2018-10-09 14:15:00

Socialism has become cool in America, under the nice name “democratic socialism.”

Gloria Álvarez ‏knows better, because she’s from Latin America and studied socialism there. She says: Watch out! Socialism has a clear track record of wrecking every country that implements it.

Cuba tried socialism. Things got so bad that tens of thousands fled the island on dangerous, makeshift rafts. Others paid lots of money to be allowed to leave.

Álvarez interviews people who fled. One man told her that in Cuba: “You don’t see any future. Everything is stagnated…health care, education, nowadays they’re in ruins.”

Another said: “My father [a doctor] had to sell illegal meats out of his ambulance…because Cuban doctors earn less than 1% of American doctors.”

Because of his experience with socialism, that man is now running as a libertarian for a Florida State House seat.

He adds: “I tell my Venezuelan friends, we warned you guys!”

After Cuba, Venezuela became immersed in socialism. For a while, things seemed to work OK thanks to the country’s oil wealth; Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, and used to be the richest country in Latin America.

Celebrities like Michael Moore and Sean Penn visited Hugo Chavez and praised his socialism.

Venezuelans were happy, too. A former mayor in Venezuela’s capital city told Álvarez: “People were clapping so hard. They were like, ‘Oh, finally there is somebody here making social justice.'”

But eventually socialism led to a mismanagement of the economy that was so bad that money started to run out. The government just printed more. So much more that it led to million-percent inflation.

Life savings were wiped out.

When businesses raised prices to try to keep up with inflation, Chavez and his successor, President Maduro, banned that.

When businesses did it anyway, they were seized by the government. This tragic video shows a shopkeeper pleading as his business is taken away. It wasn’t a one-time thing; more than 30,000 businesses were confiscated.

Now, millions starve. The average Venezuelan has lost 24 pounds. More than 2 million people have fled the country.

“It’s like the apocalypse. It’s no food. No medicine,” one Venezuelan told Álvarez.

But some still defend socialism, saying that what happened there “isn’t real socialism.” Bernie Sanders says: “when I talk about Socialism I am not looking at Venezuela, I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark, like Sweden.”

But Denmark’s prime minister says that’s a mistake: “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” he clarifies.

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2018-10-09 14:15:00

Socialism has become cool in America, under the nice name “democratic socialism.”

Gloria Álvarez ‏knows better, because she’s from Latin America and studied socialism there. She says: Watch out! Socialism has a clear track record of wrecking every country that implements it.

Click here for full text and downloadable versions.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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2018-10-10 04:01:00

Socialism is hot.

Famous actors recently made a commercial proclaiming that “democratic socialism” creates some of the best parts of America. It’s “your kids’ public school” (says Susan Sarandon), the “interstate highway system” (Rosario Dawson), “public libraries” (Jay Ferguson), “EMTs” (Ethan Embry), “workers who plow our streets” (Max Carver), and “scientists” (Danny DeVito).

Wow. I guess every popular thing government does is socialism.

The celebrities conclude: “We can do better when we do them together.”

There is sometimes truth to that, but the movie stars don’t know that America’s first highways were built by capitalist contractors. They also probably didn’t notice that the more popular parts of government—public schools, EMTs, snow plowing, libraries, etc.—are largely locally funded.

“They should wake up,” says Gloria Alvarez. She is from Guatemala and says, “I’ve seen the impact of socialism. My father escaped Cuba. My grandfather suffered under Communists in Hungary before escaping.”

This week I turn my video channel over to Alvarez so she can give her perspective on democratic socialism’s new popularity.

“As a child, I was taught to mock socialism,” she says, “but democratic socialism sounded OK. It made sense that government should take care of the economy. Then I watched democratic socialism fail in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. I learned that every time a country started down the socialist path, it fails.”

But every time a country tries it, even just a little of it, people applaud.

When Castro came to power, people cheered because he was going to help the poor and make everyone equal.

But governments can’t plan things efficiently without the prices and constant individual decision-making that free markets provide.

The result in Cuba was economic stagnation and horrible loss of freedom.

