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Socialism Does Indeed Suck

Summary:
Two free-market economists, Robert Lawson of Southern Methodist University and Benjamin Powell of Texas Tech University, have pulled off a marvelous stunt. Their just-published book, Socialism Sucks, is a humorous travelogue about their experiences in various socialist and allegedly socialist countries in the last few years. The book, subtitled “Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World,” is the best in this genre since fellow drinker P.J. O’Rourke’s 1998 book, Eat the Rich. The humor is not quite as good as O’Rourke’s—how could it be?—but the economic insights are better. (Disclosure: I informally mentored Powell when he was an assistant professor 15 years ago.) Why this book and why now? The reason, the authors note, is that so many people today,

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Socialism Does Indeed Suck

Two free-market economists, Robert Lawson of Southern Methodist University and Benjamin Powell of Texas Tech University, have pulled off a marvelous stunt. Their just-published book, Socialism Sucks, is a humorous travelogue about their experiences in various socialist and allegedly socialist countries in the last few years. The book, subtitled “Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World,” is the best in this genre since fellow drinker P.J. O’Rourke’s 1998 book, Eat the Rich. The humor is not quite as good as O’Rourke’s—how could it be?—but the economic insights are better. (Disclosure: I informally mentored Powell when he was an assistant professor 15 years ago.)

Why this book and why now? The reason, the authors note, is that so many people today, especially young people, say they favor socialism. It’s important, therefore, to point out what real socialism is—government ownership of the means of production—and what its effects are: at best, economic stagnation, and at worst, widespread starvation with millions of accompanying deaths. They point out that in 2017 the New York Times did a series on socialism with “little focus on the intentional mass killings carried out by socialist regimes.” That’s like a series on Nazi Germany with only tangential reference to the Holocaust.

These are the opening paragraphs of “Socialism Has Failed. Period.” It was published today at Hoover’s Defining Ideas. It’s my review of Socialism Sucks. As probably will be obvious if you read the review, I highly recommend it. Not only did I find it funny but also I found myself saying while reading each chapter “I didn’t know that.”

David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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