Skip to main content

Africa is not a country

Kevin Drum ponders Mitt Romney's anti-China paranoia:
Are we doomed to a future in which we are mere vassels to a burgeoning and aggressive Chinese hegemony? If you vote for Barack Obama, yes! In fact, according to Mitt Romney, he's actively working toward such future.

But seriously. Are we? I don't think so. Sure, China is going to grow and there will inevitably be some shifts in influence as that happens, but if I had to make a 50-year bet on any region of the world, I'd pick the United States. Europe has demographic and growth problems; Russia is doomed once their energy resources run out; Africa will remain a basket case for the foreseeable future; India is starting from a poor base and I'm not convinced they have the governance or institutions to maintain rapid growth over the long term; and China — well, China has its problems, as I've noted multiple times in this space.
Ok, whatever. My natural question when talking about stuff like this is: who cares? Being the sole superpower seems to mean we just have a greater than average propensity to launch idiotic wars of aggression that actively damage our security while letting our own vital infrastructure crumble to bits for lack of funds.

But I have a better quibble. So America and Russia are both single countries, that makes sense, Europe has nailed itself to a cross of 2 percent German inflation, all sinking as one, so that's defensible too. But Africa is not a region in any sense like the previous ones. First of all, it's fucking enormous. As big as Japan, the UK, the US, Europe, India, and China combined. Second, it's not universally a "basketcase." Some countries are doing quite well, others not so much. Overall the 2000s were probably the best decade for Africa writ large in hundreds of years. Botswana and Mauritius in particular are doing very well for themselves, more than twice as rich as China.

You could make the case for various regions of Africa making sensible units. French-speaking Western Africa, English-speaking Eastern and/or Southern Africa, Arabic-speaking North Africa. But "Africa will remain a basket case?" Not good enough.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On Refusing to Vote for Bloomberg

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is attempting to buy the Democratic nomination. With something like $400 million in personal spending so far, that much is clear — and it appears to be working at least somewhat well, as he is nearing second place in national polls. I would guess that he will quickly into diminishing returns, but on the other hand spending on this level is totally unprecedented. At this burn rate he could easily spend more than the entire 2016 presidential election cost both parties before the primary is over.

I published a piece today outlining why I would not vote for Bloomberg against Trump (I would vote for Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, or Biden), even though I live in a swing state. This got a lot of "vote blue no matter who" people riled up. They scolded me and demanded that I pre-commit to voting for Bloomberg should he win the nomination. The argument as I understand it is to try to make it as likely as possible that whatever Democrat wins the nomi…

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard, a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment.

When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves that e…

The Basic Instinct of Socialism

This year I finally decided to stop beating around the bush and start calling myself a democratic socialist. I think the reason for the long hesitation is the very long record of horrifying atrocities carried out by self-described socialist countries. Of course, there is no social system that doesn't have a long, bloody rap sheet, capitalism very much included. But I've never described myself as a capitalist either, and the whole point of socialism is that it's supposed to be better than that.

So of course I cannot be a tankie — Stalin and Mao were evil, terrible butchers, some of the worst people who ever lived. There are two basic lessons to be learned from the failures of Soviet and Chinese Communism, I think. One is that Marxism-Leninism is not a just or workable system. One cannot simply skip over capitalist development, and any socialist project must be democratic and preserve basic liberal freedoms.

The second, perhaps more profound lesson, is that there is no socia…