Socialism’s Sad Estate

by Tom Rogan
Economically and societally, François Hollande’s France is a failure.

Socialism. Humanity’s most tragic experiment.

For all its varying faces — from the totalitarianism of North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela to the social democracies of Europe — the truth shows forth in absolute clarity.

Earlier this week, we learned that in 2013, foreign investment in France declined by 77 percent.

That’s 77 percent.

That figure isn’t just bad, it’s unambiguously catastrophic. But the costs of President François Hollande’s failure aren’t simply economic. They’re also societal. Galvanized by popular disenchantment with the establishment, the French far Right hopes to win major victories in forthcoming local elections.

In short, the Fifth Republic isn’t looking so great.

Yet, as strange as it will sound, there is hope to be found here. Facing such an unspinnable socialist meltdown, Europeans might finally begin to realize the fallacy of the left-wing utopia. Meantime, French conservatives are recognizing the need for a more compelling agenda. They should look across the Channel. While socialist regulations continue to wreak havoc in much of Europe, in the U.K., it’s different. Thanks to small but structurally focused reforms, economic growth in Britain has reached a level not seen since 2007.

The dichotomy between conservative leadership and liberal failure is astounding.

Unfortunately, not everyone can see it. Staggeringly, many influential Europeans remain convinced that a socialist magic kingdom lurks just over the horizon. Tellingly, some European leftists are so committed to this delusion that they fervently celebrate the regimes of Cuba and Venezuela. Castroville and Chavezland — beacons for a 21st-century European enlightenment?

Let’s consider socialism’s record in these nations.

In Cuba, we find an aged leader who rants as his nation crumbles. When the Castros are finally gone from this Earth, the face of their revolution will not be that of Che Guevara. Instead, it will be images like this.

And then there’s Venezuela. Lieutenant-Colonel Lunatic having now departed, President Maduro is proving a worthy successor. Under Venezuela’s embrace of socialism, “the land of grace,” as Columbus called it, has descended into an abyss of 56 percent inflation, warlike murder rates, and toilet-paper rationing. This, from the country with the world’s largest oil reserves. Could there be a more damning indictment of a political theory?

Nevertheless, even in the face of these realities, no one should expect Europeans to give up on cherished state programs (see the U.K.’s celebration of the National Health Service at the 2012 Olympics). But Europeans might use this moment to pare back the power of the state. At present, Europe is like an overweight plane. Denied clearance to take off, a well-educated citizenry is spending its days taxiing slowly in circles. Consider Spain, where youth unemployment now stands at 57 percent. These kinds of statistics are hard to  ignore; they might become a catalyst for action.

Still, paying heed to Hollande’s failure isn’t just a European necessity. There are lessons for the U.S. here too. For a start, in its derisory analysis of the U.K.’s austerity program, the American Left has been proved wrong. The U.K. has demonstrated that cutting spending isn’t only sensible, it’s an absolute necessity. The liberal failure to grasp this speaks to a broader point. While American conservatives must ensure that we join the debates of the moment, we must also face down those who argue that a European governance model holds all the answers. Whether it’s “soaking the rich” or social welfare in Scandinavia, Europe’s experience is a parable.

I should know — I lived it.

Ignoring human nature, socialism is an ideology that dooms itself from the start. By assuming the implicit virtue of common interest without individual empowerment, socialism opens the door to the worst of individualism. It is in fact the very opposite of what it claims to be. It is an agent of the powerful “special” against the broader society, and an agenda of stagnation against opportunity. And today, because of it, Europe rots in economic pain and social tension.

Socialism’s failure has been crystallized.

Don’t believe me? Then test my thesis. If you’re ever in Paris, take a detour from the high-fashion boutiques of the Champs-Élysées. More specifically, get onto the Boulevard Périphérique and head to the eastern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. That’s where the socialist dream finds its inexorable reality in a sprawling mass of crime-ridden housing projects, a place of endemic social isolation.

A place where hope goes to die.

Tom Rogan is a blogger based in Washington, D.C., and a contributor to the Guardian

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