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A Dear Leader Bites Rabbit Story:

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the North Korean communist goverment's plan to alleviate its food shortages by breeding giant rabbits purchased in Germany. At that time, I listed several reasons why North Korea's giant rabbit breeding program was unlikely to succeed any better than have other experiments in economic central planning. However, I have to admit that I didn't expect that the program would fail for this reason. According to the Sydney Morning Herald (hat tip Tom Palmer):

A German farmer who sold 12 giant rabbits to North Korea with the aim of setting up a breeding program to alleviate famine has said he was shocked to hear they were eaten at Kim Jong-il's birthday banquet.

Karl Szmolinsky sent his oversized bunnies to Pyongyang to boost meat production. Der Spiegel reported that the 68-year-old breeder had been due to travel to North Korea to help set up the farm, but had received a telephone call last week from an official cancelling the trip.

Mr Szmolinsky told Der Spiegel that although he had no evidence, he believed his rabbits, which each weighed more than 10 kilograms, had been eaten at a banquet for the North Korean leader on February 16. "North Korea won't be getting any more rabbits from me, they don't even need to bother asking," he told the magazine.

In retrospect, maybe I should have foreseen the problem. Since Kim Jong Il is more than willing to kill millions of people, he surely wouldn't have any scruples about offing a few rabbits in order to liven up his birthday party. More generally, in a centrally planned economy, the most desirable goods tend to end up in the hands of the central planners. And the chief central planner in North Korea is undoubtedly Mr. Dear Leader Kim Jong Il. As the North Korean government's official website puts it, he is "the sun of the nation and of mankind." The people of North Korea - and the world - would be better off if Dear little KJI were fed to the giant rabbits instead of the reverse. Perhaps we should put the "killer rabbit" that once attacked Jimmy Carter on the case.

Mithras The Prophet (mail) (www):
I'm a little confused, though -- he "had no evidence", but was "shocked to hear" they were eaten at the birthday party? It kind of sounds like they disinvited him, and he assumed the rest.

I wouldn't put it past Kim Jong Il to feast as his nation fasts, but I think the particular story is just speculation at this point.
4.11.2007 12:26am
Lev:
Better the rabbits than Dear Leader's countrymen subjects prisoners.
4.11.2007 12:28am
Jim Anderson (mail) (www):
While we're at it, I'm selling shares in a cat and rat ranch.
4.11.2007 12:41am
Albatross (www):
The people of North Korea - and the world - would be better off if Dear little KJI were fed to the giant rabbits instead of the reverse.

Perhaps these guys could be of service.
4.11.2007 12:48am
OrinKerr:
Mr Szmolinsky told Der Spiegel that although he had no evidence, he believed his rabbits, which each weighed more than 10 kilograms, had been eaten at a banquet.

I also found this line really weird. Either he was "shocked to hear" they were eaten or else he has no evidence they were eaten; how can both be true?
4.11.2007 12:50am
LTEC (mail) (www):
"... Dear little KJI ... "

Why do you have to make fun of his height?
4.11.2007 1:44am
Ilya Somin:
Why do you have to make fun of his height?

I'm not making fun of his height, but of the outsize ego that led him to call himself "The Dear Leader" in the first place.
4.11.2007 1:46am
Truth Seeker:
Tell me again why we have rules that we cannot assassinate insane people who are ruling other nations and subjecting millions to suffering? If Hitler was killed early in his reign tens of millions would have been saved from death and suffering. Wouldn't the targeted assassination of KJI, Mugabe and Ahmadinejad improve the lives of millions?
4.11.2007 2:01am
Joe Bingham (mail):
Chavez, while you're at it, Truth Seeker.

Wait, Mr. Somin. Are you suggesting a centrally planned economy is a bad thing? Bc I heard on NPR that it's not.
4.11.2007 2:20am
Joe Bingham (mail):
Of course, now that I think about it, National Public Radio exists as a centrally planned part of the economy, doesn't it?
4.11.2007 2:21am
BobNSF (mail):
Why don't we assassinate "insane" leaders? Because our -- and everybody else's -- standards for "insanity" get awfully loose whenever the tantilizing option is raised.
4.11.2007 2:56am
llamasex (mail) (www):
Unsubstantiated attacks on KJI, surrounded by posts calling out professor Murphy for not having any proof of what he claims.

