Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Of Piracy and Politics

The Associated Press reported on January 11th what was otherwise an amusing episode in the saga of the Somalian pirate infestation off the east coast of Africa.

“Five of the pirates who hijacked a Saudi supertanker drowned with their share of a $3 million ransom…the day after the bundle of cash was apparently dropped by parachute onto the deck of the ship….The drowned pirates’ boat overturned in rough seas….Abukar Haji, uncle of one of the dead pirates, blamed the naval surveillance for the accident that killed his pirate nephew Saturday.”

“’The boat the pirates were traveling in capsized because it was running at high speed because the pirates were afraid of an attack from the warships patrolling around.’”*

The late pirates needn’t have worried that any one of the American, French, German, British, Indian, or Chinese naval vessels patrolling the area would attack them. The naval coalition’s ineffectual gunboat diplomacy hasn’t made a dent in the scale of piracy in the region. The standing order forbids those vessels from firing on pirate boats unless fired upon by the pirates -- and what pirate would be crazy enough to fire on a warship that could blow his dingy or speedboat to smithereens? The article reports that pirates attacked over 100 ships last year and that hundreds of sailors remain hostages. Pirates collected over $30 million in ransoms in 2008, a testament to the moral impracticality of the coalition’s multinational policy.

No government today is going to instruct its navy to reduce the pirates’ hideouts and bases of operation along Somalia’s coastline to rubble and floating debris, because no government is going to risk calls for an immediate ceasefire by the United Nations and negotiations. If it ignores such calls, and presses on with the legitimate goal of exterminating an aggressor or a gang of thugs, it would immediately be labeled the brutal aggressor or insensitive villain. Incredibly, that is exactly what has happened as a result of Israel’s retaliation against Hamas in Gaza. Hamas and the pirates are seen as the “underdogs.” But not all “underdogs” are noble; in history, many of them deserved to be extinguished.

However, to Uncle Abukar, piracy is a legitimate career choice which shouldn’t be put in jeopardy by the threat of retaliatory force, as well as to the author of the AP article, Mohamed Olad Hassan, who penned this revealing observation:

“Piracy is one of the few ways to make money in Somalia.”

Make money? Extortion is a form of theft, and coupled with armed robbery and kidnapping on the high seas, one has a description of piracy. “Making money” is a description of productive, wealth-creating work. But Uncle Abukar and Mr. Hassan exhibit the same grasp of the economics and morality of looters as that of the pirates, outgoing president George W. Bush, president-elect Barack Obama, and Congress. The extortionate, unmitigated looting of the private sector of the economy by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulsen and his ilk in Congress and the White House in the so-called “bailout” differs from the Somalian pirates’ looting only in scale. The pirates “made” $30 million. The federal government has “made” trillions and stands to “make” trillions more if Obama pushes his “stimulus” program of public works and subsidies through Congress.

The government can “make” money only by stealing it. Like the pirates, it can “make” that money only by employing physical force or the threat of it. It can steal it directly with coercive tax collection, or indirectly through inflation. In the next administration, we will experience large doses of both methods.

President-elect Obama, when he takes the oath of office on January 20th, will swear to protect the United States and uphold the Constitution. But as he made clear throughout his campaign, and has made clear in a number of television interviews and at press conferences since winning the election, he promises to do no such thing. Instead, he has promised to continue the federal government’s policy of “saving” the country by looting the productive private sector of wealth and manpower in a program that will make his hero, Franklin D. Roosevelt, look like a rank amateur. He will, with Congress’s help, add over a trillion dollars to the over trillion dollars rung up by the Bush administration. Hypothetically, this represents a mortgage on the lives of two or three unborn generations. Hypothetically, because the economy and the country will collapse long before our elective oligarchy and its bureaucratic minions present impoverished Americans with the tax bill.

The point here is deviously simple: The statist economics of Obama, his fiscal appointees, Bush, and virtually every government economist is no more advanced or “sophisticated” than that of the Somalia pirates, or of the cargo cultists of the South Pacific. Wealth exists. It came into existence somehow -- somehow, because Obama and fellow politicians and bureaucrats, being career public “servants,” do not have a first-hand acquaintance with productive work. Wealth, savings, plans, futures, investments all can be magically taken from one person and given to another (redistributed), and a moral end will have been achieved. And when all the wealth, savings, plans, futures and investments have been consumed by the non-producing parasites, and all the new environmental and tax policies have made it impossible for producers to replace them, what then? Neither Obama nor his fiscal appointees can think that far in advance. What is unthinkable to them is that the government is the cause of whatever economic crisis they wish to solve. Intentions, not facts, govern their statements and actions.

What of those who have been robbed or ruined by such intentions? It is Obama’s explicit policy that they should endure their involuntary sacrifices as a matter of duty and in the name of “change.” As he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC last Sunday: “Everybody is going to have to give, everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game.”

This is gangster talk. Yet our slobbering, fawning news media accepts it and the facetious thinking behind it with wide-eyed rapture. Even when this faux-naif back-pedals on his promises, the news media glosses over it with forgiveness or ignorance. When he hedges on an issue, they grin in expectation of some wonderful surprise he has in store. Obama won’t need a Department of Disinformation or an Orwellian Ministry of Truth to propagate his economic illiteracy and deceptions. He has the worshipping news media in his pocket willing to wait on his every word.

Well, Adolf Hitler said the same thing when he nationalized Germany’s economy in much the same fashion that Bush has nationalized America‘s. Bush is to Herbert Hoover as Obama is to FDR. Hoover attempted to save “free enterprise” by regulating it, subsidizing failed industries and businesses, and erecting tariff walls to “encourage“ it. Every president since then has attempted to “fine tune” or “manage” the economy, discounting or ignoring the element of volition in men when they make choices. Some liberal and conservative pundits claim that Bush abandoned his “free market” principles when he pressured Congress to approve the “bailout” of the auto industry, oblivious to the fact that Bush professed no such principles.

Another clue to Obama’s intentions are the character of his cabinet and staff and the character of his appointees to it. To Obama, it is a “dream team”; for anyone who has wealth to confiscate or freedom to abridge, it is a nightmarish wrecking crew. The cabinet is about as far-left as was Saul Alinsky, the real life Ellsworth Toohey (the collectivist villain in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead) who propounded “community activism” and whose doctrines and methods Obama swallowed whole.

There is Larry Summers, nominated to be head of Obama’s National Economic Council, and whose redistributionist philosophy is as primitive as a Somalian pirate’s.

There is Timothy Geithner, currently head of the New York Federal Reserve, and nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury, who has confessed ignorance of why companies fail (his mantra: Don’t blame government interventionist policies, we had nothing to do with it!). It is not so ironic that he will also be boss of the Internal Revenue Service, and that at his confirmation hearings it was revealed that he failed to file tax returns for several years. He said he was “sorry,” and the Senate let him off the hook. For the average taxpayer, however, being “sorry” or having made an “honest mistake” is never good enough to the IRS. But then, Congress is now just Obama’s extended Chicago corruption “machine.”

There is Rahm Emanuel, the new chief of staff, who has all the charisma and charm of Frank Nitti, Al Capone’s “Enforcer” and who is a career power-luster (and enemy of the Second Amendment). He will be in charge of ensuring that all of Obama’s cabinet and staff stay in line, and in particular that none of them has ever owned or even touched a gun. After all, Obama wants to make sure that no one can fight or talk back, inside or outside of the White House. As the magazine America’s First Freedom reported in January:

Time magazine noted Emanuel’s reputation as a ’profane, hyperactive attack dog.’ His tactics and style are fully consistent with the world of Chicago machine politics, from which he and Obama sprung.”

One can imagine that Emanuel will equip his office with a baseball bat.

There is Eric Holder, Obama’s choice for Attorney General, who assured listeners at a convention of the American Constitution Society last summer that Obama would win the election and that the U.S.. would then be “run by progressives” -- that is, by socialists. Or, by national socialists, if you will. The American Constitution Society is a left-wing organization founded to counter the influence of The Federalist Society, and its goal is to turn the absolute principles of the Constitution into positivist mush. That is, the Constitution can be whatever the collectivist of the moment wishes it to be. Holder, according to a Front Page Magazine article of December 18, was a member of the ACS Board of Advisors. Front Page cites a New York Times article of December 11 which observed that Holder and the Obama team “will turn to ACS members to fill subcabinet positions and judgeships.”

The balance of Obama’s designated cabinet and appointees is comprised of recycled Clinton-era officeholders or new unknowns who will work with him and Congress to legislate socialized medicine, radical environmentalism, volunteerism (e.g., his promise of a $4,000 college tuition “credit” to high school and college students who perform 100 hours a year of community service), and in creating new pork barrel jobs to “repair the infrastructure.” Shades of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Obama pledged during the campaign to fight Congressional earmarks. What the news media hasn’t realized -- or perhaps doesn’t want to know, because that would put a brake on the giddiness -- is that his whole domestic program is one mammoth earmark.

As for Obama’s foreign policy, his choice of Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State, that says it all. Doubtless she will strive to top Condoleezza Rice’s pragmatist foreign policy.

