The welfare systems of Scandinavian countries are often touted as examples of socialism implemented successfully. But how is the “democratic socialism” being advanced in America today fundamentally different?
Why are vandals targeting not just Confederate statues but also the statues of people like Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant?
And in the eyes of Dinesh D’Souza, what is the moral flaw at the heart of democratic socialism?
In this episode, we sit down with author, filmmaker, and public intellectual Dinesh D’Souza, to discuss his latest book, “United States of Socialism.”
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Dinesh D’Souza, so great to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Dinesh D’Souza: Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.
Mr. Jekielek: Dinesh, you’ve written the book, United States of Socialism. A lot of us have been staring at the news over the last almost a month now. A whole series of protests sparked from this terrible, terrible killing of George Floyd. Then later, that turned into, in some cases riots, in some cases looting. Now this has seemingly morphed into the forced removal of statues, toppling them, Most recently there were attempts in Lafayette Square, right in front of the White House. What does the United States of Socialism have to say about this whole situation?
Mr. D’Souza: We see the socialist left playing out a script before our eyes. One of the themes I discuss in the book is the fact that socialism in America has moved away from focusing exclusively on the politics of class. It’s not about the working man anymore. Marx expected the typical socialists to be a working-class guy fighting for higher wages, but today, the typical socialist is an eco-feminist who marches in Antifa and Black Lives Matter rallies and throws cement blocks at her political opponents. What we see clearly is, I call it, “identity socialism,” and what I mean by that is we have a marriage between classic socialism based on class and the concerns of identity politics.
American socialists try to divide society not just into rich versus poor, but black versus white, male versus female, straight versus gay, legal versus illegal. Clearly, this is a new species of socialism, and that’s why I wrote the book. You can’t refute socialism now simply by saying, “Hey, it’s never worked in the past, and so it’s not going to work now.” We’re dealing with a kind of novel type of American socialism.
Mr. Jekielek: Wait a second, so are you saying that you think it has a chance at working now within this new manifestation?
Mr. D’Souza: I’m not saying that it will work, but what I’m saying is that the socialists are offering a vision based upon a kind of new formula. For example, many of them will say, number one, “The old forms of socialism were mainly authoritarian.” They will say, “We don’t want to be like Lenin, or Stalin, or Mao. We support democratic socialism. Democracy is what gives legitimacy to our type of socialism.” They will also say, second, “Who says that socialism never works? It works in Scandinavia. It works across Europe. Why don’t we import some of that type of socialism, which is a humane socialism, to America.” Third, they will say that we have broadened our concept of socialism to take into account racial exploitation, gender exploitation and so on, so you have to discuss socialism on its own terms.
I think it is just as disastrous if not more than other types of socialism. But that’s my conclusion; I don’t start there. I start by taking seriously the arguments of the left, exploring their various dimensions, and then ultimately showing why this type of socialism, even though novel, is evil, why it’s being run by some very bad guys. I conclude the book by talking about how it can be stopped.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s very interesting. … You have a whole chapter basically dedicated to looking at Scandinavian socialism, in fact. You draw some very interesting ideas in here. One of them is that you describe the socialism seen in Scandinavia as a “unifying socialism,” whereas the socialism that’s being promoted in North America and in some other places like Venezuela is “divisive.” … I don’t think I’m using your exact terminology but that’s the idea. Tell me more about this.
Mr. D’Souza: American socialism is based upon setting one group against the other, and the purpose of doing this is to create a popular and electoral majority of victimized groups. If you can set men against women, you might be able to get the women’s vote. If you set black against white, you might be able to monopolize, as the Democrats largely have, the black vote, and so on. This is what you can call “division socialism,” and division socialism has its roots in Marx who divided society basically into two groups: the workers who were the exploited and the capitalist class who were the exploiters. It was a class division.
As I mentioned, American socialists go much further. They divide society [in] many different ways and the division is … based upon a formula of demonization. You demonize the white male heterosexual; you demonize the rich guy. If you remove this demonization from the rhetoric of, say, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, they would go politically mute. They would have almost nothing to say.
