A belated reply to Giles Wilkes on China

I wrote a piece shortly following the publication of the Tory’s One World Conservatism on how it was full of crap.

The recommendations of this paper were not particularly different from the policies of our current Administration. Of course it continued within the dreadful framework of the post-Washington Consensus (and therein lies the problem).

I divided my discussion into several subtopics for easy navigation, as it ran to some 3,000 words.

Contradictions, Choosing Winners and Losers, Gimmicks: “Bhutan’s got Talent”, Turing up in pair of flip-flops offering to build a school, Vouchers, Microfinance, Rejecting Universal Education, Rejecting Universal Healthcare, Fixation on Private Sector Wealth Creation, The Sanctity of Property Rights, Fighting the Wrong Battles, Some good points made it though

One topic provoked particular criticism from Giles Wilkes of freethinkingeconomist and CentreForum fame.

China-60.svgUnder the heading “Choosing Winners and Losers” I criticised the Conservatives for withdrawing aid from China despite it still being particularly poverty stricken. The offending paragraphs follow below.

China and the Chinese are often treated as a political football. Those wishing to vacillate on Climate Change can use China’s pollution as an excuse to do nothing.

It appears that the suffering of the Chinese people in sweatshops, mines and factories is now to be rewarded with a banner which reads “Mission Accomplished.”

Please allow me to put this move into perspective, in 1750 England’s GDP per capita (likewise measured in 1990 dollars) stood at $1,328. In 2006 China’s per capita GDP stood $128 below this.

Today, on the brink of the worst global recession in a generation, China’s GDP pet capita is still only half of what the UK had achieved by the end of the 19th Century. The Tories announce that “Every life is precious” but when those live are collectively labelled “the People’s Republic of China” their well-being becomes a necessary sacrifice.

Giles contends that he “smells a rat.” He argues that I am ignoring the clear differences in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) that exist between modern China and Victorian Britain.

I start with Angus Madison’s data.  In “1990 International Geary-Khamis dollars“, he has China’s GDP in 1800 at about $600.  Two centuries of woe, caused by both internal and external factors, as well as the disasters of totalitarianism, mean that it is still around $600 in 1960.

There is SOME growth to 1980, bringing us to $1000, but then the new freedoms growth starts motoring from a change in ideology. By Madison’s data, this puts Chinese GDP in terms of 1990 dollars at over $4000 in 2003 – in line with IMF figures. In terms of Purchasing Power Parity, it has grown even faster, to $8500 – reflecting, no doubt, the strengthening currency – from $248 in 1980.

Purchasing Power Parity probably explains much of what Left Outside has Left Outside his analysis.  It is what counts in this sort of discussion: what matters is how much you can get for your buck, not the state of international markets in tradeable items.

I have to accept that I was playing a little fast and loose with the facts in my last post. Giles excellently underlines what was “Left Outside” of my post, however the point I was trying to briefly outline remains valid. (Hopefully only slightly wounded by my slapdash short hand argument.)

Left Wing Imperialism

However, Giles oversteps the mark when he accuses me of “Left wing Imperialism.” He is wrong to do so on a number of counts, however for brevity I will try to limit to discussion on China’s relative wealth and poverty. More general discussions on aid and global justice along Marxist, Rawlsian and Humanitarian lines will have to wait for another time.

No one is going to argue that China’s per capita GDP is not still very low. Using the IMF’s Data Mapper China’s 2009 per capita PPP GDP at current international dollars is $6,546. As Giles argues this is significantly more than our Victorian forbears, however the structure of China’s society makes this simple fact increasingly difficult to map onto concrete reality.

Firstly, I would like to turn to Dave Osler’s recent post on Soft Sinophilia, mainly because it caught my eye recently, but specifically because it addresses an important element of Chinese society.

The sycophancy of many on the left to China’s dictatorial, murderous, exploitative, repressive and capitalist rulers is peculiarly disturbing. While China’s GDP has soared since 1978 the results have clearly not led to as widespread a rise in living standards as could be expected. Speaking about a contemporary calculation on the rate of exploitation Dave says…

…perhaps the closest equivalent metric in mainstream economics is the overall wages bill for a given country, expressed as a proportion of gross domestic product. This is, crudely, the workers’ share of the social product. Even despite the onslaught of neoliberalism, it typically amounts to around 55% throughout western Europe.

But a recent study by Chang Xiuze, an economist with a National Development and Reform Commission think tank, revealed that the salary component of China’s GDP dropped from 17% in 1980 to just 11% in 2007. In other words, the bosses are taking a dramatically greater cut.

It appears that the Chinese are getting a smaller cut of a bigger pie. Some would argue that this is a good thing if the pie is big enough, I would argue that this is a sign of the failure’s of China’s economic model and this sort of imbalance will lead to massive problems soon.

Furthermore, Giles argues that the health of the Chinese is one of the most obvious ways in which modern China is a better place to live than Victorian Britain. However,  as always in China it is far more complicated than that.

It is mostly agreed that “wealthier is  healthier.” However, evidence from China is doing a great deal to prove that the form of society and social institutions matter a great deal for how much healthier a society gets for its wealth.

In this paper form the New Left Review (gated) evidence is provided that shows that China is getting healthier far more slowly than other comparable countries as they got wealthier. Again, it appears that the Chinese are getting a smaller cut of a bigger pie. I don’t think this is good enough, because evidence exists from other countries that it can be done better.

According to this report from the UN Development Programme 15.9%  of China’s population live on less than $1.25 a day and 36.3% live on less than $2, my preferred metric. This is the sort of Dickensian poverty which can be missed if you insist on looking at the number of skyscrapers going up in Shanghai.

When you insist on looking at the number of skyscrapers you can be so awestruck by the shear scale of the things that you fail to notice that up to half of the commercial property in the city sits empty.

This dislocate is what interests me. China is no nut, but the sledge hammer that is being used to crack this society is massive.


While I concede that Giles makes some excellent points I find his casual dismissal of my argument that “China and the Chinese are often treated as a political football” somewhat bemusing.

First of all, there is the historical context. In 1949 Mao’s forces declared the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. In the West this was not treated as a mere violent change of government. Repeated, again and again, was the idea that “we have lost China.” We was the West and implicit in that statement is that China was ours to lose in the first place. The fall of China became a central plank of anti-Red hysteria throughout the 1950s and onwards.

China’s many economic successes are used to underline how powerful the development consensus of free-markets and free-trade is.  It is responsible for the majority of those lifted out of poverty in the last few decades. Dani Rodrik argues that China’s development path could hardly be further from the consensus of the last 30 years, and he is right. However, when some argue that it is bogus to include China’s growth and poverty reduction when discussing global poverty reduction strategies they are described as trying to stage “Hamlet without the Prince.”

