Archive for the ‘oppression’ Tag

War: Function of States, Not Nations   Leave a comment

From “The State” by Randolph Bourne

 

Randolph  BourneBut the emotions that play around the defense of the State do not take into consideration the pragmatic results. A nation at war, led by its significant classes, is engaged in liberating certain of its impulses which have had all too little exercise in the past. It is getting certain satisfactions and the actual conduct of the war or the condition of the country are really incidental to the enjoyment of new forms of virtue and power and aggressiveness. If it could be shown conclusively that the persecution of slightly disaffected elements actually increased enormously the difficulties of production and the organization of the war technique, it would be found that public policy would scarcely change. The significant classes must have their pleasure in hunting down and chastising everything that they feel instinctively to be not imbued with the current State-enthusiasm, though the State itself be actually impeded in its efforts to carry out those objects for which they are passionately contending. The best proof of this is that with a pursuit of plotters that has continued with ceaseless vigilance ever since the beginning of the war in Europe, the concrete crimes unearthed and punished have been fewer than those prosecutions for the mere crime of opinion or the expression of sentiments critical of the State or the national policy. The punishment for opinion has been far more ferocious and unintermittent than the punishment of pragmatic crime. Unimpeachable Anglo-Saxon-Americans who were freer of pacifist or socialist utterance than the State-obsessed ruling public opinion, received heavier penalties, and even greater opprobrium, in many instances, than the definitely hostile German plotter. A public opinion which, almost without protest, accepts as just, adequate, beautiful, deserved, and in fitting harmony with ideals of liberty and freedom of speech, a sentence of twenty years in prison for mere utterances, no matter what they may be, shows itself to be suffering from a kind of social derangement of values, a sort of social neurosis, that deserves analysis and comprehension. On our entrance into the war there were many persons who predicted exactly this derangement of values, who feared lest democracy suffer more at home from an America at war than could be gained for democracy abroad. That fear has been amply justified. The question whether the American nation would act like an enlightened democracy going to war for the sake of high ideals, or like a State-obsessed herd, has been decisively answered. The record is written and cannot be erased. History will decide whether the terrorization of opinion, and the regimentation of life was justified under the most idealistic of democratic administrations. It will see that when the American nation had ostensibly a chance to conduct a gallant war, with scrupulous regard to the safety of democratic values at home, it chose rather to adopt all the most obnoxious and coercive techniques of the enemy and of the other countries at war, and to rival in intimidation and ferocity of punishment the worst governmental systems of the age. For its former unconsciousness and disrespect of the State ideal, the nation apparently paid the penalty in a violent swing to the other extreme. It acted so exactly like a herd in its irrational coercion of minorities that there is no artificiality in interpreting the progress of the war in terms of herd psychology. It unwittingly brought out into the strongest relief the true characteristics of the State and its intimate alliance with war. It provided for the enemies of war and the critics of the State the most telling arguments possible. The new passion for the State ideal unwittingly set in motion and encouraged forces that threaten very materially to reform the State. It has shown those who are really determined to end war that the problem is not the mere simple one of finishing a war that will end war.

For war is a complicated way in which a nation acts, and it acts so out of a spiritual compulsion which pushes it on perhaps against all its interests, all its real desires, and all its real sense of values. It is States that make wars and not nations, and the very thought and almost necessity of war is bound up with the ideal of the State. Not for centuries have nations made war; in fact the only historical example of nations making war is the great barbarian invasions into Southern Europe, invasions of Russia from the East, and perhaps the sweep of Islam through Northern Africa into Europe after Mohammed’s death. And the motivations for such wars were either the restless expansion of migratory tribes or the flame of religious fanaticism. Perhaps these great movements could scarcely be called wars at all, for war implies an organized people drilled and led; in fact, it necessitates the State. Ever since Europe has had any such organization, such huge conflicts between nations—nations, that is, as cultural groups—have been unthinkable. It is preposterous to assume that for centuries in Europe there would have been any possibility of a people en masse—with their own leaders, and not with the leaders of their duly constituted State—rising up and overflowing their borders in a war raid upon a neighboring people. The wars of the Revolutionary armies of France were clearly in defense of an imperiled freedom, and moreover, they were clearly directed not against other peoples, but against the autocratic governments that were combining to crush the Revolution. There is no instance in history of genuinely national war. There are instances of national defenses, among primitive civilizations such as the Balkan peoples, against intolerable invasion by neighboring despots or oppression. But war, as such, cannot occur except in a system of competing States, which have relations with each other through the channels of diplomacy.

