Suppression of Free Speech Leads to Dead People

 

Trofim Lysenko was the director of the Institute of Genetics within the USSR’s Academy of Sciences in the 1940’s. He was known for dismissing Mendelian genetics in favor of various pseudo-scientific theories including the impact of temperature variation on grain production. He collected data on growth of various grains, in how many days, at what temperatures. Other scientists found errors in his calculations. He angrily retorted that mathematics has no place in biology (This was undoubtedly the first clue to his colleagues that perhaps Mr. Lysenko was not a top-rate scientist…).

But his work drew the admiration of Stalin (who envisioned being able to grow more crops than seemed possible – and as it turns out, more crops than actually were possible) and over time Lysenko stopped arguing scientific theory with other scientists, but rather discredited them, and marginalized them. His favored political position with Soviet leadership enabled him to cut the funding for the research of those who disagreed with him. In fact, scientific dissent from his theories was formally outlawed in the Soviet Union in 1948. So eventually those who argued with him went from being discredited to being marginalized to being imprisoned and, in many cases, executed.

Stalin’s admiration led to Mr. Lysenko’s theories being applied to the Soviet agricultural system as a whole. The results were even more horrifying than one might have expected. The farming practices that were mandated under Mr. Lysenko’s policies contributed to the starvation of millions of Soviet people. Then Mao Zedong adopted his methods starting in 1958, with disastrous results, leading to the Great Chinese Famine of 1959 to 1962, in which around 15 million people died. One looks at all this, and wonders how such a second-rate scientist managed to kill that many people. I mean, if his farming practices didn’t work, how did they become sufficiently widespread to kill millions of people? Why didn’t the farmers just do something else?


Norman Borlaug was an American biologist who developed extremely high-yield grains which flourished even under difficult weather conditions in poor soil.

He went to the University of Minnesota, although his first application to the school was rejected because he failed the entrance exam. He was a very successful wrestler there, making the Big 10 semi-finals. He started his career at DuPont, where he worked on many and varied projects before and during WWII; everything from canteen sterilization to glue to DDT to camouflage and many other things. Then he began studying grain production.

He was once asked how he became an expert in growing grains, and he responded that he first became an expert in how not to grow grains. There were many failures over many years. But he ended up with a means of producing much more grain on much less land. This meant that hundreds of millions of acres of farmland could be returned to forest and it meant saving people’s lives. It is estimated that Dr. Borlaug’s work saved over a billion lives around the world.

A billion people. The mind boggles.


I find it interesting that the Soviet Union produced Lysenko and America produced Borlaug.

How did an incompetent like Lysenko manage to kill that many people with faulty science? Does collectivist thinking somehow lead to scientific incompetence and fanciful thinking? One could look at the American left’s infatuation with over 100 different genders, blaming global warming for everything from droughts to floods, silly energy policies, and so on, and wonder if perhaps leftist politics makes one prone to scientific incompetence. But I’m not sure.

What does seem obvious is that collectivist societies with strong centralized control systems often do a poor job of selecting the good ideas from the bad. And sticking with bad ideas long after it is obvious that they don’t work. This is only possible by silencing debate – something that leftists tend to do. Especially when they realize that they may lose an argument.

Contrast that with Dr. Borlaug in America. He was a competitive wrestler, which is a good way to become accustomed to frequent setbacks despite hard work. He then started his career in a private corporation, where you don’t get promoted unless you produce. Then he spent years studying the research of others, and trying and failing with his own research. For years. His failures were discarded, but only after he learned from them. The failures of the research of other scientists were discarded as well. But only after he learned from them, too.

And his high-yield grains were sold on the open market. Some sold well. Some didn’t. He worked on improving the ones that sold well. And some of those new varieties sold better. And some didn’t.

The American government didn’t choose which grains would be planted. Farmers in Mexico and Pakistan did. Farmers who know a lot more about producing grain in Mexico and Pakistan than American politicians do.

And after some decades, now some billion people are alive that wouldn’t have been without Dr. Borlaug’s work.

But I think it’s important to remind ourselves that those billion people owe their lives not just to Dr. Borlaug, but also to capitalism, freedom of speech, a functioning peer review system, a competitive research environment, and encouragement of (rather than suppression of) dissenting views.

Things that did not exist in Lysenko’s Soviet Union. Things that we take for granted here in America.

Or, at least, we used to.

Those who suppress free speech, either through the legal system, or on social media, or via cancel culture and peer pressure, or via any other technique – anyone who suppresses free speech and open markets is dangerous. In many ways, some of which might be difficult to predict. Like wheat production in Pakistan. Who’da thunk it?

Well, you don’t have to understand it. Just get out of the way and let it happen.

If you find yourself suppressing the ideas of those who disagree with you, even if you know you’re right, you should stop and think about Mr. Lysenko and Dr. Borlaug. And you should think about dead Chinese people and well-fed Mexicans.

Suppression of dissenting ideas and free speech is dangerous. In ways that you just can’t imagine.

American Democrats really need to stop and think about their tactics. This stuff is dangerous. In ways that they just can’t imagine.

Just ask a dead Chinese person from 1961.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The science has been settled, Comrade. Conform to the consensus or suffer the consequences.

    • #1
  2. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    From Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, set in an un-named country which was obviously the Stalinist Soviet Union:

    A short time ago, our leading agriculturist, B., was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a nationally centralized agriculture, the alternative of nitrate of potash is of enormous importance: it can decide the issue of the next war. If No. I was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle. If he was wrong …

    and

    Why did you execute Bogrov?”“Why? Because of the submarine question,” said Ivanov. “It concerned the problem of tonnage—an old quarrel, the beginnings of which must be familiar to you. “Bogrov advocated the construction of submarines of large tonnage and a long range of action. The Party is in favour of small submarines with a short range. You can build three times as many small submarines for your money as big ones. Both parties had valid technical arguments. The experts made a big display of technical sketches and algebraic formulae; but the actual problem lay in quite a different sphere. Big submarines mean: a policy of aggression, to further world revolution. Small submarines mean coastal defense—that is, self-defense and postponement of world revolution. The latter is the point of view of No. 1, and the Party.

    “Bogrov had a strong following in the Admiralty and amongst the officers of the old guard. It would not have been enough to put him out of the way; he also had to be discredited. A trial was projected to unmask the partisans of big tonnage as saboteurs and traitors. We had already brought several little engineers to the point of being willing to confess publicly to whatever we liked. But Bogrov wouldn’t play the game…. In a public trial he would only have created confusion amongst the people. There was no other way possible than to liquidate him administratively. Would not you have done the same thing in our position?

    and, finally:

    ‘…to settle a difference of opinion, we know only one argument: death, whether it is a matter of submarines, manure, or the party line to be followed in Indo-China. Our engineers work with the constant knowledge that an error in calculation may take them to prison or the scaffold; the higher officials in our administration ruin and destroy their subordinates, because they know that they will be held responsible for the slightest slip and be destroyed themselves; our poets settle discussions on questions of style by denunciations to the Secret Police, because the expressionists consider the naturalistic style counter-revolutionary, and vice versa.’

    • #2
  3. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Censors_NotGoodGuys

    • #3
  4. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    Censors_NotGoodGuys

    stolen borrowed from @mim526 from the serious meme post. 

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    If your submarines are all short range, then the oceans are divided into where your submarines can be, and where they can’t. If your enemy knows where your submarines can’t be, he can focus his attention on where they can. You’ve just made your navy into an easier problem to solve. You don’t want to do that.

    Back to the real topic. Of course you have to be able to argue about stuff. Wrong answers are move numerous than right answers. Frequently there aren’t any right answers, just tradeoffs. But you’ll never make any progress if you regularly make one answer the only acceptable way to think.

    • #5
  6. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Dr. Bastiat: Suppression of dissenting ideas and free speech is dangerous. In ways that you just can’t imagine.

    Hiding the truth in any form is bad at any scale.

    It is scary to see it operating a a large scale in our society.

    • #6
  7. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    I am glad you finished with the Zuck picture.   That guy is using his dominant platform to the control the narrative exposed to his 2 billion users.  That narrative includes furthering the global warming hoax.

    • #7
  8. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    “In ways that you just can’t imagine.”

    And one of our biggest problems is that we have two generations of Americans that can’t imagine it because they are historically ignorant; both of American and World History.  Lysenko?  Borlaug?  Mention either name to college graduates of the last 20 years and be prepared for blank stares.  And, many of the reasons for these blank stares can be found in the social media tinker toys that have been created by Zuckerberg and his buddies.

    We now have a populace that will never be able to learn from history because they no longer read and understand history.  Now, they “learn” from pieces of crap such as “A Peoples History of the United States” and the “1619 Project” (just to name a few).

    To many in our population, the suppression of Conservative speech is palatable because it is “moral”.  And who defines “moral”?  Why, folks such as Zuckerberg.

    “Lots and lots of dead people”.  Yeah, I can see that happening.

     

    • #8
  9. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    David Foster (View Comment):

    From Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, set in an un-named country which was obviously the Stalinist Soviet Union:

    A short time ago, our leading agriculturist, B., was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a nationally centralized agriculture, the alternative of nitrate of potash is of enormous importance: it can decide the issue of the next war. If No. I was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle. If he was wrong …

    and

    Why did you execute Bogrov?”“Why? Because of the submarine question,” said Ivanov. “It concerned the problem of tonnage—an old quarrel, the beginnings of which must be familiar to you. “Bogrov advocated the construction of submarines of large tonnage and a long range of action. The Party is in favour of small submarines with a short range. You can build three times as many small submarines for your money as big ones. Both parties had valid technical arguments. The experts made a big display of technical sketches and algebraic formulae; but the actual problem lay in quite a different sphere. Big submarines mean: a policy of aggression, to further world revolution. Small submarines mean coastal defense—that is, self-defense and postponement of world revolution. The latter is the point of view of No. 1, and the Party.

    “Bogrov had a strong following in the Admiralty and amongst the officers of the old guard. It would not have been enough to put him out of the way; he also had to be discredited. A trial was projected to unmask the partisans of big tonnage as saboteurs and traitors. We had already brought several little engineers to the point of being willing to confess publicly to whatever we liked. But Bogrov wouldn’t play the game…. In a public trial he would only have created confusion amongst the people. There was no other way possible than to liquidate him administratively. Would not you have done the same thing in our position?

    and, finally:

    ‘…to settle a difference of opinion, we know only one argument: death, whether it is a matter of submarines, manure, or the party line to be followed in Indo-China. Our engineers work with the constant knowledge that an error in calculation may take them to prison or the scaffold; the higher officials in our administration ruin and destroy their subordinates, because they know that they will be held responsible for the slightest slip and be destroyed themselves; our poets settle discussions on questions of style by denunciations to the Secret Police, because the expressionists consider the naturalistic style counter-revolutionary, and vice versa.’

    Darkness at Noon was required reading (Freshman English) when I was an undergraduate.  Gotta wonder how often it’s assigned today…

    • #9
  10. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Dr. Bastiat: Again, how did an incompetent like Lysenko manage to kill that many people with faulty science?

    Let’s ask Herr Fauxi, shall we?

    Or Komrade Cuomo?

    They claim to be in the know. 

    • #10
  11. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Candace Owens is moderately obsessed with AOC because they are the same age. She wonders why AOC believes what she believes and why she believes what she believes. She thinks that she chose Truth and AOC chose niceness. What is True is rarely what people want to be. It feels better to believe in whatever is convenient. In the short term anyways. 

    In the long term, the gods of the copybook heading always return. 

    • #11
  12. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Candace Owens is moderately obsessed with AOC because they are the same age. She wonders why AOC believes what she believes and why she believes what she believes. She thinks that she chose Truth and AOC chose niceness. What is True is rarely what people want to be. It feels better to believe in whatever is convenient. In the short term anyways.

    In the long term, the gods of the copybook heading always return.

    I can think of a lot of terms to describe AOC but “niceness” wouldn’t even be in my top 20…

    • #12
  13. Captain French Moderator
    Captain French
    @AlFrench

    Dr. Borlaug should have got a Nobel.

    • #13
  14. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    When everything is political, people don’t just die, they are murdered for non-conformance.  Ask the Soviet Army in 1940-41.  Every farmer has a political commissar watching over him, as does every worker.

    • #14
  15. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    I was trained in Grad School to design solutions to complex problems.

    My professors in my training liked to spout a few good axioms among them:

     • If you ask the right question, the solution will be obvious and 

    There are no dumb or bad questions

    But now there are many “bad questions” that cannot be asked.  Questioning it the key to solving problems, but  “questioning government authority” is now a thought crime punishable severely by our new hallowed Overlords under some made up interpretation of a statute that was designed for other purposes, so one can only assume that solving our nations ills is no longer an objective of our ruling class.   One should then expect that the nation’s general welfare should  suffer severely  in the near future as one could already see from the effect our nation’s Bureaucratic Karens have had on the economy since the beginning of the Pandemic. 

    That said corporate America has apparently become as Stalinist as our Deep State bureaucracy where political correctness has taken the upper hand over finding solutions to that Business’s challenges, so we should expect that our nations cumulative Corporate Work Product should suffer severely in the near future. 

    • #15
  16. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Captain French (View Comment):

    Dr. Borlaug should have got a Nobel.

    Nope.  Couldn’t have him taking one from Barry Soetero, the real hero of something, somewhere.

    • #16
  17. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    I’m considering pulling out The Big Black Book of Communism at work, the next time I’m “invited” to a panel discussion around diversity, which is now simply the vehicle by which we are all to indoctrinated into whatever belief system the company will now mandate as terms of employment.

    100 million people killed in the 20th century.  Why?  A belief system that tolerated zero dissent.

    • #17
  18. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    There were a lot of things I wanted to add, but I didn’t, because I was trying to keep it short.

    First, if Lysenko had been American, DuPont would never have hired him.  Or if they did, they’d quickly transfer him out of scientific research and into something he’s good at, in some other department.  So he would have ended doing something he was good at and he would have had a nice career.  Nobody would have died.  And no arguing and imprisoning anybody.  Everybody would have been better off, and the process would have been free of conflict.  Capitalism is good at that.

    Next, I think a lot of people have a hard time with the connection between Facebook ‘fact-checking’ a post it doesn’t like and removing it, and how that leads to a child starving to death in Pakistan.  Or whatever.  This is sort of abstract.  And our schools don’t teach it.  Americans have lost the ability to consider the risks and rewards of their actions.  But conservatives should talk about this sort of thing all the time.

    Next, so many young people now, when they want to save the world, they go to journalism school.  Borlaug got a PhD in plant pathology and genetics, and tried to figure out how to produce more food for the world’s growing population. 

    Too many people now want to help people by telling them what to think, or what to do.  They should instead focus on helping people.  Like feeding them, or whatever, like Borlaug did.  But increasing control over people rarely ends up helping them.  So stop talking, and get to work.

    There are a lot of ways to take this discussion.  But I consider Lysenko and Borlaug to be two of the most important and interesting people of the 20th century, and most people have never heard of them.  

    I think comparing them is a worthwhile exercise.  I wish schools did this sort of thing.

    • #18
  19. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    Next, so many young people now, when they want to save the world, they go to journalism school. Borlaug got a PhD in plant pathology and genetics, and tried to figure out how to produce more food for the world’s growing population. 

    It seems like an increasing % of people want to play the ‘influencer’ role rather than the ‘decider-doer’ role…’staff’ rather than ‘line.’

    In transportation, for example, I’m pretty sure that the typical Ivy League graduate would rather have a government or think-tank job where he writes papers on ‘The future of American transportation, 2040-2060’ rather than a job as manager of the Atlanta Air Traffic Control tower.  Or would prefer a ‘strategic planning’ job in a corporation to a job as sales manager or manufacturing manager.

    • #19
  20. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Note to editors:

    You changed my title, which is fine.  Except I think you left a word out.

    I think you meant to change it to:  Suppression of Free Speech Leads to Dead People

    But it now reads:  Suppression of Free Speech Leads Dead People

    Not complaining.  Perfectly understandable.

    But I can’t change it now.  And it looks like I put a typo in my own title.  Talk about a proofreading error – ouch.

    Please fix this when you get the chance.  Thanks.

    @bethanymandel

    @johngabriel

    • #20
  21. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Dr. Bastiat:

     

    Or, at least, we used to.

    Those who suppress free speech, either through the legal system, or on social media, or via cancel culture and peer pressure, or via any other technique – anyone who suppresses free speech and open markets is dangerous. In many ways, some of which might be difficult to predict. Like wheat production in Pakistan. Who’da thunk it?

    Well, you don’t have to understand it. Just get out of the way and let it happen.

    Interesting, because Zuck started out as a good guy here, an entrepreneur bringing us a novel and useful product.  FB, Google, Amazon and Twitter (which I have never used) were all useful at their foundings and are now agents of oppression.

     

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Excellent post! Thanks, Dr. B.

    • #22
  23. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Note to editors:

    Thanks for correcting my title!  I appreciate it.

    • #23
  24. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    When deaths in America occur due to the spreading communism, the Left will simply re-label the dead as “our comrades quietly meditating on the strengths of socialism.”

     

    • #24
  25. Ray Gunner Coolidge
    Ray Gunner
    @RayGunner

    Captain French (View Comment):

    Dr. Borlaug should have got a Nobel.

    He did!  In 1970.

    • #25
  26. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    In the long term, the gods of the copybook heading always return. 

    Always

    • #26
  27. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member
    Nanocelt TheContrarian
    @NanoceltTheContrarian

    Captain French (View Comment):

    Dr. Borlaug should have got a Nobel.

    He did. 1970.

    • #27
  28. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):

    Captain French (View Comment):

    Dr. Borlaug should have got a Nobel.

    He did. 1970.

    Did he say, “You are all eating my food $*#&@s.” and drop the mike?

    • #28
  29. Captain French Moderator
    Captain French
    @AlFrench

    Ray Gunner (View Comment):

    Captain French (View Comment):

    Dr. Borlaug should have got a Nobel.

    He did! In 1970.

    Oops. I should have checked. My old brain forgot about it.

    • #29
  30. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    And now for something a little lighter.  Absolutely NSFW.

     

    • #30