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Does Socialism Suck? These Two American Economists Think So

I found it interesting while reading because of the way the authors managed to craft the message after visiting different places with connections to socialism in the past or present.

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Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World, just like many other political economy books, raises discussions because of the opinions and facts the authors lay out, attesting to the socialism facade and how countries like Sweden and China have ‘fake’ socialism.

I found it interesting while reading because of the way the authors managed to craft the message after visiting different places with connections to socialism in the past or present and on the way they sample beers but deliver an economic message.

The book was published in 2019 by two academicians and well-known enthusiasts of free market economics: Benjamin Powell, the Executive Director of the Free Market Institute and Professor of Economics in the Area of Energy Commerce & Business Economics of the Rawls College of Business. 

Mr Powell’s research focuses on the economics of immigration and the economics of sweatshop labour and contributes to scholarly literature in Austrian economics, public choice, and institutional economics. He has published more than 75 scholarly articles and policy studies.

Robert Lawson is director of the Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University and holds the chair of Fullinwider Centennial in Economic Freedom. He previously taught at Auburn University, Capital University, and Shawnee State University.

Lawson is also a founder of the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World annual report, which presents an economic freedom index for over 160 countries. He teaches managerial economics and macro economics and mainly researches on economic freedom,economic growth and public finance. 

So, back to the content of the book, the authors began by travelling to Sweden, one task they did was to debunk the notion that Sweden is ‘socialist’. Only to find out that the Nordic country is indeed a capitalist market economy with very high taxes and very high levels of public spending. They also noticed that Sweden has very expensive beer. 

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Afterwards they focused on Venezuela, so they travelled to the Colombia-Venezuela border in which they witnessed differences in life and how citizens from Venezuela moved to Colombia for better pastures. 

Venezuela, a country socialists love/loved, had a fall in production of rice, corn and coffee and oil output had plunged. Massive nationalization affected the country, there was also hyperinflation. Last thing, they found nice enough beer in Colombia the same can’t be said in Venezuela because guess what? Few months before their arrival the country had completely run out of beer

The next assessment was Cuba. The authors visited Cuba and realized how food was awful there and how state run hotels are in an abysmal situation, why? Because the state sector earns no profit by pleasing customers hence it led to a situation where, ‘no one cares’

The hotel had elevators that were out of order, the door to their room barely opened and the bathroom had mold everywhere. Also, the authors decided to visit Miami’s restaurant that had Cuban food, and it sounded that the place had plenty of options than actual restaurants in Cuba. So it was clear that the problem was not Cuban cuisine. The problem is socialism.

Their next analysis was on North Korea but they failed to visit it so they viewed it from Dandong on the Chinese side of the Yalu River which separates the People’s Republic of China from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 

They noticed lights glimmering on the Chinese side but in North Korea there was total darkness. Also saw peasants farming with draft animals and rudimentary hand tools in North Korea during the day, to their argument all this variation was due to the economic systems. They concluded North Korea’s chapter by saying , “Nowhere on earth is the contrast between socialism and capitalism as black and white or, in this case, black and light as it is here.” Comparing South Korea and North Korea.

The next analysis was on China where they explained the difference between the current mixed economy to the planned economy of Mao’s days. They were also surprised with the tall buildings and skyscrapers that didn’t have the uniform bland gray exteriors that typify socialist architecture. 

They also interviewed a person who lived under Mao’s Great Leap Forward and explained the famine and how they ate edible grass. Also Mc Donald’s, Rolex and Pizza Hut were visible in China, does it look like socialism? Mmh! you have your answer. The chapter focuses on the fake socialism in China.

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There is a specific  chapter explaining the hungover socialism in Russia and Ukraine and how the transition to capitalism was mismanaged.

Then the next stop was in Georgia, where they witnessed a former Soviet Socialist Republic that started liberalization around the mid 2000’s and they highlighted how their privatization process was open and transparent. It managed a good transition contrary to their counterparts Russia and Ukraine

Lastly they ended up in ‘USSA’ which means USA but in a socialist event they attended. It was an annual gathering of American socialists. What they realized is that most so-called socialists in the USA don’t understand socialism either but in fact they are progressives who are pro-environment, free abortion activists, pro-immigration and advocates of social justice. In fact they might have much in common with libertarians than true socialists.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand how socialism has failed or is failing at least on an economic angle with real life evidence. The book is written in an entertaining style but it delivers a great message as the free market economists who love beer explode the myths of doctrinaire socialism.

Lusungu Mubofu is a political analyst interested in political theories, elections and developmental politics especially of the Great Lakes Region of Africa. He’s available and on X as @theutdcode. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please get in touch with our editors at

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