War is a function of this system of States, and could not occur except in such a system. Nations organized for internal administration, nations organized as a federation of free communities, nations organized in any way except that of a political centralization of a dynasty or the reformed descendant of a dynasty, could not possibly make war upon each other. They would not only have no motive for conflict, but they would be unable to muster the concentrated force to make war effective. There might be all sorts of amateur marauding, there might be guerrilla expeditions of group against group, but there could not be that terrible war en masse of the national state, that exploitation of the nation in the interests of the State, that abuse of the national life and resource in the frenzied mutual suicide which is modern war.

It cannot be too firmly realized that war is a function of States and not of nations, indeed that it is the chief function of States. War is a very artificial thing. It is not the naive spontaneous outburst of herd pugnacity; it is no more primary than is formal religion. War cannot exist without a military establishment, and a military establishment cannot exist without a State organization. War has an immemorial tradition and heredity only because the State has a long tradition and heredity. But they are inseparably and functionally joined. We cannot crusade against war without crusading implicitly against the State. And we cannot expect, or take measures to ensure, that this war is a war to end war, unless at the same time we take measures to end the State in its traditional form. The State is not the nation, and the State can be modified and even abolished in its present form, without harming the nation. On the contrary, with the passing of the dominance of the State, the genuine life-enhancing forces of the nation will be liberated. If the State’s chief function is war, then the State must suck out of the nation a large part of its energy for purely sterile purposes of defense and aggression. It devotes to waste or to actual destruction as much as it can of the vitality of the nation. No one will deny that war is a vast complex of life-destroying and life-crippling forces. If the State’s chief function is war, then it is chiefly concerned with coordinating and developing the powers and techniques which make for destruction. And this means not only the actual and potential destruction of the enemy, but of the nation at home as well. For the very existence of a State in a system of States means that the nation lies always under a risk of war and invasion, and the calling away of energy into military pursuits means a crippling of the productive and life-enhancing process of the national life.


Bourne didn’t live to see the genocides of Rwanda or the Balkans, so he can be forgiven for not mentioning them, but he has the basic idea correct. Most often, peoples haven’t warred against each other for many centuries. It is almost always centralized States that have declared war upon one another. Lela 

Mercantile Oppression   Leave a comment

Mercantilism sought enrich the monarch of a particular country at the expense of other countries and even the people of that monarch’s country. This was accomplished by preventing the king’s subjects from freely trading with buyers and sellers in other countries. The power of the state prohibited transactions the king disapproved and compelled manufacturers to produce what the monarch deemed desirable and to sell them at prices that the king considered “just” and “fair.”

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France was the powerhouse of mercantilism economic commands. Royal France, perhaps, was the most determined in imposing and enforcing the Mercantilist economic commands. The famous French classical liberal and advocate of free enterprise, Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862), explained the extent and form of many of these government controls and regulations in his book, The Passage to Liberty(1845):

“The State exercised over manufacturing industry the most unlimited and arbitrary jurisdiction. It disposed without scruple of the resources of manufacturers; it decided who shall be allowed to work, what things it should be permitted to make, what materials should be employed, what processes followed, what forms should be given to production.

“It was not enough to do well, to do better; it was necessary to do according to the rules … Not the tastes of the consumers, but the commands of the law must be attended to. Legions of inspectors, commissioners, controllers, jurymen, guardians were charged with its execution.

“Machines were broken; products were burned when not conformable to the rules. There were different sets of rules for goods destined for home consumption and for those intended for exportation. An artisan could neither choose the place in which to establish himself, nor work at all seasons, nor work for all customers.

“There exists a decree of March 30, 1700, which limits to eighteen towns the number of places where stockings might be woven. A decree of June 18, 1723, enjoins the manufacturers of Rouen to suspend their works from the 1st of July to the 15th of September, in order to facilitate the harvest.

“Louis XIV, when he intended to construct the colonnade of the Louvre, forbade all private persons to employ workmen without his permission, with a penalty of 10,000 livres, and forbade workmen to work for private persons, on pain for the first offense, of imprisonment, and for the second, of the galleys.” Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862), The Passage to Liberty(1845):

Monsieur Roland of Rouen described the treatment of businessmen and merchants accused of violating the rules and regulations imposed by the government under mercantilism.

“The manufacturers were summoned, tried, and condemned; their goods were confiscated; copies of their judgment of confiscation posted in every public place; fortune, reputation, credit, all lost and destroyed.

“And for what offense? Because they had made of worsted a kind of cloth called shag, such as the English used to manufacture, and even sell in France, while the French regulations stated that that kind of cloth should be made of mohair.

“I have seen other manufacturers treated in the same way, because they had made camlets [the collars on women’s blouses] of a particular width, used in England and Germany, for which there was a great demand from Spain, Portugal, and other countries, and from other parts of France, for which the French regulations prescribed other widths.” Jerome-Adolph Blanqui, History of Political Economy in Europe (1846)

Alexis d’Tocqueville (1805-1859) provided one of the best descriptions of just how pervasive mercantilist regulations and controls extended into every corner of French society. Yes, that is the same d’Tocqueville who wrote Democracy in America.

“The government had a hand in the management of all the cities in the kingdom, great and small. It was consulted on all subjects, and gave decided opinions on all; it even regulated festivals. It was the government that gave orders for public rejoicing, fireworks, and illuminations …

“You have neither Parliament, nor estates, nor governors; nothing but thirty masters of   requests [i.e., the heads of the bureaucratic planning agencies in Paris], on whom, so far as the provinces are concerned, welfare, misery, plenty or want entirely depend …

“Under the old regime, as in our own day, neither city, nor borough, nor village, nor hamlet, however small, nor hospital, nor church, nor convent, nor college could exercise a free will in its private affairs, or administer its property, as it thought best. Then, as now, the administration was the guardian of the whole French people …

“A very extensive machinery was requisite before the government could know everything and manage everything in Paris. The amounts of documents filed were enormous, and the slowness with which public business was transacted was such that I have been unable to discover any case in which a village obtained permission to raise its church steeple or repair its presbytery in less than a year. Generally speaking, two or three years lapsed before such petitions were granted …

“Ministers are overloaded with business details. Everything is done by them or through them, and if their information be not coextensive with their power, they are forced to let their clerks act as they please, and become the real masters of the country [i.e., authority was delegated to a permanent bureaucracy] …

“A marked characteristic of the French government, even in those days, was the hatred it bore to everyone, whether noble or not, who presumed to meddle with public affairs without its knowledge. It took fright at the organization of the least public body that ventured to exist without permission. It was disturbed by the formation of free society. It could brook no association but such as it had arbitrarily formed, and over which it presided. In a word, it objected to people looking over their own concerns, and preferred general inertia to rivalry …

“Government having assumed the place of Providence, people naturally invoked its aid for their private wants. Heaps of petitions were received from persons who wanted their petty private ends served, always for the public good …

“Nobody expected to succeed in any enterprise unless the state helped them. Farmers, who, as a class, are generally stubborn and indocile, were led to believe that the backwardness of agriculture was due to the lack of advice and aid from government …

“Sad reading, this: Farmers begging to be reimbursed the value of lost cattle or horses; men in easy circumstances begging for a loan to enable them to work their land to more advantage; manufacturers begging for monopolies to crush out competition; businessmen confiding their pecuniary embarrassments to the intendant [the local bureaucrat], and begging for assistance or a loan. It would appear that the public funds were liable to be used in this way …

“France is nothing but Paris and a few distant provinces that Paris has not yet had time to swallow up.” Tocqueville, The French Revolution and the Old Regime (1856)

While mercantilism restricted the domestic economy, it strangled the colonial economy. Mercantilism called for the “mother country” to possess valuable colonies around the world so that they might control useful resources and raw materials that may be essential for its economic development. It would also secure essential supplies during times of war with other nation-states.

thewillowbranchMercantilism required the “mother country” to keep and maintain its colonial territories in a subservient position. For example, the British government attempted to limit the development of manufacturing in its 13 American colonies. Their dependency on the “mother country” for manufactured finished goods in exchange for colonial raw materials would make it more difficult for such colonies to become economically independent of the “mother country and would assure that the “mother country” could make a net gain – a “positive” balance of trade” – even with its own colonial dependencies. Colonial dependency on the “mother country” for manufactured finished goods made it more difficult to achieve independence.

