2004 September 19 Sunday
Atlas Shrugs In Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe leads South Africa into its future.

Ambulances are drawn by oxen. Hand-guided cattle plows have replaced farm machinery. The state railroad uses gunpowder charges on the tracks to warn trains of danger ahead.

The often-violent seizure of thousands of white-owned farms for reallocation to black Zimbabweans, coupled with erratic rains, has decimated Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy. President Robert Mugabe argues that the land seizures have corrected ownership imbalances from British colonial days that left one-third of the country's farmland in the hands of about 5 000 white farmers.

Many seized farms went to Mugabe's cronies and lie fallow.

The decay takes many forms.

Doctors say midwives are now sealing off the umbilical protrusion of newborns with string, and dentists say many of their patients are using salt instead of toothpaste.

This all reminds me of an argument some comment posters have made on this blog about low skilled immigration: Their argument is that if we let the welfare state become big enough then supposedly it will eventually collapse. The reasoning is that letting matters get worse will somehow automatically bring on the correction or (if you want a more historical analogy) a Thermidorian Reaction that will fix things and usher in a libertarian golden age. But Zimbabwe is just one of many historical examples that demonstrate that in politics some changes are just plain bad and produce no opposing response big enough to yield a net benefit. Another example is the Russian Revolution and such low points of Soviet rule such as the famines of early 1930s in Ukraine and Russia under Stalin. Even today Russia is still a dysfunctional place that has clearly suffered from having its more successful classes and brighter people systematically killed off. So some political disasters are just that: disasters. At best they can serve the purpose of teaching a historical lesson. But what lesson needs to be learned today that doesn't already have lots of historical examples to illustrate it?

Rhodesia under white minority rule was a better place for both blacks and whites than Zimbabwe is today under black majority rule. South Africa, having a much larger portion of whites, has a longer road to go down into decay, corruption, and despotism. But it surely is going down that road.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 September 19 01:02 PM  Civilizations Decay


Comments
Kurt said at September 19, 2004 1:58 PM:

The romurs going around on the internet are that when Nelson Mandela dies, all hell is supposed to break loose in South Africa. More specifically, there is going to be "ethnic clensing" of white people.

I have no validity as to the truthfulness of these rumors.

Matra said at September 19, 2004 8:29 PM:

"South Africa, having a much larger portion of whites, has a longer road to go down into decay, corruption, and despotism"

True enough, but the whites have been leaving in such large numbers that it might not be long before the white proportion of the population isn't that much greater than for Zimbabwe. Though South Africa has more important natural resources than Zimbabwe and so foreign capital would be unlikely to dry up as much as it has since Mugabe's land grabs began.

John S Bolton said at September 20, 2004 2:01 AM:

The line that says 'the worse, the better', has a timeless appeal for radicals such as anarchists. In Zimbabwe and SA, life expectancy can decline by more than 20 years, without causing any popular rebellion. This may mean that the relative prestige of the races is considered more important than even the loss of 20 or more years of life expectancy. Many would rather die than support a more rational social order, if their group would be second-class beneath some genetically different one. If the prestige of the natives is rising relative to the other races in their country, an 80% unemployment rate is no occasion for an uprising. In Zimbabwe, per capita income at current exchange rates, can drop from thousands, down to hundreds, while the priority remains to drive the other races out, not to oganize for economic freedom. SA has started a policy of using officially tolerated violence to drive whites off the land, as though freedom means freedom for aggression to them. If the SA blacks were that disturbed by such events, they could vote for the white party. Their unemployment and crime rates are way up, but there is no mass defection from the ANC. A decline in per capita income of more than half, would not cause them to vote for the white politicians. Officials everywhere have discovered the power of racial discrepancies in prestige and other indicators, to allow for support of any degree of malfeasance by officials. The liberal remedy of anticipating such demands with quotas and such racial redistributive policies, is like throwing half your posessions onto the fire, in order not to have them be stolen later.

Andrew said at September 20, 2004 8:36 AM:

Is it fair to say that Zimbabwe is one of the first countries to reach the end of "the Road to Serfdom"?

