03 May 2021

Bob Murphy Triple Play

Bob Murphy Show, Shameless Self-Promotion 41 Comments

==> Here’s my recent article for mises.org, explaining and criticizing one of the important contributions of the late Nobel laureate, Robert Mundell.

==> BMS ep. 196, in which Stephan Livera interviews me on the economics of Bitcoin. (There’s some new ground I cover in this one, if you’ve heard me talk about Bitcoin before.)

==> BMS ep. 197, in which I interview David Beckworth on the logic of NGDP targeting, and what the Fed is up to. Audio here, video below:

41 Responses to “Bob Murphy Triple Play”

  1. Jan Masek says:

    On your Mundell article : I’m not sure I understood your point. First it seemed you were going to describe Mundell’s trilemma and then show how Austrians destroyed it. But from how you described the Austrian response, it seems they agreed you indeed can’t have all three because the classical gold standard (preferred option) also only had 2 of the 3,namely free capital flow, fixed FX, no monetary policy freedom.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      If you look at what they mean by “monetary policy freedom” they mean ability of central bank to fight recessions. So in Austrian view that’s not a constraint, it prevents them from causing biz cycle.

  2. random person says:

    1960 was the year Congo gained independence, at least on paper. (Not so much in actuality, given their democratically elected leader was removed from power by the CIA and then assassinated by the Belgian version of the CIA.)

    Anyway, you mention banks needing to maintain “adequate gold reserves”, and apparently one of the ways the Belgians did that, pre-1960, was forced labor in the Belgian Congo. Jules Marchal exposes the practice in great detail in, “Forced Labor In The Gold & Copper Mines: A History Of Congo Under Belgian Rule, 1910-1945, Volume I”,

  3. guest says:

    There’s no “recent comments” list on the front page, anymore. That’s unfortunate.

    Anyway, were some bombshell things Bob had to say about bitcoin in BMS Ep. 196 that I, for the life of me, could not understand why bitcoiners could not seem to see, and I’m happy to learn that at least Bob *sees* it (just interprets it differently) and I feel like there is more hope of turning Bob to the dark side than before.

    I’ll want to take some time to address these bombshells, but I don’t have that time at the moment.

    Briefly, though, when Bob basically says that there’s no meaningful difference between someone pricing a good at one percentage of a bitcoin versus another *THAT IS ABSOLUTELY HUGE*!

    Looking forward to explaining the logic of that position to its logical conclusion.

    Also, Bob says that he thinks Mises and Rothbard were wrong when they said that money had to have first emerged from the valuations of barter goods. I’ve always (almost always) said that pro-bitcoiner Austrians *had* to logically hold this position as a matter of logical consistency because “you don’t need a regression theorem to explain a made up value” (paraphrasing myself).

    More on this later.

    • random person says:

      There’s no “recent comments” list on the front page, anymore. That’s unfortunate.

      It’s still there for me; perhaps it was merely bugged at the precise moment you checked?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      guest, oh, I didn’t realize some of you used that comment feature. I’ll look into putting it somewhere.

      If you get a chance, I’d like to hear more about the “bombshells” I released. 🙂

      • Bob Murphy says:

        guest, the New Comment is still on the blog page, doesn’t that work?

        • Harold says:

          It is still there for me too.

        • guest says:

          I see it, too, now. Yes, that works fine. Thank you.

          (I expect my response to include time stamps, so it might be awhile, and I’ll have to re-listen to the episode.)

  4. guest says:

    Ok, regarding BMS Ep. 196 and its bombshells.

    [5:17] Bob’s commentary on what Friedrich Hayek’s, “The Denationalization of Money” did for bitcoins. (This is not one of the bombshells.)

    I’m just going off of what Bob said about this article, since I haven’t read it. But I don’t think it will be necessary to read it in order to make the point I want to make about what it supposedly means for bitcoins.

    According to Bob, Hayek’s argument that there could exist a legitimate “fiat money” created in the private sector (“fiat”, here, in the sense that its value does not derive from use-value, or even a claim to something with use-value) is based on his otherwise correct assessment that when the government tries to help the economy, it always messes up because it doesn’t get its money by providing something that is voluntarily purchased and so it doesn’t have access to profit and loss signals that tell you if people like or dislike a good or service.

    But there are private sector Ponzi Schemes. These schemes are not any less fraudulent for happening without government intervention.

    And such is the case with bitcoins, I am claiming.

    The reason what Mises said about fiduciary media leading to the business cycle isn’t primarily because the bank issuing it has insufficient backing for them – because if someone *else* happens to discover a use-value for that particular form of fiduciary media then it doesn’t matter what the motivations are for the banks that created them as a fraud.

    For example, if the best way for a banker to cheat people out of gold is to create its bank notes – that will be created to represent more gold than it actually has on hand, which is fiduciary media – in such a way that the paper can cure cancer when mixed with something else, then who cares that there’s not enough gold backing this form of fiduciary media, which has now become a good because of its newly discovered use-value.

    So, it’s not the *fiduciary* nature of fiduciary media that leads to the business cycle. Rather, it’s the fact that fiduciary has no link to use-value.

    And this is why I said, some time ago, that fiduciary media aren’t claims on anything:

    Contra Krugman Ep. 124

    Bob and I have a fun and frustrating exchange, there.

    The frustrating part is that Bob appears to be equivocating on the word “claim”.

    Yes, everyone who accepts a bank’s fiduciary media is being told by the bank that it’s a claim to something, and they believe it. But since it’s the nature of fiduciary media to be *unbacked*, it’s actually a claim to nothing – as I said.

    Bob quotes Mises saying that fiduciary media is a claim and thanks me for playing. But he’s missing Mises’ point, which is basically that it’s not enough to be *just a claim*:

    [Block Quotes] “What is significant for us lies in the fact that such claims to money, if there is no doubt whatever concerning either their security or their liquidity, are, simply on account of their equality in objective exchange-value to the sums of money to which they refer, commercially competent to take the place of money entirely. …”

    “… Since nobody wants money except in order to get rid of it again, since it never finds a consumer except on ceasing to be a common medium of exchange …”

    “… The obligee can expect that these claims will remain in circulation for so long as their holders do not lose confidence in their prompt convertibility or transfer them to persons who have not this confidence. He is therefore in a position to undertake greater obligations than he would ever be able to fulfil; it is enough if he takes sufficient precautions to ensure his ability to satisfy promptly that proportion of the claims that is actually enforced against him.”

    I’ve said before that I concede that both Mises and Rothbard believe that unbacked free-market money could be legitimate (I do not), but notice that pretty much anywhere Mises talks about money, he has in mind a commodity that has a use-value that happens to have *become* a money.

    That’s why Mises says, above, that when a money loses its “moneyness” (my word, not his), it can still be consumed. Because money was already a good, in Mises’ mind, before it also became a money.

    And then notice that money substitutes are only as legitimate as its convertibility to money.

    Here, Mises seems to accept that as long as people don’t convert their claims into actual commodity-money, then the monetary system is functional. I reject this – to print claims to something you don’t have is fraud, and not only when people realize that they’re being defrauded.

    This fraud – which provides people using the fraudulent currency with misinformation about the true nature of supplies and demands in the economy – is responsible for the business cycle.

    • guest says:

      [9:44] Vijay Boyapati populariing the idea that Bitcoin is going to move through stages. Stephan Livera says he discussed this with Guido Hulsman, who says that Jevons mentioned that money moves from collectible, store of value, medium of exchange, unit of account, in that order. Stephan considers it to be an incredibly high bar to say that money has to be all of these things at once.

      The reason it has to be all three is because what gives each stage its legitimacy is the stage before, all stages being linked, fundamentally, to an individual having a desire he perceives that he will be willing and able to act upon to see its satisfaction.

      Further, the concepts involved in every stage are implied, and are – at least in some sense – already available to a single acting man like the thought experiment of Crusoe.

      Every deliberate action has a cost, and therefore involves exchange (of one set of circumstances for a more favorable one). Every action is future oriented in that an act has to occur before a desire is satisfied (if it’s to be relevant to economics, that is) and also in that effects follow temporally from their cause, and so there’s always a time element – there’s the root of interest rates.

      All of the stages are already implied by the nature of action. The later two stages are just the logic of human action playing itself out among many individual humans.

      I haven’t read the Jevons quote, so I’m going to charitably interpret the word “collectible” to mean a good that is acquired to satisfy an end in the immediate future. I find it difficult to believe, from what I’ve read from Guido Hulsman and what I’ve heard from him in videos, that he would believe that people collecting things just to collect them is a sufficient foundation for the emergence of money.

      I’ll quickly add that art always qualifies as a sufficient basis for something being a good. Someone wants something nice to look at, and art satisfies that end. The reason that the bitcoin-as-art argument, from when bitcoins first got started, fails is because the art value of bitcoins are based on its perceived future value as a money. Since, in my view, bitcoins can never be money (no matter how many people try to use it as money – and yes, there’s more to money than wide acceptance), it also means that the foundation of bitcoin’s art-value is flawed, meaning that there’s no real art involved, and therefore no art-value-basis for bitcoins’ supposed moneyness.

      (Aside: You could say that art is subjective, but unless you want to have to say that anything is art so long as someone says it is, then you’re going to have to restrict your definition of the word “art”. If anything can be art, then that word loses any meaning.)

      At any rate, about those stages.

      Collectible. People collect/acquire goods because they satisfy ends. The value of the end desired is imputed to the good. The good is a proxy for want-satisfaction; The good is what satisfies the want.

      Store of value. People store collected/acquired goods because they expect to be in a state of dissatisfaction in the future, and, as the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Notice also that there is a time element involved.

      Medium of exchange. When *other* people want something in the future, and they have something that you want, you can store goods for indirect exchange. Notice also that, effectively, you’re “storing” *other people’s* value when acquiring a medium of exchange. Your stored indirect barter goods are a proxy for other people’s subjective values.

      Unit of account. When a good so efficiently permits the enabling of a double-coincidence of wants – through other people’s desire for its use-value – you don’t even have to think about its use-value for accounting purposes, anymore. So long as this link to use-value is maintained, the unit of account acts as a proxy for other people’s subjective valuations of goods.

      The deviation from this link to use-value is the fundamental cause of the business cycle, but you have to have other circumstances in place for it to manifest as a business cycle (like an economy where most businesses use the same flawed monetary system which misinforms them all about real supplies and demands).

      I don’t think I need to say this, but I’ll add it just in case: My arguments don’t rely on the concept of intrinsic values for goods. There’s no such thing.

    • guest says:

      [21:10] Stephan asks Bob to discuss whether something can be used only as a money or, as Peter Schiff suggests, does money have to have another use in order to be legitimate money. Bob responds with two points.

      But he sets up his two points with the following. Bob concedes that there’s a sense in which the fundamental value of bitcoins are zero, and that there’s no rhyme or reason why it should be 63,000 vs. 2 or vs. 30 million.

      This is one of those bombshell statements. The implications are brutal for digital currencies (as well as for all fiat monies, I would add).

      Bob says that, while this is true of bitcoins, he believes that this is also true of gold when far more people trade it as a money rather than for its use-value.

      This is because he believes that money has a separate function from barter goods – to enable a double-coincidence of wants – whereas, I submit, the function of money is derivative of the function of barter goods. The value *for* the barter goods that money buys *is* the information that is supposed to be conveyed through the money.

      (And this latter view is actually consistent with the fact that all economic value is subjective and that Methodological Individualism is the correct paradigm for analyzing economics. If all economic values originate with the subjective ends of individuals, then that includes money. So you have to have an end goal from which to impute values into everything that is economically relevant.

      (True, there’s nothing wrong with speculation, but your speculation has to be grounded in subjective ends in order to be “sound”. Sure, you *could* be right that others would fall for any Ponzi Scheme you might dream up, but there’s nothing keeping it going except the pure speculations of investors. There’s no substance to the buying and selling in a Ponzi Scheme, and that’s why its destructive to fall for them.)

      Bob appears to believe that the function of money is to elicit a desire for trade, with trade having economic benefits through specialization of tasks involved in a production structure.

      Bob, believing the function of money to be fundamentally separate from that of barter goods, naturally interprets the vastly more employed use of money as money to be of a “greater value” than that of barter goods.

      I would concede that there are economic benefits to specialization and trade, but I would say that the benefits only occur when those activities are done in the pursuit of satisfying wants. Just because you *can* trade doesn’t mean it will be beneficial to do so, and just because you *can* specialize doesn’t mean that it will be beneficial for you (or others) for you to do so in certain tasks or in certain structures of production versus others.

      (Joe Salerno, in at least one of his videos titled “The Birth of the Austrian School”, exposes the error of socialist central planning by pointing out that even if the central planners knew how to produce everything that was needed or wanted in an economy, they still wouldn’t know *what* they should produce without a price system that informed them that one good was more valued than another. Same here.

      (Specialization and trade are economically beneficial, but not for their own sakes.)

      OK, so the reason this is such a bombshell statement by Bob is because it’s an admission that what pro-bitcoiners believe about money is that all that’s necessary to keep a monetary system going is agreement among the people using it.

      Except that in order for money to be said to “correctly” represent the values for the goods it will buy, you have to first believe that there is such a thing as correct or incorrect values of money. What “correct” valuation could a currency possibly deviate from when the value in terms of a money can be 63,000 or 2 or 30 million? That makes no sense.

      Whereas the view that money’s soundness of value is derived from the money-good’s non-monetary use-value makes perfect sense when talking about the “soundness” of money or of its ability to communicate information about people’s preferences.

      Notice also that you cannot speak about errors in monetary systems without a belief, in some sense, that a money “should be this value and not that value”. The value that money “should be” is when it conforms to subjective values for goods – but the money, itself, has to have a link to use-value in order to correctly convey those values.

    • guest says:

      [24:28] Bob’s second point, to go along with his first point above in response to Peter Schiff’s argument that money has to have a non-

      monetary use in order to be real money.

      Bob brings up the Regression Theorem, saying that if the reason bitcoins can’t be money is due to the Regression Theorem, then bitcoins

      would have to fail the money test by not becoming a medium of exchange, which Bob believes it has become and therefore that the

      Regression Theorem does not rule out bitcoins as money.

