Socialism is hot.
Famous actors recently made a commercial proclaiming that "democratic socialism" creates some of the best parts of America. It's "your kids' public school" (says Susan Sarandon), the "interstate highway system" (Rosario Dawson), "public libraries" (Jay Ferguson), "EMTs" (Ethan Embry), "workers who plow our streets" (Max Carver), and "scientists" (Danny DeVito).
Wow. I guess every popular thing government does is socialism.
The celebrities conclude: "We can do better when we do them together."
There is sometimes truth to that, but the movie stars don't know that America's first highways were built by capitalist contractors. They also probably didn't notice that the more popular parts of government—public schools, EMTs, snow plowing, libraries, etc.—are largely locally funded.
"They should wake up," says Gloria Alvarez. She is from Guatemala and says, "I've seen the impact of socialism. My father escaped Cuba. My grandfather suffered under Communists in Hungary before escaping."
This week I turn my video channel over to Alvarez so she can give her perspective on democratic socialism's new popularity.
"As a child, I was taught to mock socialism," she says, "but democratic socialism sounded OK. It made sense that government should take care of the economy. Then I watched democratic socialism fail in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. I learned that every time a country started down the socialist path, it fails."
But every time a country tries it, even just a little of it, people applaud.
When Castro came to power, people cheered because he was going to help the poor and make everyone equal.
But governments can't plan things efficiently without the prices and constant individual decision-making that free markets provide.
The result in Cuba was economic stagnation and horrible loss of freedom.
Cuban refugees who now live in Miami's "Little Havana" neighborhood warn Americans about socialist promises.
Michel Ibarra told Alvarez, "You don't see any future. Everything is stagnated. Health care, education—nowadays they're in ruins."
Venezuela didn't learn from Cuba's problems. They voted in Hugo Chavez when he said that "capitalism is the realm of injustice" and promised wealth would be distributed equally.
But when there was no more money left to take from rich people, he did what many governments (including our own) do: He printed more.
That's caused inflation approaching 1 million percent.
When business owners raised prices to try to keep up, Chavez and his successor just seized many of them.