Thursday, July 28, 2011

Life Expectancy - the Blue to Red Zones

There is a lot of interest in increasing life expectancy. Who after all doesn’t wish to live longer? Since life expectancy differs markedly across countries researchers have naturally tried to tease out the reasons. Some obvious findings are that high levels of infectious diseases lower life expectancy, and wealth and good medical care increase it.

One of the ideas being bandied about is that dietary differences are important. The reasoning is that once you control infectious diseases life span depends on the lack of degenerative diseases like heart attacks or cancer, and there is a fair amount of evidence that unhealthy diets are a major cause of degenerative diseases. The appealing thing about the focus on diet is that it is something we can control.

Unfortunately there is disagreement (even among experts) about what the ideal diet would be. Some look at the association between saturated fat consumption and degenerative diseases and emphasize a plant based diet. Others insist that large quantities of carbohydrates, not fats, are the central cause of degenerative disease. Some swear by good fats e.g. olive oil, nuts and seeds and fish, and red wine. Some blame dairy products for a lot of health problems while other researchers say that milk consumption actually lowers belly fat and that Sardinians live long lives on a lot of goat or sheep milk. There seems to be no end to the arguments. One way to sort this out is to look at which populations live long healthy lives and note what they eat. The problem with this approach is that there are always confounding factors that muddy the picture. So I applied my mind to ways of isolating the effect of diet.

The first thing that occurred to me was that infant mortality reflects disease load, hygiene and quality and availability of medical care. So life expectancy - controlling for infant mortality - should isolate the relevant lifestyle and dietary factors. The second thing that occurred to me was that although the effect of wealth on disease control, health care and hygiene is captured by infant mortality it also plays a role beyond medical factors e.g. safety. So it would be worthwhile to control for GDP per capita too. The third thing that occurred to me is that mean IQ is strongly correlated to infant mortality, life expectancy and GDP per capita. IQ would be a major confounding factor so I controlled for mean IQ too. IQ and GDP per capita might be called ‘means to health’ factors. IQ alone accounts for 54% of the variance in life expectancy and GDP per capita adds another 3%.

I initially ran a regression on life expectancy with infant mortality, IQ and GDP per capita as predictors, and looked at the residuals. What struck me was that all the countries with high AIDS rates were clustered at the bottom. So I added AIDS prevalence (and then later smoking) rates, as additional predictors.

Interestingly I found that the ‘means to health’ factors do not add much to predicting life expectancy, once the effect of infant mortality is controlled for. This doesn’t mean that the ‘means to health’ factors only work by reducing infant mortality. It means that the ‘means to health’ factors work on what infant mortality and life expectancy have in common. I think it lends credence to my initial assumption – that infant mortality is a good proxy for disease load, hygiene and the availability and quality of medical care.

The regression was extremely accurate – accounting for 92.4% of the variance in life expectancy in 185 countries. Infant mortality and AIDS alone accounted for 90.2% of the variance. Clearly life expectancy is mainly about avoiding diseases and getting good medical care. Improving disease control and medical care, to the extent that every country would have an infant mortality equal to the current minimum and a zero AIDS rate, would move average country life expectancy from 70 to 78 and reduce the standard deviation from 10 to 3.8. There would still be a good 5 years difference in their life expectancies of the top and bottom 20% of countries. These differences would mostly be accounted for by diet and community – in other words, lifestyle differences.

So lets look at which countries have the healthiest lifestyles (outside of disease control, hygiene and wealth and safety). The map shows the results according to the following color codes. The figures are years above or below expected.

Red - <=-4 years Orange -4 to -2 years Yellow -2 to 0 years
Green 0 to +2 years Light blue +2 to +4 years Dark blue => +4 years

You can see that certain regional trends are evident. Firstly there is a tendency for bad lifestyle countries to be in the same regions. Most of Asia; South, Central and West African; and the Arabian Peninsula, would have below average life expectancies if all countries had the same IQ, disease and AIDS rates, wealth, medical care and smoking habits. East and Northern Europe would also be below average. You can’t see it on the map but all the Pacific Islands would tend to be bad too. I call the worst of these, Red Zones. They are of course red on the map.

On the other hand South Western (or Mediterranean) Europe would have above average life expectancy residuals. North Africa, the Middle East and the South West Asia and Caucasus region are good. So are East Africa, and Japan, Thailand and Cambodia. The whole of the Americas are good - especially the Central and South parts. Not seen on the map is that the Caribbean Islands are also above average to good.

