from Daniel Hannan in The Telegraph, 30 years after the Berlin Wall’s fall, the dangerous ‘cuddly socialism’ myth has returned:
By 1989, no one could make that case. In every country where it had been tried, socialism had led to poverty and oppression. Political persecution turned out not to be a detachable feature. The only way to maintain a state-run economy, to repress what Adam Smith called “the propensity to truck, barter and exchange”, was through a police state. That is why every socialist revolution – every one – relied on informers, labour camps and firing squads.
How can that rotten, discredited ideology be winning converts even in places which have never experienced it, such as Britain and the United States? Part of the answer, obviously, is that younger voters have no memory of the Cold War. When supporters of Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders call for socialism, they don’t imagine the East German version, or the Cuban version, or the Venezuelan version or any other actual example. They want an imaginary, pure, democratic, cuddly socialism. They want equality and social justice without the one-party state or the locking up of dissidents.
They decline to compare like with like, judging socialism as a textbook theory, but capitalism by its necessarily imperfect real-world manifestations. Even where history has given us laboratory-condition experiments – East and West Germany began from the same level of economic and political development, as did South and North Korea – they refuse to infer anything from them, airily dismissing each actual instance of socialism as “not real socialism”.
Every generation since the Enlightenment has had its protesters against modern liberty – or, as they see it, against soulless materialism. It started with Rousseau, whose life was a protract.ed, if elegant, whinge against civilization. The Romantics, the socialists, the fascists, the existentialists, various millenarian cults – all are, so to speak, a bewildered howl by our inner caveman against the safe and prosperous world created by free exchange.
We judge ourselves by our best intentions and the others by their worst examples. (George W. Bush) Reform is seductive because the faults of the status quo are visible and real and the faults of reform are theoretical, obscure and often counter intuitive until the historians survey the wreckage years into the future.