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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Sunday, September 29, 2013

TGIF: Lysander Spooner and the National Debt

By what authority do politicians borrow in the name of the American people and presume they may use force to compel repayment of the debt? By no authority whatsoever.

Read about it.

Meanwhile on the Fiscal Front...

Here's what's going on: Congress and the government agencies incurred expenses with the intention of paying the bills with a credit card that they knew would be maxed out before payment was due unless the credit limit was raised. They could do this because of their fallback position: the threat of violence against the taxpayers. You and I can't engage in such behavior without paying a penalty.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

C4SS Under Attack

From Rodrick Long at the Austro-Athenian Empire:
You may have noticed that the C4SS website is down (or possibly, by the time you read this, redirecting). Here’s the story.
The Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) has an associated student group, Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS), with affiliates around the world. A couple of weeks ago, S4SS noticed that its affiliate at the University of Ghent in Belgium (S4SS UGent) was being taken over by racists and Islamophobic bigots, so it issued a public statement disaffiliating with the group, and explained why. The explanation included quotations from bigoted comments made on the S4SS UGent facebook page – a page that was public at the time, though it has since been made private. C4SS then put up a link to the S4SS statement.

One of the racists quoted in the statement, a certain Olivier Janssens, demanded that the notice be taken down, alleging that a) his comments were copyrighted and shouldn’t be quoted without his consent, and b) his privacy was violated, and personal safety threatened, since we had made public his comments from a private forum. Since we judged that explaining the disaffiliation, and warning potential comrades against Janssens and his entryist colleagues, created a fair-use context for the quotations – and since, contrary to Janssens’s assertions, the forum in which the comments were made was actually public at the time he made them – we declined his request (with some asperity).
Apparently unaware of the concept of the “Streisand Effect,” Janssens engaged a lawyer – one who publicly brags about the ease of using flimsy DMCA claims to intimidate web hosts into compliance – who thereupon used a flimsy DMCA claim to intimidate C4SS/S4SS’s web host into compliance, and both the C4SS and S4SS websites were shut down.
Read the rest here. Jesse Walker of Reason reports here. See also techdirt.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Op-ed: The Kenyan Massacre’s Roots in America’s Somalia Policy

Last weekend’s hostage-taking — and the murder of at least 61 people — at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has its roots in the U.S. government’s intervention in Somalia, which began in the 1990s. Although there is no justification for killing innocents, it is fair to point out that al-Shabaab, the Islamist group that committed the attack on the mall and that controls parts of Somalia, would probably not be in power if not for the United States.
Read it here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What Are They Predicting about War with Syria and Iran?

Tom Tomorrow- Great Moments in Punditry: 
Four Years Later

Friday, September 13, 2013

TGIF: The People Say No to War

The Constitution did not keep President Obama from attacking Syria. The people did. Think about that.

Read about it here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ten Lessons, Plus One, We Should Learn from 9/11

Ten Lessons, Plus One, We Should Learn from 9/11:

1. Killing one or many innocents, regardless of one's grievances, is monstrous. This elementary principle would seem to apply to George Bush, and now Barack Obama, as much as to Osama bin Laden. Can someone say why it doesn't?

2. Despite all its guarantees -- contrary to its ideological justification for existing -- the state can't protect us -- even from a ragtag group of hijackers. Trillions of dollars spent over many years built a "national security apparatus" that could not stop attacks on the two most prominent buildings in the most prominent city in the country -- or its own headquarters. That says a lot. No. That says it all. The state is a fraud. We have been duped.

3. The shameless state will stop at nothing to keep people's support by scaring the hell out of them. (Robert Higgs writes about this.) That people have taken its claims about "why they hate us" seriously after 9/11 shows what the public schools and the mass media are capable of doing to people. But the people are not absolved of responsibility: They could think their way out of this if they cared to make the effort.

4. Blowback is real. Foreign-policy-makers never think how their decisions will harm Americans, much less others. They never wonder how their actions will look to their targets. That's because they are state employees.

5. As Randolph Bourne said, getting into a war is like riding a wild elephant. You may think you are in control -- you may believe your objectives and only your objectives are what count. If so, you are deluded. Consider the tens of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqi and Afghanis (and dead Pakistanis and Yemenis and Somalis and Libyans). What did they have to do with 9/11?

6. No one likes an occupying power.

7. Victims of foreign intervention don't forget, even if the perpetrators and their subjects do.

8. Terrorism is not an enemy. It's a tactic, one used by many different kinds of people in causes of varying moral hues, often against far stronger imperial powers. Declaring all those people one's enemy is criminally reckless. But it's a damn good way for a government to achieve potentially total power over its subjects.

9. They say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Maybe, maybe not. But it seems abundantly clear that the enemy of my friend is also likely to be my enemy. See the U.S.-Israel relationship for details.

10. Assume "your" government is lying.

11. Politicians will stop at nothing to shamelessly exploit the memory of the American victims of blowback if it will aggrandize their power. No amount of national self-pity, self-congratulation, and vaunting is ever enough.