Some of this isn’t a surprise. The so called Blue Zones (Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, and Icaria, Greece) all fall within the latter group of countries. Blue Zones are places where high percentages of the adult population live to very advanced ages – at least 90 and often 100 - in good health and in a functional state. The really good areas are therefore blue on the map, with dark blue being outstanding.

There is a literature on these Blue Zones which is well worth studying. However the map suggests that places other than the already identified Blue Zones should be looked at too. Spain, Portugal and North Africa stand out and have some dietary and lifestyle affinities with Sardinia, Icaria and the Mediterranean region in general. So too does the Middle East (outside the Arabian Peninsula) and South West Asia/Caucasus region. East Africa is another region (with Middle Eastern influences) worth studying. Georgia is particularly interesting for several reasons. It is an especially good zone (dark blue) and was once it was rumored to be the location of a Blue Zone. The Caucasus area in general is good but transitions to very bad as soon as one gets to the non Caucasus parts of Russia.

Then there are a host of Central and South American countries other than Costa Rica that come up as blue on the map, so the dietary and lifestyle traditions of this whole region bears looking at. An interesting finding is that adult Hispanics in the US live longer than the much wealthier US white adults. Presumably they maintain some of their diet and lifestyle traditions after emigrating.

The USA is usually the poster child of bad lifestyles and diets. The USA is in fact bad relative to the best but it turns out that so many countries are even worse that the USA turns out to be above average.

On the other side of the picture are those sad countries who diets and lifestyles one would do well to avoid – the Red and Orange (and maybe even yellow) Zones. What is wrong with the diets and lifestyles of Southern, Western and Central Africa? Why are Russia and the former Soviet Union so bad? Why is Northern and Eastern Europe below average? Why are India and China below average?

The Blue Zones have certain things in common. They all favor plant based foods - particularly legumes (from Fava, soy and pretty much any beans to chickpeas and lentils), whole grain cereals (wheat, corn and maybe rice), high nutrient fibrous vegetables, starchy yellow vegetables (sweet potato and pumpkin) and nuts. Fruit seems to be something consumed in moderation. Yogurt is also common in these regions. Of course their consumption of foods not on the list is very low. They all have high levels of moderate activity and some sunshine as part of their daily lives. Their lifestyles are ‘chilled’ rather than time urgent and they have very high levels of social engagement within extensive and supportive social networks. Red wine and olive oil (oily fish) is a common factor around Christian Mediterranean areas. Smoking is something they all avoid.

Georgian cuisine is built on wheat and corn, beans, olive oil, walnuts, lean poultry, some red meat (mostly lamb but also beef and pork), freshwater fish, vegetables (mainly eggplant, a variety of spinach and mushrooms) and a strong yogurt and some cheese. The alcohol is wine or a grape based spirit. In short it is very much a Middle East/Mediterranean diet i.e. plenty of low glycemic index carbohydrates, healthy fats, yogurt and wine and few bad fats, refined carbohydrates or root vegetables. Living in the mountains makes for plenty of exercise whether you like it or not.

The unfortunate thing about these diets and lifestyles is that are generally those of the poor, and most of those very people would prefer not to eat and live like that. As soon as they become a little wealthier they start eating a lot more meat, fat, refined carbohydrates and calories overall.

That’s all very interesting but if the Red Zones follow similar diets and lifestyles the importance of those commonalities falls flat. Fortunately there are differences. The Russian diet is a case in point and is pretty bad. It is high in fatty meat, oil (not olive or fish), root vegetables (potato and beets), eggs (typically fried), salt, vodka and refined wheat and is low on vegetables, fruit and legumes. It emphasizes high calories – something regarded as self evidently good and healthy in Russia. This is in direct contradiction to experiments showing that lower calories (provided nutrient levels are high) result in longer life spans.

The staple diet of much of Southern, West and Central Africa are heavily based on starch – either root vegetables or grain (mostly refined) – and fatty meat (in stews or grilled). Although meat is favored many of them don’t get much (through poverty) and suffer protein deficiencies even though they eat enough calories to get fat. East Africa and the Horn use more legumes and milk and less meat in their diet. The Arabian Peninsula differs from the rest of the Middle East in that they eat relatively more meat (mostly chicken, sheep and goat). Northern European diets are heavy of fatty meat, cheese, potatoes and bread. The South Sea Islanders eat a lot of meat (and not as much fish as you would expect) and also starchy root vegetables like cassava. These Islands have some of the highest proportions of people overweight in the world. The Chinese and Indian diets have too little variety – rice is eaten for almost every meal – and too little protein. They eat so little protein in fact that the amount provided by hapless insects in the unhygienic vegetarian fare of poor Indians is enough to make them appreciably healthier than vegetarian Indians in countries where the insect load in food is lower.

