The left, for its part, still fails to understand the other side of the coin. On the front is the image of the president, on the back is the institution of the state. If Bush is ever immortalized on coin, his denomination will almost surely follow the pattern of all presidential tyrants numismatically eternalized before him. Turning over his image will reveal that of a government building or memorial, made permanent in the metallic disc and representing the state’s impersonal, cold inhumanity whose obfuscation is the role of the chief executive engraved on the flipside.
There is absolutely much truth to this. But before getting into the million definitions of left and right, I want to consider the general thrust of the organized left and right during Republican and Democratic administrations, and ponder what, from a libertarian perspective, we should root for (or root the less against) in national politics.
I'm speaking in terrible generalization here, but I think a few issues are important:
—Who is worse, the left or right, when its side holds power?
—Is the left more critical of Democratic administrations, or is the right more critical of Republican ones? Whose criticism of their own party is more libertarian?
—Is the left more critical of Republican administrations, or is the right more critical of Democratic ones? Whose criticism of the other party is more libertarian?
—Which side is more hypocritical?
—How much does all this go out the window in times of war and crisis?
I think the answer to the last question is: A whole lot. On the matter of war and other crises, I have noticed a tendency for the party in power to be terrible and the opposition side to be better. See my article "Waco, Oklahoma City, and the Post-9/11 Left-Right Dynamic"
However, I do suspect that the better radical leftist critiques of warfare and police statism are more in play during Democratic administrations than are conservative critiques of despotism during Republican ones. Leftists opposed Johnson's war. Some even critiqued Clinton's handling of Waco and Kosovo.
I tend to think conservatives are more lockstep in support of their party, especially where it counts. This was certainly true on Berkeley's campus—not a good representation of American politics, I know! But I remember that the leftists were split among two dozen groups, each with a handful of vocal advocates, whereas all the campus conservatives were unified in the Berkeley College Republicans, the largest political group on campus. The Cal Democrats were even split on the Afghan war! (An event, by the way, that started me on my path of disliking the left less than the right.
Conservatives are very well organized behind their party, and seem to defend everything their president does. The question is: Will enough liberals continue criticizing the American empire when it's taken over by Democrats to make the switch, from our perspective, better? Will enough conservatives truly attack the Democratic administration for its unconstitutional despotism? Or will they instead encourage the Democrats to prove they can be tough by launching even more war and invasions of civil liberties than the current administration?
Obviously, the Clintons and the Bushes and the establishment in both parties are thoroughly statist: the difference between jackboot Democrats and spendthrift Republicans is nearly nothing. But what really matters to me is the overall political dynamic in society. In this regard, which party is preferable, from a libertarian standpoint?
Leave aside for the moment the question of divided government. I think we can all agree that a Republican monopoly on all three branches has been a disaster.
I do feel horrible about the loss of life of agents carrying out the terroristic policies of the state. But if this guy hangs for shooting an intruder in his home in the middle of the night, I will lose yet another bit of faith in America's criminal"justice system." At this point I don't have much faith to begin with, but it appears I am always capable of being further disgusted and disappointed by atrocity.
The evangelical movement in America—the one that put Bush in the White House and continues to constitute his most dependable base of support—has been whipped into a frothing frenzy over the idea, promoted by the newshounds with too much air time to kill at Fox, that someone, somewhere is waging a War on Christmas.
What? Is the government, some government anywhere, actively preventing Christians from celebrating Christmas, as in the Soviet Union, Cuba, China—or, the egregious case of Massachusetts Colony in the 17th century (we’ll get to that)?
No, apparently not. The problem is more subtle, or so they say.
It didn't take long for America's first blockbuster feature film to produce its first creepy fan subculture. Right before the Atlanta debut of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, an epic that glorified the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan, William Joseph Simmons and 11 others celebrated Thanksgiving by burning a cross atop Stone Mountain and declaring the KKK reborn. A week later, on December 4, 1915, they received a charter from the state of Georgia for their new organization, dubbed The Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc.
"No one who favors the warfare state can disown the methods by which it's financed. It is no less economically collectivist to root for war than to root for any other government program. If a socialist told you he wants universal healthcare, but he does not favor the taxation and coercion to fund and implement it, you would quickly point out his naked contradiction. Every warmonger is an inflationist and a taxmonger, whether he knows it or not. To accept war is to accept the warfare state, and to accept the warfare state is to accept all the fundamental premises of statism -- the collectivism, the aggression, the ability of central planning to succeed."
