Thomas Sowell

One of the bitter ironies of the 20th century was that communism, which began as an egalitarian doctrine accusing capitalism of selfishness and calloused sacrifices of others, became in power a system whose selfishness and callousness toward others made the sins of capitalism pale.

The ruling elites of the Soviet Union, called the "nomenklatura," had their own separate and superior stores where ordinary citizens were not allowed to shop, their own separate and superior medical facilities, as well as their own separate and superior living quarters, all off-limits to the masses.

Everyone in communist societies addressed one another with the egalitarian term "comrade." But some comrades had the arbitrary power of life and death over other comrades.

Soviet communism is now history but people who talk equality and practice elitism, who wrap their own selfishness in the mantle of idealism, and who sacrifice others on the altar to their own vision without a moment's hesitation are not only still with us but have become the norm on the left.

They don't have nearly the power that the Soviet dictatorship had. But they use whatever power they do have in the same spirit. The green ideology of today, like the red ideology of the past, takes it for granted that other people do not have the same rights as the new nomenklatura.

Where the new nomenklatura enjoy a particular lifestyle in a particular community, then the power of government is used to preserve that lifestyle and freeze that community where it is, even if that means freezing out other people who may not have the same money or the same lifestyle preferences.

Monterey County, California, is a classic example, though by no means unique. A recent story in the Wall Street Journal quoted residents of that coastal community as saying how much they liked its lifestyle and ambiance -- as a justification of laws that make it nearly impossible for anyone with less money to live there.

First of all, laws forbid building anything on three-quarters of the land in that county. Existing residents who support such laws don't own that land but they can politically keep others from living on it, which is the whole point of much rhapsodizing about "preserving" this and "saving" that.

Land prices skyrocket when the supply of land is artificially and drastically reduced, which means that housing prices become astronomical. The consequences for those on the outside looking in were illustrated by the story of a farm worker in Monterey County whose family had been living in a room for years but who now could finally afford to buy a small house.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate