Democracy is Coming to Iraq


The Los Angeles Times today has two big stories about U.S. plans for Iraq, the country we have just freed. One says that of course the United States will "transfer power to an 'interim authority composed of Iraqis from both inside and outside the country.'" It paints a picture that admirers of American democracy can relate to. Just as we have our Democrats and Republicans squabbling in a spirit of fair play over governance here, so too is there a well-known dichotomy at the heart of the burgeoning Iraqi democracy–the "divisions between top Defense and State department officials over how to lay the groundwork for choosing the Iraqi leadership that will eventually take over the reins of government."

The long story, quoting many leading U.S. officials, uses the word "democracy" a lot, but never once suggests when, or if, an actual election might occur. Tim Cavanaugh's hit and run entry from yesterday scratches the surface of the sort of problems that could arise from such elections.

The other story actually does, toward the end, mention that at some time in the future "elections can be held," but it isn't the main theme the story gets across about what the U.S. has planned for Iraq now that it is free and democratic. It quotes Secretary of State Colin Powell extensively, who candidly discusses the role of the international community in liberated Iraq. The U.S. will definitely need the United Nations help, he says–because "We need an endorsement of the authority and an endorsement of what we're doing in order to begin selling oil in due course."

Was it a war for oil, a less-threatening Iraq, freedom, democracy? The statues have toppled, and that is a glorious thing. But it's far too soon to say what the war was for. By current account, democracy does seem to be far down the list.

NEXT: Plus de Concorde

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Is that bit about “fair play” supposed to be sarcasm? πŸ™‚

  2. Oh, by all means, let’s have elections tommorow. Why wait? Besides the fact that the country is in total disarray, and lacks the kind of civil society that most people would think is a pre-requisite for democracy. But never mind that, we need to have a DATE FOR ELECTIONS NOW otherwise we have no idea what this war was about.

    Brian, perhaps *you* have no idea what the war was about, but please don’t assume we’re all so in the dark.

  3. Oh, by all means, let’s have elections tommorow. Why wait? Besides the fact that the country is in total disarray, and lacks the kind of civil society that most people would think is a pre-requisite for democracy. But never mind that, we need to have a DATE FOR ELECTIONS NOW otherwise we have no idea what this war was about.

    Brian, perhaps *you* have no idea what the war was about, but please don’t assume we’re all so in the dark.

  4. While they’re waiting for their democracy, will they at least get their whiskey and sexy?

  5. democracy is a process, it needs to be grown not imposed. we have removed a huge obsticle in this path. or are you saying that democracy had better chances under saddam???

  6. Todd F –

    I completely agree. I find myself basically aghast at some of the sneering, cynical comments being posted on this site.

    The fact is, whatever comes next in Iraq will represent an immense improvement in the quality of life for 23 million people. For the first time in a quarter century, they will live as actual human beings instead of as objects of a dictator’s whims.

    And here we are, ONE DAY AFTER LIBERATION, and our friend Brian Doherty is in full hipster-doofus cynic mode, declaring that “democracy does seem to be far down the list” because we’re not in primary season yet. Give me a frigging break.

    Brian, your schoolboy image of democracy may not be adequate. Let me let you in on something: Democracy is more than a voting booth, ok? It involves things like…oh, I don’t know…constitutions and whatnot. Political parties. Laws. Running water. That kind of thing. Grow up.

  7. The fact is, whatever comes next in Iraq will represent an immense improvement in the quality of life for 23 million people. For the first time in a quarter century, they will live as actual human beings instead of as objects of a dictator’s whims.

    You mean like the Afghan people did after the Soviets retreated?

    Snideness aside, even if we can’t say that things could get worse than the Saddam regime, it is possible that things will get a-different-kind-of-just-as-bad.

  8. Brian isn’t saying that democracy doesn’t take a while to grow. He is suggesting that the US might not be so interested in Iraqi democracy at all. He raises some good points, none of which claim that democracy should appear instantaneously and all of which seem to have zoomed directly over Stretch and Todd’s heads.

    Stretch and Todd also seem to have missed the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq, to judge from their cheap talk about “an immense improvement in the quality of life.”

  9. Alkali –

    I see you aren’t following this situation very closely. So I’ll explain, just for you.

    Afghanistan was a failed state when the Soviets invaded. Iraq is not a failed state.

