Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bad Deja vue

Tibor R. Machan

I was born on the eve of World War II and once I could think a bit for myself my life was surrounded in Budapest with the disaster of Soviet style socialism. One standard feature of that system is that everything is run or strictly managed by the government. This was even true with the press--what is today the media. And a constant, relentless offering in the state run newspapers included nasty cartoons depicting rapacious, viscous, ugly, gross capitalists. Every day you opened the papers on the editorial page you found some drawing in which American or Western capitalist were caricatured as the scum of the earth. As if they were child molesters or something truly vile, not the usually hard working financial experts, wealth care professionals these people actually were and still are.

Oh, my critics will immediately bring up Enron and this current bunch of crooks with Bernard Madoff on top of the list, followed by Texan billionaire Allen Stanford and of course Enron and the other firms that have deceived clients and customers, as if finance is the sole sanctuary for crooks in a free country. What about all the quacks in medicine, the dead beat professors in higher education, and, of course, the majority of politicians who live off stolen resources and hand out bailouts as if they were being generous benefactors instead of the worst kind of Robin Hoods! (Robin, by the way, actually stole from the taxman and returned the funds to his victims!)

But never mind. What came to mind for me in the last few days is just how the culture in America is slowly taken on the style of Hungarian, Soviet backed statism. Demonize those in finance, as if their profession were no better than that of hit men or bank robbers! From the President all the way to two bit locals who fawn over him these days as if her the Messiah--and perhaps in comparison to George W. Bush this is somewhat forgivable--there is now in America a generalized disdain for Wall Street and all those associate with it. Not that all such professionals are innocent of wrong doings but compared to the vile stuff pulled by people who are being elected to high office they are pretty much small fry.

What is scandalous is the class warfare mentality which I had thought would only flourish in a country ruled by puppets of the Soviet Union, ruled in all phases of life, including journalism and education where one received nothing but nasty anti-capitalist propaganda. Here in the USA there was to be a different attitude afoot. Although of course all professions have their crooks and malpractice is certainly evident on Wall Street, as much as on Main Street, this clearly prejudicial, indiscriminate derision of the community of financial professionals, just brings to mind for me the stuff with which I was bombarded as a kid by the "communist" regime. (They were, of course, just thugs, no more communist that the Mafia is Christian!)

Sure, we still have a reasonably free press, although who knows for how long, judging by the abuse heaped upon global warming skeptics at universities and by many who work in government. I can still write a column like this one, and even one that expresses grave doubts about global warming or the bailout, although the trend may be toward soon silencing the more influential folks like me. (Just read Patrick J. Michaels' Preface to his and Robert C. Balling, Jr.'s just published book, Climate of Extremes [Cato, 2009].) But yes, Virginia, it can happen here and there are signs it may very well, sufficiently to put lovers of liberty on alert!

Oddly, I may sound like a pessimist and in the short run I am. But there will always be bumps on the road to liberty and today we see many of them, although there are areas were freedom does flourish--women and gays are far freer now than before. But when these bumps do occur, it is the business of loyal friends of liberty to make sure no one forgets that freedom is a good thing even while officialdom is trying to besmirch it.

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