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Human Gullibility

What struck me most about reading Kristian Niemietz’s superb 2019 book, Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies, was not its recounting of socialist failures and horrors. As sad as these are, the existence of, if not all of the details of, these tragedies are largely known to any informed person. What struck me most is the sheer and gargantuan gullibility of many intellectuals in the face of promises by state thugs to remake society using cages, bayonets, and guns. This gullibility is the subject of my latest column for AIER.

Here’s a slice from my essay:

Truly inexplicable, however, are the many statements by intellectuals – quoted throughout Niemietz’s work – who had nothing materially to gain by being conned by socialists’ propaganda. Here, for example, is the celebrated British economist Joan Robinson; she’s writing in 1965 about the North Korean “miracle” following her visit to that nirvana-in-the-making:

The outward signs of a “cult” are very marked – photographs, street names, toddlers in the nursery singing hymns to the beloved leader. But Prime Minister Kim Il Sung seems to function as a messiah rather than a dictator. After the war he went for 15 days to live in a remote village, and emerged with a program for agriculture and a style of work for the Party which would enlist the support of the peasants. He visits every plant and every rural district for “on-the-spot consultation” to clear up their problems. He comes to a hospital to say that the life of doctors and nurses must be devoted to the welfare of their patients, and this thought inspires their work every day. He explains to the workers in the heavy machine plant that their products are the basis of industrialization, and pride renews their zeal.

Robinson was quite certain that the North’s Great Leader was accomplishing wondrous feats. Indeed, so certain was she that, according to her, to prevent massive emigration northward out of South Korea the United States government was taking

great pains … to keep the Southerners in the dark. The demarcation line is manned exclusively by American troops, down to the cleaners, with an empty stretch of territory behind. No Southern eye can be allowed a peep into the North.

These ‘observations,’ please note, are from a scholar who, had she lived a few years longer, would almost certainly have been awarded – justifiably – the Nobel Prize in economics.


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