Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Heaven on Earth is a relevant book to read, especially leading up to the 2020 Presidential elections, as several candidates trumpet the ideas of socialism and a state-run economy. In this book, the author Joshua Muravchik explores the ideas of socialism, traces its history, and explores what went right and what went wrong with socialism.
To begin, it is important to define socialism. While there can be different variants and theories of socialism, let us settle on a simple, even if not all-encompassing, definition: the state (a country, a nation, a national government) tries to create economic parity by redistributing money from some people to other people through tax and spend programs. This, for example, might include taxing people who make above a certain income and giving the money to people who are poorer. The government might also steer people in to certain jobs or away from certain jobs, based off what central planners see as the best way to allocate money.
In this book, the author looks at what socialism is, its early proponents, and what went right or wrong. The overarching theme is that socialism, while well-intentioned, ultimately failed. For example, he looks at the writings of socialist thinkers and concludes that socialism did not create wealth nor abundance, a central theme of the book. Friedrich Engels, Benito Mussolini, and Karl Marx, though perhaps not sharing all the same beliefs, ultimately tried to create a centrally-planned, egalitarian society that failed, which is another theme of the book: we cannot plan an economy to be fair.
Another theme is that these ideas have been tried before and they don't work. Real people of authority have tried to implement socialism, including Mussolini in Italy, Stalin in the U.S.S.R. and Mao Zedong in China. Instead, socialism ultimately leads to failure and may actually make the economic situation worse.