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      At least according to the latest revision of the World Bank's PPP-adjusted GDP estimates. China has long been expected to overtake the US economy (one economist dated it to as early as 2010), and there had already been a flurry in the media when the IMF claimed the same thing in December last year....
  • @Anonymous
    Information war is a part of real war. Propaganda obviously depends to a large extent on the larger context of real variables such as economic and military strength. You can believe that US economic and military strength was a complete illusion and that Gorbachev was thus completely delusional, but most people would dispute this view. The USSR's legitimacy and prestige around the world depended on its promise that its system could deliver better material progress than the capitalist West could.

    Indochina is an extreme example of similar trends elsewhere. The Brits started making concessions in India as a result of pressure from WW2 and Axis support of Indian nationalists. They lost control of Malay/Singapore, and these areas were won back by the US victory in the Asia/Pacific. After the war, there was communist infiltration and support for national liberation movements. It wasn't simply about following what was cool. The Rhodesians, for example, did not care about looking "uncool", and were doing well fighting the black nationalist ZANU militia until ZANU started being trained and aided heavily by the communist bloc. There were similar examples elsewhere in Africa. The colonials were urged to leave by the US not simply because it was "uncool", but because their continued presence would have strengthened the anti-colonial, communist backed nationalists and united the native populations in anti-colonial national liberation. The US, not unreasonably, calculated that this would lead to many more countries going communist, to communist domination of the planet, and Soviet victory in the Cold War. The US figured that it would be better to try to cultivate and use pro-US/anti-communist nationalists, which it had been doing for decades already e.g. Chiang-Kai-Shek and the Chinese Nationalists, various anti-Japanese nationalists in WW2, etc.

    Good post.

    In 4th generation war theory terms, the European colonial empires were defeated at the moral level after WW2, as was the USSR after 1989, and these defeats are just as real in their consequences as military defeat in war. Whether the victors were ‘laudable’ is a different question.

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  • @Seamus Padraig
    No, GDP does not include the sale of used goods. On that point, silvio's correct. But by the same token, it includes a lot more than just the production on new goods.

    The standard formula for calculating GDP (Y) is the sum of consumption (C), investment (I), government spending (G) and net exports (X – M). For a more detailed overview of each variable, see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_domestic_product#Components_of_GDP_by_expenditure

    But it should be obvious at first glance that there's a lot more going on here than just the production of new goods.

    Consider crime, for example. A dramatic increase in crime usually moves the govt. to hire more cops and build more prisons--more 'G'. Ka-ching! But only a fool would argue that more crime, which diminishes your safety and degrades your community, actually improves your life or community.

    Another example would be externalities like pollution. Let's say a local factory is poisoning the drinking water. The factory's output itself is counted towards GDP, and when people drink the polluted water, get sick and have to pay more for doctor/hospital visits, that too counts towards GDP (medical expenditures would fall under 'C'). But from a quality of life standpoint, there is obviously something wrong with this picture.

    But it should be obvious at first glance that there’s a lot more going on here than just the production of new goods.

    No, that is not obvious. Production is what GDP measures. Well, GDP can also be calculated by measuring income, since someone’s expenditure is always someone else’s income, but the resulting total will be the same figure, so ultimately it’s measuring production.

    The issues you raise don’t have anything to do with GDP per se. They only relate to the usefulness of GDP as a proxy for national well-being. Quite clearly, if GDP is the only measure relied on then it’s possible for well-being to be overstated.

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  • @Anonymous
    What about real estate and financial transactions? Are those counted in GDP? only for newly built houses and newly issued stock?

    Real estate transactions that represent the purchase of new buildings or newly developed land are counted. Sales of existing land and buildings are not. “Financial transactions” is a somewhat vague term. Basically, it’s the income that a financial asset produces that is counted towards GDP. So the interest received by the purchaser of a bond counts, as does a dividend received by a stockholder. But the purchase of the bond or the stock doesn’t count.

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  • Andrei Martyanov [AKA "SmoothieX12"] says: • Website
    @silviosilver

    This “I tie your shoes for a dollar, you tie mine for the same price–together we produced 2 Dollars of GDP” is THE foundation of monetarism and, thus, overstates the actual GDP greatly, sometimes–manifold.
     
    If your implication is that GDP measures money passing back and forth between two parties with nothing of value being exchanged, then you are simply wrong. GDP counts the production of new goods. It doesn't matter how many times two parties exchange, say, a used car - GDP doesn't count it.

    If you meant to assert something other than this, you will have to explain it because I don't see any other meaning in your statement.

    If you meant to assert something other than this, you will have to explain it because I don’t see any other meaning in your statement.

    Yeah, single word–Facebook. Several hundred pages of code and a bunch of morons exposing themselves. Ta-da, IPO through the roof. What a “value”. GDP all the way!

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  • @Anonymous
    I don't think the USSR had better public transportation. The US had better roads, which made buses better. And US subways and trains were fine. And if you include affordable air travel in public transportation, then obviously the US had the edge there as well.

    As far as crime goes, the US has a significant minority that's significantly crime prone. Up to the 50s even in places like DC, people didn't lock their cars or houses because they didn't need to.

    I wouldn't say the USSR had a better education system.

    I wouldn’t say the USSR had a better education system.

    Well, yes, because you have no idea what you are writing about. Just to give you some feel–what MIT students were studying in Physics in first year was studied in USSR in the 9-10th grades.

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  • @Anonymous
    I don't understand why you believe Russia will behave that way if it will lead to it being nuked by China and the US and thus destroyed, leaving the US to dominate the world.

    Well Russia has a huge number of tactical nukes. So they have some scenario in mind for them coming in handy. Maybe just as a threat, however, if they were losing they might decide to use one. But after going nuclear war could would likely go to escalation. Russia may not be reconciled to progressively becoming a second or even third rate power and decide to roll the dice as there is nothing to gain by waiting.

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  • @Deduction
    I know what you say is nonsense when you claim that there was no prostitution. That is obviously false. How naive are you?

    No prostitution? Are you kidding me? As a merchant seaman traveling to Leningrad, Odessa, Novorossiysk, and Poti (Georgia) and partying in all of them for a couple months at a time from 1973-1977, I can assure you that Levis, Lux bar soap, Marlboros, Salems, Contac antihistamines, cheap Maybelline cosmetics, lipstick, and dollars could attract a fair amount of affection from otherwise respectable girls.

    And I can also assure you that the Militzia and Politzei hanging around Restauran Bratislav in Novorossiysk waiting for us guys to leave with our dates at bar time damn well knew what was going on, too.

    Natalia and Alla were caught with us when we left one night, thrown into one of those little green paddy wagons they had and I never saw them again.

    The other girls told us that they were arrested and beaten/raped (the other girls were uncomfortable getting very explicit) by the cops for hanging around with us and chose to disappear. Embarrassment? Shame? I will never know.

    Apparently, being caught cuddling/consorting with foreign sailors was prima facie evidence of prostitution and made them fair game … for being counterrevolutionary hooligans or something.

    God! Those were the days. As a 20 something fireman/oiler, I had one hell of a time! And I still have some beautiful bronze icons as mementos.

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  • I’m guessing that China’s GDP figures include all those “ghost cities” that they’ve built but which are sitting empty. I’m not an economist or any kind of “expert” but it seems to layman me that those ghost cities are only slightly less preposterous than “one person digging a hole and another person filling it in” as far as GDP goes. Then there’s the issue of the maintenance that those empty cities would require and how that factors in to GDP.

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  • @Seamus Padraig
    No, GDP does not include the sale of used goods. On that point, silvio's correct. But by the same token, it includes a lot more than just the production on new goods.

    The standard formula for calculating GDP (Y) is the sum of consumption (C), investment (I), government spending (G) and net exports (X – M). For a more detailed overview of each variable, see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_domestic_product#Components_of_GDP_by_expenditure

    But it should be obvious at first glance that there's a lot more going on here than just the production of new goods.

    Consider crime, for example. A dramatic increase in crime usually moves the govt. to hire more cops and build more prisons--more 'G'. Ka-ching! But only a fool would argue that more crime, which diminishes your safety and degrades your community, actually improves your life or community.

    Another example would be externalities like pollution. Let's say a local factory is poisoning the drinking water. The factory's output itself is counted towards GDP, and when people drink the polluted water, get sick and have to pay more for doctor/hospital visits, that too counts towards GDP (medical expenditures would fall under 'C'). But from a quality of life standpoint, there is obviously something wrong with this picture.

    Good points well said.

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  • @Anonymous
    What about real estate and financial transactions? Are those counted in GDP? only for newly built houses and newly issued stock?

    No, GDP does not include the sale of used goods. On that point, silvio’s correct. But by the same token, it includes a lot more than just the production on new goods.

    The standard formula for calculating GDP (Y) is the sum of consumption (C), investment (I), government spending (G) and net exports (X – M). For a more detailed overview of each variable, see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_domestic_product#Components_of_GDP_by_expenditure

    But it should be obvious at first glance that there’s a lot more going on here than just the production of new goods.

    Consider crime, for example. A dramatic increase in crime usually moves the govt. to hire more cops and build more prisons–more ‘G’. Ka-ching! But only a fool would argue that more crime, which diminishes your safety and degrades your community, actually improves your life or community.

    Another example would be externalities like pollution. Let’s say a local factory is poisoning the drinking water. The factory’s output itself is counted towards GDP, and when people drink the polluted water, get sick and have to pay more for doctor/hospital visits, that too counts towards GDP (medical expenditures would fall under ‘C’). But from a quality of life standpoint, there is obviously something wrong with this picture.

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    • Replies: @Jeff77450
    Good points well said.
    , @silviosilver

    But it should be obvious at first glance that there’s a lot more going on here than just the production of new goods.
     
    No, that is not obvious. Production is what GDP measures. Well, GDP can also be calculated by measuring income, since someone's expenditure is always someone else's income, but the resulting total will be the same figure, so ultimately it's measuring production.

    The issues you raise don't have anything to do with GDP per se. They only relate to the usefulness of GDP as a proxy for national well-being. Quite clearly, if GDP is the only measure relied on then it's possible for well-being to be overstated.
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  • @silviosilver
    Each party benefits from the exchange, but GDP only counts newly produced goods. I should have made that clearer in my reply to smoothie.

    What about real estate and financial transactions? Are those counted in GDP? only for newly built houses and newly issued stock?

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    • Replies: @Seamus Padraig
    No, GDP does not include the sale of used goods. On that point, silvio's correct. But by the same token, it includes a lot more than just the production on new goods.

    The standard formula for calculating GDP (Y) is the sum of consumption (C), investment (I), government spending (G) and net exports (X – M). For a more detailed overview of each variable, see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_domestic_product#Components_of_GDP_by_expenditure

    But it should be obvious at first glance that there's a lot more going on here than just the production of new goods.

    Consider crime, for example. A dramatic increase in crime usually moves the govt. to hire more cops and build more prisons--more 'G'. Ka-ching! But only a fool would argue that more crime, which diminishes your safety and degrades your community, actually improves your life or community.

    Another example would be externalities like pollution. Let's say a local factory is poisoning the drinking water. The factory's output itself is counted towards GDP, and when people drink the polluted water, get sick and have to pay more for doctor/hospital visits, that too counts towards GDP (medical expenditures would fall under 'C'). But from a quality of life standpoint, there is obviously something wrong with this picture.
    , @silviosilver
    Real estate transactions that represent the purchase of new buildings or newly developed land are counted. Sales of existing land and buildings are not. "Financial transactions" is a somewhat vague term. Basically, it's the income that a financial asset produces that is counted towards GDP. So the interest received by the purchaser of a bond counts, as does a dividend received by a stockholder. But the purchase of the bond or the stock doesn't count.
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  • @Anonymous
    Actually, I think two people buying something back and forth from each other, like a used car, is counted in GDP each time there's a transaction and the good and money change hands.

    The assumption is that each party is benefiting himself with each transaction and values what he is exchanging for more than what he's exchanging, otherwise he wouldn't be making the transaction.

    Each party benefits from the exchange, but GDP only counts newly produced goods. I should have made that clearer in my reply to smoothie.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    What about real estate and financial transactions? Are those counted in GDP? only for newly built houses and newly issued stock?
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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @silviosilver

    This “I tie your shoes for a dollar, you tie mine for the same price–together we produced 2 Dollars of GDP” is THE foundation of monetarism and, thus, overstates the actual GDP greatly, sometimes–manifold.
     
    If your implication is that GDP measures money passing back and forth between two parties with nothing of value being exchanged, then you are simply wrong. GDP counts the production of new goods. It doesn't matter how many times two parties exchange, say, a used car - GDP doesn't count it.

    If you meant to assert something other than this, you will have to explain it because I don't see any other meaning in your statement.

    Actually, I think two people buying something back and forth from each other, like a used car, is counted in GDP each time there’s a transaction and the good and money change hands.

    The assumption is that each party is benefiting himself with each transaction and values what he is exchanging for more than what he’s exchanging, otherwise he wouldn’t be making the transaction.

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    • Replies: @silviosilver
    Each party benefits from the exchange, but GDP only counts newly produced goods. I should have made that clearer in my reply to smoothie.
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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Glossy
    There was military parity.

    The standard if living issue is split. Americans had more personal vehicles, the USSR had better public transport, Americans had bigger homes, the USSR had less crime, no drugs or homelessness and a better education system, etc. The West's popular culture was already tacky and cheap, the USSR's more traditional and digified.

    I'm repeating myself as are you. Which means that the argument is exhausted. I haven't convinced you and you haven't convinced me.

    I don’t think the USSR had better public transportation. The US had better roads, which made buses better. And US subways and trains were fine. And if you include affordable air travel in public transportation, then obviously the US had the edge there as well.

    As far as crime goes, the US has a significant minority that’s significantly crime prone. Up to the 50s even in places like DC, people didn’t lock their cars or houses because they didn’t need to.

    I wouldn’t say the USSR had a better education system.

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    • Replies: @Andrei Martyanov

    I wouldn’t say the USSR had a better education system.
     
    Well, yes, because you have no idea what you are writing about. Just to give you some feel--what MIT students were studying in Physics in first year was studied in USSR in the 9-10th grades.
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  • @Andrei Martyanov
    This "I tie your shoes for a dollar, you tie mine for the same price--together we produced 2 Dollars of GDP" is THE foundation of monetarism and, thus, overstates the actual GDP greatly, sometimes--manifold. The true measure of the GDP is its structure, from which the actual size could be calculated, including the service economy. Productive labor (manufacturing) also has a profound cultural ramifications--from education to the overall mental state of the society. I am talking, of course, about the economy of the closed technological cycles. In the end--these are goods, in all their variety, which define the economy. It is difficult, very often, as an example to explain to some MBA that Hi-Tech is not what they think it is and that economy of Saudi Arabia, for all of its per capita GDP is, basically, not an economy at all.

    Western "economists" and most of their, say, Russian liberal off-springs from such sewer as High School Of Economics have no concept of real productive labor and what real INDUSTRY is about. In related news, Russia doesn't produce surfing boards (a booming multi-billion dollar industry in the US) since, well, surfing around Murmansk or Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is not really great;-) Russia, however, produces a lot of the prepregs which go both for production of the surfing boards (in US) and Sukhoi T-50. Calculating Russian GDP is a tricky matter but it is military, which is always a good indicator of the structure and size of the economy.

    This “I tie your shoes for a dollar, you tie mine for the same price–together we produced 2 Dollars of GDP” is THE foundation of monetarism and, thus, overstates the actual GDP greatly, sometimes–manifold.

    If your implication is that GDP measures money passing back and forth between two parties with nothing of value being exchanged, then you are simply wrong. GDP counts the production of new goods. It doesn’t matter how many times two parties exchange, say, a used car – GDP doesn’t count it.

    If you meant to assert something other than this, you will have to explain it because I don’t see any other meaning in your statement.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Actually, I think two people buying something back and forth from each other, like a used car, is counted in GDP each time there's a transaction and the good and money change hands.

    The assumption is that each party is benefiting himself with each transaction and values what he is exchanging for more than what he's exchanging, otherwise he wouldn't be making the transaction.
    , @Andrei Martyanov

    If you meant to assert something other than this, you will have to explain it because I don’t see any other meaning in your statement.
     
    Yeah, single word--Facebook. Several hundred pages of code and a bunch of morons exposing themselves. Ta-da, IPO through the roof. What a "value". GDP all the way!
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  • @Glossy
    There was military parity.

    The standard if living issue is split. Americans had more personal vehicles, the USSR had better public transport, Americans had bigger homes, the USSR had less crime, no drugs or homelessness and a better education system, etc. The West's popular culture was already tacky and cheap, the USSR's more traditional and digified.

    I'm repeating myself as are you. Which means that the argument is exhausted. I haven't convinced you and you haven't convinced me.

    The standard if living issue is split. Americans had more personal vehicles, the USSR had better public transport, Americans had bigger homes, the USSR had less crime, no drugs or homelessness and a better education system, etc. The West’s popular culture was already tacky and cheap, the USSR’s more traditional and digified.

    There is no comparison whatsoever between American capitalism’s ability to provide consumer goods and the USSR’s. That was an indisputable American victory and, in the 1980s, became an important cause of disillusionment among the communist citizenry. Why is America the most appropriate comparison, anyway? All of western Europe had market-based economy, and I would rate the public transport, crime rate and education system as at least as good as the east’s, and public health a good deal better.

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  • @Glossy
    After the war, there was communist infiltration and support for national liberation movements.

    Western elites decided after WWII that they needed to subjugate the USSR in order to do everything that they eventually did to it in the 1990s: loot it, partition it, spread socially liberal ideology on its territory, get rid of a rival offering a civilizational alternative to the rest of the world, etc. Sure, there wasn't much loot to take in 1946, but as time went on the USSR accumulated more and more resources that could be looted. And a part of the plan was always to take away the areas that the Russian Empire acquired in past centuries. De-imperialization, in other words.

    It was smart for the USSR to resist. Look what happened when it stopped resisting. And in the course of this resistance the USSR supported anybody who opposed its enemies, including third-world nationalists. And the US supported third-world nationalists if its own, as you admit.

    It was smart for the USSR to resist. Look what happened when it stopped resisting. And in the course of this resistance the USSR supported anybody who opposed its enemies, including third-world nationalists. And the US supported third-world nationalists if its own, as you admit.

    That is only one half of the story. The other half is that the communist party viewed the capitalist world as a civilizational alternative which it had to denounce, oppose, and, if possible, destroy both for ideological reasons as well as to – as convincingly argued by George Kennan – legitimize its own dictatorial rule. It’s completely unreasonable to pin all the blame on America for the relationship that existed between the two states.

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  • @Seamus Padraig
    Glossy raises a very good point here that few Americans know: the GDP measurement is highly misleading. It basically measures all (legal) transactions in a country regardless of their nature, so that industrial and agricultural output are lumped in with service transactions that may do little or nothing to raise the standard of living.

    For example, if you break your leg and go to the hospital and pay your bill, you have just contributed to a (slight) increase in GDP. Why? You're no better off than you would be if you hadn't broken your leg at all. But you had to pay the hospital some money. Thus, a measurable, legal transaction was created. Presto! More GDP.

    Another example: if your schools are so crappy that some parents feel compelled to pay out-of-pocket for private tutoring on the side, that would also count as a GDP increase. But if the schools were actually good enough on their own and no one hired private tutors, GDP would be lower.

    See how weird a measurement GDP is?

    Glossy raises a very good point here that few Americans know: the GDP measurement is highly misleading. It basically measures all (legal) transactions in a country regardless of their nature, so that industrial and agricultural output are lumped in with service transactions that may do little or nothing to raise the standard of living.

    GDP isn’t ‘misleading,’ but it’s easy to misinterpret. GDP doesn’t aim to measure the standard of living; it’s just a proxy for it.

    GDP attempts to measure the total amount of production in an economy in a given year. If a broken window is replaced with a new window that window will have to be produced and will thus be measured. A related measure is NDP, net domestic product, which does subtract the production of replacements. Many feel that GDP is a better measure of the productive capacity of an economy, however, because it measures the total amount of economic activity that occurred in a given year.

    This fact sometimes gives rise to the criticism that all you have to do to grow your economy is break all your windows, but this ignores the other, more preferable, uses to which the resources used up in replacing windows could have been put if the windows remained unbroken.

    It is incorrect to say that services do not raise the standard of living. For example, people pay for restaurant meals because they believe they will be better off after eating at the restaurant than they would by holding onto the money, not because anybody forced them to. If people perceive they have benefited from eating at the restaurant then it’s logical to conclude that their living standard is improved.

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  • @Sean
    A multipolar world (the West Nazi Germany and the USSR) is fundamentally less stable that two power blocks. Demographic and commercial infiltration of the Russian East and territorial disputes would be the cause. If China is overtaking Russia then it will not gain by waiting. Why would Russia use nuclear weapons? Because as Ellis says in Brute Force, Russians think sledgehammers are ideal for cracking nuts and in fact what sledgehammers are designed to do. They used a radioactive sledgehammer on Litvinenko. Chinese may not understand Russia.

    No country would leave a rival to dominate the world. If things got to an all out nuclear exchange, the US could expect to be hit even if it was neutral.

    I don’t understand why you believe Russia will behave that way if it will lead to it being nuked by China and the US and thus destroyed, leaving the US to dominate the world.

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    • Replies: @Sean
    Well Russia has a huge number of tactical nukes. So they have some scenario in mind for them coming in handy. Maybe just as a threat, however, if they were losing they might decide to use one. But after going nuclear war could would likely go to escalation. Russia may not be reconciled to progressively becoming a second or even third rate power and decide to roll the dice as there is nothing to gain by waiting.
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  • @Anonymous
    I don't understand your comment. Why would China attack Russian forces if it would lead to nuclear exchange, and why would Russia then attack the US?

    A multipolar world (the West Nazi Germany and the USSR) is fundamentally less stable that two power blocks. Demographic and commercial infiltration of the Russian East and territorial disputes would be the cause. If China is overtaking Russia then it will not gain by waiting. Why would Russia use nuclear weapons? Because as Ellis says in Brute Force, Russians think sledgehammers are ideal for cracking nuts and in fact what sledgehammers are designed to do. They used a radioactive sledgehammer on Litvinenko. Chinese may not understand Russia.

    No country would leave a rival to dominate the world. If things got to an all out nuclear exchange, the US could expect to be hit even if it was neutral.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I don't understand why you believe Russia will behave that way if it will lead to it being nuked by China and the US and thus destroyed, leaving the US to dominate the world.
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  • @Sean the Neon Caucasian
    ...so why did the USSR break up?

