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Free speech 2: Finally, someone else – Larry Lessig – gets it on state-created corporations and speech!

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

Further to my preceding post on speech and corporations, I highly recommend Lawrence Lessig`s insightful short piece, “The Principled and Pure Court? A Reply to Glenn Greenwald” (HuffPo, January 27).

For those who haven`t seen it yet, I take the liberty of quoting liberally (emphasis added):

Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald
is just about the most persistent and effective critic of money in
politics today. He is among the least starry-eyed reporters studying
Congress. But his essay defending the Court’s judgment in Citizens United would have been better had he sprinkled a bit of the skepticism he has for Congress on the words penned by the Court….

The First Amendment, Greenwald tells us, is an absolute. It applies
not to “persons”; it “simply bans Congress from making any laws
abridging freedom of speech.” This law plainly banned these entities —
whether persons or not — from a freedom of speech. Ergo, this law is,
and should have been found to be, unconstitutional.

Sounds good. Sounds principled. Sounds refreshingly different from
anything else that happens within the reach of DC (i.e., good and
principled).

But apply that same test to the following (not so hypothetical) free
speech case: A bunch of doctors practice in family planning clinics.
The government issues a rule that says certain doctors in certain
clinics are not allowed to discuss abortion as a method of family
planning. They can talk about abstinence. Or condoms. But they are not
allowed to advise their pregnant patients that they have the liberty to
abort their fetus.

Sounds like — under the First Amendment Greenwald describes — a
simple case. Whether or not doctors are persons (and at least some are
just mere mortals), they should have the freedom to speak. Advising
someone about a legal medical procedure is among the core freedoms one
would expect a Free Speech Clause to serve.

Yet in 1991, in an opinion by Chief Justice Robert’s former boss, Chief Justice Rehnquist, in the case of Rust v. Sullivan,
the Court found no First Amendment problem at all with the government’s
restriction on doctors’ speech. Indeed, it wasn’t even a difficult case
according to the Court (“no question but that the statutory prohibition
contained in § 1008 is constitutional.”)

Why? How? Well the doctors at issue worked in family planning
clinics that had received at least some of their funds from the
government. And in exchange for that benefit, the government was free
to gag the doctors however it wished.
The doctors were free of course
to work in a family planning clinic not funded at all by the government
(for of course, there are plenty of those) (that’s a joke). But so long
as the doctors take this benefit from the government, they’ve got to
live by the rules of the government, at least so long as those rules
serve some legitimate state end.

So how is this case related to Citizens United? For the law wasn’t
applying exclusively to entities that had received something from the
government. It was applying to all corporations.

But of course, corporations do receive a gift from the government.
The government limits the legal liability of investors in that
corporation in exchange for their risking their capital to spur
innovation and growth. That benefit is significant. And the First
Amendment question is whether in granting that benefit, the state would
be free to limit the political advocacy that corporations engage in.

It seems astonishing to imagine the state couldn’t. State law has
historically had wide freedoms to condition the corporate form as they
wished. This fact has led some, including my colleague, Sina Kian, to
argue that Citizens United is less than people think. That the decision
notwithstanding, states could build this limit into their corporate
charters. Or that maybe even Congress could induce states to do the
same. The question then would be the reason the government had for
demanding the entity give up this liberty in exchange for the corporate
form. Traditionally, the burden of that question is the easiest for the
government to meet — is there any state interest at all?
In Rust, the
interest was that that government didn’t like abortion.

But I agree with Greenwald that there is something unseemly in the
idea that the government could restrict the speech of a class because
it doesn’t like the speech of that class.

Yet this is the most confused part of the commentary (and reaction)
of most to this kind of regulation. If the government’s reason for
silencing corporations is that they don’t like what corporations would
say — if it thinks, for example, that it would be too Republican, or
too pro-business — then that’s got to be a terrible reason for the
regulation, and we all ought to support a decision that strikes a law
so inspired.

That, however, is not the only, or the best, justification behind
the regulations at issue in Citizens United. Those rules not about
suppressing a point of view. They’re about avoiding a kind of
dependency that undermines trust in our government.
The concentrated,
and tacitly, coordinated efforts by large and powerful economic
entities — made large and powerful in part because of the gift of
immunity given by the state — could certainly help lead many to
believe “money is buying results” in Congress. Avoiding that belief —
just like avoiding the belief that money bought results on the Supreme
Court — has got to be an important and valid interest of the state.

