[...] there once were 8,000 Soviet labor camps spattered like islands across the Russian landscape—the "Gulag archipelago" of which Alexander Solzhenitsyn famously wrote. Each camp housed about 250 prisoners, most serving 10- to 25-year sentences for contrived offenses like "uncooperativeness" or "sabotage." By the time the U.S.S.R. fell, some 30 million individuals had experienced the Gulag personally [...]
The atrocities of Soviet Russia were worse than the gulag. Millions more died as a result of the failed collectivization of Russian agriculture and the famine that ensued. Suffering was the universal condition under Communism. Scarcity its norm.
As Hildreth wandered about Perm-36, the last remaining Gulag forced labor camp, which is now a tourist attraction and memorial, he wondered the same time while beholding the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the former KGB prison in Lithuania, and the wrecked streets of East Timor: "How did this ever seem like the right thing?" Consider this quote from Ayn Rand, "Conservatism: An Obituary," published in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966):
The social system based on and consonant with the altruist morality—with the code of self-sacrifice—is socialism, in all or any of its variants: fascism, Nazism, communism. All of them treat man as a sacrificial animal to be immolated for the benefit of the group, the tribe, the society, the state. Soviet Russia is the ultimate result, the final product, the full, consistent embodiment of the altruist morality in practice; it represents the only way that that morality can ever be practiced.