Not to defend Kimmy, it just seems the tone is different, and not just on this. On the post about the BBC MAYBE not doing a special drama on an Iraq war hero http://volokh.com/posts/1176064420.shtml

Skepticism isn't a one way street
4.11.2007 3:02am
subpatre (mail):
Szmolinsky had been set to fly to North Korea in mid-April to see the pens built for the giant German greys, but the North Korean embassy in Berlin denied him a visa.

Asked for comment, a spokesman for the North Korean embassy in Berlin was unsympathetic. "We got the rabbits and shipped them to the Farm Ministry in Pyongyang. Why should we invite the breeder over as well? he said. Asked if North Korea had killed the rabbits, he hung up the phone.
M&C

Not proof, but to a breeder, not exactly confidence inspiring. No?
4.11.2007 3:06am
martin Henner (mail):
Have you considered that the Rabbit story was an April Fool's Hoax?
4.11.2007 3:34am
Adam R (mail):
I don't understand what the issue is. He sold the rabbits to increase meat production, so clearly he was expecting that the rabbits that would be bred from the ones he sold would be butchered anyway. Butchering the original rabbits he sold is eating the seed crop, so rather silly, but I don't understand why the seller is so upset. Can someone explain? I think I have totally missed this.
4.11.2007 4:42am
Positroll (mail):
Original story in Der Spiegel
(in English; published on 2. april - no April Fool's Hoax ...)
4.11.2007 5:26am
Positroll (mail):
another try ...
http://www.spiegel.de/international/
zeitgeist/0,1518,475218,00.html
4.11.2007 5:29am
PersonFromPorlock:
Truth Seeker:

Wouldn't the targeted assassination of KJI, Mugabe and Ahmadinejad improve the lives of millions?

Those who believe people who govern have no ethics have only to suggest killing people who govern to discover otherwise.
4.11.2007 7:35am
Toby:

Why do you have to make fun of his height?

I'm not making fun of his height, but of the outsize ego that led him to call himself "The Dear Leader" in the first place.

Somehow, to me, it also invokes the DLF of CS Lewis.
4.11.2007 9:27am
Dan Hamilton:

Those who believe people who govern have no ethics have only to suggest killing people who govern to discover otherwise.


No not ethics just self intrest. If leaders can be assassinated then they can be assassinated. That is the reason for the law anyway.

Must not endanger the leaders.
4.11.2007 9:52am
Mr L (mail):
I don't understand why the seller is so upset. Can someone explain?

I highly doubt this guy had much love for the North Korean dictator even before they lied to him; the only reason he probably agreed to sell some to them in the first place is because it would allevate famine. Finding out that your charitable impulses had been taken advantage of so some despot could have an interesting birthday party is bound to piss anybody off.
4.11.2007 10:47am
Positroll (mail):
Another reason for the breeder to be upset is explained in an older story on the subject: FRAUD!
"Each of his rabbits produces around seven kilograms of meat, says Szmolinsky, who was so keen to help alleviate hunger in the impoverished country that he made the North Koreans a special price -- €80 per rabbit instead of the usual €200 to €250."
http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,458863,00.html
4.11.2007 11:21am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that some of us will probably go to our graves with the image of Kim Jong Il from Team America. Every time I hear his name in this sort of context, I think of him singing "I'm so lonely".
4.11.2007 11:44am
Orielbean (mail):
Truth Seeker - I cannot believe that you talk about assassination like it was some novel new idea. Mugabe was PUT INTO POWER by us!!! How did we do it? Patrice Lumumba, who was the elected Communist leader of the country, was kidnapped and then MURDERED by us. Mugabe was our puppet. Now do you see why it doesn't work? Unless your puppet is also competent at running a country, it is pointless and probably just as harmful.

Killing Hitler when he was at war with us is a different story and different tactic to disrupt C&C operations (which does work). Iraq is a good example - the first war would have made sense to drop a bomb on his head mid-invasion of Kuwait. The second war, which we started, didn't have much of an effect when he was captured and taken out of the picture. See the difference?. We wanted Chalabi as our puppet, and he was also incompetent to lead.

Nobody can argue that Jong is a moron and a tyrant. But who do you put in his place? Do you keep that centrally planned government? He took over the apparatus his father put in place, and nothing changed for the better. If we take the time to answer these questions first, and worry about killing the moron later, any plan we put into place there would be far more effective.

Hussein and Jong are just the cause and symptoms of a tyranny - just removing them doesn't have much effect beyond temporary institutional paralysis and mass confusion - your tyranny remains in place for another schmuck to seize the reins, like Stalin from Trotsky.

If you have a plan, such as the Marshall plan, then things can eventually move beyond the chaos that comes from removing the C&C portion of a government.