Cuban refugees who now live in Miami’s “Little Havana” neighborhood warn Americans about socialist promises.

Michel Ibarra told Alvarez, “You don’t see any future. Everything is stagnated. Health care, education—nowadays they’re in ruins.”

Venezuela didn’t learn from Cuba’s problems. They voted in Hugo Chavez when he said that “capitalism is the realm of injustice” and promised wealth would be distributed equally.

But when there was no more money left to take from rich people, he did what many governments (including our own) do: He printed more.

That’s caused inflation approaching 1 million percent.

When business owners raised prices to try to keep up, Chavez and his successor just seized many of them.

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2018-10-17 04:01:00

Gloria Alvarez, the young woman from Guatemala I wrote about last week, just got blocked by Facebook. Why? Because she criticizes socialism.

After Alvarez joined me in my American studio to make a video we titled “Socialism Fails Every Time,” she flew to Mexico City to make a speech.

A few days later she wrote me that “some leftist ‘students’ posted on a fanpage called ‘Marxist and Leninist Memes’: ‘BOYCOTT Gloria Alvarez in our University! We won’t let her in!'”

So Alvarez posted (in Spanish) on her own Facebook page: “My dear Mexican socialists intolerants: Thank you! for trying to boycott my event… showing that panic that you have for the debate of ideas. Given yours are so bad, that only with bullets they can be obeyed just like in Venezuela and Nicaragua. You demonstrate once again that you are the intolerant ones against freedom.”

She ended her riff with a wise defense of free speech: “Where words are exchanged, bullets are no longer exchanged.”

Then her account was blocked.

“You recently posted something that violates Facebook policies,” wrote Facebook.

What violated Facebook policies? Was it calling the people who demanded that she not be allowed to speak “socialists intolerants” whose ideas “are so bad that only with bullets they can be obeyed”?

When social media companies block you, the reason is often mysterious.

Facebook did say, “For more information, visit the Help Center… (U)nderstand Facebook’s Community Standards.” Good luck getting an explanation that way.

Alvarez suspects she was blocked because her opponents, boycott advocates, complained about her. Leftists are good at launching campaigns to shut people up.

Fortunately, Alvarez has connections. A few days later she wrote, “a friend of mine that has a cousin working on Facebook Latin America (helped) me to unblock my page this morning.”

Good.

Except, most of us don’t have a friend whose cousin works for Facebook.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other social media platforms promote themselves as sites that enhance communication, not censor it.

I shouldn’t use the word “censor.” When a private company blocks someone, it’s called editing. Companies edit to increase civil communication, improve the quality of discussion, delete threats and lies, etc. Editing helps make their sites more pleasant places to visit.

Censorship and the First Amendment apply to governments. America’s Founders feared government censorship because government can use force, and we have just one government.

But if Facebook blocks me, I still can communicate via Twitter, my YouTube videos, or Instagram.

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2018-10-17 14:10:00

In New York, Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo wants to raise taxes.

But John Stossel interviews an interesting candidate with a different plan–Libertarian Larry Sharpe. He proposes alternative ways to raise money.

One idea is to lease naming rights on public infrastructure.

“The Triborough Bridge could be called the Staples Bridge, or the Apple Bridge,” Sharpe explains to Stossel. “Hundreds of thousands of vehicles pass by, and see that big sign. That’s valuable!”

Most people we asked on the street didn’t like his idea. “I definitely wouldn’t want to rename something after some sort of corporation,” one man told us.

Sharpe says it’s necessary, “You can shake your fist and say ‘this doesn’t sound good’ if you want to. And you’re going to wind up in a place where the tax burden is insanely high.” That, he points out, would lead to more businesses and people leaving New York.

Although Sharpe is the Libertarian candidate, he’s doing well for a third-party. A recent poll has him getting 13 percent of the vote. And after survey respondents hear his campaign pitch, that number goes up to 25 percent.

Stossel thinks the reasons for his success may be that he speaks well, campaigns constantly, and–unlike most libertarians–doesn’t propose cutting existing government programs. He only wants to stop creating new ones. Sharpe also talks positively about unions.

