American Elephants

“Why is the World So Dangerous?” by The Elephant's Child

“Herbert  E. Meyer (Herb) served as vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council under President Reagan. He was one of the few people in the 1980’s to perceive that the U.S. and its allies might have turned the corner and were on the way to winning the Cold War.”

You may not have noticed, but the media seldom talks about facts. It’s almost all opinion. Herb Meyer talks facts, and gives you the evidence on which the facts are based.  That original paper: “Why Is The World So Dangerous?” from 1983 has long since been declassified, and is available to be downloaded here. Most of his speeches are different versions of “Why is the World So Dangerous”— because that’s what we need to hear. This one was delivered to the Northwest Business Club on March 9th this year. He gives us his version of history, and explains what we need to know to cope. The address is a little over an hour and worth every minute, so try for some time this weekend. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll think a little differently about the world today. He is a great speaker, funny, charming, and utterly fascinating.

ADDENDUM: If you go to You Tube, there are lots of Herb Meyer’s speeches, many with the same name. I picked this one as one of the most recent. and they are similar because Mr. Meyer has to put you in the right historical frame of mind to grasp the changing nature of the trends. His basic argument does not change, because, well, he’s clearly right, and a little repetition merely reinforces the point.

A Civil War Against the “Liberal Ethos?” Yes. by The Elephant's Child

In 1993 after the USSR had dissolved and the Berlin Wall been pounded into souvenirs, Irving Kristol wrote, “There is no ‘after the Cold War’ for me.” Instead, the defeat of Soviet Communism signified only that “the real cold war has begun,” a multi-front civil war against the “liberal ethos,” which “aims simultaneously at political and social collectivism  on the one hand, and moral anarchy on the other.” Kristol explained that he had come to believe that “rot and decadence was no longer the consequence of liberalism but was the actual agenda of contemporary liberalism.”

The fight against collectivism hasn’t been won, but remains hard-fought and competitive. The end of the Cold War signaled the demise of socialism and central planning as ideals people fought for, or even took seriously. In 1997 Richard Rorty chided his fellow leftists for their vague desire to repudiate and move beyond capitalism, despite failing to figure out “what in the absence of markets, will set prices and regulate distribution. Until the left comes up with clear compelling answers to such basic questions, he said, it should limit its ambitions to “piecemeal reform within the framework of a market economy.”

These are the first two paragraphs of an essay by William Voegeli in The Claremont Review of Books, and well worth pondering. Is that what the Left is all about? Political and social collectivism on the one hand and moral anarchy on the other? It seems to me that they talk collectivism and supposedly dream of collectivism, but in action, or in the real world they want to make other people equal but put themselves in charge of doing so. They want to control, regulate, force, and make the necessary laws, just like Stalin who starved millions of Ukrainians to death in the Holodomor to enforce collective farming.

Moral anarchy — yes.  That’s obvious.

Lady Margaret Thatcher, R.I.P. by The Elephant's Child

The watershed year was 1979, and the battlefield was Britain. After an unprecedented series of strikes, especially in the public sector, dubbed by the media ‘the winter of discontent,’ Margaret Thatcher, the first woman to become leader of a British political party became  Britain’s first woman Prime Minister on 4 May 1979, having led the Conservatives to a 43-seat electoral victory. Mrs. Thatcher, soon dubbed by the Brezhnev regime “the Iron Lady’ (a title she relished), called herself a ‘conviction’ politician, as opposed to a consensus one. She implicitly  repudiated much of Conservative post-war policy, and especially its tacit agreement with the Labour Party that whole areas of British public life, including the welfare state and the nationalized sector, were sacrosanct. Her first task was to curb the legal power of the trade unions which, as we have seen, had been growing steadily since 1945. A previous attempt at reform by the Conservative government in 1971, the comprehensive and ultra-complex Industrial Relations Act, had proved unworkable and had been promptly scrapped by the incoming Labour Cabinet in 1974. Mrs. Thatcher’s government, having learned the lesson, set about the problem on a step-by-step basis, enacting in all five separate acts, over the space of three parliaments, which progressively ended a whole series of special union legal privileges, made many strikes and forms of picketing unlawful, and subjected unions that broke the law to severe financial penalties. Mrs. Thatcher also made it clear that the police, in dealing with ‘mass’, ‘flying’ and ‘secondary’ pickets, which had made it virtually impossible in the 1970s for employers to resist strike demands and so inflicted grievous damage on both the private and public sector would be fully backed by her government. …