And the Tories. They want to act tough on aid by cutting help to China. Despite  the dubious ground on which they stand for cutting aid to a country with such manifest problems they were applauded by the right of their party. 60 years ago, 6 years ago and 6 months ago, China is used again and again as a political football.

It is only in the minutiae of real life that the suffering of the Chinese working classes can really be assessed. Per Capita Purchasing Power Parity Gross Domestic Product can’t illustrate the 72.5% of workers who have had their wages paid late or not at all; although perhaps it does include the 6%-12% of GDP estimated to be contributed by the sex industry (page 20 of the preview). I’m no prude, but nobody can fail but to be taken aback by the prevalence of sexual exploitation in China.

The fact is that China is still poor, that there are those in desperate need in China and that the CCP will not provide the assistance necessary to help them.

Further posts will explain exactly why I think that the institutions that helped China to succeed so far as a country of cheap, healthy, educated and disciplined workers are being undermined. I will argue further that the very process of marketising their economy and opening up to the world economy that initiated its tremendous growth, is also undermining it.

My preference is for those involved in multitude of protests, strikes and industrial actions that take place in China on a daily basis to wrest power and control back from those exploiting them. But until then I don’t feel supporting a transfer of wealth, institutions and knowledge from the rich world to the poor as left wing imperialism.

An Argument in Favour of the CAP

EU FlagThe Common Agricultural Policy of the EU is one of the largest subsidies in the world “it represent[ed] 48% of the EU’s budget [or] €49.8 billion in 2006.” That is a lot of money in anyone’s book, but when it appears hardly anyone is happy with the outcome generated it starts to look anomalous.

From the right, it is attacked by The Economist, which itself is flanked by the Adam Smith Institute.

[European consumers and taxpayers] will have to continue paying for this wasteful and wicked system. It is terrible for poor-country farmers, who have long suffered from being shut out of rich-world markets, and having rich-world products dumped on them. Now they can hear the gates of fortress Europe clanging shut just when world prices should be triggering an export boom. And it is dreadful news for the hungry poor, because restricting trade in food exacerbates shortages.

Similarly, the left attack the CAP for hurting smaller farmers while handing huge handouts to a handful of larger producers.

In a detailed breakdown of aid payments across the EU in 2000, the EC calculated that 78 per cent of EU farmers receive less that 5000 per year in direct aid. Furthermore, fewer than 2000 of Europe’s 4.5 million farmers between them rake in almost €1bn in direct aid from the CAP. Farm subsidies also vary in scale across Europe. In Portugal, approximately 95 percent of farmers receive less than 5000 each year, compared with 43 per cent in the UK. Moreover, 380 of the UKs landowners and large-scale agricultural businesses glean aid in excess of the 300,000 per farmer ceiling on annual payments proposed in the mid-term review.

By concentrating subsidies in the hands of its richest agricultural landowners, EU agricultural policies are hastening the demise of smallholder agriculture in Europe. (pdf)

Please allow me to take you back a century and a half.

The British Corn Laws were import tariffs designed to protect British agricultural workers and the landed aristocracy. In a way, they worked similarly to the CAP. Their effect was certainly similar, higher domestic prices and a reduced market for the agricultural products of the developing world. Of course at this point the developing world was Western Europe and the USA.

The Economist argues that the CAP is terrible for the contemporary developing world because it artificially deflates the value of their agricultural products and it hinders their access to markets for these products.

Famed free marketeer Richard Cobden may have taken an altogether different view on matters. He was a prominent member in the Anti-Corn Law League and argued voraciously for their abolition so as to lower the cost of food for the British.

But he did not argue for the abolition of the Corn Laws out of a sense of altruism for the poor wronged American, German and French citizenry.

He argued that the continuation of the Corn Laws positively aided the catching up of the developing world with Britain.

The factory system would, in all probability not have taken place in America and Germany. It most certainly could not have flourished, as it has done, both in these states, and in France, Belgium and Switzerland, through the fostering bounties which the higher priced food of the British artisan has offered to he cheaper fed manufacturer of those countries.

Perhaps The Economist is wrong. Perhaps the CAP has the potential to act as an additional stimulus to the developing world to move from agriculture  to higher value added activities like manufacturing.

Perhaps the abolition of the CAP is just another form of free trade imperialism designed to keep the third world in its place, out on the periphery.Well, done, you highlight when you read just like me and this white text has shown up. I’m hoping this post might cause some controvery so I’m hiding a disclaimer here. In my opinion the abolition of the CAP wouldn’t be a piece of free-trade imperialism, nor would it hurt the industrialisation of the developing world. Of course on the other hand its abolition wouldn’t be the panacea some describe it as, as always I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that. (Previously white on white. I’m sick of people thinking I’m a moron unnecessarily. There’ll be enough reasons for the Working Class Tory to hate me without making extra ones up)

Still a cunt: Peter Hitchens caught abusing the Holocaust

Yesterday the Irish voted YES to the Lisbon treaty. Septicisle surmises the reaction from the blogosphere [inserted below] but I personally don’t really have an opinion.

On the Irish yes vote to the Lisbon treaty, although some wrote before the result was known,Lenin bemoans the victory for neoliberalism, Bob wonders where this leaves the Tories, as does Jamie, while Nosemonkey critiques the view that having a second vote was undemocratic.

Having studied it at University the only thing I am certain about is that the EU is incredibly boring. So dull I can barely finish this sen…

…where was I? Ah, for the record I am vaguely in favour of supranational institutions but think that the EU is a particularly badly run one. [1] One run in the interests of the few at the expense of the many.

I’m more interested in the thoughts of Peter “if I had come first, it would have been hitchenary not reactionary” Hitchens.

Peter is of course livid that the Irish have voted to adopt the protocols of the Lisbon Treaty. But he decides before attacking the EU, or the treaty, or our own Government, he would attack Jews.EUIRELAND

I don’t think he’s an anti-Semite, Jews are probably one of the few groups towards which he does not regularly pour his vitriol. But this throwaway paragraph really took my breathe away [my emphasis].

The Passport you hold is not British, but European. You are a European citizen. British Embassies are European Embassies – as they already show by flying the EU’s meaningless and tasteless blue and yellow dishcloth.  Shouldn’t somebody have pointed out that in the recent history of the Continent, yellow stars call up only one dismal image, the mass murder of Europe’s Jews.

The jaw dropping ignorance of the man is palpable. The coy manipulation of history is truly sickening.

The holocaust still matters. It is as impossible to understate the horror as it is to visualise the scale of what occurred. And Peter “in fact, just shorten that to Cunt” Hitchens wants to use it to attack the fucking EU?

You might not like the EU, but you do not use the holocaust to attack a fucking flag you don’t think is as good as the Union Flag. That makes you a colossal fucking prick.

