Friday, July 16, 2021

Communism Starves People

Apparently, Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward was not an aberration. Apparently, it was the truth about Communism.

As you know, Mao instituted the GLF in 1958 in order to turn China into a Communist Paradise. The policy abolished private property and private farming, turning the agricultural sector into one great commune. It gave the Communist Party absolute power over the economy.

The result: mass starvation. Around 35 million people starved to death in China during the Great Leap Forward. When two party leaders, Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping tried to introduce capitalist reforms Mao called for a Cultural Revolution that lasted until his death in 1976. He believed that people like Liu and Deng had sabotaged his great policies, either intentionally or by ignorance.

By the time the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was over the extreme poverty rate in China had risen to over 80%. That meant, 80% of the people were living on around $1.90 a day-- that is, in today’s dollars.

Evidently, any government in China will be judged first by its ability to feed its people. If it succeeds in providing a good standard of living and enough food for everyone, it is far more capitalistic than socialistic.

How to explain the fact that the Chinese economy has been growing at around 6% while we are happy if our economy grows at 2%.

The Financial Times took the measure of Chinese economic growth a few days ago in an editorial:

China’s emergence over the past four decades ranks as the biggest and longest-run economic boom in history. Its annual gross domestic product rose from a mere $191bn, or $195 per capita, in 1980 to $14.3tn, or $10,261 per capita, in 2019. It has raised more than 770m people from poverty and transformed the Chinese economy into a high-tech powerhouse that is on course to eclipse America’s in size.

I am sure that that will offend those who are easily offended, but surely, starvation is not an issue in today’s China. Besides, I am just as sure that you do not want to credit that level of economic success to communism. Do you?

Francis Menton reminds us on his Manhattan Contrarian blog that every major socialist or communist dictatorship has failed to feed its people. The salient characteristic of socialist economic policies is mass starvation. (via Maggie’s Farm)

Menton begins by contrasting capitalistic and socialist economic policies. The one strives for growth while the other strives to keep bureaucrats in their jobs. The first involves the profit motive. The second involves virtue signalling. After all, profit spells greed and we cannot have that. One will note, for example, that teachers’ unions, in their current drive to starve children’s minds, are claiming to be on the side of health, that is, of virtue.

Menton explains the profit motive. It allows people to try to do a little better, to improve production and to make a greater profit. This leads to improved living standards and more wealth. Competition leads people to strive to better themselves, but especially to improve efficiency. And competition leads people to strive to do better than their neighbors. Naturally, today's political left is against competition.

Every person with a private business quickly catches on that they can make a little more money if they can just figure out how to make the product a little better, or a little more efficiently, or with slightly less input material or labor. Millions of people working independently on this project in the aggregate deliver a little economic growth most every year.

Compare this with socialism, run by and for a government bureaucracy. Bureaucrats do not care about productivity or profit. They care about keeping their jobs. But they also insist that they know better than the free market how to allocate goods and services.

Meanwhile, socialism follows the incentive system of the bureaucracy. If you are the business manager, your superior in the central planning bureau headquarters has no idea whether the product you are making is any good or not. Your way to get ahead is to convince that guy that you need a bigger budget and more staff to accomplish your mission. Each year you use more people and more materials to produce less and lower quality product. In the aggregate, the economy is shrinking, although that tends to get hidden for decades in fraudulent economic statistics, until it becomes too obvious to conceal. Like, for example, when starvation sets in on a mass scale.

Next, Menton invites us on a tour of some of the world’s remaining socialist dictatorships. Beginning with Cuba, we discover that none of them have been able to feed their people.

Reports on the situation cite multiple reasons for the situation having now come to a boil; but the most commonly recurring themes are economic shrinkage and food shortages. 

From the Wall Street Journal, July 12:

The protests come as Cuba’s economy contracted 11% last year. The island was slammed by the coronavirus pandemic and its vital tourism industry collapsed as a result. . . . Amid a hard-currency shortage, Cubans must stand for hours in line to buy basic goods such as chicken or bread or even to take a bus.

True enough, the Cuban people want freedom, but if they had to choose between democratic elections, the kind that empower people like AOC, and a free enterprise economy that can feed people, what do you think they will say?

The situation in that other great socialist paradise, Venezuela, is similar. In truth, that South American country has one of the world’s greatest petroleum reserves. And yet, thanks to Hugo Chavez and Co., its people are starving:

… the situation of mass hunger and even starvation in Venezuela has become so chronic that it barely makes the news any more. 

We can get a fairly up-to-date overview of the situation from a March 19 piece in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, headline “Food Security in Venezuela: From Policies to Facts.” The author is Janet Rodriguez Garcia, a professor at Central Venezuela University in Caracas.

Ms. Garcia duly takes note that with the advent of the Chavez (socialist) dictatorship in 1998, Venezuela moved quickly to make food security a human right and to pass numerous laws and regulations to effectuate that right:

The 1999 Venezuelan Constitution explicitly included, for the first time, the term “Food Security” in Article 305. Subsequently, the government approved various laws and guidelines to regulate the right to food of the population. . . .

But somehow, the state of nutrition of the Venezuelan people has not only not improved, but has grown steadily worse under the socialist regime:

Despite these laws, and after the decree of the right to food in the Venezuelan Constitution, the country still has significant nutrition deficiencies. For instance, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 (FAO et al., 2019) reported that the prevalence of undernourishment increased by 21.2%, rising to 31% the following year (FAO et al., 2020). According to Caritas, the Global Acute Malnutrition in children under 5 years of age (GAM) was 14.4% in 2020 (Caritas de Venezuela, 2020). Moreover, the national report jointly issued, in December 2018, by the Bengoa Foundation, the Venezuelan Health Observatory, and the Agri-food Network of Venezuela, 33% of children under 2 years of age showed growth retardation when using the Size/Age indicator (Fundación Bengoa, 2018), that is, according to the data provided by these NGOs, that malnutrition is a foremost Public Health concern in Venezuela.

Menton replies:

So Ms. Rodriguez Garcia, what is the answer? You might think that the good professor would recognize that all the successful countries of the world provide adequate food for their people by the simple device of letting the private sector handle the job. But if you think that, you are forgetting that Ms. Rodriguez Garcia is an academic, and likely also beholden to the corrupt Venezuelan regime. So, here is her prescription:

Venezuela requires cohesive, integrated, continuous, and progressive state-policies and laws rather than government initiatives that change according to political interests. Experts, statespersons, and health professionals should design the food policies. To properly set objectives and goals, an accurate diagnosis is required. The particular needs of each age-and-vulnerable-group should receive special consideration.

Yes, the problem so far is that the food policies have been designed “according to political interests”; so the solution is simply to have the food policies be designed instead by “experts, state persons and health professionals.” Well, why hadn’t anyone thought of that before?

It’s an instance where the proposed solution is the problem. More, better experts-- not the free markets should decide how to produce and distribute food.

I have nothing personally against expertise, but still, allowing expert bureaucrats to run an economy means allowing them to run it into the ground. Besides, have you noticed that one reason the American left has thrilled to the arrival of the Covid pandemic is because it has allowed the country to be ruled by experts, like Dr. Fauci? And, have you noticed that government experts are insisting that they must take complete control over all information about the pandemic?

Menton concludes:

The depth of the ignorance of people who pass for the intelligentsia is truly astounding. But I wonder, how many students graduating from college in the U.S. today have ever been taught at any point in their education anything about the perverse incentives of the socialist system that lead inevitably to declining productivity and, ultimately, to starvation? Probably, just about none.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

This is because "experts" are "smarter" than the "people"...until the people rise up and kill off the "experts".