      But, as was mentioned above, money can’t be said to be conveying information if there’s no such thing as a “correct” price, in some

      sense. So, while people may be playing pretend with bitcoins, that cannot logically convey information about subjective values for

      goods. Bitcoins are, therefore, not performing the function of money. Pro-bitcoiners have just been lulled into a false sense of

      security by the FRN fiat money bubble that has taken generations of domestic, and then increasingly foreign, fraud to maintain.

      People trade their bitcoins for the FRN, but the FRN isn’t money, either. The reason the Fed has to keep increasing the money supply,

      and make deals with other countries to price their goods in FRNs, is because the natural thing for people to do with fiat money is to

      increasingly *devalue* it, such that prices go higher and then expected price inflation leads to higher interest rates.

      The economy *wants* to destroy fiat currencies, which is why the government points a gun at you and forces you to use fiat money to pay

      taxes instead of voluntarily handing your money over for a service you actually value.

      (Aside: The concept of “free riding” is based on the faulty belief that if somebody else benefits from something you value enough to

      produce or pay for, yourself, then somehow other people owe you something. If having that thing produced is more important to you than

      having other people pay for something they didn’t ask for, then you are voluntarily producing that thing with the understanding that it

      will result in some free enjoyment by others; And if withholding free enjoyment is more important to you than the use of that thing,

      then don’t produce it. There is no free-rider problem.)

      That’s the reason the FRN has seemd to last for so long – and don’t let the length of time it has seemed to last fool you into thinking

      that the FRN is money.

      Bob also says that the reason I know that a money is valuable tomorrow is because of its value in the immediate past. But that doesn’t make sense (and here I’m disagreeing with Rothbard a little bit on his particular version of the Regression Theorem), and elsewhere in Man, Economy, and State Rothbard seemed to understand this:

      “There is no question about the fact that we are not interested in historical analysis, but rather in an economic analysis of the complex economy. In particular, acting man has no interest in the historical origin of his resources; he is acting in the present on behalf of a goal to be achieved in the future.[12] Praxeological analysis recognizes this and deals with the individual acting at present to satisfy ends of varying degrees of futurity (from instantaneous to remote).”

      This contradicts Rothbard’s yesterday-value theory for the foundation of the value of money tomorrow.

      It’s true that future prices can kind of be inferred from past prices if you’re recognizing a trend in consumer demand, but past prices are not the *reason* a money has value tomorrow.

      I submit that Rothbard made a mistake, here, and rather than a yesterday-price being the foundation of tomorrow’s price, it’s rather that real money has a link to use value through someone in the economy that values the money for its use-value as a commodity – with the money value arising out of all the arbitrage opportunities made possible because some people values it as a commodity.

      • Harold says:

        We have discussed this before, but not to either satisfaction, I think. Or at least not to my satisfaction.

        It is often helpful in these situations to construct a logical argument, a syllogism, with premises and a conclusion. If the argument is valid, that is the conclusion follows from the argument, then the only way to challenge the argument is to challenge one or more of the premises.

        Are you aware if this has been done? If not, maybe we could work out such an argument that money must have a use value. I think that would illustrate areas of disagreement.

        We have to start with a definition of money that does not beg the question. As a starting point, what is your preferred definition of money?

        • guest says:

          “We have to start with a definition of money that does not beg the question. As a starting point, what is your preferred definition of money?”

          I’m not finished responding to this episode, yet, but yes, I believe that might help.

          The function of money is to “carry” the values you place on the goods you sell, over to the values you place on the goods you buy, and it has to do this while “carrying” the valuations of the *other guy’s* sold goods over to the goods *he* intends to buy.

          These subjective values are the information that money is providing. One purson’s set of valuations bears on the costs of another, and vice-versa.

          (And notice that, in order to say that money is information is to say that there is a right and wrong valuation for money. That can’t happen if the value of the money is made up in the sense that the number of money units doesn’t matter for the values you place on goods.)

          That can only happen if there is a link between the buyer’s and seller’s use-values for the goods they’ve sold and the goods they will buy.

          It might also help to say that money isn’t the cause of coordination of use-values, but the result of the attempt to coordinate through arbitrage opportunities.

          I see that I can reduce the opportunities I have to forego with direct barter if I trade for this other good first and then trade that away to fulfill my ultimate goal of acquiring goods in exchange for the costs I was willing to bear.

          (We work to ultimately buy goods, not to hold money; Holding money allows us to buy goods.)

          Money is the result of people discovering that they are using the same intermediary good to enable a double-coincidence of wants. And then, over time, people notice that some intermediary goods are better than others.

          Money isn’t losing its use-value through this process, but rather providing arbitrage opportunities to increasingly more people *through* its existing use-values for it.

          • guest says:

            “These subjective values are the information that money is providing.”

            I would also add that these are the subjective values that, if the money is not correctly conveying those values, causes the business cycle.

            And, again, to say that the money *has to* convey certain values versus others is to say that it has to have a link to use-value.

          • Harold says:

            I am not sure if this is your definition of money. It is not entirely helpful to me.

            Money is information is a little different from money changes convey information.

            • guest says:

              Believe it or not, I find *that* to be interesting and helpful to *me*.

              That’s an important nuance you’re noticing.

              I would say,, what information could changes in money convey that a revaluation of the money couldn’t – “higher prices” can be restated as “i don’t have enough money”.

              And what information would a change in money of 1% convey that a change of 20% couldn’t, if the money, itself, didn’t convey information?

              The money, itself, has to mean something, in order to be economically meaningful.

              • Harold says:

                “what information could changes in money convey that a revaluation of the money couldn’t?”
                Don’t we have to know what money is to answer the question? Which brings us back to the start.

              • guest says:

                “Don’t we have to know what money is to answer the question? Which brings us back to the start.”

                No, not if you’re claim is that it doesn’t matter what is agreed upon as the money, and that it’s the changes in the supply that control its value.

                That could be anything you arbitrarily decide it to be. No need for a definition of money, there.

                My claim is that, in order for money to “carry” value (be a “medium”, conduit of exchange), then it has to have its own separate connection back to use-value through a chain of arbitrage opportunities.

              • random person says:

                Incidentally, the sugar regions of the transatlantic forced labor trade are another example of when machinery failed to help the forced laborers escape deadly brutality, as explained in part here:


                The sugar regions, for at least a portion of their history, relied on a very industrialized version of forced labor.

                If you don’t want to read the whole article, this paragraph in particular is illuminating.

                Cuba’s rise to predominance in sugar manufacturing depended critically on non-technological factors. The Haitian Revolution provided new markets for Cuba’s investors and planters by destroying Saint-Domingue’s world-leading sugar industry. The second critical factor was Cuba’s underdevelopment: it had extensive cultivable lands to grow sugarcane and large stands of forests to fuel processing. And Cuba had s****ry. On the advice of the planter-economist Francisco de Arango y Parreño in a 1792 memo to King Charles IV on agricultural reform, Spain allowed foreigners into the island’s s***e trade, lowered duties on s****s, and abolished them on machinery. In 1818 it opened Cuba to free trade. With much of its capital and machinery coming from Britain, Spain agreed in 1817 to a treaty banning the transatlantic African s***e trade. It was a dead letter; 400,000 ens****d Africans would be brought to Cuba over the next half-century.72 The scale of Cuba’s dependence on this s***e trade was a grim measure of the growth of its sugar industry. In 1860, two-thirds of the island’s population was free (roughly half creole European and one-sixth African Cuban); 300,000 ens****d Africans and their descendants made up the remaining third, and half of them lived on sugar plantations. In defiance of its putative abolition, the transatlantic African s***e trade critically maintained this plantation labor force, which otherwise would have diminished owing to an excess of deaths over births among the ens****d workers. Cuban s***e imports in the five years before the publication of Los ingenios totaled 46,000 people, and in the next five years they would exceed 100,000.