If the Court really means to say that entities that fund or create
other entities can’t limit the power of those entities to speak — so
the government can’t stop doctors from talking about abortion, or the
IRS can’t stop non-profits from talking about politics — then we
really have crossed a Bladerunner line. For that conclusion really does
mean that these entities were “created with certain unalienable
rights,” even though they were created by a pretty pathetic creator —
the state.

My point is not that the state’s power to condition should be
unlimited. The point instead is that it’s not so simple, or absolute,
as Greenwald would have it. And given the true complexity of these
evolving and complicated doctrines, it is certainly fair to be critical
in the extreme of this decision by the Court, favoring speech that most
believe it naturally likes (unlike abortion-speak), in a decision that
ignores the judgment of Congress about the conditions under which the
integrity of that body, or any election, proceeds.

It seems to me that Lessig doesn`t go far enough, in questioning as I have all of the negative consequences of the state grant of limited liability to the owners of corporations. Surely any libertarian worth his salt should do so.

But Lessig has understated his own case: the government has a valid interest in seeking to prevent not only the appearance that “money is buying results”, but actual corruption and sweet deals as well. Surely the Constitution was not intended to let wealthy individuals to get a leg up on everyone else by laundering their speech through a company and on a tax-deductible basis.

Further, Lessig fails to noted that the Supreme Court could easily have avoided overturning laws and decades of precedents and public understanding – and could have provided much-needed clarity – by concluding that the statements coming from corporations are NOT entitled to protection as First Amendment “speech”, because corporations are legal entities and not themselves actual individuals capable of “speaking” for purposes of the First Amendment. Such a decision would leave all corporate spokesmen and shareholders bearing, like the rest of us do, personal liability and moral sanction for false or offensive speech (though insurance or indemnification by others might of course be be available).

But via the growth of concentrated power enabled by the state establishment of the corporate form, we appear to be rapidly becoming a nation a county “of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation”.

Banning corporate political speech (and campaign contributions) would dampen the rent-seeking pressures that have fuelled to the growth of the state; such steps would also invigorate public discourse – and build greater national trust – by making it clear WHO is actually doing the talking (or letting the body politic discount whenever speech is anonymous).

A note to the American Conservative Union on "Obama’s Political Prosecutions of Opponents"

April 25th, 2009 No comments

Although Pres. Obama had earlier indicated he had no intention or interest in pursuing criminal or other public investigations into possible criminal wrong-doing in connection with acts of torture auuthorized by the Bush administration, Obama is now (as the NYT and GlennGreenwald report), after being forced by a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to release four “top secret” torture memos, finding himself under pressure from public opinion and some Congressional Democrats to allow such investigations to proceed.

As I found out in my email Inbox, this is producing conniptions from the so-called American Conservative Union, which, in an unashamedly breathless, hyperbolic and truthless missive, alleges that (1) Obama has condoned show trials against heroes who have safeguarded us from terroism and (2) in the process has undermined our national security by telling the terrorists and the world that America is weak.

Who knew that considering whether the people serving within U.S. government are subject to the rule of law could itself threaten our national security?

The email from the ACU is quoted further below; here is a copy of my direct reply [caution: obvious snark ahead]:

from TokyoTom <[email protected]>
to Dennis Whitfield <[email protected]>
date Sat, Apr 25, 2009 at 1:45 PM
subject Re: Tokyo Obama’s Political Prosecutions of Opponents
Dennis, I’m with you in insisting that we are a country of men, not laws.

 
Heaven forbid Congress should ever review the legality of actions by the executive branch, much prosecutors seek to try to get a jury to convict for actual violations.
 
At least, that`s what “conservatives” these days think, right?  Have you gotten Bob Barr and Bruce Fein to sign on?
Sincerely,
Tom

http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/default.aspx
http://twitter.com/Tokyo_Tom“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Richard Feynman

For those who can stomach it, here`s the actual email I received from the ACU (emphasis in original):
from Dennis Whitfield <[email protected]>
reply-to Dennis Whitfield <[email protected]>
to Tokyo Tom <[email protected]>
date Sat, Apr 25, 2009 at 12:31 AM
subject Tokyo Obama’s Political Prosecutions of Opponents
mailed-by mailmanager.net
Dear Tokyo,

President Obama wants to prosecute the Bush administration… or at least leave the door open to prosecuting Bush White House attorneys.This is what we have come to: an elected President of the United States hinting that he will criminally prosecute the previous occupants of the White House for working to protect the United States from terrorists.

You would think we were in a third-world country.

However, this is the United States of America and we now have a President who believes he can spread his ideas of weakness and appeasement toward America’s enemies back into a political prosecution of a previous administration to further increase his standing among liberals in the United States and in the world.

President Obama wants to prosecute the Bush administration for prosecuting the fight against terrorism.

We need to stand up and say it is wrong.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Obama bowed in front of a Saudi King.  Obama stood on French soil and called United States actions arrogant.  He has smiled while shaking hands with Hugo Chavez.

Now Obama wants to send another message to liberals around the world by opening up to the political prosecution of Bush administration officials.

The prosecution would be based on his administration re-defining the terms of terrorist interrogations.  He wants to re-define the questioning of terrorists who come from a tradition of blowing up buildings, suicide bombings and unbridled attacks on civilians.

Obama wants to re-define the interrogations of terrorists whose goal is to eliminate our society and replace it with one like the Taliban where “honor killings” are conducted against women who do not ascribe to pre-arranged marriages, where public expression is banned, television is outlawed and we told what clothing to wear.

The Obama administration would re-define the interrogations that took place of terrorists who wanted us to die just because of our basic traditions and beliefs so they can politically prosecute their predecessors.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

When did Obama decide to open up to prosecutions of the Bush – Cheney administration?

As ABC News reported, “President Barack Obama has opened the possibility of prosecuting Bush-era lawyers who authorized torturing terror suspects and suggested Congress might order a full investigation. Less than a week after declaring it was time to move on, the President is now describing what might be done next to investigate.”

But did Obama plan to prosecute Bush officials all along?

During the campaign Newsweek noted in an article last November that Obama advisor Eric Holder who is now our Attorney General called the Bush policies “unlawful.”

Holder said in testimony just this week that he will provide more “transparency” in releasing more previously held military top secret documents on interrogations… building a liberal public cause toward prosecution.

So when the President’s Press Secretary and his Chief of Staff told the press that the President was looking forward and not looking back – that he wasn’t looking to prosecute – one has to wonder if it was a ploy to get members of the liberal media and the far left to call on him to prosecute – to raise their voices to call for the prosecutions.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Obama said as early as October 2007, during the campaign that, “We won’t work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution.” … hinting at his political prosecutions to come.

It was then-Senator Barack Obama who was one of the first to start the effort toward defining violent terrorist’s interrogations as so-called torture.  

In that same October 2007 campaign statement Obama alternated between the terms, “interrogation techniques,” “brutal interrogations,” and then “torture.”  He said, “No more … methods like simulated drowning.”

Simulated actions – i.e. fake actions – became torture to the media and the far left under the tutelage of Barack Obama.

Fake activities that Vice President Cheney said gave us valuable intelligence to protect American lives.

These fake tactics were allegedly used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that produced the killings of thousands of United States citizens.  The killings were real.

 

We have seen the real torture of American citizens – beatings and even beheading.  In 1993 Americans saw images of U.S. Soldiers bodies being dragged through the streets of Somalia after a fight with militants.  A British government document, PBS reported, said that Al Qaeda trained militants there.  Osama Bin Laden later praised the fighters.The Obama administration is seeking to find a legal justification to prosecute Bush administration officials by making the case that fake drowning is equal to real torture.

If they succeed they might even seek to prosecute Vice President Cheney himself, a political prosecution like those seen in third-world countries.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Obama’s supposed push toward prosecutions is coming from liberals like Senator Diane Feinstein.

You may have seen Senator Feinstein on TV this week calling for the possibility of prosecutions. This is the same Diane Feinstein who served as a leader in bringing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton together after the Democrat primary last year.

This is the same Senator Feinstein who found herself at the center of an ethics controversy this week when it was disclosed her husband’s real estate firm received a lucrative federal government contract to sell foreclosed properties – after she asked for $25 billion in federal money for the agency that gave him the contract.

So while Feinstein was deflecting questions on her ethical problems, she was promoting the torture debate.

Feinstein led the call to urge Obama to “reserve judgment” about prosecutions.

She was joined by other liberals including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is trying to deflect criticism from the left that she knew about and approved the techniques before she started calling them torture.  In fact she was even given a personal tour of the interrogation facilities when she was briefed before the questioning took place.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

This is a dangerous precedent for the President of the United States.

Even in the days following Watergate, where an illegal break-in became the impetus for bringing down a Presidency, then President Ford took the politically painful step of pardoning the former President.  This new President seems to be tearing out that page from history and trashing it to look for a justification to prosecute the previous staff and potentially the Vice President or President themselves.

These actions might leave the door open to prosecutions against those who were working to keep our nation safe from brutal terrorists.

We need to stand up against Mr. Obama’s actions.  They are not only dangerous in the political precedent but dangerous in sending the message to our enemies that we are weakening in our efforts to protect our homeland.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Just today we awoke to stories that another suicide bomber killed scores of people in Iraq.  These terrorists know no bounds.  They are brutal and vicious in killing innocent people.

The men and women who went to work at the World Trade Center on September 1, 2001 and the men and women who put on their fire, police or EMS uniforms were not suiting up for war; they were going to work to feed their families.

The terrorists are brutal.  They know no bounds and they will do whatever it takes to promote their warped ideology and end our freedoms and way of life.

Let’s not send a message that our nation is weak or that our leaders will criminally prosecute their predecessors for political disagreements.  That is not democracy… and it is allowing the terrorists to win in destroying our democracy and therefore our way of life.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Thank you for all you do for ACU and for America.

Sincerely,
DEW
Dennis Whitfield
Executive Vice President

P.S.  We should not allow only the voices of the left to be heard in the White House or in the media.  We must speak up and fight back.  Thank you for signing the petition and supporting ACU’s efforts here.

.ACU.
The American Conservative Union

Escape from Reason: are Austrians conservatives, or neocons, on the environment?

February 19th, 2008 9 comments

In their more considerate writings, Austrians have counseled a cool, rational approach to environmental issues.  But recent posts lead me to wonder whether a number of LvMI blog authors and commenters prefer hot-headed emotional outbursts and partisan, ad hominem attacks over Austrian principles, rational thinking and productive, good faith discourse.

1.  As a starting point, let me note that Roy Cordato has elegantly explored and summarized the views of various Austrian thinkers as they apply to environmental issues, including his own:

“The starting point for all Austrian welfare economics is the goal seeking individual and the ability of actors to formulate and execute plans within the context of their goals. Furthermore, in all three approaches, social welfare or efficiency problems arise because of interpersonal conflict. For Rothbard such conflicts arise because of interferences with the voluntary use of one’s own property. This prevents a demonstration of true preferences, moving one to a lower level of utility than would otherwise be achieved. For Kirzner interpersonal conflict that cannot be resolved by entrepreneurship and the market process gives rise to a lack of plan coordination and therefore social inefficiency. And for Cordato, conflict, that similarly cannot be resolved by the market process, gives rise to catallactic inefficiency by preventing useful information from being captured by prices. A theory of environmental economics and pollution that evolves from problems associated with human conflict then would be a natural implication of each of these welfare standards.

“In addition, these standards would argue that irresolvable inefficiencies, i.e., inefficiencies that cannot find a solution in the entrepreneurial workings of the market process, arise because of institutional defects associated with the lack of clearly defined or well enforced property rights. In a setting where rights are clearly defined and strictly enforced, plans may conflict but the resolution to that conflict is embedded in the exchange process. In other words, conflict may arise at the planning stages but is resolved before the actors proceed with implementation of those plans.”

“In the absence of clearly defined and strictly enforced property rights this process breaks down and the conflict becomes irresolvable through the market process. Under all three Austrian approaches to welfare economics, therefore, the solution to pollution problems, defined as a conflict over the use of resources, is to be found in either clearly defining or more diligently enforcing property rights. Not surprisingly this is the approach that has been taken by nearly all Austrian economists who have looked at the issue dating back to Menger.”

I have previously explored more extensively elsewhere Cordato’s summary of Austrian views on environmental matters.  http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/10/12/cordato-humans-cannot-harm-the-environment.aspx.  

Cordato’s view of course meshes with that of Ludwig von Mises, who troubled himself to write directly about externalities, as I have noted earlier: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/10/12/draft.aspx

Carried through consistently, the right of property would entitle the proprietor to claim all the advantages which the good’s employment may generate on the one hand and would burden him with all the disadvantages resulting from its employment on the other hand. Then the proprietor alone would be fully responsible for the outcome. In dealing with his property he would take into account all the expected results of his action, those considered favorable as well as those considered unfavorable. But if some of the consequences of his action are outside of the sphere of the benefits he is entitled to reap and of the drawbacks that are put to his debit, he will not bother in his planning about all the effects of his action. He will disregard those benefits which do not increase his own satisfaction and those costs which do not burden him. His conduct will deviate from the line which it would have followed if the laws were better adjusted to the economic objectives of private ownership. He will embark upon certain projects only because the laws release him from responsibility for some of the costs incurred. He will abstain from other projects merely because the laws prevent him from harvesting all the advantages derivable.”

