All this chatter about socialism being “cool” and capitalism being “irredeemable” reminds us to look to countries that suffered under tyranny and where they are today.
Case in point: the Baltic Republic of Lithuania.
Despite being illegally occupied and badly damaged by both the Nazi and Soviet regimes for much of the 20th Century, the “Rainy Country” has overwhelming recovered by embracing free enterprise and limited government policies.
It stands out as the 21st most economically free country per Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Index of Economic Freedom. Last summer, Lithuania’s Parliament, the Seimas, also lowered the tax burden for 1.3 million Lithuanians. (The country currently boasts a population of 2.86 million people.) Lithuanian high schoolers learn about free enterprise through the Lithuanian Free Market Institute’s Economics in 31 Hours textbook.
“The importance of economic thinking cannot be underestimated,” said Žilvinas Šilėnas, CEO of Lithuanian Free Market Institute, in fall 2016. “Our individual and societal well-being depends on it. Unfortunately, economic education in schools is shallow at best, and incorrect at worst. Our aspiration is to win the battle for freedom of young minds. We are happy we have accomplished so much in pursuing this goal in an area where free-market ideas normally are not heard, in public schools and within the national school curriculum.”
Here’s more on the textbook:
Economics in 31 Hours teaches how property rights, free exchange, profit, and competition shape decision-making in everyday life. Released in August 2015, the textbook is already used as part of the compulsory national curriculum by more than 60 percent of Lithuania’s 9th and 10th graders, which amounts to more than 20,000 students. Instrumental in this success was official approval of Economics in 31 Hours by the Ministry of Education and Science and its registration as a recommended textbook for secondary schools.
It also boasts some of the fastest Internet rates in Europe and around the world.
Why is this relevant?
29 years ago today—on March 11, 1990— the Baltic Republic of Lithuania made a bold declaration: It had enough of illegal Soviet occupation and declared it was seeking pre-WWII era independence again. It was the first occupied republic to kick the USSR to the curb.
Although my Lithuanian-born parents were already in the United States at the time, they told me how much it warmed their hearts to see their ancestral homeland regain its independence.
With calls by many Democrats to introduce central planning here in the United States, it’s important to study history and learn from it. The policies of the Soviet Union from 1917-1987, for example, led to over 60 million deaths—including deaths of Lithuanians. The government controlled the means of production, nationalized industries, discriminated against ethnic populations, persecuted religious folks, confiscated private property, and imprisoned and ultimately killed off people they deemed “traitors.”
Is this what we need and want here in the U.S.? Absolutely not. My family came here in 1986 to flee socialism, not experience more of it in America.
Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and other formerly occupied nations were dual occupation zones who saw firsthand how oppressive National Socialism and then Soviet Communism were. That’s why they tend to support freedom, market-based enterprise, and reject any attempts to resurrect the political systems again that devastated and demoralized them.
The oft-cited George Santayana quote still rings true today: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Let’s look to Lithuania—and not Venezuela—for inspiration and make the moral case for free enterprise more.