September 27, 2003

Suicide Bombing and Religion are Connected

Posted by TMLutas

Oxblog points to a NYT article by Robert A Pape. In the article, he states "The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any religion for that matter." He further claims that " the leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka".

When you look at the actual data, it turns out to be a bogus assertion because it assumes that there is no unifying theme between Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, Chechen rebels, Kashmiri rebels, Al Queda, and the PKK. The idea that they are all muslims and their propensity to suicide attacks might be indicative of some theological illness that has befallen Islam, weakening its proscriptions against suicide is beyond Mr. Pape.

September 26, 2003

Now Bush isn't even #2?

Posted by TMLutas

The left has often made the charge that President Bush is a mere puppet to Dick Cheney who really runs the country. Well the frenchman whose bestselling novel claims that 9/11 was all a US plot has put out another derivative card deck listing its own axis of evil, the Bush 'regime'. Here, President Bush isn't even the number two man on the list, but is all the way down to number 5.

The new number two is Dick Cheney, the Ace of Diamonds. The top five are:

1. Donald Rumsfeld
2. Dick Cheney
3. Ralph E. Eberhart
4. Franklin Graham
5. George W. Bush

There are two jokers in the deck. They are Osama bin Laden and Colin Powell.

Words fail.

He's Nuts!

Posted by TMLutas

Charles Krauthammer has a good column on Ted Kennedy's recent attack on Pres. Bush, claiming that the Iraq war was political opportunism.

Krauthammer decries this as being mentally unhinged. He uses the word "deranged". This would be a normal political gut punch from one ideological opponent to another except for one thing, Charles Krauthammer is a psychiatrist who entered politics by being Jimmy Carter's director of psychiatric research planning. Is this then, a professional opinion?

September 25, 2003

Wanted: a Department of Anarchy III

Posted by TMLutas

Jennifer Roback Morse has an interesting article on NRO outlining 10 ideas for the next Governor of California. What interests me right now is #8:

8. Create a California Sunset Commission that would systematically review the continued relevance and performance achievements of 20 percent of all state programs annually.

As the kids would say, "Duh."

This is my previously advocated Department of Anarchy in another form. One improvement I would make is that the Department/Commission should be required to issue one of three ratings:

1. The program has improved the problem it was created to solve. The consequences of this would be a continuation of policy

2. The program has neither improved nor made the problem worse. The consequences of this would be an automatic five year process for sunsetting the program. A simple legislative majority would be able to override this judgment.

3. The program has actually made the problem worse. The consequences of this rating would be a two year sunset in order to give time to create a better answer and redeploy resources in a way that wouldn't make things even worse. Again, the legislature could (but why would they?) override the recommendation through the normal legislative process.

By creating an institution devoted to not only evaluating the quality of government solutions but also armed with the power to do something about it, we'd reverse the ratchet effect of stupid government solutions creating pressure for further government intervention and pouring good money after bad down the rathole.

Iraq's Coming Around III

Posted by TMLutas

I've written about US intentions in Iraq before. In particular, what interests me is the attempt to create a new model for nation building, planting liberty trees. Here's more evidence in the form of a Donald Rumsfeld op-ed that this is what the US is actually trying to do.

While it seems like simple common sense, the idea of holding on to the reigns of power only until locals are able to take over is something that is both hard to do and not done very often. The easy way out is to leave too soon and wash your hands of the mess. The worse temptation is to stay too long and morph from liberator to occupier to imperialist.

There simply aren't a lot of successful hand-overs where local institutions are robust enough to take over and sustain a free society and there is no post liberation bitterness at the occupiers' overlong stay. Whatever the final status of Iraq is, success or failure, we have a new model for dealing with the aftermath of dictatorship. Frankly, it seems to be the best one on offer. No matter where individuals fall on the question of the US and its role in the world, it's a model that needs to be watched closely and made to succeed. It's our best way out.

Note: Thanks to OxBlog for the pointer to the Rumsfeld Op Ed.

September 24, 2003

Why Max Cleland is a Former US Senator

Posted by TMLutas

The US South has possibly the highest concentration of military, active, former, and reserve in the entire country. Max Cleland is a genuine soldier. A decorated Vietnam War hero who lost three of his limbs fighting for his country. And he lost his Senate seat to a great extent on his lack of military judgment? As someone who didn't follow Georgia politics that much, this turn of events just seemed... weird. I mean, how bad could he be? Now I know.

In an article attacking the administration for following Lyndon Johnson down the road to Vietnam's quagmire he gets the basic facts of the situation so wrong that he would be a certified menace if the people of Georgia hadn't retired him to the safety (for the nation) of academia.

Don't underestimate the enemy. The enemy always has one option you cannot control. He always has the option to die. This is especially true if you are dealing with true believers and guerillas fighting for their version of reality, whether political or religious. They are what Tom Friedman of The New York Times calls the "non-deterrables." If those non-deterrables are already in their country, they will be able to wait you out until you go home.

In arguing against underestimating the enemy, he underestimates the enemy. These non-deterrables do exist but he ignores one crucial fact. A great many of them are engaged in an enterprise of worldwide conversion to their brand of Islam. If we go home they will follow us and continue the fight there. In that case, civilian casualties are our civilians, not somebody else's.

If the enemy adopts a "hit-and-run" strategy designed to inflict maximum casualties on you, you may win every battle, but (as Walter Lippman once said about Vietnam) you can't win the war.

This presupposes that there is a strategy for which there is no counter, that in the case of any adversary the US faces, if they adopt this strategy, they will win. If this were true, we are doomed as a power and might as well give up right now. It is, of course nonsense.

Superior US combat abilities mean that the battles will likely fall into our favor but both Vietnam in the 60s and 70s and Afghanistan in the 80s were wars where major powers invested large amounts of resources to ensure that those hit and run tactics could continue. Absent those resources, such tactics are as doomed as the armed anti-communist resistance of post WW-II E. Europe.

If you adopt a strategy of not just pre-emptive strike but also pre-emptive war, you own the aftermath. You better plan for it. You better have an exit strategy because you cannot stay there indefinitely unless you make it the 51st state.

Here, former Senator Cleveland is implying that there is no exit strategy. But just a short time ago Paul Bremer laid a credible strategy out on the op-ed page of the Washington Post. In due time, a constitution will emerge and elections will proceed with us drawing down our troops as the situation stabilizes. Artificial timetables that are rigidly adhered to will only rush things and increase the chances that, some time in the future, the US will have to do this again in Iraq.

If you adopt the strategy of pre-emptive war, your intelligence must be not just "darn good," as the president has said; it must be "bulletproof," as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed the administration's was against Saddam Hussein. Anything short of that saps credibility.

It is highly unlikely that intelligence will be "bulletproof" in this world until it is far too late to do anything about it. No doubt, the intelligence services of 1939 Poland heard rumblings about Nazi aggression but there were some doubts about it right up to the time when troops started crossing the borders. What we have here is a naked appeal to forget the lessons of 9/11 and go back to the intelligence era that the Church Committee created, cautious, fearful of career ending error, and underestimating the threat time after time.

If you want to know what is really going on in the war, ask the troops on the ground, not the policy-makers in Washington.

Funny, there is a great deal of information coming out of Iraq straight from the troops and none of it seems to support former Senator Cleland's assertions. The creation of the blogosphere has made it easier than ever to get information direct from the troops. If we were in trouble, we'd see it both in military blogs and a wave of court martials for defeatism and other likely whistleblower crimes. The troops seem mostly mad that people like former Senator Cleland are giving heart to the enemy with their unrealistic negativity.

In a democracy, instead of truth being the first casualty in war, it should be the first cause of war. It is the only way the Congress and the American people can cope with getting through it. As credibility is strained, support for the war and support for the troops go downhill. Continued loss of credibility drains troop morale, the media become more suspicious, the public becomes more incredulous and Congress is reduced to hearings and investigations.

And what is to be done about the Cassandras in our midst? What happens when the media are the liars who leave out all the good news? When the morale drainers are in the anti-war dissenters? What happens when the elites give no punishments in credibility when time after time the anti-war crowd is wrong, wrong, wrong? For those of us who have access to a wide variety of news sources, it's not so bad but for those who only get their news from these sources, it's draining. The liars can come in both pro and anti war forms.

Hats off to the people of Georgia. I wish other states were so discerning in their Senate delegations.

September 23, 2003

Occupation Tech

Posted by TMLutas

Let me spin you a tale of a future occupation. The US invades K, an universally acknowledged failed state hosting a variety of terrorist groups with a record as an international basket case stretching decades. The conventional war follows a familiar script with the local army quickly being routed and the government collapsing inside a month.

