Zimbabwe as expected falls ever more steeply to total disaster.

The gang of military/security leaders previously dependent on Mugabe now look to be running the shop, desperate as they are to cling on to power and privileges at the cost of ruining their own country. A text-book case.

Yet the UN still gives Mugabe a forum to rave away. And we taxpayers end up paying for it.

I have been looking at the True Cost of Stupidity.

Take Serbia and Slovenia.

After the initial flurry of violence when Slovenia broke from the then Yugoslavia, Slovenia has patiently got on with developing its economy.

Serbia by contrast got on with more violence against Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. This led to reduced investment, sanctions and even in the end a NATO bombing.

Result? In GDP per capita terms, Serbia is still struggling to match its economic position of 1991.

Thus the Cost of Milosevic(ism) can be accurately measured. It is the space between the two lines of a simple graph of total GDP measured over time:

  • one line shows Serbia’s actual awful performance
  • the other line shows what Serbia would have achieved by growing at an average of 3% a year over the past seventeen years. (Note: a conservative estimate – of course it could have done a lot better than that with common sense leadership and policies.)

To calculate that gap, a mathematician uses the Trapezium rule. In Serbia’s case the ‘opportunity cost’ of Milosevic and Milosevicism now runs towards hundreds of billions of dollars.

It is no exaggeration to say that Milosevicism in all its forms delivered a set-back to Serbia from which it will never recover. There is no conceivable chance of Serbia growing faster than Slovenia for the decades required for Serbia to ‘catch up’ the ground lost in the past seventeen years.

The political costs of this madness also have compounded up. Montenegro and Kosovo have broken away – had Serbia developed to its natural potential they could be clamouring to stay with Serbia and share its success.

Ditto for Mugabe.

Running the Trapezium formula on Zimbabwe’s performance over the past twenty years and comparing it with eg Estonia is a profoundly depressing experience.

Mugabe like Milosevic for reasons of selfish paranoia has created national losses running to scores of billions of dollars, losses on a scale far exceeding anything development assistance might now do to put right.

Zimbabweans will pay for this folly for many decades to come through low living standards, higher disease and death rates, worse roads, poorer education, weaker institutions.

Castro Communism is another horror story. Back in 1959 Cuba was richer than Singapore. Singapore got on with developing and building itself up, maintaining solid policies over forty years. It is now one of the most successful countries in the world. Castro’s Cuba scarcely changed at all.


  • Small sustained differences in national performance mean big differences in absolute outcomes.
  • The steady and quite rich get steadily quite a lot richer.
  • The poor have to be more than steady to start to close the gap.
  • The stupid get enormously worse off.
  • Gaps can be closed by sustained good performance (see China, India, Estonia, Poland).
  • But once you’ve fallen far behind you are severely weakened; the effort needed to sustain such performance over decades is usually undeliverable

In this sense it scarcely matters if the political flotsam and jetsam comprising Milosevic’s former party make it into Serbia’s government again under some or other coalition deal. The damage has been done, on an unimaginable scale. Let them play a walk-on part in wandering through the rubble to try to start some modest rebuilding.