The laws concerning liability and indemnification for damages caused were and still are in some respects deficient. By and large the principle is accepted that everybody is liable to damages which his actions have inflicted upon other people. But there were loopholes left which the legislators were slow to fill.”

“Whether the proprietor’s relief from responsibility for some of the disadvantages resulting from his conduct of affairs is the outcome of a deliberate policy on the part of governments and legislators or whether it is an unintentional effect of the traditional working of laws, it is at any rate a datum which the actors must take into account. They are faced with the problem of external costs. Then some people choose certain modes of want-satisfaction merely on account of the fact that a part of the costs incurred are debited not to them but to other people.”

The extreme instance is provided by the case of no-man’s property referred to above. If land is not owned by anybody, although legal formalism may call it public property, it is utilized without any regard to the disadvantages resulting.

It is true that where a considerable part of the costs incurred are external costs from the point of view of the acting individuals or firms, the economic calculation established by them is manifestly defective and their results deceptive. But this is not the outcome of alleged deficiencies inherent in the system of private ownership of the means of production. It is on the contrary a consequence of loopholes left in this system. It could be removed by a reform of the laws concerning liability for damages inflicted and by rescinding the institutional barriers preventing the full operation of private ownership.”

2.  But in recent posts on the main blog on environmental issues, rather than a forthright discussion of whether there are persistent or troubling externalities that (i) prevent a demonstration of true preferences, or (ii) result in interpersonal conflict that cannot be resolved by entrepreneurship and the market process and thus gives rise to catallactic inefficiency (a lack of plan coordination and social inefficiency), we are treated to a petulant turning from good faith engagement, in favor of emotional venting, manifested as either a persistent but unsupported mockery of the views of others or as an outright, Manicheaen dismissal of the preferences of others.

a.  Exhibit 1 might be Sean Corrigan, who in a string of posts (most recently “Cold Wave Attributed to Global Warming”- http://blog.mises.org/archives/007775.asp) manifests a rather conservative streak much like that decried by Friedrich Hayek, in his 1960 essay, “Why I am Not a Conservative”.  Mr. Corrigan’s oeuvre is here:  http://blog.mises.org/archives/author/Corrigan; http://blog.mises.org/archives/author/Corrigan2

Hayek identified the following traits that distinguish conservatism from market liberalism:

• Habitual resistance to change, hence the term “conservative.”
• Lack of understanding of spontaneous order as a guiding principle of economic life.
• Use of state authority to protect established privileges against the forces of economic change.
• Claim to superior wisdom based on self-arrogated superior quality in place of rational argument.
• A propensity to reject scientific knowledge because of dislike of the consequences that seem to follow from it.

Edwin Dolan, in his Fall 2006 Cato Journal essay, “Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position”, specifically cautions that market liberals appear to be hamstringing their own analytic strengths by falling into a reflexive and conservative mindframes that benefit established economic interests.  http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/02/14/edwin-dolan-applying-the-lockean-framework-to-climate-change.aspx

Query:  why is it that LvMI blog authors such as Mr. Corrigan seem to consistently care more about defending an existing legal framework that clearly protect the privileges of established interests (especially the privilege to continue to freely and without restraint to exploit all commons), rather than to examine whether there is any cost-shifting going on, or any valuable resources in which there are no clear or effective owners?  Is this not a profoundly “conservative” approach, instead of one that is concerned with libertarian or Lockean principles?

Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education also recommends Dolan’s essay and calls for less wishful thinking and greater engagement by libertarians in the December 8, 2006 edition of The Freeman:  The Goal Is Freedom: Global Warming and the Layman, http://www.fee.org/in_brief/default.asp?id=966.)

Gene Callahan makes a similar warning in his essay “How a Free Society Could Solve Global Warming”, in the October 2007 issue of The Freeman: http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=8150.

Mr. Corrigan’s blog posts on environmental matters regularly elicit a fair degree of enthusiasm among fans of the Manicheaen strawman style, as I noted on an earlier blog post:  http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/17/holiday-joy-quot-watermelons-quot-roasting-on-an-open-pyre.aspx.

