Category Archives: Politics

Thoughts on a reformed Militia system

Merlin

The main idea: Though only a second-best alternative to a nuclear umbrella, a reformed Militia system could still afford weak defenders a way of imposing high costs on much stronger aggressors, with obvious implications for non-territorial defense in a Free Society.

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1. The rationale of Militias

1.1 From the position of a weak believer in the ability of a future Free Society to credibly defend itself by conventional (non-nuclear) means, the idea of a Militia begins to look attractive. If non-territorial private defense agencies would probably be underfunded due to public good problems, if territorial entities could not be large enough to property defend themselves due to rational calculation issues, and if, for the time being, a proper credible nuclear second-strike capability is very expensive to procure (that is, too expensive even for China), than one is left with precious few alternatives when it comes to defending against a stronger attacker.

1.2 And indeed, a Militia system along Swiss lines is held in high esteem by some libertarians, who often compare it to the alternative of behemoth, uber-costly conventional armies creating problems too well-known to discuss.

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The People vs. the Media

Justin Raimondo over at antiwar.com has more on the issue of the regime media versus the people on Edward Snowden. Great stuff, do check it out.

How Mainstream is Your Media?

cameras
Today’s edition of Antiwar.com highlights a piece by Jeff Cohen where he asks would the US media have handled the Snowden Affair any differently, if it were state-controlled? This touches on something I have been thinking about for a while.

Once again, for the umpteenth time, there is a situation where the general public is heavily divided on an issue, and yet the so-called “mainstream media” speaks on it in near-perfect unison. This begs the question, just how mainstream such a media actually is. You would expect a significant portion of a media that was actually mainstream to stick up for Snowden as is the stance of a very large part of the public. Cohen reports one recent poll found 53% of Americans, and 70% of those aged 18-34, held a favorable view of Snowden’s actions.

So if the views of the major media outlets on issues such as the Snowden Affair, do not actually correspond with the views of the mainstream public, what do they correspond to? The answer is that each and every time they correspond with the view of the regime. Whether we are talking issues like the financial bailouts of 2008, which the American public was dead set against, or the Iraq invasion of 2003, on which the public was split right down the middle, the regime could always count on major media to overwhelmingly propagate its views.

That being the case it is clear the term “mainstream media” is in fact a huge misnomer. The proper term for major media in the US is actually “regime media”. True, the major media outlets in the United States are not actually subject to control by state employees in editorial boards and censorship bureaus, but so what? They are subject to the same basic system of incentives and controls just the same. The controls are applied by owners and sponsors of the outlets, who, for either commercial or ideological reasons, for the most part have a strong personal identification with the regime. The end result, is the same, major media services the public, but for the benefit of the regime.

Speaking of the regime media as the “mainstream media” therefore gives it credibility it does not have. Sure thanks to its greater means and state favor its output is more voluminous and has much greater visibility. However, this was also true for example in the Soviet Union. Why would the situation in the US, which has proven a more successful state, be any different? The key point is not visibility, but function. Only the independent media actually attempts to serve its audience, not the regime. Instead of speaking of the “mainstream” and its counterpart the “alternative” media, we should refer to both by their real names, the independent media, and its counterpart the regime media.
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An Arms Race as Long as Life: DPR Korea in Context

DPRK troops
The history of the 20th century usually comes packaged in two parts. The post-war period after the end of the Second World War, and the earlier pre-war period. While the two are easily distinct there are also common threads that run through both of them and conceivably connect them into one whole. One such thread is an arms race dynamic. Most of the 20th century, beginning in the 1930s at the latest, along with our own time in the 21st, conceivably tells a story of a single uninterrupted arms race.

Clearly, the timeframe of the Great War from 1914 to 1918 was a period of militarism and unprecedented global buildup of arms. It saw the rise of economic regimentation and the subordination of economic activity to the immediate needs of the state, as well as of the view that saw the usefulness of production primarily in giving a nation the ability to wage an extended industrial war.

Following the end of the Great War military expenditure fell sharply and receded to levels that did not seem a cause for alarm. However, the experience of the war could not simply be erased. Even as the size of armies was reduced old thinking remained and influential circles continued to think of the economy as another branch of the armed forces. According to this thinking the usefulness of bountiful agricultural and industrial production lay primarily in the fact it granted a nation the ability to raise, feed, equip and maintain a military that was as large and as mechanized as humanly possible. This, the experience of the First World War had shown, was the first prerequisite to avoid national disaster and national humiliation, as had befell Germany, Russia, Turkey and Austria-Hungary.

In this way even after the Great War had ended its shadow continued to loom, as its lessons continued to inform participants and non-participants alike. Japan for example had seen that a major cause of German defeat in the war had been its inability to feed its population from its own agricultural production. For all its industrial might Germany had in fact not been capable of an extended industrial war. Once the British established their maritime blockade and cut off Germany from its imports the populace of the latter had been placed on the path leading to slow starvation.

