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Tuesday, 02 May 2006


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Please could you tell us how many have been killed by patriotism, and flag-waving national pride? I'm guessing a cool 200 million.

Thanks very much "the nation state".

Just for comparison, how many people has capitalism killed?

Both Larry and Clairwill make similar mistakes, I think. Neither patriotism nor capitalism make any claims to *improve* the human condition. 'Patriotism' is a word that has been kidnapped by sundry scoundrels in aid of various escapades but in its best sense it is a deeply imbued defensive feeling to *keep intact* that which is perceived as precious to the group, the society and/or the nation and which is under threat.

'Capitalism', and capitalists, make no claim except that a free market is the most efficient method of distributing resources, and thus, of improving the standard of living for all. No-one dreamt up capitalism, no-one invented it, no half-mad scribbling fanatic felt the need to write a book in an attempt to convert the world to his doctrine. Capitalism simply evolved out of human nature, the desire to buy and sell and get rich which, paradoxically, makes everyone else richer even though the operator is acting on selfish motives. At the same time, analysts of this activity are quick to point out that wealth is never static and seldom falls on the deserving!

Socialism, on the other hand, precisely because it is an invented doctrine, makes (indeed, like every other man-made doctrine - Christianity? - depending for its future on new recruits, absolutely has to make) promises for a golden future. Unfortunately it rarely hints at the butcher's bill which Son of Duff has illustrated so efficaciously above. (What a talent that boy has, I wonder where he gets it from?)

"capitalists, make no claim except that a free market is the most efficient method of distributing resources,"

Yes they do! All the bloody time!

"and thus, of improving the standard of living for all."

Yes they do! All the bloody time! In fact, you do it right here:

"...which, paradoxically, makes everyone else richer even though the operator is acting on selfish motives."

But anyway...

"No-one dreamt up capitalism, no-one invented it, no half-mad scribbling fanatic felt the need to write a book in an attempt to convert the world to his doctrine."

Adam Smith? Milton Friedman? Never heard of them!

I hate to say it David, but you seem to be deteriorating just lately! Is everything okay?

The only thing deteriorating round here, 'N.I.B.', is your comprehension ability! *If* capitalism distributes resources more efficiently than any other method and people's standards of living rise as a result, then indeed, they are richer for it. It is, as I wrote, the one and only claim that a capitalist can make because distributing resources is the only concern of capitalism. It makes no claims for the future, ignores history, lays down no moral or political standards except to point out that without the sanctity of private property and contract law it would perish.

I thought some-one would mention Adam Smith and Milton Friedman who were, of course, not 'inventers' of capitalism as, say, Marx was of Marxism, but merely analysts and explainers of a phenomonum that had already grown naturally through the everyday activities of ordinary men and women.

Incidentally, I was amused to read that the prime minister of Latvia, who is currently the recipient of numerous honours and awards for the amazing growth in prosperity in his country (which has a flat tax system!), admitted that he had only ever read one book on economics, "Free to Choose" by Milton Friedman!

Oh please... If we had a quid for every time you've accused someone of being unable to read! It strikes me that it's you who has a problem with writing what you actually mean!

"Capitalism simply evolved out of human nature, the desire to buy and sell and get rich which, paradoxically, *makes everyone else richer* even though the operator is acting on selfish motives."

Pretty explicit prediction there, don't you think? Although I will admit it wasn't made by a top-flight scholar of the subject...

Anyway, I don't actually disagree that what you've described is indeed a natural result of human nature. It's just a shame it's never been allowed to happen, as we can see from a rich history of self-proclaimed 'capitalists' who run off to the Government (and/or the arsenal) whenever the people they're 'trading' with try to drive a harder bargain!

So perhaps we should rephrase Clairwil's question. How many have been killed by *so-called* capitalism? If you can resist dismissing such avenues of thought as leftie nonsense, you'll find that the *supposed* capitalists of the nineteenth century starved and shot human beings to death at a rate that puts the senile maniac Chairman Mao's efforts to shame.

(Incidentally, you can say what you like about Mao, but he was strong on crime and punishment and he didn't take any shit from the ivory-tower academics or the Muslims!)

'Socialism' is a word that has been kidnapped by sundry scoundrels in aid of various escapades but in its best sense it is a deeply imbued defensive feeling to *protect* the most vulnerable people in society from being squashed by the selfish whims and greed of those who wield the money and power, and to help those too poor to help themselves.

No-one dreamt up socialism (in this sense of the word, c.f communism, National Socialism, Marxism, Maoism, etc.), no-one invented it, no half-mad scribbling fanatic felt the need to write a book in an attempt to convert the world to his doctrine. Socialism simply evolved out of human nature: the generosity of spirit to help out those in society less well off than yourself.

It does not stand against democracy, and it is not a bloody philosophy.

Oh, and I liked "phenomonum" - are you sure you're all right?

Larry, don't be such a fotherington-tomas. John Wayne felt he had a duty to protect the vulnerable. High Tories feel they have a duty to protect the vulnerable. Monroe Stahr in "The Last Tycoon" felt he had a duty to protect the vulnerable. None of these people would dream of calling themselves Socialists, and neither would you. Most people, whatever their politics, think they're on the side of the angels - capitalists on the whole don't go round in top hats and watch chains cackling about the masses they are plotting to oppress, you know. The real question is, this being the case, what is the best way to protect the vulnerable? and in that sense, Socialism is obviously just as much a philosophy as the Platonic ideal.

You have a point Hilary - most people believe that society has some duty to protect the vulnerable. However dogmatic worshippers at the altar of the omnipotent Free Market, such as our host, are not among them.

The rest of us find ourselves having to resolve a tension between individual freedoms (including the freedom to exploit others) and the belief that we should all sacrifice a little (money and freedom), in order to look after poorest, and prevent them from being excessively exploited.

