Re: To the question "Do you think capitalism or socialism is better?"

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I, personally, am 53% in favor of capitalism.

Or maybe I'm in favor of a system that is 53% capitalistic.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:55 AM
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Then you read further, and find out that only 35% think that capitalism is the same thing as having a free market.

I wouldn't have been in that 35% -- "a free market" seems so underspecified that agreeing to it is either empty or wrong. Markets in societies generally agreed upon to be 'capitalist' are heavily regulated; markets in democratic socialist societies are regulated in different ways, but not necessarily more heavily.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:02 AM
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True; maybe there were sound distinctions in separating the two phrases. I personally would have thought that a truly capitalist market is the same as a free market.

But more fundamentally, I felt like clearly the question was seeking to check in with whether you knew what capitalism meant. So maybe I was wrong here.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:04 AM
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The people who believe that capitalism isn't the same thing as a free market would be right, no? As LB says most contemporary capitalist economies aren't run as free markets. Both in the sense tht LB mentions [regulation, etc], but also in the senses that various left libertarians, Marxists and the like always point to. Capitalism being pretty explicitly not about free markets.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:06 AM
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"free enterprise" polls better than "capitalism".

But people who distinguish between free markets and capitalism are exactly right. Free markets date back thousands of years to tribes trading conch shells or whatever. Capitalism is a new global system that only goes back a few centuries. One good thing about Marx is he gets this straight.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:06 AM
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Well, yeah, there's always a problem distinguishing between under- and over-sophistication. I know that 'capitalism' is supposed to mean 'free market', I just want to reject the statement that they're the same as propagandistic bullshit. There's a fair chance that you're right that most of the people who disagreed just didn't know what the question was talking about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:08 AM
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I would need essay answer format in order to explain if I believed the government were capable of adequately monitering Wall Street.

Really? I think most people would probably just need a tick box. Though I suppose you need to draw the distinction between "can the government as it currently exists, or is likely to exist in the near future, do so" and "is it even theoretically possible for any government, even one headed by incorruptible Philosopher Kings, staffed by Jedi, and advised by the terrifying four-headed immortal mutant Krugman-Volcker-Keynes-Galbraith Beast, to do so".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:09 AM
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The people who believe that capitalism isn't the same thing as a free market would be right, no? As LB says most contemporary capitalist economies aren't run as free markets.

My understanding was that what we call capitalist economies have socialist elements, and that a true capitalist economy is totally unregulated.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:10 AM
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pwned.

Capitalism isn't just about government regulation, it's about the capacity to amass and concentrate capital dedicated to making more capital (as opposed to, say, conspicuous consumption). THe rise of the modern state is very entangled with the rise of capitalism because the rationalization of laws and markets across huge geographic areas helps private actors amass capital on a massive scale.

Small scale free market activity -- craftsmen and traders -- has existed since time immemorial but these guys do not amass and rationalize much capital. Ancient kings, Roman aristocrats, etc. amasssed a lot of capital but didn't necessarily rationalize it to generate more capital through markets.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:10 AM
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I got into a (rather pointless) argument last year with a Glenn Beck listener (on a site I no longer visit) about whether or not the US had a "mixed economy". He was unwisely trying to stake out the position that even to question whether the economy of the US was a freewheeling free-for-all free market was tantamount to Stalinism. I kept telling him: "Look, I'm not arguing that! I know you don't like socialism, but don't you realize that our economy is largely influenced by socialist practices?" It was fruitless.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:11 AM
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7: Gosh, you just wrote a paragraph to explain what most people would need a simple tick-box for. Sure, a tick-box that accomplished what I needed to distinguish would work just fine. They didn't provide one.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:11 AM
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Capitalism is when the capitalists own the means of production. They then say, "Capitalism is about free markets, so stop regulating me" while they direct people's attention away from the massive government interventions in their favor.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:13 AM
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even to question whether the economy of the US was a freewheeling free-for-all free market was tantamount to Stalinism

I thought their entire worldview was underpinned by the notion that Obama and the Democrats have socialized health care, the auto industry, and the banking system.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:15 AM
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Capitalism isn't just about government regulation, it's about the capacity to amass and concentrate capital dedicated to making more capital (as opposed to, say, conspicuous consumption).

Ah, you believe they were testing this distinction?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:15 AM
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11: fair enough


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:16 AM
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Nobody knows what these words mean. It's all a bunch of connotations. I don't know the difference between "capitalism" and "free markets". I don't know the difference between "socialism" and "communism". I don't know the difference between "sexism" and "misogyny". Just imagine how uninformed by sister is.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:18 AM
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13: I thought their entire worldview was underpinned by "Black man in the White House!"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:18 AM
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16.last: She's a girl, du-uh.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:19 AM
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If you all believe that the people polled had decent rationals for answering no, the free market is different than capitalism, then do you believe there really is a meaningful 20% of Americans who prefer socialism to capitalism? This is wildly more progressive than I believed us to be.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:19 AM
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14: To the extent there was a "right" answer expected to that question (capitalism = free market), it just reveals the implicit ideology of the poll. You're probably right about the pollster's intentions.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:20 AM
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Clearly, 65% of the people are anarchists who believe that capitalism is any industrial system designed to shift capital into the hands of an elite, whether as the result of an ostensibly free market, an authoritarian state, or a welfare bureaucracy.

(More seriously, people might colloquially think that "capitalism" means a system designed to benefit big business, often with government-backing--and they wouldn't be that off).


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:20 AM
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I don't know the difference between "sexism" and "misogyny".

Racist.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:21 AM
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13: As you may have surmised, his argumentation skillz were somewhat lacking in vigor. I think what he was basically trying to say was, "There would be no significantly problematic socialist aspects of the US economy without meddling by the Democrats, who are, in fact, engaged in a massive conspiracy to force us into serfdom through government programs I don't like (AFDC, public education, emissions restrictions). The government programs I do like (VA loans, highway subsidies, the military) are a necessary evil which, if kept in check by a strong conservative movement, should not unduly restrict my God-given freedoms as a white guy." But I wouldn't want to put words in his mouth.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:22 AM
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Most people I know prefer socialism to capitalism.

</paulinekael>


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:25 AM
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put words in his mouth.

Again with the shoving things down their throats!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:27 AM
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a true capitalist economy is totally unregulated.

a capitalist system would have a hard time functioning in an unregulated environment. Contract law is a form of regulation.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:30 AM
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I don't even see abstract concepts.

If you all believe that the people polled had decent rationals for answering no, the free market is different than capitalism, then do you believe there really is a meaningful 20% of Americans who prefer socialism to capitalism? This is wildly more progressive than I believed us to be.

Well, assuming the people polled are sophisticated enough to distinguish between free markets and capitalism, surely they're sophisticated enough to distinguish between socialism and communism, or even different varieties of socialism. Or they're just equating socialism with Yurp, and I can easily imagine 18% of Americans think Yurp has a better economic system than the US. That's about as many people as lack health insurance, after all.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:31 AM
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Contract law is a form of regulation.

It sounded cooler when Lee van Cleef said it.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:32 AM
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It is worth clicking through to the discussions of the other surveys mentioned to get a little more insight. But since it is Rasmussen who suck (see for instance their polls which use loaded terminology like "Political Class in Washington" and "Mainstream Americans") and since they don;t seem to present the actual poll wording (much less the demographics) take it all with a boulder of salt.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:34 AM
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I don't even see abstract concepts.

OT, but too shockingly stupid not to be reminded of by the foregoing:

"I cannot wrap my head around stereotypes."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:35 AM
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I would need essay answer format in order to explain if I believed the government were capable of adequately monitering Wall Street.

Really? I think most people would probably just need a tick box

I definitely need a little space to say "regulate Wall Street better than it can regulate itself." I only become enthusiastic about government regulation in light of the alternatives.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:36 AM
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You know marxists.org is only a click away

Capitalism

"The socio-economic system where social relations are based on commodities for exchange, in particular private ownership of the means of production and on the exploitation of wage labour. "

This has to be parsed, feudalism had markets, but the social relations had a different base.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:36 AM
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It can be useful to look up feudalism

Feudalism

Feudal society is the type of civilisation, generally associated with predominantly small-scale agricultural production, based on traditional patterns of land-ownership and territory, in which the rights and duties of every member of society is defined by traditional inheritance and kinship relations.

Feudal society differs from tribal society in being a class society, in which quite different and unequal rights and duties are enjoyed by different families, according to land rights, wealth and social status inherited from previous generations.

Feudal society differs from slave society in that every class in feudal society has rights and is regarded as human, however lowly, whereas slaves have no rights at all and are treated as property rather than people.

Get the picture? It is not about factories, but about families and marriages. It is about social relations.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:42 AM
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If we go back to feudalism, I'm going to sell Viagra as "Serfs-Up."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:50 AM
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Bill Benzon at The Valve discusses Romantic Love and Culture

This was the decisive shift, for this new type of family was the product of the rise of Affective Individualism. It was a family organized around the principle of personal autonomy, and bound together by strong affective ties. Husbands and wives personally selected each other rather than obeying parental wishes, and their prime motives were now long-term personal affection rather than economic or status advantage for the lineage as a whole ... Patriarchical attitudes within the home markedly declined, and greater autonomy was granted not only to children, but also to wives.

Affective Individualism and the Closed Domesticated Nuclear Family was a necessary shift as people were turned into commodities. Sure a tribe or demesne could exchange children, but only within itself. An Afghani will not sell his daughter to a Swede. As long as people partook of collective identity they could not be commodities.

Or something. Anyway, this is how to think about Capitalism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:51 AM
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30: Wow. You know what's really odd about that (for non-clickers-through, it's an SF writer talking about a character she wrote that people in a workshop found racially offensive. The character is black, and eats a lot of Brazil nuts, and his nickname comes from an unspecified "slang for brazil nuts")?

I really hope she knows another slang term for Brazil nuts than I do. Because the only slang I've ever heard for them (and I don't know anyone who uses this term, just that I've heard it mentioned as out of date racist slang) is n*gger toes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:57 AM
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As for interesting poll numbers, I heard someone on the Diane Rehm Show refer to poll numbers suggesting something like 76% of Republicans have a favorable view of Sarah Palin, which was leaps and bounds over anyone else except maybe Huckabee (people ♥ him, basically) and only 4% of Republicans hadn't formed an opinion about Palin.

I can't seem to turn up the poll they were on about though.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:59 AM
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37: Try saying "President Huckabee" and you'll see why that won't work. He needs a nickname that is more butch. When he starts referring to himself as "the Huck" or something, I'll know he is getting ready to run.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:02 AM
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The link at 30 certainly displays an astonishing lack of self awareness. One hopes that Ms. Odell shows up here in comments to tell us personally that she doesn't see race.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:08 AM
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The Manifesto notes the "sex class"

The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour.

But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.

The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.

He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.

For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial.

Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other's wives.

Bourgeois marriage is, in reality, a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalised community of women. For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of the community of women springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private.

Forced-birthing is necessarily connected to children-as-commodities. As long as children are property, of course the State will have a say in their disposition.

And I'm gone.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:11 AM
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There is a big difference between having a favorable view of Sarah Palin and wanting her to be President.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:13 AM
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I really hope she knows another slang term for Brazil nuts than I do.

"Two people approached me before class began on my critique day to tell me they didn't care for the character's name because of one of the words involved"

I'm betting that is precisely the term she used. Which, if you take her at her word, would make her spectacularly, mind-bogglingly clueless.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:15 AM
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Well, yeah, that's what threw me about it. I could just barely imagine someone arguing that they should be able to write a character with that for a nickname without being considered racist, but not that they could be surprised by the reaction. OTOH, everything about her account of it makes it sound like that was the term.

Someone must know another term for Brazil nuts, right? I actually googled '"brazil nuts" slang', but didn't get anything other than the term I knew.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:20 AM
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Well, yeah, there's always a problem distinguishing between under- and over-sophistication.

The problem with all multiple choice tests. We had a thread about this recently. See also.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:20 AM
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I'm confused. The black character's nickname is "Nigger Toes"?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:22 AM
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Perhaps she described the large black hunter as "niggardly".


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:24 AM
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||

Just encountered an amusing phrasing in a non-native-English-speaking collaborator's writing that I think is kind of great: "... [experiment] will shed information on [dynamics]..."

Shed information on! I will drop information all over you, motherfuckers!

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:25 AM
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Click through the link in 30. She says the character's name is a slang term for Brazil nuts, but doesn't say what that slang term is, and that other participants in the workshop found it offensive. I am desperately hoping that she doesn't mean that she wrote a black character whose nickname was Nigger Toes, and is now asking for sympathy about people calling her racist. But I don't know any other slang for Brazil nuts.

If someone can come up with another term for Brazil nuts that's not blatantly racist, but that might conceivably have offended people, I'll feel much better.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:26 AM
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Jesus, Brock. Use "the T word".


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:26 AM
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48.2: Cashew?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:27 AM
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Taboos are weird. This is making my skin crawl. Obscenities don't bother me, but even mentioning 'the N word' creeps me out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:28 AM
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48: No, I think that's obviously the brazil-nut-slang in question. My question was more: what the hell sort of nickname is that? Even entirely apart from the racism, it's just... weird.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:29 AM
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Capitalism is the system that will give you a free case for your iPhone4.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:31 AM
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http://nonprophet.typepad.com/nonprophet/2004/04/nutty_racism.html

The comments are full of people remarking, "They're called Brazil nuts? Weird."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:33 AM
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and I don't know anyone who uses this term, just that I've heard it mentioned as out of date racist slang

I am pretty sure my Grandmother, who is in her 90s, still uses this term. She also still calls anise dolls n*gger babies.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:33 AM
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55: And she calls ham sandwiches "Fuck you modern polite society."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:37 AM
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55: You misspelled anus.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:37 AM
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54: OMG I just learned the original form of "catch a tiger by the toe, if he hollers let him go." Wow.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:44 AM
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58: I think I was 10 when I first heard my grandmother sing this. I'm not sure what the look on my face was like, but I remember the shock and embarrassment on her face when she saw the look on my face.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:49 AM
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Ya know, the work in question would be less objectionable and more authentic if she had set it in any time period before say 1973.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:49 AM
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58 was me.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:50 AM
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I favor a society with single payer health care, free child care, comprehensive housing guarantees for the poor, much higher taxes on the rich than anything Obama has ever proposed, strong pro-union regulations, strong regulations on the corporate sector and a tax haul of on the order of fifty-sixty percent of GDP. I'm also fine with government owned utilities and defense industries. Yet, I would have answered 'capitalism' since in the end my ideal society is still market based with a large and powerful private sector.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:50 AM
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still market based with a large and powerful private sector

Doing what? You identified like 75% of the economy.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:54 AM
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This appears to be the other work she submitted to the workshop. A PUA story. She says it certainly is nipply out tonight, and rubs her chest against my arm to prove it.

I'm all about mean girl today.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:56 AM
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Doing what?

Being fabulous.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 11:59 AM
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Think France before the utilities got privatized. Basically, retail, services, manufacturing, finance, etc. Or imagine the US with an NHS and with electcricity, gas, and Lockheed and the other dedicated defense contractors under government ownership. There's still plenty of private stuff left.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:00 PM
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A PUA story

Where P="parasitic infection".


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:02 PM
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Would it help you understand if I mentioned that when I think 'socialist system' I imagine something like pre-1989 Eastern Europe?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:03 PM
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I'd take terza's 62 as a theoretical transitional compromise.

I do have problems and questions about it, as in "Is Social Democracy in One State Viable". See Germany eating Spain and Greece, or US Wall Street trying to turn the whole world to slave labor.

Capitalism, and its variant Fascism, are simply more efficient war-making systems than highly developed social democracies.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:12 PM
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Ah, "really existing socialism"


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:13 PM
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I was teasing you, teraz. The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money. All kidding aside, there is a lot of room to disagree on the amount of regulation/ government mandates necessary to create the conditions for a functioning modern economy.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:13 PM
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The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.

The problem with capitalism is that, unless you're a robber baron, you run out of your own money even faster.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:16 PM
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And I think part of the problem in America is that on some level, most Americans understand that "Socialism" is not supportive of nationalism and militarism.

And we will forever carry the guilt and paranoia of our genocidal slaver past.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:17 PM
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63: Doing what? You identified like 75% of the economy.

Sweden gets about 47% of GDP, they do all that, and they take the largest cut in Europe. That's the problem when people try to 'defend' capitalism: if you really believe in the magic of the market then you know the free sector will outgrow the government sector in the long run. (In a free democracy. But even the authoritarian communist states will have free market growth.)

Defenders of capitalism talk as if they don't really believe the free market works.

max
['Not even Ayn Rand believes.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:18 PM
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you run out of your own money even faster

Mac and cheese on the Thursday before payday.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:18 PM
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we will forever carry the guilt and paranoia of our genocidal slaver past

Nah. Over time we will forget, just like every other civilization has.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:21 PM
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I think I'd prefer anarchism to socialism, but I haven't explored it in any real depth.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:21 PM
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When I think of Socialism I think of The Smurfs.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:21 PM
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My casually racist (well intentioned, but from a different time) Grandmother always called them "Brazil Nuts." And she ate tons of them; there was always a big tray of mixed nuts set out as a snack. I never heard of this issue until this thread.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:23 PM
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And I have to say that I have no firm idea what "Capitalism" means, outside a Marxist framework.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:26 PM
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Defenders of capitalism talk as if they don't really believe the free market works

Meh. I think that your "defenders of capitalism" don't externalize that much, and only know that they personally "can't afford" any more taxes. The aspirations of a nominally mobile society will never be able to provide enough for everybody, and the public sector is the easiest thing to gripe about, especially in early November.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:27 PM
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Affective Individualism and the Closed Domesticated Nuclear Family was a necessary shift as people were turned into commodities.

there's a lot of truth to this. There's a connection to feminism -- the feminist attack on the inequality in the family division of labor liberated women as commodity labor. This can be a problem with womens' rights critiques of less developed countries, when the peasant family is the basic unit of production the issue of "rights" looks very different. None of this means that feminism is not progressive. Capitalism is a progressive force but in a particular way, only insofar as it is complementary to mobilization of resources for the market.

This has to be parsed, feudalism had markets, but the social relations had a different base.

right, that's the best deepest way to think about it...Karl Polanyi is the best expositor of this.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:32 PM
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Myers, a descendant of Bell, the inventor of the first practical telephone, was a child of wealth and privilege and could have been anything he wanted to be, but instead chose to spy for Cuba for 30 years from inside the State Department.

I hate surveys-- people feel the need to have an opinion on questions they'd rather not think about.

Almonds with salt and rosemary for me, washed down with gin+lime.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:32 PM
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It seems ludicrous to even ask people this question, since we don't have either "capitalism" or "socialism" but something in-between, and have for decades.

Furthermore, any survey like this is more a referendum on how the terms (read: value-ridden simplistic labels) are currently being treated in the wonkmedia than a measurement of what people actually think, since 99.9% of the people answering the question couldn't define the terms used in the question coherently, and even if they could, they'd all define them differently.

So - this is meaningless!


Posted by: cassanthropy | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:36 PM
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"Socialism" is not supportive of nationalism and militarism.

The militarism of the National Socialists notwithstanding...


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:36 PM
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I challenge anybody to name a literate society in human history which had unrestricted free markets. They're a myth, like the golden age of King Arthur. And Adam Smith didn't think they would be a good idea.

I can't follow Bob's link to the definition of feudalism at 33, cos it's broken, but I think it's wrong. The definitive characteristic of feudalism is the parcelisation of sovereignty, where local leaders have a huge amount of initiative in running their land, up to the point of having their own courts and making their own laws, on the basis of a payoff to their superior lord in military service or (later) cash rents.