The common denominators are high starch (root vegetables) and refined grain (and sugar) levels – and sometimes just too much rice - and a lot of meat (especially fatty meat). Too little protein plays a role in some places.


If you want to live longer then you would do well to try and adapt the Blue Zone principles to a modern and wealthier lifestyle but you don’t really want to live like the poor if you can help it. Try to take the traditional Middle Eastern/North African/ Mediterranean or Central/South American or Thai/Japanese (Okinawa) cuisine and give it a more gourmet twist. Develop a collection of 20 or so recipes from those cuisines. They should be simple to make and appeal to you i.e. be soul food rather than elaborate. Typically people only eat 10 different recipes over their whole lives so you don’t need to be endlessly creative. One good way is to substitute the ingredients of your habitual meals with ingredients emphasized in the Blue Zones and map areas.

The main ingredients are legumes of all kinds, whole grains, fibrous and leafy vegetables, nuts, yellow starchy vegetables (pumpkin/butternut or yellow/orange sweet potato), peppers, spices, olives (olive oil), yogurt (goat or sheep’s milk) and moderate amounts of low fat meats, fruit and red wine. No vitamin pills are involved but you probably wouldn't do yourself any harm taking a reasonable dose wide spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement regularly.

On the other hand any refined grain or carbohydrate is a no-no. Curiously root vegetables (especially potato) don’t seem to be good either. A recent study showed potato consumption accounted for 2/3 of bodyweight gains in the USA, and countries that have it as a staple tend to be Red and Orange Zones. Refined carbohydrates (bread and sugar) accounted for much of the rest of the USA bodyweight gains. Vegetable oils (other than olive oil) that don’t need to be refrigerated are also very bad. Very low protein is bad.

Try to exercise. Expensive gym memberships or formal workout programs aren’t necessary and aren’t part of the lifestyles of Blue Zones. Walking works and is a low stress convenient activity that can be combined with other purposes from just getting somewhere to thinking or walking the dog. There are lots of fun activities one can try too e.g. roller blades, physical games, even sex. In particular make sure you don’t spend much time sitting – especially when being passive, as in watching TV. Research shows sitting really does subtract the years off your life. A little flexibility and strength work is important too.

Develop your network of supportive relationships – friends, family and community. One can learn how to find people who interest you, to make more friends and how to cultivate them once they are formed. Increase the level of low level socializing i.e. not necessarily clubbing or going to expensive restaurants. Try to end bad relationships of all kinds – by either repairing rifts or dropping them altogether – because bad relationships are worse than no relationship. Help people regularly (because research shows that helping activities do increase happiness and welfare) but don’t let it become a duty that binds and weighs heavily on you.

While it helps to have a purposeful life (where your existence matters to other people) be careful not to let your purposeful life turn into a high pressure one. Try to trim the pressure and urgency from your life and adopt a more “chilled” approach to your purposive and necessary activities. Try to eliminate what isn’t necessary or important. Deliberate relaxation is very beneficial and socializing is better means than TV for many reasons. Yoga is something that can help to relax and some forms are also excellent sources of flexibility and strength work.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Price of Religion

Ever wondered what religion is worth? Is it worth more than sex for example?

An interesting statistic on Google is the ratio of hits on sex versus God. It is 1.457. In the US the porn industry grosses about $14.36 billion per annum, which is a bit more than 1/6th of the money going to religion in the US (as you will see below). On the other hand the porn industry worldwide is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and Earthlink combined so sex seems worth quite a bit. People seem to need it.

Needs however are contingent. At base you need just enough food and water to survive and breeding (and even shelter) is a luxury. But if you regard breeding or sex as a necessity you will require much more of it. The interesting thing is that for sexual purposes it becomes important to have more than the other guy and no matter how rich everyone gets that will remain an important factor. A need then is something that is contingent on conditions and needs evolve as conditions change. Then there are needs that some people have that others don't. Responding to things depends partially on conditioning history and that is fairly individual. Even genes governing needs are not universal e.g. where you stand on the need for order versus flexibility in your environment, is highly heritable. So what is a real need for me may be no more than a wasteful whim to you.

