No Famine Ever

December 15, 2008

[First published February 24, 2005] There are tons of websites devoted to famine, hunger, and trying to help the starving around the world. Yet, not one of these good people devoted to this great cause realize that there is a solution to famine at hand, which is practical and much desired in itself. What is this miracle? Democracy.

No democracy has ever had a famine.
This, even though democracies have been struck with the awful droughts that would have created millions of deaths under thug regimes, or had famines before they became democratic. I have just put a commentary on this on my web site that goes into more detail than I should here. (link here)

The greatest famines in history have savaged people already suffering under the most repressive regimes, those of the Soviet Union and communist China. Below is a table providing the empirical evidence for this claim.


Why are democracies immune to this greatest of all disasters. Three fundamental reasons. One is that democracieis have a free or semi-free agricultural market that usually produces more than enough food and is resilient in the face of local shortages. Two is that democracies have a free press that almost immediately communicates nationally, and especially to elected legislators and administration leaders, dangerous agricultural conditions in one part of the country or another. And three is that these politicans better do something about it, since their political future depends on the rapidity and success of their response.

There is a saying: “Provide a starving man with fish, and you need to do that everyday; teach him how to fish, and you never have to do it again.” To this we now can add: “Free him, and he soon will provide others with fish.”

Link of Note

Amartya Sen, ”Democracy as a Universal Value” Journal of Democracy 0.3 (1999) 3-17.

Amartya Sen is the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics, is Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Lamont University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University.

“I have discussed elsewhere the remarkable fact that, in the terrible history of famines in the world, no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent and democratic country with a relatively free press. We cannot find exceptions to this rule, no matter where we look: the recent famines of Ethiopia, Somalia, or other dictatorial regimes; famines in the Soviet Union in the 1930s; China’s 1958-61 famine with the failure of the Great Leap Forward; or earlier still, the famines in Ireland or India under alien rule. China, although it was in many ways doing much better economically than India, still managed (unlike India) to have a famine, indeed the largest recorded famine in world history: Nearly 30 million people died in the famine of 1958-61 . . . .”

Libertarianism Is Out — Neolibertarian Is In

December 15, 2008

[First published March 31, 2005] In my blog, “Freedomist vs. Libertarian — A Debate challenge” (link here) I argued that most libertarians have joined with the left in opposing American intervention abroad, military action, and President Bush’s “Forward Strategy of Freedom.” On this, these libertarians, who dominate the libertarian Party, are ahistorical, illogical, and morally questionable. So, while a libertarian (with qualification) on domestic policy, I am a hard-line interventionist to prevent massive democide and ensure American national security. I fully support Bush’s foreign policy, grounded as it is on democratic peace research.

Then, what should I call myself? I settled on freedomist, or one who is in favor of the maximum freedom at home (I am not an anarchist and believe that government has a distinct role in society—how I determine how much government is too much or too little is the subject of Monday’s blog), and the fostering of freedom abroad.

Now, I find that there is a group of libertarians who believe similarly (also with qualification about domestic freedom), and are organized to support, communicate, and foster this position. They call themselves neolibertarians (newlibertarians), and have a Q and O Blog (Free Markets, Free People — link here). They have just started a journal, The New Libertarian, to which one can subscribe on their blog (go here). I intend to join them and help as much as I can.

I should mention that I don’t favor their label. “Neolibertarian” smacks of “neoconservative,” which is a somewhat derogatory label that the liberal media originally gave those liberals, who disgusted with the anti-anticommunism of the left, began to support the hard line, conservative foreign policy. Now, the label seems to be applied to anyone close to Bush in foreign policy. Likewise, neolibertarian smacks of a label the liberal media would also apply to libertarians who have defected from the Libertarian Party to support the Bush foreign policy.

I much prefer freedomism, since it well describes one’s position domestically and in foreign policy and inherently stands in contrast to the liberal and leftist’s socialism. But I’m not going to argue it. The name “neolibertarian” is now imbedded in the effort of the QandO people, and it has organization, thought, and momentum behind it.

A Haiku:

Let everyone be free
Toward peace and life

Link of Note

”Neolibertarian” Posted by Jon Henke (12.17.04) By Jon Henke on the BandO Blog

Henke says:

I’ve been occasionally asked to give a brief description of Neolibertarianism. Something against which people can compare their own values, to determine whether they are, in fact, Neolibertarians. Very well….

Here’s the short version:

• Pragmatic domestic libertarian; Hawk on defense

• Hobbesian libertarian

• Big-Tent libertarian

Any of those will do, in a pinch. To expand just a bit, though…

The libertarian ideal of a truly limited government is an utopian dream. In the real world, where powerful interests–individual and collective–compete for the reigns of power, there will be violations of the ideals libertarians hold. After all–as a result of their disavowal of power–libertarians are uniquely unqualified to defend their ideals against political opposition. . . . Indeed, all the “standing athwart history, yelling ‘stop!'” we can muster will not be enough to assuage the natural human desire to “vote themselves largess out of the public treasury”, or otherwise seek their own interests.

So, doctrinaire Libertarians are fighting an uphill battle against human nature. And they do so, precisely because they refuse to accept human nature as a part of their political calculation. . . .