 

b.  We now turn reluctantly to Exhibit 2, who is none other than Dr. George Reisman, whom I understand ironically to be the translator of the von Mises passage on externalities that I quoted above.  In his latest post, trumpeted in an all-caps “ENVIRONMENTALISM IS RECYCLED COMMUNISM AND NAZISM” headline, Dr. Reisman equates Environmentalism with  Communism and Nazism, in that they share “the essential common core of hatred and destruction” and “the fundamental principle of hatred for human life and happiness.”  http://blog.mises.org/archives/007793.asp

While some environmentalists may be socialists in disguise, how is this blanket and sweeping condemnation of all who care about the environment helpful, much less consistent with Austrian understanding of the externalities that give rise to environmental concerns or the Austrian principles of how to begin to address what others have expressly recognized as “tough cases”?

When I noted in my comments to Dr. Reisman’s post that environmentalists used to be called “conservationists” and were once largely wealthy conservatives, I was quickly advised by one clever fellow, more concerned with correcting me than in disagreeing with Dr. Reisman, that “these aren’t the same environmentalists that we’re talking about here”.  Allow me to paraphrase my response to him:

Yes, when challenged on these strawmen, LvMI blog commenters will acknowledge that they really only want to talk about the EVIL enviros. The rather poorly defined “Enviros” who are the target of these attacks are simply a convenient strawman, one that allows all the good freedom-loving folks at LvMI to ignore everyone else who cares about their own property, their backyard or shared commons:  wealthy people and consumers, regular folks stymied by the 150+ years that Walter Block has identified that US courts have NOT protected private property, Ruppert Murdoch and Richard Branson, the firms behind the new “Carbon Principles”, the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) http://www.us-cap.org/, the CERES group of institutional investors, the firms that are members of the PEW climate change coalition, the firms that are entering to voluntary carbon trades, the religious groups and the scientists who are suffciently concerned to publish or speak publicly, etc.

It seems rather obvious to me, at least, that the persistent use of such a sweeping strawman is simply unhelpful for analyzing whether there any so-called problems, understanding the concerns or preferences of those who declare their concern or in considering how such concerns could be best addressed within an Austrian framework.  So what explains the prevalence of this rather blind enviro-bashing?  That, I’m afraid, is rather simple, albeit understandable – it is a surrender to the ancient tribal imperative of (and emotional rewards from) engaging in partisan conflict.

As I quoted on Dr. Reisman’s comment thread, Glenn Greenwald also examines psychological motives in a recent post in which he takes neocon Mark Steyn to task for his continued war-mongering:

“There is nothing more psychologically invigorating than the belief that you are staring down the Greatest and Most Evil Enemy Ever in History, courageously waging glorious war for all that is Good and Just in the world. Nothing produces more pulsating feelings of excitement and nobility like convincing yourself that you are a Warrior defending Western Civilization from the greatest threat it has ever faced, following in — even surpassing — the mighty footsteps of the Greatest Generation and the Warrior-Crusaders who came before them.”

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/02/17/steyn/index.html.  Clearly this type of analysis has its limits in any given case, but it is such an identifable phenomenon that I couldn’t help wondering on Dr. Reisman’s comment thread:

Mark Steyn : Islamofascism : : George Reisman : Environmentalism?

Those who think they’ve identified demons ought to have sense to question whether they are falling into a cognitive trap – of the kind that throws reason and caution out the door, while giving free rein to confirmation bias, prejudice and fears of enemies.  This is quite common and indeed predictable, as many have noted.  We aren’t computers, after all, but merely human. 

But this is the very reason why many on the blog (as on sharp display in Mr. Corrigan’s last thread) like to thrill to the emotional satisfactions of seeing those with whom they disagree (viz., yours truly) as close to the Devil incarnate, simply because I persist in being an outlier and thus a sore thumb here.  To them I say, okay, but have some sympathy for the Devil, as my diabolic aspects may simply be your own creation – and I continue to call you to constructively engage with those you least sympathize with.

Or have I fundamentally misunderstood Austrianism?

Let me close by repeating my statement on Sean Corrigan’s most recent thread:  it is has been my sad experience over the past two years here that there is very little appetite for exploring Cordato’s “tough cases”. Rather, on environmental matters, the modus operandi of many LvMI authors and commenters appears to be: Abandon all logic, all ye who enter here, and let’s band together and blame everything on those evil misanthropes (whomever they may be) – ignoring all others but those hated strawmen!  In honor of two leading lights who regularly exhibit this behavior, I have begun to call it the “Reisman Rule” or the “Corrigan Creed”: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/17/holiday-joy-quot-watermelons-quot-roasting-on-an-open-pyre.aspx


“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Richard Feynman

Update: Greenwald on Ron Paul and the "corruption and complicity of Democrats"

December 11th, 2007 No comments

This is an update to my earlier piece on Glenn Greenwald’s posts concerning Ron Paul (http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/11/08/gg.aspx).


