Wednesday, January 10, 2007

That was fast...

Moments after we have laid socialism-slayer Milton Friedman to rest, this durable old economic philosophy popped up twice in a weird coincidence.
  1. Hugo Chavez, the wildly popular leader of Venezuela, executed an even harder left turn and started nationalizing key sectors of his economy. His example is rippling across South America as a repudiation of capitalists' naive presumption that showing poor people data tables and charts about how they are better off than they would be even with a tiny few becoming obscenely rich. Look, I agree the arithmetic is correct, but the marketing is not working. A vastly scaled down version of this revolt on inequality could be building here.
  2. Even weirder, while in Washington DC yesterday I was walking by Union Station about 5:30 PM. when I heard a choir of really good voices singing in a plaza. This choir director could not resist and I stood transfixed for several minutes as a group of about 25 young people made some gorgeous music in open air - always a tough venue. The punch line: They were part of the Worldwide LaRouche Youth Movement. [I thought that dude was in jail, actually] An earnest young disciple approached me with the inevitable literature, and "engaged me in dialogue" I listened patiently - I had accepted the free concert - and tried to leave by telling him I was simply a choir director who loved good choral music, and I complimented (sincerely) the singers. He began to walk with me explaining how a choir was a good way to show the power of their socialist ideas. I stopped and looked him in the eye and said, "Look - a good socialist choir is a wonderful thing. The real trick is to form good libertarian choir." He turned and left me.
If socialism is making a modest comeback, one reason could be the immodesty of those who have lifted the world economy to unparalleled prosperity. There is considerable debate today about whether income inequality is increasing, but general agreement that it exists and is widely publicized to promote consumer spending (Here's what rich people buy!). There may be nothing academically wrong with wild disparity of incomes and assets, but jeez - it sure irritates the have-nots.

Wait - don't we count Venezuela as a "safe" place to source oil?

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