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Tuesday, May 21, 2019
HomePolicySocialism in the Modern World, Part V: With 162+ Choices, How Many Nations Qualify?

Socialism in the Modern World, Part V: With 162+ Choices, How Many Nations Qualify?

Un mur de propagande, or a propaganda wall, promoting socialism in Havana, Cuba. (Photo: AdobeStock)
Un mur de propagande, or a propaganda wall, promoting socialism behind Senator Bernie Sanders, D-I, Vt., left, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., right.
Un mur de propagande, or a propaganda wall, promoting socialism behind Senator Bernie Sanders, D-I, Vt., left, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., right.

Over the past four days, I’ve looked at the supposed socialism of Venezuela, the Nordic nationsGreece, and France.

And I chose those nations deliberately because I used them as examples in this clip from a recent interview.

All of them are sometimes labeled as socialist countries, but if you look at the rankings from Economic Freedom of the World, you notice that this analysis doesn’t make much sense.

For example, the Nordic nations have a lot of economic liberty and are only slightly behind to the United States, which is why I explained last year that if those nations are socialist, then so is America.

And there is a big gap between the Nordic nations and France. And then another big gap before getting to Greece, and also a big gap before reaching Venezuela at the bottom. Should all of those nations get the same label?

Source: Economic Freedom of the World

So, where do we draw the line to separate socialist nations from non-socialist nations?

I confess that I don’t have an answer because–as I’ve noted many times–we don’t have a good definition of socialism.

If socialism is central planning, government-determined prices, and government ownership of the means of production, then the only nations that really qualify are probably Cuba and North Korea. And they aren’t even part of the rankings because of inadequate economic data.

But if having a welfare state is socialism, then every jurisdiction other than Hong Kong and Singapore presumably qualifies.

Given this imprecision, I’m very curious to see where people think the line should be drawn.

Written by
Contributing Economist

Daniel J. Mitchell is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, and a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy. Mitchell’s articles can be found in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Investor’s Business Daily, and the Washington Times. He is the author of "The Flat Tax: Freedom, Fairness, Jobs, and Growth," and co-author of "Global Tax Revolution: The Rise of Tax Competition and the Battle to Defend It."

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