Tag Archives: capitalism

The Jewish State and Its Detractors

Israel has increasingly come under fire from Europe, the United States, and the Arab world for its behavior in its conflict with the Palestinians.  It has been called an apartheid state, compared to Nazi Germany, and been the target of innumerable boycotts and divestment campaigns. Liberals across the Western World have pilloried it, it has been demonized at gay-pride parades, lambasted by feminists, and criticized by human-rights organizations. However, this anger is misplaced and progressives, rather than attack the Jewish State, should embrace it.

There is no moral equivalence between Israel and its enemies. Israel is a democracy, where each citizen, Arab and Jew alike, chooses their leaders in free and fair elections. The Jewish State has a vibrant free press, which regularly takes on the country’s leaders, and a judiciary that often overrules the government on the most substantive matters. Everyone is entitled to worship as they choose and the holy sites of Jerusalem are open to the adherents of all three Abrahamic faiths. Women are treated as equals and in Tel Aviv there is a sizzling gay night-life. It is blessed with economic prosperity and a dynamic free market, and all of its people enjoy higher living standards than those living in other parts of the Middle East.

Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv.

Now let’s compare Israel to its Muslim neighbors. The only other democracy in the area is Turkey, where everyone is afraid to speak out against the government. Iran is ruled by the oxymoron, known as the Islamic Republic, Saudi Arabia is under the thumb of absolutism, and Syria is governed by a military dictatorship. In Pakistan, freedom of expression is restricted by Internet censors, who recently blocked Facebook for un-Islamic content. Jordan, supposedly ruled by an enlightened monarch, bans Jews from owning property or holding citizenship. In Saudi Arabia, women endure a truly untenable existence; banned from driving, allowed out only under the supervision of a male relative, and forced to hide their faces in a sweaty, black abaya. It is even worse in the Islamic Republic. In Iran, where President Ahmadinejad claimed no gays live,  homosexuals face the death penalty. Most Arab economies are government-controlled and resistant to innovation, and even in Dubai, the financial capital of the Muslim world, abject poverty persists.

A lighthouse shining through the darkness

More succinctly, Israel is a lighthouse of freedom, shining over a dark sea of despair and depredation. Because of this fact, it is hypocritical for progressives to sully the Jewish State’s good name while condoning Arab oppression. Real liberals, which I consider myself to be, should support Israel for the sake of shared values, from an accurate reading of history, and with a good sense of the challenges that it today faces. The struggle of the Palestinians is not one of national liberation, it is one that seeks to destroy an established nation and people, replace light with dark, and supplant hope with hate. The Palestinians are not an oppressed people, they could have had a state long ago. They are rather the most recent manifestation of an enemy that has plagued the Jewish people from time immemorial; the heirs of the Amalekites, Nebuchadnezzar, and Hitler. Indeed, Hamas is not a big leap from Haman. They are the barbarians at the gate and the Visigoths of our time, the arch-foes of civilization and civility. It is in this historical sweep that the conflict must be viewed to be properly understood.

American liberals must seize on the positions of the giants of their past, like Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, both dear friends of the Jewish State. But why should they support Israel over the multitudes of Arabs? Simply “because it is right,” as President Johnson once declared.

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Chavez and “The Wrecking of Venezuela”

Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chavez

Venezuela’s leader, Hugo Chavez, is destroying his country’s economy with his failed socialist policies and the statist mentality that drives them. Chavez set out to remake Venezuela by more equitably distributing its wealth, but he has instead destroyed it and driven away the foreign capital that fuels emerging economies.

The Economist has documented extensively what it has called “the wrecking of Venezuela.” That country, which is blessed with abundant natural resources, has seen its mineral wealth swallowed up by social engineering programs. It has experienced economic stagnation as the rest of Latin America has prospered. It has suffered immensely from Chavez’s war on the private sector, which has targeted everything from supermarkets to golf courses, and damaged the country’s main engine of economic growth. By interfering with the market economy with price controls, Chavez has disrupted the flow of commerce and has created an artificial economy predicated on graft and waste. As described by Mary Anastasia  O’Grady of the  Wall Street Journal, resourceful Venezuelans have found their way around the Chavez economic model, trading with their free Colombian neighbors at the border.

Traders, with their wares, on the Venezuelan-Colombian border.

Nevertheless, the lack of economic freedom has expectedly been accompanied by a crackdown on political freedom. In 2007, term limits on Chavez were removed by a narrow majority in a referendum, and since then the de-facto dictator has embarked on a war against dissenters; throwing opposition channels off the airwaves, prosecuting citizens for speaking their minds out, and targeting what is left of an independent judiciary. With elections coming up soon, it is feared that Chavez may attempt to rig the vote.

While blackouts roll the country and judges rot in jail, Venezuela’s authoritarian government has embarked on a foreign policy that is as belligerent as its domestic policy is stupid. The Chavez regime is funding FARC rebels in Colombia, helping ETA terrorists in Spain, and supplying support to its Iranian and Syrian compadres. The dictator has called the United States the “Great Satan,” attempted to install like-minded leaders in other Latin American countries, and has undermined attempts at regional economic integration under an American aegis.

All these actions are counter-productive for both the people of Venezuela and the citizens of the Americas. If Chavez continues down this path he will lose the next election or run his country into the ground. If not, his behavior will earn him a deadly comeuppance from the US,  which he narrowly avoided in 2002.

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The Tragedy of North Korea

As North Korea continues to defy the international community in its quest for nuclear weapons, its people starve and suffer the worst depredations of communism. All around the North, in China and in the South, economic growth is occurring at break-neck speed and Pyongyang, by reinforcing its failed socialist policies and persisting in its bellicosity toward the world, is missing out on the bonanza. The people under Kim Jong-il’s regime are afflicted with hunger, biting poverty, and hopelessness. They live in ramshackle dwellings with income that goes from hand to mouth. More succinctly, they are serfs, held in bondage to their government, which exploits the fruits of their labor, and through its intransigent nuclear stance leaves them impoverished.  

North Korean woman in her ramshackle village.

 

 However, even in a slave society there are goods to be gotten, money to be  made, and a life to be had. Indeed, in the world’s most closed country, free and private markets — the pillar of a strong economy —  sprung up and flourished until last December when the earnings of North Koreans, and with them the market system, were wiped out by a currency devaluation. The aim of this action was to wipe out the country’s nascent capitalistic elements and unfortunately — by breaking  the intrinsic contract that goes with the use of paper money — it did. In order for North Korea to prosper, these markets have to be nurtured and not butchered, and the communist regime must modify its behavior both internally and externally. 

All it must do is to look  the North’s north and to its southern neighbor to witness a vindication of the free market system and a chilling indictment of the controlled, communist economic model. South Korea, which was poorer than the North in 1950, is now an economic tiger, thanks to its embrace of capitalism. China, with its financial and monetary liberalization program, has awakened a sleeping dragon. The region is awash in cash and confidence. Look at South Korea at night and you will see a blaze of lights, look at the North and you will see everyone equal in darkness, except for the Dear Leader, whose electricity never shuts off. 

Korea at night.

 

While Kim isn’t ailing, the people of North Korea are being left out and literally left in the dark. North Korea and its people cannot afford nuclear weapons, the criticism they bring, and another fifty years of solitude, suffering, and famine.     

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