Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reveals herself in Maine

Summary: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the new face of the Democratic Party, a stunning success in NYC. How well will she play in the rest of America? We get some clues in this report about her visit to Maine.

“I think that you can’t win the White House without the Midwest and I don’t think you can go too far to the left and still win the Midwest. …I think {Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez} is the future of the party in the Bronx.”
— Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on CNN.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

 

The belligerent ignorance of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

By Matthew Gagnon at Maine Live.
Reposted with their generous permission.
Images added.

Oh, Alexandria. Ever since she won a stunning upset victory over her democrat primary rival, incumbent New York Representative Joe Crowley, self-described “democratic socialist” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the far left’s new “it” girl, appearing in a nauseating number of puff media appearances, showing up in hyper-liberal candidate fundraising appeals, and generally just being everywhere.

Including Maine. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Of course, her rising media star hasn’t actually been a good thing for her. The candidates she has endorsed have been almost universally trounced. She made an abject fool out of herself when trying to fake her way through a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, short circuiting when her interviewer asked for follow up after she called Israeli settlements an “occupation.” And she has repeatedly been reduced to babbling incoherence when asked simple questions like, “would you support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker?” and “how do you pay for your ideas?”

This is enough to make anyone wince, especially if you consider that she holds — wait for it — a degree in economics and international relations from Boston University. Let that sink in for a minute.

Her belligerent ignorance is always on display, nowhere more acutely than on Twitter. This was shown as recently as last weekend, when she decided to come to Maine and visit, and just couldn’t resist the uncontrollable urge to flaunt her cluelessness.

After visiting Acadia National Park, she tweeted the following …

Ugh. It can be difficult to know where to begin with this, but let’s start here: Ocasio-Cortez is making a very typical, if very wrong, surface level argument that socialism – “democratic” or otherwise – equates to “any involvement by the government at all, for any reason, and in any way.”

This, of course, is not what socialism actually is. Taxation is not socialism. Government spending is not socialism. These things have literally existed in every nation in world history, in both socialistic and laissez-faire capitalistic societies, since the dawn of human civilization.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

The ideology that Ocasio-Cortez continually claims to advocate is actually very different. At its core, socialism is about social ownership of the means of production. Democratic socialists want to institute supposed “democratic management” of the various economic institutions created under their utopian vision. The bedrock American concepts of private property, and private ownership of business are typically things that a democratic socialist would seek to eliminate.

They often claim to the contrary, but taking “social ownership” of the means of production typically means using centralized state authority to claim that ownership for “the people” before that same central authority then disburses it.

There is a reason that I need to explain Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s own ideology to her. The reality is, she is – like so many people crying out for socialism today – responding to a form of trendy political hipsterism. The need to signal her own virtue as a radical, counter-culture, ahead of her time, rebelliously egalitarian icon is powerful, and adopting a once scorned label and trying to make it cool is a great way to do that.

She doesn’t have to actually understand socialism at all, she can just make up whatever she wants and call it socialism. Indeed, she can position herself as mainstream and her opposition as extremist by suggesting that any and all government action, tax collection or spending is an example of socialism. “What, do you hate road, highways and schools, you troglodyte?”

To Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and their ilk, positioning themselves in this way allows them to ridicule actual opponents of socialism as little more than anti-government anarchists who believe the government should never do anything, anywhere, for any reason. This is, perhaps, the king of all strawmen.

Which means, ultimately, that Ocasio-Cortez is not even a socialist, no matter how much she might want to call herself that. She is a big government statist who believes in little more than confiscatory taxes, bloated spending, and a government program for every problem in America.

Ironically, this makes her that which she least wants to be: a boring, fairly typical liberal, the likes of which we have seen in this country for a hundred years. Not new. Not trendy. Not fresh. She is essentially a 28 year old Walter Mondale.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

Yes, I understand why Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s philosophy can be mistaken for actual socialism. They both have in common their fetishization of big, powerful government. They both have a slavish devotion to the state. They both require restrictions of personal freedom. The both worship at the alter of egalitarianism. There’s no doubt, they do share a lot in common, and I don’t think there is any question that Ocasio-Cortez’s actual philosophy paves the road for her stated philosophy.

But it is important to say without equivocation that actual socialism is, in fact worse than the agenda of the typical American liberal, and I think we need to start making that plainly clear, so that we don’t ever open the door to socialism – real socialism – being implemented in this country.

One of the reasons that socialism has been such a miserable failure – worldwide – over the course of the last hundred years, is because it inevitably takes a very strong, centralized government command economy that restricts civil, political and economic freedom to force society to behave in the way that socialism demands. This isn’t FDR or Barack Obama’s big government, we are talking about. This is Venezuela’s big government.

