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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Parasites of Parasites

Been reading a book on superpower interventions in the Third World during the Cold War and found it interesting how disappointed and pissed off Gorbachev & several other Soviet leaders were at Third World socialist parties and regimes that for decades had been receiving Soviet aid and had absolutely nothing to show for it. After Fidel Castro made some remarks about Gorbachev's new policies, Gorbachev's foreign policy advisor Anatoly Chernyaev wrote in his diary:

"The Bearded One"
[Fidel Castro] has destroyed the revolution and now he's destroying the country... No one in Latin America takes Cuba seriously. It is not setting an "example" for anyone anymore. The Cuban factor has withered away... If Castro breaks with us, he only hurts himself. And we will gain politically as well as saving five billion annually. Who'll protest? Dogmatists, sectarians in the "socialist camp", and dying Communist parties whose time is past.
Granted, many US interventions "failed" as well but at least the US was able to afford them both because it was a democracy and because it was capitalist (of course I'm not suggesting that Third World interventions ruined the Soviet economy). And when US policy led to a successful implementation of capitalism it had something to show for while Soviet supported Third World regimes were falling no matter how Marxist they were. Land reforms and collectivizations in Africa, for example, starved millions to death. Capitalism was and is of course always harder to implement because a government of a newly independent country that promises to "do nothing" doesn't sound as attractive as populist, nationalist and socialist rhetoric about building a new society with the government heading the charge. This is, I believe, why even so many staunchly anti-Communist governments were not exactly laissez-faire capitalists. Hell, even in capitalist countries it's not capitalism that people thank for for their living standards but it's always "free education", "free health-care" or some other relatively new function of the welfare state that didn't even exist when free markets started creating wealth. If you pour money into education and health-care without freeing markets you get nothing. This is why pouring money into improving education in unfree Third World countries is misguided and useless and leads to brain drain. This is why no amount of Soviet aid to the Third World would have made a difference:
After the facts and figures of Soviet aid to the Third World were made public for the first time by Elena Erofeieva and other scholars in late 1989, the public backlash was considerable. Many people asked themselves why their government had outstanding and increasing debts from the Third World of 87.5 billion roubles, when their own country's economy seemed to be in free fall. As one commentator observed, the chances of getting any of this paid back were less than zero, since the model of development that the Soviets were helping to implement in these countries was exactly the same as that which had failed spectacularly in the Soviet Union itself.
And still people don't want to hear about "spontaneous processes" or "invisible hands". What they want to hear is a politican telling them that the government will solve your problems.

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