Over at Reason, John Stossel chats with Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States about our collective lack of knowledge about history and the benefits of living in a free society hurts us:
What liberates oppressed people? I was taught it’s often American power. Just the threat of our military buildup defeated the Soviet Union, and our troops in the Middle East will create islands of freedom.
Unlikely, says historian Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States.
“As a matter of fact,” Russell told me, “in general American military intervention has increased anti-Americanism and hardened repressive regimes. On the other hand, American popular culture—what was often called the worst of our culture in many cases—has actually done more for liberation and our national security than anything that the 82nd Airborne could do.”
I told him that I thought that the Soviet Union collapsed because the Soviets spent so much trying to keep pace with Ronald Reagan’s military buildup
On the contrary, Russell said, “it collapsed from within. … People simply walked away from the ideology of communism. And that began especially when American popular culture—jazz and rock and roll—began infiltrating those countries after World War II.”
People want choices, and you can’t indoctrinate that out of them.
Which leads me to the most destructive myth about history: the idea that if we are to prosper, government must make smart plans for us. I was taught that in college, and despite the failure of the Soviet Union, many government leaders still believe it.
It’s no coincidence that the countries with the least economic freedom, according to the Heritage Foundation—Cuba, Zimbabwe, North Korea—are the worst places to live. They not only lack freedom, they are also poor.
Who’s at the top of the economic freedom list? Hong Kong. (The United States is ninth.) Hong Kong has low taxes, and as I demonstrated in an ABC special years ago, they make it easy to become an entrepreneur. I got permission to open a business there in one day. In my hometown, New York City, it takes months.
Hong Kong doesn’t even have democracy, but because its rulers protected people’s personal safety and property and left them otherwise free, Hong Kong thrived. In 50 years, it went from horrible poverty to income levels that are among the highest in world. Prosperity, thanks to economic freedom.
In a recent show, Stossel invited Damon Root and Tom Woods on to discuss prevalent historical myths often taught in schools and accepted and repeated by the media and talking heads. Check it out below: