All Commentary
Tuesday, October 1, 1991

Perspective: A Pollyanna World

The collapse of Eastern Europe has highlighted the serious flaws of socialism as a system that vests all power in a small, political elite, and in the name of equality turns a people into an unthinking, un-creative, faceless mass.

It is a system without checks and balances, a system that takes away a people’s voice and turns them into drudges. There is no incentive to succeed, because whether people do their best or their worst, the best and the worst end up with the same reward.

Their job is protected, no one can fire them, so they can show up for work, or they can sit in the back room and play cards—the system will take care of them. Why should the man of ability break his back when he is not appreciated? And so, instead of working, he joins those in the back room in the card game. Nothing gets done. The spectacle of hungry people and the collapse of Russia today is the result of this attitude played out on a national Scale.

Socialism is a system that does not accept the reality of man—the fact that man needs incentives and competition to move forward. Yes, man is greedy, he blooms on praise, he does has best in the competitive arena. Just a sniff of reward brings a glint to his eye. Socialism does not recognize the vanity of man, his weaknesses, his sin. Socialists live in a Pollyanna world of do-gooders, and in trying to transform man into an angel, they have turned him into a shuffling dullard.

All through Europe the world has seen the ugliness of inertia, of a malaise that killed a people’s spirit, destroyed nations, and turned beauty into dross.

—from an editorial in the December 13,1990,

issue of The Tribune, a daily newspaper

published in the Bahamas

Canadian Health Care

There is a queue of heart patients in Vancouver, British Columbia, who are unable to receive medical care. According to B.C. Cardiac Society spokesman Dr. Lawrence Burr, over a dozen candidates for open heart surgery have already died because of the long waiting list. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Burr estimates that 720 people in British Columbia have been accepted as cardiovascular patients, and that 400 of them are in urgent need of surgery within one month. This is a tragedy, and an obvious failure for Canadian socialized medicine.

Because of this medical emergency, British Columbia officials are trying to place 200 of their heart patients in Seattle hospitals. According to Dr. Jim Nell, president of the Seattle Area Hospital Council, “We’ll have no trouble meeting the need.”

Even if the 200 patients are moved across the border to Seattle, this won’t end the long lines in B.C. hospital wards. Stated Dr. Burr, “Reducing the waiting list by 200 . . . would drop the waiting time for the remaining patients to about 11 weeks.” This is an improvement, but in his view six weeks is ideal.

All in all, this isn’t a pretty story for the much vaunted Canadian socialized medical system.

—Walter Block
writing for The Fraser Institute Vancouver, Canada

Social Responsibility

In a free society, there is no more responsible way to work for the benefit and improvement of all than to produce the goods and services others value highly enough to buy in free and open competition. Meeting the market test is the ultimate proof of service to others. The values instilled through voluntary contracts and exchanges in free markets represent the highest order of true social responsibility.

—M. Bruce Johnson,

writing in the June 1991 issue of

Alternatives in Philanthropy

The Nature of Planning

Economic planning or industrial planning is nothing more than the forcible superseding of somebody else’s plan by the powerful elite. For example, I may plan to buy a Honda motorcycle, but the powerful supersede those plans through tariffs and quotas bemuse they have decided a Harley-Davidson is preferable. My daughter might plan to work for the hardware store for $2 an hour;, I agree with it as her father; her mother agrees with it; she agrees with it; and the hardware store owner agrees with it. But the powerful elite directs that the plan be canceled unless she gets $3.80 an hour. That’s economic planning. It is the forcible superseding of somebody else’s plan by the powerful elite.

—Walter Williams, speaking at

Saint Vincent College, February 5,1991

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action reinforces and places a premium on racial consciousness and prejudice. It encourages an attitude of victimization among blacks and other protected groups whom it regards as dependent and—if not inferior—then at least incapable of competing on their own. Moreover, it requires that anti-bias and civil rights progress be denied in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. A deeply dialectical intelligence is required to conclude that affirmative action has not had a corrupt-ing effect on the American political tradition.

—Herman Belz

Equality Transformed

East and West

For a permanent social rejuvenation, the East needs to learn what the West has forgotten—that it isn’t enough to install capitalism as a utilitarian economic stopgap measure. What is needed is for the entire legal agenda of classical liberalism to be enshrined within a culture. The classical liberal concern for the fundamental fights of the individual to life, liberty, and property cannot be treated as a mere expedient; it should not be expected to bail out a society from its past mistakes, only to be sacrificed, once the economy begins to recover, on the altar of the welfare state, with all its wasteful policies in behalf of aspects of society that will not be upgraded without self-discipline, without the discipline imposed by the free market economy and a criminal law system that upholds the principles of individual rights.

—Tibor R. Machan

Auburn University

  • Walter Edward Block is an American economist and anarcho-capitalist theorist who holds the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics at the J. A. Butt School of Business at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.