In accord to the new rules now comes the task of occupation, constitution writing, elections, and standing up the infrastructure of a free society so the US never has to come back there again as K will no longer be part of the non-integrating gap but the newest member of the functioning core. In other words, now comes the hard part.

Imagine this, that every family gets issued something on the order of a simputer. They are told that they can find out where to get jobs, aid, information on curfews and other rules, and other useful features via these computers which come with solar rechargers and wireless connectivity. Since the computers don't require literacy, these basic benefits are universal.

At the same time, other features are available, FAQs describing political models, what are the advantages and the difficulties of free societies, what are the expectations of citizens in the new order, instructions on how to properly and effectively petition for a redress of grievances without violence, and on and on are made available to the entire population. If a particular point isn't understood well, an individual can send an email requesting clarification and this feedback constantly improves the information available.

The result? Scarce translation resources stretch a lot further. Intelligence comes pouring in on regime dead enders because you no longer have to step out of your house and risk discovery by being seen. False reports also spike and then quickly drop off as people discover that their messages are automatically signed cryptographically and they have to explain why they sent troops out on a wild goose chase.

Some bright young local techs start up discussion groups which morph into local civic movements and eventually political parties and the whole society comes crashing into the modern functional world as the ability of old elites to bar the masses from the truth and from power come quickly crashing down.

So, would such a system be perfect? By no means, but it would be an improvement and play to the strengths of modern functioning societies and against the weaknesses of the non-integrating gap elites that we wish to displace. Given the likely low cost of such systems (probably around $300/unit) even shaving a couple of weeks off the time to hand over to a new government would make the systems a net money saver by a large margin.

Such a program could be justified solely by the probable increase in military intelligence, by the increase in organization of food aid, curfews, and other traditional military needs, but the likely big payoff is in political transformation.

September 21, 2003

Gay Whining

Posted by TMLutas

Andrew Sullivan bleats about the mean old conservatives over at the Club for Growth, a US organization in favor of lower taxes, school choice, and a raft of initiatives to increase economic growth in the US. Apparently, the Club badly vetted their new Arizona chapter head who had a record as a state legislator that included voting for tax increases, increasing spending, and against many school choice initiatives. This was obviously a bad fit for an ideological group.

According to Sullivan, because his opponents also latched on to the (generally irrelevant) additional fact that he was gay, the guy shouldn't get the ax. Announce you're gay, become unfireable, what a racket!

September 20, 2003

A Difficult Position

Posted by TMLutas

As a secondary blogger on Flit, there are some real limitations that good sense and common decency impose on my position here. One is the obligation, as a guest, not to nitpick over minor points. The generous gesture that Bruce Rolston has made of including my writings on his forum and exposing me to a much wider audience than I would have been able to scare up otherwise in such a short time gets him a great deal of slack in my book and he has liberally made use of it during our collaboration.

However, there are limits.

First, something that we agree on. Jonah Goldberg is something of a twit. Anybody who makes regular usage of his couch and his dog as column fodder (with both playing speaking parts) cannot avoid it, really. However, he isn't wrong about fascism being socialism in one country. The terms Nazi and fascists are, for all intents and purposes synonyms and Nazi is a contraction of the term "national socialist", a socialist who believes in one country, or nation. The basic point is unassailable when looking at the original term.

As for National Review, it is a contender for the world's most consequential political magazine of the latter half of the 20th century. It is hands down the most consequential political magazine in the US for that time period. Since 1955, it's been advocating a particular form of conservatism that they have always termed fusionism, the coalition of social conservatives and economic free market types with a sprinkling of libertarianism for leavening. It is certainly not bumper sticker conservatism but a highly influential magazine read by US conservatives (including conservative intellectuals) that has literally changed the face of this political movement from one that is in disarray to arguably the dominant force in US politics today.

Sometimes revisionism cleans out the spin and propaganda of the original advocates of an idea. At other times, a clear understanding of an event or a movement is obfuscated by later apologists and returning to the start of it all is essential for the hunt for truth. The fascists were quite clear about who and what they were and who were their progenitors, allies, imitators, and descendants. It may be highly uncomfortable for advocates of the arab Middle East that Hitler's book Mein Kampf does brisk sales all across the region but its something that should not be swept under the rug if we are to have a reliable understanding of the region.

