Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shut Up and Color

The experts agree: AGW is big, it's bad, and it is coming soon to a biosphere near you.

According to Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, that means the rest of us have no option other than deference.
How can we, nonexperts, take account of expert opinion when it is relevant to decisions about public policy?

To answer this question, we need to reflect on the logic of appeals to the authority of experts.  First of all, such appeals require a decision about who the experts on a given topic are.  Until there is agreement about this, expert opinion can have no persuasive role in our discussions.  Another requirement is that there be a consensus among the experts about points relevant to our discussion.   Precisely because we are not experts, we are in no position to adjudicate disputes among those who are.  Finally, given a consensus on a claim among recognized experts, we nonexperts have no basis for rejecting the truth of the claim.

These requirements may seem trivially obvious, but they have serious consequences.  Consider, [AGW].  All creditable parties to this debate recognize a group of experts designated as “climate scientists,” whom they cite in either support or opposition to their claims about global warming.

The corporate view among climate scientists, outliers notwithstanding, is that Gaia is getting hot under the collar, and human activity is responsible for this onslaught of fever. Sure, there is some expert dispute, but since the consensus has decided upon AGW, and we non-experts are in no position to arbitrate, then it is crayons for us.
As long as [non-experts accept there is such a thing as expertise in climate science], they have no basis for supporting the minority position.  Critics within the community of climate scientists may have a cogent case against A.G.W., but, given the overall consensus of that community, we non-experts have no basis for concluding that this is so.  It does no good to say that we find the consensus conclusions poorly supported.  Since we are not experts on the subject, our judgment  has no standing.

From this it follows that non-experts, hereafter referred to as The Great Unwashed Masses (TGUMs), cannot argue against The Consensus; instead, those among the TGUMs who dispute AGW must argue that:
… climate science lacks the scientific status needed be taken seriously in our debates about public policy.  There may well be areas of inquiry (e.g., various sub-disciplines of the social sciences) open to this sort of critique.  But there does not seem to be a promising case against the scientific authority of climate science.

So, to summarize:
Once we have accepted the authority of a particular scientific discipline, we cannot consistently reject its conclusions.  To adapt Schopenhauer’s famous remark about causality, science is not a taxi-cab that we can get in and out of whenever we like.  Once we board the train of climate science, there is no alternative to taking it wherever it may go.

In other words, Shut Up and Color.

But does this conclusion follow?

On the face of it, contradiction should be hard to come by. After all, Dr. Gutting as a philosopher is a certified expert in constructing philosophical arguments. By definition, his expert argument on the expertise of experts must be immune to the inept pesterings of a TGUM.

His insistence upon accepting the consensus of experts does seem to accord reasonably well with experience. We take our cars in to mechanics — experts in the science of car repair — and rarely contradict their opinions on which framitz needs defargging. Similarly, faced with some significant malaise, people routinely get a second, or even third doctorial opinion; should those opinions coalesce into consensus, then we assume whatever position is required, and take what medically expert consensus sends our direction. The list goes on nearly without end: deference to physicists, accountants, and geologists in the realms of physics, making sense of IRS regulations and where to drill for oil goes without saying.

Therefore, failing to defer to climate scientists must be a singular case of irrationality.

Unless, of course, our expert philosopher has created an argument that assumes, conceals, neglects, or is ignorant of, rather a lot.

He assumes that since climatologists are doing sciency things, their product is science. However, in order for a hypothesis to qualify as a scientific theory, it must have deductive consequences. For example, a deductive consequence of naturalistic evolution is that inheritance must be particular, not blended. Unfortunately, climate science is so devoid of deductive consequences that it explains everything. In so doing, it is indistinguishable from religion: by explaining everything, it actually explains nothing.

Going one long step further, he also assumes (although implicitly insists is probably closer to the mark) that climate science is so arcane that its content is beyond the ken of TGUMs. This insistent assumption is striking. I have a book that convincingly explains relativity to TGUMs, thereby justifying its experts. Surely, climate science can't be more difficult to apprehend than the singular intellectual accomplishment of the modern era.

Then there is the matter of judging the experts' performance. If my mechanic tells me my framitz is fargged, when all along the wishbone was whacky, then his expertise is something less than total. Except as a contrived exercise in post hoc reasoning, climate scientists routinely fail to meaningfully predict actual climate trends. That alone is no source of comfort; after all, they could be wrong in not being right enough. However, their predictions have, at best, uniformly exceeded subsequent observations. Harold Camping assured us the apocalypse was to happen on May 21st. In the late 80s, Dr. Hansen assured us that NYC's West Side Highway would be underwater by now. Based upon the evidence, I have no more reason to suspect that Dr. Hansen's expertise in climate science is any more elevated than Harold Camping's is in apocalypse science.

TGUMs have no need to acknowledge expertise simply because a self anointed group claims it for themselves. Rather, deferring to that claim, when reality has so relentlessly contradicted it, and the costs of doing so, both in terms of economics and freedom, are so high would be irrational folly of the first order.

Dr. Gutter's insistence on our submission to the god of consensus isn't philosophy, it is theology.

Oh, by the way, stay inside the lines. Or else.

84 Comments:

Blogger erp said...

The money quote: ...the matter of judging the experts' performance...

If you chose your auto mechanic, accountant or doctor, not by their past performances, but by their ability to scam their counterparts in governmental agencies into giving them large grants of taxpayer money, your temporal troubles would largely be over as you'd be splattered all over the highway, in jail for tax fraud or on a slab in the morgue.

Very nice post BTW.

September 23, 2011 6:41 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Hysterically funny! I particularly liked "By definition, his expert argument on the expertise of experts must be immune to the inept pesterings of a TGUM."

But that's where the argument starts to break down. It's too black and white: experts and non-experts and nothing in between. A large number of "non-experts" are perfectly capable of reading the scientific papers and reaching their own conclusions. In the case of my car, I take it to a mechanic not because I don't know how cars work, but because the mechanic has the tools and facility to work on my car, has more efficient access to the parts required for repair, and is faster at doing the repair.

