The Trans-Africa Railroad

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    If you need any further evidence to support the proposition that dictators are fundamentally stupid, read on.

    For forty-two years the people of Libya suffered under the rule of a stupid egotistical putz. He knew, unconsciously perhaps, but he knew that he was not even worthless. An inferior failure of a man, he sought to compensate by dominating others, rather than by overcoming his deficiencies. Like any bully, he was adept at the arts of deceit and manipulation and he surrounded himself with criminals. He wanted to aggrandize himself by becoming The Big Man of Islam, but the Muslims had no use for him: they saw the truth behind him and rejected him. So then he decided that he wanted to be The Big Man of Africa. But he did nothing to warrant such a title and the Africans were not going to be his personal fools. He was a total failure because, ultimately, he was stupid.

    If I wanted to be The Big Man of Africa and had the resources of Libya at my disposal, the first thought that would have come into my mind would be that of doing something that would benefit most, if not all, Africans, something spectacular. If I wanted to be The Big Man of Africa, I would do what the British couldnít Ė build a transcontinental railroad. Not Cape-to-Cairo, but Cape-to-Tripoli.

    It wouldnít be just any railroad. Itís not enough to lay rails and run trains. It must be a complete system. And it must be modern. As charming as they are, steam locomotives will not be running on these rails. The model would be something like Franceís TGV (French: Train ŗ Grande Vitesse, high-speed train), which runs as fast as 320 kilometers (200 miles) per hour. Beginning service in 1981, it provides airline-level service within France. It would be perfect for Africa.

    Imagine trains of green locomotives and carriages speeding across the African landscape, their gold trim flashing in the sun. A right of way one hundred meters wide extending from Tripoli to Capetown. Twenty-three hours from Tripoli to Capetown at 320 kilometers per hour.

    The route extends south from Tripoli into NE Niger to go around the west side of the Tibesti Mountains. It goes southeast into Chad to the town of Abeche, thence into Sudan to meet the Sudanese rail system at Nyala. It then follows the road from Nyala to Yalinga in the Central African Republic, thence to cross the Congolese/Zairean Rail system at Buta and on to Kisangani, up the Lualaba River to meet the southern Congolese/Zairean rail system at Kindu. Improving the existing lines from Kindu, through Kamina, Lubumbashi, Ndola, it goes into Zambia through Lusaka to Livingston (at Victoria Falls), crossing the Zambezi River into Zimbabwe to Bulawayo, thence across Botswana and into South Africa and Kimberley, thence to Capetown.

    From Kisangani an alternate line could veer southwest and go through Angola and Namibia and thence to Capetown. An eastern branch could go from the Sudan into Kenya and through Tanzania and Mozambique and then into South Africa.

    Yes, most of the route goes through sparsely populated territory, but, then, so did the first American transcontinental railroad. The railroad draws people in to its vicinity. It promotes development in a way that would improve the living conditions of most, if not all, Africans.

    It would affect people in another way, one that would terrify any dictator. It would bring large numbers of people together in the act of constructing and operating it. Those people would have to overcome the tribal animosities that dictators promote and exploit to maintain control of their societies. It would bring greater social peace to Africa.

    Yes, itís a Grand Scheme and one should be wary of Grand Schemes. But the saving grace of this Grand Scheme is that it is an infrastructure project. Infrastructure does not so much dictate as enable. The railroad wonít tell people what to do, but will enable them to do more efficiently what they choose to do. It doesnít dictate economic activity; it merely enables it.

    Nonetheless, it seems an obvious thing to do. If we define stupidity as the inability (or unwillingness) to appreciate the obvious, then Qaddafi certainly qualified as stupid.

    Yes, if Qaddafi had not spent all of his time kissing the mirror and making himself as dumb as a rock, he could have achieved his goal. But then all dictators are fundamentally stupid and it shows in the effects upon the victimized societies. In spite of all the enthusiastic celebrations of the dictator as the most wonderful gift God has ever bestowed upon Humanity, the subjects of a dictatorship are a demoralized people. Such people are not highly productive, as we can see in the following examples:

    In Spain under Franco the society and the economy suffered. When Franco died the monarchy was restored, democracy returned, and the country began to prosper.

    In Cuba Fidel Castro imposed his ideas and ground the country into continuing poverty. The United Statesí embargo has actually done less damage to Cuba than the dictatorship has done.

    North Korea is the anus of the Earth because of the Kim dictatorship, which enjoys a champagne and caviar lifestyle while the people of the country are reduced to eating grass and bugs. A nation of 24 million people has the Gross Domestic Product of North Dakota, which has 700,000 people. That works out to about $500 per year for each North Korean, less than two dollars per day.

    Under Hitler Germans only maintained their former standard of living by stealing food and other goods from other countries. But at least Crazy Adolf had the sense to promote the autobahns, though not for any good purpose.

    Mussolini? Initially Fascist Italy seemed to be developing well, but it wasnít long before food production began to fail. In order to grow enough wheat to make the nation self-sufficient, Italian farmers had to cut back on the production of fruit and vegetables. The government began promoting scam cuisine, just as the Nazis did in Norway.

    Stalin and Mao? Both drove their countries into famine.

    Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe has gone from a net exporter of food to a country that cannot feed its own people. Itís a fairly typical kleptocratic dictatorship.

    The Duvaliers of Haiti, father and son, were also a disease on their country. From 1957 to 1986 the Duvaliers ran Haiti as a typical kleptocracy, grinding the people into poverty and degrading their ability to create wealth while stealing what little they had.

    And the list of the despicable goes on. And, unfortunately, it will continue to grow until such time as no one raises their children to feel inadequate to function as proper adults.

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