Back to the Future – 1980’s Style

Thursday, April 18, 2013
posted by elizabeth @ 1:01 PM

The National Geographic channel had a great three part series earlier this week – “The 80s: The Decade That Made Us.” The show was fantastic. As a kid of the 1980s, this series summarized my most formative years. I graduated from high school in 1990, so as I left childhood behind and moved on to college and adulthood, the 1980s were also left behind, including the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. In November of 1989, the East German Government announced that citizens could leave freely through the gates. And, by October 1990, Germany was unified again.

Do you remember the Soviet Union and Communist Eastern Bloc? Do you remember the gut wrenching images of barbed wire, attack dogs, guards, gloom, and gray (literally and figuratively). First-hand accounts from visitors to the USSR said there was a sadness in the People’s eyes. Soviet Bloc citizens would literally risk their lives to defect to the West. Being caught escaping the confinement and dependence of their country meant sure prison time, if they were lucky enough not to be killed. What kind of country would imprison their citizens? I can only imagine the depths of horror. No hope.

Interestingly, scholars disagree on unified definitions of Socialism and Communism. And, there are different theories on whether the USSR was actually a Communist country or a Socialist country, or a combination. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Socialism “as any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; and Communism as a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production.” Words truly don’t matter; political system verses economic system – a country is defined by the actions and behaviors of the government and its people. Freedom means you are allowed to make your choices free of coercion or restraint, without being dependent. Freedom is the opposite of collective distribution.

Gary Allen, the late conservative journalist, once said that “if one understands socialism is not a share-the-wealth program, but is in reality a method to consolidate and control the wealth, then the seemingly paradox of the super-rich men promoting socialism becomes no paradox at all. Instead it becomes the logical, even the perfect tool of power-seeking megalomaniacs. Communism, or more accurately, socialism, is not a perfect movement of the downtrodden masses, but of the economic elite.”

I agree with this. While we look at our federal government’s over-reach by slowly taking control of our individual decisions – whether it be Healthcare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) or Retirement (the latest proposal by the Obama Administration to cap tax-advantaged retirement savings for individuals at roughly $3.4 million), we should also look at the government’s partnerships with huge corporations like GM and the consolidation of power and the behavior of other corporations such as Google.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not a Populist, and I support business at all levels – small and large. I think the free market dictates the needs of the people, not the government dictating for us. But as our government picks winners and losers of bailouts, tax incentives , and government contracts, where does this leave the future of our country? Will we remain the freedom loving land we have known and take for granted, or will we lose all freedom to choose by the dependent culture that we are breeding in our society now days?

Back to the 1980s. I believe we have forgotten the fear of looming Socialism and Communism. As a matter of fact, I argue that we are almost too lost to remember. And, it is not just the “dependent poor” receiving handouts. No down payment mortgages, unemployment, workers comp, cash for clunkers, energy efficient tax credits, the list goes on. Not only must we ask how do we pay for all of this? But, we must ask what kind of culture and future society are we raising? Are we going to be one who asks no questions, checks the box at work, and just waits for the weekend and their government allotted allowance, or one which works hard, fights for innovation, and sacrifices for personal betterment? The best image that I can leave you with is directly from Nat Geo’s “The 80s” program in which West Germany was contrasted (figuratively and physically) with East Germany. On the one side of the Berlin Wall was a bustling, free, energetic, happy, lively , capitalist West Germany, on the East side of the Wall was a gray, lonely, quiet, scary, subordinate East Germany. As the years march onward, don’t forget what transpired in the late 1980s.

— Elizabeth Biar

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