Now, let’s move over to Scandinavia for a moment. The Scandinavians don’t do this. You’ll never hear the Scandinavians fulminating and denouncing the rich. They’ll never be foaming at the mouth about millionaires and billionaires. Theirs is what you can call a “unification socialism,” by which I mean it’s a socialism of “we’re all in this together.” This reminds me a little bit of the very early socialist communes that existed in England, in France, before Marx. These were voluntary associations of people. They came together, they pooled all their resources, sometimes they had kind of a free love component to them, but nevertheless, the basic idea is that “we are all a single extended family.” That’s how the Scandinavian see it. It’s a very important distinguishing feature between Scandinavian socialism and American socialism.
Mr. Jekielek: The typical argument that I’ve seen about Scandinavia is, “Actually, economically, it isn’t really socialism.”
Mr. D’Souza: Well, that argument is true, but it’s a little inadequate, because the Scandinavians do have a massive welfare state. A lot of the so-called welfare state programs of free daycare, and largely free college, free healthcare, and free retirement, a generous unemployment—they have all that. If you merely say, “They’re not really socialist,” the left can easily reply, “Well, okay, fine. Why don’t we bring all their programs here, because after all, they’re not really socialist. You conservatives and Republicans shouldn’t have any objection to that, should you?” So we have to make some distinctions.
The Scandinavians are capitalist in wealth creation but socialist in wealth distribution. Let’s focus on the creation side for a minute. The Scandinavians have low corporate tax rates, about 20 percent, the same as here. They have, in general, no minimum wage. They have no wealth tax with one exception. They have no inheritance tax. You can leave all your money to your kids. You can hire and fire people for any reason. They have less regulation than in America. The kind of financial transaction fees that Bernie Sanders, AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], and Elizabeth Warren have proposed for Wall Street, well, no Scandinavian country has that. The bottom line is that Scandinavians do not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Now, they do have a generous welfare state as I mentioned, but they make the whole society pay for it. Again, it’s none of this … “we’re going to rob Peter to pay Paul, so we can count on Paul to vote for us.” Rather, it is that the rich have to pay, and the middle class has to pay, and even the poor have to pay. The Scandinavians, for example, have a VAT, or Value Added Tax, 25 percent. Any economists will tell you that this kind of a tax, which is a consumption tax, falls more heavily, proportionately, on the poor than it does on the middle class, and more heavily on the middle class than on the rich. It’s a regressive tax. The Scandinavians don’t soak the rich the way the left wants to do here. They soak the whole society.
Mr. Jekielek: This is interesting. Why is it that in this society, you argue in the book basically, that in many cases, it is actually people in various power structures in the West that are seeking to soak the rich, so to speak, in your words? How is what you just described actually different from what’s being proposed here?
Mr. D’Souza: The attack on the rich in America is a little bit of a political ruse. The rich already pay the vast majority of the taxes. Let’s take the income tax, the federal income tax. Although the top rate is 37 [or] 38 percent, the fact of the matter is that the top 1 percent in this country pays about 35 to 40 percent of the tax [income to the government]. The next 9 percent pays the next 35 percent. So put the two together, the top 10 percent of income earners in this country are paying 70 to 75 percent of all the income taxes collected federally in this country.
The idea that the rich are not paying their fair share is preposterous. What is their fair share? Should other people pay nothing? By and large, if you make under $40,000 in this country, you don’t pay any federal income taxes. Our tax system is structured to put the majority of the burden on the rich, but now that they’re carrying it, it seems unfair to go ahead and demonize them on top of it.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re saying this is some kind of ruse or subterfuge, or what is this?
Mr. D’Souza: It’s a political ruse by a very cunning and crafty group of people to gain power. Now, if you look at the socialist class in America, I want to make a couple of distinctions here because the actual group of socialists is quite small. Certainly in Congress, it’s just a handful of people: the so-called Squad which comprises Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib. Of course, there’s Bernie Sanders, perhaps the most famous socialist in America.
