A recent conversation made some connections to the final statement made in this clip about the very small gender wage gap left — after all things being equal are considered — may in fact be innocent. Not, in-other-words, the evil patriarchy keeping women down.
During the conversation some points were made that made clear some of these “innocent” aspects of the wage gap or even a disparity in women superintends in education. The two points made were that women wait too long to jump on a promotion, and, they do not negotiate for the pay they feel they are worth. While we all could use help in negotiating skills, this may be a natural aspect to womanhood and not one attributed to a patriarchal activity.
Having read through a couple studies years ago to help formulate thinking on a response to Matt Damon’s claim that teachers are not payed well. After this recent conversation however, I revisited a larger swath of reading on the topic. It took me a couple days, but I read through the following:
While many of these articles/studies mention gender bias… in them are more than enough reasons to suppose the differences that occur naturally between men and women account for the totality of the disparity. This doesn’t mean that there is not patriarchal biases, JUST LIKE there doesn’t mean there are matriarchal one’s as well. The point is that the rule we see is better explained by choice made by women in the West that is freer than anywhere else in the world.
Of our nation’s 13,728 superintendents, 1,984 today are women. Yet 72 percent of all K-12 educators in this country are women, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
…something is not adding up. Here are five quick examples of divergences that go towards explaining this divergence noted above:
Of the 297 women superintendents in the AASA study, 130 were former elementary teachers. Thus more than half came from a secondary background where men teachers are a considerable majority.
Coaching activities traditionally have provided secondary and junior high teachers with an initial step toward administration.
Women also are achieving the doctorate at comparable rates to male candidates. However, about only 10 percent of women in doctoral programs are opting to earn the superintendency credential along with their educational specialist or doctoral degree.
Women are not as experienced nor as interested in districtwide fiscal management as men (and school boards prefer this).
The role of a mother probably restrains many women teachers from pursuing the principalship.
So yes, if you compare ALL women and men and ignore differences, it looks bad. If you start to do what an economist does and ask questions about WHY or WHAT possible factors may contribute to the disparity we see, then the gap starts to be explained. Everyone should ask the minimal questions:
Compared to what?
At what cost?
What hard-evidence do you have?
The rest of this post is basically commentary on the above linked studies or quoting from them. The two most used are:
“I don’t want to be offered a position because I am a woman; likewise, I don’t want to lose a position because I am a woman…”
In the very next paragraph she added,
“I think it would be naïve to think there are not some stereotypes that exist.”
Like, mmm, I don’t know… being hired because you are a woman and a “number” to fulfill a quota? In this same article qualifications like a degree in superintendent studies or a financial background while statements like these are made:
which also plagues other sectors trying to address underrepresentation of women, African-Americans, Latinos, and other groups.
They can say we value diversity, we want women applicants, we want minority applicants…
This particular article had a myriad of unsubstantiated claims that were really non-quantifiable and wholly anecdotal. The worry of that woman quoted above in being chosen merely for gender (or ethnicity) is realized when standards for a job are the modern understanding of diversity as is presented in works like Race, Class & Gender: An Anthology, by Margaret Andersen and Patricia Collins.
Thomas Sowell rightly asked in a speech he gave that “given our limitations, what can we do to make this a better world — and what can we not do?” He responds:
One thing we can do is to try to make better rules — in the law and in schools, for example, — and to see that everybody plays by those rules. What we cannot do, that is, what is not within our intellectual or moral power, is to decide directly who deserves to win or lose, who deserves more income and who deserves less, what groups should be “represented” where and in what proportions.
So here are some bullet points I adapted and commented on:
approximately 75 percent of elementary classroom teachers are women. Nearly 75 percent of superintendents did not teach at the elementary level prior to working as a central-office administrator or superintendent. [women, when given a choice, would rather teach their passion… younger children. NOT ALL, but most.]
Nearly all superintendents previously worked as building principals and a majority are former assistant principals. Therefore the ladder from the classroom to the superintendency often begins as an assistant principalship or as a high school department chair. Even though about two-thirds of the nation’s schools are elementary, a small percentage have assistant principals and almost none have department chair positions. Elementary classroom teachers have to jump straight from the classroom to the principalship… [Most women prefer to stay longer in these positions because of more flexibility of hours and family/work life balance.]
Coaching activities traditionally have provided secondary and junior high teachers with an initial step toward administration. Athletic coaching and assignments such as band directorships often provide teachers an opportunity to demonstrate skills in leadership, management and an ability to work with community members. Today, most secondary schools sponsor at least six interscholastic sports for both boys and girls, which provides at least 12 head coaching jobs. A sizable majority of AASA study superintendents indicated they had a coaching assignment while working as a teacher or building administrator. [Men typically are – again, by their nature – drawn to these activities.]
Nationwide data indicate that women constitute more than 50 percent of the graduate students enrolled in educational administration programs. Women also are achieving the doctorate at comparable rates to male candidates. However, about only 10 percent of women in doctoral programs are opting to earn the superintendency credential along with their educational specialist or doctoral degree. [These are factors of choice typically.]
Most data indicate that school boards, while claiming keen interest in the instructional program, see the management of fiscal resources to be a critical component of the superintendency. The AASA study showed that boards place a high degree of emphasis on budget and financial decisions by using skills and experiences in these areas as key hiring criteria. [So some sort of business degree or time in a position that deals with fiscal issues is often times preferred. These opportunities are attained more so in the high school arena.]
About half of the 297 women superintendents in the study had experience in the central office but very few had responsibilities in personnel and finance. [see above]
[in the past] [b]oards of education while saying that the instructional program is important do not want an inexperienced superintendent in fiscal management. [This is changing because standardizing tests are requiring differing focuses on outcomes — leading to more women being considered for superintendency.]
The average superintendent spends more than 50 hours a week at work, including night meetings and sporting events. This type of work week often is not appealing to younger women (or men) accustomed to child-centered teaching in elementary classrooms and to people who prefer a better balance between work and family life. [in modern, rich, Western countries, women are afforded the choice to place family first, and more-often-than-not, do.]
The role of a mother probably restrains many women teachers from pursuing the principalship–a position they are well acquainted with. Women principals and central-office administrators recognize the time and pressure of the superintendency frequently interfere with family life and choose to spend non-working time with family rather than school board members and citizens. [By the way, Glass follows the above with “socialization” as the root of this difference… not nature. “Scholastics,” when fighting nature (whether God imbued, or millions of years of evolutionary honing, or any combination thereof), will lose every time.]
Women who do become superintendents spend more years as classroom teachers before moving into the administrative ranks. Women administrators typically spend 7 to 10 years as a teacher while men spend about 5 to 6 years in the classroom. [Again, this may be based mostly on family/child choices, and may make them better at what they do with more experience… however, as my friend stated, women tend to not jump on promotions as quick as men. THIS DOES NOT MEAN anything nefarious is taking place… these choices are more likely to do familial activity as well as the general nature of women not to compete or jump on opportunity as much as men. I would posit this has more to do with the nature of women than the socialization of them.]
Superintendents are not usually hired from within and have three superintendencies during their career of some 15 to 17 years as the school district CEO. This means the superintendent’s family will be making perhaps four moves after she or he leaves classroom teaching. [The conclusion Glass draws is covered up by gender equity. Women, more than men, wish to stay rooted in their community, placing a higher value on their children not having to “start all over” at another school making new friends versus having life-long ones. So this fact is a major inhibitor for why women CHOOSE to stay in the elementary level versus chasing a career.]
Nearly 82 percent of women superintendents in the AASA study indicated school board members do not see them as strong managers and 76 percent felt school boards did not view them as capable of handling district finances. [This has little to do with glass ceilings, rather, much of this was already discussed above. While many felt a “glass ceiling” was inhibiting them… I think more-so nature and choices have ~ speaking quantifiably and not anecdotally. Everybody thinks they are on the side of angels… who deserves more pay, a better position, and the like. I think I am worth waaay more than I have ever been paid — hubris to segue way into Sowell…]
Glass made mention of men having more mentors… I agree, for a couple reasons. First, something my wife mentioned that she was told by more than a few professors… if you want to break into the “good ol’ boy club,” play golf. Yep, men bond over sports and friendly competition. This comes more natural for men for a few reasons. One is that they tend more naturally towards this activity of meeting for a couple drinks or on the golf course. During these times they are not complaining as much as trying to solve issues (my wife has pointed out there is more negativity focused on when women meet). Men love more-so friendly competition to destress them and to build bridges of trust and openness.
Men tend to have ways to help each other through relationships that differ somewhat from their female counterparts. For instance, Nora Vincent dressed as a man for 18-months and later wrote a book on the experience. One reviewer at Amazon notes the following:
As an old-school feminist, I began the book with all the pre-conceived notions about men that we’ve gathered over the years and hugged to our chests. Bam! Norah Vincent dispels all of those and more in this can’t-put-down book. A woman posing as a man. Sensational? Perhaps. However, Ms. Vincent has managed to write an unbiased, often touching and frequently very funny book about the lives men lead. A lasting moment from the book, in my mind: Vincent’s description of a male handshake with another man, warm and welcoming, v. a woman-to-woman hug and air-kiss, superficial and fleeting.(See the 20/20 special on Nora Vincent)
In another article, there was mention of a superintendent referring to a candidate as a bitch.
