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  1. The naval squadrons which Jefferson and his successors deployed across the world were not intended to extend American control over new territories, only to protect American merchants by ruining those states and individuals who sought to deprive them of their rights to life and liberty. Jefferson believed war to be an appropriate policy to deal with those mercenaries who bolstered their extortions and threats against the United States government by kidnapping and torturing American civilians. Virtually the entire world is today undergoing some degree of economic liberalization, and relative to the rest of the world China’s reforms have not gone very far. Between 1980 and 2002 China global rank has, according to the Fraser Institute, risen from the 93rd freest economy to the 90th. Although it’s true that much of the world, including China, has for the last 20 years been liberalizing faster than the United States, they have so far failed in all cases to match or exceed the economic liberties enjoyed by Americans. Whether any of them will eventually develop a capitalist system as efficient and durable and that operating in the United States remains to be seen. Currently, the United States still remains the 3rd freest economy in the world, eclipsed only by Hong Kong and Singapore, countries which liberalized their economies not recently, but during the 1950’s. The United States has realized since the 1970’s that because most of the world will not participate in the embargo, it will not succeed in weakening Cuba. Its purpose today is more so a statement of peaceful protest against Fidel Castro’s government, indicating to him that the United States does not intend to seek closer relations with his country. However, the removal of the US embargo would not serve to undermine the political or economic systems currently prevalent in Cuba. The entry of Taiwan into Chinese business during the late-1980’s was made possible only because of thoroughgoing market reforms made in China during the mid-1970’s. On the other hand, if the embargo with Cuba were lifted today, American foreign investment in Cuba would remain minimal and most foreign trade would be with the state-owned corporations that dominate the Cuban economy. Although a limited number of foreign firms have been allowed to establish themselves in Cuba since the early-1990’s, even now foreign investment of any kind is officially banned under Cuban law. In fact, it was this very issue that resulted in the imposition of the embargo in the first place. Recall that the first American sanctions were established in 1961 when Castro seized the property of American corporations in Cuba with little or no compensation. Castro’s refusal to allow free investment in Cuba was opposed by the United States. Similar sanctions and investment bans existed at various times between Taiwan and China, and it was not until 1987 that Taiwanese companies were first able to invest freely in China. By this time, the transition to capitalism was, unlike in Cuba, already well underway. Since 1987, economic liberalization in China has progressed steadily, although not a faster or slower rate than prior to that date. Political and civil freedoms, however, have not improved at all. The human rights foundation Freedom House has actually reported a significant decline in civil liberties since 1987, in part due to the repercussions of the Tiananmen Square incident. Despite increasing Taiwanese foreign investment, diplomatic relations between Taiwan and China are not much better than Cuban-American relations; at least the United States recognizes the autonomy of the Cuban nation. Whereas the United States has not threatened Cuba with invasion since 1962, the Chinese army was as recently as 1995 practicing amphibious landings and firing missiles within 40 kilometers of Taiwanese territory in a blatant attempt at intimidation. Although foreign investment has no doubt benefited the economic growth of both China and Taiwan, it has not made China particularly less hostile towards Taiwan, nor has it induced any political and economic liberalization within China. Considering Cuba’s apathy for significant economic reforms, free trade between Cuba and the United States would likely be even less effective at changing Cuba than Taiwanese trade has been at changing China. Reagan similarly levied a series of tariffs on foreign steel and textiles and inaugurated import quotas on foreign automobiles and semiconductors. Clinton sponsored oil and steel duties aimed at foreign imports from Brazil and Russia and established textile sanctions on China and luxury car quotas on Japan. Despite these specific incidents, America’s overall tariff rate declined from more than 6.6% in 1975 to 2.6% today. Judging from the veritable flurry of Bushite free trade programs that have been ratified so far, I expect that we will see from this administration more steady progress towards a globalized economy. The fact that this progress has been steady can largely be attributed to lingering hostile attitudes among the American population towards free trade. The 50,000-man anti-globalization protest in 1999 at the Seattle WTO conference and Ralph Nader’s decent showing in the subsequent presidential election are indicative of this. Because Americans are still worried about the effects of free trade, politicians aren’t willing to take a leap into the dark on this matter. The last time the United States took a true plunge towards free trade was ironically under Franklin Roosevelt, a man who believed he had earned an electoral mandate to institute radical and immediate change to alleviate the Great Depression. His administration implemented tariff reductions of more than 10%, one of the largest single reductions in tariff rates seen in American history. I think you may be forgetting to factor in the large reductions in government expenditures that will eventually occur once enough people have switched to private accounts. This year the US government earned 658 billion off the money in the social security trust, of which 502 billion was immediately paid to retirees, leaving a 156 billion surplus, comprising 8% of the budget, to spend on other programs. Although taxation would not necessarily decrease under a system of private accounts, expenditures would be cut vastly because each person would be paying for his or her own retirement. When Chile introduced private social security accounts in 1981 it had within several years convinced 50% of its population to rely entirely for their retirement on money they saved individually. If the United States can similarly motivate half of Americans to switch to private accounts then within twenty years or so the number of people receiving government pensions will also drop by half. If government payouts were to be cut in half, from 502 billion to 251 billion annually, then of course the government would be able to keep 251 billion more in surplus dollars than it previously could’ve. Even if this massive revenue increase does not open the door for a tax rebate, it should at least reduce the possibility of tax increases in the future. Some scholars estimate that today nearly 90% of Chile’s population relies largely or entirely on private accounts to provide for their retirement. If the United States can achieve the same thing then government revenues will eventually rise astronomically without any corresponding increase in taxation. The current proposal is to allow each person to invest their money in their choice of a combination of index funds, of which five have been outlined so far including corporate bonds, treasury securities, or a variety of stock market portfolios. Although all the details have yet to be hammered out, it seems like individuals can also choose to make riskier investments so long as they agree to contribute more than a minimum amount to their account. Thus, the new system will give customers considerably more freedom of choice than public social security. Describing taxation as anti-capitalist requires the use of a definition of capitalism that is exclusively anarcho-capitalist. To the vast majority of economists capitalism simply refers to an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit, and there is nothing that makes such a system incompatible with a government funded by ‘coercive’ taxation. In fact, most economists argue that capitalism cannot function properly at all without a government that will at very least protect property rights. Most neoliberal economists such as Milton Friedman believe that government funded through taxation is “a necessary evil” in order to ensure that markets can operate free of chronic civil strife. This opinion is not restricted to ‘leftists’ like Friedman but is also popular with Austrian School economists, such as Friedrich Hayek, Wilhelm Ropke, and Henry Hazlitt. Friedrich Hayek, the only Austrian to have won a Nobel Prize for Economics, advocated that government, among other things, enforce contract law and provide welfare for the destitute (see The Road to Serfdom). Wilhelm Ropke, praised by the Ludwig Von Mises Institute as a man who “fought collectivist and statist power in every way an intellectual could”, believed that government, necessarily funded by taxation, should control a system of universal education and a network of public infrastructure (see The Social Crisis of Our Time). Henry Hazlitt has likewise received many accolades from the Mises Institute, yet he believed firmly that publicly-provided “policemen, firemen, street cleaners, health officers, judges, legislators, and executives… make it possible for private industry to function in an atmosphere of law, order, freedom, and peace” (see Economics In One Lesson). Hayek, Ropke, and Hazlitt, among other Austrians, agreed that an intrusive government is not only compatible with capitalism, but in fact serves to strengthen and enhance the free market by securing private property rights, encouraging entrepreneurship, and spreading opportunity. Even the thoroughgoing Austrian radical George Reisman has confidently declared that “The existence of freedom requires the existence of government” (see Capitalism: A Treatise On Economics). Therefore, it ought to be stressed that anarcho-capitalism is unique among economic philosophies for proposing that taxation and capitalism are irreconcilable. Not being an anarcho-capitalist myself, I disagree that government contracting to the private sector should be considered an ‘anti-capitalist’ practice. The only tariffs which are mercantilist are those specifically designed to bolster the national economy by shutting out foreign good and shielding domestic industries. Although I don’t know how much of America’s (already small) average tariff rate represents such protectionism, it’s likely that the WTO would keep purely mercantilist tariffs to a minimum. Tariffs which are designed to raise revenue for the government or to prevent diseased animals from entering the country (mad cow or foot-and-mouth disease, for instance) do not fit the definition of mercantilist. The only point I was trying to make though, is that, with an average tariff rate of only 2.6%, American advocates of free trade do not, by global standards, have much to complain about. This broad definition of ‘ownership’ effectively disqualifies every country in the world from being capitalist. There is no country that allows its citizens to use their property in a way that violates the law, yet that doesn’t mean they don’t own it, nor does it automatically make that country socialist. As I noted previously, most economists believe that a uniform set of public law is vital in any capitalist economy. Although George Reisman is fairly radical in his economic philosophy, even he is careful to nuance between a socialist economy like Cuba, a mixed economy like Sweden, and a distinctly capitalist economy like the United States. Remember that the world’s most fervent critics of socialism have included John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Robert Heilbroner, who managed without difficulty to lean far to the left of Milton Friedman without converting to Marxism or socialism. Although every government in the world does maintain the right to seize private property, in the United States it is unconstitutional to do so “without just compensation”, thus implicitly recognizing that the right to ownership lies with the property holder. Although such eminent domain laws are sometimes abused, the power of government is, in most democracies, prudently tempered through the establishment of several ‘checks-and-balances’. The Supreme Court of the United States, for instance, frequently reviews the legality of property seizures, such as the case of Youngstown v. Sawyer, where the court overruled Truman’s attempt to nationalize the steel plants, or Dolan v. Tigard, where the court blocked a local government from expropriating a strip of land under zoning regulations. Thanks in part to these checks-and-balances, government does far more good than bad in ensuring the right of ownership. Few would doubt that, on a global level, by far the biggest threat to property rights is not government, but anarchy. Because of the importance of private property rights in a free market economy, capitalism today is much less stifled even in mixed economies like Sweden and Israel than it is in the chaotic conditions which prevail in most of the Third World. In defunct or defective ‘nations-states’ such as Liberia, Somalia, or Pakistan, large areas of the country are under the influence or control of warlords, tribal authorities, and organized criminals who have no checks or balances on their power. Under these fragile, powerless governments, capitalism is thoroughly dysfunctional. By contrast, stable, efficient governments rule over some of the world’s most prosperous people. In Sweden, for instance, government expenditures reach nearly 70% of its GDP and taxation rates are among the world’s highest, but would anyone argue that the free market functions better in anarchic Somalia than capitalist Sweden? The Swedish people are wealthy because they benefit from a transparent judicial system and effective police force. Somalia, however, has no police or judicial system to speak of, and real security can be bought only from armed gangs. Singapore, a third world country only sixty years ago, is more reliant on state-owned corporations than any other country in Asia and employs eminent domain more frequently than any other developed country. Yet would anyone argue that the free market is functioning better in chaotic Chad than authoritarian Singapore? In Chad, government authority is weak in the cities and non-existent in the countryside. Singapore, on the other hand, takes pride in its disciplined and rigid bureaucracy. Thus, the areas of the world where property rights are most tenuous today do not suffer from bloated, rapacious governments, they suffer from governments that, despite frequently claiming adherence to ‘socialist’ or ‘liberal’ principles, in reality wield little or no effective control over their own people. The Fraser Institute’s 2004 report on Economic Freedom In The World demonstrates this principle well. The United States and Canada were ranked alongside Sweden as the world’s top-15 