Randall Parker said at September 20, 2004 11:32 AM:

Andrew, In a feudal system I expect the lords and masters to keep all their human property busy working their land. In Zimbabwe the masters do not appear competent enough or motivated enough to even try to get the population working for them as slaves.

Kurt, Yes, a correspondent who lives in South Africa tells me the rumour there is that when Mandela dies the oppression of whites will escalate to a much higher level of terror and killing. My correspondent is hopeful that this will not happen. But his description of his daily life suggests that police protection has already been effectively withdrawn from whites with the local black-run police stations uninterested in investigating crimes reported against white people. He says you can go to the police station and report, say, a robbery or rape and they will go through the formality of writing up what you tell them. But that is where it stops. I definitely wouldn't want to be a white in South Africa even with Mandela still alive.

david said at September 21, 2004 9:40 AM:

Yes, the whites in S. Africa (the ones who are too stubborn to move--the Boers, being in my opinion, the most stubborn people in history, but the English whites are leaving in droves) are living in feudal forts. Patrolled by private (white) security, living on their ranches, etc. A bit like the whites did in Zimbabwe.

The running joke in S. Africa is really, "What's the difference between Zimbabwe and S. Africa?--About 5 years."

David

gc said at September 21, 2004 1:38 PM:

The most amazing thing is that there are SO MANY people who will insist that up-is-down when you ask them how things are going in South Africa. It's just fine, they insist. Mugabe and Mbeki are *totally* different (despite the fact that Mbeki has endorsed Mugabe!). Nothing to worry about...

Here's the headline quote from Mbeki himself on his buddy Robert:

Don't blame Mugabe for everything. Many of Zimbabwe's problems are the legacy of colonial rule

Actually, it's reversed...all of Zim's *technology* is the legacy of colonial rule. But we can't let a technicality like that get in the way of a good apologetic! I do think, though, that some of the SA whites who're staying may not go quietly into that good night once Mbeki actively turns the state on them (as opposed to the current passive de-policing policy remarked on above). It'll be "interesting" to watch. If they resist, they will probably live, especially if they've kept their guns. If not, they will almost surely die.

Jay Z said at September 21, 2004 4:59 PM:

^Then I suppose you'd like to bring back apartheid. Of course Indians like you were considered unequal under apartheid.


Caractacus said at September 21, 2004 5:06 PM:

I agree with everything you said regarding Zimbabwe except for the part about people being better of in Rhodesia than in Zimbabwe. Without freedom, without self determination, life is hell, period. I understand the counter argument that at least in Rhodesia the state produced an agricultural surplus (the breadbasket of Africa) but it was with "slave labor" vs. today's Zimbabwe is composed of starving slave-labor (non-laborors?). I suppose you can say it is better to eat and be a slave than starve. I disagree - my US forefathers disagreed. Without freedom, whether Mugabe can produce grain or not, he is still Mugabe and should be treated as no better, and no worse, than the white-only rule he replaced.

By the same token, until South African majority can learn to apply a uniform rule of law with individual freedom, something the whites didn't preach in either Rhodesia or South Africa, they travel down the path to destruction. Until the "West" can learn to hold all nations to those same high standards, we are nothing but guilty bystanders in the destruction of nations with great potential.

John S Bolton said at September 21, 2004 9:15 PM:

Freedom doesn't mean majority rule; it means freedom from aggression by the state or other aggressors. The American constitution, and its writers, did not consider freedom to mean majority voting or equal prestige for races; subsequent American ideology is also against majority tyranny, lynch-law and equalization of groups by mere aggression. Rhodesia had more freedom for blacks than the dictatorship of Mugabe, even though they didn't vote. It shows an alarming weakness in humanity, that nations with unequal races cannot put basic considerations, such as freedom from aggression, life expectancy, avoidance of economic collapse, and the maintenance of some level of intellectual life without repression, ahead of the relative prestige of the races. One might hope that this is a peculiarity of backward countries, but what if it isn't?

Richard said at September 22, 2004 6:28 AM:

Hey, if you think about it, if we invade Iran and SA and thus drastically reduce oil production as we've done in Iraq, your next SUV could be that ox cart.