          • random person says:

            A lot of economists talk about money coming into existence because barter was allegedly inconvenient, but Congolese history tells of people being brutally forced to adopt European currency, forced by means of whipping and other brutalities to accept jobs they didn’t want in order to pay taxes which benefited Europeans.

            It really makes me thing that barter — or whatever the Congolese might have done prior to being forced to accept European currency — might not have been all that bad after all, if it took so much brutality to get them to abandon their previous ways.

            You can read a lot about this in books by Jules Marchal… not so much about whatever the Congolese did prior to European conquest, but at least about what the certain Belgians and other Europeans did to them.

            • guest says:

              “… but Congolese history tells of people being brutally forced to adopt European currency …”

              But that doesn’t solve the insurmountable question of how such a money is carrying value.

              Money doesn’t convey value just because it sits between two sets of barter goods – what would the numbers mean?

              Now, it’s true that anti-bitcoiners, like myself, have to answer the same question for bitcoins and FRNs because people are, at least, *attempting* to use these as money.

              We have to answer why they would do this and why for so long.

              There’s an answer for that consistent with our position that neither bitcoins or FRNs are really money.

              The answer is the same answer as why, when someone breaks a window, the glass-man gets some work, and why its worth hiring security to not have your store burgled.

              In the case of the broken window, the act of breaking does not increase wealth, even though it stimulates economic activity. It’s a net loss.

              You don’t hire the glass-man to increase your profits, you hire him to prevent further losses. It’s the existing stream of wealth that you’re weighing against a potential reduced stream of wealth, and in order to preserve a greater stream of wealth, you have to take the loss of hiring the glass-man.

              Same with security. If you don’t have to hire security, you will have more wealth. It’s only when not having security is perceived to result in a greater loss than if you hired security, that you decide that its worth taking a loss to hire some.

              With the FRN, the government is basically threatening you so you’ll pay protection money. They *allow* you to keep more wealth than they would allow if you didn’t pay them.

              But if the government wasn’t stealing from you in the first place, you wouldn’t need the FRN. You’dd be far better off without having to use it.

              So, even though the FRN is traded as if it were money, it’s really just a wealth confiscation scheme. So, the FRN isn’t trading because the FRN has value, but because the goods you’re *allowed* to keep has more value to you than the incredible theft you’d have to endure by not using it.

              The FRN is not money, is constantly destroying wealth, and it has to be constantly printed in order to attempt to cover up the price signals that, other things equal, would alert everyone to the fraudulent nature of the paper-as-money scheme.

              And with bitcoins, I submit that, were it not for people willing to hand over their government-enforced non-money FRNs (and other fiat currencies), that bitcoins would fail rather quickly. As I’ve said, bitcoins are just riding the FRN bubble.

              So, just because a “money” is generating economic activity doesn’t mean that it’s really the money that’s doing it, and it doesn’t mean that weatlh is necessarily increasing due to circulation of such “money”.

              • random person says:

                But that doesn’t solve the insurmountable question of how such a money is carrying value.

                At this time of night, with specific regard to the situation of the Congolese being forced to use European currency against their will, my thought is that the European currency had very little value to the Congolese: they could see that what they could buy from earning wages from Europeans and using those wages to buy things was far less than what they could earn if the Europeans would just leave them alone.

                The “value”, from the Congolese perspective, was the value of not being whipped or otherwise brutalized… I guess you must be thinking along the same line of thought when you talk about, “the government is basically threatening you so you’ll pay protection money.”

                But since the Europeans in question (specifically, the ones who violently colonized the Congo) were the ones forcing the Congolese to use European currency, I do not think the question can be fully answered without asking, what was the value to them?

                The Europeans wanted Congolese labor and resources, but at first glance at least they were fairly arbitrary about what they were willing to pay for it (though generally far less than would have been necessary to convince the Congolese to work voluntarily). Jules Marchal talks about how the same companies who forced the Congolese to work for them also ran the stores where the Congolese could spend whatever small portion of their wages they didn’t owe in tax, and set the prices fairly arbitrarily.

                This quote from page 435 of Forced Labor in the Gold and Copper Mines by Jules Marchal is interesting:

                Wages paid to workers in Kilo-Moto are about three times those paid by
                settlers, and double those paid to workers at the Great Lakes Mining
                Company. However, because company stores belonging to the latter enter­prise sell goods at cost price, the real purchasing power of workers there is
                practically doubled.

                So, as far as the Congolese were concerned, the value of the European money was backed by these European stores (at least in the example quoted). But, since not all stores charged the same prices, a Congolese franc might have been worth a lot more in one part of the Congo than the other, depending on the prices of the local store.

                I feel that, due to tiredness, I haven’t adequately explored this line of thought, so I guess I will get back to you when I am awake and have more time.

              • guest says:

                “I feel that, due to tiredness …”

                I hear you.

                “But since the Europeans in question … were the ones forcing the Congolese to use European currency, I do not think the question can be fully answered without asking, what was the value to them? …”

                “… Jules Marchal talks about how the same companies who forced the Congolese to work for them also ran the stores where the Congolese could spend whatever small portion of their wages they didn’t owe in tax, and set the prices fairly arbitrarily. ”

                It’s entirely possible to have a sound monetary system and still exploit people to do forced labor for reduced compensation – for a time, at least.

                Governments have always debased even otherwise sound money (by mixing in some base metals) in order to try to escape the discipline forced upon even them by sound money. Recently, they’ve called a gold-coin monetary system “the golden handcuffs” and a “barbarous relic”.

                But that’s all irrelevant to the question of what makes something a money.

                Just because people can be robbed of their gold coins and exploited doesn’t mean there is anything unsound about the use of gold as money.

                (Aside: Let me say, while I have it in mind – because it will come up later at some point, I think – that, due to gold and silver *not* being money right now (it’s capable of serving as money, but it is not currently doing so), any attempt to use gold and silver as money without its trade value being based on an existing link to use-value will be as speculative a valuation as I criticize bitcoins for being.

                (So, obviously, that’s going to be an issue.

                (The answer is that while, yes, there is some speculation as to what a “sound” valuation of gold and silver will be during a period of price discovery, what makes this speculation different from the speculation in bitcoin is that gold and silver actually do have use-values on which to base its trade values.

                (And their use-values will force corrections of their trade values until the trade value more or less conforms to the valuations of the arbitrage opportunities made possible by the metals’ use-values.

                (Their trade values will always be changing because preferences always change.)

              • random person says:

                It’s entirely possible to have a sound monetary system and still exploit people to do forced labor for reduced compensation – for a time, at least.

                I mean, to the extent that having a sound monetary system (whatever that means) is insufficient to abolish forced labor, you’re right.

                But I don’t think the Belgian currency system was sound. Consider the title of the book, “Forced Labor in the Gold and Copper Mines.” A significant portion of the book is devoted to the topic of forced labor in the gold mines, and if you read other books on the topic of forced labor as well, you can see that the Belgians (specifically, those Belgians involved in the violent colonization of the Congo) are not the first ones or last ones in history to be involved in using forced labor to obtain gold. (Jules Marchal, for his part, seemed rather oblivious to the history of forced labor outside the Congo. He had a great deal of expertise about the history of forced labor in the Congo itself, but from time to time he suggests that the situation in the Congo lacked parallels elsewhere in history, which is incorrect.)

                Several examples of other times and places when gold has been acquired by means of forced labor include:

                * modern day Ghana (see “Blood and Earth” by Kevin Bales, Chapter 6)

                * historical Brazil, e.g. around the 1860s as well as the early 1700s (see “Children of God’s Fire” by Robert Edgar Conrad, pages 143 to 147, and also pages 394 to 397)

                * modern day Brazil (see “Disposable People” by Kevin Bales, Chapter 1, page 4 of the revised edition)

                * the ancient Romans practiced “condemnation to the mines” as part of their legal system, and some of these mines would have been gold mines. People “condemned” thusly included religious dissidents.

                * modern day Peru, see:
                (Note that the “debts” described in the article are likely fraudulent debts. In his own books, Kevin Bales describes a number of methods that ens***ers use to perpetrate fraud and claim that other people owe them. E.g., such a criminal might bestow gifts on newly hired workers, and then later, after they have already accepted these gifts, retroactively change the terms and demand repayment for the gifts, even though that is not what the workers initially agreed to when accepting the gifts. Some of these gifts might have been in the form of food that was already eaten, so it’s not as if the workers can simply return them. Another common strategy is, upon the death of a worker, claim that his wife, children, or other family are now obliged to pay his debt, even though they never agreed to any such thing.)

                In order for gold to truly be sound money, it would have to meet certain minimal ethical conditions, namely:

                1. It must not be mined by means of forced labor. Forced labor is a means of underpaying workers, that is, of compensating them less than whatever would be necessary to persuade them to work voluntarily. Since the people acquiring the gold (by means of forcing other people to mine it) are not paying the full cost of labor, this distorts the exchange value of the gold. If they paid the full cost of voluntarily labor, then, in order for gold extraction to be profitable, the exchange value of gold would need to be high enough to cover those labor costs; otherwise, if the exchange value of gold were not high enough, it would make sense for them to abandon or reduce gold mining.

                2. The wages for paying the gold miners should be obtained without forced labor or theft. Jules Marchal notes that in the Belgian Congo, the Belgians used forced labor not only in the mines, but also forced other Congolese outside the mines to grow food for the miners. So, not only were the Belgians paying the Congolese less for mining efforts than would be necessary to persuade them to mine voluntarily, but what little they did pay them involved a lot of stolen food, grown with forced labor. Again, if the Belgians had to pay the full cost of obtaining all this labor voluntarily, they might well find that the whole venture was no longer profitable.

                3. The gold miners should respect the local farmers and other landstewards, and refrain from poisoning the land with mercury and/or other toxic stuff without the consent of said local landstewards.

                When these things are not respected, it results in an excess of gold being mined, compared to what would be mined if these ethical standards were followed. It also results in gold continuing to be mined at lower exchange values than whatever exchange values would be high enough to motivate gold mining which met the stated minimal ethical standards.

              • random person says:

                I think one of the mistakes I made with the comment I wrote while really tired, is fairly to distinguish between the relatively “natural” value of money (i.e. whatever properties it might or might not have to persuade people to use it voluntarily), and the imposed value (those properties that inspire people to use it only out of fear of violence, e.g. threats of whipping and/or imprisonment and/or other brutalities if people do not get jobs to pay taxes).

                One of my points, that I was trying to get at, is that when the Belgians imposed European currency on the Congolese, by means of extreme violence, the currency had very little natural value to the Congolese (that is, they had little interest in adopting it voluntarily) but it did have imposed value (the value of not being whipped and/or imprisoned and/or otherwise brutalized). But also, the brutal colonizers had their own messed up ideas of “value”. (In murder mysteries, the characters of the book or movie or whatever speak of discovering the murderers’ motives. In the Belgian Congo, the violent colonizers had motives for the raping, pillaging, torturing, murdering, etc that they went around perpetrating against the Congolese peoples.)

              • random person says:

                fairly -> failure

                (sorry for typo)

                “I think one of the mistakes I made with the comment I wrote while really tired, is fairly to distinguish between the relatively “natural” value of money (i.e. whatever properties it might or might not have to persuade people to use it voluntarily), and the imposed value (those properties that inspire people to use it only out of fear of violence, e.g. threats of whipping and/or imprisonment and/or other brutalities if people do not get jobs to pay taxes).”

                By this, I mean I was trying to distinguish between them, i.e. I made the distinction in my head, but because I was tired, I was struggling to find the words to express that distinction in writing.

              • guest says:

                “In order for gold to truly be sound money, it would have to meet certain minimal ethical conditions …”

                As Austrians, we disagree. We consider morality to have nothing to do with economics. We say that econimics is value free. Economic laws are just facts of life that can be leveraged for good or for bad.

                Like chemistry. We don’t say that there’s something unsound with chemistry when terrorists use it to commit mass murder. Morality is irrelevant. Chemistry is what it is.

                Same with economics. What makes a money sound is its link to use-value. All the different ways to exploit people while using a sound monetary system has no bearing on the money’s soundness.

                “… When these things are not respected, it results in an excess of gold being mined, compared to what would be mined if these ethical standards were followed.”

                The way gold-money is extracted can’t affect the money’s soundness because gold’s use-value exists whether or not anyone is exploited.

                And because people value goods on the margin, we say that markets always clear. So, there’s never a problem with “over production”, and there can never logically be “excess gold”. The gold’s trade value just changes to reflect demand for a given supply.

                “It also results in gold continuing to be mined at lower exchange values than whatever exchange values would be high enough to motivate gold mining which met the stated minimal ethical standards.”

                True, the gold will be mined at increasingly lower exchange values, but this fact is what makes it increasingly cost-prohibitive to use slave labor to mine it.

                If you need more gold to have the same purchasing power, you need more slaves and/or more machines. Eventually, you run out of people to exploit before having to give these slaves some machines to work with, thereby reducing some of the pain of slavery.

                So, economic law forces even these exploiters to have to lighten the slaves’ load in order to make a profit.

                There’s only so much you can do with slave labor. So, everyone else in the world who is not a slave and is free to earn profits has a negative effect on the profitability of slave labor, elsewhere.

                Everyone else is free to invest in labor-saving devices, thereby increasing production, while slave labor is locked into however much profit can be gained through manual labor.

              • random person says:

                There’s a lot here to reply to, so I’ll write a more thorough reply later, but for now, I’d like to point out that labor-saving devices do not always make lives easier for people in forced labor. This is in reply to, “Eventually, you run out of people to exploit before having to give these s****s some machines to work with, thereby reducing some of the pain of s****ry.”

