Victory in Vietnam – Read All About It!

Last April as I walked through the lobby of my Hanoi hotel, I was amused at the bored staff watching a Vietnamese war movie depicting American G.I.s fighting North Vietnamese Communists. All that tragic fighting, I thought, and what did it accomplish? For here I was in beautiful Hanoi having fun listening to people quietly say they love Americans, but not (shhhh) Communism. We know the outcome of the shooting war in Vietnam. America lost. Communism won. Afterwards, there was the usual Commie blood bath to settle old scores and clear out the the “culturally impure.” Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese escaped by boats. But alas, in 1989 Soviet Communism came to a whimpering end – as Communism always ultimately does. With no more Soviet subsidies, Communist dictators in Vietnam had to lighten up on the market place and allow people to own property and set their own prices – an abandonment of Communism’s fundamental ideology. Ho Chi Minh (“Uncle Ho” to them) would be furious. You might imagine Jane Fonda on Radio Hanoi warning Vietnam about a takeover by corporations like McDonald’s and Wall Mart, and summoning the Vietnamese to shoot down invading American Airline jets filled with greedy capitalist and to incarcerate any survivors for the first three quarters of the fiscal year. (And later, to further punish them, have them serve several terms as a U.S. Senator.) But why is it important now to point out that Vietnam has abandoned Communism? Because a restaurant went of business in Houston. The restaurant was once owned and operated by a woman from Vietnam. When she died, her industrious daughter (let’s call her Lu) continued the restaurant and began to purchase an interest in the shopping center where the restaurant was located. But to do this, Lu had to take a second job. She was an ambitious mover and shaker bound for success – the kind of person who built America; the kind of person we assume will never leave America; the kind of person who risked death to escape Communism. But alas, Lu was paying taxes on the income from the restaurant, Social Security taxes for her employees, taxes on the property she owned, taxes on the property she was acquiring, taxes on the income from her second job, sales taxes, vehicle taxes, and on and on. So what did Lu do? She moved to Vietnam! Her parting words were, “Everything in America is tax, tax, tax.” Which brings up the 58,000 U.S. soldiers who died to “save” Vietnam from the Commies. What would they think about the failure of Communism in the former Soviet Union and in Vietnam? How would they feel about Lu’s “tax, tax, tax” frustrations? Ideologies aside, we’re only as free as we’re able to keep the fruits of our labor. Middle class Americans have a tax burden equaling about one-half of all our income. We are only half free. Maybe we do have freedom of speech. Maybe we do have a strong economy. Maybe there are some benefits trickling back from the Almighty Federal Government (the one which enslaved young men as soldiers to fight against Vietnamese Commies) from all the taxes we pay. But still, we’re only half free – and half free ain’t free. Just ask Lu – if you can find her. She’s probably in Siagon. (Let’s go. I’m ready when you are.) It may come as a surprise to Americans, but Vietnamese workers do not have to bare their financial soul on an income tax form. They have a flat ten percent deduction from their paycheck. They do have other taxes, but not nearly as high as in the “land of the free.” No, Vietnam is not utopia, but if you think America is, dream on. Can it be, that after the horrible loss of young Americans in the Vietnam War, America is only pretending to be capitalist while Vietnam is only pretending to be Communist? That Communism would have failed without firing a single shot, without sending a single military advisor, without dropping a single bomb, without losing a single life? This is, indeed, what Ludwig von Mises told us. But in the 1960’s and u201870’s no one was listening to the wisdom of von Mises. They were too busy fighting Communism. As I made another pass through my hotel lobby in Hanoi, past the bored night staff, I chuckled at their half attention to the war movie where the Americans, played by Vietnamese actors, were constantly being shot or blown up by North Vietnamese Communists. “Who’s winning?” I asked. “The Vietnamese,” they said. We all laughed.