History is full of hierarchical societies that look a bit the same ever since the neolithic, but actual feudalism was unique to the successor states of the Western Roman Empire and their neighbours. Also, independently and to a lesser degree, Tokugawa Japan.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:39 PM
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And I have to say that I have no firm idea what "Capitalism" means, outside a Marxist framework.

It's not a very old word. It dates from the mid-19th century. "Capital" in its economic sense is older by about two centuries I think, and is in Smith. "Capitalist" is a bit older, too, and referred to someone who had a lot of money or who had laborers at his disposal. But as a concept describing a whole economic system "Capitalism" is very strongly connected to Marxism. It has less of a history of positive popular connotation than you might think -- for a long time, what Marxists might call "bourgeois defenders of capitalism" resisted using the term at all, preferring things like "industrial society" to describe whole countries or "the system of free enterprise" to pick out the economic rules specifically. It's the libertarians and the Chicago School types who embrace "capitalism" as a term in the U.S. -- a bit like the way "queer" got reappropriated in a different context later.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:40 PM
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"Socialism" is not supportive of nationalism and militarism.

Sputter, cough, cry, laugh, cry. Real Existing Socialism was even more militaristic than the Cold War US, and quite nationalist as well. Katherine Verdery's National Ideology under Socialism: Identity and Cultural Politics in Ceausescu's Romania is a nice case study.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:45 PM
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88: North Korea is pretty militarist and nationalist, I've heard.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:49 PM
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Real Existing Socialism was even more militaristic than the Cold War US

I think bob is talking about Kumbaya Socialism. Or Jesus Socialism, if one is so inclined.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:51 PM
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87:I think "liberalism" was popular in the 18th and 19th, and included much of the economic sphere. Think of the modern "Neo-Liberalism"

I think we, or some CT threads, have gone into the connection between foundational liberalism (Locke, Hume, Smith) and Capitalism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:51 PM
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88-90:I am not strongly swayed by how tyrants describe their regimes.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:54 PM
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Real Existing Socialism was even more militaristic than the Cold War US, and quite nationalist as well.

I gave up arguing that Real Existing Socialism wasn't real socialism because ultimately I was persuaded by Kolakowski's argument that that was what it was called, that was what the people who lived in it believed it to be and therefore that was what it was, by any reasonable criterion.

But Stalinism and post-Stalinism, although they represent a huge chunk of the history of the concept, are a tiny corner of the ideas that make up the socialist tradition, which runs from Richard Owen to William Morris to Isaac Deutscher to god knows who. And it's the only corner that ever endorsed militarism and nationalism as virtues, although plenty of others accepted militarism as a necessary evil.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:57 PM
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C'mon, it's absurd. The GDR called itself a "democracy" so the internal practices of the GDR help delimit and define democracy?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:57 PM
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Michael Barone on the subject:

http://american.com/archive/2010/july/the-return-of-the-jeffersonian-vision-and-the-rejection-of-progressivism


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 12:58 PM
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Kolokowski is full of shit.

By that standard, Ante-Bellum Dixie was a paragon of freedom and representative government. Calhoun said so!


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:00 PM
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Sir Humphrey: East Yemen, isn't that a democracy?

Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office: Its full name is the Peoples' Democratic Republic of East Yemen.

Sir Humphrey: Ah I see, so it's a communist dictatorship.

-- Yes Minister


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:00 PM
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94: Democratic People's Republic of Korea, People's Republic of China, etc.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:01 PM
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People's Front of Judea?


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:04 PM
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The Judean People's Front.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:05 PM
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The latest article in the New Yorker on North Korea just makes me want to cry. I really lose all rational thought when I read about starvation and penury at that level. There are inklings in the country that the people have had it, but that worries me all the more, as god knows what the ruling family would do to put down a rebellion.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:07 PM
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Kolokowski is full of shit.

mostly, yeah. But I think he's right on that small point, which doesn't actually affect anything in the real world.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:10 PM
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as god knows what the ruling family would do to put down a rebellion

Isn't the real question whether the soldiers will obey the order to "fire', not who will give such an order?


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:12 PM
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RES societies were run on socialist lines with complete state ownership of the economy and central planning. They were created by committed Marxists whose parties were direct descendants of the original nineteenth century Marxist parties. In the interwar period, many left wing SD's saw the economic side of Communism as a model, just wanted to subtract the whole brutal dictatorship thingy. Now, if you're going to argue that this is only one plausible interpretation and practical application of Marxism, as chris does, I'd agree with you. But the 'this is Not Socialism/Marxism' line is bullshit. Coming form Bob 'the Bolsheviks were awesome' McManus, it is just bizarre.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:19 PM
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I actually rather like the transitional Kolakowski of the mid sixties through the mid seventies or so.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:21 PM
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Yeah, language isn't transparent and a state can call itself whatever it wants and that doesn't actually make it so, but the larger question, and the one that I think chris is pointing at, is why every single socialist regime came to rot and repression. I mean, I'll continue to call myself a socialist and defend workers' democracy and critiques of capitalism and all the good things, but when every single one of the movements that understand themselves to be socialist end up behaving in the very ways that we want them not to, then there's something flawed in the model, not just the label. Personally, I think that the problems are a) the model of revolution, which has a strong tendency to produce tyrany, b) the impulse towards centralization, which encourages both tyrany and stagnancy, and c) the unworkability of both world-wide revolution and the creation of socialist economies that the capitalist world won't labor strenuously to take apart by hook or by crook.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:23 PM
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105. I'd stop at "Main Currents" myself. YMMV.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:23 PM
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The Bolsheviks had plenty of socialist competitors they purged and got rid of. Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, Plekhanov followers. So now they get to define "actual" socialism forever. Lenin was an autocratic asshole.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:23 PM
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108. That isn't what Teraz is arguing. They don't get to define anything, they just can't be excluded from it as if they were a bad dream that's gone away.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:25 PM
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b) the impulse towards centralization, which encourages both tyranny and stagnancy

That's my guess as to the root of the problem.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:26 PM
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103: Isn't that always the question? Are you suggesting that there's a real likelihood of a military coup, or saying that placing the responsibility for the country's problems and potential reaction to rebellion on the leaders is mistaken? Or something else entirely?


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:26 PM
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That said, I'd argue that words notwithstanding, China and Vietnam are pretty much capitalist dictatorships these days. N.Korea is sui generis; I don't think Lenin can be blamed for Juche.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:28 PM
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That isn't what Teraz is arguing. They don't get to define anything, they just can't be excluded from it as if they were a bad dream that's gone away.

I get it. I was bemoaning that they do define it in the popular mind.

Of the reasons Jimmie points to in 106, I think the revolution part is actually the most important. Socialist parties that took a legislative incrementalist approach within their existing systems made huge contributions and arguably did create several actually existing socialist societies in Western Europe.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:30 PM
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If we go back to feudalism, I'm going to sell Viagra as "Serfs-Up."

I ♥ Moby. (Our Moby; I am indifferent to that other one.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:32 PM
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106 My problem is that way too many full on leftists seem to be far to comfortable with authoritarian government. See, e.g. the soft spot many have for Cuba (aka Pinochet with universal health care and greater income equality). And while Chavez is democratically elected, and Venezuela no dictatorship, anyone seeing him as a model for modern 'socialist democracy' is either delusional or someone I really don't want in power.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:32 PM
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Are you suggesting that there's a real likelihood of a military coup

I think this the most likely, almost a certainty when Kim Jong Il dies. No way his twenty- something son gets the reigns. Figurehead? Schmaybe, but were I he I'd try and book some foreign vacations next time Dad sees the doctor.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:33 PM
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116: I really hope that's the case, in the sense that I can't see how things could get much worse with the military in charge and the heir apparent has already shown himself to be rather ham-fisted.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:35 PM
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The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money

I would be interested to know the names of any socialist states that actually ran into this problem. Frankly it sounds to me like the old right-wing saw of "democracy will survive until a majority of people realise they can vote themselves largesse out of the public purse", which sounds clever but actually describes NOTHING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ANY DEMOCRATIC STATE EVER IN HISTORY. Actually, "democracy generally survives until the country in question is invaded and occupied by its brutally oppressive neighbour" would be a better summary of what happened to eg Athens, Czechoslovakia, France and so on, but you couldn't use that to argue in favour of policies that leave a tenth of the population poisoned, starving and sick, so I suppose it's not quite so useful.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:35 PM
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Actually existing socialism in North Korea . Pretty awesome!

North Korea also has excellent support for philosophy . (See starting at 1:20). I think Wolfson would really enjoy that job.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:42 PM
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115: Yeah, it hasn't happened in a while, but every so often I still run into a Cuba defender in a coffee shop who seems sincerely to believe that there are no problems and only the criminals and the old capitalists are unhappy there and if we could just end the embargo...

The affection for Chavez in some US left circles is really puzzling and I think mostly a carry-over of the Chomskyite "whoever's criticizing the US is on the right side" impulse. I mean, early in his career there was some hope that he was building a legitimate left-wing renaissance in SAm, but this hasn't been credible for a while.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:44 PM
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Grammar Nazi turns Grammar Commie.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:44 PM
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115, 120: I get myself stuck in those conversations wanting to defend Cuba and Venezuela as being not actually worse on the human rights front than plenty of countries that don't bother us at all so long as they don't call themselves socialist -- yes, we should worry about all of them, but no, they're not remarkably bad. But this is a fine distinction to draw, and the conversations never go all that well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:49 PM
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Kim Jong Il shares his gifts with his people! . Also, you have to admit Communist countries produce the best choral music around.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 1:50 PM
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I would be interested to know the names of any socialist states that actually ran into this problem.

Jamestown colony until 1614, collectivized farms in CZ or HU after 1948. Collective agricultural production with no profit motive has not worked well anywhere except maybe Kibbutzes, I think.
Tanzania under Nyerere is another example of well-intentioned failed redistribution. Communism post-WWII in the Ostblok is more complicated than invasion. Czeslaw Milosz is not a bad starting place.

I don't know the detailed history of land reform in India, but isn't there real variation among states in how market-friendly they are, with Bengal being the socialist outlier? How has that worked out?

Part of the problem is that once economies cease rewarding productive small enterprise, corruption sets in quickly, so they're no longer democratic. The late stages of decay are thus not democratic, at worst conforming to Hayek's nightmare.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:03 PM
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NOTHING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ANY DEMOCRATIC STATE EVER IN HISTORY

Looked at the Federal Budget lately?


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:03 PM
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Collective agricultural production with no profit motive has not worked well anywhere except maybe Kibbutzes, I think.

huh? How about every subsistence farmer in history? Or all kinds of ancient states? Those are not "working well" in some ways but I think this requires at least some qualifier given that collective agricultural production with no profit motive describes a huge chunk of all of human agricultural history before capitalism.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:11 PM
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51: I recently got referred to as "this n-", in a casual, perhaps inclusive way, and turned twelve shades of WTF. (This is a story I have told recently, but) when I was five-ish I asked my mother what it meant*, and she explained and then said "don't EVER say that word again" so now as an adult I'm uptight about it and don't like quoting it etc. Also as a result, my subway rides around young 'uns are kind of humorous extended paroxysms of white liberal self-recrimination, since it is basically now a pronoun.

*I think I heard it on tv but on the other hand I was living in a small town in Oklahoma so who knows.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:12 PM
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125 --I've never heard the massive defense outlays and big tax cuts to the rich that characterize the budget trend over the last 30 years described as socialism. It is true, though, that if you let a small group of people raid the savings to fund their bogus schemes, get their fill of hookers and caviar, and blow money on various get-rich-quick notions, and don't have a way to get the money back, you end up broke.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:13 PM
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How about every subsistence farmer in history?

That life really, deeply, sucked badger balls. The point is that collective agriculture hasn't even gotten much above subsistence levels of production.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:14 PM
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How about every subsistence farmer in history? Or all kinds of ancient states?

Without going all theory of money, there was some surplus from these farms, so as to allow some specialization, correct? How one pays for this surplus, through goods, services, cash or extortion becomes a discussion on political organization.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:18 PM
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101 a week or two before, Harper's had an equally devastating thing on people defecting from NK through China and the risks they were willing to take/terrible conditions they were willing to live in to get out.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:21 PM
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I've never heard the massive defense outlays and big tax cuts to the rich that characterize the budget trend over the last 30 years described as socialism

Me neither. I thought I was referring to voting yourself the public purse, but whatever floats your boat. Point is, no free lunch, no matter how you slice it.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:25 PM
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I had a whole pizza for lunch. It was sliced into six pieces. It wasn't free, but it was only $7 (including a tip).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:29 PM
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I had a whole pizza for lunch

Enemy of the people. To re-education camp with you!


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:34 PM
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Sure, which is why it is now the turn of the people who looted the Treasury with their bullshit supply-side theories and fear mongering to fund the thing for a while.

What the people voted to give themselves, they generally voted to tax themselves to pay for. (Roughly the 1980s SS deal). What they didn't provide for the losses to hucksters and con men.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:35 PM
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the people who looted the Treasury with their bullshit supply-side theories and fear mongering

Those guys are dead. If you mean people like them, or who seem like them to you, then, hello, Comrade!


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:39 PM
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Because there is no difference between Communism and a return to the income tax rates of my childhood.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:46 PM
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Point is, no free lunchlemonade, no matter how you slice it.
FTFY


Posted by: Terry Savage | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 2:57 PM
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My problem is that way too many full on leftists seem to be far to comfortable with authoritarian government.

This is more a general human characteristic than one of a particular political persuasion.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:00 PM
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Because there is no difference between Communism and a return to the income tax rates of my childhood

Well I doubt that, but I do think that tax simplification was a part of the rate adjustments. All well and good to have upper tax rates @ 98% but with 10,000 loopholes, who cares? Capitalism came about when large amounts of capital were needed to fund the Industrial Revolution. Large capital requirements may not be as important as they once were for a post industrial society.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:02 PM
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On collectivized agriculture, it's worth noting how heavily socialized the agricultural sectors have been in pretty much every advanced country since WWII? Still a profit motive and private ownership, but very far from a free market and all kinds of price supports and protections. Plus socialized provision of education and technical assistance. Probably the most "socialist" segment of advanced mixed economies.

Profit motives and private ownership of some surplus seem to be very helpful, maybe necessary in agriculture (look how successful it was in China to introduce some ability to sell surplus for profit), but at the same time pure market systems may create so much chaos (due to big swings in agricultural commodity prices) that they make it hard to do long-term investment.

Also worth noting that without land reform many agricultural systems in conservative countries end up sort of collectivized due to income inequality under capitalism -- giant chunks of land owned by the wealthy who pay tenant farmers who don't have much power to benefit from their crops. There should be space for a mutually beneficial bargain there based on generating more surplus but as I understand it that often doesn't happen.

An ag economist, which I'm not, might have some very interesting stories.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:12 PM
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I'm not in favor of socialism, but I have to disagree with 106 pretty strongly. There's a reason that in the wake of the October Revolution the Leninist model became paramount among revolutionaries, and that's because the revolutionaries willing to take direction from Moscow beat out the revolutionaries who didn't. The Spanish Civil War is the paradigmatic example.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:19 PM
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My problem is that way too many full on leftists seem to be far to comfortable with authoritarian government

Why is everybody looking at me? STOP LOOKING AT ME, DAMMIT!


Posted by: Tom Friedman | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:22 PM
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Note for reference. Bob one nanosec ago: I'm so a Leninist! Bob one nanosec later: I didn't mean it, mum!


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:38 PM
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||

Damn.

Rauchway

looks seriously

pissed off.

I am still wondering if he saw Obama's "Gov't Can't Create Jobs" quote, which I suppose puts this whole freakin socialism discussion into question. Note Obama didn't say it was a bad idea for gov't to create jobs, he said it was like a freaking law of nature.

Socialism is impossible, dudes. Prez sez so.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:39 PM
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The Spanish Civil War is the paradigmatic example.

Because the Soviet advisers made very sure it happened that way, having taken the Republic's gold and forex reserve into "safekeeping". No T-28s for you, Lister!

I'm fairly sure Bob has rehearsed the fact the Spanish Communist Party made a pitch for the middle class under slogans like "Discipline! Hierarchy! Organisation!" before, in one of the moments when he was still a left-libertarian before he was a Stalinist before before.

It's also rather impressive that the core argument - free markets are the fucking opposite of capitalism - was made several times before he bothered to show up.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:42 PM
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115: My problem is that way too many full on leftists seem to be far to comfortable with authoritarian government.

There's a tiresome tradition in Western leftism that is basically "for" any particular government that the capitalist establishment happens to be "against." This usually starts as an exercise in providing a corrective, because the capitalist establishment is in fact usually full of bullshit about any number of things and will lie copiously about figures like Chavez (and has done), but it's lame that this so often tips from vigilance into hero worship.

OTOH, no preserve of the left is this general tendency of Westerners to frivolously make use of an idealized version of this or that foreign government to make political points in domestic arguments. Libertarians idolize Pinochet and Somali warlords for this reason. Likewise, Bush-era conservatives ranted about Saddam being Hitler but praised the grotesquely repressive Islam Karimov as a "democratic reformer."* So the pretense that this is some special reason to be wary of the left is not convincing; a better measure would be "which side of the political spectrum has advanced, and tried to advance, actual authoritarianism in the West?" It isn't the left.

(* In the conservative movement this is more about herd mentality than "ideology," strictly speaking; if WorldNetDaily had told them Karimov was a saint on Tuesday and a demon on Wednesday, most would've followed the script without missing a beat. But differing dynamics aside, the ultimate outcomes aren't that different.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:43 PM
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144:I am ignorant and confused, dude, and read the Socialist blogs for education and enlightenment, along with post-structuralist post-Marxist post-modernist post-toasties. Only in my spare time, and only after about age 55, the last few years.

Want some links?

This shit is obviously very fucking hard in theory and practice, and yet I must choose decide speakact lacking perfect knowledge and legendary rhetorical clarity. And weakening memory and cognitive abilities.

Such is life.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:49 PM
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is this alex guy a republican?

How bot TLL?

I know terza


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:50 PM
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Spanish anarchists = fail

Italian syndicalists = fail

German SDP & Bernstein = world fucking historical fail

Rosa & Karl = dead dead dead

Goldman & Debs = fail by their own lights

Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Chavez = probably net success


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:55 PM
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Terza Rima?

I'm starting to think all hope for a climate bill is dead. Oh well. It was a nice enough planet while it lasted.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 3:57 PM
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142:
So your argument is that state capitalism won because USSR/China rigged the game? I think you could make that argument in some cases (though it's worth remembering that none of those folks one in Spain), but I don't think you can plausibly make it for the entire course of the 20th Century. As I indicated above, I think the old saw about capitalist antogonism promoting militarism is more convincing on that score, but there were a number of regimes that started out trying to go third way, with just some support from the East, that drifted towards authoritarianism on their own without any prompting.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 4:00 PM
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142:
So your argument is that state capitalism won because USSR/China rigged the game? I think you could make that argument in some cases (though it's worth remembering that none of those folks one in Spain), but I don't think you can plausibly make it for the entire course of the 20th Century. As I indicated above, I think the old saw about capitalist antogonism promoting militarism is more convincing on that score, but there were a number of regimes that started out trying to go third way, with just some support from the East, that drifted towards authoritarianism on their own without any prompting.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 4:00 PM
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151:Obama = end-of-the-world apocalyptic level fail


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 4:01 PM
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See, the thing is, there's "the left" and "the Left" and the left.

Marxist-Leninist alphabet soup parties? They'll back whomever their central committee backs. But they're at most 1 or 2 % of the US left.

Greens & environmentalists? Mostly just celebrate the countries building the most windmills and the fewest nukes. Don't actually hold an opinion on Chavez vs. Pinochet, most of the time. They're big -- 20% of the left maybe?

Anarchists & anti-authoritarians: Sometimes have a soft-spot for Cuba, because Assata Shakur lives there, but are much, much more likely to idealize Subcommandante Marcos, if anyone. Generally pretty suspicious of ANY leader anywhere. We're growing too -- when I was a youth, there were more MLs than us, now it's just the opposite, we're probably at 3-4% of the left.