But am I being told women have never called a man a dick?
Glass continues at one point, saying:
Along with nursing, teaching long represented one of the two most accessible professions for women, who until the recent past were largely excluded from such professions as accounting, dentistry, medicine, engineering and law.
I reject this. As already pointed out, as societies get richer and likes in life/work balance are realized… women CHOOSE these professions (nursing and education) more than men.
As already mentioned, many women teach in the classroom for more years than men. Other women take several years out for child-rearing. The result is that many women enter the process of moving through the “chairs” to the superintendency too late. AASA’s 10-year studies always have shown that women superintendents are older than their male counterparts with comparable years in the superintendency.
AND THIS IS NOT A BAD THING (*big booming megaphone w/echoing reverb*… FX) As many women who swallowed the lie from feminists via the 60’s mention… they have regrets:
…I never expected to find myself in agreement with Ann Widdecombe on anything, yet I realized when she said last week that her most profound regret is never having had children, that we have something very important in common.
Like her, I didn’t plan it this way; I made no choice to be childless. Like so many other women of my generation, born in the Sixties when the fashionable wisdom was that women should postpone marriage and motherhood to forge careers, I left it [“it” ~ the bad thinking of the sixties and what “feminism” was telling women] too late to have a family. I always assumed it would happen at some stage, but I never gave it the focus it needed.
As a 20-something woman with the world at her feet, I chose to interpret feminism’s gift as the right to education and a career. Were I offering advice now to the young woman I was then, I would say: ‘If you want to marry and have children in your 20s, that is just as valid a choice as building a career. Don’t be afraid to make up your own mind.’…
What can be done? As education changes so too will the roles and natural talents needed in positions withing education. However, to force a change onto education that rejects qualifications for merely seeing gender and ethnicity will in the long run harm educations quality. Like the medical establishment (listen below). Another factor in this equation is that often times the school board members lack specialized knowledge about education and what is needed for their district. I fully acknowledge this. But to say that this gap in gender in superintendents is based on a patriarchy of some sort, is misleading at best.
What struck me the most about my conversation with this lovely lady? Well, when I brought up a couple studies that undermine the belief about the gender-pay-gap, she mentioned studies as well. I said “great, send them to me.” (We have each-others emails for the readers information.) I was excited that maybe something less anecdotal was going to be presented. I mentioned that after her busy schedule she may want to consider reading my short post on the issue or consider reading Thomas Sowell’s book, Economic Facts and Fallacies, 2nd edition. She quickly responded she would never read anything on the topic.
I was inwardly taken aback, but also had yet another confirmation about how the left approaches issues that marches, policy and deer beliefs are held closely to the vest as true. I doubt this academic woman had ever read anything outside the curricula given to her by her educators. Learning to think in a box incorporating a Marxian view of history and economics based on race, class, and gender is the norm.
You see, she had just mentioned to me how she hates the volatility of the political climate. Shortly thereafter she intimated that she would not budge an iota in her beliefs by blocking out new streams of information into her matrix, possibly changing her mind just a tad considering said new information that previously she may not have been aware of.
— BTW, thisIS the definition of ensuring oneself and culture remain volatile —
— by not allowing educational opportunities —
And when women march, people vandalize businesses and set fires (Berkeley for instance sustained over $100,000 in damage) as well as almost kill or permanently maim persons… all based on myths believed to be true (hands up don’t shoot, gender wage gaps, police more likely to shoot a black person, white privilege, war on women, white supremacy, my body my choice, etc., etc.), our climate will continue to become more volatile when even evidence from an opposing viewpoint is ignored out-of-hand.
A friend sent this article to me: SEXISM AND ZOMBIE ECONOMICS. I wish to take two examples from it to make the point that these two examples are equal in their showing “sexism.” In other words, they don’t. The first example comes from Emma Watson,
I have experienced sexism in that I have been directed by male directors 17 times and only twice by women. Of the producers I’ve worked with 13 have been male and one has been a woman. I am lucky: I have always insisted on being treated equally and have generally won that equality…. I think my work with the UN has probably made me even more aware of the problems. I went out for a work dinner recently. It was seven men…and me.
This other example comes from the articles author,
Consider the following, real-life scenario. Prior to going to graduate school, I worked at a dance studio for eight years. I can count the number of male dancers I had during that entire period on one hand (our studio had a few hundred students a year). Care to guess how many male instructors there were? None. That’s right, every single student in our studio was “directed” exclusively by females! When we went out to lunch with others, there may be twelve or thirteen women, but no men! Most other studios have similar dynamics. If I said to you, “This proves that the dance industry is sexist!”, you’d look at me like I was insane.
What do these examples prove? Nada, Zilch, Zero.
If the dance had owners that were a substantially higher degree of males than females, as an economist I would look at what is separating (asking questions) WHY this is. If I noticed a larger percentage of them had differing backgrounds, say teaching varsity dance teams versus elementary plays. If they had business or accounting degrees, on-and-on.
What feminism (Leftism) has done is make women weak, in fact, all society. To wit the author of the article, near the end, notes as much:
The author concluded the article by quoting an academic report saying that “longer-term solutions and further monitoring are required,” but he fails to mention what these would be. Allow me to make a suggestion—none. As I have said elsewhere, the idea of legislating “protections” for women in the labor force is downright offensive and counterproductive to gender equality. Think about what message the author of the article is sending by suggesting monitoring. Essentially, “Women are incapable of letting our skills, ambition, and output do the talking for us. We need Big Brother to come and make those mean old men employ us/give us more money/additional benefits.”
Seemingly they always need a knight in shining armor. In this case[s], Big, Obtrusive, Government (BOG).
The first clip is from Larry Elder and he separates ALL men and women under a certain age group, and notes how women out earn men….
Women earn more than men until they hit their 30s when they fall behind, but the change is almost entirely explainable through parenthood and personal choices rather than sexism, according to experts.
Using data from the U.K.’s office of National Statistics, the Press Association found from 2006 to 2013 women aged between 22 and 29 earned roughly $1,700 more than their male counterparts. However, the wage differential between men and women flips in a big way when people move into their 30s.
A man who turned 30 in 2006 would rake in, on average, $13,464 more than a women by 2013. Campaigners and activists pounced on the figures claiming the working world was still stacked against women, and that for senior positions in private business, it’s still a mans world, entrenching the gender pay gap….
…Here’s what the math looks like: I pay my employees $10.50 an hour, plus productivity bonuses. In addition, I pay payroll taxes and one of the highest worker compensation rates in the state. Even still, I could likely absorb a minimum wage as high as $11.50 an hour. But a $15-an-hour wage for my employees translates into $18.90 in costs for me — or just under $40,000 a year per full-time employee.
…When the $15 minimum wage is fully phased in, my company would be losing in excess of $200,000 a year (and far more if my workforce grows as anticipated). That may be a drop in the bucket for large corporations, but a small business cannot absorb such losses. I could try to charge more to offset that cost, but my customers —the companies that are looking for someone to produce their clothing line — wouldn’t pay it. The result would be layoffs.
When Los Angeles County’s minimum wage ordinance was approved in July, I began looking at Ventura County, Orange County and other parts of the state. Then, when California embraced a $15 wage target, I realized that my company couldn’t continue to operate in the state. After considering Texas and North Carolina, I’ve settled on moving the business to Las Vegas, where I’m looking for the right facility. About half of our employees will make the move with us.
Nevada’s minimum wage is only $8.25 right now, so I can keep my current pay structure or possibly increase wages. Even in the event that Nevada raises its minimum wage, I’ll still be better off with reduced regulations, no state taxes, and significantly less expensive worker compensation insurance. I have had the opportunity to meet with Las Vegas city officials (including the mayor)…
Larry Elder interviews Thomas Sowell and they discuss many issues, some current some biographical. Doc Sowell sounds great (healthy as a horse), and while he has laid his pen for his columns… he says he is still in the mix via his other avenues of scholarship.
I hope he updates a book or two, and publishes a few more. That man is a giant and needs to continue on his his career for the benefit of conservatism.
The pension crisis in California is the worst in the country, and it will continue to get worse as Jerry Brown and the environmentalists strap this state with regulations that choke businesses to death — see:
Pensions: California, which is known for its earthquakes, just had a major one. Didn’t feel it? You will. This quake isn’t the earthshaking kind, but rather the state’s decision to recognize reality when it comes to its insolvent public-employee pension fund.
Last week, the 85-year-old California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, slashed its official investment forecast going forward, meaning that state and local governments, police and sheriffs departments, and even school districts will have to spend billions of dollars more to CalPERS to support their future retirees. And, no doubt, it will mean higher taxes for all.
