Wednesday, July 31, 2019

IT'S OUT: Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World

 The new Robert Lawson, Benjamin Powell book, Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World, is out.

From the blurb:

Two semi-sober economists have toured the socialist world so you don’t have to. And they’ve come back with this stunning report: Socialism Sucks!
Along the way, you’ll learn:

• Why the so-called Swedish model might be attractive, but sure isn’t socialism (Sweden is capitalism with a big welfare state)

• How socialist Venezuela went from being the toast of liberals everywhere—Viva Venezuela!—to being just toast

• Why you never see new cars in Cuba

• Why no one forgets to turn out the lights in North Korea (hint: there aren’t any)

• Why American socialists have no idea what socialism really is
From the book:

Sweden is the first stop on our tour of socialist countries, even though it’s not a socialist country. Wait. What? You heard Sweden was an example of how socialism works? Though lots of people
believe Sweden is a socialist country, and some of our politicians try to use that misunderstanding to advance their own agendas, we’re going to present evidence to the contrary.


‘‘You guys need to go to Venezuela,” our old friend, Marshall Stocker, told us over lobster and beer in New  Hampshire in late July 2016. Marshall is a sort of“adventure capitalist.” He was in Egypt doing real estate deals during the Arab Spring before he had to cut his losses and get out of town.
Now he runs an emerging markets mutual fund for a big firm in

Boston. Bob and I enjoy following his Facebook page, which highlights his travels to exotic locales like the jungles of Myanmar or the Mongolian desert as he looks for countries to invest in.
We agreed. Venezuela was on our list, but Venezuela is a complete fucking mess. Our wives, Lisa and Tracy, had already laid down the law—we weren’t allowed to get killed or end up in prison while working on this book.


At first the room seemed okay. The beds were neatly made, and despite missing a knob, the air conditioner turned on and blew cold air. That was important, since I was sweating like a whore in
church after climbing all those stairs. From the balcony, with its cracked glass railing, we had a view

of the ocean, the deteriorating twin tower, and an abandoned courtyard. The bathroom, however, was the real gem. One of the metal ceiling panels was missing; there was mold everywhere; and, as we’d
find out the next morning, running water was not guaranteed.Bob and I have hiked many mountains together, and we’ve spent plenty of nights sleeping on the ground. We’ve definitely gone without indoor plumbing. This was nothing we couldn’t handle. We decided to go relax at the pool.
Luckily, we caught the elevator as it rumbled to a stop at our floor. It was stuffed with people and their belongings, and as we squeezed in, I had some idea of what it would feel like to leave Cuba
by boat.

The pool wasn’t any better. Empty beer cans floated in the cloudy water. The twenty seats of the swim-up bar had long since deteriorated, and the mirror behind the bar was broken. Luckily
there was a snack bar that sold beer. Our immediate surroundings at the decaying hotel were mostly offset by the nice ocean view, as long as you ignored the litter-strewn beach and the abandoned oil
tank half-submerged in the rocky sand.

Before the revolution, Cuba had a thriving urban middle class, along with widespread rural poverty. Twentieth-century socialists claimed socialism would deliver greater equality and out-produce
capitalism by ending wasteful competition, business cycles, and predatory monopolies. Socialism hasn’t delivered the goods it promised in Cuba or anywhere else. Today, Cuba is a poor country
made poorer by socialism.

Order the book here:


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