    Declining living standards leading to a loss of legitimacy as well as the rise of nationalism in the respective countries (including most importantly Russian nationalism).

    Sorry but a factory that can barely keep running due to degraded machinery, uncertain supplies and an inability to compensate its workers producing goods no one even wants in the first place will still show in the GDP but it really shouldn’t. The biggest mistake the IMF made, from the mouth of Stanislav Gomulka, was that they underestimated the state of disrepair both physically as well as institutionally in Russia, hoodwinked by neocons hyping the Soviet threat and delusional Western fellow travelers.

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  • […] ethnic groups’ public associations. (transcript continued) 5. The Unz Review: Anatoly Karlin, China Overtakes US, Russia Overtakes Germany. 6. http://www.opendemocracy.net: Russian press digest (19 August 2015). 7. Bloomberg: Putin Said Ready to […]

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  • @Glossy
    Yes.

    What an unstable, weak system.

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  • @Sean
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Ogarkov

    In 1984 the chief of the Soviet general staff was sacked for publically complaining about the backwardness of Soviet productive capacity. Reaganomics was military Keynesianism with the added benefit of running up such huge debt that social spending in future was forestalled.

    Soviet bosses did not live well by Western standards. Russian bosses subsist like kings now, and because that is the case, the whole perestroika and shock therapy experiment must be regarded as very far from a colossal, world-historical mistake from the bosses' point of view.

    Germany is not an independent power centre, so its military capacity in a thought experiment where it became a a great power is anyone's guess. Back in reality the Germans are not the Germans any more according to William S. Lind so their theoretical capabilities are irrelevant.

    Russia has to stand alone. If it fights a great power it will be China. A Chinese rout of Russian forces followed by Russian use of i some of its huge no of battlefield nukes and Russia Chinese strategic exchange is the most likely way for WW3 to go. Russia is not an existential threat to the US but a war between Russia and China is, because Russia would not let the US emerge unscathed.

    https://www.traditionalright.com/the-view-from-olympus-wtf/

    Russia’s aggressive behavior and its nuclear arsenal make it the single greatest national security threat faced by the United States…

    Throughout the hearing, when asked about threats, General Dunford returned repeatedly to Russia…

    “If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,” he said. “And if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”
     
    So the real question is not whether Russia has more military potential than Germany, but is China overtaking Russia?

    I don’t understand your comment. Why would China attack Russian forces if it would lead to nuclear exchange, and why would Russia then attack the US?

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    • Replies: @Sean
    A multipolar world (the West Nazi Germany and the USSR) is fundamentally less stable that two power blocks. Demographic and commercial infiltration of the Russian East and territorial disputes would be the cause. If China is overtaking Russia then it will not gain by waiting. Why would Russia use nuclear weapons? Because as Ellis says in Brute Force, Russians think sledgehammers are ideal for cracking nuts and in fact what sledgehammers are designed to do. They used a radioactive sledgehammer on Litvinenko. Chinese may not understand Russia.

    No country would leave a rival to dominate the world. If things got to an all out nuclear exchange, the US could expect to be hit even if it was neutral.
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  • @Cliff Arroyo
    "I don’t know about the USSR, maybe communism worked there, at least if we are to believe Glossy, but in case of my country, former Czechoslovakia... ....The system collapsed as quickly as it did because most people, including the ruling elite, no longer believed in it."

    My only experience in the Warsaw Pact was the summer of 1984 in Poland (with very quick sidetrips to Prague and Budapest). What I noticed almost immediately was that no one even tried to pretend they believed in the official system. It seemed like a car running on fumes with people peering into the distance looking for a gas station.

    Even at its worst Poland supposedly had overall higher living standards than the USSR so if Russians miss the Soviet Union I basically assume they just have very, very low standards of what they find acceptable living conditions.

    The standard of living in Poland fell in the 1990s, like in Russia. It rebounded later, like in Russia. The Poles did not complain about the 1990s downturn as much as the Russians because they got a nationalistic boost out of what happened.

    Life in India, Algeria, etc. got worse after decolonisation too, but independence gave them a compensatory nationalistic boost. You can say the boost was based on an illusion. And Eastern European countries have really only exchanged one master for another. But perceptions are important.

    The reason that nostalgia for the pre-1990 situation is greatest in Russia and East Germany is that neither country got a nationalistic boost to compensate for the 1990s decline in living standards. Nationalism is literally verboten in Germany.

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  • @Deduction
    I know what you say is nonsense when you claim that there was no prostitution. That is obviously false. How naive are you?

    There was absolutely zero prostitution.

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  • @Prokop
    I don't know about the USSR, maybe communism worked there, at least if we are to believe Glossy, but in case of my country, former Czechoslovakia, you are right. The notion that official statistics underestimated the standard of living of Czechs and Slovaks is absurd.

    A couple of numbers. The Czechoslovak Crown (Kčs) wasn't freely convertible, the official exchange rate, which had nothing to do with economic reality of course, was 15 Kčs/USD. Economic estimates of the international institutions were based on this bogus number. The exchange rate on the black market in 1980-84 was on average 29.10 Kčs/USD, in 1989 47.40 Kčs/USD. When the communists allowed a foreign exchange auction for state enterprises during perestroika in 1989, the exchange rate reached 121.24 Kčs per 1 USD.

    In 1948 Czechoslovakia and Austria were on the same level economically, Czechoslovakia may even have been a bit richer. After 40 years of communism, the average monthly wage in CS was 3170 Kčs, the average wage in Austria was 13 500 schillings. The exchange rate on the black market was 3.50 Kčs per 1 schilling, so the average austrian wage was 47 250 Czechoslovak crowns. This doesn't take price levels into account, but it's very telling nonetheless.

    There were chronic shortages of most consumer goods. When a delivery of new fridges or washing machines was to arrive, people waited hours in lines in front of the store, sometimes they even slept there in sleeping bags over night because they knew that there would only be a very limited number of these goods available.

    The system collapsed as quickly as it did because most people, including the ruling elite, no longer believed in it. The main source of its legitimacy was a promise that it could deliver better quality of life for the average person than capitalism. It manifestly failed to do so. Most Czechs and Slovaks knew in the 1980s at the latest that the standard of living was much higher in the West. The only thing that could have kept the communists in power was use of force, basically what the Chinese did. The Czechoslovak communists didn't have the balls and/or the blind faith to send in the tanks.

    “I don’t know about the USSR, maybe communism worked there, at least if we are to believe Glossy, but in case of my country, former Czechoslovakia… ….The system collapsed as quickly as it did because most people, including the ruling elite, no longer believed in it.”

    My only experience in the Warsaw Pact was the summer of 1984 in Poland (with very quick sidetrips to Prague and Budapest). What I noticed almost immediately was that no one even tried to pretend they believed in the official system. It seemed like a car running on fumes with people peering into the distance looking for a gas station.

    Even at its worst Poland supposedly had overall higher living standards than the USSR so if Russians miss the Soviet Union I basically assume they just have very, very low standards of what they find acceptable living conditions.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    The standard of living in Poland fell in the 1990s, like in Russia. It rebounded later, like in Russia. The Poles did not complain about the 1990s downturn as much as the Russians because they got a nationalistic boost out of what happened.

    Life in India, Algeria, etc. got worse after decolonisation too, but independence gave them a compensatory nationalistic boost. You can say the boost was based on an illusion. And Eastern European countries have really only exchanged one master for another. But perceptions are important.

    The reason that nostalgia for the pre-1990 situation is greatest in Russia and East Germany is that neither country got a nationalistic boost to compensate for the 1990s decline in living standards. Nationalism is literally verboten in Germany.

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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Deduction
    It's worse than that. Modern life has, as per Marx(!), commoditised lots of activities while actually lowering living standards.

    Take the delicious home cooked meal. Many fewer of these are consumed, and many ready meals have replaced them. Since the ready meals cost a lot more than a home cooked meal, GDP goes up a lot just as quality of life goes down.

    All forms of non-market social interaction are uncounted by GDP. That is 'why growing the economy' so often seems to be destroying society.

    Add in the fact that all of this boosts tax receipts and it is easy to see why there is little institutional protection from this commoditising force.

    Take the delicious home cooked meal. Many fewer of these are consumed, and many ready meals have replaced them. Since the ready meals cost a lot more than a home cooked meal, GDP goes up a lot just as quality of life goes down.

    It’s not actually true that ready meals necessarily cost more. You have to take into account all costs and tradeoffs. Furthermore, what you describe as “home-cooked meal” is also a “ready meal”. It’s just a difference of degree. The “home cooked meals” you’re talking about don’t, for example, involve directly raising the animals and growing the plants, butchering, etc. They’re purchased from the grocer and butcher in a “readier” form.

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  • @Deduction
    I know what you say is nonsense when you claim that there was no prostitution. That is obviously false. How naive are you?

    I doubt there has ever been a society that totally suppressed prostitution. You’d have to castrate the entire adult male population to achieve that.

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  • @Glossy
    You can believe that US economic and military strength was a complete illusion and that Gorbachev was thus completely delusional, but most people would dispute this view. The USSR’s legitimacy and prestige around the world depended on its promise that its system could deliver better material progress than the capitalist West could.

    Let's go over some things that were completely absent from the late USSR: drugs, homelessness, pornography, prostitution, gambling, advertising. Let's list some things that were many times less prevalent in the late USSR than in the US: crime, official corruption. You can believe that the USSR's moral and civilization strength was a complete illusion, but most people with direct knowledge of these matters would dispute this view of yours.

    Unfortunately globalism's prestige in the world depends neither on its capacity to deliver civilizational progress, nor even on its capacity to deliver better material progress ceteris paribus (look at the 1990s dip in Russia's GDP on Anatoly's graph), but instead on the skill of the liars who produce its propaganda.

    I know what you say is nonsense when you claim that there was no prostitution. That is obviously false. How naive are you?

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    • Replies: @SWSpires
    I doubt there has ever been a society that totally suppressed prostitution. You'd have to castrate the entire adult male population to achieve that.
    , @Glossy
    There was absolutely zero prostitution.
    , @Big Bill
    No prostitution? Are you kidding me? As a merchant seaman traveling to Leningrad, Odessa, Novorossiysk, and Poti (Georgia) and partying in all of them for a couple months at a time from 1973-1977, I can assure you that Levis, Lux bar soap, Marlboros, Salems, Contac antihistamines, cheap Maybelline cosmetics, lipstick, and dollars could attract a fair amount of affection from otherwise respectable girls.

    And I can also assure you that the Militzia and Politzei hanging around Restauran Bratislav in Novorossiysk waiting for us guys to leave with our dates at bar time damn well knew what was going on, too.

    Natalia and Alla were caught with us when we left one night, thrown into one of those little green paddy wagons they had and I never saw them again.

    The other girls told us that they were arrested and beaten/raped (the other girls were uncomfortable getting very explicit) by the cops for hanging around with us and chose to disappear. Embarrassment? Shame? I will never know.

    Apparently, being caught cuddling/consorting with foreign sailors was prima facie evidence of prostitution and made them fair game ... for being counterrevolutionary hooligans or something.

    God! Those were the days. As a 20 something fireman/oiler, I had one hell of a time! And I still have some beautiful bronze icons as mementos.
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  • @LondonBob
    The FSU's GDP was a monumental work of fiction, when it collapsed the rotten carcass was exposed. An edifice on the verge of collapse.

    I don’t know about the USSR, maybe communism worked there, at least if we are to believe Glossy, but in case of my country, former Czechoslovakia, you are right. The notion that official statistics underestimated the standard of living of Czechs and Slovaks is absurd.

    A couple of numbers. The Czechoslovak Crown (Kčs) wasn’t freely convertible, the official exchange rate, which had nothing to do with economic reality of course, was 15 Kčs/USD. Economic estimates of the international institutions were based on this bogus number. The exchange rate on the black market in 1980-84 was on average 29.10 Kčs/USD, in 1989 47.40 Kčs/USD. When the communists allowed a foreign exchange auction for state enterprises during perestroika in 1989, the exchange rate reached 121.24 Kčs per 1 USD.

    In 1948 Czechoslovakia and Austria were on the same level economically, Czechoslovakia may even have been a bit richer. After 40 years of communism, the average monthly wage in CS was 3170 Kčs, the average wage in Austria was 13 500 schillings. The exchange rate on the black market was 3.50 Kčs per 1 schilling, so the average austrian wage was 47 250 Czechoslovak crowns. This doesn’t take price levels into account, but it’s very telling nonetheless.

    There were chronic shortages of most consumer goods. When a delivery of new fridges or washing machines was to arrive, people waited hours in lines in front of the store, sometimes they even slept there in sleeping bags over night because they knew that there would only be a very limited number of these goods available.

    The system collapsed as quickly as it did because most people, including the ruling elite, no longer believed in it. The main source of its legitimacy was a promise that it could deliver better quality of life for the average person than capitalism. It manifestly failed to do so. Most Czechs and Slovaks knew in the 1980s at the latest that the standard of living was much higher in the West. The only thing that could have kept the communists in power was use of force, basically what the Chinese did. The Czechoslovak communists didn’t have the balls and/or the blind faith to send in the tanks.

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    • Replies: @Cliff Arroyo
    "I don’t know about the USSR, maybe communism worked there, at least if we are to believe Glossy, but in case of my country, former Czechoslovakia... ....The system collapsed as quickly as it did because most people, including the ruling elite, no longer believed in it."

    My only experience in the Warsaw Pact was the summer of 1984 in Poland (with very quick sidetrips to Prague and Budapest). What I noticed almost immediately was that no one even tried to pretend they believed in the official system. It seemed like a car running on fumes with people peering into the distance looking for a gas station.

    Even at its worst Poland supposedly had overall higher living standards than the USSR so if Russians miss the Soviet Union I basically assume they just have very, very low standards of what they find acceptable living conditions.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Seamus Padraig
    Glossy raises a very good point here that few Americans know: the GDP measurement is highly misleading. It basically measures all (legal) transactions in a country regardless of their nature, so that industrial and agricultural output are lumped in with service transactions that may do little or nothing to raise the standard of living.

    For example, if you break your leg and go to the hospital and pay your bill, you have just contributed to a (slight) increase in GDP. Why? You're no better off than you would be if you hadn't broken your leg at all. But you had to pay the hospital some money. Thus, a measurable, legal transaction was created. Presto! More GDP.

    Another example: if your schools are so crappy that some parents feel compelled to pay out-of-pocket for private tutoring on the side, that would also count as a GDP increase. But if the schools were actually good enough on their own and no one hired private tutors, GDP would be lower.

    See how weird a measurement GDP is?

    It’s worse than that. Modern life has, as per Marx(!), commoditised lots of activities while actually lowering living standards.

    Take the delicious home cooked meal. Many fewer of these are consumed, and many ready meals have replaced them. Since the ready meals cost a lot more than a home cooked meal, GDP goes up a lot just as quality of life goes down.

    All forms of non-market social interaction are uncounted by GDP. That is ‘why growing the economy’ so often seems to be destroying society.

    Add in the fact that all of this boosts tax receipts and it is easy to see why there is little institutional protection from this commoditising force.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous

    Take the delicious home cooked meal. Many fewer of these are consumed, and many ready meals have replaced them. Since the ready meals cost a lot more than a home cooked meal, GDP goes up a lot just as quality of life goes down.
     
    It's not actually true that ready meals necessarily cost more. You have to take into account all costs and tradeoffs. Furthermore, what you describe as "home-cooked meal" is also a "ready meal". It's just a difference of degree. The "home cooked meals" you're talking about don't, for example, involve directly raising the animals and growing the plants, butchering, etc. They're purchased from the grocer and butcher in a "readier" form.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Andrei Martyanov [AKA "SmoothieX12"] says: • Website
    @Seamus Padraig
    Glossy raises a very good point here that few Americans know: the GDP measurement is highly misleading. It basically measures all (legal) transactions in a country regardless of their nature, so that industrial and agricultural output are lumped in with service transactions that may do little or nothing to raise the standard of living.

    For example, if you break your leg and go to the hospital and pay your bill, you have just contributed to a (slight) increase in GDP. Why? You're no better off than you would be if you hadn't broken your leg at all. But you had to pay the hospital some money. Thus, a measurable, legal transaction was created. Presto! More GDP.

    Another example: if your schools are so crappy that some parents feel compelled to pay out-of-pocket for private tutoring on the side, that would also count as a GDP increase. But if the schools were actually good enough on their own and no one hired private tutors, GDP would be lower.

    See how weird a measurement GDP is?

    This “I tie your shoes for a dollar, you tie mine for the same price–together we produced 2 Dollars of GDP” is THE foundation of monetarism and, thus, overstates the actual GDP greatly, sometimes–manifold. The true measure of the GDP is its structure, from which the actual size could be calculated, including the service economy. Productive labor (manufacturing) also has a profound cultural ramifications–from education to the overall mental state of the society. I am talking, of course, about the economy of the closed technological cycles. In the end–these are goods, in all their variety, which define the economy. It is difficult, very often, as an example to explain to some MBA that Hi-Tech is not what they think it is and that economy of Saudi Arabia, for all of its per capita GDP is, basically, not an economy at all.

    Western “economists” and most of their, say, Russian liberal off-springs from such sewer as High School Of Economics have no concept of real productive labor and what real INDUSTRY is about. In related news, Russia doesn’t produce surfing boards (a booming multi-billion dollar industry in the US) since, well, surfing around Murmansk or Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is not really great;-) Russia, however, produces a lot of the prepregs which go both for production of the surfing boards (in US) and Sukhoi T-50. Calculating Russian GDP is a tricky matter but it is military, which is always a good indicator of the structure and size of the economy.

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    • Replies: @silviosilver

    This “I tie your shoes for a dollar, you tie mine for the same price–together we produced 2 Dollars of GDP” is THE foundation of monetarism and, thus, overstates the actual GDP greatly, sometimes–manifold.
     
    If your implication is that GDP measures money passing back and forth between two parties with nothing of value being exchanged, then you are simply wrong. GDP counts the production of new goods. It doesn't matter how many times two parties exchange, say, a used car - GDP doesn't count it.

    If you meant to assert something other than this, you will have to explain it because I don't see any other meaning in your statement.
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  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Ogarkov

    In 1984 the chief of the Soviet general staff was sacked for publically complaining about the backwardness of Soviet productive capacity. Reaganomics was military Keynesianism with the added benefit of running up such huge debt that social spending in future was forestalled.

    Soviet bosses did not live well by Western standards. Russian bosses subsist like kings now, and because that is the case, the whole perestroika and shock therapy experiment must be regarded as very far from a colossal, world-historical mistake from the bosses’ point of view.

    Germany is not an independent power centre, so its military capacity in a thought experiment where it became a a great power is anyone’s guess. Back in reality the Germans are not the Germans any more according to William S. Lind so their theoretical capabilities are irrelevant.

    Russia has to stand alone. If it fights a great power it will be China. A Chinese rout of Russian forces followed by Russian use of i some of its huge no of battlefield nukes and Russia Chinese strategic exchange is the most likely way for WW3 to go. Russia is not an existential threat to the US but a war between Russia and China is, because Russia would not let the US emerge unscathed.

    https://www.traditionalright.com/the-view-from-olympus-wtf/

    Russia’s aggressive behavior and its nuclear arsenal make it the single greatest national security threat faced by the United States…

    Throughout the hearing, when asked about threats, General Dunford returned repeatedly to Russia…

    “If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,” he said. “And if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

    So the real question is not whether Russia has more military potential than Germany, but is China overtaking Russia?

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I don't understand your comment. Why would China attack Russian forces if it would lead to nuclear exchange, and why would Russia then attack the US?
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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Glossy
    You can believe that US economic and military strength was a complete illusion and that Gorbachev was thus completely delusional, but most people would dispute this view. The USSR’s legitimacy and prestige around the world depended on its promise that its system could deliver better material progress than the capitalist West could.

    Let's go over some things that were completely absent from the late USSR: drugs, homelessness, pornography, prostitution, gambling, advertising. Let's list some things that were many times less prevalent in the late USSR than in the US: crime, official corruption. You can believe that the USSR's moral and civilization strength was a complete illusion, but most people with direct knowledge of these matters would dispute this view of yours.

    Unfortunately globalism's prestige in the world depends neither on its capacity to deliver civilizational progress, nor even on its capacity to deliver better material progress ceteris paribus (look at the 1990s dip in Russia's GDP on Anatoly's graph), but instead on the skill of the liars who produce its propaganda.

    Unfortunately globalism’s prestige in the world depends neither on its capacity to deliver civilizational progress, nor even on its capacity to deliver better material progress ceteris paribus (look at the 1990s dip in Russia’s GDP on Anatoly’s graph), but instead on the skill of the liars who produce its propaganda.

    I agree, but a major factor in globalism’s strength and resilience is that it’s not really an explicit, formalized ideology with specific promises like communism was. It’s simply based on the basic human desire for profit and gain, and its ideological justification and propaganda have been malleable and changed to suit the times and conditions. 500 years ago, when modern “globalism” arguably began in earnest, a major drive for globalism was seeking alternative trade routes to the east for the purpose of profit and gain. Spreading Christianity was the major ideological justification. Later on with mercantilism and imperialism, national power was a justification. Today it’s human rights. Etc. The relative winners and losers of globalism have changed over time. Because it’s had changing ideological justifications without promising specific material well being and progress for all, it’s been able to persist by providing enough relative winners.

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    • Agree: Seamus Padraig
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  • @Anonymous
    Yes, but obviously this was in the context of the very real economic and military progress and strength of the US.

    There was military parity.

    The standard if living issue is split. Americans had more personal vehicles, the USSR had better public transport, Americans had bigger homes, the USSR had less crime, no drugs or homelessness and a better education system, etc. The West’s popular culture was already tacky and cheap, the USSR’s more traditional and digified.

    I’m repeating myself as are you. Which means that the argument is exhausted. I haven’t convinced you and you haven’t convinced me.

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    • Replies: @silviosilver

    The standard if living issue is split. Americans had more personal vehicles, the USSR had better public transport, Americans had bigger homes, the USSR had less crime, no drugs or homelessness and a better education system, etc. The West’s popular culture was already tacky and cheap, the USSR’s more traditional and digified.
     
    There is no comparison whatsoever between American capitalism's ability to provide consumer goods and the USSR's. That was an indisputable American victory and, in the 1980s, became an important cause of disillusionment among the communist citizenry. Why is America the most appropriate comparison, anyway? All of western Europe had market-based economy, and I would rate the public transport, crime rate and education system as at least as good as the east's, and public health a good deal better.
    , @Anonymous
    I don't think the USSR had better public transportation. The US had better roads, which made buses better. And US subways and trains were fine. And if you include affordable air travel in public transportation, then obviously the US had the edge there as well.

