Brad De Long doesn't belong on a left discussion list

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Tue Jul 21 10:34:20 PDT 1998

At 08:16 AM 7/21/98 -0700, Brad deLong wrote:
>Look at the Asian Communist regimes: Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung, Ho
>Chi Minh. Of these, the first three are unspeakable. The best of the

The problem is not with the ethical qualifications of what happened in backward Asian countries you mention, but with viewing those deeds as the essential effect of communism, which you seem to imply in your argument.

My problem with that position is two-fold:

1. The fact that someone claims doing something in the name of an ideology does not yet mean that there is a causal connection between that something and that particular ideology. Probably more people died as a result of various religious crusades, but few people would maintain in good faith that genocide is the essence of religion. Adolf Hitler claimed affinity to the works of Friedrich Nietzche, yetr few would call the later a proto-fascist. You get my drift, no?

So I find it it disingenuous to give communism a differential treatment.

2. To find the effect of the implementation communism in the said countries, we need to separate the effect of that implementation from the effect of other social and historical forces, such as backwardenss, feudalis, imperialism, development, political instability, geo-political factors, etc.

That is the cherished ceteris paribus clause: first we find what would have happened if the condition were absent, and then we attribute the difference between the observed (condition present) and the hypothetical (conditions absent) outocome to the condition in question. Lumping everything we observe under the rubric 'effects of that condition' is witchcraft or demagoguery, not science.


Wojtek Sokolowski

>lot--the regime founded by Ho Chi Minh--now spends its time working as a
>labor boss for Nike and other western multinationals, using its secret
>police to guarantee them a very low-wage, docile, and obedient labor force.
>I don't see in what fashion any of these regimes are "left": to kill
>millions of people and to replace a ruling class of landlords and merchants
>by a ruling class of bureaucrats does not bring us any closer to Utopia.
>And I see no reason to believe that a successful PKI coup in 1965 would
>have produced a regime any different from the other Asian Communist
>Professor J. Bradford De Long
>Department of Economics, #3880
>University of California at Berkeley
>Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
>(510) 643-4027; (510) 283-2709 voice
>(925) 642-6615; (925) 283-3897 fax

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