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What to Defend About Modern Marxism?

By: Javier Garay - @Crittiko - Sep 12, 2013, 10:41 am

In the last few days, Nicolás Maduro’s administration announced its departure from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Also, in order to justify last Wednesday’s blackout, which affected most of Venezuela, it denounced a new alleged sabotage, now carried out by the opposition.

These are just new examples of the dangers of 21st Century Socialism and of its inability to promote the development its purveyors promise so lavishly. And yet, there are those who still defend this model. What do they defend?

In general, its advocates don’t talk about economic growth — because they can’t. According to data from the World Bank, in the countries labeled as 21st Century Socialists (except Argentina and Cuba, which do not report data every year), average growth is near 3.82 percent. Other countries such as Brazil and Costa Rica, which are neither very open nor socialist, have grown by about 4.27 percent. Countries with a liberal profile (Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile) have grown by about 4.09 percent.

Of all the explicitly socialist countries, only Ecuador has had a growth rate over 4 percent. Of the more “open” group, only Mexico has grown more slowly than that.

As noted, they cannot defend their model based on the growth it promotes; nor can they pride themselves in having successfully controlled inflation, stimulated a competitive, diversified economy, shown due respect for private property rights, created wealth, or overcome a scarcity of basic goods.

They cannot defend it either based on their protection of free speech, strengthening of democracy, or the autonomy of the different branches of government. Nor can they defend the transparency and accuracy of the statistics they release, such as poverty indicators, which are constantly manipulated.

What do they defend, then? When one criticizes 21st Century Socialism, its advocates respond by listing what they call “social achievements.”

Of course, these do not include guaranteed individual rights, such as property, freedom of association, and free speech. Nor do they include the preservation of a civil society, independent from central planning and subjugation of the citizens.

They certainly fail to mention the fostering of corporatism or cronyism, heightened security problems, and the imposition of military confrontations with civilians. Nor do these alleged social achievements include any improvement in the quality of life, or in the protection of the environment, or of human dignity — as highlighted by the repulsion most of these leaders feel for minorities such as homosexuals.

But, what do they favor? Despite the social, political, and economic disaster these regimes are, their advocates believe they are models worthy enough to be followed by other societies, because they ensure education and health services for everyone.

They do not talk about quality. What improvement have the students in any of these countries achieved in international exams such as the PISA? What innovation stems from education in these countries? What results (Nobel Prize laureates, scientific journals, per capita engineers, math knowledge, etc.) have these education systems yielded?

All these questions share a single answer: none. No improvement, no innovation, no results.

In terms of health services, advocates fail to mention in their analyses the serious issues of drug shortages and the dismal salaries of doctors. They also fail to mention that when Fidel Castro was facing health problems, he chose to deal with them in Spain, whereas Hugo Chávez preferred to visit Cuba for his treatment, with the result known to all.

Who knows? Perhaps achievements in health or education should not be measured in terms of quality, but in other dimensions, such as that captured by the Human Development Index (HDI) published by the United Nations Development Program.

Going over the data for several countries, some results warrant mention. First, all countries have progressed according to this index, including those which are part of the 21st Century Socialism model, those with the most liberal economies in the region, and others which are not as open. Second, progress in socialist countries is slightly higher than in other countries, but not spectacularly so. Third, the socialist countries show, on average, a worse performance than countries in three notable categories: mortality rate for those under five years old (deaths per 1,000 live births), life expectancy, and the overall health component. The best performance in those indicators was achieved by more open economies.

Socialist countries do better in terms of expectancy of school years for children and average school years for adults. Literacy rates among adults are similar in all three categories of countries.

They may not be doing great as a group, but perhaps one of them could rise up to the challenge in the name of the rest. That country could very well be Cuba, the longest-living showcase for the alleged wonders of the socialist model.

However, data show the opposite. The growth of the Cuban HDI to date, since 1980 and since 1990, is lower than that of Colombia, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Published mortality rates and life expectancies, if we are to believe them, are on par with those of Chile.

The area in which Cuba really surpasses the rest of the countries, including socialist countries, is education. However, if we look outside this region, the “triumphs” of Cuban education become less clear when compared with those countries with the highest human development indices. The United States, Canada, Denmark, and Norway have provided higher-quality education to a greater number of citizens, without having to forfeit capitalism or freedom. Quite the contrary.

Based on this, what’s to celebrate in these regimes? Nothing at all. Not even the achievements they promise or for which, through ignorance or deceit, they are praised.

Perhaps we could admire the rhetoric, the charisma, or the folkloric nature of some of their leaders, but that would be a long way from speaking of achievements.

No. The followers of this model should be more honest: in the absence of anything to admire, they support these regimes because they oppose freedom and all that freedom means.

Thus, while millions of citizens of these countries suffer the direct consequences of terrible economic decisions and repression, foreign supporters utilize the free speech of liberal societies to express their warped points of view. They threaten freedom and praise models which destroy much more than whatever little they build — and most of it in the realm of fantasy.

Translated by Mariano Filippini.

Javier Garay Javier Garay

Javier Garay is a professor at the Externado University of Colombia. He has written two books on international issues, such as development, after his doctoral dissertation focused on the same topic. Follow him on Twitter @crittiko and through his personal blog, Crittiko.