    As far as crime goes, the US has a significant minority that's significantly crime prone. Up to the 50s even in places like DC, people didn't lock their cars or houses because they didn't need to.

    I wouldn't say the USSR had a better education system.
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  • @Glossy
    After the war, there was communist infiltration and support for national liberation movements.

    Western elites decided after WWII that they needed to subjugate the USSR in order to do everything that they eventually did to it in the 1990s: loot it, partition it, spread socially liberal ideology on its territory, get rid of a rival offering a civilizational alternative to the rest of the world, etc. Sure, there wasn't much loot to take in 1946, but as time went on the USSR accumulated more and more resources that could be looted. And a part of the plan was always to take away the areas that the Russian Empire acquired in past centuries. De-imperialization, in other words.

    It was smart for the USSR to resist. Look what happened when it stopped resisting. And in the course of this resistance the USSR supported anybody who opposed its enemies, including third-world nationalists. And the US supported third-world nationalists if its own, as you admit.

    Yes, I basically agree with everything here. And this is consistent with my comments on how and why the colonial empires were lost after WW2.

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  • Propaganda obviously depends to a large extent on the larger context of real variables such as economic and military strength.

    There’s no such requirement. You need access to printing presses, airwaves or the Internet, depending on the period. You need a message and some skill in packaging it. Some staff too. How naive of you to think that there must be anything real underneath propaganda. No wonder that you’ve swallowed so much propaganda.

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  • @Glossy
    I think it's pretty clear that Gorbachev was delusional. He thought that his reforms would produce an economic boom among other things. Instead they led to the biggest peace-time decline in the standard of living of any country ever. How is it possible to dispute that he was a dupe and that he was duped?

    Yes, but obviously this was in the context of the very real economic and military progress and strength of the US.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    There was military parity.

    The standard if living issue is split. Americans had more personal vehicles, the USSR had better public transport, Americans had bigger homes, the USSR had less crime, no drugs or homelessness and a better education system, etc. The West's popular culture was already tacky and cheap, the USSR's more traditional and digified.

    I'm repeating myself as are you. Which means that the argument is exhausted. I haven't convinced you and you haven't convinced me.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @SWSpires
    So everything was great in the late USSR; but it only took one guy to destroy the whole thing, and then only because he wanted to be "cool." Do I read you correctly?

    Yes.

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    • Replies: @Mitleser
    What an unstable, weak system.
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  • @Anonymous
    Information war is a part of real war. Propaganda obviously depends to a large extent on the larger context of real variables such as economic and military strength. You can believe that US economic and military strength was a complete illusion and that Gorbachev was thus completely delusional, but most people would dispute this view. The USSR's legitimacy and prestige around the world depended on its promise that its system could deliver better material progress than the capitalist West could.

    Indochina is an extreme example of similar trends elsewhere. The Brits started making concessions in India as a result of pressure from WW2 and Axis support of Indian nationalists. They lost control of Malay/Singapore, and these areas were won back by the US victory in the Asia/Pacific. After the war, there was communist infiltration and support for national liberation movements. It wasn't simply about following what was cool. The Rhodesians, for example, did not care about looking "uncool", and were doing well fighting the black nationalist ZANU militia until ZANU started being trained and aided heavily by the communist bloc. There were similar examples elsewhere in Africa. The colonials were urged to leave by the US not simply because it was "uncool", but because their continued presence would have strengthened the anti-colonial, communist backed nationalists and united the native populations in anti-colonial national liberation. The US, not unreasonably, calculated that this would lead to many more countries going communist, to communist domination of the planet, and Soviet victory in the Cold War. The US figured that it would be better to try to cultivate and use pro-US/anti-communist nationalists, which it had been doing for decades already e.g. Chiang-Kai-Shek and the Chinese Nationalists, various anti-Japanese nationalists in WW2, etc.

    After the war, there was communist infiltration and support for national liberation movements.

    Western elites decided after WWII that they needed to subjugate the USSR in order to do everything that they eventually did to it in the 1990s: loot it, partition it, spread socially liberal ideology on its territory, get rid of a rival offering a civilizational alternative to the rest of the world, etc. Sure, there wasn’t much loot to take in 1946, but as time went on the USSR accumulated more and more resources that could be looted. And a part of the plan was always to take away the areas that the Russian Empire acquired in past centuries. De-imperialization, in other words.

    It was smart for the USSR to resist. Look what happened when it stopped resisting. And in the course of this resistance the USSR supported anybody who opposed its enemies, including third-world nationalists. And the US supported third-world nationalists if its own, as you admit.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Yes, I basically agree with everything here. And this is consistent with my comments on how and why the colonial empires were lost after WW2.
    , @silviosilver

    It was smart for the USSR to resist. Look what happened when it stopped resisting. And in the course of this resistance the USSR supported anybody who opposed its enemies, including third-world nationalists. And the US supported third-world nationalists if its own, as you admit.
     
    That is only one half of the story. The other half is that the communist party viewed the capitalist world as a civilizational alternative which it had to denounce, oppose, and, if possible, destroy both for ideological reasons as well as to - as convincingly argued by George Kennan - legitimize its own dictatorial rule. It's completely unreasonable to pin all the blame on America for the relationship that existed between the two states.
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  • @Glossy
    How would strain on the Soviet system have looked like? A decrease in living standards, an increase in foreign debt. That didn't happen. How would strain on colonial systems have looked like? Major human and territorial losses to insurgencies, economic problems. That didn't happen either.

    What happened was that with time nationalism and imperialism became increasingly unhip and uncool. And in Gorby's mind Brezhnev and co. were uncool. And if he did the opposite of what they did, he'd be cool, democratic and forward-thinking. Globalism relies on vanity and perverted understanding of what's cool.

    So everything was great in the late USSR; but it only took one guy to destroy the whole thing, and then only because he wanted to be “cool.” Do I read you correctly?

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    Yes.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Anonymous
    Information war is a part of real war. Propaganda obviously depends to a large extent on the larger context of real variables such as economic and military strength. You can believe that US economic and military strength was a complete illusion and that Gorbachev was thus completely delusional, but most people would dispute this view. The USSR's legitimacy and prestige around the world depended on its promise that its system could deliver better material progress than the capitalist West could.

    Indochina is an extreme example of similar trends elsewhere. The Brits started making concessions in India as a result of pressure from WW2 and Axis support of Indian nationalists. They lost control of Malay/Singapore, and these areas were won back by the US victory in the Asia/Pacific. After the war, there was communist infiltration and support for national liberation movements. It wasn't simply about following what was cool. The Rhodesians, for example, did not care about looking "uncool", and were doing well fighting the black nationalist ZANU militia until ZANU started being trained and aided heavily by the communist bloc. There were similar examples elsewhere in Africa. The colonials were urged to leave by the US not simply because it was "uncool", but because their continued presence would have strengthened the anti-colonial, communist backed nationalists and united the native populations in anti-colonial national liberation. The US, not unreasonably, calculated that this would lead to many more countries going communist, to communist domination of the planet, and Soviet victory in the Cold War. The US figured that it would be better to try to cultivate and use pro-US/anti-communist nationalists, which it had been doing for decades already e.g. Chiang-Kai-Shek and the Chinese Nationalists, various anti-Japanese nationalists in WW2, etc.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Gorbachev was delusional. He thought that his reforms would produce an economic boom among other things. Instead they led to the biggest peace-time decline in the standard of living of any country ever. How is it possible to dispute that he was a dupe and that he was duped?

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Yes, but obviously this was in the context of the very real economic and military progress and strength of the US.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • You can believe that US economic and military strength was a complete illusion and that Gorbachev was thus completely delusional, but most people would dispute this view. The USSR’s legitimacy and prestige around the world depended on its promise that its system could deliver better material progress than the capitalist West could.

    Let’s go over some things that were completely absent from the late USSR: drugs, homelessness, pornography, prostitution, gambling, advertising. Let’s list some things that were many times less prevalent in the late USSR than in the US: crime, official corruption. You can believe that the USSR’s moral and civilization strength was a complete illusion, but most people with direct knowledge of these matters would dispute this view of yours.

    Unfortunately globalism’s prestige in the world depends neither on its capacity to deliver civilizational progress, nor even on its capacity to deliver better material progress ceteris paribus (look at the 1990s dip in Russia’s GDP on Anatoly’s graph), but instead on the skill of the liars who produce its propaganda.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous

    Unfortunately globalism’s prestige in the world depends neither on its capacity to deliver civilizational progress, nor even on its capacity to deliver better material progress ceteris paribus (look at the 1990s dip in Russia’s GDP on Anatoly’s graph), but instead on the skill of the liars who produce its propaganda.
     
    I agree, but a major factor in globalism's strength and resilience is that it's not really an explicit, formalized ideology with specific promises like communism was. It's simply based on the basic human desire for profit and gain, and its ideological justification and propaganda have been malleable and changed to suit the times and conditions. 500 years ago, when modern "globalism" arguably began in earnest, a major drive for globalism was seeking alternative trade routes to the east for the purpose of profit and gain. Spreading Christianity was the major ideological justification. Later on with mercantilism and imperialism, national power was a justification. Today it's human rights. Etc. The relative winners and losers of globalism have changed over time. Because it's had changing ideological justifications without promising specific material well being and progress for all, it's been able to persist by providing enough relative winners.
    , @Deduction
    I know what you say is nonsense when you claim that there was no prostitution. That is obviously false. How naive are you?
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Glossy
    As you suggest, Gorbachev was demoralized and wanted to join up with the winners.

    Winning an ad war or a propaganda war is very different from winning a real war, from producing a better product or a better-functioning society or a more-advanced civilization. Winners at what? At brainwashing? Do you respect such winners? Do you respect the people who join them?

    You're commenting on a blog here. The most popular blog in the world is Perez Hilton's I think. I'm sure he has a community of commenters. Why don't you join them? Isn't he a winner?

    A bunch of people created a crude, perverted idea of what's cool and what isn't. And it spread like a virus. And Gorby, being a vane man incapable of independent thought, caught it. Similarly, lots of teenagers have been convinced by the music and fashion industries that drugs are cool. Heroin chic, etc. The point that I'm trying to make is that not all sorts of winning, not all sorts of mind-capture, are laudable. Do you agree with that?

    You talked about the French in Indochina. They really, really didn't have to leave Black Africa. There was no armed resistance there. Yet they left it. The British really, really didn't have to leave India. Or Black Adrica. Or Malaysia/Singapore. Most of these cave-ins were unforced. As I said before, most of them happened because nationalism and imperialism gradually became uncool.

    Information war is a part of real war. Propaganda obviously depends to a large extent on the larger context of real variables such as economic and military strength. You can believe that US economic and military strength was a complete illusion and that Gorbachev was thus completely delusional, but most people would dispute this view. The USSR’s legitimacy and prestige around the world depended on its promise that its system could deliver better material progress than the capitalist West could.

    Indochina is an extreme example of similar trends elsewhere. The Brits started making concessions in India as a result of pressure from WW2 and Axis support of Indian nationalists. They lost control of Malay/Singapore, and these areas were won back by the US victory in the Asia/Pacific. After the war, there was communist infiltration and support for national liberation movements. It wasn’t simply about following what was cool. The Rhodesians, for example, did not care about looking “uncool”, and were doing well fighting the black nationalist ZANU militia until ZANU started being trained and aided heavily by the communist bloc. There were similar examples elsewhere in Africa. The colonials were urged to leave by the US not simply because it was “uncool”, but because their continued presence would have strengthened the anti-colonial, communist backed nationalists and united the native populations in anti-colonial national liberation. The US, not unreasonably, calculated that this would lead to many more countries going communist, to communist domination of the planet, and Soviet victory in the Cold War. The US figured that it would be better to try to cultivate and use pro-US/anti-communist nationalists, which it had been doing for decades already e.g. Chiang-Kai-Shek and the Chinese Nationalists, various anti-Japanese nationalists in WW2, etc.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    I think it's pretty clear that Gorbachev was delusional. He thought that his reforms would produce an economic boom among other things. Instead they led to the biggest peace-time decline in the standard of living of any country ever. How is it possible to dispute that he was a dupe and that he was duped?
    , @Glossy
    After the war, there was communist infiltration and support for national liberation movements.

    Western elites decided after WWII that they needed to subjugate the USSR in order to do everything that they eventually did to it in the 1990s: loot it, partition it, spread socially liberal ideology on its territory, get rid of a rival offering a civilizational alternative to the rest of the world, etc. Sure, there wasn't much loot to take in 1946, but as time went on the USSR accumulated more and more resources that could be looted. And a part of the plan was always to take away the areas that the Russian Empire acquired in past centuries. De-imperialization, in other words.

    It was smart for the USSR to resist. Look what happened when it stopped resisting. And in the course of this resistance the USSR supported anybody who opposed its enemies, including third-world nationalists. And the US supported third-world nationalists if its own, as you admit.
    , @Simon in London
    Good post.

    In 4th generation war theory terms, the European colonial empires were defeated at the moral level after WW2, as was the USSR after 1989, and these defeats are just as real in their consequences as military defeat in war. Whether the victors were 'laudable' is a different question.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Sean the Neon Caucasian
    ...so why did the USSR break up?

    Because its leaders were foolish enough to accept its enemies’ advice on what they should be doing.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Glossy
    The USSR was not srained. That's a fairy tale that you told yourself in order to feel better. That was the point of my earlier comment. And East Indians didn't strain the British Empire. And animal sacrifices don't bring rain.

    The ultimate reason why the USSR was abolished was that Gorbachev was a vain fool who wanted to seem like a hip, forward-thinking, fashionable reformer. The British Empire died for similar reasons. And so did Apartheid.

    Absolutely.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Glossy
    As you suggest, Gorbachev was demoralized and wanted to join up with the winners.

    Winning an ad war or a propaganda war is very different from winning a real war, from producing a better product or a better-functioning society or a more-advanced civilization. Winners at what? At brainwashing? Do you respect such winners? Do you respect the people who join them?

    You're commenting on a blog here. The most popular blog in the world is Perez Hilton's I think. I'm sure he has a community of commenters. Why don't you join them? Isn't he a winner?

    A bunch of people created a crude, perverted idea of what's cool and what isn't. And it spread like a virus. And Gorby, being a vane man incapable of independent thought, caught it. Similarly, lots of teenagers have been convinced by the music and fashion industries that drugs are cool. Heroin chic, etc. The point that I'm trying to make is that not all sorts of winning, not all sorts of mind-capture, are laudable. Do you agree with that?

    You talked about the French in Indochina. They really, really didn't have to leave Black Africa. There was no armed resistance there. Yet they left it. The British really, really didn't have to leave India. Or Black Adrica. Or Malaysia/Singapore. Most of these cave-ins were unforced. As I said before, most of them happened because nationalism and imperialism gradually became uncool.

    …so why did the USSR break up?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Glossy
    Because its leaders were foolish enough to accept its enemies' advice on what they should be doing.
    , @LondonBob
    Declining living standards leading to a loss of legitimacy as well as the rise of nationalism in the respective countries (including most importantly Russian nationalism).

    Sorry but a factory that can barely keep running due to degraded machinery, uncertain supplies and an inability to compensate its workers producing goods no one even wants in the first place will still show in the GDP but it really shouldn't. The biggest mistake the IMF made, from the mouth of Stanislav Gomulka, was that they underestimated the state of disrepair both physically as well as institutionally in Russia, hoodwinked by neocons hyping the Soviet threat and delusional Western fellow travelers.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Anonymous
    As you suggest, Gorbachev was demoralized and wanted to join up with the winners. That perception obviously depended to some extent on America and Americans.

    "Strain" on competing social and political systems will depend on significantly on perception and relative position and prospects, not simply on objective measures.

    The colonial systems were obviously under significant strain by WW2, at home on the Continent by Germany and in Asia by Japan. The US and USSR won the war for the Allies, and naturally they, along with the PRC to a lesser extent, inherited the colonial areas as their spheres of influence after the war. After the war, the French tried to hang on to Indochina, and lost almost 100,000 men trying to do so with US support fighting communist backed nationalists. It wasn't globalism that did them in. The French had never really regained control of Indochina in the first place. It was the US, not the French, who had defeated Japan in Asia and the Pacific. The US supported Vietnamese nationalists during WW2 because they were anti-Japanese, and FDR didn't want the French to regain control after the war. At any rate, the French fought to regain control after the war and were supported by the US, who eventually dropped support. The US figured that the French would not be able to decisively defeat at a reasonable cost USSR and PRC backed, politically awakened nationalist, anti-colonialist guerillas, and wanted to salvage a nominally independent, nationalist Vietnamese regime that would be anti-communist and pro-US/West.

    As you suggest, Gorbachev was demoralized and wanted to join up with the winners.

    Winning an ad war or a propaganda war is very different from winning a real war, from producing a better product or a better-functioning society or a more-advanced civilization. Winners at what? At brainwashing? Do you respect such winners? Do you respect the people who join them?

    You’re commenting on a blog here. The most popular blog in the world is Perez Hilton’s I think. I’m sure he has a community of commenters. Why don’t you join them? Isn’t he a winner?

    A bunch of people created a crude, perverted idea of what’s cool and what isn’t. And it spread like a virus. And Gorby, being a vane man incapable of independent thought, caught it. Similarly, lots of teenagers have been convinced by the music and fashion industries that drugs are cool. Heroin chic, etc. The point that I’m trying to make is that not all sorts of winning, not all sorts of mind-capture, are laudable. Do you agree with that?

    You talked about the French in Indochina. They really, really didn’t have to leave Black Africa. There was no armed resistance there. Yet they left it. The British really, really didn’t have to leave India. Or Black Adrica. Or Malaysia/Singapore. Most of these cave-ins were unforced. As I said before, most of them happened because nationalism and imperialism gradually became uncool.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sean the Neon Caucasian
    ...so why did the USSR break up?
    , @Anonymous
    Information war is a part of real war. Propaganda obviously depends to a large extent on the larger context of real variables such as economic and military strength. You can believe that US economic and military strength was a complete illusion and that Gorbachev was thus completely delusional, but most people would dispute this view. The USSR's legitimacy and prestige around the world depended on its promise that its system could deliver better material progress than the capitalist West could.

    Indochina is an extreme example of similar trends elsewhere. The Brits started making concessions in India as a result of pressure from WW2 and Axis support of Indian nationalists. They lost control of Malay/Singapore, and these areas were won back by the US victory in the Asia/Pacific. After the war, there was communist infiltration and support for national liberation movements. It wasn't simply about following what was cool. The Rhodesians, for example, did not care about looking "uncool", and were doing well fighting the black nationalist ZANU militia until ZANU started being trained and aided heavily by the communist bloc. There were similar examples elsewhere in Africa. The colonials were urged to leave by the US not simply because it was "uncool", but because their continued presence would have strengthened the anti-colonial, communist backed nationalists and united the native populations in anti-colonial national liberation. The US, not unreasonably, calculated that this would lead to many more countries going communist, to communist domination of the planet, and Soviet victory in the Cold War. The US figured that it would be better to try to cultivate and use pro-US/anti-communist nationalists, which it had been doing for decades already e.g. Chiang-Kai-Shek and the Chinese Nationalists, various anti-Japanese nationalists in WW2, etc.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Glossy
    How would strain on the Soviet system have looked like? A decrease in living standards, an increase in foreign debt. That didn't happen. How would strain on colonial systems have looked like? Major human and territorial losses to insurgencies, economic problems. That didn't happen either.

    What happened was that with time nationalism and imperialism became increasingly unhip and uncool. And in Gorby's mind Brezhnev and co. were uncool. And if he did the opposite of what they did, he'd be cool, democratic and forward-thinking. Globalism relies on vanity and perverted understanding of what's cool.

    As you suggest, Gorbachev was demoralized and wanted to join up with the winners. That perception obviously depended to some extent on America and Americans.

    “Strain” on competing social and political systems will depend on significantly on perception and relative position and prospects, not simply on objective measures.

    The colonial systems were obviously under significant strain by WW2, at home on the Continent by Germany and in Asia by Japan. The US and USSR won the war for the Allies, and naturally they, along with the PRC to a lesser extent, inherited the colonial areas as their spheres of influence after the war. After the war, the French tried to hang on to Indochina, and lost almost 100,000 men trying to do so with US support fighting communist backed nationalists. It wasn’t globalism that did them in. The French had never really regained control of Indochina in the first place. It was the US, not the French, who had defeated Japan in Asia and the Pacific. The US supported Vietnamese nationalists during WW2 because they were anti-Japanese, and FDR didn’t want the French to regain control after the war. At any rate, the French fought to regain control after the war and were supported by the US, who eventually dropped support. The US figured that the French would not be able to decisively defeat at a reasonable cost USSR and PRC backed, politically awakened nationalist, anti-colonialist guerillas, and wanted to salvage a nominally independent, nationalist Vietnamese regime that would be anti-communist and pro-US/West.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    As you suggest, Gorbachev was demoralized and wanted to join up with the winners.

    Winning an ad war or a propaganda war is very different from winning a real war, from producing a better product or a better-functioning society or a more-advanced civilization. Winners at what? At brainwashing? Do you respect such winners? Do you respect the people who join them?

    You're commenting on a blog here. The most popular blog in the world is Perez Hilton's I think. I'm sure he has a community of commenters. Why don't you join them? Isn't he a winner?

    A bunch of people created a crude, perverted idea of what's cool and what isn't. And it spread like a virus. And Gorby, being a vane man incapable of independent thought, caught it. Similarly, lots of teenagers have been convinced by the music and fashion industries that drugs are cool. Heroin chic, etc. The point that I'm trying to make is that not all sorts of winning, not all sorts of mind-capture, are laudable. Do you agree with that?

    You talked about the French in Indochina. They really, really didn't have to leave Black Africa. There was no armed resistance there. Yet they left it. The British really, really didn't have to leave India. Or Black Adrica. Or Malaysia/Singapore. Most of these cave-ins were unforced. As I said before, most of them happened because nationalism and imperialism gradually became uncool.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Anonymous
    I actually agree that Gorbachev caving in was a major factor, but that didn't happen in a vacuum, but in a particular context. That context was US economic growth, military spending, support of mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Reagan Doctrine of supporting anti-Soviet guerrillas internationally, etc.

