To the Daily:
Vincent Patsy’s column takes the position that the history of the Soviet Union illustrates the flaws inherent in socialism, and that the United States is currently in danger of duplicating its failed policies (The price of socialism, 11/10/2009).
Even ignoring the absurdity of the claim that the most toothless of social-democratic policies constitute communism, Patsy is wrong in his analysis. Many of the flaws of the Soviet Union can be more easily understood in the context of its history. A third-world nation of peasants elevating itself to become one of the world’s most powerful nations and achieving one of the most dramatic increases in life expectancy in world history are pretty impressive accomplishments. It’s also interesting that life expectancy in Russia has fallen significantly since the overthrow of the Soviets and the subsequent liberalization of the economy.
Apparently, transitioning to Patsy’s free market system has not been as beneficial for the people of the former Eastern Bloc as his rhetoric about the innate justness of profits and prices would have you believe.
Additionally, although there are indeed imperfections in even the most wisely-run planned economy, I believe in the idea of having decisions related to production made by the people, or those representing them, rather than by private businesses who are responsible for their own profits first — usually at the expense of others. Now I am certainly not saying that the Soviet society was the worker’s paradise that its leaders claimed they were attempting, because there were obviously many things for which the USSR can and should be criticized. But it’s important not to limit our attention to certain policies of nations calling themselves socialist that are emphasized and distorted by U.S. propaganda, such as the example of the Berlin Wall referenced in Patsy’s column. Rather, we should take all aspects of these attempts to create an alternative to the capitalist model into consideration in our evaluation of them.