There actually aren’t very many countries left that practice true socialism. Those that do, (like the aforementioned Venezuela) are rife with political corruption – which flows inexorably from a powerful central authority – as well as economic instability, languished growth, and virtually non-existent personal freedom.

But to socialists, Venezuela, Cuba, the Soviet Union and every other failed state that practices socialism is not “real” socialism. No, they are fake socialism. They were just doing it wrong.

Fake socialists and real socialists alike will tell you that today there are in fact socialist success stories, like the Scandinavian countries, which are constantly held up as shining “see, I told you so!” examples of socialism in action. This, predictably, is a falsehood.

Countries like Sweden, Norway and Denmark are not socialistic. As the Foundation for Economic Education pointed out two years ago, in Scandinavia (like virtually all wealthy, economically developed western countries) the means of production is mostly owned by private individuals. It is not owned by the government, or the local community.

More importantly, resources are not allocated by central government planning, but rather by various capitalistic markets. Scandinavians operate under a privately owned, market economy.

People think that the Scandinavians – and the rest of Europe, while we’re at it – are socialist because they have a very extensive social safety net, and heavy government spending. Conservatives have historically reinforced this perception, using the term “socialist” to describe them because they associate high taxes, profligate spending, and big government with socialism.

But once again, government programs and the welfare state – whatever your opinion on their wisdom – are not examples of socialism. The Nordic model so frequently cited as a success is really just the European concept of “social democracy,” which ultimately boils down to public welfare mixed with a capitalistic economy.

The Scandinavians themselves reject the socialist label. Speaking in a lecture at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government during the last presidential election, Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen didn’t mince words.

“I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” Rasmussen said. The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security for its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish,” he added.

Teddy Roosevelt
My national parks are not socialism.

But let’s get back to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, and her tweet while visiting Maine. Just to drive home the point about her own incoherence about the term socialism, let’s start with her contention that Acadia National Park is an example of “democratic socialism.”

Neither Acadia itself, nor the national park system, is “socialist” in any way. It is a mix of public goods and government maintenance of park land. There is nothing about Acadia that interferes with private property rights or private economic activity in the least bit.

Indeed, if she knew the history of Acadia National Park – which she clearly doesn’t – it actually is a tremendous example of private philanthropy by the evil wealthy business owners she reviles so much. The park was born of the mind of Charles Eliot, a landscape architect, and its original establishment came from the donation of privately held land voluntarily given by George Dorr and Charles Eliot’s father.

More importantly, though, the utility of the park was driven principally by John D. Rockefeller, who is responsible for funding, designing and ultimately building the network of carriage trails that run throughout the park. The stones along the pathways that run through the park to this day – the ones that Ocasio-Cortez undoubtedly walked next to and perhaps even sat on – are known as “Rockefeller’s Teeth.”

Yes, the government is involved in the maintenance and operation of the park, but once again, that is a government program that supports land that was ultimately donated by wealthy private property owners, for the enjoyment of the public.

Ocasio-Cortez also cited co-ops in her tweet, and yes, there is a somewhat reasonable argument that such co-ops may be somewhat socialistic. However, I still dispute the notions because there is no state mandate involved, or any community or local government involvement at all. Cooperatives are created and owned by the employees of the company, who all enter into the arrangement voluntarily, the property is still held privately, and they are still participating in a capitalistic market economy. It is, in short, an expression of economic and political freedom.

And Planned Parenthood, as opposed as I am to what they represent, certainly is no example of socialism. Planned Parenthood is a 501(c)(3) corporation which receives a government subsidy to underwrite its operation. A subsidy they operated perfectly fine without for the first 54 years of its existence, but a subsidy none the less. Using tax money to give funding to a group or corporation is not socialism, it is welfare, in this case, corporate welfare. You might also call it crony capitalism.

Was Marx right?

So, as usual, she showed her complete and total ignorance about her own beliefs. But it does make you wonder how this keeps happening to her. The thing is, she – and millions of people like her – have not arrived at democratic socialism based on a thorough understanding of the ideology, or a well-reasoned belief in it as a solution to the country’s problems. They arrived at democratic socialism for one reason: it is the most popular vehicle for their contempt.

People like Ocasio-Cortez are mad, and want to “get back” at certain groups of people, most often identified as the wealthy, big businesses, and evil conservatives. They hear similar rage channeled by people like Bernie Sanders, people who call themselves democratic socialists, and they become elated. They hear the most superficial sales pitch – phrases like “fair share” and “tax the rich” and “redistribute wealth” – and they see it as a way to stick it to those they hold in such contempt.

