Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, May 28, 2007

Occupied Iraq Is Galt's Gulch

In an apparently controversial couple of posts yesterday I expressed frustration that some "progressives" are now trumpeting former Libertarian Party and current Republican Party Presidential hopeful Ron Paul for his anti-war views -- and this despite the fact that he continues to preach the free-market gospel that provided no small amount of the practical and ideological underpinnings of the very war and occupation he opposes. For me, the crux of the argument amounts to this little snippet:
[Ron Paul's] "opposition" to the war and ongoing occupation in Iraq must… be understood and judged in connection to his other stated positions…. And this is certainly true as well for other market libertarians who like to make "anti-war" arguments in an era when the specific institutions of corporate-militarist globalization define what is meant by "free trade" and "markets" in the first place…. If the lesson you learn from Iraq is "Less Government!" you may as well simply intone to the corporate-militarists who are alone in profiting from these bloodsoaked conflicts, "Please, Sir, can I have another?" Be assured, they will cheerfully oblige you.

There is just no arguing, it seems, with market fundamentalists when they are in the full froth of self-congratulatory fervor. In this they appear, after all, pretty much as bad as any other fundamentalists you care to meet when the pet slogans of their faith are up for discussion. And I suppose I should have expected a barking dog brigade would find their way to my posts yesterday via search engines attuned to the radioactive glow of words like "Libertarian" and "Ayn Rand" and "War." Needless to say, it is ultimately quixotic to try to talk sense to people who think feudalism is rendered freedom through the expedient word magic of redescribing it as a "free market."

No doubt, the Libertopian True Believers will bug their eyes at this and proclaim me (again) hopelessly confused, stupid, ignorant, and so on. And I daresay I will simply have to leave them for now to their consoling fairy tales and hope that Iraq, Katrina, Blackwater, Social Security privatization, and the rest of the Killer Clown College's domestic debacles will have discredited the right wing "politics" of privatization and crony capitalism and deregulation without end enough that the online Libertopian Noise Boys will be too tainted with the stink of conspicuous failure to do much more for a while in the way of damage. Meanwhile, a truly progressive anti-corporate-militarist left, invigorated by new peer-to-peer media formations, may just have the breathing space we need in which to re-educate Americans about the Four Freedoms, and about the emancipatory promise of an informed, nonduressed, consensual, technoscientifically literate democratic civilization.

My only real regret is that in tossing off my little Sunday morning editorial yesterday I failed to provide any links to other writers considerably more respectable than myself who have made complementary arguments. There are actually any number of them, but I will insist (and not for the first time) that everybody should have read by now the essay Baghdad Year Zero, by Naomi Klein, published in Harper's, September, 2004. A short article, "Bush aiming to remake Iraq as a free-market paradise," published in The Chicago Sun-Times by William O'Rourke, April 3, 2005, complements the point the following year. And Joshua Holland's Bush's Iraq: A Bloodbath Economy, published in AlterNet the next year on July 27, 2006, continues the theme. Google provides countless supplementary readings to lead one on from there, for any who are truly curious about this argument.

The basic point I made yesterday was that as a ferocious critic of the Iraq war and present occupation myself of course I support Ron Paul and every other public figure who opposes the catastrophic occupation of Iraq, but that my support for his anti-war position has to be a qualified one since it is my view that Ron Paul and other market libertarians frame their own anti-war positions in a way that simultaneously supports a false and already dangerously widely accepted "free market" ideology that has a crucial share in the responsibility for the concrete form the Iraq debacle took and continued acceptance of which assures comparable atrocities in the future.

This argument seems to have been regarded by many of my interlocutors as a contradiction revealing my deep incapacity as a thinker worthy of a hearing. Since I still cannot discern a contradiction here, I daresay maybe that is so.

I expected to hear proper criticisms that my focus on free market ideology backburners too much the ugly racism, scary millenarianism, and anxious patriarchy likewise spectacularly on display in America's planetary War Machine. That would have been a useful discussion. Instead, I was informed that I do not understand how dreamy free markets will be on that glorious day when we "finally" let them loose unfettered upon the world. I'm hoping this stunning stupidity was some kind of awful ugly idiotic fluke. But I will say I have never been more convinced that there are few things more crucial for champions of democracy to do right here and right now than to educate Americans and other privileged people that the "free market" moonshine they've been slurping for decades literally constitutes a hostile corporate takeover of the institutions of popular democracy by a minute minority of incument interests driven by short-sighted and sociopathic competitive calculations that are turning the world we live in to shit.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have a very small business. I trade with and share ideas with folks in most places all over the world. I like these folks and consider them to be my friends.