Now the modern usage of certain terms has often descended into just a bad word, something to toss around as an insult. For another example of definitional descension, who really thinks much about the phrase "your name is mud" which is a corruption of the original "your name is Mudd", a term of insult born out of the US Civil War when John Wilkes Booth was treated by Dr. Mudd after he assassinated Lincoln. Like this phrase, it makes no sense to seriously look at a definition of fascism except by starting with the root, original meaning.

Fascism as a human rights system, is an ordering of people by rank with varying rights based on their race or nationality. In economics, it is public control of the means of production while maintaining a virtually meaningless formal private title and has no internationalist impulse. As politics it is dictatorship and thought control, virtually indistinguishable from its international socialist half brothers.

Personally, I have been the subject of cries of 'fascist', 'nazi', when any reasonable reading of my politics is libertarian and my fate in any true fascist regime would be a quick trip to the camps fairly early on. Thus, the revisionist movement is particularly loathsome to me personally. And, yes, the NYT article furthers the revisionist cause.

From the original NYT article:

"Other characteristics on most scholars' checklists: the rejection of both liberalism and socialism; the primacy of the nation over the rights of the individual; the demonization of the nation's enemies; the elimination of dissent and the creation of a single-party state; the dominant role of a charismatic leader; the appeal to emotion and myth rather than reason; the glorification of violence on behalf of a national cause; the mobilization and militarization of civil society; an expansionist foreign policy intended to promote national greatness."

The false revisionism occurs in omitting the word internationalist from fascist's rejection of socialism. It's international socialism that they reject, not socialism. The problem is the internationalism that corrodes the bonds of the people or the race, not any love for private property or economic freedom which all fascist governments have decried as liberalism (another piece of murky reporting when European liberalism in a US context is more accurately called libertarianism). The labeling of free market advocates as fascists is just Orwellian. Most outspoken US conservatives and libertarians have had it happen to them personally and there is something of a justified sensitivity over it.

September 17, 2003

Most Creative Recent Use of Bulletproof Vest

Posted by TMLutas

PeopleSoft's CEO Craig Conway showed up at his user conference sporting coordinated bulletproof vests one for him, one for his dog, a black labrador. Apparently the Oracle takeover saga has descended into twisted flights of fancy about shootings, though with Larry Ellison's reputation you never can tell.

The world of hip hop may have to make way for the new thugs on the block, tech CEO's.

Gay Marriage Update II

Posted by TMLutas

The Canadian Liberal Party is barely holding things together on gay rights. It looks like gay marriage will be an election year issue though in hindsight Prime Minister Chretien will probably be thankful that gay marriage legislation isn't going to be officially part of his legislative legacy.

Thanks to NRO's The Corner

September 15, 2003

I'm back

Posted by TMLutas

Ah, back from NY. Unfortunately, my old iMac seems to have taken a hit in the power supply so I'm stuck borrowing my wife's iBook. Looks like light blogging ahead...

September 13, 2003

Mount Athos Controversy: Not Just for Christians

Posted by TMLutas

The current controversy in the EU parliament over Mount Athos, the Greek peninsula which has been a men only monastic preserve since the 9th century is of concern to more than christians but is alarming for anybody who believes in the rule of law. The parliament, which has just passed a resolution stating that the ancient prohibition against women on Mt. Athos is against human rights, has decided that the Greek treaty of accession to the EEC and the Greek entry treaty into the EU, both of which specifically guard Mt Athos' special status, can simply be ignored.

This establishes a principle that should alarm people who believe in the rule of law. International treaty obligations are simply unimportant when it comes to defending ideas that are socially unpopular with the EU political elite. After this, can any pro-EU referendum adherents seriously talk about treaty reservations and preserving national individuality? I don't think so.

Blogging on the road

Posted by TMLutas

I'm on the road this weekend so might be blogging a bit light until Monday evening. I'm visiting my folks in NY.

September 11, 2003

Wanted: a Department of Anarchy II

Posted by TMLutas

I wrote earlier about the idea of organizing a specific body of the US government (frankly just about all governments could use one) that would be dedicated solely to the proposition of turning government functions over to private industry. Now that I've read this article over at National Review Online, I can only say that we need such a thing now more than ever.

