Ep 33: Ike The Barber

Communism has evolved.

Remember the old Soviet system?  It crashed in 1991.  In place of markets, Soviets used quotas, fashioned by committees.  Never mind what citizens actually wanted—or needed—stuff was chosen for them by bureaucrats, instead.

Of course, when the price system is undermined, disastrous consequences may follow.  For the Soviet system, economic and political revolution was among the outcomes.

Suppose—a few decades ago—you were managing a tractor factory and your bureaucrat uncle sat on a committee, making production decisions you resented.  If you could get him to change course, then your factory’s situation—even your situation—might improve.  Tragically, however, any favorable outcome you might experience, could come at the cost not only of tractor overproduction, but even, also, automobile underproduction.

Bad allocations certainly were the Achilles heel of seven decades of Soviet mismanagement.  But wait; there was even more bad news.

Suppose, to forestall shutdown of your factory, you raid its finances and pay off your relative.  Now, tragically, on top of misallocations, your factory’s problems are exploding more seriously than ever before, to include fraud, corruption, even tyranny.

Is there a way Marxists can save themselves from failings such as these?  Well, actually, Chinese communists have moved beyond where the Soviets were.  Consequently, the Chinese have become much more successful, economically.

Probably you don’t remember any world-class corporate brands associated with the Soviet Union.  That’s not the case for China, however.  Think of Alibaba, or Haier or Lenovo, or a host of others.

Let’s recap the primary difference between these two “flavors” of communism.  Simply put, while both eschew democracy, the Chinese embrace markets.  So long as their system determines politically, what is to be made, then their market economy generally is quite good at determining how it will be distributed and how it will be produced efficiently.

Trade and political tensions aside, does this mean our U.S. system and the Chinese system are moving somewhat closer together?  Perhaps.

Ike, who cuts my hair “just right,” is a “go-to” source to learn about what Christian conservatives may be thinking.  Recently, he weighed in on a crucial question, unleashing what follows.  How did he come by it?  Perhaps, initially, it came down from his pastor, seasoned with ample conversations with parishioners, customers, family members and friends.  No doubt the Internet played a crucial role, also.

Remember, from the Bible, Israel for a time had kings?  Do you remember righteous King David, Ike asks?  Well, perhaps America now needs someone to direct us, not unlike the good King David.

Wow!  Time to discard our democracy…to the dustbin of history?  One wonders.  In the meantime, I’m searching for a less authoritarian, more constitutionally-grounded hair dresser.  Hopefully when I find them, they will also cut hair as brilliantly as Ike!

So, here’s the point.  So much rides, not just on how we are doing today, but upon how succeeding generations will be doing, tomorrow, next year, the following millennia.  To move toward a beneficent future, a myriad of planning and funding decisions must be made, such as what our society shall make; that is, how much our society shall allocate to things such as medical care, higher education or retirement.  Will we fund and build vastly more miles of super highway, for instance, or will America move, instead, toward greater reliance upon public transit?

This is where the economic also becomes the political, and vica versa.  If we go down the pathway Ike is favoring, Chinese-style totalitarianism could be in the offing…could be the way of the future for large decisions effecting coming generations—impacting irreversible choices we will be making for those who follow after us.

What might we offer—what cost might “we the people”—be willing to bear—to forestall such totalitarianism?  For me, it rides, literally, upon words from a bumper sticker favored by many military veterans.

Freedom, the sticker admonishes, really isn’t free.

From Boulder, Colorado, this is Jim Sawyer for Capitalism in Crisis Dot Org.