Peter Hitchens is one of your common and garden Armchair Imperialists, and I understand his hostility to the EU. Not only that but I can see his target market every time I stumble into an Agricultural Show.

He often claims to be speaking from history – he even approvingly quotes Hugh Gaitskell in this same article – but this vile display of manipulation puts pay to any notion of objectivity or historical insight.

As I’ve written this post I’ve gradually become more and more angry, and have inserted sweary things where once were polite ripostes. Fucking Bastard.

[1] In the EU’s defence, it was one of the first transnational institutions and had to make all the mistakes other learn from.

UPDATE: NoseMonkey has also noticed this ridiculoous article and has rightly pointed out the Peter Hitchens represents exactly what is wrong with Euroskeptics today.

China at 60: Misunderstood

China-60.svgMao’s China has been annihilated. 60 years on from its founding on the 1st October 1949 there is little recognisable about it.

Although some on the left will lament the loss of this slightly more presentable face of state Socialism, this is a cause to celebrate. The Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward are two of the biggest tragedies to hit humanity. The gains which accrued under Mao are too small to outweigh the horror which occurred.

From ardent globalisers to hardline socialists it seems everyone can find something to celebrate in the New China.

Unfortunately the things highlighted by Andy and Tim underline the misunderstanding that surrounds the success of modern China.

But as the scholar and writer Perry Link has observed, it is more accurate to say that the people lifted the Communist party out of poverty – once it had the sense to get out of the people’s way.

This? This good sense in The Guardian?

Tongue-in-cheek, Tim highlights the Guardian’s coverage of China’s 60th and approvingly asks “So when do we start applying it in the UK?

The only problem is that Communist Party hasn’t got out of the way. Or at least not in the way Tim implies.

From the earliest days of agricultural reform to the performance of state owned industries now, the party has very much got in the way. The Chinese have found a recipe that works for them, for the moment.

That Tim wants to score political points from it is telling of the difficulty that the libertarian/classical liberal/free trading right has discussing China.

xin_5021006010642328146348Of course elements of the left are little better at understanding the complexities of modern China.

For some bizarrely reason, Andy Newman of Socialist Unity uses a PRC propaganda photo as evidence of the change in China.

It is certainly worth celebrating the victory which Mao won in 1949, however, to use it as a a reason to stifle legitimate criticism of the regime and its policies is ludicrous.

Both Tim and Andy fall into the same trap that most analysts of China do.

Although most people recognise that China cannot be easily placed on a continuous Left and Right, people still want to label elements of its economy as a left-wing or right-wing policy. I apologise for these caricatures of left and right but they illustrate major failings in some analyses of China.

The leftist penchant for state intervention can be totally inappropriate for China.

China’s agricultural economy was only really successful once peasant farmers once the Household Responsibility System was set up. In this, after selling a set amount of their crop at the low state determined price, peasants were allowed to sell their surplus at market rates. This fermented a boost in productivity not seen since the redistribution of land which followed the establishment of the PRC.

The right have of course been as wrong as the left when it comes to China.

In a developing economy state intervention is essential in creating, extending and maintaining a market. The traditional rightist view that state intervention equals bad does not hold.

It must be made clear that a lack of state involvement is not synonymous with the free market. The withdrawal of the state in China is often applauded, but institutions which were smashed by the retreating party cadres have not been replaced.

In a survey quoted in Hart-Landsberg and Burkitt’s China and Socialism 72.5% of respondents had at some stage had their wages withheld. David Harvey uses this as an explanation for how so much wealth has been accumulated by so few in such a sort amount of time.

In fact, most of the time this is presented as the evidence of how “extreme” capitalism has become in China. But the theft of labour is not part of capitalism. This is evidence of how poorly China has instituted its new economy. Capitalism relies on functioning markets and as Chris Dillow argues, markets can be undersupplied like all public goods.

It is this difficult framework which has made it so difficult for the big L Left Left and big R Right to discuss China. This is why I think the work of Karl Polanyi is so important to understanding China. In the next post I will outline some of Polanyi’s thought and why it is so useful when discussing China.

Honduran Coup: Zelaya under siege in Brazilian Embassy

Earlier today forces commanded by interim leader Roberto Micheletti surrounded the Brazilian Embassy (H/T Calvin via Socialist Unity).

At some point in the previous 24 hours the democratically elected leader of Honduras Manuel Zelaya returned and took shelter in the Brazilian Embassy.

Following this reports have become increasingly confused, and little is known for certain. For one thing it is claimed that Zelaya’s arrival was a surprise to those working in the embassy, although he was welcomed.

Nonetheless it is clear where the sympathies of the Brazilian authorities lie. They regard Mr Zelaya as the legitimate president of Honduras and say there is no question of either handing him over to the military forces outside or asking him to leave.

One official told me “he is welcome to stay for as long as he wants”

Hondurans in civil resistance surrounded the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa yesterday to greet their returning president. This morning, coup regime troops attacked them violently, sending 24 wounded to hospitals. D.R. 2009 Mariachiloko, Chiapas Indymedia.

In the short term, the overnight curfew due to last from 4pm to 6am has been extended to 6pm and is expected to last into the night. As pictured, many appear to be in open revolt.

Supplies, power and water have been cut off from the Brazilian Embassy and there is something of a siege situation emerging.

Brazil’s President Lula has called for a cessation of hostilities and the immeidate withdrawl of troops from near the embassy. He has also called for Obama to voice his support for Brazil and Zelaya.

The only anti-coup TV station Channel 36 has gone off the air. Radio Globo’s Internet site is down too. There are also efforts to scramble mobile phone usage.

From Al Giodarno

3:18 p.m.: Micheletti blinks:

Honduras’ de facto leader, Roberto Micheletti, said on Tuesday he has no intention of confronting Brazil or entering its embassy where ousted President Manuel Zelaya has taken refuge to avoid arrest.

“We will do absolutely nothing to confront another brotherly nation. We we want them to understand that they should give him political asylum (in Brazil) or turn him over to Honduran authorities to be tried,” Micheletti told Reuters.

Meanwhile, at least two popular barrios in and around Tegucigalpa have defied, en masse, the curfew order and chased National Police out of their communities: El Pedregal and Colonia Kennedy. They’ve erected barricades and declared the coup regime and its security forces non grata.

More information as it comes in. Narco News will carry more up to date information than I possibly could, subscribe.

Texas Kills an Innocent Man

If you need a reason to oppose the dealth penalty than the execution of an innocent man couldn’t be a better one. From the Daily Kos:

…the Texas fire marshals, using a combination of old wives’ tales and junk science, managed to take an accidental and tragic fire in which three little girls perished and turn it into a murder case, ginning up enough false evidence to convict the girls’ father and sentence him to death.  The errors in the forensics were discovered with plenty of time before the execution date, but Governor Rick Perry (in the single most craven act of cowardice from a politician since Martin Sheen used a baby for a shield in “The Dead Zone”) declined to intervene and to further his own career as a “tough on crime” politician allowed an innocent man to die by lethal injection.

I’ve nothing more to say on this. It speaks for itself.

One World Con: The Conservatives’ ideas on Development are Dangerous

9.2 million children die before the age of five each year. Two million die on the day they are born – and 500,000 women die at childbirth. A third of children in Africa suffer brain damage as a result of malnutrition. 72 million children are missing out on an education. Every day 30,000 children die from easily-preventable diseases. That’s 21 children every minute. 33 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS. There are 11 million AIDS orphans in Africa. Every hour, 300 people become infected with HIV and 225 people die from AIDS…and 25 of these are children.

These bald facts are an insult to our humanity. Every life is precious. Everyone has unique talents and abilities. Every time the candle of life is snuffed out by disease, we all suffer. Every time ignorance triumphs over enlightenment, we are all injured. Every time a child is born into a cycle of poverty, we are all made poorer.

So opens the Conservative Party new Green Paper on International Development, One World Conservatism. These two paragraphs read like an accusation. They are contrasted with the Millennium Development Goals set out by the UN. With the 2015 deadline looming they seem wildly ambitious contrasted with such continued suffering.

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

The Conservatives pledge a new approach to International Development should they win the next election. As this looks almost inevitable, it is important to examine what they propose as it will affect millions of lives.

What’s in the Report?

Contradictions, Choosing Winners and Losers, Gimmicks: “Bhutan’s got Talent”, Turing up in pair of flip-flops offering to build a school, Vouchers, Microfinance, Rejecting Universal Education, Rejecting Universal Healthcare, Fixation on Private Sector Wealth Creation, The Sanctity of Property Rights, Fighting the Wrong Battles, Some good points made it though

Horror stories abound on what was to be in the Tory plans. Although the Conservatives have pledged to dedicate 0.7% of GDP to Aid, it appears that appeals to populism and concessions to the right might have deprived the Department for International Development (DfID) of its autonomy. For example, the idea that an X-Factor style competition could determine where aid is spent is as horrifying as it is nonsensical.


I don’t think it is fair to judge the whole Tory policy on one sound-byte so I have waited to get a copy of the report before posting on it. To be honest, I have to agree with Paul Cotterill that it is “broadly well intentioned.” However, if executed I likewise believe it will do a lot more harm than good.


Paul does an excellent job illustrating the contradictions within the report. They perhaps giving a hint to the internal battles which rage within the Tory party when it comes to International Development. Or maybe Paul’s explanation, that the report is the result of a some junior staffers, Google and a handful of Tory rhetoric, is more likely. The contradictions come thick and fast, and substantially undermine the reports credibility.

Then there’s how work will be funded.

Apparently, funds will be paid in arrears, to make sure the job gets done:  ’We will adopt and champion the promising idea of ‘cash on delivery’ aid’ (p. 18).

Except that it won’t.  On the very same page, provision is made for payment in advance: ‘And we will need to ensure that developing countries are able to finance the up-front investments necessary to achieve the desired outputs’.

That’s clear then.

Choosing Winners and Losers

One of the ways in which the Conservatives claim to be  able to improve on Labour’s DfID is greater efficiency. This means not only an inevitable rhetorical flourish bemoaning Labour’s bloated bureaucracy but also an “[immediate] review [on] which of the 108 countries the Department for International Development currently gives aid to should continue to receive it.”

This should raise eyebrows. The full criteria for this review are not given but their target is clear. Spending $20bn on the Olympics was a step too far.

We will end aid to China, which has sufficient resources to fund its own development.

This may be one of the concessions which the right as wrung out of Cameron’s compassionate conservatives. Ben Brogan seems particularly pleased that aid to China is to be ended. However, it is utterly immoral, given all their prior grandstanding, to end aid to China.

From the IMF Datamapper. Prices shown at contemporary dollar value. In 1990 dollars China's current GDP per capita today stands at $2,172. In 1990 dollars China's GDP per capita in 2006 stood at $1,200

From the IMF Datamapper. Prices shown at contemporary dollar value. In 1990 dollars China's current GDP per capita ($3,622) is $2,172. In 1990 dollars China's GDP per capita in 2006 ($2,021) was $1,200. The relevance of these figures will become obvious below.

China and the Chinese are often treated as a political football. Those wishing to vacillate on Climate Change can use China’s pollution as an excuse to do nothing. It appears that the suffering of the Chinese people in sweatshops, mines and factories is now to be rewarded with a banner which reads “Mission Accomplished.”

Please allow me to put this move into perspective, in 1750 England’s GDP per capita (likewise measured in 1990 dollars) stood at $1,328. In 2006 China’s per capita GDP stood $128 below this. Today, on the brink of the worst global recession in a generation, China’s GDP pet capita is still only half of what the UK had achieved by the end of the 19th Century. The Tories announce that “Every life is precious” but when those live are collectively labelled “the People’s Republic of China” their well-being becomes a necessary sacrifice.

Gimmicks -“Bhutan’s got Talent”

The worst thing in this paper are the Gimmicks. They are not necessarily the most damaging proposals here, but they are a massive waste of resources and time. The MyAid section of the report is likely to be dropped, having been roundly denounced in the press and by charities. But I still feel it is instructive to show what was considered good enough to be included in the official Green Paper. The section is copied verbatim (pp 23-24)

“I think it’s a basic human instinct to want to help. But sometimes you just don’t know where the money’s going.” – Member of the British public

We are determined to strengthen public support for aid by giving individual British taxpayers a greater say over how and where it is spent. We will establish a new MyAid fund, worth £40 million in its first year. Every taxpayer will be able to log on to the MyAid website and view details of ten ongoing DFID-funded aid programmes, and vote for which one they think should receive the extra money. The options will include programmes run directly by DFID, as well as those run by respected NGOs. The Fund will then be distributed between the ten programmes in proportion to how many votes they  receive. For example, if 25 per cent of people vote for the DFID programme in Malawi, that programme would receive 25 per cent of the Fund – £10 million. Everyone who votes will be kept up to date with regular email updates about the progress of ‘their’ project.

We will consult carefully on the technical aspects of the voting system. The projects will be chosen so as to illustrate the range of activities in which DFID and NGOs are involved and the variety of countries they work in. This will increase public understanding of, interest in and support for Britain’s aid programme – and create a clear incentive for DFID to demonstrate and improve the quality and impact of its work. If this idea proves successful, we will scale it up in future years. One option would be to set the level of the fund so that it equals the total amount raised by Comic Relief.

Gimmicks – Turing up in pair of flip-flops offering to build a school…

Worryingly, there are plans to use “part of our growing aid budget to create opportunities for more young people to carry out voluntary work in developing countries as part of our plan for National Citizen Service.”