Money spent on anything always involves an opportunity costs. For those who spend money on religion, sex or cigarettes it’s definitely worth it. For some people religion is a terrible waste of money whereas the amount spent on sex is insufficient. For an old man who has no testosterone left too much is spent on sex. Even if you do think your need or want is worth the cost it always involves a loss of the ability to satisfy other needs/wants. Naturally believers prefer to focus on the benefits of religion but atheists would be unable to appreciate the value of religion and would chose to focus more on the lost opportunities. We make decisions about what opportunities to actualize or let go so and if what I want to actualize you want to let go then we can help each other by trading. Once trading happens the market picks up on the relative volumes of supply and demand and assigns an optimum price. Money then becomes a universal measuring stick of the value of anything that can be traded. The oldest profession tells us sex can be traded for money.

Religion grosses $84.22 billion or 0.615% of GDP per year.

What about religion? In 2005 in the USA $42.11 billion (in 2010 dollars) was contributed toward religion (directly to churches). Churches use double their direct contributions - the rest coming from investments, rent, businesses, etc - so the true amount grossed by religion is about $84.22 billion. That's 0.615% of GDP. (₤1.78 billion in donations and ₤3.34 billion overall- or 0.3% of GDP - in the UK).

Religion provides $6.51 billion to charity per year.

For that money one could (at $102105 per new job) create 824868 new jobs and start roughly 75600 new small businesses per year. However since the church employs 2.6 million people one could say that religion creates a net 1.775 million jobs. It also provides on the order of $6.51 billion in charity. So as an investment religion seems to be worth it.

Religion accounts for 3.543 billion man-hours per year and an opportunity cost of $205.436 billion per year. The overall value of religion (adding money and time) is $289.656 per year

From the point of view of time things look a bit different. All churches together have 45 million confirmed registered and 100.84 million more unregistered members. The average number of actual church attendances per year is 16.2 (42% claim to go every week but checks find that only 26% do.) So at 1.5hrs per week spent in church - roughly 3.542 billion man-hours per year were taken up by religious activities. In that time 2.04 million Americans could have been busy in full time productive employment producing $58 in value per man-hour. That adds up to an opportunity cost of $205.436 billion in productive activity. If instead of going to church they spent the same time at their jobs they could have paid for the entire church enterprise - employees, buildings, charity – with a mere 20.5% tax on that extra activity. Alternatively they could have worked for an extra 2 days per year and donated the entire amount to the church.

The US could quadruple their science plus triple their reading with what they devote to religion.

So what could the US have bought with $289.656 billion? The obvious alternative to reliance on religion is reliance on rational enquiry. The US spends $23.24 billion on non-religious books per year and its entire annual scientific research budget is about $54.8 billion so they could quadruple the science while triple the reading

God is worth a Toyota Corolla to the typical believer but God said at least a 5 Series BMW would be more appropriate.

The fact that certain sections of society are accepting the opportunity cost means that religion has some positive value to them (like smoking has for smokers) and I think my estimate of its net present value in the current market is accurate. Initially I thought my estimate is merely a minimum (the least they would be willing to pay) but now I also think it is a maximum. They are supposed to pay 10% of their income (God’s asking price according to the bible) but no group even approaches that (the mean is around 2.5-2.7%) and are constantly being begged and manipulated for funds.

I divided the number of church attendances per year (16.2) by the number of weeks per year (52) and multiplied that by the number of all members (145838334) to get an estimate of the number of full time donors. I divided the result into the $42.11 billion donated to get a figure of $926.8 contributed per regular church member per annum. At a life expectancy of 78 years this means the expected lifetime contribution as an adult between 18 and 78 is God is worth $55608 to someone religious enough to attend church regularly. (I get similar values – in dollars - for the UK and South African churches). But since 1/4 of the people make 3/4 of the donations for the 3/4 least generous or wealthy of the religious their religion is currently worth $18536 - or roughly a new Toyota Corolla. For the 1/4 most zealous (and wealthy) religious the value of their religion would be $166824. That's somewhere between a Porsche 911 and a Ferrari F430. The 10% tithing requirement suggest that the poorest 3/4 are supposed to value religion at least as much as a 5 series BMW per person or a whole house for a family of 3.