But the Democrats made a strategic decision. They said, “Look, we don’t want the explicit socialism of Sanders. Here’s a guy who honeymooned in the Soviet Union; he praises the health care system of Cuba; he praises breadlines. This is a little uncomfortably close to a kind of apologia for totalitarianism, so let’s go with the creeping socialism of Joe Biden.” So the mainstream of the Democratic Party now appears to be moving in the direction of socialism, but they’re not doing it overnight.
They’re doing it in a sort of gradualist way, actually kind of similar to the way the dictator Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez didn’t campaign as a socialist. In fact, in an interview, he said, “I’m not a socialist. I’m not going to take over a private industry. In fact, I’m going to be kind of a centrist.” It was only eight years later that Hugo Chavez founded the Socialist Party of Venezuela. Then of course, he went full bore, began to stamp everything in the grocery store including cartons of milk and ketchup, “Made in Socialism.” This stamp appears on all Venezuelan products and now reflects the kind of full-scale socialism that Chavez and Chavez-ism, Chavismo, descended to.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s actually really fascinating, because in my mind at least—and I clearly haven’t studied history well enough—I imagine that Chavez kind of came to power on the socialist platform. That’s very, very interesting. Let’s jump back to current events for a second before we get into some other aspects of your book.
This phenomenon of toppling statues, ostensibly at the beginning, it had to do with toppling Confederate leaders, basically people who were involved in slavery. Their statues being up there are offensive and racist and so forth. Now, we also started seeing toppling statues of people like George Washington or even Ulysses S. Grant, which kind of was shocking to me given what I know about his role in the Civil War. What do you make of this whole phenomenon given what you’ve written?
Mr. D’Souza: I think what we see in the toppling of statues is the left attempting to have a Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution is a wholesale attack on the values and principles associated with American exceptionalism. This is why they target the flag; this is why they target the national anthem; this is why they target Lincoln.
This is not about fighting racism more or slavery because after all, Lincoln was the guy who freed the slaves. If you go to Chicago, there’s a tall monument standing now to Stephen Douglas. Douglas was Lincoln’s opponent, both for the Senate in Illinois and later for the presidency. Douglas was a Democrat, champion of slavery—brought the defense of slavery to the centerpiece of the Democratic platform under the guise of something called “popular sovereignty.” Well, the point is, the Douglas statue is still standing. It’s not even really properly guarded, and Antifa is not attacking it. No one’s attacking it.
It’s very telling that the attack is on Lincoln. It’s on Republicans; that’s why Grant [is targeted]. It’s on Christians; that’s why you have Shaun King, one of the Black Lives Matter activists saying, “Let’s knock down the Jesus statues because they portray Jesus as a white man.” They knocked down the monument to Junipero Serra, a Christian missionary who built the missions in California. So this is far broader than an attack on racism, and it shows that socialism today has a cultural component that has nothing to do with economic redistribution.
What does knocking a statue have to do with helping the working class? It doesn’t. It’s ultimately an effort to rewrite history. It’s also an effort to intimidate people who are patriotic, and Christian, and religious believers into feeling that this is not their country anymore, that people can go and wreck these things with impunity. Remember, these are lawless forms of destruction. This is not a peaceful protest. These are people forcibly pulling down the statues in an unauthorized manner in the expectation that the rest of the country will stand by helplessly, idly and will do nothing.
Mr. Jekielek: I’ve been looking around trying to understand the justifications people have for this. One of the arguments I’ve seen is that people have tried peaceful protest to get these racist landmarks gone but it didn’t work, so they have to escalate it to the next level. Have you actually taken a look at what some of these arguments are? Another one of course is that there’s a lot of people that are just hurt by seeing these symbols of oppression up, and of course, the whites who are the people in charge wouldn’t really appreciate that, because they’ve never had to be in their shoes.