Now why is it you want to hurt me and my friends? I don't get those big words.

Dale Carrico said...

I am sorry that you and your friends are hurt by my big words.

JayDee said...

Dale Strikes Back!
(by reiterating the very same futile points)

Dale is attempting to rob you of your liberty by telling you it only leads to the evils of the corporatism and mercantilism. He calls these things a “free market” however they are very far from what libertarians call a “free market” or Laissez-faire economics. The very basis of the free market is no government control. A corporation can not exist in a free market because there are no government laws to protect the individuals in the business. A corporation is simply a fictional legal entity created to protect business men from there customers. In a free market there is a natural limit to how large a business can become.

Let me say that again because sometimes its difficult to grasp these concepts. (just look at Dale) it means no laws, no regulation, nothing. This of coarse does not mean that a can or even will act “any way they choose” Since there is no such thing as a corporation, people in the business are liable for there actions. The system is no worse then our current system for instance government agencies such as the FDA do not inspect every head of lettuce. The health department does not inspect every place that sells food. Businesses that want to risk a lawsuit for selling tainted food are just as able to do so now as they are under a free market system.. the difference is in todays world you sue a legal “person” called a corporation when you get sick. In a free market you sue the bastards that made you sick. So there is more of a personal risk to conduct a poor/dangerous quality business under a free market system, and that's even without watchdog agencies.

Ron Paul can't really convert us to a gold standard or a free market system in the 8 years he could be president... there is one thing he can do though.. he can END THIS WAR. Dale writes this article attacking liberty on the very same day Cindy Sheehan leaves the Democratic Party, for continuing to fund the war without restrictions of any kind. http://mwcnews.net/content/view/14771/26/ Democrats have not and will not stop the war. They like the war. The war is good for them politically.. and that's what is important. “Yes, Yes, .. people are dying, but we can use this war to our advantage and continue to beat it over the Republicans heads in '08.” You can bet if you vote for a libertarian like Ron Paul he will not only end our current war.. but he will also “fail” to start any future wars abroad. The Democrats.. well who knows.. they may decide it would be politically bad for them to have “failure on there watch” .. its hard to say because they lie so much about the war.. then run right back to congress and vote for it.

Dale Carrico said...

Hey, JayDee, what's the weather like on your planet?

JayDee said...

After the UN and US failed to prop up the nearest warlord and force a government on the people of Somalia, the people decided the didn't want or need a government.

Take a look at this article.

"Telecoms thriving in lawless Somalia"
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4020259.stm

Three phone companies are engaged in fierce competition for both mobile and landline customers, while new internet cafes are being set up across the city and the entire country.

It takes just three days for a landline to be installed - compared with waiting-lists of many years in neighbouring Kenya, where there is a stable, democratic government.

And once installed, local calls are free for a monthly fee of just $10.


I'm sorry, the free market just works.. Contrast this with America highly regulated telecom industry, where corporations f*** there customers night and day.

Dale Carrico said...

Ah, for the sweet libertopian paradise that is contemporary Somalia! The jokes just write themselves.

JayDee said...

It's government type? It's anarchy, a very poor and war ravaged one at that.. but its free market economic model is not causing what you would suggest. In fact you can get mobile phone and internet service cheaper in Somalia than anywhere else in Africa, and it's better quality. zOMG! Where are the robber barons?!

Thought I would add.. In our "Democracy" the people do not rule.. its laughable to suggest that.

You mentioned how the people did not vote for George Bush in 2000, well I got news for you.. they didn't vote for Al Gore either.

George W. Bush got 47.9%
Al Gore got 48.4%
And 51% not voting at all.

These are typical results.

So less than a quarter of the country voted for Gore. The rest of the country assumed it was pointless to vote, or didn't bother. I agree with them, it makes very little difference who you vote for. I think Ron Paul is going to pick up the disenchanted voting block, the people that are fed up with government.. and if he does.. there is nothing either party can do about it. Remember he only needs 25% of America to win.ÏÐØ·ÏÐ

Dale Carrico said...