Rick said at September 23, 2004 8:48 PM:

I know some of you seem to portray yourselves are scientists or experts who can dispassionately dissect issues and easily arrive at efficient solutions. I wonder how Randall Parket et al would feel to have the majority of US whites being ruled (economically and politically) by a small visible minority even if the rule of this minority does not result in a loss of standard of living.

A bunch of you lamenting why South African blacks should tolerate apartheid because of its apparent economic benefits are the same bunch who would start protesting if the prospect of visible minorities controlling your economies become a reality. It's very easy to analyse issues at a safe distance.

Randall Parker said at September 23, 2004 9:30 PM:

Rick,

I quite understand the desire of people to be ruled by others of their own kind. At the same time, I am not going to deny the disastrous effects and terrible injustices that have happened as a consequence of Western support for black self-rule in Africa.

Judging at a distance: How apt. It was so easy for Westerners to judge the whites in Rhodesia and South Africa and find them so morally wanting for ruling over blacks that trade sanctions and other sanctions were slapped on and the whites in Africa were demonized. But look at what has come from black majority rule and look at just how much worse it is going to get.

It's very easy to moralize at a safe distance.

Kurt said at September 24, 2004 11:48 PM:

I've met white South African (Brits, not Boers) people in Asia. Many of them told me they were planning to move to 'oz, since the ozzies tend to take them in, the climate is similar, and there is lots of cheap land. The Boers will never leave Africa, of course, because they consider themselves to be the white tribe of Africa. The "Brit" South Africans tell me that the Boers are definitely a stubborn people, put the Irish to shame.

You know, Ralph Peters talks about this "civilizational decay" in both of his recent books; "Beyond Terror" and "Beyond Baghdad". He thinks much of the developing world (left over administrative districts) will enter a period of anarchy that could last 50-100 years.

Rick said at September 25, 2004 6:43 PM:

I am not going to deny the disastrous effects and terrible injustices that have happened as a consequence of Western support for black self-rule in Africa.

This is one of the biggest nonesenses I have ever heard. You consider self rule and self determination as injustice? A legitimate question to ask is whether the west (former colonial rulers) are willing and able to continue to colonise Africa forever. If you are concerned about 'justice' and 'disasterous effects', where is your outrage concerning a black Zimbabweans losing their land to white settlers and forced to live on congested, poor land that cannot support any meaningful agriculture?
I guess justice only matters when whites are on the receiving end. Whites in southern Africa were demonized (correctly) because of the political and economic condition they forced on blacks. If you think blacks should be content with such an arrangement because it might marginal benefit them economically, then your writings hide an embarrassing ignorance of human nature and the notion of justice.

It's very easy to moralize at a safe distance.
Unlike you, I'm not pontificating from a distance. I'm African.

Randall Parker said at September 25, 2004 7:55 PM:

Rick,

Then do you deny that the whites in Zimbabwe and South Africa have been and continue to be on the receiving end of injustices as a result of black rule? Or does it just not matter to you?

Or do you deny the extent to which so many blacks have been on the receiving end of injustices all over Africa as a result of black rule? Or how about the black rule in so many other African countries that has caused tribal warfare, genoicde, and declining living standards? Does all this somehow not count on moral scales because it is black against black and therefore not so bad?

Those black Zimbabweans were able to buy food cheaper because the white farmers were able to grow it so efficiently. Also, the white farmers were able to produce enough economic value from the land to pay many black workers.

As I already stated, I understand why so many blacks want to be ruled by blacks. At the same time, it is obvious that the result is much greater human suffering and much greater injustice. Any attempt to deny that is absurd.

As for your distance from Africa: Your IP address is coming from Wisconsin, probably U Wisc.

Rick said at September 25, 2004 8:16 PM:

I don't deny the situation in Zimbabwe. My personal opinion of Mugabe is that he is a corrupt and incompetent head of state. And yes, whites in Zimbabwe have been on the receiving end of injustices of late in that country. While land redistribution is very important (because the lands occupied by white today were not obtained legally by any definition of legality) Mugabe and his government are carrying it out under the worst possible way. That said, if you are going to talk about the condition of whites in southern Africa, you have to discuss it under the context of how whites came to be in possession of what they own in Zimbabwe. Failure to do so is intellectual dishonesty at best.