    And…er…it was the SOVIETS that invaded, and they were not there to create a democracy. The US and Britain are not communist-imperialist states.

    Do you know what the term “soviet” means?

    I think it goes without saying that things, in many ways (perhaps most), will indeed be worse for a period of time. Hopefully that period of time will be short. There is no question – none – that Iraqis will, in the long run, be much better off.

  10. other Joe –

    So your position is that “regime change” can never be justified if it will cause short-term disruptions?

    You know, I think the American revolution entailed a few short-term disruptions.

    By that logic, you’d never go to the dentist. “I was fine before I sat in this chair! Sure, my teeth were rotting, but now I’m strapped in a chair inhaling gas AND I have rotting teeth! Humanitarian disaster! What a miscalculation!”

  11. Stretch Cannonbury,

    Well, it would appear that there is a qualitative difference between regime change from the inside, and regime change from the outside. There are sticky issues of self-determination and the like that seem to be less troublesome in the former as opposed to the latter for instance.

    Not that I am opposed to regime change in all circumstances, mind you.

  12. I think Brian’s point here was simply that despite what Bush says, he’s more interested in controlling Iraq’s oil supply than bettering the life of the Iraq people. The latter might come as a result of the former, or it might not, but it doesn’t matter. If you don’t believe that, compare the care we took saving the oil fields to the carelessness with which we killed civilians. Or, better yet, tell me which non-oil-rich repressed country we’re planning to liberate next.

  13. Hal –

    Hmmmm…. let’s see.

    Oil Fields = Out in the Middle of Nowhere = Few civilian casualties.

    Cities = CITIES = Lotso civilian casualties.


  14. Stretch writes:

    And…er…it was the SOVIETS that invaded, and they were not there to create a democracy.

    Well, dur. I wasn’t comparing the Soviet invasion and the American invasion, I was comparing the Soviet retreat and the fall of the Saddamist regime. The point, to make it grindingly clear, is that just as things didn’t improve in Afghanistan after the Soviets left, it’s possible that things may not improve in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. If the US doesn’t step up to the plate here — and even if it does — there is a serious chance that the country could degenerate into warlordism or fall under the control of yet another strongman dictator. It is not obvious to me that those alternatives are measurably better than life under Saddam.

    Accordingly, your conclusion that “There is no question – none – that Iraqis will, in the long run, be much better off” is not self-evident. Obviously, I hope that the Iraqis do turn out to be much better off, and I think there are some things that the US can do now to make that more likely. I’m just saying that no one should think that’s a certainty.

  15. Hal –

    What in God’s name does “he wants to control their oil” mean? I mean, specifically, what the hell are you talking about?

    Do you think Marines want in the oil business? Are you saying they’re going to set up the US Marines Oil Company?

    Or are you saying we’re going to give all the oil contracts to US companies? If that’s the case, those contracts would still be administered by the govt of Iraq with royalties to them. And they could do with those contracts whatever they want.

    You loony anti-war types think oil is some kind of magic pixie dust, where even the most powerful men on earth facing intense media scrutiny will throw it all away just to get a taste of some iraqi oil.

    Sure, we get five times as much oil from mexico and venezuela. Sure, oil is a fungible commodity. sure, Bush doesn’t actually even OWN any oil companies or work for them. Sure, he’s out of the oil business altogether and is into politics now (with an interim career in major league baseball). But MAN, gimme the man some oil! He’ll throw it all away for oil!!

    Do you seriously believe this? I want you to tell me, seriously, what exactly you think you’re talking about. How could George Bush ever “own” Iraq’s oil for any meaningful period of time?

  16. Hal,

    I think we could have _bought_ an awful lot of oil from a post-embargo Iraq for a lot less money than the invasion and subsequent occupation is going to end up costing us.

    I think it is fair to question the Bush administration’s long-term commitment to a “free Iraq”. I also think that it would be naive to believe that liberating Iraqis was what this was all about.

    But “Bush just wants to control Iraqi oil”? C’mon…you don’t really believe that, do you?

  17. Alkali –

    So lemme see if I have this straight now. You are comparing the Soviet RETREAT from Afghanistan to the US/British OCCUPATION of Iraq. In other words, you’re comparing the RETREAT of an unwelcomed occupying army of communists to the INSERTION of a mostly welcomed occupying army of democratic capitalists.

    What, exactly, are we to glean from this astute comparison of two things that couldn’t possibly be any less similar to each other?