It was a simple idea that the Budget Committee had. Go to all the other committees and ask them to identify 1% of their expenditures that might be wasted and deserved further scrutiny. They named a deadline of September 2 for responses. Fewer than half the committees answered by that deadline.

The idea that neither party in the legislature would bother to even try to identify waste, fraud, and abuse is just disgusting. It's a mockery of the hard labor of taxpayers to create the wealth that these politicians throw around with such abandon.

For shame.

An Accidental Experiment in Freedom

Posted by TMLutas

Hat tip to James Taranto's Best of the Web who notes Mayor Eruviel Avila Villegas' innovative anti-corruption initiative. The Mayor is eliminating official bribery by radically downsizing the number of petty crimes that are available to extort money over. The first target has been non-criminal traffic and parking citations (drunk driving and other dangerous behavior incidents still draw the police). So far, the experiment is working and a radical experiment of freedom is born, not as classical liberal experiment but as a desperate measure to pry society's official wolves out of the people's wallets.

Next up? Building permits.

America's Shame

Posted by TMLutas

On this 2nd anniversary of 9/11, the wound might have healed enough to speak a bit about american guilt at the events. No, there was no grand conspiracy by the US to launch the attack but two curious facts exist that nobody, to my knowledge, has ever convincingly explained.

1. The death compensation for the victims is very much out of line with other death benefits before and since that event
2. The WTC victims get more money than the Pentagon victims.

When the Soviet flag came down from the Kremlin and was replaced by the Russian flag, the Cold War ended. There was great talk about a peace dividend and soon the budget knives were out. "The End of History" was at hand. Not only was the defense budget cut but national security faded from swing voters' attentions (the US is electorally divided in three with one third in each ideological camp and a third that swings between the two).

The risk was viewed as low enough that it was acceptable to elect the closest thing we've ever come to an anti-security president as it was more important to punish GHWB's tax betrayal than to maintain a security apparatus that the end of history had rendered unimportant.

That judgment was unchanged by the 1993 WTC bombing. It was unchanged by the Clinton administration's revelation that their first military priority was the integration of homosexual soldiers. It shrugged off the several episodes of singular humiliation of uniformed officers at the hands of Clinton staffers. It was unmoved by the rise of the Taliban, the birth of Al Queda, the ever increasing attacks.

We bugged out of Somalia after condemning our Rangers to die because shipping armor to support them was politically icky and the dead merited no cost to their betrayers. But boy was there a good movie in it later.

And so we woke up, surprised, shocked, and hurt on September 11 to the enormity of the cost of our fecklessness. And though we do not want to admit it to ourselves, we know, in our heart of hearts, that we are ultimately responsible for our lack of preparedness. So we salve our consciences with cash to the families.

But why are the WTC victims paid more than the Pentagon victims? The Pentagon casualties participation in the military make them less innocent. We expect that men in uniform will die in war and do not feel so shamed when it happens.

This is also a partial explanation why our allies' advice to accept a new normalcy, that terrorist strikes will happen and that we will periodically have to bury our dead strikes us so badly. We're viscerally unwilling to consider it. This is not only because in the end it's a bad idea (and it is) but also because we, in our hearts, think we failed our countrymen and are unwilling to live with the idea of failing again.

September 10, 2003

Iraqi polling

Posted by TMLutas

Zogby International has conducted a decent survey in Iraq. Hat tip to Real Clear Politics for referring to the article (with selected results). The Zogby International page describing the poll can be found here. You can buy the results at the same page.

In short, Iraq has a 60%-70% optimistic majority, the US is more popular than Iraq's neighbors with the Iraqi people, the Iraqis don't much like the US military but don't want us to pack up right away either.

All in all, a useful bit of reality to counteract the hysterical spin emanating from all quarters.

Andrew Sullivan forgets it's not always about him

Posted by TMLutas

The Catholic Church deserves a lot of brickbats for the pedophilia scandals but sometimes its detractors go too far. News flash, Andrew Sullivan, just because the bishops screw up on one front does not lessen their responsibility to call for greater morality on all fronts. The article in question, True and False Reform is a well thought out examination of where do we go from here and deserves reading by followers of any venerable institution in need of major reform.

Stick a Fork in It

Posted by TMLutas

In a September 9 item, Strategy Page let's us know who the real paper tiger is. Apparently, North Korea is so short of fuel that they could not spare enough to keep up appearances at their national parade. For the first time this year there were no vehicles in the parade.

