Chad Perrin: SOB

28 May 2008

Communism and Mediocrity

Filed under: Liberty — apotheon @ 02:49

People have been arguing constantly in the seventeen years since the collapse of the Soviet Union over whether socialism, per se, played a significant part in the ultimate failure of the state. On one hand, people may point to the rusted-out remains of tractors mouldering in the fields, neglected and uncared-for by farmer collectives whose members all played the “not my job” game. On the other hand, people may point to the disastrous social and legal policies of a tyrannical, dictatorial regime that killed millions of its own people.

The purges and mass repressions carried out in the USSR, as described in excruciating detail in The Gulag Archipelago, have been ascribed by some to Stalin, and by others to Lenin, as noted in the Wikipedia article about the book:

Despite the efforts by Solzhenitsyn and others to confront this shameful Soviet system, the realities of the camps remained taboo into the 1980s. While Khrushchev, the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union’s supporters in the West viewed the GULag as a deviation of Stalin, Solzhenitsyn and the opposition tended to view it as a systemic fault of Soviet political culture — an inevitable outcome of the Bolshevik political project. This view, politically unpopular inside and outside the USSR during the Cold War, because it ascribed to Lenin the theoretical and practical origins of the concentration camp system, has become the prevalent view of informed writers and scholars since the USSR’s demise.

Such purges and repressions are blamed by many for some of the economic failings of the Soviet Union, and with good reason. Solzhenitsyn himself said:

Subsequently, after 1917, by a transfer of meaning, the name kulak began to be applied (in official and propaganda literature, whence it moved into general usage) to all those who in any way hired workers, even if it was only when they were temporarily short of working hands in their own families. But we must keep in mind that after the Revolution it was impossible to pay less than a fair wage for all such labor — the Committees of the Poor and the village soviets looked after the interests of landless laborers. Just let somebody try to swindle a landless laborer!

This sort of policy pretty much guarantees the industrial failure of a nation. Keep in mind that being called a kulak — essentially, a “miserly, dishonest rural trader who grows rich not by his own labor but through someone else’s” — made one immediately subject to being swept up by the Gulag system. In the following paragraph, it gets worse:

But the inflation of this scathing term kulak proceeded relentlessly, and by 1930 all strong peasants in general were being so called — all peasants strong in management, strong in work, or even strong merely in convictions. The term kulak was used to smash the strength of the peasantry. Let us remember, let us open our eyes: only a dozen years had passed since the great Decree on the Land — that very decree without which the peasants would have refused to follow the Bolsheviks and without which the October Revolution would have failed. The land was allocated in accordance with the number of “mouths” per family, equally. It had been only nine years since the men of the peasantry had returned from the Red Army and rushed onto the land they had wrested for themselves. Then suddenly there were kulaks and there were poor peasants. How could that be? Sometimes it was the result of differences in initial stock and equipment; sometimes it may have resulted from luck in the mixture of the family. But wasn’t it most often a matter of hard work and persistence?

That’s really the key point. “But wasn’t it most often a matter of hard work and persistence?”

Consider the Communist slogan, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” This is, in direct translation from concept to action, what happened to the most productive farmers under the Soviet system. Farmers were granted lands according to quantified need (the number of mouths per family), but in the end this was not deemed to be good enough. Some farmers still ended up more prosperous than others, violating the universal balance of wealth envisioned by collectivist economic theories.

This imbalance grew thanks primarily to hard work and persistence, of course. The greater one’s talent and invested effort, the greater the returns. The only way to eliminate this problem is to eliminate all privacy entirely — private ownership of anything, including a little space to call home, must be forbidden. All, beyond basic survival requirements, must be equalized — which requires eliminating anything that proves too problematic to equalize. How, after all, does one enforce equality of reward for any efforts from anyone when someone has a bedroom to call his or her own — a private space that can be cared for, cleaned, decorated or even furnished through application of talent and effort?

One can always collectivize everything, of course — ensure that all leisure activities are carried out in common rooms, that private spaces are solely for sleep, sex, and hygiene activities, and that all rooms (common and private) are cleaned by specifically tasked crews. None but the most minimal privacy required. The only way to achieve equality in this regard is to ensure that everyone’s space gets cared for by the same people — that all sweeping of floors in private spaces must be done by the same person, for instance. Otherwise, someone might end up with a cleaner space than someone else. Even if you take a lax enough position that it need not be the same person sweeping all rooms, though, you certainly can’t just let every person do his or her own space maintenance, because you’ll end up with a filthy hovel next door to a fancy, well-tended, cozy home. Wealth must be redistributed.

There are three flaws in this collective solution to the problem of individuals in a collective economy:

  1. Collectives don’t scale well. Say you have two million people in a given population. You would need to break it down into communities, and organize tasks within each community. The end result would be disparities in wealth between collectives, as the social culture of one lends itself to greater care for, e.g., the decoration of private spaces, than another. Wealth must be redistributed, again.

  2. The motivations for the individual induce him to never exceed the norm. In fact, one should always be careful to live below the norm. If one cannot do so, one will always be the next to have one’s quality of life “redistributed”. Ultimately, instead of inducing people to work hard for the good of the people, communism and all its socioeconomic children (including state socialism) induce people to engage in a race to the bottom, each always trying to undersell the others by as little as possible. Communism, in essence, motivates one toward mediocrity graded on the curve: mediocrity, as compared with the average. As everyone seeks mediocrity, the average drops, forcing the standard of mediocrity ever lower.