It is in the cards that his proposed economic policies will bankrupt the nation and lead to economic havoc. That will be the signal to call for totalitarian measures to bring “discipline“ to the anarchy. One can predict with certainty that Obama’s speedboat of controls, spending and nascent fascism will capsize in the rough seas of reality, and take its occupants and their ransom money with it. And a good portion of the country.

And then perhaps enough non-docile Americans will learn the hard way and agree with Ayn Rand that a welfare state will always lead to totalitarianism, and decide to do something about it.


Anonymous said...

I just heard that he and his coterie want to abolish the 22nd Amendment, thus eliminating term limits for the president. As for the notion of domestic conscription, I'd sooner burn down a soup kitchen, than be forced to work in one.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: That's how you feel about soup kitchens, and retirement homes, and mentoring kids? Well, I'll see you in Stalag 17 (Alaska version). Maybe we can pull Steve McQueen on them.


Burgess Laughlin said...

> Well, Adolf Hitler said the same thing when he nationalized Germany’s economy in much the same fashion that Bush has nationalized America‘s.

Some of your readers might like to know that the sequence of ideas and actions that led to the dictatorship in Germany will be the subject of a study group in the Spring.

Study Groups for Objectivists will be examining five chapters in Leonard Peikoff, Ominous Parallels: The End to Freedom in America. (SGO)

I will be moderating the six-week study group.

ewv said...

Cline wrote "For the average taxpayer, however, being 'sorry' or having made an 'honest mistake' is never good enough to the IRS. But then, Congress is now just Obama’s extended Chicago corruption 'machine.'”

This is worse than you can imagine when the government can redefine what a "mistake" is with ever changing and retroactive policies imposed under non-objective tax laws. Look at what is already happening in Maine where the progressives have ruled for years: Once they are in power there is no way left for civlized people to fight off the armed thugs.

Anonymous said...

I'm not normally "Anonymous" on this site, but when exposing myself like this... I have to say, I am really feeling overloaded with dispare and terror of what we're transitioning through. It's made worse by so many people telling me that "Bush's hands-off approach and greed are the cause of it all." I really don't think there's much left to work with in this culture. A good hard reset is needed, but I'm doubtful we'll survive the ride through to the other side.

Anonymous said...

"I have to say, I am really feeling overloaded with dispare and terror of what we're transitioning through. It's made worse by so many people telling me that "Bush's hands-off approach and greed are the cause of it all." I really don't think there's much left to work with in this culture. A good hard reset is needed, but I'm doubtful we'll survive the ride through to the other side."

I tend to agree with you here, at least in the sense that I often find myself in brief moments of deep despair. But again, no side of the battle has a monopoly on hope. "Hope" is such a terrible word though, implying helplessness mixed with a desire for positive outcomes. We must continue to go about our daily lives the way we choose best. We must *know* in the deepest possible way that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not trite, meaningless ideals. They are real and they are superior to death, slavery and tyranny.

We cannot withdraw into our homes, communicating only with those whom we agree, patting ourselves on the back. To be sure, our work is cut out for us, but nothing is ever inevitable.

Are some people too far gone to have their minds changed? Sure. But I believe that the majority of Americans, if spoken to in the right way, and given the chance to fully understand what's going on, just may reconsider. It's been years now, but I changed my mind.

What I think most of us are guilty of is not being pro-active in communicating these ideas. We must communicate, communicate, communicate. Engage people in conversation. Buy them a book they might not buy themselves. This means not insulting their intelligences but instead assuming they are intelligent enough to understand and appreciate precisely what you're saying.

Despair is a waste of time and produces nothing. Do you believe in the power of ideas? Then shake off this near fatalist notion that all must go to hell before things get better. We simply cannot sit around and complain amongst each other that everything is going to shit, smug in the knowledge that "we were right." If you're not pro-actively communicating and fighting for the ideals of liberty then you are to blame.

There's so much yet we can do there's simply no reason to despair. Start your own podcast show. Start a blog that you email to anyone who'll take it. Join any number of social networking sites and start communicating with people. Change minds one at a time. Write letters to the editor. Start a meetup group of likeminded people, get together on weekends and hand out literature, talk to people the old fashioned way. We must help people turn on the lights inside their heads. The ideas are simple. For example, a good place to start is to explain how philanthropy can be a real and noble thing, but forced philanthropy is unspeakable evil and inherently self defeating. Explain that, "yes, I understand that Obama wants to create jobs using goverment money, but you must understand that 'government' has no money, government can only take money and redistribute it. There is no net gain, and money taken by force is theft by any definition."