And these people are supposed to pull off an invasion of S. Korea, how? Maybe it's time to start thinking about amnesties and exile to solve the problem of the current N. Korean dictatorship.

September 08, 2003

The US' Iraq Agenda

Posted by TMLutas

Paul Bremer's Washington Post article yesterday laid out a four point agenda for Iraq's future that is straightforward and clear. Iraqis must write a constitution, the Iraqi people must ratify it, a sovereign Iraqi government must be elected under that new constitution, and then the coalition will withdraw. Is there any western faction, France included, able or willing to object to this plan?

Since the only thing left for the coalition to do is to stabilize Iraq until Iraqis, at a pace that they decide, fulfill the real steps absolutely required for a lasting Iraqi free state, the length of time that the coalition will be in charge of Iraq depends entirely on Iraqis. The only thing that is left under the US' control is our commitment to this agenda. President Bush's speech Sunday night makes it clear that the US is committed to this reality through at least January of 2005 (and January of 2009 if he is reelected). President Bush has made a major commitment of US credibility to properly finishing the process of Iraq's liberation.

For the US, this process took six years, from the 1783 signature of the Treaty of Paris which ended the US' war for independence to 1789 when the Constitution was adopted. Hopefully Iraq, with two centuries of progress in the art and science of writing a constitution, will not take so long.

September 07, 2003

Burma Shoot

Posted by TMLutas

I just love advertising done in the old 'burma shave' style of multiple signs along the roadside. I just saw my first ever political one on I-80 on my way to a picnic at Starved Rock state park in Illinois. Whatever your stand on the 2nd amendment, three cheers to the Champaign County Rifle Association for doing something innovative and interesting to get their message across.

September 06, 2003

Distributed Power, Iraqi style?

Posted by TMLutas

I just read Virginia Postrel's reader supplied suggestion that Iraq get a large load of generators shipped over there to allow them to have distributed power while the US military secures the country from saboteurs.

I find myself in the unaccustomed role of being the wet blanket for this suggestion. I've written before on the subject and am quite enthusiastic on getting away from centralized power but they really need more than a few generators to make it work.

The problem is that providing electricity is a combined problem of capital goods (the generator) and consumption goods (the fuel supplies) and on a yearly basis, it's the fuel that dominates. So even if you parachute in a free generator for every Iraqi family, many families won't be able to run it very often because they can't afford the fuel. Of course, the families that would have the most problems are poor and it is among these people that Saddam's offers of money for attacks would look most attractive.

Generators are a piece of the puzzle but what's required are generators with interconnects that can push current back out onto the grid so you don't just have lights on in houses in the top 5% of Iraqi society with everybody else tripping over their useless generators in the dark.

September 05, 2003

Fake inclusion

Posted by TMLutas

Midwest Conservative points out a disgraceful attempt at censorship to stifle the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria's ability to speak freely and practice his religion by participating in an October conference of the Anglican union.

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, who wrote the letter to the UK's Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has as its motto "we are praying for an inclusive church" and informs the casual website visitor that "you are welcome here".

Unless you happen to be the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, of course. Then you should be denied a visa to enter the UK and be kept from doing your duty as a high Anglican official.

September 04, 2003

Truth and Lies, a Libertarian Conundrum

Posted by TMLutas

A month ago, I wrote about a dilemma facing the Bush administration's prosecution of the War on Terror. Yesterday, The Agitator got around to addressing the issue and he's not happy with the idea of anything but full, immediate disclosure. His fire is mainly aimed at Randy Barnett but what he's disagreeing with is an instance where Prof. Barnett was referring to me over at NRO's the Corner.

"I'm always amazed at how willing otherwise sound libertarians are to cut government slack in times of war", he remarks. And that's really the nub of the problem, he just can't see the difference between war and peace. A great deal of the libertarian ethic, the libertarian tradition rests on truth telling. A good case can be made that in some way or another, it all rests on it.

Libertarianism holds that we are as we are as individuals and the State should not club us down for it but we should persuade each other to fashion a better society. We are drawn to capitalism, not because we are obsessed with money or economic gain, but because free markets are the most honest of economic arrangements, giving value for value for the betterment of all parties (though later, some may regret their choices). Libertarian political instincts tend to be uncomfortable with subterfuge as well, which is why you don't see the sort of cross-endorsement for patronage deals that, for example, eventually destroyed the Liberal party in NY State.