most effective nations at protecting the right of private property. On the other hand, countries where property rights are exceedingly tenuous included Guatemala, Chad, and Tajikistan, where government expenditures do not even exceed 20% of their GDP. Liberal economist Mancur Olson, after having observed “Hobbesian anarchy” in countries such as these, notes that too little government has often proven to be just as bad for the economy as too much. In his recent book, ‘Power and Prosperity’, Olson concludes that “There is no private property without government”, and argues that only markets which are “governmentally contrived” can ensure economic progress. The popular political scientist Francis Fukuyama elaborates on this matter further in his latest book. Fukuyama anticipates that one of the greatest challenges of the 21st-century will be reforming these “failed states”, as he calls them, by strengthening their “core functions”, particularly their vital role in stamping out ‘the rule of lawlessness’ and thus guaranteeing the right to property. Therefore, the existence of government isn’t inherently anti-capitalist, and limited governments like those of the United States, Australia, Japan, and other countries, have often served to promote and propagate the development of free markets. I thoroughly disagree that either the economy of the United States, or the overall economic and social policy of the present US administration, can accurately be described, in aim or effect, as socialism. In reality, the United States is, and always has been, a pinnacle of capitalism in the West, and in the world. There are enough checks-and-balances in the United States and Canada that this usually does not happen in practice. Although it's true that each member of the House of Representatives and the House of Commons is influenced by the demands of their constituents, they are equally influenced by other forces and institutions which serve to moderate self-interest. For instance, each delegate is responsible to his or her party, and therefore advocates an agenda similar to the party’s platform. In the United States, for instance, there are only two parties with any clout in government, and each party promotes one set of policies which vary from election to election. Obviously, however, America does not consist of only two highly partisan factions determined to undermine one another and use the state to reward themselves. The thousands of diverse ethnic, social, and political groups that comprise the United States each have their own special interests far beyond what only two parties can offer. Nonetheless, those who seek a voice in politics must compromise in order to fall behind either the Democrats or the Republicans. In order to avoid losing their bases of support, neither party can advocate a policy which would blatantly disadvantage one of those bases to the benefit of another. Because the Republicans and Democrats both represent a vast conglomeration of thousands of special interests, each interest must compromise their ambition to reach an internal consensus. Such accommodation becomes even more necessary due to the checks-and-balances established within the American government. For instance, before a law can be passed it must receive majority approval by two legislative houses consisting of delegates who represent different constituents and geographical bases. Moreover, when the House of Representatives is controlled by a different party than the Senate, then the party introducing the legislation cannot stop at appeasing their own members, they must also ensure that each bill avoids inconveniencing their opponents’ supporters as well. Furthermore, if one party does gather enough internal support to promote a policy that actively undermines their political opponents, and manages to get it through both segments of the legislature, they will still have to deal with the executive veto which the President may exercise over any bill, as well as the Supreme Court, which may strike down a law as unconstitutional. Thus, in order to ensure that a law is passed, it has to be in the interests of the various factions comprising the party that controls the House of Representatives. At the same time, it must also be in the interests of the various factions comprising the party that controls the Senate. It has to be in the interests of the President and his advisors as well. Finally, it has to be in the interests of the members of the Supreme Court who interpret the constitution. Any one of these groups has the power to throw out faulty legislation. For those laws provisional on the support of state and local governments, there is yet another level of potential bulwarks. Although it’s true that the separation of powers isn’t as distinct in Canada as in the United States, like the United States Canada does maintains an independent judiciary to interpret the constitution, strong provincial governments, and a House of Commons representing both party and constituent interests. The consensus politics at work in the United States and Canada force millions of individual interests to cooperate to create policies which will benefit the entire country. A compromise coalition such as this will almost invariably serve the public interest. Although most laws apply equally to all citizens, there are of course intentionally discriminatory ones as well. Having passed through a rigorous legislative process, such laws are determined in a bipartisan consensus to benefit the public good. However, it is thanks to the checks-and-balances of democratic political systems that the few blatantly discriminatory policies that are promoted within the United States or Canada are not so great as to cause significant harm to those disadvantaged. For instance, despite affirmative action, which burdens those of European descent, whites still have higher average real incomes than blacks or Native Americans; despite progressive taxation, which imposes on the wealthy, the gap between the rich and poor remains the same. David Friedman’s theory of the state as a tool of avaricious special interest groups may perhaps be valid in dysfunctional democracies like populist Venezuela, oligarchist Indonesia, or ethnically-polarized Nigeria, but in most Western democracies, especially the United States, his prophesy has not materialized to a significant degree.
  2. In addition to being by far Latin America’s most staunchly democratic country, Costa Rica had also historically been America’s strongest ally in Central America. Although Costa Rica, renown for being an example of ‘homegrown’ democracy in the third world, held its first multiparty election in 1899, their incipient democracy wouldn’t have survived up to the present without the unflinching patronage they have received from the United States. Although Costa Rica’s government has been greatly assisted by America’s longstanding economic and military assistance programs, more significant have been the three occasions within the last hundred years where the United States has employed outstanding diplomatic pressure against both internal and external threats that would otherwise have proved fatal to Costa Rican democracy. The first instance occurred in 1917 when Federico Tinoco, the Costa Rican Secretary of War, seized power with the aid of the military and forced the government into exile. The United States, however, refused to recognize the junta and demanded the return of the former government. The junta withstood US economics sanctions and loan cancellations for two years until President Wilson dispatched marines to US properties along the coast and threatened the junta with invasion. Tinoco promptly fled the country, the military stepped down, and elections were held later that year. Costa Rica would then remain stable until 1948, when former-president Rafael Calderón Guardia, having lost the recent presidential ballot, conspired to annul the election with the help of the Popular Vanguard and Republican Parties. The United States promptly condemned the act and began to back Jose Figueres’ rebellion against the government. The United States played a vital role in supplying Figueres with weapons and military advice, and Calderón Guardia’s supporters were soon forced to step down. Figueres founded Costa Rica’s ‘second republic’, and drafted the constitution still in use today. He was also safely able to abolish the army, leaving only a domestic ‘Civil Guard’, knowing that the United States would protect Costa Rica from hostile powers. Figueres’ faith was proved to have been well placed in 1955 when the Nicaraguan army invaded Costa Rica in association with a rebel force led by the exiled Calderón Guardia. In response the United States scrambled to get emergency military aid to the Civil Guard, including sophisticated rockets, machine guns, and explosives, which successfully reached Costa Rica before the fighting began. Several P-15 Mustang fighters with trained pilots were also donated in order to ensure Costa Rican air supremacy. After a few pitched battles Somoza acceded to US demands and withdrew his forces. Although the United States has in the past used nation-building effectively to export democracy abroad, US relations with Costa Rica demonstrate that occasionally threats, economic sanctions, and financial and military aid to pro-democratic forces can be just as influential. Venezuela presents a similar case. The United States did not overthrow Venezuela’s first democratically elected president. The first fairly elected government of Venezuela was the Gallegos-Betancourt administration, which initially came to power in a military coup in 1945, but decided to hold free elections in 1948. They themselves were toppled by a faction of the military later that year and although the United States can be accused of inaction in dealing with the coup, such as not imposing economic sanctions, they weren’t involved in assisting or abetting the plotters in any way. Betancourt, whose avidly pro-American rhetoric can be contrasted with Chávez’s provocative vitriol, was welcomed back to power by the United States in 1958 when the military junta collapsed. Betancourt’s adherence to democratic principles was hailed by President Kennedy as a model for the rest of Latin America to follow, and Venezuela became one of the region’s largest recipients of US economic aid under the Alliance For Progress. The United States also trained Venezuelan bureaucrats to engineer a comprehensive land reform program. The first true crisis for the new government, however, came in 1961 when Fidel Castro arranged for the national communist party, armed with Cuban weapons, to stage a violent guerrilla war against Betancourt’s administration. Venezuela was soon plagued by insurgent attacks and waves of terrorist bombings, which more than likely would have overthrown the government had the United States not prescribed a massive increase in military aid. At the School of the Americas, officers of the Venezuelan army received special training and equipment to battle the guerrillas. Here the United States supervised the formation of an elite counterinsurgency division called the Cazadores, which played a vital role in rooting out communist forces, which were largely defeated by 1964. In addition to the extreme left, conservative forces also opposed Betancourt. When Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, in cooperation with anti-democratic conclaves of the Venezuelan military, attempted to assassinate Betancourt in 1961, the United States responded swiftly by ordering the OAS to impose economic and military sanction on the Dominican Republic. Today, the United States is still Venezuela’s second-largest economic aid donor, as well as the country’s major supplier of police and riot-control equipment to ensure that anti-Chávez demonstrations can be dispersed peacefully. Despite a few sensationalistic press articles and Chávez’s own accusations, US complicity in the 2002 coup still remains far within the realm of speculation. Although there’s no doubt that the United States is dissatisfied with his close diplomatic relations with Cuba and Iran and his support for communist rebels in Colombia, there’s little circumstantial and no definitive evidence that the United States government aided or abetted the military putsch. In fact, since the coup the United States has negotiated all arms sales with Venezuela directly through the government to ensure that the weapons will not be used against it. A direct military intervention made with the intention of creating efficient, stable, democratic, and self-supporting political institutions in the target country is nation-building, according to the definition currently in use. In all the instances I have presented, the United States Army engineered massive projects to create accountable government and fair electoral procedures backed up by newly-built networks of infrastructure, telecommunications, public utilities, and health and educational facilities. The same process is at present progressing intermittently in Iraq and Afghanistan. During both British and American attempts at nation-building, however, democratic elections were always the cornerstone of the effort. For many countries, such as South Korea, India, and Ghana, this was the first experience in history that their people had with modern democracy. After their occupiers left the challenge for these nations was not to “cobble together a democracy” from scratch, but to preserve and improve the democratic institutions that had already been firmly implanted upon them. In some cases, such as the Philippines and India, the aftermath was an unmitigated success, while in others, such as Haiti and Nicaragua, the result was an unqualified failure. Obviously nation-building isn’t always inspired by altruism, it’s clear that the West has a vested interest in seeing viable democracies develop in areas where security concerns exist, but the results and the motives of nation-building should be considered equally important. Even when the motives aren’t entirely selfless, the result of nation-building for several areas of the world has been more freedom and greater prosperity for local peoples. However, as I pointed out in my paragraphs on Venezuela and Costa Rica, nation-building is only one of many ways the West can and has assisted the modernization and democratization of countries throughout the world. The United States, for instance, has used diplomacy and covert aid to play vital roles in the democratic transitions of dozens of countries, including Italy, Portugal, El Salvador, Panama, Bosnia and Eastern Europe. America, however, is far from the world’s only advocate of democratization. In all of these countries, equally important assistance, and in several instances more important assistance, has been rendered by Germany and Great Britain, and in other cases lesser but nonetheless highly significant contributions have been made by Canada, France, Australia, and the United Nations. Despite the periodic abuses of power that are touted by social activists as evidence that the self-interest of the West leads only to misery abroad, I would say without a doubt that the foreign policies of the United States and Western Europe have been largely beneficial to the economic and political development of the rest of the world.