Mr. D’Souza: Well, when the George Floyd killing occurred, I remember there was a uniform outcry on social media. I and many other conservatives immediately said that this was abominable, and this was an opportunity really for national unity, for the … two sides to come together and say, “Look, we agree on this. We all agree that there shouldn’t be bad cops. We need to make sure that we only hire good cops.” But see, the left didn’t want that.
They didn’t want unity. They wanted to divide. They wanted to drive a wedge, and so what did they do? They came up with a bigger narrative that went far beyond the George Floyd killing. This was a narrative that basically said, “This is typical behavior of the cops.” Why? “Because the cops are inherently racist, and they’re racist, because they’re part of a racist system: institutional racism. The economic system is bigoted because it’s imbued with white supremacy, and the country is racist and has been since 1776, if not before.”
This larger narrative was then stuck on top of the George Floyd killing and it was used ultimately to say, “Take it or leave it. If you disagree with this narrative”—which I as an immigrant, a non-white immigrant, find ridiculous and appalling, but if you disagree with it—“you’re against George Floyd. You’re insensitive to this killing.” This is the typical ideological sleight of hand that is characteristic of the socialists. Now, this idea that they can’t look at statues because wow, they’re so offended, look, we should be looking at what these statues actually represent.
What does the statue of Abraham Lincoln represent in Boston? Why are they talking about taking that one down? The truth of it is that Lincoln was a great liberator. If it were not for Abraham Lincoln, we might not have ended slavery when we did. In fact, the blacks who were captives in slavery were not powerful enough to overthrow the system on their own. There was never an even moderately successful slave revolt in this country, so it took a great war and frankly, a lot of white people dying in order for the blacks to be freed. Abraham Lincoln made that happen, so you would think he would be lionized.
It makes no sense to say, “A statue offends me.” Why does it offend you? That doesn’t make one ounce of sense unless you understand that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, that Abraham Lincoln understood that slavery was a form of theft. Abraham Lincoln said slavery basically means that you work and I eat [“You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.”] For Lincoln, slavery was a form of economic confiscation—you seize the fruits of another man’s labor.
Lincoln basically pointed his finger and said that’s the credo of the Democratic Party. Now, it’s kind of funny because if we fast forward 150 years, there are many people today who say, “Well, the two parties switch sides. You know, Lincoln used to be a progressive, blah, blah, blah.”The fact of the matter is, if you ask what is the simple credo of the Democratic Party today, and you had to summarize it in one sentence, I would say it is: You work and I eat. Economic confiscation, admittedly in a new form, is still what the Democrats stand for. The left knows this. This is why they secretly hate Lincoln, and this is why they want to pull his statue down.
There’s a little bit of deep understanding that needs to go into [understanding] why these statues are being targeted. It isn’t just the left doesn’t know any history, they’re ignorant, they’re just knocking down whatever they see in front of them—not true. They’re not knocking down FDR statues even though he was a notorious racist. They’re not knocking down LBJ statues even though LBJ was routinely given to using the N-word, and did so even after he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re portraying the Democratic Party a particular way here. I definitely don’t think that this is how the Democratic Party portrays itself today. In fact, I feel like from what I’m seeing, it seeks to be a democratizing force that argues almost precisely the opposite.
Mr. D’Souza: Well, I don’t want to make this too partisan, and that’s why I like to focus on the socialist left. By the way, it’s important to realize that saying you’re a force for democratization is not inconsistent with supporting all forms of oppression. When Stephen Douglas campaigned as the Democratic presidential candidate, his doctrine was what he called “popular sovereignty.” Popular sovereignty basically means this: if a community or a state wants to have slavery, that depends on what the majority of people in that state vote for. If they vote for slavery, Douglas said, let’s have slavery; if they vote against slavery, let’s not have slavery. According to Douglas, slavery was an expression of the democratic will of the people of the southern states and ultimately, he hoped, the federal territories.
