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A Picture of Hell (Zimbabwe)

Via the LAT: Grim tales from Zimbabwe

Life here is full of Catch-22 dilemmas that would strain credulity if they were fiction: It costs more to go to work than you can possibly earn, for example. There is no economy to speak of, either, just the black market, where even the government gets its dollars. And hospitals, like the one where Junica Dube was giving birth, with no medicines and little staff, are places of death, not life.

[…]

The stores are so empty that the government statistician says it’s impossible to work out the inflation rate. (Independent economists estimate that it is between 40,000% and 90,000%.) Given the depth of the economic crisis, it’s difficult to see how anything works.

A journalist more than doubles his salary by making candles on weekends. A Reserve Bank employee buys and slaughters cows on the side. A sign writer sells sandwiches cobbled out of difficult-to-come-by bread. Teachers, who can go to South Africa with no visa, bring back cooking oil, the staple called maize meal, flour and sugar to sell.

The caption under the photo that accompanies the piece reads:

Basic necessities like salt are in short supply, even in the capital Harare. Inflation is estimated to run between 40,000% and 90,000%. Everyone from laborers to professionals must hustle to try and make ends meet and about the only thing that seems to function properly is the government’s secret police.

The whole piece is quite depressing.

It is tragic to see what one man and his enablers can do to a country, an economy and its people.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. M. Murcek says:

    And yet, lots of people who should know better still say, with a straight face, that socialism is the wave of the future. One could spilt a gut but for the sheer human tragedy of it.

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  2. Anon says:

    And yet, lots of people who should know better still say, with a straight face, that socialism is the wave of the future.

    One can make many reasonable arguments against socialism, but saying that socialism will turn a country into Zimbabwe is silly.

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  3. Bithead says:

    It’s not at all silly.
    North Korea.
    The former Soviet Union.
    Cuba.
    East Germany.
    Any questions, class?

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  4. Grewgills says:

    It’s not at all silly.

    Yes it is. You of course choose to ignore every Western European nation in your snarky response. According to your and M’s thesis they should all be spiraling out of control into economic oblivion and the Euro should be worth some small faction of a US cent.

    Even the nations you did name were/are considerably better off than Zimbabwe.

    Your and M’s thesis is at best silly.

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  5. floyd says:

    Grewgills;
    Are we to understand that you believe that “every Western European nation” is Socialist?
    Of course every nation on earth has some element of socialism, perhaps it is merely a matter of degree?
    A sip is libation, a cask is drunken excess.

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  6. Big John says:

    And the people in New Orleans think THEY have something to b!tch about…

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  7. M. Murcek says:

    The same people above who claim every european county is socialist also say “true socialism has never been tried.” Which is it? And no fair having smoke come out your ears. Smoking is uncool. Every case of cancer (whether caused by smoking or socialism) starts out as a lump of rogue cells too small for you to feel. Then it is either cut out or it metastasizes…

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  8. Paul says:

    I’ve been to Zim twice, in 1997 and 2003. There is no question that one of most significant events that triggered the meltdown was the “resettlement” program in which the government confiscated white farmer land to turn it over to political friends of Mugabe’s. Land redistribution is sometimes a part of socialist movements, and one can sort of see why it might make sense in parts of Latin America. But in Zim is was doomed to failure because the people receiving the land had no wherewithal to be productive with it. The country is basically run by hoolingans and what the lesson of Zim teaches is not so much a case against “socialism” as it is a case against social pathology. It is the combination of a total disaster like Mugabe PLUS a vulnerable place like sub-Saharan Africa that is needed to produce this result: there is no way even a Mugabe could wreak this havoc if he became ruler of socialist Sweden, and no way that Zim suddenly turns into America by practicing more Adam Smith.

    I can only imagine what it must be like now. In 2003, I talked to people who used Zim coins as washers because a washer might cost US 5 cents (if you could find one) but a Zim coin was worthless. Or that I practically needed a separate backpack to carry the money I’d need for dinner. Or that markets where in 1997 I had to pay amounts I could still feel for goods, now people begged me to take their nice goods in exchange for even the dirty socks I was wearing; money was comparatively useless to them because they could not get goods at any price.

    If you are a believer in advanced nations using their abilities to force regime change like we did in Iraq, Zimbabwe 8-9 years ago would have been a great candidate. Now it would be much harder to save because the infrastructure must be shot.

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  9. JohnG says:

    If Western Europe is “Good Socialism” then all that means is that the rates of decline are different among different breeds of socialism.

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  10. Grewgills says:

    Are we to understand that you believe that “every Western European nation” is Socialist?

    They are considerably more socialist than the US and several of them are as or more socialist than Zimbabwe.

    Of course every nation on earth has some element of socialism, perhaps it is merely a matter of degree?

    That is certainly the case.

    The same people above who claim every european county is socialist also say “true socialism has never been tried.”

    I am not aware of any nation that has instituted an entirely socialist economy. I don’t know that it is possible in the real world.
    What we do have is societies that embrace various elements of socialism to various degrees. A society with a pure capitalist economy would likely view the US as socialist, as people in the US view European nations as socialist. You characterized Zimbabwe as socialist, so by your standard most European nations must be socialist. Your commentary above is merely an attempt to deflect criticism from your initial silly argument with even sillier distractions.

    Neither “pure socialism” nor “pure capitalism” serve the citizenry best. The argument among most rational people boils down to where on the socialism:capitalism spectrum we should be in various areas. The loudest of those arguments in the US now is health care.

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  11. floyd says:

    The Socialist , soon comes to realize that he needs to exploit a “cash cow” AKA the Capitalist to support his habit.
    The proof is in the putting.

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  12. Bithead says:

    They are considerably more socialist than the US and several of them are as or more socialist than Zimbabwe.

    They are all socialist to some degree.. though none of them holds a candle to Mugabe. But what you miss, here… all of you… is that these are failures in direct proportion to how socialist they are.

    The Chinese are as good a measure of this phenom as any; they became successful in raising the quality of life for their people only when Capitalism snuck in on them.

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  13. Grewgills says:

    But what you miss, here… all of you… is that these are failures in direct proportion to how socialist they are.

    Leaving aside the rest, according to your assertion Zimbabwe must be the most socialist country on earth. Has your ideology clouded your world view to the point that you actually believe this?

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  14. Bithead says:

    I suppose that to depend on whose vision of socialism you’re working in…. the textbook version, the one they all tell us abot in the ivory towers…. or the one out here in the real world, handled and run by real people.

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