Representative Charles Vanik, RIP:

Former Democratic Representative Charles Vanik passed away recently. Although Rep. Vanik and I disagreed on most major political issues, I nonetheless owe him a debt that can never be repaid.

In 1974, Vanik and Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson co-sponsored the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which denied the Soviet Union and some other totalitarian states "most favored nation" trade status unless they permitted free emigration of their citizens. The Amendment was passed by Congress despite the opposition of the Nixon Administration.

In part as a result of the pressure brought to bear by the Amendment, the USSR began to allow the emigration of Soviet Jews and members of several other ethnic and religious minority groups, such as Germans, Armenians, and Pentecostals. Were it not for the efforts of Jackson, Vanik, and their supporters, hundreds of thousands of people - including our senior Conspirator and myself - might have been trapped in a totalitarian state for many years longer. The Russian immigrant community in this country owes Representative Vanik a great debt. My respectful condolences to his family and friends.

UPDATE: Here is a more extensive obituary in the New York Times. It includes a great quote by Rep. Vanik:

In 1988, five years after Mr. Jackson died, the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev urged the amendment to be scrapped, saying: "Why should the dead hold onto the coattails of the living? I mean the Jackson-Vanik amendment. One of them is already physically dead. The other is politically dead."

. . . Mr. Vanik countered: "Lenin has been dead for a long time, and they still live under his guidance."

UPDATE #2: The Jackson-Vanik Amendment and other similar legislation raise an interesting issue in libertarian theory - whether libertarianism is consistent with restrictions on trade with socialist states. I do not think it is appropriate to address that issue in an obituary post. So I will instead consider it in a follow-up. Comments on that issue should also be attached to the follow-up post rather than this one.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Libertarianism and Restrictions on Trade With Socialist States:
  2. Representative Charles Vanik, RIP: