Since the fall of the Berlin wall, few have defended actually existing communism and those few have been ripe for satire. Some claim that “true” communism has never existed and what happened instead was a form of state capitalism, some say Stalin ruined the good thing Trotsky had going, and some leftists admit that Marx as all wrong and the right path for socialism is anarchism. I should admit that many of my fellow libertarians (particularly the anti-vulgar ones) take the no-true approach, while I prefer to admit the imperfections but emphasize actually existing capitalism contrasted with actually existing socialism. I’m satisfied with the “foot vote”, but the unrepentant commies have some arguments that objective evidence of well-being supports their system.
I bring this up thanks to (Chip) Smith’s recent response to (Michael) Smith’s review of (Bradley) Smith’s autobiography as a Holocaust denier. My impression is that Holocaust deniers tend to come in varieties that would be considered right-wing, either racial/ethnic nationalists or anti-interventionist libertarians. Even the somewhat hippy-dippy anti-anti-communist Denierbud repeatedly cites Kevin MacDonald, a white nationalist who excoriates the Soviet Union and its communist apologists as Jewish plotters against white gentiles. Michael Smith is different. He strikes me as generally goofy (my guess is his site is mostly dedicated to 9/11 conspiracy theories) and thinks both Hitler and the communist dictators have been libeled (I should note that Denierbud also thinks we were sold a bill of goods on Saddam and Idi Amin). He doesn’t just think they weren’t as bad as advertised, he thinks their system was better for human flourishing than capitalism. He cites the respected (oddly) Amartya Sen on changes in mortality in China, and compares it to India. Neoliberals agree: the Gapminder folks touting the changes in China note that they concentrated on health under Mao, but shifted to wealth under Deng.
How can we explain that? Possibly the data are just bad, but then I wouldn’t have anything more to write about in this post. I noted that Robert Lindsay defended communism on health grounds previously, he believes the difference is that capitalism gives people what they want and what they want is not what they should have. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (of the notorious hotbed of pinkos known as the Hoover Institute) explained the high literacy/education rates and good health in communist regimes by saying that they acted in a self-interested and rational manner, like Mencius Moldbug’s utopia under Fnargl. Just like a farmer wants his chattel to be healthy, a slaveowner or communist dictator wants his subjects to be healthy enough to produce lots of labor. I’d been reading some of Greg Clark’s “A Farewell to Alms” recently and had another idea. Maybe the mass deaths were the reason for good health. Clark notes that life expectancy (and income) shot up in England after the Black Death. A lower population in an agricultural economy where the fixed supply of land is the main constraint on production means a higher marginal product for labor. China under Mao notoriously had a “one-child” policy which kept population down. Lindsay is right then that the “foot vote” indicates people desire things other than what communist health nuts give them, and the Chinese in particular might have wanted more fertility. So one’s opinion on communism may depend on how they view the repugnant conclusion.