31 October 2014

Eradicating the Nation-State

. @hjbentham. #antistatism. #anarchism. #VenusProject. #nostate.

This article originally appeared at Dissident Voice in 2013, but is being reprinted due to its relevance to recent and upcoming events including Remembrance Day.

If we want a world without exclusion and inequality, we must discredit all the structures and institutions that only exist to keep inequality in place. Of these, one of the most devastating is bafflingly legitimized by most people globally, including those people who are worst-off. In fact, one could make the argument that those who are worst-off are the most vocal about the self-determination of “nations”, the idea of constructing a nation-state for one’s exclusive status-group. All nation-states get their basis from fraudulent arguments, and their very existence runs directly contrary to the goal of an egalitarian regime. Therefore, it is arguable that all nation-states deserve to be criticized and finally eradicated by the oppressed, rather than legitimized by them.

Social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein has presented historical insights that show how the nation-state system that defines international relations is basically the superstructure of an exploitative global economic system that must divide people and restrict numerous rights and freedoms to survive. The nations, when we analyze them, can each be found to be based on historical exaggerations. India, for example, was primarily constructed by nationalistic zealots leading history to their desired conclusions. In reality, in a fully informed mind there is no India or should be no India, because any number of possible countries could have existed instead of India. The same can be said of the United Kingdom, although it is more credible to make the argument about newer states with more recent sordid histories such as the current South African regime with its recent experience of apartheid – another system of exclusion, much like the “nation” still accepted as so-called South Africa.

The world is tiered to offer different groups different levels of wealth and power. And the international system, by separating people into nation-state units and confining people to them on the basis of fraudulent historical claims, bears a great portion of the guilt for the vast disparities of wealth and power in the world. The only reason a nation-state can be richer than another is because nation-states are believed to be legitimate democratic units to represent people internationally, but they are not. Were they to all be simply rejected as illegitimate, none of the international inequality producing the sore of the North-South divide would then be justifiable. None of the discrimination against migrants throughout the world would then be justifiable, and neither would any use of armed force by one state against a weaker state.

The nation-state as we know it today is the product of two significant events: the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and the French Revolution of 1789-1799. The former established the idea of sovereignty and the latter established the idea of popular sovereignty and redefined the citizens to be an inclusive category involving every member of the “nation”. Since the French Revolution, most norms in international relations have been developed from that history which established how states are to be recognized as legitimate. The United Nations still defends sovereignty and self-determination, the latter of which is basically an extension of popular sovereignty and a brainchild of Woodrow Wilson. However, as enlightened as the French Revolution was in its time, the Jacobin ideology of nationalism was also unfortunately supportive of jingoistic ideology, and ultimately legitimized the doctrines of fascism and Nazism in the Twentieth Century. This has to do with the faulty premises of the idea of citizenship and the antinomy of citizenship and human rights. If humans are equal and are to be given inalienable rights, there are no citizens, because citizenship is necessarily exclusive.

It may be alluring, or even justifiable as a short-term strategy, to get involved in the nation-state aspirations of an oppressed people for self-determination, such as the Palestinians. However, oppressed as the Palestinian people may be, their real oppressor is the nation-state system they lend credibility to by aspiring to find protection in the body of a nation-state. Zionism is the epitome of nationalist evil in our time, and the coffin of obscene Zionism and its many equivalents around the world (which include dangerous Sinhalese and Indian nationalist ideologies among many others) would not be the attainment of Palestinian statehood but the de-legitimization of all nation-states. As such, it is justifiable to say that one does not simply refuse to recognize the State of Israel, but that one refuses to recognize any nation-state. Some nation-states may be committing massacres at the present time to defend their ideological claim, but all of them justify their power and their possession of arms on the same basis that the massacres are committed.

Imagined Communities, the name of his best known work, is the term Benedict Anderson uses to describe nations. With the development of communication infrastructure and the development of one language within a geographic area, an illusory sense of community develops among people in that area. Nations are always asserted by rulers using such things as common language or ethnicity as mere excuses, and the nation-state is constructed upon the nation by legitimizing the fallacious idea of a nation for the sake of gaining recognition among similar entities and the acquiescence of the people within the state’s jurisdiction. Thus, in the same way that churches require believers, nation-states require those who believe in the nation.

Nationalism has been opposed often throughout history. However, unfortunately, what most of its opponents were always attacking was not the nation-state but the concept of a nation. They were quarrelling over creating a more inclusive nation, but this is a misguided approach. Extending citizenship, giving more rights to people within the nation, et cetera, is not good enough. The very idea of a nation, as imagined when popular sovereignty won out in the French Revolution, must be taken apart. With it, the idea of citizenship must be taken apart and discredited.