                An example from U.S. history of a labor-saving device that made life harder for people in forced labor was the cotton gin.

                This is from “The Half Has Never Been Told” by Edward Baptist.

                The best-known innovation in the history of cotton production, as every high-school history student knows, is the cotton gin. It allowed ens****rs to clean as much cotton for market as they could grow and harvest. As far as most historians have been concerned, the gin is where the study of innovation in the production of cotton ends—at least until the invention of the mechanical cotton picker in the 1930s, which ended the sharecropping regime. But here is the question historians should have asked: Once ens****rs had the cotton gin, how then did ens****rs produce (or have produced, by other hands) as much as the gin could clean? For once the gin shattered the processing bottleneck, other limits on production and expansion were cast into new relief. For instance, one constraint was the amount of cheap, fertile land. Another was the lack of labor on the frontier. So en****er-generals took land from Indians, ens****r-politicians convinced Congress to let s****ry expand, and ens****r-entrepreneurs created new ways to finance and transport and commodify “hands.” And, given a finite number of captives in their own control, entrepreneurs created a complex of labor control practices that ens****d people called “the pushing system.” This system increased the number of acres each captive was supposed to cultivate. As of 1805, ens****rs like Hampton figured that each “hand” could tend and keep free of weeds five acres of cotton per year. Half a century later, that rule of thumb had increased to ten acres “to the hand.” In the first minute of labor Charles Ball had encountered one of the pushing system’s tactics, in which overseers usually chose captains like Simon to “carry the fore row” and set the pace.”

                And elsewhere in the book, Edward Baptist goes into greater detail on how the pushing system involved “calibrated torture”.

                Ens****rs used torture to exert continuous pressure on all hands to find ways to split the self and become disembodied as a left hand at work. This was why many planters and overseers whipped even—or perhaps especially—their fastest pickers. In 1840–1841, Bennett Barrow, owner of a s**** labor camp in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, kept a journal that he called his “Record of Punishment.” In this ledger, which records both whipping and picking, Barrow revealed how he calibrated torture. Three-quarters of the 1840–1841 instances of torture were directed at those who did not meet their weight. Sometimes he focused on those who failed to meet a relatively low quota, as he did on the October day when he directed a “whipping frollick.” He “whiped 8 or 10 for weight to day—those that pick least weights.” But he actually beat the most productive cotton pickers more frequently than he did the least productive ones. He tortured his fastest male picker twice, and his three fastest women nine times between them, just as Edwin Epps beat Solomon Northup’s friend Patsey until “her back bore the scars of a thousand stripes.” This was how clever entrepreneurs extorted new efficiencies that they themselves could not imagine. They pressed their most skillful hands and contriving minds ever harder.54
                Using torture, s****ry’s entrepreneurs extracted an amount of innovation virtually equal in numerical measure to all the mechanical ingenuity in all the textile mills in the Western world. The ens****rs’ choice was a rational one, if that which increases profitability and productivity is by definition rational. On the cotton frontier, Charles Ball said, torture was “practised with . . . order, regularity, and system” designed to convert “insufficient” production into sufficient production—sufficient, that is, until the next day, when it would be repeated. Henry Bibb’s owner said “that he was no better pleased than when he could hear . . . the sound of the driver’s lash among the toiling s****s,” for then he knew that his system was working.

                Also note that while there is some truth that “Eventually, you run out of people to exploit,” in the case of the Congo, it’s estimated that King Leopold II and the Belgians / other violent colonizers killed approximately 10 million people — half the Congo’s population — before realizing that if they didn’t adopt much less violent methods, they would run out of people to exploit. I think murdering 10 million people in the pursuit of profit is genocide. The eventual reforms came too late for millions of people, and even when enacted, were very unstable. The Congo is ultimately still suffering greatly from the aftermath of colonialism. (Even after granting Congo “independence” at least on paper, Belgium did not really let the Congo be independant. Nor did the United States, and in particular the CIA. The Congo’s first and arguably only democratically elected leader was assassinated by the Belgians after less than a year in office, after the CIA removed him from power and sent him to a military prison. After some years of fighting in the Congo, the CIA eventually put Mobutu in power, who turned out to be a brutal dictator. With CIA assistance he ruled for about 30 years. Since Mobutu was a CIA-installed dictator, we could call this “neocolonialism”. Mobutu handled the Rwandan refugee crisis terribly, which lead to the Rwandans, and Uganda for some reason, sponsoring his overthrow, as an excuse to slaughter the Rwandan refugees. But Kabila, the revolutionary who overthrew him with Rwandan and Ugandan assistance, also turned out to be incompetent, and something of a dictator himself, though it didn’t help that the international community wanted to hold the Congo liable for Mobutu’s debts. Kabila was overthrown and replaced by his own son, also a Kabila, and the situation devolved into Rwanda and Uganda going to war against each other on Congolese soil, which further devolved into a bunch of violent militias running around fighting over resources and raping, pillaging, and ens***ing the people. Note that the Congo is a huge country, so this is not what happened in all of the Congo, just parts of it.)

              • guest says:

                “I think murdering 10 million people in the pursuit of profit is genocide.”

                Question: Is it OK if I point out that focusing on the millions of people that died in the past in the pursuit of profit doesn’t help us deal with the problems we’re facing today, since we’re *not* facing genocide at this point in time?

                Loaded question …

              • Harold says:

                Douglass Adams was onto something. “Belgium is the rudest word in the Universe, yet by a strange coincidence, also the name of a country on Earth. In the Secondary Phase of the radio series, it is stated as “completely banned in all parts of the Galaxy, except in one part, where they don’t know what it means, and in serious screenplays.”

              • guest says:

                I would like @”random person” to answer my loaded question.

              • random person says:

                “I think murdering 10 million people in the pursuit of profit is genocide.”

                Question: Is it OK if I point out that focusing on the millions of people that died in the past in the pursuit of profit doesn’t help us deal with the problems we’re facing today, since we’re *not* facing genocide at this point in time?

                Loaded question …

                According to a quick Google search, Michal Kranz on Business Insider alleges that there are at least 5 genocides currently ongoing today: the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Nuer and other ethnic groups in South Sudan, Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic, and Darfuris in Sudan. Note that this is not necessarily an exhaustive list. It could just be five examples that the author happened to be tracking.


                Another point is, that while there is great dispute over how the term “genocide” should be defined, in large part because the definition of the term as coined by Raphael Lemkin is very different from the definition of the term as defined by the Genocide convention, it is, with some exceptions (such as when people talk about “cultural genocide”, etc) only applied to situations of mass murder, and only when the body count exceeds a certain number of victims, based on what a particular author feels is sufficient to justify using the word “genocide”.

                Since a situation of mass murder is only labelled as genocide once the body count reaches a certain number (and again, people might disagree on what that number should be), and even then, people might still not call it genocide if they are sticklers for sticking to the definition of the Genocide Convention (which was basically written to let governments get away with things that would be considered genocide as Raphael Lemkin used the term), there are a large number of situations which are similar to genocide, and yet which might not be classified as genocide, either because not enough people have died yet, or else because people are sticking to obscenely narrow definitions.

