Communism Fails as an Economic System
In recent years free markets have lost some of their luster in the public eye, while communism has gained in popularity. (There’s even a self-described socialist running for the Democratic nomination for president – not a communist, but the two philosophies are related.) It’s easy to describe what communism is supposed to do – the problems its proponents want to solve. The trouble with communism though, is that despite many countries giving it a go, it simply doesn’t work.
Take China, for example. The Communists gained power in 1949 and instituted a Soviet-style economic system. Villagers all worked on a communal farm but owned none of the land or the food it produced. Everything grown on the communal farm was taken by the government and then redistributed to the people. Everything was equal.
Which today’s socialists proclaim is a great idea. Presidential campaigns are based on the idea of redistribution. Complicating this dream, however, is that although everything in China was equal, everything was equally bad.
During the years 1958-63 China suffered a severe famine, so terrible that 36 million people died of starvation. More than all killed in World War I, and more than fell in the Holocaust. It was famine caused not by drought, by natural disaster, or by war, but a famine caused because the Chinese economy simply couldn’t produce enough food. To this day the Chinese government tries to erase the famine from its history, fearful of its implication for the communist system.
As terrible as the famine was, today China generally has enough food to go around. What changed? China began liberalizing its economy, at least to some degree. It was a long process that started with a handful of peasant farmers in 1978. Village harvests were poor and villagers were always short on food. Some of the farmers met in secret to divvy up plots of land and keep for themselves some of what they grew. An idea so simple, yet so radical that they had to meet in secret for fear of being imprisoned and executed.
And something amazing happened. Using the same land, the same people, and the same farming tools, the privately farmed plots produced more food that season than the previous five years combined.
This obviously gained the farmers notoriety. Fortunately for them, after being threatened with imprisonment, the farmers caught the eye of a Communist Party official ready for reform. He spread these new economic principles and through them food became more plentiful.
Even ignoring the dictatorial abuses of its leaders, communism as an economic system is demonstrably terrible. Hundreds of millions of people have died during the last century because of the scarcity and suffering communism brought about. Something as simple and radical as farming your own plot of land revolutionized Chinese society and finally offered the average Chinese an alternative to starvation and death. Something to remember when we’re ordering delivery pizza on our smart phones, complaining about the evils of free markets.
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