Filed under: Capitalism, Communism, Economy, Socialism | Tags: Failure of Collectivism, Lessons Not yet Learned, The Fall of Communism
Janet Daley is an American born, British columnist and writer for the Telegraph. She had an important column in the Telegraph yesterday, on free market economics and the private banking system.
But in spite of the official agreement that there is no other way to organize the economic life of a free society than the present one (with a few tweaks), there are an awful lot of people implicitly behaving as if there were. Several political armies seem to be running on the assumption that there is still a viable contest between capitalism and Something Else.
If this were just the hard Left within a few trade unions and a fringe collection of Socialist Workers’ Party headbangers, it would not much matter. But the truth is that a good proportion of the population harbours a vague notion that there exists a whole other way of doing things that is inherently more benign and “fair” – in which nobody is hurt or disadvantaged – available for the choosing, if only politicians had the will or the generosity to embrace it.
She suggests that you try an experiment. Gather a bunch of 18-year-olds, and ask them what world event occurred in 1945. They should ( I hope) be able to tell you how the Second World War ended and some vague idea of its aftermath. Then ask them what historical milestone happened in 1989? Deer in the headlights?
The failure of communism should have been, after all, not just a turning point in geo-political power – the ending of the Cold War and the break-up of the Warsaw Pact – but in modern thinking about the state and its relationship to the economy, about collectivism vs individualism, and about public vs private power. Where was the discussion, the trenchant analysis, or the fundamental debate about how and why the collectivist solutions failed, which should have been so pervasive that it would have percolated down from the educated classes to the bright 18-year-olds? Fascism is so thoroughly (and, of course, rightly) repudiated that even the use of the word as a casual slur is considered slanderous, while communism, which enslaved more people for longer (and also committed mass murder), is regarded with almost sentimental condescension.
Bad guys in the movies have long been Nazis, and in thrillers the KGB, but compared to Nazi concentration camps, the Gulag is practically unknown. Communism committed mass murder at far greater rates than Nazi Germany — something far over 100,000,000 murders, but still seems to be regarded as a more “fair” way of running a government. Communism has been a dismal failure everywhere it has been tried, and socialism is following closely behind.
Now we have the Occupy people wallowing in tents and filth to protest Capitalism, waving their communist signs around — yet the one thing they make clear is that they have no understanding of the free market whatsoever. And these are the people that George Soros is supporting and hoping will become a real revolutionary movement by next summer.
Janet Daley adds:
If the European intellectual elite had not been so compromised by its own broad acceptance of collectivist beliefs, maybe we would have had a genuine, far-reaching re-appraisal of the entire ideological framework. And that might have led to a more honest political dialogue in which everybody might now be talking sensibly about capitalism and how it needs to be managed. It is people – not markets – that are moral or immoral. Communism’s fatal error was in thinking that morality resided in the mechanisms of an economic system rather than in the people who operated them.