… Here we get kind of to the moral flaw at the heart of the idea of democratic socialism, because the idea of democratic socialism is a majority of people get to decide and then that makes it okay. But think of it this way: If I was going to school as a kid, which I did, and I’d have in my pocket—this is in India—a group of marbles which I would play during recess, and now imagine if one guy jumps on me and grabs my marbles. Well, that’s like authoritarian socialism. He’s confiscating my marbles by force and the crime is being committed by one man.
But let’s say I meet a group of 10 other guys, they take a vote, and 7 of them decide, “Let’s go take Dinesh’s marbles.” Then they gang up on me and collectively, forcibly, extract my marbles. Now it appears that this is democratic socialism, because the majority of people decided; they decided freely; nobody coerced them. They decided ultimately to deprive me of my possessions and my rights. So see, for Lincoln, that is also robbery. It may be robbery by a gang instead of robbery by one guy, but it’s robbery all the same. This is the point to recognize here: a robbery is not legitimized because a majority gang decided to do it. In a nutshell, that is my moral argument against democratic socialism.
Mr. Jekielek: I want to actually explore that. You put together essentially the moral case for capitalism in the book. But as you’re saying this, it strikes me, isn’t this precisely the case that the democratic socialists are making, that you have essentially rich and people in power i.e. the whites on top of the system that are robbing everybody else?
Mr. D’Souza: Yes, that’s what they say, that there is a kind of looting going on at the top. The problem is that is not happening at all. If you look at, let’s take some of the people, the most notorious billionaires in the United States, and ask the simple question: How did they get that way? Let me start with Steve Jobs. Did anybody write to Steve Jobs and say, “Hey, Steve Jobs, we envision a phone that will take pictures, do texting and email, and allow you to watch movies, so you make that kind of a phone.” No! Steve Jobs thought of it, he envisioned it, he built it, he marketed it before people knew they couldn’t live without it. When they saw it, they were so delighted that they stood in long lines to buy it, and that’s how Steve Jobs got so rich.
So who made him rich? We made him rich because of the satisfaction that he provided us through his products. Would it be reasonable to say that Steve Jobs exploited you or me and cunningly making us buy his phone? No. He couldn’t force us. He had no way to do that. Then we turn to Jeff Bezos, and I could outline the same story, the fact that Amazon Prime allows us to spend, what, $100 a year and get anything we order, from furniture to an elephant, delivered to my door in two days. The genius of being able to pull that off and make it work is why Jeff Bezos is a multi-billionaire. My point is that it’s not entrepreneurs who are responsible for this gargantuan inequality, it is consumers. A capitalist becomes rich in the proportion that he or she meets the wants and needs of consumers.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s very interesting. When I was reading through this chapter where you make the moral case for capitalism, it struck me though that there’s all sorts of devices in our system that actually work actively in the favor of … the entrepreneur that’s already made it or has some kind of positionally. For example, this whole concept of crony capitalism basically benefiting excessively from certain kinds of rules and getting subsidies of various sorts and so forth. What do you make of this?
Mr. D’Souza: Right. … The term is in a way misleading because “crony capitalism” is not capitalism. Crony capitalism is basically a form of business trying to take advantage of buying political connections. In other words, using the leverage of the government through lobbyists and so on to get favorable legislation, favorable deals and so on. This is the kind of racketeering that is the very antithesis of capitalism. Capitalism is about making products, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, finding consumers and making them really happy, so they give you money in exchange for what the new stuff that you made.
Mr. Jekielek: Presumably this phenomenon isn’t restricted to political affiliation, right?
Mr. D’Souza: No. It happens in both parties, and in that sense, this is part of the corruption of government. It’s very sad that it’s a raid on the public purse in effect, because ultimately, what these people are doing is they’re leveraging their influence in government to be able to make money. They can do it domestically through lobbyists, or they can do it internationally.
The Chinese government, for example, has had a long-standing policy—by the way, not limited to the United States but worldwide—where the Chinese enrich the family members of politicians from whom they are trying to get favorable deals. They don’t enrich the politician themselves, and that’s important. If you look at Joe Biden’s own net worth over the years, it hasn’t gone up all that much. But if you look at the net worth of his brother, Frank Biden, it’s huge. The network of his other brother, it’s huge. The son, Hunter Biden, it’s huge.