They don’t have to understand what true democratic socialism is. To them, this is all a game. A game that has tribes. Our tribe and their tribe. And in our tribe, we love the government, we hate the rich, and we think corporations are the focus of all evil in the world. The rest doesn’t matter.

Unfortunately for people like Ocasio-Cortez, when they decide they want to run for political office, people are going to actually ask them some questions and are curious to find out what their actual core beliefs are. What motivates them. Where are they coming from.

But when your philosophy isn’t a philosophy at all, as is the case here, the general public starts to find out that there isn’t a lot of there, there.

———————————

Reality-checking Ocasio-Cortez

Even the bien pensant liberals at the WaPo and Politifact admit that many of her claims are bonkers: “Fact-checking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s media blitz.” and “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrong on several counts about unemployment.” VOX points out the obvious: “America might be ready for democratic socialism. It’s not ready for the bill.” She takes refuge in feminist cant when challenged: “Ocasio-Cortez Actually Compared Ben Shapiro’s Debate Challenge to ‘Catcalling’.” National Review examines some of her good lines in her interview on PBS.

Matthew Gagnon

About the author

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. Prior to his tenure at MHPC, Matt spent eight years working in national politics in Washington, D.C., most recently as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association. A Hampden native, Matt is a nationally recognized political strategist and communicator.

See his other articles at Maine Live. Such as Leftist Civility: “Die in a fire!” See his tweets at @MatthewGagnon.

About Maine Wire

The Maine Wire is a news and opinion service, dedicated to providing information and perspective on the issues important to Maine people.

Founded in 2011 as a project of The Maine Heritage Policy Center, it has proved to be an invaluable resource in reporting on stories that would otherwise be ignored by the Maine media, providing a much-needed critical eye to the actions of Maine government, and providing a go-to location for conservative thought leadership. Since its inception, TMW has been an essential resource, providing a perspective not offered by the mainstream press.  {From their About Page.}

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34 thoughts on “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reveals herself in Maine

  1. With regards to Denmark and socialism even when the Danish Labour movement was the “reddest” in the years before WW1, before the Communists left the Social Democratic Party and formed their own party, there was still a strong view on personal responsibility in the Danish working class.

    The number one favourite slogan of the Danish Labour movement was “Gør Din Pligt og kræv Din Ret”

    Translation “Do your duty and demand your rights”

    A key part of that slogan was that you had a duty to support yourself and your family but if you were unable to do that having made an honest effort. You had the right to demand help from the state without shame. It’s was part of the Labour movement’s fight to eliminate the loss of voting rights if you received government aid. They succeed in achieving that goal in 1933.

    I don’t think that idea would alienate a lot of Americans today.

    Gyldendal encyclopedia:
    http://denstoredanske.dk/Danmarkshistorien/Klassesamfundet_organiseres/Klasser,_politik_og_kultur_1901-13/Parlamentarisme_i_klassekampen/G%C3%B8r_din_pligt_og_kr%C3%A6v_din_ret

    A 1st of May, Union Red Banner from early 20th century.

    A 1st of May, Union Red Banner - Denmark

    1. Rune,

      Thank you for that invaluable local perspective! It’s not how the story is usually told in the US.

  2. > She is essentially a 28 year old Walter Mondale.

    Ouch.

    The arguments about the state knows best, and that anywhere that claimed to be socialist that failed spectacularly not being ‘true’ socialism are tropes we see in the UK among the more hard line lefties. That of course and the idea that the true socialist states are constantly being sabotaged by the US and its cadre of capitalist running dogs. It’s usually accompanied by the sort of blindness that lets them admire Cuba’s healthcare system and equality while, apparently, being unable to see the human rights violations or poverty. Similarly with their support of the USSR or, bafflingly, modern Russia

    I’m often amazed just how deep the European left’s ingrained dislike (sometimes bordering on outright hatred) of the US goes. Almost to the point of bigotry…

    1. Steve,

      The history of communism leaves the Left little alternative to using the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy.

      “I’m often amazed just how deep the European left’s ingrained dislike (sometimes bordering on outright hatred) of the US goes.”

      For two centuries the animating force of the Left in Europe has been hatred of the bourgeoisie – the middle class. America is the home and purest expression of Bourgeoisie culture, and its success makes the EU Left hate us with a passion we don’t understand.

    2. i thik that a very tiny minority hate for ideological reason, the most of rage or distrust against US have more due to warmongering and continuos interference even inside western countrys democratic process than other factors. we have gouvernement in recent past that are not formed becouse of US veto. we have corrutption scandal to buy US military sistems (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_bribery_scandals). we have Operation Gladio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Gladio), and a lot of others exemples: we have a lot of reasons, little know maybe in US, to distrust US elite.