Obviously there are legitmate questions and arguments to be had about where to draw the various lines, and what the best ways to protect people are. What I hadn't previously realised is that if you draw the line in the wrong place, you suddenly find yourself complicit in the murder of 120,000,000 people.

I think you misunderstood me when I said "[Socialism] is not a bloody philosophy". I didn't mean socialism isn't a *fucking* philosophy, I meant that it isn't a *murderous* philosphy.

oops ... you know, at one time, in my innocence, I'd have read "bloody" that way automatically. What a giveaway. I've obviously far too acclimatised to the "Tourette's Syndrome on pethidine" idiom that these political debates can so easily deteriorate into.

Today I have 'laboured in the vineyards of the Lord' (and I bloody well hope He noticed!) by cutting the churchyard grass and sowing my seed (wild flower seed, Larry, before you chip in!) So I'm knackered and will only leave you these brief thoughts.

Hilary is correct to point out that a desire to help the enfeebled and the poor is a *universal* human trait (which means that there is always some wretch who does not subscribe - that's humans for you!) The point about socialism, in all its various guises, is that it is an attempt to make the government the middle-man in such charitable activities. Immediately then, you have a cost which, in the nature of all governments everywhere will exceed that of private activity, or to put it brutally, the poor get screwed.

Secondly, socialists, in an effort to sell us a bill of goods in which private property (or *my* property as I fondly think of it) will be seized under threat, needs must sugar the pill by not only promising to take care of the poor but also to make us all equal, an impossible outcome but one which is swallowed whole by the gullible. This sort of mad Utopian scheming brings to the surface all the little pond-life whose ambition is to rob and kill anyone anyone who gets in their way on the grounds of 'the greater good'. Hence the statistics described above.

One day when we meet, Larry, I will buy you a pint if you can find any of my writings in which I stated that society has no business protecting the vulnerable. I'm off for a nap.

>The point about socialism, in all its various guises, is that it is an attempt to make the government the middle-man in such charitable activities.

Yes that's right.

>Secondly, socialists, in an effort to sell us a bill of goods in which private property (or *my* property as I fondly think of it) will be seized under threat

Tell that to people who've had their houses repossessed because they've been taken by a ride by despicable loan-sharks - erm, sorry, "industrious entrepreneurs of the free-market".

>not only promising to take care of the poor but also to make us all equal

Well that is indeed where I and the hard-left part company. But for most of us (David excepted) it's again not black and white issue, but a matter of degree. People who go the whole hog for total equality are called "communists", and are fairly few and far between, and I share you're deep suspicion of them.

But even the Tories ( are in favour of some redistribution of wealth these days. It doesn't make you a Maoist or a Marxist or a genocidal maniac to think that a rich society should share its wealth with its poorest members. I just consider it civilised.

David here you are ( pining for the good old days when those without food and shelter were left to die out in the cold. You owe me a pint.

“…how many people has capitalism killed?”

Liberalism, for which Capitalism is the economic component, derives from two axioms: -

In a Liberal society you can do what you like so long as you don’t harm anyone else.

Inaction is an activity; doing nothing to prevent someone in harm’s way from being harmed, when it is in your power to prevent the harm, is as illiberal an act as harming them. (Walking past someone who is hanging by their finger nails from a cliff’s edge and not helping them up is as illiberal an act as stamping on their hands.)

To most human beings these two ideas are self-evident and require no elaboration or proof from more fundamental axioms. That said, mankind’s enquiring mind rarely leaves well alone and so Messer’s Mill, Smith, Popper, Hayek, Friedman, et al, elaborated and Kant proved.

Pater is quite right when he says that Liberty has been accepted as a self-evident idea long before its elucidation. We’ve been counting for a lot longer than the concept of numbers has been proven – which was very late in historical terms, around the end of the 19th / beginning of the 20th centuries. (Proving that numbers exist – waste of time, eh Larry? You’d have to be mad as a brush to do that, no? I still haven’t bought that book about Godel’s incompleteness theorems you recommended to me yet, but I will - you know, the one about, er, proving that numbers exist I do believe!)

Most human beings also realise that turning a simple idea like Liberty from the ‘a priori’ notion to its phenomenal (spelling ok Larry?) realisation is the tricky bit. Hence Liberal law and lawyers. If the person hanging from the cliff actually wanted to commit suicide, what then? If my own life was to be in danger helping them up, what then?

Thousands of people beaver aware each day in the Liberal world adding tomes to the shelves of legal libraries answering questions such as these, edging the perception of Liberty ever closer to its ideal: never perfect like the idea, but rather perfecting - like a man trying to paint straight lines on the roads, each technological advance delivering new equipment that brings him a little closer, but never quite there.

I used to watch the trotscum and jetsam of University life screaming their lungs out at demos, while the lawyers - the activists of Liberty! - quietly studied away. When I step into a Liberal Law library I feel both reverence and revered: all that effort to protect little me. Nothing reminds one so directly of the adage “tyranny begins where the law ends”.

Speaking of tyranny, what might we find when we enter a Socialist Law library? I’ll tell you because I’ve met someone who’s experienced one. The texts are so curt they could be written on a post-it! note and stuck on the outside of the door:

“Just obey me or else you’re a wrecker and I’ll execute you. Don’t even try the handle, there’s nothing inside and it’s locked anyway. Now FUCK OFF down the corridor to room 101 where you belong.”

You may think I’m exaggerating. A few years ago I had the pleasure of the company of a Slovak policeman and his wife staying in my flat. I asked him about his experiences with the transition from Socialism to Liberal Democracy. The one thing that he kept referring to was the total absence of any law based on Liberty and the huge catch-up process in assimilating this law into their system. When I said “But surely there must be something to start from, it wasn’t, like, pure collectivisation was it? I thought there was a bit of compromise in the Ost Blok states, no?” He just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, as if to say: “How can you compromise with: ‘Just obey me or else you’re a wrecker and I’ll execute you.’ And what sort of start point would that be anyway?” The answers are, for the benefit of the trotscum and jetsam, ‘you can’t’ and ‘none at all’.

