Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Russia of the Tzars

The Russian empire was not underdeveloped before the Revolution. At the time it was the one of the largest economies in the world with a developed educational and transportation system. Above is a picture taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii in 1910. In my opinion a good photographer and quite prolific as one can easily see.

"Russia under Nicholas II, with all the survivals of feudalism, had opposition political parties, independent trade unions and newspapers, a rather radical parliament and a modern legal system. Its agriculture was on the level of the USA, with industry rapidly approaching the West European level. In the USSR there was total tyranny, no political liberties and practically no human rights. Its economy was not viable; agriculture was destroyed. The terror against the population reached a scope unprecedented in history. No wonder many Russians look back at Tsarist Russia as a paradise lost." Soviet defector, Oleg Gordievsky, letter to The Independent (London), 21st July 1998.

Monday, June 28, 2004


Is advertising of any value or is it pure "waste" that gives customers no real value and only increases prices of goods (and services, although people that critizise ads only talk about goods).

I´m not going to talk about this subject in any length, nor will I cite any articles or statistics to support my case. Simple logic will do.

To start with I want to mention two of the underlying problems that can cause misunderstanding of the value of advertising.

First, there is the age old fallacy of leftists only to focus on material things and discount the value of service and work that does not contribute directly to production. Surely a steel worker must add more value than accountant, and advertising is a pure waste. All of us have heard this before.

Second, advertising (most) often appeals to our lowest instincts. Hurry, hurry, only two days left. This product will change your life. You must have this. How can one see value in all of these sleasy adverts.

So is there any value in ads? My answer is yes. Of course not every ad has value, just as any apple does not have value (some are rotten), nor are all cars that surely add value to our society (some are Lemons). I say that ads in general are important factor in our society and are direct contributors to our wealth.

Let's take some examples. Say if a retailer sees an opportunity to buy 1.000 boxes of bananas at an exceptionally low price. The problem is the weekly average sales of bananas is only 100 boxes. What does he do? Should he buy the bananas and let most of them go to spoils or should he buy them and advertise cheap bananas so that both he and happy customers can be a little better off.

Has anyone bought a car or an apartment recently? Anyone want to place a ban on these ads, in order to let less of our valuable resources go to spoils? I need not go furhter on this topic I think.

Sure, many ads are no good, just the same way that some pizzas are ruined due to excess oil or movies that do not live up to the hype. It is a fallacy to condemn ads due to the fact that many of them are no good and/or are bad taste. They serve an important funcion in our society and allow people to save money as well as increase the scope of the consumer.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Of interest

The Icelandic blogger Bjarni now has an english blog, Great Auk. He has a nice summary on the economic performance of Iceland during the past decades, but many of our friends on both sides of the Atlantic could learn one thing or two.

John Ray is ever prolific and has a nice link to an article on sociable psychopaths, that he wrote decades ago. Now as ever, quite relevant. It is common event for me to discover that some politician, businessman or some other person that I encounter is most definitely a psychopath. As John describes in his article, psychopaths often have positive characteristics such as outgoing and charming personalities. It is instinctive for many (if not all) of them to agree with everyone, if it fits their purpose at that particular moment. A politician that I know of always says, "yes, I can do this for you", when he is talking to voters. What happens later is irrelevant.

Dick McDonald writes about Saddam's WMD that have been popping up in the various places. Interesting stuff, but should not be surprising given David Key's report in January.

The Psychopathic Dictator

Psychopathology has always played an important role in History. It is estimated that 2-5% of all individuals are psychopaths, and it is quite clear that the number is higher among politicians. Why the worst get on top is an interesting question per se and is a worthy subject by itself.

But who do we diagnose someone as a psychopath. There is no universal rule to do this, but since psychopaths are amoral and only care for themselves (although they most often maintain the opposite) and one should try to find signs and symptoms of just that in their life.

DSM-IV: Antisocial Personality Disorder Definition

Sociopathic Personality or Antisocial Personality Disorder is a personality disorder whose essential feature is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. The individual must be at least age 18 and must have a history of some symptoms of conduct disorder before age 15. It is diagnosed by the presence of three (or more) of the following:

  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest
  • deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
  • impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
  • reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  • consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations
  • lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another
The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode. Some of the associated features are: depressed mood, drug addiction and erratic behavior.

ICD-10: F60.2 Dissocial (Antisocial) Personality Disorder

Personality disorder, usually coming to attention because of a gross disparity between behavior and the prevailing social norms, and characterized by at least 3 of the following:

(a) callous unconcern for the feelings of others;
(b) gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules and obligations;
(c) incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them;
(d) very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence;
(e) incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience, particularly punishment;
(f) marked proneness to blame others, or to offer plausible rationalizations, for the behavior that has brought the patient into conflict with society.

There may also be persistent irritability as an associated feature. Conduct disorder during childhood and adolescence, though not invariably present, may further support the diagnosis.

* amoral, antisocial, asocial, psychopathic, and sociopathic personality (disorder)

* conduct disorders
* emotionally unstable personality disorder

These are the diagnostic criteria that are most commonly used for a medical diagnosis of psychopaths. The criteria above are not irrefutable science, but with relevant experience they can be used for fairly accurate diagnosis.

The psychopath comes in every shape and form. No specific class or background does seem to generate more psychopaths than others. The psychopaths can be as good looking and clever as the next person and does only occasionally stand out in a crowd.

If one compares the diagnostic criteria seen above with the average dictator, chances are that most or all of the criteria apply. This is of course pretty easy to do, once they start to purge the nation of the Jews, counterrevolutionaries or whatever the propaganda machine deems to be the most likely for popularity to persecute. However, for those that the years before they came to power are well documented, it is usually quite easy to make the diagnosis.

