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Ralph Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland: Bungling politicians & lethal economics

| Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Performers wave Vietnamese national flags during a parade celebrating the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, which is also remembered as the 'Fall of Saigon', in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Thursday, April 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
Performers wave Vietnamese national flags during a parade celebrating the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, which is also remembered as the 'Fall of Saigon', in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Thursday, April 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

“Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself,” said Mark Twain.

Fittingly, our politicians keep stumbling and falling, some quitting and others being voted out for being even more idiotic than their colleagues and challengers, others ousted for being too sloppy in the way they grabbed cash or pocketed kickbacks, still others cast aside when their hypocrisy leaked into the public arena.

“The politician is an acrobat,” said Maurice Barres, French novelist and politician. “He keeps his balance by saying the opposite of what he does.”

Will Rogers had it right: “I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons.”

On the larger issue of war, the practice of the old sending the young to die while the profiteers cheer — “War is young men dying and old men talking,” stated Franklin D. Roosevelt — I asked an acquaintance of mine, a shopkeeper here from the former South Vietnam, if he watched the PBS series “The Vietnam War.”

“I didn't,” he said. “American television doesn't show the good that American soldiers did in Vietnam or the bad that communists did.”

He explained that Vietnamese communists jailed his father and damaged his health: “I'm not good today because my father cannot walk right because of what they did to him.”

Subservience was mandatory, he explained: “If you did not stay quiet and do what was expected of you, the communists put you in jail, tortured you and let you die, or they killed you.”

Many were massacred not for what they did but for who they were. Intellectuals were punished for their independence. Literary reviews were replaced by re-education camps. Landowners and mandarins were liquidated because of their achievements or family backgrounds.

An article in the official organ of the Indochinese Communist Party, Nhan da (“The people”), declared that “the landowning classes will never be quiet until they have been eliminated.” In short, the collectivists called for the achievement of silence via mass murder, the realization of land reform and classlessness by way of property theft, redistribution and savagery.

An official communist censor and writer, To Huu, penned this: “Kill, kill again, let your hands never stop, let fields and paddyfields produce rice in abundance, so that taxes can be paid at once. Let us march together with the same heart, so that the Party may last forever, let us adore Chairman Mao and build an eternal cult to Stalin.”

Huu didn't write any poetry about the 100 million deaths that occurred to install and maintain communist regimes — 65 million in China, 24 million in the USSR — crimes against humanity committed via torture, massacres, forced-labor camps, hangings, mass deportations, firing squads, poisoning, incarceration, man-made famines and targeted starvation.

To put this in perspective, 100 million deaths to impose and sustain a catastrophic political and economic system amounted to about 200,000 human lives lost for each word in this column.

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (

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