From a simple, self-evident, idea many nations have implemented Liberal Democracy which has had to compete with many other –isms. So with regard to the quote at the beginning of this comment, I say only this:

When it comes to inter-national slaughter, it is extremely rare, and maybe unknown, for two Liberal Democracies to make war on each other.

When it comes to domestic slaughter, you should remember that the following table’s figures, which display the worst excesses of the –isms under discussion, are just that: excess death-tolls (as the defenders of the Lancet report like to remind us about the death-toll to which they refer): -

Liberty – French revolution and Napoleonic wars 1,000,000*
National Socialism – Holocaust and WWII 55,000,000*
Socialism – Soviet Union and China 120,000,000

In excess of each figure there is a background death-toll common to all systems, different in magnitude but the same in nature: death due to poor sanitation, ineffective healthcare, lax safety regulations, negligence, accidents etc.

Now I ask you, do you really think that if we dug out the figures for deaths from poor sanitation, ineffective healthcare, lax safety regulations, negligence, accidents etc., Socialism would have anything to shout about?

And if you did find yourself missing a finger after an industrial accident and sought compensation, under which system would you rather consult a lawyer?

Son of Duff

* These two include international wars – just to give Socialism a bit of a chance.

I always thought it was the control obsession or lunatic doctrine and beliefs of the totalitarian dictator that led to mass murder rather than the economic model they used. I think I and many others see socialism in a different way to Uncle Joe and The Chairman(as we lefties affectionately refer to them)

A bit of a specious arguement all told.

Larry, you rascal! Me owe you a pint; you owe me a bottle of Scotland's finest, more like! The post you referred to was a satirical take on a fable *sent to me by a friend*, not my own words. In fact my only comment was that it provided me with a wry smile. And it had nothing to do with the enfeebled and impoverished but everything to do with a wastrel. For those interested:

I cannot be bothered to trawl through every word I have written but I do know my own opinion and have expressed it often enough, which is, that it is very definitely the duty of people in a society to take care of the enfeebled and the impoverished, or, to quote a rather shrewd Victorian phrase, "the deserving poor"! None of that, however, means that we require the government and its horde of free-booters and hangers-on to do the necessary at vast expense.

Tomorrow, if I'm up to it (I've enjoyed an early celebration of my forthcoming birthday tonight - say no more!) I may lay out some tentative thoughts that diverge from Son of Duff's love of the liberal society. Well, nothing like a family ruck for pure enjoyment!

But I thought you were the PFJ?


Son of Duff

Son of Duff appears to be suggesting that liberalism and capitalism are the same thing, and that one leads to another. He thus answered the question about the death toll of capitalism with a defence of liberalism. I suspect citizens of Pinochet's chile, baby doc duvalier's haiti and numerous other junta's accross the world may have some comments about the freedom of capitalism as well. Of course this will probably be regarded as nit-picking, because defenders of capitalism don't really advocate the dictatorships listed above - but then few socialists or communists actually advocate or defend the regimes of stalin or Mao.

This leads into the next error, which is a failure to differentiate between different socialisms, and leaders. For example the leaderships of Brezhnev and Stalin were completely different from one another in many ways. Furthermore one could ask legitimately whether China these days counts as communist or capitalist (I guess it depends whether you are talking death tolls or growth rates).

This leads onto how the death toll has been calculated. For example which regimes have been included as "socialist", during the cold war many dictatorships were only "socialist" because the soviet union was offering them more money than the US, or vice versa. In fact a few changed state ideologies from capitalism to communism quite regularly depending on the geo-political situation. Secondly what deaths are we measuring, do victims of famines count?, victims of wars started by the regimes?, etc etc. Or does the 120 million figure merely include those dying through execution or forced labour. Its only a useful comparison if the same criteria applies to all.

Moreover whilst it may be true that relatively few wars have been fought between liberal democracies, but it is simply untrue that "international slaughter" is only something done by totalitarian regimes. Liberal democracies frequently fight wars, they just tend not to be against other liberal democracies.

Finally its worth bearing in mind that "my death toll is bigger than yours" arguments aren't the be all and end all. Think about this for a minute: death toll of Al Quaida terrorism = 5/6k. Death toll of US invasian of Iraq alone = 40k on the bare minimum, and iraq body count themselves consider this to be about half the total. Death toll of Palestinian violence = 700/800 aprox, death toll of Israeli operations in occupied territories = 4000.

Would you agree these statistics don't tell the whole picture?

Planeshift has a good point. Capitalism cannot claim a monopoly on "Liberal Democracy" - however much of a fuss and bother SoD may make about it.

"Just obey me or else you’re a wrecker and I’ll execute you."

You might notice that recently on this blog it was us dreaded lefties who came out against capital punishment while your father in the past has been known to advocate the execution of small-time cannabis-dealers. "Liberal democacy" my arse.

Relatedly Ill Man makes a good point too: the murderous regimes under discussion (Mao's, Stalin's, Hitler's, etc.) were all totalitarian and anti-democratic in the extreme. Plenty of people in Britain today who call themselves "Socialists" are also passionate defenders of democracy.

It stands to reason therefore that these people are as different from Mao or Stalin as chalk is from cheese, and to lay the blame for 120,000,000 deaths on their doorstep is really nothing more than a very nasty slur.

But I'm sure if you hit it hard enough, make your comments even longer and more aggressive, and bandy about a few more huge death-tolls, then that square peg *will* go into that round hole.

