Kevin Williams in National Review writes Venezuela’s Future- and Ours:
I have long argued that about half of our political disagreements are simply cases of failing to agree about the meaning of a word.
Socialism is defined by central planning, which is to say by the subordination of the economy to political discipline. When U.S. progressives talk about socialism, what they usually mean is those nice democratic welfare-statists in Denmark or Sweden, or maybe Germany if they are particularly interested in industrial policy and labor power. European welfare statism has its ups and downs (the occasional bout of right-wing hysteria notwithstanding, it is not obvious that the Norwegians inhabit a post-apocalyptic hellscape; if Oslo represents the end of the world, then Armageddon is shockingly expensive), but those welfare states are attached to largely free economies. Sweden arguably has a more liberal trade regime than does the United States, and most of the Nordic countries had lower corporate tax rates than did the United States until the 2018 tax reform. There are many important differences between the U.S. model and the Nordic or Western European models, and tax rates and social spending are only part of that. We tend to talk about those disproportionately because they are easy to quantify, whereas effectiveness of government and public institutions (which is one place where the Swiss, Canadians, and Germans really outperform the United States) is difficult to evaluate in empirical terms. In spite of our political rhetoric, the debate about whether the top U.S. personal-income-tax rate is going to be 39 percent or 33 percent is not about taking a step toward socialism or a step away from socialism.
Progressives will consider the case of Venezuela or North Korea (the American Left’s longstanding admiration of Castro’s Cuba, and its celebration of Hugo Chàvez only a few years ago, has been memory-holed) and say that the problem with those countries is not socialism but a lack of democracy, political violence and instability, etc. But repression on the Venezuelan model is not extraneous to socialism — it is baked into the socialist cake. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro (and Castro!), Chàvez, Maduro, Honecker, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, the Kim dynasty, Shining Path: No ideology is that unlucky. Violence and oppression is not something that just happens to accompany efforts to impose political regimentation on the economy — which is to say, on private life — but is an inescapable accompaniment to it.
Read the whole article.
The U.S. has escaped the predictions of Hayek for two reasons.
Our economy is so large and so diverse that the bitter increase in central regulations remained peripheral to the economy. Scrap dealers may suffer at the hands of the EPA, software developers do not, As much as we may increase central government power we are still more free than most of our competitors, but they are learning the lessons we try to forget. It took the world decades to recover from the devastation of WWII and the Cold War. World peace has equalized our competition.
Secondly, our Constitution is unique in its limitation of central power. We should not take this for granted.