Patinkin’s First Hand Exposure to Failure of Communism
I don’t usually associate ProJo lifestyle columnist with hefty political writing (that’s not a slam at Patinkin–I generally enjoy his columns–but politics isn’t his usual “beat”), so I was impressed with his Saturday column in which he writes about his first-hand observations on the failures of communism.
Much of the 20th century was a contest between Communism and capitalism. It seemed a valid race, because Russia was the one other superpower, a military giant that beat us into space.
I was stunned when I looked behind the scenes.
Communism was an economic disaster. That’s why it failed.
The theory was for the state to erase the rich-poor gap by guaranteeing jobs for all at equal pay. In countries like Russia, laborers made the same as bosses. That way, instead of working selfishly for personal gain, people would supposedly strive for the common good.
That sounded fine in the time of the czars, when the masses starved while the rich had palaces. It may even sound good today when Wall Street CEOs make $50 million while undermining the economy.
There’s only one problem. Communism doesn’t work, and for a simple reason. It goes against human nature.
Capitalism, on the other hand, recognizes the truth about people. We are selfish. We only will work our hardest — and thereby build up society — if it gets us ahead.
But what about the Communist theory that folks will work harder still for community and state?
I thought I’d find at least some of that. I didn’t.
Read the rest of his column to read what he did find. Patinkin’s experience rings very true with on of my own. In 1992, I spent Christmas in Riga, Latvia while working on an American cargo ship. The Iron Curtain had fallen, but the country was still in the middle of a transition out from under Soviet power. There were still Soviet troops in the streets and Soviet memorials (guarded by the aforementioned troops) and Communist propaganda was still in evidence. These contributed to a lingering resentment among native Latvians. For instance, I witnessed a young woman get harangued by two or three older Latvian ladies and found out it was because she was a “White Russian”, in other words, an interloper.
Yet, there was also optimism in the air, the feeling amongst the native Lativians I talked with (OK, in the “American Bar”!) was that they were ready to embrace freedom and an open economy. And the currency of choice–as Patinkin also described–was the US dollar. I haven’t been back since then, but I’m sure Latvia has experienced the growing pains of capitalism. However, despite the failures and missteps, I’d bet that most Latvians don’t want to go back to the “good old days” of a planned economy where everything is depressingly “equal.”