Or Did We Lose the Cold War?
By Eric Wright
It was one of those late evening flights and the plane was almost empty, except for about 40 road weary business commuters, myself included. Usually, I cocoon in a book or work on something that has a pressing deadline, but in this case I got into a conversation I will never forget.
The young man a few seats over was far more enthusiastic about engaging than I. Chit-chatting with total strangers isn’t my thing, and he was downing those little airline mini bottles like either something really good or really bad was awaiting at his destination.
But he was a bright guy and I think the alcohol loosened any reluctance he had to talk, and soon his jovial personality drew me out. Our discussion ranged from the nature of life, to the nature of the Dolphin’s offensive roster and eventually to recent history. It was early in the senior Bush’s administration, maybe 1990, and everyone was breathing a collective sigh of relief following the fall of the Soviet empire, almost like a bucket of water had again melted the Wicked Witch of the West.
What, We Lost?
What I remember so vividly was him saying, “We only think we won the Cold War, but essentially we lost it.” At the time I thought, “Is this guy a nut or has he had one too many?”
Then he proceeded to rehearse the basic premise of Marxist philosophy and said, “We may have won the economic contest with rigid collectivism, but the battle was more philosophical and was rooted in a foundational world view, rather than being just economic or military.”
He supported his theory that both communism and its seemingly benign cousin socialism were based on centralized or federalized control of every aspect of the culture and the economy, from education to healthcare, with a collective verse and individual emphasis on achievement, rewards and responsibilities, where even raising children isn’t the role and responsibility of parents, but the collective village.
To sum up his argument, he said it was a paradigm based on relativism and rooted in a Darwinist “survival of the fittest” explanation of life. Therefore, meaning is imposed on existence, instead of being “self-evident,” because it is endowed by the Creator. “No” he said, “We lost the philosophical battle.”
Where’s the Evil Empire Now?
Of course, the villain that the proponents of this view relentlessly crusaded against was the antithetical position of free market capitalism and theism, particularly historic Christianity. There was a reason Eisenhower added “One nation under God…” to the pledge in the 1950’s as he saw communism proliferating around the world.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized this guy was making a very good point.
We rarely hear about the “wonders of capitalism,” in popular discourse. In fact, saying you’re a “capitalist” has to be followed with a host of disclaimers like the fast talk at the end of some radio ads. To many, capitalism, not Marxism, spawned the evil empire, especially to those who never really worked it but have the luxury of benefitting from it, almost like the reality distortion field existing around some trust fund kids.
This month our magazine focuses on “Capital,” as the circulatory system of a vibrant economy, but it is really capitalism we’re celebrating. I am old enough to remember what happened in Japan, Korea and now China when free markets were loosed. These societies flourished and poverty there is in a steady decline. After World War II India looked to the Soviet Union as the economic model of the future and for 50 years they languished in poverty. When they finally threw off those shackles, they became an economic juggernaut, where now instead of having to export their intellectual resources, because there were no opportunities, they are staying home and creating opportunities.