In South Africa, things are different. Unlike Zimbabwe, there is no systematic or systemic abuses directed at whites by the ANC government. The current situation is an inevitable outcome of decades of apartheid (white rule for whites only). The fact is that both blacks and whites suffer from increased crime rates. And those crime rates are not just the result of black rule as you and many others dishonestly conclude.

As I already stated, I understand why so many blacks want to be ruled by blacks. At the same time, it is obvious that the result is much greater human suffering and much greater injustice. Any attempt to deny that is absurd.

And so blacks should forever be content to be ruled by outsiders? Apparently they have never ruled themselves well before and are forever doomed to a chaos future should they decide self-rule.

As for your distance from Africa: Your IP address is coming from Wisconsin, probably U Wisc.
I'm an African student at U of W at Madison. How does that contradict what I wrote since I have lived most of live in Africa?

Randall Parker said at September 25, 2004 9:29 PM:

Rick,

You ask:

And so blacks should forever be content to be ruled by outsiders? Apparently they have never ruled themselves well before and are forever doomed to a chaos future should they decide self-rule.

Yes, they have never ruled themselves well before. Yes, they do seem doomed to a chaotic future unless ruled by outsiders.

I'm not advocating outside rule mostly because I don't want my own government to rule Africa. If outside rule became politically acceptable once again then the United States would probably be expected to take part. I want the US to stay away from thankless tasks.

At the same time, only outside rule can save Africa from continued deterioriation.

As for whites and South Africa: I've corresponded with some whites in South Africa and they do not paint a rosy picture. One guy tells me if he is robbed he can go to a police station to file a report and a black police officer will actually write up a report. But that will be the end of it. Effectively the whites have little police protection. He says the biggest moral challenge he'd face is if people broke into his home. He'd have to figure out quickly whether he thought they'd kill him and his wife. If they were intent on killing him then it would make sense to kill them first. But if they were only going to rob him and rape his wife the moral choice would be a lot tougher since if he killed them then he'd go to jail for murder because he doesn't have a government-recognized right to self defense. If he killed them to prevent his own murder then he'd most likely still go to jail (unless he immediately fled the country) but at least he'd probably live for a while.

He also tells me that about 20-25% of his friends and acquaintances have fled South Africa in the last 3-4 years (and this is why it is clear that South Africa is going down Zimbabwe's path - without whites the place will fall apart). Some flee after their wives are raped or after they are forced off the road in broad daylight and robbed. Some flee when a neighbor is killed. Various whites there hit their limit of tolerance at different times for different reasons. Some flee even though they are middle aged and have to abandon everything with few years left to save for retirement.

The general impression I get is that the ANC has withdrawn much government protection from whites but is not yet actively coordinating attacks on whites.

John S Bolton said at September 26, 2004 1:02 AM:

Regarding the libertarian argument that bankrupting a welfare society by means of immigration, would lead to laissez-faire; such a line is very much against the facts. Many countries have suspended payments internally, externally, or, in some cases both. Not one of these insolvent countries has then established laissez-faire. On the contrary, countries which are in the worst financial difficulties, have tended to move toward socialism, in the last hundred years. Argentina is a recent example of a country which has defaulted externally and internally, and which has been one of the major countries of immigration. This national bankruptcy, accompanied by a very steep recession, has jeopardized the moves toward privatizations, which had been underway for a decade or so prior. Leftists are back in power, there has been a good rebound off the bottom, yet the emphasis is all on relief for the poor. This is what is to be expected; a government in straits becomes stricter, and the ruin of the public finances will be accompanied by, or caused by, an economic downturn, which puts the political pressure all towards taking care of the low-income. Such circumstances are the least conducive to telling the poor to get a job.

Rick said at September 26, 2004 9:32 AM:

Yes, they have never ruled themselves well before. Yes, they do seem doomed to a chaotic future unless ruled by outsiders.