  18. Yes, Hal, do you have any idea of how much oil we could buy for $80,000,000,000? Do you think Bush would bank his entire presidency, his legacy, his reelection (if the war doesn’t go well, which people like you were sure it wouldn’t), and the lives of 300,000 Americans, AND do you think he could convince the British, Australians, Czechs, and Poles AND their governments to send THEIR troops to Iraq, so that they could steal some oil wells which the ENTIRE PLANET and FIFTY PERCENT OF THE EARTH’S JOURNALISTS would be EMBEDDED AND IN PLACE to witness and record with instantaneous satellite video phones beamed to EVERY TV STATION ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH?

    This is your theory? Are you sure?

  19. Why are disarray and lack of civil order an impediment to elections? Remember that the initial elections in the US had a whopping 2% turnout.

    We’ve got way too many sacred cows.

  20. Hal,
    Why was North Korea included in the axis of evil? Surely you don’t think it was because of their oil? While Iran apparantly has large quantities of oil, Syria’s case isn’t so clear:

    Was Afghanistan all about oil?

  21. Individual liberty is vastly more important to cultivate than demacracy. Private property is of course a vital component (just heard a news item that the looting has spread to private property)Two Refs:
    An article in the April issue of “Liberty” about
    how Somalia is much more prosperous and free since the nation abolished its central government
    ten years ago. Makes the case that this anarchy is
    much more suitable for a multi-enthnic nation where the ethnics don’t get along then a central government is. Its occurs to me that in many places in the world the main reason why ethnic groups dont get along is because of central government that isn’t sufficiently restrained. So it matters who controls it. 2.A book: “Demacracy: The God That Failed” by libertarian Scholar Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

  22. “Do you think Marines want in the oil business? Are you saying they’re going to set up the US Marines Oil Company?”

    Why not? The US Army is in the construction business, big time (see Everglades Restoration Project). Maybe the Marines just wanted a little biz of their own…

  23. The reason the US is invading North Korea is obvious to someone who hasn’t fallen for statist/corporatist propaganda. They have been out of contact with the west for 50 years now. During that time they must have accumulated monstrous piles of treasure, since their country hasn’t been systematically raped by the capitalists/imperialists (chiefly the US) which is, of course, responsible for all evil in the world today. Bush wants that treasure.

    You didn’t believe the lies about North Korea being poor did you?

  24. With all due respect to Mr. Hoppe, anarchy leads to shitholes like Somalia.

  25. JDM –

    Grin…you almost had me. Nice.

    Rick Barton –

    I’m on the fence as to whether this is a joke. However, in the land of the libbies it’s always best to assume that loony statements like yours are sincere and not jokes.

    If you think absence of a central government, and the conditions of “liberty” and “prosperity” you associate with Somalia, are so nice, I heartily recommend you move there right away.

  26. i guess my biggest concern is that i can’t help but think maintaining the state apparatus in iraq is going to be hugely expensive. understandably downplayed by the administration, it’s still the case that the fiscal situation of the US isn’t in the best shape. down the road, perhaps as early as 3Q, if we don’t start to see a pick-up in the economy, i can foresee that aid to iraq could become politically contentious, esp. with an election year coming up. if it becomes a choice between ongoing support for iraq reconstruction and more stimulus for the US, well i’m pretty sure karl rove will have his say… and that’d be a real shame.

  27. Stretch and Lazarus,
    The article about Somalia in the April issue of Liberty (not by Hoppe, He’s the author of the book I cited) points out that under a condition of
    statelessness Somalia is more peacful and the
    poeple are more prosperous. I found the piece well argued with lots of examples and I’m a skeptical person. Also, It takes just a casual survey of history to understand that far more “shitholes” are the result of boundless government than by its absence.

    Here is a hint guys… Read the article

  28. Two days in a row now, Rumsfeld got prickly with reporters about the need to “rebuild” Iraq. He’s contending at length about all the infrastructure that was saved by our precision operations and it shouldn’t take much to get the place back in order. Bush is making the same noises.

    I’m smelling a bootstraps strategy where we essentially say, “we got rid of Saddam, now you figure it out” and we leave Dodge fast.

  29. Stretch,

    Enough of this slander of the word “anarchy”!

