Rand Paul

The Case Against Socialism

Sen. Rand Paul's new book discusses the horrible things that befall countries that tried it.


Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) just wrote a book, The Case Against Socialism.

I thought that case was already decided, since socialist countries failed so spectacularly.
But the idea hasn't died, especially amongst the young.

"Hitler's socialism, Stalin's socialism, Mao's socialism. You would think people would have recognized it by now," says Paul in my latest video.

Paul echoes Orwell in likening socialism to "a boot stamping on the human face forever" and warning that it always leads to violence and corruption.

"You would think that when your economy gets to the point where people are eating their pets," says Paul, contemplating the quick descent of once-rich Venezuela, "people might have second thoughts about what system they've chosen."

That's a reference to the fact that Venezuelans have lost weight because food is so hard to find.

"Contrast that with (the country's) 'Dear Leader' Maduro, who's probably gained 50 pounds," Paul observes. "It really sums up socialism. There's still a well-fed top 1 percent; they just happen to be the government or cronies or friends of the government."

Naturally, American socialists say our socialism will be different.

"When I talk about democratic socialism," says Sen. Bernie Sanders, "I'm not looking at Venezuela. I'm not looking at Cuba. I'm looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden."

Paul responds, "They all wind up saying, 'The kinder, gentler socialism that we want is Scandinavia … democratic socialism.' So we do a big chunk of the book about Scandinavia."

Paul's book is different from other politicians' books. Instead of repeating platitudes, he and his co-author did actual research, concluding, "It's not true that the Scandinavian countries are socialist."

Scandinavia did try socialist policies years ago but then turned away from socialism. They privatized industries and repealed regulations.

Denmark's prime minister even came to America and refuted Sanders' claims, pointing out that "Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy." In fact, in rankings of economic freedom, Scandinavian countries are near the top.

"They have private property, private stock exchanges," says Paul. "We learned that, actually, Bernie is too much of a socialist for Scandinavia!"

Scandinavia did keep some socialist policies, like government-run health care. The media claim that's why Swedes live longer, but Paul says: "This is the trick of statistics. You can say, 'The Swedes live longer, and they have socialized medicine!' Yet if you look hard at the statistics, it started way before socialized medicine."

Scandinavians already lived longer 60 years ago, and they also had lower rates of poverty. That's because of Scandinavian culture's emphasis on self-reliance and hard work. Paul reminded me of an anecdote about economist Milton Friedman.

"This Swedish economist comes up to him and says, 'In Sweden, we have no poverty!'

Friedman responds, 'Yeah, in America, we have no poverty among Swedish Americans!'"

In fact, Swedes have 50 percent higher living standards in the U.S. than when they stay in Sweden. Danish Americans, too. Socialism can't take the credit.

But the most important argument against socialism is that it crushes freedom.

Socialists get elected by promising fairness and equality, but Paul points out: "The only way you can enforce those things is to have an equality police or a fairness police, and ultimately they show up with truncheons. … The best kind of socialist leader ends up having to be ruthless because you can't be a kinder, gentler socialist leader and get the property."

By contrast, capitalism largely lets individuals make their own choices.

"It's a direct democracy every day," says Paul. "You vote either for Walmart or you vote for Target. You vote with your feet, with your wallet. People who succeed are the people who get the most votes, which are dollars. And as long as there's no coercion, seems to me that that would be the most just way of distributing a nation's economy."

It's not perfect, but look at the track record of the alternative, says Paul: "Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Chavez, Maduro. It doesn't work."

NEXT: The FBI’s Systematic Dishonesty

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This book sound very meh, which is on par for a book by a politician. I don’t think I would learn anything new in this book. In general, books by politicians are a waste (at least of my) time. The only good book by a politician that I can think of off the top of my head is Language In Thought And Action. Track down the original edition if you are interested in reading it.

    1. An excellent book is: Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism by Joshua Muravchik. The original was published in 2002, but an updated version has recently appeared: Heaven on Earth: The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism Paperback April 2, 2019, by Joshua Muravchik.

