Robert Knight: Ralphie vs. The Socialist Elect

ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight wrote this article appearing September 28, 2010 on the Washington Times website.

The shrill attacks on Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell tell us a lot about the growing panic among intelligentsia of both parties who favor soft socialism – when they aren’t pushing hard socialism.

They just can’t seem to bring themselves to trust the American people and the free market.

The history of wealth creation and sustained freedom in America is the history of capitalism and the underlying values that support it. Through risk, imagination and hard work, entrepreneurs have brought the highest standard of living in history for the largest number of people.

Communism, which is socialism with a Kalashnikov rifle and garroting wire, creates poverty and architecture that looks like East German post offices: gray, dull and uninspiring.

Capitalism is infinitely creative. A couple of weeks ago, my family and I were returning to Virginia from my nephew’s wedding in the Midwest, and we stopped in Cleveland. It turns out that Ralphie’s house from the movie A Christmas Story is intact and open for tours. It had gotten run-down since the film was made in 1983, but a San Diego-based investor bought it for a song off eBay, fixed it up, and now you can relive Ralphie’s mania for getting a BB gun for Christmas, right down to viewing the leg lamp in the front window.

Two more houses in the neighborhood have been restored as a museum and gift shop, and a guy down the street makes money charging a small fee to park visitors’ cars. This was all done with private capital and risk. And it’s paid off. During peak periods November through December, as many as 1,500 people daily go through Ralphie’s house at $8 each, the tour guide told us. No Cleveland liberal politician would have come up with such a wonderful idea. It’s entrepreneurs who make life interesting and more prosperous.

Despite boatloads of evidence that communism, socialism and liberalism do not work and spread only misery and poverty, our ruling class still believes in government to provide all human wants.

The other day, I was reading about how Oliver Stone was faring with South of the Border, his film lauding Hugo Chavez’s Marxist revolution in the formerly free country of Venezuela. Not so good, as it turns out. Released in June, it has made less than $200,000, which is tip money for Hollywood directors like Mr. Stone.

I guess it doesn’t bother Mr. Stone that Mr. Chavez has jailed many of his nation’s financiers, confiscated more than a dozen banks, shut down 32 radio stations, driven the country’s oldest TV network off the air and arrested the majority owner of the last TV network, Globovision.

Sounds like a great vacation spot to me for someone like Mr. Stone or perhaps Sean Penn or Michael Moore. Mr. Moore, by the way, actually got into hot water for joking in an interview on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show last October that he had drunk a bottle and a half of tequila with Mr. Chavez and had mistaken the Venezualan president’s thuglike foreign minister for a bodyguard.

Mr. Chavez’s government is so sensitive to criticism that it has tried to prevent media from reporting about the country’s soaring crime rate. Murders have gone from fewer than 6,000 homicides in 1999, when Mr. Chavez took over, to more than 16,000 homicides last year in a nation of 28 million people. For perspective, the United States had about the same number of homicides in 2009, but we have 310 million people.

Does communism at least work economically? Let’s look at Venezuela’s coffee industry. Before Mr. Chavez, the country exported java – and a lot of it was mighty good. After a few years of government takeovers and thuggery, Venezuela has to import coffee.

This reminds me of Jamaica back when socialist Michael Manley ran it and instituted crackpot economic schemes. He insisted that everything be “made in Jamaica.” So the country would import stuff and repackage it. We’re talking about everything from shoe polish to corn dogs. I think the worst was the Montego Bay restaurants importing powdered wine and reconstituting it.

Another nation careering toward communism is Argentina, where President Cristina Kirchner in 2008 seized private pension funds to pay for Argentina’s growing debt. Now she’s beginning to muzzle the media the way Salvador Allende began crushing the press in Chile before he was overthrown in a coup on Sept. 11, 1973. Mrs. Kirchner has taken control of the country’s largest newsprint paper mill. If you can’t get paper, you can’t put out the paper.

Our nation’s own smart sets persist in their love of government and hostility to all things private.

“The thing that bothers me about the Tea Party movement is two things,” Bill Clinton said recently on CBS’ Face the Nation. “Number one, according to the profiles and the studies that have been done, it’s being bankrolled by people who want to weaken the government so that there will be even more unaccounted-for private concentration of power, and that’s what got us in the mess we’re in in the first place.”

Maybe it depends on what the definition of “in” is.

Mr. Clinton went on: “And the second thing that bothers me is that it’s hard to know where they stand on these specific issues.”

Come again? The Tea Party movement is the most transparent, direct force in American politics. It wants less government and less spending, period. And although some leaders and certainly the media have de-emphasized the social issues, most Tea Partiers want to restore America’s traditional culture. They know that if marriage and families fail, Big Government will keep growing to pick up the pieces.

If the socialists had their way, Ralphie would be living in a tiny apartment in a government housing project, not next door to the Bumpus family and its noisy hounds. And life would be a lot duller.

2010-09-29T22:46:36+00:00Categories: OPED|Tags: , |