The developing world has a surplus of people compared to the number of jobs available. Sending middle-class kids to build schools is only depriving the most needy of a job which could help feed their family. The experience will be fantastic for those that go but utterly useless as a development strategy.

Gimmicks – Vouchers

On page 25, the paper suggests the introduction of a voucher scheme similar that suggested for schools in the UK. Individual aid recipients will be given vouchers or cash directly and will be able to choose between various aid agencies and NGOs. This is designed to increase competition and efficiency. It will be a disaster.

In vast swathes of the world there are no aid agencies operating and in other places there are not enough to provide the choice these vouchers imply.

Where these vouchers are introduced there will simply be an increase in internal NGO bureaucracy to process the collection of funding, an increase in the marketing budget to the detriment of real work and a duplication of capacity as various agencies overreach themselves. In short, vouchers are a disaster waiting to happen.

Gimmicks – Microfinance

CoinsTheir plans to introduce Microfinance funding can be welcomed. Microfinance involves lending small unsecured loans to those who could never get credit from a bank, slum dwellers, women and propertyless entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, Microfinance will only ever be a palliative, not a cure for the poverty of the developing world. By focusing on Microfinace the Tories seem to sidestep the problems posed by volatile transnational capital flows which those in developing are confronted with.

As a poverty reducing strategy its results are relatively ambiguous. An article in The Economist goes to lengths to examine the validity of the claim that Microfinance reduces poverty. Of 104 slums in Hydrabad, India, half were given access to Microfinance and half were not. The results are interesting as “there was no effect on average household consumption, at least within a year to 18 months of the experiment.”

Increasing the ease with which the entrepreneurial poor can get access to investment did produce some positive results, but not the sort of change which the Tories seem to expect.

Rejecting Universal Education

It is a truism for the Tories that the state does not have to be the sole provider of education. They plan to extend this logic to their International Development strategy. (p 35)

Unfortunately, given the Tories record of education I have to be sceptical about their intentions. Presented as a method for fighting “special interests” which oppose improvements in educations, it appears that their proposals are more interested in fostering a small well-educated cadre at the expense of a comprehensive universal education system.

The Tories want to help ensure a universal service, but they have turned their back on the state led education and knowledge dispersion which saw the creation of educated working and middle classes in the UK, Korea, Germany and Japan.

Rejecting Universal Education

Red CrossThe similarities between their attitudes towards education and healthcare are obvious. A (un)healthy dose of private investment and a promise that “[w]e will not insist that developing countries follow the exact path that we in Britain have taken – that is a choice for them to make.” (p37)

Evidence of another concession which the right have won from Cameron. The language is clear, there is no way Conservative funds will be used to support a comprehensive health system, not beyond malaria nets and rehydration therapy (although the £500m dedicated to fighting Malaria will produce real results).

Fixation on Private Sector Wealth Creation

It will sound odd to the right but the Private Sector is not the only wealth creator. Moreover, with the partial exception on England, the Government of most now developed Countries played a large and crucial role in their development.

In Germany, when it was attempting to catch up with England, the state directed bank lending towards certain industries. In early 20th century Russia, the Government provided investment funds directly to entrepreneurs to foster development. In Japan the countries first railways were constructed by the state. In general, and despite some lingering disagreements, development in South East Asia must be seen as a success of activist trade, investment and technology policies pursued by the state.

Contrary to popular conception, the later a country is trying to develop, the more vital the role of the state becomes in fostering entrepreneurship, building infrastructure, and managing trade. And there are no policies designed to foster this autonomous activist state in the Tories’ Green Paper.

The Sanctity of Property Rights

The Conservatives pledge to uphold property rights, however, sometimes violating property rights can lead to positive developmental outcomes. To quote Ha Joon-Chang:

Security of property rights cannot be regarded as something good in itself. There are many examples in history in which the preservation of certain property rights has proved harmful for economic development and where the violation of certain existing property rights (and the creation of new ones) was actually beneficial for economic development.

Hence, what mattes for economic development is not simply the nature of all existing property rights regardless of their nature, but which property rights are protected under which conditions. If there are groups who are able to utilize certain existing properties better than their current owners, it may be better for the society not to protect existing property rights, but to create new ones that transfer the properties concerned to the former groups.

For example, violating the property rights to the landed aristocracy in Latin America could provoke a huge increase in income for people who live in rural areas. So too, violating the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies has extended thousand or millions of lives as HIV medication has become more affordable.

Fighting the Wrong Battles

handshakeThis is a dirty little secret. Whisper it: Corrupt countries get rich too. But you couldn’t tell this from the Conservatives’ determination to withdraw all funding from development projects if any corruption is uncovered (p 17).

This is a controversial position. I understand that the views expressed here may one day be quoted out of context so I would at least like to more fully explain before I am attacked. I believe an accountable democratic government is a basic human right, I also believe it is the best form of government for humane development.

However, the historical record of now developed countries like the UK, Japan or South Korea show that an democratically accountable government is not necessary to develop successfully. By concentrating on corruption the Tories are continuing to waste resources and direct attention from the real developmental tasks at hand.

The UK wasn’t a functioning democracy until 1928, when full suffrage was introduced. In Switzerland this stage wasn’t reached until 1971. The development of these countries’ economies certainly suffered as a result, but their successes still give lie to the idea that democracy and development go hand in hand.

As Japan and Korea developed, corruption was common and democracy mainly a sham. The state and private sector worked hand in hand, favours were exchanged for favours and nepotism was rife. However, the ties which this fostered, as corrupt and unfair as they were, produced economic miracles nearly unsurpassed in human history.

Some good points made it though

I do not want to pretend that nothing in this report is good. There are some concrete positive steps proposed which are to be welcomed. For example, “If elected, a new Conservative Government will be fully committed to achieving, by 2013, the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income as aid.”

0.7% sounds small, but it can make a massive difference. The efficiency of the methods selected by the Tories leaves a great deal to be desired, but at least part of their programme is moving in the right direction. Likewise, if they are genuine about their commitment to support steps relieving Heavily Indebted Poor Countries of their debt, then that is another really positive step.

However, some other parts of the report contain promises which appear to pay little more than lip service to some very important issues, but if followed through can make a big difference. The section of Arms Control on page 45 is worryingly brief, and proposes an international settlement, rather than positive moves a new administration could instigate immediately. A focus on conflict resolution is fantastic too (p 42) as poverty and global inequality impact on  Britain’s security. This angle will make a ring-fenced DfID budget more palatable to the rest of the Party and may help safeguard a vulnerable department. However, again, I am unsure if the means proposed are going to achieve the ends to avoid conflict.