    The British started making concessions to Indian nationalists during WW2 when the Indian nationalists were supported and motivated by the Germans and Japanese. The British and other European empires, despite being Allies, basically lost WW2 to the US and USSR and gave up their colonies which became nominally independent areas in US or USSR or competing spheres of influence. In some areas, national liberation movements backed and aided by the USSR or PRC involved significant national consciousness raising, mobilization, and guerilla warfare, and this played some role in chasing out the colonials.

    How would strain on the Soviet system have looked like? A decrease in living standards, an increase in foreign debt. That didn’t happen. How would strain on colonial systems have looked like? Major human and territorial losses to insurgencies, economic problems. That didn’t happen either.

    What happened was that with time nationalism and imperialism became increasingly unhip and uncool. And in Gorby’s mind Brezhnev and co. were uncool. And if he did the opposite of what they did, he’d be cool, democratic and forward-thinking. Globalism relies on vanity and perverted understanding of what’s cool.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    As you suggest, Gorbachev was demoralized and wanted to join up with the winners. That perception obviously depended to some extent on America and Americans.

    "Strain" on competing social and political systems will depend on significantly on perception and relative position and prospects, not simply on objective measures.

    The colonial systems were obviously under significant strain by WW2, at home on the Continent by Germany and in Asia by Japan. The US and USSR won the war for the Allies, and naturally they, along with the PRC to a lesser extent, inherited the colonial areas as their spheres of influence after the war. After the war, the French tried to hang on to Indochina, and lost almost 100,000 men trying to do so with US support fighting communist backed nationalists. It wasn't globalism that did them in. The French had never really regained control of Indochina in the first place. It was the US, not the French, who had defeated Japan in Asia and the Pacific. The US supported Vietnamese nationalists during WW2 because they were anti-Japanese, and FDR didn't want the French to regain control after the war. At any rate, the French fought to regain control after the war and were supported by the US, who eventually dropped support. The US figured that the French would not be able to decisively defeat at a reasonable cost USSR and PRC backed, politically awakened nationalist, anti-colonialist guerillas, and wanted to salvage a nominally independent, nationalist Vietnamese regime that would be anti-communist and pro-US/West.
    , @SWSpires
    So everything was great in the late USSR; but it only took one guy to destroy the whole thing, and then only because he wanted to be "cool." Do I read you correctly?
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Anonymous
    I actually agree that Gorbachev caving in was a major factor, but that didn't happen in a vacuum, but in a particular context. That context was US economic growth, military spending, support of mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Reagan Doctrine of supporting anti-Soviet guerrillas internationally, etc.

    The British started making concessions to Indian nationalists during WW2 when the Indian nationalists were supported and motivated by the Germans and Japanese. The British and other European empires, despite being Allies, basically lost WW2 to the US and USSR and gave up their colonies which became nominally independent areas in US or USSR or competing spheres of influence. In some areas, national liberation movements backed and aided by the USSR or PRC involved significant national consciousness raising, mobilization, and guerilla warfare, and this played some role in chasing out the colonials.

    We’re repeating ourselves. I disagree. I think that a particular conception of what is cool, hip, and forward-thinking had a decisive role in all these cave-ins. Including the colonial ones. Vanity. Wanting to be praised as a reformer. I don’t consider lefty, globalist politics cool or hip but most people do.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Glossy
    The USSR was not srained. That's a fairy tale that you told yourself in order to feel better. That was the point of my earlier comment. And East Indians didn't strain the British Empire. And animal sacrifices don't bring rain.

    The ultimate reason why the USSR was abolished was that Gorbachev was a vain fool who wanted to seem like a hip, forward-thinking, fashionable reformer. The British Empire died for similar reasons. And so did Apartheid.

    I actually agree that Gorbachev caving in was a major factor, but that didn’t happen in a vacuum, but in a particular context. That context was US economic growth, military spending, support of mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Reagan Doctrine of supporting anti-Soviet guerrillas internationally, etc.

    The British started making concessions to Indian nationalists during WW2 when the Indian nationalists were supported and motivated by the Germans and Japanese. The British and other European empires, despite being Allies, basically lost WW2 to the US and USSR and gave up their colonies which became nominally independent areas in US or USSR or competing spheres of influence. In some areas, national liberation movements backed and aided by the USSR or PRC involved significant national consciousness raising, mobilization, and guerilla warfare, and this played some role in chasing out the colonials.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Glossy
    We're repeating ourselves. I disagree. I think that a particular conception of what is cool, hip, and forward-thinking had a decisive role in all these cave-ins. Including the colonial ones. Vanity. Wanting to be praised as a reformer. I don't consider lefty, globalist politics cool or hip but most people do.
    , @Glossy
    How would strain on the Soviet system have looked like? A decrease in living standards, an increase in foreign debt. That didn't happen. How would strain on colonial systems have looked like? Major human and territorial losses to insurgencies, economic problems. That didn't happen either.

    What happened was that with time nationalism and imperialism became increasingly unhip and uncool. And in Gorby's mind Brezhnev and co. were uncool. And if he did the opposite of what they did, he'd be cool, democratic and forward-thinking. Globalism relies on vanity and perverted understanding of what's cool.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Anonymous
    Well the American public did support Cold War policies and increases in military spending that strained the USSR. They were the electorate, served in the military, paid the taxes, worked in the military-industrial complex, etc. That's not nothing. Also the national liberation movements did often involve political mobilization and guerilla warfare that played some role in chasing out the colonials.

    The USSR was not srained. That’s a fairy tale that you told yourself in order to feel better. That was the point of my earlier comment. And East Indians didn’t strain the British Empire. And animal sacrifices don’t bring rain.

    The ultimate reason why the USSR was abolished was that Gorbachev was a vain fool who wanted to seem like a hip, forward-thinking, fashionable reformer. The British Empire died for similar reasons. And so did Apartheid.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I actually agree that Gorbachev caving in was a major factor, but that didn't happen in a vacuum, but in a particular context. That context was US economic growth, military spending, support of mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Reagan Doctrine of supporting anti-Soviet guerrillas internationally, etc.

    The British started making concessions to Indian nationalists during WW2 when the Indian nationalists were supported and motivated by the Germans and Japanese. The British and other European empires, despite being Allies, basically lost WW2 to the US and USSR and gave up their colonies which became nominally independent areas in US or USSR or competing spheres of influence. In some areas, national liberation movements backed and aided by the USSR or PRC involved significant national consciousness raising, mobilization, and guerilla warfare, and this played some role in chasing out the colonials.
    , @Anonymous
    Absolutely.
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  • Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Glossy
    Yep. Similarly, East Indians, Malaysians, etc. believe that they chased out the Brits, Angolans believe that they chased out the Portuguese, South African Blacks believe that they defeated the Apartheid, etc. It's funny. I remember reading about the late Turkmenbashi giving himself an award for achieving Turkmen independence. What did he do to achieve it? Watch TV news coverage of the Belovezhskaya Puscha agreement?

    Believing that kind of stuff makes people feel better.

    Well the American public did support Cold War policies and increases in military spending that strained the USSR. They were the electorate, served in the military, paid the taxes, worked in the military-industrial complex, etc. That’s not nothing. Also the national liberation movements did often involve political mobilization and guerilla warfare that played some role in chasing out the colonials.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    The USSR was not srained. That's a fairy tale that you told yourself in order to feel better. That was the point of my earlier comment. And East Indians didn't strain the British Empire. And animal sacrifices don't bring rain.

    The ultimate reason why the USSR was abolished was that Gorbachev was a vain fool who wanted to seem like a hip, forward-thinking, fashionable reformer. The British Empire died for similar reasons. And so did Apartheid.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @5371
    The USSR committed suicide, but the self-image of many Americans is bound up with believing that they murdered it.

    Yep. Similarly, East Indians, Malaysians, etc. believe that they chased out the Brits, Angolans believe that they chased out the Portuguese, South African Blacks believe that they defeated the Apartheid, etc. It’s funny. I remember reading about the late Turkmenbashi giving himself an award for achieving Turkmen independence. What did he do to achieve it? Watch TV news coverage of the Belovezhskaya Puscha agreement?

    Believing that kind of stuff makes people feel better.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Well the American public did support Cold War policies and increases in military spending that strained the USSR. They were the electorate, served in the military, paid the taxes, worked in the military-industrial complex, etc. That's not nothing. Also the national liberation movements did often involve political mobilization and guerilla warfare that played some role in chasing out the colonials.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • The USSR committed suicide, but the self-image of many Americans is bound up with believing that they murdered it.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    Yep. Similarly, East Indians, Malaysians, etc. believe that they chased out the Brits, Angolans believe that they chased out the Portuguese, South African Blacks believe that they defeated the Apartheid, etc. It's funny. I remember reading about the late Turkmenbashi giving himself an award for achieving Turkmen independence. What did he do to achieve it? Watch TV news coverage of the Belovezhskaya Puscha agreement?

    Believing that kind of stuff makes people feel better.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • The late Soviet economy was in a sort of “high level equilibrium” state that could have been maintained there but at decreasing rates of growth since (1) labor inputs were drying up since urbanization process had finished/TFR had fallen to basically replacement level rates from the 1960s and (2) productivity growth was also falling – though never reaching zero – presumably because for all intents and purposes that centrally planned economy had “converged” with its maximal possible level at the world’s current level of technology.

    I sort of think both sides have a point here. No there is nothing obvious either then or now in respect to it being “doomed” to collapse. It would have simply remained more or less stationary at its the RSFSR’s level of ~40% of US GDP per capita. Neither could we have expected it to break much above that ceiling either, short of some scifi-like cybernetic revolution that would have made central planning much more economically efficient. Now the Soviet Union actually did do some really good and original research in cybernetics, but moved towards markets just as these techs started coming into their own. It would have been a fascinating what-if had it continued.

    Russia today is approximately back at the ~40% level of US GDP per capita that the RSFSR enjoyed in the late 1980s. Essentially, a lot of socio-economic trauma but no real relative progress in the past 30 years. I do think Russia has the longterm potential under the current market system to converge to 70-80% of the US level just based on its level of human capital and by analogy to European countries, but I accept that I might be wrong and that there is something in Russian society/culture/genetics that puts it at a permanent cap of 40% of US GDP per capita regardless of whether the economic system is centrally planned or market based. If that is the case, then the whole perestroika and shock therapy experiment must be regarded as a colossal, world-historical mistake.

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  • @Glossy
    What you say is untrue. This false idea is promoted by two kinds of people:

    1) Thieving post-Soviet oligarchs. Their argument is "we didn't break it, it was going to fall by itself". No, they broke it by looting it. I watched it happen. There were no signs of impending collapse. Unlike its Wesern rivals the late USSR was not deeply in debt. Unlike them it was economically self-sufficient, meaning that it produced most of the things it consumed.

    2) Westerners who were emotionally involved in the Cold War. They're engaging in wishful thinking and in trash talk against opponents. Great fun I'm sure, but it has nothing to do with truth. Robert Heinlein claimed during the Cold War that Moscow only had 800,000 people. Then some American general visited Moscow and "confirmed" this with "observations". It was what they wanted to believe. Very, very hard.

    In reality the late Soviet GDP greatly underestimated the late Soviet standard of living. I'll give you an example. There was no advertising in the USSR. Advertising adds to the GDP but subtracts from customer (and citizen) satisfaction. In a capitalist economy it's possible to add to the GDP by scamming and annoying people. You couldn't do that in the Soviet Union. The gambling industry adds to the GDP. Wall Street speculators add to it. Such stuff did not exist in the USSR. Compared with the capitalist world, a greater share of Soviet economic activity went towards things that normal people wanted.

    Glossy raises a very good point here that few Americans know: the GDP measurement is highly misleading. It basically measures all (legal) transactions in a country regardless of their nature, so that industrial and agricultural output are lumped in with service transactions that may do little or nothing to raise the standard of living.

    For example, if you break your leg and go to the hospital and pay your bill, you have just contributed to a (slight) increase in GDP. Why? You’re no better off than you would be if you hadn’t broken your leg at all. But you had to pay the hospital some money. Thus, a measurable, legal transaction was created. Presto! More GDP.

    Another example: if your schools are so crappy that some parents feel compelled to pay out-of-pocket for private tutoring on the side, that would also count as a GDP increase. But if the schools were actually good enough on their own and no one hired private tutors, GDP would be lower.

    See how weird a measurement GDP is?

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    • Replies: @Andrei Martyanov
    This "I tie your shoes for a dollar, you tie mine for the same price--together we produced 2 Dollars of GDP" is THE foundation of monetarism and, thus, overstates the actual GDP greatly, sometimes--manifold. The true measure of the GDP is its structure, from which the actual size could be calculated, including the service economy. Productive labor (manufacturing) also has a profound cultural ramifications--from education to the overall mental state of the society. I am talking, of course, about the economy of the closed technological cycles. In the end--these are goods, in all their variety, which define the economy. It is difficult, very often, as an example to explain to some MBA that Hi-Tech is not what they think it is and that economy of Saudi Arabia, for all of its per capita GDP is, basically, not an economy at all.

    Western "economists" and most of their, say, Russian liberal off-springs from such sewer as High School Of Economics have no concept of real productive labor and what real INDUSTRY is about. In related news, Russia doesn't produce surfing boards (a booming multi-billion dollar industry in the US) since, well, surfing around Murmansk or Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is not really great;-) Russia, however, produces a lot of the prepregs which go both for production of the surfing boards (in US) and Sukhoi T-50. Calculating Russian GDP is a tricky matter but it is military, which is always a good indicator of the structure and size of the economy.
    , @Deduction
    It's worse than that. Modern life has, as per Marx(!), commoditised lots of activities while actually lowering living standards.

    Take the delicious home cooked meal. Many fewer of these are consumed, and many ready meals have replaced them. Since the ready meals cost a lot more than a home cooked meal, GDP goes up a lot just as quality of life goes down.

    All forms of non-market social interaction are uncounted by GDP. That is 'why growing the economy' so often seems to be destroying society.

    Add in the fact that all of this boosts tax receipts and it is easy to see why there is little institutional protection from this commoditising force.

    , @silviosilver

    Glossy raises a very good point here that few Americans know: the GDP measurement is highly misleading. It basically measures all (legal) transactions in a country regardless of their nature, so that industrial and agricultural output are lumped in with service transactions that may do little or nothing to raise the standard of living.
     
    GDP isn't 'misleading,' but it's easy to misinterpret. GDP doesn't aim to measure the standard of living; it's just a proxy for it.

    GDP attempts to measure the total amount of production in an economy in a given year. If a broken window is replaced with a new window that window will have to be produced and will thus be measured. A related measure is NDP, net domestic product, which does subtract the production of replacements. Many feel that GDP is a better measure of the productive capacity of an economy, however, because it measures the total amount of economic activity that occurred in a given year.

    This fact sometimes gives rise to the criticism that all you have to do to grow your economy is break all your windows, but this ignores the other, more preferable, uses to which the resources used up in replacing windows could have been put if the windows remained unbroken.

    It is incorrect to say that services do not raise the standard of living. For example, people pay for restaurant meals because they believe they will be better off after eating at the restaurant than they would by holding onto the money, not because anybody forced them to. If people perceive they have benefited from eating at the restaurant then it's logical to conclude that their living standard is improved.
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  • @Anonymous
    So Germans will now in droves emigrate to Russia for work, as will US Americans to China, right?

    It’s not a graph of per capita GDP. In per capita terms the US is still well above China and Germany is above Russia.

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  • @LondonBob
    The FSU's GDP was a monumental work of fiction, when it collapsed the rotten carcass was exposed. An edifice on the verge of collapse.

    What you say is untrue. This false idea is promoted by two kinds of people:

    1) Thieving post-Soviet oligarchs. Their argument is “we didn’t break it, it was going to fall by itself”. No, they broke it by looting it. I watched it happen. There were no signs of impending collapse. Unlike its Wesern rivals the late USSR was not deeply in debt. Unlike them it was economically self-sufficient, meaning that it produced most of the things it consumed.

    2) Westerners who were emotionally involved in the Cold War. They’re engaging in wishful thinking and in trash talk against opponents. Great fun I’m sure, but it has nothing to do with truth. Robert Heinlein claimed during the Cold War that Moscow only had 800,000 people. Then some American general visited Moscow and “confirmed” this with “observations”. It was what they wanted to believe. Very, very hard.

    In reality the late Soviet GDP greatly underestimated the late Soviet standard of living. I’ll give you an example. There was no advertising in the USSR. Advertising adds to the GDP but subtracts from customer (and citizen) satisfaction. In a capitalist economy it’s possible to add to the GDP by scamming and annoying people. You couldn’t do that in the Soviet Union. The gambling industry adds to the GDP. Wall Street speculators add to it. Such stuff did not exist in the USSR. Compared with the capitalist world, a greater share of Soviet economic activity went towards things that normal people wanted.

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    • Replies: @Seamus Padraig
    Glossy raises a very good point here that few Americans know: the GDP measurement is highly misleading. It basically measures all (legal) transactions in a country regardless of their nature, so that industrial and agricultural output are lumped in with service transactions that may do little or nothing to raise the standard of living.

    For example, if you break your leg and go to the hospital and pay your bill, you have just contributed to a (slight) increase in GDP. Why? You're no better off than you would be if you hadn't broken your leg at all. But you had to pay the hospital some money. Thus, a measurable, legal transaction was created. Presto! More GDP.

    Another example: if your schools are so crappy that some parents feel compelled to pay out-of-pocket for private tutoring on the side, that would also count as a GDP increase. But if the schools were actually good enough on their own and no one hired private tutors, GDP would be lower.

    See how weird a measurement GDP is?
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  • So Germans will now in droves emigrate to Russia for work, as will US Americans to China, right?

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    It's not a graph of per capita GDP. In per capita terms the US is still well above China and Germany is above Russia.
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  • -It is widely admitted that Russia had a Great Depression during the 1990s and only managed to surpass its 1990 level of output during or after 2003. This indicates Russian GDP per capita in 1990 was higher than that of China today, as Russia today is a richer nation than China. Either that, or growth during the World Boom was underestimated.

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  • @Erik Sieven
    Russia had a bigger GDP than GDP up to the late 80´s didn´t it? So Russia seems to have somehow recovered from the end of the Soviet Union finally.
    I am not sure whether military strength is a function of economic strength, or whether it is the other way round. I guess the military advancement of Russia in recent years will pay out, and in the long run this will be more important than the current recession.

    The FSU’s GDP was a monumental work of fiction, when it collapsed the rotten carcass was exposed. An edifice on the verge of collapse.

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    • Replies: @Glossy
    What you say is untrue. This false idea is promoted by two kinds of people:

    1) Thieving post-Soviet oligarchs. Their argument is "we didn't break it, it was going to fall by itself". No, they broke it by looting it. I watched it happen. There were no signs of impending collapse. Unlike its Wesern rivals the late USSR was not deeply in debt. Unlike them it was economically self-sufficient, meaning that it produced most of the things it consumed.

    2) Westerners who were emotionally involved in the Cold War. They're engaging in wishful thinking and in trash talk against opponents. Great fun I'm sure, but it has nothing to do with truth. Robert Heinlein claimed during the Cold War that Moscow only had 800,000 people. Then some American general visited Moscow and "confirmed" this with "observations". It was what they wanted to believe. Very, very hard.

    In reality the late Soviet GDP greatly underestimated the late Soviet standard of living. I'll give you an example. There was no advertising in the USSR. Advertising adds to the GDP but subtracts from customer (and citizen) satisfaction. In a capitalist economy it's possible to add to the GDP by scamming and annoying people. You couldn't do that in the Soviet Union. The gambling industry adds to the GDP. Wall Street speculators add to it. Such stuff did not exist in the USSR. Compared with the capitalist world, a greater share of Soviet economic activity went towards things that normal people wanted.
    , @Prokop
    I don't know about the USSR, maybe communism worked there, at least if we are to believe Glossy, but in case of my country, former Czechoslovakia, you are right. The notion that official statistics underestimated the standard of living of Czechs and Slovaks is absurd.

    A couple of numbers. The Czechoslovak Crown (Kčs) wasn't freely convertible, the official exchange rate, which had nothing to do with economic reality of course, was 15 Kčs/USD. Economic estimates of the international institutions were based on this bogus number. The exchange rate on the black market in 1980-84 was on average 29.10 Kčs/USD, in 1989 47.40 Kčs/USD. When the communists allowed a foreign exchange auction for state enterprises during perestroika in 1989, the exchange rate reached 121.24 Kčs per 1 USD.

    In 1948 Czechoslovakia and Austria were on the same level economically, Czechoslovakia may even have been a bit richer. After 40 years of communism, the average monthly wage in CS was 3170 Kčs, the average wage in Austria was 13 500 schillings. The exchange rate on the black market was 3.50 Kčs per 1 schilling, so the average austrian wage was 47 250 Czechoslovak crowns. This doesn't take price levels into account, but it's very telling nonetheless.

    There were chronic shortages of most consumer goods. When a delivery of new fridges or washing machines was to arrive, people waited hours in lines in front of the store, sometimes they even slept there in sleeping bags over night because they knew that there would only be a very limited number of these goods available.

    The system collapsed as quickly as it did because most people, including the ruling elite, no longer believed in it. The main source of its legitimacy was a promise that it could deliver better quality of life for the average person than capitalism. It manifestly failed to do so. Most Czechs and Slovaks knew in the 1980s at the latest that the standard of living was much higher in the West. The only thing that could have kept the communists in power was use of force, basically what the Chinese did. The Czechoslovak communists didn't have the balls and/or the blind faith to send in the tanks.

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  • @Erik Sieven
    Russia had a bigger GDP than GDP up to the late 80´s didn´t it? So Russia seems to have somehow recovered from the end of the Soviet Union finally.
    I am not sure whether military strength is a function of economic strength, or whether it is the other way round. I guess the military advancement of Russia in recent years will pay out, and in the long run this will be more important than the current recession.

    Yes, it has recovered in relative terms.

    Military power being largely a function of economic and financial strength would appear to be commonsensical. You need output/money to produce (or buy) weaponry and to pay for soldiers to train on them. Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers is a large book that covers European history from this approach.

    One can imagine specific cases in which military power might beget economic power, especially in the deep past, but today with all the humanitarian restrictions and the access to resources available thanks to globalization, the costs of war tend to greatly outstrip whatever benefits might accrue from the resultant looting.

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  • Another great piece, Anatoli. Keep ‘em comin’.

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  • Russia had a bigger GDP than GDP up to the late 80´s didn´t it? So Russia seems to have somehow recovered from the end of the Soviet Union finally.
    I am not sure whether military strength is a function of economic strength, or whether it is the other way round. I guess the military advancement of Russia in recent years will pay out, and in the long run this will be more important than the current recession.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Yes, it has recovered in relative terms.