    My idea of a utopia with no central government is a lot closer to, say, northern New England in the 1780s than to Somalia. As Forrest McDonald described it, N.H. and Vermont were little more than loose confederations of town meetings, with a state government that existed only on paper. The town meetings themselves met mainly to vote, repeatedly, against spending the money to send a delegate to the state legislature, and to automatically vote down any proposed tax. Constitutional amendments had to be ratified by town meetings, and towns that voted “agin” often refused to recognize the amendments as binding. The overwhelming majority of the population were either small farmers or tradesmen who controlled the means of their own livelihoods. And they owned guns, too!

    But of course Alexander Hamilton, the neocons’ great granddaddy, had to ruin all this.

    Think of it: if the Articles of Confederation had been left in place, Jefferson’s ward/township system had been implemented in Virginia, Shays’ men had won in Massachusetts (oh yeah, and mutual banks and occupancy-based land tenure had been introduced)…. Would have been pretty much a Proudhonian/Warrenist utopia. I doubt that Hillary, Rosie or Barbra could set foot within five hundred miles of it without getting a case of the vapors.

  30. Rick Barton –

    There are a few responses floating around in my head. But I just cannot bring myself to defend the notion that anarchical Somali warlordism is not something we should aspire to. I might as well go to the Flat Earth Society website and try to convince some random psyco lunatic over there that the Earth is indeed round. Dude, you need to swallow hard and join the real world some day. I mean, this is all amusing and in good fun, but if you get all your news from Liberty magazine and fringe web sites, you’re going to grow up seriously misinformed about the world. My friend, I have travelled extensively in places lacking in central government. They are, indeed, full and unambiguous shitholes of the first order. I would not send my worst enemy to live there. They are no better than and no worse than totalitarian nightmares like North Korea or, until the day before yesterday, Iraq.

    Kevin Carson –

    Same goes for you. I love you libertarians, really. We need you guys to keep the Ted Kennedies and Tom DeLays of the world from nationalizing our drug companies and bedrooms. God bless you. But it’s crap like this that keeps you eternally on the margins of the debate. You two guys are obviously smart. Why do you spend your time daydreaming about these silly utopias like Somalia and 1780s Blatherboro, Vermont? There is no utopia, fellas. Ok? There’s a reason Somalias and 18th century Blatherboros are such rare commodities these days. It’s because they fucking suck. Ok? Nobody likes them. Nobody wants to live there. That’s why nobody does. Get it? Please, for the love of God, leave utopia-building to the commies and fascists.

    Real people, living in real countries that actually exist today, are threatened by statism. But the answer to public sector encroachment is not pointy-eared debates about why FUCKING SOMALIA would be a great place to live. Jesus. Pardon my tempter, but christ almighty.

  31. Lefty,

    Rumsfeld is too thin skinned, and the press is over eagre to find fault. Makes for a bad combination. I bet Rumsfeld would have started slashing throats if he got the sort of negative press that Eisenhower got before the US broke out of Normandy.

  32. Stretch:

    I’m glad you concede me a role, no matter how small, in restraining Kennedy and DeLay. But if you read my post carefully, you’ll notice that it was YOUR side that was using Somalia as a case-study in anarchism, and it was ME that was strenously DENYING the relevance of Somalia.

    And the example of Vermont (but I could point to Switzerland a couple of centuries ago, to Iceland, or to a large number of examples from Kropotkin’s *Mutual Aid*, if you like) was intended precisely to show that there have been real, concrete historical examples of societies that HAVE approached (although not reached) anarchy. Throughout history, societies (real people, living in real countries that actually existed) have approached ideal liberty more or less closely–those who have approached it most closely are worthy case studies for those of us looking for ways to make THIS one better.

    This discussion would be a lot more productive if you would respond to what I actually said instead of studiously misreading my statements. You only have to write your own side of the exchange. πŸ™‚

  33. Stretch,
    You really should quit calling names and read the article. The author is Michael von Notten a Dutch
    lawyer who married into the Samaron tribe of north-west Somalia and lived with them for ten years.

    “…places lacking in central government. They are, indeed, full and unambiguous shitholes of the first order. I would not send my worst enemy to live there. They are no better than and no worse than totalitarian nightmares like North Korea or, until the day before yesterday, Iraq.”