      “ What Muravchik has done in Heaven on Earth is chronicle the whole story of those bumps against reality, in largely chronological order and in prose that is both direct and extremely stylish. This is the history of an idea, and it is told mostly through the human characters who conceived, advanced, and wielded that idea. We start with French Revolutionary radical François-Noël (or Gracchus) Babeuf, the “first socialist,” and key member of the “Conspiracy of Equals.” His derring-do and philosophical commitments, expressed as he navigated the Revolution and the Terror, inspired Marx, the Comintern, and everyone else to ever evoke the S word.

      From there we head across the Channel to England, where the mill owner and ideaman Robert Owen has decided that with the right vision (read: his own vision) and appropriately “scientific” principles, we could organize towns that function as perfect communities that develop people of high character, sharing everything, and producing products at a higher rate than their purely capitalist counterparts. If this sounds fanciful, he also apparently believed that as they developed science and society, they would be able to lessen the workload by taming previously untamed animals such as whales and lions. And if that seems fanciful, he also believed no revolution would be necessary to install socialism as the whole world’s system. The results of these towns that he set up by buying land in England and Indiana would prove so exemplary that they would be emulated everywhere. When his Indiana venture failed and was shuttered, he explained it away by blaming the character of the people who had populated it and nonetheless declared a moral victory.”

    2. I don’t think I would learn anything new in this book.

      Considering you’re a sub-80 IQ literal retard who can barely manage to regurgitate Soros talking points you pick up a couple times a week from Democratic Underground, that’s pretty unsurprising.

      1. D- troll attempt, Tulpa. Fuck off.

        1. He’s not wrong.

  2. Speaking of Stalin…

    A record 70 percent of Russians approve of Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s role in Russian history, according to a poll published by the independent Levada Center pollster on Tuesday.

    Boy, all you need is a compliant population along with state run television telling all of us how great Dear Leader is at running the country and you can end up supporting anyone!

    1. One needs not look any further than the state-run education to see the exact same thing happening here.

    2. Boy, all you need is a compliant population along with state run television telling all of us how great Dear Leader is at running the country and you can end up supporting anyone!

      You mean like the 8 years you spent literally worshiping Obama and attributing miraculous signs to his reign, such as the healing of the environment and receding of the waters?

  3. Socialism and communism would work if people were angels. But human nature is nothing like that; we have many weaknesses and ambitions that are not taken into account by those systems, and result in unavoidable failure. Only a system that pits interest against interest can human nature be restrained.

    1. Problem with rand’s treatise is that if trump became a socialist, Rand would be a socialist. He is not the right messenger as he has little credibility.

      1. Or, you know, maybe you’re just a retarded fucking cunt who has absolutely no idea what you’re talking about and just reflexively hate anything you can associate however tangentially with Trump because you’re a weak minded state worshiping sack of shit.

      2. Wow. That takes a leap of logic. Does your head hurt after that contortion?

    2. Socialism and communism would work if people were angels.

      Nope. Sorry shitbrain. The economic calculation problem is not a moral problem.

      1. It actually works reasonably well with orders of nuns, who are enthusiastic about working without rewards.

        The problem is that people don’t work hard for the common good. See Tragedy of the Commons.

        Thanks for the ad hominem.

        1. It actually works reasonably well with orders of nuns, who are enthusiastic about working without rewards.

          Who live in the big wealthy hand of the Church.

          And angels do not eat, they do not drink, they do not work, they do not sleep, they are manifestations of the Will of God.

          Communism and socialism appear to work for hive insects. And absolutely nothing else.

          1. You might be familiar with the Trappist order of monks who live in a commune and readily support themselves with Ag products like honey and jam. Communism works in very, very special circumstances, most importantly the voluntary participation of very dedicated people. Almost all experimental communities of this type fail, of course, and socialism cannot be broadly successful because it must be maintained by force.