After one of Greenwald’s readers drew his attention to my earlier piece, Greenwald stated the following in a comment thread :



“I’ll note two points more generally here relating to the broader discussion:


“(1) Criticizing some Democrats and documenting their involvement in many of the worst Bush abuses is not the same as saying that it doesn’t matter which party controls the various branches of government.


“(2) The notion that there is no meaningful difference between the parties is one that is more pronounced and tempting — understandably so — on days like this, when new evidence emerges of just how complicit key Democrats are in so many things.


“But many — I’d say most — people who react that way (again, completely understandably) on days when such stories are revealed are not going to harbor that “no-difference” belief for the next 12 months. When faced imminently with the prospect of a Giuliani administration or a Romney administration and all of the dreck that that would entail, my guess is that the perceived differences will become more pervasive.


“But whatever the results are, one has to describe the corruption and complicity of Democrats when one sees it, and one sees it with incredible frequency. That’s just true.”


http://letters.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/12/07/cia_evidence/permalink/48acf9ac4fb5461c7edea5fab65fec45.html


While declining to expressly endorse Ron Paul, Greenwald is also careful to strongly criticize the Democratic establishment for its complicity in our corrupt government.

Categories: campaign, Democrats, Greenwald, ron paul Tags:

War-profiteering and "Parasitic Imperialism"

November 22nd, 2007 2 comments

I posted the following comment in response to a piece by Glenn Greenwald:

 

War-profiteering is simply more Treasury-raiding by elites – at our cost and our children’s.  An economics professor at Drake (Ismael Hossein-zadeh, an ethnic Kurd from Iran, by the way) has some interesting and relevant thoughts in a well-reviewed book that came out last year called “The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism”, http://www.amazon.com/Political-Economy-U-S-Militarism/dp/0230602282/ref=ed_oe_p/105-9360914-5760441. His web page, with links to recent writings, is here: http://www.cbpa.drake.edu/hossein-zadeh/default.htm

In a recent article at Counterpunch,Parasitic Imperialism, Hossein-zadeh concludes (emphasis added):

“Although immoral, external military operations of past empires often proved profitable, and therefore justifiable on economic grounds. Military actions abroad usually brought economic benefits not only to the imperial ruling classes, but also (through “trickle-down” effects) to their citizens. Thus, for example, imperialism paid significant dividends to Britain, France, the Dutch, and other European powers of the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. As the imperial economic gains helped develop their economies, they also helped improve the living conditions of their working people and elevate the standards of living of their citizens.

“This pattern of economic gains flowing from imperial military operations, however, seems to have somewhat changed in the context of the recent U.S. imperial wars of choice, especially in the post-Cold War period. Moralities aside, U.S. military expeditions and operations of late are not justifiable even on economic grounds. Indeed, escalating U.S. military expansions and aggressions have become ever more wasteful, cost-inefficient, and burdensome to the overwhelming majority of its citizens.

“Therefore, recent imperial policies of the United States can be called parasitic imperialism because such policies of aggression are often prompted not so much by a desire to expand the empire’s wealth beyond the existing levels, as did the imperial powers of the past, but by a desire to appropriate the lion’s share of the existing wealth and treasure for the military establishment, especially for the war-profiteering Pentagon contractors. It can also be called dual imperialism because not only does it exploit the conquered and the occupied abroad but also the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens and their resources at home.

“Since imperial policies abroad are widely discussed by others, I will focus here on parasitic military imperialism at home, that is, on what might be called domestic or internal imperialism. Specifically, I will argue that parasitic imperialism (1) redistributes national income or resources in favor of the wealthy; (2) undermines the formation of public capital (both physical and human); (3) weakens national defenses against natural disasters; (4) accumulates national debt and threatens economic/financial stability; (5) spoils external or foreign markets for non-military U.S. transnational capital; (6) undermines civil liberties and democratic values; and (7) fosters a dependence on or addiction to military spending and, therefore, leads to an spiraling vicious circle of war and militarism.

The vast amounts flowing to huge defense contractors in all states is the chief reason that the Dems refuse to stand up to Bush, and politics in Washington has generally become simply a fight over the spoils of the federal budget and other government largess. Because the Dems are not that much different, they have a tough time pretending that they are more responsible. And as the media is itself owned by large conglomerates, they have little interest in rocking the boat by standing up to either politicians, the military establishment or the corporate or Israel lobby, but are content to feed Americans pap, and individual reporters of course have more to gain from sucking up to the power brokers than in offending them.

