Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 2.21.20

The Trouble With Socialism: First in an Occasional Series

Friday, February 21, 2020 | Kevin Baird (202-225-3861)

Knowledge is Power

A Gallup poll released in late 2019 highlighted a disturbing trend in public opinion. It found that 39 percent of Americans view socialism positively. Of even more concern, 49 percent of Americans aged 18 to 39 view it positively.

Anyone considering socialist policies in our country today would do well to look at what happened where and when they were tried.

The great British statesman Winston Churchill observed, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

He said that to the House of Commons in 1945 as his country embarked on its own socialist experiment. Churchill’s Conservative Party had lost the parliamentary election earlier that year to the Labour Party, which promised to look after Britons “from the cradle to the grave.”

Its tools for doing so included nationalizing important sectors of the economy including coal mining and the steel industry. The National Health Service (NHS) was established. Local councils were given the power to buy housing.

Exorbitant tax rates were needed to support these initiatives, and the food rationing implemented during World War II was maintained for years after the war had been won.

The rationing particularly irked C.S. Lewis, the great author and apologist, but he benefited from his American fans, who shipped him simple comforts and food across the Atlantic. In response to the gift of a ham, he wrote back, “Such a thing could’nt [sic] be got on this side unless one was very deep in the Black Market.”

Food was not socialism’s only failure. Government control over housing meant that by 1951, Britain had 750,000 fewer houses than required. NHS prescriptions skyrocketed, as did its costs.

C.S. Lewis recognized that socialism’s grandiose promises failed to meet even basic needs and welcomed Churchill’s return to power. But when Churchill resumed office in 1951, although he ended the food rationing that had so irked Lewis, many socialist policies were entrenched. Unfortunately for Britain, this meant decades of sluggish economic performance, high unemployment, and labor unrest.

In the 1970s, this combination even took on the nickname “the British disease.” In 1976, the British economy suffered from inflation of almost 17 percent and unemployment of 5 percent.

The “winter of discontent” of 1978-79 seemed to bring the country to another low. As the government struggled to cope with inflation, it imposed wage controls on public sector workers. Union strikes in protest led to garbage piling up in the streets and many hospitals providing only emergency treatment.

When the general election campaign began in 1979, the Leader of the Opposition, Margaret Thatcher, vowed, “The slither and slide to the socialist state is going to be stopped.”

When her party won the election and she became Prime Minister, Thatcher introduced major reforms to the British economy. She rolled back tax rates, returned many nationalized entities to the private sector, and reduced the power of union leaders who had previously shut down the entire country.

Throughout the 1980s, inflation plunged, millions of new jobs were created, and the economy grew.

As Thatcher said, “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money.” She had seen this in Britain’s post-World War II experience. There is no need for the United States to discover this truth for ourselves.

Britain suffered economically from the implementation of socialism, but it should be said that at least it remained a largely free country politically. That cannot be said about other countries, and there is no guarantee that our country would be so lucky.

In the United States, where we treasure the freedom to speak and believe according to our conscience as well as keep what we earn to use as we see fit, we should be on guard against the restriction of these rights.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also, on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

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