Zimbabwe to Take Final Step Toward Police State

Zimbabwe, which just a few years ago was on its way to fulfilling its destiny as an African economic jugernaut, is now detouring into a full blown police state with the introduction of a bill that would end all pretenses that the country is anything but Robert Mugabe’s personal fiefdom.

According to SMH.Com.AU, the bill would make it illegal to “excite people or express dissatisfaction with the president, the government or the police.” This will effectively outlaw all opposition to Mugabe and put a rubber stamp on his roundup of journalists and opposition politicians.

The chairman of Lawyers for Human Rights, Tawanda Hondora, is quoted by SMH.Com.AU as saying that this bill is far more extreme than anything that either European colonialists or the apartheid regime in South Africa ever tried to impose on African nations.

Zimbabwe is likely to be a living hell for years to come.


Liberty and speech stifled in laws ‘as bad as apartheid.’ Peta Thornycroft, SMH.Com.AU, December 20, 2001.

Zimbabwe Plans to Complete Its Suicidal Path

Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe apparently has decided to complete his plan to place that African nation on a path to national suicide by announcing plans to seizure the remaining 4,500 or so white-owned farms. The main result of such an idiotic plan will be a severe risk of famine over the next year or so.

Zimbabwe is already in significant trouble thanks to Mugabe’s policies. Over the past few years, Mugabe has desperately used racial animosity to hold on to power. When Zimbabwe first won its independence, many white landowners fled the country. Mugabe appealed to white farmers to stay and help build a new, prosperous Zimbabwe.

Over the past few years, however, his government turned on the white farmers and began seizing their farms. This policy was almost single handedly responsible for transforming Zimbabwe from a nation that was a net food exporter to one that today has appealed to the United Nations for more than $360 million in food aid to prevent serious famine.

Now, Mugabe has use newly won powers to effectively nationalize almost all white-owned land. The results are predictable — with their land set to be seized by the government, the farmers will not plant crops and next year at this time Zimbabwe is going to be a basket case.

John Robertson, an economist living in Zimbabwe, appraised the likely outcome for The Times (UK), saying,

It is suicide. Anything that has been planted will go to waste. Gross domestic product will be cut by half. It will make us equal to the poorest countries in the world. These are the actions of madmen.

This is why people starve in the developing world — not because of any problem with overpopulation, but because of the idiotic actions taken by governments more concerned about maintaining autocratic power than feeding people.


4,000 Zimbabwe farmers to be evicted. Jan Raath, The Times (UK), November 13, 2001.

Israel’s the Only Racist Country Left

The results of the World Conference Against Racism pretty much confirm that the United States was right to pull out of it, and it will probably be joined shortly by the European Union countries. The amusing part is that the conference has prepared a draft statement that condemns exactly one country for its racist practices: Israel.

It is also a bit odd to see Zimbabwe and Namibia leading the cause for slavery reparations, when both of those countries also actively use not only racist but homophobic policies as a matter of course (a couple years ago Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe claimed there were no homosexuals in Zimbabwe because homosexuals are the product of degenerate Western cultures).

It is a bit like being lecture by China about the horrors of capital punishment.

Is Democracy An Impediment to Economic Growth?

In a recent column (The solution to Africa’s problems is not socialism but freedom) on Africa’s perennial economic problems, Walter Williams made an argument that rears its ugly head all to off ten in free market conservative thought — namely the claim that democracy isn’t necessarily a good thing. If Williams were advocating on behalf of philosophical anarchism that might be understandable, but instead he is defending what might be called mildly authoritarianism.

Williams’ impetus for making this claim is a state by Cote d’Ivoire minister of planning and economic development Tijdjame Thiame that, “Africa has paid too little attention to political modernization. Too many African governments pay only lip service to democracy, which is often limited to simply holding regular elections.”

Williams has a simple retort to that — democracy isn’t necessarily desirable for economic growth.