In Daermad Cycle, the invading Svard seek to set up economic ports for the purposes of extracting the wealth of Celdrya to its own people. I haven’t yet decided that it will be a mercantilist system, but it is among the potential systems under consideration.

 

Why Not Disband the Secret Service?   9 comments

Sometimes others say it better than I do. I live in a neighborhood that is close to one of our three local military bases. During certain times of the years, we experience helicopter flyovers such as the ones described in this Washington Times opinion piece, but they’re mostly helicopter pilots practicing in cold weather conditions. Charles Hurt is right. Alaskans wouldn’t stand for occupation by our government. These exercises last may be three days and then they’re done, because someone would get drunk and test their aim. What about the rest of you? How much liberty are you willing to give up for security?

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Living here in the shadow of our nation’s great Capitol in this fine Federal City, my neighbors and I enjoy the peace and serenity of a tightly enforced “no-fly” zone. By “peace” and “serenity” I mean that we are under near-constant assault by helicopters everywhere whapping just over our rooftops.

Sometimes they are orange, sometimes green, sometimes they are blue with an orange stripe. And, yes, sometimes they are even actual black helicopters flying just overhead. I have even seen them ride over my little house with a guy tricked out in tactical gear hanging out the door holding a machine gun, scanning the neighborhood as if searching for someone to shoot.

This also being a “gun-free zone,” we are mostly disarmed and defenseless. On one particularly busy day earlier this month, I counted 42 flyovers buzzing Capitol Hill rooftops.

They disturb dinner, rattle dishes and windows, shake pictures off the wall, startle children awake from naps and make it impossible to talk on the telephone. They fly in great yawning arcs across the neighborhood before circling back to fly right back overhead. They are not going anywhere. Just circling aimlessly overhead. Because they can.

The near-constant drone thunders deep into your spine. It is like a boot always just starting to exert pressure on the back of your neck. I understand why people living in a place like Iraq or Afghanistan seethe at being occupied.

In most of America, this would not last long. Too many guns. People would get tired of the constant whapping at their rooftops, the endless fading and mounting noise. Or, somebody would get drunk and test his aim.

There is a good lesson here these days with so many politicians making political hay out of 20 young children and six educators gunned down in an elementary school last month. They want to use that horror to advance their own political agenda of disarming law-abiding citizens.

But it is important to remember that while they are talking about disarming you and me, they are not talking about disarming themselves. They will still be coddled in their fortresses. The closer you get to the Capitol, the more armed guards there are. Up close, there are bombproof guard shacks, literally, on every street corner. Squads of machine-gun carrying guards dot the magnificent marble buildingscape at all times.

Leaders in Congress ride around with escorts of huge armed men. Is that because what they do every day is more dangerous than what you and I do every day? Is that because their safety is more important than our safety? Or is it because they have figured out a way for suckers like you and me to pay for their security and so they don’t much care anymore about ours?

When a daring reporter last week confronted New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to ask whether he would consider disarming the battalion of security surrounding him, Mr. Bloomberg quickly lied and promised to get right back to him. He didn’t, of course.

And then his armed guards accosted the reporter and demanded his personal information and then followed him down the street. Are you terrified yet?

There’s a petition going around that seeks to disband the Secret Service that protects the president and his family and replace it with people carrying signs that say “Gun-free zone” like you see around schools. Of course, even if the petition gets the required number of signatures, the White House will not take the recommendation seriously. Nor should it.

And the same should be said for any proposal that undermines citizens’ rights to protect themselves.

• Charles Hurt can be reached at charleshurt@live.com

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/29/gun-free-zones-are-only-for-the-little-people/#ixzz2JbBUsVya
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