old, hoary chestnut about “If you could choose to be born anywhere in the world, which country would you pick?” would have to admit that they wouldn’t pick a country run entirely by their fellow leftists.
Thus, I will close with my illustration of that point, in the form of a conversation between God and a soon-to-be-born baby:
God: I’ve got two options for you. The first is The People’s Republic of—
Baby: I’ll take the other one.
God: What do you mean?
Baby: Let’s go with door number 2.
God: But you don’t even know what that second country is. Don’t you at least want to know its name, or where it is?
Baby: What difference would that make to me? I’m a baby over here – we’re horrible at geography.
God: Okay, we’ll just call it Country X. But aren’t you even a little curious about what daily life there is like?
Baby: (thinks about it) All right. What would be my over/under on life expectancy?
God: 22 years.
Baby: How is the infrastructure?
God: Dirt roads and open sewers.
Baby: What would I eat?
God: Plantains and crickets.
Baby: Would I get any skin diseases?
Baby: Any local animals?
God: Two baby-eating big cat species, and a breed of snake that the locals call the “crib strangler.”
Baby: Yikes. What’s the local language.
God: A series of clicks and whistles.
God: Three goats and an iron cooking pot.
Baby: Wow. How about entertainment options?
God: There’s a local game played with rocks and sticks. But there are seasonal stick shortages. So…
Baby: Ouch. Any colorful indigenous music?
God: No. But cover bands sometimes tour the mid-sized village that’s a two-day walk away.
Baby: Cover bands?
God: Yes. Myron Goldsteen and the Z Street Band came through last fall, and everyone is looking forward to the Fred Nugent tour this summer.
Baby: So if I make the two day walk, what kind of venue will I be able to see Fred Nugent in?
God: Well, it’s a crumbling concrete open-air soccer stadium, so the acoustics aren’t great. And don’t ask them to play “Stranglehold” or “Cat Scratch Fever,” whatever you do.
Baby: Because of the strangling snakes and dangerous big cats?
God: Exactly. It’s always too soon for infant-death-related lyrics in Country X.
Baby: That doesn’t sound so good. Any chance I could see Buddy Holly and the Bilingual Entomologists there?
God: No way – they’re huge. But they’ve got a cover band who came through last year. “El Chirpo.”
Baby: Are they any good?
God: Not really. There were a lot of walk-outs, and afterwards some of the locals said they should change their name to “Click whistle click click.”
Baby: What’s that mean?
God: That’s the sound the indigenous crickets make in an empty open-air soccer stadium. Right before the hungry local children devour them.
Baby: (skeptical) Are you sure this place isn’t a people’s republic?
God: I’m sure.
Baby: Because it sounds like a people’s republic.
God: I know. But it isn’t.
Baby: (after a long silence) Okay, let me make sure I understand. I’ll be choking down crickets, trying to keep from scratching my skin lesions, fighting off an angry panther with a series of menacing clicks and whistles and any sticks that might be in season, and my best case scenario is that I can walk for two days on a dirt road alongside an open sewer to see Fred Nugent play a bunch of B-sides, and I drop dead at 22?”
Baby: But it’s not “The People’s Republic of X?”
Baby: I’m in.