Dear David Horowitz:
I just finished reading your book The Politics of Bad Faith, The Radical Assault on America's Future, for the third time since I bought it in September and brought it back to Venezuela with me. I guess the number of times I have read the book gives me away. But, if not, I think the book is dynamite. I was overwhelmed by the letters you wrote to your childhood friend, Carol Pasternak and your "ex-comrade" Ralph Miliband. I cannot imagine a more complete, intellectually thought-out and presented repudiation of socialism. Your book holds its own proud place on my bookshelf with Hayek, von Mises, The Federalist, P.J. O'Rourke, and others.
You and I are about the same age. I guess I am a bit older, since on May Day, 1948, I was already ten years old, not nine. I have no idea what I was up to on May 1, 1948, but I can say with certainty that I was not marching in a parade in downtown McCamey, Texas, chanting "One, two, three, four / We don't want another war." Maybe, if it was a weekend, I was playing baseball or hunting rabbits with the 20-gauge, bolt-action shotgun I had received for Christmas the year I was eight. The distance that separated us then was a lot more than the couple of thousand miles that separates West Texas from New York City. That separation today, though an ocean and continent, is less.
I can't imagine two more different upbringings—yours and mine. I moved with my father, mother, and brother to Venezuela that same year, September, 1948, to live in what were, and are, called oilfield camps—housing built by oil companies to house their employees. These camps included schools, to the eighth grade, country clubs, swimming pools, golf courses, playing fields, and barbed-wire topped fences to keep those who didn't belong out. The fences and everything else remained when, in 1976, the Venezuelan government nationalized the private property of all the oil companies. (The socialist theft—there can be no other word for it—of property, in the name of the People, did not extend to tearing down the fences that separated the People from the "bosses." Only the "bosses," as you point out in your book, changed.)
I returned to the US to attend military high school, then went into the US Army, just like everyone else I knew. After the Army I returned to a Texas cow college. Ungraduated, married, and with a child I returned first to Brazil and later Venezuela to seek my fortune and recapture my youth. Neither successful, by the way. I'm still here and still seeking.
I remain a US citizen, what you, in another incarnation, would have called a second-generation "running dog" of capitalism, an exploiter of Third World masses. I was not immune to those and other radical epithets. But had I not kept seeing Venezuelan young people, many of them as radicalized as you were, on government and oil-company scholarships choosing, and they had the choice, the US for their higher education, not the USSR, I might have been more distressed by them.
I was secretly pleased but apprehensive when Venezuela nationalized (the word is stole) the property of the oil companies; an action that cost me my job I hoped they would make a success of the endeavor. They didn't. Inflation that saw the Bolivar go from four to the dollar to 500, complete annihilation of a growing middle class, and gluttonous socialist politicians and bureaucrats filling their pockets from the public till brought the truth about the sanctity of private property and the rule of law home—and not just in theory. Venezuela herself sees much the same thing, private property and rule of law are being given another chance. The government has recently sold (actually leased) several oil fields back to the same oil companies it stole them from in the first place, and, I might add, at handsome profits.
Yeah, we came up in different worlds. I, without the benefit of an elitist Ivy League education, was never tempted by what I saw as the pie-in-the-sky character of socialism or the radical life. Furthermore, I had no angst about how much I had (damned little, I'll tell you) and how little others less fortunate had. I had seen too many very poor, scarcely educated Venezuelan laborers rise to positions of respect in foreign companies where they were not very esteemed in the first place. I saw, on the day the Venezuelan government collectivized the oil industry, all three major foreign companies, subsidiaries of Exxon, Shell, and Gulf, with Venezuelan presidents. And these guys were not affirmative-action hires either, each fought his way up the corporate ladder just like anybody else.
I too saw poverty, homelessness, hunger, and hate, probably more and worse than anything in New York City, but what I did not see was hopelessness. I am sure it was there; after all, when the Venezuelan people threw off the yoke of left-wing military dictatorship, they took up the saddle of socialism. Now that they have discovered that socialism does not work, real hopelessness is here with a vengeance. It looks like they will opt for left-wing military dictatorship again. It's all they know. Even a stake in the heart, as endured by the Venezuelan people these past twenty plus years, has not been enough to end, in this poor country, the nitwit dream that is socialism.
The raw intellectual power you demonstrate in your book is stunning. That there can be comity between us is staggering, for an oilfield tramp anyway.
Larry R. Duncan
November 30, 1998
Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your observations with me. We are indeed linked despite our disparate backgrounds. It's a shame the obvious is so difficult for so many to grasp. If you're ever in Los Angeles, give me a ring and let's have lunch.