Special to TLE
Children are well-attuned to hear the difference between heartfelt
sincerity and a perfunctory notice dished out because "that's what
grown-ups are supposed to say."
Many an American child will be reminded this holiday season that it's
appropriate for us to be thankful, since after all there are children
in foreign lands making do with far less.
Squealing with delight as they race to try the new video game, few
will even signal acknowledgement.
But in a few homes -- most commonly those where the adults have had
some experience with privation -- this will be more than an offhand
remark. Some combination of eye contact and vocal timbre -- perhaps
amplified with the further observation that there are places in this
world where entire families will subsist on less this day than our
finicky house pets -- will make a connection.
Leaving aside the young cynics (who can be counted on to volunteer
that their personal helping of yams or broccoli would make an ideal
donation to the starving orphans of China), an admirable spirit of
charity will then arise in many a young breast, and the question will
arise why we can't just send some of our own plentiful rations to
those in less fortunate lands.
For the most part, this will be dismissed with a smile and an
acknowledgement that mailing a saran-wrap package of cooked turkey to
Bangladesh would be unlikely to meet the test of practicality.
"But why would God allow the children in some countries to go
hungry?" some will then hear from the mouth of babes.
To which most of us will be tempted to reply: "I don't know."
What a shame, to miss the opportunity (whether through ignorance,
inattention, or a reluctance to "politicize" the holiday) to note
that most major world religions teach us a wise and benevolent
Creator has given mankind the free will to make his own decisions ...
and the responsibility to live with the results.
No, this is not to deny that some suffer through no fault of their
own -- legitimately evoking our voluntary charity.
But in this day and age, when modern methods of agriculture and food
preservation and the ability to trade mineral and other resources for
food are well-known and practiced on a global scale, the notion that
there are hungry children in this world because they live in places
which are too overcrowded, or not blessed with sufficient natural
resources -- in other words, that their fate is somehow "the will of
God" -- is easily rebuttable hogwash.
The greatest population densities in the world occur on such rocky
islands as Manhattan, Hong Kong, and Singapore ... where absent a
single arable rice paddy, starvation is unknown, and even "the poor"
are likely to enjoy running water and central heating.
On the other hand, the Ukraine has been famously the breadbasket of
Eastern Europe for millennia -- yet millions of people literally
starved to death there in the 1920s and '30s ... in peacetime.
What is the best indicator of whether a land and a people will
prosper, or starve? It has precious little to do with climate, soil,
or other "natural blessings." Rather, people are largely free and
fulfilled and affluent to the point of excess in lands which practice
capitalism in combination with a republican form of government which
guarantees the enforcement of property rights and other God-given
individual liberties -- familiar to Americans from their listing in
the first 10 amendments to our Constitution.
And people are most likely to starve in nations where the separation
of church and state is unknown, where the armed power of the state is
harnessed to a compulsive and monochrome ideology (whether actually
religious or of a secular "religion" like Marxism) evincing little
respect for individual choice or liberty, driving away those with the
ability to "vote with their feet" while swaddling the unfortunates
who remain in a stifling cocoon of institutionalized jealousy and
greed, a Bizarro world in which prosperity is a crime, punishable by
the iron discipline of collectivism and redistribution, until poverty
and hopelessness are spread with a "fairness" as relentless as it is
Thankful for what? You don't need to understand their language to
watch the exhilaration of the people of Kabul as they shave off their
previously mandatory beards, tear off their anonymizing burkas, dig
up their previously forbidden radios and televisions, and form a
scrambling mob to storm a downtown building in hopes of seeing, for
the first time in a decade ... a movie.
What we see the people of Kabul celebrating this week is called
Be thankful for ours. And guard it well.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas
Review-Journal. To receive his longer, better stuff, subscribe to his
monthly newsletter by sending $72 to Privacy Alert, 561 Keystone
Ave., Suite 684, Reno, NV 89503 -- or dialing 775-348-8591. His book,
Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998,
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to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 149, November 26, 2001.