The church of God is perhaps worth as much as $17.38 trillion to the current cohort of all believers over their lifetime.

The absolute value of religion is still increasing but the relative value is declining.

Is the value of religion falling or rising? Well for the US the total and per capita (of believers only) contribution is increasing in real absolute terms, and total church membership is up, so demand relative to supply must be increasing. The car equivalent is more than triple today what it was in 1968. On the other hand that has more to do with the falling relative value of cars than an increase in the value placed on religion. The religious are tending to give a smaller proportion of their income than they used to - its dropped from 3.1% in 1968 to 2.5% in 1998 (and up to 2.7% in 2005 in wake of 9-11 inspired revivals), and a steadily smaller proportion of the population are religious enough to practice and pay for it. Apparently Catholics allocate about only 1/3-1/2 as much of their income to religion as Protestants. What's happening is that believers are willing to exchange more products for their religion than they used to but it’s nevertheless a smaller sacrifice. That arguably implies that religion is worth less today than it was a generation ago. Nonetheless at $289.656 billion a year over 60 years of adult life the value of religion to the current cohort of believers is around $17.38 trillion. That’s serious money.

In the UK (and elsewhere in Europe outside of ex-communist countries) even the absolute contributions and church attendances have fallen dramatically. In ex-Communist states religion is on the rise but is still lower than the rest of Europe. This rise will probably reverse sometime.

In the Muslim world people are becoming more fanatical (and no doubt increasing financial contributions) but one needs to be careful here because religion is a vehicle for political expression in Muslim states (rather than solely a devotion to God) and there is a decline of interest among the youth throughout the Muslim world - even in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Even here the value of religion is declining. It would be interesting to put a cash value to the various religions for the faithful and compare them all.

So there you have it – the typical believer gives up a Toyota Corolla, and a family of 3 gives up a house, to practice their faith. Is that more or less than the ancient Hebrew sacrificed in livestock at the altar over his lifetime? Unfortunately I don’t really know but it can’t be far off. Collectively the US faithful give half as much to charity as the US devotes to porn. That should give you some idea of the values of religion today.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cost of Communism

Coincidentally I have been stimulated to think about communism over the last few days. Firstly I was reading something about the origins of the term Molotov cocktail which detailed some of the horrors committed by Molotov e.g. the bombing of Finland following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact where he claimed they were dropping food parcels on the starving Fins, the murder of the Polish officers, various Russians etc. Then a few days later someone remarked that one wouldn’t dare hang a portrait of Hitler on your office wall but having a bust of Lenin on your desk seems to pass without comment. This is especially strange if you recall that Nazism was a form of socialism – the word Nazi means ‘national socialism’

I knew that both Stalin and Mao were responsible for many more deaths than Hitler i.e. 15-20 million and 20-65 million versus 6 million. This doesn’t count the deaths caused by Lenin and communists after Stalin and Mao. I wondered what that was as a percentage of their populations. It turns out the Nazis exterminated 7.44% of their population and Stalin 8.9% and Mao 7% (best estimate). The Khmer Rouge managed to cause the deaths of 12.5% of their population. To put that into perspective Russia lost 15% (and the UK 13.3%) of its mobilized soldiers during WW I, so living under communism is somewhere between 50-80% as dangerous as being on one of the most deadly battlefields in history.

So much for the actual outcomes of Communism versus Nazism, but what about differences in justification? Mass murder was routine. Stalin was known to mutter “Who will remember or care about these people in a few years?” as he signed execution orders for lists containing thousands. Bertrand Russell remarked that Lenin had laughed when he confronted him on the ethics of large scale state killings. He regarded terror as an essential aspect of maintaining Communism in the face of its unpopularity and not as an aberration of Marxism at all. Apart from mass executions starvation was the main tool, and they went to great lengths to justify it. Consider this quote from Timothy Snyder’s book Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin.

As Stalin interpreted the disaster of collectivization in the last weeks of 1932, he achieved a new height of ideological daring. The famine in Ukraine, whose existence he had admitted earlier, when it was far less severe, was now a "fairy tale," a slanderous rumor spread by enemies. Stalin had developed an interesting new theory: that resistance to socialism increases as its successes mount, because its foes resist with greater desperation as they contemplate their final defeat...