Sadly, this move won’t be enough. For years, the state has projected steady investment returns of 7.5% for CalPERS, the largest pension fund in the nation. But returns have been below that. So now CalPERS is trimming its return to 7% per year. But, given the pension fund’s mismanagement and poor performance, even that may be too high. Today the fund is a little over 60% fully funded, meaning it will have to raise billions of dollars more to be solvent. That means higher contributions for government workers, and higher taxes for average citizens.
It’s no accident. “CalPERS has … steered billions of dollars into politically connected firms,” wrote Steve Malanga in City Journal, back in 2013. “And it has ventured into ‘socially responsible’ investment strategies, making bad bets that have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Such dubious practices have piled up a crushing amount of pension debt, which California residents — and their children — will somehow have to repay.”
That’s happening now. California’s famous Highway Patrol, for instance, has grossly underfunded its pensions. So it got the state to agree to a $10 hike in car registration fees to help make up the shortfall. No doubt, it will be asking for more soon.
It’s not just California. Across the country, pension funds have been underfunded, mismanaged and in some cases looted by managers. Today, according to the Fed, pension funds across the country are $2 trillion in the red — after being overfunded as recently as the year 2000. That means tax hikes are coming, like it or not…..
A new study by economists from Harvard and Princeton indicates that 94% of the 10 million new jobs created during the Obama era were temporary positions.
The study shows that the jobs were temporary, contract positions, or part-time “gig” jobs in a variety of fields.
Female workers suffered most heavily in this economy, as work in traditionally feminine fields, like education and medicine, declined during the era.
The research by economists Lawrence Katz of Harvard University and Alan Krueger at Princeton University shows that the proportion of workers throughout the U.S., during the Obama era, who were working in these kinds of temporary jobs, increased from 10.7% of the population to 15.8%.
Krueger, a former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, was surprised by the finding.
Is the U.S. tax system fair? Are the rich paying too little or too much? What about the middle and lower class? New York Times bestselling author Amity Shlaes answers these questions, and offers a tax solution that most Americans could get on board with.
This book is pretty amazing in that it defines the parameters that essentially make up a dictatorship. This will be especially helpful to all the Hollywood types and hipster douche-bags that like to support regimes in places like Venezuela or Cuba as good for it’s people. The book is a bit dated, but one of AYITTEY’S best.
“A political system based on force, oppression, changing people’s votes, killing, closure, arresting and using Stalinist and medieval torture, creating repression, censorship of newspapers, interruption of the means of mass communications, jailing the enlightened and the elite of society for false reasons, and forcing them to make false confessions in jail, is condemned and illegitimate.”
—Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri
THE TERMS “DESPOT,” “AUTOCRAT,” “TYRANT,” AND “DICTATOR” are used interchangeably throughout this book to refer to a ruler with absolute or unlimited power, but there are subtle differences. A despot may be more reminiscent of medieval monarchs who were convinced that they were endowed with the divine right to rule over their people. In other words, despotism is often infused with a dose of narcissism. An autocrat may have no such grand delusions about himself, but he still wields enormous power. A tyrant is a ruler who exercises power oppressively and harshly. The word dictator may be more applicable to a ruler with a military background who barks orders, issues diktats or edicts, and expects full compliance and obedience. It is possible to make other distinctions, such as “benign” or “benevolent” dictatorship, but this book does not do so.
Modern dictators come in different shades, races, skin colors, and religions, and they profess various ideologies. However, in general, they share common characteristics and idiosyncrasies. They are rulers who are neither chosen by their people nor represent their people.
[p.8>]The political watchdog Freedom House found in 2011 that 60 of the world’s 194 countries are “partly free” and 47 are considered “not free.” That means that the populations of roughly 55 percent of the world’s nations are oppressed.
The continent of Africa has the dubious distinction of harboring more dictators per capita than any other region in the world. Teeming with tyrants, it is the most unfree continent in the world. The usual suspects received the lowest possible ratings for both political rights and civil liberties: Myanmar (Burma), Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Tibet, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. But China, Egypt, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela are cited for having stepped up repressive measures with greater brazenness.
Despots are constantly refining their tactics and learning new tricks from each other in their efforts to control pro-democracy forces. To maintain their iron grip on power, despots invent new “enemies.” This enables them to mobilize their security forces, keep their countries on a war footing, and suspend civil liberties. These enemies are often foreign, but they might also come from within, in which case they are labeled “neo-colonial stooges,” “imperialist lackeys,” or “CIA agents.”
In some countries, despots justify their repressive rule by rallying the people around some nationalistic cause or some farcical “revolution.” In Sudan, for example, Lieutenant-General Omar al-Bashir proclaimed an “Islamic Revolution” that will deliver the Sudanese from abject poverty and squalor by tapping the country’s oil and mineral riches to create a model economy.
The despots have grown bolder as the resistance against them appears to be collapsing. The weakness of domestic opposition and inadequate support from democratic countries for that opposition, as well as fatigue, appear to be contributing factors. Unless the resistance—both domestic and international—is strengthened and democratic countries join forces, the despots will continue to gain momentum and win.
THE GALAXY OF DESPOTS: THE WORLD’S MOST ODIOUS AND DESPICABLE DICTATORS
On April 8, 2010, a coalition of opposition groups ousted Kyrgystan’s dictator, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, from power in Bishkek. A continent away, Africans like myself cheered: “One coconut down, 54 more to harvest!” Then, on January 14, 2011, came a loud thud! Another co- [p.9>] conut down, this one in Tunisia, inspiring others to shake coconut trees vigorously. Then another in Egypt on February 11, 2011, with more to follow.
The West was caught completely off guard by the upheavals in North Africa. In fact, the West—or the international community—had lost the will to fight dictators, preferring “dialogue,” “partnership,” or “rapprochement” with such hideous tyrants as Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Pundits intoned that “these people preferred strong men.” But this author foresaw these upheavals. Despotism has never been acceptable to “these people,” despite the veneer of “stability” despotism projects. There is one insidious and odious aspect of despotism that is particularly infuriating and galling—the political and cultural betrayal. As in Kyrgyzstan, many despots began their careers as erstwhile “freedom fighters,” who were supposed to have liberated their people from repressive rule. Back in March 2005, Bakiyev rode the crest of the Tulip Revolution to oust another dictator, President Askar Akayev. So familiar are Africans with this phenomenon that, it may be recalled, we have this saying: “We struggle very hard to remove one cockroach from power and the next rat comes to do the same thing. Haba! [Darn!].”
In an article published in Foreign Policy, I denounced these revolutionary-turned-tyrant “crocodile liberators” who were joining the ranks of other fine specimens: the Swiss bank socialists, who socialize economic losses and stash personal gains abroad; the quack revolutionaries, who betray the ideals that brought them to power; and the briefcase bandits, who simply pillage and steal. I drew up a list of the “Worst of the Worst” dictators and warned of their imminent demise. Here is my list, based on these insidious, ignoble qualities of perfidy, cultural betrayal, and economic devastation. These criteria are decidedly non-Western.
THE LIST: THE MOST ODIOUS AND DESPICABLE
Omar al-Bashir of Sudan: A megalomaniac zealot who has quashed all opposition, Bashir is responsible for the deaths of more than 4 million Sudanese and has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. His Arab militia, the Janjaweed, may have halted its massacres in Darfur but it continues to traffic black Sudanese as slaves. Bashir himself [p.10>] has been accused of having several Dinka and Nuer slaves, one of whom escaped in 1995.
Years in power: 21
Kim Jong Il of North Korea: A personality-cult-cultivating isolationist with a taste for fine French cognac, Kim has pauperized his people, allowed famine to run rampant, and sent hundreds of thousands to prison camps (where as many as 200,000 languish today)—all while spending his country’s precious few resources on creating a nuclear program. As he succeeded his father, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il is being succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Eun. The country is a “family business and property.”
Years in power: 16
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe: A liberation “hero” in the struggle for independence who has since transformed himself into a murderous despot, Mugabe has arrested and tortured the opposition, squeezed his economy into astounding negative growth and billion-percent inflation, and funneled off a juicy cut for himself using currency manipulation and offshore accounts.
Years in power: 29
Than Shwe of Myanmar (Burma): A heartless military coconut-head whose sole consuming preoccupation is power, Than Shwe has decimated the opposition with arrests and detentions, denied humanitarian aid to his people after the devastating Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and thrived off a threatened black-market economy of natural gas exports. This vainglorious general, bubbling with swagger, sports a uniform festooned with self-awarded medals, but he is too cowardly to face an untampered-with ballot box.
Years in power: 18
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran: Inflammatory, obstinate, and a traitor to the liberation philosophy of the Islamic Revolution, Ahmadinejad has pursued a nuclear program in defiance of international law and the West. Responsible for countless injustices during his five years in power, the president’s latest egregious offense was leading his paramilitary [p.11>] goons, the Basij, toward the violent repression of protests after the June 2009 disputed presidential election, which many believe he lost.
Years in power: 5
Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia: A “rat” worse than the “cockroach” (former Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam) he ousted, Zenawi has clamped down on the opposition, stifled all dissent, and rigged elections. After he stole the May 2005 election, his security thugs opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, killing more than 200 of them, and jailed more than 1,000 opposition leaders and supporters. Like a true Marxist revolutionary, Zenawi has stashed millions in foreign banks and acquired mansions in Maryland and London in his wife’s name, according to the opposition—even as his barbaric regime collects a whopping US$1 billion in foreign aid each year. He won 99.6 per cent of the vote in the May 2010 election—just shy of the 100 percent Saddam Hussein won in a 2002 referendum for another seven-year term.
Years in power: 19
Isaiah Afwerki of Eritrea: Another crocodile liberator, Afwerki has turned his country into a national prison in which independent media are shut down, elections are categorically rejected, military service is mandatory, and the government would rather support Somali militants than its own people.
Years in power: 17
Hu Jintao of China: A chameleon despot who beguiles foreign investors with a smile and a bow but ruthlessly crushes any political dissent with brutal abandon, Hu has an iron grip on Tibet and is now seeking what can only be described as new colonies in Africa from which to extract the natural resources his growing economy craves and in which to resettle surplus Chinese population.
Years in power: 7
Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya: An eccentric megalomaniac infamous for his indecipherably flamboyant speeches and equally erratic politics, Qaddafi today runs a police state based on his version of Mao’s Red Book—the Green Book—which [p.12>]includes a solution to “the problem of democracy.” Under siege by rebels, he vowed to crush “the rats and traitors.” After they seized his compound on August 24, the rebels vowed to smoke out the rat from the labyrinth of tunnels beneath the compound. So who’s the real rat?
Years in power: 42
Hugo Chavez of Venezuela: The quack leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Chavez promotes a doctrine of participatory democracy in which he is the sole participant, having jailed opposition leaders, extended term limits indefinitely, and closed independent media outlets. He has vowed to rule till 2021.
Years in power: 10
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan: Succeeding the eccentric tyrant Saparmurat Niyazov (who even renamed the months of the year after himself and his family), this obscure dentist has continued his late predecessor’s repressive policies, explaining that, after all, he has an “uncanny resemblance to Niyazov.”
Years in power: 4
Idris Deby of Chad: Having led a rebel insurgency against former dictator Hissene Habre, today Deby faces a rebel insurgency led by his own brother. Deby has drained social spending accounts to equip the military, co-opted opposition leaders, and is now building a moat around the capital, N’Djamena, to repel would-be insurgents.
Years in power: 20
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea: Obiang and his family literally own the economy in one of the world’s most unequal countries; the masses are left in desperate poverty in a country where oil wealth yields a GDP per capita that should be on a par with many European states. (How much oil revenue the country earns is a “state secret.”) Obiang is a vicious despot who tolerates no dissent and has amassed a fortune exceeding US$600 million. When he accused his government of corruption, incompetence, and poor leadership, the entire government resigned in protest in [p.13>] 2006. He became the chairman of the African Union in 2011.
Years in power: 31
Yahya Jammeh of Gambia: An eccentric military buffoon who has vowed to rule for 40 years and claims to have discovered the cure for HIV/AIDS, Jammeh insists on being addressed as “His Excellency President Professor Dr. Al-Haji Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh.” He claims he has mystical powers and will turn Gambia into an oil-producing nation; no luck yet. He has threatened to behead gays. He is terrified of witches and evil sorcerers, who, he claims, are harming his country. To root out witches, villagers at Jambur were rounded up and forced to drink a foul-smelling potion in 2009. Six people later died.
Years in power: 16
Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso: A tin-pot despot with no vision and no agenda save perpetuating himself in power by liquidating all political opponents and stifling dissent, Compaoré rose to power after murdering his predecessor, Thomas Sankara, in a 1987 coup. He dishonors the name of his own country, Burkina Faso, which in the Dioula language means “men of integrity.”
Years in power: 23
Bashar al-Assad of Syria: A pretentious despot trying to fit into his father’s shoes, which are too big for him, Assad has squandered billions on foreign misadventures in such places as Lebanon and Iraq. After neglecting the needs of his people, they rose up against him in May 2011. But he used tanks and his extensive security apparatus to crush them and maintain his tight grip on power.
Years in power: 10
Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan: A ruthless thug since Soviet times, Karimov has banned opposition parties, tossed as many as 6,500 political prisoners into jail, and labels anyone who challenges his iron grip on power as an “Islamic terrorist.” What does he do with “terrorists” once they are in his hands? Torture them: Karimov’s regime earned notoriety for boiling[p.14>]two people alive and torturing many others. Outside the prisons, the president’s troops are equally indiscriminate, massacring hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in 2005 after a minor uprising in the city of Andijan.
Years in power: 20
Yoweri Museveni of Uganda: After leading a rebel insurgency that took power in 1986, Museveni declared, “No African head of state should be in power for more than 10 years.” He is still in power, winning one coconut election after another. Political parties can be formed legally, but a political rally of more than seven people is illegal.
Years in power: 26
Paul Kagame of Rwanda: A true liberator who saved the Tutsis from complete extermination in 1994, Kagame now practices the same ethnic apartheid he sought to end. His Rwanda Patriotic Front dominates all levers of power: the security forces, the civil service, the judiciary, banks, universities, and state-owned corporations. Those who challenge him are accused of being “hatemongers” or “divisionists” and are arrested. Such was the case with opposition leaders who were jailed days before the August 2003 election. A similar campaign of vilification was waged against the opposition in the run-up to the August 2010 election.
Years in power: 16
Raul Castro of Cuba: Afflicted with intellectual astigmatism, Castro is pitifully unaware of the fact that the revolution he leads is obsolete, an abysmal failure, and totally irrelevant to the aspirations of the Cuban people. He blames the failure of the “revolution” on “foreign conspiracies,” which he then uses to justify even more brutal clampdowns that lead to more failures. He operates from the offensive notion that the entire Cuban economy belongs to the Castro family alone.
Years in power: 2
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus: An autocrat and former collective farm chairman, Lukashenko maintains an iron grip on his country, monitoring opposition movements with a secret police distastefully called the KGB. His brutal style of [p.15>]governance has earned him the title “Europe’s last dictator”; he even gave safe haven to Kyrgyzstan’s toppled leader during the uprising in that country in the spring of 2010.
Years in power: 16
Paul Biya of Cameroon: A suave bandit who has reportedly amassed a personal fortune of more than US$200 million and the mansions to go with it, Biya has beaten the opposition into complete submission. Not that he’s worried about elections—he has rigged the term-limit laws twice to make sure the party doesn’t end any time soon.
Years in power: 28
The list, of course, is not exhaustive or static; it keeps evolving.
DESPOTIC REGIMES AROUND THE WORLD
An analysis or a discussion of despotic regimes around the world would involve a tedious repetition of brutal acts of repression, injustices, indignities, and grotesque human rights violations. Moreover, despite regime differences, the modus operandi of one despot is strikingly similar to that of all the others. Most despotic regimes are characterized by the following:
Unyielding grip on power: Elections, if any, are farcical and are always won by the despot.
Political repression: Opposition parties are banned or afforded little political space to operate; key opposition leaders are arrested, intimidated, hounded, or even killed.
Intellectual repression: Censorship may be imposed; journalists, editors, and writers are harassed, intimidated, jailed, or killed; newspapers and radio and television stations that are critical of government policies are shut down.
Brutal tactics: Street protests are disrupted with batons, water cannons, tear gas, and even gunfire.
Flagrant violations of human rights: Opponents of the regime are detained without trial; disappearances and murder are common; freedom of expression, movement, and assembly are nonexistent.
[p.16>] Rather than discuss these traits for each despotic regime, I will just list the countries where such practices are most prevalent:
Africa: Algeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe
Asia: Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, and Vietnam
Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan
Eastern Europe: Belarus
Latin America: Venezuela
Middle East: Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen
Across Eurasia (comprising 12 states), governments are characterized by strong executives and weak legislatures. The primary focus of politics is on elections and on the constant tussle between presidents and parliaments over their respective authority. Presidents routinely rig elections and rule by decree, bypassing parliaments. Opposition political parties are not well organized and offer few viable alternatives. As such, “there are few intermediaries between high politics and the people, and the press that might play that role relies on the patronage of the state or powerful business cliques with their own agendas.”
The picture is much the same in Latin America. The caudillos (military strongmen) may be back in the barracks but despots now emerge from the ballot box. Once elected, they succeed in neutering and debauching the state institutions. As reported in the Economist:
Mr Chavez has turned Venezuela’s courts into a tool of the executive and used them to jail, harass or disqualify a growing number of his opponents. Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, has abused his power to rig both municipal elections and the supreme court. Less blatantly, Ecuador’s Mr Correa has tried to muzzle the media, and the Kirchners in Argentina have used the presidency to bully opponents in business and the press. Yet the leaders of the region’s main powers have stayed silent about these abuses.