The argument should not be about creating global citizens, but about abolishing all citizenship. Citizenship is necessarily exclusive. One cannot produce certificates that are inalienable, for then the certificates would negate themselves. One does not make the slaves free. One abolishes the institution of slavery, and with such abolition the free man is also abolished because the distinction between slave and free man shall cease to exist. Thus, it is abolition of the institution of citizen and non-citizen that we must act toward, and this is the abolition of citizenship, the institution in question. The principles of tolerance and equal treatment among people cannot support the survival of the institution of citizenship.

What should be aspired towards is not the eradication of states or the eradication of government (as anarchism aspires towards) but the elimination of a particular kind of unit, the nation-state. Nation-states are founded upon historical fabrications, constructed to segregate communities in the world and force them to accept an ideology that enforces international inequality. Furthermore, nation-states and the concept of citizenship cannot be divorced from its roots as an ideology that repeatedly supports exclusion or other actions tantamount to racism. All present institutional racism stems from the ideology of nation-states that is accepted by most people. To eclipse this model, only the model of a single democratic government over all persons in the world is suitable to provide equitable and benevolent governance that cannot be accused of hypocrisy. But voicing support for an alternative system is not as important as letting go of the archaic system currently in effect.

The next Mandela would surely be the man capable of breaking the legitimacy and power of the nation-state model itself (in all countries founded on fraudulent historical arguments and delusions of community, whether officially described as a “nation-state” or not). The archaic and oppressive institutions of nationality and citizenship must be broken in our time, during the transition period of the world system, and perhaps South Africa would be the most fitting place for that change to be first agitated and displayed to the world. The “nation” entities with the flimsiest and most sordid histories, such as South Africa with its apartheid past, should be targeted for dismantlement first. Everything that ties the people of the so-called nation must be questioned and thrown into doubt. Tell them how nothing in fact ties them but their humanity, and the same thing ties all of us, inside or outside our borders and no matter what petty details a sheet of paper may say. If out of many, there comes one, then disavow the nation-state ideology and believe in a world without “citizens”, a world where humanity can find the correct form of democratic representation under a single system and authority.

In sum, the nation-state is destructive, abusive and unnecessary and it ought to be abolished in the long-term. The associated ideology of citizenship should be targeted for eradication too, no matter what reactionary dangers this eradication may entail, because that ideology is the basis for a great deal of exclusion and preferentialism. Question history, question the “nation”, and do not pay any respect to such a fallacious idea. Don’t sacrifice the truth of the trajectory of history, so you can accept what a government has taught for the manufacture of acquiescence to exclusion and inequality.

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Originally published at Dissident Voice on 16 April 2013.

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‘More to Industrial Enclosure than Patents’

. #patents. #opensource. #innovation. #technology.

Eric Blattberg, writing for VenturBeat, reports (“Tesla Motors: Please infringe on our patents for the greater good,” June 12) that electric car manufacturer Tesla will henceforth permit all comers to exploit its innovations. “Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology,” says Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

I think the importance of patents in enclosing the motor industry is overstated. Legal precedent around the issue has consistently favoured openness regarding component replacement for a very long time. Anyone is free to manufacture a component designed to replace a part of a patented system without thereby being guilty of infringement. With few exceptions, moreover, automotive patents pertain to details competitors easily design around. Yet the motor industry as it stands today is a supremely enclosed industry, due to product standard, safety and emissions regimes.

Musk understates the mainstream industry’s interest in electric propulsion. All the major manufacturing groups have programmes ready and waiting, complete but for the regulatory framework needed to protect them from entry en masse by a profusion of new start-ups. It is in a sense choreographed, as it usually is: As I said before (apparently somewhat controversially), the mainstream industry’s agenda is an agenda of change, but a specific single programme of specific changes at specific times. If it’s not in the script, it must be killed — but I believe electric cars are very much in the script. They have too much going for them from a corporate capitalist viewpoint — far more to my mind than they have going for them from an ecological viewpoint.

For starters, they eliminate all that finicky skilled labour required to put together an internal combustion engine properly. They eliminate all that variability of parts that constantly tempts the customer to get above herself technologically. The electric car has too much potential at last to become the one-part, disposable car not to be a hugely important part of established manufacturers’ long-term plans. Not least, increasing the digital-electronic content of the car makes it much more permeable to the established software “intellectual property” legal tradition, which is much more onerous than that around IP in automotive hardware.

Certainly Tesla is closer in nature to any established major manufacturer than to the loose networks of local component-makers and assemblers I’d like to see. Two factories on two continents and a three-digit weekly output would have made them distinctly plutocratic in the ’20s. Nor are they any exception to the state-enforced idiomatic requirement for the techniques of mass production, or they would not have been legally tolerated, especially in California. Electric propulsion frees them from the regulatory burdens pertaining to internal combustion engines — that was the loophole that allowed the company to operate at all — but their products remain subject to the entire edifice of supposed safety regulation, including expensive destructive testing in development and anti-tampering legislation in use.