    3. Laziness is more if a factor in communism and socialism than morality is.

  4. Did Rand Paul vote for the omnibus spending bill?

  5. Socialism works just fine, you’re just misunderstanding its goal. Might as well complain that a toaster does a terrible job at getting your clothes clean – just because you call a toaster a washing machine doesn’t mean it’s actually designed to wash clothes. For what it does, Socialism works great – you can kill and brutalize large segments of your own people and still they won’t revolt. The Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Venezuela – their people suffer or suffered horribly and yet Socialists managed to retain power. Look at Bernie Sanders and the rest of them – they’re actually astonishingly popular high-ranking elected officials rather than being locked up in the stocks on the public square being pelted with rotten fruit or dangling from a lamppost. You have to admit that’s a pretty amazingly successful mind-fuck for an ideology you claim doesn’t work.

    1. I have to wonder if Socialists aren’t suffering under some sort of sunk costs fallacy delusion – despite all the evidence to the contrary they have faith, in fact the more evidence to the contrary there is the more tightly they cling to their faith. “You know how badly Jesus suffered for His beliefs? Yeah, well we’re suffering even worse, so our beliefs must be better than Jesus’ beliefs!” The more they suffer, the more they have to believe the suffering is worth it because otherwise they’d have to face the fact that the suffering is all for nothing and they’re idiots for suffering needlessly. It’s the well-known phenomenon of people being scammed by con-artists getting angry at the people who expose the scam – nobody wants to admit they’re saps and fools who got scammed, it’s too great a psychological blow to their self-image so they will deny reality rather than face the truth.

  6. The word “socialism” has lost all meaning when the right has described it as ANY action by any government ever. The whole “debate” on it is pointless and is nothing but grandstanding by bootlicker Paul.

    1. It would be more honest if you simply replied ‘I like socialism’ instead of trying and failing to look smarter than Mr. Paul.

      1. He’s too much of a vile stupid asshole for that.

    2. This is why I prefer the terms “collectivist” and “individualist”. Whether you call them socialists or communists or fascists or identity-politics Democrats, they all share a common belief that the common good outranks personal choices – the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, the individual exists to serve the collective, your value as a human being lies in your contribution to society and there’s no such thing as truly private property. You didn’t build that, it takes a village, make America great again, public service, giving back – it’s all the same thing. You are born with a debt and an obligation to your fellow man you will never be able to repay but we’re going to do our damnedest to collect.

      1. Except that Individualists can volunteer to pool resources and rule of law into a society with tiny and limited government.


      2. Collectivism, Socialism, Communism, Democrat plantation owning all have a common theme- FORCE.

        The state will FORCE you to contribute one way or another.

  7. so·cial·ism
    a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
    policy or practice based on the political and economic theory of socialism.
    (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of Communism.

    1. or regulated by the community as a whole

      Via market forces? Wut?

      1. Crony capitalism. Massive state regulation.

        At some point massive state regulation IS OWNERSHIP and should not be called regulation anymore.

        Just because you “own” a piece of land but are unable to work the land completely as you wish, is regulation.

        “owning” a piece of land but having the state tell you how to work the land and you constantly need the state’s permission to work the land, is state ownership.

    2. Guess it depends on what you mean by “as a whole.” To me, that certainly doesn’t mean “by a government” or “by the vanguard of the proletariat.” Maybe individual actions in the market would also not be considered “the community as a whole.”

  8. Hitler’s socialism, Stalin’s socialism, Mao’s socialism.

    So Rand Paul is not only equating communism with socialism, he is claiming Hitler’s RIGHT-wing Nazis were actually the same sort of ideology as LEFT-wing socialists. In fact claiming they were the same ideology as Stalin’s and Mao’s communists.

    And that is not even the half of it. Where does this put Swedish socialism? Does this mean the Swedes are actually living in a Stalinist state and herding Jews into concentration camps for extermination?

    And what about self-professed socialist Bernie Sanders? Is also just like Stalin and Mao Adolf?

    Either Rand Paul is showing abysmal ignorance or he thinks Americans are stupid AND ignorant.

    (Or perhaps it’s simply his golfing buddy. Trump’s own ignorance might be contagious.)