This is clear evidence you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. And what do you know about the history of African self-rule? And the fact that your impression of South Africa is based on anecdoctal evidence of a 'friend' (a person who most likely hates the current South Africa not because of crime rates but because he has to mingle with blacks daily since they are no longer confined to their townships) says how reliable your analysis is and how intellectually honest you are. You are nothing more than a fraud passing a expert on every imaginable topic on earth. What a waste of time debating with you.

Randall Parker said at September 26, 2004 10:23 AM:

Rick,

Africa is a disaster area. Do you really want me to drag out statistics about declining per capita incomes, declining life expectancies, revolutions, dictatorships, militia gangs, lawlessness, murder rates, and the like? Do you deny any of this?

Rick said at September 26, 2004 10:44 AM:

Maybe I haven't made a few things clear enough. I have lived virtually my whole life in Africa. I don't need to your statistics to understand what's going on there (chances are that I have more familiarity with data about Africa than you do). What we will mostly differ on is what we infer and conclude from the data.
You seem to imply that the only part of Africa's existence that mattered was when European colonialist first arrived. What that shows is that you are willing to redefine any variable or change your range of focus to arrive at your favored conclusion. And if you are really interested to give more meaningful analysis on any condition in Africa, you might start by recognizing some heterogeneity on the continent. But that will be too inconvenient for a polymath of your stature.

I'm not advocating outside rule mostly because I don't want my own government to rule Africa. If outside rule became politically acceptable once again then the United States would probably be expected to take part. I want the US to stay away from thankless tasks.

I totally understand. In fact, the only reason you are concerned about this is because your white brothers in South Africa are being inconvenienced and we can't absolutely have that. B

I would have taken some of your arguments seriously, if you don't display such a blatant racist view while faking a dispassionate analysis.

Randall Parker said at September 26, 2004 11:14 AM:

Rick,

You seem to imply that the only part of Africa's existence that mattered was when European colonialist first arrived.

I do not even know what you mean by this sentence. Matters? To who? From this "seem to imply" you build your own rickety argument against me.

Among the nations of the world my interest is in America first and foremost. I look at the rest of the world for cautionary lessons.

White brothers being incovenienced? Is that all you think is happening? Crime rates are up. That means a lot of human suffering for whites, blacks, and others. Corruption is certainly up. This is bearish for economic growth and is also another source of injustice. South Africa's economy is not going to keep up with population growth. Per capita income is going to fall. Except for some black elites and a shrinking white elite everyone in South Africa will have a tougher life as a result.

You are labelling my views as "blatant racist" because my description of Africa is unfavorable to its leaders or even to its people. Well, what is happening in Africa really is a mammoth disaster. You just want to avoid drawing politically incorrect conclusions.

Heterogeneity in the continent: Unfortunately, Botswana's unusual success is due to its diamond deposits which account for a third of its GDP and which provide money to build up capital infrastructure for the rest of the economy. So we have one really bright spot (at least by African standards) and from there the heterogeneity of sub-Saharan Africa tends to worse, to much worse, to total disaster. Nigeria has oil but it still has a tenth Botswana's per capita GDP. 45% of Angola's GDP comes from oil exports and it has twice the per capita GDP of Nigeria. It might eventually be able to grow a bit to derive a bigger benefit from oil. But I'm guessing oil production will not hold up high enough for this to happen. Down at the most negative end of heterogeneity we have Niger with 8 babies per woman which puts its fertility rate as highest in the world with Yemen in second place. Though Niger manages to tie Nigeria at a pathetic $800 per capita GDP and Niger does that with little or no oil exports.

David said at September 30, 2004 11:55 AM:

Rick:
You wrote:

"if you are going to talk about the condition of whites in southern Africa, you have to discuss it under the context of how whites came to be in possession of what they own in Zimbabwe. Failure to do so is intellectual dishonesty at best."

Rick, you are confusing aquisition and creation.

Is the economic state of Zimbabwe's indigenous people better now than it was with the Europeans on the land, or is it worse?
If their economic state is worse, what is the value of the land that the Europeans "took" and now have left? The value of Zimbabwe's land without the knowledge and intellectual capital supplied by the settlers is becomming obvious.

Failure to acknowledge that is also dishonest.

Improbulus Maximus said at June 2, 2005 12:27 PM:

Quothe Caractacus:
"I agree with everything you said regarding Zimbabwe except for the part about people being better of in Rhodesia than in Zimbabwe."

Nevertehless, the fact remains that blacks were better off in Rhodesia than Zimbabwe.

"Without freedom, without self determination, life is hell, period."

So I guess by your reasoning life under a murderous dictator who starves his own people is better than under a segregated minority government under which nobody starved or were murdered?

"I understand the counter argument that at least in Rhodesia the state produced an agricultural surplus (the breadbasket of Africa) but it was with "slave labor" vs. today's Zimbabwe is composed of starving slave-labor (non-laborors?).

Wrong, wrong, wrong. You are either totally ignorant of Rhodesia or you are lying. Neither is forgivable.

"I suppose you can say it is better to eat and be a slave than starve."

Ever done any starving? Ever been a slave? No, you haven't, you don't know the meaning of either. Find some Africans who know the difference and ask them which they prefer.

"I disagree - my US forefathers disagreed."

You may disagree, but you can't speak for anyone who fought in the Revolution, and besides, the American Revolution wasn't about food, it was about taxes and self-government.

"Without freedom, whether Mugabe can produce grain or not, he is still Mugabe and should be treated as no better, and no worse, than the white-only rule he replaced."

Ah, the clarion call of the guilt-ridden white liberal. So, the whites were as bad as Mugabe, purely for the virtue of being white, though they neither starved nor murdered the natives? You are an ignorant racist who can only see things in simplistic, childlike terms.

"By the same token, until South African majority can learn to apply a uniform rule of law with individual freedom, something the whites didn't preach in either Rhodesia or South Africa, they travel down the path to destruction."

So no matter that both countries have had years to "fix" things, (and boy, are they fixing them all right...), you can still blame Evil Whitey, eh?

"Until the "West" can learn to hold all nations to those same high standards, we are nothing but guilty bystanders in the destruction of nations with great potential."

Well, you managed to say one thing that made some sense, except that you're still blaming whitey by using "West" instead of "world". Regardless of your particluar indoctrination at the hands of whatever academic miscreants with which you were plagued, the ills of the world cannot be blamed solely, or even chiefly, on Evil White Western Capitalists. Go get some real education, and then speak.

Improbulus Maximus said at June 2, 2005 12:40 PM:

Quothe Andrew:
"Is it fair to say that Zimbabwe is one of the first countries to reach the end of "the Road to Serfdom"?"

Nah, just one of the latest. You've got Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc.. What amazes me is that the history of communism and socialism, (same thing, really), is open and known to all who care to see, but there are still plenty of idiots about, mostly in non-communist countries, go figure, who think that it's a wonderful idea. Liberals, leftists, progressives, morons, whatever you call them, are idiots, nothing more, nothing less. They should all be exiled to North Korea or whatever communist hellhole they choose, in order to live free from the horrible existence of oppression in America.

Improbulus Maximus said at June 2, 2005 12:49 PM:

Quothe Richard:
"Hey, if you think about it, if we invade Iran and SA and thus drastically reduce oil production as we've done in Iraq, your next SUV could be that ox cart."

Hey, if you think about it, you have no idea what you're talking about. Exactly how much oil do we buy from SA? How drastically has oil production been reduced? How much would it be reduced if we invaded Iran? Zero, not much, and not much, that's how much.
I've got some news for you; oil prices are up because China, a nation of a billion+ people, is suddenly buyin more oil! How could this be? Evil capitalism, of course! More demand for a limited resource increases competition in bidding, so more people buy oil futures, thus driving the price of oil up. Of course, it's only up by about $.50 per gallon across the US, which translates to about an extra $10.00 a week for me, and probably about $20.00 or $30.00 for someone with an SUV, which shouldn't bother someone who can afford a $40,000.00 vehicle.
Put down your Chomsky and read up on economics, then you may understand.


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