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January 30, 2010


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Martin Wisse

I'm sure the socialism implemented in Tanzania was a disaster, but shouldn't it be also credited with the lowe level of inequality you mentioned in the previous post?

Black Mage

The quote you cited in your previous post -- 'after independence, Kenya built an economy, Tanzania built a society' -- has, I think, a lot to do with Nyerere.

Tanzanian socialism was an epic disaster, misconceived from the beginning and appallingly executed, BUT the cultural narrative that grew up around it -- the ideals of a communal African culture transcending class and tribe -- seems to have had pleasant societal after-effects. I wouldn't be surprised if the ideals of communal interest, inculcated so strongly by Nyerere, have a big role in why their Tax Appeals Board is so successful and why corruption is so relatively minor.

Even if Tanzanian socialism's short-term effects were disastrous, maybe its long-term effects on the culture have proven uniquely beneficial?

(Also, Nyerere wasn't the only personally non-corrupt African leader; Seretse Khama, in Botswana, seems to have been fairly above-board, even though he was already personally wealthy.)

I'm interested that you think Tanzania is one of the better African democracies. Freedom House don't agree, placing it around the middle. And the CCP have never even come close to losing an election. I don't suppose you could expand upon how healthy you think Tanzanian democracy is, by any chance?

Doug M.

Socialism and inequality: quite possibly the low inequality is indeed because of Nyerere. On the other hand, Angola under MPLA was "socialist", and it's been one of the most unequal countries in the world for a long time now. At the moment I'm thinking probably, but not certain.

Nation superseding tribe, yeah, that's almost certainly Nyerere's doing. As noted last post, he had a decent hand to start with -- but he played it very well.

Democracy: actually, I don't think Tanzania is much of a liberal democracy. As you say, the ruling party has been in power nonstop since independence.

On the other hand, by regional standards, they're doing pretty well. Look at the indexes on things like corruption, press freedom, human rights, you name it, and they're at or near the top of the region and well above average for their income level.

I guess it depends on whether we grade on a curve, or not.

Doug M.


If he was like Ataturk, did he bring in foreign doctors to treat his syphilis?

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