As the Democratic Party continues its wayward shift to the far left, a Montana newspaper editor, Frank Miele, wrote a brilliant article, rightfully seasoned with a tinge of sarcasm, on the need to revisit the 1957 masterwork “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand.
Rand was a Russian-American writer and philosopher considered to be the prophet of capitalism. Miele notes the Democratic Party’s naive push leftward rekindled for him Rand’s insights into the “left’s multifarious schemes to undermine the economic system that is the foundation of our freedoms. The world of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is full of conniving politicians, compliant journalists, fake news, government handouts, and munificent people who never tire of spending other people’s money.” Rand’s book could well have been written today.
Miele writes we now hear the socialist battle cry uttered by “the current poster child of the century-long campaign to replace American prosperity with the failed slogans of socialism … Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old political activist who unseated 10-term Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District.” Ocasio-Cortez defeated Crowley in a primary election in a very liberal district, guaranteeing her a congressional seat unless Crowley decides to enter the general election as an independent.
It is difficult to say who proved more naive among the district’s residents: Ocasio-Cortez for promises made of free education, free medical care, housing and employment for all, etc., or voters, who bought into her platform hook, line and sinker. Undoubtedly, her win was made possible by the fact only 16,000 voters, out of 292,000 eligible voters, voted, with Ocasio-Cortez winning 11,800 of those 16,000.
Ocasio-Cortez seems to have quickly mastered the art of politics. During her campaign, she was deceitful about her childhood, claiming she grew up in an impoverished Bronx neighborhood when she really lived a comfortable life in the suburbs. As a good socialist politician, she also has learned to bad mouth big banks while accepting contributions from them. And, as she has amply demonstrated in numerous interviews after her primary win, lack of knowledge on a subject is no bar to her discussing it, offering some outrageous responses as a result.
One wonders if Ocasio-Cortez’s college education included insights, past and present, about socialist experiments that have repeatedly failed, often – when allowed to continue too long – at the cost of millions of lives as we saw in the 20th century. It does not take a rocket scientist to recognize that as socialism breeds oppression and stagnant economies, capitalism spurs democracy and economic prosperity.
While Ocasio-Cortez, emboldened by her political victory, may believe she has all the answers, she needs to realize, if she is voted into Congress, she has a responsibility to educate herself on issues about which, up to this point, she demonstrates a lack of knowledge. In representing the constituents of her district, she needs to fully understand socialism and why it has so often failed. While it may sound good on its face, it is anything but. Worrisome too is the fact Ocasio-Cortez hypes herself as an economics major and, therefore, should know better.
In fact, had she been a history major, Ocasio-Cortez would know the people of China have experienced a significant wealth increase over the past few decades due to “the country’s integration of some market principles into its economy,” with India following suit. Additionally, she would have known this was not necessarily due to Western influence but a return by those countries to their own free-market roots – “a tradition of enterprise and markets which is older than that of the Western world.” And, while difficult to believe today of a Middle East economy heavily dependent upon oil, 4,000 years ago that region of the world gave birth to capitalism.
Perhaps, one way for Ocasio-Cortez to educate herself would be to consider seeking out the wisdom of those who attempted to take a socialist approach to generate economic bounty but failed. One person she might wish to talk to is Vietnam’s Lt. Gen. Dong Si Nguyen, 95, whom this author had the opportunity to interview in 1994.
During the Vietnam War, Nguyen was the longest-serving commander of the Ho Chi Minh Trail – a network of roads providing a logistical lifeline by which men and material were shipped from North to South Vietnam. When Saigon fell in 1975, Nguyen was given the responsibility for rice production.
Hanoi was importing about 1 million tons of rice annually to feed its people during the war. With its victory over the South, it now was faced with having to import double that amount. As a good Communist, Nguyen recognized Communism was a political system that relied heavily on a socialist economic system. He, therefore, applied socialist principles in an effort to gear up production, but such principles failed miserably to do so. Under a socialist-based economic system, Vietnam had to continue to rely on rice imports to feed its people.
Realizing incentives were needed to motivate his people to increase production, Nguyen turned to the basic principles of capitalism. He mandated that certain quotas be met, above which producers could then share in the profits. By the time Nguyen got his capitalistic engine up and running successfully, aided by Western technological assistance that increased yields and growth speed, Vietnam transitioned from a rice importer to a rice exporter.
For many years, Vietnam established itself as the world’s leading rice exporter, although today it has slipped to second place. Similarly, it also took up coffee production – today clocking in as the world’s second-leading exporter as well.
Economically, socialism failed the people of Vietnam. God forbid, should Democratic socialists, like Ocasio-Cortez, prove successful in efforts to transition our economic system from capitalism to socialism, a similar fate most assuredly awaits us.
Ocasio-Cortez needs to set down her tankard of socialist Kool-Aid and spend more time drinking at the well of knowledge.