    The free market in Somalia has resulted in a well
    fed people on a continent that is not always so.
    North Korea is starving! The people of Somalia enjoy the rule of law administered by the clan judges now that the central government is gone and it is a law that respects property and liberty. North Korea on the other hand …I don’t have to tell you. Well see about Iraq. If our government is not too heavy handed and does not appoint the crook Chalabi, maybe Iraq will be Ok. And they could learn from the Somali experience. The market in Somalia has provided all kinds of services including protective services and parents and teachers have started schools, even a university. As for your “war lords” comment, thats just the point, there aren’t any. They aren’t fighting. More importantly, they are doing well with out representitive government. Somalia has been defying the suppostion that where anarchy exists chaos is sure to follow. I can’t convey the whole story here or even a good portion of it but its very important. Please read the article. (April,
    Liberty Magazine)

  34. there is a qualitative difference between regime change from the inside, and regime change from the outside. There are sticky issues of self-determination and the like that seem to be less troublesome in the former as opposed to the latter…

    Arguments like this ignore that sovereignty seized at gunpoint for life, deriving as it does from force and coercion rather than the free choice of the governed, is illegitimate to begin with. Why did no one decry the unseating of Amin by Tanzania or Bokassa (by the French no less)?

  35. How about putting, “Analogies are for the weak-minded and unoriginal,” right below it.

  36. Joe:

    He would have been better off using his brain BEFORE he acquired the stuff in the first place. Which I think is the anarchist’s point.

  37. Or at least he should’ve used his brain before he put the stuff in the attic.

  38. I misspoke (sic?). Thinking first is the libertarian argument. The anarchist argument is that after thinking, the answer is always the same in the long-run.

  39. Regarding loose confederations of farmers (in Somalia or elsewhere). I just got back from Central America. I was touring an interior mangrove swamp. Suddenly we round a bend, and there’s a large complex of 1200 Mennonites who speak 17th century German (as well as Spanish). Turns out they’ve had some weird arrangement with the gov’t of Belize whereby the lease several thousand acres and don’t pay taxes, but pretty well keep to themselves, speaking 17th century German to themselves and each other.

    All the money in the world would not tempt me to move there with them, incidentally, but it’s nice they can live that way if they like.

    I was thinking maybe some of you guys could try that in Somalia.

  40. Democracy in Iraq no. Corporate imperialism yes! Shrub will never let democracy in, as he his crushed it here.

    Iraqis can be pretty sure that — under Anglo-American domination — they won’t have free health care and free higher education — things they had before the 1991 war and subsequent embargo.

    No doubt this “war” had made them worese off (which is why you see all the media fakery around the supposed “libertation.”) Too bad our corporate dominated military goons replaced one “dictator” with an unelected replacement.

  41. From:

    Dance of the petulant wallflowers

    They were dancing in the streets of Baghdad today. It was the libertarian moment, the defining event, the sine qua non of freedom. Blathering jackass libertarian theorists will insist that there is no such thing as a ‘consent of the governed,’ but anyone who watched television this morning knows this is false: The governed of Baghdad withdrew their consent en masse and chaotically choreographed liberty was the consequence.

    And where were the libertarians in this magic moment? Elsewhere, of course. Where else?

    For to be a libertarian, to be a public defender of human freedom, seems to carry with it the obligation to be as irrelevant to actual liberty as, say, feminism is to the interests of women.

    Where were the libertarians on Iraq? With but a few exceptions–most of those equivocating exceptions–the libertarians were firmly on the side of slavery, tyranny, deception, torture and terrorism. Where else?

    With all the relevance of Martha Burk at the Augusta National Golf Club, they worried that Attorney General John Ashcroft might be sniffing at their ratty underwear. But they were too busy mingling with actual, undisguised Communists to protest the torture and murder of Iraqi dissidents, the rape of their women, the imprisonment of their children. That would require a commitment to principles, not rhetoric.

    A nation of millions was beset by the ugliest tyranny the world has seen since the fall of Moscow, perhaps since the fall of Berlin. And where were the pretend friends of liberty? Standing in opposition to the overthrow of that tyranny. Standing passively, inactively–libertarians rarely do anything that requires exertion or courage–but in opposition.

    Standing around like the perpetual wallflowers they are. Libertarianism is a political doctrine born in fiction, and many of its adherents seem never to be able to escape the world of fantasy. To argue hard, measurable, inarguable facts with them, when the facts contradict their dogma, is futile. They persist in imagining themselves as active, violent people, when they are in fact overwhelmingly slothful and timid. They indulge themselves with the thrill that the Federal Government seeks to persecute them, when in reality the Feds can’t even trouble themselves to laugh at their ridiculous posturing. The very last thing Hillary Clinton fears is a mass rebellion of the corpulent, near-sighted, perpetually petulant quibblers who call themselves libertarians. Wherever the action is, you may be assured the libertarians will be elsewhere. Where else?

    I am for human freedom, and because I am, I am disgusted to call myself a libertarian today. Government is a fiction. It persists only because people choose to pretend to believe it, even though they know it is a fiction. This is the actual ‘consent of the governed.’ Governments fall in the libertarian moment, when the people decide to stop pretending to believe the fiction of the state. It happened in Baghdad today. Someday it will happen in America.

    And where will the libertarians be, when it does?

    Elsewhere, of course. Where else?

  42. On the subject of anarchy, here is a paper written by David Friedman on saga period Iceland, a society which approached anarcho-capitalism.

  43. You had me right up until the end. I started visiting this site more because, I thought, April 9 is a day libertarians, above everybody else, ought to really appreciate. Instead they’re debating the merits of Somali warlordism and bitching about George Bush.

    Government is NOT a fiction. It is an organization. ANY organization will disappear if its constituents stop considering themselves a part of it. Government is one of many things that keep us from living like pigs in filth and hacking each other apart with machetes, which are the two nearly universal characteristics of places that lack government. It is indispensible. It is also a danger in excess. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE ON EARTH.

    States exist. Y’all better start getting used to it because they ain’t goin no damn wheres.

  44. Rick,

    A couple centuries ago in Switzerland (hell less than a century ago) people were so destitute during winter they had to eat their dogs. Dogs weren’t the loveable family pet back then either. They were a vital tool for the security of their home. The decision to eat the dog was out of desparation did not necessarily guarrantee survival through the winter.

    Now that the intrusive Swiss government built things like roads, railroads and cable cars, they have a much better chance of survivng the winter. You really must be kidding yourself if you believe your Pollyanna waxing of a “loose confederation of farmers”. Come to think of it, Marx also had that same vision of the future,


    A Swiss resident

  45. Stretch – I’ve come to believe that this site’s primary purpose is to enlighten thoughtful “libertarians” to the true nature of the Losertarian party and it’s many mentally deficient adherents.

    Before I started reading this blog I was a heavy supporter of libertarian causes, thinktanks, and politicians. I can assure you that these lunatics will never get another dime from me – it’s like they don’t even live in our universe.

  46. reason online, ironic nyet? oh wait, no so fast!

    what’s that say? hit & run baby, courtesy of the sucksters πŸ˜€


    “The Icelandic Free State, which came into existence following settlement of Iceland in the tenth century and lasted until the mid-thirteenth, was one of the more intriguing political milieu. With no external threats (and no indigenous population to complicate things) Iceland’s settlers created a society of scattered farmers with little social hierarchy and no executive government, with order maintained by a complex interaction between feud, law, and personal relationships.”

    “One of its notable features is that it had a sophisticated legal system but no executive government, which makes it a magnet for political theorists – if you search the web for information on medieval Iceland, you’ll find a running fight between the libertarians and anarchists over who can best claim it as an exemplum.”

  48. Back to the topic-

    If the Bush Administration didn’t want it’s motives questioned, it shouldn’t have offered documents it knew to be forged as evidence (among other examples of dishonesty). To pre-empt the ineveitable- I don’t care what lies France/Russia/China/Iraq/Syria/North Korea/Etc.. tell- I don’t live there, and can’t hold them accountable. I just demand the truth

    P.S. I find the delusion of Pax Americana a much more likely reason than oil…

  49. Kevin Carson –

    Sorry I mixed you guys up. But you’re both talking about utopias that do not exist. That was my only point.

    My question for you:

    *What if I don’t LIKE farming?*

  50. isn’t that a line from metropolitan?

  51. Brian,
    I wasn’t the one writing about the Swiss or Icelandic examples but I find it less than credible that Swiss affluence is owing to some government built infrastructure. But, Swiss history is something we can check out. Also, I think that we can all agree that, between the extreams we have talking about, when government backs off, prosperity increases. A recent example
    is Ireland.

  52. Its still not too late to let the UN fix the matter.

  53. I think, Rick B, that it would depend on what the government backed off from doing, and how they backed off from doing it. Firing the DPW, giving the money back in tax cuts, and letting the road system go to hell wouldn’t increase prosperity.