It would be truer to say, maybe, that at the end of the nineteenth century you could get a pretty solid consensus on what "Socialism" meant. But, since then, the name has been taken up (sometimes only as a fugitive 'end' justifying the means) by a variety of deeply unpleasant regimes, all evolving and mutating the concept in practice until one nominally "socialist" state might be more or less ideologically antithetical to another (you get this effect in microcosm in student unions too). The problem is, Larry is (I think) arguing from a very pure, theoretical, late nineteenth-century definition of socialism as an economic idea, whereas the Duffs pere et fils are taking the real-life "Socialist" regimes at their own evaluation (even though, in most of these regimes, truth was probably the first casualty).
Note, none of this means I think that the nineteenth century unsullied ideal of "socialism" would ever actually work, except for a very short time.

Hilary, surely it cuts both ways?

If you can blame 'Socialism' for the crimes of regimes that weren't socialist but claimed to be, you must also be allowed to blame 'Capitalism' for the crimes of regimes that claimed to be capitalist.

Hence, using young Duff's logic, I could blame Adam Smith for the 40 million in India who starved thanks to the British administration's 'free trade' policy (that is, 'you're free to trade with who we say you can and definitely not with one another').

But I won't, because that'd be a bit stupid, wouldn't it?

N.I.B. -

Only if you regard socialism and capitalism as moral philosophies, and not conflicting economic theories. If you think of economics as essentially a science (a fairly imprecise one I know), then it becomes morally neutral, a sort of hydraulics of capital, and the question becomes, how to direct the capital to generate the most useful work? I'd say that a mature, legally accountable, & (most importantly) well-informed free market is, in the long term, more efficient in doing this than state-controlled dirigisme.

As regards moral decisions, my own view is that these are the responsibility of the individual, and since the precepts I try to follow are things like "give no thought to the morrow" and "love thy neighbour" these can easily be in conflict with both the instinct towards security and accumulated capital, and the temptation to subjugate the present toward the goal of a distant Utopian future - both of which ideals exist only in the imagination, and not in the exact present, which is the only place that moral decisions can be made.

The conflict comes when the State has to take moral decisions, because, pragmatically, it is obliged to do so with reference to an anticipated future. It's a difficult question, but my instinctive response is to say "allow the State to take as few moral decisions as possible," or in other words, to limit the authority of the State. Which is classical Liberalism, I suppose.

Planeshift / Ill Man / Larry / Hilary: -

Liberalism’s two axioms (you can do what you like so long as it doesn’t harm others; inaction that fails to prevent preventable harm is illiberal) are the principles that define economic Liberty (Capitalism) and political Liberty (Democracy, freedom of expression). I’d like to live in a state that adopts the principles consistently, but you are right in that states frequently apply principles inconsistently. (Given the choice I’d rather be able to vote with my wallet every day than a ballot box every five years. In other words, I’d rather live in China or Chile in the times you are referring to than have all my earning and assets confiscated by a bunch of thieves I get to swap for another bunch of thieves every five years.)

It is when the principles are applied consistently you get Liberal Democracy, to which my observations about no wars being fought between them and low mortality (background and excesses – see above) apply.

So yes, I do pick and choose those countries that are LD on the basis of their consistent application of the principles; those that fail in one area or another (or both) sink to that lowest common denominator and will always be dangerous to their neighbours and their own folks.

But at least I can point to some countries and say they are LDs and stand by their behaviour in the “wars and slaughter” test. Socialists have awful trouble with this; their little darlings’ civic experiments always end up being airbrushed when things go Pete Tong, their basket-case states labelled “the countries that called themselves Socialist but weren’t really” and the blame sidelined onto ‘Uncle Jo’ or ‘the Chairman’ as they are ‘fondly’ called. (I still can’t get over the way folks are excused from class hatred and allowed to refer fondly to the murderers of 120 million people, while those that espouse racial hatred and fondly refer to the murderer of 6 million people as ‘Uncle Adolf’ are treated somewhat inconsistently).

As a case in point look at South America, today’s little darling continent of Socialism. Or rather ‘incontinent of Socialism’; so delightful is this latest ‘Coast of Utopia’ that 12 million of its inhabitants have already sailed on by to take up the crappiest jobs in the nearest LD in preference to those on offer at home. And so soon! What’s it going to be like in SA in a decade or two when its basket-cases get relabelled ‘the countries that called themselves Socialist but weren’t really”?

And Planeshift acknowledges, albeit grudgingly, that LDs don’t war with each other (but neither are they naïve in a dangerous world shared with non-LDs). But if you want to draw out my really idealistic side, imagine a world with only LDs in it. It’s easy if you try. Oliver Kamm’s foreign policy is based on it. There would be no more war. And the wo-uh-uh-orld would live as one. And Planeshift said it.

Son of Duff


“If you can blame 'Socialism' for the crimes of regimes that weren't socialist but claimed to be, you must also be allowed to blame 'Capitalism' for the crimes of regimes that claimed to be capitalist.”

How many regimes claim to be Capitalist but aren’t? The ones that claim to be are! The number of states that claim to be Capitalist but aren’t must be as rare as the number of LD-on-LD wars. The good thing about being something that everyone loves to hate is that nobody wants to be you.

How many regimes claim not to be Capitalist but are? Some, but not that many. China does, but I don’t think we disagree that it is capitalist and can see why it denies being so.

As an idea Liberty is sound; its manifestations in economics and politics are easy to match to the concept, i.e. observe; like the ‘a priori’ straight line is to match to perceptual objects with straight line properties in them. Timeless and in no need of great analytical proof as Pater expounded (but it’s fun to do if you like that sort of thing– like proving numbers exist).

