Some time ago, I heard a story about how Russia, struggling with the problem of congested traffic, sent a delegation to the United Kingdom to see how they handled their traffic problems.
The group returned to report that the UK’s solution seemed to be, to drive on the left side of the road. So in St. Petersburg, Russia, they decided to experiment by requiring drivers to drive on the opposite side of the street. As they approached the day of reckoning, the committee worried about what could go wrong, so as a precautionary measure they decided they would phase in the change – on the first day they would require that only trucks drive in the opposite lane.
This was told as a true story. It is understandable that one might think it is too ridiculous to be true. Surely no one could fail to see the absurdity of switching only some traffic. But, then one has to look at what people think about the viability of guaranteed incomes, and consider that perhaps the story could be true.
How could anyone not readily see the glaringly apparent flaw with the idea of a guaranteed income?
All you have to ask, to demonstrate its weakness is “If everyone is guaranteed an income, why work?”
Why would anyone make the effort to produce? And, if most people quit producing, from whence will come the revenues to pay everyone a monthly income?
And yet it is, a guaranteed income is the epitome of socialist dreams, and it has been since the very first human pondered the possibility of gaining the unearned. That it is a dead-end idea, one whose failure has been demonstrated many times over throughout history, in many different countries and societies, doesn’t seem to daunt socialists from trying it again and again. Finland is one of the most recent.
Finland launched an experiment in 2017 to give 2,000 unemployed Finns a basic income, equivalent to $690 (US) per month. After just two years, it was recently announced that they are abandoning the experiment. The program cost more than $33 million over the two years. The recipients were between 25 and 58 years old, selected at random by Finland’s social security agency. The Finnish government had originally intended to expand the test project this year to include more people, both employed and unemployed; instead, recipients will cease getting the monthly stipend at the end of 2018.
Proponents are lamenting the program’s demise, saying such a “Grand Experiment” (think Soviet Union, another failed socialist experiment), needs more of a trial run. In fact, the Finland Parliament has initiated another program, much the same, except recipients will be required to hold some kind of a job in order to qualify. Finland has an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent.
(Does it seem as though the government is trying to re-invent the idea of working for a living?)
And more — Finland’s finance Minister, Petteri Orpo, said, “When the basic-income experiment ends this year, we should launch a universal credit trial” – as though changing the nuances of the welfare program will somehow make a difference with the fundamental problem of removing incentives to work.
Finland is not alone in trying to short circuit reality. Look at what is happening in Venezuela. Even with a massive government-owned oil industry to prop up their socialism, that country has sunk into a bankrupt abys and thousands of its citizens are fleeing the country as law and order completely unravels, and hyperinflation has destroyed its currency.
Part of the problem was that as its citizens became dependent on the wealth generated by oil exports, its social and economic fabric was eroded and so weakened that when the oil market collapsed there was nothing left to sustain the welfare state.
During the years Venezuelan socialism seemed to be succeeding, not only did citizens have no incentive to build and maintain businesses and markets, for those who may have wanted to, there was no legal or formal structure to support them. With no reason to produce, and no jobs or opportunities, there was no reason for citizens to pursue education, develop skills, innovate or improve communities.
Just six months ago as inflation raged in Venezuela, wages were less than 10 cents a day, product shortages became rampant, and a crime wave swept over the nation. With most citizens facing poverty and starvation, riots erupted, which prompted even greater brutality by its tyrannical leadership. Thousands have been murdered, leaving most citizens fearing for their lives and fleeing their homeland.
Said one observer, “Venezuelans have learned that for socialists, more important is the ideology than human lives.”
Interestingly, while not long ago celebrities in the US were praising Venezuela’s socialism and its dictator, not much has been heard from them lately. In fact, the dramatic tragedy unfolding there gets little mention by the US socialistic media.
When media does attempt to make sense of the “economic mess,” they seldom blame it on the system of socialism; it is because the oil market dropped – as though there is something abnormal about market fluctuations – as though they don’t know that being able to deal with unpredictable, disruptive changes of life, is the primary reason for developing a broad, strong, flexible economy.
But maybe they don’t know. Maybe they don’t choose to know. If the celebrities or media elite know and understand enough to avert their attention now that their poster child of socialism is collapsing, then they know well enough.
To see reality and refuse to accept it is totally mystifying about all those who push for socialism in the US, as they campaign for the next presidential election or as they criticize and attack our nation’s market successes.
Is the Venezuela experience really what Bernie Saunders or Elizabeth Warren want? Really?
That young people may be seduced by the feel-good goals that socialists claim will be socialism’s outcome, is not surprising. Such is the nature of the inexperience and lack of education of the young. That many change their ideas and opinions about the desirability of socialism as they become older, more experienced and more educated is something that has been repeated many generations over. But for those who obstinately refuse to see, it makes one wonder about them – are they not smart enough to see the reality of that for which they ask, or are they secretly pursuing goals other than those they claim?
It’s for sure they are driving down the wrong side of the road if their goal is prosperity, opportunity and a peaceful society. While there are elder statesmen in our county who don’t seem to get it, one can hope many of the young people who are supporting their ideas see what is happening in the world, where socialist ideals, such as guaranteed incomes, have been “successful.”