Book Review: ‘The Case Against Socialism’ 

Examining a system that only sounds good
January 3, 2020 Updated: January 5, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

Socialism in America is on the rise. A recent Gallup poll found that 45 percent of young American adults (aged 18–29) have a positive view of capitalism, while 51 percent of this same group see socialism positively. Older Americans have been consistently more positive about capitalism than socialism; 58 percent of those between the ages of 30 and 49 have a positive view of capitalism, and 41 percent have a positive view of socialism. Of those aged 50 to 64, 60 percent have a positive view of capitalism and 30 percent have a positive view of socialism.

A reason for this rise in the favorability of socialism is due to the fact that young people grew up during the Great Recession, a time when the media did a poor job covering socialism, and a time when socialism prevailed as a popular ideology on American college campuses. Now, too, socialism is extolled by many of the Democratic progressive leaders such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

As a result, there is a serious lack of knowledge about what socialism truly is. Socialism has killed millions, yet its many failures are barely mentioned by the media or our leaders.

The book “The Case Against Socialism” by Rand Paul is just the place for Americans to become reacquainted with socialism.

Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky and a former physician. His book is a careful study of socialism that reaches a diagnosis: It is a spiritual illness that we should be vaccinated against. The examples that he includes to prove his point are solid and next to impossible to refute.

Paul defines socialism as a societal system in which the government owns the means of production. With socialism, the rights of the individual are made secondary to the desires of the collective. Democratic socialism is the same thing, just pitched in a gentler way. A natural outgrowth of socialism, Paul says, is communism, where the government controls everything: all things political and the means of production. Lenin himself said, “The goal of socialism is communism.”

The Case Against Socialism cover
The cover of Rand Paul’s new book.

False Ideas and Seeing Through Them

Paul’s effectiveness in his book lies in taking pro-socialist arguments and picking them apart. Organized into six parts, the book contains 39 chapters with topics such as socialistic countries, authoritarianism, economic inequality, climate change, and fake news, and in each he dispels fallacious assumptions upon which socialism rests.

False Idea: Government control of the private sector is a good thing for a country.
Paul’s response: Paul asks the reader to look at Venezuela’s once-vibrant economy, which was so rich with oil (Venezuela still has the largest oil reserves in the world) and was destroyed by government control. Added to that was the nationalization of private companies, which the government mismanaged. The country fell rapidly: from 48 percent of the populace in poverty in 2014 to 87 percent in poverty in 2017. Today there is a humanitarian crisis that threatens to engulf the region.

False Idea: Income inequality between rich and poor slows economic growth.
Paul’s response: In reality, while the rich are getting richer so are the poor. Simply put, a rising tide lifts all boats. He points to the fact that low-income groups have access to goods and services that were previously unheard of. At no other time in history have so few around the world lived in poverty.

False Idea: The Scandinavian countries are examples of socialism’s success.
Paul’s response: In 2015, Denmark’s prime minister chided Bernie Sanders and asked him to stop insulting his country by labeling it as socialist. Corey Iacono (who wrote for the Foundation for Economic Education) says that Scandinavian countries do indeed have heavy taxation and generous social welfare programs. But that does not make them socialist. Heavy taxation and wealth are promoted through the framework of a capitalistic democracy.

Paul adds that this mixture of big government and private ownership is not, however, free. These countries have the heaviest middle-class tax burden in the world. Historically, the Scandinavian countries have embraced high taxation of the middle class because they were actually using all of the services that they got in exchange. Free tuition and health care were not a safety net for the poor, but used by all. In the past, the high degree of cohesion in both racial and cultural identity among the citizens made it easy to determine priorities. Now with more immigration, signs of strain on services are starting to show.

False idea: Throughout history, socialism has overthrown authoritarian regimes, which makes socialism a very positive force.
Paul’s response: One of the greatest ironies of modern political history is that as socialists around the world arose to overthrow authoritarian regimes, they ultimately replaced them—despite their promises to establish free democracies—with authoritarian regimes of their own.

False idea: Socialism is the answer to climate change.
Paul’s response: Even the most ardent climate change alarmists acknowledge that this debate is about more than just pollution or temperature changes. Paul argues that the real motive behind the alarmists’ efforts is the global redistribution of wealth and a worldwide socialist welfare state.

Paul wants to see a rational discussion of how much of climate change stems from natural causes and how much from man, and then with clarity proceed from there with the capitalistic system.

False Idea: The Nazis were not socialists.
Paul’s response: Despite the Nazis literally having “socialist” in their name—the National Socialist German Workers’ Party—progressives persist in trying to convince the world that the Nazis were not socialists because they did not have the orthodox version.  What is true is that the Nazis never wavered in their support of socialism. They simply believed they had a better form of it to offer. It is a fact that while the Nazis’ industries were privately owned, it was in name only. State control over industry was so complete that, in reality, owners were essentially stripped of private control of their property.

Paul further claims that progressives do not want to claim Nazis as their own because of the Nazi policy of eugenics. However, eugenics is a natural outgrowth of socialistic policies. After all, if the state is controlling industry, and industry depends on workers, socialistic theory would allow the same for the production of babies. Why not have more strong people and fewer weak ones? Paul’s quote is that “socialism and eugenics were not a historical anomaly but a historical symbiosis.” He feels that eugenics is a danger whenever the collective is elevated over the individual.

Paul wonders why today Margaret Sanger is proudly promoted and lionized as the founder of Planned Parenthood in spite of the fact that she advocated for eugenics.

False idea: Socialism encourages creativity since most basic needs are met.
Paul’s response: This is not so. Unauthorized ideas are dangerous ideas, because they can lead people to begin thinking for themselves and thus to begin thinking about the nature of socialism and its rulers. Complete control of the economy means complete control of all the people participating in that economy.

False idea: Socialism isn’t violent.
Paul’s response: If socialism doesn’t lead to violence, then Paul asks how can the state take possession of people’s property? Will people voluntarily give up their property without a fight? The state will punish those who do not obey, and the penalties will worsen over time. Extermination will be an end choice. Paul cites examples of oppressive government control in places where socialism ultimately led to such violence.

His last chapter, on China, talks about the panopticon: an omnipresent surveillance system designed so that individuals will never be sure whether or not they are being observed. The system searches for “desirable behavior” (whatever the government thinks is correct at the moment) and face-crime, facial expressions that hint at subversive attitudes.

The China Electronics Technology Group, which gathers and organizes big data on everything, completes the thought policing. Chinese citizens are assigned social credits where high scores are rewarded and low scores can result in the denial of jobs, loans, travel, or much worse. Paul states that the system was expected to be fully implemented by 2020.

In China, the state prophesied in the dystopian book “1984” is a reality, but with modern technology.

Is There Hope?

In a country in which youth is turning toward socialism, Paul ends his book with measured hope for the next generation. He hopes that they will come to understand that free markets and free people have produced better health, longer life expectancy, and reduced poverty and suffering around the world.  He hopes that they will choose liberty.

The Case Against Socialism 
Rand Paul
Broadside Books
368 pages

Linda Wiegenfeld is a retired teacher with 45 years’ experience teaching children. She can be reached for comments or suggestions at LWiegenfeld@aol.com