On the recent politics of the workers’ paradises in North Korea and Cuba, from Jonah Goldberg in The Tribe of Liberty:
Freedom makes a lot of things harder. It is more difficult to raise children of good character in a society that tolerates and often celebrates bad character. It is often harder to build big and important things in a society where everybody gets a vote. That’s why so many people of a “pragmatic” bent have always looked longingly at evil countries where the people are less of an impediment to “getting things done.” Fighting climate change, if that’s your thing, is much tougher when everyone has private property rights. Fighting a war is more difficult when dissenters get to have their say. Maintaining a guild and the wages that go with it is harder when you have free competition.
The true lover of liberty acknowledges these things. He doesn’t say freedom is always more efficient or always yields superior outcomes (though it usually does). The true lover of liberty acknowledges that freedom has costs — cultural costs, economic costs, political costs, national-security costs. And then, do you know what he says?
“I don’t care.”
Well, sometimes I care. At home, when arguing with other Americans, there’s a lot of room to debate how liberty should be used and how it can be abused. A government grounded in protecting liberty depends on self-government and self-government requires restraint. Remember the line from “America, the Beautiful”?
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
Just because you are free to say something is not a sufficient reason for saying it. Just because you can do what you want doesn’t mean doing what you want is a good idea. We can argue about such things. But such arguments are a privilege – and an obligation — of free people. We get to decide where the public good takes precedence over the private. We get to debate the trade-offs between order and liberty, virtue and freedom. Us. Not them.
This is particularly true when the “them” in question is a crapulent pajama-wearing psychopathic dictator who starves his own people while cramming caviar down his gullet. When the Pillsbury Doughboy from Hell tries to tell us what kind of movies we can make or see, the only honorable response is “Go f**k yourself.”
Goldberg also points out that this is the kind of moment that great politicians ought to seize because there is no constituency that would not support him. Alas…
Heh heh – shout out to progressive favorite President Wilson for his taste in movies:
What form that bird-flipping would take is open to debate. I’d like it if the TV networks all ran The Interview at the same time. I’d like Barack Obama to call the leaders of the House and Senate to a private screening of The Interview at the White House, just like Woodrow Wilson did with Birth of a Nation. Let’s play the thing on the Jumbotron in Times Square. Simply put, I want America to have some balls about this kind of thing. Instead we’re paralyzed with hoden angst.
(Quick explanation: I had a friend in college who told me about his high-school football or track coach, I can’t remember which. The coach was from Germany. He used to berate the boys about their fear of getting hit in their giggleberries. He would shout at them, “You must get over your hoden angst.” “Hoden” in German means “testicles.”
A couple great quips about Cuba thrown in for good measure:
“Socialism only works in two places,” Ronald Reagan famously said. “Heaven where they don’t need it and hell where they already have it.”
Politically, he’s like a Black Friday shopaholic throwing any legacy items in his cart he can put his hands on. Amnesty for illegal immigrants . . . end Cuba’s isolation . . . George Foreman Grill . . . whatever will fit in the cart will do.
… plus a couple of serious points:
Yes, part of my reluctance stems from spite. I hate Fidel Castro and all he represents. Doing this the day after Castro went down for the dirt nap would have been emotionally more acceptable to me. Giving the Castro the sense that he won bothers me. But more important than even my own sense of spite, waiting until the Castros moved on would have struck a terrible blow to Castroism. And that actually matters, not just in Cuba but beyond. Castro is loved by dictators and the like because he’s a symbol of defiance to the U.S. By blinking first, we not only lend power to the cult of Castro, we send the signal that we can be waited out. No doubt Iran is finding some encouragement here…
You do know that Castro is a fascist, right? Well, maybe not explicitly in his doctrine. But in nearly everything else, he fits the bill. Militarist? The guy uses the army to rule the country and has worn the same dingy army uniform for half a century. Nationalist? Check. Cult of Personality? Double check! Rhetorical defiance of the “international system”? That’s his bag, baby (just as it was Mussolini’s). It’s worth remembering that Castro loved Francisco Franco. When Franco died, Castro declared a national day of mourning (actually, it might have been three days of mourning). Whenever leftists try to tell me what a fascist dictator looks like, I always like to ask, “How does that differ from Castro?” It’s rare that I get a good answer.