Thoughts On May Day 2005

If values can be charted in accordance with the strength with which they are espoused over the simplified left-right axis, compassion would fall more on the left than on the right. It is one of the values of the left that I can most deeply empathize with. Our commemoration of May Day was intended to capture the best of that spirit. Ken MacLeod once wrote,

The great scandal of Lenin was that he taught realpolitik to the lower classes and backward peoples. If the working class was ever to become a ruling class it had better start thinking like one, and for a ruling class there are no rules.

Like many on the far left, MacLeod is in denial about the true effect of the USSR on the "lower classes". Lenin didn't empower the little guys; he killed them in seven digit numbers. If you were a peasant farmer in Russia with one too many cows, you were fair game to be hanged on sight. Too many on the left romanticize the idea of the little guys coming together and creating a revolution in which the upper classes and intellectuals get the shaft. History has shown that what actually happens is that proletarian revolutions empower monsters who end up destroying the lower classes. And by a wide margin, communist rulers have been of bourgeois backgrounds.

Did communism ever empower workers? Quite the opposite. As R. J. Rummel states, most of the democide that occurred in the USSR - 39,000,000 deaths - occurred in forced labor camps. These victims didn't consist solely the upper classes or intellectuals. There weren't enough upper class individuals to make up even a small fraction of that total. Workers in communist countries have always suffered far worse than in non-communist countries. Many people mistakenly thought that we were putting a "politically incorrect" twist on May Day. Any celebration that honors the contributions of the workers of the world in the spirit of compassion that marks the best values of the left has to acknowledge the harm to workers caused by communism and Marxist ideology.

Thank you to our guest bloggers Professor R. J. Rummel and Professor Bryan Caplan. Rummel's Death by Government is a must-have book for anyone skeptical of concentrated power. It is an academic inquiry of mass-murder attributable to governments. Though his post on the Red Plague was specifically about communist democide, the book delves into mass-murder by all governments, including pre-20th century democide. Similarly, Caplan's online Museum of Communism, which is the #2 google result for "communism", is the closest thing the world has to a memorial to the victims of communism.

Too many academic bloggers isolate themselves from the blogopshere by linking only to other academics. Were I to live out my life in a parallel universe, I might be a university professor somewhere, probably in economics. My goal would be to be a Hazlitt or Krugman, writing for the common man in the popular press, rather than concentrating my efforts for obscure journals only read by my peers. What better outlet than the massively interlinked blogosphere? The future Hazlitts of the world will be bloggers. Both Rummel and Caplan write for blogs that link to non-academic blogs and that have open comment sections in which anyone can respond, including unfortunately trolls. Both took a chance as academics in contributing to an event on a non-academic blog, and for that I am grateful.

Thanks also to Nicholas Weininger. As a frequent contributor to various blog comment sections, Nick is always on target with his observations. When I was looking for guest bloggers, I knew I could count on Nick to make an outstanding contribution.

Thanks to everyone who linked to us. Every link was important, and none went unnoticed. The idea first came to me on May Day 2002. I had originally wanted to start a blog in late 2001, but at that time I was working pretty much every minute of my life and had no time left over to blog until June 2003. On May 1, 2002 on the sports message board that Doug, Brian, and I used to frequent, Doug posted a link to a May Day march somewhere filled with hammers-and-sickles and Che T-shirts. I posted a response along the lines of, "I wish I had a blog; I could respond more publicly to this nonsense." On May 1, 2004, my co-bloggers and I finally got the chance. I wanted to take advantage of the network properties of the blogosphere to spread the history of communism. The second time around was even more successful than the first.

While socialized healthcare and socialized education are still very much alive as ideas, communism as an all-encompassing political ideology is dead. The history of communism provides empirical evidence for its shortcomings, and the internet is an incorruptible repository for that evidence. Every little kid in China who has internet access can google "communism" and the second result will demonstrate the horrors that his government and others like it have created. Even if the Chinese government tries to censor that information, it will be, at best, only temporarily successful in its task. As a wise man once said, "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

Which is why I, unlike most of my philosophical brethren, am an optimist. It is also why I readily accept the label “blogosphere triumphalist”. Too many bloggers see other bloggers write things they disagree with and conclude that the blogosphere is useless. They end up despising their fellow bloggers and isolating themselves in their own cyberghettoes of like-minded individuals. What they don’t realize is that the blogosphere is fundamentally an architecture which cultivates an ecology of ideas. Good ideas, bad ideas, strange ideas, and false ideas all compete for survival. The existence of bad ideas does not render the blogosphere a failure. Rather, it provides an outlet for good ideas to challenge and eventually eradicate those bad ideas. If we make the assumption that over the long run, good ideas win out over bad ideas, the blogosphere can only speed up the process. It promotes memetic hyperevolution. Like the market, the blogosphere is a process, not an end.

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Thank you for doing this. We

Thank you for doing this. We need people to remember this stuff. You guys perform an important public service.

Every little kid in China

Every little kid in China who has internet access can google “communism” and the second result will demonstrate the horrors that his government and others like it have created.

The Great Firewall of China

And Google (and other big computer companies) have been working with the Chinese to build the tools of oppression. They see a billion plus sized market, but fail to see a government that doesn't give a flying fig about freedom or intellectual property rights.