Increasingly, elites are running the country for their own selfish interests. Wars and the fear they stir up better allows elites to further squeeze and control all of us (via the PATRIOT Act, domestic spying, data mining, a “Real ID” and citizen chipping, etc.).

By the way, Hossein-zadeh also specifically analyzed these factors with respect to Iran last year: “Behind the plan to bomb Iran” (8/31/06), http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article14771.htm.

 

Greenwald’s piece is here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/08/29/iran/index.html; my initial posting is here: http://letters.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/08/29/iran/view/index34.html

Categories: Greenwald, parasitism, state, war Tags:

Glenn Greenwald praises Ron Paul

November 8th, 2007 No comments

Glenn Greenwald has just gone off the deep end by putting up a long post in praise of Ron Paul`s “principled positions” and his understanding the deep Constitutional mess we`re in.

http://www.salon.com/src/pass/sitepass/spon/sitepass.html?http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/11/06/paul/

Surprisingly, Greenwald even included in his post this Ron Paul camapign video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FG2PUZoukfA


Greenwald made the following points:


Regardless of how much attention the media pays, the explosion of support for the Paul campaign yesterday is much more than a one-time event. The Paul campaign is now a bona fide phenomenon of real significance, and it is difficult to see this as anything other than a very positive development. Paul, of course, is not only in favor of immediate withdrawal from Iraq, but also emphatically opposes the crux of America’s bipartisan foreign policy consensus. He reserves his greatest scorn for America’s hegemonic rule of the world through superior military force, i.e., its acting as an empire in order to prop up its entangling alliances and enduring conflicts — what George Washington lamented as “permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others.”

And Paul is as vigilant a defender of America’s constitutional freedoms — and as faithful an observer of the constitutional limitations on government power designed to preserve those freedoms — as any national political figure in some time.

While Barack Obama toys with the rhetoric of challenging conventional wisdom, Paul’s campaign — for better or worse — actually does so, and does so in an extremely serious, thoughtful and coherent way. And there are a lot of people who, more than any specific policy positions, are hungry for a political movement which operates outside of our rotted political establishment and which fearlessly rejects its pieties, even if they disagree with some or even many of its particulars. Regardless of one’s ideology, there is simply no denying certain attributes of Paul’s campaign which are highly laudable. There have been few serious campaigns that are more substantive — just purely focused on analyzing and solving the most vital political issues. There have been few candidates who more steadfastly avoid superficial gimmicks, cynical stunts, and manipulative tactics. There have been few candidates who espouse a more coherent, thoughtful, consistent ideology of politics, grounded in genuine convictions and crystal clear political values.

Perhaps most importantly, Paul is the only serious candidate aggressively challenging America’s addiction to ruling the world through superior military force and acting as an empire — not by contesting specific policies (such as the Iraq War) but by calling into question the unexamined root premises of these policies, the ideology that is defining our role in the world. By itself, the ability of Paul’s campaign to compel a desperately needed debate over the devastation which America’s imperial rule wreaks on every level — economic, moral, security, liberty — makes his success worth applauding.


Additionally, the establishment’s reaction to both candidacies [Ron Paul`s and Howard Dean`s 2004 campaign] is similar. Even though they both were espousing ideas more substantive and thoughtful on vital issues than any other candidates, both of them were depicted as radical, fringe losers not to be taken seriously. This, despite the fact that they are both eminently rational medical doctors repeatedly re-elected by the people who know them best — their constituents. But the Beltway political and media elite protect their prerogatives by demonizing anyone who challenges them as an unserious loser, and that is how they depicted Dean (until he joined them) and how they now depict Paul. I don’t want to push the Dean/Paul analogy too far. There are obviously very major differences between them and what fueled each of their candidacies. But the hallmark of both was that they tapped into the widespread and intense scorn for the rancid establishment governing the Beltway, and anything that does so is something to be cheered.


While not an endorsement of Ron Paul, Greenwald does skate rather close. 


Has Greenwald become a libertarian wingnut/Paultard/Rondroid?  Does he simply share some of Paul’s concerns and think that Paul’s anti-big government, pro-liberty message is important?  And is he hoping to influence the Democratic presidence race in some way?  (Does either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama fall within the “rancid establishment”?)  Inquiring minds want to know.


[Note:  slightly reworked from original.]

Categories: Greenwald, ron paul Tags: