Of Isms and Idolatry

The Economic System of Free Enterprise: Its Judeo-Christian Values and Philosophical Concepts; Edited by Paul C. Goelz; St. Mary’s University Press; San Antonio, TX.

During their relatively short but incredibly bloody existence as a world historical force, Marxists have murdered millions of men, women, and children, largely without regret. Many Marxists, however, are having some second thoughts about the initial “killing” Marxism announced, that of God. Not that they have regained any faith in the transcendent God of Scripture. Hardly. But for propaganda purposes in the pervasively religious West, leftists have decided it would be tactfully useful to appear to worship God, while actually creating the utopian idol of a deified Militant Socialist. Fortunately, some intelligent Christians have little difficulty resisting this inept perfidy. The Economic System of Free Enterprise, which includes essays by Gerald R. Ford, Michael Novak, and Irving Kristol, provides solid arguments for the view that Judeo-Christian values are far more compatible with economic freedom than leftist dogma. Indeed, though the contributors sometimes defend “capitalism,” the term “free enterprise” used in the collection’s title is probably wiser. The ideological use of the word capitalism, after all, began with Marx, who was convinced that all aspects of life must be subsumed beneath one materialistic ism or another. To the degree that free enterprise becomes truly an ism in those Marxian terms, it is religiously indefensible. The religious strength of free-market theory is, then, precisely in its humility: it does not pretend to explain or govern all of human existence in economic terms, as do the various strands of Marxism. Mam­ mon may win idolatrous followers in the free market, but it must do so without the sanctimonious robes of modern ideology. (BC)    cc



Frankly Speaking

Martyn Burke: The Commissar’s ReportHoughton Mifflin; Boston.

This book is supposed to be funny, risible, or downright hilarious. TI1e subject is the U.S. during the Cold War as seen by a Soviet diplomatic minion who became enamored of “Enemy Number One” through his furtive readings of his party bigwig father’s contraband copies of Life. Actually, the contents of the book arc rather bleak because the author, no doubt by accident, makes some very telling observations about Americans: the intellectuals’ desire to be duped (“I began pitching revolution in such a way that it seemed the ideal thing to fill the void, giving their existence some purpose after all. It was like selling water to camels.”) and the general public’s tendency toward self­ flagellation (e.g., speaking of the immediate post-McCarthy period, the narrator notes, “We murdered millions under Stalin; they throw a dozen or so in jail for a year and let a few scoundrels loose on the country. Yet they feel guilty. We don’t.”). The truth that manages to emerge in The Commissar’s Report is, indeed, quite sad.     cc


A Book of Warnings

General Sir John Hackett: The Profession of ArmsMacmillan; New York.

Among the most troubling military advantages that the Soviet Union holds over the United States is one not assessed by counting tanks or measuring weapon technology. The Soviet soldier, sailor, or airman generally enjoys much higher social prestige than does his American counterpart, who is too often viewed as a near-barbarian unfit for polite company or intelligent conversation. Unfortunately, such a disparity in public prestige could translate into a decisive difference in battlefield morale.    

General Sir John Hackett traces contemporary America’s “lack of sympathy … towards its armed forces” to the “grave disservice” done the army by the media in Vietnam. This seems undeniable. But whatever the reasons for the current lack of respect for American military men, such respect must somehow be restored. For, as Hackett’s history of professional soldiers makes clear, societies that do not support and appreciate their military often end up under the heel of societies that do.          cc