Monday, December 26, 2011

The Left Doesn't Like Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel, Charter 77 activist and former president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, was a hero of freedom.  So the left doesn't like him.  Let's piggy-back on Ron Radosh's review of two negative lefty anti-Havel screeds.

First of all there's the Guardianista Neil Clark who didn't like the way that Havel dissed the "achievements" of Communist Eastern Europe.
Havel’s anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women’s rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.
It's helpful to have the point made so clearly, because it makes it so easy to debunk.  Let us make it clear.

Democratic capitalism is the system that puts "the economic needs of the majority first."  We know that because wherever democratic capitalism has been tried it has brought the majority up from $3 per day to $100 per day.  In socialist countries the opposite is true.

And let us be clear about the reasons for this.  Under capitalism, millions of people make millions of decisions in which they determine how to better their lives by serving others.  Under socialism, millions of people sit and follow orders while a few politicians and bureaucrats determine what is best for them "in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women's rights" so that "the economic needs of the majority" come first.  But there's a problem with this noble vision.  If the politicians and bureaucrats foul up, as they did time and time again in the socialist countries, and as they do in the government sector in the capitalist countries all the time, well, too bad.  Their intentions were good.

Then there is Geoffrey Robertson at the Daily Beast, writing from the arty left.   He's upset that the neocons have adopted him as one of their own.  To him, Havel was a man of the democratic left, and it's a sacrilege for him to be tarnished with neocon-icity.

That's the other side of the left, the world of fashionable "affect."  Capitalism and Reagan and Thatcher are wrong because they send out the wrong "vibes."  That's a problem that we have in the United States, where the educated class sneers at the unwashed masses in "flyover country" for their unsophisticated culture and their anti-intellectualism.

Too bad.  Vaclav Havel was a man of freedom, and whatever his faults, we salute him.

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