“There are [rail] systems out there…that are both safe and unionized, so we keep the unions happy and our workers safe,” Sharpe told Stossel.

“Why do you want to keep the unions happy?” Stossel responded. “Unions can be destructive.”

“They can be, absolutely,” Sharpe said. “[But] unions are part of our First Amendment. It’s people getting together saying they won’t do X until you do Y. Nothing wrong with that at all.”

“It raises prices,” Stossel pushed back.

“Fine, that’s okay,” Sharpe said. “It is what it is. Collective bargaining is fine. My issue with the unions has always been, are you forcing me to be in a union? Are you forcing unionized labor? If you’re forcing it, I’m libertarian, I have a problem with that. But you’re voluntarily doing it? I don’t have a problem at all.”

He assures Stossel that he’d prevent any new government programs.

“You do know what party I am part of, right?” Sharpe asks. “Libertarians believe that you should be as conservative or as liberal as you want to be as long as you don’t want to force yourself on others.”

Stossel is glad that there’s a small-government candidate running for office who actually draws enthusiastic crowds.

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2018-10-17 14:15:00

In New York, Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo wants to raise taxes.

But John Stossel interviews an interesting candidate with a different plan–Libertarian Larry Sharpe. He proposes alternative ways to raise money.

One idea is to lease naming rights on public infrastructure.

“The Triborough Bridge could be called the Staples Bridge, or the Apple Bridge,” Sharpe explains to Stossel. “Hundreds of thousands of vehicles pass by, and see that big sign. That’s valuable!”

Most people we asked on the street didn’t like his idea. “I definitely wouldn’t want to rename something after some sort of corporation,” one man told us.

Sharpe says it’s necessary, “You can shake your fist and say ‘this doesn’t sound good’ if you want to. And you’re going to wind up in a place where the tax burden is insanely high.” That, he points out, would lead to more businesses and people leaving New York.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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2018-10-23 14:35:00

Democratic socialists in the United States point to Sweden as a socialist success. But Swedish historian Johan Norberg says, “Sweden is not socialist.”

Norberg hosts a documentary called Sweden: Lessons for America?, in which he notes that in Sweden, “government doesn’t own the means of production. To see that you have to go to Venezuela or Cuba or North Korea.”

John Stossel asks Norberg why so many Americans think Sweden is socialist. Norberg answers, “We did have a period in the 1970s and 1980s when we had something that resembled socialism: a big government that taxed and spent heavily.”

But big government led to problems. “Our economy was in crisis, inflation reached 10 percent, and for a brief period interest rates soared to 500 percent. At that point the Swedish population just said, ‘Enough, we can’t do this,'” Norberg says.

Sweden cut public spending, privatized the national rail network, abolished certain government monopolies, eliminated inheritance taxes, sold state-owned businesses, and switched to a school voucher system. It also “lowered taxes and reformed the pension system,” adds Norberg.

So Stossel asks why we keep hearing “that Sweden is this socialist paradise.”

Norberg answers: “We do have a bigger welfare state than the U.S. and higher taxes than the U.S. But in other areas, when it comes to free markets, when it comes to competition, when it comes to free trade, Sweden is actually more free market.”

He’s right, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Rankings. Sweden ranks higher than the U.S.

Norberg also tells Stossel that Sweden’s tax system may surprise Americans. “This is the dirty little secret….We don’t take from the rich and give to the poor. We squeeze the poor, because rich people might leave.”

Even people who earn below average income pay up to 60 percent in taxes.

Stossel asks: What lessons should Americans take from Sweden?

“You can’t turn your backs [on] the creation of wealth,” warns Norberg.

Sweden: Lessons for America? airs on PBS on October 29th at 7 p.m. Eastern. You can also watch it at freetochoose.tv.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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2018-10-23 14:35:00

Democratic socialists in the United States point to Sweden as a socialist success. But Swedish historian Johan Norberg says, “Sweden is not socialist.”

Norberg hosts a documentary called Sweden: Lessons for America?, in which he notes that in Sweden, “government doesn’t own the means of production. To see that you have to go to Venezuela or Cuba or North Korea.”

