The Problem

I shop and run errands on Saturdays. On a typical Saturday I’ll hit the bank, grocery store, the hardware store, Costco, the drugstore, and the vet’s. While I’m doing so I typically listen to NPR. If it’s after 1:00pm I listen to oldtime radio, broadcast every Saturday afternoon on one of our public radio stations.

Yesterday on my appointed rounds on This American Life I heard the extremely bizarre story of how the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il had South Korea’s most famous actress and her equally famous director ex-husband kidnapped. Think Elizabeth Taylor in her 50s and, say, Steven Spielberg to get some idea of the importance of the figures we’re talking about.

You can listen to the whole story at the link. I wish I had a transcript but, unfortunately, none is available yet.

The aspect of the story that struck me most strongly was an audio tape of remarks by Kim Jong-Il that the couple brought back with them when they at long last escaped their captors. In the course of his remarks in identifying the reasons that North Korean films were so lousy he gave as succinct a critique of socialism as heard. Essentially what he said was if his filmmakers make a good film, they get their rations. If they make a bad film, they get the same rations.

The problem is that true socialism runs afoul of human nature.

Here in the United States very few people want true socialism. They don’t trust government enough and for good reason. We don’t have the kind of consensus here that some European countries, particularly the Scandinavian countries, do. Government here is viewed more as a tool for personal gain rather than as one for public gain. And socialism for private gain is no better than oligarchy or corporatism for private gain.

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