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Vincent Geloso

Our bias towards power — how to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union

In 1968, historian Robert Conquest published Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties, a widely criticized book that detailed in great depth the horrors of the Soviet regime. Scorned by fellow historians and political scientists, Conquest was vindicated with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ascent of Russian historians who confirmed his death toll figures. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it’s reported that he was asked by his publisher in the United States to suggest a new title, and came up with: “I Told You So, You F*****g Fools.” However, Conquest opted for the much more diplomatic and plain title of Great Terror: A Reassessment.The intellectual attacks against Conquest have since faded completely, a sign that some 30 million deaths in the Soviet Union made some intellectuals understand the inherent evil in communism. Yet, we still know very little about the extent of the evils committed in the Soviet Union particularly and by communism in general. In fact, I should add that we care very little about the extent of what we’re aware of. On August 19, we will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Mikhail Gorbachev’s house arrest and the attempted coup by vice president Gennady Yanayev which marked the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This provides a good occasion to examine the saddening, yet quite revealing fact that we are all biased in favor of power.In spite of the vindication of Conquest’s work, how many of us can tell the correct casualty figures of communism worldwide? In fact, how many individuals in our modern society would say that communism was worse than Nazism? Most would, in spite of the fact that as an ideology, Nazism has killed fewer individuals than communism has. How many of your friends have said that communists “meant good but that they were just… Read More

The London Riots: an opportunity for conservatives

Days of rioting and looting in London and across United Kingdom invariably led to a long round of inner questioning for Britons. Perhaps foremost in the mind of political analysts was the question of causality. More particularly, ‘Were the riots the result of rising inequality and poverty?’ Other analysts have proposed that the fundamental cause may be found in lax immigration policies and welfare dependency. Both explanations have also been put forward for riots in other countries, particularly the 2005 riots in France.In general, conservatives (and libertarians) will tend to adhere to the latter explanation, and the left will tend to advocate the former. Interestingly, we can contend that both are wrong - although they miss the mark only slightly. Furthermore, the two views are not mutually exclusive. In an attempt to discover the likeliest causes of the riots in London (and other similar socio-political turbulence across the globe), we might also find a strong motivation to modernize the conservative discourse in general.Let’s begin by dissecting the notion that impoverished conditions within ethnic communities in London provided a catalyst for the riots, as this is the unlikeliest of culprits.  In absolute terms, poverty has declined steadily in England since 1974 according to economist Kristian Niemitz. The costs of several key commodities and amenities have also dropped considerably, a trend that has made poorer households fiscally better off when considering purchasing power. For example, the consumer price index of clothing and footwear dropped some 45% between 1999 and 2009. Moreover, household appliances have become cheaper both in terms of real prices and the work hours necessary to acquire them. This is why the proportion of households with air conditioning, computers, televisions and internet has continued to increase in recent years. It would be hard to argue that poverty caused the riots… Read More