    Calling for anarchy – let’s abolish the state! – is like saying, “We need to throw out all that junk in the attic!” Then you start going through the stuff, and you remember why you kept it.

  54. Back on topic…

    It will be interesting to see if Iraq’s oil industry remains nationalized or becomes privatized.

    My hunch is it remains nationalized, in part because OPEC is a nice little cartel to be a part of. And the extra bucks will help out with the nationalization of rebuilding.

    I don’t have any facts to back up that hunch, but freeedom is compromised if the private citizens are restricted from going into certain (victimless) businesses. I’m cynical enough to believe that even if the oil industry is privatized, the distribution of wells to private ownership will be somewhat corrupt. But at least that would probably be a one-time-only corruption (famous last words, I know). There’s no guarantee that a privatized oil industry in Iraq would have an adverse effect on OPEC, and certainly the cartel could be reorganized, but the competition would probably be a good thing for the world’s consumers.

    All that said, I’d like to know who exactly will be making the decisions on nationalization vs. privatization. If it’s not the Iraqi population and only the Iraqi population, then it ain’t really democracy. The important point to remember is that democracy is a by-product of freedom, not the other way round.

  55. I think that’s a great question (and, yes, more on-topic!)

    Ideally, of course, the state should never be in the business of…well, business. But the most critical thing now, above all else in my opinion, is to prevent that immense resource from becoming a tool that an unrepresentative minority uses to continue oppressing Iraqis. In other words, another Saddam fueled by oil exports. In a society like present-day Iraq’s, the difference between public and private is probably not very clear, legally speaking. Obviously our invasion was not democratic, even though (in my opinion) it was justified and necessary for the creation of democracy there. But stuff’s going to happen there before democracy is in place, and that stuff will by definition not be democratic. Life’s messy that way.

  56. Have you guys noticed anything in common between Switzerland and Northern New England and all these other quasi-anarchic paradises mentioned today?

    No serious external threats.

  57. Joe:

    Interesting you mention junk in an attic. I just helped a friend move, he had SIX televisions! He lived alone (he has his kids on weekends). I could see having two TV’s, might want a spare and the extra may keep the kids from fighting, but SIX is a bit excessive. But he could tell me the reason why he bought each one. Most of those reasons may have been valid at the time, but few if any of them are valid for him today. They were invalid the day he put them in the attic, but you know, just maybe the reason will be valid again someday.

    I tried to tell him to just throw all his junk away or give it away (he had a few nice pots and pans I was willign to take), but he didn’t. Now he’s spending an extra part of his paycheck every month for a public storage facility. He’ll probably die before he realizes that he’s had the stuff in storage for so long and a valid reason never reappeared. And then his kids will just go in and either throw it all away, or take just a thing or two that they want to keep.

    I don’t know why people cling to their stuff so much, and honestly I’m not much better. But once in a while it is nice to just go through the purging exercise to find out just what I really need and really want. It’s kind of refreshing and releases a bit of a burden.

    So I guess I see your attic metaphor as a reason for anarchy (or at least a radical purging of government functions) rather than a reason against it.

  58. Yes, Russ, I agree. Why, if he lived in tranquil Somalia, all that material excess would have been quickly looted, burned to the ground, or hacked up with machetes. So much better that way, to not have the choice of living your life as you please but instead be forced to do with only 2 TVs instead of the 6 you’d prefer to have.

    Hey guys. You know how, on December 24th of every year, at dusk, when you look up in the sky, you never see any fat guys or reindeer flying by?

    That goes for anarchy. You know how, when you look at a map, you hardly ever see any anarcho-utopian states? You know how you never see Canadians and Swiss boarding rickety boats to flee to the peaceful prosperity of Somalia and Haiti?

    That’s the same phenomenon. FYI. Just so ya know.

  59. Anarchy and purging functions are two different things. I’m all for getting rid of stuff you don’t need, but that involves considering each item, it use, and its relevance. It assumes that some things are worth keeping and others not, but that it is worth having an attic to keep them. Anarchy is about setting fire to everything above your second floor. Libertarianism is about keeping the attic, but throwing everything in it out the window. They both just assume that the stuff is all crap, because the crappiness of anything sitting in an attic is their theological lodestone.

