I like the Baltic nations, as illustrated by what I wrote last year.
I’m a big fan of…Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These three countries emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Empire and they have taken advantage of their independence to become successful market-driven economies. One key to their relative success is tax policy. All three nations have flat taxes. And the Baltic nations all deserve great praise for cutting the burden of government spending in response to the global financial crisis/great recession (an approach that produced much better results than the Keynesian policies and/or tax hikes that were imposed in many other countries).
No wonder the Baltic nations are doing a good job of achieving economic convergence.
I’ve specifically praised Estonia on several occasions.
Estonia’s system is so good (particularly its approach to business taxation) that the Tax Foundation ranks it as the best in the OECD. …Estonia…may be my favorite Baltic nation if for no other reason than the humiliation it caused for Paul Krugman.
Now I have a new reason to admire Estonia. Having experienced the brutality of both fascism and communism, they have little tolerance for those who make excuses for totalitarianism. And the issue has become newsworthy since Greece decided to boycott a ceremony to remember the victims of communism and fascism.
Estonian Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu responded to his Greek counterpart, Stavros Kontonis following the uproar caused by the decision by Greece to not participate in the recent European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism in Estonia.
The letter sent by Reinsalu is a masterpiece of moral clarity. He unambiguously condemns all ideologies that are contrary to free societies. Let’s look at some excerpts.
Our values are human rights, democracy and the rule of low, to which I see no alternative. This is why I am opposed to any ideology or any political movement that negates these values or which treads upon them once it has assumed power. In this regard there is no difference between Nazism, Fascism or Communism.
Amen. That’s basically what I wrote just a few days ago.
Reinsalu points out that free societies (sometimes called liberal democracies, with “liberal” used in the “classical liberal” sense) don’t oppress people, which is inherent with fascist and communist regimes.
Condemnation of crimes against humanity must be particularly important for us as ministers of justice whose task it is to uphold law and justice. …Every person, irrespective of his or her skin colour, national or ethnic origin, occupation or socio-economic status, has the right to live in dignity within the framework of a democratic state based on the rule of law. All dictatorships – be they Nazi, Fascist or Communist – have robbed millions of their own citizens but also citizens of conquered states and subjugated peoples.
The Estonian Justice Minister refers to the bitter experience of his nation.
Unlike Greece, Estonia has the experience of living under two occupations, under two totalitarian dictatorships. …In light of the experience of my country and people, I strongly dispute your claim that Communism also had positive aspects. ……in 1949, …the communist regime deported nearly 2 percent of the population of Estonia only because they as individual farmers refused to go along with the Communist agricultural experiment and join a collective farm. This was in addition to the tens of thousands who had already been imprisoned in the Gulag prison camps or deported and exiled earlier. Thousands more would follow, taken into prison up to mid-1950.
He points out that communism is incompatible with freedom.
…it is not possible to build freedom, democracy and the rule of law on the foundation of Communist ideology. …this has been attempted… This has always culminated in economic disaster and the gradual destruction of the rule of law…there are also countries and peoples for whom the price of a lesson in Communism has been millions of human lives.
The bottom line, he writes, is that all forms of totalitarianism should be summarily rejected.
…we must condemn all attempts or actions that incite others to destroy peoples or societal groups…there is no need to differentiate. It makes no difference to a victim if he is murdered in the name of a better future for the Aryan race or because he belongs to a social class that has no place in a Communist society. We must remember all of the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian dictatorships.
Kudos for Minister Reinsalu. He doesn’t shrink from telling the truth about communism and other forms of dictatorship.
None of this should be interpreted to mean that western societies are perfect. Heck, I spend most of my time criticizing bad policy in the United States and other western nations. But there’s no moral equivalence.
Here’s Reinsalu’s entire letter, which contains additional points.
I’ll close by elaborating on one of his points. Reinsalu wrote about the miserable track record of communism and made some powerful points.
But I think he was too diplomatic. He should have highlighted the jaw-dropping body count of communist regimes.
He did mention some of the horrid policies of the Soviet Union (perhaps more than 60 million victims), but he also could have listed the incomprehensible misery that communism caused in places such as Cuba, Cambodia, and North Korea. Or China back in the Mao era.
That being said, his letter is a very powerful indictment of the moral bankruptcy of his Greek counterpart (which perhaps isn’t a surprise given the ideology of the Syriza government).
And it’s also an indictment of all of the apologists for communist tyranny.