Liberty & Power: Group Blog
I don’t recommend the Newsweek article. Although the writers, Jon Meacham and Evan Thomas, have absorbed a number of true facts, their level of economic understanding is abysmal, and hence their reasoning is close to worthless.
Truth is, socialism is not the wave of the future. Indeed, it is already almost as dead as the dodo. Hardly anybody in a position of political power or influence now wants to establish socialism along the lines of the Soviets or the Maoists. Everyone knows that doing so is a one-way ticket to widespread poverty, which leaves precious little surplus for the political kingpins to rip off.
No, the world is converging ever more visibly, not toward socialism, but toward what I (following Charlotte Twight’s usage) have for many years been calling participatory fascism. The hallmarks of this system are, on the political side, the trappings of democracy (parties, elections, procedural niceties, etc.), and, on the economic side, the form of private property rights (though not much of the substance that characterizes the real thing).
The beauty of this system is that the political system can easily be corrupted so that the power elite retains a firm hold on the state, despite the appearance that they rule only with the consent of the governed. The major political parties appear to compete, but for the most part they coalesce and conspire; on the basics, they are in complete agreement. The apparent “consent” they enjoy they actually manufacture by their control of the mass media, the schools and universities, and other key institutions, and no political opinion outside the 40-yard lines ever receives a hearing in serious political circles. (Remember how the oligarcos rolled their eyes when Ron Paul managed to get in an occasional word during the debates last year?)
And while the ruling establishment retains an iron grip on state power, it allow entrepreneurs just enough room for maneuver so that innovators can continue to produce the new products, new methods of production, new raw materials, and new organizational forms that move the economy forward. The most enterprising entrepreneurs can still get rich, although even they will see a large chunk of the fruits of their labors ripped away by the state. The economy will improve its productivity sufficiently to keep a growing supply of creature comforts and amusements flowing to the masses, who are content with these things, along with the illusion of security that state functionaries induce in the people.
Lest you suppose that the masses are getting a raw deal, because their level of living would be so much higher in a genuine free-market system, bear in mind that virtually all of these people despise the free market. If you don’t think so, just give them an opportunity to live in one or even to move in that direction, conditional on their willingness to accept the personal responsibility and bear the risks that attend life in such a system – and you’ll see them flee quicker than a vampire exits at the first light of day. How do you think we got into our present situation, anyhow? It’s not as though the masses were repeatedly given what they didn’t want. They had plenty of opportunities to say no to dependency on the state, but they turned away; and they do not intend to go back any time soon to what they imagine to be an unbearably harsh style of life. Rugged individualism might have been okay for their great-grandparents, but they want no part of it.
All of which leaves us – by which I mean nearly everybody on earth — converging on the only form of politico-economic system that has a stable equilibrium in our present ideological circumstances: participatory fascism. I am not saying that this system is the only one possible, forever and ever, amen. I am saying, however, that until the world’s people abandon en masse the collectivist ideologies that now determine their social cognition, policy evaluation, political practices, and personal identities, any hope for moving to a freer form of economic order as a stable equilibrium is virtually nil.
Anyone who would like to see the preceding argument spelled out in greater detail will find my most recent statement in the final chapter of my 2007 book Neither Liberty Nor Safety.
After his release and return to Kuwait that country put Ajmi on trial for terrorist actions and he was acquitted. The written decision of his Kuwaiti judges stated that “they believed that the U.S. military elicited information from the defendants by using physical and psychological torture. They deemed the U.S. investigative summaries unreliable, and they concluded that the Kuwaiti government had based its reports on unsubstantiated U.S. allegations.” The fact that he was released from the base at all is a tacit admission that there was little or no evidence that he was a problem in the first place.
To his family Ajimi’s time in prison had a profound effect on him. His younger brother describes “a normal teenager. He spun the car around in circles. He smoked. People liked him. After he came back from Guantanamo, he seemed like a completely different person. He stared all the time. You could not have a normal conversation with him. . . . It seemed as if his brain had been washed." And, his lawyer believes that, “here was this poor, dumb kid -- I really don't think he was a bad kid -- who was thrown into a hellhole of a prison and who went mad, should we really be surprised that somebody we treated this way would become radicalized, would become crazy?"
Amy H. Sturgis
Philip José Farmer (January 26, 1918 - February 25, 2009) was best known for his Riverworld and World of Tiers series, his daring development of sexual and religious themes in his works, his use of pulp heroes such as Tarzan, Doc Savage, and Sherlock Holmes in his books, and his writing of pseudonymous"fictional author" stories. He won his first of three Hugo Awards in 1953 for his controversial (and now classic) The Lovers; he also won the Nebula Award, the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and in 2003, the Forry Award for Lifetime Achievement. He leaves behind family, friends, a devoted following of"Farmerphiles," and more than 75 books.
Visit his official website.