Their support for Fair Trade appears like a brief flirtation with a fashionable idea, rather than an ideological or pragmatic commitment. Much like their plans for Microfinance and putting all of DfID on the web. One thing which I hope will not be a gimmick is their commitment to reproductive health and to women’s rights (p 37). Poverty disproportionately affect women and a successful International Development strategy has to be gendered.

There are some genuinely positive steps proposed, but again the worry which I have is how effectively they can be implemented.  For example investment in Infrastructure is vital (p 35). But by insisting it is all contracted out to private companies there is a real danger that the roads will appear but that money will simply be exchanged between a western government and a western firm, without the money reaching the people who need it.

Likewise, the proposal to support both a Green (agricultural) and a Blue (water use) revolution in Africa is one step which could help lift millions out of poverty and dependency. (p34) But despite it being an essential part of a sustainable development strategy, the methods proposed above just do not tally with the expected results.

Perhaps one area where we can rely on the Tories to be ideologically and pragmatically aligned with the developing world, is the reduction of tariffs in the EU (p 30). They know it will get British people cheaper food (this is vital as they will be cutting state expenditure) and will increase the income of developing nations.

A Pernicious lie Takes Centre Stage

This report is a failure. There are more which could be teased out however, I hope that I have provided a more than adequate summary of the shortcomings of this report.

The lie which the Tories use to prop up their policies is that “Capitalism and development was Britain’s gift to the world.” It is ironic that this paper which is so quick to invoke history is so blind to the lessons that might have drawn from it.

Capitalism has led to huge increases in productivity, wealth and living standards. But it is not the free market that has led to countries becoming wealthier. Capitalism has only taken hold and produced this development when it is embedded within a state and society which directs it towards this task.

This is what the Tories have ignored when they focused on Gimmicks, the private sector and popularity contests in their hurriedly written Green Paper. One World Conservatism is a well intentioned but fatally flawed scheme.

The New Great Transformation: Polanyi and China – an Abstract

China has witnessed a great Transformation. Perhaps never in history have so many people been through such a colossal change in such short a time. When Examining the first Great Transformation in the nineteenth century, Karl  Polanyi argued that for the first time land, labour and money were treated as commodities. This fiction – that land, labour and money were commodities – resulted in disaster for nature, man and society, and ultimately led to the destruction of nineteenth century civilization. This same dangerous fiction has taken hold in China.

The economic successes that China has witnessed have been purchased at a terrible cost. Not only has the natural and social environment been damaged by these events, but the future success of the Chinese economy has also been jeopardised. China’s success has been built on a myriad of non-market features, which are being destroy in the name of the market, without appropriate replacements being created.

Contemporary China  is a society that offers little of the protection that Polanyi stresses is essential for a society to prevent self-destruction, but it has also proved itself as an economy capable of producing astonishing performances. The subtlety of Polanyi’s work can help us to comprehend the processes that are occurring in China, and the tensions in China’s society can help us achieve a fuller appreciation of Polayi’s thought.

What will follow are are series of posts examining China’s economy, using Polanyi’s work as a framework. Firstly, they will examine Polanyi’s general theories and the theorists which his work has inspired. The posts will surround the three main areas of interest, one will concentrate on Nature, another on Labour and another on the Productive Organisation of China’s economy.

Selected Reading 19/07/09 UPDATED

I’ve just spent a fantastic afternoon at the races. I won a magnificent total of £5.60 from the £18 I put on… so maybe some more practice necessary. It’s Sunday and time for some selected reading.

That’s your fill for now. Happy blogging guys!

UPDATE: Fantastic article from Cath Elliott at LibCon on The BNP’s lies in Norwich North

If you do nothing else today…

…ask your MP to sign this. Below is a statement showing solidarity with the legally elected Government of Honduras. It only takes 30 seconds and it’s available here.

Signatories already include 30 parliamentarians, Red Ken, Trade Union Secretaries and various Musicians, Playwright and Academics. Shouldn’t your MP be on it too?

ZelayaWe totally condemn the military coup and kidnapping of the democratically elected President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.

On Sunday 28 June, President Manuel Zelaya Rosales was kidnapped, removed from his home by force, rendered incommunicado for several hours and expelled from his country.

Soldiers also seized Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas and the Ambassadors of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The military and coup conspirators are trying to suppress popular demonstrations and news by blanket military presence, curfews and intimidation of reporters. President Zelaya was working to free his country from decades hunger and poverty.

This military coup is an illegal attempt to use armed force to overturn the course of democracy and social progress chosen by the Honduran people at the polls.

We call upon every government in the world to demand the restoration of the democratically elected President of Honduras and to pledge not to recognise the illegal government put in power by a military coup.

Tueday’s Topical Dictator

Happy Ýaşgün 14th of Gorkut everyone! Or to those not living under the insane rule of Saparmurat Niyazov, happy Tuesday 14th July. Ruling from 1990 to 2006, our first Topical Dictator has always had a special place in my heart. To begin with, he has nicknamed himself “Turkmenbashi” or “father of all the Turkmen”

One of many Golden Statues

One of many Golden Statues

As Xinjiang  is burning down there is one part of Central Asia that’s seeing some light relief from tyrannical maniacs. As far as it goes Niyazov was no Stalin, but he was a bit crazy. For example, renaming calendar months after his Mother and days of the week after himself.

The Economist has some fantastic news for fans of sanity and decency. The new Turkmenistan Government has reverted to the traditional system of naming days and months, because no one could remember what day of the week it was.

However, all of this name changing pales into comparison when compared to his penchant for Golden statues, one of which can be seen on this page.

I’ve been aware of this Golden Statue habit for a while but something leapt out at me in this Economist article.

Many golden statues in the capital, Ashgabat, have been taken down, though plenty remain, including the huge one that rotates so that Turkmenbashi always faces the sun.

Turkmenistan is home to the worlds 4th largest reserves of Natural Gas and is only just opening up to the outside world. So Turkmenbashi, former ruler of Turkmenistan, is Tuesday’s Topical Dictator!

The Logic and Lunacy of Kim Jong-il

kjiAfter weeks of duck houses, moats, fork handles and so on some people are actually rather excited that something has happened. However, while some posts have been rather interesting, I was rather taken aback on seeing this post on Socialist Unity which suggests Western Leaders should keep their noses out of the North Korean Government’s business.

I feel it is rather disingenuous to compare the statements of Gordon Brown and the actions of Kim Jong-il. Gordon Brown has done some terrible things, not the least of them renewing Trident and helping launch a dreadful war in Iraq. However, he is still more than adequately morally endowed to tell a monster running a giant prison to stop developing Nuclear Bombs.

Some blogs have concentrated on the fact that this is actually a big deal and not a debate on PR vs. STV; others have focused on the militarisation of the Korean Peninsula; others have seen fit to question the moral authority of Gordon Brown to criticise Kim Jong-il; I have decided to focus on just why such an impoverished nation is so interested in the Bomb, what it means for regional security and what is to be done.