Academic Marxists: Often fall into the Chomskyite trap of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" -- this is because they usually don't have any actual street political experience (or street smarts of any kind), so any country that makes a big deal about publicly funded Uni educations is okay in their book, never mind what happens to the dissidents. They're the nomenklatura here, why wouldn't they be anywhere else? About as many as anarchists -- 3 or 4%

Leftists Until Graduation: Kind of a mixed bag. The newer they are to politics, the more likely you are to see some hero-worship/country idealization. Usually have some big break with the other lefties they know and grow up into mainstream Dems in their mid-20s. Probably 10 to 20% of the left at any given time.

Old cynical communists: People who were in the Party during the Cold War. Not many left. Probably hate everybody equally, but will cherish some obscure socialist hero secretly.

Peaceniks: Don't usually have a lot of truck with specific leaders, because there aren't that many pacifists running countries. Idolize Jimmy Carter and Mairead Corrigan Maguire. 15% of the total.

Everybody else: Then there's that broad group of people who are equally uncomfortable in a room full of ardent Democrats and at a protest. Maybe they buy the Progressive at the co-op. Maybe they just listen to NPR and complain a lot. Usually go through a honeymoon period with any new prominent lefty leader, but that ends the second he or she makes their first foray into effectiveness. Somewhere around 40% of the left, the largest plurality, and the group the rest of us blame everything on (not without some justification it has to be said.)


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 4:16 PM
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||?

Ian Welsh links to Pat Lang. Anyone remember Pat Lang? Lang is being a little cryptic here, and as a commenter notes, Lang really hates the neo-Cons in Israel. So FWIW.

And I know I promised back around Jan 2008, but hell.

This 21st Century has really sucked so far.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 4:18 PM
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155 is excellent.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 4:24 PM
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All I got is links to my betters anarchist, by the way.

And I am just trying to understand on some level a little deeper than "FinReg is the shit", because it is my intuition that at the level of liberal pragmatics culture and contingency will sneak up and bite you in the ass.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 4:37 PM
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Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Chavez = probably net success

We had a giant thread about this, where I flirted with the contrarian pro-Stalin thing, but in the end I think you have to see Lenin/Stalin as a fail compared to the alternatives for their country, Mao I really do think was a success and a significant one, Castro closer to a wash but a fail by the end (after Soviet subsidies vanish in the 90s), Chavez I guess the jury is still out.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 4:55 PM
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I think the paradigmization by the bolsheviks & entourage also made it hard for most leftists to think of options other than those of state ownership as an alternative to incestous-board control with tournament-lottery advancement.

thus leaving some progressive taxation and welfare the only thing left as 'possible'


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 4:58 PM
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Mao I really do think was a success and a significant one

Cultural Revolution? Sucks to be you intellectual bourgeois exploiter.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:00 PM
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Imagine there is a comma in that sentence. Re-education camp not necessary. Regular education camp will do just fine.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:04 PM
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159:What alternatives, Kerensky? To make a Kerensky (or later Trotsky) alt-world imaginable, it is necessary that the Bolshies, who beat K-Krasnov like a fucking drum, not be around. I don't do history that way.

Like if not for Ebert, and the Christian Right, and the Depression, and the Commies, the SDP woulda fucking rocked dudes. Looser is looser.

Heres the latest on my desktop. Is Gary Hall Stuart's kid?

As usual peaceful drivel about spending the next fifty years building the counter-hegemony against all odds, with pitiful resources, despite the failure of the last forty years of building the counter-hegemony.

We ain't got forty years. We don't have ten years. We will have depression, war, and killer heat waves in five years. Next year.

Maybe I'll start a blog!


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:10 PM
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We will have depression, war, and killer heat waves in five years. Next year

bob is kevin ?


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:15 PM
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You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs TLL.

Seriously, China today >>> better than China when Mao took over, Mao clearly has major part in this, highly plausible historical tracks feature China today where progress had not happened, that is all you can demand of your historical counterfactuals I think. Crimes along the way are very real but every major modernization has involved lots of them.

Regular education camp will do just fine.

Cultural revolution = only thing that happened in Chinese 20th century not actually good education.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:18 PM
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What alternatives, Kerensky? To make a Kerensky (or later Trotsky) alt-world imaginable, it is necessary that the Bolshies, who beat K-Krasnov like a fucking drum, not be around. I don't do history that way.

The October Revolution was one of the more contingent historical events of the 20th century -- no Lenin and Trotsky, no October revolution, at least according to the various witnesses.

If Lenin is shot by the Germans and not put in his boxcar and there is no October revolution, does Russia have a better or worse 20th century? It's pretty hard to imagine a worse one.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:22 PM
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I will be the first to admit that my Asian history knowledge is less than it could be. Was China just too big to be effectively controlled under the Emperors? Losing Opium Wars only get you so far.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:22 PM
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167: well, to start with the warlord era in China refers not to a distant kung-fu movie past, but to the Jazz Age 1920s. Total chaos leading to mass death, civil war, complete failure to modernize which laid the country open to savage victimization by the Japanese, on it goes.

Mao centralizes authority, unites the country, renders it totally impregnable to foreign invasion or imperialist exploitation, leaves enough diversity in the party and the system so that right-wing reformers can begin transition to more decentralized modern economy by the late 70s.

Compare Russia, after Stalin tries they try to liberalize several times but centralization has been so savage and total that there is no flex in the system at all and no capacity to decentralize at all without the system collapsing completely.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:33 PM
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167: well, to start with the warlord era in China refers not to a distant kung-fu movie past, but to the Jazz Age 1920s. Total chaos leading to mass death, civil war, complete failure to modernize which laid the country open to savage victimization by the Japanese, on it goes.

Mao centralizes authority, unites the country, renders it totally impregnable to foreign invasion or imperialist exploitation, leaves enough diversity in the party and the system so that right-wing reformers can begin transition to more decentralized modern economy by the late 70s.

Compare Russia, after Stalin dies they try to liberalize several times but centralization has been so savage and total that there is no flex in the system at all and no capacity to decentralize at all without the system collapsing completely.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:34 PM
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Heck, I would have started way before that, which was why I mentioned the Opium Wars. Taiping Rebellion, before the Boxer Rebellion, seems more important.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:38 PM
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...the warlord era in China refers not to a distant kung-fu movie past, but to the Jazz Age 1920s.

"Your Lost Generation style is no match for my Freikorps style!"

/apologizes


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:50 PM
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||

Regarding the third link in 145 (ostensibly about Rauchway's pissed-offedness), i.e. this: what? I haven't been keeping up, clearly, and the terms of discussion in that article are somewhat of a mystery. What is a (specifically) "Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan"? I'd been under the impression that under the health insurance reform act, a plan was a plan was a plan, pre-existing condition or no.

I imagine I could post this comment over there.

|>


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 5:54 PM
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172:David Dayen at FDL


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:07 PM
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173: Ah. Thanks, bob.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:13 PM
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171: See, that's related to a question I've been asking myself lately. Say you were a Social Democrat* in Germany after WWI and had to choose between the Freecorps and the Sparticists. Which would you choose? Obviously, we know what actually happened. But, someone at the time doesn't know Hitler and has seen what Lenin is doing to Russians who are in a similar socio-economic situation. And the local soviets have forced you to join the revolution or repress it. And they have done so before any kind of reform even got a fair trial. Anyway, at the risk of getting dropped from Bob's Christmas card list, I think the biggest enemy of the left is the far left.

*Or anybody from the center-left who might have at some point has a position with some small amount of power in the old regime.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:25 PM
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Meanwhile.

155 is great -- I'm tempted to ask Natilo to assign the designations "the left" and "the Left" and the left to each of the categories. Just to be a troublemaker. I guess I can try to do it myself.

I'm not sure why the anarchists/anti-authoritarians aren't joined with the peacenik group, thereby increasing their percentage of the total. Just a question of self-identification?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:27 PM
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Reasonable estimates of the number of deaths caused by Mao are between 50 and 70 million people, making him worse, in total numbers of deaths caused, than either Hitler or Stalin. Most of these occurred during the Great Leap Forward, not during the Cultural Revolution. I'm pretty comfortable saying that it's crazy to call the world a better place because of Mao.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:28 PM
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I'm pretty comfortable saying that it's crazy to call the world a better place because of Mao.

True, but I don't think it is crazy to say that for the cohort born in China after, say, 1980 life is better for them because of Mao.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:31 PM
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I am not aware of a convincing alternative history that gets you to a more horrific death total than Mao. Consider what would have happened if, say, the Nationalists had won in the 1940s.

Most of non-communist East Asia managed to do just fine -- great, in fact -- without a Mao like figure.

It's hard to say this without it turning into a personal attack, but I'll say it anyway -- I really do feel like people give Mao a pass because his victims weren't white.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:38 PM
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at the risk of getting dropped from Bob's Christmas card list, I think the biggest enemy of the left is the far left.

I'll drop you from my Christmas list if you persist in failing to distinguish just which far left, and just which mere left, you mean. cf. 155. The previous portion of your comment did distinguish; this concluding statement does not. Generalizing from the particular, dude.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:48 PM
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Consider what would have happened if, say, the Nationalists had won in the 1940s.

I am not aware of a convincing alternative history that gets you a Nationalist win in the 1940s. They lost for a reason.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:49 PM
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Most of non-communist East Asia managed to do just fine -- great, in fact -- without a Mao like figure.

Japan -- Fascist government starts near-genocidal war and get A-bombed.
Korea -- At least half of it doesn't have a death camp and hasn't had a dictator for nearly twenty years.
Vietnam -- Brutal civil war followed by "re-education."
Cambodia -- Do I have to bother?
Indonesia -- Dictators, East Timor.
Philippines -- Never as bad as the others, never did as well either.

Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia seem to fit your pattern.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:53 PM
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Do you really think that it would have been worse for the world -- including for Chinese born after 1940 -- if the Nationalists had won?

There's a reason Hitler got elected, too, and a reason Stalin triumphed. PGD's point seems to be that Mao was a "success" which, is, frankly, either crazy or extraordinarily callous or both.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:53 PM
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180: Will do.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 6:55 PM
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Um, to 182, Cambodia, Vietnam, and North Korea are not "non-communist East Asia" -- they are countries that experienced their disasters because of Communists -- and in the case of Cambodia and North Korea, figures explicitly supported by Mao. Even there, while Cambodia on a per-person basis was probably worse than the GLF, Mao looks pretty bad.

The Indonesian or Phillipines experiences aren't even remotely comparable. I mean, not even remotely.

Tojo-era Japan was a horrific, fascist country, of course, but even with WWII and the attendant bombing, it didn't inflict a level of suffering on its own population comparable to Mao. Plus, I thought the point was that we are comparing alternative paths starting in 1949 -- i.e., what does China look like without Mao in power.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:02 PM
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183.1: Not at all. It's just not possible to make it plausible for the Nationalists to win, for the same reason that the government of "South Vietnam" could never have beaten Ho Chi Minh.

As for whether Mao was a "success," one of the most painful conundrums to come to grips with in the history of many countries is that history is full of murderous, vicious sons of bitches who were also, in some senses, successful statesmen. I think it's fair to say that Mao was one of these. This does not imply that Mao was the best of all possible worlds; nor does it imply that Chiang Kai-Shek was ever going to be a viable alternative, because he wasn't.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:02 PM
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185.1: and in the case of Cambodia and North Korea, figures explicitly supported by Mao.

Cambodia's communists owed their ascendancy directly to Nixon and Kissinger. (It's one of the ironies of history that it was communist Vietnam that finally terminated Pol Pot's reign of terror.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:05 PM
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175:The Germans 1918-1922 had a lot of history to work with, for example, the history of co-operation between bourgeois socialists and Bismarck and the emergent Reich. I think it was entirely predictable that Germany would remilitarize and that the SDP would be complicit or irrelevant.

There was also a process to watch, the way fucking old fart Weber drew up the constitution. This was street politics, where betrayals and alliances occurred on a daily basis.

The German Revolutions also was several revolutions, different in Berlin than Bavaria.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:06 PM
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185: My point was more that during the period when Mao was alive, East Asia was a pretty dangerous place all around. While lots of East Asia hasn't needed a Mao-like figure, they have all had very rough periods.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:08 PM
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Anyway, Mao was a straight-up mass murder but I agree with PGD that he was, compared to the likely alternatives, better than Stalin.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:15 PM
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I mean, the pattern for the parliamentary socialists was:"Ok, You can have your battleships if we can haz some healthcare." (Psst...we'll get rid of the battleships after the people are on our side.)

Battleships win. Healthcare hegemony failed in Flanders Field.

And Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:15 PM
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To 189, there is no non-communist state in East Asia with a "rough period" that remotely approaches what went on in Mao's China.

More generally, what is the great statesman-like accomplishment that Mao is supposed to have acheived that no one else could have accomplished? Could we get a little precision here?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:25 PM
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I mean, even with the chaotic political conditions of the 1910-1930 period, China was in the beginnings of something that looks like the path it took after 1985 or so. I don't think it's at all implausible that a better and less corrupt Nationalist government could have created something that looks like today's China, only without killing more than 50 million people and turning the country into a basket case for 40 years.

Of course, the actually-existing KMT was super corrupt and fatally weakened by the Japanese, but the idea that you somehow needed a historical disaster on the order of Mao to produce tall buildings or whatever in Shanghai today is just nuts.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:32 PM
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one of the most painful conundrums to come to grips with in the history of many countries is that history is full of murderous, vicious sons of bitches who were also, in some senses, successful statesmen.

I agree with this in the sense that murderous sons of bitches can often be quite "successful" at maintaining their own power, protecting the territorial integrity of the nations they rule, and projecting force outside of those boundaries.

But the evidence that they can be "successful" in the sense of creating a successful outcome for their population is basically non-existent. The idea that you need mass murder to create modernization -- am I wrong, or did PGD actually non-ironically use the phrase "to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs" -- is just wrong, despite having been believed in by said murderous dictators.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 7:52 PM
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but I don't think it is crazy to say that for the cohort born in China after, say, 1980 life is better for them because of Mao.

I still don't see how this argument doesn't apply to Hitler and Germans born after 1950.

I am not aware of a convincing alternative history that gets you a Nationalist win in the 1940s. They lost for a reason.
The question being discussed presumes an alternative, otherwise it is meaningless. In any case, the Nationalists did a much better job in Taiwan than the Communists in China. Ditto for South Korea vs. North Korea.

I mean, the pattern for the parliamentary socialists was:"Ok, You can have your battleships if we can haz some healthcare." (Psst...we'll get rid of the battleships after the people are on our side.)

Battleships win. Healthcare hegemony failed in Flanders Field.

And democracy and a nice standard of living for your average worker. The communists offered battleships and healthcare minus democracy and with a much lower standard of living than under the postwar welfare state model of capitalism.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 8:01 PM
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175: But, someone at the time doesn't know Hitler and has seen what Lenin is doing to Russians who are in a similar socio-economic situation. And the local soviets have forced you to join the revolution or repress it.

Well, the evidence strongly suggests the societs got Hitler to join them albeit briefly so it's hard to say anything about which side one would join. I'd probably try and join the SPD.

Anyway, at the risk of getting dropped from Bob's Christmas card list, I think the biggest enemy of the left is the far left.

Nah. The old (communist) far left is dead. That leaves the left unthreatened by any far left. The biggest enemy of the left is the far right (not Ron Paul). Those folks absolutely oppose everything the left is generally in favor of.

Now if you said ultra-radicals are the biggest enemies of everyone anywhere near the center, I think you'd have something.

max
['Radicalism is a spent force on the left though.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 8:14 PM
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To 189, there is no non-communist state in East Asia with a "rough period" that remotely approaches what went on in Mao's China.

That is putting your thumb on the scale, big time. The places with the communist governments were the ones that were in the worst situations, before and after they had communist rule. Yes, if you exclude the places in Asia that were most fucked-up, China appears more fucked-up than the ones that are left.

but the idea that you somehow needed a historical disaster on the order of Mao to produce tall buildings or whatever in Shanghai today is just nuts.

You could very easily have gotten the historical distaster on that order without the development later. See North Korea, much of Africa, Cambodia, Romania, and (to a certain extent) the Soviet Union.

protecting the territorial integrity of the nations they rule

Mao was the first Chinese leader to be able to do this in over a century. Given the neighborhood and the past history, this was not a small accomplishment. You spoke of how China was, after 1930, starting on a path toward development. The fact that it couldn't defend itself is what stopped that cold.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 8:16 PM
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No one seemed to care about my shading towards geographical determinism in the earlier thread, but I'll say it again: Russia is and has been a poor country in lots of ways, and there's a huge difference in the kinds of resources you get in Russia and China.

Is it even clear that China was a poorer country than Russia, pre-20th century? Or even in the 20th century? Russians get to be white, more or less, and there was a big army over there and they weren't colonized to any degree so they get to look big and powerful, but when you leave out the political control issue, I don't know that I'd pick being a Russian peasant, or merchant, over being a Chinese one for most of, well, history. Also, you probably can get the USSR beating back Germany during World War II with someone other than Stalin, but you might not get that result without a massively centralized economic and social structure.

I think Mao and Stalin come pretty close to achieving similar levels of murderousness and similar levels of "success" but maybe that's because I don't particularly like doing this kind of comparison given what's being compared.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 8:26 PM
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In the twentieth century, yes, at least as far as late Tsarist Russia goes or fifties onwards. China was very, very, poor in the twentieth century; we're talking poor African country levels. Even now, Russia's PPP GDP per capita is more than double China's after two decades of phenomenal growth.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 8:34 PM
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So Mao's success is to go from relatively poorer to still relatively poorer, while both rise?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 8:40 PM
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Also, the freedom from foreign domination looks less special when you note that there was a lot of de-colonization post-WWII. It's not like it was entirely the work of the leaders of the countries that became independent.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 8:42 PM
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Mao's success is to take a poor country riven by violent internal conflict and external invaders but very slowly growing less poor, stabilize it and manage the amazing success of keeping it horrifically poor. About the only 'good' thing you can say about Mao's legacy is that in spite of his completely disastrous stewardship, the party structure he left behind managed the succession without widespread violence. Or in other words Mao: arguably not as bad a ruler as Mobutu Sese Seko.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 8:46 PM
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violent internal conflict and external invaders

Russian Revolution, Civil War; World War II. I'm not questioning the success, such as it was, of Mao's regime; I'm just questioning the way the comparison with Stalin and Russia is being made.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 8:50 PM
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2

... Markets in societies generally agreed upon to be 'capitalist' are heavily regulated; markets in democratic socialist societies are regulated in different ways, but not necessarily more heavily.

I am drawing a blank on democratic socialist societies. Examples?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:01 PM
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Also, the freedom from foreign domination looks less special when you note that there was a lot of de-colonization post-WWII.

That is true. In my case, at least part of my views are probably being driven by the fact that I've seen Russia get weaker and China get stronger for basically my adult life.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:04 PM
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122

I get myself stuck in those conversations wanting to defend Cuba and Venezuela as being not actually worse on the human rights front than plenty of countries that don't bother us at all so long as they don't call themselves socialist -- yes, we should worry about all of them, but no, they're not remarkably bad. But this is a fine distinction to draw, and the conversations never go all that well.

I think this argument is untenable with regard to Cuba.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:05 PM
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Bakunin correctly predicted the murderousness of state communism 150 years ago, so I'm on pretty firm ideological ground in my deprecation of Mao, Stalin and the rest.

I do think that an alternate history timeline in which the KMT was victorious pretty much implies some kind of massive, massive purge of leftists in China. Maybe not 50 million, but 5 or 10 million easily. Or, if the US had stepped in with atomic weapons, it might have been a smaller death toll initially, but with much more dangerous consequences for the rest of the world in the long run. (Or a Two Chinas scenario in which the areas respectively controlled by the KMT and CCP were much more equal in area and population, in which you probably would expect to see purges on both sides, and death from general social upheaval a la the partition of India, plus a much greater threat of resurgent civil war.)