  3. Once you’ve turned a community into a collective where only minimal private space and facilities are afforded, where one does not tend one’s own space and has no security against others wandering through, where one has no possessions of one’s own, where any “leisure time” is spent in common areas, and where nobody has any motivation for pride in work or engaging any talent or effort, you’ve destroyed any freedom. You’re now living in a Gulag.

. . . but this is what is mandated by the communist slogan. This is what true, enforced economic egalitarianism means. In practical terms, successful communism is the Gulag system. The two are roughly interchangeable.

27 May 2008

The police are doing it wrong.

Filed under: Liberty — apotheon @ 01:33

Police officers mount a no-knock raid, then blame the victims when the shooting starts.

That’s pretty much how it always happens.

On April 30, police launched a raid at a suspected crack house on East Rich Street, located on the city’s east side, 10TV’s Maureen Kocot reported.

In the course of the forced entry of the residence, where some friends had gathered for something like a “poker night”, two police officers received gunshot wounds. Both will live.

one of the accused gunmen said he believed robbers were breaking into the house — not officers serving a warrant.

This is the obvious result of no-knock raids: confusion over the event of people literally breaking into a home leads the people inside to mistake police officers for robbers. We’ll ignore for a moment the fact that in some cases robbers pretend to be police officers, and the fact that in some cases police officers have broken into residences to steal things, and focus on the common case — police officers serve warrants without any reasonable announcement of their identities and presence. When someone inside gets his or her first hint that someone’s trying to get in is when that person starts breaking in the door, that person is well within his rights to fire on the intruder. In fact, doing anything else is just stupid, because sitting around waiting to see if there’s a badge on the other side of the door is a great way to end up killed in a home invasion.

Maybe, sometimes, there’s a chance to shout something like “I have a gun! Identify yourself!” Most of the time, however, what amounts to combat conditions doesn’t exactly allow one the luxury of conversation with an assailant.

“What I heard was a boom,” said Derrick Foster. “Like somebody was trying to kick in the door.”

Foster, who played football at Ohio State, told 10TV News that he never heard anyone identify themselves as police officers.”

The first reaction from everyone inside was we were being robbed,” Foster said. “We’re being robbed.”

I’ve read the article three times. Nowhere does it say that the police announced their presence with anything other than violence. That being the case, it’s no surprise at all that the people inside thought they were being robbed — and, with that understanding of events, their response was entirely justified.

According to Foster, someone else inside the home fired the first shot.

“Whoever was outside fired back in, and that’s when I un-holstered my gun and I fired two shots,” Foster said.

I guess the police in this particular incident hadn’t learned their lessons at the academy worth a damn. See, there’s this rule police are supposed to follow for how to return fire; always check your background. In layman’s terms, that means that you should always make sure a shot that doesn’t hit your intended target has no chance of hitting an innocent bystander.

In this case, whoever fired into the home in response to the shots at the home invaders (because, in point of fact, a “home invasion” is exactly what the police are doing in a no-knock raid) not only didn’t check his background, but couldn’t, because there was no way to see who had even fired at him or her. In other words, the cop(s) in question not only didn’t know whether there were any innocent bystanders present, but apparently didn’t give a shit.

“I’m more remorseful than any person could ever be. This is something that has to stick with me for the rest of my life.”

That should be the cops saying that — not Foster. Foster is the victim in this case.

Officers Garrison and Gillis did not comment on the pending court case, but said anyone who opens fire on another person needs to be held accountable.

“I think any person that has a firearm and is willing to shoot at any person is a dangerous person,” Garrison said.

Tell that to every police officer with a gun, Garrison — and make sure they know you mean them. What you said isn’t justification for shooting at civilians, nor is it justification for giving civilians reasonable justification for shooting at you then prosecuting them as criminals for it.

Bastards.

If you don’t want to get shot, stop giving law-abiding citizens any reason to shoot at you.

Edit:

I forgot to mention an interesting fact indicated in the article . . .

It was the third raid of the night for Columbus police.

That suggests some disturbing things to me about how police conduct their business in general.

Brian Martinez points out the (likely pervasive) attitude this event suggests the police have toward law-abiding citizens who take the responsibility to defend themselves seriously, in What the police think of gun owners.

Nobody was charged for any crimes (link via Reason) after the raid, other than the shootings themselves. In other words, a raid on a house where nothing was happening that warranted arrest and prosecution led to two men being charged of “crimes” of self-defense. One must wonder what paltry “evidence” led the officers to suspect it was a location ripe for a raid.

Advice:

If someone’s breaking down your door to get into your home, and nobody announces they’re police, shoot. Don’t hesitate, unless you deem it safe to hesitate long enough to announce you’re armed and demand the people breaking in identify themselves. Find a safe way to verify their identities before letting them in, though.

  1. You don’t want to be the victim of a home invasion, dead because you hesitated.

  2. Even if the home invaders are police officers, you could be killed if you don’t defend yourself. Being near a gun, just in case they aren’t cops, can get you killed even if they are. Shooting, however, at least ensures they’re likely to hesitate in the midst of breaking in long enough for someone to shout “Police!”

  3. Don’t feel sorry for the police who put you in this position of having to defend yourself in the first place. They chose this job, then they chose to participate in a no-knock raid. They chose to put both you and them in danger through these decisions, and you — as the victim — are more entitled to keep your life than they are to keep theirs, under the circumstances.

When it’s all over, though, remember — Don’t talk to the police.

Happy b’day, J. A. N.

Filed under: Miscellaneous — apotheon @ 12:34

If it wasn’t for people reminding me it is upcoming each year, I’d often forget my own birthday. Is it any wonder, then, that I forget others’ birthdays as well?

This is a belated happy birthday wish for Joseph at Ameliorations, whose anniversary of birth was apparently on the 18th of this month.

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