The Logic of Nuclear Weapons

Kim Jong-Il is a well known lunatic[1] who now has the bomb, so everyone is fairly confident that the world is now a more dangerous place. However, before we jump to that conclusion we have to ask ourselves if Nuclear Weapons are guaranteed to provoke more aggression than they will deter.

Korean_peninsula_at_nightNorth Korea spends fully $5,500,000,000 of its $40,000,000,000 GDP on its Military. Around 10%, possibly closer to 15% of total spending, the figures are always imprecise. This is from a country which is regularly struck by famines and looks like this at night. North Korea has such a large military despite its impoverishment for three reasons.

Firstly, there is a healthy paranoia about the rest of the world. I say healthy because North Korea had good reason to fear the West. After the Korean War Northern Korea had been left a sort of barren moonscape, scarred by Napalm and a genuinely popular Socialist Government was forced to retreat into the North. So in a historical context a larger Military begins to look less of an abomination.

However, the army is still an abomination, and a plague on the Korean people. The second reason for the army’s prominence is to threaten neighbouring states and from this the Korean People gain nothing. The North Korean State has regularly blackmailed neighbouring states with the threat of belligerence into helping it. Its vile threats against South Korea are made credible by its large military, thus bringing more weight to the diplomatic table in the interest of the elite which run North Korea.

The third use of the army is the subjugation of its own citizenry. The citizens of North Korea are forced to work and are stopped from escaping. The repression of the Korean people allows for a larger surplus to be extracted to enrich the elite running Korea and their hostage status allows the same elite to extract the maximum aid from the rest of the world.

A Nuclear Peace?

As I have argued elsewhere, although Nuclear Weapons are expensive they are not extraordinarily expensive when compared to maintaining one of the largest armies in the world. Moreover, a Nuclear Weapon is better than an army because it offers a more total, threatening and terrifying deterrent than any conventional military.

By gaining Nuclear Weapons a state like North Korea can reduce the army required for the first and second purpose mentioned, threatening outsiders and paranoia, while both increasing its ability to fulfil these two purposes and increasing the ability of the Military to suppress the domestic population.

Gaining Nuclear Weapons is without doubt a terrible thing for the people of Korea. However, there may be a positive side to this: a Nuclear Peace. This refers to a situation formulated by Kenneth Waltz whereby the existence of Nuclear Weapons and the possibility of the damage they will do deter all actors from engaging in behaviour which could lead to war, similar to the Cold War though on a smaller scale. North Korea gaining a Nuclear Weapon may make North-East Asia more peaceful.

This may be what Kim Jong-il is hoping for. His aim may be to scare everyone enough to leave him alone to torture his own people. This may be the logic that is drawing Kim Jong-il down such an apparently dangerous path.

What if?

However, more worryingly, it may be more accurate to describe the situation on the Korean Peninsula as a Security Dilemma. In this situation Kim Jong-il’s lunacy may play the defining role. In a Security Dilemma two or more actors unintentionally provoke one another into a conflict by misinterpreting one another’s defensive security measures.

Each action designed to make the state more secure appears as an act preparing for an aggressive act. Any attempt by a state to increase its own security will cause the other to act in kind. Thus both are drawn towards war, despite neither really wanting it.

This can be avoided if one of the actors realises they are in a Security Dilemma and acts in a way which reduces the threat they pose to the other. If this were a Security Dilemma this action would then be reciprocated by the other actor, as they would no longer need as large a defensive capability. [2]

In the Korean Peninsula the North Korean state clearly views every American move as a possible precursor to an attack. The same is true of the South Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese Governments and their ally, the US. Given the history of the Korean War this is hardly surprising; a popular Socialist interim-Government was attacked by an American backed anti-Soviet force and much of the Peninsula was laid waste. After this a psychotic North Korean regime has intimidated and bullied its neighbours.

However, it is entirely possible that North Korea could be coaxed back from Nuclear Statehood if the US reduced its military presence and Nuclear stockpile. I am not calling for the demilitarisation of the area, I do not trust the North Korean Government. However, the US could maintain a deterrent to attack on its allies while reducing its forces and offering a way out to the North Koreans.

Capitulation or Civil War

I have not considered the option that the North Korean state genuinely expects to wage a suicidal war against any of its neighbours. It may be possible that Kim Jong-il is that insane, however, it is unlikely that all those around him wish to end in the same atomic dust cloud as him.

Ultimately, whether North Korea collapses in capitulation or Civil War I am certain that the Korean Peninsula will not continue in its present state indefinitely. However, neither will the collapse of the North Korean state be a blessing for those involved. The two states splitting the Korean nation have been isolated from one another for nearly 6 decades and it has been reported that the Korean Language spoken in each part are beginning to become less and less mutually intelligible.

The obvious example for comparison is East and West Germeny. However, on top of this linguistic difference Korean incomes are far more unequal than Germany’s ever were. Moreover the North Korean state’s population is far larger in proportion than East Germany was to West.

Despite the little optimism shown above I would like to echo Neil Robertson at the Bleeding Heart Show and conclude that things are going to get worse before they get better.

[1] I know Britain has dreadful libel laws, but I think I will get away with that one

[2] Of course, if this is not Security Dilemma, and one state is clearly wants to be the aggressor, they can strike while their opponent’s defences are weak. That’s why it’s a dilemma folks.

Why I’ll be voting Green on June 4th


My vote will not be a protest vote. I will not be voting to give New Labour a kicking, or because I want to keep out the BNP [1]. I will be voting for the Greens because they offer a chance to shape the world in a better, fairer and greener way.

Their manifesto is available here and you should give it a read.

Green jobs and a Green New Deal are the only way forward for the world. A new economy is vital and I would like to address a common misconception against this idea. The theory runs that any green job created will be a drain on more productive endeavours. That it will cost us more money to create these jobs than they will give back, and that the energies of those employed greenly will be misallocated when they could be working more productively elsewhere.

This criticism rests on a false construction of value. Green jobs will almost certainly be less productive than those powered by fossil fuels, there is simply too much energy in fossil fuels for a green alternative to compete at the moment. However, carbon is underpriced, its price does not correlate to the damage it will cause if released and it is here that green jobs have the advantage.

By including the true price of carbon the damage done by those non-green jobs vastly out weighs their advantage. Green jobs are the only alternative for a sustainable and viable future. A Green GDP is the only way to calculate wealth; the environmental damage must be subtracted from the economic gain. Only the Greens to understand this, and that is one of the reasons I am supporting them.

Social Justice

Of course, what also attracted me is that they are not only an Environmental Party. They have campaigned vigorously for a living wage, which Labour have failed to provide. They have also campaigned for more affordable and better housing, because housing should be a right not a privilege I support them in this.