John Stossel asks Norberg why so many Americans think Sweden is socialist. Norberg answers, “We did have a period in the 1970s and 1980s when we had something that resembled socialism: a big government that taxed and spent heavily.”

But big government led to problems. “Our economy was in crisis, inflation reached 10 percent, and for a brief period interest rates soared to 500 percent. At that point the Swedish population just said, ‘Enough, we can’t do this,'” Norberg says.

Click here for full text and downloadable versions.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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2018-10-24 04:01:00

Will you be able to retire? Maybe not.

Will your state pay what its politicians promised? Almost certainly not.

Politicians in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois are especially irresponsible when it comes to not funding pension plans, but most every municipality has promised more than it will have.

“The money hasn’t been set aside for years and years,” says City Journal editor Daniel DiSalvo in my new internet video. “Nobody was paying attention.”

His colleague Steve Malanga complains that the media rarely report on the coming crisis.

“To a certain extent, I have sympathy with the media, because the media’s looking for what happens next,” says Malanga. “This is not something that’s going to happen next week.”

But the collapse is coming. Current retirees may find their pension check is cut by 10 percent or 50 percent.

“We just don’t have enough money, and the amount of money that we have to put into this is just mountainous,” says Malanga.

Neither party wants to make the tough choices involved. “Both Democrats and Republicans have incentives to short the pension fund,” says DiSalvo. “For Democrats, if we can not put as much in, we can free up more money for greater public spending on public programs that we think are good. If we’re Republicans, we probably want to cut taxes.”

“Ten years from now, they’re gonna have a problem,” says Malanga. “But 10 years from now somebody else is in office!”

Some pension plans are promises that should never have been made, but few politicians will say that. At most, they talk about making small changes to “keep our promises.”

Small changes won’t be enough.

Detroit and several California cities already ran out of money and declared bankruptcy.

“At some point, your debts are so great that you can’t afford to provide basic services to people,” says Malanga.

“Police force, fire protection—all will be on the chopping block,” added DiSalvo.

Instead of making cuts now to avoid crisis later, some politicians increase retirement benefits.

New Jersey passed 13 separate benefit enhancements between 1999 and 2003.

I assume politicians make these unsustainable promises because powerful municipal unions demand them.

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2018-10-31 04:01:00

“Libertarians believe that you should be as conservative or as liberal as you want to be as long as you don’t want to force yourself on others,” says Larry Sharpe, Libertarian candidate for governor of New York.

Sharpe is an unusual Libertarian candidate because he’s doing well in some polls.

One found Sharpe getting 13 percent, and after people heard his campaign pitch, 25 percent. That would put him in second place, ahead of the Republican.

So of course the establishment shuts him out—he and other third-party candidates weren’t allowed in the one gubernatorial debate.

Sharpe wins fans by arguing that it would be good if individuals make their own decisions without government spending constantly getting in the way.

“What we understand as libertarians is at the end of every single law is a guy or gal with a gun who’s going to put you in a cage; if you don’t want to go in that cage, they’re going to shoot you. What that means is you should only use the law when there is loss of life, health, limb, property, or liberty… Not because I don’t like what you’re doing.”

That’s refreshing to hear from a politician.

No new government programs under a Sharpe administration, then?

“No, no, no, no, no, no,” he assures me.

At least one candidate doesn’t want to make government bigger.

New York faces a $4.4 billion deficit. Current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed raising taxes.

Sharpe has other ideas.

“Lease naming rights on our infrastructure,” he says in my latest internet video. “The Triborough Bridge could be called the Staples Bridge, or the Apple Bridge.”

My staff asked some New Yorkers what they thought about leasing naming rights to bridges and tunnels. “Bad idea!” said one woman. “It’s commercializing!” Most people were opposed.

I said that to Sharpe.

“You know what she should do?” he responded. “Start a nonprofit, raise $30 million, she can name it whatever she wants.”

One man said he didn’t “want to rename something after some sort of corporation!”

“Shake your fist and say, ‘This doesn’t sound good,'” replied Sharpe. “You’re going to wind up in a place where the tax burden is insanely high.”

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