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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

History lesson

An interesting observation, but one that I think strains the metaphor a little: How we 'won' in Vietnam, but are losing at home.

So I guess we won that war after all. According to the Pew Global Poll, 95% of people in Vietnam agree that most people are better off under capitalism, even if there is inequality.

By contrast, only 70% of Americans believe the same thing. (America is out-performed by such other less developed countries as Nigeria, China, Turkey, Malaysia, the Philippines and India). Maybe, quipped an Internet commenter, the Vietnamese should send us some advisers.

[. . .]


But the Vietnamese view of capitalism is based on their experience, while the American view, sadly, may be based on our own. The Vietnamese have their recent experience with the lies and deprivation that always accompany communism to contrast with the growth and opportunity that a newly opened free market has provided. Many Americans, on the other hand, look at our free market and see that it's not all that free sometimes, and that a lot of what passes for capitalism is really what Jason Mattera calls Crapitalism, a politicized crony-capitalism in which insider connections and government subsidies and compulsion play a bigger role than they should.

Those quote marks are needed around won; it's a nudge-nudge, wink-wink from the author (or at least his editors) to let us know he realizes that we didn't win a damn thing in Vietnam. We threw aways 58,000 lives in a futile, let's-pretend effort to "make the world safe for democracy." Well, it turns out that capitalism does that rather nicely, without a shot being fired. And the Vietnamese learned it the old-fashioned way, the same way everybody else did, by enjoying the benefits a free economy provides. It's further proof of the adage that most revolutions (including our own) arise not from the anguish of the downtrodden masses but from the rising expectations of a growing middle class.

Of course political repression can still frustrate economic liberation, or at least slow it down. But the lesson still is to think first not of war but of ways to encourage greater economic activity. Find ways to get enough Bic Macs into a place so they start demanding a mcDonlad's on every corner or, even better, to out and start building their own. Let economic freedom gradually crowd out the tyrants. China though it could let Hong Kong have a little freedom, now they're having to really crack down, and in the long run they won't win.

Of course how all these lessons might or might not apply to religious fanatics with atomic weapons is a whole other thing.