Friday, October 24, 2014

A Viral New World Disorder

. @hjbentham. #antistatism. #IS. #IslamicState. #kalifaat. #flagless. #blackflag.


The world IS falling apart!

As we continue the collective journey into the unexplored territory of the Twenty-First Century, nation-state after nation-state is crumbling under the contagion of popular dissatisfaction at their arbitrary and unjust claims to power. Unable to contain the crisis, every nation-state now seems to live under the specter of imminent possible crisis and collapse. No-one is immune.

For the well-informed student of International Relations, everything is proceeding exactly as predicted.

On 29 August, US President Obama told us to resist the notion that the “world is falling apart”. Of course, what he really meant by the “world” in that phrase is the US-led international community that had seemingly prevailed since 1990. Beyond this, however, the Westphalian nation-state is finding itself seriously challenged by the rise of unprecedented new actors like, in the Middle East, the Islamic State.

The phrase “new world disorder” has been used, perhaps most notably by pundit Peter Foster in The Telegraph on 18 July and by Victor Davis Hanson in National Review on 2 September. In both articles, the conflicts in Ukraine and in Syria-Iraq are oddly depicted as challenges that the US state is facing, rather than problems facing each state where the violence is taking place. Such a one-sided narrative overlooks the true contagions threatening states today.

For a student of International Relations, there should be nothing surprising about the new wave of crumbling modern states, from Somalia to Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Mexico, and beyond. Since the 1990s, many theorists of International Relations have been making predictions about the kind of crisis that should dominate security thinking after the Cold War. Despite their different schools of thought, most seemed to agree that traditional nation-states will at least begin to lose their social cohesion as a result of forces like migration, ecological damage, and the expansion of middle classes.

For example, in Immanuel Wallerstein’s Utopistics (1998) as well as other theoretical works authored by the same author, there are predictions of a period of 50 years that can be called “hell on earth” or “chaos”. We can surmise that we are in such a period now, and hence the perception that the “world is falling apart” is not far from the truth. While it is grave news for many, it is also inevitable, if the models of global crisis authored in the 1990s are accurate.

Pseudostates, states recognized by few if any other states, seem to be proliferating rapidly. The Islamic State is an exceptional example of a pseudostate in the modern world, in that it is recognized by no-one but itself. It did not come into existence without the support of certain states, with Qatar and Saudi Arabia usually being named as the suspects, but the result is still something fundamentally alternative to the traditional nation-state, and will have profound consequences for the future. The rebels fighting to establish the pro-Russian pseudostate of Novorossiya also do not care if no-one recognizes their state: they only care that they control the ground upon which it rests – preferably including every port north of the Black Sea.

Intrastate conflicts and power vacuums are proliferating, helped along unwittingly by the states most threatened by them, as a way of sabotaging one another while avoiding the consequences of openly attacking each other. Iran supports non-state actors against Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia supports non-state actors against Iran. The US supports Kurdish non-state actors against another non-state actor, the Islamic State, but risks arming enemies of its own ally Turkey in the process.

The result of these mutually corrosive policies is that the foundation many states rely on for their own legitimacy and mutual recognition is crumbling, as a result of their own actions. International law has descended into comedy, ineffective because it relied on the support of the disintegrating “international community” to work, while far too many states try to escape accusations of aggression by arming non-state actors against each other. In every instance, such policies backfire.

As grave as it is, it is possible that the Islamic State is now a political fait accompli, here to stay, regardless of the US campaign to destroy it. If so, its solidification and endurance in the face of international pressure will in turn weaken the foundations of what had been called the “international community”. Coupled with Novorossiya’s defiant entrenchment along the Black Sea, events taking place now might later be seen as the beginning of the end of the “international community”. With the community of “nations” incapable of agreeing on much, future political entities might no longer bother to solicit recognition from one another, thereby relying solely on physical force for legitimacy.

As violent and bloodthirsty as the Islamic State is, we might be looking at a forerunner of the kind of post-nation-state entities that will engulf the entire world in coming decades. Throwing acid on the states system by supporting non-state actors anywhere, whether this action is carried out by the US, Saudi Arabia or the Russian Federation, threatens the legitimacy and claims of all states everywhere.

At the same time, another unabated pressure continues to weaken the state. We still have not seen the end of the standoff between the state and the internet, most climactically told through the tug of war between the United States government and WikiLeaks. It does not take much thought to realize that while the Islamic State represents repressive and coercive statelessness, WikiLeaks represents literate and public-serving statelessness. Despite their different values, both are transnational in nature, basing their causes on transnational solidarity and the rejection of traditional arguments for national security.