I mean, we shouldn't act as though history is over at this point. Mao's legacy of murder and brutality is breathtakingly awful, but Radcliffe and Mountbatten have a lot to answer for as well, and that's ongoing. If you buy into Great Man theories of history that is.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:05 PM
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181: I am not aware of a convincing alternative history that gets you a Nationalist win in the 1940s. They lost for a reason.

Originally Mao controlled Machuria under the Soviets and Chiang controlled the rest of the country, but the US refused to support him and failed to cut a deal. I can imagine a world in which a deal is cut and Manchuria is protected as a communist fiefdom at least initially and Chiang hangs on for a time in the rest of China.

I'm not questioning the success, such as it was, of Mao's regime; I'm just questioning the way the comparison with Stalin and Russia is being made.

Well, PGD has been arguing all along that Mao beats Stalin but the Soviet Unions existed for 70 years and communist China is barely up to 50. Moreover, the Soviets did not have the help and support of the American industrial base in their buildup. If anything it appears to me that China has been operating under very different conditions than the Soviet Union (and was, in fact shielded by the USSR's existence) all along in addition to being the younger power.

max
['I'm still trying to figure out how conditions under Mao could have been any worse than they actually were and still have the country come out of it intact.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:07 PM
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163

What alternatives, Kerensky? To make a Kerensky (or later Trotsky) alt-world imaginable, it is necessary that the Bolshies, who beat K-Krasnov like a fucking drum, not be around. I don't do history that way.

It's just necessary to imagine Stalin or Mao dying younger. Would the likely alternatives from within the party have been better or worse? I think the odds are for better in both cases.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:09 PM
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207.2 is what I was trying to think of but failed to.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:12 PM
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206 China, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan to name a few?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:14 PM
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206: What about ongoing US support for South Africa during Apartheid? I mean, Congress came around in the end, but there certainly wasn't any blockade, and plenty of money went pretty much directly US => Israel => SA

I'm no Fidelista, far from it, but you can't even begin to equate the Castro regime's crimes with those of South Africa. And the US helpfully made the ANC an official terrorist organization, let's not forget, while simultaneously training Cuban exile terrorist groups like Alpha 66.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:27 PM
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"The old (communist) far left is dead. That leaves the left unthreatened by any far left"

The old, dead communists are the ones that are the 'threat' to anyone else on the left, because all you have to do is point to countries that the old, dead leninist communists ran into the ground to discredit anyone on the left.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:29 PM
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I am drawing a blank on democratic socialist societies. Examples?

Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark... those are either democratic socialist or as close and you're going to get.

max
['HTH.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:33 PM
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Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark... those are either democratic socialist or as close and you're going to get.

It's societies like those that I think of when I say my ideal society is basically capitalist. Heavily regulated, heavily taxed, with large scale transfer payments, but in the end run on the basis of a market economy and private ownership.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:40 PM
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Y'all are arguing with the wrong enemies. The Left or far left isn't the the problem, nor is the far right the problem.

The problem is the center, the liberals, precisely because they will not take on and eliminate the far right. And this is intrinsic, their very nature as centrists forbid them a lasting victory, ensures an asymmetry.

Now most here are centrists, and blame the KPD for Hitler, John Brown for the Civil War, Robespierre for Napoleon.

Now I can't as a radical leftist stop the Republicans from taking Congress and destroying the world. All I can do is point out that Republicans are only able to destroy the world because centrists and liberals hand them the keys.

So keep talking about Mao and Stalin and enjoying your moral superiority because very soon y'all will be gaping in dumb shock:"How the hell did that happen? Again."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:48 PM
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214:Those are social democracies.

Shearer is right. Maybe Austria is Democratic Socialist.

Keys to the difference is widespread government ownership of the means of production and the empowerment of workers as the dominant political class.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:50 PM
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Now most here are centrists, and blame the KPD for Hitler, John Brown for the Civil War, Robespierre for Napoleon.

Robespierre was, unlike the others, actually in power and killing centrists and anybody else who he disagreed with. He is as much to blame for Napoleon as anybody who isn't Napoleon. You can only remove so many heads before people start to look around for a new leadership.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 9:54 PM
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I'm not sure that Mao did anything useful for anyone; his great talent seems to have been for intrigue rather than anything approaching statesmanship. Perhaps I'd understand his putative achievements better if I better understood the period, but I doubt it.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07-16-10 10:01 PM
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I think PGD's argument only works if you make it not about Mao: the Chinese Communist Party is basically a success. Mao was a nut, and neither the Great Leap Forward nor the Cultural Revolution contributed anything good to China. Development in China began under the old guard as soon as Mao was permanently out of the way. Unless Mao had some mystical power to maintain order, I don't see how things don't work out much better under any other plausible alternative leader, especially after 1949.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 12:53 AM
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Way back up at 152, Jimmy Pongo asked but there were a number of regimes that started out trying to go third way, with just some support from the East, that drifted towards authoritarianism on their own without any prompting.

Who do you have in mind?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 12:55 AM
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I blame Robespierre for Stalin.

Late 19th century revolutionaries, Marxist or otherwise, had basically two models before them of what a revolution might look like: The United States and France. The leaders of the American revolution were clearly a faction of the old ruling class, basically English radical Whigs who would have been perfectly happy lining up behind Charles James Fox if chance had placed them on the other side of the Atlantic. That left the French.

The basic theoretical justification for the idea that the revolutionary intelligentsia could temporarily substitute for the masses without compromising the core principles of democracy was all worked out by St Juste and Robespierre before Lenin's grandfather was born. I don't even much blame the Bolsheviks for picking it up, any more than I blame modern American liberals for believing that the private sector must play an essential role in health care. It was just the conventional wisdom in the circles they moved in, because nobody could point to an alternative that seemed realistic.

But it was an idea that became even more dangerous in the hands of a gangster type like Stalin. I don't want to defend Lenin too far, but it's clear he had Stalin's number by the end of his life and was working hard to get rid of him at the time of his death. (I suspect that if Lenin had lived another 15 years the USSR would have evolved into something much more like modern China than 1930s Russia, but that's a different conversation).

The fate of the Soviet Union shows that if you want to substitute the elite for democracy, you need to keep the elite on side. Stalin was incapable of that, because he hated the elite (and they hated him), so he created a fake elite from his own gang lieutenants and the rest is history.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:54 AM
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221. South Yemen; Malawi; Angola... Arguably Cuba up to about 1962.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:57 AM
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I would get back into this argument, but I'm too happy that I am literally posting this from a bar called The Mineshaft, in Long Beach. Fuck yeah!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 2:09 AM
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It's pretty rich for people to in the United States to come down so heavy on Castro and Chavez. Did they let their inner authoritarian asshole flag fly? Sure. Is there historical precedent that they might have done so in any scenario? Yeah some. Did their reaction to historical context and the overt and covert threats led by the US? Most certainly. The other scenario was not tested. So yeah, lift the fucking Cuba embargo already, per Natilo's 212 do people think that will uniquely tarnish our steadfast reputation of standing up to tyranny?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 6:48 AM
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I woke up at 4 a.m. thinking about this thread, and decided that there should totally be an alternate history where Tom Paine returns to the US before the Reign of Terror, convinces Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin to come and live on his farm in New Rochelle, where they form new committees of correspondence with the aim of emancipating women and slaves, which leads to a true war of liberation in the middle of the nineteenth century. I'm thinking maybe Paine could be jailed in Philadelphia on his return, and then be unable to return to France (or England, of course), and also maybe make some kind of sojourn in Haiti, where he has to come to grips with the reality of slavery. Probably Joseph Smith could be a heroic character, and Jefferson would be revealed as pretty hypocritical. And Mary Shelley would be really prominent in organizing stuff later.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 7:24 AM
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I'm thinking maybe Paine could be jailed in Philadelphia on his return

That doesn't happen nearly often enough to people in politics in Pennsylania.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 7:32 AM
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which leads to a true war of liberation in the middle of the nineteenth century.

1848. Good guys lost.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 7:40 AM
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226 is awesome.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 8:18 AM
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@226: bring William Blake over also, to rechannel the Second Great Awakening


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 8:51 AM
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228: Yup, I'm aware of that.

230: Well, I didn't want to over-egg it too much, but if you insist.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 9:18 AM
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Late 19th century revolutionaries, Marxist or otherwise, had basically two models before them of what a revolution might look like: The United States and France.

Not trying to be snide, but sincerely curious: where would you place the Bolivarian revolution or the slave revolt on Saint-Domingue in this model? The Italian Risorgimento? Or are you saying they would have been dismissed as irrelevant.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 9:32 AM
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The Bolivarian revolution was modeled on the U.S. one, wasn't it?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 9:37 AM
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232: I guess I'd have to agree that most 19th century revolutionaries were looking at the French & US models, perhaps to the detriment of their conceptual framework for revolution and rebellion. Of course, a lot of the other possibilities had significant problems, mostly their lack of any long-term change in the social order. I mean, I think Wat Tyler and John Ball were great, but they basically are just footnotes, despite being right.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 9:47 AM
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211

China, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan to name a few?

Doesn't China still call itself socialist?

I think Cuba and Venezuela are best compared to other Latin American countries. In which case Venezuela probably isn't atypical but Cuba is significantly worse from a human rights point of view. Note I think of human rights as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to travel etc not universal health care or things like that.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 10:14 AM
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214

Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark... those are either democratic socialist or as close and you're going to get.

I consider all of those countries to be versions of capitalism.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 10:18 AM
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212

I'm no Fidelista, far from it, but you can't even begin to equate the Castro regime's crimes with those of South Africa. ...

South Africa was better in terms of classical liberty than Cuba. For example as far as I know you were always free to leave (or study in the US and return).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 10:22 AM
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212: Hypothetically, maybe, unless you were in prison on Robbin Island, of course. But realistically, how many South Africans were able to avail themselves of that option? Then too, there was all of the cross-border-commando-raids-to-kill-expatriate-dissidents stuff going on.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 10:57 AM
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Sorry, Robben Island, of course.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 10:58 AM
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and Jefferson would be revealed as pretty hypocritical

I thought you were talking about alternate history.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 11:03 AM
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South Africa was better in terms of classical liberty than Cuba.

This is wholly mistaken.

In terms of classical liberty (especially 'liberty' bound up in property rights), apartheid South Africa was arguably worse than Cuba for the 85% of the population subject to minority rule. Blacks out and out could not own property under any circumstances; in the one place where they did manage to acquire freehold title to their homes, they were ruthlessly expropriated.

Nor could they freely engage in commerce. As part of maintaining the fiction that blacks were temporary guest workers in South Africa, the apartheid regime virtually forbade blacks to operate businesses, which is how a city of millions (Soweto) managed to exist for decades with no retail district.

It's true that the white minority enjoyed a mostly honest judiciary and free-ish press, the inheritance of which is a blessing for the post 1994 Republic. But the dominant ideology in the apartheid state saw classical liberty as a wholly foreign (and wholly threatening, because English) concept.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 11:06 AM
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237: Sorry, wasn't most of the population legally barred from living where they wanted to? Black South Africans might have been able to leave the country (I don't actually know this), but they couldn't travel freely within it. Black South Africans were barred from holding jobs in skilled professions. They were barred from using public services available to white South Africans. If all that doesn't seem like a huge classical liberty infringement to you, I don't know what's wrong with you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 11:11 AM
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237 For whites, easily, and I don't just mean pro-regime ones. For blacks - mass internal deportations, pass system, restrictions on education, strict restrictions on employment... Even if we skip the whole democracy thing, it really sucked. I might agree if the comparison was with SA at its most liberal early apartheid stage in the fifties before the system was fully in place vs. Cuba at its most repressive early consolidation of full on communist dictatorship era, but that's it.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 11:12 AM
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Shearer doesn't see black South Africans.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 11:12 AM
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double pwned.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 11:13 AM
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For the record, notwithstanding the staunch anti-communism that gave Jesse Helms such a hard-on, the apartheid government in South Africa was not a big believer in free enterprise.

Going back to the days of the 19th century conflict between the agararian Transvaal Republic (Boer means "farmer") and the London-owned mining companies, the conflict that culminated in the Anglo-Boer war, the Afrikaaner-dominated government was always suspicious of capitalism as we understand it. The state sector in apartheid-era South Africa was enormous, and served as a kind of giant welfare state for Afrikaaners without the skills to earn a decent living in the private economy.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 11:20 AM
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KR pwned. Seriously, you can't dismiss apartheid as a racial problem, as if that could be separated from liberty. The way apartheid worked was to deprive most of the population of liberty.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 11:28 AM
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I love 226. Jacobinism for everybody! Jacobinism now!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 12:09 PM
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242

... If all that doesn't seem like a huge classical liberty infringement to you, I don't know what's wrong with you.

I said that it was better than Cuba not that it was paradise.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 12:13 PM
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236: I consider all of those countries to be versions of capitalism.

Well, way back there @ 63, TLL seemed to suggest that people who wanted Swedish levels of public services were going to turn the US into a socialist country. I guess not.

I said that it was better than Cuba not that it was paradise.

Perhaps you should ask black people (the majority of people in South Africa) whether they would have been better of under apartheid or communism. I am pretty sure, given how bad apartheid was for blacks, that free medical care, free school, and a living wage traded for civil liberties that they didn't have would've been an improvement.

max
['Think it through.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 12:23 PM
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I'd think Cuba would beat South Africa for the majority of the South African population without the free medical care.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 12:51 PM
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221, 223:
I don't think Malawi counts (Banda was a conservative autocrat who just happened to employ some of the elements of Leninist style nationalism, party-state and the like), but otherwise chris has the lines I was thinking of. To that list I'd add Mozambique, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, arguably Benin and Vietnam (that last one less in the sense of a regime that started out democratic and socialist and more in the sense that it wasn't the USSR that determined what sort of socialism it going to be).

It's worth remembering that sometimes Russia could be a moderating influence. South Africa and Northern Ireland seem to be cases where the USSR backed the less radical nationalist group (ANC vs AZAPO and the IRA versus the Provisional IRA).

Then there are those cases where we'll never know what sort of government could have been created if the US and others hadn't been trying to take them apart from the start: Nicaragua without the Contras; Guinea Bissau and Burkina Faso if Amilcar Cabral and Thomas Sankara had lived.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 12:58 PM
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251

I'd think Cuba would beat South Africa for the majority of the South African population without the free medical care.

If you think free medical care is more important than free speech then Cuba looks better but then this is more an argument about the definition of human rights than about Cuba. I explicitly said above I wasn't including things like free medical care.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:05 PM
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Actually, let me revise 252.2. THose are less cases of Russia being a moderating influence and more of it not going with the most radical/extreme nationalist option. That probably applies to Israel-Palestine too.

The more salient point would be that the USSR and China didn't generally rig the deck by funding the group closest to them in ideology so much as pick the group they thought most likely to win and then trying to influence them at least in terms of foreign policy and trading partners.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:08 PM
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Shearer, seriously, the only way this free speech argument of yours makes any sense is if the only people whose free speech matters are white/non-black people.

Ah. Of course.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:10 PM
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||
Hey, lawyers and the lawyer-friendly! Since some of you are on this thread, a question: How would you interpret the phrase "home consumption" in the following statute?

471.403 License required to produce alcoholic liquor; exception. (1) No person shall brew, ferment, distill, blend or rectify any alcoholic liquor unless licensed so to do by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. However, the Liquor Control Act does not apply to the making or keeping of naturally fermented wines and fruit juices or beer in the home, for home consumption and not for sale.
I ask because of a recent development that has shut down judged competitions of homemade beer and wine, and has implications for a certain winemaking collective. (The gist of the linked piece is that the fascists bureaucrats at the OLCC have adopted a restrictive interpretation of the statute pursuant to a recent review by the state DoJ.) To your keen legal minds, is there a basis for interpreting the "home" of the final clause to be exclusively "the home" where the stuff was made?
|>


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:17 PM
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253: No, I think the right to move freely around the country and make use of public facilities trumps either -- that's what I meant by saying Cuba would be preferable in terms of liberty even without things like free medical care.

Also, South Africa didn't have free speech for anti-apartheid activists. In 1960, the regime killed around seventy protesters at a protest of the pass laws. Afterwards, the anti-apartheid movement was banned -- the ANC was illegal. That's not free speech.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:26 PM
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256: I should know this offhand, but there's either a federal or NY State limit on the quantity you can make for home usage -- Buck's been getting close, although I can't remember what it is.

Offhand reaction, I'd say that it seems to me that anything given away in a manner entirely unconnected to commerce (giving it you to your friends, yes. Giving it away at your commercial burger stand, no) should be clear, but I wouldn't count on that. Mostly, I'd call your state agency and ask for advice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:29 PM
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257: But they were free to mutter under their breath! "It was a good day."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:31 PM
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256: Back in my day, we just made what we wanted to drink. We were making our way, the only way we knew how. Someday the mountain might get us, but the law never would.


Posted by: Jessie Duke | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:38 PM
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Further to 256:This blog post seems to be the source document for what's worrying people. As someone who works for state agencies, I wouldn't read that as an agency out on a witchhunt to find violators -- they got sandbagged by an overliteral legal opinion. I would say that serving homebrewed beer or wine is still perfectly safe at any private function -- sweating about whether the home it's served in is the same home it was brewed in is overkill -- but until the law gets fixed, you might get in trouble serving it to members of the public at a public event like a fair.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:39 PM
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I am not your lawyer, and that wasn't legal advice. And I don't know Oregon state bureaucrats, so my sense of it all could be way off.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:41 PM
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258: The limit is federal, I believe, and it raises a separate but related question concerning whether it applies strictly to the household where the beer or wine is made or more broadly to the collected households of the various makers. The problem with asking advice of the state agency is that they lean toward a restrictive interpretation, and people potentially pushing the limit don't want to be on their radar.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:42 PM
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253: I'd think Cuba would beat South Africa for the majority of the South African population without the free medical care.
If you think free medical care is more important than free speech then Cuba looks better but then this is more an argument about the definition of human rights than about Cuba

Pbttbbth. I was conceding (to excess) Shearer's point that Cuban civil liberties were as bad as South Africa's record, and then pointing out that the majority of people in South Africa would STILL be better off in Cuba than they would be under apartheid. In fact, Cuba would probably have been better for blacks on free speech and free movement and free association, and the free medical wouldn't hurt either compared to the rundown existence of blacks under apartheid.

max
['Which is why communism was popular with blacks in South Africa, Namibia and Angola, and why the Afrikaners were so worried about being attacked by Soviet clients.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:45 PM
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is there a basis for interpreting the "home" of the final clause to be exclusively "the home" where the stuff was made

I read the statute as limiting the exemption to something you brew in your home AND consume in your home. However, the last sentence of 258 seems right. They might not answer, but it is worth a try.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:46 PM
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I'm not really sure why lawyers, in the absence of any legal research or other knowledge, are more qualified to read the words in that statute than anyone else. On its face, it seems to me that there's an ambiguity over whether or not the statute means that the Liquor Control Act applies to fermented beverages brewed in one home but designed for home consumption (and not for sale) in another home, or whether the beverage must be brewed and consumed in the same home to fall within the exemption. (There's also another ambiguity about what "home consumption" means -- is giving away wine for free at a homemade wine festival producing wine for "home consumption"?). But you already knew all that.

