North Korea's Socialist Famines

by Jacob G. Hornberger
Jul. 06, 2011

People living in the socialist paradise of North Korea are suffering another big bout of famine and starvation, so severe in fact that the European Union is sending $14.6 million in emergency food aid for more than 650,000 starving North Koreans.

Here’s what the New York Times says are the causes of North Korea’s chronic food crises: “The food shortages have been caused by years of economic mismanagement and underinvestment, and have been made worse by poor weather and a reduction of food imports from China and South Korea.”

Isn’t that both revealing and laughable? That’s the trouble with statists — they just cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that their beloved welfare state fails to deliver the goods, including something as basic and important as food.

Don’t we see the same thing here in the United States? Don’t the statists tell us that America’s economic woes lie in unfettered free markets, a lack of sufficient regulations, the president’s mismanagement of the economy, and insufficient spending at the malls? Doesn’t their solution revolve entirely around having the government wield more power over economic activity, like in North Korea?

Attention, statists: There is one — and only one — cause of North Korea’s economic woes — socialism. Or, if you prefer, the welfare state. Or the paternalistic society.

What the North Koreans have done is simply take statist economic principles to their logical conclusion, which is why they’re now starving to death.

Consider President Obama. He wants to impose higher taxes on the rich in order to cover the federal government’s massive welfare-warfare spending binge. He figures that if the feds can just tax the rich a bit more, happy days will be here again with respect to federal spending and borrowing.

What North Korea has done is take Obama’s basic position and apply it fully and completely across the board. Rather than just tax the rich, North Korea took everything from the rich and nationalized it. It now prevents people from getting rich by having everyone work for the state at a low salary. Everyone in North Korea is equally poor, which of course is a dream-come-true for statists.

The nationalization of everything in North Korea was actually no different in principle from what statist icon Franklin Roosevelt did with gold owned by Americans. FDR nationalized everyone’s gold, required Americans to turn it in to the government, and made it a felony offense for the rich and everyone else to own gold in the future. That’s what North Korea did with everything.

Once the North Korean government took over everything, there was no more private sector. That’s obviously a problem because the only way that government gets its money is by taxing the private sector or borrowing from it. Once the private sector is gone, people have to rely on government-owned and government-run operations to feed and clothe them.

But we all know that socialist enterprises end up running things into the ground. So, why would should it surprise us that people living in a totally socialized system would be verging on starvation?

Statists would undoubtedly respond, “Yeah, but look at the bright side of socialism. Everyone in North Korea has free education, free health care, free food, and a guaranteed job.”

Whoopdeedoo! The education is provided by the state (i.e., public schooling), which is why North Koreans have been indoctrinated into believing how free they are. And what good is it to have free this and free that if everyone is dying of starvation or illness? And when everyone is forced to work for the government, how is that different from slaves who are forced to live their lives working for the greater good of society, just waiting for death to arrive?

I should also mention that North Korea also has a big warfare state and that officials love to keep the people constantly stirred up with patriotic fervor, militarism, crises, and the constant threat of a foreign attack on their country. Sound familiar?

There is one — and only one — solution to North Korea’s economic woes, and it lies not with the European Union’s socialist transfer of food to North Korea or any other statist program. The solution is libertarianism: a total dismantling of North Korea’s socialist system — discharging all the welfare-warfare state workers into the private sector — privatizing all lands, businesses, and properties within the country — abolishing all restrictions and regulations on economic enterprise — and leaving people free to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth.

Libertarianism is the only that will bring economic prosperity and harmony to North Korea. It’s the only thing that will do the same here in the United States.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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