What’s happening here is the money is flowing not directly to the candidate, who has disclosure requirements but flowing to other family members where there are no disclosure requirements. In fact, the whole impeachment scandal showed us a tiny window into that scandal. The Democrats were quick to try to shut that down: “Oh, there is no evidence,” and so on. There may not be evidence, but it’s very clear where the money trail that was exposed [goes]. This shows you that at the end of the day, … [although] you get the impression the socialists don’t care about money, … they only care about the people, in reality, they’re all watching their pocketbooks very carefully. This is why Bernie Sanders who was essentially a bum for most of his life now owns three homes.
Mr. Jekielek: … We have this unique and unprecedented situation when it comes to what we would call “big tech” where a very few number of companies, of course, Facebook, Google, as well as Amazon which you mentioned as being this great success story, have unprecedented control over what people see, what they read, potentially what they buy, simply by selecting what’s shown, what’s offered for sale or what’s searched.
The response to this is varied. … Libertarian type thinkers say “These are private companies; they should be able to do what they want.” There’s other people that are saying “Okay, but effectively these people control what was once the public square, something that would have been very difficult to control and now it can be done in sort of unconscious ways.” Then there’s also pushes to have these same companies essentially enforce certain ideological perspectives. It’s a range. A lot of criticism these companies are facing.
Mr. D’Souza: Well, these companies have achieved their status ultimately through a massive deception. When they established these platforms, they said in effect: We are like the phone company, we’re creating a platform, a network, in which people can communicate freely, and of course the phone company is completely neutral as to the content of the network. You can call your friend and say whatever you want. You can shout up epithets if you like.
The phone company isn’t going to blot out your call. Why? Because the phone company is essentially an extended system of wires that connects people, one to the other, and a lot of protections come out of that. For example, if I call my friend or a group of friends and I libel a third guy, you can’t sue the phone company for the simple reason that the phone company had nothing to do with it. They merely provided, you may say, the pipes for this conversation to take place.
But now, compare the phone company to say Twitter or Facebook where they have a group of editors who are kicking people off of Facebook, controlling the content, in the case of Google, manipulating the searches. In that case, they’re not the phone company. They’re more like a group of editors at the New York Times who are deciding, “You know what? We’re not going to publish this guy’s article or this guy’s letter. We’re choosing what’s going to fly on our network, and what isn’t.”
I say, if that’s the case, then you don’t deserve the protections of the phone company, because you’re regulating the content that’s appearing on your platform. If somebody publishes libel on Facebook, Facebook should be sued, because Facebook is the ones who “published” that libel. Yes, these are private companies, and yes, they can decide what content appears on their platform, but like any other publisher, they’re responsible for that content, and so I think it’s important here for the government to remove this kind of special protection that was deceptively obtained. Let these companies decide on content, and let the chips fall where they may.
Mr. Jekielek: The other side of this coin is also that a number of these companies have become near-monopolies or essentially there isn’t a lot of competition. It’ll be very difficult for there to be this natural competition where the best technology rises to the top, so to speak, as in the capitalist system…. So how does this play in?
Mr. D’Souza: The idea, of course, is the antitrust laws, and the antitrust laws basically say that monopolies are inherently bad, but certain types of monopolies are worse than others. For example, it’s bad to have, let’s say, a trucking monopoly, and of course, the government has gotten involved in breaking up large monopolies in many other areas.
But it’s especially bad to have a monopoly of ideas. This is, by the way, why the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] regulates the airwaves. Radio stations and television stations are subject to federal regulation, because monopolies in those areas are even more lethal to democratic debate, to open discussion, that is the fuel of a free and accountable society. I say if this is something that needs to be looked into and if these companies are too big, the government should break them up in order to make sure that there is true freedom as well as diversity of ideological discourse.
