History Made, Or Not Known

Back in my college days I had an interest in Buddhism. I carried around a little book that basically said a clear mind enables a happy and productive life.

I thought Buddhists were supposed to be peaceful. But then comes Burma, now known as Myanmar, where 7,000 Rohingya Muslims have been murdered, untold numbers raped, and 600,000 driven from their burned villages. A few dozen radicalized Rohingya attacked some police outposts and that led to the government declaring all Rohingya as illegal residents of Burma.

So far, those 600,000 refugees have crossed into a welcoming Bangladesh for asylum. The leader of Bangladesh declares them welcome as she remembers her own people’s war of secession from East Pakistan in which two to three million rebels were killed by the Pakistani government. What is compassion? Bangladesh is a flood prone country the size of Iowa with a population of 198 million people.

I was an art student in college and the architecture of Barcelona fascinated me. The architect responsible was Antoni Gaudi. He designed buildings by hanging strings and sketching them, then turning the sketches upside down. Barcelona is part of Catalonia, a region of Spain that has declared independence from Spain. As I write this, Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy has dissolved the Catalan parliament.

To put this in perspective, I just read a story about a man whose grandfather made a business of interviewing Civil War veterans back in the 1930s, both from the North and the South. The one thing that struck him as he related those interviews to his grandson was that not a single veteran, on either side, thought of the war as about slavery, only preservation of the Union. By the way, don’t assume I am pro slavery. That is why I oppose a progressive income tax.

An interesting bit of history that I’ve become reacquainted with is the Carnation Revolution of Portugal. On April 25, 1974 a military coup with popular support took over the government of Portugal. Portugal had three colonies in Africa at the time and guerrillas in each were fighting for independence. It was taking a toll on budgets and military men who saw a world changing around them. Imperialism was on the wane. Why fight for a government and its cronies so they, and only they, can reap the benefits of imperial hegemony? The military leaders who returned to Portugal to challenge their government urged the citizenry to stay off the streets in order to avoid casualties. But thousands joined the soldiers and few shots were fired. The soldiers placed carnations in their rifle barrels, and after a tumultuous rebuilding, Portugal became a country focused on freedom.

Today (as I write this) is the day that Donald Trump, amazingly, changed his mind citing national security. He was the only one with the power to expose all the facts behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The CIA and the FBI got to him. If ever there was an admission of guilt, government agencies’ desire to keep 50 year old information secret is it.

National security? Ha!

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Social Justice?

 

A Lesson From Bastiat and Marx

I was at the “Evening Like it Used to Be” at the theater in Hampton and met an old friend. He mentioned The Alternative and said he disagreed with me; that there needs to be some government. Well heck, did I ever say I think there should be no government?

 

Anyone who has read this column before, knows the long list of activities that I believe should be “… reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That quote comes from The Tenth Amendment. The role of government is at the root of every issue in the public sphere today.

There are a lot of important and interesting stories in the news nowadays. It was a hard choice to go back to basics. But without a firm understanding of what the role of government means, how are we supposed to put these stories in perspective?

A foundation for understanding what the role of government can be are spelled out in two excellent books that should be required of any student before he sets out to impact the world around him. The first is The Law (1850) by Frederic Bastiat. The second is Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto (1848).

A quote from Bastiat’s The Law answers my friend’s concerns so well I see no point in paraphrasing:

“… Every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to it being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”

Bastiat leaves it up to you and me to be productive in service to society. In return, our neighbors do the same thing and an aggregate of all these specialized skills meet society’s demands by way of a free pricing system.

Marx’s collaboration with Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, sees “class struggle” as the path to an equitable society. Individuals don’t exist in that world, only groups, notably the proletariat, workers who are exploited by the other main group, the bourgeoisie, who control the means of production.

The role of government comes in where these two opposite philosophies need to be enforced by something more peaceful than the gang warfare used in the illegal drug trade.

In Bastiat’s example, all law is predicated by the sovereignty of the individual. Marx’s system depends on elimination of the individual as a means to enrich the good of all.

The (ever shrinking) free economy in the United States, based on an expectation of a reward for our efforts, drove us to the luxurious society we enjoy today.

To enforce Marx’s ideal in Ukraine, as an example, private property was abolished. The most successful farmers, called Kulaks, had their farms taken and given to “the people.” Grain in storage and in the fields was confiscated. Gleaning (collection of leftover crops) of fields was even made illegal, often leading to the death penalty. Stalin’s Holodomor resulted in up to 10 million deaths from starvation because the farmers were viewed as exploiters of the collective. Individuals were not important.

 

Let’s not forget that NAZI stands for national socialism and can’t be separated from Soviet, Chinese, and other socialist movements that murdered a total of almost 130 million people in the last 70 years. All this in the quest for social justice.