A Cautionary Tale: Disaster in the Best Intentions

Discussion in 'Politics' started by PoliticalChic, Jul 16, 2010.

  1. PoliticalChic
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    PoliticalChic Diamond Member

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    Dalrymple is a brilliant writer. Here, he tells of his experiences in Tanzania, where the socialialist government, in its desire to help the poor, destroys the will of the people to be able to make the decisions that impel a free people.

    He then shows the same historic trend in Britain.

    One cannot but see the same occurring in the United States.

    My summary, below. If you have the time, please read the full article.

    1 I next spent a few years (1983 to 1986) in Tanzania, a country that presented another experiment in treating poverty as a matter of maldistribution. Julius Nyerere, the first—and, until then, the only—president…had become a Fabian socialist at the University of Edinburgh.

    a. Nyerere wished the poor well; he was full of sympathy and good intentions. In 1967, he issued his famous Arusha Declaration, named for the town where he made it, committing Tanzania to socialism and vowing to end the exploitation of man by man that made some people rich and others poor. On this view of things, the greater accumulation of wealth, either by some individuals or by some nations, could be explained only by exploitation, a morally illicit process.

    b. The explanation for poverty was simple: some people or nations appropriated the natural wealth of mankind for themselves. [They should] no longer be allowed to do so and that their wealth be redistributed. So Tanzania nationalized the banks, appropriated commercial farms, took over all major industry, controlled prices, and put all export trade under the control of paragovernmental organizations.

    c. There followed the forced collectivization of the… population. By herding the people into collectivized villages, Nyerere thought, the government could provide services, such as schools and clinics… collectively the villagers could buy fertilizer, perhaps even tractors, which they never could have done as individuals.

    d. Unfortunately, the people did not want to herd fraternally into villages; they wanted to stay put on their scattered ancestral lands. Several thousand were arrested and imprisoned.

    e. The predictable result of these efforts at preventing the exploitation of man by man was the collapse of production, pauperizing an already poor country. Tanzania went from being a significant exporter of agricultural produce to being utterly dependent on food imports, even for subsistence, in just a few years.

    f. Nyerere blamed shortages of such commonplaces as soap and salt on speculators and exploiters, rather than on his own economic policies. He made the shortages the pretext for so-called crackdowns, often directed at Indian traders, which eventually drove them from the country…Anti-Semitism, it has often been said, is the socialism of fools. I would put things another way: socialism is the anti-Semitism of intellectuals.

    g. A vicious circle had been created: the more impoverished the country, the greater the need for foreign aid; the greater the foreign aid, the more privileged the elite; the more privileged the elite, the greater the adherence to policies that resulted in poverty.

    h. While I was impressed by the sacrifices that Tanzanian parents were willing to make to educate their children (for a child to attain a certain stage of education, for example, a party official had to certify the parents’ political reliability), it alarmed me to discover that the only goal of education was a government job, from which a child could then extort a living from people like his parents—

    2. n England, I found my Tanzanian experiences illuminating. The situation was not so extreme in England, of course, …But the arguments for the expansive British welfare state had much in common with those that Nyerere had used to bring about his economic disaster.

    a. The poor, helpless victims of economic and social forces, … needed outside assistance in the form of subsidies and state-directed organizations, paid for with the income of the rich. One could not expect them to make serious decisions for themselves.

    b. This attitude has worked destruction in Britain as surely as it has in Tanzania. The British state is today as much a monopoly provider of education to the population as it is of health care. The monopoly is maintained because the government and the bureaucratic caste believe, first, that parents would otherwise be too feckless or impoverished to educate their children from their own means; and second, that public education equalizes the chances of children in an otherwise unequal society and is thus a means of engineering social justice.

    3. The state started to take over education in 1870, largely because the government saw a national competitor, Prussia, employing state power to educate its children. But practically all British children went to school already: according to the calculations of economist and historian E. G. West, 93 percent of the population was by then literate. It is true that the British state had started providing support to schools long before, but in 1870, 67 percent of school income still came from the fees that parents paid.

    a. Not all British children received a good education before the state intervened: that was as vanishingly unlikely then as it is today. But it is clear that poor people—incomparably poorer than anyone in Britain today—were nonetheless capable of making sacrifices to carry out their highly responsible decisions. They did not need the state to tell them that their children should learn to read, write, and reckon. There is no reason to suppose that, left alone, the astonishing progress in the education of the population during the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century would not have continued. The “problem” that the state was solving in its destruction of the voluntary system was its own lack of power over the population.

    4. As in Tanzania, the state-dominated system became self-reinforcing. Because of the high taxation necessary to run it, it reduced the capacity and inclination of people to pay for their own choices—and eventually the habit of making such choices. The British state now decides the important things for British citizens when it comes to education and much else. It is no coincidence that British advocates of the cradle-to-grave welfare state were great admirers of Julius Nyerere.
    Sympathy Deformed by Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal Spring 2010
     
  2. Foxfyre
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    Foxfyre Eternal optimist Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    The one element of socialism that does not also exist in capitalism is the notion that people in government are wiser and more capable of spending the people's money for the people's benefit than the people are capable of spending it themselves. Further that the government chooses what the people should have better than the people would choose for themselves.

    Socialism assumes government is right and the people will spend their resources wrongly and choose wrongly.

    The OP illustrates that in spades.
     
  3. Foxfyre
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    Foxfyre Eternal optimist Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    The downside to the more noble concept of socialism or that which provides the greatest benefit to the people, is the inevitable progression to a notion that all belongs to the government and the people work for the collective good by serving the government.

    The core principle undergirding the U.S. Constitution and what has made America such an exceptional and successful country is the revolutionary reverse concept that the government belongs to the people and is the agent of the people. Sadly we have lost so much of that concept in the last several decades.

    A parable attributed to Leo Tolstoy:

    "I see mankind as a herd of cattle inside a fenced enclosure. Outside the fence are green pastures and plenty for the cattle to eat, while inside the fence there is not quite grass enough for the cattle. Consequently, the cattle are tramping underfoot what little grass there is and goring each other to death in their struggle for existence.

    I saw the owner of the herd come to them, and when he saw their pitiful condition he was filled with compassion for them and thought of all he could do to improve their condition.

    So he called his friends together and asked them to assist him in cutting grass from outside the fence and throwing it over the fence to the cattle. It was never enough but they did what they could and they called it Charity.

    And because the cattle could not move normally in the storms as they naturally do, he provided sheds that protected them, but overcrowding spread disease that preyed especially upon the calves.

    Then, because of hunger and the calves were dying off and not growing up into serviceable cattle, he arranged that they should each have a pint of milk every morning for breakfast. It was far less than they needed but the cows were able to produce less and less and the supply was ever more limited.

    Because they were goring each other in the struggle for existence, he put corks on the horns of the cattle, so that the wounds they gave cach other might not be so serious. Then he reserved a part of the enclosure for the old bulls and the old cows over 70 years of age.

    In fact, he did everything he could think of to improve the condition of the cattle, and when I asked him why he did not do the one obvious thing, take down the fence, and let the cattle do what comes naturally to care for themselves, he answered: "If I let the cattle out, I should no longer be able to milk them."
     

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