It happened today - May 21, 2015

Gorbatchev meets with East German leader Erich HoneckerTo come up with interesting things that happened on this day in history I rummage through dusty parchment, search my memory, and then get smart, log on and search the Interwebs. Which led me to the news on one site that on May 21 of 1988 “Gorbachev consolidates power”.

Man, you can find anything on the Internet. Including parallel universes. So pardon my sarcasm but would that be the same Mikhail Gorbachev who accidentally destroyed communism and the USSR, the Mrs. O’Leary’s cow of Bolshevik socialism, who was permanently out of office by Christmas 1991?

Indeed. And while I give him credit because, at the critical moment, he didn’t give the order to open fire, I’m amazed how much admiration he evoked and still evokes from some western progressives because he didn’t realize socialism couldn’t work, central planning was necessarily hopeless and communism was inherently tyrannical.

OK, enough mocking of Gorbachev. My main point is this notion of him “consolidating power” when he didn’t have any. Far too much attention is given to ostensible political structures, to what institutions are meant to do and to what the conventional wisdom says they do, and far too little to whether they are working or whether they can work.

Of course to do the latter requires us first to shun pomposity and flattery, which isn’t always the best career move, and second to admit that certain things cannot work, like, um, what was it? Oh yeah. Socialism and central planning.

Mind you, if you’re still impressed by Gorbachev’s consolidation of power you can ignore that last point.