    3. Paolo,

      “the most of rage or distrust against US have more due to warmongering and continuos interference even inside western countrys democratic process”

      Unfortunately for that theory, the west’s intelligentsia despised the bourgeois — esp America — long before our post-WWII “inside western countrys democratic process”, when our only warmongering was the theft of lands from the Indians (and Mexicans, by right of conquest) — which everybody did back then.

    4. before WWI the west’s intelligentsia that despise america are conservative, not socialist or social democratic. they admire america as they think is what they want: No king and president under constitutional control.No nobility and free social mobility . Low taxes. (taxes were considered bad for the poor, the rich get away in one way or another, and are not used for welfare.) No conscription. USA did not worship their army. Did not have large military parades and so on. No standing army, a reliefe for the common people forced to military service. Universal suffrage (for men) they blame greed of rich american not US. check Eduard Bernstein’s “The Preconditions of Socialism” 1899. the sentiment on the left start to change on the aftermath of russian civil war and post WWI economical crisis, when the influence of communist growth and change again after URSS collapse, and again with Afghanistan and Iraq intervention.

    5. Paolo,

      “before WWI the west’s intelligentsia that despise america are conservative, not socialist or social democratic.”

      Not so. Read anarchist and communist literature of the pre-WWI era. Or see the adequate Wikipedia entry on social democracy. Few or no conservatives. Many named were contemptuous of middle class culture.

    1. Rando,

      “…as ‘socialist.’ As if nations with royal families and private property could be properly so-called.”

      I don’t believe there is a conflict between being a democratic socialist nation and having a monarch. That is, a powerless monarch — as symbol, historical relic, and tourist attraction.

      Socialism is pretty much defined as a system with private property. Abolishing private property makes it communism.

  3. Nice article. Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should read more Orwell or at least listen carefully and reflect critically to her answers to the type of questions Matthew Gagnon highlighted.

    1. Bernie,

      That’s good advice for all on the Left, however they label themselves. Liberals, progressives, radicals, etc.

    2. Just an FYI: Orwell was an outspoken proponent of Democratic Socialism. An articulate Democratic Socialist like AOC is an intellectual heir of someone like Orwell. If there’s anyone that needs to read more Orwell, it’s a run-of-the-mill think-tank staffer like Matthew Gagnon. Not a rising political star who’s proved her bona fides defeating a powerful incumbent on the kind of platform Orwell supported.

    3. Jim,

      I don’t understand your comment.

      (1) Orwell was a proponent of clear thinking, which he considered more important than political policy. I doubt he would approve of political leaders with such a poor grasp of the issues or political philosophy as A O-C.

      (2) “An articulate Democratic Socialist like AOC ”

      Did you read the post, or listen to her interviews? “Articulate” she is not, except in the sense of saying words which she does not appear to understand.

      (3) “a rising political star who’s proved her bona fides defeating a powerful incumbent”

      I very much doubt that Orwell, of all people, would consider winning an election as evidence of value. I doubt anyone with much knowledge of political history would do so.

    4. “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism” – George Orwell

      As a democratic Socialist, Orwell would have supported Medicare for All, and free university. And would have supported her #AbolishICE stance considering (trigger warning) his views on immigration.

      “Articulate” she is not Mmmm sure, which is why right-wing media from Shapiro on down have been fixated on her. As they say, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. Good to know we’ve reached stage three.

    5. Jim,

      “As a democratic Socialist, Orwell would have supported Medicare …”

      True. But that’s quite irrelevant to what what I said about Orwell and A O-C. I’ll replay the tape.

      “Orwell was a proponent of clear thinking, which he considered more important than political policy.”

      “‘Articulate’ she is not Mmmm sure, which is why right-wing media from Shapiro on down have been fixated on her.”

      They’re “fixated on her” because the Left has made her their poster girl – and she makes such an easy target. The combination makes her irresistible to the Right.

      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.

      The problem with cute aphorisms is that they’re pretty useless. That applies just as well to Trump.

    6. Jim – a follow-up, evidence contrary to your theory.

      Here’s an example of a conservative who loves to watch A O-C: Isa Cox at “The Lid.”

      “Ladies and Gentlemen I present Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the future of the Democratic Party. Gosh, I love this girl. Everything she says is comedy gold! Hearing her talk is like listening to an adult speak from the perspective of a child’s worldview. …From her fumbling rants about the economy to dismissing civil invitations to debate as ‘catcalling,’ this girl is a riot, and so far, she has not lost steam.”

      A surprised Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

  4. “To Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and their ilk, positioning themselves in this way allows them to ridicule actual opponents of socialism as little more than anti-government anarchists who believe the government should never do anything, anywhere, for any reason. This is, perhaps, the king of all strawmen.”

    I disagree with this slighty. Rather than their “ilk” coming up with this plan, I see it rather as a response to the GOP’s efforts over the years of using the term “socialism” as a slur to debase, indeed, anything the government does, anywhere, for any reason *they don’t approve of*. Hence, you get people who tend to be in favor of all or most of the policies enacted via the Affordable Care Act when asked about them individually, to be against Obamacare because it’s socialism.

    1. Buzz,

      That’s an important point: both Left and Right have worked diligently and energetically to debase our political discourse. As is SOP these days, each side accurately condemns the other for what they themselves also do.

      Orwell described the early stages of this in “Politics and the English Language” (1946). It’s become far worse since then.

  5. It just shows how far America has shifted to the right that a Federal Park could be considered socialist. I guess ryandians and the idiots can agree on something.

    1. Gerard,

      “It just shows how far America has shifted to the right that a Federal Park could be considered socialist”

      That’s pretty funny. We need more humor here!

      “I guess ryandians and the idiots can agree on something.”

      I’d say “Ryandian idiots” and “Leftist idiots”. Two flavors of the same custard.

  6. Thomas and Larry, you’re both about a 100 years behind the time. Socialism today is hardly what Marx and others imagined it should be. The new socialism has worked spectacularly in Europe and never given a chance in the U.S. because of your doltish wort of thibnking.

    1. Ron,

      Here’s what somebody who actually knows about these things says.

      “I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” Rasmussen said. The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security for its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish,” he added.”

      Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark.

      Pretending that western europe is socialist is playing with words, a standard Leftist tactic (as Orwell warned about in Politics and the English Language.

      “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

      Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

  7. Ron,

    Larry is about a 100 years behind but Thomas Frank, in his defense, has been advocating for a kind of ‘new socialism’ in America for decades. The recent town halls Bernie Sanders and AOC held in the American Midwest is kind of the embodiment of what Frank has been saying for years – Dems should stop cozying up to corporate donors and run on an unapologetic left-wing platform aimed at economic justice.

    You gotta give us a little time though. Just because Socialism’s never been given a chance here, doesn’t mean it won’t one day. Things have changed so much in such a short time. A few years ago, the idea of a self-proclaimed ‘Socialist’ politician being anything but a kind of fringe curiosity would have been impossible. Now Bernie is the most popular politician in the country. People like AOC and several other candidates have successfully challenged corporate democrats in upset primary elections. Organizations like Democratic Socialists of America have ballooned in numbers. In a few short years we’ve gone from hearing that Obamacare is “Bolshevism” to the majority of Americans supporting Medicare for All and free university.

    Are you from Europe? I’d be interested to hear what you think of Jeremy Corbyn if you follow UK politics.

    1. Tovarish,

      (1) “Larry is about a 100 years behind”

      Mindlessly repeating stuff doesn’t make it so.

      (2) “Thomas Frank, in his defense”

      Defense against what? You’re not making any sense.

      (3) “has been advocating for a kind of ‘new socialism’ in America for decades. ”

      You put ‘new socialism’ in quotes, implying that Franks has used the phrase. I’ve read most of Franks work, and do not recall him advocating any form of socialism. Are you making up your own definition? Words have meaning. That’s what makes communication possible.

      “Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and workers’ self-management of the means of production…”

      (4) “Just because Socialism’s never been given a chance here, doesn’t mean it won’t one day.”

      Isn’t that an empty statement? Nor has communism, or fascism, or any of wide range of other systems.

      (5) “have successfully challenged corporate democrats in upset primary elections.”

      Just as far-right candidates have successfully challenged mainstream republicans in upset primary elections. That shows that US politics is going thru another period of polarization, as it has in the past. If it continues, we might become like Weimar Germany. Many believe that we’re already well on the road to WeimAmerica. Don’t cheer. It won’t end well.

    2. Tovarish,

      For a refresher about Thomas Frank’s great work, see these posts. He makes no mention of “socialism”, but calls for America to return to its traditions.

  8. This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. In places like Norway, the state owns upwards of 80% of non-home wealth (over 50% of total wealth). Norway has more extensive levels of state ownership than places like Venezuela. It’s the usual conservative nonsense – Venezuela’s price and currency mismanagement is attributed to extensive state ownership and called ‘socialism’. Norway’s well-managed (and more extensive) state ownership is called ‘capitalistic’ for no clear reason other than it is well-managed. It’s a tautology and a silly shell game with the meaning of words. It’s ‘capitalistic’ if it’s well managed and ‘socialist’ if poorly managed according to Gagnon.

