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If only Owen Jones Actually understood his history

Summary:
Owen Jones is attempting one of the standard tu quoques. Sure, communism was a rapacious and murderous ideology that exterminated tens of millions at least. But, look, capitalism! This is, obviously enough, rather to miss the difference between sins of omission and commission. That famines happened under early capitalism, just as they did before capitalism, is in a different moral class from shooting people in dank basements.But it's not just - as the good little propagandist that Jones is - this false comparison, there's a significant lack of understanding of basic fact:That is, of course, not to excuse the horrors of Stalinism: the totalitarian model pioneered and exported by Stalin’s regime deprived millions of their liberty and, in so many cases, their lives; similarly, the millions of lives lost to murder and famine in Maoist China can never be forgotten. Yet the charge sheet against communism does not aid the champions of capitalism quite as much as they would like. According to The Black Book of Communism, a disreputable key reference point for the right, almost a hundred million humans perished at the hands of self-described “communist” regimes, mostly victims of Mao Zedong’s regime in China.

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Owen Jones is attempting one of the standard tu quoques. Sure, communism was a rapacious and murderous ideology that exterminated tens of millions at least. But, look, capitalism! This is, obviously enough, rather to miss the difference between sins of omission and commission. That famines happened under early capitalism, just as they did before capitalism, is in a different moral class from shooting people in dank basements.

But it's not just - as the good little propagandist that Jones is - this false comparison, there's a significant lack of understanding of basic fact:

That is, of course, not to excuse the horrors of Stalinism: the totalitarian model pioneered and exported by Stalin’s regime deprived millions of their liberty and, in so many cases, their lives; similarly, the millions of lives lost to murder and famine in Maoist China can never be forgotten. Yet the charge sheet against communism does not aid the champions of capitalism quite as much as they would like. According to The Black Book of Communism, a disreputable key reference point for the right, almost a hundred million humans perished at the hands of self-described “communist” regimes, mostly victims of Mao Zedong’s regime in China. The Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen notes that between 23 and 30 million people did indeed die as a consequence of Mao’s catastrophic Great Leap Forward policies in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

But he also noted in a 2006 paper that in the middle of the 20th century, China and India had the same life expectancy – around 40 years. After the Chinese revolution, a massive divergence took place. By 1979, Maoist China had a life expectancy of 68 years, more than 14 years longer than that of capitalist India.

The error there - and one that Sen would laugh at - is to think that post-independence India was in any manner a capitalist economy. Quite famously it wasn't, in fact it was the one place that the fantasies of Fabian Socialism were enacted for any substantial number of decades.

For yes, Nehru's India was planned socialism. Not, note, communism, but that intermediary stage oh so close to the sort of policies that Jones recommends we follow today.

Which really is something Jones should know about the history he points to, isn't it? That his preferred policies are even less successful at raising lifespans than full on communism?

Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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