The Democratic Party’s lurch to socialism led to a presidential rebuke at the State of the Union on Tuesday night. From Sen. Bernie Sanders’s call for “Medicare-for-all,” to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal of a “Green New Deal,” to Democratic presidential hopefuls’ hankering for stiff tax hikes, prominent members of the Democratic Party seem unwilling to miss any opportunity to advocate for greater government control of the economy.
Yet as Democrats justify grandiose proposals by decrying income inequality, many of us who immigrated to the United States from socialist countries see great irony. After all, unending income equality is what drove us to leave our native lands in the first place.
My family left post-Mao Communist China in the mid-1980s precisely because there was so much equality to go around. As a child, I lived in Guangzhou, the third largest city in China. Everyone in my city was equal in having no running hot water, no modern toilet facilities, no refrigerator, no washer, no dryer, and no color television.
Imagine a world without Whole Foods, Safeway and Walmart, or the plethora of products stocked on their shelves. Imagine no Vitamin Water, no Gatorade, no Starbucks, no Panera Bread, no candy bars and no sea salt potato chips. Now imagine instead being allotted food stamps from the government, indicating how much your family can eat.
There was abundant equality in the dearth of economic opportunities as well. The state told us where to live, where to work, what to buy, and for how much. Worse yet, my fellow citizens who lived in the countryside were even more impoverished.
When the state runs the economy and its citizens’ lives, there will be plenty of equality in scarcity, poverty and hopelessness.
After decades of totalitarian rule and grand socialist experiments, China had a meager per capita GDP of less than $200 in 1980. By comparison, America’s was $12,500 that year.
Around that time, China decided enough misery was enough. It embarked on historic economic reforms and opened up the country to the world. Liberalization introduced market prices, allowed for the return to household farming from collectivization, created Special Economic Zones in coastal areas that attracted foreign investment and promoted exports, exposed state-owned factory production to profit incentives, and opened up the market to private firms and entities.