Free Markets, Free People
As we monitor the news each day and wonder if indeed our country is in decline, and we worry about her future, it’s often helpful to step back a moment and gain a little perspective. This wonderful post from Karol at AlarmingNews gives us that on a day at least I need it. In its entirety (minus a short into):
In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father, his mother, his aunt and many other Jews left the Soviet Union (my mother and I left in 1978), the Soviet propaganda machine began circulating a rumor. It went, roughly: life in America is so terrible that the old people eat cat food.
People didn’t quite get it: they have food specifically made for cats in America? What a country!
A lot of things about America remained beyond their comprehension.
A week after my father arrived in New York, he and a friend were walking around Manhattan in pure wonder. They got to midtown and stood in front of Bloomingdale’s watching well-dressed people come in and out. They discussed it amongst themselves that they would obviously have to show evidence that they had money, or proof of income, or some other paperwork to get inside. Surely this store for the wealthy wouldn’t just let them in. They watched and watched but didn’t see people getting stopped. They walked slowly through the doors and found no one gave them a second look.
There’s a feeling in America today that there isn’t equality until any of us can walk into Bloomingdale’s and buy whatever we want. The two men standing there in 1977 weren’t thinking that it was unfair they couldn’t wear the same clothes as the beautiful people around them, they were just grateful for the opportunity to try. They had left a place where that opportunity simply didn’t exist. You were born poor and you would die poor–everyone would. You could gain influence in your life and that might get you small victories–instead of being assigned to practice your profession in Siberia you might get lucky and get sent to a capital city. Perhaps you, your wife, your child, your parents and other relatives could have your own apartment, one you wouldn’t have to share with another family. Those were your wins.
It’s hard for Americans, even the ones who see America’s greatness and love this country for it, to understand the lack of opportunity that my family left. As Communism retreats into the rear-view mirror of history it’s easy to gloss over the everyday ways that Communism is meant to crush the individual and make everyone equal–equally poor, equally scared, equally hopeless.
If you’ve always lived in a country where companies make food specifically for cats then you’ve known an abundance that my family couldn’t even begin to imagine while they waited to be free. They wanted to say and do whatever they wanted, to live freely, to be allowed to earn as much money as they could, to keep their family safe from murderous ideologies and monster rulers. They just wanted the chance. Success isn’t guaranteed to anyone, and they knew this, but only if you come from a land of opportunity do you ever imagine that it’s even possible.
This year marks 34 years that I’ve lived in America. Even in the toughest times, in its darkest days, the times where we all might feel pessimistic about our collective future, we’re all so blessed to be here. On each July 20th I remember exactly how blessed.
Oh, and by the way, yes there is something to be pointed out here, something I don’t want to see here and am afraid is in process: “…meant to crush the individual and make everyone equal–equally poor, equally scared, equally hopeless.”
That’s what we have to avoid. Equality is about opportunity, not outcome in a free country. In a tyrannical country, its about outcome – and it does indeed “crush” the individual and guarantee a form of equality none of us really want.
I want this place to always be the place that those two men saw in 1977. A place of wonder and freedom. A place where they had the opportunity to change their lives without government somehow smothering it or getting in the way.
We have it so bad here. Income inequality, unfairness, the rich, the 1%. Occupy whatever, etc.
Reality again intrudes (from the Economist) to kick that meme right where it deserves to be kicked:
[T]he OECD … has created the "Better-Life" index. Now in its second year, the index uses 24 variables (which include both hard data and survey data) across 11 sectors to create a measure of welfare for 34 of its member countries, plus Brazil and Russia.
The Economist has grouped these 11 sectors into four broader categories. America excels most in money and jobs, Switzerland in health and education. This year the OECD has adjusted the index for equality to give an estimate for the top and bottom 20% of each country’s population. America scores particularly poorly on this account, with the bottom 20% having an index score some 25% below that of the top 20%.
And a handy chart to go with it:
Yup, life sucks in the US. We need more fairness. We’re just not keeping up. We’re the worst.
Well, except for all the others (save Australia).