In a lot of these debates, they become very kind of obscure, because they’re not reduced to first principles. I think that we can understand systems better if we simplify them in the form of a sort of a thought experiment. So imagine, for example, a group of people, let’s say there are 100 of them. Well, let’s imagine it’s a socialist utopia. Everybody has $10. Pure equality. No differences whatsoever.
Then one guy, let’s just say you or me, writes a book or puts on a play, or decides to organize a basketball game, and I say to the group, “Hey, listen. I’ve got a new book out, and if anybody wants to buy this book, I’d be willing to sell it to you for $1.” A group of people, let’s just say 25 of the 100 people say, “You know what, Dinesh? We think that’s great. We’d love to see what’s in your book. It’s well worth $1 to us, so we’re happy to buy your book for a buck.” Now there’s immediate inequality. Why? Because I now have $25 that has come from 25 people in the group, plus my original $10, so I have $35. Everybody else has either $10, or the ones who paid have $9, so there’s inequality.
But the question is, where’s the injustice? Who’s been ripped off? Even though there’s inequality, the inequality is created by voluntary exchange. We started out with pure equality, so that’s fair, and if the transfer is fair, then the result must be fair. So this is how capitalism operates. People vote in the marketplace, kind of the way you vote in elections, except in elections in politics, you vote every two years or every four years.
By the way, your vote cost you nothing. A lot of people won’t vote if it’s raining. But with capitalism, you vote as a consumer with your hard earned dollars, and you vote every single day, sometimes many times a day. Everybody votes. Even people not eligible to vote in politics like kids, they can vote, illegals can vote, in the market. The point is capitalism is hugely responsive to popular will and popular consent. It reflects what consumers actually care about—what they value. The value in capitalism is in the eye of the consumer and that’s ultimately what makes the system work; it’s what makes it successful.
I grew up in a socialist society. It was horrible. India was the begging bowl of the world. My family had a ration card. It told us how much rice we could buy, how much cooking oil, how much sugar—it set a limit. The moment India threw aside socialism and moved in the free market direction, no need for a ration card. Suddenly, by and large, there was the ability to buy whatever you wanted.
Suddenly, the Indian middle class which was tiny, became a large and influential middle class. Suddenly, India began to have well paved streets and India’s image as being the begging bowl of the world began to dissipate. This is a clear empirical example of what you get when you move away from socialism, you get a reduction of poverty, an expansion of prosperity, essentially the emergence of something we have in America but not in India—the Indian dream.
Mr. Jekielek: In the book, you actually cite 25 case studies, actual situations where socialism has been implemented and failed, and zero where it has succeeded, even though there are these consistent attempts, and you try to address why it is that people keep trying a failed system.
Mr. D’Souza: Right. Remember when the left says, “We don’t want authoritarianism. We want democratic socialism,” it’s important to realize that a number of the failed socialist systems are democratic socialism. It isn’t just like Maoism and Leninism. India was a democratic socialist country. India became a democracy in 1947 after the British left, so our socialism was democratic—a massive failure. Venezuela today, that was democratic socialism. True, they rigged the elections now, but they didn’t in the beginning. Hugo Chavez was freely elected, he imposed ultimately a socialist system—it was a disastrous failure.
Socialism has been tried at least 25 times in the world, and it actually at one point was the dominant ideology of the world. It failed everywhere. Now, I use two comparisons that I think are very illuminating: North and South Korea, and East and West Germany. The reason these comparisons are so great is because normally, when you compare economic systems, let’s say I tried to compare, for example, the British economic system in the 19th century with, let’s say the 19th century economy of China—well, this is very hard to do. Why? You have two different people, different circumstances, different history, different religion, different culture, so the comparison becomes very blurred. Other things are not equal.
But in North and South Korea, you have the same people, except North Korea, socialist; South Korea, capitalist. Look at the result: South Korea is 20 times richer than North Korea, South Koreans have much better health, they live 10 years longer than North Koreans, and so on. Similarly, East and West Germany: same people, same culture. East Germany was desperately poor before reunification, [while] West Germany was fantastically well off, and it is the economic systems that explain the difference. Socialism has been tried everywhere. It’s failed, and the attempt to revive it is basically … kind of like … someone said about Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth marriage, this is a “triumph of hope over experience.”