    If your friend has too much stuff, he needs to make some choices. He could just get sick of the rental bill one day and trash everything, but it would probably be better if he actually used his brain.

  60. “Libertarianism is about keeping the attic, but throwing everything in it out the window.”

    I’m hanging that one on the wall!

  61. Sponge,

    According to the G-7 finance sinisters, there will be a new UN resolution that will grant greater authority to the UN in Iraq than the US & the UK had previously said would be the case. Or so said the commentator on LCI.

  62. This conversation is fairly illustrative of the divisions between libertarians – those in the party, those who are simply purists, and those who are pragmatists. Of these models, I think the pragmatic strain has the greatest efficacy. It also tends to be model follow by Milton Friedman, which is enough endorsement in itself.

  63. Hm. I’m powerful leery of the U.N. I think they need to be marginalized in Iraq if we’re to win the fabled hearts and minds in full.

  64. yeah, friedman is pro-drug decriminalization and, ironically, pro-“living wage!” [see the discussion on the negative income tax (NIT πŸ™‚ in chapter 12 “the alleviation of poverty” of capitalism and freedom :] that’s practical!

  65. geophile,

    The UN can’t do anything that the five permanent members of the security council won’t let it do. The idea that the UN is some all-powerful body able to do what it pleases was pretty much blown apart by GWIII. The UN is no stronger than the resolve of the nation-states that comprise it.

  66. Most of the references here to Somalia have come from “Stretch” and his fellow hawks. Now Stretch complains that people here are debating Somalia! Look in the mirror, bub…

  67. Stretch,
    Please stop before you embarass yourself any further on Somalia. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. There have been numerous articles on the economic growth that has taken place in the years since the US mission there. If you don’t want to look at Liberty magazine, look at the Atlantic monthly article:

    I know it’s probably out of the realm of your thinking that a lack of a strong central govt means “chaos”, but at least get your facts straight before you yap away.

  68. I was the one who introduced Somalia into the thread via a citation of a piece in the April issue of Liberty Magazine. Its a remarkable [thus
    I remarked about it πŸ™‚ ] account of how the people of this African nation are more peaceful and prosperous after the abolition of its central government ten years ago. The situation of things improving as government is reduced is well known and has been oft observed throughout history however the Somalia case is extra interesting because of the total abolition of its central government as well as the hetergeneous composition of the population implying lessons for the Pentagon with regard to Iraq.(This of course assumes the Pentagon can learn lessons.)
    Would it not be a good idea to actually read the article before deciding to mock?

  69. A couple of questions, asked not rhetorically, but out of honest curiosity.

    Perhaps Somalia is doing better than before, but was it possible to get much worse than it was before? China is doing better than it has in the past, for example, but it’s still dirt poor compared to most western (i.e. free) nations.

    One other question: Does Somalia have any consensus-building apparatus in place, codified or informal? Does it have diplomatic representation and the like, in order to engage itself internationally? It seems like it would need such things in order to become the capitalist utopia some here are envisioning. One of the important jobs of a federal government is to promote international trade. How does Somalia expect to achieve this (if they want to achieve it) without such institutions?

  70. Interesting Questions Geophile,

    “Perhaps Somalia is doing better than before, but was it possible to get much worse than it was before? ”

    Yes; It could get much worse. Ethiopia, right next door, has had near famine. In Somalia There are no more bloody disputes as there were before.

    “One other question: Does Somalia have any consensus-building apparatus in place, codified or informal?”

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “consensus-building apparatus” but it has a legal system based on the custom of the clans
    which has a high regard for property and personal liberty and is administered in a much more libertarian manner than anything, even in the west. I.E. No prison but insead, victim compensation. No crimes against society. Courts paid for by litigants not taxes. Fines paid to victims or family not to court or clan. Etc.

    ” Does it have diplomatic representation and the like, in order to engage itself internationally? It seems like it would need such things in order to become the capitalist utopia some here are envisioning. One of the important jobs of a federal government is to promote international trade. How does Somalia expect to achieve this (if they want to achieve it) without such institutions?”

    Since the passing of the central government a livley export-import trade has developed and now has an estimated value of U.S. $15 million/year
    Exports in 1998 were estimated to be five times greater than under the central government. Trade promotion done by government is unfair to those forced to subsidize the buisness costs of others and is done on behalf of politicaly favored concerns.

  71. I’m not debating Somalia, I’m mocking it. There’s a big difference.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.