There is a silver bullet, a single solution to all the world’s major problems. Crime, global warming, economic inequality, obesity, the high cost of health care and college, obsessive consumerism, illegal immigration, meat eating and overpopulation all will easily become a thing of the past.
Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez already know the answer. The silver bullet is socialism.
As a Fulbright professor in the People’s Republic of China in 1985, I witnessed the solution firsthand.
People in China were amazingly healthy. Nearly everyone rode a bicycle, with obvious health benefits. Those who couldn’t bicycle took the public bus. No single individual at my highly ranked university could afford a car. Cars were owned by work units and were used sparingly. The only traffic jams were caused by bicycles. Carbon emissions were correspondingly low. There were few sources of global warming from nasty internal combustion vehicles in China in 1985.
Consumption of electricity was also minimal. People cannot waste electricity if they cannot afford electricity.
China in 1985 likewise solved the problem of the high cost of going to university. Universities actually paid students to attend. In those days, starting professors earned about $50 per month and students earned $15. Housing was free. Students were housed six to a tiny room, sleeping in three bunk beds. The bathroom was down the hall, where students could take cold-water showers.
China’s socialism led to a dramatic conservation of the Earth’s precious water and energy.
Socialist China solved the obesity problem, too. I can report that I never saw an obese student out of the thousands who attended my university — or even among the general public. The university, via the state, subsidized the main dietary staples, cabbage and rice. Meat was a luxury. Students and staff were given ration coupons for the subsidized cabbage and rice. Many people were vegan, by necessity.
China was, in 1985, one of most crime-free countries in the world. The closest thing to a drug problem involved alcohol. Crime was punished harshly; justice was swift. Public executions in stadiums were frequent.
There was no conspicuous consumption in China in those days because discretionary incomes were extremely low, and it was well-known that “the raised nail got the hammer.” Measured inequality was extremely low as well. People were equal in poverty.
The chairperson of the finance department at my university had a Ph.D. from the United States. He earned $80 a month. For his many years of service, he was rewarded with a modest one-bedroom apartment with a flush toilet, no hot water or heat and with the standard bare concrete floors. One of the university’s longest-serving cleaning ladies had a similar apartment next to his.
None of the workers’ apartments, and none of the classrooms, were air-conditioned. Salaries and benefits were set with Communist Party approval with an eye toward equality. Productivity was not a factor.
China’s one-child policy ensured a slower population growth rate and produced a lower carbon footprint for families.
China had no illegal immigration problem and no need for refurbishing the Great Wall.
Of course, nothing is perfect. Government officials had chauffeur-driven cars, funds for banquets and free vacations at Communist Party resorts. Solar power was still in its infancy and China relied heavily on coal burning for power. Yet the air was cleaner than it is in China today. University students graduated with no debt. But admission to universities was highly selective, available only to a chosen few, especially children of Communist Party officials. All my students were brilliant.
Health care was free, but the hospitals would not meet first-world status. With so many things being “free,” corners had to be cut somewhere.
China was not unique in using socialism to cure major problems. North Korea has no problem with large herds of flatulent cows. No one in North Korea is obese, other than Kim Jong Un. North Korea’s lights-out policy at night helps to solve the global warming problem. North Korea also has no immigration problem. Nor does Cuba, or Venezuela.
Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and their progressive colleagues really are on to something. One silver bullet to cure all our problems. All they need to do is carry out their socialist agenda, impoverish us with crippling taxes and regulations, and we will achieve the perfect state solution.
Burton Abrams, of Bovey, Minn., is professor emeritus of economics, University of Delaware, and a research fellow at The Independent Institute.