To get anything closer to a real answer, you'd have to look at whatever interpretations agencies or courts have given to the rule, and also at what the Legislative History of the provision might be, and probably a bunch of other things as well.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 1:59 PM
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I get myself stuck in those conversations wanting to defend Cuba and Venezuela as being not actually worse on the human rights front than plenty of countries that don't bother us at all so long as they don't call themselves socialist

I'm generally predisposed towards the same view, but, on reflection, it's striking how few right-wing evil dictatorships being heavily supported by the US are left. I count Saudi Arabia, maybe Egypt, maybe Jordan, maybe a few other Gulf states. There are probably a few more that I'm forgetting (Equitorial Guinea?) but I'm not sure that either (a) these countries don't "bother us at all" (there's a lot of criticism of the Saudis, even from the government, at the same time as there's a lot of support), and (b) that any of them are substantially worse than Cuba, recognizing that what counts as a "bad" country can take on a lot of different forms.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 2:07 PM
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I'm not really sure why lawyers, in the absence of any legal research or other knowledge, are more qualified to read the words in that statute than anyone else.

Well, in the end it's the DoJ that's making the rules. But you all, of course, are not necessarily more qualified. IANAL myself, but I think the restrictive reading is bullshit, because I interpret the intent of the statute as dictating licensing for commercial purposes.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 2:14 PM
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And people are generally overly worried about attracting the attention of state bureaucracies. You can probably get someone on the phone to talk to you about the agency's interpretation of the law without giving your name (like, even being straightforward about saying that you're not sure you're within the law, and don't want to say who you are in case you aren't).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 2:31 PM
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Lawyers may have a very slight interpretive advantage based on our familiarity with traditional rules of construction. (Tax and penal statutes construed narrowly, statutes construed to avoid absurdity or unconstitutionality, etc.) In this statute, I'd give some weight to use of the disjunctive "or" in "making *or* keeping" homebrew in the home. "Or keeping" seems sort of superfluous if you mean the home you made it in -- I mean, authority to make the stuff at home necessarily includes authority to keep it there for at least some length of time, right? But as others have said, you won't know until a court rules (or you find a directly on point existing case.)

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Oregon lawyer, more particularly I am not your lawyer, and any half- or fully-baked opinions I might express here on legal matters of any kind are principally ex recto and are solely either my own or those of the persona I have herein adopted, and do not reflect the opinion of nor create a relationship of any sort with the firm by whom I am employed.


Posted by: DK | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 2:42 PM
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Interesting. The state of Washington just amended their law to fix this problem last year; it's now legal to remove up to 20 gallons from the home for purposes including competitions.

http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/pages/government-affairs/statutes/washington


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 2:48 PM
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And people are generally overly worried about attracting the attention of state bureaucracies.

That's because the state bureaucracies with which most people have to deal (car registration, operator's licenses, state liquor stores) are pits of misery, horror, and slow-footed nose-pickers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 3:29 PM
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257

No, I think the right to move freely around the country and make use of public facilities trumps either -- that's what I meant by saying Cuba would be preferable in terms of liberty even without things like free medical care.

Are Cubans free to move around Cuba? They certainly aren't free to leave, generally the sign of a rotten government. And does Castro use the same doctors as everyone else?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 3:32 PM
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267

I'm generally predisposed towards the same view, but, on reflection, it's striking how few right-wing evil dictatorships being heavily supported by the US are left. I count Saudi Arabia, maybe Egypt, maybe Jordan, maybe a few other Gulf states. ...

You left out Israel. Of course Israel has elections but so did South Africa.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 3:36 PM
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And does Castro use the same doctors as everyone else?

Good metric, James.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 3:51 PM
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In this statute, I'd give some weight to use of the disjunctive "or" in "making *or* keeping" homebrew in the home.

Thanks, D, that's what I'm after. I promise we'll have a wine-fueled rant discussion on that language. A lawyer close to our group has searched, incidentally, and found no relevant case law.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 3:52 PM
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It's instructive that even Jeanne Fucking Kirkpatrick, the very apotheosis of apologism for right-wing dictatorships, didn't put all her chips on the argument that the individual was more free under right-wing dictatorships than under communism. Rather, she defended them on the grounds that "authoritarian" regimes were ostensibly reformable, i.e. they held out the hope that they might one day be free (inasmuch as the institutions of private property were preserved), whereas communist regimes were forever and irreversibly condemned to totalitarianism.

It goes without saying that history has not been kind to her interpretation.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 4:09 PM
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257 273

According to this Cubans are not in fact free to move freely, even within Cuba.

"The government deported tens of thousands of people or forcibly removed them from Havana to other parts of the island," said Daniel Wilkinson, America's deputy director at Human Rights Watch. "It's just one in a series of laws that place severe restrictions on Cubans [and] how they live, where they live, and where they work."


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 5:31 PM
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241

In terms of classical liberty (especially 'liberty' bound up in property rights), apartheid South Africa was arguably worse than Cuba for the 85% of the population subject to minority rule. ...

Since there were no property rights at all in Cuba I find this hard to believe. From this intersting wikipedia article on tourism in Cuba.

... By the mid 1960s Havana's Soviet backed communist government had banned and eliminated all private property, outlawed the possession of foreign currency, and eliminated the tourist industry all together. Internal movement within the island was also restrained.

... Since its reopening to tourism in the mid 1990s Cuba has not met the projected growth, has had relatively little restoration, and slow growth due in major part to the fact that many foreigners don't feel secure investing in Cuba under its current regime and Cubans are still forbidden by the state from owning private property or participate in any development. ...

To ensure the isolation of international tourism from Cuban society, it was to be promoted in enclave resorts where, as much as possible, tourists would be segregated from Cuban society. This was not lost on the average Cuban citizen, and the government tourism policy soon began to be referred to as "enclave tourism" and "tourism apartheid".[4]

...

Jineterismo, the sex tourism industry in Cuba, has been closely associated with tourism apartheid; with some claiming that the only Cubans allowed into the resorts as a group were prostitutes, the jineteras, whilst the Cuban government claimed that its restrictions on Cubans were part of its policy to combat prostitution and hustling. According to Elisa Facio, the government turns "a blind eye in hopes the dollars jineteras earned would help overcome the Revolution's worst economic crisis.[23]


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-17-10 5:53 PM
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104, on Really Existing Socialism:
Now, if you're going to argue that this is only one plausible interpretation and practical application of Marxism, as chris does, I'd agree with you. But the 'this is Not Socialism/Marxism' line is bullshit.

As anybody who has spent time watching the descendants of the Fourth can tell you, the real action is in determining whether a RES state is state capitalist or a degenerated workers state.

106 Yeah, language isn't transparent and a state can call itself whatever it wants and that doesn't actually make it so, but the larger question, and the one that I think chris is pointing at, is why every single socialist regime came to rot and repression.

Because once the original socialist state betrayed the revolution and turned from a dictatorship of the proletariat into just a dictatorship, it made sure to corrupt every other attempt at establishing a proper socialist state as well. None of the various socialist countries established themselves independently from the USSR or could survive without its support during the Cold War. Cuba or Nicaragua probably came closest, but even they were soon driven into Soviet orbit.

Shearer: you're determined to try and prove yourself a racist c*nt, aren't you?


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 1:02 AM
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280. Degenerated workers' state every time. One of the amusing side shows during the collapse of the USSR was watching the British SWP trying to find a single Russian socialist oppositionist (there were more than people think) who thought the Soviet Union was ANY type of capitalist. There were a few "New Class" types, Trots, Zinovievists, the works. But they all thought the Cliffites were barking mad.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 3:32 AM
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125: "Looked at the Federal Budget lately? "

I have, TLL. And I have also observed that the US has not actually collapsed. Nor is the federal government having any difficulty at all in borrowing money (witness: T-bill rates). Nor, for that matter, is it a socialist state. So citing it as an example of a) a socialist state that b) has failed because c) it ran out of other people's money is wrong on all three counts.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 4:53 AM
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280

Because once the original socialist state betrayed the revolution and turned from a dictatorship of the proletariat into just a dictatorship, it made sure to corrupt every other attempt at establishing a proper socialist state as well. ...

This assumes the Soviet Union was initially something other than just a dictatorship which seems rather dubious. And even if we grant this, isn't the transistion to dictatorship rather predictable? After all succession is a well known problem for dictatorships and as the saying goes "power corrupts".


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 6:44 AM
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Are Cubans free to move around Cuba?

My understanding is "no"--certainly not to do anything like take up a job without the approval of the governing authority--but, as in a lot of authoritarian countries, enforcement is very fluid.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 8:41 AM
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282. Showing that famed socialist sense of humor ajay. Are you a feminist, too?


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 11:04 AM
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281: Stalinist!

Degenerated workers state always sounded like special pleading to me, while the idea of state capitalism, for all its flaws, was a good attempt to look beyond the socialist facade of the USSR and see that you still had roughly the same social order.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 2:05 PM
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The problem with "degenerated workers state" is that Russia was never a worker's state, it was a party dictatorship. There were never any institutions by which ordinary workers could freely express their needs and desires and influence state policy, so what did you degenerate from? The problem with "state capitalism" is that Russia was never capitalist, except in the same way that Ancient Egypt was -- the state amassed capital and used it for public works or various forms of production (food, weapons).

China today could be seen as "state capitalist" in an interesting way.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 2:46 PM
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287 The term you are looking for is democratic centralism with the 'vanguard' in charge. To be fair to the pre WWII Party, huge efforts were made to take promising workers and train them up to become members of the technological and political elite. Some historians have argued that this group formed a powerful pressure group in favour of the purges, which got rid of the pre-Revolutionary Party and specialist elites, cf Sheila Fitzpatrick.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 2:51 PM
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I missed out on all sorts of fun when the Hitler vs. Stalin vs. Mao deathmatch discussion went on without me. To dip back in for a little bit, in 193 and 194 from Halford we had the following (with elisions and emphases added by me):

I mean, even with the chaotic political conditions of the 1910-1930 period, China was in the beginnings of something that looks like the path it took after 1985 or so. I don't think it's at all implausible that a better and less corrupt Nationalist government could have created something that looks like today's China . . .

Unfortunately you kind of have to wave the "better" and "less corrupt" Nationalist government into existence with a magic wand. (And "American aid keeps coming" is not, pace Max, that magic wand. The American aid stopped coming in the first place because epic-scale KMT corruption and mismanagement was rendering it largely useless.) The Nationalists' leaders were basically temperamentally closer to Twenties warlords than commanders of a modern army. To change this you need a completely different history for Chinese Republicanism as a whole, not a couple of tweaks to the political and military background of the KMT.

Of course, the actually-existing KMT was super corrupt and fatally weakened by the Japanese, but the idea that you somehow needed a historical disaster on the order of Mao to produce tall buildings or whatever in Shanghai today is just nuts. . .

These are not just leaps in logic, but somersaults. You never need disaster of any kind to produce anything, and it's silly to pretend anyone is saying that. This however doesn't mean that you can just magic out of existence the circumstances that produced the victories of the various historical sonsofbitches whom you don't care for. Typically, the sonsofbitches didn't win by sheer blind luck over the slightly-less-sonsofbitches; there are larger forces and trends at work. This was the case with Mao and the communists, who won because the KMT was fundamentally unsuited to the task of winning and ruling China. (By the same token in Russia, the Mensheviks were nicer guys on the whole than the Bolsheviks, probably. It's irrelevant; they were never going to form a government in any likely scenario, and completely implausible counterfactuals hold a lot less interest than plausible ones.)

I also notice there seems to be some sort of need, from multiple parties to the thread, to see Mao as having set the standard for catastrophe in Chinese and human history as a whole. (I think teraz provided both the analogy to Hitler -- who left Germany a bombed-out, defeated shell of itself but is supposed to be somehow comparable -- and to Mobutu Sese Seko, who Mao was only supposedly "slightly" better than. Dude is trying way too hard, I'm sorry.) Horrific as Mao's reign was, it simply doesn't rank as even close to the worst-ever thing to happen to the Chinese even within the modern era; the Taipings, the clearest precursors to the ChiComs, inflicted nearly as much death and left the country with virtually nothing to show for it.

murderous sons of bitches can often be quite "successful" at maintaining their own power, protecting the territorial integrity of the nations they rule . . . But the evidence that they can be "successful" in the sense of creating a successful outcome for their population is basically non-existent.

As Moby pointed out, territorial integrity is a pretty important one. Without it you're a colonized power. Moreover the statement "the evidence that they can be 'successful' in the sense of creating a successful outcome for their population is basically non-existent" is completely wrong, in that there are many nations that owe crucial episodes in their historical development to murderous tyrants. Hell, the original founder of China was one of these, and probably pound-for-pound every bit as nasty an individual as Mao if not moreso.

Of course, confronted with this uncomfortable scenario, the temptation is to resort to a skewed definition of "successful outcome" like this one from, I believe, the delightful teraz again:

Mao's success is to take a poor country riven by violent internal conflict and external invaders but very slowly growing less poor, stabilize it and manage the amazing success of keeping it horrifically poor.

This kind of snark looks droll on a comments thread but would, and should, cut very little ice with people who actually had some experience of living through violent internal conflict and invasion. Like it or not, China's experience pre-Mao is pretty vivid evidence that unifying the country as a stable, independent country in the modern era was both a) extremely necessary to its development, and b) by no means an easy feat. Mao was indeed successful at it. And he was a sonofabitch.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 4:02 PM
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I'm so delightful, and lightful and full of delight. And I come from a place which from the late eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries managed to have a grand total of twenty years of independence.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 4:23 PM
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OK, since we've come back to this again I will ask my question from 167: Why was China so weak as to lose the First Opium War in the first place, thus leading to all sorts of nasty consequences?


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 4:23 PM
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Oh for Christ's sake. It might be more helpful if you could explain a plausible mechanism by which either the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution actually enrinched China (or led to its eventual enrichment), rather than being disasters of world-historical proportions which China has been quite lucky to escape from. China by 1976 -- the end of the Maoist era -- was a desparately poor country which had killed off or imprisoned much of its intellegentsia. The fact that it was able to get out of that into something more developed today is a remarkable story, but you need an actual argument instead of hand-waving as to why that development was a result of any particular policy of Mao if you're going to claim the "success" tag for him.

The more plausible part of your argument seems to be, Nationalists couldn't unify China, Mao did, so, credit due and this is the foundation of China's current success. This is, of course, the central tenet of Maoist propaganda and the current justification for keeping the Chinese Communist Party in power. And of course, there's a surface appeal to the argument. But there are two interesting questions, first whether you needed anything like the terror regime imposed by Mao to obtain the result of a unified China, secondly, even assuming that Mao was somehow necessary to Chinese unification, whether the result was worth the cost, all things considered.

In the Chinese case, the answer to the first question is clearly "no." You could have had a Nationalist, or some other party, or more moderate version of the Communist party, or someone else take power. Indeed, as Walt pointed out way upthread, there were powerful elements within the Chinese Communist party who were non-Maoist, not committed to genocide. More generally, the course of Chinese History, as has been repeated ad nauseum by anyone who ever looks at the subject, are periods of disorder followed by periods of unification. That Mao was at the head of a movement that was able to acheive unification is true -- that nobody else could have is obviously false, and that's the central question for the comparison we're using.

The second question is also not at all obvious, to me. You were almost certainly better off as an average Chinese person in 1925 than in 1959 or 1969, disunity, warlords, and foreign concessions taken into account. 50-70 million people is a pretty weighty number on the balance scale -- it is the greatest instance of mass murder in human history. A disunited China was developing, slowly, before Mao took over, and it is basically nationalistic insanity to think that a unified state could never have acheived equilibrium or stability, or that it was somehow necessary for development or for the enrichment of the Chinese people. Again, is there a mechanism that can be described for this mysterious process?

I probably shouldn't even comment on this: cut very little ice with people who actually had some experience of living through violent internal conflict and invasion, but your apologetics would cut little ice with people who were the victims of mass starvation and/or slaughter. Sometimes the cure really is worse than the disease.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 4:37 PM
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291: In very broad strokes: Europe went through a massive spurt of technological and economic development as a result of its discovery and exploitation of the "New World," whose wealth at the macro-scale made it possible for the Europeans to out-innovate and outmaneuver other power centres in the Old World and build the first truly global economic system*. At the same time, China -- while, peaceful, stable and prosperous through much of the Qing -- seemed economically self-sufficient and had beaten back most nearby threats, and was therefore stagnating. The Opium War was the result of those two relative trends.

* At least this is the explanation I find most plausible. There are about a billion other contenders for explaining "the European Miracle," ranging from "the medieval machine" to "Europe had capes and bays" to "rainfall agriculture" and so on. I don't find most of those particularly convincing, but YMMV.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 4:42 PM
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Jonathan Spence's In Search of Modern China is really good. The late Qing left China with a weak central government, and disinterested in technical innovation in general and foreign technical innovation especially.

Chiang Kai Shek's son was a hostage in Moscow for much of the conflict between Mao and the Guomindang. This isn't in Spence.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 4:44 PM
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re: 290

And I'm from a place which has had none at all, in the same period.*

re: 293

You could probably argue that most of the big steps had already been taken well before the discovery of the New World had any economic impact. The Renaissance, the Reformation, etc. I'm not really disagreeing, though, I expect things worked in consort.

* Yes, yes, I know, it's not really the same at all, whatever a particular brand of 'Nat' might say.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 4:55 PM
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293. OK, shit happens. Sometimes you get lucky, or unlucky depending which side your bread is buttered. The First Opium War ranks up there with Cortez and Pizzaro in the imbalance of casualties and a how the fuck did those guys do it? The Guns part of Guns Germs and Steel works in the new world, but the Chinese knew from gunpowder.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 4:56 PM
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I think that it's fair to say "why Europe and not China" is the most important question, and the biggest mystery, in modern world history. There are a bunch of possible answers, but we'll probably never find a single cause, and anyone who professes to really know the answer to that question is bullshitting.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:00 PM
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292: It might be more helpful if you could explain a plausible mechanism by which either the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution actually enrinched China . . . This is, of course, the central tenet of Maoist propaganda . . .

Stuff like this is clowning. Come on.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:02 PM
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re: 297

One obvious answer is the infamous Zhou Enlai quote, when asked whether the French Revolution was a success: "Too early to say."

Thinking that it is/was Europe, and not China might be a case of counting one's chickens before they are hatched ....


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:04 PM
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"why Europe and not China" is the most important question, and the biggest mystery, in modern world history

Especially if you believe this guy


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:07 PM
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So, why did the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution result in a net "success" for China? What other policies of Mao -- not Deng Xiaoping pre- or post-Mao -- laid the necessary foundation for eventual Chinese success?

How good did China look in 1976? (From an economic point of view, by the way, there's a decent argument that it looked worse than Germany in 1945).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:15 PM
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301 to 298.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:16 PM
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I think that it's fair to say "why Europe and not China" is the most important question, and the biggest mystery, in modern world history.

I can't even imagine what it would mean to suggest any particular answer to this question. It seems so contingent on so many different things.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:16 PM
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Especially if you believe this guy

In '98, I was told that I was working on a farm that was right next to the farm that found the buried Chinese junk in the Sacramento River, but it was too secret to show it to me. So now you are internet buddies with someone who was in the general area of one of his central pieces of evidence. Can't see how the proof can get stronger than that.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:21 PM
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Throughout most of History the rest of the world has wanted the stuff China has made, e.g. Silk Road, China Trade, current trade imbalance. Previously, the Chinese have demanded silver for their goods. Now they will take an IOU in the form of a T-bill. I'm not sure that is progress, for them.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:22 PM
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So Halford, are we going to discuss this over pierogi or dim sum?


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:29 PM
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Wow, been away and didn't see that the big Mao vs. Stalin throwdown happened. DS probably said all the below, but...

50-70 million people is a pretty weighty number on the balance scale -- it is the greatest instance of mass murder in human history.

