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Monday, January 24, 2005


Meddling in Latin American politics

Now, many take the practice of influencing democracy in the Western Hemisphere to be the historical prerogative of the United States. Indeed, so wide is their mandate over the political shape of their extended fiefdom of the Americas in toto that action has not been limited to influencing democracy, but subverting or quashing the very political system that the United States holds to be morally superior. However, President Bush and the more public relations attuned announcements of the neo-conservative movement would have us believe that the spread of democracy was the God-given mission of the United States. Destiny, even.

It seems, therefore, that when the many times elected leader of a democratic country offers funding to democratic political organisations abroad we should regard such actions as admirable. However, if this is a many times elected leader of a democratic country who has had to fight off a United States supported coup and United States funded upper- and business-class organised turmoil, then the correct attitude from the Divine Home of Freedom, the Shining City on the Hill, is condemnation. Not because of concerns over democracy, as the Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution is radically democratic and participatory. No, rather because of concerns about freedom, considered almost entirely in terms of freedom of economic action. So long as that economic action is not redistributive or an extension of industrial democracy.

James Hill, the former head of the US army’s southern command, which oversees military operations in Latin America*, is reported as saying that “it is quite proven that he gave money to Evo Morales... and continues to do so.” This, apparently, is cause for serious concern in the current US administration, with Condoleeza Rice describing Chávez’s foreign policy as ‘troubling’. While both Morales and Chávez deny the link in terms of funding, acknowledging only ideological inspiration, I fail to see how even if the funding does exist this is any different from US support for Mikhail Saakashvili in Georgia or Viktor Yuschenko in Ukraine. Indeed, given the relatively paltry financial and organisational support that Chávez could possibly provide, when compared to that the US could deploy, it can be argued that Chávez’s ‘meddling’ in the democracy of another nation is less damaging to democracy than the standard American intervention.

Nevertheless, condemned he is. And why? Well, it could be that, as he is brown-skinned and a non-English speaker, he cannot be trusted. It could be a new doctrine in American foreign policy; we support work towards democracy in all nations, but if you are a dago you cannot be trusted with the task. But no, it is not that. It is simply economics. Chávez practices redistributive economics, with the aim of allowing all Venezuelans to share in the nations wealth. No doubt Morales would too. This, while strengthening the hold of democracy, is incompatible with American aims for economic and cultural dominance. So we are back to Kissenger, who said, in his support of the murderous Pinochet: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

*Consider for a moment, that the Brazilian military had an analogous ‘northern command’, which defined its theatre of operations as North America, and whose general commented on American politics. Add in a history of Brazilian funding for American paramilitaries, and… oh, you get the picture. Americans would regard it as the most terrible thing ever, but their lack of reflexivity prevents even a modicum of self-examination, analysis and criticism.

how many votes legitimise theft? i'd like to know. can i get a large enough group of people together and "vote" to rob my neighbor? or is there some greater principle involved? what you are witnessing in Chavez is the wholesale theft of goods not owned by him, neither in the legal sense nor in the moral sense. the freedom to own property is one of the most basic rights we posess. let me lay it out for you in simple terms. i have a limited number of total hours on this planet. if i dedicate a certain amount of that time to a particular project, i can account for it in terms of a percentage of my life. if i am renumerated in some form for this labor, whether intellectual or physical, that renumeration now represents that part of my life. you may quibble with the particulars of that renumeration scheme, and i thank you for your support. i think i am worth more as well. if you then take that money, the food i bought with that money, my truck, my bicycle, or this computer, you have, in addition to depriving me of an asset, have stolen that amount of time from my life. you have murdered me, just a little. lying to me has the effect of making me take actions that i would not have taken had i known the truth. gaining items of value through deception is called Fraus, or Theft By Deception, depending on the jurisdiction. this is why my friend Bally (he's from Trinidad) quotes his mother, "a liar is a thief, and a thief is a murderer." the fact that Hugo held an election to "legitimise his piracy on an industrial scale cuts no ice here. clearly you miss the critical difference between "Rule of Man" vs. "Rule of Law." this is fairly typical of the outer edges of both the Right and Left. suffice it to say that the Rule of Law acknowledges higher principles than simply what you can get 51% to vote for. there are limits to governmental power, and wholesale theft is beyond those limits

