[This essay is part of an extended debate with David Horowitz found here.]
Allow me to quote my book The Politics of Bad Faith. “After sixty years of socialist industrialization, the Soviet Union’s per capital output of nonmilitary goods and services placed it somewhere between fiftieth and sixtieth among the nations of the world. More manufactured goods were exported annually by Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea or Switzerland, while blacks in apartheid South Africa owned more cars per capita than did citizens of the socialist state. The only area of consumption in which the Soviets excelled was the ingestion of hard liquor. In this they led the world by a wide margin, consuming 17.4 liters of pure alcohol or 43.5 liters of vodka per person per year, which was five times what their forbears had consumed in the days of the czar. At the same time, the average welfare mother in the United Sates received more income in a month than the average Soviet worker could earn in a year.
“In the Soviet Union in 1989, there was rationing of meat and sugar, in peacetime. The rations revealed that the average intake of red meat for a Soviet citizen was half of what it had been for a subject of the czar in 1913. At the same time, a vast supermarket of fruits, vegetables and household goods, available to the most humble inhabitant of a capitalist economy, was permanently out of reach for the people of the socialist state. Indeed, one of the principal demands of Siberian miners’ strike in 1989 was for an item as mundane and basic to a sense of personal well-being as a bar of soap. In a land of expansive virgin forests, there was a toilet paper shortage. In an industrial country with one of the harshest and coldest climates in the world, two-thirds of the households had no hot water, and a third had no running water at all. Not only was the construction of housing notoriously shabby, but space was so scarce, according to the government paper Izvestia, that a typical working class family of four was forced to live for eight years in a single eight-by-eight-foot room, before marginally better accommodation was available. The housing shortage was so acute that at all times 17 percent of Soviet families had to be physically separated for want of adequate space.
“More than 70 percent of the Soviet atmosphere was polluted with five times the permissible limit of toxic chemicals, and thousands of square milies of the Soviet land mass was poisoned by radiation. Thirty percent of all Soviet foods contained hazardous pesticides, and 6 million acres of productive farmland were lost to erosion. More than 130 nuclear explosions had been detonated in European Russia for geophysical investigations to create underground pressure in oil and gas fields, or just to move earth for building dams. The Aral Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water, was dried up as the result of a misguided plan to irrigate a desert. Soivet industry operated under no controls, and the accidental spillage of oil into the country’s ecosystems took place at the rate of nearly a million barrels a day.
“Soviet spending on health was the lowest of any developed nation….Thirty percent of Soviet hospitals had no running water,…The bribery of doctors and nurses to get decent medical attention and even amenities like blankets in Soviet hospitals was not only common but routine…As a result of bad living conditions and inadequate medical care, life expectancy for males throughout the Soviet Union was twelve years less than for males in Japan and nine years less than in the United States, and less for Soviet males themselves than it had been in 1939. ‘For the country as a whole,’ according to one Soviet report ’21 percent of pupils are trained at school buildings without central heating, 30percent without water piping and 40 percent lacking sewerage.’ In other words, despite subzero temperatures, the socialist state was able to provide schools with only outhouse facilities for nearly half its children…”
All of your goals Michael are quite noble — and quite impossible — and the effort to achieve them is quite destructive. I have written books about this — notably Radical Son and The Politics of Bad Faith — which join a century of critiques of socialism that history has validated and socialists — like you — have steadfastly ignored. “Socialism is dead. Long live socialism,” is your rallying cry. Each generation of you thinks it’s smarter than the ones that preceded it, but you are only kidding yourselves. If you want to take on my critique of socialism as an impossible dream, I’m happy to respond. But I have no desire to critique the work of any socialist who hasn’t first answered Von Mises and Hayek, or who thinks that socialism in Russia or Cuba has worked, or that the failure of Soviet socialism is irrelevant because it is “authoritarian.” (It is relevant because the Marxists who fell into this trap — from Lenin to Lukacs — were at least as intelligent as you.) If you find these terms interesting, I’m game.