Socialism for dummies

(Thomas Sowell, the Black Knight of Intellect, returns today in the form of a guest column. Give him a big hand!)

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SowellSocialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it probably will always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster.

While throngs of young people are cheering loudly for avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, socialism has turned oil-rich Venezuela into a place where there are shortages of everything from toilet paper to beer, where electricity keeps shutting down, and there are long lines of people hoping to get food, people complaining that they cannot feed their families.

With national income going down, and prices going up under triple-digit inflation in Venezuela, these complaints are by no means frivolous.

But it is doubtful if the young people cheering for Bernie Sanders have even heard of such things, whether in Venezuela or other countries that have turned their economies over to politicians and bureaucrats to run.

The anti-capitalist policies in Venezuela have worked so well that the number of companies in Venezuela is now a fraction of what it once was. That should certainly reduce capitalist “exploitation,” shouldn’t it?

But people who attribute income equality to capitalists exploiting workers, as Karl Marx claimed, never seem to get around to testing that belief against facts — such as the fact that none of the Marxist regimes around the world has ever had as high a living standard for working people as there is in many capitalist countries.

Facts are seldom allowed to contaminate the beautiful vision of the left. What matters to the true believers are the ringing slogans, endlessly repeated.

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The great promise of socialism is something for nothing. It is one of the signs of today’s dumbed-down education that so many college students seem to think their education should — and will — be paid by raising taxes on “the rich.”

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When Senator Sanders cries, “The system is rigged!” no one asks, “Just what specifically does that mean?” or “What facts do you have to back that up?”

In 2015 the 400 richest people in the world had net losses of $19 billion. If they had rigged the system, surely they would have rigged it better than that.

But the very idea of subjecting their pet notions to the test of hard facts will probably not even occur to those who are cheering for socialism and other ideas of the political left.

How many of the people who are demanding an increase in the minimum wage have even bothered to check what actually happens when higher minimum wages are imposed?

More often they just assume what is assumed by like-minded peers — sometimes known as “everybody,” with their assumptions being “what everybody knows.”

Back in 1948 when inflation had rendered meaningless the minimum wage established a decade earlier, the unemployment rate among 16- to 17-year-old black males was under 10 percent.

But after the minimum wage was raised repeatedly to keep up with inflation, the unemployment rate for black males that age was never under 30 percent for more than 20 consecutive years, from 1971 to 1994.

In many of those years, the unemployment rate for black youngsters that age exceeded 40 percent and, for a couple of years, it exceeded 50 percent.

The damage is even greater than these statistics might suggest. Most low-wage jobs are entry-level jobs that young people move up out of, after acquiring work experience and a track record that makes them eligible for better jobs. But you can’t move up the ladder if you don’t get on the ladder.

The great promise of socialism is something for nothing. It is one of the signs of today’s dumbed-down education that so many college students seem to think their education should — and will — be paid by raising taxes on “the rich.”

Here again, just a little check of the facts would reveal that higher tax rates on upper-income earners do not automatically translate into more tax revenue for the government. Often high tax rates have led to less revenue than lower tax rates.

In a globalized economy, high tax rates may just lead investors to invest in other countries with lower tax rates. That means that jobs created by those investments will be overseas.

None of this is rocket science. But you do have to stop and think — and that is what too many of our schools and colleges are failing to teach their students to do.

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(BONUS 1: A brother Black Knight of Intellect, Armstrong Williams, also addresses this issue in a piece titled Bernie’s Utopian Nightmare.)

(BONUS 2: Nicolás Maduro, president of the collapsing socialist nation of Venezuela, endorses Bernie Sanders, calls nutty Ole Bern a “revolutionary friend.”)

(BONUS 3: Ole Bern hems and haws when asked about the imploding socialist mess in Venezuela.)

(The Hacienda couple will be out of touch for a few days due to a vacation jaunt to Colima. ¡Hasta luego!)

Idyllic Sweden

TO COLLECTIVISTS, the perfect nation on earth is Sweden. They often point to it as Social Democracy in action. Sweden is the nearest thing to Nirvana for the Left.

It’s a nation of spectacularly happy people! Where taxes are high, everything is shared, and everybody smiles.

While that may once have been true, when it was still an homogenous nation, it is certainly not so anymore, not since Sweden dived into the Political Correctness Pond …

… and drowned.

This is a fun video. Unless you live in Sweden.

Paying the bills

IT’S JANUARY, and that means it’s time to pay the bills.

We have three homes and two cars, and annual bills are due. The bills on the three residences are property taxes mostly, but there’s also an annual bill for water at the Downtown Casita.

The water bills for the Mexico City apartment and the Hacienda are paid monthly, as are the electricity bills.

Lots of bills.

billBut they don’t amount to much compared to what they would be above the Rio Bravo where many of you po’ folks live. My heart goes out to you.

The property tax on the Mexico City place is payable online. A few years ago we had to do it in person, but modernity is arriving. Alas, it has not arrived here on the mountaintop. If there is an online way to pay property taxes for the Hacienda and Downtown Casita, I have not found it yet.

So we go to City Hall and stand in line. We have a new City Hall. For centuries, I imagine, it was in a colonial edifice on the main plaza. It was quite cramped there.

But City Hall recently moved to a spacious, new, three-story building just three blocks away, a huge improvement.

The new City Hall sits in the same block as the post office, so we pay that annual bill at the same time. We rent a mailbox, and it costs 300 pesos, about 16 bucks a year.

Mail service works well here. It’s just pokey.

One thing we do not have is a monthly phone bill. We have neither a land line nor cell contracts. Our two cell phones are pay as you go, and we don’t go far.

The vehicle taxes used to be the biggest headache. It entailed going to an office here and standing in a mob of people trying to reach the counter. It was chaotic and absurd.

But now I get those bills online. I print them and go to the bank and pay a cashier.  This is one example of how Mexican life has improved during my 16 years (today!) here.

If memory serves, when my last wife kicked me out into the street in 1995, the annual property tax on our rather routine, three-bedroom ranch house was over $2,000 a year.

It’s gotta be far more now. Somebody must fund those fat American entitlements and freebies.

For our three places here, the dollar equivalent of the property taxes is $83. That’s eighty-three U.S. bucks.

Interestingly, the total water bills for the three homes total $140. The annual prices are set, not metered.

Until a few years ago, the taxes on the cars were high, but for some reason the car tax was eliminated on most cars in my state, and now we just pay for the window sticker.

The total for the two is $70. The charge is the same for both even though one car is five years older than the other.

These dollar equivalents are helped by the very sweet exchange rate we’ve enjoyed for the past few months.

To sum up, the outlay for the three houses — property tax and water, both set figures — and the car “tax” total $293. Oh, heck, let’s toss in the post office box’s $16, to reach $309.

I might as well mention the light bills. These are monthly charges based on usage, but since the Mexico City place and the Downtown Casita are usually unoccupied, those two bills are often a base charge. The total for the three places is $36.

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LOTS OF BACK PATTING

I enjoy looking at these figures every January. They cause me to pat myself on the back for being so wise as to move over the Rio Bravo these 16 years ago. Best decision ever.

I wonder how many thousands my ex-wife is paying in property tax on the Houston ranch house alone these days.

At age 68, she is involuntarily retired due to the lackluster Obama economy that Weepy Barry brags about.

I’ve told her to sell and move south, but that’s too much for most people to do, especially after a certain age. We get set in our ways even though the sun is shining brighter on the other side of the mountain — the Mexican mountain.