as for our Southern Command, we also have a European Command. fat lot of good it does keeping you Euros in line :)

and in the USA, Dago means Italian. if we wanted to be rude, we would use the word "Spic," which i think comes as a shortening of "Hispanic." checking with my Argentine roomate, neither of us can think of any other derogatory names. officially those from South of the Border would be "Hispanic," of "Latino," though there seems to be some disagreement as to what each term actually means. they are different, but again, neither i nor my roomate know for sure. we will leave it up to the professional whingers to argue over the difference.
Based on your definition below, it's clear that - in the eyes of nearly all observers everywhere - voting does indeed legitimise theft.

If you can make a coherent distinction between the powers of taxation and compulsory purchase orders levied by the US and UK governments (which I assume you believe to be broadly legitimate), and the redistributive measures levied by Chavez, your point might be something other than meaningless libertoonian twaddle.

As it is, you have no argument for why Chavez is any less legitimate on your terms than Bush.
Just doing the rounds to say that the new site (based loosely on observations concerning the unique dilemma that is being British) is officially open for business. Theginpalace is dead, long live ohisay. Or something. Cheers, see you soon. :]
I am afraid that Bally is no philosopher. If 'a liar is a thief, and a thief is a murderer', on the basis that they have stolen your time and your life, then if I am late for a meeting, I have murdered all those people, 'just a little', as you say. When a train is delayed, hundreds of people have been murdered, just a little. This is patent nonsense, unless we take a view of human life that only applies value to a person when he is producing economic wealth, and that this economic wealth is the sum total of a person's value.

When I lose some time to delays, or something is taken from me, I am not killed. Time gradually kills me, but I experience all that time and this is called living. The time that I am delayed, or the time I worked producing wealth that is then redistributed to someone else*, is time I have lived, and extracted value from in ways that cannot be measured simply in terms of the wealth that I have accrued. If you cannot see value in existence except in terms of how much wealth you gather to yourself, then I fear you have an empty existence.

So, in your schema tax is murder, yet on earlier posts you celebrated the fact that might makes right. Surely this mitigates against your condemnation of redistribution through tax, practiced by all developed nations, as you have not mustered the force necessary to present it. Too bad, a might-makes-righter would say.

I wouldn't say that. I would say that we erect civil structures to bury the violence that you (and Mao) suggest is the foundation of all political systems, seeking to distance ourselves from this brutal system of social organisation. To civilise ourselves. These structures are funded by tax. And one of these is democracy, which cannot persist, at least in any healthy form, where inequality is great.

*This happens whether we tax or not, as, after all, the reason someone employs us is to extract more economic value from us than they return to us. The reason we are sold a product is that the profit represents the wealth that you redistribute to the seller over and above that taken to produce a product. Watching a market in action, this process tends to redistribute wealth towards to already powerful. Sure, such a process of redistribution is sanctioned in law, but I fail to see how exploiting someone else's labour simply due to your superior mental abilities is different from exploiting someone else's due to your superior physical strength. In fact, the argument can be made that physical exploitation is more fair; a clever (but weak) person exploited by a strong person can gather together physical power, either in terms of training his body or developing tools (or making alliances). He can do this as his cleverness allows him to see his weakness, realise that he is being exploited and put in action a plan to correct this. On the other hand, a strong (but stupid) person exploited by a clever person cannot see his exploitation, and the clever person can delegitimise his resistance against exploitation. This is not to say that I support the use of force to exploit people, as I do not. But I will not fetishise mental abilities to the point of belittling physical endevour, or to the point of legitimising the exploitation of those weaker, in whatever way.
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