Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Chapstick for Belarus
Granted my friend Renee would ridicule this personal disclosure but I happily admit it -- I am a proud child of the 80's!! What a decade for -- clothing, music, fraternity life, sports, parties, and the Reagan military build up :) I witnessed the Cold War first hand via a 15 day tour of Moscow, Leningrad (now "St. Petersburg"), and Puskin where I attended underground rock concerts, drank the only safe "water" (vodka) in the CCCP/USSR at the "hard currency bars", and actively traded on the black market.
When the Soviet citizens asked me to trade my boxer shorts on the black market in exchange for the military paraphernalia they offered I was convinced that the Cold War was over which I confidently stated upon my return to university classes in January 1987. Of course in 1991 Boris Yeltsin climbed on a tank and the CCCP/USSR was officially dead to be replaced by Russia and the former Soviet republics. One of these former satellites, Belarus, unfortunately did not hear the news reports in 1991 it appears. I would speculate that the country's one TV was in need of a new vacuum tube thus they did not hear CNN's report because today President Alexander Lukashenko runs Belarus based on the Soviet totalitarian model including his continued use of the KGB.
Today, fourteen years after the collapse of the Soviet/central government planning world view, Belarus remains as "Europe's last dictatorship" (Tom Hundley, International Herald Tribune, October 3, 2005) now facing the prospect of another people power revolution ( think -- Georgia and Ukraine) with the political opposition group in Belarus known as "Zubr" named for the bison which roam the nation's forests.
The clear lesson from 1991 which Belarus fails to recognize (which China has clearly recognized) is that market decisions by consumers provide the best economic performance results versus the old Soviet model of -- "this year Factory 435 will produce shoes and next year you will produce watches in your role within the glorious workers' revolution, blah, blah, blah..........."
From history we know that Emperor Napoleon of France, http://www.geographia.com/Russia/rushis05.htm, was unsuccessful in his quest to conquer Russia as the Russian winter killed most of his army as they retreated to France -- no doubt many of them died in present day Belarus. But let me offer another, modern-day Napoleon, a product of the free market and individual innovation NOT government central planning -- of course I am speaking of "Napoleon Dynamite", http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0374900/, the hit film created in 2004 for a reported US$400,000. At present this film has grossed nearly US$50 million at the box office and another US$104 million in DVD sales plus there are licensing agreements being finalized for related products including -- bed linens, backpacks, tote bags, Velcro wallets, calendars, lamps, lunch boxes, flip flops, and playing cards.
Now someone please show me a government program which has generated similar economic gains to this film created by entrepreneurs utilizing their basic right of free speech/expression -- a right Belarussians don't enjoy today. When I think of government-led economic development (whether in the former Soviet Union or in state government departments in the USA today) and government's desire to "pick winners and losers (aka "national champions" in France)" in the economy the product which immediately comes to mind is the environmental hazard and much-maligned automobile designed by the former East German government - the "Trabant" which I personally saw on a trip to Budapest, Hungary. Believe me Mother Nature is cleaner today (http://www.abetterearth.org/subcategory.php/178.html) because of the environmental activist who put the Soviet Union in its much-deserved grave -- President Ronald Reagan (in partnership with Lady Thatcher and Pope John Paul II but that is a story for a future posting).
May the Zubr succeed in their quest for freedom in Belarus,