I wonder about the motivation in forgoing these patents, given that many are relatively toothless. Tesla obviously wishes to play the heroic underdog, to imply solidarity with the open-source movement despite operating in an industry legally effectively prohibited from embracing open-source methods in any meaningful way. Open-source becomes trivial when subject to the sort of model conformity which a type-approval regime requires. The resulting lack of diversity of possibility and ad-hoc flexibility is analogous to the difference between representative democracy (let’s all vote on what same things all of us are going to be required to do) and anarchy (let’s all do different things, as and when we variously choose.) Hence, no technological change but only political change is capable of changing the motor industry. Tesla’s very existence counts against them.

The popular perception that anything that runs on electricity must be eco-friendly, contrary to the consensus in serious off-grid alternative-energy circles that electricity is a premium source which should be reserved for lighting and communications and little else, could not have come cheap. I’m seeing it more and more: People honestly believe that a toilet hard-wired into a house’s electrical system uses less energy than a toilet that has no electrical connection at all; who honestly believe that running an electrical resistance oven off a few PVs is only a matter of time. That didn’t grow by itself.

Tesla doesn’t have that kind of money, but someone has an interest in spending it. Tesla is not the only company with an interest in an analysis according to which the great problem is that 90 million of the 100 million cars made annually are not electric, instead of the more sensible view that the problem is that those 90 million cars are made at all, to satisfy the demands of a largely artificial mobility scenario. And outside that artificial situation, with its pressure of traffic, frequent stop-starts, and noise, not to mention intensive policing and huge infrastructural investment, I submit that the electric car as such has little or no benefit.

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28 October 2014

Breaching the Social Contract

. @JSDiedrich. #anarchism. #prison. #AmericanDream. #USA. #state.

America leads the world. No other nation imprisons more people than we do. Over 2.2 million men, women, and children currently reside in penitentiaries; another 4 million are under criminal supervision. In the past forty years, the incarcerated population has increased by a factor of five. Billions of our tax dollars are spent maintaining prisons and jails [PDF]. The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik writes, “The scale and the brutality of our prisons are the moral scandal of American life.” In an effort to ameliorate this sad state of affairs, many have proposed sentencing reforms, educational programs, statutory alterations, and other tweaks of the system.

Maybe it’s time to radically rethink the nature and purpose of criminal law itself. Maybe it’s time to look to another legal theory — contract law.

Despite sharing common roots, criminal law and contract law are different. In the United States, as in other jurisdictions, contrasting theory, substance, and procedure distinguish the two doctrines. Many people consider criminal behavior to be a breach of the social contract. If so, then why don’t we apply contract law principles to crime?

Crime as Breach of Contract

Consider Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s formulation of the “social contract”:

What really is the Social Contract? An agreement of the citizen with the government? No, that would mean but the continuation of [Rousseau’s] idea. The social contract is an agreement of man with man; an agreement from which must result what we call society. (General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, 1851)

Proudhon equates the social contract with social expectation: how do individuals expect each other to behave under normal circumstances? Indeed, every society establishes its own norms to which its members are expected to adhere. Yet to truly be a “social contract” the state must also be party to it.

Criminal behavior amounts to a breach of the social contract and a violation of implicit social norms. For example, we do not expect our neighbors to take our stuff. We denounce theft as an illegitimate means of acquiring property.

Contract Law Principles

In general, contract law attempts to put victims of breach in as good a position as they would have been if the contract had been performed. The “expectation principle” requires the breaching party to compensate the victim just to the point of making her as whole as she had expected to be (either by economic equivalence, restitution, or both) and not beyond.

The remedy for property crimes (as social contract breach) seems intuitively obvious: give the victim back her things. After all, the point of contract remedy is to compensate the victim, treat the breaching party fairly, and promote economic efficiency. As Oliver Wendell Holmes declared, “The duty to keep a contract at common law means a prediction that you must pay damages if you do not keep it — and nothing else.”

Penalty Clauses

Because of these broad principles, penalty clauses are not enforceable. A clause that reads, “If Smith does not pay Jones $20, then Smith must pay $100 instead,” would not be upheld in court. Holdings barring the enforcement of contractual penalties and quasi-penalties litter American case law.

Penalties have been questioned and derided for centuries. In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the villainous Shylock agrees to loan Antonio money. However, under the contract, if Antonio defaults, he must forfeit a pound of his flesh.

Shylock: Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express’d in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.

Why the harsh penalty? “If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge.”

