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Even a cursory peek back to the 20th century among socialist supports would acknowledge that the deaths deliberately caused by totalitarian governments were unconscionably large. Thus, for example, when scientists estimate that totalitarian governments were responsible for the deaths of some 200 million people over the last 100 years (hey, that’s “only” 2 million people per year), they are talking about democide. Here is what it is:

It means for governments what murder means for an individual under municipal law. It is the premeditated killing of a person in cold blood, or causing the death of a person through reckless and wanton disregard for their life. Thus, a government incarcerating people in a prison under such deadly conditions that they die in a few years is murder by the state–democide–as would parents letting a child die from malnutrition and exposure be murder. So would government forced labor that kills a person within months or a couple of years be murder. So would government created famines that then are ignored or knowingly aggravated by government action be murder of those who starve to death. And obviously, extrajudicial executions, death by torture, government massacres, and all genocidal killing be murder.

Here is what it is not:

judicial executions for crimes that internationally would be considered capital offenses, such as for murder or treason (as long as it is clear that these are not fabricated for the purpose of executing the accused, as in communist show trials), are not democide. Nor is democide the killing of enemy soldiers in combat or of armed rebels, nor of noncombatants as a result of military action against military targets

If you take this into consideration, then the probably number of deaths caused by totalitarian (statist) regimes far exceeds this number. How many deaths were the result of totalitarian governments provoking wars and other conflicts? How many deaths were the result of ways among the totalitarians themselves? But I’d like to offer up another thought experiment, and one I wished I had time to execute (pardon the awful pun).

The most hardcore socialists and commies of today run around saying things like, “yeah, the communist countries murdered lots of people, but that was all a transition problem … and hey, you capitalists kill 9 million people per year.” This is an example of where the commie/socialist websites get their data (so much for doing actual research or understanding what the heck they are even saying. For example, by the logic of the post I linked to, capitalism has been the cause of every starvation and hunger death in history since the Industrial Revolution. And before the Industrial Revolution, the annual starvation of major percentages of the Earth’s population was simply bad luck. To even have to discuss this is absurd. By the same logic, capitalism kills 35,000 drivers in the USA every year. And capitalism kills over a million people per year from malaria around the world, and over 1 million Americans each year due to cancer …, man capitalism can make sure we have terrific medicines to help men engage in sexual activity, but darn it capitalism cannot cure cancer).

The simple point of the post is this. None of the estimates of the destruction wrought by communism attempt to think of what the real death tolls were on the people who lived under those systems. From human history, and looking across the globe today, we know that the strongest correlate of health and well being is income. If one were to estimate how much poorer people were in communist countries than those very same people would be had they been in non-communist countries, then you might be able to estimate how much death happens because of those regimes. Now some might point to Cuba’s high life expectancy as an outlier, just as someone might point to Japan’s. Look at the overall relationship today and over time and see for yourself the point I am making (this is not statistically controlling for other factors which impact life expectancy, which may either mute or amplify the impact of income on lives).  I’ll present a post next year on what we know about this – but the raw data seems to show that there are about 5 year life expectancy gaps between rich and middle income countries, and another 5 years between middle and lower income countries.

Let’s be generous and argue that only 1 billion people live in communist countries across the world. If being in those countries over an entire century reduced your life expectancy by 5 years, how many additional deaths does that mean? It would seem to me to add several million additional deaths per year to the totals above (again, we’ll attempt some calculations next year). If this is the case, and if we add in the deaths due to the wars they caused, then the true “death by communism” numbers are probably closer to 300 million, or more. In other words, the commies probably achieved their goal – they managed to eliminate a population as large as the United States.

2 Responses to “Death by Communism, Another Look”

  1. Salem says:

    Lower life expectancies don’t mean additional deaths per year, because the alternative is not immortality. What it does is lower QALYs, and lower the population. The number of deaths per year is just the number of births per year, with a lag.

  2. Harry says:

    Good point, Saleem.

    The totalitarians simply accelerate the schedule; the trains are more frequent, arrive earlier, and move faster to the terminal.

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