Mr. Jekielek: In these cases of North Korea and Germany, these are both cases of authoritarian socialism, but let’s go back to Venezuela here where essentially it was socialism that came out of democratic decisions.
Mr. D’Souza: Yes, and I think it’s very chilling to think of the parallels between Venezuelan socialism and what the American socialist left wants. Even though the American socialist left denies that Venezuela is its model, the truth of it is a number of leftists from this country have gone to Venezuela. This includes Jimmy Carter; it includes a number of Hollywood figures, Danny Glover, Oliver Stone, and so on, the activist, Noam Chomsky. These are all people who … praise the Venezuelan regime, because that is their true model.
Now, Venezuelan socialism, like American socialism, demonizes the rich. Hugo Chavez did that. In fact, he drove many of the rich and many of the successful businesses out of Venezuela. This is one of the reasons the economy there has collapsed.
The other thing Hugo Chavez did was he demonized the white man. Hugo Chavez said, “I’m indigenous,” [that] Venezuela is the product of sort of neocolonialism, and even though Venezuela was a very multiracial society with all kinds of people—black people, brown people, Italians, Germans and so on—Hugo Chavez introduced the race card, and he began to create racial divisions just as the left does in this country.
In Venezuela, they’ve also unleashed a kind of paramilitary called the “colectivos.” These are kind of criminal gangs that are in league with the socialist regime. They go around on motorcycles, they often wear uniforms, they carry sticks and baseball bats, and their purpose is to beat up—sometimes guns too—the opposition to suppress dissent. They are Venezuela’s answer to Antifa.
Once again, there’s no Scandinavian Antifa. Go to Norway and Sweden, and ask, “Where’s Sven wearing a black outfit and going around defacing monuments, beating up people, and looting stores?” You’ll never see that. That’s not a part of Scandinavian socialism, but it is a part of Venezuelan socialism. I could go on, but what we’re seeing here is we are headed not in the direction of Stockholm, but more in the direction of Caracas, if we become the United States of Socialism.
Mr. Jekielek: Dinesh, any final words before we finish up?
Mr. D’Souza: Yes, the sad truth of it is American politics has reached kind of a fork in the road. America has always been the capitalist country par excellence. In fact, Marx and Engels both recognize this. They both recognize that a socialist revolution will be very difficult to have in America. They thought it would come, because they thought it would come worldwide, but they thought it would come sort of last to the United States.
The reason was actually very interesting. They said that the working man in America sort of has it too good. When you have a working class guy who eats roast beef and apple pie, who has two cars in his front yard and central air, he’s not going to want to overthrow the system. He’s going to want to advance in the system. This is, I think, why the left has been so discombobulated and has had to resort to all kinds of fear tactics and gangster tactics. The fear tactics go all the way back to the depression. FDR realized that he could do things then that he would not have been able to do otherwise, because people were fearful in the depression.
Since then, the left has [used fear tactics]. [In] the 70s, “The world is running out of food,” and then in the 80s, “The nuclear winter.” In the 90s, “The ozone layer is dissipating.” In the last 20 years, “Climate change. The oceans are rising,” and then “coronavirus.” The point is a similar thread here as in all cases, they’re trying to create a panic; a crowd mentality; a stampede. Why? Because we will all do things when we are in a panic and in a crowd that we would not do if we sat down and thought about it for a minute.
To me, the left is trying to run roughshod not just over the symbols of America, the flag and so on, but over the American dream itself and create a new sort of society that would for me, an immigrant who came from India at the age of 17, be a socialist nightmare. My own country went there. Thank god they got out of it. I wouldn’t want to see America go through that kind of trauma. I hope we say no to the United States of Socialism.
Mr. Jekielek: Dinesh D’Souza, such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. D’Souza: Thank you very much.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.