That number is a demographic estimate, not a concentration camp number. Mao didn't go out and directly kill tens of millions of people, these are mostly someone's estimates of how many Chinese "excess deaths" there were from famine during his rule, with excess deaths being the difference between number of people staying alive under some hypothetical good policy and the number of people who live under Maro's policies. I don't think it's wrong to do excess death numbers, but you have to take them with a grain of salt. They are heavily dependent on the hypothetical counterfactual and on the statistical infrastructure you are relying on to measure them. Both of those are totally lacking in China. Major famines had been routine in China for centuries and the frequency and severity increased since the mid 19th century. So a hypothetically famine-free China over 1940-1980 is a big assumption. Reliable stats to do a proper comparison between "typical" Chinese famine deaths vs. Great Leap Forward deaths are lacking as well.

I am very much not an expert, but the absolute numbers I have seen for total Chinese excess deaths during the 1850-1890 period, encompassing the Taiping Rebellion, Boxer Rebellion, and famines in the 1850s, 1870s, and 1890s are in excess of your figure for Mao, which are themselves toward the very high end of estimates I've seen for Mao's death toll.

it is basically nationalistic insanity to think that a unified state could never have acheived equilibrium or stability, or that it was somehow necessary for development or for the enrichment of the Chinese people. Again, is there a mechanism that can be described for this mysterious process?

really, do we need to go through all the major examples of economic development since the early modern period to establish a link between the creation of a strong centralized state and economic development? That's not nationalistic insanity. I sometimes think the disciplinary divisions between political science, history, and economics just lead people to forget how dependent even the most capitalist economic development has historically been on a strong state. Small exceptions like Hong Kong notwithstanding. It's like this weird assumption that the institutional state background is a freebie which happens easily and naturally and then all the action is in the economic policies.

But there are two interesting questions, first whether you needed anything like the terror regime imposed by Mao to obtain the result of a unified China

Of course you can always imagine some other route than Mao to a unified, prosperous China, especially given Mao's brutality and some of his massive errors in judgement. But the question is whether this route looked at all likely in 1930. When I look at Russia, it seems that from the perspective of 1913 there was a non-trivial chance of peacefully evolving into a successful modern state without the Bolshevik intervention; I don't feel that way from what I know about China in 1930. However, I know Russian history a *lot* better than Chinese history, and this all points to the subjectivity inherent in these kind of unknowable counterfactuals.

Also, on the "terror regime" imposed by Mao: it's important to think about the ways in which Mao's regime was significantly less terroristic than, say, Russia under Stalin, which I think is importantly connected to China's later success. Mao doesn't exterminate internal opposition to his policies in the way that Stalin did, and many of those internal critics reemerge in valuable ways in the 70s. If you look at how Mao steps forward (Great Leap Forward), steps back (early-mid 60s following failure of that policy), steps forward (cultural revolution), steps back (70s) and how various party cadres who spoke out against his more radical policies are able to return to influence when he recedes, it's simply impossible to imagine Stalin doing that.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:33 PM
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Again, could you provide some evidence as to how any policy of Mao, specifically -- the big ones are the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution -- were important steps in laying the foundation of Modern China? That's the argument you need for calling Mao a success, and I have yet to see anything even plauisible from either you or DS.

I've seen death camp/murder statistics alone for Mao on the order of 5-8 million in the 1949-1976 period, which certainly puts him in the range of Hitler or Stalin, and doesn't include (quite extensive) mass slaughter during the Civil War. The 50-70 million isn't Great Leap Forward alone, but includes excess starvation in a number of periods, together with periods of out-and-out slaughter.

It's fairly disengenuous to compare the Great Leap Forward, which was a deliberate, man-made famine, with the 19th century periods of starvation. The right comparison isn't a hypothetical famine-free China, but the China of the late 50s that was the result of Mao's policies with the China of the 1950s that wouldn't have been. Notably, China had been developing both food storage capacity and capacity for exchange of food prior to 1949.

I agree that there's a decent argument that, in general, a reasonably strong state is helpful for economic development. There's much less of a good argument that you needed a strong, unified China state as specifically organized under Chinese communist lines for the general development of China. You had massive amounts of investment in China between 1911 and the mid-1930s; even with an extremely decentralized political structure; it's not at all hard to imagine one or more Chinese states emerging that could have developed more peacefully. Not to mention, again, that you would generally have been better off in the chaotic China of 1925 than the starvation-prone China of 1959 or 1969.

I mean, Mao didn't even believe in economic development -- that was, in many ways the point of the cultural revolution. And China didn't modernize with any kind of success during his rule. So, frankly, the attempt to turn Mao into a driving force for modernization (remeber, that omelet needs a few eggs broken!) seems to me like a fairly ignorant justification for mass murder.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:54 PM
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But okay, I'll try to extract some signal from the noise in 292, which does deserve more than a one-line response:

The more plausible part of your argument seems to be, Nationalists couldn't unify China, Mao did, so, credit due and this is the foundation of China's current success.

This isn't "part of" my argument; it's my argument. (And no, I don't think you honestly believe the "central tenets" of Maoism make claims this modest for Mao Zedong Thought.)

But there are two interesting questions, first whether you needed anything like the terror regime imposed by Mao to obtain the result of a unified China

Actually, I don't think this is an interesting question. As I already said, the question of whether you "need" one thing as the precursor to the other in some abstract sense is a red herring. All it ultimately results in is the speculation that "if events had been different and everyone involved was different, things would be different." I don't find speculation like this very meaningful. It's also quite separate from the question of what was actually [i]plausible[/i] in a given period in history.

As I've said, I simply don't think it's plausible to counterfactaulize a victorious Nationalist movement without changing a whole bunch of history, probably far enough back into the 19th century that it'd be anyone's guess if Mao would even be born. It's more plausible to counterfactualize a different individual than Mao gaining ascendancy in the party either after it beat the Nationalists or, more likely, well before it did so. Whether this would have led to a less murderous regime is very hard to say, because a lot of what lay at the root of the disastrous parts of the rule was at the core of communist ideology, which was prone to murderously foolish experiments in "collectivization" like the one that comprises more than half of Mao's death toll.

As for whether the cost of unification was "worth it": well, in one sense, Chinese history tends to provide abundant examples of the reasons for the obsession its rulers tend to display with stability. The transition from Ming to Qing involved mass death on a scale large very probably large enough to rival Mao's absolute numbers with a population less than half the size of mid-century China's. The Taipings, as I already mentioned, brought all of the mass killing the communists did with none of the stability. Given the track record of ages of disunity in Chinese history, the fact that the Warlord Era in early 20th-century China didn't produce any really large-scale famines is more of an exception than a rule and there was good reason for both the KMT and the communists to want urgently to bring it to an end.

Whether the cost was "worth it" in a larger sense would be a more interesting question in a situation where there was some viable contender that could have prevented communist rule. "Worth it" as opposed to what, is the question. As opposed to some completely alt-hist version of modern China? Or as opposed to the kind of disunity that had so often led to the worst episodes of mass death in China in the past? There can be reasonable disagreements, and Deng Xiaoping was right to denounce Maoism's excesses as an example of the dangers of ultra-leftism. But whatever answer you postulate to those questions, the ultimate sentence "Mao was never ever successful in any way" is not supportable, no matter how much outrage you pronounce it with.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:55 PM
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308: Again, could you provide some evidence as to how any policy of Mao, specifically -- the big ones are the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution

This was a stupid statement the first time you made it, too. "Mao's China provided necessary preconditions for modernization" = ! "The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were good policies." You're more than smart enough to know that, and I don't believe you're genuinely confused about it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:58 PM
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You were almost certainly better off as an average Chinese person in 1925 than in 1959 or 1969, disunity, warlords, and foreign concessions taken into account.

I don't believe this. Life expectancy in 1969 in China was much longer -- perhaps as much as double -- its 1925 level, and overall Chinese population had grown significantly over the period (and at a faster rate than before Mao took over). It's a double standard to use Chinese stats when you're estimating deaths in the Great Leap Forward or whatever and ignore them when they show a positive story.

So, why did the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution result in a net "success" for China? What other policies of Mao -- not Deng Xiaoping pre- or post-Mao -- laid the necessary foundation for eventual Chinese success?

On what basis can you possibly say it didn't lay such a necessary foundation? When a massive, incredibly poor country launches from what looks like a standstill into the fastest economic growth ever recorded within a decade, wouldn't the presumption be that something that happened over the previous couple of decades laid the groundwork for it? And the changes Mao introduced into traditional Chinese agriculture and village life were as radical and profound as you can get -- they certainly deeply influenced the rural China where Deng's extremely successful agricultural reforms of the 1980s were implemented. You'd have to be a serious China expert with extremely detailed knowledge to trace all the interconnections, good and bad, but failing such knowledge isn't the default assumption that giant changes made in 1940-1976 must have some kind of relationship to successes in the 1980s?

Also, even though my omelet comment above was ironic, there's some truth to the adage. China had thousands of years of traditionalist history that was likely to stand in the way of modernization. Mao swept that aside with everything from land reform to collectivization, so Deng was working without all kinds of potential barriers to modernization.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 5:58 PM
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And needless to say, nothing I said in 311 contradicts the idea that both the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were huge mistakes that resulted in the deaths of millions. Those two periods contained such clear errors that they make it easier to overlook the ambiguous or potentially positive changes in Communist China -- from the "barefoot doctors" to education to womens' rights to aspects of land reform.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 6:02 PM
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But you're the one claiming that Mao, personally, was a success. To do so, you need to point to a specific policy, or set of policies, that were successful (or that, in your view, were foundational for ultimately successful policies). So what were they? Again, China was a basket case in 1976.

I think that the most charitable way to read your argument is that Mao unified China, and that this policy alone was a success, and therefore we can rate Mao as historically successful. I don't think that this argument can bear nearly the weight you want to put on it -- China would have been better off with almost any other leader, including many in the actually-existing Chinese communist party.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 6:03 PM
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As for counter- factuals, what if Sun Yat Sen doesn't die at the relatively early age of 58, so leadership of the KMT doesn't pass to Chiang Kai Shek until after unification/ defeat of the Japanese or whatever.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 6:04 PM
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313: Oh my. We're at the "saying the same thing over and over again" stage that quickly, are we?

Well, I'm off to the movies anyway. The counterfactual in 314 sounds pretty interesting, actually.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 6:07 PM
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Again, China was a basket case in 1976.

you keep saying this but you never support it. A basket case compared to what?

Look at this table from the Chinese statistical authority, at what happens to crude death rates between 1949 and 1976. (Note you can clearly see the destructive impact of the Great Leap Forward, but it's an interruption in a progressive trend). India strikes me as a good counterfactual country for looking at democratic western-oriented development in a very poor, extremely large underdeveloped nation. How did China in 1976 compare to India in 1976 for life expectancy and GDP per capita? My guess would be a little lower in GDP, but significantly higher in life expectancy. Today China is significantly higher in both.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 6:22 PM
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311-

So, the argument is that Mao -- who specifically did not believe in economic growth and caused catastrophe upon catastrophe for China-- must somehow have produced the preconditions for the later growth and is therefore a success because . . . well, we don't know, but look, they're successful now!

The main reason, IMO, for China's spectacular post-Deng growth is precisely the failure of the Maoist program of economic development, combined with the extreme willingness (which had been present since the 19th Century) of Westerners to invest in China; unlike Eastern Europe, China was not heavily industrialized, and when opened up to economic reform was therefore capable of growing at a spectacular rate. The failure of the GLF and the cultural revolution, to some extent, aided this process, because there wasn't much to destroy when the eventual opening up to the world happened. This is a fairly decent place to start, but note that even if you don't buy into the argument in full, the other leading school suggests that it was the capacity for widespread innovation in economic reform -- again, as the result of the grand failure of the Maoist years -- that allowed Deng to experiment with mechanisms for success.

So, in the sense that ruining a country made it easier to eventually change the country, Mao was a success -- kind of like the B-17 flying fortress in some ways led to the post-war success of the German or Japanese economies. But that's not the conventional definition.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 6:30 PM
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The Taipings weren't a regime but a, you know, rebellion. Of course there was mass killing; it was basically wartime (at least in the affected areas). Anyway, Spence's God's Chinese Son is not, unfortunately, very good.

This is not to say that the numbers of deaths during the Taiping aren't shocking. The estimates I've seen are about 20 million--and this was roughly about the same time as the U.S. Civil War.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 7:18 PM
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And I guess I should add, again, that I don't really have too much of a disagreement with the restricted view of Mao's success. But I am still not persuaded on the Mao vs. Stalin, in part, perhaps, because I don't really care.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 7:22 PM
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Well, to 316, compared to China's potential in post-1945 East Asia, or to its neighbors, many of whom started from a comparable or worse position to 1949 China.

I don't think that anyone sane would argue that India's post-1945, pre-1990s development was remotely successful, but even there India's GDP was about a third higher than China's. You're right that Chinese life expectancy was higher -- if we believe the state-provided statistics -- but of course most of that development is due to the early 1950s, 1961-66 period when Mao wasn't directing China.

Again, the question we're debating is "Was Mao a success [for the people of China]?" Compared to other reasonably possible historical paths for China, I think the answer to that question has to be a clear "no."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 7:31 PM
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You'd have to be a serious China expert with extremely detailed knowledge to trace all the interconnections, good and bad, but failing such knowledge isn't the default assumption that giant changes made in 1940-1976 must have some kind of relationship to successes in the 1980s?

And the answer here, is no, that is not, and should not be the default assumption. There are plenty of examples of East Asian countries having spectacular growth in the 1949-now period without anything like the changes caused by 1949-79 era China.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 7:39 PM
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311

... into the fastest economic growth ever recorded ...

Is China's growth really the fastest ever recorded?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 7:58 PM
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309
... It's more plausible to counterfactualize a different individual than Mao gaining ascendancy in the party either after it beat the Nationalists or, more likely, well before it did so. Whether this would have led to a less murderous regime is very hard to say, because a lot of what lay at the root of the disastrous parts of the rule was at the core of communist ideology, which was prone to murderously foolish experiments in "collectivization" like the one that comprises more than half of Mao's death toll.

It is my understanding that China started doing a lot better after Mao died which suggests his rule left a lot to be desired.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 8:01 PM
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I'm not anywhere close to sufficient fluency in Chinese history to weigh in on this debate, but it has certainly been fascinating reading.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 8:54 PM
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I, for one, have learned that Mao's rule left a lot to be desired.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 8:58 PM
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You were almost certainly better off as an average Chinese person in 1925 than in 1959 or 1969, disunity, warlords, and foreign concessions taken into account.

It's possible that this is untrue simply because women were treated relatively better in 1969 than in 1925, despite the absolutely wasteful Great Leap Forward, etc. There are claims in this direction in, for instance, Wild Swans; the author's grandmother was sold into concubinage in the warlord period, and survived to look after her family in a reeducation camp. The author loathes Mao, I don't think she's understating the damage he did. In The Long March, some veterans of the March report that they left their families to join the Communist army because they had more to eat walking over Tibet than they did as daughters-in-law with no connections.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 9:02 PM
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Peasants probably were worse off in 1925 than 1969, but I'd bet they were doing about as badly in 1895 as they were in 1966. If communism changed things, it would be because of equality for women, as clew suggest, but also that the Communists brought literacy to the peasants.

Those two things would make a huge difference to the ability to industrialize; the same effects occurred in Russia with the Communists teaching the peasants and conscripting the women (during the war in particular). So I could see Mao being credited with equality (land reform counts here as well), literacy, and unification under a strong government while being an absolute bust at developmental economics, stable, clean government, and agriculture, which he was.

max
['But that's as much credit as I can give to PGD's thesis.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 9:32 PM
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326 is very plausible, and something I should have thought of.

I was picking my dates carefully, though -- 1959 and 1969 were the height of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, respectively. The point isn't so much "no progress whatsoever in 30 or 40 years" but "you were probably better off living in a relatively chaotic period than in one of massive starvation/repression by Mao's government." I think that the history of the 20th Century shows that you're often better off with relative chaos and weak leaders than with a powerful, murderous state -- although the worst of all is to confront a powerful murderous state in the middle of chaos, see e.g. the Eastern Front of WWII.

The bottom line is that Mao was, if you include the Great Leap Forward deaths (and you should) responsible for the deaths of more people than any other leader in human history, probably more than 2X anyone else. Almost as many people as total deaths caused by WWII or WWII-related genocide, combined. All to create what was, by 1976, a desparately poor nation that has then spent the past 30 years catching up (rapidly) with its neighbors.

Given that, I think there's a pretty strong burden on the "well, unifying China may have been worth it" side of the argument. Especially given the history of the rest of non-Communist East Asia.

On preview, 327 makes better sense than anything from PGD or DS (and neatly side-steps the "net success [for the people of China]" question), though note that other East Asian states have managed to inculcate widespread literacy without any of the other Maoist trappings, and I don't really know how important the CCP was to Chinese literacy (or what it looks like in rural areas even now).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 9:44 PM
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Depends on your priors for 'you', Halford.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 10:09 PM
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The bottom line is that Mao was, if you include the Great Leap Forward deaths (and you should) responsible for the deaths of more people than any other leader in human history,

But, as has been mentioned upthread, there is a fallacy here. Mao presided over the greatest number of births in human history: does that make him some sort of fertility god? I'm of the view that Mao wasn't good for anybody but Mao, but he was hardly the only vicious son-of-a-bitch running around.

I don't really know how important the CCP was to Chinese literacy (or what it looks like in rural areas even now)

It's pretty good for a developing country, something like 80% overall, particularly given their language. I think the worst illiteracy is in Tibet and Xinjiang. And the CCP certainly had a lot to do with it; simplification and pinyin were communist programs, and contentious ones.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 10:14 PM
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Well, sure, if you're a murderous bastard running China you probably get to be more murderous than most. But I think the numbers are important -- the burden is still on those who want to explain the mass deaths as worth it in the overall balance of history as the price of unification or modernization. Mao failed pretty hard on both the "modernize my country" and "keep people alive" metrics.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 11:08 PM
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And, to 329, while I think that the argument that the absence of concubinage/foot binding etc. following Maoist rule is important -- and something I should have mentioned -- it's silly to think that only the Communist party could have worked out those kinds of changes. Lots of other Asian (and other) countries have managed to empower women without mass deaths.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 11:11 PM
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it's silly to think that only the Communist party could have worked out those kinds of changes

Sillier than thinking only the CCP could have compiled that body count in a country that comprises one out of every five earthlings?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 11:13 PM
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333 -- Well, the KMT was plenty nasty as well, and also responsible for the deaths of millions, and it's not wrong to think that famines and China have a long history. But, yes, I think that barring a truly independently-genocidal figure, only the CCP (really, specifically, Mao) was capable of creating the particularly extraordinary death tolls on the Chinese of that period. I mean, never say never, but 20th Century mass murder of native ethnic populations (as opposed to war, or genocide of allegedly "foreign" populations, like Jews or Armenians) is pretty much a Communist specialty.

Here's a list of 20th Century death counts. [OT: it puts into perspective what a horrible tragedy the current Congo war is, and how awful the history of that country is]


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-10 11:37 PM
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What i find most ridiculous (other than Shearer's great insights like "It is my understanding that China started doing a lot better after Mao died") is that you can't think of an Alt-Hist where the nationalist stay in power. regimes staying in power is what they do, and having aid from the hegemon is helpful too. i'm sure browsing some alt-history boards could give some ideas


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:01 AM
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Put another way, a rough estimate of the total number of excess deaths of Chinese for the entire pre-1949 period -- WWII, Japanese massacres, warlords, KMT atrocities, various manmade famines, Communist/KMT battles in the Civil War -- runs to about 17 million.