    1. John,

      (1) About Norway.

      Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve added a note about Norway! It’s vast oil income since 1980 has funded domestic acquisitions of businesses, and when that became less feasible (difficult to push ownership above 80%!), acquisition of foreign wealth. But doing so with oil wealth is like having a genie. Questionable about the applicability of its example.

      Perhaps Norway has handled its oil wealth well because they had relatively high levels of State ownership before they got lucky — 30% in 1980. It’s real test will be when the oil runs out.

      But Norway is an outlier. Almost every other nation that has gone down that path has regretted it. For example, Britain’s socialist experiment was a disaster. More generally, massive State ownership of businesses proved inefficient in developed nations — hence the successful privatization campaigns of the 1980s.

      Of course, predictably, these went too far. Many natural monopolies were dumped into rapacious hands with inadequate regulation.

      (2) Venezuela and socialism

      Venezuela is a poster child for socialism because it is much more typical. The government was, like most socialists, much more interventionist in the economy and society than Norway. With the usual results, but on a bigger scale.

  9. All of Norway’s oil revenues go into the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), not to the state to spend. By law, 100% of the investments from the SWF must be made abroad so Norway isn’t using it’s oil revenue to fund welfare spending or prop up the local economy. The state-oil company, StatOil employs a lot of people and those people are taxed to fund the welfare state, but that’s hardly funding a generous welfare system on oil wealth as you suggest. And Norway’s large welfare state is comparable to other Nordic countries that don’t have vast oil resources.

    Finland’s state-owned enterprises are valued at around 50% of GDP and their state financial assets are something like 120% of GDP. Compare that to the US where those numbers are 0.5% and 26% respectively.

    And the percent of workers covered by a union contract is like >70% in all the Nordic countries (11% in the US) . Why this stuff is never mentioned by people like Gagnon is obvious – it contradicts his ideology.

    Also, last time I checked the UK’s NHS (staterun healthcare) is the world’s fifth largest employer and wildly popular among Brits in spite of being attacked by conservative governments for decades. Oh yeah and a majority of Brits favor renationalising rail:

    https://news.sky.com/story/majority-of-brits-back-rail-nationalisation-sky-data-poll-shows-11193313.

    Privatization hardly seems the success you think it is in the UK according to the people that actually live there

    1. John,

      (1) “Norway isn’t using it’s oil revenue to fund welfare spending or prop up the local economy.”

      That’s not accurate. What you call Norway’s “Sovereign Wealth Fund” is in fact two funds: “Government Pension Fund Norway” and “Government Pension Fund Global.” The latter was established (from memory) in 1990. The oil revenue goes into the fund (hence not stimulating the economy) but the income from the fund does (which does stimulate the economy). That’s a financial mechanism to feed the oil revenue into the economy over generations – not in one giant bubble.

      Ditto the income from Norway’s state-owned companies.

      (2) “last time I checked the UK’s NHS”

      By many measures, Britain’s NHS is both broken (hence the massive reforms being made to it in recent years) and among the worst of the health care systems in the developed world. Of course, America’s is rock bottom terrible.

      (3) “And the percent of workers covered by a union contract is like >70%”

      Unions are not socialism, which is the subject here.

      (4) “Why this stuff is never mentioned by people like Gagnon is obvious – it contradicts his ideology.”

      Nor have you given any rebuttal to what the article actually says.

      “As the Foundation for Economic Education pointed out two years ago, in Scandinavia (like virtually all wealthy, economically developed western countries) the means of production is mostly owned by private individuals. It is not owned by the government, or the local community. More importantly, resources are not allocated by central government planning, but rather by various capitalistic markets. Scandinavians operate under a privately owned, market economy.”

      (5) “Privatization hardly seems the success you think it is in the UK according to the people that actually live there”

      Wow. After 3 decades of socialism, in 1976 Britain required a massive bailout from the IMF to avoid catastrophe. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister and began the necessary reforms — including massive privatization. Many of those were once-thriving firms almost destroyed by government managers. Privatization didn’t make Britain into Heaven, and (as I said above) much of it was poorly done. But the result was a much stronger Britain.

      “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. …when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
      — George Santayana in The Sense of Beauty (1896).

    2. John,

      This section got omitted.

      Majority of Brits back rail nationalisation” at Sky News — “Sky poll shows 60% of people would support bringing the country’s rail network back into public ownership following the fare hike.”

