Saturday, October 27, 2007

MSNBC fails to get it

Recently this article from MSNBC discussed the abuse in Guantánamo prisons. MSNBC fails to get it. In their article they compare Guantánamo to the nazi prison camps. They then discuss which one was worse, what holocaust survivors think and other people’s opinion.

My point is that nazi camps were wrong. Also, torture in Cuba is wrong. Since there is no judge that will determine if a detainee is actually guilty of anything, some detainee may not have any information at all. Subsequent torture can lead to false information that benefits no one.

There were camps (not so) long ago, people were killed, and that was wrong. It matters not if our camps are any better; they are still wrong. It seems like the MSNBC article serves only to confuse this issue.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I Blamed the Victim (a parable)

Edward walks through my town carrying a whip. Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, he makes us go in the whip house and make whips. It’s important that we make these whips because society would fall apart with out these whips. Plus, every week Edward takes some of the whips, sells them, and throws us a party.

Ronald, who works beside me, is a doctor. One day he didn’t show up to make whips because he wanted to earn more money to help out one of his patients. Edward came to find Ronald and make sure that he went to the whip house. Ronald was upset that Edward was going to whip him for not working, and whipped Edward. Edward was harsher than I’ve ever seen him and Ronald ended up in the hospital. Ronald was upset because Edward would whip him if he didn’t make whips. Edward was worried that other people would also not want to make whips so he had to be harsh on Ronald.

How could we have a party if Edward didn’t have these whips to sell? Well, after Ronald’s outburst Edward was worried that someone else would attack Edward like Ronald did. So Edward hired Frank to be his bodyguard, and carry a whip too. Frank was big, strong man, who was not as smart as Edward. One time I walked toward Frank to ask him a question and he lashed me across the cheek. Now, I try my best to stay away from Frank. It’s a good thing that we have Frank though, because if more people didn’t make whips then Edward couldn’t throw us a party. We now have parties only three times a month, so that Edward can afford Frank. It’s a good thing we have Frank though

One Friday night I overheard some people chatting.

I heard Sara say “Edward is a mad man.”
“Oh, but Frank is worse.” Ted said in a harsh voice.
Sara’s husband noted “If we all didn’t work for Ed than he wouldn’t have any whips to whip us with.”

Most of the people talking were quite respectable people, but Ted who thinks that Edward is part of a secret society that is secretly trying to kill everyone. Once I asked him who was in this society. He said Edward, Frank, and other famous people some of whom were dead. Then Ted started to tell me some things that didn’t really make sense. I smiled and said that was interesting, and tried to end the conversation. To this day I doubt Ted’s intelligence.

The truth was that Ed and Frank were in an organization, and it wasn’t secret but it wasn’t advertised. Ed and Frank belonged to the national union of order and parties. This union wanted to hire a bodyguard for Edward before Frank was hired. Frank was also a member before he was hired.

The next Monday the twenty I overheard in that room didn’t show up to make whips. Most people didn’t notice, but some people asked Edward where they were. Edward said that that wasn’t important, and that he would look into it. The next day Edward came with Ted and lashed him so that we all could see. Ted screamed about some secret society that we didn’t know existed. It was difficult to understand what Ted was thinking. Then a funny thing happened. I could see that Edward was whipping Ted, and Edward hadn’t whipped anyone, but I blamed Ted for his plight.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A theroy of Government

With very few exceptions, the size of government tends to grow and grow. This leads to a cycle which ultimately leads to the collapse of government. In this article we will highlight some examples of this collapse, and we will discuss some notable examples that currently seem to be immune from this cycle.

The reasoning behind this cycle government theory is simple. There is only one hypothesis: In general people will act in their own interest. The consequence is that people, once in power, will try to obtain more power.

We can observe this striving for more power in many ways.

1) Centralization- People in power will try to centralize their power in order to be a more effective ruler.

2) Assertion of ownership- People in power will try to assert that they own property which they don’t morally have any right over.

3) Moderation of behavior- People in power will try to dictate what the behaviors of their subjects are.

Now that we have three ways that people use power to achieve more power let us consider examples.

Examples of moderation of behavior: The first example of moderation of behavior goes back to Moses. In Moses’ time Moses invoked the authority of God to justify wars and stone people whose behavior was not within certain bounds. There was discrimination against homosexuality, eating pork, working on Sundays, not being circumcised, and much more. A second more modern example is the drug war.

Moderation of behavior allows people of power to achieve the appearance of a moral high ground. This moral high ground is used to justify the power that rulers seize. In Moses’ time not being circumcised was viewed as a reason to treat a person as less than human. Today using a drug is used as an excuse for treating a person as less than human.

Examples of Assertion of ownership: In the old English society there was a lord who demanded tribute. Basically this is nothing but the lord asserting part ownership of the land that you tend, and demanding rent. Today we have the idea of property tax, which is in fact the same idea. Today there is also the idea that a lien can be applied to property if taxes aren’t paid. Regulations also are an example of an assertion of ownership. Laws like "you can’t build here without a permit", and "you can’t let people smoke in your own business". These laws are, quite rightly, assertions of ownership.

Examples of Centralization: The creation of the USSR enveloped other nation states. The founding of the Department of Homeland Security, DEA, ATF, FBI, all centralized law enforcement. The creation of the EU is perhaps the most modern example of centralization. The UN so far is a failing attempt to centralize governance. Wars are nothing but an attempt to expand power and channel it through a central body.

Dividing up of power into three categories is a little simplistic. For example the drug war is used as an excuse to seize property, and centralize law enforcement efforts. Regulations such as: Thou shall not allow people to smoke in your business. This is an assertion of ownership to bring about moderation of behavior.

The assertion of this article is that when one body becomes more powerful than people ruled are happy with, then an impasse is reached which ultimately will lead to the collapse of this power. Examples include:

1) American Revolution: an example of violent revolt.
2) India’s independence: A mostly nonviolent revolt.
3) The fall of Rome: An empire which expanded to an ungovernable size.
4) The end of slavery and the end of apartheid.
5) The collapse of the USSR.
6) The collapse of the communist model in China.
7) Current unrest in Burma.

This tendency for governments to grow until they consume themselves does seem to be a very prevalent trend. So is humankind doomed always to be a part of this cycle? It would seem that the answer is no. Countries such as New Zealand, and Switzerland seem to be resistant to this cycle. Switzerland did not join the EU so it is sheltered from any collapse of the Union that might happen three hundred years from now. New Zealand’s small size and nonintervention in other nations affairs may yield countries that are stable for centuries to come.

As you go through your life, try to point out the examples of how power asserted over you affects you directly. If you think you're immune, start with the question; do you pay taxes?