The second spot the listening to experts argument doesn't hold is in the area of evaluation of risk. The mechanic may tell me that if I don't repair what's wrong with my car, it will be totaled within a year. I may even agree with him. I may also say, so be it, I don't have the inclination or resource to fix it now, I'll deal with getting a new car then and while many would get the car fixed, my approach would be a perfectly rational subjective preference. The point is that the experts do not know our subjective preferences and how we evaluate the impact of warming decades or centuries hence. For example, even if convinced that we'd see warming of more than 3C this century would say "bring it on!"

September 23, 2011 8:34 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't admit that climate science is real science, so the rest of his contentions are not germane.

Judging whether a field meets the criteria of real science is within the competence of any well-educated person.

September 24, 2011 5:20 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

erp:

Thanks.

Bret:

The important distinction here is that you are independently able to verify expertise; "consensus" has nothing to do with it.

Moreover, the details underlying a car's operation can be quite complex, and are quite beyond the knowledge of most people, the principles are not.

Think about anything we might term a science, absent climate science. Do any of them make a claim to authority by consensus? Do any insist their area of expertise is so arcane as to be beyond the ken of TGUMs?

Not so far as I know; not even quantum mechanics, relentlessly counterintuitive though it may be.

Somehow, the need to justify this central and unique claim never occurred to Dr. Gutting.

Harry:

Judging whether a field meets the criteria of real science is within the competence of any well-educated person.

Oddly, Gutting, by neglecting to even touch upon constitutes scientific inquiry, makes the mistake of taking as true that which desperately needs proving.

That his article was so easy to fill with holes, never mind the ones it started off with, leads to real wonder.

I don't think communism needed 75 years of sanguinary history to prove it was utter tosh, because the case was obvious from the outset.

Except to those who were telling us to shut up and color.

A group whose characteristics are strikingly similar to the current pack of consensusists.

September 24, 2011 8:43 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't know that it was so obvious that communism was utter tosh, consdering what it replaced.

RtO will shortly be reviewing Zhores Medvedev's 'Soviet Agriculture,' which has an interesting factoid in it: Although collective farming was a complete failure in the USSR, collective farming in Romania and Hungary, based on the Soviet model, was competitive with western European agriculture.

It might be the failures of the USSR were failures of being Russian. since both before and after communism, failure was the default.

This is an historical cognate with climatology. Climate appears to have changed about as much before human interference as since. We have these elaborate explanations of a phenomenon that cannot be shown to exist.

It's like psychoanalysis.

September 25, 2011 7:48 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, even the Kibbutz's in Israel failed in the long run because collectivism JUST DOESN'T WORK and failure is the default no matter where it's tried.

Learned studies to the contrary are just plain embarrassing.

September 26, 2011 7:29 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Perhaps we should compare Chile and Cuba for the differences between Communism and right wing authoritarianism. This also shows that whatever the chattering classes claim, concern for the poor is not something of any importance to them.

September 26, 2011 8:13 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You compare them. Recall the trapped miners?

Evidently you don't. It is not at all clear that a Chilean miner is better off than a Cuban, say, cane cutter.

September 26, 2011 4:40 PM  
Blogger erp said...

It's clear to me.

September 26, 2011 7:10 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I quite clearly recall the trap miners and I would say the response of the Chilean government vs. the Cuban government's treatment of cane cutters demonstrates the failure of Communism. One crisis every decade or two or persistent annual abuse using effectively forced labor? It takes a special person to see those as equivalent.

It's also natural that you complete avoid comparing Pinochet to Castro, which would be the real comparison I was making.

September 27, 2011 8:17 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I was thinking of the below-subsistence wages of both classes of workers.

But if you want me to compare two murderers, OK. They're both cold-blooded murderers.

September 27, 2011 12:48 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

I don't know that it was so obvious that communism was utter tosh

Yes, it was, Harry. There's a consensus among the experts. It's settled science.

September 28, 2011 3:21 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Just can't bring yourself to compare the economic results, can you? I thought results mattered.

September 28, 2011 4:35 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Only fairness matters ... and to be fair, in Cuba poverty among the people is fairly distributed -- in Chile not so much.

September 28, 2011 10:51 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I will shortly be posting a review of Medvedev's 'Soviet Agriculture' at RtO. I think you would find it disturbing.

September 28, 2011 10:00 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Probably won't be as disturbed as those who starved to death would be.

September 29, 2011 6:52 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, there you go again. The review is up, and there (or better yet, from the book) you will learn that being starved to death was not a novelty introduced by the Bolsheviki.

I doubt you want to have your misconceptions challenged, though.

September 29, 2011 1:14 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"you will learn that being starved to death was not a novelty introduced by the Bolsheviki."

No, because all of us already knew that.

"I doubt you want to have your misconceptions challenged".

You're projecting again.

September 29, 2011 2:36 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, obviously starving your people isn't a new with the commies. The novelty part is that others who've done it weren't praised in the media and by elitists who told lies about the Soviet regime for over 75 years until Reagan finally burst their bubble by pricing them out of the game.

The astonishing part is that you and many others are still carrying their water.

Shame on you.

September 29, 2011 4:54 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

If you read even the review, better yet the book, you'd learn it wasn't Reagan, it was Carter -- to the very minor extent that any external factor was involved at all (apart from visceral Polish antagonism towards Russians, which had nothing to do with Marxism).

Like I say, some people are afraid of having their poorly sourced convictions assaulted with evidence.

October 03, 2011 11:08 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Carter? You gotta be kidding and no I won't read the book or the review. We've been fed so much nonsense from and about the Soviets over my lifetime that thank you very much, I can't absorb anymore.

October 03, 2011 12:52 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

QED

October 04, 2011 1:32 PM  
Blogger erp said...

... in spades.

October 04, 2011 4:16 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

If you read even the review, better yet the book, you'd learn it wasn't Reagan, it was Carter --

I read the review.

I must say, you are among the best book reviewers I have ever read. It is a real talent -- I have tried several times, and ultimately quit in despair.

However, your this particular review is guilty of "heads I win, tails you lose" reasoning in a number of places, using questionable statistics, and drawing even more questionable conclusions.

Heads I win: we propped up Soviet agriculture in the early '70s, thereby profiting a few capitalists (among whom we may count farmers themselves?)

Tails you lose: the world's poor subsequently paid more for food.

