Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Soviet States of America

I had a something else in mind when reading this column by Stephen Hadley in today's NY Times - questioning the motives of the Bush administration's global anti-terrorism empire strategy - until I came across this:

In the fight against Communism, our armed forces deterred the enemy. But it was the superior appeal of human freedom - not bombs and bullets - that ultimately led to democracy's triumph. After all, the cold war's most powerful voices proved to be those who lived under the Communist system and could expose its lies.


Okay, mostly wrong. I'll say about 90 percent wrong. While it's true that the yearning for liberty can inspire people to heroic gestures against their oppressors, the Soviet Union did not so much collapse because of street protests, but because the apparatus of oppression had morally decayed. Soviet troops would no longer obey their masters, having become enormously disillusioned with the disparity between the rhetoric of a great empire, and the reality they saw when they went home to their families. The Soviet experiment as an authoritarian planned economy had run its course. Notwithstanding an incredibly rapid modernization through WWII (at enormous cost to Soviet citizens), by the 1970s, the system began to show it fatal flaws.

As I've repeated elsewhere, the United States can't continue the luxury of believing that, because the Soviet Union was "defeated," that the U.S. system is therefore vindicated. It would be folly for the United States to ignore the failings of its own economic system. Capitalism, yes! "Free" markets, no! Americans, universally, need to acknowledge that regulated markets are healthy markets; that while the government can overreach, the economy is a reflection of the will of the people, with rules of fair play, and rights that belong to the people, not to be trammeled by corporations and elites. Global financial interests don't give a damn about the United States if they can make their money somewhere else. I believe we will witness in this century a continuing trend of money and power becoming more and more concentrated, and draining out of the United States. If we don't finally "get it," the U.S. could go the way of the bad old Soviet Union.

Like those people who lived under the oppressive Soviet state, but saw beyond its hypocrisy, we need to question the actions and intentions of our government - especially now, at this critical juncture in history, because we may not get a second chance to get it right.


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