All Commentary
Thursday, March 1, 1990

East and West


East and West

These are tumultuous times in Eastern Europe. While refugees are flooding across borders, the Western media is making much ado about freedom, capitalism, and democracy. What is being lost in the shuffle is that West differs from East only in degree and not in kind. Western governments are also interventionist and they threaten to grow more so every year.

Freedom, capitalism, and democracy are catchy words, but we must be careful with them. Freedom and capitalism have never been fully attained, so we can speak only of degree. At present, we are better off than Eastern Europe, but the trends are ominous. As a small example, the West German government is offering to subsidize refugee housing. Thus, West Germans will be “free” to pay for their neighbors’ well-being.

Democracy is surely the watchword of the 20th century. However, events around the world have demonstrated that democracy alone can guarantee neither prosperity nor stability. In fact, prosperity and stability seem to be the prerequisites for a workable democracy.

Prosperity and stability arise from the unrestricted, or the least restricted, exchange of goods, services, and ideas. As we watch the events of Eastern Europe unfold with great hope for the future, we must also remember to keep our own house in order. We must not be distracted. It is only our awareness and vigilance that stand between limited and unlimited government.

—Dennis Pekin

San Diego, California

Communism and Racism

It is the Marxist-Leninists who often think like racists with their continued blather about the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and their consequent refusal to confront the individual on his merit. This attitude has resulted in a sort of apartheid in the Soviet Union in which the nomenklatura (largely European, of course) has some of the privileges of a master race: special stores, a special currency, the right to travel, and the use of country houses and restricted vacation resorts.

There is, after all, little difference in labeling a person a black and persecuting him and labeling him a kulak and persecuting him. In both instances there operates a superstitious kind of de-humanization. In the one case the human individual is sacrificed to some ghost called race. In the other he is sacrificed to an equally dubious specter styled class. It was no accident that when W. H. Andrews founded the South African Communist Party in 1921, he ended the party manifesto with the ringing words, “Workers of the world unite and keep South Africa white.”

—Leonard E. Brewster,

University of Zimbabwe

The Corruption of Socialism

When India gained independence in 1947, its government promised to take care of the nation’s people. The state would supply the needs of its citizens without any of them having to plan or take risks. It was all very alluring.

In practice, however, the socialistic Indian government had to make millions of economic decisions. Suddenly, politicians and bureaucrats inherited enormous powers which they had discretion to use or, more appropriately, misuse. Corruption and nepotism started to spread.

Soon, prices were being set for political favors. To get a government job, the figure was close to the annual salary of the position. Bribes to get permits and licenses were decided by competitive bidding. State chief ministers, in spite of the support of the party high command, had to buy votes from their legislators. To win elections and stay in power, politicians needed a lot of money.

In one of the state capitals, a group of merchants paid the chief minister to designate a busy road as a one-way street. Businessmen on the other side entered the bidding war, and the street’s orientation was changed several times, leading to a lot of creative driving.

The ability to collect and pass on bribes was rewarded. Following orders—even if they were in conflict with the laws and values of society—was the best means for advancement. Honest people were viewed as obstacles, and were weeded out or silenced. The rest gave up their values.

Corrupt leaders are not the reason why social-ism fails. They are the products of a socialistic system. Without a fundamental rethinking of the relationship between the individual and the state, India will continue to be a land of great corruption.

—Rayasam V. Prasad

Jonesboro, Georgia

War on Drugs

The government declared “War on Drugs,” but its citizens will have to wage it. How should we citizens fight this war? Let’s get our priorities straight.

We must cut off the tremendous wealth the drug lords are amassing from the artificially high street-prices of illegal drugs. First priority then is to abolish the anti-drug laws that have allowed these dealers to become so financially powerful.

Once anti-drag laws are abolished, drug prices will fall to somewhere near the cost of production, and drug revenues will plummet.

The greatly reduced revenues of the drug lords won’t completely solve the drug problem (remember, nothing will completely). But the entire illegal drug industry will be denied the extra funds it has been using for worldwide expansion.

We American taxpayers will get a double benefit from abolishing anti-drug laws. No longer will we have to face the staggering costs the government tells us will be needed to wage its war on drugs. In addition, the crimes committed by addicts to support their habits would be substantially reduced.

Abolishing anti-drug laws also will release our government from the hopeless task of trying to coordinate our drug policy with foreign countries. This would end the killing of Colombian officials for cooperating with U.S. policy.

If we succeed in repealing our anti-drug laws, cut off underworld excess profits, and save taxpayers the cost of massive enforcement programs, we will have taken an important first step. Then, perhaps, the remaining problem with individual addicts can be dealt with by more traditional means and institutions such as education, medical treatment, and rehabilitation.

—Richard W. Holden

Avon, Connecticut

  • The Foundation for Economic Education, founded 1946, works for a free and prosperous world.