Well after World War II and at the end of the Korean War, President Eisenhower signed a bill in 1954 that changed the name of the national holiday to Veterans’ Day. There were good intentions: America’s veterans of wars other than World War I deserved some recognition. Interestingly enough, however, the United States had not retracted its military reach after World War II as it now was in a perpetual state of war against Communism. Whereas after World War I, the United States brought its armed forces home, the Cold War guaranteed that the United States would henceforth have little interest in armistice, in truce, in peace.
Read the rest.
From the libertarian point of view, the federal Constitution as written is fairly libertarian, at least compared to the leviathan state into which the original central government has morphed. It is for this reason that we want judges to adhere to the strict text of the Constitution: because it is a way to help hold the federal government to its original, more-limited scheme."Originalism" then--or opposition to activism--has primarily an instrumental value (as I argued in this Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterlyreview essay--which I wrote, coincidentally enough, after the journal approached me, at Professor Barnett's suggestion). Because our Constitution is relatively libertarian, we want the federal government to abide by the limits the Constitution places on it. In such a context, activism is likely to be a lead to unlibertarian results because it will mean invention of new powers or relaxations on the limits placed on the state. We can hardly be surprised that the judicial branch of the state tends to decide in a pro-state manner; but to the extent judges feel bound by the text of the Constitution, the state's growth will be somewhat impeded (albeit, one disadvantage of such as system is that giving some lip service to the "rule of law" cover or myth helps to legitimize the state's actions).
"looked at sixty-five countries that have undergone institutional reform in the last three decades, asking itself what determines institutional change. This is where the study runs into some trouble. To answer this question they conducted econometric exercises mixing the data from the various countries and coming up with certain patterns."However,
"The problem is that econometric exercises don’t really work with factors that have to do with ideas, choices, and historical contexts rather than numbers."Llosa says the real answer lies in leaders and crises.
We need a solution that will take care of Iraq, Iran, and their embarrassing new affinity to each other. We need a way to continue the war on terror against Iran without stretching the military too thin or exhausting our capabilities for potential intervention elsewhere. We need to keep the new Iraqi Sharia state in check. Since we live in a democracy, we should find an answer that satisfies everyone and saves America's face in world opinion, all the while maintaining consistency and continuity with America's traditions in foreign policy.
The media’s focus on whether the Bush administration’s forced timetable is met, rather than on the quality and likely impact of the resulting constitution, serves the administration’s purpose of creating the illusion of progress. . . . And an illusion it is. Earlier this summer, Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, made the astounding admission that the war in Iraq was lost militarily when he said: “[T]his insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations.” He then pointed his finger to the political process for a solution.
Yet, artificially forcing the Iraqis to reach a definitive agreement on fundamental issues—such as autonomy for Kurdish and Shi’ite areas (federalism), the role of Islam and women in Iraqi society, and the fate of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk—will likely make any Iraqi Constitution as irrelevant as those of neighboring Arab states. On paper, many Arab states have liberal constitutions, but they do not have the political culture or institutions to sustain an open political system. If Iraq doesn’t descend into civil war quickly, perhaps the administration can pull off this façade and exit Iraq with some dignity.
The Bush administration, [a Washington Post] article explains, no longer expects to produce a model democracy, a well-functioning oil industry, or “a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges” in Iraq. In short, the country is in terrible shape, and the U.S. government cannot solve the Iraqis’ most pressing problems. According to a senior U.S. official, “what we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground. We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we’re in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning.”
To appreciate just how shocking this statement is, one must recall that not so long ago, a Bush staffer was quoted as saying, “We’re an empire now, we make our own reality.” Indeed, since 9/11 the Bush administration’s foreign policy has been everything that foreign-policy realism is not. The government’s faith-based occupation of Iraq, however, has not held up well against the rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices, small-arms fire, and mortar rounds that continue to batter it with distressing regularity, inflicting casualties of nearly 2,000 dead and some 14,000 wounded among U.S. military forces so far. An administration notable for its arrogance now undertakes to “shed the unreality” that underlay its invasion and occupation.
About two weeks ago, the FBI admitted in federal court to collecting thousands of documents on non-violent activist groups, including the ACLU, Greenpeace and various antiwar organizations.Read the rest.
