Saturday, January 28

"Stuck on 1968"

Arnold Kling has a PhD in economics from MIT. Recently he wrote a most enlightening piece called "Stuck on 1968" in which he looked at the core liberal beliefs of that year and how well--or poorly--they predicted actual outcomes.

Kling suggests that in 1968 liberals were convinced--beyond any need for further discussion--that:

* Capitalism was a far greater threat to the world than Communism;
* Food production couldn't possibly keep up with population, and by the end of the twentieth century millions would starve to death every year;
* Conservatives stood in the way of progress for minorities;
* The only way to lift people out of poverty was through government programs;
* The best way to help underdeveloped countries was to push huge capital-investment projects, financed by the developed nations.


In 1968 liberals were so totally convinced that these beliefs were true--indeed, that their correctness must be obvious to any sentient being--that they became convinced to a certainty that anyone who was not a liberal must be incorrigibly stupid.

Today--some 38 years later--these old icons of liberal belief remind us of resounding declarations that heavier-than-air machines could never fly. To anyone who came of age after around 1985 it's hard to believe anyone ever believed such nonsense.

In fairness, though, it's easy to forget that in 1968 the Berlin Wall ("what's that?") had been standing for barely 21 years. The Korean war, which divided a nation into a Communist northern and a free southern half--and thus accidentally began a near-perfect controlled experiment on the merits of each system--was concluded just 14 years earlier. And in the Soviet Union in 1968, Communism had reportedly created a worker's paradise that was pulling away from the capitalist-run West in every category--at least according to their propaganda.

And they were very good at propaganda. And building large rockets.

It may also be relevant that in the three years before 1968, American inner-city residents had burned half a dozen large American inner cities. Robert Kennedy--a United States senator and former U.S. Attorney General--had been assassinated, as had Martin Luther King. All these events suggested the American way of life was fatally flawed.

Of course, events since 1968 didn't exactly play out according to these dire predictions: Americans walked on the moon, while the Soviets let the Berlin Wall be dismantled, before disbanding the Soviet Union itself. North Korea's people sank into impoverished, cold starvation while their free relatives to the south--of exactly the same genetic stock--lived in comparative wealth.

Since 1968 we've watched people fleeing communist Cuba by tens of thousands--in rafts. People who had experienced Communism in communist-run VietNam were willing to brave a month at sea for the chance to escape...and did so by the tens of thousands.

The people of communist Romania revolted against the Ceaucesceaus and killed them in the street. The hermit nation of Albania gave Communism the boot. The Baltic states of the former Soviet Union--Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia--flourished.

Perhaps American liberals--famously selective in what they perceive--simply didn't notice these events. Heaven knows they tried their best to ignore them, and to pretend these events were not at all significant to world history.

And to an astonishingly large extent, they succeeded. Does anyone know of any public school that teaches the utter failure of Communism and Socialism? If you know of one, please get in touch.

Another quirk of liberals is their view that other people cannot be trusted to make their own decisions. Liberals often send their own children to private school but believe poor families should not be allowed (by vouchers, for example) to make that same choice. Liberals make their own choices regarding health care but believe others should have their health care decisions made for them by government.

Against the weight of history, American socialists and communists cling steadfastly to their belief that capitalism is evil, businessmen are evil, American soldiers are the equivalent of terrorists, office workers who were killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11 were--in the words of an infamous fake-native-American poseur professor--"little Eichmanns."

Meanwhile when it comes to real terrorists, liberals just get giggly--they men who cut off heads are simply "misunderstood," and are actually the equivalent of our own Minutemen. Well, except maybe for the decapitation thing.

The point is, liberals who'd come of age by 1968 don't seem to have let all the events that have occurred since then modify their worldview very much.

Kling's article is much better, and well worth the read.

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