Adventures in communism – running a business

[Written in Africa]

Someone once conducted an interesting experiment in Peru.  I can’t find the link.  They tried to set up a little roadside stall legally.  In the third world, a good 90% of workers are employed off the books, but this mob decided to give it a go with all the necessary licenses and see what happened.

Their policy was not to pay bribes unless failing to do so would halt the process and thereby end the experiment.  They had a number of full-time staff on the case, going to offices, writing letters, making calls, filling forms and all the rest of it.

Finally, two years later, they had no license.

This is because Read More


Adventures in communism – consumer items

[Written in Africa]

Thomas Sowell suggests that ‘planned economy’ is not an accurate definition of communism.  A so-called ‘unplanned economy’ actually is planned – by individuals and firms, making their own decisions.  A communist society is therefore better described as one where individual decisions are overridden by governments that think they know better than we do.

While the distribution of consumer items in this country might not quite be communist as commonly understood, it still falls within Sowell’s concept: the government thinks it knows better than the locals do what they ought to produce and buy.  The president himself was once on TV chortling that the local entrepreneurs have no idea what consumers want, and that the government does it better – even though such entrepreneurs are very successful if they have escaped to South Sudan, the UAE or Uganda.

All import/export businesses were banned some years ago.  As with all the policies listed in these articles, the reasoning was Read More

Adventures in communism – banking

[Written in Africa]

My frighteningly optimistic new boss finally showed signs of stress the other day.  He realized that he would not be able to transfer savings out of the country, and faces the prospect of driving around with tens of thousands of dollars in cash on his Christmas trip.

To South Africa.

Due to the collateral damage of financial sanctions on Russia, it has been impossible to transfer money out of this country for about a year.

There is one official bank we can use.  That, right there, is where communism makes everything go to shit.  Can you see why?  No?  Well, in normal countries if your bank is rubbish you can Read More

Adventures in communism – real estate

[Written in Africa]

Full-on communism would entail state-owned buildings, all of them identical, horror-movie grey blocks with shared kitchens and bathrooms, state-facilitated maintenance, and allocation by connections, status or luck.

Here they can’t quite manage that.  Land is privately owned and freely let.  A weird system of laws puts the onus of repairs on Read More

Adventures in communism – water

[Written in Africa]

The longest we’ve so far gone without water is two months.  By the end we were having a bucket wash every second day and had stopped washing clothes altogether.

You know that old joke about how you can wear boxer shorts four times without washing: forwards, backwards, inside-out forwards and inside out backwards?  Well, it’s not a joke.

Finally we gave our boss an ultimatum: Read More

The Sensible Left

Public debate works best when there are two or more compelling sides in the tussle, with each putting forward its strongest arguments and thoughtfully countering the opposition.  In this way we can best examine these cases and decide the most appropriate path.  Often we reach a conclusion that is somewhere in the middle.

The problem with current political and cultural discussion is that Read More

A Big Fat Man With a Big Fat Bomb


Book review of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, by William Taubman

An event in 1962 was probably the most important in world history but it is rarely discussed today. Perhaps this is because the occurrence concluded without nuclear war – had it turned out differently, any surviving children in any remaining schools would most certainly be studying it with rigour.

The strengths and foibles of the American protagonist, John F. Kennedy, are well known, but what of his Soviet counterpart? Most Westerners who have any image of Nikita Khrushchev remember the fat little man who banged his shoe on the table at the UN. In his definitive biography, Taubman guides the reader through the career of this complex individual in such thorough detail that one feels one has vicariously lived the man’s life and, unlike Khrushchev himself, deeply learned from the experience.

It is frightening to think that a man of Khrushchev’s boorishness and impetuousness controlled nuclear weapons. His reaction to Read More