    Military power being largely a function of economic and financial strength would appear to be commonsensical. You need output/money to produce (or buy) weaponry and to pay for soldiers to train on them. Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers is a large book that covers European history from this approach.

    One can imagine specific cases in which military power might beget economic power, especially in the deep past, but today with all the humanitarian restrictions and the access to resources available thanks to globalization, the costs of war tend to greatly outstrip whatever benefits might accrue from the resultant looting.
    , @LondonBob
    The FSU's GDP was a monumental work of fiction, when it collapsed the rotten carcass was exposed. An edifice on the verge of collapse.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • That title sure caught you attention? Good. Now for the 1000-words-in-a-picture evidence. Human capital refers to educational attainment, as measured by the results of the PISA and TIMMS standardized tests*. As you can see, there is a very close correlation between human capital and GDP (PPP) per capita. The exceptions all confirm the rule. For...
  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Agreed (though would mention that in previous posts on this I've written loads on the evidence for causation). My argument here, informally, is:

    (1) Economic level depends on human capital level (there is reverse causation too but the former is much stronger).
    (2) Almost all outliers can be explained by one of a few factors, e.g. resource endowment, socialist legacy, being a major tax haven.
    (3) If economic level is below that implied by human capital level, there should be a "potential gap" (as in electricity) between the two that seeks closure; thus, the bigger the gap, the greater the growth that can be expected.

    Establishing (3) formally will need a lot of work, more than an evening definitely. I may do it if I get the idea of writing a paper about it. But informally speaking it tends to hold remarkably consistently. It would explain why in per capita terms China grows so fast (vast potential gap); why Russia and CE Europe in general grows at a reasonable clip (modest potential gap); why its Greece and Italy that are going bankrupt (they're richer than they "deserve"); why Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, etc. are barely making any progress relative to the developed world (because they're already where they're meant to be); and so on.

    Anatoly,

    my major beef with your set of posts is that your human capital variables are basically contemporaneous with GDP levels. Despite this, you make inference of causality flowing from human capital to GDP, without careful consideration of the reverse flow. That might do on the level of correlation-level story, but never on causation.

    In cross-country growth regression, many funny things could happen. Do you know that distance from equator determines your GDP as well? http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Location/

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  • Excellent article.

    Once again, keep up the good work.

    You know your articles remind me the reason why USA is so afraid of China now and is doing and has done viturlly any thing to stop China, because they know what will happen if the average Chinese’s wealth status converge to that of South Korea or Japan.

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  • @Moscow Exile
    Hitler's considerable wealth was founded on the royalties he earned from Mein Kampf, which was first published in 1924.

    I should say there were very few households in the Third Reich without a copy of Mein Kampf: it was given out as an award to Hitlerjugend and students; all party members, of course, possessed a copy of it; and every pair of newlyweds was given a copy. Six million copies of Mein Kampf had already been issued to newlyweds by l942 and by the time of Hitler’s death, eight million copies of Mein Kampf had been sold. Hitler was fond of boasting that Mein Kampf had the largest sales of any book worldwide, apart from the Bible. His royalties were $1m a year.

    The royalties from Mein Kampf were administered by Hitler’s business manager, Max Amann, a director of his publisher, the Franz Eher Verlag in Munich – one of the richest and most influential publishing houses in Nazi Germany.

    Not long before his death in his Berlin bunker in 1945, Hitler wrote a will in which he left most of his possessions and estate to the Nazi Party. The Nazi Party was abolished after the capitulation of the Reich, as was the Franz Eher Verlag, and Hitler’s remaining assets and estate were transferred to the state Bavaria, where Hitler had been officially registered as a resident.

    The Bavarian finance ministry still holds the copyright of Mein Kampf and has banned publication of the book in German-speaking territories. The state of Bavaria has also sought, with limited success, to restrict its publication elsewhere.

    Under German law, however, that copyright expires on the 70th anniversary of the author’s death – 30 April 2015.

    An interesting footnote to this tale of Hitler's royalties from Mein Kampf is what happened in the USA. During WWII, the US government made more than $20,000 from royalties on Mein Kampf, having seized the copyright as part of the Trading with the Enemy Act. (Hitler’s book was one of the first assets gained under this law.) By l979, the Justice Department had collected more than $139,000 in Mein Kampf royalties. Eventually, the monies were paid on a pro-rata basis to claimants, many of them American ex-POWs.

    His immense royalties on Mein Kampf notwithstanding, Hitler lived a frugal existence - in luxury. His Berchtesgaden country residence in the Bavarian Alps was built according to his own plans and was a millionaire's pad by anyone's standards and he was chauffeured around Germany in flash Mercs or in the luxurious custom made Führers train, which for some reason or other was called "Amerika".

    Dear Moscow Exile,

    It is a while since I read the book but though royalties from Mein Kampf were an important part of Hitler’s wealth as I remember the greater part was made accounted for by payments from industrialists and businessmen into the Adolf Hitler Spende. There was also of course considerable tax evasion.

    Hitler’s frugality is a myth. You have touched on some aspects of his lifestyle: his Mercedes cars and the Obersalzburg residency the sheer size and opulence of which few appreciate. He also had a valet and numerous servants dressed in well tailored and flamboyant military or party uniforms, the latter having been designed by none other than the actual Hugo Boss, who designed all the Nazi party’s uniforms. Hitler also rebuilt the Reichchancellery in Berlin, where he lived when he was not at the Obersalsburg or at his military headquarters, in a most magnificent way making it a palace by any standard. He also amassed a massive art collection and had made for himself a luxurious train in which he travelled when he did not travel by air.

    The best visual impressions of how Hitler actually lived are in the various Soviet films made in the first thirty years after the war especially the Fall of Berlin 1949 and Ozerov’s Liberation series 1966 to 1971, which whatever else may be said of them made a particular effort to reproduce the interior scenes with accuracy. These films and Seventeen Moments in Spring 1972 also give better impressions of the interior of the bunker than do western films. These (including Downfall) make it look much more drab and squalid than it really was. Though the ceilings were low the bunker had parquet floors and brightly plastered and whitewashed walls and was kept extremely clean whilst it was furnished with expensive furniture and paintings brought down from the Reichschancellery.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Is that study part of Wages of Destruction? Or is it a paper? I'd be interested to read it.

    I've read in a chapter of a certain book, whose title I can't recall, that the Nazis paid off the key generals and admirals very generously (Doenitz got something like 10x his official salary in 44-45) in return for their loyalty, probably to ward off a military coup. And Goering was of course epically corrupt. I didn't knew Hitler was personally corrupt however, certainly not to the extent of owning bank accounts and being Europe's richest person.

    Hitler’s considerable wealth was founded on the royalties he earned from Mein Kampf, which was first published in 1924.

    I should say there were very few households in the Third Reich without a copy of Mein Kampf: it was given out as an award to Hitlerjugend and students; all party members, of course, possessed a copy of it; and every pair of newlyweds was given a copy. Six million copies of Mein Kampf had already been issued to newlyweds by l942 and by the time of Hitler’s death, eight million copies of Mein Kampf had been sold. Hitler was fond of boasting that Mein Kampf had the largest sales of any book worldwide, apart from the Bible. His royalties were $1m a year.

    The royalties from Mein Kampf were administered by Hitler’s business manager, Max Amann, a director of his publisher, the Franz Eher Verlag in Munich – one of the richest and most influential publishing houses in Nazi Germany.

    Not long before his death in his Berlin bunker in 1945, Hitler wrote a will in which he left most of his possessions and estate to the Nazi Party. The Nazi Party was abolished after the capitulation of the Reich, as was the Franz Eher Verlag, and Hitler’s remaining assets and estate were transferred to the state Bavaria, where Hitler had been officially registered as a resident.

    The Bavarian finance ministry still holds the copyright of Mein Kampf and has banned publication of the book in German-speaking territories. The state of Bavaria has also sought, with limited success, to restrict its publication elsewhere.

    Under German law, however, that copyright expires on the 70th anniversary of the author’s death – 30 April 2015.

    An interesting footnote to this tale of Hitler’s royalties from Mein Kampf is what happened in the USA. During WWII, the US government made more than $20,000 from royalties on Mein Kampf, having seized the copyright as part of the Trading with the Enemy Act. (Hitler’s book was one of the first assets gained under this law.) By l979, the Justice Department had collected more than $139,000 in Mein Kampf royalties. Eventually, the monies were paid on a pro-rata basis to claimants, many of them American ex-POWs.

    His immense royalties on Mein Kampf notwithstanding, Hitler lived a frugal existence – in luxury. His Berchtesgaden country residence in the Bavarian Alps was built according to his own plans and was a millionaire’s pad by anyone’s standards and he was chauffeured around Germany in flash Mercs or in the luxurious custom made Führers train, which for some reason or other was called “Amerika”.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Moscow Exile,

    It is a while since I read the book but though royalties from Mein Kampf were an important part of Hitler's wealth as I remember the greater part was made accounted for by payments from industrialists and businessmen into the Adolf Hitler Spende. There was also of course considerable tax evasion.

    Hitler's frugality is a myth. You have touched on some aspects of his lifestyle: his Mercedes cars and the Obersalzburg residency the sheer size and opulence of which few appreciate. He also had a valet and numerous servants dressed in well tailored and flamboyant military or party uniforms, the latter having been designed by none other than the actual Hugo Boss, who designed all the Nazi party's uniforms. Hitler also rebuilt the Reichchancellery in Berlin, where he lived when he was not at the Obersalsburg or at his military headquarters, in a most magnificent way making it a palace by any standard. He also amassed a massive art collection and had made for himself a luxurious train in which he travelled when he did not travel by air.

    The best visual impressions of how Hitler actually lived are in the various Soviet films made in the first thirty years after the war especially the Fall of Berlin 1949 and Ozerov's Liberation series 1966 to 1971, which whatever else may be said of them made a particular effort to reproduce the interior scenes with accuracy. These films and Seventeen Moments in Spring 1972 also give better impressions of the interior of the bunker than do western films. These (including Downfall) make it look much more drab and squalid than it really was. Though the ceilings were low the bunker had parquet floors and brightly plastered and whitewashed walls and was kept extremely clean whilst it was furnished with expensive furniture and paintings brought down from the Reichschancellery.

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  • @yalensis
    Ha! You are right about literary analysis being B.S. One lit class I took, we read Leskov’s “Леди Макбет Мценского уезда”, and prof made us write 4 separate term papers analyzing the work (each about 10 pages long, so was big project). First paper had to analyze work from POV of structural criticism (structure of sentences and paragraphs, introduction of themes); second paper was to have feminine slant (very obvious, for this work); third paper was to have Marxist slant (how family patriarch oppressed his serfs, etc.); and fourth paper was to have Freudian slant (repressed sexual urges).
    After this pointless exericse, my take-away was that good literature should be just read and not analyzed.
    On the other hand, I believe this class gave me a good radar for detecting bias and propaganda when I am reading something, because I can see how the propagandist is using techniques like foreshadowing, etc.

    I disagree with the dumping on “literary analysis.” There are good and bad ways to do it. The ideological way is usually the worst. Better ways can be learned by reading writers who were great critics themselves, like Mencken or Orwell.

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  • @Jen
    I was lucky to have had two excellent geography teachers at high school and I was interested in the subject so that's how I remember so much of what I'd been taught.

    I thought Chomsky had studied Hebrew when he was young; his family was originally from Ukraine or some other part of eastern Europe. The home language may have been either Yiddish or Hebrew but I'm not sure.

    It's criminal that schools don't teach the English language's origins and history. People end up with wrong ideas about English: they say rubbish like, "English isn't a real language because it has no grammar / it's full of Latin and French words / it changes all the time". That suggests people are not taught that languages are dynamic and evolving.

    “I thought Chomsky had studied Hebrew when he was young”

    That is correct. In fact, his original ambition was to be a Hebrew teacher.

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  • @below_freezing
    My specialty is in chemical and condensed matter physics. Physics is absolutely necessary for learning about chemical and biological systems and in everyday life. Many people think physics is about string theory and cosmology. In reality the most popular branches of physics is useful things like optics, electronics and materials. 99% of physicists never use relativity, quantum electrodynamics or astrophysicists in their jobs or even learn about them at school. The "hardest" classes I've learned were things like Solid State Physics, Statistical Thermodynamics and Machine Shop.

    If you do not know that going twice the speed in a car means 4 times the distance to stop, that may be bad when you slam into a tree. In science, without physics, chemistry is just a list of empirical rules with no justification and no predictive power; no predictive power means no ability to design devices to do useful work. Same with biology. Physics is the central science. Math is useful for describing physics and economics. It is a tool. Physics, finance, etc. are the things built with this tool. You do not need to become an expert in theoretical math to use this tool!

    Everything in this world can be described by the 4 areas of physics and its associated mathematics: Electromagnetism, Mechanics, Quantum Physics, and Statistical Thermodynamics. Not only can they be described, once you know their behavior, you can manipulate them and design devices from them, such as OLED displays.

    Let's take a cell for example. The molecules interact with each other through only one force and one force alone: electromagnetism. To a great approximation, it's the exact same electromagnetism that we learn about with magnets and wires. That's why NMR imaging works; electrons can be approximated as tiny current loops that can flip direction in response to an external field. Salt flows from the inside of the cell outwards, but rarely back in; this is due to statistical thermodynamics and the tendency of entropy to increase (or gradients to decrease). The molecules themselves react governed by quantum mechanics. That is why DNA is damaged when you get struck by UV light; the light promotes electrons to a higher energy level (a quantum idea) which causes molecular instability and bond breaking. Broken bonds are extremely reactive, and while it may reform the old bond its more likely to randomly form bonds to other molecules or even with itself at odd places (statistical thermo again!). And all through this, the cell moves through the bloodstream governed by classical Newton's laws. What happens in a cell at any time can be described quantitatively with all these laws in principle; because of how complicated a cell is, that is very hard, but the things I listed like salt diffusion, light induced DNA damage, etc. can all be calculated. Once you know this, you can manipulate the cell, and eventually, design something with it or using it.

    That's how technology advances. That's why we have NMR, CAT, ultrasound and other medical devices. This is just one field of biology and medicine that people don't think of as "physics". There are even more applications in "traditional" fields like optics, sensors and electronics.

    Correction:

    Electrons behave as tiny current loops due to spin. Specifically, they have spin 1/2. Nuclei also have spin because protons and neutrons also have spin 1/2, with the specific spin depending on proton/neutron number, and it is the up-down spin transition due to RF stimulation in 1H in a space varying magnetic field that give rise to NMR imaging. Hydrogen is used as the target atom because it is the easiest to manipulate due to only having 1 proton and most abundan element in the human body.

    It is possible to measure electronic spin with electron paramagnetic resonance, but that is less useful because most molecules have all paired electrons which give rise to spin 0 overall, and no possible transitions. The exception is with stable radicals, which have unpaired electrons, and are EPR active. Stable organic radicals can be used as “spin probes” and used for specific imaging of targeted tissues with EPR, but it can never replace NMR for whole body scans.

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  • @Jen
    There's a case for teaching philosophy to primary school age children: studies on children as young as age 6 who learn philosophical concepts show their thinking skills, decision-making skills, creativity and ability to solve mathematical and other problems improve. Also if taught correctly, philosophy encourages children to be both independent, ethical thinkers and co-operative members of a team. These skills are ones people can take with them into high school, university and beyond.

    I agree also that children should learn about nutrition and health. These could be incorporated into basic biology lessons and involve practical projects like growing fruit and vegetables for the school canteen or for school cooking lessons. Along with nutrition and health, children should also learn basic hygiene, cleaning up after themselves (in some countries, students clean classrooms after lessons have finished for the day), basic first aid and how to recognise basic signs of illness in themselves and others (such as coughing, sneezing, headaches, fever) and to seek medical assistance.

    The Food Pyramid should be scrapped: I personally think it's dangerous especially for people who have gluten tolerance issues. There's alternative health information on Google now about how wheat and other cereal grains can actually be harmful to physical health and can even have harmful psychological effects.

    At high school level, basic biology concepts should still be taught: students definitely should know about the basic functions of cells, the names of body organs and their functions, and the body's networks (blood circulation, lymph circulation, nervous system) and photosynthesis in plants. Basic chemistry concepts should be taught too: what are salts, what are metals, what's in the Table of Elements, what is an acid and what is an alkali, what happens when you mix certain substances together - at least enough chemistry to make people realise they shouldn't cook crystal meth in closed environments or in the same places they cook food.

    Not sure about what is necessary everyday physics to learn as, like AK, I zoned out whenever physics took over the science lesson.

    My specialty is in chemical and condensed matter physics. Physics is absolutely necessary for learning about chemical and biological systems and in everyday life. Many people think physics is about string theory and cosmology. In reality the most popular branches of physics is useful things like optics, electronics and materials. 99% of physicists never use relativity, quantum electrodynamics or astrophysicists in their jobs or even learn about them at school. The “hardest” classes I’ve learned were things like Solid State Physics, Statistical Thermodynamics and Machine Shop.

    If you do not know that going twice the speed in a car means 4 times the distance to stop, that may be bad when you slam into a tree. In science, without physics, chemistry is just a list of empirical rules with no justification and no predictive power; no predictive power means no ability to design devices to do useful work. Same with biology. Physics is the central science. Math is useful for describing physics and economics. It is a tool. Physics, finance, etc. are the things built with this tool. You do not need to become an expert in theoretical math to use this tool!

    Everything in this world can be described by the 4 areas of physics and its associated mathematics: Electromagnetism, Mechanics, Quantum Physics, and Statistical Thermodynamics. Not only can they be described, once you know their behavior, you can manipulate them and design devices from them, such as OLED displays.

    Let’s take a cell for example. The molecules interact with each other through only one force and one force alone: electromagnetism. To a great approximation, it’s the exact same electromagnetism that we learn about with magnets and wires. That’s why NMR imaging works; electrons can be approximated as tiny current loops that can flip direction in response to an external field. Salt flows from the inside of the cell outwards, but rarely back in; this is due to statistical thermodynamics and the tendency of entropy to increase (or gradients to decrease). The molecules themselves react governed by quantum mechanics. That is why DNA is damaged when you get struck by UV light; the light promotes electrons to a higher energy level (a quantum idea) which causes molecular instability and bond breaking. Broken bonds are extremely reactive, and while it may reform the old bond its more likely to randomly form bonds to other molecules or even with itself at odd places (statistical thermo again!). And all through this, the cell moves through the bloodstream governed by classical Newton’s laws. What happens in a cell at any time can be described quantitatively with all these laws in principle; because of how complicated a cell is, that is very hard, but the things I listed like salt diffusion, light induced DNA damage, etc. can all be calculated. Once you know this, you can manipulate the cell, and eventually, design something with it or using it.

    That’s how technology advances. That’s why we have NMR, CAT, ultrasound and other medical devices. This is just one field of biology and medicine that people don’t think of as “physics”. There are even more applications in “traditional” fields like optics, sensors and electronics.

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    • Replies: @below_freezing
    Correction:

    Electrons behave as tiny current loops due to spin. Specifically, they have spin 1/2. Nuclei also have spin because protons and neutrons also have spin 1/2, with the specific spin depending on proton/neutron number, and it is the up-down spin transition due to RF stimulation in 1H in a space varying magnetic field that give rise to NMR imaging. Hydrogen is used as the target atom because it is the easiest to manipulate due to only having 1 proton and most abundan element in the human body.

    It is possible to measure electronic spin with electron paramagnetic resonance, but that is less useful because most molecules have all paired electrons which give rise to spin 0 overall, and no possible transitions. The exception is with stable radicals, which have unpaired electrons, and are EPR active. Stable organic radicals can be used as "spin probes" and used for specific imaging of targeted tissues with EPR, but it can never replace NMR for whole body scans.

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  • @Jen
    I was lucky to have had two excellent geography teachers at high school and I was interested in the subject so that's how I remember so much of what I'd been taught.

    I thought Chomsky had studied Hebrew when he was young; his family was originally from Ukraine or some other part of eastern Europe. The home language may have been either Yiddish or Hebrew but I'm not sure.

    It's criminal that schools don't teach the English language's origins and history. People end up with wrong ideas about English: they say rubbish like, "English isn't a real language because it has no grammar / it's full of Latin and French words / it changes all the time". That suggests people are not taught that languages are dynamic and evolving.

    Jen: One of the best books I have read on the history of the English language is John McWhorter’s “Our Magnificent bastard tongue: The untold history of English.” I highly recommend.
    McWhorter debunks a lot of myths about English, and I also like the fact that he debunks the Sapir-Whorf hypothsis (about language channelling culture). My own ideological bias makes me lean towards linguistics theories that stress the arbitrariness (and randomness) of phonology and morphology as components of a semiotic system. (On the other hand, I am not a Chomskyite, and I concede that human language is not exactly the same as pure code.)

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  • @yalensis
    Thanks, Jen, you must have gone to a much better school than I did! Okay, you have convinced me that studying geography is important, if done correctly. (In my school, it consisted of memorizing the names of nations and their capitals, something I could now easily lookup on Google maps.)
    Agree that history is important, but you cannot trust schools to teach it correctly if they use standard textbooks (which are ideologically loaded and mostly propaganda). If I were reforming education, I would dispense with history textbooks altogether and just have the kids read monographs on specific topics of interest.
    Agree with you that children should be exposed to the science of linguistics. It is not enough to learn a foreign language, they should also learn at least the basics of structural linguistic theory. (In fact, it is possible for a person to be a structural linguist without even knowing a foreign language -- Noam Chomsky is an example -- although that is not recommended.)
    As someone who studied linguistics myself at the graduate level, I am continually amazed how few people understand this science. Everybody speaks language, but nobody, unless they studied it academically, seems to have a clue how it actually works. It’s like that character in Moliere who was surprised when he found that that he had been speaking prose.
    For example, I recently had a conversation with my sister, who is a very intelligent woman, somehow the topic of linguistics came up, and she said something like, “Oh, don’t you lingusists study why people in every language use the same word for ‘mama’?”
    “Er, no, that’s not exactly it, Dear Sister. In fact, language-origin myths are frowned upon by serious linguists, as are studies in Onomatopeia… Real linguistics is a branch of semiotics… blah blah blah…”
    She didn’t get it. Well, I don’t understand other peoples professions either, if I never studied them. For example, I do not have a clue what sociologists do!

    I was lucky to have had two excellent geography teachers at high school and I was interested in the subject so that’s how I remember so much of what I’d been taught.

    I thought Chomsky had studied Hebrew when he was young; his family was originally from Ukraine or some other part of eastern Europe. The home language may have been either Yiddish or Hebrew but I’m not sure.

