Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What To Do About the Ports

The corporate state/mixed economy presents many conundrums. The latest is is posed by the purchase of a British port-terminal management company by firm owned by the governmment of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates. The British company operates terminals at six major U.S. ports, and its purchase by the Dubai firm, although approved by the Bush administration, has many politicians expressing concern about security at those ports. (All such expressions should be discounted to some extent by political interest.) They point out that two of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE and that money to finance the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon passed through the Arab state. The UAE reportedly still recognizes the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. The Bush administration has approved the deal, saying that the UAE has been cooperative in the "war on terror." The Washington Times notes that "At least 90 terminals at major U.S. ports are operated by foreign governments and businesses...."

The six ports, of course, are not private property or private enterprise. They are "owned" by governments or government-created "authorities." In at least some cases, governors or mayors say they have the legal power to cancel the contracts with the management firm, and they may do so if the Bush administration doesn't reverse its position.

So what now? There may be no satisfactory answer under present circumstances. (This is often the case.) The ports are political, not free-market, facilities. And port security is a federal-government matter, just as it is at the airports, which are also government-owned.

The only good solution is to privatize the ports. This would not mean transferring them to well-connected corporate cronies, but rather, as Brad Spangler suggests, ceding control to the people who work and use the ports and who are not tainted by the corporate state. I'd prefer real profit-oriented ports with owners who risk their own capital to bureaucratic ports with politicized managers.

The other thing to do is to liquidate the empire in order to drastically reduce the odds that someone will want to do our society grave harm.

In the meantime, I suppose the the government authorities that now control the ports should act like the managers they claim to be. (A clash between the federal government on one side and the state and local governments on the other would be delightful.) As I said, no short-run measure will be satisfactory.

For some useful insights see Brad's post "Dubai Ports deal: What’s wrong and how to fight it."

Update: Kn@ppster has a persuasive argument here.


Libertarian Jason said...

liquidate the empire

That is an awesome phrase. I love it. I am going to start using that, if you don't mind.

Sheldon Richman said...

Let's hope everyone starts using it.