    1. What is the difference between the National Socialist and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Is there a difference between “nationalizing” an industry of “socializing” an industry? Is a concentration camp vastly different than a gulag? Sweden is not socialist, though they have some social programs. They have government run healthcare, but privatized their version of social security. Both Sweden and the U.S. are mixed economies based on private property(in fact Sweden ranks HIGHER in economic freedom compared to the U.S.). Trying to draw a distinction between Hitler and Stalin/Mao is like trying to draw a distinction between American football and Canadian football; sure there are minute differences, but they’re essentially the same.

      1. **a difference between “nationalizing” an industry AND “socializing” an industry?**

      2. Sweden has over 20 wholly or partially owned state enterprises.

        Plus a welfare state.
        Plus is a Nanny State.
        Plus is a police state.
        Plus, Sweden still has a fucking King still.

        Sweden is Socialist or its a Monarchy but it sure as shit is not like the USA.

      3. Publius Decius Mus: “Sweden is not socialist…

        Neither was Hitler.

        If, however, you are going to insist that he was because “socialist” appears in the title for the Nazi party then allow me to point out that according to the preamble to the Constitution of India the word “socialist” also gets a mention: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens”…

        Does that declaration make India socialist? (I’m sure Modi would disagree!)

        And India is far from alone, Bangladesh and Portugal, amongst others, also have such references in their own constitutions. Are they also socialist?

        Publius Decius Mus: “Trying to draw a distinction between Hitler and Stalin/Mao is like trying to draw a distinction between American football and Canadian football; sure there are minute differences, but they’re essentially the same.

        Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were all despotic tyrants who conducted mass murders. AFAIK that was the only point of similarity between Hitler and Stalin/Mao. Unlike Mao and Lenin/Stalin, Hitler did not nationalise corporations or collectivise agriculture. Nor did he ban the ownership of private property, which was what happened in the Soviet Union and in Communist China.

        So do please tell us just exactly in what way was Hitler a socialist? What socialist things did he do during his tenure that Stalin and Mao also did? After all, you’re the one who claims that those three are “essentially the same”. (And do try not to confuse socialism with despotism.)

        1. Little Adolph was a fascist, which is merely socialism where the government makes forced ‘partnerships’ with industry without taking ownership.

          See below for the background.

    2. Hitler was leftist. So stop with that bullshit.

      1. Last of the Shitlords: “Hitler was leftist.”

        That’s just a label. It proves nothing. You might as well call Donald Trump a conservative. (Or do what some Republicans did–eg Rick Perry–and call Obama a socialist.) Pinning labels on people is the easy part. Proving it is another matter.

        So just exactly what leftist policies did Hitler do during his time in office? (And BTW, big-government policies don’t define leftism. If they did America’s Republican Party would also have to be labelled “leftist”. After all, who keeps voting to fund America’s huge military and its large social security programs?)

        1. Hitler was a socialist, and Trump is a conservative. I’m not sure what your argument is here.

    3. The Nazi party’s 25 Points were unequivocally left-wing/Marxist. Heck, they even went so far as to actually put “socialist” in the name of the party. Here are a few choice examples:

      #7 – “We demand that the State shall above all undertake to ensure that every citizen shall have the possibility of living decently and earning a livelihood…..”

      #11 – “That all unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work, be abolished.”

      #13 – “We demand the nationalization of all trusts.”

      #14 – “We demand profit-sharing in large industries.”

      #16 – “We demand the creation and maintenance of a sound middle-class, the immediate communalization of large stores which will be rented cheaply to small tradespeople, and the strongest consideration must be given to ensure that small traders shall deliver the supplies needed by the State, the provinces and municipalities.”

      #17 – “We demand an agrarian reform in accordance with our national requirements, and the enactment of a law to expropriate the owners without compensation of any land needed for the common purpose. The abolition of ground rents, and the prohibition of all speculation in land.”

      Calling the Nazi party a “Reactionary Authoritarian Socialist” party is probably pretty accurate. Did they hold some views, which some social conservatives hold in the US and other areas of the world, probably so. They were still socialist.

      1. You can be a Socialist and still Nationalist.
        You can be a Socialist and still religious.

      2. RocKaza: “The Nazi party’s 25 Points were unequivocally left-wing/Marxist.

        That’s debatable. (See below.) Now list the ones they ACTUALLY implemented.

        RocKaza: “…they even went so far as to actually put ‘socialist’ in the name of the party.

        Which means exactly nothing. The word “soclalist” also appears in the preambles for the constitutions of India, Bangladesh, and Portugal. Does that make India, Bangladesh, and Portugal socialist countries?

        Indian Prime Minister Modi of India would surely disagree!

        As for that list of yours,

        RocKaza: “#7 – “We demand that the State shall above all undertake to ensure that every citizen shall have the possibility of living decently and earning a livelihood…..

        How is this even remotely leftist, let along socialist or Marxist?

        Isn’t ensuring that “every citizen shall have the possibility of living decently and earning a livelihood” an aim of EVERY Republican politician ever hatched?

        Or is it your contention that right-wingers have not the slightest interest in seeing their citizens “living decently and earning a livelihood”?

        RocKaza: “#14 – “We demand profit-sharing in large industries.

        Profit sharing is found in a number of OECD countries, including Canada, France, Germany, and UK. Are they Marxist countries?

        RocKaza: “#16 – “We demand the creation and maintenance of a sound middle-class…

        Are you suggesting only socialists and other left-wingers are interested in creating and maintaining “a sound middle-class”?

        As for #17, just exactly how much German land “needed for the common purpose” did the Nazis expropriate?

        My own guess would be none of it. Instead they chose to annex other parts of Europe to meet their Lebensraum needs. Like Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

        RocKaza: “They were still socialist.

        They were socialists in the same way that Donald Trump is a conservative: in name only.

        1. Mussolini used the word fascism to describe his brand of socialism when he left the socialist party over a dispute. It comes from the word for a bundle of sticks in Latin, and is meant to show that collectively the people were stronger than individually. He wanted to distinguish his party from the others, with whom they were confused. The fundamental difference is the ownership of businesses which he left with the people, but forged forced partnerships with the government. FDR copied this aspect in his NRA. There is no question fascism is collectivist, which is leftist in current jargon.

      1. As long as we can apply a label, so we can tell apart the good from evil. Oh and if its in a new book, it must be correct.
        So deep down inside, Hitler was a bleeding heart liberal…

        Labels are for little minds. Try to dig a bit deeper. Hitler probably thought he was doing good for the country and justified his actions that way. As for the people he killed or caused to die… well many of those he already _labeled_ as sub-human so they didn’t really count.

  9. Socialism need not be mandated by the state though many forms are – like state socialism.

    However if you have been taken in by the Socialism versus Capitalism argument , you probably will just assume all socialism has to be state-mandated.

    1. Not at all. Orders of nuns and monks who take vows of poverty are socialist or maybe communist. They work reasonably well, since they are voluntary and the participants are strongly committed to the mission, thus willingly work hard with no expectation of individual gain.

      Listen and learn.

  10. Anyone that tells you they’ve solved all problems by going pure _________fill-in-blank______ (try: socialism, capitalism, utilitarianism, veganism etc.) is at best a simpleton, at worst a moron. There are some good parts to all, the question becomes where to draw the line and how bright of a line should it be.

  11. When you create a straw man argument against socialism – something no one in American politics is calling for – it is pretty easy to defeat. I would expect this from Rand Paul because the poor little guy has rocks in his head.

    Then I saw the author of the article was John Stossel and I was like, “Oh yeah… the Dateline guy who has absolutely zero political credentials”.

    Then I wondered why I was bothering responding to an article about a dumbfuck written by a dumbfuck….

    1. Your ad hominem arguments are super convincing.

  12. I’m not an economic expert. But I’m a GenXer, and grew up to watch the Iron curtain collapse. In my 20s I met a number of families who fled from communist and socialist countries, and even a young refugee who “served” in the Khmer Rouge. Young socialists always want to argue that I “don’t understand the difference between Communism and socialism”, and its true, I don’t, because all the individuals and families I know who escaped from either socialist and communist countries to the US have the same story – hunger. Bad medical care. Oppression, real oppression, not microaggressions – two of the men were missing fingers (we were afraid to ask). Forced conscription, which ended here before I was born.
    Is all of this worth a few substandard government handouts?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.