    It’s criminal that schools don’t teach the English language’s origins and history. People end up with wrong ideas about English: they say rubbish like, “English isn’t a real language because it has no grammar / it’s full of Latin and French words / it changes all the time”. That suggests people are not taught that languages are dynamic and evolving.

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    • Replies: @yalensis
    Jen: One of the best books I have read on the history of the English language is John McWhorter's "Our Magnificent bastard tongue: The untold history of English." I highly recommend.
    McWhorter debunks a lot of myths about English, and I also like the fact that he debunks the Sapir-Whorf hypothsis (about language channelling culture). My own ideological bias makes me lean towards linguistics theories that stress the arbitrariness (and randomness) of phonology and morphology as components of a semiotic system. (On the other hand, I am not a Chomskyite, and I concede that human language is not exactly the same as pure code.)
    , @Scowspi
    "I thought Chomsky had studied Hebrew when he was young"

    That is correct. In fact, his original ambition was to be a Hebrew teacher.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Is that study part of Wages of Destruction? Or is it a paper? I'd be interested to read it.

    I've read in a chapter of a certain book, whose title I can't recall, that the Nazis paid off the key generals and admirals very generously (Doenitz got something like 10x his official salary in 44-45) in return for their loyalty, probably to ward off a military coup. And Goering was of course epically corrupt. I didn't knew Hitler was personally corrupt however, certainly not to the extent of owning bank accounts and being Europe's richest person.

    No it is not part of Wages of Destruction. The study about Hitler’s personal wealth is Hitler’s Fortune by Chris Whetton.

    You are absolutely right that the Nazis made substantial payments to particular German generals. As I remember the subject is not discussed in Whetton’s study.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    I think there is no doubt that visible or small time corruption has markedly declined or even disappeared under Saakashvili for the reasons we have discussed. Nor is this an achievement to be underestimated. The point about reducing corruption by clearing away petty regulations is a good one and one that Russia should emulate.

    On the subject of visible as opposed to invisible corruption, no state in modern Europe was as corrupt as Nazi Germany. As a recent study has established Hitler at the time of his death was far and away the richest man in Europe (and yes he did have a Swiss bank account). Goering and Himmler were every bit as corrupt as he. In fact the corruption and looting that took place under the Nazi regime was on such a scale that bits and bobs of Nazi loot still turn up in odd places (some paintings from Hitler's private collection have just been found in a Czech monastery). Moreover this corruption began the moment the Nazis took power with many of the biggest payments to individual Nazi leaders being made in the 1930s by German companies and industrialists. Hitler even had a private foundation, the Adolf Hitler Spende, whose job it was to receive and launder this money.

    The point is that none of this was visible to the German people. Open bribery and corruption were unknown and anybody who travelled to Germany in the 1930s would have seen an outwardly extremely honest and well ordered country.

    Is that study part of Wages of Destruction? Or is it a paper? I’d be interested to read it.

    I’ve read in a chapter of a certain book, whose title I can’t recall, that the Nazis paid off the key generals and admirals very generously (Doenitz got something like 10x his official salary in 44-45) in return for their loyalty, probably to ward off a military coup. And Goering was of course epically corrupt. I didn’t knew Hitler was personally corrupt however, certainly not to the extent of owning bank accounts and being Europe’s richest person.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    No it is not part of Wages of Destruction. The study about Hitler's personal wealth is Hitler's Fortune by Chris Whetton.

    You are absolutely right that the Nazis made substantial payments to particular German generals. As I remember the subject is not discussed in Whetton's study.

    , @Moscow Exile
    Hitler's considerable wealth was founded on the royalties he earned from Mein Kampf, which was first published in 1924.

    I should say there were very few households in the Third Reich without a copy of Mein Kampf: it was given out as an award to Hitlerjugend and students; all party members, of course, possessed a copy of it; and every pair of newlyweds was given a copy. Six million copies of Mein Kampf had already been issued to newlyweds by l942 and by the time of Hitler’s death, eight million copies of Mein Kampf had been sold. Hitler was fond of boasting that Mein Kampf had the largest sales of any book worldwide, apart from the Bible. His royalties were $1m a year.

    The royalties from Mein Kampf were administered by Hitler’s business manager, Max Amann, a director of his publisher, the Franz Eher Verlag in Munich – one of the richest and most influential publishing houses in Nazi Germany.

    Not long before his death in his Berlin bunker in 1945, Hitler wrote a will in which he left most of his possessions and estate to the Nazi Party. The Nazi Party was abolished after the capitulation of the Reich, as was the Franz Eher Verlag, and Hitler’s remaining assets and estate were transferred to the state Bavaria, where Hitler had been officially registered as a resident.

    The Bavarian finance ministry still holds the copyright of Mein Kampf and has banned publication of the book in German-speaking territories. The state of Bavaria has also sought, with limited success, to restrict its publication elsewhere.

    Under German law, however, that copyright expires on the 70th anniversary of the author’s death – 30 April 2015.

    An interesting footnote to this tale of Hitler's royalties from Mein Kampf is what happened in the USA. During WWII, the US government made more than $20,000 from royalties on Mein Kampf, having seized the copyright as part of the Trading with the Enemy Act. (Hitler’s book was one of the first assets gained under this law.) By l979, the Justice Department had collected more than $139,000 in Mein Kampf royalties. Eventually, the monies were paid on a pro-rata basis to claimants, many of them American ex-POWs.

    His immense royalties on Mein Kampf notwithstanding, Hitler lived a frugal existence - in luxury. His Berchtesgaden country residence in the Bavarian Alps was built according to his own plans and was a millionaire's pad by anyone's standards and he was chauffeured around Germany in flash Mercs or in the luxurious custom made Führers train, which for some reason or other was called "Amerika".

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    I'm actually not so sure of the utility of the sciences. The relevant, ground-breaking stuff needs a ton of theory (and math skillz). Otherwise it ends up about being boiling water and measuring its temperature as it cools, the kind of shit I remember having to do at school. (Well, I usually lazed about during class and made up the results by looking them up on the Internet; why bother doing these experiments when they've been done millions of times before?).

    If I had to design a curriculum, I would...

    * Put the main focus on math, for its rigor and endless practical applications, and computer science.
    * De-emphasize the natural sciences; in fact, in the modern world, the old physics-chemistry-biology division is becoming ever less relevant. Abolish it.
    * Emphasize the importance of good diet in PE. Diet is about 70% of physical fitness, but its almost ignored at school (and when it isn't more often than not resolves around the Food Pyramid, one of the stupidest, most harmful pieces of advice in the world).
    * The second focus on languages. English, of course, but also teaching of Chinese has to be massively expanded.
    * Some knowledge of history, geography, economics, political science, religion and ethics, etc. is useful, but should be taught very carefully, using sources from all over the ideological spectrum.
    * Literature is boring to many people and "critical analysis" is the biggest pile of BS ever. Encouraging the reading of classics should be encouraged but students should never be forced to write about them in the context of fourth generation feminism or whatever.

    There’s a case for teaching philosophy to primary school age children: studies on children as young as age 6 who learn philosophical concepts show their thinking skills, decision-making skills, creativity and ability to solve mathematical and other problems improve. Also if taught correctly, philosophy encourages children to be both independent, ethical thinkers and co-operative members of a team. These skills are ones people can take with them into high school, university and beyond.

    I agree also that children should learn about nutrition and health. These could be incorporated into basic biology lessons and involve practical projects like growing fruit and vegetables for the school canteen or for school cooking lessons. Along with nutrition and health, children should also learn basic hygiene, cleaning up after themselves (in some countries, students clean classrooms after lessons have finished for the day), basic first aid and how to recognise basic signs of illness in themselves and others (such as coughing, sneezing, headaches, fever) and to seek medical assistance.

    The Food Pyramid should be scrapped: I personally think it’s dangerous especially for people who have gluten tolerance issues. There’s alternative health information on Google now about how wheat and other cereal grains can actually be harmful to physical health and can even have harmful psychological effects.

    At high school level, basic biology concepts should still be taught: students definitely should know about the basic functions of cells, the names of body organs and their functions, and the body’s networks (blood circulation, lymph circulation, nervous system) and photosynthesis in plants. Basic chemistry concepts should be taught too: what are salts, what are metals, what’s in the Table of Elements, what is an acid and what is an alkali, what happens when you mix certain substances together – at least enough chemistry to make people realise they shouldn’t cook crystal meth in closed environments or in the same places they cook food.

    Not sure about what is necessary everyday physics to learn as, like AK, I zoned out whenever physics took over the science lesson.

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    • Replies: @below_freezing
    My specialty is in chemical and condensed matter physics. Physics is absolutely necessary for learning about chemical and biological systems and in everyday life. Many people think physics is about string theory and cosmology. In reality the most popular branches of physics is useful things like optics, electronics and materials. 99% of physicists never use relativity, quantum electrodynamics or astrophysicists in their jobs or even learn about them at school. The "hardest" classes I've learned were things like Solid State Physics, Statistical Thermodynamics and Machine Shop.

    If you do not know that going twice the speed in a car means 4 times the distance to stop, that may be bad when you slam into a tree. In science, without physics, chemistry is just a list of empirical rules with no justification and no predictive power; no predictive power means no ability to design devices to do useful work. Same with biology. Physics is the central science. Math is useful for describing physics and economics. It is a tool. Physics, finance, etc. are the things built with this tool. You do not need to become an expert in theoretical math to use this tool!

    Everything in this world can be described by the 4 areas of physics and its associated mathematics: Electromagnetism, Mechanics, Quantum Physics, and Statistical Thermodynamics. Not only can they be described, once you know their behavior, you can manipulate them and design devices from them, such as OLED displays.

    Let's take a cell for example. The molecules interact with each other through only one force and one force alone: electromagnetism. To a great approximation, it's the exact same electromagnetism that we learn about with magnets and wires. That's why NMR imaging works; electrons can be approximated as tiny current loops that can flip direction in response to an external field. Salt flows from the inside of the cell outwards, but rarely back in; this is due to statistical thermodynamics and the tendency of entropy to increase (or gradients to decrease). The molecules themselves react governed by quantum mechanics. That is why DNA is damaged when you get struck by UV light; the light promotes electrons to a higher energy level (a quantum idea) which causes molecular instability and bond breaking. Broken bonds are extremely reactive, and while it may reform the old bond its more likely to randomly form bonds to other molecules or even with itself at odd places (statistical thermo again!). And all through this, the cell moves through the bloodstream governed by classical Newton's laws. What happens in a cell at any time can be described quantitatively with all these laws in principle; because of how complicated a cell is, that is very hard, but the things I listed like salt diffusion, light induced DNA damage, etc. can all be calculated. Once you know this, you can manipulate the cell, and eventually, design something with it or using it.

    That's how technology advances. That's why we have NMR, CAT, ultrasound and other medical devices. This is just one field of biology and medicine that people don't think of as "physics". There are even more applications in "traditional" fields like optics, sensors and electronics.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    China in the 1920's-1949 wasn't exactly capitalist, it was mostly subsistence / traditional with warlords skimming off top. To the extent that capitalism existed it was in a few coastal enclaves that the central government had weak control over.

    That said, I should note that Taiwan's and South Korea's circumstances in 1949 were not significantly better, to the best of my knowledge, but nonetheless they are much richer today than China, by a factor of 3x-4x in GDP (PPP) per capita. In other words that's a historical lag time of two decades.

    I make no dispute that China in 1949 was extremely backward. And I agree that the pace of social transformation as measured by basic health and education indicators was nothing less than miraculous. That doesn't change the fact that economic development progressed at a miserly pace with frequent setbacks and outright insanities like the GLP and the CR. 6% GDP growth isn't bad until one subtracts 2-3% to adjust for population growth; furthermore, it was concentrated in urban areas, the rural areas remained almost stagnant. While this was compensated for by social progress, the weakness was revealed after the reforms and the disbandment of the rural collectives, which caused the common funds for rural healthcare, etc. to dry up. As an example LE growth has slowed to a crawl since 1980, and remained outright stagnant in poor rural provinces. E.g. Jiangxi LE in 1990: 67.85; in 2005: 68.95.

    I heard of that quote about Mao, I agree with its essence if not the details. I'm not Chinese so my opinions don't have much weight, but I'd say 50/50 at best. Maybe 40/60.

    Taiwan and South Korea were very special cases.

    Here’s why Taiwan was a very special case: Chiang Kai Shek took 400 tons of gold from mainland China and 2 million elites, and took them to Taiwan. 2 million elites sounds like nothing in terms of China’s overall population but it amounted to 15% of Taiwan’s population at the time being the educated elite. Note that China’s entire gold reserves TODAY are 1000 tons, starting from 0 in 1949.

    If you take 40% of an entire nation’s reserves and most of its educated elite, to a small island, and then get huge amounts of US aid, not succeeding would be the result of complete incompetence. Taiwan also enjoyed US military protection and a nuclear umbrella for 30 years. Because it was small, and had existing infrastructure from Imperial Japan, there was little need for large scale construction. Therefore, there was much surplus capital that could immediately be put to work on investment.

    Mainland China on the other hand had to spend significant resources on infrastructure engineering, power, basic social programs, and the military. We also had incredible population growth that Taiwan did not have. Resources had to be diverted from capital investment into state directed investment in food for the population, heavy industry, military and infrastructure, which set the stage for post 1979 reforms, but also kept per capita income low. It should be noted that despite this, China’s per capita GDP was comparable to Taiwan’s until the early 70′s, meaning that the Cultural Revolution was the main problem, not anything else.

    South Korea was similar, just replace Chinese elites with Japanese elites (President Park Chung Hee was a Japanese general) and US money. They also enjoyed protection and a nuclear umbrella.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    You're speaking of the CPI. It has improved markedly since 2005 when it was at 2.3, nonetheless I should point out it still remains low at 4.1. But we know that the CPI isn't worth much...

    I've yet to head a valid explanation of the Global Corruption Barometer's last poll, which found that only 3% of Georgians or their relatives admitted to paying a bribe in the past year. This was far lower than in the rest of the region, AND it was far lower than in previous years in Georgia itself. Did Saakashvili falsify that? Do Georgians have a "special understanding" of corruption that differs from that of Russians or from 2005 Georgians for that matter?

    And it makes intuitive sense, with higher police salaries, plus the removal of so many bureaucratic regulations, it's not surprising that small-scale bribery has collapsed.

    It seems a bit implausible, so for now I'm going to accept that in terms of petty corruption at least things have become a lot better. (Even if they became a lot worse in many other areas, see my comment above...)

    I think there is no doubt that visible or small time corruption has markedly declined or even disappeared under Saakashvili for the reasons we have discussed. Nor is this an achievement to be underestimated. The point about reducing corruption by clearing away petty regulations is a good one and one that Russia should emulate.

    On the subject of visible as opposed to invisible corruption, no state in modern Europe was as corrupt as Nazi Germany. As a recent study has established Hitler at the time of his death was far and away the richest man in Europe (and yes he did have a Swiss bank account). Goering and Himmler were every bit as corrupt as he. In fact the corruption and looting that took place under the Nazi regime was on such a scale that bits and bobs of Nazi loot still turn up in odd places (some paintings from Hitler’s private collection have just been found in a Czech monastery). Moreover this corruption began the moment the Nazis took power with many of the biggest payments to individual Nazi leaders being made in the 1930s by German companies and industrialists. Hitler even had a private foundation, the Adolf Hitler Spende, whose job it was to receive and launder this money.

    The point is that none of this was visible to the German people. Open bribery and corruption were unknown and anybody who travelled to Germany in the 1930s would have seen an outwardly extremely honest and well ordered country.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Is that study part of Wages of Destruction? Or is it a paper? I'd be interested to read it.

    I've read in a chapter of a certain book, whose title I can't recall, that the Nazis paid off the key generals and admirals very generously (Doenitz got something like 10x his official salary in 44-45) in return for their loyalty, probably to ward off a military coup. And Goering was of course epically corrupt. I didn't knew Hitler was personally corrupt however, certainly not to the extent of owning bank accounts and being Europe's richest person.

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  • @yalensis
    @alexander, I think you are correct that Gruzia's economic "success" is a direct function of American donations. In fact, it was the case for years (don't know if still is) that Saakashvili and his entire government salaries were paid by grants from Soros. In addition to private grants, American government also pumps millions into that oversized military base. Hey, I could be a great ruler too, if you gave me a little fiefdom to manage and then showered me with cash!

    Very true except Yalensis that I cannot imagine you parading around as a despot a la Saakashvili under any circumstances!

    One point I would make is that on the basis of such of his speeches as I have now read I do not think that Saakashvili is the sort of person who will fade quietly into the night if things begin to go wrong in a serious way. Though he is certainly a clever man he gives me the impression of someone who is no longer in control of his own propaganda and rhetoric. He appears to be well on the way to developing a messiah complex and I can easily see this thing ending very badly.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Another of Saakashvili's achievements is a big decline in the tertiary enrollment rate, which is especially bad given that with their atrocious PISA scores Georgian school-leavers really are great need of further study.

    From 36% in 1991, the tertiary enrollment rate remained steady until the late 1990's, when it began to grow, reaching 43% by 2003 and peaking at 47% in 2005. Then it plummeted to 25% by 2009, edging up to 28% in 2010.

    This seems to have been in substantial part due to an increase in the cost of annual university tuition from 500-600 lari in 2003 to 3000-4000 lari by 2009. Government grants have also plummeted; while they wholly financed 9,700 students in 2003, they were subsidizing only half the tuition costs of 1,000 students by 2009. University access has dropped by more than 80% in some regions.

    But I guess it's all a matter of priorities. The army and police are now well fed, and the prison population has increased from 182/100k in 2004, to 539/100k in 2011 (so that now it has the dubious distinction of displacing Russia as the European country with the most prisoners per capita).

    This is of course consistent with the extreme free market economic policies Saakashvili has adopted. Undoubtedly these accord with his own ideological prejudices but they are of course also the kind of policies that are agreeable to western aid donors and investors. Anyway these education policies are yet another reason to question whether Saakashvili’s model is sustainable.

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  • @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Mark,

    Thank you for this very interesting article on Georgia.

    The more I have read about Georgia the more I have come to the view that the main driver of economic growth since the Rose Revolution has been what by Georgian standards are very large capital transfers from the west. Some of this may be genuine investment but a lot of it looks to me suspiciously like a pay off for the pro western policies that Saakashvili has been following. These include not just Saakashvili's well know military and foreign policy postures such as his despatch of Georgian troops to places like Iraq and Afghanistan but first and foremost his willingness to make Georgia a transit hub for the various western oil and gas pipeline schemes most of which have however failed to come off and which look increasingly unlikely to do so.

    These capital transfers have enabled Saakashvili to cover Georgia's trade deficit, to pay and increase salaries and to pay other bills and to indulge in his various whims (eg his project to build a new headquarters for his parliament in Kutaisi). Saakashvili's ability to pay large salaries to his army, police and civil service is surely the single most important reason for the disappearance of petty corruption during his time in power and for his success in securing their loyalty. However these large capital transfers disguise what seems to be a continuing hollowing out of what remains of Georgia's industrial base built up during the Soviet period and the descent of Georgian agriculture to what looks alarmingly like subsistence conditions. As is also the case where economic growth depends heavily on heavy capital transfers from abroad, there has also been a sharp increase in inequality as the persons who have the most direct access to these foreign funds benefit disproportionately from them (by the way the same is true of Israel - another country that is the beneficiary of massive capital transfers and where inequality has increased to extraordinary levels).

    This is not to say that there has not been economic growth. Growth driven by capital transfers is still growth. Rather the question is to what extent is it sustainable? I have to say that I get the impression (supported by the two articles each of us has found) that maintaining the level of capital transfers is becoming increasingly difficult especially given that it seems that from 2012 some of the money that has been provided in the form of loans starts to fall due for repayment. I suspect that Obama's recent meeting with Saakashvili and the frankly bizarre announcement that Georgia is going to form a free trade zone with the US (something which no other European country has done) was really about agreeing for more of the capital transfers to cover the forthcoming shortfall.

    What makes any assessment of what is going on in Georgia difficult is that what Saakashvili and his government say about the situation in Georgia's economy in my opinion simply cannot be relied on. Pretty much everything Saakashvili said during the 2008 war turned out to be untrue, given which it has always surprised me that there are still so many credulous people in the west who continue to give him the benefit of the doubt for what happened before the war. Given what the two articles you and I have found say I have slowly come to the view that Saakashvili is no more to be trusted on domestic questions than he is on foreign policy ones. I am not saying that everything is smoke and mirrors but I suspect that a lot is and that the day will one day come when this will become clear.

    @alexander, I think you are correct that Gruzia’s economic “success” is a direct function of American donations. In fact, it was the case for years (don’t know if still is) that Saakashvili and his entire government salaries were paid by grants from Soros. In addition to private grants, American government also pumps millions into that oversized military base. Hey, I could be a great ruler too, if you gave me a little fiefdom to manage and then showered me with cash!

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Very true except Yalensis that I cannot imagine you parading around as a despot a la Saakashvili under any circumstances!

    One point I would make is that on the basis of such of his speeches as I have now read I do not think that Saakashvili is the sort of person who will fade quietly into the night if things begin to go wrong in a serious way. Though he is certainly a clever man he gives me the impression of someone who is no longer in control of his own propaganda and rhetoric. He appears to be well on the way to developing a messiah complex and I can easily see this thing ending very badly.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    I'm actually not so sure of the utility of the sciences. The relevant, ground-breaking stuff needs a ton of theory (and math skillz). Otherwise it ends up about being boiling water and measuring its temperature as it cools, the kind of shit I remember having to do at school. (Well, I usually lazed about during class and made up the results by looking them up on the Internet; why bother doing these experiments when they've been done millions of times before?).

    If I had to design a curriculum, I would...

    * Put the main focus on math, for its rigor and endless practical applications, and computer science.
    * De-emphasize the natural sciences; in fact, in the modern world, the old physics-chemistry-biology division is becoming ever less relevant. Abolish it.
    * Emphasize the importance of good diet in PE. Diet is about 70% of physical fitness, but its almost ignored at school (and when it isn't more often than not resolves around the Food Pyramid, one of the stupidest, most harmful pieces of advice in the world).
    * The second focus on languages. English, of course, but also teaching of Chinese has to be massively expanded.
    * Some knowledge of history, geography, economics, political science, religion and ethics, etc. is useful, but should be taught very carefully, using sources from all over the ideological spectrum.
    * Literature is boring to many people and "critical analysis" is the biggest pile of BS ever. Encouraging the reading of classics should be encouraged but students should never be forced to write about them in the context of fourth generation feminism or whatever.