I agree that it is a terrible sign that so few Americans vote. It shows that people grow disaffected when they sense anti-democratic forces are commandeering democratic institutions -- as when corporate-militarist lobbies write legislation, corporate-militarist media propagandize, and so on.

As it happens, I don't think that 100% percent of the people need to vote for an election result to be legitimate (sometimes a nonvote represents satisfaction with any of the candidates, trust in the judgment of one's fellow-citizens, personal disinterest in the particular contest at hand, and so on). But I strongly agree with you that the levels of non-participation in American elections represent something desperately wrong with our curent all but bought and paid for system. That is why elsewhere on this blog I have regularly argued for any number of reforms to reinvigorate our elections, from creating an Election Day holiday, public funding of elections, facilitating election-day registration, introducing national election standards, obviously insisting on paper trails, and so on.

As for your Somalia discussion, dictators can make the trains run on time but that doesn't make dictatorship attractive. I have argued that the basic political contest is between democracy versus aristocracy, and that what is wanted is to democratize the state whereas you have seemed to champion smashing the state and trusting in the fantasy of the "spontaneous order" of "free markets" (even though market protocols are historically specific legislative feats, trade inevitably relies on public goods supported by states, individual profits fail to register the contributions of all who are instrumental to the production of goods and services, prices rarely testify to social and environmental costs of goods, and so on). It takes much more than handwaving about cellphones to give you a picture of the political stakes of democracy versus anti-democracy.

JayDee said...

Look, your regulations and law, upon rule, upon law, does not help. The democrats continue to write laws that hurt the people they intend to help. You drive up the minimum wage so impoverished people can't get a job and you regulate the hell out of business so they can't start one to begin with, now without the thousands of dollars to pay for the licensing. If they try to make money without a licensee you will stop them at gun point! Then the democrats have the nerve to complain that there is not enough money going to help the poor! YOUR the ones keeping food out of peoples mouths, your the one making people homeless on the street. Why is it poor young men turn to selling drugs? Because you wont LET them make money any other way.

Dale Carrico said...

JayDee, you can struggle to democratize the state to redress the grievances that so exercise your attention, or you can continue to indulge in the puerile fantasy of "smashing the state" and thereby complacently consolidate the rule of corporate-militarist oligarchs claiming to speak for the "free market." As for the rest of the paranoia and hysteria in evidence here, I can only recommend that you might try finding a decent therapist.

JayDee said...

But that's all they ever do.. write more laws to take care of the problems they created.

Look at the current immigration reform it puts MORE restrictions on business not less. I can see no harm in people coming to this country to work or better yet starting their own business. Let them come in and take over entire towns, it only makes America stronger *IF* we give them the freedom to be successful.. oh yeah.. we don't.. We give white kids with collage degrees that "privilege", but leave the poor out picking fruit illegally.. and we are about to stop that too so maybe they will turn to crime.. wont that be fun.

Dale Carrico said...

Let's just agree to disagree, JayDee. You're certainly welcome to post specific critiques of blog-entries and I'll try to clarify my actual points where I can, but I'm not going to walk you through the issues of the day, responding to your conventional right wing talking points with my own democratic left counter-arguments -- that is, unless you decide to pay me for the privilege. It's just too tedious and thankless a task.

JayDee said...

Yes, I'm just a "right wing kook" Ignore the fact that I support practically none of the fascist Republican party..

besides.. your really busy and I know you have to get back to distorting the liberty movement.

Thanks for your time.

Dale Carrico said...

The rhetoric employed by your "liberty movement" has been instrumental in nearly all of the crucial moves of the "fascist Republican party" you claim to oppose, the "deregulation" and selling off of public utilities, public assets, and social functions, to social security privatization, to contracting out war, reconstruction, and disaster relief to unaccountable corporate cronies.

This brings us right back to my initial point about Ron Paul's "anti-war" position yoked to an anti-governmentality that to this day fuels the form of the Iraq occupation.

Market libertarians can claim to hate Bush all they want (and no doubt many earnestly do hate him), but the fact remains that market libertarian theories and rhetoric have provided the soundbites and background noise that give ongoing "plausibility" to most of the catastrophes of the Bush Administration.

Just because you feel Republicans have "distorted" the never-existing and never-to-exist ideal "free market" worldview you champion doesn't insulate you from culpability as your very words are used over and over and over again to justify corporate-militarist politics.

Sure, you can gasp in horror at the catastrophes that ensue when your ideals are "imperfectly" translated into the real world, but if you fail to learn the lesson of these catastrophes and simply clap louder about "free markets" as the corporate-militarists literally pound the planet to rubble you will have to forgive me if I fail to expend much in the way of sympathy for you and your fellow free-marketeers as you whine about the misrepresentation of your snow-pure ideals.

And so, we circle joyfully back to the point at which we began.

JayDee said...

"..clap louder about "free markets" as the corporate-militarists literally pound the planet to rubble" .....whatever...

Ever seen the Libertarian pledge? When you become a member you state that "I do not believe in or advocate initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals."

The Republicans Democrats are all too happy to use force for whatever they want at the moment.

Dale Carrico said...

Such pledges are meaningless if market-outcomes, however duressed, are defined as "non-coercive" by fiat, and so long as guns still get paid for by and then pointed at the vulnerable in the name of "self-defense." And to the extent that such pledges function as a way to insulate libertopian "initiates" in advance from criticism and self-scrutiny as to what counts as force in the first place, they are worse than meaningless, and function instead as active props to tyranny and True Belief.

JayDee said...

Even if that were true. (and its not) Don't you agree that using force on others is a bad thing?

Or do you insist that the only answer to the problems of man is a colective "vestage" of there ideas, limited by what they are offred as solutions by politicians, crafted upon the whim of the day, supported by the majority at the oppression of a minority, created into law and viloently enforced?

Perhaps the state should run everything? Anymore it seems people look to the government for the solution to every problem.. I mean and why not.. the governments so "good" at running everything that pratically every government program fails to do what they prommise it will. The Soviets tried that too.. Ever hear someone prase a soviet built car? You don't, because they sucked.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

Notice they did not say we make "our" government.. they are talking about any type of government at all. The only reason it exists is to protect rights. If you would have watched the philosophy of liberty you know that there are 3 primary rights. The only legitimate excuese that any man or group of men can have to create such a oppressive force is to secure these rights.

Aside from that.. if you want to buy land and build your own socialist democracy on it, you are free to do so in a libertarian world.. people who agree with you can come and you can kick out anyone you like. You will not hear any of us argue if it's vollentary.


Why waste your time hammering on us who at least by our own admissions if not what you believe to be our practice, agree with you on corporations, and go after the Republicans who actually DO support the industrial-militaristic American Empire.

Dale Carrico said...

It doesn't take long for you to retreat back to a 50s Cold Warrior comic book vision of the world, I see. You ask why I don't play kissy face with market libertarians who presumably are as anti-corporatist as me. Well, I've told you why: in my opinion, those who want to "smash the state" and "let the market decide" are begging for oligarchy where what I want is more democracy. Clearly you disagree with me, which is perfectly fine. But there it is: I don't want libertopians as allies. I think you're wrong, I think you're pernicious, and I think I can do better when I'm scouting about for anti-authoritarian allies. I daresay you feel much the same. Again, it seems to me this is one of those times when folks should agree to disagree and move on, surely?

JayDee said...

Well.. you got a serious problem then with your plans for the government. If you can't at least try to agree with others, what makes you think others will? Things don't look good for your democracy. Most Americans can't agree on anything.. and I think that's perfectly fine. We should not, primarily because we are not a society, we are not a culture, we are not a nation.. we are individuals with our own ideas and goals in life. This is why liberty works and democracy doesn't. You need to take a hands off approach to other peoples lives and say to yourself "I don't like it, but they aren't hurting anyone but themselves."

Your democracy will fail because it will eventually go bankrupt. It also wont be very enjoyable because people by in large do not agree.

I'll continue to fight that tooth and nail. We could fix it.. but people still want to say there way is right for everyone.. All while Republicans and Democrats chastise Paul for trying to let people make up their own rules on issues that affect their lives.

Good day, and good luck with the d'mockracy thing mang.

Dale Carrico said...

Thanks, JayDee, for coming by, and good luck to you, too.