That's a ridiculously horrific number of people, of course, but it's less than half of the 40 million lower-bound estimate of the number of deaths in the 1949-1976 period, and less than a third of the upper-bound 70 million number. I think we're pretty safe calling Mao uniquely bad, even by admittedly horrible Chinese standards.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:05 AM
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s/b "20th Century pre-1949 period"


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:06 AM
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PGD, I don't understand why you keep making an implausible argument, when there's a plausible argument right next door. You already mention the key point: when Mao stepped forward, disaster -- when Mao stepped back, progress. Mao's sole contribution was as military commander. The successes you point to were successes created by other members of the CCP. The Great Man theory of history is not the only one.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 1:02 AM
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I am curious how the Mao supporters in this thread would evaluate Franco, Pinochet and Lee Kaun Yew using the same criteria.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 5:29 AM
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Mao supporters

I don't think that's a fair description of anybody in this thread.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 6:14 AM
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340

What term would you prefer? I toned it down from "apologists".


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 6:23 AM
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That's a bit rich coming from the world's foremost apologist for apartheid. But I suggest: Mao bunghole lickers.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 6:43 AM
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"Capitalism versus socialism" is just not an argument that intelligent people have, anymore. (It's only for college students and professors, and only on weekends.) Both systems are hierarchical power structures with private property rights underlying them - it's just that property rights are limited to varying degrees in each system. The modern contest between them (and arguments about them) only serve to distract from the more important and interesting issues.

Such as, how do you stamp out the *desire* for private property in an agricultural world? (Post-hunter-gatherer.) If you can figure that out, then you can pick any political system you want -- it'll work, and people will be happy.

For instance, has anyone here read Walden Two?


Posted by: cassanthropy | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 7:23 AM
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I toned it down from "apologists"

I wouldn't consider apologist -> supporter toning *down*, really, but carry on.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 7:38 AM
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I suggest "Mao apostrophers".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 7:40 AM
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Anyhow, you know who has always looked like Mao to me? This guy.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 7:41 AM
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345 works for me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 7:43 AM
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I don't think anyone here is a Mao supporter, apologist, or apostropher. They just like tasty Chinese omelets, and we're disputing Mao's role in the cooking process.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 8:35 AM
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343: Yes, but mostly all I remember is the ergonomic dishes (transparent, so you can wash both sides without turning them over!)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 8:50 AM
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I think we're pretty safe calling Mao uniquely bad, even by admittedly horrible Chinese standards.

I don't agree. First, the 1850-1900 period saw more "excess deaths" than the 1949-76 period under Mao, both absolutely and certainly as a share of the population. (I also wonder whether your 17 million figure for the first part of the 20th century included famines or was only violence).

Second, you persist in ignoring any possible benefits of Mao's rule. You either ignore any positive side completely or assume it away on the basis that some other Asian country (South Korea? Taiwan?) also did well in development during that period. Let's take it away from the institutional legacy and put it in tangible numbers of lives vs. deaths. In the century between 1851 and 1949 China's population increased by only 100 million , or 23 percent. But in less than 30 years between 1949 and 1976, China's population increased by 395 million , or 73 percent, despite a small drop in the fertility rate. Almost all of this was probably driven by declines in the death rate. How can one go from these figures to saying that Mao's only legacy is as a mass murderer?

As far as I can see, what's going on here is that magnitude and scale of Mao's failures make people feel morally obliged to ignore his successes and the actual ambiguity of his record.

There certainly are counterfactuals under which one gets all the benefits of Mao's rule and none of the horrific episodes of mass death or oppression. But I find it hard to see how you can blithely assume that those scenarios are *likely* given the terrible record of China in the previous century and the mixed record in other Asian countries (you can't just cherry-pick small countries that didn't face China's issues of scale and initial poverty). As I said above, I think India is a fair democratic/western comparison to China...India's economic growth post-WWII to the 70s was faster than China's, but their growth in life expectancy was significantly lower (by the mid-70s Chinese life expectancy was over ten years longer than life expectancy in India), and India's economic growth since 1980 has been much slower than China's.

Mao's legacy is ambiguous and complex.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:01 AM
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I suppose after 350 I can no longer deny being a Mao apologist.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:09 AM
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I'll cop to being a Mao apostropher if somebody can score me one of those swank jackets.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:13 AM
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I don't understand why you want to attribute everything that happened in China in the era to Mao. As you observed, Mao did not have the level of absolute power that Stalin had. We know that the policies that he had a direct hand in were disasters, and that when he stepped back things went better. Isn't the most parsimonious explanation that while the CCP had definite successes, that it's despite Mao, and not because of him?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:23 AM
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the 1850-1900 period saw more "excess deaths" than the 1949-76 period under Mao

The 1850-1900 period includes the bloodiest war in the whole of human history happening in China. That's a moderately impressive bit of cherry-picking right there, with regard to your comparison. How does, say, 1870-1920 compare, or 1800-1850?

Pretty well every developing country saw massive improvements in life expectancy postwar, because of improvements in fertiliser and seed stock and advances in treatment of infectious diseases - regardless of the competence of their government. I'm not sure it's justifiable to say that these were a particular achievement of Mao.

Seriously, you're setting the bar pretty low with saying "there were more Chinese people in 1976 than in 1949, therefore it's wrong to remember him only as a mass murderer." Are there any rulers so murderous that their populations did not grow during their rule? Pol Pot, I suppose. Any others?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:26 AM
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"Ruined, defeated, and divided into zones of occupation, a much smaller Germany emerged in 1945 with a population about the same as in 1910."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:29 AM
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355: But I would think that must include losses from territory given to Poland.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:33 AM
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343.last: I always get that one confused with Ecotopia. I know that in one of them the men get high and beat each other with sticks, and both seem to demand a soul-crushing conformity, but that's about it.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:40 AM
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But I would think that must include losses from territory given to Poland.

No, if you read the paragraph, that was the position in 1945. By about 1947 a very large number of East Prussians ended up in postwar Germany as refugees. And then there were all the people expelled from Czechoslovakia, not just Sudetenland. They probably made up the losses quite comfortably.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:44 AM
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358: But the territorial losses occurred in 1945, and the expulsions occurred later.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 9:51 AM
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Well, apo's article asserts that 7 million Germans were killed during the war. Assuming the population probably didn't grow by leaps and bounds between 1914 and 1918 either, I'd have thought that would have been plenty to roll back 35 years' growth.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 10:03 AM
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Seriously, you're setting the bar pretty low with saying "there were more Chinese people in 1976 than in 1949, therefore it's wrong to remember him only as a mass murderer." Are there any rulers so murderous that their populations did not grow during their rule?

Not sure Russia's population grew under Stalin, but haven't seen numbers. What was impressive to me was how much faster China's population grew 1949-1976 than the entire century beforehand. So clearly there were a lot of Chinese rulers who didn't do as well as Mao in that department. If you're going to count excess deaths it seems to me you have to count excess lives as well.

Isn't the most parsimonious explanation that while the CCP had definite successes, that it's despite Mao, and not because of him?

making the detailed differentiation between Chinese communism in the Mao period and Mao personally is beyond my knowledge of Chinese history. But either Mao is an absolute ruler or he's not. If he's an absolute ruler, he deserves credit for being able to step back and delegate to more competent people (this is a notable absolute ruler weakness). If not, this reopens the question of whether all the problems are attributable to him as well.

Anyway, Mao's biggest failures have to do with communist enthusiasm carried too far, and the possible wins -- more effective health care and education, womens' rights, some aspects of land reform -- are also areas of communist enthusiasm, so it's possible to see the same mind behind both.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 10:21 AM
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Note also that Germany had already gone through demographic transition by 1911 -- we wouldn't expect China-like population growth there between 1910 and 1945 even putting Hitler aside.

The German comparison is actually instructive -- despite the bombed out cities at the end of the Second World War, Germany's developmental/economic advances between 1933 and 1945 were real and persisted into the postwar period. (Tony Judt's Postwar is very good on the relatively good shape of the German economy even in 1945, and the legacy to that development from the Nazi era). Arguably, although I know of no comparative study, the Nazi-era advances were more significant, and more lasting, than anything the CCP gave to China between 1949 and 1976 (and, certainly, as Walt keeps pointing out correctly, more significant than anything Mao did). Yet there are not folks going around calling Hitler a "success" or asking us to take into account his ambiguous legacy in founding Volkswagen or reducing the powers of the Junkers -- it's clear that going down the Hitler path was a bad thing for Germany.

The reasons people aren't willing to see the same comparison for China and Mao is, IMO, a willingness to buy into myths about how different China is from the rest of the world and the Chinese national narrative of the central importance of unity. And, of course, the fact that Mao's party is still in power, his face is still on the currency, etc.

I still haven't gotten a clear explanation from PGD as to what it was that Mao actually did that ranks him as a historical success. I understand DS's argument much better -- national unity was worth everything else -- even if I disagree with it.

And of course mass murder wasn't Mao's only legacy. But that's different than saying that Mao's personal legacy is, on net, a success for China, which is what I take to be your argument.

Finally, I'm not sure I understand your argument for the relevance of the 19th century. Is your argument based on the relative failure of China to acheive expected population growth in the 1850-1900 period, or deaths due to the Taiping rebellion, or some specific famine? Because all of these are quite different than the deliberately imposed starvation imposed by the GLF or the other, actual death-camp style murder perpetrated by Mao. Notably, the Chinese population grew even during WWII, and, as Ajay has pointed out, has grown throughout the developing world since 1945 because of agricultural and medical improvements, all of which would have happened without Mao.



Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 10:31 AM
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358 About half of the Germans living in the territories east of the Oder-Neisse line had fled in advance of the Soviet advance and were thus already in postwar Germany by the end of the war (or had died in the process - lots of freezing, starvation, strafing and bombing of refugee columns and ships, plus it turned out that Dresden wasn't the best of safe havens).


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 11:13 AM
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or reducing the powers of the Junkers

I think that the fact that the majority of the Junkers lived in territories that stopped being German, and most of the rest in the future DDR, makes everything else moot.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 11:16 AM
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Dresden wasn't the best of safe havens

History is written by the winners, or at least the survivors.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 11:19 AM
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364 -- What, and Hitler gets no credit for that?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:04 PM
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What, and Hitler gets no credit for that?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:06 PM
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Glad to see we're still going.

||
Inception is pretty dope, by the way. I recommend seeing it in the theatre.
|>

338: You already mention the key point: when Mao stepped forward, disaster -- when Mao stepped back, progress. Mao's sole contribution was as military commander. The successes you point to were successes created by other members of the CCP.

The other members of the CCP were for the most part involved and implicated in the disasters, including the Great Leap Forward. If we can live without Great Man theories, we can just as easily live without Great Monster theories that neatly assigning everything bad to Mao and everything good to Those-Not-Mao, which of course is the logical endpoint to Rob's obsessiveness on this issue.

Of course, the CCP since Mao has done everything it can to fuel this narrative, in much the same manner as the Soviets discovered the evils of Stalinism once old Uncle Joe was safely did. Which, whatever, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy, but we don't need to adopt that schema in our own evaluations.

362: The German comparison is actually instructive

... about the rampant special pleading we're seeing in this thread. As far as I can see your approach to any evidence connected with the period is a blanket claim that anything positive that happened under Mao would surely have happened without him (which we know because you say so), unless it probably couldn't have happened without him, in which case it can't possibly be a big deal, and that this must include the possibility of continued disunity and civil war because of course China would have developed just fine without internal peace or unity, a contention for which you can produce no evidence whatever and which is contraindicated by everything we know about Chinese history, but never mind all that, one period can obviously have no connection with the other.

This exercise is thoroughly harebrained and is leading you into fairly ridiculous contortions; most recently, your contention that those in disagreement with you wouldn't say the same thing about Hitler despite Germany being more prosperous through his tenure (as though industrialized Germany of that period vs. rural China of that period were an apples-to-apples comparison). I think the reason for all this is ultimately that, as I kind of expected would happen, you're arguing against a ridiculously skewed definition of "success." It seems to be that in your mind, declaring Mao a successful statesman in any sense is anathema because to you it must be the equivalent of declaring him a wonderful guy and endorsing all his actions.

If that's your thinking, you should let go of that, because that's not what describing Mao as successful means at all, any more than describing Qin Shihuangdi or Genghis Khan as successes means endorsing everything they did. What it means is describing their achievements as fairly pivotal at crucial historical moments in the histories of their peoples, because that is obviously the case. Your persistent belief that this somehow constitutes apologetics for their omelette recipes is a red herring, a strawman, a blind alley, a distraction.

And yes, by the way: this does mean that if Hitler had had the sense not to pick a fight with the entire planet and go down in flames, he too would have been able to claim a mantle as a successful statesman. Much like Franco, whose regime survived the Second World War intact, was a successful statesman. This wouldn't make him a sympathetic figure or anything less than a thoroughly evil bastard, but it would nevertheless be true. And screeching that there's not enough moralism involved in that judgment would not change the facts, any more than it does with Mao.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:07 PM
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once old Uncle Joe was safely did.

Dead, that is. I'm typing with an accent.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:08 PM
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because of course China would have developed just fine without internal peace or unity

(I was going to mention that it's very amusing how mentioning the Taipings has been cited as unfair because it was a war.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:10 PM
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So, what's your verdict? Mao, net positive or net negative for the Chinese people, relative to other reasonably possible outcomes? It seems to me like you took a strong "national unity trumps all else, and he was the only man who could do it" stand upthread, and are walking it back a little bit here.

That's what we're talking about (or, what I'm talking about, at least). Obviously Mao was a 'successful stateman" in the sense that he survived until his death in power.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:13 PM
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Inception is pretty dope, by the way. I recommend seeing it in the theatre.
I will fondly think of this movie as providing evidence that the best zero gravity fighting style is Brazillian Jiu Jitsu.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:13 PM
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Oh, I'm not walking anything back. Your attempts to dismiss national unity as unimportant and portray the Warlord Era as relatively prosperous have AFAICS yielded nothing worth noting, I find it hard to see China re-emerging as a major power with anything like its current prosperity while still fragmented, and all my comments about the implausibility of Nationalist what-ifs stand. "Relative to other reasonably possible outcomes" it's therefore fairly clearly a net positive, especially since per my remarks about Great Monster theories I'm not at all convinced that some other person in command of the CCP would have avoided some equivalents to the worst atrocities and farces of the Mao era, the propensity for which were built into the ideology.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:28 PM
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373 to 371.

372: Oh, I think we'll need a lot more zero-G fighting sequences to settle that question.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:29 PM
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Great Monster theories

Rob is certainly not alone in seeing Mao as a monster. Most critical reviews of Jung Chang's recent bio, which described many of Mao's crimes, mentioned that she did not explain how such a monster could become so powerful. He was very good at killing his enemies while centralizing power, not especially interested in how many people he killed along the way. From the Hundred Flowers campaign that he used in 1951 to get opponents to step forward onward, I think that China would have been better off with someone else in charge. Mao wasn't uniquely placed to unify China-- he was ruthless and found a powerful patron (The USSR) who held the son of his most powerful opponent hostage. China would have been better off had Mao chosen to fight the Japanese rather than his internal opponents, with centralization coming after that.

Franco was not a successful statesman-- people fled from the Spain he ran. Most Chinese were too poor to emigrate


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:34 PM
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368.1 is flat out wrong. I mean, the other leaders of the CCP were implicated in the Great Leap Forward in that they didn't oppose it, but it was Mao's idea, and it derived from Mao's particular obsessions. The Cultural Revolution was also Mao's doing -- the other elites in the CCP had pushed Mao out of effective power, and the Cultural Revolution was Mao's way of taking back power.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:42 PM
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375: Rob is certainly not alone in seeing Mao as a monster.

Maybe I'm overly pessimistic in thinking that communist ideology would have led to purges, power struggles and unwise collectivization experiments with or without Mao. That's the part of the whole equation that's fairly difficult to assess for me. If I am being overly pessimistic about that, then a what-if that has someone else outmaneuvering Mao during the power struggles of the Forties or killing him off before the mid-Fifties would produce a considerably better outcome for China and would have my Stamp of Approval.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:45 PM
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Well, that's a clear answer, so thanks. But -- you knew this was coming -- an almost unbelievably unconvincing one. I'm not sure why we would think that a regime that was more murderous than a period of relative chaos from 1911-1949 was a net benefit. I'm not sure why we think that leaving a desperately poor China in the middle of a boom period for the developing world (particularly East Asia, particularly Chinese populations in East Asia) was a net positive. I'm not sure why you would think that Mao was the only figure capable of bringing a stable government to China -- n.b., very few places were actually governed by warlords between 1949 and 1976.

Or, again, why you would think that when casualties, including casualties of war, in the entire pre-1949 period (including those caused by Mao) to are less than half of what were caused by the post-1949 state . . . well, there you go.

I guess if you say that only Mao or a Communist likely to be as bad as Mao were reasonably likely alternatives, then there's that. But that's not true. And the point of these counterfactuals is to try to assign causation, and blame, and so on both counts I'd say Mao comes across as a pretty severe net loser.

But we've talked about all of this; I just haven't seen any remotely convincing theory as to why having history's greatest mass murderer (and one of the world's worst economic leaders) in charge of your country is a net positive.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:47 PM
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368.1 is flat out wrong.

DS isn't glad to see we're still going?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:53 PM
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376: Mao was adapting the Theory of Productive Forces, which made communism very prone to grand attempts to tinker with "the means of production" and forced collectivization, and very often to producing disastrous failures in doing so. I find the notion that the CCP would never have hit on this idea, very much in the air at the time, without Mao's prompting to be highly unlikely. The scale of death during China's experience is of course owed in part to China having the world's largest population.

The Cultural Revolution per se was Mao's approach to internecine power struggle. But he didn't invent internecine power struggle and purges among communist movements, either. Could be he was uniquely suited for them and thus a relatively unique monster on that account.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 12:54 PM
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378: I guess if you say that only Mao or a Communist likely to be as bad as Mao were reasonably likely alternatives, then there's that. But that's not true.

Unfortunately, until you can say what alternative to that is supposed to be reasonable, I'm not convinced. I've been quite specific as to why I don't think the Nationalists were a plausible alternative. "But they were, honest" is not an interesting answer to those objections.

Pretty much every mass murderer in Chinese history was "history's greatest mass murderer" in terms of absolute numbers on account of the scale of China's population. As for assessing China's progress in the twentieth century, the proper frame of reference is China of the preceding century (not with the period of Opium wars and Taiping rebellions conveniently bracketed out, BTW), which illustrates the kind of disasters that were possible and proximate and which -- replicated at mid-20c levels of population -- could easily have matched Mao's worst deeds without any positive legacy to show for it. Compared to that, the events that laid the groundwork instead for China to re-emerge as a major power are -- yes, including Mao -- pretty plainly a net positive.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 1:11 PM
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Pretty much every mass murderer in Chinese history was "history's greatest mass murderer" in terms of absolute numbers

the words "in his day" should appear here...


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 1:12 PM
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Could be he was uniquely suited for them

I think that this is true, based on every description that I have read of Mao's camps on the Long March. In the middle of an insurgency, in territory bounded by people who didn't much like Han Chinese, relentless self-criticism sessions within camps seem counterproductive for victory, but very helpful for maintaining power.

The centralized power and Mao's understanding of how local authority in China worked helped land reform go a lot faster. 327 is insightful, literacy for peasants changed a lot.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 1:23 PM
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Unfortunately, until you can say what alternative to that is supposed to be reasonable,

Well, Chiang could well have unified China . . . were it not for Mao! There was nothing foreordained by nature about the result of the Chinese Civil war. A slightly smarter -- or luckier -- Chiang might have won. Or a less factionalized KMT -- no Central Plains War. That's an alternative.

Within the CCP itself, Deng Xiaoping or Liu Shaoqi or Zhou Enlai=better than Mao.

