Home » Uncategorized » A Little Glasnost Of Our Own

A Little Glasnost Of Our Own

Mainland Chinese women, according to a recent New York Times report, consider “comrade” a weary and outdated form of address …

Mainland Chinese women, according to a recent New York Times report, consider “comrade” a weary and outdated form of address while “miss” conveys a “cosmopolitan air, the elegance of a strapless formal.” A nationwide poll of 7,000 Soviets conducted by Rodina (Motherland) asked among other things what people thought of the Bolsheviks 70 years ago. Attitudes ranged from 36.7 percent who thought they were “honest but embittered and ignorant people”; to 34.7 percent who thought they were “avengers who punished guilty and innocent alike.” Only 3.7 percent saw the Bolsheviks as heroes. What’s a Leftist to do these days?

The crisis that is causing the socialist world in the East to come apart at the seams obscures the quandary faced by capitalism in the West. We are living through a massive worldwide social and economic transformation, the outcome of which cannot be foreseen. The allure of Socialism has always been that it best provides for the moral and material well being of society. Personal incomes may be higher in the U.S., we were repeatedly told by deep thinkers on the Left, but in the Soviet Union everyone has a job and a steadily rising standard of living. John Kenneth Galbraith even wrote in 1984 that the Soviet system was superior to our own “because it makes full productive use of its manpower.” Yet only a year later when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power the Soviet Union experienced its first year of negative real growth. Apparently Galbraith and company never heard of the oft-repeated Soviet joke, “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”

People are not prepared for the dramatic demise of Communism and the vindication of market economics. Those who are paid to explain the world to us such as the editors of Time are left hyperventilating about the federal deficit, the drug crisis, and the S&L fiasco. These are genuine concerns but it is far from clear that the politics of reregulation and congressional micromanagement will do much except make things worse.

If Gorbachev’s resignation from the Cold War is an admission of ideological defeat, it is premature to claim victory, some argue, for the type of market economy supported by Reagan and Thatcher. Harvard’s Robert Reich, for example, tells us that “it’s not American capitalism they want anyway.” Granting the inevitable failure of central planning, he reckons most really want the neo-mercantilist variant practiced by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, where domestic consumption is held down, exports are pushed, and the elites create a “coordinating system of economic change.” The University of Rochester‘s Christopher Lasch argues in Commentary that the idealogical victory “belongs to the ‘mixed economy,’ ” whatever that means.

Oblivious of recent events, Yale historian Paul Kennedy (author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers), speaking for America-in-decline-ists, writes that the “encouragement of a totally laissez-faire mentality [has] prevented any long term industrial planning on the Japanese model.” With state socialism discredited the liberal nomenklatura will now be arguing for a neo-mercantilist variant. It’s time CEOs got out from behind their desks and entered this debate. Precisely what sort of market model economy do we want for ourselves now that the obvious losers have given up? Perhaps we need a little Glasnost of our own.

About J.P. Donlon

J.P. Donlon
J.P. Donlon is Editor Emeritus of Chief Executive magazine.