This bunny story is pretty funny though. No IPOD for you!
4.11.2007 12:26pm
Syd (mail):
Orielbean (mail):
Truth Seeker - I cannot believe that you talk about assassination like it was some novel new idea. Mugabe was PUT INTO POWER by us!!! How did we do it? Patrice Lumumba, who was the elected Communist leader of the country, was kidnapped and then MURDERED by us.


Lumumba was prime minister of the Democratic Rebublic of the Congo. Mugabe is president of Zimbabwe. I think you're comfusing Mugabe with Mobutu.
4.11.2007 12:39pm
Hattio (mail):
Totally Off Topic,
What is up with the Teenage Musician Power Chord Academy advertisements I keep seeing on here. How many teens are really lurking at VC, AND interested in learning to play Butt-rock? It can't be too many. Don't these folks target their ads to the type of website?
4.11.2007 12:56pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ref. Mugabe:

Where does Abel Muzorewa fit in all this?

I believe he was the first black prime minister of Zimbabwe, but, not being Marxist enough for western liberals, was replaced after a campaign of terror.
Mugabe has had a longer run than he should have, primarily because he's got all that western wonderfulness folks' (and international goodytwoshoes) lipstick on his ass. Like Pol Pot. Still, even liberal lipstick isn't the same as becoming immortal. Sometimes reality just has to stick its nose in.
4.11.2007 12:59pm
ys:
Note that at the "sun of the nation" link from the original posting, both Kim Jr. and his dad are listed as "Great Leaders". I guess eating a giant rabbit is good for your next promotion.
4.11.2007 1:30pm
Ilya Somin:
Unsubstantiated attacks on KJI, surrounded by posts calling out professor Murphy for not having any proof of what he claims.

First, I didn't write the posts about Murphy and I'm not required to make mine consistent with them (even assuming there is an inconsistency). Second, I excerpted the part of the article where the breeder says he has no proof. Nonetheless, there is a good chance the story is true given that 1) the breeder apparently heard it from some North Korean source (how else could he have done so), and 2) what we know of KJI's general character. Third, in case it wasn't obvious, the real criticism of KJI is not that he had rabbit for dinner, but that he has been killing and oppressing his people by the millions. That part, is VERY well substantiated.
4.11.2007 2:34pm
Abandon:
Who didn't get a chocolate bunny for Easter? For sure, KJ may not be a Great leader, but he has a great appetite for eating 12 on his own...


The people of North Korea - and the world - would be better off if Dear little KJI were fed to the giant rabbits instead of the reverse.


This reminds me of Biaka Boda, an Ivory Coast senator in the 1960s who was sent on an investigation about his country's inhabitants dietary requirements. He never was able to follow-up with a report on the situation although he found an answer to his question... he had been eaten by some of his anthropophagous fellows on his journey.

Perhaps KJ should investigate his citizens' dietary needs...
4.11.2007 5:54pm
Cornellian (mail):
This many comments and still not a single Monty Python killer rabbit reference?

This blog's geek street cred is going way down.
4.11.2007 5:54pm
M. Gross (mail):
Where does Abel Muzorewa fit in all this?

I believe he was the first black prime minister of Zimbabwe, but, not being Marxist enough for western liberals, was replaced after a campaign of terror.
Mugabe has had a longer run than he should have, primarily because he's got all that western wonderfulness folks' (and international goodytwoshoes) lipstick on his ass. Like Pol Pot. Still, even liberal lipstick isn't the same as becoming immortal. Sometimes reality just has to stick its nose in.


I believe Mr. Audrey has it backwards. Mugabe's ZANU was actually the Soviet-aligned party, and to the left of the more moderate UANC. The following civil war was in part motivated by the exclusion of Marxist candidates.
4.11.2007 6:03pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I listed several reasons why North Korea's giant rabbit breeding program was unlikely to succeed any better than have other experiments in economic central planning.

To claim that economic central planning always fails is simply untrue. Most of the economies of pre-Columbian America were centrally planned and were for the most part successful, some spectacularly so (e.g., the Inka). If disease had not wiped out up to 95% of the pre-Columbian population of the Americas between 1500 and 1700, the history of the last 500 years would have been quite different.
4.11.2007 8:11pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I believe he was the first black prime minister of Zimbabwe, but, not being Marxist enough for western liberals, was replaced after a campaign of terror.

Mugabe was a compromise to end the civil war. He was seen as a "moderate" leftist, not a hardcore Marxist.
4.11.2007 8:16pm