    Ha! You are right about literary analysis being B.S. One lit class I took, we read Leskov’s “Леди Макбет Мценского уезда”, and prof made us write 4 separate term papers analyzing the work (each about 10 pages long, so was big project). First paper had to analyze work from POV of structural criticism (structure of sentences and paragraphs, introduction of themes); second paper was to have feminine slant (very obvious, for this work); third paper was to have Marxist slant (how family patriarch oppressed his serfs, etc.); and fourth paper was to have Freudian slant (repressed sexual urges).
    After this pointless exericse, my take-away was that good literature should be just read and not analyzed.
    On the other hand, I believe this class gave me a good radar for detecting bias and propaganda when I am reading something, because I can see how the propagandist is using techniques like foreshadowing, etc.

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    • Replies: @Scowspi
    I disagree with the dumping on "literary analysis." There are good and bad ways to do it. The ideological way is usually the worst. Better ways can be learned by reading writers who were great critics themselves, like Mencken or Orwell.
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  • @Mark
    "Saakashvili’s ability to pay large salaries to his army, police and civil service is surely the single most important reason for the disappearance of petty corruption during his time in power..."

    There used to be a great site for news in Georgia, called the Georgia Media Centre (sometimes the Georgia International Media Centre). It was decidedly oppositionist to Saakashvili, and used to alternate between mocking his crazy promises about millions of tourists and equally crazy boasts that Georgia is so crime-free that people don't even lock their cars, and hard-hitting pieces about Saakashvili's courting of Iran while they are U.S. Public Enemy Number One, shouting in frustration, "What, are we the niggers now?" when the political leader of his biggest sugar-daddy is African-American and various other gaffes that suggest on some days his brain and his mouth might as well be in different bodies for all the attention they pay to each other.

    Saakashvili learned a lesson from the raiding and shutdown of Imedi Television in 2007; it was subsequently sold to pro-Saakashvili owners (as reported in a critical piece from the Georgia Media Centre which is no longer accessible), but it drew some sharp criticism. So his approach to the Georgia Media Centre was much smarter and more subtle - instead of simply shutting it down, he turned it into this:

    http://www.georgiamediacentre.com/

    a puff site full of airheaded stories about celebrities, movie reviews and irrelevancies, and all in Georgian where it was formerly in English. Now it is essentially a blog, and also has a Twitter feed, but you have to be a member. Although it is in Georgian, the articles are still headed with "posted by Admin" in English and the comment directions are still in English, although comments are not permitted. A brilliant stroke; Saakashvili has successfully defanged an enemy while pretending to provide Georgia with a valuable source of entertainment and communication; even international, provided you speak Georgian.

    Anyway, this is a very long and whimsical way of getting to what I wanted to say, which is that there was a story in the old Georgia Media Center (no longer accessible, naturally) which said the surveys done for the Corruption Perceptions Index were done by an agency in Georgia, and that the government chose the businesses to be polled. Businesses which were not in the government's pocket were simply never asked. Therefore, what appears to be the disappearance of corruption is actually the disappearance of the appearance of corruption, so to speak. It is inconceivable that, with the money pumped into Georgia, the standards of living could remain low for so many, that inflation could continue top be high and that wages could remain so abysmal. Corruption is still there; it's just behind Saakashvili's Cloak Of Invisibility.

    "...the day will one day come when this will become clear."

    Yes, it will, which is why the push to get all the deals in place before it does, and why Saakashvili is working to make Georgia a Parliamentary Republic with most of the power vested in its Prime Minister...which he intends to be.

    You’re speaking of the CPI. It has improved markedly since 2005 when it was at 2.3, nonetheless I should point out it still remains low at 4.1. But we know that the CPI isn’t worth much…

    I’ve yet to head a valid explanation of the Global Corruption Barometer’s last poll, which found that only 3% of Georgians or their relatives admitted to paying a bribe in the past year. This was far lower than in the rest of the region, AND it was far lower than in previous years in Georgia itself. Did Saakashvili falsify that? Do Georgians have a “special understanding” of corruption that differs from that of Russians or from 2005 Georgians for that matter?

    And it makes intuitive sense, with higher police salaries, plus the removal of so many bureaucratic regulations, it’s not surprising that small-scale bribery has collapsed.

    It seems a bit implausible, so for now I’m going to accept that in terms of petty corruption at least things have become a lot better. (Even if they became a lot worse in many other areas, see my comment above…)

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    I think there is no doubt that visible or small time corruption has markedly declined or even disappeared under Saakashvili for the reasons we have discussed. Nor is this an achievement to be underestimated. The point about reducing corruption by clearing away petty regulations is a good one and one that Russia should emulate.

    On the subject of visible as opposed to invisible corruption, no state in modern Europe was as corrupt as Nazi Germany. As a recent study has established Hitler at the time of his death was far and away the richest man in Europe (and yes he did have a Swiss bank account). Goering and Himmler were every bit as corrupt as he. In fact the corruption and looting that took place under the Nazi regime was on such a scale that bits and bobs of Nazi loot still turn up in odd places (some paintings from Hitler's private collection have just been found in a Czech monastery). Moreover this corruption began the moment the Nazis took power with many of the biggest payments to individual Nazi leaders being made in the 1930s by German companies and industrialists. Hitler even had a private foundation, the Adolf Hitler Spende, whose job it was to receive and launder this money.

    The point is that none of this was visible to the German people. Open bribery and corruption were unknown and anybody who travelled to Germany in the 1930s would have seen an outwardly extremely honest and well ordered country.

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  • @Jen
    I would say that geography and history are still important though with much less rote memorisation of so-called facts (which in history studies could actually be myths or propaganda). When I studied geography in high school in the late 1970s, I had to learn basic weather phenomena and the terms used, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, world climate and vegetation zones, global wind and ocean patterns, and tropical forest and savanna ecologies(and why tropical forest areas are so poor for agriculture and historically supported low populations) - and this was all in Years 7 and 8. Can't remember too much of Year 9 and 10 geography but it probably included studying deserts and regions with Mediterranean climates and where and why they occur in the areas the do (usually on the western sides of continents; on the eastern sides are usually sub-tropical to near-temperate zones). In Year 11 geography, among other things, I studied beach environments and went on a school trip that included walking up to the top of a headland jutting into the ocean and watching ocean waves actually curve and converge at the cliff bottom. Had I continued doing geography in Year 12 (I gave it up in favour of economics), I'd have studied the formation of towns and cities, how they develop, what zones there are and what typical activities they engage in.

    When I was working in a public library in the 1990s, I observed high school geography students coming in with projects that called for original research on ecosystems in their local areas. The students usually needed help with finding sources and local government contacts. They already had some idea of how to go about doing original research and presenting it.

    Looking at what I have just said, it's occurred to me that much climate change denial among the general public can be attributed to ignorance of geography and the issues it raises. Geography can be the subject that links sciences like biology, geology, chemistry and physics at their basic level to economics and history, and you could introduce young people to the study of dynamic non-linear systems here.

    Ignorance of geography can have more expensive and serious consequences, apart from stories about tourists who want to go to Austria but end up in Australia. It was two American writers, Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce, both living in the late 19th century, who said that war was God's way of teaching Americans geography. Unfortunately their utterances have been accepted by the US, UK and Australian governments as gospel truth!

    Studying history should involve studying the history of one's country, maybe the history of the country where your parents and grandparents come from (this could be at community language classes) and the history of neighbouring countries. A big emphasis should be on encouraging students to do original historical research and learning how, let's say, fascism arises and the social, economic and political conditions in which it appears and thrives. Knowing history can enable students to make rough predictions: if you know the histories and cultures of China, Korea and Japan, and then learn something of Vietnam's history and culture, you will see commonalities between Vietnam and the others. You can predict that the Vietnamese will also have a strong Confucianist orientation and will value education highly enough to want to invest in it to the extent that the other Asian countries mentioned have done. This may mean that future PISA and TIMM scores for Vietnam will rise even if the country's economic development stalls or plateaus.

    Where I live (Australia), I believe studying English should include knowing the history of the language's development, how it relates to other European and Asian languages, logic, how to construct and refute arguments in debate, and how to find and use evidence. Students should also know how propaganda and advertising are used and their strategies and methods.

    Ideally I'd separate Years 7 - 11 into junior high school, make Year 12 and the first two years of undergraduate university study into senior high school, and make attendance at both high schools compulsory. In junior high school, English (or its equivalent in other countries), maths, practical and lab science, one foreign language and its history and culture, geography and history are compulsory subjects. Art, music and sport should be in the curriculum as well with music study including the ability to play one instrument and writing a basic song or composition on music software and uploading it to a blog or website.

    Thanks, Jen, you must have gone to a much better school than I did! Okay, you have convinced me that studying geography is important, if done correctly. (In my school, it consisted of memorizing the names of nations and their capitals, something I could now easily lookup on Google maps.)
    Agree that history is important, but you cannot trust schools to teach it correctly if they use standard textbooks (which are ideologically loaded and mostly propaganda). If I were reforming education, I would dispense with history textbooks altogether and just have the kids read monographs on specific topics of interest.
    Agree with you that children should be exposed to the science of linguistics. It is not enough to learn a foreign language, they should also learn at least the basics of structural linguistic theory. (In fact, it is possible for a person to be a structural linguist without even knowing a foreign language — Noam Chomsky is an example — although that is not recommended.)
    As someone who studied linguistics myself at the graduate level, I am continually amazed how few people understand this science. Everybody speaks language, but nobody, unless they studied it academically, seems to have a clue how it actually works. It’s like that character in Moliere who was surprised when he found that that he had been speaking prose.
    For example, I recently had a conversation with my sister, who is a very intelligent woman, somehow the topic of linguistics came up, and she said something like, “Oh, don’t you lingusists study why people in every language use the same word for ‘mama’?”
    “Er, no, that’s not exactly it, Dear Sister. In fact, language-origin myths are frowned upon by serious linguists, as are studies in Onomatopeia… Real linguistics is a branch of semiotics… blah blah blah…”
    She didn’t get it. Well, I don’t understand other peoples professions either, if I never studied them. For example, I do not have a clue what sociologists do!

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    • Replies: @Jen
    I was lucky to have had two excellent geography teachers at high school and I was interested in the subject so that's how I remember so much of what I'd been taught.

    I thought Chomsky had studied Hebrew when he was young; his family was originally from Ukraine or some other part of eastern Europe. The home language may have been either Yiddish or Hebrew but I'm not sure.

    It's criminal that schools don't teach the English language's origins and history. People end up with wrong ideas about English: they say rubbish like, "English isn't a real language because it has no grammar / it's full of Latin and French words / it changes all the time". That suggests people are not taught that languages are dynamic and evolving.

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  • @georgesdelatour
    Anatoly

    Do you think your analysis sheds any light on the Euro crisis? We're told the southern countries (Greece, Italy etc) are in trouble because of corruption, failure to collect taxes, business-unfriendly practices etc. But maybe, as you suggest, human capital is the key. Finland is doing well, and has excellent PISA scores.

    When the Euro was set up, it would have been politically impossible to reject a country for membership because it had bad PISA scores.

    Georges,

    A timely question, and one that is indirectly covered in the very next post!

    You are correct, I think it does shed light on the crisis. Greece is a bit of an outlier. Ireland was a big outlier in 2007 but the crisis has already fixed that. ;) Italy and Spain aren’t, though they’re close. Portugal is where it “should be”. But if an “adjustment” to relative standings has to be made it would be logical that they – Greece first and foremost, to a lesser extent Spain and Italy – would be the ones affected. Cyprus is a huge outlier and had to be rescued by Russia.

    The two biggest positive outliers are now the US, Israel, and Argentina. Maybe there are valid explanations for that; maybe they will be in for adjustment shocks (Argentina surely has a history of them, and the US isn’t looking too bright in the long-term…) Japan does considerably less well than can be expected from its human capital, so perhaps it may yet surprise us to the upside…

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  • @Sergey
    Anatoly,
    I'm afraid you are capturing correlation rather than explanation here. If you want to explain GDP levels or growth (you talk about growth in the title but use levels in the graph), you typically regress growth on the values of explanatory variables measured at the beginning of your sample period. Otherwise, your regression is suffering from what is known as "reverse causation" which is impossible to disentangle.

    In this case, it is true that levels of human capital are positively correlated with GDP levels. There could be two explanations: human capital of kids (measured by PISA) is positively correlated with that of their parents who are actually creating the value added, and that's why you see the positive relation. Alternatively, you get the education system you could afford, and the level of human capital in hte kids is mostly determined by the efficientcy of the schooling system.

    The two explanations are not mutually exclusive, of course. Still, you just cannot infer causality from your simple graph.

    Agreed (though would mention that in previous posts on this I’ve written loads on the evidence for causation). My argument here, informally, is:

    (1) Economic level depends on human capital level (there is reverse causation too but the former is much stronger).
    (2) Almost all outliers can be explained by one of a few factors, e.g. resource endowment, socialist legacy, being a major tax haven.
    (3) If economic level is below that implied by human capital level, there should be a “potential gap” (as in electricity) between the two that seeks closure; thus, the bigger the gap, the greater the growth that can be expected.

    Establishing (3) formally will need a lot of work, more than an evening definitely. I may do it if I get the idea of writing a paper about it. But informally speaking it tends to hold remarkably consistently. It would explain why in per capita terms China grows so fast (vast potential gap); why Russia and CE Europe in general grows at a reasonable clip (modest potential gap); why its Greece and Italy that are going bankrupt (they’re richer than they “deserve”); why Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, etc. are barely making any progress relative to the developed world (because they’re already where they’re meant to be); and so on.

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    • Replies: @Sergey
    Anatoly,

    my major beef with your set of posts is that your human capital variables are basically contemporaneous with GDP levels. Despite this, you make inference of causality flowing from human capital to GDP, without careful consideration of the reverse flow. That might do on the level of correlation-level story, but never on causation.

    In cross-country growth regression, many funny things could happen. Do you know that distance from equator determines your GDP as well? http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Location/

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  • @yalensis
    Great article. One take-away, if I am understanding correctly, is the importance of overhauling education system to focus on math and science. I would propose that all children in school should spend most of their schoolday studying mathematics, science theory, and several practical scientific subjects (chemistry, biology, etc.) In addition, every child should learn at least one musical instrument (preferably two) and at least one foreign language. Also art (drawing, painting) and a little bit of literature, but not much. Studying social sciences in school used to be important (geography, etc.), but is not as important any more, because all the information is available on the internet. There is no need to memorize facts (e.g., names of countries and capitals) that are easily available at the click of a mouse. In fact, I would say there is no need for children to memorize anything (not even math formulas), it is much more important to understand how to conduct research, how to think scientifically, and how to apply knowledge to practical applications. Well, there is my modest proposal for education reform. (Applies to any country.)

    I’m actually not so sure of the utility of the sciences. The relevant, ground-breaking stuff needs a ton of theory (and math skillz). Otherwise it ends up about being boiling water and measuring its temperature as it cools, the kind of shit I remember having to do at school. (Well, I usually lazed about during class and made up the results by looking them up on the Internet; why bother doing these experiments when they’ve been done millions of times before?).

    If I had to design a curriculum, I would…

    * Put the main focus on math, for its rigor and endless practical applications, and computer science.
    * De-emphasize the natural sciences; in fact, in the modern world, the old physics-chemistry-biology division is becoming ever less relevant. Abolish it.
    * Emphasize the importance of good diet in PE. Diet is about 70% of physical fitness, but its almost ignored at school (and when it isn’t more often than not resolves around the Food Pyramid, one of the stupidest, most harmful pieces of advice in the world).
    * The second focus on languages. English, of course, but also teaching of Chinese has to be massively expanded.
    * Some knowledge of history, geography, economics, political science, religion and ethics, etc. is useful, but should be taught very carefully, using sources from all over the ideological spectrum.
    * Literature is boring to many people and “critical analysis” is the biggest pile of BS ever. Encouraging the reading of classics should be encouraged but students should never be forced to write about them in the context of fourth generation feminism or whatever.

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    • Replies: @yalensis
    Ha! You are right about literary analysis being B.S. One lit class I took, we read Leskov’s “Леди Макбет Мценского уезда”, and prof made us write 4 separate term papers analyzing the work (each about 10 pages long, so was big project). First paper had to analyze work from POV of structural criticism (structure of sentences and paragraphs, introduction of themes); second paper was to have feminine slant (very obvious, for this work); third paper was to have Marxist slant (how family patriarch oppressed his serfs, etc.); and fourth paper was to have Freudian slant (repressed sexual urges).
    After this pointless exericse, my take-away was that good literature should be just read and not analyzed.
    On the other hand, I believe this class gave me a good radar for detecting bias and propaganda when I am reading something, because I can see how the propagandist is using techniques like foreshadowing, etc.
    , @Jen
    There's a case for teaching philosophy to primary school age children: studies on children as young as age 6 who learn philosophical concepts show their thinking skills, decision-making skills, creativity and ability to solve mathematical and other problems improve. Also if taught correctly, philosophy encourages children to be both independent, ethical thinkers and co-operative members of a team. These skills are ones people can take with them into high school, university and beyond.

    I agree also that children should learn about nutrition and health. These could be incorporated into basic biology lessons and involve practical projects like growing fruit and vegetables for the school canteen or for school cooking lessons. Along with nutrition and health, children should also learn basic hygiene, cleaning up after themselves (in some countries, students clean classrooms after lessons have finished for the day), basic first aid and how to recognise basic signs of illness in themselves and others (such as coughing, sneezing, headaches, fever) and to seek medical assistance.

    The Food Pyramid should be scrapped: I personally think it's dangerous especially for people who have gluten tolerance issues. There's alternative health information on Google now about how wheat and other cereal grains can actually be harmful to physical health and can even have harmful psychological effects.

    At high school level, basic biology concepts should still be taught: students definitely should know about the basic functions of cells, the names of body organs and their functions, and the body's networks (blood circulation, lymph circulation, nervous system) and photosynthesis in plants. Basic chemistry concepts should be taught too: what are salts, what are metals, what's in the Table of Elements, what is an acid and what is an alkali, what happens when you mix certain substances together - at least enough chemistry to make people realise they shouldn't cook crystal meth in closed environments or in the same places they cook food.

    Not sure about what is necessary everyday physics to learn as, like AK, I zoned out whenever physics took over the science lesson.

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  • @Jen
    Just a quick note before I race off to the household chores: Ha-Joon Chang in his book "Bad Samaritans: the Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism" had a section on corruption and whether or not it hinders economic development. The point he made in the chapter is that bribes can encourage greater efficiency if the purpose is to overcome a situation of over-regulation, rigid bureaucracy or plain incompetence.

    For example, in some countries (Japan used to be notorious), all imports of a certain product might be handled through one customs office and that office deliberately under-funded and under-staffed because of laws passed by the government. In that situation, importers might pay bribes to the exporters or the relevant government official to bypass the customs office.

    Another point to consider is what effect is the bribe likely to have: does the money create and sustain jobs or will it go into a secret overseas bank account?

    Another Ha-Joon Chang fan! :)

    I’ve read Kicking Away the Ladder, and skimmed through Bad Samaritans. He really does make very convincing arguments for the importance of intelligent state intervention.

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  • @below_freezing
    I think you misunderstand the point of Mao's policies and don't understand the situation China was in in the 1920's to 1949.

    In 1949, the average lifespan in China was 36 and only 10% of the people were literate, with less than 100 dollars per capita. That means China was 3 times worse off than Sub-Saharan Africa. Clearly, Chiang Kai Shek's capitalist policies were total failures in mainland China. It would be madness to argue otherwise.

    Mao's policies essentially discarded growth as a "desireable" objective and used surplus resources to fund social welfare and population growth. Even as the population doubled within 30 years, something miraculous happened that never happened in any other country with high population growth: people got better educated, lived longer and ate better, if not richer. The economy still grew anyways at 6% per year; just that population growth was also 6%. China still had enough incentive to discover artemisin and independently build thermonuclear weapons, nuclear submarines and ICBMs.

    Deng's reforms were successful because they were built on the things Mao achieved: average lifespan higher than South Korea in 1976, higher literacy than India today(that would be a 8 times increase in literacy within 30 years!) and the technological base left behind by military research. If Deng started with the China of 1949, the reforms would have been total failures because you cannot build a modern economy on a 10% literacy rate and 36 year lifespan.

    The only problem of Mao was he died 10 years late. His best achievements were all in the 50's, some in the 60's, but 1966-1976 was a waste of a decade. If he died in 1966 instead of 1976, we'd have all of his achievements (ICBM, nuke subs, satellites, artemisin, stuff like that) and none of the bad (like the waste of 10 decades in CR). China would today be at 2/3 of South Korea's level instead of 1/4, and be richer than Malaysia and nearly on par with Russia.

    There's a saying in China: If Mao died in 1959, he would be the greatest hero China ever seen. If Mao died in 1966, he would still be the greatest hero China ever seen, but with some reservations. However, he died in 1976 so now we can only say he's 70% correct and 30% wrong.

    China in the 1920′s-1949 wasn’t exactly capitalist, it was mostly subsistence / traditional with warlords skimming off top. To the extent that capitalism existed it was in a few coastal enclaves that the central government had weak control over.

    That said, I should note that Taiwan’s and South Korea’s circumstances in 1949 were not significantly better, to the best of my knowledge, but nonetheless they are much richer today than China, by a factor of 3x-4x in GDP (PPP) per capita. In other words that’s a historical lag time of two decades.

    I make no dispute that China in 1949 was extremely backward. And I agree that the pace of social transformation as measured by basic health and education indicators was nothing less than miraculous. That doesn’t change the fact that economic development progressed at a miserly pace with frequent setbacks and outright insanities like the GLP and the CR. 6% GDP growth isn’t bad until one subtracts 2-3% to adjust for population growth; furthermore, it was concentrated in urban areas, the rural areas remained almost stagnant. While this was compensated for by social progress, the weakness was revealed after the reforms and the disbandment of the rural collectives, which caused the common funds for rural healthcare, etc. to dry up. As an example LE growth has slowed to a crawl since 1980, and remained outright stagnant in poor rural provinces. E.g. Jiangxi LE in 1990: 67.85; in 2005: 68.95.

    I heard of that quote about Mao, I agree with its essence if not the details. I’m not Chinese so my opinions don’t have much weight, but I’d say 50/50 at best. Maybe 40/60.

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    • Replies: @below_freezing
    Taiwan and South Korea were very special cases.