For wilder alternatives, and if you ignore the actually-existing nationalist government, the country might eventually have divided itself into a warlord-controlled northern zone that turned into a state, and a southern coastal zone run by the KMT, and one or more independent provinces inland, perhaps with the concessions intact. Would that have been so bad -- or obviously worse?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 1:32 PM
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I'm also not really sure why the proper comparison for assessing the horrors of the lack of a central government in 20th century China is 19th Century China during the Taiping rebellion, which had a (weak, but very much in existence -- who fought the Taipings?) government, and a very different economy, instead of the actually-existing China of the early 20th century.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 1:37 PM
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Look, this is nuts. China under Mao had huge and manifold successes and failures in the face of the very difficult challenge of modernizing the largest and poorest country on the planet. It is not possible to have an intelligent conversation if someone just waves away the successes by claiming they would have happened anyway and tries to shut down conversation by repeating that Mao is "history's greatest monster", whatever that's supposed to mean.

I would refer people to Chinese Economic Performance In the Long Run , by the well know economist Angus Maddison. THe full text, with tables, is available at the link. Table 2.1, which gives estimates of China's GDP per capita over the long run, is particularly interesting. Some important points from that table:

--The author estimates that Chinese real GDP per capita actually fell from 1820 to 1952. Mao took over a country poorer than it was over a century ago.

--China when the communists took over was one of the poorest countries on the planet -- poorer than Russia in 1700.

--Chinese economic growth between 1952 and 1978 was apparently faster than economic growth in India -- by Maddison's estimates real GDP per capita grew 84 percent in China over the period and 71 percent in India. (I already pointed out above that life expectancy grew faster in China as well).

No one picked up on my China/India comparison, I think those two are clearly the best analogy to each other. There's no single event in India post-WWII to compare to the famine of the Great Leap Forward. But there is a possible argument that China did a better job in development than India. Not only did it grow faster over the Mao period, but it grew significantly faster once Deng used the bureaucratic infrastructure of the unified state built in the Mao period to put better economic policies in place.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 1:52 PM
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But there is a possible argument that China did a better job in development than India. Not only did it grow faster over the Mao period, but it grew significantly faster once Deng used the bureaucratic infrastructure of the unified state built in the Mao period to put better economic policies in place.

I wonder if you could be bothered to actually make this argument, rather than just relying on post hoc ergo propter hoc from the Deng period. And also explain the connection to Mao, as opposed to just the CCP.

You keep circling back to the India comparison, but why is that the relevant point of comparison? India also had a really shitty government, in terms of economic policy, until the 1990s. I'm not sure why beating India (at the cost of zillions of lives) is such great shakes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 2:01 PM
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I still haven't gotten a clear explanation from PGD as to what it was that Mao actually did that ranks him as a historical success. I understand DS's argument much better -- national unity was worth everything else -- even if I disagree with it.

I think I gave plenty of examples above, ranging from mortality/health to effective centralization, and DS and I are in agreement.

But here is a useful and telling paragraph from the Maddison book linked in 386 (Chapter 3 on the Communist period):

Self-inflicted wounds brought the economic and political system close to collapse during the Great Leap Forward (1958-60), and again in the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) when education and the political system were deeply shaken. Nevertheless, economic performance was a great improvement over the past. GDP trebled, per capita real product rose by more than 80 per cent and labour productivity by 60 per cent from 1952 to 1978.....A major reason for the acceleration of Chinese growth since 1949 has been the massive increase in inputs of capital, fuller use of the labour potential and improvements in their education and skills. Until 1978 the payoff was curtailed by inefficiency of resource allocation. In the reform period since 1978, resource allocation has greatly improved.

That's the classic communist combination -- greater mobilization of societal inputs counterbalanced by crappy resource allocation and the social sclerosis introduced by the command economy. What's impressive about China is that the sclerosis was evidently not great enough to freeze up the mechanisms for effective reform (put Deng in 1980s Russia and see how well he does...), and the mobilization in the areas of health and education was impressive. Also, something that I think Westerners underestimate is how much old social arrangements (e.g. land tenure) can impede mobilization of resources.

Rob's counterfactuals in 384 are interesting. I have no problem with thinking that other CCP leaders might have been better than Mao. But I dislike identifying non-Western, non-capitalist examples of development completely with their worst crimes, even when there are real and tangible successes to be seen.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 2:10 PM
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This thread is probably the first time in my life I've seen someone seriously claim that Mao Tsetung was a better leader than, say, Stalin or Idi Amin, so it's been quite mind-opening.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 2:13 PM
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And the question we've been discussing is whether having Mao in charge of China was a net success for China. You seem insistent on pointing out that China did experience some development during that period. Great. But compared to what potential? And to what extent does that bear on the question of Mao's success? Your premise can't just be that China developed somewhat -- it has to be that Mao was himself a net positive force for the Chinese people.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 2:13 PM
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What's impressive about China is that the sclerosis was evidently not great enough to freeze up the mechanisms for effective reform (put Deng in 1980s Russia and see how well he does...)

Another way of putting this is that Russia by the 1980s had urbanized and modernized and more-or-less completely industrialized, whereas China had not. Which was a big strength of China's heading into the era of reform. But hardly a "success" we can chalk up to Mao.

I will grant the literacy point, and possibly the women's rights point. But at what cost!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 2:20 PM
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the India comparison, but why is that the relevant point of comparison?

Population size, perhaps?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 2:22 PM
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This is an interesting way to compare India and China:

http://www.china-profile.com/data/printing/pr_ani_WPP2008_TFR-L0_1.htm

I'm not sure what to cite as a complement to fairly inhumane number crunching. The way I think about development of very poor countries is the number of people in abject misery. India, while not a completely open society politically, never imprisoned millions for political reasons, and certainly strove to treat Dalits better.

I don't know much about post-colonial India, and am not all that comfortable with armchair speculation comparing nations. I don't think that a shouty "threat or menace" context basically driven by European political theory is all that useful of a way to discuss policy.

Lastly, the book cited in 386 was written by an economist who does not read Chinese.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 2:46 PM
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384: Well, Chiang could well have unified China . . . were it not for Mao! . . . A slightly smarter -- or luckier -- Chiang might have won.

This is the kind of thing I meant when I talked about speculation along the lines of "if everyone involved had been different, everything would be different." While I'm sure it would make a fun time-travel yarn, I don't see that it has all that much value in practically evaluating history.

Or a less factionalized KMT -- no Central Plains War.

If the KMT hadn't been half-composed of warlords, everything would be different! But again, this involves changing history so that the KMT is essentially not the KMT; it's a radical divergence, not a trivial one.

There was nothing foreordained by nature about the result of the Chinese Civil war.

There's nothing ever "foreordained" about conflict. There often are sets of factors that strongly favor one side over the other, luck or no luck. Chiang in fact had all sorts of lucky breaks on his behalf IRL -- not to mention chances fed to him by his enemy -- and yet failed to finish them, because there were huge structural factors dragging on the KMT and militarily favoring his enemy (like the CCP's far superior ability to recruit and motivate talented commanders and loyal troops; also the persistent willingness of the rank and file to adapt and to quickly abandon losing commanders and tactics in favor of winning ones -- that's how Mao out-competed fellow wannabe-Stalinist Zhang Guotao). That sort of thing is very, very hard to "for want of a nail" away.

As for Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai, it's entirely possible they would have been better. It's worth remembering, however, that these figures as we know them were products of the Mao era, so speculating about what their careers would have been like absent Mao is chancy at best. Given the fairly ruthless and extreme context in which they all lived, I don't find it hard to imagine basically anyone who wound up in the driver's seat of the CCP eventually going batty in similar ways to Mao in the short term. But it's hard to say.

For wilder alternatives, and if you ignore the actually-existing nationalist government, the country might eventually have divided itself into a warlord-controlled northern zone that turned into a state, and a southern coastal zone run by the KMT, and one or more independent provinces inland, perhaps with the concessions intact. Would that have been so bad -- or obviously worse?

Why would a warlord-controlled northern zone have persisted? What would be different about these warlords that they'd be effectively able to exist the rise of communism's appeal to mass society as they weren't able to do in reality? Why would there be a southern coastal zone run by the KMT? How would they go about hanging on to the southern coast? Without invoking a full-scale Western invasion or series of such, this seems to me to amount to more "if absolutely everything was different, everything would be different" speculation. Not very interesting to me, at least not as history.

385: I'm also not really sure why the proper comparison for assessing the horrors of the lack of a central government in 20th century China is 19th Century China during the Taiping rebellion

Pretty obviously because the rebellion was a modern example of the extremity of the threats disunity could very practically pose to a Chinese state, particularly a China at the nadir of its cultural and economic fortunes. China's economy during the Warlord Era was different from the Qing, of course; it had deteriorated and was if anything more fragile. So inconvenient as the example may be for your absurd "oh, unity and centralized government were no big deal" thesis, it's plainly relevant to China of the day.

390: And the question we've been discussing is whether having Mao in charge of China was a net success for China. You seem insistent on pointing out that China did experience some development during that period. Great. But compared to what potential?

And again, you're trying to load the term "success" to make your argument for you. Compared to what potential? How about compared to the previous century of extreme poverty and civil warfare? If the Communist rule improved on that -- and did better at doing so than the only other country facing challenges on anything like a similar scale -- then what is supposed to be meaningful about demanding that a bunch of extra apples-to-oranges comparisons be made in order that you don't have to concede the point? I'm sorry, PGD is absolutely right: you're being rather ridiculous here.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 5:21 PM
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What would be different about these warlords that they'd be effectively able to exist the rise of communism's

Huh.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 5:27 PM
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I'm not really sure what you want from your counterfactuals. It's perfectly easy to imagine any of the above as somewhat plausible alternatives to Mao. Sure, the people involved and the events involved -- battles won, battles lost, etc. -- would have needed to be different -- but that's true of every historical counterfactual. They are still useful to tease out causation and responsibility -- imagining a world in which Mao didn't exist, or didn't win, allows one to think about the consequences of his existence. Actually, there's not really any other way to do so.

A KMT victory is perfectly easy to imagine -- it almost happened, many times. The division of the country into regions is, yes, somewhat more farfetched, but doesn't look that different than something that could have emerged before 1929. The point of that counterfactual is simply that Chinese unity isn't the be-all and end-all of Chinese success. As, in a way, we know from Taiwan.

If the Communist rule improved on that -- and did better at doing so than the only other country facing challenges on anything like a similar scale -- then what is supposed to be meaningful about demanding that a bunch of extra apples-to-oranges comparisons be made in order that you don't have to concede the point?

The 1945-1975 period was pretty much the golden age of economic development, everywhere. Most of the world -- actually, all of the world, except for maybe Cambodia -- improved on its nineteenth-century conditions. This was particularly the case in Confucian East Asia. Although China started off 1950 with weaker institutions than South Korea and Taiwan, it didn't do so by all that much, particularly in the coastal regions, and China had a lot of natural advantages as well (as we all now know). It's weak sauce to say, hey, at least we're doing better than the Taiping Rebellion, in the middle of the world's biggest economic and technological boom and major agricultural transformation. Or to cherry-pick India, which had a famously slow growth rate, caused by terrible government policy, even during a boom period (remember the "Hindu rate of growth"? or how Pakistan looked like a relative boom economy?) as the sole locus of comparison. Absent Mao, one would have expected a far more prosperous China -- unless, perhaps, you're willing to buy the "only Mao could have prevented a Taiping-style ongoing war," which I don't buy at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 5:49 PM
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I know it's not polite to keep commenting when I've basically stopped reading the thread, but on skimming it seems like almost every positive trend attributed to Mao is something that was shared either by other countries around the same time, or by other countries who followed what could be generalized, if one were of the generalizing sort, as a broadly similar path of modernization and development, but who had done so in an earlier period.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 7:20 PM
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Oh wait. Is the argument now about whether anything positive happened during the period when Mao was in power? I'm not going to argue with that.

On another tack, what's the highest position women ever achieved in the Communist party hierarchies around the world? There were real improvements in gender equality in a lot of Communist society, but I can't think of anyone who became head of state. Maybe head of a regional party?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 7:26 PM
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Or to cherry-pick India, which had a famously slow growth rate, caused by terrible government policy,

India is not cherry picking. India and China faced the same kind of issues -- extreme underdevelopment and poverty, a massive population, large countries with immense regional differences that hampered unified effective government, harsh traditional inequalities. The "terrible government policy" that you seem to ascribe to some mysterious Indian national character is the natural result of having a legislative democracy and no violent revolution in that kind of situation. Economic policy is a confused mix of payoffs to interest groups, there is limited ability to get thoroughgoing reforms or sweep aside traditional barriers to development, you can't go all the way to the capitalist shock therapy because the poor have a vote but it would take violence to really expropriate the upper classes. This kind of stuff is the justification for revolutionary transformation (which of course has its own massive costs).

The 1945-1975 period was pretty much the golden age of economic development, everywhere....This was particularly the case in Confucian East Asia. Although China started off 1950 with weaker institutions than South Korea and Taiwan, it didn't do so by all that much

Are you going to rely on some kind of genetic/cultural argument about Chinese natural awesomeness to carry you here? The South Korea and Taiwan examples are well taken but also have some very clear differences with China (please, no Hong Kong and Singapore comparisons). On the general issue of development success in 1945-75, you're right...but China looks OK compared to the rest of Asia (excluding Japan) on that metric. Per Angus Maddison's numbers, it starts out at the bottom of Asia in wealth (a little worse than India) and then grows at a little less than average over the period. But life expectancy in China grows significantly faster than the rest of Asia (figures available at earthtrends.wri.org ). And then of course China takes off like a rocket after Mao's death, which is evidence (as I keep arguing) that China built durable and effective institutions during the Maoist period that could later be used by better policymakers.

Another way of putting this is that Russia by the 1980s had urbanized and modernized and more-or-less completely industrialized, whereas China had not. Which was a big strength of China's heading into the era of reform. But hardly a "success" we can chalk up to Mao.

No, you're massively oversimplifying. Deng gets most of the credit but it was still a success for the CCP rule since WWII. China had administrative and governmental continuity from the Mao to the Deng era. There is no natural market Deng could simply set free, the market transition is an institutional transition and Deng's reforms had to be *administered* from the top down. Deng understood this quite well and started out by replacing old-guard personnel in many cases, but his core tool to use in starting the reform process was the centralized bureaucratic state that was built up under Mao. This paper , while rather bloodless, makes the key point about the way that introducing market incentives relied on tight centralized control.

I think it's valid to say that China's underdevelopment was an advantage, but a mechanistic ascription of China's success to its underdevelopment is very problematic. First, the historical evidence is very much against the idea that it's easy to go smoothly from peasant subsistence farming to industrialization without major social upheaval and bloodshed. Second, China had actually industrialized significantly since WWII (although not to the extent of Russia), and reforms included the industrial sector. Third, to the extent that China featured a smaller economic units than Russias -- village communes vs. massive collective farms, factories that were smaller in scale than the massive Stalinist ones -- this was itself a development decision made in the Maoist era.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 7:42 PM
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This paper by the excellent Chinese economic historian Barry Naughton, is also worth a look on the issue of administrative continuity. At the end he raises the question of whether the continued dependence of China's economy on the Communist party will eventually hold back its economic growth.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 7:52 PM
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OK, I'm done with this epic thread, but I just wanted to leave saying that obviously Mao was a tyrant and a killer...but he leaves a legacy that a lot more ambiguous and complex than this "history's greatest monster" stuff, and is at least partially defensible from a development perspective.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 8:00 PM
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Mao? Shit. I was trying to defend moa, cause I love me some flightless extinct birds.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 8:03 PM
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The moa was history's most monstrous bird.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 8:08 PM
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Haast's Eagle was it's Chiang Kai-shek.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 8:15 PM
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Are you going to rely on some kind of genetic/cultural argument about Chinese natural awesomeness to carry you here?

No.

but China looks OK compared to the rest of Asia (excluding Japan) on that metric. Per Angus Maddison's numbers, it starts out at the bottom of Asia in wealth (a little worse than India) and then grows at a little less than average over the period. But life expectancy in China grows significantly faster than the rest of Asia

This isn't fair, but I'm fairly skeptical of those numbers. The purported growth rates of Communist countries were notoriously unreliable. More broadly, though, does this get you all the way to net success?

No, you're massively oversimplifying. Deng gets most of the credit but it was still a success for the CCP rule since WWII. China had administrative and governmental continuity from the Mao to the Deng era. There is no natural market Deng could simply set free, the market transition is an institutional transition and Deng's reforms had to be *administered* from the top down.

Fair enough on the oversimplifying, but don't you just mean that if you impose a massive central administration on a rural country that doesn't develop, and then use it to administer reform, you can produce something like a transformation from communism to development that doesn't look like Russia? If so, that was a nice break for Deng, but I'm still not sure why this helps you on an argument that China was better off with Mao in power than anyone else. China (as you know) always had a centralized civil service that managed local administration, even in the Nationalist period.

India and China faced the same kind of issues -- extreme underdevelopment and poverty, a massive population, large countries with immense regional differences that hampered unified effective government, harsh traditional inequalities. The "terrible government policy" that you seem to ascribe to some mysterious Indian national character is the natural result of having a legislative democracy and no violent revolution in that kind of situation . . . there is limited ability to get thoroughgoing reforms or sweep aside traditional barriers to development, you can't go all the way to the capitalist shock therapy because the poor have a vote but it would take violence to really expropriate the upper classes. This kind of stuff is the justification for revolutionary transformation

OK, this is just bloodthirsty and wrong. India's weird mix of Fabian Socialism and semi-democracy and incompetence turned out to be an economic disaster, although with good intentions. Then, a democratic government got rid of that plan and India boomed, while still being semi-democratic. Not to mention the number of non-revolutionary states that have also done well. So, the idea that you somehow need violent revolutionary transformation as a predicate of growth is . . . mysterious.

And then of course China takes off like a rocket after Mao's death, which is evidence (as I keep arguing) that China built durable and effective institutions during the Maoist period that could later be used by better policymakers

That is basically the whole of your argument, but it still strikes me as a bad case of post hoc ergo proter hoc. I skimmed through the Naughton paper, and his basic point seemed to be that you're better off, for a while, maintaining your communist government structure and focusing it on economic development than just collapsing into shock therapy. Which is fine if your comparison point is Russia, but doesn't really suggest that (a) you need that communist governmental structure in the first place or (b) that there was an important continuity between what Mao, personally, did and Chinese development in the Deng era and beyond.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 8:27 PM
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This isn't fair, but I'm fairly skeptical of those numbers. The purported growth rates of Communist countries were notoriously unreliable.

these aren't the official numbers. Maddison's whole career was based on going through and trying to calculate GDP numbers for countries and time periods where good government stats weren't available, then writing big books about global growth. Some other scholars questioned his figures but he was a very respected member of the econ establishment.

OK, this is just bloodthirsty and wrong.

wasn't at all trying to say it was objectively true that you needed revolution, just that the compromises of muddling through incrementally was the justification of revolutionaries themselves.

That is basically the whole of your argument,

I think the decline in death rates and growth in life expectancy are important too.

I skimmed through the Naughton paper, and his basic point seemed to be that you're better off, for a while, maintaining your communist government structure

more like, it takes a well constructed communist governmental structure to pull off the kind of transition the Chinese did. Of course, if you had skipped the command economy altogether while still getting the benefits of national unification, administrative organization, health, education, and various forms of social and economic mobilization, you would have been better off. A big if though.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-20-10 8:39 PM
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I suspect that the big difference between China and India is that a primary education in China is free, and in India it costs money.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-21-10 12:02 AM
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This thread seems to have run it's course, but I'll echo what other people have said; it has been very interesting.

More broadly, though, does this get you all the way to net success?

Isn't part of the question under discussion about whether it is possible to make a simple judgment of "net" success -- see the earlier, "too soon to tell" quotation*.

I don't read the people defending Mao as saying that it's a simple as claiming that the suffering he inflicted was, "worth it" (counterbalanced) by the benefits, but rather that it's important to acknowledge both the benefits and costs. If he was, arguably, both uniquely bad in some ways and also uniquely good, in terms of the history of China, in other ways, how do those get balanced against each other?

*I find myself wondering, was Bill Clinton a net success as president? How would I tell?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-21-10 10:47 AM
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