Afghanistan during the 50s vs Today

A friend in Facebook posted yesterday an interesting link that read Afghanistan of the 50s-60s”. The description of the website read that “having seen the title of the post, many probably thought that it would be about a wild, backward, medieval country with even worse living conditions…”  However, the photographs in the link failed to “demonstrated” that Afghanistan pre-1950s was some type of a paradise before the Socialist invasion.

While the images show a “decent and civilized” view of Afghanistan in the 50s and 60s they are only a glimpse of the reality of the Asiatic region and of many other European colonies around the globe.  It is a fact that the great majority of the people during colonial times lived in worse conditions than during the Cold War.

As a result of centuries of this mix, Afghanistan was one of the poorest and most illiterate countries in the globe by 1950.  The life expectancy for both men and women was of only 29 years and the average GDP/per capita inflation adjusted was of only $800.00.

By 1970, Afghanistan was still one of the poorest countries managing to increase the life expectancy to only 33 years and the average GDP/per capita to $833.00  Today, Afghanistan has some of the lowest rankings of health, education and economic growth on Earth even after decades of investments done in infrastructure by the Soviet Union during the Cold War’s competition vs the United States.

Soviet investment during the 50s in Afghanistan

 What caused this economic and social stagnation vs the rest of the World?

Afghanistan is a complex historical mix of:

  • Centuries of imperialistic control (Mongol, Mughal, British, Soviet, American) +
  • autocratic tribalism +
  • religious intolerance  +
  • control of the economy by the state +
  • regional oligarchies +
  • disrespect for individual rights

The previous only kept increasing and by 1973, Afghanistan was what some would define a modern democratic state with free elections, parliamentary ruling, civil rights, women’s rights and universal suffrage that failed to improve the life of its inhabitants.  Becoming a democratic state with a parliamentary ruling is of no help when the ruling philosophy of a country and of its ruling elite is based on the principle of freedom to violate individual rights.

The past was not necessarily better than the more recent past or the present. Afghanistan is a good example of this last sentence. Whenever  individual rights are sacrificed for the interests of national of foreign groups of interests the positive outcomes will always result in detriment of the individual.  It has always been groups of interests who benefit from the illiterate masses and historical examples explain this plentifully.

The images in the link mentioned above are inaccurate historical accounts. I consider that the following cartoon is very clear in explaining the complex and unfortunate story of the country and I invite you to study it,

On the fallacies of an Emerging Global Left

Socialism is unrealizable as an economic system because a socialist society would not have any possibility of resorting to economic calculation. This is why it cannot be considered as a system of society’s economic organization. It is a means to disintegrate social cooperation and to bring about poverty and chaos.” Ludwig von MisesMoney, Method, and the Market Process.

Recently, an article from the blog Poverty Matters (supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) authored by Jayati Ghosh in the Guardian elaborates on how a new global left is emerging as a result of a transcendance of the traditional socialist paradigm.  Ghosh explains that this new global left has is currently transcending the traditional socialist emphasis on “centralised government control over an undifferentiated mass of workers, to incorporate more explicit emphasis on the rights and concerns of women, ethnic minorities, tribal communities and other marginalised groups, as well as recognition of ecological constraints and the social necessity of respecting nature.”  This transcendance is occurring via what Ghosh considers to be seven common threads that are not new but a result of a “collective failure of memory”.

These threads are:

  1. An attitude to what constitutes democracy,
  2. the rejection of overcentralisation,
  3. a more complex approach to property rights,
  4. a discourse in the language of “rights”,
  5. a realization that addressing issues only in class terms is not sufficient,
  6. a emphasis on gender as a a cause for addressing issues,
  7. an emphasis on environmental conservation, the protection of ecosystems, biodiversity and the integrity of a country’s genetic assets.

I wonder what Ghosh considered to be the traditional socialist paradigma.  Socialism and the ideas behind this socioeconomic system of collective ownership of the means of production is very diverse and it is incorrect and inaccurate to speak of a single socialist paradigm.  More so, what seems a New emergence of the left is in fact not occurring anywhere in the world.

Collectivism (inaccurately generalized as “the left”) in its many names and shapes continues developing itself within the same framework of ideas that have been used for centuries. While the historical context has changed the principles continue being the same.  As such, the thread number 1 which seems for Ghosh as a new attitude toward democracy is the result of the failure of the previous collectivist governments that have ruled the world.  There is no real change in the attitude toward democracy since collectivist ideas consider democracy as a means to the value they aim to achieve: collective power over the collective.  The only way of having a new attitude toward democracy would be in fact to reject it as a mean to achieve any end successfully.  This of course is not happening anywhere in the collectivist groups of the world.

As well, the point number two of overcentralisation is false since collectivism is a centralized system of organization in which at the end of the day the sole power over everything resides in the collective government.  The only change is not of how centralization happens but on how many people are to be managing that collective government (the Party, elites, corporations, oligarchies, et al).

Point number three and four have nothing new and are the same exact approaches that collectivism has had since it origin in regard to property and rights.  Collectivist philosophies consider all in essence the private ownership of the means of production to be evil, static in nature and inefficient to satisfy the needs of humanity. Its approach to rights is rooted on the principle that the only important rights are those of the collective and thus reject the individual rights of its members.

Points five, six and seven have also not changed in the collectivist mindset since they are rooted in the principles of class struggle that have only continued the trend of understanding society as a competing/destructive system based on gender, race, culture, religion, etc.  The principle continues the same: The so called  tension or antagonism continues to exists in their interpretation of society due to competing socioeconomic interests between people.

By definition, the only way in which any real change, evolution or overcoming of a collectivist philosophy in the globe will arise when the discourse starts by rejecting the philosophical principles in which they are rooted.  As such, unless they understand how and why the collectivist philosophy is full of fallacious principles that have caused death and poverty for centuries, there is nothing that will change.  There is no emergence of a new left, there is no resurgence of collectivism and the dialectics of historical materialism continue existing in the core of all collectivist philosophies.  It will be only until intellectuals have the common-sense and moral courage to question their philosophies of life that we may seem an end to centuries of collectivist failed projects of organizing society.  Until that day what we will continue seeing is the same social system that has destroyed the best within man for ages.

Book Reco: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs by Brian Phillips

Individual Rights and Government Wrongs

An excerpt from the Introduction to Individual Rights and Government Wrongs.

This book was written for those who love the United States of America and the principles upon which it was founded.

America was founded on an ideology—the right of each individual to his own life, his own liberty, and the pursuit of his own happiness. As philosopher Leonard Peikoff writes: “America is the only country in history created not by meaningless warfare or geographic accident, but deliberately, on the basis of certain fundamental ideas.”[1] The Founding Fathers sought to establish a form of government that, unlike monarchy, theocracy, and the mob rule of democracy, recognizes and protects individual rights.

The Founders were intellectual men, widely read in the ideas of the Enlightenment. They were also practical men, concerned with the problems of life on earth. Their great achievement was transforming the ideas of the Enlightenment into a practical socio-economic system—capitalism.  Read more…

[1] Leonard Peikoff, “Assault from the Ivory Tower: The Professors’ War Against America,” in The Voice of Reason (New York: Meridian, 1989), p. 187.

Protect IP Act and Internet

A copyright protects a men’s mind contribution in The purest form: ie. in the the origination of ideas. This protection allows for men to freely decide what to do with his creation: give it for free, authorize some uses of it (Creative Commons), prohibit any use of it, sell the rights to the use of the idea.

Now, this recognition of Intellectual Property automatically gives to the owner a value that he can exchange for a specific amount of money and/or recognition. To the owner, this may be the stimulus for which he made the effort of creating and innovating. Also, there are many other retributions and stimulus for men to create. F.A. Hayek mentions that it is for the sake of creation that some intellectuals work and not only for the $. He made a valid point and usually this creator give for free or with some free of charge rights the use of their ideas (via CC like in this blog).

I was shared a video that claims that,

“PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting “creativity”. The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites– they just have to convince a judge that the site is “dedicated to copyright infringement.”

The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill.”

Now, censorship is “the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.” You could argue that it is censorship what government officials do when they put fines or take to jail those who are violating copyright rights. But also, you can argue in a higher hierarchy that yes, the officials are taking your right to “disseminate” speech and knowledge because you are violating the rights to property of other members of society. (Remember that private property is stil one of the rights that Americans haven’t managed to completely destroy… but after Patriot Act passed, anything is now possible and the socialization of Property is soon to happen there if nothing changes.)

