The True Nature of Socialism

My wife grew up in the Soviet Union, and this is precisely how she describes it: The Choice Between Capitalism and Socialism. Take note of the part in bold type:

A few days ago, I happened to meet a doctor in our area who has an unusual background. He emigrated to America from Russia, and I heard from one of the nurses in his practice that he had to go back through medical school and earn a new degree in order to get his medical license in the United States. This, I thought, is a man who has uprooted his life to an extraordinary degree, all so that he can live and work in America. So when I had the opportunity to talk to him, I asked him why he did it.

He is a very quiet-spoken and reserved man, so much so that I felt sheepish asking him a personal question, and I did not expect much in return. Instead, I got an answer more thorough and profound than I could have guessed at.

“I came here,” he said, “because of my son.” His son is ten years old, and he moved to the US ten years ago. I thought perhaps this meant that his son had some rare medical condition that could be better treated in America. But that wasn’t it. He came here, he said, because “they won’t change”-by which he meant that Russia’s culture had not fundamentally changed after the collapse of the Soviet system. I asked if he left because of Vladimir Putin, who has spearheaded the effort to re-impose an authoritarian political system in Russia. But he replied, “Putin is nothing. It is the system.”

You can get by in the system and have a decent life, he explained, if you know the rules-that is, if you know which wheels to grease and which authorities to please, if you know the right things to say and the things you aren’t allowed to say. “I grew up in the system, so I learned the rules,” he continued. “But you ask yourself whether you want your child to learn the rules.” That is a profound and courageous observation. It is not just the material effect of living under a corrupt, bureaucratic, tyrannical system that he feared; it was the soul-destroying psychological effect of having to learn and internalize the rules of that system. [Emphasis added.]

And, unfortunately, she says that America is feeling more and more familiar.

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