This is in stark contrast to Socialism. As many countries that call themselves Socialist aren’t as call themselves not are – and that’s just the view of the Socialists! There are as many ideas of what Socialism is as there are states that have been called Socialist by someone – and not one has taken root yet! The only defence of Socialism might be that it hasn’t been thought of yet; which is really what you’re saying when you label your basket-cases ‘the countries that called themselves Socialist but weren’t really’.

Finally, of the regimes that have caused crimes and are Capitalist, whether they deny it or not (e.g. China now and Pinochet’s Chile), it’s the Capitalist bit that improved living standards and reduced mortality; it’s all the bits of those regimes to which the Liberal principle wasn’t consistently applied that have done the slaughter. And this isn’t conjecture – as Socialism’s claim to be benign is, predicated on ‘the real one will be ok’ – I can point to today’s fully featured LDs and say “there you are – they don’t do slaughter”.

Son of Duff

You nitwit Lawrence. My post was about fifty words long and you still missed the point of it. You also failed to see the very obvious and heavy handed irony deployed with regard to Stalin and Mao.

Or am I not giving you the credit you deserve for taking my words out of context?

"How many regimes claim to be Capitalist but aren’t? The ones that claim to be are!"

Well, I was only reading some blog the other day that was saying the EU is nothing but a commie plot - and as for the NHS and the BBC - phew! We're practically living in the gulag with those two!

Wheras, as you say, China - whose government just embarked on their eleventh five year plan and whose top companies are all state owned - are clearly Capitalists to the very core. As are those of us in the Capitalist West who hand over our money to the Chinese government in exchange for Chinese-government manufactured goods so the Chinese government can lend our government money so we can all afford to buy more of the Chinese government's stuff. Isn't this laissez-faire thing brilliant - the best thing is how governments never have to get involved in people's business.

But anyway, I understand what you're saying: Liberal Democracies don't slaughter, because if they did they wouldn't be Liberal Democracies, and capitalism is good because if it wasn't good, it wouldn't be capitalism, and if something *is* making people richer but looks a lot like centrally-planned socialism, it is not, because it can't be, because centrally-planned socialism is not good and does not make people richer, wheras capitalism is good and does. Just ask the Chinese!

I'm glad we've cleared this up, although I'm still not quite sure if the precise word I'm grasping after is 'axiom' or 'tautology'.

Me, I'd just like to see this capitalism thing in action. Maybe the next capitalist state will be the real one?


China not Capitalist? Well if this guy’s to be believed 70% of China’s GDP is private: -

Perhaps you might be more comfortable with the OECD’s 59.2%: -,2340,en_2649_201185_35350582_1_1_1_1,00.html

Which means that China’s percentage of GDP in the private sector has over-taken Blighty’s 58% under Gordon Brown, making China slightly more Capitalist than us!

Perhaps privatising the rotten BBC and NHS would put us ahead again,

Son of Duff

P. S. You’ll be pleased to know I’m offline for a while – joys of moving house.

...or perhaps we could get ahead by having an authoritarian government like they've have there.

Still, try and have fun moving. I wouldn't wish that ordeal on anyone.

Not the first time i've seen someone use the 'my genocide is less onerous than yours' gambit. You are saying Hitler wasn't nearly as bad as everyone makes out Lawrence? Or am I being deliberately disingenuous?

I do hope so...................

Cheers you little scamp

Ken M

Body Counts In Imperial Service

Yugoslavia, Afghanistan,
and elsewhere

By Edward S. Herman

It is really impressive how efficiently the intellectual and propaganda resources of the imperial state are mobilized to meet its need to demonize its enemies and put its own and its client states’ actions in a benevolent light. This is especially important for an imperial power that retains its democratic forms as it kills lavishly and on a global basis, and justifies these killings, and its enormous “defense” expenditures, on grounds of “human rights” concerns as well as “national security.” Getting its message across requires not only a compliant media and “journalists of attachment” who will follow the official agenda, but also an intellectual community of experts, academics and think-tank specialists, New Humanitarians, human rights group officials, and former leftists who have finally seen the light, who serve as “independent” commentators and guide the public toward the official truth. They constitute an ideological and propaganda collective that provides a gigantic echo chamber in which the official agenda resonates, and which helps get the public on the killing bandwagon.

The operation of this collective, and its techniques, are well illustrated by its treatment of “body counts” in comparable wars and atrocities throughout the world. Where there is an official and imperial demand for a high body count and great indignation, as in the case of Kosovo in 1998 and 1999 (earlier in Bosnia in the years 1992-1995, Kuwait in 1990-1991, still earlier in the case of Cambodia under Pol Pot, 1975-1978), the collective will be deeply concerned with civilian casualties, will pursue refugees relentlessly to get details of their suffering, and will search eagerly for dead bodies. Given that they know the truth in advance—that “another Hitler” is committing genocide, they will not look at evidence very critically, and will be happy to accept any story and any inflated account of numbers of bodies, however biased the source. They will also explain away the ex-post findings that “another Hitler’s” body count had been inflated.

On the other hand, where the imperial power and/or its proxies are doing the killing, as in Afghanistan from October 7, 2001 onward, or in Panama in 1989, or in Iraq from January 1991 to the present; or where client states like Israel, Turkey, and Indonesia in East Timor are doing the killing, the establishment collective has little interest in civilian casualties [exception: Israeli civilians], fails to pursue refugees to get their stories of suffering, and does not engage in any search for dead bodies. Its members even tend to be sceptical of stories of suffering and estimates of dead bodies made by others.

This same contrast applies to larger body counts such as in the famous 100 million death toll of communism in the Black Book, which includes millions who died in Chinese and Soviet famines. But it would be unthinkable for writers in the mainstream to count in the death toll of capitalism those who have died of exposure, hard labor, starvation, and preventable diseases resulting from economic structures and policies, which would run well over 100 million; or the aggregate of “disappeared” in Latin America during the National Security State years; or the “collateral damage” deaths from sanctions and bombing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places. AOL Time Warner is not likely to be interested in publishing a Black Book of Capitalism.

