Obama, from Iraq to Libya

I just don’t understand it.

First, Obama was against wars of regime change, heavily criticizing Bush for the Iraq War. The entire Democratic Party was up in arms over the way the US took down Saddam to help bring democracy to Iraq.

Then, when Honduras reached a constitutional crisis because their leftist authoritarian president was trying to change the “anti-continuismo” sections of their constitution, and their own military moved in to remove the president and hold new elections, Obama was again against it. He called it an “unjustified military coup,” despite the fact that the Honduran constitution specifically called for the arrest of the president by the military. Their only legal misstep was shipping the former president out of the country instead of detaining him, because they wished to prevent him from organizing an armed uprising within the country. And Obama used this as an excuse to be against this action to the bitter end.

Now, Obama is strongly in favor of regime change in Libya. He’s trying to bring democracy to Libya by removing the evil dictator oppressing the people of that country. But wait, isn’t this in direct opposition to his previous positions? This video points out the contradictions fairly well.

I really just don’t understand it. What exactly is going on here? What is Obama’s foreign policy, and whose interests is he out to protect? Is he just entirely confused about how to deal with the world?

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Government is Violence

What is government?

An answer I hear a lot is, “It’s an elected body of individuals to represent the interests of a body of people.” It’s not hard to find exceptions to this definition. We call many unelected groups “government” (such as any dictatorship), and there are many elected entities which we do not call government (such as the members of a board of trustees). The point is, the writing of laws, operating through elections, or representing the interests of a group of people does not make a government.

There must be something else; something which uniquely gives a group of individuals enough control for them to be called a government; something which allows them to impose laws and have others listen. So why do we follow laws dictated by “the government”? Is it because we agree with them in all cases? Certainly not.

We listen because we don’t want to be arrested and imprisoned. If you defy a law and get caught, the government will use violent force to deprive you of life or liberty. No other entity can impose that upon us. If they try, “the government” declares war on them. Government is the only entity which can use violent force to control our actions. And that’s what defines them. Government is a monopoly on violence. “Government” and “violence” are synonymous.

That’s not to say that all government is wrong. Is violence always wrong? It’s certainly not wrong when used in self-defense, or in defense of the lives of our family members. There are many other situations where violence can be justified, but these situations are still very specific and limited.

So we all must ask ourselves, are we using government only for the things for which we would use violence? Or have we lost perspective, forgetting the connection between government imposition of laws and imposition through violence? Should we use violence to punish that guy who got high for fun in his own home, hurting nobody but himself? Should we use violence to force each and every person to make a contract with a health insurance company, whether it’s a good financial decision or not? Should we use violence to force charity? Should we use violence against people who make decisions leading to their own obesity?

These are all things we currently use government for, and there are many more examples of questionable uses. Is it right?

In this sense, Libertarianism is pacifism tempered by the right to self-defense (disclaimer: this is a quote I got from this dude). It is a philosophy of ethical treatment of human beings. Though libertarians often find themselves arguing on pragmatic grounds, in the end, it all comes down to a question of whether or not the ends justify the means.

The End of an Era

I found an amazing article that perfectly describes the current state of political dialogue.

The one thing that people of all political colors can agree on is that we have some serious economic and fiscal problems to work out. The question of “how” is where the disagreement begins.

Ask Paul Krugman or Barak Obama, and they’ll both say we just need to spend more. We just need to put more money into the services and programs that are failing, and then they will have enough resources to provide a good product. We just need to modify the regulations a bit, tighten them here and there, force everyone to do things in a better way, and then we’ll have control over our economy. But the thing is, the progressives haven’t had a new idea in 75 years.

Our education system sucks, and they say we need to increase spending, but that’s what we’ve been doing. It doesn’t work.

Our infrastructure is falling apart, our big cities are in decline, and they say we just need to increase spending, but that’s what we’ve been doing. It doesn’t work.

Our health care system sucks, and they say we just need to increase government control of it, and then we won’t be wasting so much money on competitive profit-based system. It doesn’t work.

The thing is, a lot of smart people like Krugman just can’t seem to accept these simple, hard facts. They can’t get their heads out of the overly simplistic thought constructions of “more spending => better products” and “more control => better engineering.” They’re stuck. But when we reach a point where even the simplest, most widely-held ideas like “increasing educational spending increases education,” turn out to be wrong, a new kind of thinking is required.

The thing is, when it comes to something as complicated and reactionary as an economy, evolutionary development is far superior to rational design. It’s impossible for anyone to ever be sure of what the economy needs at all levels of organization. More often then not, our elected leaders will be wrong about something in their attempts to rationally design a well-engineered economy. It doesn’t matter what party they’re in- it’s just a fact of chaotic complexity that it cannot be fully understood with perfect predictive power.

Consider the example of the horse-drawn carriage in the article I linked to. If you rationally design every part equally well, then when something goes wrong in a way that would destroy one part, all the parts will have the same chance of breaking, and you’re in danger of a total collapse. On the other hand, consider evolutionary development. If one part fails, it is soon replaced by something else which can do the job better. Big crises pose less threat to a system which is more adaptable and capable of recovery.

It all comes down to this simple phrase: If we all live in the same way, then when crisis hits, we will all fail in the same way.

Hence, we should completely decentralize control over economic decisions. Take the government out of the economy. Let the economy evolve on its own. When one business fails, it will have little impact on other businesses which are doing things completely differently. And those businesses which survive will learn from the mistakes of the failed ones, and continue on with their own more successful business model. This is how the economy evolves to become stronger.

The same is true on an individual level. When one individual fails, everyone learns from it. They all continue on, having a better idea of what the correct decisions are. The entire community of individuals adapts to its needs. We don’t need a military-backed government to impose a certain lifestyle. That only harms innovative adaptability. We can choose our own lifestyles, and the entire community will benefit if one of us finds a new formula to success.

We’re at the end of the era of progressive thinking. It’s time to move on to something better- something that actually works. This new decentralized economy- this is the face of the new era.