A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Friday, September 17, 2004 :::
Two seemingly urelated events inspired some reflections on how the intellectual classes have absorbed the lessons of the 20th Century. It's quite simple, really: they haven't.

The first event is the local elections in Germany this weekend, as analyzed in this morning's indispensible Wall Street Journal. The German government, bloated after decades of riotous spending, is trying to pare down the size of the benefits it doles out to citizens. In the old East Germany, where unempoyment is at 18%, the "centrist" parties that have governed Germany for the entire post-War period are expected to take a serious licking, with corresponding benefit to more extreme socialist parties on the right and left. People don't want their benefits cut.

The mind jumped to earlier event, the success of former Washington, DC, Mayor Marion Barry in returning to the City Council. (He won the Democratic primary, and the general election is merely an afterthought.) Because he was so influential and so destructive, there is much chattering as to what this might mean. It probably means nothing, as Mr. Barry's way of living seem to have taken its toll. The other, old-style politicians who beat some incumbents cannot do much, as around half of the City Council is white and a majority of the African-American Council members are far from Barry loyalists.

But it is a reminder that Mr. Barry's replacement, the intermittently competent technocrat Anthony Williams, has found only one solution to the city's horrible financial condition: making it easier for rich people to move back in and renovate the many wonderful houses that make this truly the most beautiful city in the United States.In taming the bureaucracy, replacing the horrendous teachers, and fostering some--any-- kind of economic life for the destitute parts of the city, Mr. Williams has been a distinct failure. That is, simply put, because Mr. Barry is a hardline socialist. During his time private enterprise was driven out of the city, jobs were handed out for the votes they would buy, and the average person was, through lack of education, deprived of any ability to live free of the tender clutches of the State.

You are not supposed to point this out in such stark terms, but it is the truth. I have as two dear and valued friends a husband and wife who were leaders of the storied Jazz Section of the old Czechoslovak Musicians' Union. They were, in other words, brave anti-Soviet dissidents. And as the wife drove me home one night, she looked at the wreck of city whizzing past us, and commented that she could not believe this was the capital of the United States. "It looks like our country."

Which only serves to underscore that the 20th Century gave us two very hard lessons: one, the depravity of human beings has no limit, and, two, socialism is the best system developed by the mind of man to keep the average person under the control of vicious elites. What the 20th Century did not teach us, and the 21st Century has not yet taught us, is how to help the poor people who suffer so much from socialism dig their way out. The German President, the former head of the IMF, who holds a largely ceremonial role, evidently made just this point rather bluntly not so long ago, saying that he did not think the Eastern provinces could ever catch up.

That brings us back to where we began, the failure of our intellectual classes to understand all this, much less acknowledge it. A detail in a commentary this morning by WSJ Europe editorial writer Matthew Kaminsky illustrates the point well. When Boris Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, as his successor, no one much blinked. He quotes Sergei Kovalyov, a human-rights activist, as saying, "Imagine if a former Gestapo, SS or Stasi officer won the presidency of Germany." Indeed.

In his testimony on the failure of the pre-war intelligence, the estimable Dr. David Kay commented that we are not good at analyzing what is happening in other societies. He is right, and one has to ask why. Saddam was a self-confessed Stalinist, and our analysts should have held front and center in our minds how shocked we were at the primitive condition of the Soviet economy when we finally got a look at it. But they didn't. Again, why?

Surely one reason is that our chattering classes won't let you say that the Soviet economy was primitive, not even now, any more than they would not when the Soviet Union was intact. When Ronald Reagan died, a commentator dug up quotes from the two most emminent establishment intellectuals for most of the Cold War, John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. They went overboard in extolling the strength of the Soviet economy--in 1982. These two led the chorus of sneers at The Great President's insistence that we could win the Cold War because the Soviet Economy was so weak, and their successors lead the chorus of sneers now against any fair assessments of economic and political systems.

Which means, to tie it all together, we stink at making intelligence assessments of other economies because most of our analysts have been educated by colllege professors who cannot resist the chance to sneer at the entirely accurate statement that socialism is a proven failure.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 10:49 AM



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