Take the early years of one Adolph Hitler for example. In his childhood Hitler did show his famous temper tantrums, uncontrollable outburst of rage, when confronted or criticized. This is quite typical of psychopaths who almost invariably can't stand the slightest criticism. His personal life was also quite pathological. He had trouble bonding with people in a normal way and had few true friends growing up. His 'love' his niece Geli Raubal was more like an obsession that the poor girl got out of by committing suicide. Eva Braun also attempted suicide but survived, only commit suicide by her masters side a decade later. Hitler of course never blamed himself for his misfortunes as an young man, but he often barely survived in Vienna as an struggling artist. The same trait is evident and well documented, when things started to wrong in the war, he blamed everyone but himself.

The megalomania was also all-consuming. In the dying days of the war when he was in the famous Berlin bunker (with a horde of people, all but one were quite pathological characters) he said that if he should perish, the German people should as well. The United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) made a psychological profile of Hitler and there are many quotes that are quite revealing of his character: "Do you realize that you are in the presence of the greatest German of all time?; I cannot be mistaken. What I do and say is historical; For the last twenty-four hours I was the supreme court of the German people; I am one of the hardest men Germany has had for decades, perhaps for centuries, equipped with the greatest authority of any German leader... but above all, I believe in my success. I believe in it unconditionally." The verdict of the OSS is of no surprise.

His ideology was, besides being evil, a mixed bag of socialistic ideas blended with fierce nationalism and xenophobia. These ideas were neither original nor coherent. The discrepancies are obvious to all to see and this is what most people have speculated over one time or another. Why was this non-Aryan looking man creating a master race of blond, strong and beautiful people? What is the difference between the Poles, Dutch and Russians and Germans, with respect to blondishness. There is no difference between these nations in that particular mater. What about the nationalism and the internationalism of the Aryan people, but Hitler said that the Nordic people, plus few other nations, were a little Aryan as well. What about his personal life and his hatred of the Jews. One would think that his family had been killed by some crazy Jews. This aspect of Hitler’s life has been studied well by bewildered historians and no reasonable explanation was discovered.

The discrepancies between Hitler’s life and his ideology are easily explainable by his personality; He just does not care.

Many other examples can be found throughout history. Fidel Castro is a fine example of a psychopathic individual that has been able to mesmerize a great deal (the left) of the human population. The son of a rich plantation owner, Castro did show at an early age many of the character traits that would eventually make him famous. His brother Raul said of him: "But Fidel was different. He dominated situations... And, every day, he would fight. He had a very explosive character. He challenged the biggest and the strongest ones, and when he was beaten, he started it all over again the next day. He never quit."* The shallow Fidel took identity refuge in the legendary revolutionary Jose Marti, again and again he discovered eerie similarities to his life and the one of Marti and talked endlessly of this in his numerous speeches. This is just what psychopaths do. They no only steal physical things and lie to advance their cause. They also heavily 'borrow' the identity of people, nations or national heritage. This is what Adolph Hitler did with the Nordic heritage and Wagner. He managed to damage Wagner’s image to the degree that only recently one of his Opera was first played in Israel.

Castro was not merely an unruly teenager in his university years. He was actually quite active in one of the university gangs that was in constant war with other 'youth movements', and Castro was implicated in several murders. This is Fidel Castro in his teens and early twenties. He was not convicted, but then again, are gang members ever convicted of anything.

After rising to power after the revolution, the friendly cigar-smoking revolutionary, started to kill anyone of those in his government that opposed him or was the slightest threat to his power. The all to familiar, after-the-revolution purges. He persecuted the imperialists (foreign companies) and land owners in from the onset of the revolution. But he did not stop there. Throughout his reign, he has persecuted small business owners and private farms, that by no means fit either category. He deviated from his particular form of socialism to pronounce himself a Marx-Leninist, when it became convenient to suck up to the Soviets. Hardly a strong sense of ideology.

We also can see the footprints of the megalomaniac in the Economic policies of Cuba. First, he decided that Cuba was too dependent on sugar production and started to divert the economy toward 'industrialization'. When that failed in a most disastrous way, he became obsessed with sugar, so much that in 1969-70 he forced the bulk of the nation to produce sugar, only to gain some goal that he had set by himself. He even changed the calendar and abolished Christmas, so feverish he was in reaching the goal. Of course the goal was not reached and in the following year a new law was introduced, 'slackers' were to punished severely.

These two are only random examples of psychopathic dictators. The point being, if one takes a good look at the lives and actions of these dictators and their henchmen it becomes obvious that most, if not all, are easily diagnosed as psychopaths. This applies to the megalomaniac Napoleon, cruel Saddam Hussein and the inhumane Chairman Mao and many many more.

*Volker Sierka, Fidel Castro. A biography. p.14)

Friday, June 18, 2004

Of interest

Here is a nice blogentry by Geir on The Law by Bastiat . It was written more than 150 years ago and remains one of the best works on economics ever.

Bastiat was inspired by Richard Cobden, an Englishman that fought with success against the "corn law" in England. Mr. Cobdem started a little magazine on economics in the process.

The Angry Economist is one of the best Austrian-Style economic blogs I have encountered so far. Of course I found this site via the ever vigilant Joseph.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Iceland and the EU

Thingvellir - A source of Icelandic National Pride

Why has Iceland not joined the EU (the same probably applies to Norway and Switzerland)? National pride? Independence? Backwardness?

When one tekes a look at this graph, one word comes to mind: Economics.

Why would 3 of the most prosperous countries in the world join assortment of countires that have either failed economic policies (judging by the numers) or are still poor (the newbies).

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