Buy ten copies of Atlas Shrugged and sincerely ask friends of yours who haven't read it to give it a thorough run. Buy twenty copies of Henry Hazlitt's "Economics In One Lesson," and BEG your friends, family and loved ones to read it at all costs! I do this every christmas season. I refuse to give in and will continue to refuse as long as I am able to do so. As long as we're alive, we've no use with despair, and when we're gone it won't matter.

For the time being, I'll continue to be a thorn in the side of tyranny, however minor.

TJWelch said...

On the issue of Somali piracy, it is worth re-emphasizing how ineffective multinational efforts have been to suppress it.
In Iraq, the United States was criticized for not being "multinational" or "multilateral" enough.
Yet multilateral action, such as it has been, has been unable to stop small bands of poorly-armed and -equipped marauders (as Ed points out, through lack of will, not of means).

Anonymous said...

An anonymous poster wrote, "We cannot withdraw into our homes, communicating only with those whom we agree, patting ourselves on the back."

Such withdrawal is not just a futile approach to changing the culture. For many of us it is an impossibility because the bureaucrats -- particularly viro and tax authorities -- are already coming into our homes and wrecking our lives. They have so much power there is no way for ordinary people to fight it. Again, refer to as an example of the personal abuse.

This has gone beyond an academic discussion of future threats. It's here now. It is already happening in states such as Maine, which is run by progressive leftists. They behave like third world dictators, showing what they intend to do as they take control of the national government.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous poster wrote, "Such withdrawal is not just a futile approach to changing the culture. For many of us it is an impossibility...
They have so much power there is no way for ordinary people to fight it."

To clarify, are you saying they have no choice but to fight it, or there's nothing for them to do but run and hide?
My first feeling, if I were living in Maine and subject to such abuse would be to leave. Move to a neighboring state. Would it be hard? I imagine so, but what's worse? If ten thousand of you left the state that'd be a serious blow to the ole' tax base. Aren't there at least ten grand of you mad enough to up and leave?

Second, I'm unaware of the details of these cases, but has nobody sucessfully defended themselves in court? Have no lawyers been consulted?

Third, I suppose you could stay but it seems to me that you'd have no choice but to fight - in the figurative sense. Remind these clowns that they are elected.

Anonymous said...

The statement that withdrawing into one's home

"is not just a futile approach to changing the culture. For many of us it is an impossibility because the bureaucrats are already coming into our homes and wrecking our lives"

signifies that the statism has now gone beyond arguing about the future and the choice of whether to publicly speak out; it is here now and has become vindictively personal. The temporary sanctuary of staying home no longer exists. There is no such place left to hide once they come after you personally.

The 'third world' economy and government in Maine have already caused an (unorganized) movement of people leaving the state. Industry and investment have largely been driven out long ago. As the state loses its tax base it goes after anyone left who still has something to take, which has also taken on the form of the bizarre strategy to "export" taxes to non-residents ( Maine is already beyond the point of arguing what will happen if progressive left statism gets its way. It is here. Some individuals are also now leaving because of direct personal harassment and abuse from the state.

As for lawyers, they are very expensive and not necessarily effective because of the nature of the laws. The state sometimes loses to corporations in Federal court when the bureaucracy overreaches against an entire out-of-state industry, but for individuals the legal system is inaccessibly too expensive for most, and it is usually 'cheaper' to give up and pay them off. The state counts on that when it bullies people, selecting its targets carefully and threatening additional "penalties" for those who try to fight them. They offer an extortionist 'deal' you can't refuse.

The non-objective laws also make fighting the state in court difficult or impossible legally because the bureaucracy has been granted sweeping, discretionary powers. The law no longer protects the rights of the individual, it grants arbitrary power to the state. 'Tax law', in particular, is notorious for requiring the victim to prove his innocence against the power of the state to make unproven accusations. What started as the state's power to "estimate" financial assessments in the absense of adequate records has been expanded to the power to accuse people of activities which did not exist at all. This is an extremely ugly and dangerous trend circumventing the Constitution through the device of separating the punitive imposition of taxes from punishment for "criminal" activity.

Remind the clowns that they are elected? Bureaucrats are not elected, and the elected officials know very well that they themselves are elected and are mostly safe in their positions in a state where a majority of the populace supports or goes along with government social controls and pressure group warfare. The minority who knows better isn't enough in an election, and the progressive left media keeps most people in the dark.

Some things can be fought publicly and debated even against a majority and a hostile, propagandistic media, but 'fighting' subjugation to personal assault by the state is more difficult or impossible. And leaving the state does not help once the state government imposes a 'legal' claim to your property through viro laws or bogus tax impositions.

The Maine state motto is "Dirigo", for "I lead", and there is saying, "as Maine goes so goes the nation". Don't let it happen.