World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the home of stunners, slams, and sharpshooters, recently established a lucrative tag team with Saudi Arabia, hosting The Greatest Royal Rumble and Crown Jewel. These were controversial events due to female wrestlers, who have moved beyond bra and panties matches and lingerie contests, being prohibited from performing in front of the live crowd.
Because of the Saudi regime’s social policies relating to women, the company was pushed to cancel its partnership. Paul Levesque, better known as Triple H, did discuss the controversy and told The Independent:
“You can’t dictate to a country or a religion about how they handle things but, having said that, WWE is at the forefront of a women’s evolution in the world and what you can’t do is affect change anywhere by staying away from it.
While, right now, women are not competing in the event, we have had discussions about that and we believe and hope that, in the next few years they will be. That is a significant cultural shift in Saudi Arabia.”
And the former world champion might be proven right.
According to several press reports, women could be featured at these shows this year. There is a major initiative by several big names within the company to have an all-women’s match placed on the Saudi card. WWE heads may not be doing this to be benevolent, but several high-profile performers have confirmed they are not attending, including John Cena, Daniel Bryan, and Roman Reigns, which would hurt box office receipts. The business needs to get women in the ring to get their men on the show.
Whatever the motive, if the reports are true, this would be another victory for the free market bringing social change to a repressive state.
Markets Change Societies
For years, the North Korean economy mirrored that of other communist locales: gray skies, concrete, and misery. Today, despite a brutal regime still running the show, Pyongyang has turned into a city with a modest free-enterprise system – and this model is beginning to seep into jurisdictions outside of the capital. As a result, the public has access to a diverse array of consumer goods, from cigarettes to cosmetics to Coca-Cola; rather than a black market for a soda, there are pop machines everywhere.
Solar panels are now status symbols, millions are cellphone subscribers, and Korean businesses are doing so well that some are taking away market share from Chinese companies.
In his first meeting with Kim Jong-un, President Donald Trump aired a video that showed what North Korea could become if it opened up its markets, participated in international trade, and quit being hostile with the rest of the world. Since Kim had been exposed to the West’s wealth at a young age, he understands first-hand how commerce can boost living standards, even for himself. Moreover, because he likely wants to stay in power for life, he can quash any dissent by giving the people what they want.
But this cultural shift didn’t happen overnight. For a long time, activists in South Korea engaged in a hot air balloon blitzkrieg, sending new U.S. dollar bills, flash drives containing soap operas, DVDs that documented the vast wealth south of the border, and cartoons poking fun at the government.
Did it work? The Associated Press reported in 2017:
“Much of what the activists send — satirical cartoons, or teary soap operas awash in lost loves, curses and amnesia — doesn’t look dangerous at all. But scholars and North Korean refugees say the outside information has helped bring a wealth of changes, from new slang to changing fashions to increasing demand for consumer goods in the expanding market economy.”
This has happened repeatedly throughout the despotic world over the last 50 years.
In 1991, during the World Economic Forum, Soviet economists agreed that it was too late to return to the failed centrally planned system because the market economy had garnered too much momentum. It appeared that Russians, having gotten a taste of the market gradually over the years, were sick and tired of price controls, shortages, and inferior products.
Many tourists who visit Cuba say that it’s like taking a time machine to the past because the country looks like it’s stuck in the 1950s. But that’s not the choice for Cubans or the marketplace. It is because of the disastrous socialist policies of Havana that have turned the island nation into a broken-down time capsule. It has only been recently, through reforms that recognize free markets and property rights, that Cuba is entering the 21st century.
Eminent economist Milton Friedman had it right when he said: “There is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.”
In the 1939 Ernst Lubitsch classic, Ninotchka, Greta Garbo arrives in Paris from the Soviet Union. During her mission to complete a sale of jewels, she enjoys the freedom, opulence, and joy that the Paris market economy brings to everyone, from the poor to the rich. She falls in love with Melvyn Douglas, who represents the capitalist lifestyle, and makes a remarkable comment: “I am a traitor. When I kissed you, I betrayed a Russian ideal. I should be stood up against the wall.” That’s a lot of insight for a romantic comedy – they didn’t call it the Lubitsch Touch for nothing.
Whenever an imprisoned population is given a soupcon of Western civilization and capitalism, it builds their appetite for everything the free market system has to offer. Is it any wonder why dictatorships censor information, prohibit foreign material, and only emit propaganda?
Like the glorious Garbo kissing the debonair Douglas, let’s fall in love with capitalism all over again.