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Hermit Kingdom
North Korea’s Propagandists Bemoan “Bad Luck”

North Korea’s state news agencies are warning that the country is suffering from a severe drought that threatens crop production, raising fears of a repeat of the 1990s famine whose victims are estimated to have been in the millions. The BBC reports:

KCNA said rice planting had finished in more than 441,560 hectares of paddy fields “but at least 136,200 hectares of them are parching up”.

It said paddy fields in South Hwanghae and North Hwanghae provinces were particularly badly hit, with up to 80% of rice seedlings drying up in some areas.

It said South Phyongan and South Hamgyong were also “badly affected”.

“Water levels of reservoirs stand at their lowest, while rivers and streams [are] getting dry,” the news agency said.

The North Korean state will likely do what it normally does: pass blame while glorifying itself and continuing to subjugate its people. But the bad luck of natural phenomena like droughts merely throws the failures and incompetence of state policy into relief. As the great science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein once wrote:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as ‘bad luck.’

North Korea’s ills aren’t bad luck. When societies don’t govern themselves well, the conditions aren’t right for the people who could think through an issue like how to manage mass industrial farming. The Kim regime is so repressive that it makes the emergence of effective institutions and or individual problem solvers impossible. The North Korean would-be geniuses are mostly in gulags or starving or marching in a military parade.

Another hungry year for hard-pressed and often undernourished North Korean people will be a true disaster. Yet we predict that the suffering among ordinary people won’t slow down North Korea’s nuke program or force any cutbacks in Kim Jong-un’s lifestyle.

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  • Tom Billings

    “North Korea’s ills aren’t bad luck. When societies don’t govern themselves well, the conditions aren’t right for the people who could
    think through an issue like how to manage mass industrial farming.”

    It’s worse. When societies will not admit that you *cannot* manage farming on the scale of an entire country, much less *all* economic activity in a country, then you get this sort of event. To manage anything on these scales requires calculating all of it so it fits, including the politics. As early as 1905 Poincarre’s mathematics had shown that you *cannot* solve differential equations of anything like this order. The system is then “determinate, but not calculable”. He hated that. His term for this was “pathological equation”. Rational policy will then leave management in the hands of individuals or small teams with highly specified goals to get maximum productivity. Of course, when politics has risen to the top, this method is discarded.

    First order DiffEQ gives nice unique solutions Second and third order equations require sifting between multiple solutions, higher orders introduce problems like imaginary solutions. To a certain point above these, you can “shoot” a solution guess into the range of solutions, and using known techniques, work backwards to a usefully accurate solution. Above this you enter the realm of “determinate, but not calculable”. Heinlein had another description that fits this, when describing solution of differential equations at this order, …”the equations start shooting back”.

    We *do*not* live in Lalace’s nice calculable universe.

  • David_Wall

    North Korea’s “bad luck” drought is fatal for millions. Southern California’s “bad luck” drought is only fatal to some grass (for now). However, the cause of both “bad luck” droughts are the same: statists interfering with individuals’ freedom to act in accordance to rational thought in order to solve a problem of living. In the name of environmentalism, California statists have interfered with the freedom of those who could use their know-how and rational thought to build additional irrigation systems, or perhaps desalination systems. Apparently, Californian’s are ignorant of their dependence upon water irritation systems, not to mention a free political system for their survival. Hopefully, CA citizens will learn sooner than the North Koreans that freedom is necessary for humans to live and thrive on the earth. Currently, we have no reason for optimism, though.

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