Many Democrats and so-called progressives now officially consider themselves to be “Democratic Socialists.” There are lots of definitions of Democratic Socialist, but they all, as Frances Fox Piven, a political scientist at the City University of New York and a former Democratic Socialists of America board member, told the news site Vox, “have in common ... either the elimination of the market or its strict containment” — containment achieved through empowering government.
In other words, Democratic Socialists are people who intend to vote into office legislators at both the state and federal level who will eliminate many private property rights and individual freedoms for the supposed greater good. The idea is that the government would redistribute both wealth and power so that all people would be physically taken care of — having plenty of spending money, a place to stay, free college, plenty to eat, adequate medical care, accessible child care, and more — and government would make sure that corporate business interests play second fiddle not only to workers and consumer interests, but to the environment as a whole.
So, briefly, these socialists want to elect legislators to do what the socialists consider good works, counting on the politicians to ignore laws that tell them what they can and cannot do.
But is this a recipe for success?
Let’s use as a test case a recently elected Democratic Socialist, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and one of her popular public plans, the Green New Deal.
Responding to what she sees as the will of the people, Ocasio-Cortez plans to take environmental management into her own hands (by reducing CO2 emissions) and shepherd into being a bill that would require that all energy in the country be supplied by “green” energy sources — mainly solar and wind. Note that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow the federal government to mandate any such thing.
If, however, enough legislators vote her way, ironically, Ocasio-Cortez would destroy the natural environment and impoverish the country and most of the people in it.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look.
Assuming the government uses wind power to electrify the country — since snow cover, rain, clouds, and short winter days mean solar cells aren’t very useful across most of the country — the country would need approximately 2,762,000 2-MW wind turbines (the big ones) to replace conventional electrical generation and to power our new electric vehicles. With each of these turbines needing about 92 acres of land so that the wind flows properly and doesn’t damage the turbines (that’s 92 acres generally devoid of trees, houses, or other structures), the land area required would be enormous!
Engineer Ed Hiserodt did the computations in his article “An Open Letter to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” (March 4 issue): The turbines necessary to power the country would cover New York state, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Florida, North Carolina, and West Virginia. (That’s how much space they would take up, minus buildings, most trees, and other obstructions — hardly most people’s idea of environmentally friendly. Let’s hope birds can figure out how to nest in wind turbines — and not get hacked to death by the spinning blades.)
And we’re not done yet. Because electricity is created at the moment it is needed, and must be made available in the amount that’s needed to avoid damaging transmission systems and causing blackouts, we would need to back up our wind and solar energy for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine (nighttime), which commonly happens in the summer.
Since there is no readily available cost-effective way to store power for power shortages (say if the wind dies for one day), we would need to back up the system with lead batteries. As noted in Hiserodt’s article, such backup “would take something on the order of 3.36 trillion car batteries, which, similar to car batteries, would likely have to be replaced every three to five years. At a cut-rate price of $5 each, the battery backup necessary would still cost the country $16.8 trillion each time the batteries are replaced,” hence bankrupting the country and most everyone in it.
Of course, battery backup for two days would cost twice as much. All this despite the fact that planet Earth isn’t now even up to its 3,000-year average temperature, and China and India are set to add as much CO2 creation in their countries as we get rid of in ours (so it would do no good anyway).
This is a case in point demonstrating why having the entire country ruled by the whims of an elected political elite is always a bad idea — and why decentralized power is ideal. With decentralized power there is often someone there to second-guess unwise ideas and put the brakes on — necessary, because popular political agendas are commonly unwise agendas.
With centralized power, it is usually full steam ahead.
Photo of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: AP Images
This article originally appeared in The New American’s September 2, 2019 special report on socialism. To order the full report, click here. The New American publishes a print magazine twice a month, covering issues such as politics, money, foreign policy, environment, culture, and technology. To subscribe, click here.