Give Us Bodies

With Milosevic “another Hitler” and the Serbs “willing executioners,” by NATO-power determination in the early 1990s, the quest for bodies was early and intense. But only Bosnian Muslim bodies were sought, not victims of the Bosnian Muslims or Croatians, although there is extensive evidence of repeated massacres of Serbs in Bosnia in the years 1992-1995. In 1994 and 1995, Muslim commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, proudly showed journalists videotapes of his “war trophies,” including severed heads and heaps of bodies of Serbs, but these were not the bodies the collective was seeking.

In his book Slaughterhouse, David Rieff says there were more than 250,000 Bosnians killed—and Rieff uses the word Bosnians to mean Bosnian Muslims only—but he gives no source, and he is clearly regurgitating claims of Bosnian Muslim officials, notably Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic. The propagandists on his side are truth-tellers. For Rieff, Susan Sontag, Hitchens, et al., this was “genocide,” but the thousands of Serbs killed by Naser Oric and bin Laden’s cadres was not genocide; in fact, those slaughters and mass graves (at least 53 claimed by the Bosnian Serbs) never show up on the screen of the collective or reach the U.S. public.

According to George Kenney, who worked on Yugoslavia in the State Department during the Bosnian war, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimates 20-30,000 dead in Bosnia, and U.S. intelligence community estimates “run to tens of thousands.” Only a few thousand bodies have been found in Bosnia attributable to the Bosnia-Herzegovina wars, and the ICRC says “more than 20,000” are unaccounted for, which, again, doesn’t get us near 250,000 and “genocide.” In Srebrenica, there have been only 473 bodies recovered, and there is absolutely no credible evidence that 7,500 men and boys who allegedly disappeared in this area in July 1995 were murdered. The absence of bodies, despite an intense search and strong incentives to produce them, hasn’t interfered with the conclusion that 7,500 were slaughtered there.

One claim of course was that the Serbs removed the bodies. This is not credible, as removing thousands of bodies would not only require significant human and capital resources, not likely to be a high priority in times of intense warfare, but it would also be a project readily observable in satellite photos. U.S. satellite observations of this area never came up with any photos of killing, digging, or removal. The removal theory was also popular for Kosovo, especially after the Tribunal produced fewer than 4,000 bodies (on all sides, including dead soldiers). Long after the war, but timed well to provide a suitable context for bringing Milosevic to the Hague, a story was widely circulated about a Mercedes refrigerated truck dumped into the Danube with a load of bodies, the inference being that maybe many such trucks with bodies were dumped into the river. Needless to say no such evidence has been forthcoming.

The search for bodies intensified during the 78-day bombing war, and then in its aftermath, in NATO-occupied Kosovo. This was urgently needed by NATO’s war-makers, as the really severe refugee flight and escalated killing followed the NATO bombing; before that, a Belgrade-NATO agreement had seen the drawing back of the Serbian army, the return of many of the refugees, admission of a sizable OSCE observer presence, and reduced killing, despite KLA provocations. A pre-bombing German Foreign office assessment even denied any ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, describing Serbian army actions there as targeted against KLA forces and strongholds. Furthermore, it eventually entered the public domain that the United States had actually aided the KLA before the bombing, so that the KLA’s provocations aimed at inducing Serbian retaliation to help bring NATO into war could be said to be U.S.-sponsored. The indignation at Serbian retaliation was therefore cynical and hypocritical.

The NATO propaganda machine needed to ignore this history, as well as the military collaboration of NATO and the KLA during the war, and blame the refugee crisis and killings entirely on the Serbs. This was helped by a claim of an “Operation Horseshoe” plan to expel the Kosovo Albanians even without a NATO war. The establishment collective’s cooperation in this task was exemplary, including the suppression up to this day of the evidence that the alleged Operation Horseshoe was a propaganda fabrication (exposed in a book by retired German Brigadier General Heinz Loquai, The Kosovo Conflict: A War That Could Be Avoided).

A final problem was the absence of enough bodies in Kosovo after the June 10, 1999 NATO occupation to satisfy the frenzied propaganda claims of genocide. During the war, NATO propagandists had made wild claims of 100,000 and even 500,000 killings and the word “genocide” was used freely to describe Serb actions. After the war, NATO and its agents organized what must have be the largest forensic search in history, and the media descended on the conquered province like an invasion of locusts, interviewing refugees, looking for and examining grave sites, insatiable for stories of abuse and bodies. They got painful stories from the refugees, many no doubt true, but there was much disappointment that the Trepca mine, for example, which Kosovo Albanian informants had claimed had been the site of mass cremation, showed no signs of any bodies having been burned there, and the Tribunal’s final count was under 4,000 dead—from unknown causes and on all sides. According to the ICRC, there were some 3,500 Kosovo residents still missing in May 2001, a figure that included some 900 Serbs, Roma, and other non-Albanians. Whether these were all genuinely missing or had died is unclear.

With the body count numbers clearly inadequate, instead of pointing out that NATO officials had lied and admitting that they had been gulled, the media and other members of the propaganda collective dropped the subject. Having exploited the inflated claims and squeezed all they could out of refugee testimony, and having failed to mention that the claim of an Operation Horseshoe had been refuted, the collective’s abandonment of the subject meant that they left a system of convenient lies intact. This would allow them to support the Tribunal in anything it did, as the Tribunal worked with a closely related system of politicized and biased “information.”