Stalin never personally witnessed the starvations that he so interpreted, but comrades in Soviet Ukraine did... Forced to interpret distended bellies as political opposition, they produced the utterly tortured conclusion that the saboteurs hated socialism so much that they intentionally let their families die... Even the starving themselves were sometimes presented as enemy propagandists with a conscious plan to undermine socialism. Young Ukrainian communists in the cities were taught that the starving were enemies of the people "who risked their lives to spoil our optimism."

Similar things happened in China. Ethically, how far away from Hitler’s justification of The Final Solution is that?

Communists were every bit as murderous as the Nazis and their justifications were just as revolting. Let’s look at other aspects of welfare. How about freedom? Both the Nazis and communist regimes condemned large numbers of people to slavery – only as a means of production they were now not privately owned. I suppose that made it OK then.

There was a complete lack of freedom of thought or conscience in both the Nazi and communist states. Compare the disowning of Jewish science by the Nazis with the suppression of bourgeois science (especially genetics) by the Soviets and the killing of educated people (or even just those wearing glasses) because they were bourgeois by the Chinese and Cambodian communists. The Nazis burnt books and the communists would punish those who owned western books. Religion, which is intimately related to morality, was suppressed or controlled by both Nazis and communists.

How about eking out a living? If we define communism as collective (or state) ownership of the means of production - so as to distinguish it from various varieties of socialism or welfare state where the means of production are still private - maybe communism is as productive as capitalism. Um no! Everywhere in the world where communism was tried the economies have been sluggish at best or simply contracted. Many have experienced periodic famines where other countries didn’t – even in Africa and Asia. One could blame that on accidents of climate or culture or IQ differences. However two interesting natural experiments control for just about everything that could be confounding variables – IQ differences, cultural differences, climate, conscientiousness etc. These were East and West Germany and North and South Korea. I looked up the real GDP per capita of these countries throughout their different paths.

East and West Germany started with a GDP per capita of $14987 (2009 dollars) in 1949 and ended up with $34116 and $19685 in 1990 for West and East Germany respectively. East Germany only managed to increase its productive capacity by 31% in 41 years while West Germany added 128% - 4.07 times as much. Over the full 41 year communist period East Germany produced 41.2% of the income per capita that West Germany did. The difference amounted to $370210.6 per person. In Germany that is the equivalent of 2.11 new houses per person.

North and South Korea adopted more hardcore communist and capitalist systems than East and West Germany respectively, so the difference is even more dramatic. In 1972 the two Korea’s had the same GDP per capita of $5818 (in 2009 dollars), but a mere 7 years later North Korea had dropped to $2645 - a contraction rate of 10.6% per year. North Korea’s economy has continued to contract ever since -at a rate of 1.28% per year - to only $1800 today. Communism has destroyed 69% of North Koreas productive capacity so far. They are less than 1/3 as well of as they would have been with no changes at all. Meanwhile capitalism increased South Korea’s productive capacity more than 5 fold over the same period. As a result North Korea is only 6% as productive as South Korea today. It has produced 18% as much as South Korea over 37 years. That amounts to a difference of $436656.2 per person – enough for every family of 5 to buy a 3 room house in Seoul’s super high price housing market.

While the rest of the world industrialized on the back of increased agricultural productivity which freed farming labor for industry the communist world often tried to industrialize while their collective farms reduced in productivity. They also did silly things like tear up existing railways. Often they adopted a sort of cargo cult mentality where for example they noticed that developed nations had steel so they embarked on large scale steel production, often melting down perfectly usable implements to do so, whether or not it was needed. Some economists have argued that it is impossible to allocate resources efficiently by central planning rather than unregulated prices. No central planner could possibly take into account all local conditions or opportunities and the diversity of values and needs, no matter how smart or how many super computers it has. Uncontrolled prices on the other hand balance all these things automatically and very quickly. The result was that a great deal of communist production was of stuff that nobody really wanted and there was a huge amount of waste. It’s unsurprising that communism turns out to be so relatively unproductive.

Communists were as murderous, as anti-freedom and as bad for material welfare as the Nazis ever were. Why then are communism and communists not as vilified as the Nazis and Hitler? Oddly enough those who think income and wealth ought to be redistributed by government are no more pro communist than those who are opposed to redistribution. Neither are lower classes more so than upper classes. If we were rational we would react with the same degree of disapproval or outrage at a Lenin bust or Maoist tattoo as we would to a swastika or Hitler portrait, and to a communist apologist as we would to a holocaust denier – there is plenty of obvious evidence to back us up.