He ain't heavy, he's my brother.
A recent article in the New York Times, by Bret Stephens a columnist, offered an appraisal of the collapse of the Venezuelan economic model. The article has merit. Venezuela is indeed in an economic mess. The peculiar brand of “socialism,” that a dictator like Hugo Chavez introduced, clearly does not work there, nor will it ever work in any country. Cuba, and other “socialist paradises,” tinker on the edge of the same economic abyss.
Free market capitalism, with proper government regulation, is indeed the reason for the financial success of America and Western Europe. China, a communist bastion that it still remains, recognizes this and inches ever more closely to our economic model, though the Lord forbid that they will ever admit to it.
The terms “socialism,” “capitalism” and “communism” are all free-floating terms that have meant different things at different times throughout the last hundred years. It would amaze most Americans to know that the system that we now live under, here in America, would have been branded not only socialism but radical revolutionary hogwash, by our ancestors in the mid-nineteenth century. Forty-hour work weeks, decent wages and working conditions, vacations, medical benefits and the other things that we enjoy today were never even in the thinking of the laisse-faire capitalists of just one hundred years ago. Anyone laboring under such radical beliefs would probably have been locked away as dangerous revolutionaries.
The economic debate, about the merits of “Social Darwinism,” is age-old. Ayn Rand, in her epic novels, espoused the merits of free-market capitalism and held “economic moochers” up to mockery for their weaknesses. I am sorry, Ayn Rand. Brilliant writer that you were, you were wrong. In the same era, FDR, a scion of wealth and privilege, was introducing such radical notions as social security to alleviate aging poverty, jobs creation for people out of work and many other “socialistic” notions, that we have long held him in high esteem for. Like most issues, your views are influenced by where you sit in the great economic card game of life and what hand you were dealt at birth. Sneakers have no bootstraps.
This great country of ours, a remarkable democratic experiment, is a hybrid of an improvement on many of the old economic models that kept the poor firmly in place, in their misery. That is one of the many reasons that immigrants, for generations, have flocked to our shores, seeking a better life. In America, people of no means can indeed put shoulder to the wheel and rise through the classes to achieve any level of economic success. It is indeed one of the secrets of our success in this great land of liberty. Work and effort are rewarded.
But, even in our great triumphs, I am reminded of the words of the Nazarene. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This poor son of a carpenter advocated that we feed the hungry, care for the sick and the elderly and remember that we should help others. I have always been mindful of his teachings throughout my life and have tried always to help those around me with the limited means that I possess. I don’t think this philosophy is either Democratic or Republican, but rather one of people possessed of compassion and decency, traits that the United States of America has long shown the world that we espouse. Even in the streets, amongst working people, we all feel the same way about helping others. “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother."
Joseph Xavier Martin