                Consider this: if some scholar believes that a mass murder event shouldn’t be classified as genocide until there are at least a million victims, that means, that, for example, the first million victims of the Holocaust would only be classified as genocide victims retroactively (at least by that particular scholar), once the body count exceeded one million, and not while they were actually being killed.

                Another point is that genocides tend to be aggressively covered up while they are occurring. Historians living in other countries might only uncover them some time after they have already finished. And even if people know something is happening, the debate over whether to call it a “genocide” might continue for decades.

                In short a) there do seem to be genocides occurring today, at least if we use the term as intended by Raphael Lemkin and b) even if we use an obscenely narrow definition of the term, there are certainly mass murder events occurring which bear a remarkable similarity to genocide. Additionally, we could add c) that a genocide is an abstract term describing numerous smaller atrocities. Every act of murder, rape, and torture is it’s own smaller atrocity, and these smaller atrocities may be very similar to other small atrocities that are not classified as part of genocide.

                A, B, and C, are all reasons why lessons from past genocides are still relevant to us today.

              • random person says:

                One thing that makes the Congolese history very interesting (for people interested in the nature of evil, forced labor, and other atrocities) is that the Belgians and other colonizers employed a wide, wide variety of different forms of forced labor and other tools of oppression, and the tools of oppression they used changed over time. Studying Congolese history thus helps illustrate to abolitionists what a complex issue we are fighting.

                Many Americans have a very narrow idea of what s****ry is. When you say “s****ry” to an American, many of them will instantly envision racial plantation s****ry. They may also have a very limited idea of what racial plantation s****ry involved. (As Edward Baptist explains in “The Half Has Never Been Told”, even racial plantation s****ry was often very different from what many Americans might envision.)

                But the international legal definition of s****ry is, with good reason, much more broad that the vision that many Americans might get in their head. It can take many different forms. And in the Congo, it did take many different forms. (Even in the United States, it took more forms than most Americans are aware of. See, for example, Douglas Blackmon’s book “S****ry by Another Name”.)

                One very peculiar feature of forced labor in the Congo, which I haven’t spoken of much here, because quite frankly it is very difficult for me to process, is that some of the soldiers enforcing s****ry were themselves ens****d. Now, the concept of forcing people to be soldiers is not unique to the Congo. Even the United States has the draft. But I believe that whatever they were doing to these people was much worse than what was done to draftees in the United States. A lot of times the people forced to be soldiers were taken as children. Many of them seem to have been orphans, whose parents had been killed during King Leopold II’s brutal colonization. Presumably, they were subjected to some form of brainwashing, which I don’t fully understand. Then they were used to commit atrocities against other Congolese people. They might have been told to commit atrocities against people not of their own tribe, so they would object less than if asked to oppress other members of their own tribes. (Similar to how an Irish child who was being brainwashed might object less to hurting Germans than to hurting other Irish people.)

                And, while I don’t fully understand it, it is very very significant, because not only were these soldiers used as tools of oppression (while themselves being oppressed) during King Leopold II’s and Beglium’s colonization, but they also played a very significant role in the Congo’s failure to achieve lasting independence.

                The groups these soldiers were part of was called the “Force Publique”. In 1960, shortly after the Congo gained independence, the Force Publique had a mutiny. Now, if you realize that many of the Force Publique had been forced to be soldiers, then this was, essentially, a s***e revolt.

                The immediate cause of this mutiny was a white Force Publique officer named Émile Janssens, who wrote on a whiteboard something that translates into English as “Before Independence = After Independence”. It seems that, before this, the Force Publique soldiers had real hope that the decolonization of the Congo would include include the decolonization of the Force Publique. Émile Janssens’ actions infuriated the soldiers under his command, who within hours mutinied and began attacking European residents of the Congo. From what I have read, this mutiny did not involve murder (or at least, I can’t recall reading about murders), but it may have included a few rapes, and it definitely included a number of cases of assault and battery.

                In response, many European residents of the Congo fled to other cities, including one across the river from the Congo. (To a different Congo… there’s actually more than one, but anyway. The main Congo was colonized by the Belgians, a smaller Congo was colonized by the France). The Belgians apparently deployed paratroopers to rescue their citizens from the s***e revolt.

                Significantly, the CIA chief of station in the Congo, Lawrence Devlin, aka Larry Devlin, was one of the white people assaulted during the mutiny, and this happened shortly after his arrival in the Congo. Larry Devlin was told to kiss the foot of one of the soldiers, and, when he refused, they played Congolese roulette with him. Apparently Congolese roulette is like Russian roulette, except with no bullets. But they made him think there was a bullet, so it was a sort of psychological torture thing were he thought he was going to die. Once the gun had been shot six times or so and it was clearly empty of bullets, the soldiers laughed uproariously, offered Larry Devlin some wine, patted him on the back and treated him as a friend, and dropped him off near a hotel. Peculiar behavior to be sure, but perhaps not so peculiar when you consider what might have been done to these soldiers as children in order to force them to be soldiers. One wonders what the full psychological impact of this was on Larry Devlin, and if it might have had anything to do with his decision to remove Lumumba from power.

                Another significant thing: Mobutu, who eventually rose to rule over the Congo as a brutal dictator for about 30 years (with CIA assistance), had been forced into the Force Publique as a child. So, eventually, he became a brutal dictator, but before he was a brutal dictator, he was an ens****d child soldier.

                Daniel Pipes, who has studied the phenomena of military s****s in the context of Islamic cultures, estimates that a system of military s****ry must be in place for at least 30 years before the ens****d soldiers have a significant chance of taking power. He writes,

                A system of military s****ry must exist at least thirty years before military s****s assert power. Thirty years marks the approximate length of time between the training of s****s in a corps (at about age fifteen) and their rise to prominence (at about age forty-five). It might also take s****s much longer to acquire power, or they may never do so, but their advancing to an important military and political role in less than thirty years appears highly unlikely.

                Now, the Belgians wanted to put down the mutiny / s**** revolt with military force. However, since the Congo had been formally granted independence, under international law/custom, they apparently needed Lumumba to make a formal request for their assistance. Lumumba refused. (I don’t think he was wrong to do so, since Belgian troops would have likely committed atrocities against the Congolese people.)

                Instead, Lumumba attempted, in good fait, to negotiate with the soldiers to end the mutiny. Ludo de Witte hypothesizes that this may have been the main factor in the decision of the Americans and Belgians to assassinate Lumumba. (Note that although a Belgian officer ultimately gave the firing orders for the assassination, Belgian intelligence was not as powerful as the CIA, and they likely wouldn’t have been able to carry out their plans if the CIA hadn’t first gotten Lumumba sent to a military prison. Also, the CIA had their own plans to assassinate Lumumba, although Larry Devlin, as an individual, did not wish to carry out these plans, and instead stalled and removed Lumumba from power instead.)

                Significant to Mobutu’s rise to power was that, being someone who had been forced into the Force Publique himself, he was better than Lumumba at relating to the soldiers and giving speeches to calm them down.

                Mobutu was also more willing to collaborate with Americans and Europeans than Lumumba was. Susan Williams has hypothesized that the reason the CIA took such as interest in the Congo was because of the uranium mines in the Congo, and notes that Lumumba told the Americans that if they wished to continue to receive uranium from the Congo, they would need to renegotiate new terms.