The Japanese knew that being even less self-sufficient than the Germans, they were even more vulnerable to blockade than had been Germany itself. Being therefore categorically incapable of an extended war in a serious conflagration Japan was no true independent power capable of autonomous action on the world stage. To truly become such it would need to field a large, sophisticated army and navy, but also be able to produce, or extract sufficient quantities of everything it needed, whether it was foodstuffs, ore, oil or machinery, in the confines of its own borders. The quest for military power, was therefore inseparable from the quest for autarky.
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Little Timmy’s Plastic Doll

Once upon a time, there was a naughty little boy named Timmy. Timmy was Webster’s own definition of a brat – spoiled without a trace of gratefulness in his demeanor, and a hateful bully to his parents at that. Finally, little Timmy pulled the last ma ‘n’ pa hamstring, and hit his father over the head with a plastic doll, bruising him. That was it – violent little Timmy was going to juvy, after countless beatings and bruises liberally administered by him. Or was he? Perhaps not, for you can imagine little Timmy’s parents’ confusion when the friendly neighborhood police handcuffed not the rugrat, but the plastic doll instead.

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Raico on Klaus and the Czechs

The LRC Blog publishes Ralph Raico’s appraisal of Vaclav Klaus:

Sorry to have to disagree with a couple of my LRC pals, but as far as I’m concerned Vaclav Klaus was no hero of freedom. In the mid-1940s, the Wehrmacht withdrew from Bohemia and Moravia, and the Czechs, who hadn’t uttered a peep (some resistance fighters had to be flown in from Britain), suddenly found their virility. Led by Edvard Benes, all Germans were expelled from their ancestral lands in the Sudetenland, from Prague, and elsewhere. “Czechoslovakia” from the beginning was a fraud cooked up at Versailles; it contained more Germans than Slovaks, and the Slovaks were discriminated against to the advantage of the Czechs, as was the Hungarian minority (expelled with the Germans). Probably around one and a half million Germans–almost all women, children, and old men–died in the brutal expulsion. Some years ago, the Czech president, Vaclav Havel, apologized for the crime, defying public opinion. Vaclav Klaus ostentatiously refused to do so. So, no, Klaus was no freedom fighter, just another amoral center-right politico.

Klaus

Raico posits Klaus is an amoral figure because, unlike Vaclav Havel he refused to apologize for the expulsion of the Germans from Czechoslovakia when Klaus was 4-years old. I must admit I am not entirely clear on the details of this apology business. Why was it expected Klaus would apologize when his predecessor, Havel had already done so? Is one time enough, or are these apologies something the Czechs are obliged to issue periodically, every so-and-so years?

More to the point, absent actual discontinuation of injustice, what difference does an apology make? How come the amoral Klaus may be contrasted to Havel when neither did anything to enable the expelled Germans to reclaim their property? Suppose you were driven from your home. Suppose that after a while the people who drove you away apologized to you, but still did not allow you to return. (“We’re sorry for continuing to keep you from your home. Please forgive us.”) Would you feel the apology had partially corrected the injustice you were suffering, or would it just increase your anger? Would you even consider it an apology at all? Since it is clear you would not, it follows the only real difference between Klaus and Havel was that Klaus did not insult the intelligence of expellee-Germans with apologizing for something he was obviously not sorry about.

In fact such apologies by heads of states are problematic in themselves. In his apology Havel stated he was apologizing on the behalf of the Czech people. This reeks of a ridiculous level of pretentiousness and self-importance. The only valid apology a stateperson may make is one on the behalf of the state itself. But they should never be encouraged to appoint themselves the spokesperson for an entire people, least of all by libertarians such as Raico. Havel could not speak for the Czechs as a whole and it was outrageous of him to claim otherwise. Furthermore, the ultimate logic of such an apology, made in the name of an entire people, implies the guilt of the people as a whole (regardless of any caveats and disclaimers to the contrary in the statement itself). It implies the notion of collective responsibility, which is something that Raico has (correctly) argued against in the context of the crimes of Nazi Germany and the German people.

The Czechs

Raico writes that the Czechs “hadn’t uttered a peep” during German occupation, but when “in the mid-1940s, the Wehrmacht withdrew” then “suddenly found their virility” and went about expelling the Germans. It is safe to say stating the Czechs “hadn’t uttered a peep” is a very uncharitable characterization of the level of Czech resistance to the German occupation. The Czechs offered less resistance to the forces of the occupation than some occupied nations, but more than others. On May 5th 1945 the Czech resistance launched an effort to eject the Wehrmacht from Prague and fought it on its own for four days until the Red Army rolled in on May 9th.* Altogether some 5,700 Czechs were killed in Bohemia in May 1945.** Some of these were killed in German reprisals, as civilian victims of German artillery or bombs, or were executed as alleged collaborators, but many of them perished in combat as members of the Czech resistance fighting the armed forces of Nazi Germany. If one is so inclined, one may cavalierly dismiss this level of resistance as not arising to a level of a “peep”, but if so, it seems to me such a severe judge of the Czechs better be certain that in similar circumstances he would have done more. Failing such conviction a measure of caution, and even respect, would seem to be more appropriate.

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Democracy as crowdsourcing

Merlin

The main idea: representative democracy fails in producing unbiased crowdsourced answers to difficult problems, as do its direct and statistical offshoots.  Only unfettered trial by jury can be realistically considered a fair crowdsourcing mechanism.

Previously on Lost...

Previously on Lost…

My previous post tried to analyze the claim that mass (i.e. representative) democracy is the only realistic non-violent alternative to civil conflict and found it in need of severe qualifications, to put it mildly. Here I will try to deal with the other appealing argument made for mass democracy: that it provides an algorithm for crowd-sourcing difficult issues.  May democracy be in better luck this time?

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