  3. In regards to both Great Britain and the United States I can verify that your statement is false using the official economic statistics tabulated by Angus Maddison, one of the OECD’s most esteemed economic historians (see, for instance, his recent book The World Economy). Between 1950 and 1998 the Gross Domestic Product per capita of the United States grew at an average rate of 2.24% annually. Under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Truman (1950-1952) the United States saw above-average growth rates of 2.5% annually. The immediate post-war years under Truman saw particularly high economic growth. Under Presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton (1992-1998) annual GDP per capita growth was 2.23%, about average by recent historical standards. The period of history which has pulled down the 1950-1998 average so much are the presidencies of Nixon, Ford, and Carter between 1969 and 1981. During each of these years, GDP per capita grew at a rate of only 1.85%. Although America had inherited a dismal economic legacy from the 1970’s when Reagan became president in 1981, his administration nonetheless oversaw per capita growth rates of 2.57% annually. Although falling birth rates have caused a recent slowdown in GDP growth for Great Britain, per capita growth in recent years has actually been slightly higher than it was in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Between 1950 and 1998, Britain’s GDP per capita expanded at a rate of 2.12% annually, including annual growth of 2.27% between 1950 and 1968, 2.3% between 1981 and 1998, and a disastrously low 1.62% between 1969 and 1980. Thatcher’s administration saw 2.13% annual growth. Although this figure is admittedly barely above recent historical norms, I want to stress that Thatcher inherited an economy in shambles thanks to union activism during the Winter of Discontent combined with the 1979-1980 oil crisis. Britain suffered far worse from the economic stagnation of the 1970’s than the United States did, and I think that should be taken into consideration when assessing Thatcher’s economic legacy. In fact, from 1983 to 1989 Britain’s economy grew faster than at any time since at least 1950 (the earliest date that I have statistics for) an during this period, average GDP per capita growth exceeded 4% on three occasions, a feat which was achieved only three other times between 1950 and 1982. In terms of per capita GDP growth, your statement holds true only of Canada, which has indeed seen startling lower growth rates from 1980 to present. In addition to per capita GDP growth, the Reagan years saw good figures for other economic indicators as well. According to www.miseryindex.us, when Reagan took office in 1981, the combined ‘misery index’ (price inflation+unemployment) of the United States was 19.33 (7.5% unemployment and 11.83% inflation). The misery index for 1980 was the highest ever seen in the United States between 1948 and 2004. By the time Reagan left office, however, the misery index had been reduced startlingly to only 9.72 (5.3% unemployment and 4.42% inflation). The article I cited in my previous post demonstrates that another of Reagan’s economic achievements was rapidly growing real income amongst all social classes; “For all U.S. households, the mean average of real income rose b 15.2 per cent from 1980 to 1989 (from $33,409 to $38,493, in 1990 dollars), compared with a 0.8 per cent decline from 1970 to 1980.” Although I have yet to find comprehensive and reliable data on real income growth in Great Britain, the statistic I cited in my previous post regarding a strong rise in income growth during the Thatcher years comes from the book, “Margaret Thatcher: Prime Minister Indomitable”. Although Thatcher’s performance in combating inflation was spectacular, unemployment rates actually worsened for most of the 1980’s. From 1970 to 1981 Great Britain saw average annual inflation rates of 12%, but from 1981 to present the inflation rate has been only 4%. When Thatcher took office Britain’s total misery index was 24.4, with an 18% inflation rate and unemployment of 6.4% (according to “Public Policy and The Economy). When she left office in 1990 it was 13, with a 7% inflation rate and 6% unemployment (although these last two figures may be slightly off since I extrapolated them from a line graph found in the book, “Major Recessions: Britain and the World, 1920-1995”). Although budget and balance-of-payments deficits are certainly undesirable for any country, they are not a determinant of the country's present economic health. To measure that, the most important indicators are per capita GDP growth, real income growth, the unemployment rate, and the inflation rate. Opinions among economists, however, vary greatly regarding what effect budget and balance-of-payments deficits have on these indicators; a nation can certainly experience such deficits while still enjoying a strong economy. For instance, in 1930 Britain had a balanced budget and its pound was worth comparatively more than today due to a decent balance-of-payments surplus (see “Public Policy and The Economy” for these figures). In 2003, however, Britain experienced a budget deficit totaling 3% of its GDP, as well as a balance-of-payments deficit of 1.7% of the GDP. Of course, no one would argue that Britain’s economy was better in 1930 than it was in 2003. On the contrary, due to the Great Depression 1930 was one of Great Britain’s worst years. Although I don’t deny that the high budget and balance-of-payments deficits of the 1980’s somewhat tarnish Reagan’s otherwise excellent domestic record, these unfortunate statistics in no way denigrate my point that that the Reagan years were characterized by “strong economic growth”. Whether the 1980’s economic booms of Great Britain and the United States can appropriately be attributed to the policies of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations is an issue that will probably not be resolved in the near future. There is no doubt that dozens of other factors, including many outside of domestic control (such as an improving global economic climate and lower oil prices), contributed greatly to the period’s economic growth. What I hope my economic statistics have amply demonstrated, however, is that during most of the 1980’s (for whatever reason) Great Britain and the United States experienced a time of considerable economic prosperity. This basic fact seems to me to be virtually indisputable.
  4. It’s true that some wealthy Saudi businessmen and aristocrats have played a role in financing Al-Qaeda in the past, and to a lesser extent still do today, but the government of Saudi Arabia was in no way complicit in either financing or abetting the September 11th terrorist attacks. Due to Saudi Arabia’s longstanding alliance with the United States and its swift condemnation of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration chose to engage Saudi Arabia diplomatically rather than forcibly, and ensuring that Saudi Arabia remains a dependable ally during the War on Terrorism continues to be a major challenge for the United States. Although dealing with the Saudis was no doubt a risky move considering the fundamentalist nature of the regime, diplomacy has fortunately yielded surprisingly effective results. Despite slow progress at first, Saudi Arabia began freezing suspected terrorist assets within several months of the September 11th attacks, and by the end of 2002 had frozen 5.6 million dollars in assets. In June, 2002, Saudi Arabia began mass arrests of Al-Qaeda suspects and in August facilitated a transfer of sixteen Al-Qaeda terrorists from Iran to the United States. Even more importantly, however, has been the substantial intelligence on internal and external Al-Qaeda operations which Saudi Arabia has readily shared with the CIA. Within a year of September 11th, Saudi Arabia established an “oversight commission” at US request to monitor private charities for links to terrorism, and by the end of 2002 extensive auditing of these organizations was underway. Recently-chartered Saudi commissions now also oversee various other external monetary transfers to help choke the flow of private donations to Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. This new counterterrorism policy has received good reviews from scholarly studies published by both the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, think-tanks which are often quite critical of Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, there are still a few problems. One of the few outstanding concerns that remain to be resolved is the strongly anti-American attitudes that are believed to be held by the teachers of Saudi Arabian religious schools located outside the Kingdom but funded by the House of Saud. Whether these ‘madrassas’ promote terrorism is a hotly disputed issue. The United States also continues to insist that Saudi Arabia expend more effort to seal its borders from private transfers not just to Al-Qaeda, but also other regional terrorist groups such as Hamas. Saudi Arabia’s efforts to root out domestic Al-Qaeda cells, however, have been particularly aggressive over the last two years in response to a wave of fundamentalist terrorism directed against the government. This crackdown began after the Riyadh Compound Bombings of May, 2003 (sometimes dubbed “Saudi Arabia’s 9/11”), and continues to this day. Granted, the Bush administration’s success in convincing the Saudis to constrain Al-Qaeda was done largely for purely pragmatic reasons. The United States could not afford to alienate itself from the Saudi government while at the same time seeking the overthrow of the Taliban and preparing an invasion of Iraq. Pursuing a militant foreign policy towards Saudi Arabia was perceived under these circumstances to be impractical. Although it may indeed be true that the best solution to the Saudi problem would be to seek a regime change, from a practical standpoint two years of diplomacy with Saudi Arabia has yielded vastly greater results than ten years of negotiation with Iraq did. At least until more American forces are freed up from obligations in Iraq, a diplomatic solution with Saudi Arabia will likely prove cheap and effective.