      That’s hilarious, in a sad kind of way. There’s much evidence that Britain, after a brief respite, is about to resume its century-long decline. Open borders, out of control crime, Brexit (both poorly conceived and incompetently executed). And now socialism.

      Britain might replace Venezuela as a poster child for volume two of (the late) Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly.

  10. Wrong again big guy. 96% of the return on the SWF’s capital is reinvested in the fund. (It’s kind of frightening to see you mentioned as some kind of ‘financial advisor’).

    And no the NHS is not broken and I’d love to see the evidence you can actually provide that it is. As you mention, it’s the US that is an outlier in healthcare in the developed world, managing to produce worse health outcomes for multiple times the price of other systems.

    It’s been fun but continually correcting your misapprehensions and ignorance seems like a fruitless endeavor. Best wishes, John

    1. John,

      (1) Norway calls it a “pension fund” for a reason. All pension funds have an accumulation period and a distribution period. Pension plans, as I said, smooth out payments over generations (ie, they are a form of intergenerational income shifting). I suggest reading Wikipedia to learn about these things.

      (2) “And no the NHS is not broken and I’d love to see the evidence you can actually provide that it is.”

      I’m glad to help. Let’s look at the firmly liberal London Review of Books, who has covered the troubles of the NHS in detail. Here are two of their many articles about the ongoing crisis.

      One of the early ones (at least, that I noticed): “Who will save the NHS?” by Lorna Finlayson, October 2014. This is in opposition to the Conservative’s reforms, but even so “The fate of the NHS depends on whether or not certain proposed structural changes are allowed to proceed.”

      Now something more recent: “NHS SOS” by James Meek, 5 April 2018.

      “In the year of its seventieth anniversary, the 1.3 million people who work for the National Health Service in England find themselves in a surreal situation. They’re effectively working within two realities at once, expected simultaneously to inhabit an NHS universe where a radical, highly optimistic reform programme is under way, and a second universe in which the organisation is unmistakeably close to breakdown. …

      This winter, as last winter, the system of emergency medical care in England came to the brink of collapse, with untold knock-on effects for the health system as a whole. There is evidence that in at least one part of the country, the east of England, the emergency system just plain broke.

      In the whole of England there are only so many hospital beds. The number fluctuates, but there were approximately 97,000 this winter, one for every 550 citizens. At the best of times, most of them are full, not only with people being treated but with patients recovering from planned operations such as joint replacements or cancer surgery. As casualties began to pour into A&E, hospital after hospital began to run out of beds. Staff struggled to free up beds by discharging patients, but an elderly person who’s technically well enough to be moved from a hospital bed isn’t necessarily able-bodied enough to be simply dropped off at the home they left.

      The waits for a bed in A&E got longer, and as they did, so did the waits for assessment and treatment. To make matters worse, going into winter, many hospitals were chronically short of nurses. As A&E backed up, patients waiting for beds were left for hours on trolleys in corridors, and ambulances got caught up in the jam. Paramedics aren’t supposed to leave until the patient they’ve delivered has been seen. Increasingly, places couldn’t be found for patients in the A&E reception area and they had to wait in the back of ambulances, sometimes for hours at a time. Queues of ambulances formed outside hospitals, meaning anxious and sick people were left waiting longer and longer for help. In an effort to make more space available, tens of thousands of scheduled operations were cancelled.

      Hospitals in Oxford, Derby, Bath, Taunton, Leicester, Torquay, Yeovil, Warwick, Portsmouth, Northampton, Truro, Nottingham, Redhill, Gillingham, Epsom, Dartford, Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells and the Isle of Wight warned they were no longer able to provide comprehensive care. The recommended safe limit for the number of beds that should be occupied by patients in any one hospital at any one time is 85 per cent. Across England as a whole, throughout the winter, bed occupancy averaged 94 per cent. A third of all hospital trusts reported days of 100 per cent occupancy, yet no emergency department closed, meaning those hospitals had to stow crowds of sick people in corridors. Four hospitals – Walsall Manor in the West Midlands; the North Middlesex in Enfield, North London; Hillingdon, the closest emergency hospital to Heathrow Airport; and the James Paget in Great Yarmouth – declared their beds 100 per cent full on more than half the days in that winter period.

      Between them, the hospitals in Worcester and neighbouring Redditch had to divert emergency patients elsewhere at least 65 times. At Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, staff were stretched so thin they were unable to take breaks. Memos between managers at Southmead Hospital in Bristol in early January, leaked to the local press, warned that beds were ‘104 per cent full’: ‘Patients are admitted to any available bed,’ the hospital’s clinical director wrote. ‘Speciality patients are scattered.’ At that point, with all overflow beds occupied, the hospital still had 51 patients to find beds for. Stocks of face masks and walking frames were running low. It later emerged that, on various days in December, 122 people at Southmead had been left on trolleys in corridors for more than 12 hours.