The ACLU, suing under the Freedom of Information Act, requested to see its files, but the FBI insists it cannot turn over its 1,173 pages of documentation on the ACLU for another eight or more months, as it needs that time to “process” them. Ironically, this same agency, which can apparently only “process” about five documents a day, is also supposed to protect Americans against terrorism.
If we are to have a serious debate about eminent domain, we need to get beyond this ridiculous distinction between public and private use. Government is a racket that rewards itself through plunder and always in the name of public purpose. The truth is that there is no coherent way to separate public and private purpose when it comes to government. Its roads benefit private contractors and serve private interests. It’s true they are"free," but so are the streets in shopping malls, which are private. As for public schools, the teachers unions and hordes of bureaucrats are private interests too. Indeed, there is no such thing as the"public," there are only individuals.
In Iraq, like everywhere else, if things don’t add up, it is safe to assume that politics is involved. Although the insurgency in recent months has worsened, Gen. George W. Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, astonishingly claims that security in Iraq has improved and that substantial U.S. troop withdrawals are possible by as early as next spring. What gives? The congressional elections in 2006.
Although Bush administration officials have implied that demands by Democrats for a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable are “unpatriotic” and “aid the enemy,” when electoral politics is involved, the administration is all too willing to predict troop reductions during a specified time period. They know that the Democrats will try to make political hay—probably starting around next spring—from the growing unpopularity here at home of the continued occupation of Iraq. By showing some incremental and token progress toward getting out of the quagmire, the administration hopes to contain the damage Democrats could do on this issue at election time.
On the particular point of the Exit Plan, I've seen other intriguing arguments for and against — or at least, in some defense of and with objection to — the proposal, notably by Chris Claypoole and Tom Knapp, respectably, over at The Libertarian Enterprise.
(I'm still thinking of my precise take on it, though I do generally dislike the gradualism in the plan, especially the idea of moving the troops from Iraq another countries to continue the"war on terror." Certainly, I don't think Iraqis will be much better off unless they're allowed — not forced into by a foreign power — a more decentralized governance, which would likely lead to a partitioned or federated Iraq, as Ivan Eland has suggested.)
On the more general point of gradualism, Rockwell critiques what he considers a counterproductive approach to public policy and the questions of the state, looking at attitude differences and drawing the line not at minarchism vs. anarchism, but on a more subtle and yet possibly more fundamental distinction in how libertarians view the state. As he puts it in his defense of more radical minarchism,"There is a difference between seeing government as a necessary evil, and viewing liberty as the offspring of power."
I first noticed this image on a television commercial for Burlington Coat Factory and recorded my surprise at the LRC blog.
More than likely, the real underlying purpose of the London attacks was similar to that of the Spanish train bombings in March 2004 on the eve of the Spanish elections. Al Qaeda took advantage of the Spanish government’s support of the U.S.-led Iraq invasion and the Spanish public’s intense dislike of that policy to drive home the high costs of being a Bush administration ally. The Spanish public realized that the Spanish government, in the name of national defense, was actually endangering the security of the Spanish people in order to score points with the United States. They promptly voted that government out of office and installed a replacement that withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq.
Al Qaeda is likely looking for a similar outcome in Britain, a country much more vital to the Bush administration’s war effort in Iraq than Spain. In contrast to Spain’s primarily symbolic importance for the U.S. war and occupation, the British have about 8,500 capable troops in Iraq. Britain is the only nation in the world to provide more than symbolic support for the globally unpopular U.S. military adventure in Iraq.
The question remains as to how the British will react in response. On the immediate response, Eric Margolis had this to say (along with other interesting insights in the same article):
London's emergency service functioned brilliantly. There was none of the chaos or jingoism we saw after 9/11 in New York. Britons uniformly exhibited stiff upper lips, coolness, and manners for which they are deservedly respected. I was very proud of them.
The bombings paralyzed London during morning rush hour, but by afternoon the city's trademark red buses were again careening around corners and even subway service partly resumed.
There were no witch hunts against London's Muslims, 10% of that great city's population.
A senior British police official declared there is no reason why the words"Islamic" and"terrorist" should go together, even though Blair had just used them.
The cop is right. The terrorists who struck London on 7/7 may have been Mideast Muslims, but their primary goal was political, not religious.
The Spanish pulled out of Iraq. Will the British? It appears not for now. For now, the British State is at least copying the American State in a few key ways, such as in Blair's rejection of an inquiry into the bombing, requested by the Conservative opposition party.