The reasons I will be supporting the Greens are overwhelmingly positive. However, it would be unfair to pretend that a little disappointment in modern politics has not contributed to my conversion.

I’m not saying that my choice was hard…

…because it helps that many of the other parties are scum. To warm up, I think we can begin by shooting some fish in a barrel.


For example, UKIP, they appear to be gaining ground since the explosion of Espensesgate, which is amusing considering the state of UKIP Expenses claims. In any case, UKIP seem to have introduced some rather clever electioneering techniques that would have Stalin salivating. Nigel Farage has registered the name Libertas at the European level, stopping the anti-EU pro-EU Libertas[3] from campaigning under their own name in the European elections. I will never vote for a party that practices cheap tricks in place of policy. Never mind who counts the votes, so long as you can claim all the names on the register!

The English Democrats appear to be flirting with racists and their aims seem somewhat bizarre. Their primary policy planks seem to tackle the four fold danger of Immigrants, Political Correctness, English Culture and the EU. They seem to think three are bad, and one is good – go ahead – pick which one it is!

Now we’ve mocked the weak and laughed at the terminally incomprehensible we turn to the Big One: Labour.

Well, what a disappointment. Inequality in Britain is at its highest point since the 1960s and this has happened under a Labour Executive. On top of that, Immigrants and Refugees have been treated disgracefully in search of cheap reactionary votes. [2]

Labour now stands bereft of policies. Their last positive move for working people was to ensure that waiters wages were not topped up with tips. This is a fantastic move for those affected, but this was a policy which simply enforced what everyone thought was the status quo in the first place, no great step forward here and none in sight.

Unsurprisingly, I cannot stand the Conservative Party and their stance on the EU seems erratically schizophrenic. So I shall be moving on quickly to the only competition which the Greens have faced for my vote; the Liberal Democrats.

Clegg and Kennedy

Nick Clegg has behaved admirable and as the Expensesgate scandal unfolds he appears to be handling the situation the most deftly. Moreover, they have stood firm on a number of positions which I can respect. They opposed ID cards, they opposed 42 day detention, they supported the Gurkha, they want to cut income tax bills by £700 for people on low and middle incomes. In fact, I am almost convincing myself to vote for them as I write this.

However, they just aren’t quite Green enough for me. They may stand ahead of the other three main parties but that is hardly illustrious company to keep.

You Should Vote Green Even If…

Even if many things ward you against the Greens you should still back them. Climate change is of overwhelming importance, and no party will take the necessary steps unless the Greens can increase their influence, or the policies the Greens advocate are implemented

An increased vote for the Greens is looking possible. 34% people would consider voting for the Greens, until a few weeks ago I would have fallen into that bracket. Now I fall into slightly more exclusive club. A Green revolution is possible and necessary if we are to avoid a disaster. I am not pretending that it is going to start on June 5th, but a movement has to gain traction, and this could be it.

[1] I, of course, do want to keep out the BNP, however, they received just 2.9% of the vote last time round and were over 100,000 votes behind the next party.

[2] I could provide examples, if any one would like to claim the Labour have been a “soft touch,” or that we have been “drenched” in immigrants in the last decade, but I hope those reading will understand my point perfectly well.

[3] Quite emphatically not anti-EU Veritas, not a mistake I will be making again as I now look like a Twat. 13th post too, a coincidence???

Lessons from Portugal: You need to go Further

There’s a very interesting post at LibCon discussing the last 8 years of Portugal’s experiment with decriminalising Drugs. Unfortunately it appears that this post has missed the mark on the most important concern for any drug policy: the supply chain.

Drug Wars For a post which repeatedly reaffirms its liberalism, it appears to take quite a dim view of drug use. As is made clear, the post avoids moralising on whether drug use in itself is good or bad, and I understand that from a public health point of view, reduced drug use, like reduced drinking or smoking, is a good thing. However, I think that rather too little attention is given to what can be called “global public health” than is warranted. For example, the public health that comes from not being kidnapped and murdered. [1] A fair drugs policy cannot only look at the law and order, public health and morality of a one country’s citizens, it must look to all of those who would be affected.

Our Own Doing

The major problems associated with drug use in the West are largely of our own doing, and spring from our own hypocrisy. Probably not you or I personally, but the hypocritical system which various Governments have imposed, and to which we pay tax. We have decided to pick and choose what we control, and as you can see, we have not been consistent or fair.

Drug Harm Lancet

The Portuguese approach appears far better than our own. Rather than our own method of treating drugs as a Criminal Justice issue they are treated as a Public Health issue. Commissions for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction are set up and made of three people – a social worker, legal advisor and medical professional – supported by technical experts.

Police refer drug users to these panels and they are then not dragged through the Criminal Justice system. Simultaneously, a range of public health initiative were introduced, including drugs education, rehabilitation and drug treatment programmes. Although the Cato Institute study reviewed at LibCon is not particularly compelling the worst that can be said of Portugal’s efforts is that they have only been slightly better than our own, the best is that it has greatly reduced herion use and HIV transmission.

However, the countries which are worst affected are not lucky enough to be able to chose their position, like the Portuguese. They have had it thrust upon them by our stupid Governments and our vainglorious desire for drugs, regardless of the human cost. It is for the sake of the people living where drugs are produced and trafficked that we need to condemn the Portuguese method.

Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, and Vietnam

El Universal began counting drug war executions four years ago. In 2007 over 2,700 people were executed in Mexico by drug gangs, by 2008 this had doubled to 5,612 people.

Although the efforts of the police in Portugal were shifted to tackling drug trafficking and smuggling, the fact that the Drug trade in Portugal remains illegal spells disaster for Mexico and the other dozen or so major drug producing countries.

So long as the drug trade remains illegal it will remain in the hands of murderous criminals. Unless demand drops to near zero there will be a profit to be made supplying drugs and if these drugs are illegal then violence is absolutely unavoidable.

This is where the countries listed above fall, unavoidably entwined in our drug use. No amount of harm reduction or violent crackdown will have an appreciable affect where it is most needed if it does not reduce demand. There is only one guaranteed method to improve the lives of those most adversely affected.

Legitimise the Supply Chain

Legalise, regulate and control. Without legalisation the supply chain will permeate violence through everything it touches. Without regulation and control there is no way to know what effect drugs would have on society at large.

A price can be set which would deter use but also undercut dealers. If a balance is struck there will not be a significant change to how affordable drugs but there will be a huge change in how it is supplied. Pharmacies would flourish and turf wars would terminate.

A legitimate market would be created not only removing millions from a criminal enterprise, but empowering as many in registered productive enterprises.

The problem with Portugal is that it is only treating a small part of a much large problem. I am sure that Martin Robbins agrees with some of the points I have made, but really feel that the discussion of drugs policy in this country is incredibly Myopic.

[1]I was going to post a specific story but I feel my point is better illustrated by the stream of google results available.