    Here's why Taiwan was a very special case: Chiang Kai Shek took 400 tons of gold from mainland China and 2 million elites, and took them to Taiwan. 2 million elites sounds like nothing in terms of China's overall population but it amounted to 15% of Taiwan's population at the time being the educated elite. Note that China's entire gold reserves TODAY are 1000 tons, starting from 0 in 1949.

    If you take 40% of an entire nation's reserves and most of its educated elite, to a small island, and then get huge amounts of US aid, not succeeding would be the result of complete incompetence. Taiwan also enjoyed US military protection and a nuclear umbrella for 30 years. Because it was small, and had existing infrastructure from Imperial Japan, there was little need for large scale construction. Therefore, there was much surplus capital that could immediately be put to work on investment.

    Mainland China on the other hand had to spend significant resources on infrastructure engineering, power, basic social programs, and the military. We also had incredible population growth that Taiwan did not have. Resources had to be diverted from capital investment into state directed investment in food for the population, heavy industry, military and infrastructure, which set the stage for post 1979 reforms, but also kept per capita income low. It should be noted that despite this, China's per capita GDP was comparable to Taiwan's until the early 70's, meaning that the Cultural Revolution was the main problem, not anything else.

    South Korea was similar, just replace Chinese elites with Japanese elites (President Park Chung Hee was a Japanese general) and US money. They also enjoyed protection and a nuclear umbrella.

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  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Thanks for the detailed critique Alex.

    Some minimal level of political stability and integrity is a necessary condition, but IMO it is only a base one; for actual sustained development, one also needs to have the requisite human capital. I suppose there's reverse causation as well, in that high human capital nations are at most times sufficiently organized to fulfill those base conditions.

    I'm far from a specialist on the Soviet economy, and have mostly read only critical accounts. But on the other hand, it's very hard to argue for a system in which farmers at times found it more profitable to feed livestock bread than grain! Or where 25% of the potato crop withered away in transport. Or where there were constant shortages of basic consumer goods like shoes and sausages. I accept that the MIC was actually fairly efficient, but here you have to take into account that (1) it was always massively prioritized in terms of the human and material resources allocated to it and (2) it had fairly vigorous competition between firms, e.g. MiG vs. Sukhoi.

    I agree with you that, hard as it is to imagine, but economic management under Maoism was far more inefficient even than Soviet central planning (itself hardly the highest bar). I'm currently taking a class on the Chinese economy and I've bee continually impressed, in a bad way, by the anecdotes and statistics trotted out. One thing that struck me in particular: Unlike in the USSR, which had a reasonable level of labor turnout (16% of workers left their enterprises in any one year to work for another), in China you were literally more likely to die on your job than transfer elsewhere. No incentives whatsoever for improving your human capital by getting an education, etc, as promotions almost entirely based on seniority. The share of the urban population actually DECREASED from the late 50's to the late 70's.

    Thanks for alerting me to the book Wages of Destruction. It sounds very interesting and just the kind of stuff I'm interested, have gotten it from the library today.

    I think you misunderstand the point of Mao’s policies and don’t understand the situation China was in in the 1920′s to 1949.

    In 1949, the average lifespan in China was 36 and only 10% of the people were literate, with less than 100 dollars per capita. That means China was 3 times worse off than Sub-Saharan Africa. Clearly, Chiang Kai Shek’s capitalist policies were total failures in mainland China. It would be madness to argue otherwise.

    Mao’s policies essentially discarded growth as a “desireable” objective and used surplus resources to fund social welfare and population growth. Even as the population doubled within 30 years, something miraculous happened that never happened in any other country with high population growth: people got better educated, lived longer and ate better, if not richer. The economy still grew anyways at 6% per year; just that population growth was also 6%. China still had enough incentive to discover artemisin and independently build thermonuclear weapons, nuclear submarines and ICBMs.

    Deng’s reforms were successful because they were built on the things Mao achieved: average lifespan higher than South Korea in 1976, higher literacy than India today(that would be a 8 times increase in literacy within 30 years!) and the technological base left behind by military research. If Deng started with the China of 1949, the reforms would have been total failures because you cannot build a modern economy on a 10% literacy rate and 36 year lifespan.

    The only problem of Mao was he died 10 years late. His best achievements were all in the 50′s, some in the 60′s, but 1966-1976 was a waste of a decade. If he died in 1966 instead of 1976, we’d have all of his achievements (ICBM, nuke subs, satellites, artemisin, stuff like that) and none of the bad (like the waste of 10 decades in CR). China would today be at 2/3 of South Korea’s level instead of 1/4, and be richer than Malaysia and nearly on par with Russia.

    There’s a saying in China: If Mao died in 1959, he would be the greatest hero China ever seen. If Mao died in 1966, he would still be the greatest hero China ever seen, but with some reservations. However, he died in 1976 so now we can only say he’s 70% correct and 30% wrong.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    China in the 1920's-1949 wasn't exactly capitalist, it was mostly subsistence / traditional with warlords skimming off top. To the extent that capitalism existed it was in a few coastal enclaves that the central government had weak control over.

    That said, I should note that Taiwan's and South Korea's circumstances in 1949 were not significantly better, to the best of my knowledge, but nonetheless they are much richer today than China, by a factor of 3x-4x in GDP (PPP) per capita. In other words that's a historical lag time of two decades.

    I make no dispute that China in 1949 was extremely backward. And I agree that the pace of social transformation as measured by basic health and education indicators was nothing less than miraculous. That doesn't change the fact that economic development progressed at a miserly pace with frequent setbacks and outright insanities like the GLP and the CR. 6% GDP growth isn't bad until one subtracts 2-3% to adjust for population growth; furthermore, it was concentrated in urban areas, the rural areas remained almost stagnant. While this was compensated for by social progress, the weakness was revealed after the reforms and the disbandment of the rural collectives, which caused the common funds for rural healthcare, etc. to dry up. As an example LE growth has slowed to a crawl since 1980, and remained outright stagnant in poor rural provinces. E.g. Jiangxi LE in 1990: 67.85; in 2005: 68.95.

    I heard of that quote about Mao, I agree with its essence if not the details. I'm not Chinese so my opinions don't have much weight, but I'd say 50/50 at best. Maybe 40/60.

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  • @charly
    Ha-Joon Chang sounds Korean. A country in which no government contract has ever been singed without a kick back. It is also the country that grow the most in the last 50 years

    He is indeed Korean, he was born in South Korea in the early 1960s. I think he now lives in the UK and teaches at Cambridge University.

    Ha ha, those South Koreans used their bribes and kickbacks wisely!

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  • @Mark
    Referring back to the economics and indicators of Georgia as introduced by Alex, here is an even less complimentary report from about the same period, introduced by the Caucasian Review of International Affairs:

    http://www.cria-online.org/8_6.html

    The author is a former Georgia Economics Minister and an Associate Fellow with the Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center (Johns Hopkins University). Among other things, the report claims;

    1. In 2000 the Schevardnadze government began work on a poverty-reduction plan for Georgia. With the help of independent experts and NGO's the plan was finalized, and Shevardnadze signed it in 2003. It met with international acclaim. The government was overtaken by events which are now well-known, and it was never implemented. Nonetheless, international organizations committed to continuing to work with the Georgian government on the basis of this plan.

    2. The incoming Saaksashvili government decided the program was not needed, and shelved it. The international community continued to work with the government on the basis that the program was in place, resulting in the "absurd situation" that the Georgian government continued to receive international support for a program it refused to recognize and which did not exist. The IMF reported that it had concluded the program that in reality was never put in place, in 2007.

    3. Saakashvili campaigned in 2008 on the slogan, "An Integrated Georgia Without Poverty". The government initiated a "program" with the same name, which the author describes as "some catch phrases set forth on a few pages" and "a program in name only". The author further explains that, judging from the text of the "program", it aimed to realize its poverty-reduction targets through a 50% decrease in the number of social beneficiaries.

    4. The government devised a "50-day Action Plan" which relied, among other projects, on issuing of $500 Million in Eurobonds with a 5-year maturity. This had the immediate effect of increasing the country's foreign debt by half a Billion dollars. The money was supposed to go to new energy power projects, but a large part of it was instead channeled into the Fund of Future Generations, which was set up for the economic rehabilitation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after they are reintegrated into Georgia.

    5. In 2006 the government established a National Employment Program (continued in 2007 and early 2008), whereby it essentially ordered selected businesses to give people jobs for 3-month stints. What happened was that some businesses signed documents verifying their compliance while the "employees" simply pocketed the money and never showed up, and some businesses devised a scheme whereby the business would keep half the money in exchange for filing false claims that allowed non-workers to keep the other half. In the end, a handful of people actually got jobs, and tens of millions were wasted.

    6. The post-revolution government implemented a new labour code, which was hailed as one of its greatest achievements. According to the author, it vests all imaginable rights in owners while leaving employees with "literally no rights at all".

    I'm starting to wonder where Saakashvili got the reputation of being a smarty-smart whiz-kid. According, once again, to the report's author, his government not only has no clear understanding of the meaning of poverty reduction, it appears "not to have counted" the number of people in the country living below the poverty line.

    What a great leader.

    Another of Saakashvili’s achievements is a big decline in the tertiary enrollment rate, which is especially bad given that with their atrocious PISA scores Georgian school-leavers really are great need of further study.

    From 36% in 1991, the tertiary enrollment rate remained steady until the late 1990′s, when it began to grow, reaching 43% by 2003 and peaking at 47% in 2005. Then it plummeted to 25% by 2009, edging up to 28% in 2010.

    This seems to have been in substantial part due to an increase in the cost of annual university tuition from 500-600 lari in 2003 to 3000-4000 lari by 2009. Government grants have also plummeted; while they wholly financed 9,700 students in 2003, they were subsidizing only half the tuition costs of 1,000 students by 2009. University access has dropped by more than 80% in some regions.

    But I guess it’s all a matter of priorities. The army and police are now well fed, and the prison population has increased from 182/100k in 2004, to 539/100k in 2011 (so that now it has the dubious distinction of displacing Russia as the European country with the most prisoners per capita).

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    This is of course consistent with the extreme free market economic policies Saakashvili has adopted. Undoubtedly these accord with his own ideological prejudices but they are of course also the kind of policies that are agreeable to western aid donors and investors. Anyway these education policies are yet another reason to question whether Saakashvili's model is sustainable.
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  • @Jen
    I would say that geography and history are still important though with much less rote memorisation of so-called facts (which in history studies could actually be myths or propaganda). When I studied geography in high school in the late 1970s, I had to learn basic weather phenomena and the terms used, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, world climate and vegetation zones, global wind and ocean patterns, and tropical forest and savanna ecologies(and why tropical forest areas are so poor for agriculture and historically supported low populations) - and this was all in Years 7 and 8. Can't remember too much of Year 9 and 10 geography but it probably included studying deserts and regions with Mediterranean climates and where and why they occur in the areas the do (usually on the western sides of continents; on the eastern sides are usually sub-tropical to near-temperate zones). In Year 11 geography, among other things, I studied beach environments and went on a school trip that included walking up to the top of a headland jutting into the ocean and watching ocean waves actually curve and converge at the cliff bottom. Had I continued doing geography in Year 12 (I gave it up in favour of economics), I'd have studied the formation of towns and cities, how they develop, what zones there are and what typical activities they engage in.

    When I was working in a public library in the 1990s, I observed high school geography students coming in with projects that called for original research on ecosystems in their local areas. The students usually needed help with finding sources and local government contacts. They already had some idea of how to go about doing original research and presenting it.

    Looking at what I have just said, it's occurred to me that much climate change denial among the general public can be attributed to ignorance of geography and the issues it raises. Geography can be the subject that links sciences like biology, geology, chemistry and physics at their basic level to economics and history, and you could introduce young people to the study of dynamic non-linear systems here.

    Ignorance of geography can have more expensive and serious consequences, apart from stories about tourists who want to go to Austria but end up in Australia. It was two American writers, Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce, both living in the late 19th century, who said that war was God's way of teaching Americans geography. Unfortunately their utterances have been accepted by the US, UK and Australian governments as gospel truth!

    Studying history should involve studying the history of one's country, maybe the history of the country where your parents and grandparents come from (this could be at community language classes) and the history of neighbouring countries. A big emphasis should be on encouraging students to do original historical research and learning how, let's say, fascism arises and the social, economic and political conditions in which it appears and thrives. Knowing history can enable students to make rough predictions: if you know the histories and cultures of China, Korea and Japan, and then learn something of Vietnam's history and culture, you will see commonalities between Vietnam and the others. You can predict that the Vietnamese will also have a strong Confucianist orientation and will value education highly enough to want to invest in it to the extent that the other Asian countries mentioned have done. This may mean that future PISA and TIMM scores for Vietnam will rise even if the country's economic development stalls or plateaus.

    Where I live (Australia), I believe studying English should include knowing the history of the language's development, how it relates to other European and Asian languages, logic, how to construct and refute arguments in debate, and how to find and use evidence. Students should also know how propaganda and advertising are used and their strategies and methods.

    Ideally I'd separate Years 7 - 11 into junior high school, make Year 12 and the first two years of undergraduate university study into senior high school, and make attendance at both high schools compulsory. In junior high school, English (or its equivalent in other countries), maths, practical and lab science, one foreign language and its history and culture, geography and history are compulsory subjects. Art, music and sport should be in the curriculum as well with music study including the ability to play one instrument and writing a basic song or composition on music software and uploading it to a blog or website.

    Let me speak up for my own subject, which is history. Yes I agree that education should be science focused but some teaching of history and literature is necessary for a well informed and well balanced citizen.

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  • @hoct
    How is Turkey part of former socialist bloc?

    I copied it from the general list into the post-soc list by mistake, and was too lazy to redo the graph when I realized it was on there.

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  • @yalensis
    Great article. One take-away, if I am understanding correctly, is the importance of overhauling education system to focus on math and science. I would propose that all children in school should spend most of their schoolday studying mathematics, science theory, and several practical scientific subjects (chemistry, biology, etc.) In addition, every child should learn at least one musical instrument (preferably two) and at least one foreign language. Also art (drawing, painting) and a little bit of literature, but not much. Studying social sciences in school used to be important (geography, etc.), but is not as important any more, because all the information is available on the internet. There is no need to memorize facts (e.g., names of countries and capitals) that are easily available at the click of a mouse. In fact, I would say there is no need for children to memorize anything (not even math formulas), it is much more important to understand how to conduct research, how to think scientifically, and how to apply knowledge to practical applications. Well, there is my modest proposal for education reform. (Applies to any country.)

    I would say that geography and history are still important though with much less rote memorisation of so-called facts (which in history studies could actually be myths or propaganda). When I studied geography in high school in the late 1970s, I had to learn basic weather phenomena and the terms used, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, world climate and vegetation zones, global wind and ocean patterns, and tropical forest and savanna ecologies(and why tropical forest areas are so poor for agriculture and historically supported low populations) – and this was all in Years 7 and 8. Can’t remember too much of Year 9 and 10 geography but it probably included studying deserts and regions with Mediterranean climates and where and why they occur in the areas the do (usually on the western sides of continents; on the eastern sides are usually sub-tropical to near-temperate zones). In Year 11 geography, among other things, I studied beach environments and went on a school trip that included walking up to the top of a headland jutting into the ocean and watching ocean waves actually curve and converge at the cliff bottom. Had I continued doing geography in Year 12 (I gave it up in favour of economics), I’d have studied the formation of towns and cities, how they develop, what zones there are and what typical activities they engage in.

    When I was working in a public library in the 1990s, I observed high school geography students coming in with projects that called for original research on ecosystems in their local areas. The students usually needed help with finding sources and local government contacts. They already had some idea of how to go about doing original research and presenting it.

    Looking at what I have just said, it’s occurred to me that much climate change denial among the general public can be attributed to ignorance of geography and the issues it raises. Geography can be the subject that links sciences like biology, geology, chemistry and physics at their basic level to economics and history, and you could introduce young people to the study of dynamic non-linear systems here.

    Ignorance of geography can have more expensive and serious consequences, apart from stories about tourists who want to go to Austria but end up in Australia. It was two American writers, Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce, both living in the late 19th century, who said that war was God’s way of teaching Americans geography. Unfortunately their utterances have been accepted by the US, UK and Australian governments as gospel truth!

    Studying history should involve studying the history of one’s country, maybe the history of the country where your parents and grandparents come from (this could be at community language classes) and the history of neighbouring countries. A big emphasis should be on encouraging students to do original historical research and learning how, let’s say, fascism arises and the social, economic and political conditions in which it appears and thrives. Knowing history can enable students to make rough predictions: if you know the histories and cultures of China, Korea and Japan, and then learn something of Vietnam’s history and culture, you will see commonalities between Vietnam and the others. You can predict that the Vietnamese will also have a strong Confucianist orientation and will value education highly enough to want to invest in it to the extent that the other Asian countries mentioned have done. This may mean that future PISA and TIMM scores for Vietnam will rise even if the country’s economic development stalls or plateaus.

    Where I live (Australia), I believe studying English should include knowing the history of the language’s development, how it relates to other European and Asian languages, logic, how to construct and refute arguments in debate, and how to find and use evidence. Students should also know how propaganda and advertising are used and their strategies and methods.

    Ideally I’d separate Years 7 – 11 into junior high school, make Year 12 and the first two years of undergraduate university study into senior high school, and make attendance at both high schools compulsory. In junior high school, English (or its equivalent in other countries), maths, practical and lab science, one foreign language and its history and culture, geography and history are compulsory subjects. Art, music and sport should be in the curriculum as well with music study including the ability to play one instrument and writing a basic song or composition on music software and uploading it to a blog or website.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Let me speak up for my own subject, which is history. Yes I agree that education should be science focused but some teaching of history and literature is necessary for a well informed and well balanced citizen.
    , @yalensis
    Thanks, Jen, you must have gone to a much better school than I did! Okay, you have convinced me that studying geography is important, if done correctly. (In my school, it consisted of memorizing the names of nations and their capitals, something I could now easily lookup on Google maps.)
    Agree that history is important, but you cannot trust schools to teach it correctly if they use standard textbooks (which are ideologically loaded and mostly propaganda). If I were reforming education, I would dispense with history textbooks altogether and just have the kids read monographs on specific topics of interest.
    Agree with you that children should be exposed to the science of linguistics. It is not enough to learn a foreign language, they should also learn at least the basics of structural linguistic theory. (In fact, it is possible for a person to be a structural linguist without even knowing a foreign language -- Noam Chomsky is an example -- although that is not recommended.)
    As someone who studied linguistics myself at the graduate level, I am continually amazed how few people understand this science. Everybody speaks language, but nobody, unless they studied it academically, seems to have a clue how it actually works. It’s like that character in Moliere who was surprised when he found that that he had been speaking prose.
    For example, I recently had a conversation with my sister, who is a very intelligent woman, somehow the topic of linguistics came up, and she said something like, “Oh, don’t you lingusists study why people in every language use the same word for ‘mama’?”
    “Er, no, that’s not exactly it, Dear Sister. In fact, language-origin myths are frowned upon by serious linguists, as are studies in Onomatopeia… Real linguistics is a branch of semiotics… blah blah blah…”
    She didn’t get it. Well, I don’t understand other peoples professions either, if I never studied them. For example, I do not have a clue what sociologists do!
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  • “Saakashvili’s ability to pay large salaries to his army, police and civil service is surely the single most important reason for the disappearance of petty corruption during his time in power…”

    There used to be a great site for news in Georgia, called the Georgia Media Centre (sometimes the Georgia International Media Centre). It was decidedly oppositionist to Saakashvili, and used to alternate between mocking his crazy promises about millions of tourists and equally crazy boasts that Georgia is so crime-free that people don’t even lock their cars, and hard-hitting pieces about Saakashvili’s courting of Iran while they are U.S. Public Enemy Number One, shouting in frustration, “What, are we the niggers now?” when the political leader of his biggest sugar-daddy is African-American and various other gaffes that suggest on some days his brain and his mouth might as well be in different bodies for all the attention they pay to each other.

    Saakashvili learned a lesson from the raiding and shutdown of Imedi Television in 2007; it was subsequently sold to pro-Saakashvili owners (as reported in a critical piece from the Georgia Media Centre which is no longer accessible), but it drew some sharp criticism. So his approach to the Georgia Media Centre was much smarter and more subtle – instead of simply shutting it down, he turned it into this:

    http://www.georgiamediacentre.com/

    a puff site full of airheaded stories about celebrities, movie reviews and irrelevancies, and all in Georgian where it was formerly in English. Now it is essentially a blog, and also has a Twitter feed, but you have to be a member. Although it is in Georgian, the articles are still headed with “posted by Admin” in English and the comment directions are still in English, although comments are not permitted. A brilliant stroke; Saakashvili has successfully defanged an enemy while pretending to provide Georgia with a valuable source of entertainment and communication; even international, provided you speak Georgian.

    Anyway, this is a very long and whimsical way of getting to what I wanted to say, which is that there was a story in the old Georgia Media Center (no longer accessible, naturally) which said the surveys done for the Corruption Perceptions Index were done by an agency in Georgia, and that the government chose the businesses to be polled. Businesses which were not in the government’s pocket were simply never asked. Therefore, what appears to be the disappearance of corruption is actually the disappearance of the appearance of corruption, so to speak. It is inconceivable that, with the money pumped into Georgia, the standards of living could remain low for so many, that inflation could continue top be high and that wages could remain so abysmal. Corruption is still there; it’s just behind Saakashvili’s Cloak Of Invisibility.

    “…the day will one day come when this will become clear.”

    Yes, it will, which is why the push to get all the deals in place before it does, and why Saakashvili is working to make Georgia a Parliamentary Republic with most of the power vested in its Prime Minister…which he intends to be.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    You're speaking of the CPI. It has improved markedly since 2005 when it was at 2.3, nonetheless I should point out it still remains low at 4.1. But we know that the CPI isn't worth much...

    I've yet to head a valid explanation of the Global Corruption Barometer's last poll, which found that only 3% of Georgians or their relatives admitted to paying a bribe in the past year. This was far lower than in the rest of the region, AND it was far lower than in previous years in Georgia itself. Did Saakashvili falsify that? Do Georgians have a "special understanding" of corruption that differs from that of Russians or from 2005 Georgians for that matter?

    And it makes intuitive sense, with higher police salaries, plus the removal of so many bureaucratic regulations, it's not surprising that small-scale bribery has collapsed.

    It seems a bit implausible, so for now I'm going to accept that in terms of petty corruption at least things have become a lot better. (Even if they became a lot worse in many other areas, see my comment above...)

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