  5. In American democracy, each party campaigns on whatever platform will satisfy their supporters and simultaneously convince as many moderate and undecided voters as possible to back them; no party that consistently adheres to a rigid ideology will survive long when trying to maintain the loyalty of a fickle public. Thus, the progressive or conservative philosophy of leading American political parties has existed only so long as politically convenient. Historically, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have stuck to their principles all the time, and Franklin Roosevelt was no more or less opportunist than any of them. For instance, the Democrat Grover Cleveland (President from 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897), was widely perceived to support a more limited role for the government in the economy, and rightly so considering his support for lowering tariff walls and reducing federal relief aid. However, he also advocated and signed the Interstate Commerce Act, proposed by congressional Democrats in 1887, which forced all private railways to submit to tight federal administration. This resulted in the creation of America's first federal regulatory agency and signaled the beginning of the regulatory state. Despite the party’s confidence in the capitalist system, the Democrats did not seek to oppose the public will on this issue, which was greatly influenced not by Republican ideals, but by the social and political reforms advocated by the ‘progressive movement’. Cleveland similarly was vigorous in using the Sherman Antitrust Act to break up large firms when the country was behind him. One expression of the new progressivism was the Populist Party, which earned a surprising 9% of the popular vote in the 1892 election by running on a platform of opposition to the gold standard and greater social equality. Recognizing a chance to increase their voter base, the ever opportunist Democrats ran in 1896 on a platform that emphasized the same proposals. Because the Democrats were willing to accommodate Populist and Progressive ideas in their own policies, the Populists disappeared. However, they left a mark on the Democrats which still exists today. The Democratic Party’s support for such left-wing policies as a strongly progressive income tax and increased trade union power do not date back to FDR, but are rather ideas absorbed from the Populists and other contemporary progressive thinkers. Woodrow Wilson, America's Democratic president between 1913 and 1921, similarly supported whichever policies would secure him the most votes and best improve America's standing in the world, regardless of whether they complied with a free market philosophy. Wilson raised a new income tax shortly after coming to power, set up federal banks that would give low-interest rate loans to farmers, established America's first system of workmen's compensation, and created the Federal Reserve central banking system. During World War I he passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which almost certainly represent the greatest legislative abridgement of American civil liberties in the nation's history. The Sedition Act threatened with arrest or deportation all who would, “willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States, or the flag of the United States.” At the time congress was dominated by fellow Democrats, although the acts were repealed shortly after the Republicans regained control of the House in 1919. Thus, politics has always been politics, and politicians will always pursue whatever set of policies will maximize the number of people willing to vote for them, rather than maintaining a fixed ideology, which brings me to the second point I want to make. You lament that since the 1940’s the Republican and Democratic policy platforms have been, by your criteria, indistinguishable, but placing the blame for that on Roosevelt and the Democrats in incorrect. FDR merely realized that it would be necessary destroy the ‘Democratic tradition’ in order to save the Democrats. His decision wasn’t exactly radical either, because, as I noted previously, no uniform Democratic tradition of protecting civil and economic liberties had ever truly existed. Thanks to FDR, the Democrats secured the presidency for 20 years and Roosevelt himself won several landslide victories, something which certainly cannot be said of the old Democrats James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce. Even if you do mourn the rise of the new Democrats, so long as you support democracy you can't deny that FDR's policies were clearly the people's choice; whether they made the right choice or not is irrelevant. Thus, it wasn’t FDR who destroyed the Democratic tradition, it was the voters. In order to demonstrate to you my theory of politics, I will give you a brief case study in twentieth-century British politics before moving back to the United States. Britain's equivalent of the old Democrats was the Liberal Party, which contested each election with the Conservative Party. Although the Liberals and Conservatives had, on most economic issues, to varying degrees almost always advocated self-reliance and laissez-faire, the British voters were increasingly demanding greater government regulation of economic production and improved public social services. Into this power void jumped Britain’s trade unions, which had formed the socialist Labour Party in 1900. This new upstart party began increasingly to undercut both Conservative and Liberal voter bases, culminating in the landslide election victory of 1945. The progressive, Keynesian reforms that the Labour Party implemented post-1945 became known as the ‘post-war consensus’, because they were, in economic respects, adopted by the rival Conservative Party as well. As for the Liberals, they never managed, despite determined attempts, to create a new and attractive platform that could appeal to the fickle voters of Great Britain; between 1945 and 1979 they never controlled more than 14 seats in parliament. The Liberals failed to adapt and therefore they died out. However, with time the British people once again became dissatisfied with the status quo. The Conservative Party, now under the influence of Hayekian ideologue Margaret Thatcher, promised to initiate a new economic program which would break several aspects of the post-war consensus that had become unpopular. If the Conservatives hadn’t been willing to transform into a mold that better fit popular sentiments, they would have eventually been replaced by some upstart third party willing to campaign on a platform of giving the voters what they wanted. However, Thatcher made the Conservatives palatable to the voters for seventeen years until a reenergized ‘new’ Labour Party was finally triumphant in the 1997 election. New Labour success was based not on a platform of threadbare socialism, but of a ‘third way’ between economic statism and liberalism; Labour was willing to compromise its ideology in order to retake the House of Commons. Does this mean that since Thatcher and Blair, there has been no difference between the Conservative and Labour parties? Not exactly, they still differ on many significant issues such as the size of the welfare state, controls on immigration, and tax reform, but it is true that a new consensus has been reached for the time being, and it may be a few decades before the British people deem another shakeup necessary. During the Dirty Thirties in the United States, Americans were showing their displeasure with mainstream parties by electing numerous third party candidates to the House of Representatives. By 1937 13 third party candidates were seated in the legislature. However, America was not protesting the economic interventionism and social activism utilized by the Republicans and Democrats to alleviate the Great Depression. On the contrary, all these new faces entering the House of Representatives ran on blatantly socialist platforms similar to that of the British Labour Party. If the Democrats had held staunchly and adamantly to a laissez-faire ideology and refused to change their platform to reflect the changing tastes of the voters, which as I noted previously they never had, perhaps the Democrats would have went the way of the Liberals and Americans would today be casting their ballots between the Republican Party and the Farm-Labor Party (or possibly the ‘new’ Farm-Labor Party). After all, the Farm-Labor platform won more seats in the House of Representatives in 1933 than the Labour Party of Britain did on its first electoral run. FDR and Truman cut racial discrimination from the Democratic Party’s policy platform when the demand for it still existed in the south, thus spawning a revolt among segregationist Democrats (‘Dixiecrats’). However, when FDR purged the Democratic Party of libertarianism, who filled the void? No one, because right-wing economics was simply not in favor with American voters. In terms of the total number of votes received, by far the best performance of the US Libertarian Party in a presidential election was in 1980, perhaps because the previous Republican and Democratic presidents, Nixon and Carter, were both in favor of and had sponsored legislation advocating such strongly left-wing policies as increased welfare spending, affirmative action, tougher environmental regulation, and the use of price controls to stop inflation. However, it was not to be the beginning of a meteoric rise for this nascent third party. The Libertarians have so far had a fate more similar to the Populists than the Labour Party. Ronald Reagan, although not the model libertarian, was right-wing enough to get most of their votes in time for the 1984 election. Reagan knew what the voters wanted just as well as the Libertarians, and unfortunately for them, he delivered what he promised. Reagan’s opposition to all the aforementioned policies shifted the Republican Party distinctly to the right on economic issues and earned him the loyalty of probably about 700,000 voters who had cast their ballots for Libertarian candidates only four years prior. Reagan attempted to forge a new economic synthesis in the United States, which is demonstrated well by these tables. http://libertyunbound.com/archive/2004_10/...dman-reagan.pdf So you see, the precise explanation for the longevity of the two-party system in the United States is the outstanding versatility which Democratic and Republican presidents and policymakers have demonstrated over the years. Since the 1860’s they have proven themselves to be responsive to change and ideologically flexible, continuously modifying, shifting, and moderating their political platforms in order to obtain the loyalty of the maximum number of voters. Which former presidents should Bush seek to emulate in order to win over America? As it stands, both the American public and scholarly community view old, pre-Lincoln Democrats like James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce to be among the worst presidents in American history. On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln, a man with a ‘penchant for statism and destructive war’ and FDR, a president full of ‘crackpot schemes’ rank with George Washington in a recent survey as the only three presidents in American history deemed worthy of the word ‘great’. In the opinion of most American voters, this praise is well deserved. Therefore, when a libertarian position will once again get the Democratic Party votes, only then will the Democrats become libertarian. Until then, if you don't like the party that the majority will vote for, don't blame the party, blame democracy. As congressman Morris Udall once said, “The voters have spoken… The bastards.” It all depends on what issues are personally important to you. Bush is in favor of the death penalty, while Kerry is staunchly opposed; Kerry wanted to renew the assault weapons ban, whereas Bush did not; Bush supports the Patriot Act, but Kerry would’ve allowed it to expire; Bush is against homosexual marriage and Kerry is for it; Bush would continue funding the National Missile Defense, while Kerry would not; Bush planned to legislate against partial-birth abortion, whereas Kerry said that he would maintain the status quo; Bush was determined to leave northeast Alaska open to oil exploration, and Kerry was opposed. These are all examples of issues passionately debated among Americans, and if you have strong beliefs on any of them, you will no doubt ‘heartily endorse one party’ over the other. However, the matter which is obviously of overriding importance to you, reducing the size of government, is unfortunately seldom discussed outside libertarian circles. Because of the paramountcy of limited government in your ideological philosophy, it may indeed seem that the Republicans and Democrats are indistinguishable, but in reality they differ on a substantial number of policies besides those I have already listed, they are just not necessarily the issues that are important to radical libertarians. Despite your claim that both parties are dedicated to ‘big, powerful government’, by global standards it would be more accurate to say that neither are. Over the past 30 years the government expenditure to GDP ratio in the United States has grown from 32.4% to 34.6%, an annual rate of increase of .07%. The reason why Americans are unconcerned with the increasing size of their government must be either because they don’t view it as a large enough problem to deal with immediately, or because they don’t view it as a problem at all. Judging from the experiences of other first world countries, the latter is probably more likely than the former. For instance, Canada’s government size compared to GDP, while it has grown considerably less than much of Europe, has nonetheless increased more than five times faster than America’s (about .36% annually) over the same period of time. Despite this, limiting the size of government is not of much importance to most Canadians either. Similarly, although the German government has expanded eight times faster than the United States during the last 30 years, even there political debate during recent elections has not focused around breaking down big government (although that might change during this year’s election, if Angela Merkel proposes Thatcherite reforms to overcome the present economic malaise). The only issues which divide the Republicans and Democrats are those which also divide the American people. If neither party will make a controversy into an electoral issue, then that issue probably isn’t contentious enough to matter to most Americans. However, because there is a radical fringe on both sides of the American political spectrum, so too is that radical fringe mirrored among American political parties. Currently, America’s most popular third parties are able to lock up the radical vote, but they advocate issues that alienate them from the vast majority of the American public. In the 2004 presidential election the Libertarian Party’s candidate Michael Badnarik ran on an anarcho-capitalist platform, advancing such blatantly extremist policies as privatization of the entire public education system, abolition of the central bank, and legalization all contraband drugs. Of course, mainstream parties wouldn’t have touched any of these proposals, which are obviously opposed by the vast majority of Americans. Ralph Nader represented the anti-globalization left, which turned out to be not nearly as extreme as the Libertarians but nonetheless put forward some rather radical proposals by American standards, such as a system of universal health care, vastly increased corporate taxation, the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, and a national ‘living wage’. Nor did he disguise such rhetoric as his frequent assertion that unrestrained capitalism generates fascism. I think that radicals are often far enough away on the political spectrum from Democrats and Republicans that they are also too far away to discern the differences between them. For instance, Republicans and Democrats are perfectly capable of passionately debating the advantages and disadvantages of semi-privatized ‘charter schools’ or the merits of using education vouchers to increase school choice, whereas I’m sure Badnarik would fail to see many differences between those two positions at all; his radical and adamant support for the privatization of all public education would not bother to nuance between a charter school and public school. Nader went so far as to say that the Republican and Democratic Parties failed to offer Americans a real choice. In the 2004 election, Americans repaid Nader’s efforts to give them a real choice by awarding him only .38% of the popular vote, easily the most dismal performance for a leading third party candidate since 1984. The fact that so many Americans will heartily support one candidate over another does not indicate any defect in American political thought, it rather simply means that the vast majority of Americans are satisfied with the choice already being given to them. However, if Nader and Badnarik do represent the only ‘real choices’ in American politics, then it’s a good thing Americans don’t favor radicals. Whereas the Republicans and Democrats are moderate first and foremost, Nader and Badnarik are militant; they want to make thoroughgoing changes to many things very quickly. Now imagine them alternating for the presidency; needless to say, it would be a disaster. Their ideas on most issues are so diametrically opposed that they would no doubt each have to spend their entire terms working to undue whatever socialist or libertarian reforms were just implemented by their predecessor. Nonetheless, both candidates presented offers to entice voters away from third parties. Kerry campaigned in favor of several social reforms which Bush opposed vocally, such as increasing the minimum wage and vastly expanding government-funded health insurance (Clinton ran a similar campaign in 1992, although his health care plan was eventually squashed in congress). Bush also embraced a few other policies that would appeal to moderate libertarians, such as partial privatization of social security, opposition to most affirmative action, and greater use of education vouchers to increase school choice. The Republicans and Democrats may not always be consistent to their principles, and they may not know what’s right all the time, but the same could be said about the American people. However, because their survival depends on it, both parties are in service to the United States and they embody the same conservative and progressive sentiments and goals held by the Americans people who heartily endorse or denounce them. Thomas Sowell’s summation of the capitalist economy, often quoted by libertarians, is that: “It is the consumers who call the tune, and the capitalists who want to remain capitalists have to learn to dance to it.” However, replace ‘consumers’ with ‘voters’ and ‘capitalists’ with ‘politicians’, and you have described Western democracy.
  6. You’re incorrect about this. The Fraser Institute’s 2004 study of Economic Freedom In The World rates China as only the 90th most liberalized economy of 123 surveyed. By comparison the United States was 3rd. The Heritage Foundation’s 2005 Index of Economic Freedom, although using a considerably less professional rating system, generally concurs with the Fraser Institute’s judgments. The United States is ranked the 13th freest economy of 161 surveyed, whereas China was 112th. The reasons for China’s low score, however, lie not in its government expenditure to GDP ratio, but its, among others things, high average tariffs, extensive corporate subsidies, widespread price controls, hefty regulation of foreign investment, and high levels of political corruption. Despite operating within a free market framework, China’s economic growth is, unlike America’s, still distinctly state-led. John Kerry stated that he believes the Iraq war to have been a “mistake” and said on several occasions that he would attempt to begin troop withdrawal from Iraq within six months. Therefore, it would be accurate to say that the Democrats were the anti-war party. The Republicans are widely viewed as the more militant party due to recent politics; Reagan and Bush’s military spending increases are a sharp contrast to the steady decline that occurred under most of the Carter and all of the Clinton administration. Whereas Reagan eventually increased defense expenditures by nearly 1.5% of the GDP, under Clinton they declined by nearly 1.5%. Although it's true that American free trade policy lags slightly behind the European Union, outside the EU the United States' trade liberalization is matched by, according to the Fraser Institute, only eight other nations. Obviously the United States is not a leader in this particular field, but with an average tariff rate of only 2.6 %, neither are they mercantilist. Like every other first world nation, the United States is obedient to binding WTO decisions which outlaw many blatantly mercantilist foreign economic policies. The policy on Cuba is, of course, not Bush's, but one that has been set since 1961 to protest Fidel Castro's hostility towards the United States. Keep in mind that even Thomas Jefferson did not object to imposing economic sanctions to weaken enemy governments, such as the embargos he imposed on Great Britain, France, and, as I mentioned previously, several countries in North Africa. Bush’s major free trade initiatives include the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement of 2004, undoubtedly the most important free trade deal the United States has signed since NAFTA, two bilateral trade accords with Chile and Singapore in 2003, and his not-yet-ratified proposal for a Central America Free Trade Agreement. Through his continuous effort and vocal support for expanding America's global trade links, Bush is proving himself more than worthy to follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in defying the protectionist consensus that characterized antebellum America. I think that American supporters of free trade would have been more likely to vote for Bush than Kerry, in part because of Bush’s already strong record in support of free trade, but also due to the strongly anti-globalization stance of Kerry’s running mate John Edwards, who The Economist magazine described as a “rank protectionist”. In its current form, social security in the United States is simply welfare for the retired. Social security payments are collected from taxpayers the same year that they are distributed to its recipients. Under Bush's social security plan each person would have the option of putting a portion of their income in a personal account, the money from which would be invested in the economy for profit. This will result in less government intervention in the economy, not more, for two reasons. Firstly, the money which each individual will enjoy in retirement will not consist entirely of tax dollars as it does currently, but rather, it will consist largely or entirely of the profit generated on their private account. In terms of cost to the taxpayer, this system will undoubtedly result in less spending in the long-term. Although the government will need to pay the expensive cost of transferring the social security apparatus to private accounts, no one disputes that Bush’s project will save money in the long run. The question raised by critics is simply how long it will be before those savings materialize, which will obviously depend on just how much the social security ‘transition costs’ turn out to be, a figure that is highly disputed. Nonetheless, your characterization of social security privatization as a proposal for big government is exactly opposite to the goal of the plan. The second way in which social security privatization will reduce government intervention is by transferring greater responsibility to the individual for the management of his or her account. Under the current system, each retiree passively receives money collected by the government from younger taxpayers. However, under the new proposal each individual will deal largely with the money they personally invested in their account, and they will have considerable liberty to choose which stocks and bond they want to invest their money in. The initial impetus for Bush's social security privatization program was a similar proposition devised by preeminent free market economist Milton Friedman, and the most vocal advocate of the plan at present is the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank. The reason for their support is because, as Chicago School economist Gary Becker said, what Bush proposal boils down to is “eliminating government management of the retirement industry”. There’s nothing mercantilist about contracting government business to private corporations. If you’re referring to Halliburton then you’re mistaken. Halliburton was already supplying the US military’s logistic needs prior to the Iraq War, including during both the Afghan War and much of Clinton’s war in Bosnia, after winning competitive bids. However, often during times of war a lengthy bidding process must be skipped or delayed in order to meet immediate needs. Those few no-bid contracts that Halliburton was given by Bush (and Clinton, incidentally), were found to be legal by the General Accounting Office. Considering the level of economic freedom enjoyed by Americans, this is a statement that only a radical libertarian could make in good faith. American federal expenditures as a percentage of the GDP are, at about 35%, quite low by the standards of the industrialized world. The only First World countries with a lower figure are the recently-industrialized Asian Tigers. Few people, perhaps save radical libertarians, would consider Canada, Spain, or the United Kingdom to be socialist countries, yet each of those nations accumulate annual expenditures of about 45% of their GDP. Most of the rest of Western Europe, including France, Italy, Denmark and Germany, spend the equivalent of 50 to 60 percent of their GDP annually, and in many cases are driving up budget deficits that, once compared with their GDP, far exceed those of the United States. Despite this, few would consider France or Italy, both of which are currently governed by rightist parties, to be bastions of socialism. However, I believe that you are misusing the term. In economic discourse, as opposed to philosophical, socialism generally refers to a system in which a nation’s economic production is guided by the state, usually through government regulation or state-owned corporations. Price controls and state subsidies, which are rare in the United States but are still significant but fading policies in a few European countries, would be typical examples of socialist policy. Even though most socialist countries are characterized by high taxation and government spending, those policies do not in themselves indicate a socialist economy. In ‘Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics’, a 1,050-page libertarian bible, Austrian economist George Reisman writes this: “Socialism means an economic system based on government ownership of the means of production. On the basis of this definition, not only must Nazi Germany, a country usually not recognized as socialist, be categorized as socialist, but other countries, usually thought of as being socialist, must not be categorized as socialist - for example, Great Britain, Sweden, and Israel when they were under the rule of so-called labor governments.” Therefore, the socialist label (or in your case, pejorative) should not be thrown around too liberally.
  7. Actually, Jefferson himself had to deal with Middle Eastern terrorism, and his response was to a direct a skillful complement of economic sanctions, military action, covert operations, and forceful diplomacy against those countries funding and supporting the terrorists – and it was a strategy that, in the end, worked. The ‘terrorists’ were actually pirates who worked for or were being harbored by the Arab monarchies and military dictatorships that ruled the north coast of Africa. American commercial ships trading in the Mediterranean Sea were often attacked and captured by these corsairs. ‘Tribute’ was extracted from their ships, and often the sailors themselves were kidnapped and later ransomed. Under captivity in North Africa, American sailors were made to do hard labor and frequently tortured. Obviously, this Arab terrorism was not caused by an expansive American state, because the American government was quite limited at the time; nor was it caused by an American military presence in the Middle East, since there was none. However, Thomas Jefferson realized that, “nothing will stop the eternal increase of demands from these pirates but the presence of an armed force”. The United States, which at the time did not even have a standing navy, was seen as a weak government that would tolerate these attacks rather than risk a war. As Thomas Jefferson recognized, the only effective recourse to deal with Muslim piracy was “to effect a peace through the medium of war”. Therefore, the United States built its first naval force since the end of the Revolutionary War. Fearing a peacetime navy as a threat to liberty, post-war presidents never bothered to rebuild their fleet. However, the threat of North African piracy caused Jefferson to realize that a navy would be necessary to preserve the liberty of those American merchants peacefully trading in the Mediterranean. In 1801 Jefferson instructed the fleet to blockade Tripoli, the most belligerent of these rogue states, and impose an economic embargo. Despite this, Yusuf Karmanli, the military dictator of Tripoli, was intransigent towards American intimidation, refusing to pay back any of the damages Tripolian pirates had inflicted on US shipping. Although Jefferson eventually authorized more forcible methods, such as naval raids and bombardments, arson attacks, the landing of marine commandos, and even blowing up explosive-laden ships near enemy fortifications, even these aggressive tactics would not force Tripoli's hand. Therefore, Jefferson decided in 1804 to attempt a regime change against the ruling military junta. With only a small army available for action overseas, he instead secretly sent a dozen marines to Egypt and Tunis to covertly organize a force of Tripolian expatriates and mercenaries. This proxy army of 650 marched on Tripoli at America’s behest, but after successfully capturing several fortifications Karamanli indicated to Jefferson that he would be willing to negotiate after all. Tripoli served as an example to the other rogue states of North Africa, most of which were convinced through coercive diplomacy to halt their depredations. Nonetheless, sporadic incidents continued and North African piracy would not halt entirely until President James Madison, also a great lover of liberty, organized another military operation in 1815. Although Jefferson and Madison were successful in using military force to squash Mediterranean piracy, as America’s trade links were expanded throughout the world it was discovered that piracy was a global phenomenon. Thus, the American war on piracy resolved to fulfill a global scope as well. In the 1820’s, five elite naval squadrons were created, each with a mandate to police one part of the world. This being before the days when America had much ‘international obligation’ to respect the sovereignty of other nations, American marines were free to pursue pirates into countries such as Greece, Indonesia, and several Spanish colonies of the Caribbean, where their strongholds were raided and destroyed. It was not until the 1850’s, however, that attacks on American merchants in both the Atlantic and Pacific had been rendered insubstantial. The once ubiquitous threat of piracy is today just a memory outside a few pockets in Southeast Asia and Africa. The liberty we have to ship goods overseas without fear of attack is today taken for granted, but it wouldn’t exist without the efforts of several European and American nations, especially Great Britain, the United States, and France, that courageously resolved to beat back piracy by force. Thus, the standing military, so often berated by classical liberals of old, proved itself to be an institution in service not for the destruction, but for the preservation of liberty.
  8. Abu Nidal entered Iraq sometime in late-1998 or early-1999 and his presence there was immediately reported by United States intelligence despite repeated denials from Iraq. However, it later became evident that not only Abu Nidal, but also several of his accomplices, had been allowed to establish themselves in Iraq. Although I agree that Abu Nidal fell out with Saddam Hussein in 2001 or 2002, before that Nidal was at least knowingly being harbored by, if not in active collaboration with Saddam. Iraq claimed that in 2002 he attempted to destabilize the government, and when presented with evidence of this he committed suicide rather than stand trial. However, a May 23rd Agence France-Presse article based on documents captured from the previous regime sheds light on the actual course of events. The documents reveal that in 1999 Saddam was seeking to forge ties with Islamist terrorists across the Middle East. Saddam wanted Abu Nidal’s cooperation in the creation of this terrorist network and although he was initially responsive he eventually decided that, being a radical socialist, he would not collaborate with Islamic fundamentalists. Therefore, Saddam ordered his secret police to have him assassinated. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who entered Iraq in 2002, was apparently also involved with Saddam’s proposed terrorist nexus, which explains why Saddam repeatedly refused to extradite him over to Jordan. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20050519/wl_mi...wi_050519140424 I think that the present War on Terrorism has been well-orchestrated and is in fact the exact right strategy to defeat Al-Qaeda. The ‘war’ has taken the form of a complement of military, diplomatic, and covert activity to put strong pressure on Al-Qaeda cells on every corner of the world, and especially in the Middle East. America’s achievements so far have included removing Al-Qaeda’s key state sponsor in Afghanistan, hunting down or assassinating dozens of talented Al-Qaeda operatives, and convincing several Middle Eastern nations, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, to crack down on fundamentalist terrorism. Military training and assistance is being provided to dozens of countries across the world battling insurgencies linked to Islamist terrorists such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. The United States is destroying Al-Qaeda’s leadership, routing it from its bases of sanctuary, cutting off its sources of funds, and most importantly of all, demonstrating to Islamic militants that the United States is not, as Bin Laden, said, a “weak horse.” September 11th probably served more than any other event to embolden militant Islamists into believing that the United States was vulnerable and impotent. However, by prosecuting the War on Terrorism aggressively and energetically, the Bush administration is demonstrating to the world that the United States is fully capable of taking immediate and decisive action to lacerate anti-American terrorism.
  9. During the 1970’s, when only about 20% of the world’s population enjoyed democratic governance, it was widely believed that a stringent set of prerequisites were required for a nation to develop an elected government that could protect civil liberties. Recent history, however, has seen democracy become successful in every region of the globe. Even though most Middle Eastern countries have remained intransigent to democratic reform, there’s no necessary precondition that Iraq does not meet; the prospects for democracy are merely latent. You note Iraq’s ethnic and religious divisions as an obstruction to the development of democracy. However, there are today many democracies in the world, including both nascent and long-lasting examples, that are accommodating dozens of major ethnicities, languages, and religions, making Iraq’s ethnic and religious duality look positively meager by comparison. In fact, by global standards Iraq would certainly rank among the world’s more ethnically and religiously homogenous states; in many ways, even the United States is more heterogeneous than Iraq. Iraq’s religious diversity is dwarfed by that of the United States, Canada, and Germany, where there exists an even split between Roman Catholics and Protestants, which coexist with several other major religions. South Korea accommodates a divide between Buddhists and Christians that is much more distinct than between the Muslim denominations of Iraq. Iraq’s ethnic and racial diversity is not much greater than Switzerland’s, about the same as Spain’s, and far less than America’s. New democracies in the Third World present even more glaring contrasts. South Africa has a population that is 15% white, while the black majority consists of another half-dozen ethnicities, including the Sotho, Tswana, Xhosa, and Zulu, each with its own language. If necessary in the future, Iraq could move towards greater regional autonomy to satisfy each of its constituent nationalities. Spain, for instance, has given sweeping autonomy to regional legislative assemblies in several provinces, including Basque and Catalan regions, and a similar system is being established in the Kurdish north of Iraq. However, such measures probably won’t be necessary outside of Kurdistan. The ethnic and religious cohesion which you believe to be a precondition for democracy is fulfilled in Iraq better than it is in most of the world. Another commonly-cited democratic prerequisite is that a country must be industrialized. America’s successful nation-building efforts in the aftermath of World War II are often dismissed because Germany and Japan were already modernized when the United States democratized them. This argument did seem plausible during the 1960’s and 1970’s, as the democratic governments left behind by most colonial powers crumbled away into one-party or military regimes. By the 1970’s, only a small but highly diverse collection of pre-industrial nations such as Botswana, India, and Costa Rica managed to retain permanent democratic institutions. Today, however, this small coterie of democracies has been joined by nearly half of the Third World. The absolute triumph of representative governance in the First World created a domino effect that convinced nation after nation that functioning democracy could become a path to greater freedom and prosperity. Today, the pressure that is on the people of the Middle East is to conform to the democratic norms that exist in most of the world. The Republic of Iraq has a talented leadership, a people yearning for increased political liberties, a past history of democratic governance during the 1950’s, low ethnic and religious diversity, the diplomatic recognition of most of the world, and the military support of the United States. Thus, there is no particular imperfection in the Iraqi nation or people that is capable of holding them back from forging a new democracy in the Middle East, and once the insurgency has been suppressed Iraqis will be able to enjoy the same liberties and freedoms that most of the world does. On the contrary, historical precedent demonstrates that such a goal is perfectly achievable. In fact, through the nation-building efforts of the United States and Great Britain, it has been achieved several times in the past under far more dire odds than the current situation in Iraq. Take, for example, the case of the Philippines, a nation which was democratized by the United States between 1900 and 1946. Certainly, the Philippines did not, in the early 20th-century, possess any of the oft-cited prerequisites for democracy which I discussed in the previous paragraph. In addition to having absolutely no past history of democratic governance, the Philippines rank among the most ethnically diverse nations in Asia. Not quite half of the population is divided into speakers of Tagalog (around Manila in the north) and the Cebuano language (spoken in southern islands). The other 50% of the population belongs to six other ethnicities, each of which has a unique language of between one and six million speakers. Since independence, however, the Philippines has been a pinnacle of secular democracy in Asia, having endured dictatorship for only 14 of the 60 years it has been independent; the only Asian countries that can report a better record are post-war Japan and India (democratized by the USA and Great Britain respectively). India presents another good case study of a pre-industrial country with an ethnic and linguistic diversity vastly overshadowing Iraq’s and with no previous experience with democracy, which nonetheless developed a stable, democratic, and secular system of government. The Indo-Aryan people who comprise 75% of India’s population speak 10 mutually unintelligible languages with between 20 and 180 million speakers. The other 25% of India’s population are Dravidians, who speak four unique languages of between 35 and 70 million speakers. Although British India was eventually partitioned in two due to religious differences, Muslims today still comprise 15% of the Indian population and their rights are protected under the Indian constitution. Granted, neither India nor the Philippines have ensured a perfect cultural harmony. Sporadic terrorism by fundamentalist Muslims has been a problem in the Philippine since the 1970’s, and after September 11th the United States thought it wise to dispatch several thousand soldiers to assist Philippino troops in stamping out the remnants of this long-lasting rebellion. India too, has experienced ethnic strife in the Punjab and Nagaland and recent religious violence between Muslims and Hindus. However, India and the Philippines have, for the vast majority of their post-independence histories, strived to maintain religious tolerance, ethnic pluralism, and respect for constitutional norms, and by Third World standards their success in doing so has been spectacular. In the 1960’s, they were among only about twelve democracies in the Third World. Today, they still rank among less than forty Third World countries rated as ‘free’ by the human rights organization Freedom House. Thus, the ethnic diversity of India and the Philippines haven’t compromised the quality of their democracy. Both nations have preserved and enhanced the American and British-styles of democracy which, as many forget, were being imposed upon them by military force not even 60 years ago.
  10. Actually, at the beginning of the conflict the American and Philippine forces roughly matched each other technologically. At the turn of the last century, the United States had not the best, but rather, among the worst militaries in the industrializing world; the entire peacetime army consisted of only 30,000 troops. The US was better equipped than the Philippine guerrillas only after more than a year of combat, by which time the insurgents were beginning to suffer from supply difficulties that would get even more serious towards the final year of the war. In 1899, however, most US soldiers were still using Civil War era rifles that were actually significantly inferior to the enemy’s. Although only the American army had field artillery, Gatling guns, and heavy naval guns, such weapons more often than not proved useless in the extremely mountainous and heavily-forested jungles that cover most of the Philippines: terrain which in many locations made Vietnam seem hospitable by comparison. However, I would say that the United States has about as great of a technological advantage in Iraq as they did in the Philippines. In the Philippines, neither side had bombers, helicopters, armored vehicles, or reconnaissance aircraft and satellites. In Iraq today, the United States maintains a monopoly on all this equipment. In comparing the two insurgent forces though, it was the Philippino guerrillas that possessed a substantially greater advantage in numbers, which indicates that this rebellion was probably more popular. The vast majority of credible estimates place the size of the armed Iraqi insurrection at little more than 20,000 strong, whereas throughout most of the war in the Philippines the enemy commanded more than 80,000 combatants. Although the United States eventually managed to recruit a total force of 125,000 soldiers (about the same size as the US army in Iraq), the initial invasion was mounted by only 11,000 troops. Regardless of the specific circumstances though, it’s difficult to dispute that the Iraqi guerrillas have up to this point proven to be far less of a match for the US Army than the Philippinos were. Key evidence for this can be seen by comparing the average monthly death toll suffered by the American army in Iraq and the Philippines. It took the United States about 42 months to (mostly) defeat the Philippino insurrection, suffering losses of about 4,500 dead (although some sources give figures 100 to 200 troops higher or lower). This works out to more than 107 fatalities per month. By comparison, American deaths in Iraq have reached 1,700 within 27 months of fighting. Thus, the Iraqi insurgents are managing to kill only 65 American troops monthly. If the wars in Iraq and the Philippines aren’t to be compared, it should be because the war in the Philippines was a significantly tougher, deadlier, and more intense conflict. Those who propose that the USA is in a lose-lose situation in Iraq after only 27 months of fighting are clearly being inordinately dire. Even after the fighting officially ended in 1902 (although overeager presidents had prematurely declared the war officially over several times before that), about one hundred Americans would continue to die over the next eleven years while mopping up insurgent holdouts on a few southern islands. Interestingly, these rebel agitators, who weren’t completely pacified until 1913, were led by and largely composed of Muslim extremists. On the matter of atrocities, both the insurgents and the United States often fought the war with great brutality, and both sides were responsible for shooting or massacring civilians, executing prisoners, and torturing captives sadistically. However, the conflict probably wasn’t unusually savage by nineteenth-century standards and those officers responsible for the worst atrocities were court-martialed or dimissed. It was probably little more brutal than the Boer War fought over the same period of time, and was vastly less severe than the outright genocide unleashed by the Germans and Belgians in their contemporaneous anti-colonial struggles. Regardless, over the course of the war I doubt that atrocity played a decisive strategic role for either side. The newly-elected government of Iraq isn’t going anywhere either, although Iraq’s prime minister has recently requested that American troops remain in the country until their army is adequately trained. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4598761.stm You’re wrong that it cost the Afghan guerrillas little to wage war against the USSR; guerrillas are rarely anywhere near as self-sufficient or ragtag as portrayed in popular archetype. Together, Pakistan, Great Britain, the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia provided the mujahideen with about fifty billion dollars in equipment over the course of the war, including assault rifles, blowpipe missiles, and heavy machine guns. The limpet mines which devastated Soviet logistics on the Darya River were provided by MI6, whereas rebel motor boats were contributed by the CIA. By the mid-1980’s, the United States and China were deploying to Afghanistan the infamous stinger missiles, the world’s most sophisticated and deadly surface-to-air weaponry, which proved absolutely decisive in smashing Soviet air supremacy. The Chinese also supplied nearly one thousand armored vehicles capable of launching surgical artillery strikes, some of which were airlifted into Afghanistan by the CIA. When necessary, regiments of mujahideen could slip across the border to Pakistan, where they would be provided with training, supplies, and sanctuary. The main reason why the Carter administration began financing the Afghan resistance was due to dire CIA analyses which indicated that the thorough disorganization and supply shortages of the mujahideen would give the Russians a quick and easy victory in Afghanistan. These reports were likely accurate; guerrilla tactics are more often than not an unsuccessful method of warfare. Victories like Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Algeria are, by global historical standards, the exception and not the rule. One of the main weaknesses that frequently undermine an otherwise determined guerrilla force is a lack of equipment and supplies. In fact, according to ‘Autopsy on People’s War’, by Chalmers Johnson, no guerrilla insurgency has ever succeeded in toppling a government without significant state sponsorship. Without considerable foreign support, even extremely popular insurrections have floundered. Supply shortages were a severe problem for the Philippine guerrillas during the final year of the war, as well as a decisive factor in the defeat of such insurgencies as the Greek Civil War, Malayan Emergency, Mau Mau uprising, the South Korean civil war, and others. During the Vietnam War, by contrast, the Viet Cong were by the early-1960’s fully equipped with Soviet and Chinese mortars, rocket launchers, AK-47s, and grenade launchers, and by the early-1970’s, with NVA regiments of heavy tanks and anti-tank guns. ‘Inside the VC and the NVA’, a fascinating monograph on the army of communist Vietnam, notes that the Viet Cong never once suffered a supply shortage over the entire course of the war, due to the massive quantities of food, fuel, and ammunition that were being continuously sent down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Assuming that the Iraqi insurgency isn’t receiving major international assistance, save perhaps limited amounts from Syria, then this is a major advantage for the US army. I see no reason why the Philippine insurrection, a guerrilla war which the United States won, isn’t just as good of a comparison to Iraq as the Soviet war in Afghanistan is. The Philippino guerrillas, like the mujahideen, ‘weren’t going anywhere’, but they did fail to elicit the massive state sponsorship that characterized the armies of Afghanistan and Vietnam. After forty-two months, the Philippino revolt was eventually ground down, much faster than it took for the British to finish off the Malay Races Liberation Army or the Mau Mau. There’s no reason why the Iraqi insurgency can’t eventually be cracked as well.
  11. In addition to being highly cynical I think that statement is wrong on two accounts. The sandbags remark is not a correct analogy because the American military has gone to great lengths to protect the Iraqi army and police from the worst of the fighting. All the most difficult pacification jobs begin with US-led military sweeps, and once an area is relatively secure the Iraqi police then take over. Thus, the offensive in Falluja was undertaken almost entirely by American soldiers, but after the insurgents had been largely ejected the presence of the Iraqi police and army was subsequently vastly increased. US operations in Samarra and parts of Baghdad have followed the exact same pattern; first American troops mopped up arduous rebel strongholds, and then whatever insurgents managed to disperse were dealt with by deploying additional Iraqi army and police units. Similarly, it's the relatively peaceful cities like Karbala and Basra where the Iraqi police have a large presence relative to the American and British armies. Therefore, your explanation for increasing Iraqi military casualties, that the United States is callously relying on Iraqi ‘sandbags’ to protect them, is incorrect. I think a more likely explanation is the one proposed by both the US army and prominent leaders of Iraq’s government, that the rise in Iraqi combat deaths is largely due to the intentional targeting by the insurgents of Iraqi ‘soft targets’, which include policemen and untrained recruits. In recent months especially, this insurgent strategy has seemed to me to be particularly blatant. The rebels have focused recent attacks not simply on Iraqi troops and policemen on patrol, but specifically targeting recruiting facilities, training centers, and police stations. Although I can’t prove it using statistics, I strongly suspect that such locations are among, if not the, most popular targets for insurgent terrorism. By just casually looking over old newspaper transcripts I can report seven instances of major insurgent attacks on Iraqis lined up outside recruiting academies, two instances of suicide bombings during police graduation ceremonies, and four instances of major assaults on police headquarters. In every month since the beginning of 2004 there has been at very least several dozen deaths, and up to 400 deaths, of Iraqi policemen and untrained recruits under these circumstances. However, in the face of the increasing flexibility and severe ruthlessness of the Iraqi insurgency, the United States is certainly taking pains to decrease unnecessary deaths among raw recruits. Ensuring that Iraqi security forces quickly receive both training and actual experience will be vital in defeating the uprising. By mid-2004 only 20,000 Iraqi police had been adequately organized and trained. Although the process has since then greatly improved and rapidly accelerated, early procrastination is believed by many to have been a key failure of the occupation’s first year. While the preparations that Iraqi troops and police undergo before deployment is important, it’s far less important than actual combat experience. For instance, despite the high quality of the training received by American soldiers who fought in Vietnam, statistics demonstrate that experience on the battlefield was unfortunately the best training of all; 40% of Americans killed in Vietnam died in the first three months of their tour of duty, while only 6% were killed within their last three months. However, despite casualties that will inevitably be high initially, turning over more security duties to Iraq is a positive development, and the process ought to be moving forward as rapidly as feasible. There’s good reason to believe that the United States can afford to remain in Iraq for at least a decade, and probably considerably longer if necessary. In economic terms, the prospect of fighting a long war in Iraq is perfectly viable. In the past, the United States has managed to ford the cost of far more expensive foreign ventures for lengthier amounts of time. For instance, during the Korean War the United States expended a bill worth 13% of its GDP annually for nearly four years. The American economy was much larger in the 1960’s and 1970’s, so the direct costs of the Vietnam War over nine years amounted to no more than 4% of the United States’ GDP annually. By comparison, an article at factcheck.org (http://www.factcheck.org/article253.html), reports that the United States spent about 120 billion on the Iraq war during its first year. This amounts to a cost per year of just 1% of America’s GDP. In addition, the United States can, if necessary, easily afford to increase their debt in order to finance the war. Current US debt load in comparison to their GDP, which has been dropping for several months due to heightened economic growth, is at exactly 64.6% as of May, 2005. That’s still significantly lower than Canada’s debt burden, which at present stands at 67% of our GDP. It’s also far lower than the debt-to-GDP ratio of Euro currency nations, which is an average of 79%, as shown in this link. http://www.optimist123.com/optimist/2005/0...debt_burde.html Another point of concern is whether Americans can ‘stomach’ the human casualties of the Iraq war. This is more difficult to determine. In his book ‘Vietnam: The Necessary War’, Michael Lind asserts that managing the human death toll is a vital aspect of modern warfare in democracies; a country should only be willing to sacrifice so many soldiers before an objective must reasonably be abandoned. He believes that support for both the Korean and Vietnam wars began to decrease significantly once fatal casualties edged above 20,000 and plummeted precipitously as they reached 30,000. However, because the United States army has suffered about 65 fatalities a month since the Iraq war began, it should at this rate take more than 20 years before the death toll exceeds even 20,000. Moreover, I think that the United States has two important advantages in this field. Firstly, as the Iraqi army begins to grow in strength and quality, their increased presence will result in fewer American servicemen killed. Secondly, in both Korea and Vietnam conscription was pursued vigorously, and thus a significant minority of the 55,000 American dead sustained in each of those conflicts were draftees, the death of whom was no doubt a grave blow to the enthusiasm of the public. Recently the anti-war movement has been quite latent in the United States, and I think the situation will have to get far worse than it is now before that changes. If the United States could afford the human and material costs of the Korean and Vietnam Wars for about four and nine years respectively, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t also be able to hold out in Iraq.