Aeon J. Skoble
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
Perhaps the best contemporary history of the American Revolution, along with that of David Ramsey, is by Mercy Otis Warren, a cousin of Abigail Adams, and sister of James Otis, who coined the phrase, “taxation without representation is tyranny,” and wife of James Warren. Not only was Mrs. Warren a historian, but also perhaps our first great playwright. Finally, her view of the Revolution is best appreciated in the light of the fact that she later became a staunch Anti-Federalist, rather critical of what she saw as John Adams “monarchical” tendencies.
Most importantly, she dated the beginning of the Revolution from that dreary October day in 1768 when British troops disembarked from troop ships in Boston Harbor, before a sullen crowd of angry Bostonians.
In an age when America’s “standing armies” are stationed not only in this nation, but in hundreds of bases abroad, it is difficult for contemporary Americans to comprehend the “radical” worldview of the generation that made the American Revolution.
A residue of the English Revolution of the previous century was the “no standing armies” in England act of 1694. Today, Americans cannot understand the importance of the Second Amendment outside of this long tradition of opposition to standing armies.
Faced with an opposition in both Ireland and the American colonies, British politicians and military leaders skirted such laws, much as today’s Neocons have done through elevating the power of the presidency, by placing a large standing army in Halifax, Nova Scotia, part of the fruits of the victory over the French in Canada.
At the apex of the North Atlantic Triangle, this “Rapid Deployment Force,” to use Jimmy Carter’s later imperial phrase, the “standing army” could be sent either against the relatively unarmed Irish, or the unruly Americans. It was this army to which Patrick Henry was referring when he asked what enemy the King had in this hemisphere that a standing garrison of 10,000 troops was necessary?
The Bostonians had soon enough found out. That occupation would soon lead to such events as the Boston Massacre in 1770, an inevitable consequence of such occupations whether in America then, or Iraq and Afghanistan today.
And, like those in the Middle East today, the Americans were “a people numerous and armed,” and unlikely to submit to an unending occupation by a standing army of British troops.
If President Obama wants to learn more about the hazards of ongoing military occupations, perhaps a good place to start is Mrs. Warren’s History of our own Revolution, which began as an opposition to the occupation of Boston, and escalated later against the notion that British troops could also control outlying villages such as Lexington and Concord! That 1,300+ pp. History is on the Internet, and can even be accessed from his beloved BlackBerry. It just might have some relevance to Afghanistan today!
Aeon J. Skoble
However, in an article for the McClatchy website Marisa Taylor and Nancy A. Youssef present evidence that the Mexican Army, Laredo police, numerous federal agencies, and the Obama Administration in general all have little enthusiasm for Gate’s vision. Also, moving this project forward is not made easier when “during a trip designed to expand U.S. Mexican-military relations, Adm. Michael Mullen, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, visited the graves of American troops who died during the Mexican-American war just as Gates did during his first visit in August.”
In 1916, the last time the United States Army entered Mexico, it went to fight opponents of the Mexican government who were involved with drugs and it quickly withdrew because of more important conflicts on the world stage. Hopefully, history will not repeat itself because that would be wrongheaded, expensive, and deadly.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
In the latest signal though, the Obama Administration has opposed the idea of harm reduction at the UN. During a meeting in Austria to determine the direction of UN drug policy for the next decade, the concept of mitigating the effects of drug use was not included in the final statement and 26 countries, including some of our closest allies, tried to change this despite strong opposition from the U.S. delegation. Eyewitness SSDP Executive Director Kris Krane reports that, “over 100 countries chose not to speak in support or opposition to harm reduction, yet the United States willingly chose to align itself with countries that are responsible for some the worst human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of the War on Drugs, rather than staying silent or aligning with America’s traditional allies. The Obama administration has promised to rebuild America’s traditional alliances, yet they willfully set this process back in order to continue the disastrous global war on drugs and drug users. Clearly, this behavior will not change unless President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton hear a loud message from citizens that global drug policy must be based in science, reason, evidence, and human rights, rather than worn-out ideology and Drug War orthodoxy.”
Indeed, Obama does need to make a decision, will his drug policy be based on the same old inhumane, immoral, violent, costly, and failed concepts or will he instigate meaningful change that will benefit both his place in history and the lives of the American people. Before he makes such a choice he would do well to heed Anthony Gregory’s latest comprehensive and well argued talk on the subject. To make clear the stakes involved Gregory quotes Ludwig von Mises as asserting that, “opium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the government's benevolent providence to the protection of the individual's body only? Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music? The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious, both for the individual and for the whole society, than that done by narcotic drugs.”
Some of Barak Obama’s opponents on the political far right are arguing that the new president’s real agenda is the imposition of totalitarianism. We would do well to monitor his drug policy choices as a gauge to the accuracy of his adversary’s claims.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
David T. Beito
David T. Beito
I asked the boss for a reaction to the Afghan speech. He said he would have framed a few things differently, but his basic response was:"All hail Obama!"
David T. Beito
As Gandhi is reported to have said,"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." I guess Austrians have now made it as far as ridicule.
Although its authors seek to distance themselves from what they call a"libertarian" solution, the report makes for interesting reading.
The Guardian carries a summary here and Danny Kushlick, who works for Transform, explains more here.