Even in countries where the separation of powers exists, weak institutions are unable to uphold the rule of law, provide effective government, and advance the rights and freedoms of the people. In Peru, neither the incumbent, Alan Garcia, nor his predecessor, Alejandro Toledo, have commanded much clout or popularity. Political parties in [p.17>]Peru, the Economist went on to say, are just personal vehicles for self-aggrandizement: “For local elections in Oct 2009, no fewer than 60,000 candidates registered in 14,000 municipalities for just 2,000 slates. There is no civil service. There are constant demonstrations, some violent. In a recent poll 22% of respondents outside Lima approved of blocking roads as a form of protest.”
The Middle East is the region most bereft of democracy. Until the recent upheavals, only 3 of the 22 countries in the Arab League—Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories—could be said to be democratic, even with some caveats. With access to the media restricted, chaotic general elections produce predictable results: the autocrats and vampire elites retain power; the opposition is demoralized, even radicalized; and the word “democracy” is bastardized. As the Economist notes:
Every Arab country now has a form of representative legislature, even if most have little power and some, like Saudi Arabia’s, are appointed by a king. Some of these autocracies allow more pluralism than others. Morocco, for instance, has widened its space for debate. Others, such as Kuwait, allow a directly elected parliament, but the ruling royal family, still ultimately in charge, has often rued the legislative near-paralysis that followed.
Whether they are monarchies or republics, the Arab states tend to act much the same. Says Larry Diamond, a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution and board member of the Free Africa Foundation: “The Arab League has become, in effect, an autocrats’ club.” Elections are for show, a window-dressing to let off steam. Technically, they are meaningless. But now the youth have started to change things. Angry street protesters sent Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fleeing into exile on January 14, 2011, and brought down Hosni Mubarak of Egypt on February 11, 2011. In Burkina Faso, Libya, Syria, Uganda, and others, dictators put up a fierce resistance. In the end, however, the forces of liberty will triumph.
THE DEVASTATING TOLL
The act of repression not only assails our human conscience and dignity but also exacts a toll in terms of human lives and economic activity. Despotism wreaks economic, social, and human devastation [p.18>]Consider the impact on economic activity: An error made by a despot who does not have the necessary experts advising him could result in commodity shortages, overproduction, or a breakdown in the productive process. Since a despot is not likely to admit this, the problems can fester until they erupt into a full-blown crisis. This was the cause of the demise of the former Soviet Union. To be sure, impressive rates of economic growth are possible under authoritarian or despotic regimes. China and the Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) are often cited as examples, but there is a caveat. Exceptions do not make the rule. A final day of reckoning eventually arrives. In an interview, South Korea’s former president, the late Kim Dae-jung, asserted in an interview that placing economic development ahead of democracy was “the fundamental cause of the Asian financial crisis in 1998” because “the authoritarian style of government permitted corruption and collusive intimacy between business and government to flourish.”
Economic Underperformance and Collapse
In a dictatorship, the normal order of things and even common sense have been turned completely upside down. There is no freedom of speech, no rule of law, and state institutions are packed with sycophants and praise-singers. Professionalism disappears from the security forces and the civil service. Fealty to the despot counts more than competence or efficiency. Promotions and job security depend upon who can shout the loudest praise of the despot.
Infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools, telecommunications, and ports begins to crumble because contracts are awarded by the despot to family members, cronies, and loyal supporters. To sustain the heavy patronage doled out to supporters, the despot may impose heavy taxation and tariffs. Prices—especially food and fuel prices—start to shoot up. The public might vent its outrage in street protests. The despot may clamp down brutally on these street protests and take drastic measures to prevent future price hikes. The hikes are blamed on foreign saboteurs. Property rights are scoffed at. Commercial properties of businessmen alleged to be “anti-government” may be confiscated or seized for distribution to the poor masses in the name of social justice. Such was the case for more than a decade (2000-2010) in Zimbabwe, where the despotic regime of Robert Mugabe organized ruthless thugs to vio‑ [p.19>] lently seize white commercial farmlands. Similarly, in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez “seized rural estates and factories the government deemed to be unproductive, including some assets of Lorenzo Mendoza, Venezuela’s second-wealthiest man, and of H. J. Heinz Co., the world’s largest ketchup maker.” Chavez also seized control of or nationalized oil refineries in 2008. Such contempt for property rights scares off investors, who fear that their commercial properties may be the next to be seized without due process. They flee the country and, without investment, the economy contracts.
The crisis in Zimbabwe, for example, has cost Africa dearly. Foreign investors have fled the region, and the South African rand has lost 25 percent of its value since 2000. Zimbabwe’s economic collapse caused US$37 billion worth of damage to South Africa and other neighboring countries. Although South Africa has been most affected, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia have also suffered severely.
Foreign investors fled Venezuela, too. According to Bloomberg News, such investors “sold $778 million more in Venezuelan assets than they bought in the first nine months of 2006, according to the central bank; a decade ago, in the same period, they added $5.9 billion more than they disposed of”
This is also true of other Latin American countries where private property rights are not well protected because the rule of law is weakly enforced. As a result, despite Latin American economic growth rates that averaged more than 5 percent in 2004 and 2005, capital flows were negative, meaning more money left the region than entered it. The basic reason was an ongoing lack of confidence among long-term investors. Latin America expert Andres Oppenheimer was cited as saying that “only 1 percent of the world’s investment in research and development currently goes to Latin America.”
Rash diktats and reckless mismanagement inevitably produce economic crises. To deal with these crises, despots may take desperate and drastic measures, such as imposing strict economic/price controls, printing currency, and/or revaluing the old currency. However, as we shall see in chapter 5, none of these measures solves the economic crisis. Instead, they exacerbate it, creating black markets, greater scarcities, and even higher prices, resulting in a vicious downward spiral to economic collapse and a failed state (as has occurred in North Korea and Zimbabwe) unless the despot has access to substantial revenues from a mineral resource, such as oil, as has been the case with Saddam [p.20>] Hussein of Iraq, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya.
The Human Toll
The cost of despotism in human terms is impossible to estimate. A handful of despots around the world inflict misery, despair, hope-lessness—and even death—on millions of people who have protested against tyrannical rule. Hundreds of thousands have been jailed. Millions have been killed and millions more have fled their countries to become refugees elsewhere. Among the most infamous despots was Pol Pot of Cambodia, who ruthlessly eliminated anyone who posed a threat to him. Out of a population of 8 million in 1975, 2 million were executed. Another was Idi Amin of Uganda, who butchered as many as 200,000 Ugandans in the 1970s. It should be no surprise that about 70 percent of the world’s refugee population is in Africa and the Middle East—the two regions that harbor the most despots.
Particularly treacherous have been massacres condoned or orchestrated by despotic regimes against particular groups for ethnic, religious, political, or other reasons. Pogroms are violent acts by mobs that are characterized by killings and the destruction of homes, businesses, property, and religious centers. The past four decades have seen attacks on the Copts in Egypt in the 1980s, on the Tamils in Sri Lanka in the 1980s, and on ethnic Armenians in Azerbaijan in the 1990s.17 The human toll of despotism can be seen even more dramatically in the pogroms against the Igbo that led to the 1967-1970 Biafran War in Nigeria, the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis, and the ongoing genocide against blacks in the Darfur region of Sudan. Postcolonial African leaders—mostly autocrats—have caused the deaths of more than 19 million Africans since 1960:
1 million Nigerians died in the Biafran War (1967-1970).
200,000 Ugandans were slaughtered by Idi Amin in the 1970s.
100,000 were butchered by President Macias Nguema in Equatorial Guinea in the 1970s.
Over 400,000 Ethiopians perished under Mengistu Haile Mariam.
[p.21>]Over 500,000 Somalis perished under Mohammed Siad Barre.
Man-made famines claimed over 2 million lives between 1980 and 2000 in Chad, Ethiopia, Niger, Somalia, and Sudan.
Over 2 million have died in the wars of Liberia (1993-1999),Sierra Leone (1994-1999), and Ivory Coast (2000-2005).
Over 1 million died in Mozambique’s civil war in the 1970s.
5 million died in Angola’s civil war, which began in 1975 and continued intermittently until 2002.
800,000 perished in Rwanda’s genocide in 1994.
300,000 died in Burundi in 1993-1994.
4 million perished in Sudan’s civil wars from 1960 to 2006.
6 million died as a result of Congo’s wars from 1996 to 2006.
The rough total of 19.8 million does not include conflict-related deaths in Chad, Western Sahara, and Algeria and those who perished at refugee camps. Historians estimate that the total number of black Africans shipped as slaves to the Americas in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries was about 10 million. Africa lost another 10 million people through the trans-Saharan and East African slave trade run by Arabs. This means that, in a space of just 50 years after independence in the 1960s, postcolonial African leaders have slaughtered about the same number of Africans as were lost to both the West and East African slave trades over several centuries. Think about it.