“Whatever are the benefits of American-style democracy,” Williams writes, “democracy is not a necessary condition of economic growth and, in fact, democracy might impede economic growth.” Williams goes on to cite some non-democratic countries that have experienced impressive economic growth — Chile, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Meanwhile, as Williams points out, India has experienced much economic chaos even though it is a democracy.

Reading his article, I kept waiting for Williams to qualify this argument, but alas he leaves it at that — democracy can interfere with economic growth. To be blunt, this is nonsense.

First, Thiame isn’t too far off the mark in his analysis of African democracy. Frequently in Africa there are countries which hold elections which are essentially meaningless. Zimbabwe is a good example of just such a country. While it is nominally a democracy and holds regular elections, the bottom line is that the country is run by a single party and uses all the accoutrements of dictatorships, including ignoring the supposedly independent judiciary when it tries to reign in excesses. Many African democracies are democratic in the same way that Mexico claimed to be a democracy even though a single political party effectively pulled all the strings.

Second, Williams’ analysis is too short term. His claims are reminiscent of Leftists who proclaimed Communism a success because the Soviet Union and other Communist nations achieved growth rates higher than in Western nations for brief periods of time in the 1940s. Unfortunately the problem is that the longer authoritarian policies remain in effect the more likely it will be that such powers will end up screwing things up. It is true that in India voters can go to the polls in favor of socialist policies, but it is conversely true that should Chile have decided to put in place socialist policies, its citizens would have had no recourse. Faith in authoritarianism is the faith that whoever has his finger on the trigger of political power at the moment will be a free trader.

Besides, there are things more important than economic growth. What good was economic success of Chile to those who were kidnapped and disappeared in the days and months after Pinochet’s coup d’etat? How were the pro-democracy protesters in South Korea to spend their money after being shot dead in the streets by the military government?

Fundamentally, Williams’ argument raises similar questions as those raised by the anti-immigrant views that frequently appear at a site such as LewRockwell.Com. Immigration is bad on this view because a) immigrants will consume welfare services, b) they will tend to vote disproportionately for Democratic candidates, and c) they will support the expansion of the welfare state. But is free market liberalism really such a weak, anemic idea that it has to be imposed by dictators or preserved by keeping out immigrants who might be hostile to it (and I don’t agree that is the case, but refuting it is beyond the scope of this essay)?

If so, Williams and others might want to re-evaluate if it’s really an idea worth defending at all.


The solution to Africa’s problems is not socialism but freedom. Walter Williams, Capitalism Magazine, November 30, 2000.

Some Curmudgeonly Thoughts on World AIDS Day

You know you work at a university when all of the “save the world” events happen a day early. World AIDS Day is today, but all of the related events by activists here were held yesterday. Apparently saving the world from AIDS is important, but you’ve got to fit in raising awareness before the students start their alcohol rituals beginning Thursday night.

Also I have to confess I’m getting annoyed with the “break the silence” and “raise awareness” angles. For example, actor Danny Glover told the Associated Press that, “If I am disappointed with a tape, we shoot it again. But with AIDS, the movie’s over. It’s up to you and me to break the silence.”

Break the silence? Maybe in South Africa or Zimbabwe, but in the United States you can’t avoid AIDS awareness — if I walk a mile on campus I’m sure to see at least 5 or 6 different AIDS-related posters.

Finally, it is interesting to see that today moderate conservative claims that were so controversial in the 1980s have become mainstream. The United Nations AIDS Agency put out a press release saying,

Broadly speaking, men are expected to be physically strong, emotionally robust, daring and virile. Some of these expectations translate into ways of thinking and behaving that endanger the health and well-being of men and their sex partners.

This seems like a veiled way of saying, “Stop having so many different sex partners, you morons.” When some conservatives in the 1980s tried to suggest that maybe gay men should act more responsibly by limiting the number of sex partners, the idea was pilloried as a right wing attack on everything good about life.

Part of the difference is that in Africa AIDS is largely a heterosexual disease, so the attack on reckless promiscuity is no longer directed solely at homosexuals. Still, those who criticized monogamy as repressive or conversely celebrated casual sex with multiple partners as liberating were dead wrong.