One of former President Ronald Reagan’s favorite Soviet Union jokes involved a government official, a farmer, and potatoes. The Russian commissar visits the collective farms to examine the state of the harvest. The farmer tells the man, “Oh, comrade commissar! If we took all the potatoes, they would reach the foot of God.” The commissar reprimands the farmer, “Comrade farmer, this is the Soviet Union. There is no God.” The farmer replies, “That’s OK. There are no potatoes, either.”
Socialist nations are all too familiar with famines, shortages, and humanitarian crises. Every place that has adopted socialism has been tormented by the consequences of this lethal economic philosophy. Venezuela was a Latin American paradise until it went full socialist. Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa until a crazed Marxist took over the country. Cuba is facing another food crisis comparable to the Special Period in the 1990s. Communist China is reportedly on the cusp of another famine. Why does socialism always lead to starvation everywhere it is installed?
An Unequal Food Crisis
Liberty Nation recently reported about the coming food crisis around the world, from rising prices to shortages. Over the next 12 to 18 months, some nations will have it worse than others, but the overall theme is that your dinner plate will either become more expensive or have nothing at all.
At the height of the pandemic, the United States witnessed what it is like in socialist countries that have outlawed private property, introduced price controls, or slapped production quotas on manufacturers. Because the demand went through the roof due to panic buying, supermarket shelves became bare as swarms of shoppers grabbed anything they could get. Grocery stores have recovered since then, and you can now get your pork, vegetables, and coffee – albeit at a higher cost due to price inflation and ballooning consumer demand.
The tragedy, unfortunately, is that this is life all the time in Caracas or Havana. While the United States and other developed markets may not have had toilet paper for a couple of weeks, these socialist states routinely experience shortages of toilet paper and other essential items. Be it North Korea or several African states, the socialization of agriculture and other economic elements has contributed to widespread suffering and destitution that most Americans will never endure in their lifetime.
Havana has essentially admitted that socialism failed by introducing private property conditions for farmers. The Harare government is ostensibly trying to revive its dying agricultural sector by reversing its land reform policies of the last 30 years and extending an olive branch to white farmers. Some African states are in the beginning stages of revitalizing their food industries and enabling greater entrepreneurship and urbanization of their supplies.
Put simply, all the socialist countries were already going through tumultuous times before the Coronavirus pandemic decimated the global economy. The COVID-19 public health crisis exacerbated their dire situations because wealthier nations could no longer subsidize – directly or indirectly – the impoverished ones.
Why Does Socialism Fail?
Mao Zedong’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela, the Soviet Union, and so many others – why does socialism lead to shortages or famines?
Legendary economist Ludwig von Mises answered this 100 years ago in an article titled “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.” He explained that the pricing mechanism in socialist economies was inadequate because nationalizing the means of production fails to provide a rational pricing system. Mises added that without market prices reflecting the scarcity of capital goods, the economic decision-makers in government could not make rational calculations.
In his classic 1951 essay “Middle-of-the-Road Policy Leads to Socialism,” Mises further explained that states travel these devastating paths by adopting nostrums that do nothing but add to a nation’s woes. He brilliantly stated:
“The impact of this state of affairs is that practically very little is done to preserve the system of private enterprise. There are only middle-of-the-roaders who think they have been successful when they have delayed for some time an especially ruinous measure. They are always in retreat. They put up today with measures which only ten or twenty years ago they would have considered as undiscussable. They will, in a few years, acquiesce in other measures which they today consider as simply out of the question. What can prevent the coming of totalitarian socialism is only a thorough change in ideologies.”
Any time somebody starts advocating interventionism, no matter how benign, it is time to start stockpiling food.
Capitalism Saves, Socialism Kills
The United States produces so much food that a lot of it is wasted. While this can be heartbreaking to see when you consider the millions of other people who are starving, the trend can be viewed as positive. Think about it: The United States is so wealthy that the population can afford to throw out food without going hungry. It is a remarkable sign of affluence and privilege in the global economy. It is not virtuous to waste your milk, meat, or bread, but having the option is incredible. When you live in Latin America or Africa, every bushel of wheat or each morsel of rice is critical to surviving.
Capitalism saves, socialism kills.
Read more from Andrew Moran.
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