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Libertarian economics professor: ‘Ten Things Millennials Should Know About Socialism’

Alternative title: How to argue with your Bernie Sanders supporting roommate

After a recent Pew Foundation poll found that 69 percent of voters under 30 would vote for a socialist presidential candidate and a YouGov.com poll found that 43 percent of millennials said they prefer the economic system of socialism over that of capitalism, Loyola University Maryland economics professor Thomas DiLorenzo said he knew he must sound the alarm.

DiLorenzo, a scholar with the Mises Institute, wrote “The Problem with Socialism,” a book published this summer that spells out all that’s wrong with socialism (in a word: everything).

And in a recent speech at the Mises Institute in Alabama, DiLorenzo expanded on his argument, offering “Ten Things Millennials Should Know About Socialism,” also the title of his speech, given to a room full of college students.

DiLorenzo quipped that another name for his lecture could be: How to argue with your Bernie Sanders supporting roommate.

The most important things to know about socialism, according to DiLorenzo’s talk, are:

1) Its real definition
DiLorenzo noted that he “likes to assume people do not know what it actually is, because if they did they would change their minds about supporting it.” He defines socialism as an economic system under which the public (read: probably the government) owns the means of production justified by the stated goal of egalitarianism.

2) The economic destruction it brings
To prove this point, DiLorenzo looks to the history of socialist nations such as Soviet Russia and India. He notes both nations had plentiful resources and wealth before switching to centrally planned and controlled economic systems, after which their economies stagnated.

3) Its inherent flaws
Socialism erodes incentives, because productive people find themselves working to support less productive or unproductive people. The central planning of socialism through the publicly-owned means of production does not allow for the creativity and innovation that stems from the decentralized knowledge possessed by individual entrepreneurs. Also, socialism will always have a price calculation problem, as there will be no free market to determine fair prices by supply and demand.

4) The pitfalls of the progressive income tax
DiLorenzo argues that a highly progressive income tax contributes to socialism’s incentive problem because it is wealth redistribution from the more productive to the less productive in disguise. It helps contribute to the further centralization of government which will have both the monetary and political power to further erode democracy.

5) Democratic socialism is a myth
As DiLorenzo says, “socialism is socialism. It doesn’t matter if it was imposed by a dictatorship or democracy, it is still a government plan imposed on society.” He notes that countries like Venezuela who classify themselves as socialist democracies have faced nearly all of the same problems as traditional socialist countries. Venezuela, once the wealthiest country in Latin America, is now experiencing hyper-inflation and food shortages.

6) Socialism does not produce equality
Moreover, DiLorenzo argues, equality should not even be a moral objective because it would negate the differing talents and abilities humans possess; trying to make everyone equal is an impossible project. “Forced equality leads to totalitarianism, and all that it accomplishes it to make everyone equally miserable,” DiLorenzo said in his talk.

7) The high death toll under totalitarian regimes
DiLorenzo notes that he gives his students a printed sheet with figures drawn from the book Death By Government to his students so that they might share this information with their peers. He expressed surprise during the talk at how little information students know about how many people are repressed and killed under these regimes. DiLorenzo notes that the death tolls simply from the murders of political dissidents to socialism were 20 million in Russia, 60 million in China, one million in Vietnam, two million in North Korea, and one million in Eastern Europe.

8) The link between fascism and socialism
DiLorenzo states that both parties have nationalist tendencies and both take the foundation of democracy — classical liberalism — as their sworn enemy.

9) Welfare states harm, not help, the poor
DiLorenzo speaks again of the disincentive to work and incentive to be beholden to the government under socialism. He also discusses the destigmatization of familial breakdown, pointing to the 400 percent increase in out of wedlock births in the U.S. since 1960. The welfare state also creates a crowding out effect that displaces private charitable efforts, which DiLorenzo posits are more effective in providing aid than is government bureaucracy.

10) It cannot be fixed with better leaders
Modern proponents of socialism, according to DiLorenzo, dismiss the historical examples of socialism’s failures to claim that in modern times smarter people will be in charge who can execute it properly. DiLorenzo argues that there are reasons inherent to the socialist model that guarantee it will always fail as an economic system.

MORE: Professor rejects Marxism after traveling the globe: ‘Socialism doesn’t work’

MORE: Professor raised under communism speaks out

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About the Author
Kate Hardiman -- University of Notre Dame