The deaths of Václav Havel and Kim Jong-Il ought to have been the occasion of some reflection on right vs. left but has not, so far as I can see. I don’t read everything so there might be something but I haven’t come across it yet. I suspect this is largely because the sort of people who find their words into the media are not generally the sort of people who would be comfortable with the comparison. What we have instead are separate but parallel obituaries. No conclusions are drawn on what an examination of these two very different lives as political leaders might teach.
Havel sought the open society with freedom as its core social value. With that you end up with a range of outcomes in every possible dimension. But so far as wealth distribution is concerned, which is only one of those dimensions, if you are able to continuously expose the vast deficiencies of the socialist meme as part of public discourse – which gets an F-minus even for its supposed strength of economic equality and living standards for the poor – that even with socialism as the natural inclination of the ignorant and naive, it never really takes across a society. And this is even though the media drumbeat is everywhere in its support. And when you look at every other value the left runs with, the will to interfere in our everyday lives is not merely a nuisance but is frequently a very large problem with each separate failure leading to more government involvement to repair the damage the previous sets of involvement have caused.
But as many a socialist before the present has found out, and as many after will also learn to our collective costs, socialist notions are ultimately not popular because they do not reflect what we as individuals seek. We do not want to be treated as farm animals by collectivist leaders whose aim is to do things for us which we can do much better ourselves, and who must first plunder our savings and our moral authority to do whatever it occurs to them to do.
And thus we have Kim, an example of the final destination of socialism if uninterrupted by the ability of a community to resist. That is where all forms of socialism end up if there are no means to stop these people from putting their plans into effect. Freedom is for its ruling class alone, and force of arms will do what it can to ensure that their rule is left undisturbed. Castro is another example and there are others still around, but the will to be the next Stalin or Castro or Kim is always there amongst at least some of our political leaders and they always find support. They are a constant potential menace that only democratic structures can contain.
The life expectancy of a Havel in North Korea would have been measured in fractions of a day. But there are still many countries where you pay with your personal freedom and often with your life for freely expressing your opinion or for wishing to act according to the dictates of your heart and not the dictates of your political leaders.
The left will no longer actively support a Kim in the way it once did with Stalin. They deny that every actual manifestation of their political intent is actually what they have in mind. But this should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the kind of society we on the right side of politics seek to create is the kind of society found in the Czech Republic while the kind of society created by those who seek fulfillment of the socialist dream is the one found in North Korea. The aim on the right is personal freedom and rule of law and that is what you end up with where such ideas prevail. The aim on the left is equality and what you end up when you hand power to some leader in the name of socialism is a North Korea or Cuba. It is what no one wanted, no doubt, but it is what you get all the same.
The politics of freedom brings the prosperity socialists aim at but can never deliver, and they deprive you of your freedom as well. That ought to be the message carried by the coincidence of the almost simultaneously passing from the world of two representatives of the right side of politics and the left.