Every marketing professional knows you sell the sizzle. The smell of the bacon. The sound of the onions frying. The dream of a new future. If you’re marketing something that’s worthwhile, the product that the customer gets at the end lives up to the sizzle. If not you get one-star reviews complaining about how reality failed to live up to the hype.

The same applies to political systems and philosophies. Does the proposed political solution produce the promised paradise? or not?

After 100 years of trying one might have thought that socialism and communism and related political concepts such as the command economy would be discredited theories that people would look back at and laugh at. Unfortunately, in universities and other haunts of lefty intellectuals there’s enough denial to make it look like they’re all in Cairo, Egypt so those ideas have yet to fall into well-deserved oblivion.

Aside: talking of the command economy and how that fails – India had one from ~1950 until 1991 nicknamed the permit raj or license raj because you had to have a permit from the government to do anything. The 1991 reforms that ended it are the cause of the either the greatest or second greatest single increase in global prosperity ever (the Chinese reforms under Chairman Deng being the other – you can argue which one was more effective but both lifted a billion people out of grinding poverty). However, since 1991 was quite a long time ago now – anyone aged under 30 has no idea what it was like – some enterprising people have created a website with stories of how life used to be pre-1991. Show it to anyone who likes the idea of state planning

However, while it’s always good to mock the commies, they aren’t the only political system where the rhetoric outdoes the reality. Take the EU. If you listen to the EU cheerleaders you would think that the EU was a perfect model of governance spreading peace and prosperity from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. In fact if you listened to the Remain campaign in the UK a couple of years ago during the Brexit vote that was exactly what you heard along with numerous duck-billed platitudes about the wonders of technocratic governance and transnational institutions. Those of us who have looked at the EU in detail can see the ways these claims fail to meet reality. The Euro has caused enormous pains as countries in very different economic circumstances to Germany have been forced to shoulder a monetary and fiscal regime that has trashed their economies and financial institutions. The EU fails in so many other ways too from the “Common Agricultural Policy” to GDPR via regulations regarding bendy bananas and marmalade. It is pretty much the opposite of Monty Python’s “What have the Romans ever done for us?” sketch. Yes free trade with the other EU members, but the costs in terms of bureaucratic waste, mandatory tariffs on trade with the rest of the world and so on overshadow that benefit significantly. And let us not forget the migration mess caused by combinations of Schengen, Frau Merkel and the “right to reside/work” rules.

Much the same argument can be made for the UN come to think of it except it is even less successful. It sounds great on paper but when you take a look at the reality you see corruption and incompetence everywhere.

However, bearing in mind that the US has just celebrated it’s Independence Day, it seems worthwhile to point out just how far that great nation has strayed from the liberty it was founded for. Take tea for example; while it is true that black tea may be imported without paying duty, other sorts of tea (e.g. Green tea) have duty rates of up to 20% depending on the country of origin and even black teas are required to work with the FDA:

All commercial imports of food products require the filing of Prior Notice with FDA, and foreign manufacturers and/or distributers of food products must register with the FDA before their goods may be admitted.

Once the tea has been imported in most (all?) states it will be subject to sales tax when sold. In other words, one of the causes of the revolution has now been implemented by the successors of the revolutionaries.

And let us not forget the mess of licenses and regulations that surround businesses in the US. As I noted a couple of months ago, I have friends who have tried to set up food trucks or similar (which are less regulated than actual restaurants in theory) and who have given up in the face of arbitrary regulations and I blogged previously about the plight of hairdressers trying to help the homeless. In fact when it comes to charity, it isn’t just hairdressers: between state and federal regulations all sorts of perfectly normal charitable acts such as giving out uneaten food to the needy are banned or made sufficiently difficult that people don’t do it. And let us not forget the way that law enforcement agencies and the justice system are allowed to legally steal people’s possessions via “asset forfeiture”. Needless to say most of the people who suffer from this abuse are poor and thus unable take the time or spend the money to fight for the return of their property. I had little or no sympathy for Black Lives Matter because they seemed to a) be defending habitual criminals and 2) proposing more government as a solution, but some of the underlying causes for those protests were quite legitimate. If you are poor and black you are often one traffic stop away from disaster – not so much because you’ll get shot, but because you’ll be fined for some infraction or other and paying that fine will be ruinous. While it is easy to look down in middle-class smugness and say things like “you should have got the car fixed” to the person who has to juggle between paying the rent/utilities, buying groceries and fixing the vehicle that still runs even though the lights don’t work, the choices are rather harder.

The US was founded on soaring, inspirational rhetoric about liberty. The sordid reality of 2018 is rather less liberal.