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Julian Assange has argued in works like Cypherpunks (2012) and When Google Met WikiLeaks (2014) that in the age of the internet, information has been able to outmaneuver the brute force of the state for the first time in history. State attempts to suppress information in the public interest have become increasingly futile due to this revolution, and the result is inimical to state legitimacy. It is not hard to see that the most fundamental change has come about due to technology. Technology, as Assange has argued, is “not neutral” but can be used to bring about forms of liberty and transparency that had formerly been thought impossible.

The transition to a post-state order can be understood in terms of losses of control of information by governments and the disintegration of mutual respect of sovereignty among actors in the international system. The end result of such processes, in the long-run, would appear to be a form of transnational anarchy. In this anarchy, effective mechanisms of global governance will be weakened, borders will be universally ignored, and each individual regime will need approval from no-one but itself to justify its authority.

Where the crisis of our archaic nation-state system will lead is impossible to predict, but one way of understanding it is in terms of an eventual global dilemma between peaceful statelessness and endless warfare. Coincidentally, the Islamic State’s black banner resembles another banner: the anarchist flag compelling us to conceive of a peaceful and cooperative post-state order, based on values of voluntary and open governance rather than repressive authority.

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There is no “CR” in “ISIS”

. @CoryMassimino. #ISIS. #USA. #militarism. #war. #terrorism.


Federal officials are warning “U.S. law enforcement about the threat of Islamic State-inspired terror attacks against police officers, government workers and ‘media figures’ in the U.S.” Unfortunately many Americans will buy into the state propaganda, spurring even more authoritarian increases in police and military power.

But what reasons are there to think that Islamic terrorists are a significant threat to Americans? Simply put, there are none. But when has that ever stopped the government?

Lack of real evidence for danger hasn’t stopped government officials before and I suspect they will be damned if it gets in their way now. After all, the United States government has a long history of using scant (sometimes even completely non-existent) evidence to fuel increases in its power.

NBC reports that an ISIS recorded message urges, “lone wolf terrorists in Western countries to carry out attacks on, ‘soldiers, patrons, and troops … their police, security and intelligence members.’” In a separate incident, an Army Intelligence Bulletin warns that ISIS militants “called on supporters to scour social media for addresses of their family members.”

Even if these claims are true, this is hardly justification for any kind of panic or worry, let alone state action. After all, you are nine times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist. While terrorists killed 17 American citizens worldwide in 2011, police officers killed at least 155 that same year!

This is not to diminish the tragic death of those 17 human beings, but merely to put things into perspective and show what’s wrong with where our priorities actually lie. If you’re nine times more likely to be killed by a police officer, the so called “public servant” tasked with protecting you, than you are to be killed by a terrorist — you know, that group of people that the United States government has declared war on and spent $6 trillion dollars to fight — then who are the real terrorists? I doubt we’re going to see a “war on cops” anytime soon, despite the depressing statistics.

Economist FA Hayek warned that, “Emergencies have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.” While it was said decades ago, there is no time that exemplifies the truth of Hayek’s insight better than the last 15 years. The war on terror and increased police militarization have destroyed not only security (they make us less safe, not more) and privacy, but also lives — American or otherwise.

If there was one quote that I could magically have every American understand the meaning of, it would be Hayek’s. The imperial presidency, the security state, the surveillance state and the police state are all built upon rampant fearmongering and so-called “emergencies.” But if more people grasped Hayek’s maxim, Leviathan wouldn’t have the power to spy, imprison, torture, bomb and murder like it does right now.

The recent worry over ISIS attacks on American citizens is merely the latest in a long history of propaganda peddling in order to create fear over non-existent threats, implicitly hiding the real ones, and ratchet up state power. It’s pure BS. The government knows it. We just need the American people to realize it.




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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Make Your Own Headlines [FREE, 22-23Oct]

. @hjbentham. #free. #kindle. #blogging. #howto. #MAKEHEADLINES.


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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Corporate Capitalism Doesn’t Belong to Us

. @dsdamato. #anarchism. #libertarianism. #antistatism. #capitalism. #statism.


In a new article for Rolling Stone, “Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire,” Tim Dickinson attempts to present the frequently demonized brothers Koch as essentially hardline libertarians, whose radical free market ideology is thoroughly mixed into their business philosophy and practices. We’ve all seen this article before. Liberal media outlets have made a whole industry of attempting to discredit libertarianism as the exploitative ethic of rich, white people, and have presented the Kochs as the representatives of this ethic.

Mr. Dickinson regrettably takes it as a given that libertarianism is merely a thin ideological vindication of big business, with all its abuses and ruination of the natural environment. Such a flagrant misunderstanding is rather embarrassing considering both the breadth of libertarianism’s ideas and its history, and the fact that Dickinson took the time to write a lengthy article that is in part a denunciation of libertarianism. We might’ve expected a more careful and knowledgeable treatment of the subject if this kind of hit piece weren’t so commonplace among mainstream liberal outfits.