Come now, which is it? Thanks to doomed from the outset Communism, there was far less food being produced than would have been, otherwise. Since supply and demand is more than just a good idea, everyone is going to pay more for food, or get less of it. Selling grain to the Soviets meant fewer Russians went hungry, while other poor people pay more. Not selling grain means more Russians go hungry. Peter, meet Paul.

Of course, had we not sold that grain, "Communism might well have collapsed, or at least would have undergone a grave event with imponderable consequences."

Imponderable consequences? Really? The consequences were indeed uncertain, but "imponderable" is surely the wrong word, because there were a range of consequences that were certainly ponderable, and wholly frightening. And, since much of international relations is based upon limiting downside risk, worthy of far more consideration than is allowed by literary sleight of hand.

I loved this sentence: Carter's embargo was not effective – Lenin was not wrong when he said capitalists would sell the hangman the rope he would use to hang them – but it did push the Soviet economy to the brink.

Typed, so far as I can tell, without a hint of irony. Had Lenin said this: "Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will let them hang us …" it would not only have been eerily prescient, it would also have matched far better with what trails your em-dash.

October 05, 2011 10:24 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Star Wars and the American military buildup had no effect. The amount the Soviets spent to counter Reagan's military bluster was about one-fiftieth of what it was spending trying to keep its farms going.

When Poland rebelled – again, not against Communism but part of the ancient resentment of the Russians – the Soviet state had no resources to react.

Review your history. (Since I see no reason to doubt Wikipedia in this regard, I'm happy to quote it) "Lech Wałęsa and others formed a broad anti-Soviet social movement ranging from people associated with the Catholic Church[6] to members of the anti-Soviet Left."
What else was going on at the same time? The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
And what else? The maintenance of a gigantic -- and pointless, since there was no threat from the West -- military machine in Eastern Europe.
Consuming resources that could otherwise have gone to -- umm -- agriculture.
Interestingly, you never really come to terms with why Soviet output increased until the 1960s. I'll bet dinner that it was solely a consequence of increased mechanization, and such expansion as did occur would have been dwarfed by would have hit tables across the land had farmers been capitalists instead of glorified serfs.

The “virgin lands” program plowed the Kazahstan desert – Medvedev calls it semi-desert, but it is as dry as southern Arizona, a real desert – and the result was a Kazakh dust bowl in 1969. Americans should have taken notice, but they didn't, and this year capitalist agriculture has managed to create a new dust bowl in Arizona.

Bollocks. There isn't a heck of a lot of agriculture in Arizona. In any event, the source of the dust storms (never an infrequent occurrence, BTW -- take it from someone who has lived in the Southwest) was open, un-farmed, never settled, just like it ever was desert.

Finally, dodgy statistics:

But Hungary and Romania, both collectivized on the Soviet model, kept pace with western European expansion rates.

It is mathematically certain that unless the starting points are the same -- and they weren't -- identical expansion rates mean that the party starting from the inferior point -- that wouldn't be Europe -- will irrevocably fall behind.

October 05, 2011 10:25 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Skipper, thank you for doing what this American won't do and that's read any more pro-Soviet propaganda.

Harry, Acta est fabula

October 05, 2011 11:26 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "There isn't a heck of a lot of agriculture in Arizona."

There's more than most people imagine. I just got back yesterday from a trip working with lettuce growers in the Yuma, Arizona area.

Here's another thing one might not guess. The lettuce growers in the desert hate rain! I learned this because it rained there on Monday. The raindrops can badly damage young lettuce plants. They have water rights for water from the colorado so they'd just as soon that it never rained there again. Kinda crazy.

October 05, 2011 11:26 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I think the review is ripe for a thorough fisking but I can't speak to the book. Given Eagar's demonstrated ability to completely misread weblog comments, it's not clear to me we can depend on him for an accurate rendition of the book's content.

That written, the biggest omission IMHO is the "second agriculture" of the USSR. I saw no mention of that, yet it was a critical part of food production in the USSR. A couple of quotes from other works

The private sector in Soviet agriculture" By Karl Eugen Wädekin, George Karcz --

"Nancy Nimitz was undoubtedly correct when she said 'Private agriculture is still indispensible. Far from being an anachronism, it has been a necessary condition for the survival of socialized agriculture".

"The Second Agriculture in the USSR" by Boris Rumer states

"the proportion represented by the household plots of collective and state farm workers in the total volume of production was: potatoes 61%, vegetables 29%, meat 29%, milk 29%, and eggs 34%". [http://www.jstor.org/pss/151680]

Yet this major sector is left unmentioned. One might presume it is because some people are afraid of having their poorly sourced convictions assaulted with evidence.

Skipper, one of these sources claims the private plots were being phased out by the 1960s - the same time as the output started failing. Coincidence? Hard to say if one doesn't look at all the major facts.

October 05, 2011 1:23 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I forgot about this:

When Poland rebelled – again, not against Communism but part of the ancient resentment of the Russians – the Soviet state had no resources to react.

This is also quite wrong. There can be no doubt that both the USSR and the Polish puppet government had the resources to physically crush Solidarity.

Here again you ignore history, and ponderable consequences. What do you suppose they might have been, considering Hungary and the Prague Spring lurking in the background?

AOG:

Left completely unmentioned by Harry, and perhaps by Medvedev, is that agricultural productivity doesn't stop at the farm gate.

IIRC, something like a third of collectivized agriculture harvests were ruined during storage and transportation.

Another spectacular feat of the dictatorship of the proletariat that will forever evade our evil capitalist overlords.

October 06, 2011 10:49 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Skipper;

Yes. May I go back to this?

"But Hungary and Romania, both collectivized on the Soviet model, kept pace with western European expansion rates."

I wondered what exactly was meant by "expansion rates". Acreage under till? Productivity per hectare? Efficiency (output / inputs)? I found it more of a dodgy definition than statistics. One might also consider that western European agriculture was and is quite a mature sector, which generally has lower "expansion rates". In the normal course of events one would expect the less advanced to achieve much higher progress simply because they can copy instead of innovate. That collectivized agriculture failed to do so is an indictment, not a mark of success.

October 06, 2011 11:13 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I wondered what exactly was meant by "expansion rates". Acreage under till? Productivity per hectare? Efficiency (output / inputs)? I found it more of a dodgy definition than statistics.

Now that is an excellent question.

I assumed, without spending even a second examining that assumption, that the rate in question output per unit time.

But, come to think of it, of all the rates one could choose, that has to be the worst and, therefore, the most likely one used.

The best would be efficiency, but that would be extremely tough to figure out, since communism made calculating the cost of any input impossible.

And rendered every number coming out of that inevitably soul-killing religion worthless.

October 06, 2011 1:06 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Output per hectare.

USSR total output increased about 8-fold, partly from nodern technique, partly from expanded acreage.

Consumption per capita is harder to figure, but it was policy to meet US levels.

They couldn't do it.

I am well aware of the storage losses and lack of all-weather roads and have mentioned both on these forums.

The output of privatr plots is a vexed question, given a chapter by Medvedev. The difficulty is that private plots used collective farm inputs, which completely messes up calculations about animal outputs. Most of the vegetables were consumed by the kolkhozniki (part of their compensation ).

Private plots were not the answer to tje fovernment's main goal, which was to feed cities.

erp, you should look up Medvedev & learn who he was. Your uninformed suppositions are incorrect.

October 08, 2011 7:39 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I stand by my point that if a backward sector can't make gains on a nearby mature one its an indictment of the backward sector's effort.

Why were the private plots the answer to feeding the cities? Because they were so small, a fact that was decided by the government?

I would also say the private farms are the most interesting. They are not just similar places, or worked by similar people, but worked literally by the same people. Yet they were far more productive. Why?

October 09, 2011 6:39 AM  
Blogger erp said...

SH, to get the proper answer to your question about private vs public farms, you must suspend logic and read lots of convoluted nonsensical pro-Soviet treatises that invert reality and surrealism. Think Derrida et al.

My guess why private patches out-performed public ones: Farmers weren't dumb but the collective's overseers were and probably corrupt too.

October 09, 2011 7:51 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It would be more relevant to consider NEP, which showed that access to markets multiplies output -- true for peasants generally, not just in Russia.

But that worked at a particular time when the peasants were many and the city dwellers wre few.

By the '60s, that was no longer the situation.

Private plots were very inefficient; too small to use machinery.

This was less important earlier when there was a huge surplus (15 million even after 1933) of rural labor (a result of the enormous inefficiency of tsarist agriculture).

The Germans killed the rural proletariat. By the '60s, soldiers, students and city workers had to be mobilized to bring in the harvest -- leading to losses in the fields.

October 09, 2011 10:08 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Arizona is a big cotton and dairy state, and it also has large vegetable farms.

The slavery I have been reporting on this year began on an Arizona pepper farm.

The haboobs are a new phenomenon. The July haboob covered the fifth-largest city to a depth of a mile. It originated on plowed land in New Mexico.

October 09, 2011 10:12 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'I stand by my point that if a backward sector can't make gains on a nearby mature one its an indictment of the backward sector's effort.'

That, of corse, was the point of the book and of the review.

What is not obvious is that collectivism as such was the culprit, as opposed to mere Russian confusion and inefficiency. After all, the mir -- admired for its output by antibolsheviks -- was a collective.

As Medvedev points out, the mir stultified improvements in rotation, mechanization and other modern improvements,

On the other hand, the mir prevented erosion. Erosion was equally a problem with Russian and American agriculture following mechanization.

October 09, 2011 10:23 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"Private plots were very inefficient; too small to use machinery."

Given the numbers I cited, even doubling the size of the private plots would have made an enormous difference.

"What is not obvious is that collectivism as such was the culprit, as opposed to mere Russian confusion and inefficiency"

That was in reference to

"But Hungary and Romania, both collectivized on the Soviet model, kept pace with western European expansion rates."

You think those farms in Hungary and Romania were worked by Russian peasants?

October 09, 2011 12:10 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

No, but they were collective farms. French wheat yields per acre are double American, but that doesn't mean US farmers are inefficient.

The french use more labor per acre, too.

It is obvious you do not know anything about farming. With 49 out of 50 Americans growing up in cities, that's usual.

Only people ready to study the matter will uderstand it. It is not simple and very far from something you can intuit.

Kolkhoz private plots were about an acre (sizes were changed every few years); sovkhoz smaller.

Doubling them would not have allowed mechanization, and since the rural population was aging and shrinking, double plots could not all have been tended to.

Fodder would still have come from collective farms; you cannot feed a steer on 2 acres.

Typically, you are shoehorning a situation to fit your notions about economic activity, rather than knowing what the parameters are.

October 10, 2011 12:11 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"It is obvious you do not know anything about farming. With 49 out of 50 Americans growing up in cities, that's usual."

Typically, you are shoehorning a situation to fit your notions about any on disagreeing with your views. I grew up surrounded by farms in a farming community. I am married to a sixth generation farm girl and look out at working farmland through my window as I type this. I own working farmland and derive part of my income from it. I take your response as indicating you've run out of fact based arguments.

October 10, 2011 8:33 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

The haboobs are a new phenomenon. The July haboob covered the fifth-largest city to a depth of a mile. It originated on plowed land in New Mexico.

No, they aren't.

Haboobs occur in arid regions, which are not new.

Haboobs typically result from thunderstorm downdrafts, which are also not new, or rare.

That also means they are relatively localized; the bare ground typical of desert areas makes readily apparent that which happens quite frequently throughout the US.

A haboob in Phoenix or Tucson did not start in New Mexico, the western two-thirds of which is hardly cultivated at all. (I have lived in New Mexico, and have seen nearly every inch of it from either the ground or the air.)

---

Re: agricultural productivity. Increases in output per hectare are easy from a low starting point. That Romania and Hungary managed to match the rate of a mature agricultural system in Western Europe is nothing be marveled at, nor is it a justification for collectivized farming.

October 10, 2011 10:35 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I didn't say rate. I said they equaled output.

Plus Hungary was not starting from a low level.

Most Americans have heard that Minneapolis is the world's biggest milling center, but like a lot of things Americans tell themselves, it isn;t true.

It is, or was, Budapest.

No haboobs the size of those seen lately in AZ are recorded earlier. NWS tracked the big one from NM.

I am aware of your ag connections, Guy, but a statement like doubling private plots would have had a linear effect indicates you do not know how farms work. To be sure, even a lot of farmers act as is they think inputs and outputs are linked linearly, which is why they put down too much fertilizer.

