As a young Lieutenant in the early 90’s, my unit was given the opportunity to make a good will visit to Varna, Bulgaria shortly after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. During that visit I remember thinking what a financially poor country it was. Communism didn’t seem to have done that country any favors and certainly hadn’t done much for the living conditions of the average Bulgarian I met.
Our unit returned to Bulgaria about a year and a half later as part of a NATO contingent to conduct military exercises with the Bulgarians. After seeing their equipment, watching their military sputter without junior leadership, and observing the operations of a Soviet style army, I remember asking myself, “why were ever afraid of these guys?” Except for that whole thermonuclear thing, their military itself left much to be desired. Communism didn’t seem to have done it any favors either.
We spent a little more time in Bulgaria on that second trip and got to know some of the soldiers we’d trained with and what life was like for them and other Bulgarians. It was at that point, after seeing how the average Soviet citizen lived and the stories of what life was like under communism, I became convinced of it being a terrible system of government.
It was not the worker’s paradise leftists in this country had made it out to be.
Up to that point in life I hadn’t cared or even concerned myself much with the realm of politics. I knew the arguments made for and against democracy and capitalism. I knew the arguments made for and against communism.
But on those trips to Bulgaria it became clear that the arguments made by the conservative economists and social scientists had been right. After getting the inside view, it was obvious democracy and capitalism allowed all people to have a better life than a socialist and communist system could ever hope to achieve.
It was also clear that the leftist argument for communism, the theoretical workers utopia where everyone was housed, fed, and clothed was, at best, a fantasy. Pigs had a better chance of flying than communism had of providing prosperity for anyone other than the communist elite.
Things aren’t much better now in parts of the former Soviet Union than they were then.
I recently returned from two weeks in Russia where I had the pleasure of getting to know many people from a large city as well as a small village and learning about the challenges of their lives.
Vestiges of capitalism have taken root, creating some wealth, a small middle class, and allowing some to improve their position in life. But the average citizen still lives much poorer than the average American and I’d say the poor among us are still doing better than the average Russian. They also have limits on their individual rights none of us could ever imagine.
I was talking with a friend about what I’d seen in Russia and describing the chance at hope they have with democracy and capitalism. If capitalism and democracy were allowed to flourish, the quality of life would improve with the generated wealth, the middle class could grow, and they would demand political reforms including more individual rights. But there were limits on that hope because it appeared their government was moving back to the left.
I went on to tell him how the Russians had shared the ways the government was starting to crack down on them again. Those who’ve held so much power in the government aren’t very willing to give it up to those who’ve started creating positions of power for themselves through business or popularity among their fellow citizens.
He caught me off guard when he replied that it “sounds just like the Democrats here.” Hmmm……
I couldn’t totally disagree with him because it’s just like the liberals here, but not the Democrats in general. There are after all, moderate and conservative Democrats.
Our far left is still in love with socialism and communism. Many liberal policies and positions are socialist or steps toward socialism. As in Russia, our left has problems with powerful businesses and attacks them directly or through government policies and taxes which target them specifically (Wal-Mart and “big oil” come to mind). Their positions inhibit and retard the growth of free markets.
They would rather tell you what to think than let you figure it out for yourself, and are always working to find ways to infringe upon your freedoms, especially religion and the right to keep and bear arms. Their positions are based upon plays for political power instead of principles. When I looked at it the way my friend had, the list detailing the commonalities of leftists here and there became apparent and extensive, too extensive for the constraints of this column.
But we do have the right to free speech, something that seems to be frowned upon in Russia and which caused me some consternation in writing this column. After all, I wanted the opportunity to go back and didn’t want to be too harsh on their government. Nor did I want to dread my next trip to a sushi bar.