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Ralph R. Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland

The B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University

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Reflections

Nuts to the Brown-Eyed Visionaries

by Ralph R. Reiland
 

I'm boycotting Brazil nuts.

The top nut in Brazil, Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silvamade (big enough to be known simply as Lula, like Beyonce or Madonna) told British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the world's current economic crisis was caused by "white people with blue eyes."

Waving his finger at Brown, Lula, a socialist, said that people in poor countries shouldn't have to pay for the mistakes of people in rich countries. "It is a crisis caused and encouraged by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes," he said, "who before the crisis appeared to know everything, but are now showing that they know nothing.."

As a pro-capitalist white guy with blue eyes, I should sue. Isn't it illegal to generalize about eye color and economic ignorance? Isn't there some U.N. declaration that says it's a crime against humanity to openly and publicly link skin color with things like a propensity to approve bad loans or accumulate toxic assets?

And why aren't the blue-eyed a protected minority? We're only eight percent of the world's population --- and shrinking, as we continue to be less prolific in breeding than the brown-eyed (which doesn't bode well for the future, given that Louisville University professor Joanna Rowe's research shows that the blue-eyed are better skilled at planning and more accomplished in academic achievements).

In any case, seeking to internationally spread the wealth, Lula added, "I do not know any black or indigenous bankers, so I can only say it's wrong that this part of mankind, victimized more than any other, should pay for the crisis." That doesn't mean, of course, that indigenous bankers don't exist or that they're any less crooked, just because Lula doesn't know any.

Piling on, The New York Times ran this headline in its "Week in Review" section three days after Lula went after the world's blue-eyed money-grubbers: "G20 --- English-speaking Capitalism On Trial."

And so I'm guilty on all four counts -- an English-speaking white capitalist with blue eyes.

Well, two can play that game. If they want to link eye color and language to economic performance, how about the economic success (or lack thereof) of Spanish-speaking Fidel, the longest-running brown-eyed collectivist in Lula's hemisphere?

With a per capita income equal to Italy in 1959, Cuba was the fourth richest nation in Latin America when Castro shot his way into power. Today, after a half century of anti-capitalism, Cuba is the fifth poorest, even with brown-eyed leadership and after being on the receiving end of Soviet welfare for over two decades.

"Castroite Cuba emerged from this Soviet largesse with among the lowest per capita incomes in the hemisphere," writes Cuban-American author Humberto Fontova, "a lower credit rating than Somalia, fewer phones per capita than Papua New Guinea, fewer internet connections than Uganda, and 20 percent of her population gone — all at total cost of their property and many at extreme cost to life and limb."

Readers of The New York Times might be excused for not seeing the political and economic disaster that was on the horizon when Castro was organizing his revolutionary coup in the hills. "Fidel Castro has strong ideas of liberty, democracy, social justice, the need to restore the Constitution," reported Times correspondent Herbert Matthews in February 1957 as Castro was beginning his two-year march on Havana.

"The program is vague and couched in generalities," wrote Matthews, "but it amounts to a new deal for Cuba, radical, democratic and therefore anti-Communist."

To be fair to Matthews, he was wrong about Castro intending to deliver an anti-communist new deal, but he was right about Castro having "strong ideas" about liberty and democracy -- he was against both.

For another failed model of brown-eyed anti-capitalism, Lula and the Times might want to take a look at Tanzania. From independence in 1961 until the mid-1980s, Julius Nyerere decimated Tanzania's economy through a combination one-party rule and a socialist model of economic development.

The Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State lists Tanzania's natural resources: "Hydroelectric potential, coal, iron, gemstones, gold, natural gas, nickel, diamonds, crude oil potential, forest products, wildlife, fisheries."

None of those natural assets much matter, however, when brown-eyed central planners destroy individual incentives and undercut development by way of despotism and anti-capitalism.

Today, after its ambitions for independence and prosperity were undermined by over two decades of Nyerere's anti-business destruction, Tanzania ranks at the bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index. Life expectancy is 50, the economy is overwhelmingly donor-dependent, and per capita income is $1.10 per day — all without any blue-eyed devils running the show.

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Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

Ralph R. Reiland

E-mail: rrreiland@aol.com