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Give Them Liberty, Or Give Them Public Housing

2:19 PM, Aug 26, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Elliott Abrams writes at National Review Online:

At the height of the Cold War, when Ronald Reagan was president, the Soviets and their allies and satellites did not shirk human-rights debates with the West. They had their arguments ready. When American officials denounced the lack of freedom of speech or press or religion, or the absence of free elections, they did not whimper. Their replies went something like this: "It's important to look at human rights more broadly than it has been defined. Human rights are also the right to a good job and shelter over your head and a chance to send your kids to school and get health care when your wife is pregnant. It's a much broader agenda. Too often it has gotten narrowed to our detriment."

No one would be surprised to hear that such words were spoken by Mikhail Suslov, the long-time ideological chief of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, or by Khrushchev or Brezhnev, or by Castro or Ceaucescu, or by any other chieftain from the "socialist countries." But that quote actually comes from Secretary of State Clinton, in an interview this month with the Wall Street Journal. It is an astonishing revival of the old Soviet line, now taken up by an American official.

Why is Mrs. Clinton repeating these old Soviet bromides? In all probability she has little idea what she is doing; she might even fire a few underlings if she found out whose old lines are being put in her mouth (one sure hopes so!). She is probably ignorant of the long effort the West undertook to undermine such positions. Back in the 1980s, when I served in the Reagan State Department, we spent a good deal of time countering such nonsense. For one thing, even taken on its own terms, the argument was ridiculous: The "socialist camp" did a wretched job of providing "social goods" such as jobs and housing and medical care. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the poor living conditions in the East became even more evident, and the Russian situation remains catastrophic to this day.

Continued here.