There's a reason that Amazon gives plenty of space for customer reviews on its site: People naturally want to make sure a product is good before they buy it.
Well, if that's the case when it comes to books, stereos, refrigerators and thousands of other items, shouldn't it also apply to something as important as your form of government?
I can't help but think about that whenever I read about some poll indicating that a large number of Americans prefer socialism to capitalism. To me, it begs the question: Do they really know the "product" they're touting, or have they been fooled by some vapid slogans?
Take Venezuela. I'm curious, for example, how many of the pro-socialism crowd are familiar with what's happened to that oil-rich nation over the last two decades.
Looking at it today - plagued by empty store shelves, chronic hyperinflation, widespread looting, and severe shortages of food and medicine - you'd never know that before 1999, it was one of the wealthiest countries in South America. When The Heritage Foundation published its first edition of the Index of Economic Freedom in 1995, Venezuela scored two points above the worldwide average.
So what happened? According to The Atlantic:
"The experiment with '21st-century socialism' as introduced by the late President Hugo Chavez, a self-described champion of the poor who vowed to distribute the country's wealth among the masses, and instead steered the nation toward the catastrophe the world is witnessing under his handpicked successor (Nicolas) Maduro, has been a cruel failure."
That's putting it mildly. And the track record elsewhere isn't much better. From Albania and Angola to Vietnam and Yemen, socialism has produced little but violence, starvation and misery.
Some defenders point to Norway and other Scandinavian countries that enjoy a degree of prosperity well above the ones already mentioned. But as columnist David Harsanyi points out, you can hardly call countries that are "operating generous welfare states programs propped up by underlying vibrant capitalism" poster children for socialism.
The fact remains that wherever unalloyed socialism has been tried, the result has been disastrous for the citizens it's inflicted on. Take any economy run by an all-powerful state, and it's only a question of when, not if, it winds up being run completely into the ground.
Take another example much closer to home: Cuba. The vibrant, modern island nation that existed prior to 1959 stands in stark contrast to the Cuba of 2018, a brutally repressive regime where struggling workers who don't even earn a living wage can be thrown in jail for saying something that offends the ruling elite.
Contrast that with the experience of those who live in capitalist societies, where rights are protected, life spans are longer, and people enjoy a higher standard of living.
The Index of Economic Freedom, which has graded every country in the world annually for nearly 25 years, bears this out. Again and again, it finds per capita incomes are much higher in nations that are more economically free.
Economies rated "free" or "mostly free" in the latest edition enjoy incomes more than double the average levels in other countries, and more than five times higher than the incomes of people living in "repressed" economies such as Venezuela and Cuba.
The evidence is hard to refute. Consider what Bono, humanitarian and rock singer, says he's learned in the course of spearheading numerous anti-poverty initiatives over the years:
"As a person who's spent nearly 30 years fighting to get people out of poverty, it was somewhat humbling to realize that commerce played a bigger job than development. I'd say that's my biggest transformation in 10 years: understanding the power of commerce to make or break lives."
By "power of commerce," of course, he means capitalism.
But should we be surprised that it has socialism beat when it comes to generating human health and wealth? When people are free to make their own decisions and follow their dreams, it's only natural that their everyday life is better than that experienced by people under the thumb of a dominating, all-controlling state.
If you doubt that, remember the many people who have risked their lives and even died trying to escape Cuba. They flee to America. It's never the other way around.
That's not to say life in a capitalist society is some sort of utopia. People everywhere have problems. But even if you can't be guaranteed a perfect life, ask yourself: Who should make the decisions in your life? You, or the government?
This piece originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune