In the midst of the coronavirus crisis that has ushered more control into the government’s hands at the expense of individual decision-making, we are learning why socialism has failed—and always will.
Apologists for socialism and communism claim that real socialism has never been tried. That is, the failures of the Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, and others were due to bad leadership instead of bad political philosophy. But an egalitarian society where leaders and elites resist enriching themselves at the expense of others is impossible. And the actions of our elites during this pandemic prove the point.
As COVID-19 has temporarily stripped Americans of many of our cherished liberties, giving us a temporary taste of socialism’s sour fruit, we are learning how elites would behave if these restrictions became permanent.
Many who have championed the quarantine are flagrantly violating it. Two elites infected by COVID-19, George Stephanopoulos and Chris Cuomo, flouted rules that the rest of us are supposed to follow. Stephanopoulos went on a mask-less walk, breaking his required self-isolation. Cuomo, instead of being quarantined in his basement as he claimed on CNN, traveled to inspect his second home—which was under construction. He even got into a confrontation with a passing bicyclist while he was sick.
Former President Barack Obama has likewise violated the quarantine order. He was seen golfing the day after his wife recorded a public service announcement imploring African-Americans to stay home.
Even worse is the case of professor Neil Ferguson, whose bleak forecast of millions of COVID-19 deaths led to crippling economic measures and massive shelter-in-place orders. After becoming infected with the virus, Ferguson violated his own shelter recommendation to have sex with his married mistress.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is another elite who is above her orders for other people. She omitted herself from a prohibition on haircuts.
Compare this selfish approach with what is happening to non-elites like salon owner Shelley Luther. Deprived of her ability to make a living, she was jailed for cutting hair in order to “feed my kids.”
Unlike Shelley, many elites are using their entitled status to circumvent the shelter orders. These are the very same people (social, political, and scientific elites) who would likely lead a socialist United States. Their actions embody an elitist sentiment: “What’s good enough for thee is not good enough for me.”
While these individuals are certainly hypocrites, the bigger point is that this sort of behavior is natural to humanity. Socialism relies on an unrealistically rosy view of human motivation epitomized by a famous Marxist saying, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” These words suggest that self-sacrifice and self-deprecation—integral to the success of Marxism’s redistributive policies, which have been tried and proven not to work—are the heart of human nature. But as we’ve seen time and time again, proximity to power spurs self-seeking and self-affirming behavior. That’s why those in power excuse themselves from hardship when desperate situations call for deep sacrifices.
Before you conclude that this behavior is particular to our current pandemic, consider the excess demonstrated in 2018 by Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s socialist leader. He gorged on an expensive dinner prepared by celebrity chief Nusret Gökçe—while his fellow Venezuelans were starving. Some were even desperate enough to eat cats and dogs. Similarly, his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, profited off the backs of the people he claimed to help, amassing a net worth of $1 billion.
And it’s not just Venezuela. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev enjoyed similar extravagance while supposedly existing in an egalitarian society. Gorbachev lived in a luxurious $15 million apartment while his citizens suffered in squalor.
The tendency to abuse power is so basic to humanity that, over 3,000 years ago, the prophet Samuel warned Israel about the dangers of seeking a king. Samuel warned that a king would conscript their sons, force their daughters to work, tax their crops, and give their possessions to his friends. This warning still rings true today. Sadly, our elites have demonstrated this timeless human tendency repeatedly during the coronavirus crisis.
We should heed the wise words of Samuel from antiquity and realize what the pandemic is confirming today: When tasked with distributing the limited resources of a socialist state, leaders and elites will invariably funnel others’ wealth to themselves.
Socialist theory ignores power’s corrupting influence, turning the dream of a communal utopia into a living nightmare. That’s why socialism has always failed—and always will.
Chad Savage, M.D. ([email protected]), is a Docs 4 Patient Care Foundation policy fellow and the founder of the DPC practice YourChoice Direct Care in Brighton, Michigan.