Had Dickinson committed himself to digging just a bit deeper into libertarianism and, for example, its opposition to economic regulations, he likely would have noticed a trend among actual libertarians as opposed to the straw men and caricatures set up by boring, monotonous smears. In and of itself libertarianism — including its individualistic and free market varieties — holds no brief for rich elites and has always incorporated forceful critiques of big business and entrenched economic ruling classes. Only the desperately and chronically unimaginative and uninformed could seriously mistake existing capitalism in any of its historical stages for a free market. Early nineteenth century radical liberals such as Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer established a thoroughgoing theory of class and class conflict, a philosophy they called Industrialisme which challenged the State’s system of intervention on behalf of elites. Comte and Dunoyer understood that genuine freedom of competition and exchange, without government involvement, would actually effect a great change in favor of productive, working people. In their day, there was none of Dickinson’s delusion that the government apparatus is some kind of populist charitable institution; they knew their history and it all demonstrated, as it still does, that government force and aggression are almost always used to line the pockets of the politically connected. Comte wrote of the “subordination that subjected the laboring men to the idle and devouring men, and which gave to the latter the means of existing without producing anything, or of living nobly.” None of this subordination had anything to do with mutually beneficial exchange, which these radical liberals regarded as the proper basis for a free and fair society.

All of this is to say nothing of later free market libertarians such as Benjamin Tucker who went so far as to identify their completely unregulated, stateless free market with socialism. These radicals saw that the State’s regulations, laws, licenses, and permits in fact acted to consolidate power in the hands of great, monopolistic trusts. The dominance and market power of these large entities, combined with the government’s theft of the land and preclusion of self-sufficiency, allowed the “captains of industry” to acquire wage labor at an extortionate reduced price. It will no doubt come as a surprise to Dickinson that a committed socialist and class warrior like Benjamin Tucker would agree wholeheartedly with Charles Koch’s claim that supporters of regulation are being “hoodwinked.” But Dickinson might not be so surprised should he decide to consider the historical relationship between the interests and prerogatives of capital and those of the State more closely. Like Comte and Dunoyer, Tucker would have treated as laughably absurd the notion that our political overlords would want to hobble the rich. Attacking the “band of licensed robbers called capitalists,” Benjamin Tucker nevertheless advocated consistent free market competition of just the kind that so worries Dickinson.

Still, we might forgive Dickinson for being confused. After all, there is all the difference in the world between the kind of free market defended by Comte, Dunoyer, and Tucker, and the corporate capitalism that has made Koch Industries a multibillion dollar company. The great capitalists of today are themselves rather confused when it comes to the economic ideas to which they subscribe. When it suits them, they conflate today’s system of multinational corporatism, the deeply statist successor of feudalism and mercantilism, with the real free market system outlined by radical libertarians, but never yet observed in reality. Tucker and others thus frequently called attention to “the bourgeoisie’s appeal to liberty and its infidelity thereto.” Insofar as we give credence to the ridiculous myth that these two irreconcilable systems are one and the same, we can agree to some extent with Dickinson’s philosophically muddled piece. Dickinson begins to hit rather closer to the mark near the close of his article, where he writes that “in the real world, Koch Industries has used its political might to beat back … market-based mechanisms.” “In fact,” Dickinson observes, “it appears the very essence of the Koch business model is to exploit breakdowns in the free market.” So which is it? Are the Koch brothers attempting to skirt the requirements of a free market in order to get away with environmental and economic murder? Or are they creatures of the free market, their billions its proximate result?

To speak to the beliefs which men hold within their hearts is neither practicable nor especially useful in considering questions of political economy. Armchair psychology aside, however, it is a great deal easier to judge global corporate capitalism against the standards clearly delineated again and again by real life libertarians such as we have considered here. Those standards as our rubric, it is clear beyond dispute that in fact global corporate capitalism is a system instituted by the total state, riddled with anticompetitive privileges and profoundly hostile to poor and working people and to the environment. A free market means, among other things, carrying your own costs and thus paying for the destruction you bring to the natural world. Where that kind of free market is in effect, no additional or ancillary regulations are necessary. Where such a system is not actually in effect, no additional or ancillary regulations will be sufficient, and will more likely act as cost barriers to foreclose just the kind of competition we need to rein back the economically powerful. Mainstream liberals ought to reconsider libertarianism in the light of its left-wing roots. They might just be surprised by what they find, walking away disillusioned with politics and the State as the routes to fairness, justice and equality.




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