(Adapted and re-posted from 2006.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

US, Israel Prevented Mideast from Being WMD-Free

President Obama boasts that Russia and Syria would not be willing to consider the surrender of Syria's chemical weapons had it not been for administration's "credible threat of military force."


Eight years before the Syrian civil war broke out, President Bashar al-Assad, backed by most of the Arab world, proposed that the Middle East be turned into a weapons-of mass-destruction-free zone. Biological and nuclear weapons, as well as chemical weapons, would have been banned and current stockpiles destroyed. Syria proposed this in 2003 in the form of a Security Council resolution, but it was not the first time it floated the idea.

What happened in 2003?

The resolution was tabled after the Bush administration threatened to veto it. Why the veto threat? Because Israel had -- and has -- no intention of giving up its weapons of mass destruction, including its nuclear arsenal of at least 200 warheads. In fact, Israel won't even acknowledge what everyone knows: that it possesses this massive and deadly arsenal. American usually defers to Israel at the UN (and everywhere else). It would be political suicide not to. (Activists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are currently swarming the halls of Congress lobbying for a U.S. war against Syria, with Iran next in line.)

Thus many years ago Syria was willing to get rid of its chemical weapons without being under threat of military force. All it asked was that other states in the region possessing unconventional weapons -- such as Israel and Egypt, which are not parties to the various conventions on such weapons -- get rid of theirs.

Would the Obama administration threaten to veto the same resolution today? What do you think?

Friday, September 06, 2013

Sign the Petition to Stop War Against Syria

I urge everyone to sign Alan Grayson's petition against a U.S. war with Syria. Go to Don't Attack Syria..

Kerry a Marxist?

Apparently Secretary of State John Kerry has been reading that great American philosopher Chico Marx in formulating his position that an attack on Syria would not constitute war. In Duck Soup, Chico says,
Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

TGIF: The Cynical U.S. Policy on Chemical Weapons

President Obama says an attack on Syria would send a message condemning Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons. But given the U.S. government's curious record on chemical weapons, the world is likely to get a different message.

Read it here.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Op-Ed U.S. Must Not Be World's Policeman

Even if everything Secretary of State John Kerry says about chemical weapons in Syria were true, the evidence would prove only that Bashar al-Assad committed crimes against civilians. It would not prove that the U.S. government has either the moral or legal authority to commit acts of war.
Read it all here.

Monday, September 02, 2013

For the Record

Pictures of children blown up by Tomahawk and Hellfire missiles are pretty either.

What Is War?

The state's essence stripped of all euphemism and obfuscation.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Illiberal Means, Illiberal Ends

This article originally appeared as a TGIF column at the Foundation for Economic Education website, June 8, 2007

The years 1914-1918 must have been lonely for Randolph Bourne. Bourne was a popular writer in Progressive circles, prolifically turning out articles for The New Republic and Seven Arts magazines. But soon the former, along with other publications, lost interest in his writing and the latter ceased operations, leaving Bourne out in the cold.

What happened? Bourne bucked his fellow intellectuals, including his mentor John Dewey, and opposed U.S. entry into World War I. (For a discussion of the origins of the war and U.S. entry, see Ralph Raico's World War I: The Triumph of Statism [pdf].) Bourne stood virtually alone among that group in thinking that participation in the Great War in Europe would be a disastrous error. Before Seven Arts stopped publishing, Bourne had an opportunity to make his views known. His eloquence and logic are worthy of examination.

First, let's see what attracted the Progressives to a war that did not threaten the security of Americans at home, the sort of war America's founders sought isolation from. The so-called liberals around The New Republic, which was founded in 1914, were at first ambivalent about foreign affairs. But as President Woodrow Wilson moved from nominal neutrality to an openly pro-war position (from the start, his tilt toward England was clear), he furnished a rationale that the liberals would embrace: making the world safe for democracy. In intellectual circles the charge to war was led by Herbert Croly, the magazine's editor, who previously was a champion of Theodore Roosevelt's New Nationalism (Croly's phrase). Croly was one of those thinkers who believed that the Jeffersonian traditions were obsolete in the new twentieth century. On the eve of U.S. entry into the war, he summed up his zeal for government-led collective action by saying, “The American nation needs the tonic of a serious moral adventure.” The lives destroyed or permanently mangled in the orgy of violence taking place in Europe were minor consequences compared to the benign effects Croly foresaw for the nation. He was unbothered that there is a very real possibility that the new Army and Navy will be used chiefly for positive and for aggressive as opposed to merely defensive purposes. He perceptively observed that for the United States no sharp line can be drawn between defensive and aggressive armament.

Croly's ally in promoting U.S. entry was John Dewey, pragmatist philosopher, Progressive intellectual, and education theorist. As described by Arthur A. Ekirch Jr. in The Decline of American Liberalism, Dewey scoffed at the older American tradition of avoiding foreign wars, holding, like a good pragmatist, that it “all depends upon the efficient adaptation of means to ends.” He found in the German nation and mind a mysticism and romanticism that would bring them into conflict with America. But he was intent on seeing that participation in the war achieved bigger things than simply a built-up military. “The first means of preparedness that was needed, Dewey decided, was a truly national and compulsory educational system to counteract the provincialism and isolation of American life,” Ekirch writes. Thus for Dewey, preparedness for war was the chance to consolidate government power in order to produce “a unified mind in a crisis like the present.” War was to be a grand government program.

As Wilson moved toward entry into the war, Dewey's intellectualism yielded to what Ekirch calls “an emotional and pseudo-mystical ode to American nationalism.” America was reluctant to get into the war, Dewey said, because “we have not yet found a national mind, a will as to what to be.” The cure for that deficiency was participation in the fight. He chided the peace movement for failing to realize the great opportunity the war offered: “the immense impetus to reorganization afforded by this war.” He urged liberals to work “to form, at this plastic juncture, the conditions and objects of our entrance.” In other words, if enlightened intellectuals became boosters for American participation, they would have a role in shaping the terms and hence the outcome of that participation. [For the "liberals," war] would have, in Bourne's words, “a world-renovating social purpose” — the statist's dream come true.

Dewey seemed to realize the risks inherent in war fever, but, Ekirch writes, “though he warned against the excesses of war and nationalism, Dewey did not offer any solution as to how the good elements were to be separated from the bad, or as to how the emotional and irrational aspects were to be avoided.”

Enter Bourne

This was all too much for Randolph Bourne, who wrote several articles protesting the betrayal of liberalism by the intellectuals. (One cannot read Bourne without thinking of Leonard Read's “Conscience on the Battlefield" or the essays in Leviathan at War.) In response to Dewey, he wrote, in "A War Diary" (September 1917): “It is only ‘liberal’ naïveté that is shocked at arbitrary coercion and suppression. Willing war means willing all the evils that are organically bound up with it. A good many people still seem to believe in a peculiar kind of democratic and antiseptic war.” Earlier, in a June article, "The War and the Intellectuals," he rejected Dewey's siren song promising the intellectual class a say in reshaping the nation and the world in return for its war support:
The realist thinks he at least can control events by linking himself to the forces that are moving. Perhaps he can. But if it is a question of controlling war, it is difficult to see how the child on the back of a mad elephant is to be any more effective in stopping the beast than is the child who tries to stop him from the ground. The ex-humanitarian, turned realist, sneers at the snobbish neutrality, colossal conceit, crooked thinking, dazed sensibilities, of those who are still unable to find any balm of consolation for this war. We manufacture consolations here in America while there are probably not a dozen men fighting in Europe who did not long ago give up every reason for their being there except that nobody knew how to get them away.
He rejected the “realist's” claim that opponents of the war would be “excommunicated” and left without influence.
But the intellectuals whom the crisis has crystallized into an acceptance of war have put themselves into a terrifyingly strategic position. It is only on the craft, in the stream, they say, that one has any chance of controlling the current forces for liberal purposes. If we obstruct, we surrender all power for influence. If we responsibly approve, we then retain our power for guiding. We will be listened to as responsible thinkers, while those who obstructed the coming of war have committed intellectual suicide and shall be cast into outer darkness. Criticism by the ruling powers will only be accepted from those intellectuals who are in sympathy with the general tendency of the war. Well, it is true that they may guide, but if their stream leads to a disaster and the frustration of national life, is their guiding any more than a preference whether they shall go over the right-hand or the left-hand side of the precipice? Meanwhile, however, there is comfort on board. Be with us, they call, or be negligible, irrelevant. Dissenters are already excommunicated. Irreconcilable radicals, wringing their hands among the debris, become the most despicable and impotent of men. There seems no choice for the intellectual but to join the mass of acceptance. But again the terrible dilemma arises — either support what is going on, in which case you count for nothing because you are swallowed in the mass and great incalculable forces bear you on, or remain aloof, passively resistant, in which case you count for nothing because you are outside the machinery of reality.
For Bourne, the liberals who were thirsting for influence in the halls of power had a memory lapse of catastrophic proportions: “The American intellectuals, in their preoccupation with reality, seem to have forgotten that the real enemy is War rather than imperial Germany. There is work to be done to prevent this war of ours from passing into popular mythology as a holy crusade.”

Bourne, alas, died in 1918, leaving his final work, The State, unfinished.

Randolph Bourne was an individualist social critic, not an economist. He never realized that laissez faire would have gotten him where he wanted to go. But at least he understood what would not produce the freedom and liberalism he cherished. Liberalism, he said, could not be achieved by illiberal means. Ironically, Woodrow Wilson, whose decision to take the country into war helped make the twentieth century the bloody, totalitarian century it became, agreed. He told New York World editor Frank Cobb, “It was just war and there weren't two kinds of it. It required illiberalism at home to reinforce the men at the front. We couldn't fight Germany and maintain the ideas of Government that all thinking men shared.” The Creel Committee propaganda mill; the Espionage Act of 1917; the Sedition Act of 1918, under which Eugene Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison for a speech opposing the war; and the War Industries Board, which collectivized the economy, would all reveal Wilson — intervener in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and now Europe — as a self-fulfilling prophet.