J. L. Menchen said, “The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians.” I don’t think so. Sure, communist butchers have killed and subjugated hundreds of millions. But the trouble with communism is that it’s a lousy system, not just a system that needs better people to run it or more people to believe in it.

We’re sometimes told that the Soviets “didn’t do it right,” and that’s why it was lousy in the U.S.S.R. We can read about the vision of Karl Marx in which the transitional phase of communism melts away with the state and ushers in perfected society. We can read arguments about whether Marx, who was pretty smart, was good or evil. We can read opinions expressing the idea that communism is destructive and miserable in reality but “good on paper.” Or we can read that it is a great idea but doesn’t work because people are so greedy.

But communism was lousy in the Soviet Union and its satellites and is lousy in China and North Korea and Cuba and Vietnam and Laos and anywhere else it takes hold and terrorizes populations and threatens the world. It would be easy to back that statement up with a bunch of facts and stats, stories and and disturbing photos. But we know where people don’t like to live, where there are walls or guards to keep people in. And we know where people do want to live. For all the destroyed lives and civilizations in the wake of communism, nobody ever gets anywhere closer to that pure, stateless communism for which millions live in miserable and impoverished “transition.”

Communism is a lousy system because it doesn’t respect the God-given or natural rights of human beings. It doesn’t allow citizens to live according to their religious and moral values and in according to their own consciences. It doesn’t recognize any power or entity greater than state. It doesn’t allow citizens to think freely. It doesn’t create a country where citizens can openly and without fear entertain new ideas, even ideas not expressly approved by the government.

It’s lousy because it doesn’t allow individuals to create wealth and to dream and have the opportunity to make those dreams come to pass. It’s lousy because it doesn’t allow individuals much opportunity to improve their lives through work or enterprise or ingenuity. It doesn’t give parents and grandparents much opportunity to create a better future for their own children and grandchildren and future generations.

It’s lousy because it denies laws of economics and realities of human nature as real as the laws of physics. It’s lousy because it absolutely cannot provide what it promises no matter how gifted an elite runs it and how hard they try. It assigns to an elite an impossible task. Communism attempts to overturn by decree the law of supply and demand. It denies some of the most basic human desires and characteristics, the need to be an individual, the rational tendency to act in one’s self-interest, the desire for freedom, and the yearning for God.

Perhaps the biggest trouble with communism was expressed in the Soviet Constitution, Article 6. It identified the Communist Party as the “leading and guiding force of the Soviet society and nucleus of its political system, of all state organizations and public organizations,” existing “for the people” and to serve the people. Article 6 stated, “The Communist Party, armed with Marxism-Leninism, determines the general perspectives of the development of society and the course of the home and foreign policy of the USSR, directs the great constructive work of the Soviet people, and imparts a planned, systematic and theoretically substantiated character to their struggle for the victory of communism.” In other words, the Party was large and in charge. Period. For all the talk of “the people,” the people struggled in the service of victory for communism.

Power is dangerous in the hands of mere humans. So all governments of humankind are potentially dangerous and should be recognized as such. Any political party placed large and in charge of a country, unaccountable, is dangerous. That’s the big trouble with communism. It’s not a little flaw or something that can be fixed or overcome. It’s not something that someone more virtuous will get right in our imperfect world. Communism is inherently lousy. Thank goodness there’s a better way.