Checkmating History

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Perhaps chess champions who escaped from the old Soviet Union can give us better history lessons than academic historians. “Sometimes I joke that if guys like Barack Obama and David Cameron had been in power in the 1980s, I would still be playing chess for the Soviet Union,” Garry Kasparov said at a Cato Institute dinner in May.

garry kasparov

By way of contrast, Kasparov observed that “Ronald Reagan had two things more recent free world leaders lack: principles and the credibility only principles can provide.”

At the Cato Institute dinner, he took note of some recent trends in this country that even those of us who were born here have been rather reluctant to acknowledge. “The traditional American values of liberty, sacrifice, risk-taking, and even faith have declined,” Kasparov said. “On the rise are safety over risk, equality over excellence, comfort over sacrifice, and hyper-partisanship that fights harder and harder for smaller pieces of a smaller pie.”

Slate magazine pointed out that Kasparov was the world chess champion for 15 years.  “I’m afraid my memory is not photographic as some of the legends about me say, but I am sure I would remember if the works of Adam Smith included the phrase, ‘too big to fail,’” Kasparov said at the Cato event. “When the state steps in, deciding which companies live or die, things have gone terribly wrong.”

“If a bankrupt small business in South Carolina can go belly up, so must General Motors, so must Goldman Sachs.” Arguably, Kasparov has a keener understanding of economics than many professional economists, particularly those who work in government and engineered the bailouts.

“When you base your policies on principles there is no room for ‘but,’” Kasparov told the mostly libertarian audience at the Cato dinner. “That’s trouble.”

“Rising inequality is a critical problem today, and it comes from decades of moving away from the principles of excellence that had created the richest society in history by the end of the 1960s.”

Specifically, “In the span of one generation the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and capitalists convinced themselves that there could be reward without risk,” Kasparov said at the black-tie dinner. “It is time to wake up from this dangerous delusion, built on a mountain of debt.”

For those who prize “equality” over just about everything else, including freedom, Kasparov has a chilling warning: “Trust me, I am from a place where everyone was supposed to be equal, and it wasn’t as nice as some of today’s liberal commentators seem to think it would be.”