Now the fallacious error of this video and of the claim of those who consider that Acts like this are violating men’s right to Speech can be found in the initial argument: “PROTECT IP Act is breaking internet”

Why is this fallacious?

It is a false argument because it starts by considering “Property as a non essential characteristic of the entity “Internet“. ie. They start by giving for granted that Internet lacks property rights and that it is only “Internet” when access is collective and a so called public good”. Now, the property rights or non property rights of internet are accessorial characteristics that are determined in context. For example, a chair could have different colors and still be a chair; internet could have private rights in some things and lack property rights in others but still be Internet.

Just as in radio-telecommunication spectrum legislation; If someone (a company) pays the rights of use of internet from other company or government grant and this company decides to restricts the access to the network, connections, websites, etc they have acquired a right to do so.

This private right to do whatever you please in your website enables you to do anything except violating other people’s rights. Since we still consider IP to be an inalienable right, those websites that violate it should be held responsible. That would not be censorship but the recognition of a violation of rights done by a website. That is what the PROTECT IP Act aims to do.

Joel Cohen: Top 10 key population trends on Earth with 7 billion

Joel Cohen is the author of the 1996’s bestseller on Population studies titled “How Many People Can the Earth Support?“. I remember some of its content and that it was one of the first book acquisitions I did from Barnes & Noble (from those times in which you actually went to the bookstore!).  Now, 15 years later we are confronted with his favorite topic: overpopulation and his fetish with calculations for possible saturation points.  Here’s what he thinks even though so many people has been born since he wrote his book doing numbers of saturation points of the world:

Humanity took until year 1800 to reach its first billion people. We added 1 billion people in just the past 12 years. October 31, 2011 marks a milestone in global population: 7 billion humans. That’s according to projections by the United Nations. EarthSky interviewed demographer Joel Cohen, professor of populations and head of the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia University in New York. He explained the top 10 population trends in a world with 7 billion inhabitants.

1. One billion people are hungry, and 1 billion are obese. Cohen said this is the most important thing people should know about the population milestone of 7 billion. Too too many people on Earth today live without knowing where their next meal will come from.

A billion people are chronically hungry. That means they wake up every day hungry. They don’t get enough calories to get through the day and do a day’s work like you and me. And many of them have been hungry since they were born. And their brains aren’t fully nourished, fully developed. And they’re having a very hard time learning and coping with life’s problems.

At the other extreme there are about a billion people that are really, seriously obese. And that’s partly a matter of not getting a good food supply also — not a food supply that’s balanced for their needs. Roughly two or three billion people — we don’t know precisely — are malnourished as opposed to undernourished. That means they’re not getting the trace vitamins that they need to have a balanced diet.

For world's seven billion, one billion hungry, one billion obese. (UN)

In a world with 7 billion, 1 billion are hungry, 1 billion are obese. (UN)

2. Three billion people live on two dollars a day. Cohen said:

That is abject poverty. You try to live on two dollars a day for long and you’ll start losing weight pretty fast. So roughly half the world is in desperate poverty.

3. One billion people live in slums. Cohen said:

Right now, about half the world lives in cities — let’s say 3.5 billion, slightly more. And of those, a billion are living in slums without adequate sanitation, electricity, water, security, legal protection, transport, and inadequate housing conditions. When it rains, it leaks. Maybe a mud floor. So we, the world, have not provided home or food, have not reached minimum standards that we ought to be providing for people.

One billion people today live in slums. (UN)

One billion people today live in slums. Image Credit: United Nations

4. Over 200 million woman have unmet needs for contraception. He said:

That means that they don’t want to have an additional child, and yet they’re not able to use modern means of contraception. These problems are not only abroad. We have, I would say, a very serious population problem in the United States. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, in 2001, approximately half of the pregnancies in the United States were unintended. That means that the woman, or the couple either did not want a pregnancy at that time or did not want a pregnancy at any time. And that is a very serious problem of human well-being related to the lack of control over people’s own reproduction.

5. Today, 1.5 billion people live in rich countries.
 Cohen explained:

That’s Europe, Western Europe mainly, the United States and Canada, the overseas English-speaking countries of Australia and New Zealand, Japan, and some of the Asian tigers.