                Considering that Union Minière had obtained uranium using forced labor, Lumumba gave the correct response. Even ignoring the question of whether it was ethical to export uranium to a nuclear bully like the United States at all, at the very least, the forced labor in the uranium mines should have been abolished and reparations paid before the Congo continued exporting uranium.

                Note that the vast majority of the radioactive material in the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from Congolese mines, where forced labor was used, but the US OSS (precursor to the CIA) and the Belgian Union Minière had gone to great lengths to keep this secret from the public.

              • random person says:

                You can read about Larry Devlin’s experience with Congolese roulette during the Force Publique mutiny / s***e revolt here:

                Be sure to click the “Read more” button if you are interested.

              • random person says:

                Mobutu discusses being forced into the Force Publique as a child during his interviews with Jean-Louis Remilleux, published in “Mobutu: Dignity for Africa”.

              • random person says:

                This passage from King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild gives at least some limited insight as to how certain Congolese children were forced to become soldiers and subsequently oppress other Congolese in the 1890s.

                Note that Mobutu’s experience of being forced into the Force Publique would have differed, since his experience occurred at a much later date.

                Even children were not spared the rigors of Leopold’s regime. “I believe we must set up three children’s colonies,” the king wrote on April 27, 1890. “One in the Upper Congo near the equator, specifically military, with clergy for religious instruction and for vocational education. One at Leopoldville under clergy with a soldier for military training. One at Boma like that at Leo…. The aim of these colonies is above all to furnish us with soldiers. We thus have to build three big barracks at Boma, Leo, and near the equator … each capable of housing 1500 children and administrative personnel.” Following up on Leopold’s orders, the governor general six weeks later directed his district commissioners “from now on to gather the most male children possible” for the three state colonies.

                As the years passed, many more children’s colonies were established by Catholic missionaries. Unlike the Congo’s Protestant missionaries, who were foreigners and beyond Leopold’s control, the Catholics were mostly Belgian and loyal supporters of the king and his regime. (One Belgian order, the Scheut fathers, even named a mission station after a director of one of the big concession companies.) Leopold subsidized the Catholics lavishly and sometimes used this financial power to deploy priests, almost as if they were soldiers, to areas where he wanted to strengthen his influence.

                The children taken in by these missionaries were, theoretically, “orphans.” But in most intact, indigenous African societies, with their strong sense of extended family and clan ties, the concept of orphanhood in the European sense did not exist. To the extent that these children literally were orphans, it was frequently because their parents had been killed by the Force Publique. In the wake of their deadly raids throughout the territory, soldiers often collected survivors, both adults and children, and brought them to the Catholic missionaries.

                Monsieur Devos furnished us with five prisoners, tied by the neck, to dig up clay for brick-making, as well as 25 laborers from Ibembo for gathering wood [a Catholic priest reported to his superior in 1899]…. Since the last convoy of children from Buta, 25 others have arrived…. From time to time we have baptized some of the littler ones, in case of danger of their dying…. On July 1st we celebrated the national day of the État Indépendant du Congo. At 8 o’clock, with all our children and a flag in front, we were at the bottom of the stairway carved out of the cliff to welcome Commandant Devos and his soldiers. Returning to the mission, the children marched in front, the soldiers following…. During Mass … at the moment of the elevation of the host, “present arms!” was sounded by bugles.

                The children’s colonies were usually ruled by the chicotte and the chain. There were many mutinies. If they survived their kidnapping, transport, and schooling, most of the male graduates of the state colonies became soldiers, just as Leopold had ordered. These state colonies were the only state-funded schools for Africans in Leopold’s Congo.

                Among the traumatized and malnourished children packed into both the state and Catholic colonies, disease was rife and the death rate high, often over 50 percent. Thousands more children perished during the long journeys to get there. Of one column of 108 boys on a forced march to the state colony at Boma in 1892-1893, only sixty-two made it to their destination; eight of them died within the following few weeks. The mother superior of one Catholic colony for girls wrote to a high Congo state official in 1895, “Several of the little girls were so sickly on their arrival that … our good sisters couldn’t save them, but all had the happiness of receiving Holy Baptism; they are now little angels in Heaven who are praying for our great king.”

              • random person says:

                Of relevance to the topic of modern genocide, Thailand was caught in some cases ransoming Rohingya refugees from the genocide in Myanmar, and in other cases selling them to human traffickers (modern day s***e traders).

                Reuters released a report in 2013.

                According to a Thai-based trafficker, prices range from 5,000 to 50,000 baht, the equivalent of $155 to $1,550 USD, depending on the skills of the refugee in question.

              • random person says:

                guest wrote,

                If you need more gold to have the same purchasing power, you need more s****s and/or more machines. Eventually, you run out of people to exploit before having to give these s****s some machines to work with, thereby reducing some of the pain of s****ry.

                I mentioned above that in the case of King Leopold II’s and Belgium’s brutal colonization of the Congo, approximately 10 million Congolese had to die before the Belgians got serious about switching to less deadly methods of forcing labor out of people. (Though this was a gradual process, not an overnight thing, but anyway.)

                Another historical example of when many, many forced forced laborers died prior to meaningful change is the transatlantic forced labor trade. One thing that a lot of US Americans don’t know about racial s****ry is that only about 4% of the Africans kidnapped from Africa and taken across the Atlantic were taken to the United States. The other 96% went to the sugar lands. Part of this was because massive demand on the part of culturally European people for sugar; part of it was because the systems of forced labor in the sugar lands were so brutal, that the forced laborers were dying much faster than they were having children, so the system relied on constant importation of more forced laborers.

                There’s a Youtube video of a lecture on the topic here:

                This is from the book, “Children of God’s Fire: A Documentary History of Black S****ry in Brazil”. The book presents translated versions of a number of primary source documents from the relevant time period. It is edited by Robert Edgar Conrad. The original author of this particular passage is Dr. David Gomes Jardim, and it is titled, “There Are Plantations Where the S****s Are Numb with Hunger” : A Medical Thesis on Plantation Diseases and Their Causes”

                We have constantly observed that work is
                assigned without concern for the strength of the individuals; that the weak
                and the strong share the work alike. From this lack of consideration can
                come only one result, that which daily occurs: the weakest are the first
                to die, and when they do they are completely emaciated. When I asked
                a planter why the death rate among his s****s was so exaggerated, and
                pointed out that this obviously did him great harm, he quickly replied
                that, on the contrary, it brought him no injury at all, since when he
                purchased a s***e it was with the purpose of using him for only a single
                year, after which very few could survive; but that nevertheless he made
                them work in such a way that he not only recovered the capital employed in their purchase, but also made a considerable profit! And besides, what
                does it matter if the life of a black man is destroyed by one year of
                unbearable toil if from this we derive the same advantages which we
                would have if he worked at a slower pace for a long period of time? This
                is how many people reason.

                Dr. David Gomes Jardim was not an abolitionist, but he did apparently make attempts to convince s****holders to reduce their brutality, without much success. That’s actually a passage from a longer document which goes on at length about the overwork, the lack of adequate food and nutrition and the resulting diseases and health problems, and the lack of adequate clothing.

              • random person says:

                I put this comment in the wrong place, it should go here.


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