The new humanitarian members of the collective, who had swallowed and disseminated the inflated numbers, also never recanted based on the actual body count. None of them have ever mentioned the evidence that the United States had secretly aided the KLA before the bombing war and was in active contact with them during the war. None has conceded that “Operation Horseshoe” had been demonstrated to be a propaganda concoction; Christopher Hitchens repeats that “a plan of mass expulsion...was in train,” and Michael Ignatieff says that “Milosevic decided to solve an ‘internal problem’ by exporting an entire nation to his impoverished neighbors.”

For Ian Williams and Ignatieff, those who point to the absence of bodies consistent with the inflated claims of NATO propaganda are “revisionists.” Both cite Tribunal estimates as the last word—Williams says Carla del Ponte’s estimate of 11,334 dead based on “eyewitnesses” “should have put questions concerning the death toll to rest,” but no—“the downward revision of the numbers murdered in Kosovo is proving very fashionable—even in the New York Times,” which to Williams’s outrage put up a headline “Early Count Hints at Fewer Kosovo Deaths.” The actual body count was under 4,000, but for Williams, del Ponte’s estimate of how many she expects to be found is the only relevant number, given the Tribunal’s known objectivity. (In dismissing the need for investigating NATO’s war crimes in bombing Serbia, del Ponte acknowledged taking NATO press releases as an authoritative source of information, but Williams probably wouldn’t find this problematic either.)

Williams does the New York Times an injustice. In addition to never finding the U.S.-KLA connection of news interest nor the collapse of the Operation Horseshoe claim nor the contesting evidence concerning the Racak massacre, the paper called on Michael Ignatieff to give the authoritative word on “Counting Bodies in Kosovo” (November 21, 1999). Like Williams, Ignatieff has the “revisionists...getting their facts wrong.” The NATO leaders didn’t exaggerate the killings. While U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen claimed that 100,000 Kosovo Albanian males were “missing,” he “also clearly stated that his reports showed that 4,600 Kosovars had been executed, a claim that has been confirmed by the forensic trail of evidence uncovered by war crimes investigators since June.” But Ignatieff eventually admits that the Tribunal had up to then found only 2,108 bodies, so that “forensic evidence” based on discovered bodies could certainly not demonstrate that 4,600 people had been executed. Of course, Ignatieff talks about a forensic “trail of evidence,” but this rhetorical trick cannot cover up the fact that he is engaging in deliberate deception. He also doesn’t discuss Cohen’s use of “missing,” in the midst of a war when such a number was a meaningless propaganda ploy, used to suggest the likelihood that 100,000 had already been murdered.

The Tribunal estimated that 11,334 bodies will be found, so Ignatieff says whether they will be found “depends on whether the Serb military and the police removed them.” That the Tribunal’s estimate might be inflated for political reasons or be simply mistaken is ruled out by ideological premise. The Tribunal hasn’t found more than 4,000 bodies, but neither Ignatieff nor the Times has noticed.

Afghanistan: What Bodies?

The contrast between the media and collective’s treatment of civilian casualties and body count in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan after September 11 couldn’t be more dramatic. The media’s disinterest in questioning Afghan refugees is especially noteworthy as there were large numbers put to flight by the bombing, and this new burden of war was imposed on a population already in a starvation crisis. Elementary humanity would make their condition and plight of interest. But, on the other hand, U.S. policy success depended on minimizing the effect of the bombing war on civilians. A good propaganda system will therefore make Afghan civilian victims “unworthy,” and their plight will be ignored. The U.S. media and collective responded at least as well as Pravda or Izvestia responded to the demands of the Soviet state when it was doing damage to Afghan civilians.

For the U.S. media, it was “A Nation Challenged” and a “War On Terror.” The focus has been on U.S. war plans, war actions, successes in attacking the enemy, coalition organization, and reactions on the home front. Considerable attention has been paid to civilian casualties and the pains of death, but only as regards the victims of 9/11; in fact, the New York Times has been providing humanizing accounts, day after day, of each and every victim of the World Trade Center bombings. But you would have to look hard in the massive coverage of the war to find U.S. media reports that even touched on civilian casualties from the intensive U.S. bombing raids on Afghanistan or the war’s effects on refugee generation and starvation. In an enlightening contrast, whereas the Guardian (London) reports “Refugees left in the cold at ‘slaughterhouse’ camp: 100 Afghans perish daily as strained network collapses under flood of new arrivals” (January 3, 2002), the Washington Post features success in averting famine and averts its eyes from the Afghans in travail (“Massive Food Delivery Averts Afghan Famine,” December 31, 2001).

Even when U.S. bombs repeatedly hit marked Red Cross facilities in Kabul, and U.S. officials admitted that this was intended, the U.S. media reported this with brevity and without the slightest indignation, and it did not impel them to look at U.S. bombing strategies more closely. Even the open admission of an intention to harm civilians, as in British Admiral Sir Michael Boyce’s statement, “The squeeze will carry on until the people of the country themselves recognize that this is going to go on until they get the leadership changed” (NYT, October 28), does not move the U.S. media. Investigative zeal on this subject is non-existent. When the academic Mark Herold went to the trouble of carefully studying news reports at home and abroad, and came up with a tally of over 3,700 civilians killed by U.S. bombs from October 7 to December 7 (“A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan”), no major U.S. news institution bothered to report this finding.

Equally interesting has been the silence and/or apologetics on civilian casualties on the part of the new humanitarians who were so deeply concerned with the officially approved victims in the Balkans. Writing and reporting on the Afghan war, Timothy Garton Ash, David Rieff, Michael Ignatieff, and Bernard Kouchner have expressed not a word of concern over the civilian bombing casualties, or the enhanced starvation threat resulting from the war, or possible “war crimes.” Chistopher Hitchens has been positively enthused over the war, and knows by intuition and faith in his leaders that there has been “no serious loss of human life” from the bombing and that the Bush administration has followed “an almost pedantic policy of avoiding ‘collateral damage’” (Nation, December 17, 2001).

