Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dwight May Not Have Truly Gotten It....

Could You Do Better Than Eisenhower?

After World War II, Dwight Eisenhower had a meeting with his Russian counterpart Georgy Zhukov, who commanded the Soviet Army. According to Eisenhower, “One evening we had a three-hour conversation. We tried, each to explain to the other just what our systems meant, our two systems meant, to the individual, and I was very hard put to it when he insisted that their system appealed to the idealistic, and we completely to the materialistic. And I had a very tough time trying to defend our position, because he said, ‘You tell a person he can do as he pleases, he can act as he pleases, he can do anything. Everything that is selfish in man you appeal to.’”
For three hours, General Eisenhower, a future president, struggled to defend a free society and its system of voluntary exchange. Could you have done better than he did?
The main problem is that Zhukov’s system has never worked in practice. You can’t redistribute wealth and achieve actual equality. The rich have no incentive to work if their gains are forceably taken by the state; and the poor also have no incentive to work if they are given food and shelter without working for it. So production is almost non-existent. During the 1920s and the 1930s, the Russians forceably took grain from literally millions of peasants and allowed them to starve to death to support their system of redistribution.
Russian leaders at the top of Soviet society enjoyed many privileges, simply because they were willing to do the bidding of their communist dictator, Joseph Stalin. The poor in the Soviet Union stayed poor, unless they could scratch their way to the top of the government bureaucracy. The overall standard of living for the Russian people remained remarkably low. For example, before World War II, many peasants in their rural areas hadn’t used such basics as soap for many years. Such poverty was exposed after the war when refugees described their former lives to news correspondents and historians.
Another point is that in a free society you succeed not by being “selfish” and “materialistic,” as Zhukov suggested, but by satisfying wants. Henry Ford may or may not have been selfish, but he succeeded because he provided a cheap assembly-line car that millions of people wanted to put in their garages. As he worked on his first car, Ford had almost no education and only a menial job, but he had the vision to meet a need for quick transportation; he only became wealthy after he met that need.
Eisenhower stumbled for three hours to defend a free society. Our own free society will not long endure unless we have Americans who have the ability to defend it and the desire to promote it.

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