At every stage, at every turn, there are special pleaders saying this bit of coercion, that bit of deceit, is justified. 99 times out of a hundred there are real life examples of how to get similar or superior results honestly. And in that hundredth instance, almost every single time there is a strong suspicion that if we were just smart enough, wise enough, had good enough tools, we could figure out how to do without coercion in those instances too.

The number of special pleadings an educated libertarian has to concede haven't been sorted out can be counted on your fingers. But two of the big ones are war and foreign policy.

The Agitator asks why some libertarians cut the government slack in these cases. I can't speak for others but I can say that my motivation is simple, that I've read, studied, and examined military history and military affairs enough to understand that imposing specific, special rules on government conduct during war that relax the normal restrictions is not simply one policy option among many, it is the only option in a war for national survival. Make no mistake, that's where we are right now.

Deception plays a great part in warfare and can range from the tactical misdirection of changing a ships course unpredictably to avoid torpedo strikes, to the actual landing point for the invasion of France in WW II to large strategic deceptions where mutually exclusive treaties are signed and nobody is really sure which will be honored when war is declared.

But this does not mean that we've sold our birthright of freedom for a mess of pottage labeled security. Patriotic libertarians need to check and double check to see that the new rules are temporary, that the state will not only not stay fat and corpulent (for war is the health of the state) but will be set for an even bigger reductions after the war passes. Furthermore, the most important thing that libertarians must be on guard against is that the war is not lengthened unnecessarily, that the threat does not become a boogie man that is used to scare us from taking up our rights in full measure.

This is a very difficult task, a dance on the edge of a knife blade and one that free societies have traditionally not managed to pull off. This is the great test of our generation. I can only hope that we succeed where others have failed before us.

September 03, 2003

Custom Parts on Demand

Posted by TMLutas

Winds of Change has an article about the US Army's new Mobile Parts Hospital (MPH). While a very useful thing for the military, this will also have civilian implications. Imagine being able to bring in a part for a tool that is no longer manufactured and simply scan it and fabricate it at your local Home Depot. All of a sudden, as I wrote in July, planned obsolescence is dead.

This is moving from the realm of limited material capable items possible to assemble from COTS technology components (3D printers and scanners) to an actual integrated system that can handle a wide variety of components in many materials. Once that military system is viewed by many eyes, visionaries will take it and bring it to the civilian sphere.

The on-site production of parts will have wide implications for many fields. Lots of business models will have to be rewritten. Commercial concerns will take on some of the characteristics of industrial concerns (and how is that going to get zoned?). Mass customization is going to give way to true customization as one offs become cheap enough for the masses to afford. All in all, this is big news everywhere.

September 02, 2003

The Mandarinate Strikes Back

Posted by TMLutas

Steven Den Beste has an excellent article out on the problems the US is facing with its State Department. I happen to prefer the label mandarin class as a descriptor for them as they (and their co-mandarins in other government departments) only formally subscribe to the policies of the government of the day. When the government of the day happens to agree with the mandarin class, everything is fine and dandy. When conflicts arise, the mandarinate strikes back, attacking the government they are sworn to serve and continuing, as much as possible, in their own policy preferences.

This [Ed. by which I mean the US mandarinate] is nothing that the Founding Fathers ever envisioned and is a system completely at odds with the idea that the People rule. It is an illness in our body politic that eventually must be rooted out. The only question being how and when.

Dust off the 3rd amendment

Posted by TMLutas

Out of all the amendments in the US Bill of Rights, the 3rd amendment has been the most successful. It's clear, precise, and for two centuries everybody understood what it meant. Only New York arguably managed to screw it up.

So why remark on this success story? It's because the dual protections it embodies of privacy from the eyes of government agents and a protection from the demands of supporting same are starting to be challenged. The government agent is no longer the loutish soldier who might rape your daughter and steal your horses but rather a tiny little microchip who will spy on your behavior while driving and robs a bit of gasoline in its upkeep.

This sort of thing, taken to much greater heights, was labeled one of the "Intolerable Acts" that caused the American Revolution. Now that it's starting to make a very modern comeback, we all need to nip this in the bud.

A product of BruceR and Jantar Mantar Communications, and affiliated contributors. Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's half-informed viewpoint on the world.

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