Medvedev, a plant physiologist, goes over all this for the USSR.

I learned about the myth of Soviet private plots from Lauren Soth, the guy who invited Khrushchev to Roswell Garst's farm and helped set off the Politburo's attempt to remake Russian agriculture.

The situation as Soth explained it to me in the mid-70s had gotten even worse a decade later when Medvedev wrote.

A totally private agriculture land ownership must have increased efficiency in the long term, but the USSR was in a trap. It could not cover the shortages that would have resulted from a transition.

In fact, that is what happened in the 90s. Output fell steadily and did not reach 92 levels until 2009.

You have ridiculed me for quoting Harry Hopkins' aphorism that people don't eat in the long run, they eat every day; but it's true, for planned and unplanned economies.

If your notion about the effect of doubling private plots were even approximately correct, output would, at least, not have fallen. And it fell hugely, from 100 to 85 in 1999. (Russian outputs are more volatile than US because of worse weather; still, privatized Russian ag never reached Soviet levels even in good years.)

See, I'm not out of either facts or well-grounded interpretations.
I may be nothing more than a provincial scribbler, but I try to get around.

October 10, 2011 11:41 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"but a statement like doubling private plots would have had a linear effect indicates you do not know how farms work"

That's true. However I never claimed any such thing. This is precisely why I don't trust your review of the book, since you get even such basic things as that wrong when the original is even on the same web page. That you are so apparently indifferent to accuracy is what you makes your repeated claims of other people ignoring facts so amusing.

October 10, 2011 1:54 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You said 'an enormous difference'

50% wouldn't have been enormous,o something like a doubling would have been required, at least.

But since labor was short, expansion of area wouldn't have accomplished much.

As events proved, but of course any real evidence that Adam Smith was wrong gets ignored.

October 10, 2011 5:37 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"You didn't write what I claimed, so I will ignore that fact and interpret as I need for my argument. Oh, and by the way, stop ignoring facts that prove you wrong."

My view is that you are proving you don't know how economies actually work. For instance, you comment about labor being short. That is irrelevant, what matters is whether a unit of labor would have produced more food if applied in a private plot vs. the collective. Given the data I and you have cited, the relative sizes of the outputs vs. the amount of inputs (such as land size) it would seem the marginal utility of labor on the private plots would have been larger than the marginal utility on the collective. I would say that the choice made was effectively political, not economic. The NEP demonstrates precisely the same thing. Even the Bolsheviks believed in Adam Smith more than you.

October 10, 2011 7:17 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Not correct.

Since the private plots depended for inputs on collectives, and the collectives were unable to meet minimum requirements, the only way the private plots could have significantly expanded output would have been to import feed.

But they didn't have the hard currency to do that.

Thus, when Bolshevism ended, animal production went way down, and vegetable production, which didn't require as many foreign inputs (although it did need fertilizer), compensated to some extent.

You seem to think that waving a magic wand and saying, 'You're private now' creates the inputs required to run a farm.

Reminds me of the line in 'Temporarily Humboldt County': 'Domine, domine, domine, yehr're ahl Cat;'lics naow.'

October 11, 2011 11:06 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"You seem to think that waving a magic wand and saying, 'You're private now' creates the inputs required to run a farm."

No wonder you're a statist -- your repeated failures (such as interpreting what other people write) never ever discourage you from doing it again or changing your technique. For other people who might be reading this who are capable of processing external inputs, it's a matter of efficiency far more than inputs.

I am curious, though, given the data I quoted above, what the inputs for the potatoes and vegetable production you think were dependent on the collective.

Beyond that, your point is irrelevant if diversion of collective output through private plots results in net gain for the entire system.

October 11, 2011 1:27 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, if you knew anything about farming, or about labor, or if you'd read Medvedev, you'd have a chance to understand.

I never said potatoes require imported inputs. But they do require labor, and on small plots in Russia, that means hoe labor.

The average kolkhoz/sovkhoz holding was occupied by 1 -- count 'em, one -- elderly person, usually a babushka.

Go ahead, tell her, 'The land is free now, Granny, go out and dig up another acre.'

Kolkhoz families that moved to the cities tried to leave one person on the farm in order to hang on to the private allotment. Usually the least economically effective member of the family.

That meant that only crops that could be cultivated part-time were practical, and livestock almost not at all.

So, there is no reason to think that expanding the extent of the private plots would have resulted in a much larger increase, still less an enormous increase. And, as events proved, there was no increase at all from privatization.

There was a big decrease.

You could look it up.

October 11, 2011 4:34 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"I never said potatoes require imported inputs."

Yes you did, right here -

"Since the private plots depended for inputs on collectives" after I listed various products, including potatoes.

I find it very difficult to reconcile your description of the private plots with the cited productivity. The only conclusion I can draw is that, as bad as you describe the private plots, the collectives must have been even worse. Only you could view that as an endorsement of collectivization.

" And, as events proved, there was no increase at all from privatization.

There was a big decrease."

And there were, obviously, no other changes going on at the time that might have had an effect. Certainly one wouldn't want to look at side by side comparisons with the same people at the same time in the same region to draw conclusions about relative productivity.

As for no livestock on the private plots, how would you explain the production values of total out for private plots of "meat 29%, milk 29%, and eggs 34%"? They did that without very little livestock? Now that's productive. But, I am willing to accept your claim on this point as indicating that collective farming was inefficient far beyond my wildest disdain.

October 11, 2011 6:09 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Gosh, I missed this as well from Eagar -

"the only way the private plots could have significantly expanded output would have been to import feed."

Import feed? For what? After all, on a private plot the farm could raise "livestock almost not at all."

October 11, 2011 6:14 PM  
Blogger erp said...

SH - I took feed as a typo for seed. The only way it could make any sense even for Harry.

October 11, 2011 7:13 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

That doesn't make much sense either, as one of the features of small scale farming is not needing much seed and being able to get most of it them harvest.

I should go back to this as well - "I don't know that it was so obvious that communism was utter tosh, consdering what it replaced."

Does that mean that buying lottery tickets is a reasonable idea if previously I had been burning my cash for heat?

October 11, 2011 7:37 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

No haboobs the size of those seen lately in AZ are recorded earlier. NWS tracked the big one from NM.

Wrong and Wrong.

The severity of the recent haboobs were the result of drought, not agriculture.

And they were the result of collapsing thunderstorms, and had a reach of about 100 miles.

From the first link:

A haboob forms after a severe thunderstorm collapses. Rain-cooled air from the thunderstorm plummets to the ground at speeds up to 100 mph (161 kph), and with so much momentum that it can't go into the ground, Waters said.

Instead, the winds kick up an enormous amount of dry, loose sand, which ripples outward.

"It's like the power of a tornado, but a different kind of phenomenon," Waters said.

Like most of the drought-stricken Southwest, Arizona hasn't had rain in months, so the sand was especially loose before last night's storm.

Arizona has dust storms every year, especially along the Interstate 10 corridor from Phoenix to Tucson, during the summer monsoon season when thunderstorms are common.Five people on average are killed each year during dust storms, typically due to blinding conditions on the highway, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

October 12, 2011 8:58 AM  
Blogger erp said...

SH - not knowing anything at all about farming, even I surmised that poor Russian peasants wouldn't be buying feed for their non-existent animals, so giving Harry the benefit of the doubt, I posited a typo.

October 12, 2011 9:31 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

As I already explained, the plots were too small to grow fodder, so they obtained it from the collectives.

A sort of 'private-washing' to report output from the collectives as private. It is telling that American anti-communists have for generations accepted these crazy numbers.

It is indeed correct that the collective farms were inefficient, although there were are few obstacles in their way: inherited a failed agricultural system, civil war, war. And they were being run by Russians.

Only an American free-market fanatic would accept the bogus claims for private output. Mr. Soth never did. He was a free-marketeer, but not a fanatic.

For a few crops in certain climatic zones (wine grapes in Crimea, for example), the output claims for private plots are reliable. For most, they are fraudulent.

October 12, 2011 11:39 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry all claims about the Soviet Union are fraudulent. If you start from there, you can't go too far wrong.

October 12, 2011 11:59 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

erp;

Quite. One notes that Eagar had no objection to my statistics, despite discussing them over multiple comments, until he was hoisted on them. It is at that point the data becomes "private-washing". A legitimate argument would have brought that up as part of mentioning Medvedev's discussion of private plots. And why Medvedev's data is any better than my cite, other than ad hominems.

Mr. Eagar;

You explained where the fodder came from, but not why it was an input since you also claim "almost no livestock" on the private plots. Those are the two statements I am interested in having you reconcile.

October 12, 2011 12:40 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I'm also interested in how reliable the Hungary ag stats are. Communists aren't particularly famous for leaving the numbers unfiddled.

October 12, 2011 5:15 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I had plenty of objections to your use of the statistics, although I was willing to engage them as if they were accurate, because there are problems, as I've shown, even if they are accurate.

The fact that they are bogus makes the problems deeper. Y'know, there's a lot in Medvedev's book, and you guys are so profoundly ignorant about Russian conditions that I am not able to provide correctives to every single misleading statement in the context of brief blog comments.

And I mentioned the myth of private plots quite a bit higher, quite a bit before bringing in the term 'private-washing.'

I note a fascinating piece in that commie outlet Bloomberg News yesterday about capitalist farming in the chernozem area since the fall of bolshevism that says, from a different context, much of what I have said here, in my review and what Medvedev said in his book.

I think current Hungarian yields provide a check on reports of yields from the communist era. Unless you think the current, so-called democratic government of Hungary is also faking its numbers.

October 13, 2011 10:53 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"because there are problems, as I've shown, even if they are accurate"

I read it the opposite way - you failed to do that, so fell back on denigrating the statistics.

Still waiting for the fodder vs. almost no livestock explanation.

October 13, 2011 3:50 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Then you still haven't understood.

It doesn't matter what the exact level of private production was, simply inceasing the size of the plots could not have affected gross output importantly.

You know those school districts in the Pacific Northwest where school lets out to make the kids pick fruit? No, you probably don't.

Well, the whole USSR was like that.

October 14, 2011 10:21 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"It doesn't matter what the exact level of private production was, simply inceasing the size of the plots could not have affected gross output importantly."

Why not? You have made arguments based on unsubstantiated assertions which are contradictory and therefore suspect. Even if accurate I do not think they preclude additional work on private plots (most of the reasons you list could be results, not causes, due to the small plot size). You don't believe the data I cited but have yet to provide any other values.

As a thought experiment, suppose the exact level of private plot production was 99% of all output. I think it's clear that in that case, you might as well abandon the collective farms entirely and not even other increasing the private plots size. So clearly the exact level does matter.

More generally, the output vs. inputs is an indicator of efficiency and IMHO it's obvious that one should move input units from less efficient mechanisms to more efficient ones. Therefore I consider the exact level of output to be a very important value. You, as far as I can tell, think that won't make any difference in output and that's why you don't think output levels matter. I dare say, though, that you'll find few economics, argiculturists, or businessmen who will your side of that point.

October 14, 2011 3:21 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

One who would is Medvedev.

I already explained, though since you do not understand how farms work you missed it, why in Russia small plots (private or otherwise, but the small ones happened to be private) were inefficient.

Now, if you could have magically created a small garden implement industry, such as some countries have but the USSR didn't, you might have gotten partway around that.

What happened in real life, of course, was the free-market geniuses decided that what Russia needed was an electronic stock exchange, not all-weather farm roads or on-farm storage.

We have seen how that worked out, or I have.

The results actually were a lot worse even than they appear, because not only did we waste money not helping Russian agriculture, we took the money away from tropical agriculture, where it had been doing some good.

October 15, 2011 1:52 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry:

Up above you said that Hungarian collectivized agriculture did not start from a low level.

According to this, the first attempts to collectivize Hungarian agriculture were complete disasters. Now, it may well be that ag productivity ultimately reached western levels. But what about efficiency?

It is worth noting that Russia never had primogeniture, so that progressive fragmentation of farmland into ever smaller units inevitably resulted far less productivity than would otherwise be the case. That cannot be blamed upon collectivization.

However, output and efficiency are not the only considerations. Reading that Wikipedia article, two things are readily apparent: the grotesque human costs involved, and the nearly universal abandonment of collectivization the moment state coercion disappears.

I visited the Soviet Union in the early 90s. The paucity, in terms of both quantity and quality, of food was striking.

Except to this guy. In 1991, Joseph E Medley, of the University of Southern Maine, wrote a a paper debunking western myths about Soviet Agriculture.

As an example in double dealing, innumeracy, illogic and intermittent delusion, it is tough to beat. And, therefore, worth reading just to gain some insight as to what mental contortions are required for communist apologetics.

Here is a teaser:

In the US in 1966, for example, underemployment in rural areas for persons between the ages of 20 and 64 was equivalent to one year of unemployment for 2.5 million persons(Freeman 1967:A921). In 1973 it was estimated as equivalent to the year round unemployment of 3 million persons (Tweeten and Walker 1977:46). Consequently, US rural life is associated with unbelievably harsh working conditions, extremely low wages, horrendous housing, and grossly inadequate diets (Physician Task Force 1985: 8-10, 25-95). Except for the Soviet prison camps, no one has ever claimed to find comparable conditions in the contemporary Soviet countryside.

October 15, 2011 3:00 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You seem to think I am supporting collectivization.

It was a failure (although so was tsarist agriculture and so has been whatever word we use to describe 21st c. Russian agriculture). It was such a big failure that it brought down bolshevism.

But it is far from obvious that mere privatization was a magic bullet. After all, tsarist agriculture, at the village level, was collectivist, and antibolsheviks admire it for its productivity. Even Medvedev says, without comment, that in 1910-13, Russia was the world's biggest grain exporter.

So it was, but not because Russian agriculture was efficient or even because it was generating real surpluses.

William McNeill ("Plagues and Peoples") once wrote that cities can be considered diseases of the countryside. That was certainly true in pre-bolshevik Russia, even though the cities were relatively inconsiderable.

For reasons that probably would have worked even if the bolshies hadn't encouraged it, urbanization was unbelievably rapid in the USSR. Food production via collectivization was able to keep Russia self-sufficient (defining diet rather stringently) up to about 1960.

It was not, for the first 40 years, the case that collectivized farming was a complete failure. It expanded rapidly. Not rapidly enough.

There were even a couple of periods where, from the viewpoint of the Politburo, it did worse than usual as far as getting food into the cities, while the rural people ate better.

These episodes were the only times in the whole history of Russia as a farming country when the rural people ate better.

Depending on who you are for, that could be considered an achievement.

Nutrition levels improved (not in Medvedev's mind; a real Russian, he objected to the substitution of potatoes for black bread, even though potatoes are better nutrients), especially consumption of fats and protein.

That was part of the dilemma Krushchev found himself in. By 1964, Russia was still producing enough grain to feed its population the kind of diet it had been accustomed to 50 years earlier. It just couldn't keep up with the meaty diet that the population had started to like -- and had been promised.

As for Hungary, I commend to you a wonderful satirical novel about Communist Hungary, "Under the Frog," which might be enlightening regarding food production and distribution.

And, of course, I commend to you "Soviet Agriculture" by Zhores Medvedev. I do not recommend works by J. Medley, or any other scholar at that well-known seat of higher learning, the U. of S. Maine.

October 15, 2011 3:48 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, I wonder if you realize how tellingly bizarre are sentences like these:

These episodes were the only times in the whole history of Russia as a farming country when the rural people ate better.

Depending on who you are for, that could be considered an achievement.


I'm for everybody having sufficient food to be well nourished whether they agree with my politics or not.

I'm also in favor of telling the truth even if it goes against my favorite prejudices. If Communism were a utopia, I'd say, gee guys I was wrong and bring it on.

But that isn't the case. It was a failure from the beginning and writing convulsed and convoluted treatises in a vain attempt to convince us of otherwise is really tiresome.

October 15, 2011 5:07 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Ah, that explains the famines in the 1930s. Too much surplus.

"I already explained [...] why in Russia small plots (private or otherwise, but the small ones happened to be private) were inefficient."

Yes. I have already explained that it is the marginal efficiency, not the absolute level, that matters.

If Medvedev is one would argue that it's economically rational to move inputs from less inefficient to more inefficient processes (as you claim he is), I think he can be summarily dismissed.

October 15, 2011 5:10 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

It was not, for the first 40 years, the case that collectivized farming was a complete failure. It expanded rapidly. Not rapidly enough.

Granted, collectivized farming was not a complete failure. Indeed, within Russia proper, it may well have ultimately produced more than the privately held plots could have done.

Ceteris paribus.

Which is kind of the crux here, isn't it?

It is hard to imagine anything like a graceful transition from small-hold farming to that suited to modern methods.

However, of every instance of that transition, is it possible to imagine a process that cost more than collectivization? Any accounting must take into account Ukrainian Kulaks as well as Russian serfs.

Having read about Medvedev, his assessment of the actuality of collectivized agriculture cannot be dismissed out of hand. The means matter, too, though.

October 15, 2011 7:43 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Skipper by collectivized agriculture do you means experts running large operations scientifically with modern equipment, etc. like we do? Because I don't think that's what they did in the Soviet Union at any time and I don't think that's what they're doing in Russia now.

October 16, 2011 12:34 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

erp;

"Collectivization" means using force to make people work together. Coercion is the essence -- if people group together by choice, that's not collectivization. It is the fact of that coercion that makes it fail, not the specific details of how it is implemented. That is why the private plots were far more productive, despite the lower technology used in them.

October 16, 2011 1:25 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

You keep saying they were mote productive, but they weren't.

October 16, 2011 1:56 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I cited the data on which I base my conclusion that the private plots were more productive. You originally argued that being more productive was irrelevant. Then you disputed the data without providing any evidence. Now you're reduced to raw assertions. I am sure it is simply my invincible ignorance that makes such an approach unpersuasive.

October 16, 2011 2:19 PM  
Blogger erp said...

SH, mine too because Harry would say that the people who work on the big farms aren't doing it by choice either. The big bad corporations just took over and the small farmers couldn't compete -- had to work for starvation wages, live in tar paper shacks ...

Unlike in the Soviet Union where everyone joined hands for the betterment of mankind. s/off

I wonder Harry if you ever met and talked to someone who escaped from the Soviet Union or other eastern bloc country during communism's heyday? I'm talking regular people, not party apparatchiks, I have and heard the same story from them all and it weren't pretty.

