Che Guevara
Kennon-Green & Co. Global Asset Management, Wealth Management, Investment Advisory, and Value Investing

I believe in wild, autonomous levels of individual freedom.  Provided you aren’t harming anyone, neither your neighbors nor the government have the moral authority to prevent you from seeking your own happiness.  It is immoral for parents to force their children into marriages, as still goes on in parts of the world.  It is immoral to force someone to work for slave wages as they starve to death and sleep on concrete floors so you can sell trinkets.  It is immoral to have children work in coal mines, stripped of the ability to consent due to crushing poverty.  It is immoral to steal from your neighbor.  You may decide you don’t want to eat ham for religious reasons, but demanding that others abide by your convictions is a form of violence.

Che Guevara

Che Guevara banned music, burned books, hated blacks, was an anti-Semite, oversaw execution squads, murdered his enemies, and oversaw a system that imprisoned gay men solely for being gay.  Anyone who supports any of those groups should become apoplectic when some oblivious (often non-intentional) bigot puts his image on display.

That is why I strongly subscribe to a model known as the horseshoe political theory.  It posits that there is no such thing as “the left” or “the right”.  Instead, there is a spectrum.  Along this spectrum, the two horseshoe ends, that are nearest each other despite being polar opposites, represent the people and organizations that will use violence and other means of control to force their will on others.  That is, there is no difference between a secular communist who destroys all library books that disagree with his philosophy and a religious zealot who demands women be forbidden from working outside the home.  Both have convictions they think are right for themselves, but they are not content to live their life by them.  They want to force everybody else to live how they want.

The past few years, I’ve noticed a handful of 18 to 22 year olds who are otherwise wonderful people, who have the right priorities (protecting workers rights, advocating for affordable education as an investment in the next generation, standing up for free speech, protecting individual property, etc.) walk around wearing Che Guevara shirts or have Che Guevara posters on their walls.  

I do not understand the mental disconnect.  To a lot of people, doing this is akin to walking into a Hebrew school wearing German regalia or displaying your Confederate Flag at an All-Black Historical College.

This is a man who banned music, burned books, hated blacks, was an anti-semite, murdered those who disagreed with him, personally oversaw execution squads, and was in charge of a system that imprisoned gays solely for the crime of being gay.  

The fact that he thought he was doing the right thing doesn’t count for much because some of the worst atrocities are committed with that justification; an event frequent enough that we even have a cultural saying for it: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  At the risk of violating Godwin’s law (sometimes the analogy is appropriate), Hitler was great for the German economy.  Life really did improve drastically underneath him for the typical German family relative to the period before his rise to power when reparations from the first world war were crushing the nation.  That doesn’t make him any less of a monster.  Should we excuse his actions simply because you had a little more cash in your pocket?

One or two good deeds does not make up for wholesale slaughter, imprisonment, suppression of individual freedom, and extremism.

[mainbodyad]And that’s the irony of the whole thing!  Hitler was a monster but he succeeded economically during his lifetime.  Che Guevara’s economic reforms turned out to be one of the greatest failures in the entire history of the world.  When Fidel Castro apologized for the treatment of minority groups a couple of years ago, saying that the atrocities committed during the Cuban revolution were horrible and misguided, he also,  much to his credit, admitted the obvious: Communism had completely and utterly ruined Cuba.  The once-wealthy destination had become a wasteland where cars are 70 years old, infrastructure has collapsed, and human capital left to stagnate.  

Why did it fail?  Because it ignored human nature.  Cuba’s economy is decimated not due to the refusal of certain economies to deal with it, but to the inability of such a system to harness human selfishness.  That selfishness is embedded in the deepest part of our genetic code.  A successful economic system must restrain excess but reward avarice.  That is why the income of the typical Cuban family is a mere fraction of what it is right across the water in Miami.

The type of man that will hold a gun to your head and pull the trigger unless you agree with him is not excused by the policies he is attempting to put in place, even if his desired ends are good.  The type of man who will decide that you shouldn’t have the right to read what you want, and will destroy the books in your library to prevent competing ideas from spreading, is not fit to call himself human.  It is animalistic.  It is primitive.  It is evil.

Che Guevara was not a hero.  He was a murderous tyrant.  If you are black, Jewish, gay, or an intellectual, or if you support those who are, confront the bigots who are so insensitive to the atrocities committed by this man that they would show reverence to his image.  He deserves scorn, not respect.  He was no different than the plantation owners in the south who lynched blacks because they believed they were defending their way of life.

If you want someone to stood up for labor rights, look to Cesar Chavez.  The Mexican American activist changed the lives of poor migrant farm workers in California by using non-violent protest to force oppressive farmers to recognize the bargaining power of more than 50,000 fieldworkers.  Chavez was every bit as good as Guevara was evil.

Those of you who want to strive for positive social change should study Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi.  Not only are they better men, and far more moral, their success rate obliterates their violent counterparts.  Tugging at heartstrings is more effective in the long-run than putting a bullet through someone’s heart.