6. Four billion people live in middle-income countries. Said Cohen:

These are the countries that have recently emerged from poverty with fast-growing economies. And I would put China, India, Brazil, many countries in Latin America in that realm of the middle-income. And that means on the order of Chile — let’s say 5,000 dollars a year income. That’s tremendous progress when you remember how recently China and India were really in desperate poverty. And many in those countries still are.

Four billion people live in middle-income countries like China. Image Credit: weirdchina

7. Economically at the bottom are 1.5 billion people. Cohen said:

Those people are living largely in sub-Saharan Africa, but in the new world also in Haiti, and in many of the provinces of South Asia in both Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh. There are hundreds of millions of people in dire poverty — the bottom billion as one Oxford economist calls them. So that gives you sort of a geographical picture of where these 7 billion people are.

Seniors now outnumber toddlers.

Seniors now outnumber toddlers.

8. Seniors now outnumber toddlers, and this trend will continue to increase. Cohen explained:

In the last decade, the world passed a very major milestone. And that is that for the first time in history, the number of people 60 years old or more exceeded the number of people 0-4 years old. Basically, for the first time, the grandparents outnumber the grandchildren. In the year 2000, there were about 10 percent of the world’s people were age 0-4, and about 10 percent were age 60+.

What we’re going into now is the era of aging. And by 2050, we anticipate that the number of people 60+ will be about 3.5 times the number of people age 0-4.

In the richer countries, like the United States and Europe, this process of aging is already pretty far advanced and will pose some serious questions and challenges for our retirement systems. In the poorer countries, which have a younger population because they’ve been growing faster — that means more children, so higher proportion of young people — aging will increase even faster than in the richer countries, which have already made a transition in part, the beginning of a transition to aging. So aging is one big thing that’s happened.

Two-thirds of people worldwide will live in cities by 2030, experts predict.

Two-thirds of people worldwide will live in cities by 2030, experts predict.

9. More than half of Earth’s inhabitants today live in cities, and two-thirds will live in cities by 2050. Cohen said:

In 2000, a little less than half of the world’s people lived in cities. Somewhere around 2007-2008, it became about 50-50. And by 2050, we expect about two-thirds of the world’s people to be living in cities. Now the increase in the number of city dwellers, between 2000 and 2050 is expected to be about three billion people, which was the total population of the Earth in 1960.

Virtually all of that additional three billion people will be added in the cities of the developing countries, not the rich countries. The rich cities will grow somewhat, but the really rapid growth will be in the poor or developing countries.

And if you do the arithmetic, 50 years between 2000 and 2050, roughly 50 weeks per year, 50 times 50 is 2500 weeks in that half century. And yet we’re going to add three billion people in the cities. Three billion is 3,000 million. It means that developing countries have to add urban infrastructure for a million people every five days from now to 2050. Now if that isn’t a building job, I don’t know what is. And hardly anybody is thinking about the design of the cities so that they can accommodate those additional three billion people in a constructive and useful way.

More than half of women today have fewer children needed to replace themselves. (UN)More than half of women today have fewer children than the number needed to replace themselves and their partner. Image Credit: United Nations

10. More than half of women today have fewer children than the number needed to replace themselves and their partner. Cohen said:

In 2003, for the first time in human history, more than half the women in the world lived in countries or provinces where the rate of reproduction was below the replacement level. That is, they were having fewer children than required to replace themselves in the next generation. This represents a tremendous change over the previous half century. The rate of growth of the world population fell by almost half, from 2.1 percent per year in 1950 to 1.1 percent per year in 2000. And we expect it to continue to decline if we continue to educate women, to provide modern contraception, and to improve the status of nutrition and education.

Bottom Line: Humanity took until year 1800 to reach its first billion people. We added 1 billion people in just the past 12 years. October 31, 2011 marks a milestone in global population: 7 billion humans. That’s according to projections by the United Nations. EarthSky interviewed demographer Joel Cohen, professor of populations and head of the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia University in New York. He explained the top 10 population trends in a world with 7 billion inhabitants. Many continue to face issues of dire poverty. The population is aging. For the first time, more than half the world’s women live in countries or provinces where the rate of reproduction was below the replacement level.

professor of populations and head of the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia University in New York.

via: Joel Cohen: Top 10 key population trends on Earth with 7 billion