October 16, 2011 3:27 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I have.

I have been in the tarpaper shacks, too.

October 17, 2011 10:56 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, if you've talked to people who've lived in the Soviet Union then you wouldn't be still attempting to justify any of their practices.

Tar paper shacks? I've seen and stepped into them in museums too.

October 17, 2011 12:12 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I am not justifying bolshevik practices, but I am interested in finance capitalism doing the exact same thing.

You give that a pass, because of your personal hatreds.

When I say I have been in the tarpaper shacks, I mean tarpaper shacks in which oppressed Americans were living in oriental poverty, to the complete indifference -- in fact, to the complacent satisfaction -- of the monied classes.

I really doubt you have been in a tarpaper shack in a museum. Which museum? Even the wonderful East Side Tenement Museum -- which I recommend all Americans but especially those who think government interference with the 'rights' of capital is a crime, should visit.

But the conditions there were not as bad as in the housing of some of the residents of the tarpaper shacks (whose children were my playmates when I was little).

Everything you complain about under bolshevism, I can show you under finance capitalism. You refuse to look, but if you'd look, you could see.

October 18, 2011 10:29 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

You mean like the Gulag? Deliberately engineered famines? POW executions?

Does proportion count for anything? For instance, if the Great American Dustbowl results in 1000 people starving to death, while the Ukranian famines lead to 10,000,000 deaths by starvation, does that count as "Everything you complain about under bolshevism, I can show you under finance capitalism"? That there is no reason for a poor person to prefer the finance capitalist system?

Again, I will bring up Chile vs. Cuba and what happens in general economic terms to people under right wing authoritarians and Bolsheviks. One certainly find examples of severe poverty and brutality in Chile. Is your view that such things negate the overall advantages of the prosperity of Chile vs. the widespread poverty of Cuba? As far as I can tell from everything you write, the answer is "yes", that you see no advantage to living in Chile vs. Cuba.

October 18, 2011 11:50 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, I have no "personal hatreds"

I hate lies and distortion and what most people know about the Soviet Union are just that and I've lived a long time and traveled quite a bit and can't remember every place I've ever been or where I've seen different things I remember, but I remember visiting a site of slave quarters in the south -- perhaps museum is too fancy a word for what it was, but it fits the broad definition of one.

It stuck in my memory because of its impact just like the photos in Life & Look magazine of the concentration camps are as vivid in my memory as the first time I saw them more than 65 years ago.

October 18, 2011 12:04 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, the tarpaper shacks I was in were not slave quarters. I'm not old enough to have overlapped slavery in the United States (although I am almost old enough to have overlapped it in capitalist states like Germany and Japan).

While Guy is correct that not as many people died in the American Dust Bowl as in the Ukraine about the same time, he is incorrect to think that more people died of engineered famines under bolshevism than under capitalism.

In both absolute and per capita terms, more people starved to death in the name of finance capitalism.

I have referenced this before. A handy compendium is 'Late Victorian Holocausts.'

As to what happens to people under right wing authoritarian regimes, I would think you might want to avoid that topic.

October 19, 2011 12:06 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"While Guy is correct that not as many people died in the American Dust Bowl as in the Ukraine about the same time, he is incorrect to think that more people died of engineered famines under bolshevism than under capitalism."

First, I did not make a claim about absolute totals. Next is that if we're comparing, we should compare as contemporaneously as possible. That fact you have to reach back in history to find putative equivalence demonstrates that bolshevism was at best a reversion to more savage times, a recreation of ills capitalism had outgrown. I also have strong doubts that we agree with your label of "capitalism" on historic economic systems, such as Tsarist Russia or Ireland under British rule. And finally you're avoiding the actual point and question I made, presumably because you know you can't argue that. I, after all, am not the one avoiding comparisons as you are when you write

"As to what happens to people under right wing authoritarian regimes, I would think you might want to avoid that topic."

I think you want me to avoid that topic. Of course, you once again get it wrong -- I wasn't looking at just right wing regimes, but a comparison with Communist ones. You want to dwell on just one side as usual. Further, I looking more at a comparison of post-regime outcomes although I am fine with comparing Latin American countries under Communism vs. right wing authoritarians using economic or civilian death metrics. Or how about "people imprisoned for political crimes"? Or even "locked up for having AIDS". Then there's the whole "post-regime" question and the expected lifespan of the two types of oppression.

But you won't engage on any of that so I'm done. You can have the last comment here.

October 19, 2011 1:27 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

OK, we can do comparisons. Your side gets Guatemala, home to, relatively, about the worst genocide of the 21st c., or at best no better than Rwanda's.

But I am not really into atrocity mongering. Once you've murdered a few thousand people, you're a murderer, in my book, anyway. But I get tired of claims that the crimes of the bolsheviks were uniquely awful.

I'll accept that for the crimes of the Germans.

So, see, I don't have to go back to ancient history, although the history I was referring to wasn't all that ancient -- the Ukrainian famine of 1892-3 was within a long generation of the famine of 1932-3, and whether you think it was capitalist or not, it was.

As for erp and her tales of oppression by the communists, in which she believes so fervently, I refer her to today's Washington Post, in which it is documented that rightwing nutball Sen. Marco Rubio's claim that his family was forced to flee Castro turns out to be a fabrication.

They were fleeing, if anything, American capitalism, Cuba-libre style; and in any case, fled at a time when Castro wasn't even in Cuba.

October 20, 2011 8:55 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Your side gets Guatemala, home to, relatively, about the worst genocide of the 21st c., or at best no better than Rwanda's.

Harry, do not read Stephen Pinker's latest book.

November 04, 2011 7:38 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Already read it, or at least a long extract of it.

Your side still gets Guatemala, which is still one of the worst genocides in history and, furthermore, continues without your side saying anything against it.

Prosit!

November 15, 2011 11:40 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

One of the worst genocides in history?

Are you kidding?

I just read the Wikipedia entry on Guatemala. It is, without a doubt, the most one sided article I have ever read.

BTW, I am happy to grant that it could be correct in every particular.

None of which mentions, or could begin to justify, genocide.

Never mind the worst of its kind in history.

December 26, 2011 11:07 PM  

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