Douglas Levene takes a look back at what happened in Cambodia under Communist leader Pol Pot. He makes the point that although some would like to label it “genocide”, it simply doesn’t fit the definition. Cambodia is 95% Khmer and what happened was “Khmer on Khmer” violence. It wasn’t genocide:
Rather, what happened in Cambodia is what happened in the French Revolution, and in Stalin’s purges and mass collectivization campaigns, and in Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, only on a proportionately larger scale. It was mass murder in the name of equality. It wasn’t “genocide”; it was Communist utopianism carried to its logical extreme. The Khmer Rouge, who called themselves Maoists, believed that the most important social and political value was equality and that in order to create their new, classless society in which everyone was equal, it was necessary to exterminate anyone who might be smarter, or better educated, or wealthier, or more talented than anyone else. Thus, they killed the educated, the bourgeoisie, the middle classes, and the rich; movie stars, pop singers, authors, urban residents, and workers for the former government; and anyone who protested — as well as the families of all the above. Towards the end, they also killed cadres who were thought to be a political threat. Whatever their crimes were, the Khmer Rouge do not seem to have been motivated by racial, ethnic, or religious hatred.
The standard leftist cause these days is “equality”. We’re seeing it play out right here in this country today with the demonization of the rich, corporations and other capitalists entities. And while it is easy to attempt to wave away what happened in Cambodia as an extremist example carried out by a splinter Communist group, in fact Stalin’s and Mao’s purges were driven by much the same goal. All were striving for a “communist utopia” and they murdered extensively in its name. Certainly there were other reasons, such as Stalin’s paranoia, but the murder regime had already been established and was functioning when those victims were added to the collective total.
Given that, Levene wonders why the world insists then on claiming “genocide” as the reason for Cambodia’s Killing Fields:
However, I suspect that the most important reason for the usage worldwide is that many people in the international media, international agencies, and international NGOs (not to mention academia) are reluctant to face up to the crimes committed by Communism in the name of equality. To do so might call into question the weight attached by them to equality as the most important social value and undermine the multicultural faith that evil is predominantly the product of inequality, racism, ethnic hatred, or religious fanaticism. That cannot be permitted, so such crimes must be either ignored or mislabeled. And, of course, the remaining Communist regimes in the world are only too happy to cooperate in characterizing the killing fields as the products of irrational paranoia on the part of Pol Pot and his gang rather than the perfectly rational result of the quest for perfect equality.
While there certainly are examples of “evil” driven by “racism, ethnic hatred or religious fanaticism”, few match the scale of the evil perpetrated by Communist regimes. Marx called for it in his “Communist Manifesto”:
‘The violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.’
And they simply carried out his instructions:
‘What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.’
Cambodia unfortunately saw a communist group take Marx at his word:
‘The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.’ … ‘When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.’
The Khmer Rouge attempted to impose these dicta in the quickest and most basic of ways – through murder of all those who represented the hated “bourgeoisie” in an attempt to make society “equal”. As Leven says, they carried out the “perfectly rational” pursuit of Marx’s utopia. A violent overthrow of the existing culture, the murder of those who weren’t politically and ideologically pure or were members of the bourgeoisie class and the abolition of private property in favor of common property in order to equalize society. And, of course, it yielded the horror that became Kampuchea, with its killing fields, mass graves and torture rooms.
While certainly not on the obvious scale of the Khmer Rouge, the left continues the same sort of pursuit here. Equality has become its ideological banner, and it constantly touts it as its cultural goal in the West. Stealth Marxism – not really so stealthy to those who have bothered to look.
Ironically, it is as much a religion to those who believe in it as any featuring a deity. It requires an abiding faith that at its base the Marxist principles are sound and will someday be “properly” implemented despite the numerous examples of the horror and death it has consistently brought. As much as they deride the faith of Christians and their belief in “heaven”, Marxists and Maoists and all the assorted different communists still pursue their “heaven” on earth and as a result continue to fill the mass graves its pursuit requires.
Cambodia was not genocide. Cambodia was just the timeline of Communism (and all the other Marxist “isms”) in other countries speeded up for the convenience of the self-declared proletariat.
All in the name of “equality”.