Every year, the social and economic toll of despotism is driven home by the publication of two indices. The first is the Index of Failed States, drawn up by Foreign Policy magazine in collaboration with the Fund for Peace, an independent research organization. Using 12 indicators of state cohesion and performance, compiled through a close examination of more than 30,000 publicly available sources, the Index ranks 177 states in order from most to least at risk of failure. In the 2010 Index, most of the 20 failed states at the bottom are ruled by despotic regimes. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan may be regarded as exceptions because of ongoing wars in 2009. The majority of the failed states-12 out of 20—are in sub-Saharan Africa, and 11 out of those 12 African countries are ruled by despots. [p.22>]
Even more telling is the United Nations Human Development Index. Of the 24 at the bottom, a staggering 22 are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite its immense wealth of mineral resources, Africa remains mired in abject poverty, misery, deprivation, and chaos. The World Bank adjusted its yardstick for extreme poverty from US$1.00 to US$1.25 a day, which means that 389 million of the 875 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lived in poverty in 2005.
Millions of lives have been lost, economies have collapsed, and whole states have failed under brutal repression. The toll of despotism[p.23>] has been especially devastating for Africa. Africa is poor because she is not free. However, a failed state evolves through various stages. It begins as a vampire state, metastasizes into a coconut republic, and then finally implodes, becoming a failed or collapsed state.
“Anyone who gets to the presidency ends up with way more than he had before, while the poor and working class are the ones always left behind.”
—Roberto Pedroza, a newspaper vendor in Mexico City
The most remarkable aspect of despotism is the rapid deterioration of the institution of government. “Government,” as it is known in the West, does not exist in countries ruled by despots. Leaving aside the democratic requirement that a government must be “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” one expects a government, at a minimum, to care for and be responsive to the needs of the people, or at least to perform some basic services for its people. But even these minimal requirements are often lacking in a dictatorship, where government as an entity is totally divorced from the people and perceived by those running it as a vehicle not to serve but to fleece the people. Dishonesty, thievery, and embezzlement pervade the public sector. Public servants embezzle state funds, and high-ranking ministers are on the take. Government then becomes irrelevant to the people.
What then exists is a vampire state—a government hijacked by a phalanx of bandits, gangsters, crooks, and scoundrels who use the machinery of the state to enrich themselves, their cronies, supporters, and members of their own ethnic, racial, or religious group and to exclude everyone else. It is an apartheid-like system based on the politics of exclusion. One is poor if one does not belong to that charmed circle. The richest people in Africa and many Third World countries are the ruling vampire elites and government ministers. And quite often, the chief bandit is the head of state himself.
Examples of vampire states abound. In fact, one can characterize all communist states as such. They suck the economic vitality out of their people for the enrichment of the ruling communist apparatchiks. Even in post-communist Russia corruption has become a nearly insurmountable obstacle to the country’s economic development. Berlin-based NGO Transparency International rates Russia 146th out of 180 nations [p.24>]in its Corruption Perception Index, saying “bribe-taking is worth about $300 billion a year.”
The PRI party, which ruled Mexico for more than 70 years, though not communist, is another example (its replacement was scarcely better). Said Lino Korrodi, finance manager for Vicente Fox’s 2000 presidential campaign: “It is evident that he (Vicente Fox) got rich during his six years in office, in a very shameless and cynical way.” Mexican presidents are limited to one six-year term. Their last year in office is cynically derided by Mexicans as “el año del dinero” (year of the money). That is when Mexican presidents bare their fangs and suck as much as they can in a frenzy. Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who served from 1988 to 1994, was probably the most bloodthirsty. His name became synonymous with fraud, corruption, and economic devastation, and he fled in disgrace into a self-imposed exile in Ireland. The New York Times reported that “In 2002, Swiss banking authorities found more than US$100 million sitting in a Swiss bank account once controlled by his brother Raul Salinas and froze it.” The loot “was held in the name of a Cayman Islands shell corporation, Trocca Ltd., secretly controlled by Mr. Salinas.”
The regimes of several other Latin American countries ruled by oligarchies and caudillos in the 1980s and 1990s can also be characterized as vampire states. Their rule deepened social and economic inequalities, provoking social discontent and sparking revolutionary movements in such countries as Colombia and Nicaragua. Widespread government dysfunction, corruption, and economic despair forced many Latin Americans to migrate and settle in the United States, often illegally. Known as the “undocumented,” their number now exceeds 10 million.
In the Middle East, the classic example of a vampire state is Saudi Arabia. Others include regimes in Tunisia (under the ousted dictator Ben Ali), Egypt (under Hosni Mubarak), Iraq (under the late Saddam Hussein), Iran, Syria, and Yemen. More examples can be found in Africa, where the state has been reduced to a mafia-like bazaar in which anyone with an official designation can pillage at will. Dictators seize and monopolize both political and economic power to advance their own selfish and criminal interests, not to develop their economies, and they don’t care about the poor. Their overarching obsession is to amass personal wealth, gaudily displayed in flashy automobiles, fabulous mansions, and bevies of fawning women. Helping the poor, promoting eco‑ [p.25>] nomic growth, or improving the standard of living of their people is anathema to the ruling elites. “Food for the people!” “People’s power!” “Houses for the masses!” are simply empty slogans that are designed to fool the people and the international community.
Nigeria is the mother of all vampire states. Between 1970 and 2004, more than US$450 billion in oil revenue flowed into Nigerian government coffers, but much of it was looted by Nigeria’s reckless military bandits. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission set up in 2003, confirmed the theft of $412 billion over the period from 1960 to 1999. “We cannot be accurate down to the last figure but that is our projection,” said Osita Nwajah, a commission spokesman.
For 18 months (from February 1999 to August 2000), Nigeria’s vampire state was paralyzed by legislators’ wrangling over perks. Its 109 senators and 360 representatives passed just five pieces of legislation, including a budget that was held up for five months. Immediately upon taking office, the legislators voted themselves hefty allowances, including a 5 billion naira (US$50 million) furniture allowance for their official residences and offices. The now-impeached ex-chairman of the Senate from President Olusegun Obasanjo’s own People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chuba Okadigbo, was the most greedy, according to New African:
As Senate President, he controlled 24 official vehicles but ordered 8 more at a cost of $290,000. He was also found to have spent $225,000 on garden furniture for his government house, $340,000 on furniture for the house itself ($120,000 over the authorized budget); bought without authority a massive electricity generator whose price he had inflated to $135,000; and accepted a secret payment of $208,000 from public funds, whose purpose included the purchase of “Christmas gifts.”
And it gets better: President Obasanjo went after the loot that former president Sani Abacha and his family had stashed abroad. There was much public fanfare regarding the sum of about US$709 million and another L144 million recovered from the Abachas and the former president’s henchmen. But then, this recovered loot itself was quickly re-looted! The Senate Public Accounts Committee found only US$6.8 million and £2.8 million of the recovered booty in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
[p.26>] In case after case, government officials in the developing countries get rich by misusing their positions. Faithful only to their foreign bank accounts, these official buccaneers have no sense of morality, justice, or even patriotism. They kill and maim their own people and destroy their own countries to acquire and protect their booty because, functionally illiterate, they are incapable of using the skills and knowledge they acquired from education to get rich on their own in the private sector. Needless to say, they are “derided by some experts as ‘the extractors,’ people who squandered wealth without building for the future.”
The inviolate ethic of the vampire elites is self-aggrandizement and self-perpetuation in power. To achieve these objectives, they take over and subvert every key institution of government: the civil service, judiciary, military, media, and banking. As a result, state institutions and commissions become paralyzed. Laxity, ineptitude, and unprofessionalism thus flourish in the public sector. Of course, the country may have a police force and judiciary system to catch and prosecute the thieves. But the police are themselves highway robbers who are under orders to protect the looters in power, and many of the judges are themselves crooks.
Obviously, there are no checks against brigandage. The worst offender is the military—the most trenchantly perverted institution, especially in Latin America and Africa. In any normal civilized society, the function of the military is to defend the territorial integrity of the nation and its people against external aggression. But under despotic regimes, the military is instead locked in combat with the very people it is supposed to defend. Witness the barbaric brutalities meted out against street protesters by Iran’s Basij militiamen in June 2009. Or those of North Korean security guards against market traders in December 2009. And think of Muammar Qaddafi sending jet fighters to bomb street demonstrators in February 2011. In We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, Philip Gourevitch writes that, “Across much of Africa, a soldier’s uniform and gun had long been regarded—and are still seen—as little more than a license to engage in banditry.” Wole Soyinka handed the postcolonial soldiers a blistering rebuke:
The military dictatorships of the African continent, parasitic, unproductive, totally devoid of social commitment or vision, are an expression of this exclusionist mentality of a handful; so are those immediately post- [p.27>]colonial monopolies that parade themselves as single-party states. To exclude the sentient plurality of any society from the right of decision in the structuring of their own lives is an attempt to anesthetize, turn comatose, indeed idiotize society, which of course is a supreme irony, since the proven idiots of our postcolonial experience have been, indeed still are, largely to be found among the military dictators.
A simple rule of thumb on development has emerged: the index of economic well-being of a developing country is inversely related to the length of time the military holds political power. The longer it stays in power, the greater the economic devastation. Again, a few exceptions may be noted, as in the case of Augusto Pinochet of Chile, but exceptions do not make the rule.
Meanwhile, the vampire state wobbles as it lurches from one crisis to another. Its legitimacy is openly questioned. Some sections of the population are in open revolt and others may even mount roadblocks to keep out state officials, as occurred in many Latin American countries in the 1990s. Such was also the case in Libya in February 2011. The despot barks orders but is routinely ignored. His ruling vampire elites, clueless about how to resolve the economic crisis, resort to desperate measures to keep things under control, but they fail to arrest the deterioration. They readily give up and flex their muscle, daring anyone to hold them accountable or take power away from them. Steadily, the vampire state, infused with the arrogance of power, hardens into a coconut republic and provokes a rebellion: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere in North Africa and the Arab world.
This invites a distinction. In a banana republic, one might slip on a banana peel but things do work for the people now and then, albeit inefficiently and unreliably. Electric supply is spasmodic and the water tap has a mind of its own. Occasionally, it might spit some water and then change its mind. Buses operate according to their own internal clock. By the grace of God or Allah, a bus might arrive, belching thick black smoke. Food and gasoline are generally available but expensive, if one is willing to contend with occasional long lines. The police are helpful when they are bribed and will then protect the people by catching real crooks. There is petty corruption. Now and then, a million dollars here [p.28>]and a million there might be embezzled. Such a banana republic often slips into suspended animation or arrested development.
A coconut republic, on the other hand, is ruthlessly inefficient, lethal, and eventually implodes. Instead of a banana peel, one might step on a live grenade. Here, common sense has been butchered and arrogant tomfoolery rampages with impunity. The entire notion of “governance” has been turned completely on its head by the ruling vampire elites, who wield absolute power, commit crimes, and plunder with supercilious arrogance. They are not answerable or accountable to anybody and one dares not ask. Impunity reigns supreme. It is here where one finds tyrants chanting “People’s Revolution” and “Freedom!” while standing on the necks of their people. A “revolution” is a major cataclysmic event that brings about an overthrow of the ancient regime. It makes a clean break with the existing way of doing things and establishes a new way or order. In politics, for example, a “revolution” occurs when the subjugated and exploited class rises up to overthrow the oppressors—as occurred with the American and French Revolutions. But in a coconut republic, it is the other way around. It is the dictators who are chanting revolution! Have you ever noticed that those Third World leaders who vociferously claim they are fighting against terrorism in order to receive Western aid are themselves sponsors of state terrorism against their own people?
In a coconut republic, the rule of law is a farce; bandits are in charge, their victims in jail. The police and security forces protect the ruling vampire elites, not the people. The chief bandit is the head of state himself. He and his family and his henchmen have a constant supply of electricity and their water taps run all the time; the people can collect rain water. There are inexhaustible supplies of food and gasoline for them, but not for the people. And there are no buses for the people, period. Those shiny buses that ply the road are for vampire elites. The people can walk. The republic sits atop vast reserves of oil and exports oil, but there is no gasoline for the people since the country’s oil refineries have broken down. Funds earmarked for repairs have been stolen, and refined petroleum products must be imported. The country may also be rich in mineral deposits such as diamonds, gold, and coltan, yet the mineral wealth has produced misery—or a curse.
Here are some examples of life in a coconut republic: [p.29>]
Hugo Chavez of Venezuela forces everyone to listen to his hours-long tirades but dozes off when he listens to them himself.
Saparmurat Niyazov, the late president-for-life of Turkmenistan, erected statues and portraits of himself everywhere and named cities, airports, and even a meteorite after himself. The months and days of the week were named after him and his family, and a family feast was celebrated every day.
When a presidential election was held in Uzbekistan in 2007, President Islam A. Karimov’s three opponents each publicly endorsed him. In the 2009 parliamentary election, all four parties in the race staunchly supported Karimov. Asked if there was any real political opposition and competition in his country, Karimov replied that the 2009 race for the parliament’s lower chamber “had injected genuine competition into the process, largely because the four parties have vocally criticized one another.”
Uganda’s agriculture minister, Kibirige Ssebunya, declared that: “All the poor should be arrested because they hinder us from performing our development duties. It is hard to lead the poor, and the poor cannot lead the rich. They should be eliminated.” He advised local leaders to arrest poor people in their areas of jurisdiction. He died four years later.
A former minister of finance was found hiding—where else?—in a coconut tree: “[Zambia’s] former finance minister, Katele Kalumba, was arrested and charged with theft after the police found him hiding in a tree near his rural home. Mr. Kalumba, who had been on the run for four months, is being charged in connection with some US$33 million that vanished while he was in office.”
The late president of Liberia, General Samuel Doe, summoned his finance minister, “only to be reminded by aides that he had already executed him.”
Tanzania’s anti-corruption czar, Dr. Edward Hosea, was himself implicated in a corruption scandal involving the award of a US$172.5 million contract to supply 100 megawatts of emergency power to a Texas-based company that did not exist.[p.30>]
Coconut Security Forces
In a coconut republic, the police are scarcely professional. Tell a police officer that you saw a minister stealing the people’s money and it is you he will arrest! After the brutal murder of politician Robert Ouko in 1990, the Washington Post reported that, according to Kenyan police, “Foreign Minister Robert Ouko was presumed to have broken his own leg, shot himself in the head and set himself afire. Two years earlier, Kenyan officials suggested that a British tourist, Julie Ward, lopped off her own head and one of her legs before setting herself aflame.”
The ever-ready security forces can unleash the full force of their fury on unarmed civilians with batons, tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets. But how brave are the security forces really? Ambushed by a bunch of ragtag cattle rustlers, Kenya’s elite presidential guards quickly surrendered. Johann Wandetto, a reporter for the People Daily, a newspaper in Kitale, Rift Valley province, published a story in the March 6, 1999, edition with the title: “Militia Men Rout 8 Crack Unit Officers: Shock as Moi’s Men Surrender Meekly.” Wandetto was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison on what the court described as an “alarmist report.”
And the mother of all security forces? When the African Union (AU) peacekeepers’ base on the edge of Haskanita, a small town in southern Darfur, came under sustained rebel assault on September 29, 2007, the AU soldiers fled. According to the Economist, “Ten were killed; at least 40 fled into the bush. The attackers looted the compound before Sudanese troops arrived to rescue the surviving peacekeepers.”
Coconut Elections Coconut elections are, essentially, farcical elections in which the incumbent writes the rules and then serves as a player, the referee, and the goalkeeper. The deck is hideously stacked against the opposition candidates, who are starved of funds, denied access to the state-controlled media, and brutalized by government-hired thugs as the police watch. Opposition parties may be banned too.
By contrast, the incumbent enjoys access to enormous state resources: state media, vehicles, the police, the military, and civil servants are all commandeered to ensure his re-election. Further, the entire electoral process itself is rigged: voter rolls are padded with ruling-party supporters and phantom voters while opposition supporters are purged. The electoral commissioner is in the pocket of the ruling party, as are the judges who might settle any election disputes. During the election campaign, posters of the incumbent are everywhere while pro-government [p.31>] thugs terrorize the populace and anyone perceived to be a supporter of the opposition parties. Innocent civilians are force-marched to attend the incumbent party’s rallies, while opposition rallies are violently disrupted and opposition supporters are brutalized and even killed as the police look on.
On election day, the ruling party resorts to various tricks to steal the election. Ballot papers do not arrive on time, inducing frustrated opposition supporters to leave polling stations. Ballot boxes may eventually arrive but are already stuffed with votes for the incumbent. (Mayoral elections were held in Kampala, Uganda, on February 18, 2011. When the polls opened at 7:00 A.M., ballot boxes were already full of pre-ticked ballots for the ruling National Resistance Movement candidate, Peter Samatimba. This led to the cancellation of the results. Queried, Samatimba denied any involvement. “This could have been done by my opponents to discredit me,” he said.) And if during the vote count the opposition appears to be winning, the process can be halted and the ballot boxes transported to a secret location where the votes are counted in camera. Most often, posted election results do not reflect actual voting. This was the case in Ghana’s 1996 elections, where Major Emmanuel Erskine, a challenger to the brutal regime of Fte./Lte. Jerry Rawlings, did not even get one single vote in his own constituency. That is, the results indicated that he did not vote for himself and his wife and four children did not vote for him. After he complained bitterly about the rigging, the electoral commission tossed six votes his way.
Here is a short list of instances that indicate coconut elections:
The electoral equipment for coconut elections, the results of which are stolen anyway, was itself stolen (Nigeria, December 9, 2010).
Both candidates—Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara—claimed victory and installed themselves as presidents after Ivory Coast’s November 2010 elections.
For the November 7, 2010, elections in Myanmar (Burma), military rulers bestowed upon their country a new flag, a new seal, and a new anthem. The old flags were to be lowered by people born on a Tuesday and the new flags were to be raised by people born on a Wednesday. Then all the old flags were to be burned. Many parties were blocked from participating by fees set so high that in many districts only government-backed [p.32>] candidates could register, by stipulations that the military could allot close to one-quarter of all seats after the election took place, and by the harassment and threatening of opposition candidates who tried, against all odds, to compete. No international observers were permitted, and no foreign journalists were allowed in. The military junta declared victory even before voting started.
At the time of the August 25, 2003, elections in Rwanda, opposition leader Faustin Twagiramungu found his campaign stymied at every turn by government security forces. His rallies were canceled, his workers arrested, and his brochures seized. On the eve of the voting, “police arrested 12 of Twagiramungu’s provincial organizers, saying they were preparing election day violence.” Additionally, “In Mr. Twagiramungu’s home town, soldiers reportedly looked at ballot papers and ordered those who voted the wrong way to try again.” For the August 2010 elections, preparations for the September victory celebration by the incumbent despot, Paul Kagame, began before the voting did.
The year 2010 reaped a harvest of coconut elections in Belarus, Burkina Faso, Myanmar (Burma), Egypt, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, and Rwanda. No incumbent lost an election.
Belarus, a country of 10 million, held its presidential elections on December 19, 2010. Long-term dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who had been in power for 16 years, won handily. His government controls the media, and opposition candidates were denied airtime. An agency called the KGB watched over the people. Intimidation was the order of the day. The government machine that pressured people into early voting was in place, and those who failed to vote early were threatened with the loss of their jobs in the state sector.
Lukashenko won nearly 80 percent of the vote and his closest rival 1.8 percent. Opposition activists and critical journalists denounced the vote as fraudulent, and over 10,000 demonstrators poured into the streets in a protest march toward Independence Square in the heart of Minsk. But heavily armed security and police forces unleashed their full fury on the demonstrators, who were savagely beaten. Seven of the nine opposition candidates were arrested, and over 600 protesters were taken into custody.
[p.33>] The opposition candidate Vladimir Neklyayev, who received 1.8 percent of the vote, was beaten unconscious and rushed to the hospital. While he was being treated for head wounds, he was abducted by several men in civilian clothes. Also severely beaten and rushed to a hospital was another presidential candidate, Andrei Sannikov. And what was the reaction of the head of the Central Elections Commission, Lidiya Ermoshina—who was appointed by Lukashenko? According to an article in Der Spiegel, she “said that her office was aware of only very few complaints about the elections.” Naturally.
Coconut Reform It is clear that the vampire state or the coconut republic must be reformed and replaced with a well-functioning state. To establish one, reform is needed in many areas—in the political system, the economic system, the judicial system, the educational system, and the electoral system. But reform is anathema to the ruling vampire elites and coconut heads, for it would threaten their lucrative businesses and their hold on power.
Ask them to privatize inefficient state enterprises and they will sell the companies to themselves and their cronies at fire-sale prices: examples are Uganda under Yoweri Museveni and Egypt under Hosni Mubarak. Said Muhammad Al Ghanam, the former director of legal research in Egypt’s Ministry of Interior: “The Mubarak era will be known in the history of Egypt as the era of thievery.”
Ask them to develop their economies and they will develop their pockets. Ask them to seek foreign investment and they will seek a foreign country in which to invest their loot.
Ask them to enforce the rule of law and they will force the law to respect their whims. Said The Economist: “In Zimbabwe, the thieves are in charge and their victims face prosecution.”
Ask them to trim their bloated bureaucracies and cut government spending and they will establish a “Ministry of Less Government Spending.” Ask them to establish a market-based economy and place more emphasis on the private sector and they will create a “Ministry of Private Enterprise,” as Ghana did in 2002.
Ask them to reform their abominable political and economic systems and they will perform the “coconut boogie”—one swing forward, three swings back, a jerk to the right, and a tumble [p.34>] to land hard on a frozen Swiss bank account. Swiss authorities froze the bank accounts of Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya in 2011.
Ask them to establish democratic pluralism and they will create surrogate parties, appoint their own electoral commissioners, empanel a gang of lackeys to write the constitution, inflate the voters’ register, manipulate the electoral rules, and hold coconut elections to return themselves to power. Even African children could see through this chicanery and fraud. Said Adam Maiga from Mali: “We must put an end to this demagoguery. You have parliaments, but they are used as democratic decoration.”
Reform becomes a charade. The reform process has stalled through vexatious chicanery, willful deception, and vaunted acrobatics. The ruling vampire elites and the coconut heads are just not interested in reform, period. They benefit from the rotten status quo. But without reform, their countries could implode or collapse in a Tunisian-type revolution. In fact, the adamant refusal of despots to reform their odious and dysfunctional political systems has ignited revolutions:
Nicaragua: In 1979, a revolutionary movement called the Sandinistas, led by Daniel Ortega, ousted from power Anastasio Somoza, whose family had ruled the country since 1936.
Indonesia: In 1998, Suharto, who had held power for 32 years, was forced to resign following the Asian financial crisis. In May 1999, Time Asia estimated Suharto’s family fortune at US$15 billion in cash, shares, corporate assets, real estate, jewelry, and fine art. Of this, US$9 billion was reported to have been deposited in an Austrian bank. Suharto was placed highest on Transparency International’s list of corrupt leaders with an alleged misappropriation of between US$15 and 35 billion during his 32-year presidency. His ouster led to the breakaway attempts by East Timor and Aceh.
However, Africa abounds with examples of despots who refused to heed the call to reform and, as a result, saw their countries implode in a violent vortex of chaos, carnage, and destruction, ending with their [p.35>] own deaths: Somalia (1991), Rwanda (1994), Liberia (1991), and Zaire (1996), among others. The cost of rebuilding each country devastated by war is in the billions. Rebuilding Liberia alone would cost at least US$15 billion.
The Coconut Cure Alas, there is a cure for coconut heads. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, there is a place called “the magic corner,” where all and sundry, including politicians, come to be relieved or cured of their problems. “Even those top leaders of the government come to that tree,” said Shabuni Haruni, a private security guard. “Yes, during the election.”
Upon the payment of a small fee, a traditional healer will take a patient to a huge baobab tree, reputed to be the abode of ancestral spirits. Patients remove their shoes and kneel in front of the tree with their eyes closed. At one session described by the Washington Post correspondent Karl Vick,
Rykia Selengia, a traditional healer, passed a coconut around and around the head of her kneeling client. The coconut went around the man’s left arm, then the right, then each leg. When she handed the coconut to the client, Mussa Norris, he hurled it onto a stone.
It shattered, releasing his problems to the winds.
…Where are the jobs for the young people supposed to come from, when the young people keep voting against the private sector businesses that create jobs? I don’t know that their parents and professors are explaining to them how the economy works. Taxes and regulations make job creation harder, and then you have nowhere to work, and just live at home.
The “weak job opportunities” that Pew Research mentioned are especially weak for young people who graduate from non-STEM programs. STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) graduates are able to find jobs that pay enough. Liberal arts graduates end up serving coffee. And then they vote for more environmentalist regulations and a higher minimum wage, and find themselves out of a job entirely. The jobs just go elsewhere where there are lower taxes and fewer regulations.
It’s really important for young people to get into the workforce early and start building their resume and references with work experience. Two years of work experience is better than graduate school in most cases, too. Saving works much better when you start investing early, so watch your spending.
The American Dream is real, but it may not be for much longer. What exactly is the American Dream? And why is it in danger? Elaine Parker of Job Creators Network explains. Find out more about Job Creators Network and Information Station! https://informationstation.org/
This is merely two short audio clips from two separate economists and their recent studies for their books. The first audio is Michael Medved asking Edward Conard a question in regards to his book, The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class. (As an aside, Larry Elder used this audio in his Tuesday Sept 20th, 2016 show as part of his opening segment)
Part of my reasoning for uploading these was a caller called into the show and challenged The Sage that the reason for black woes was white supremacism. I included in the Michael Medved YouTube desscription the additional information:
I am glad I did because of a caller the “Sage” had on brought up that racism was the main cause for black problems in America and challenged Larry Elder on the statistic of children born out of wedlock. The caller brought up Iceland as a comparison noting similar births to single mothers, and less of the maladies that afflict the black community here in the states. The caller then said this was proof of white racism in America (and the lasting effects of slavery and Jim Crow [in other words, the lasting effects of Democrats]).
However, this is an apples vs. oranges comparison. Why? Because most of the children born to a single mother in Iceland still have an intact family or a very involved father, via ICELAND REVIEW:
….But I’d like to point out that no one mentioned single fathers. Does that mean that when a couple separates the father is out of the picture? The child is the mother’s and the dad can move on to greener pastures and, hey, to live up to the age-old myth of manhood, spread his seed?
No, far from it. In most cases, the father is involved, and as involved as the mother. Many ex-couples try to live in the same neighborhood so that the kid can spend a week in each home, without interrupting school and activities.
Parenting in Iceland is generally an equal partnership and, more often than not, a father will do his best to take the paternal leave available to him, if the finances at home allow for it….