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The "Good Old Days" of Communism? By: Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson
The Center for Vision and Values | Friday, July 27, 2007


It is said that everything depends on one’s perspective. As one who was a dedicated anticommunist (after a youthful flirtation with socialism) I thought it would be an interesting exercise to make a case positing that the United States was in a better position in the decades before the collapse of communism in the early 1990s than it is today.

How could this be? I can remember seeing Sputnik gliding through the heavens in 1957 and feeling the palpable sense of concern in the adults around me. A couple of years later, when the uncouth Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on the U.N. podium and hollered “we will bury you!” there was no Bart Simpson to tell him to “chill out,” and it was quite clear to me that those communists were nasty characters. That’s when I began to understand why we had those drills in elementary school when we marched out of our classrooms into the hall to curl up in pathetic little balls underneath flimsy little desks. The world was a dangerous place.

Nevertheless, Armageddon was avoided. By the 1970s, we were locked in the stalemate of “MAD”—Mutual Assured Destruction. The Soviet leaders, being atheistic materialists, believed that this mortal life was all they would ever have. The desire for self-preservation curbed their bellicose tendencies. They knew that our military could turn Moscow into a radioactive parking lot overnight, and so they avoided attacking the American homeland, limiting themselves to initiating sundry proxy skirmishes in Third World countries.

Compare the Soviet communists to today's most prominent bad guys. Bin Laden and his fellow death-cultists fanatically believe that God will reward them for being serial violators of the Sixth Commandment, and so they willingly inhabit caves, hovels, and transient tent camps lacking all amenities. They think they have nothing to lose (actually, their souls are at stake) and that delusion makes them more dangerous.

Switching from a military to an economic viewpoint, when the Iron Curtain fell, we saw vividly how communism cripples a society’s economy. It was a tragedy for the millions who lived under communist dictatorships, but in hindsight, it is clear that the United States derived considerable economic benefits from communism's impact.

For example, consider the soaring price of petroleum and other basic commodities today. These higher prices stem from the huge surge in demand that has resulted from formerly communistic and socialistic countries abandoning the policies that held them back for so long. Many such countries have embraced private enterprise and now allow citizens to get rich. Because hundreds of millions of additional people have entered the ranks of the affluent, more people are bidding for all sorts of commodities, and we Americans have to pay higher prices than we would if foreigners were still held back by socialism. Well, at least we won’t have to listen to jealous foreigners and America-bashing liberals at home gripe about the United States consuming 40 percent of the world’s wealth any more. Of course, the reason we used to consume 40 percent of the world’s wealth was because we used to produce 40 percent of the world’s wealth, but now that others have adopted policies that generate prosperity, our slice of the global pie is down to about 21 percent and falling.

So, were the days of communism really “the good old days”? Of course not. The human race still hasn’t outgrown hateful ideologies. The Islamofascists of today are the same ilk as the communists of a generation ago—motivated by hatred, corrupted by the profane ideology that individual lives (even millions of them!) are expendable, and in thrall to the infantile belief that “the good world” is one in which everyone is forced to do what the self-appointed elite wants them to do. The Islamofascist movement will end up on the rubbish heap of history like the communist movement, because such destructive beliefs can ultimately lead only to destruction and ruin. When the Muslim majority realizes that they've been conned by the Islamofascists, and that instead of being slaves of Allah, as they desire, they will merely be the slaves of the alpha male with the sharpest sword and most diabolical cunning, support for the Islamofascism will dry up just as support for communism did.

Yes, we face some serious challenges from the massive adjustments triggered by hundreds of millions of erstwhile poor people becoming prosperous; however, when one considers all the wealth and innovations that will be created by some of these individuals—riches that we will share in, and that never would have existed if these masses had remained impoverished—then today's challenges are accompanied by the prospect of achieving higher standards of living than ever before.

We may look back with nostalgia at “the good old days” of some happy past (either real or imagined), but every era has its challenges and dangers, as well as its promises and potential. It really doesn't matter if communism was a greater threat than Islamofascism is today. What matters is the spirit with which we who are alive today wage the age-old battle of good versus evil. If we have faith that love outlasts hatred, life outshines death, and freedom blesses where tyranny blights, then, just like in the Bible and the TV shows and movies of yesteryear, the good guys will win. Let's make these “the good old days.”


Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is a faculty member, economist, and contributing scholar with the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College.


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