  12. The accusation that Afghanistan was a ‘pipeline war’ for Central Asian oil and natural gas is predominantly baseless. Firstly, at the time of the American invasion of Afghanistan the pipeline project was already largely dead. The only major American company that had expressed any interest in building the proposed natural gas conduit, the Unocal Corporation, had already withdrawn its support in 1998. As BBC correspondent Malcolm Haslett noted, since then “very few western politicians or oil companies have taken Afghanistan seriously as a major export route… The West, in contrast, and particularly the US, has put almost all its efforts into developing a major new route from the Caspian through Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Black Sea.” This new route, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, was funded largely by British Petroleum and the government of Azerbaijan, and began transporting its first oil and gas a few months ago. It was not until the end of 2002 that the prospect of a Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline was revived, and the plan is entirely the initiative of the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Neither the government of the United States nor any American or European company has been willing to finance the project. The Asian Development Bank eventually agreed to provide some economic aid to build the pipeline but Afghanistan has been so desperate for funds due to the lack of Western capital that they have unsuccessfully lobbied oil companies in Japan, Russia, and even India to help them. However, even if the Afghan government does eventually manage to entice a Western company to help them, it couldn’t possibly justify the cost to the United States government of overthrowing the Taliban and restoring stability to the country. If the United States believed that they stood to greatly benefit from a Trans-Afghan pipeline, then they would have provided at least an iota of vocal or material support to get the project off the ground. I also see several flaws with the theory that the war with Iraq was motivated largely to secure Middle Eastern oil. Firstly, the United States was already receiving large quantities of Iraqi oil at the time of the invasion; the United States was the largest importer of petroleum under the oil-for-food program. Because of oil-for-food, Iraqi oil was already circulating across the world even under the UN sanctions regime. However, if the United States wanted even quicker and easier access to Saddam’s oil, the cheapest solution would not have been a multi-million dollar invasion in which Iraq’s oil infrastructure could have been damaged further, it would have been simply to lift the economic sanctions. In fact, by 2002 French, Chinese, and Russian oil companies already had large private stakes in Iraq’s oil industry and both France and Russia intended to increase foreign investment in Iraqi petroleum whether or not the embargo was lifted. The only reason the United States refused to do so was because they believed that a strengthened Saddam would be a more serious threat to the security of the Middle East. I’m not familiar with your second proposed motive for the war in Iraq, although it seems to me to be somewhat of a conspiracy theory. America’s economic dominance has been a fact since long before the implementation of the Marshall Plan. By 1913, America’s GDP per capita was 5,300 1990 dollars, already well above Europe’s strongest economies (Great Britain and Germany, at $4,900 and $3,600 respectively). By 1948, America’s GDP per capita had already climbed to a figure that equaled Great Britain’s, Germany’s, and Italy’s put together. Today, the United States has the third highest GDP per capita on the planet, was ranked the world’s second most competitive economy by the World Economic Forum, and commands 40% of the First World’s world’s productive strength. I seriously doubt that an industrial lead of that magnitude could ever be crushed by a currency anomaly. I would like to know of one instance in history where an economy so dynamic has been single-handedly destroyed by peacetime currency trading.
  13. As I mentioned, books such as ‘Power And Privilege’ show that long term real income growth in the United States has been remarkably stable since the industrial revolution, and that trend continues today. No consistent connection between union membership and real income has ever been demonstrated in the United States. Rather real income corresponds nearly perfectly with the growth and recession of the economic climate in the United States. Long-term real income growth is constant in the United States because the ‘cycles’ of economic recession and growth have also been fairly constant. Although it’s true that real income growth was not always evenly distributed during the Thatcher era, almost every income denomination saw considerably stronger increases than during the 1970’s, when union membership rates were higher. The Thatcher decade saw average household income raise nearly 40%, a respectable figure by any standard, but especially in comparison to the dismal ‘70’s. The Reagan government in the United States oversaw continuous real income growth that resulted in spectacular economic gains for every income quintile: the highest growth seen since the early-1960’s. This article demonstrates the “Reagan Recovery” through economic statistics. http://www.nationalreview.com/reagan/reyno...00406101357.asp The prosperity of the Reagan and Thatcher years was undoubtedly the result of strong economic growth, not declining union membership rates. With or without unions, market-led economic growth invariably results in greater wealth for every segment of the population.
  14. That’s an oversimplification not because the statement doesn’t apply to any British colonies, but because the level of enlightenment in British governance depended entirely on the colony. The professed goal in all British colonies was eventual self-government, like in Canada and Australia, although the speed and enthusiasm to which the British set about this task rested on many factors, inspired by both greed and benevolence, which varied from colony to colony. In all cases, however, Britain did attempt to lay the foundation for democratic governance in its former colonies, although the democratization process sometimes only began decades or years before independence. Britain was a Westminster-style democracy, and because it thought highly of this political system, it attempted to export the same legislative and executive model to each colony. This produced a mixed record of successes and failures, depending on the quality of the British administration and the level of cooperation local peoples were willing to give. Even if the British were not always altruistic, they in several colonies pursued a framework that heeded their own words. Despite some failures, the British Raj in India deserves to be called an instance of nation-building. The British conquered India when it consisted of hundreds of warring states of many ethnicities and creeds, and unified them under a single, stable government. The Indian economy grew slowly but steadily, and the British were keen to encourage private Indian enterprise. By 1947, about 70% of the economy was in Indian hands (in fact, British companies had a greater presence in Argentina than India). Competent administration and lobbying by Indian nationalist groups made the colony a model of democratic gradualism during the late-1800’s and early-1900’s. Two Indian Council Acts (1892 and 1909) and two Government of India Acts (1919 and 1935) constructed and reinforced democratic governance in India. Prior to the Raj, freedom of speech, equality under the law, and rights for the accused were unknown in India. However, the constitution of 1949 enshrined all of these. While at the same time acknowledging the abuses of colonial rule in India, it’s also important to understand that without Britain, India would not today be the stable democracy that it is. Although India has since adapted its democracy to best cope with its unique dilemmas, the model of Indian democracy is British democracy, which was imported there during the colonial period. Botswana and Trinidad and Tobago similarly owe a good deal to the British for their post-colonial stability and wealth. Although it’s true that in some colonies real effort towards democratization was indeed lacking, I also want to note that in other cases the democracy and rule of law imposed by the British broke down due to the failures of post-colonial administrations. Colonial Ghana is in my opinion certainly worthy of being called an enterprise in democracy-building. Within ten years of securing the country, Great Britain had put an end to intertribal warfare and slavery and began an unprecedented wave of political and economic liberalization. From the 1880’s on blacks steadily increased their presence in the legislative assembly, which was mostly elected by universal suffrage after reforms in 1925 and 1947. The British gave Ghana a vibrant free press and a well-developed system of infrastructure. Economically it became an African tiger, seeing long-term GDP growth rates that were above average even by contemporary European standards. However, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first elected president after independence, was no Jawaharlal Nehru. He actively subverted the liberal constitution of 1956, arrested his political opponents, and regulated the economy on the Soviet model. Since then Ghana’s economy has experienced literally no growth at all, and democracy was restored only within the last ten years. Although I concede that in several parts of the world British colonialism was punctuated with instances of arrogance, racism, recklessness, and bloodshed, I’m nonetheless willing to defend the British on this matter since I think the system often got positive results. Unlike many other imperial powers, the British didn’t seek to impose a centralized, bureaucratic, and repressive administration over their colonies and in most cases their rule was more transparent, more progressive, and at least as humane as the indigenous regimes that preceded it. More often than not, the British simply don’t get the credit they deserve.
  15. Canadians like ourselves probably aren’t one to talk about that considering that even without the filibuster American judicial nominations would still have more checks-and-balances than the Canadian system. Without the filibuster, Bush’s nominations still would require majority approval in the senate, which is composed of elected representatives. In Canada, there is no government organ, elected or otherwise, that Paul Martin is obligated to defer to when making judicial appointments. Whatever the reasons for the longevity of Liberal control over the federal government, however, I doubt it can be attributed to defects in our judicial appointment process. Similarly, there is no evidence that eliminating judicial filibusters in the United States would enforce a Republican administration. I maintain that the filibuster is a ridiculous way to protest a judicial appointment. In the American Senate, filibusters can be of any length and aren’t even required to be relevant to the current debate: some of them consist of nothing but reading from the phonebook. When they know a filibuster will be staged, senators have in the past brought pillows to work. Other rituals are even more bizarre. During Strom Thurmond’s record-breaking 24-hour filibuster an aid waited nearby with a urine bucket in case of an emergency. Lengthy filibusters generally aren’t acceptable in the House of Representatives, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the Republicans would want them curtailed in the Senate as well. Frankly, I would be ashamed to know that my MPs were bringing phonebooks and urine pails to work just to stall a judicial appointment which had already gained the approval of both an elected house of delegates and an elected president. Even if this particular poll is flawed, it is consistent with most other surveys on the subject. Brian Alters, founder of the Evolution Education Research Centre and a professor of science education at McGill University, stated in a recent Ottawa Citizen article that polls on Canadian support for creationism always indicate figures between 25% and 50%, and he asserted that the higher numbers in that range are generally more credible (he also notes that “de-emphasizing evolution” in Canadian schools is “a chilling effect” of the present intelligent design movement). Alters estimates American support for creationism at about 50%. However, the results of recent American polls are just as contentious as Canadian ones. In an American poll which specifically asked whether creationism and evolution are ideologically in conflict with one another, 70% of respondents answered that they are not. http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=1903 However, I believe creationists will inevitably fail in these efforts unless they can make a larger impact among scientists. Collectively, the scientific community comprises one of America’s largest and most influential lobbying groups, and once they’ve established a prevailing opinion it’s virtually impossible to bypass. For instance, when Kansas removed evolution from state curricula in 1999, this was treated as a direct challenge. Thus, the groups which spearheaded the opposition were the National Centre for Science Education, and the National Academy of Sciences; organizations which have consistently and often successfully sought to contain the growth of creationist thought in public schools. Two years later, this concerted effort resulted in the repeal of anti-evolution laws. Once again evolution is on trial in Kansas, and once again groups such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the regionally-based Kansas Citizens for Science are the forefront defenders. I have great confidence that, in the end, fundamentalists will have little more success now than they did two years ago, precisely because of the power and determination of the scientific community. If you were a religious fundamentalist you would have a lot more to worry about, because few would deny that the clout that the fundamentalist lobby holds over the United States government is positively dwarfed by the influence of the scientific community. I guarantee you that there’s not a religious organization in the world with the political influence of the National Academy of Sciences or the Federation of American Scientists, organizations which have regularly counselled every American administration since the 1860’s and 1940’s respectively. If Christian extremists were running the US government, Bush would have an advisor paid to consult him on religious matters; he doesn’t, although he does have an advisor paid to consult him on scientific matters. That would be John Marburger. Although a vocal opponent of the intelligent design movement, that’s exactly the kind of advice he’s being paid to give. If Christian extremists were running the US government, then there would be a government-funded department dedicated to propagating the Christian religion; there isn’t, although there is an agency “to promote the progress of science”. That would be the National Science Foundation, which, with an annual budget of 5.5 billion dollars, provides extensive funding for research on natural history and biological evolution. Through the NSF, the US government actively bolsters the teaching of science education. Creationists can’t do anything about it, because they’re not the ones in control.
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