Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Theory of Socialism

Today, in International Economics class, we were discussing the work of Janos Kornai. Our teacher, who studied at the Moscow State University and knows such things, was telling us about the chronic shortages in old Soviet Union and its socialist satellites. At this point, an avowedly Marxist classmate of mine interjected to point out that the USSR had never been a Socialist Economy. They were, he said, a State Capitalist Economy. This, he explained, was because they paid wages to their workers*. If they had worked on a simple from-each-according-to-his-ability, to-each-according-to-his-needs principle, Red Square would still have kick-ass parades every first of May.

This reminded me of something Douglas Adams wrote about the secret of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation's success, viz "their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws". This, it seems to me, is also the secret of the success of Socialism. Whenever a Socialist policy fails, the blame falls on some minor (in the greater scheme of things) deviation from the Socialist Golden Path. For example, the National Rural Employment Scheme is a brilliant solution to rural poverty, it will only fail because the bureaucrats have weakened the Employment Guarantee Act. Forcing banks to give farmers in Vidharba low-interest loans in a good idea, the problem is that the interest is not low enough. Five-year-plans are a great idea, its just that our planners sucked. And so on.

This theory is, of course, at an early stage of development. So please, gentle readers, if you come across any other examples of the SCC theory of Socialism, let us know. And please remember to share and enjoy!

*I feel he does the old Soviet apparatchiks a great injustice here. The Soviet Union (as the old joke goes) pretended to pay their workers. In return, they pretended to work

Friday, February 16, 2007

Free Kareem Amer

Kareem Amer is an Egyptian blogger imprisoned by his government (one of the thirteen countries listed by Reporters Without Borders as enemies of the Internet and grave violators of freedom of expression over the Internet) for, basically criticising the powers-that-be in his country. He is currently on trial for "Defaming the president of Egypt", "Incitement to hate Islam", "Highlighting inappropriate issues that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading these publicly" and other such ridiculous charges.

Today is Free Kareem Amer day. Alongside with peaceful demonstrations at Egyptian embassies and consulates in several cities around the world, there are also going to be an online protest against the persecution of Kareem Amer and the denial of his right to express himself.

Kareem Amer doesn't deserve to go to jail for eleven years, even if he did everything the prosecution in his case insists he did. One of the amazing things about this Internet thingy for me is that we all get much greater opportunities to say what we want on a public forum, and I find such brutal suppression of the freedom of expression on the Internet particularly abhorrent (which is not, of course, to say that I'm okay with its suppression elsewhere). We, as junta living in the 21st century, have far greater freedom to express ourselves than our predecessors at any time. The persecution of Kareem Amer is a throwback to earlier times when dissent was far more easily suppressed, and must be opposed for the continuation of those freedoms everywhere.

For more information on Kareem Amer, you can see the Wikipedia article and, a website dedicated to securing his release. To know more about Free Kareem Day, visit the Rally for Kareem Amer website. You can also sign a petition calling for his release here.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Go Mooninites!

So Cartoon Network was running this big ad campaign in the US, as a part of which, eight cities were covered with LED devices that depicted characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a show on CN. One of the devices is pictured at left. Now, to any sane human, this looks like a harmless LED placard. But to the authorities in Boston, this had all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda bomb plot. They swung into action, and used all their fancy new Dept. of Homeland Security financed equipment to shut down half of Boston. Finally, when they realised that there was indeed a difference between an LED and an IED, instead of apologising for their stupidity, they arrested the two guys responsible for putting up the placards for "perpetrating a hoax".

Which brings us to the point of this whole post. The two men, Peter Beredovsky and Sean Stevens, were mobbed by reporters as they were leaving the jail on bail. Here is what happened:

Man, these guys rock!

(H/t: Radley Balko.)