Hitchens’s Nation colleague, Marc Cooper, was indignant at a citation to Mark Herold’s study of civilian casualties, claiming that Herold’s body count is “totally unverified and unscientific.” Cooper, who was never outraged over the much less scientific claims of Kosovo Albanian deaths by William Cohen and other NATO spokespersons, is no doubt waiting for the Bush administration to “verify” the Herold body count. It is noteworthy that Cooper doesn’t express indignation that neither the government nor media seem to have made an effort to study civilian casualties as Herold has done, a failure that clearly facilitates the killing of civilians—but his arguments are perhaps understandable given that the war strikes him as a “just cause,” making the Afghan civilians correspondingly unworthy. His, Hitchens’s, and the new humanitarians’ stance toward these civilian killings makes them facilitators of de facto war crimes.

East Timor, Turkey, and Israel

It goes almost without saying that the U.S. mainstream media have not sought out refugees and pursued body counts of East Timorese victims of Indonesia, Kurdish victims of Turkey, or Palestinian victims of Israel. There is no way the U.S. public could know that Turkey had been killing Kurds and producing refugees during the 1990s on a scale that exceeded Serb operations in Kosovo by a large factor. Similarly, as regards Israel and the Palestinians, the media have continued their long tradition of making the Israelis the victims, the Palestinians the aggressors and terrorists, the numerical body count on the ground the inverse of the impression of body count conveyed in the media (see Herman, “Israel’s Approved Ethnic Cleansing, Part 3, How the U.S. Media Protects It,” Z Magazine, June 2001).

It was a telling fact that as Indonesian killing in East Timor reached a peak in 1977 and 1978, New York Times coverage of that area fell to zero. This was possibly the closest thing to genocide we have seen since World War II, but the word is not applied to this case (in contrast with its lavish use for Kosovo), and veteran New York Times reporter Henry Kamm even explicitly denied its applicability to East Timor (February 15, 1981). That was what Times reporters call a “complex” case, as a good genocidist (Suharto), long supported by the United States, who brought “stability” to the area, was in charge.

In 1998 and 1999, when Indonesia attempted to prevent and subvert the U.N.-sponsored independence referendum in East Timor, the Indonesian army and paramilitary forces killed over 5,000 defenseless civilians even before the August 30, 1999 vote, according to Church estimates (John Taylor, East Timor: The Price of Freedom). This was far more than died in Kosovo in the year before the bombing war, estimated by UN human rights rapporteur Jiri Dienstbier at some 1,800, and more than the number of bodies found in Kosovo even after the war. But the disinterest of the U.S. mainstream media in refugees or body counts was close to complete, and when on the rare occasion numbers killed have been offered, they are low. Seth Mydans suggested that “as many as 1,000 people” died in the independence struggle, with no citation to source, an estimate that fits well the paper’s durable coverup of Indonesia’s abuse of these unworthy victims (“Bones Offer Testimony Of Killings In East Timor,” September 30, 2001).

The new humanitarians have followed the same pattern, attending with great indignation to the “genocide” in Bosnia and Kosovo, and somehow never getting around to the frequently far more numerous unworthy victims of their own state and its clients. In a recent study that David Peterson and I did on “the New Humanitarian Crusaders” for a forthcoming book on Human Rights: Challenging the New Consensus (edited by David Chandler), we found that in a sample of 101 recent mainstream media articles on human rights written by a dozen leading new humanitarians (Rieff, Sontag, Kouchner, Havel, Hitchens, Ignatieff, Ash, Kaldor, Aryeh Neier, Geoffrey Robertson, Tim Judah and Kenneth Roth), the Yugoslav conflicts were discussed in detail in every article, but human rights issues in East Timor, Turkey, and Israel were mentioned briefly in only three.

The new humanitarians’ lack of interest or concern with victims deemed unworthy by their state was well captured by Christopher Hitchens’s treatment of East Timor, where he credits the new interventionism in Kosovo for having helped the East Timorese. Although the intervention was belated, in the end “The Indonesian occupiers sailed away” (“Genocide and the Body-Baggers,” Nation, November 29, 1999). He omits mentioning that the United States and its allies knew, and watched without doing anything about it, while many more innocents were killed than died in Kosovo before the bombing war; that in addition to the large numbers killed, the destruction was immense and 85 percent of the population was made refugees; that no food drops were implemented on behalf of the refugees; that nothing was done to help the more than 100,000 refugees under Indonesian control in West Timor; that no forensic teams were rushed to check out war crimes and no war crimes trials are pressed by the West.

That was Hitchens’s last word on this subject, as he sailed away to focus on the villainy in Kosovo, and then the just war against fascism in Afghanistan.

Body Counts in Imperial Service

The beauty of this system is that it works without coercion—the media and new humanitarians display great energy in pursuing the mistreatment of the worthy victims of Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, or Milosevic, and their indignation seems entirely spontaneous; and their disinterest and absence of indignation at the abuse of the unworthy victims of Suharto, the Turkish generals, Ariel Sharon, or U.S. bombers in Serbia, the Sudan, and Afghanistan seem equally natural. Both their benevolence and indifference are channeled perfectly to serve the demands of the imperial state as they quickly internalize the patriotic agenda. Thus they can pay little or no attention to Saddam Hussein’s victims while he is in imperial service (before August 2, 1990), but quickly begin the aggressive search for bodies after he becomes another Hitler (from August 2). This is the way a model propaganda system should work.

Hubert, my dear, old thing, the first paragraph being a tedious statement of the bleedin' obvious and a description of the behaviour of *all* nations, 'imperial' or otherwise, at *all* times in history, I really couldn't be bothered to read the rest of it - life being short and at my age getting shorter by the day! However, I will draw it to the attention of 'Son of Duff' the original author of the post.

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