      In January, with Manchester’s three emergency hospitals close to full, one patient had to wait more than 16 hours to be admitted. An A&E consultant at the Royal Stoke University Hospital, Dr Richard Fawcett, broadcast his frustration on Twitter. ‘It breaks my heart,’ he wrote, ‘to see so many frail and elderly patients in the corridor for hours and hours … I personally apologise to the people of Stoke for the Third World conditions of the department due to overcrowding.’ Patients and their families told the local newspaper, the Sentinel, that corridors were so crowded with trolleys it was hard to walk down them. A shortage of cubicles meant patients were seen in disabled toilets. One 80-year-old man, an epileptic with severe dementia who had been diagnosed with pneumonia, waited on a trolley for 36 hours. Photos appeared across the media showing patients – one with a drip attached – sleeping on the bare floors of Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. A hospital spokesman claimed that patients ‘may have chosen to lie down as seats were provided’.

      A whistleblower told the Health Service Journal that ambulance delays in the east of England had led to the deaths of at least 19 patients and serious harm to 21 more. On 1 January, an 81-year-old woman in Clacton, Essex, dialled 999, complaining of chest pains. The ambulance took three hours and 45 minutes to arrive. It was too late. A few days later, a 52-year-old man in Norfolk collapsed with severe chest pain and vomiting. He was taken to the Norwich and Norfolk Hospital, but had to wait in the back of the ambulance that took him there for four and a half hours before being seen by a doctor inside the building. He was told to go home and collapsed again when he got there. Two ambulances sent to get him were diverted to other calls and by the time he returned to hospital, his life couldn’t be saved.

      One doctor in a major A&E department in the east of England told me he’d witnessed short cuts taken by staff under pressure. For a time, ambulance crews had been allowed to leave patients in a hospital area that wasn’t technically A&E reception. One elderly patient with abdominal pain was diverted within the hospital from emergency medicine to a GP-style consultation, sent home, returned to the hospital a few hours later, and died. ‘What I’ve seen is the relentlessness of the shifts,’ the doctor said. ‘The intensity. The feeling of higher and higher accountability. And then a lack of investment in staff. Asking them to do more and more and more, to cover more and more patients. There’s no give and take. The staff they should be investing in get more and more demoralised. You’re at risk of creating a Mid-Staffs environment where people don’t really know who they’re working for and start accepting risk that previously would have been deemed unacceptable. They stop reporting things because they reported them before and nothing happened. It’s creating a dangerous culture.’ What should be done? ‘Stop decreasing capacity. Build capacity and build staffing. The party line is always “it doesn’t affect patient care.” Of course it fucking does.’ …

      Stevens’s frustration was understandable. The two clashing universes of the NHS today – the ideal of reform and transformation, the reality of frightened, confused people in pain, waiting for care in ambulances and hospital corridors – were originally linked, in the sense that a system overwhelmed by the needs of an ageing population was the dread dystopia in prospect were the transformation not to take place.

    2. John,

      Since you appear confused about the operation of a pension fund, look at the most recent annual report of the Fund.

      The purpose of the Government Pension Fund is to support long-term considerations in the government’s spending of petroleum revenues, as well as saving to finance pension expenditure under the National Insurance Scheme. The Fund’s contribution to the financing of government expenditures will be of particular importance as the population ages and government finances are subjected to mounting pressure. An aging population will mean increased expenditure on pensions, as well as on health and care services, while government revenues at the same time will be weakened as the result of a smaller portion of the population working and paying tax. Sound long-term management of our joint savings in the Government Pension Fund will help ensure that Norway’s petroleum wealth can benefit both current and future generations. The Government Pension Fund comprises the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) and the Government Pension Fund Norway (GPFN).

      he purpose of the Government Pension Fund is to support long-term considerations in the government’s spending of petroleum revenues, as well as saving to finance pension expenditure under the National Insurance Scheme. The Fund’s contribution to the financing of government expenditures will be of particular importance as the population ages and government finances are subjected to mounting pressure. An aging population will mean increased expenditure on pensions, as well as on health and care services, while government revenues at the same time will be weakened as the result of a smaller portion of the population working and paying tax. Sound long-term management of our joint savings in the Government Pension Fund will help ensure that Norway’s petroleum wealth can benefit both current and future generations.

      The Fund’s website explains this more clearly.

      Fiscal policy is based on the guideline that over time the structural, non-oil budget deficit shall correspond to the expected real return on the fund, estimated at 3 percent.

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