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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Memories Of The East - Lessons For Occupy Wall Street Protesters

There is much to be angry about these days. I am angry. Most people I know are angry. I am also fearful. I know that despite the colossal failure of communism, there are still plenty of people who would have it back, this time world wide. In times of hardship, communism and socialism can be an easy sell. People are weary and the buzz words of communism are comforting. They are also complete Bull Doo-Doo. You will have buyer's remorse, only to find that the one who sold you the goods is no longer to be found. There is no going back. Your life becomes a dreary comedy of errors, malfunctions and hollow utterances of allegiance to the party. All of my relatives save my parents' immediate families lived behind the iron curtain. On my mother's side, in Poland and Bulgaria on my father's. We lost all contact with relatives in Poland, however after the end of Soviet rule, I had the opportunity to visit Varna, the birthplace of my Grandmother, and meet some relatives.

During the cold war, I visited the DDR, or what we called East Germany, and traveled through Yugoslavia by bus on my way to Greece. In 1991, 3 years after the turn, I had the chance to go to Poland and Czechoslovakia. In fact, I found myself in the latter country on the day that Vaclav Havel was being sworn into office - which was just a coincidence - my husband and some friends of ours had just decided to zoom over from Nuremburg for the week-end for something to do. The country was still very much in transition - you still had to go to the bank and exchange your real money for an equal amount of fake money which would cause you to dedicate several hours of your trip searching for something to spend it on. Since we were staying for two nights, this was not a problem for us, however, because we could use it for hotels and such. Still, we exchanged only the minimum amount required, because everybody knew that you could get much more on the black market, and we did - about 15 times as much. The real economy of Czechoslovakia was taking place in the country's taxi cabs. If you needed something, especially as a foreigner, the Cabbie was your go-to guy. This is also how we found a hotel in a city overrun with press and foreign dignitaries feting Vaclav Havel.

It was this trip that caused me to lose all sympathy for communism, socialism and big government. The difference between the claims and promises they made and what I now could see in reality hit me like a slap in the face. It made me angry. This was the first time I was able to travel freely in one of these countries - on my visits to East Germany, you were not allowed to leave the Autobahn until you reached Berlin-West. If you did, you would be stopped and likely arrested as a spy. You couldn't see much from the Autobahn, and they made sure everything was kept clean and tidy if it was going to be seen by Westerners.

Driving through the countryside in Czechoslovakia, the damage done by 40 years of Communist rule was there to see plain as day. If you ever have the illusion that Communism is somehow good for the environment, you need to dispel it now. The system is so utterly inefficient that the environment is the first casualty as all efforts are needed just to keep the population from starving. It is a cruel joke.

My first hint that something was amiss in the USA was when I heard reports of Van Jones, who President Obama made our "Green Czar" being a Communist. I was dumbfounded. How could anybody claim to care about the environment and be sympathetic to communism? The environment was raped for 40 years in Eastern bloc countries.

Which brings me to my final point, a clarification of what free markets are all about. The only real claim made by free market economic theory is that this system will produce the most efficient outcome in the distribution of goods and services. Think about that. Efficient. Efficient implies the least cost, the least amount of waste. The best allocation of resources used in such a way as to maximize output.

Free markets are natural. Free markets happen. In the Soviet Union and friends, there were plenty of free markets, only they were called Black Markets. Any time 2 or more people come together for an extended period of time, they will automatically engage in free trade to better their own circumstances. When you stray from a system based on free markets, you are by definition reducing the total output or GDP. Your pie is getting smaller. There is less to go around.

Please remember that.


1 comment: said...

It may be communism or socialism or any other the end of the day common man should be able to put all his five fingers in his mouth.A very intellectual article from you.