The decline of union restrictive practices and of overmanning in many sectors produced a rise in productivity in Britain, which in several years during the decade, was the highest in Europe; and for much of 198os the British economy expanded rapidly: in 1988, for instance, it was still growing at 4 per cent after seven years of continuous expansion, a record unique in the post-war years of continuous expansion, a record unique in the post-war period. But what particularly struck foreigners about the performance of the Thatcher government was its success in reducing the state sector, by the process known as ‘privatization’. This had two aspects. The first was the transfer of nationalized industries, such as Cable & Wireless, British Steel, British Airways, British Telecommunications, British Gas, and the water and the electricity supply and distribution industry into private ownership and management. …Privatization rapidly transformed the loss-makers into  profitable companies.British Steel, for instance, had incurred the largest loss in corporate history, some £500 million, the year before it was privatized; by the end of the 1980s it had the highest productivity rates in the European steel industry and was the most profitable steel company in the world. The turnaround at British Airways was scarcely less spectacular.

The foregoing comes from Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, an essential book.

Then there was the Cold War, and the unlikely triumvirate of the Polish Pope, Britain’s Iron Lady, and the American actor turned President, Ronald Reagan. If you didn’t watch these excerpts from Herb Meyer’s speech, do take the time. If you’re short on time, just watch the middle excerpt.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were essentially soul mates, which doesn’t mean they didn’t have their disagreements, but they were world significant figures in history and will be long remembered. Courage, iron will, and keeping their eyes on the prize. Paul Johnson again:

Thus the year 1989, which the Left throughout the world had planned as a celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution — the beginning of modern radical politics, as it was argued — turned into something quite different: a Year of Revolutions indeed, but of revolutions against the established order of Marxism-Leninism. Not all of them succeeded.

Prime Ministers and Presidents come and go, and some of them are significant and put the world on a different path, and some aren’t and don’t. Lady Margaret Thatcher was one of the significant ones.  Rest in Peace.

ADDENDUM: I quoted historian Paul Johnson regarding Margaret Thatcher. The Wall Street Journal opinion page has featured today, an article from Paul Johnson on “The World-Changing Margaret Thatcher: Not since Catherine the Great has there been a woman of such consequence.” It may be behind a pay wall, but here is a link to the piece, and here is the Journal’s own piece.

Meet Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic. by The Elephant's Child
November 12, 2009, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Environment, History | Tags: , , ,

I have often recommended the videos of the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Knowledge.  Each is about 7 minutes long, presented one each day, for a week. Peter Robinson interviews serious people with serious ideas about current events and history.

This week’s guest is Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic.  He was born in Prague in 1941 during WWII, grew up in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.  After earning a doctorate in economics he pursued a career in academia and at the Czechoslovak State Bank. Immediately after the Velvet Revolution of 1989, Klaus entered politics.  A founder of the Civic Democratic Party, he served 1992 to 1997 as prime minister of the Czech Republic. In 2003 he was elected president, a position to which he was reelected in 2008.

The first segment concerns the events of 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came down.  The second segment is about the parallels to be drawn between a united Europe and the late Warsaw Pact. In the third, Mr. Klaus takes on Al Gore and points out the similarities in ideology between communism and environmentalism. And the Thursday segment is about how he became an advocate for the free market while studying economics under communism.

The previous interview was with Victor Davis Hanson, classical scholar and military historian and Robert Baer, former CIA agent who served in the Middle East, discussing with Peter Robinson the problem of Iraq. It is a stunning conversation.

All of the previous Uncommon Knowledge interviews are available in the NRO archives. I cannot recommend them highly enough.  Try one segment of your choice.  I’ll bet you get hooked!

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