World unrest fueled by populist illusions

By Dave Petteys ( For those of us who love freedom and democracy, it is disturbing to see the losses we are suffering around the world to populist movements. We couch our arguments for democracy in the context of advanced and wealthy countries unconsciously, possibly not recalling the desperation among the poor of the world.

To the teeming masses in Caracas, waiting a couple of centuries for a prosperous society to develop isn’t appealing. Along comes Hugo Chavez, who confiscates the wealth of the country and redistributes it to the poor, who then think he is wonderful. That an armed thug doesn’t know a thing about running an economy doesn’t even cross their minds. His militarization of Venezuelan society will lead to oppression, war, and deeper poverty. A butcher’s bill will come due eventually, and will be paid by the very poor that now extol the man.

A comment on the role of the press is in order here. The left wing press fancies itself populist, in solidarity with the plight of the poor. They like nothing better than to report on the hypocrisy and the excess of the “ruling elite”. Yet, once a Hugo Chavez takes over, the criticism ceases! Though without a doubt the Chavez inner circle has taken over the big houses, and is living lavishly, nothing is said about them. Not only is criticism “not necessary now that the people are in power”, most editors know it can be very hazardous to one’s health to dwell on such things. It’s much safer to bash President Bush who does not send little men with guns to call on those who criticize him.

In the Middle East, terrorist organizations like Hamas are praised and garner support for setting up schools and clinics. But when their Madrassas teach the killing of unbelievers, that Jews and Christians are monkeys and pigs and the virtue of suicide bombing, is this really a productive education that will bring Middle Eastern society into the 21st Century? Though liberal society condemns child soldiers in Africa on a regular basis, nothing is said of the Hamas videos of 10-year-olds, armed and dressed in camouflage, marching in formation chanting “We are Hamas, death to America and death to the Jews”.

If freedom and democracy are to survive, (if we are to survive) we need to bring the benefits of our system to people in a more tangible way more quickly. But it needs to go beyond the Robin Hood approach of redistribution, which destroys wealth. The nine million Iraqi purple thumbs and the pontificating about Jeffersonian principles may not have time to work otherwise. It may be that housing, sewage systems, and medical clinics are as strategic as training armed forces and the transfer of military equipment. If we are to spread democracy, a new paradigm is called for. It’s time for the thinkers on the right to contemplate such matters.