Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of posts, but ol’ Robbo’s been on his back the last couple days with that bug that starts in your stomach and then debones you completely.  Bloggy creativity simply was beyond my feeble powers (not that I have much to go on to begin with).

I’m feeling better today, thanks, and can see myself slipping back into the ol’ routine in the very near future.

In the meantime, whilst flopped on my back, I managed to get through Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago (the abridged version, anyway*) for the very first time and am about half way through F.A. Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom, again for the first time.  Given the news these days, I find both of these books to be very timely, if depressing, reading.

I mentioned not long ago that I had recently read A.S.’s Ivan Denisovitch for the first time and was simply blown away by the raw power and dignity of his writing.  I get the same sensation reading Gulag.  Even when he’s being sarcastic, even when he loses his literary temper, or perhaps especially when in such mood, A.S. has about him a moral weight which simply flattens everything in its path.  An amazing experience.

As for the facts and figures, what on earth can one say? The Middle Gel happens to have just finished a research paper on the Holocaust.  As awful as that was, the fact is that Stalin made Hitler look like Mr. Rogers in comparison.  And yet people in the West covered up, prevaricated, lied about “Uncle Joe” and his hellish system (which, in fact, went right on back to Lenin and his crew.  And so far as I know, ol’ Vlad may very well be using the same system to this day in order to get rid of his own particular set of enemies.).  How sick is that?  It’s no wonder A.S. saves his most acidic comments for them.  (I still remember an argument back in the mid 80’s at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown over Dr. Seuss’s Butter-Battle Book, my antagonist insisting that, like the question of which side of teh bread to butter, there was no real difference between the Western tradition and the Soviet system.  That was about as close as I ever came to abandoning logic and reason and belting someone in the mouth for being such an idiot.)

As far as Hayek goes, somebody said that one’s reaction to his writing is a pretty good indicator of one’s own ingrained mindset.  Well, to me the man is arguing nothing more than Common Sense.  Those who think central (i.e., government) “planning” is the answer to all of Society’s ills overlook one tiny problem with it:  It doesn’t work.**  It can’t work, simply because there are too many variables floating about for any one person or group of persons to take in all at once.  In all of history, only the Market has proven capable of handling such a flood of ever-changing data.  Of course, one can greatly decrease those variables if one…..simply turns the population into a uniform group of robot slaves, although it still doesn’t work and a lot of people wind up dead, starving or in prison.  Hayek gives the benefit of the doubt to good-hearted collectivists who genuinely seek the betterment of everyone, but history suggests to me that there really are not so many of such ilk, and that the vast majority of said collectivists are enamored more of the centralized power in and of itself than any benefits it might produce.

Could all of that – Institution of a Collectivist State with an appended gulag system – ever happen here?  Eight years ago, I’d have said absolutely not.  But the Progressives have had control of much societal high ground – the Academy, the Media, Hollywood and the Bureaucracy – for some time now and with their capture of the Executive I think they’ve had a very hard try at establishing the foundation for one.  A lot of people simply don’t notice because they’re happy with their Starbucks and Kardashians.  In the end, however, because of elements of our national nature and condition too complicated to go into here, I still don’t think the collectivists are going to succeed, but as the Iron Dook said, it’ll be a damned near-run thing.

*Abridged by permission and in cooperation with the author.  The full version of Gulag is divided into three volumes and it was noticed that although sales of the first one continued very strong, sales of the second and third tailed off, suggesting people weren’t being exposed to them at the same rate.  This was a bad thing, since many of A.S.’s most powerful statements about the dignity of the individual and the power of the human (and Divine) spirit come in the last volume.  So the thing was cut back somewhat and presented in one volume.  Having read it, I think I need to go back and get the full three-volume monty.

**Hayek is not the laissez-faire libertarian his critics paint him to be, however.  He never said there is no situation where state planning is important.  That’s just a straw man.  What he said was that the market and other private arrangements should have pride of place and that the state should only step in when these didn’t work.  (Thus, prevention of monopolies or oligarchies, for example.)  He also warned against the corrosive effect of a general welfare state.  You need not read far into the headlines to see the wisdom of that warning.