Antonio defaults. At trial, someone offers to pay twice the contract price to save Antonio from Shylock’s knife. Shylock, however, insists the court enforce the deathly penalty. After ostensibly honoring his wish, the judge cleverly turns Shylock’s argument against him, preserving Antonio’s life.

Social Contract Penalties

The social contract includes at least two penalty clauses. First, if a party breaches, then he is punished (the “criminal”). Second, if a party breaches, then the aggrieved party (the “victim”) is cast aside and ignored.

Under the current bifurcated system, a criminal caption reads State v. Smith, not Jones v. Smith. The victim is not a party to the suit. Instead, the state assumes its position as a placeholder for the victim, whether or not the victim approves. Like Shylock, the state then begs for the enforcement of penalty clauses. Someone breached the social contract. Punish her!

In equating justice with punishment, we forget about the victim. Sadly, with full enforcement of the penalty clause against the breaching party, the victim also suffers a penalty — she is cast aside and ignored. Our addiction to penalties has given rise to the largest prison population in the world. In contrast, a more rigid application of contract law principles would preclude the application of penalty clauses, focusing instead on fulfilling expectations, compensating for losses, and making the victim whole again.

Many crimes violate person, not property. How would we remedy social contract breaches such as battery, rape, and murder? While the answer is not clear, to enforce penalties seems dubious at best. Civil rights attorney Clarence Darrow once noted, “All communities and states are in reality ashamed of jails and penal institutions of whatever kind. Instinctively they seem to understand that these are a reflection on the state.” Perhaps Darrow was correct in thinking that “nearly every crime could be wiped away in one generation by giving the criminal a chance.”

Moreover, common law courts rarely award emotional damages resulting from a contract breach. Such damages fall into the realm of tort law. However, Hadley v. Baxendale, a seminal case from nineteenth century Great Britain, established the “foreseeability rule.” If damages resulting as a consequence of breach could have been reasonably foreseen, then they can be recovered. All parties to the social contract certainly can “reasonably foresee” the consequential emotional damages of violent acts like rape.

The law treats contracts differently than it treats crime. But should it? Isn’t criminal behavior just a breach of contract — the social contract? When a thief steals from his neighbor, doesn’t it make sense to repay the neighbor and restore her expectations? In criminal law, penalties deprive liberty without compensating the victim. We punish both the criminal and the victim; only the state comes out ahead. The common law refuses to enforce contractual penalties for good reason. Perhaps that principle should be applied to criminal law, as well.

Why open data matters in education

. @aseem_sharma. #open. #opensource. #opendata. #webwewant. #education.

Rajan attends a school in a small village located around 140 kilometers from my hometown of Amritsar, India. Otherwise an active boy who is adept in handling numbers in the ledger book at his father’s convenience store and who loves playing flute, he falls into the depths of apathy and indifference the moment he enters his classroom. Rajan is not at fault for the abrupt change in his behavior at the school. He attends a school that has one teacher for all its students from classes starting from the first standard through the fifth standard, that has no proper infrastructure, a dilapidated library, and an obsolete teaching methodology.

In an environment where the students do not get personal attention indispensable for nurturing their strengths, where the teachers lack the professional training to bring sophisticated teaching methods in the classroom, and where the concept of a customized curriculum is unheard of, Rajan's distrust in his school is not surprising. Like him, millions of students in India in particular, and the developing world in general, get lost in the complex maze of the schooling system. Interestingly, these millions are counted in the educated and literate sections of governmental statistics. These scenarios are indicative of the fact that the solution to the problems of education transcends far beyond just opening up schools in the rural areas of the country.

Nelson Mandela once said that "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." It thus becomes a responsibility of both the public and the private players to create a system which maximizes the potential of children in their formative years. The way students learn can be constructively influenced and improved. In the long run, quality of a person's life grows proportionally to the quality of education of the person.

Similar to the way open source changed the way technology is built and used, open data has begun to change the way the world looks at data. Open data provides an opportunity to resolve some of the world's most complicated problems, whether in private sector or public sector. Businesses and governments have already started to realize the benefits that opening up the data and using/reusing it can bring. Joel Gurin, senior advisor at the Governance Lab at New York University, writes in his book "Open Data Now" that “open data is the world’s greatest free resource—unprecedented access to thousands of databases—and it is one of the most revolutionary developments since the information Age began."

Education in general and schooling system in particular is one area where the journey has just begin and there is still a long way to go. In comparison to other areas, it is one such critical area which is still largely untouched by innovative solutions, especially when it comes to people living at the 'bottom of the pyramid'. In such a scenario, what role can open data play in improving the situation? Why is it relevant to the education system? What new approaches does it offers to the problem in context? A few perspectives in this regards are as follows.

Contextual intelligence

Approximately 5500 kilometers away from that village near Amritsar is Finland, where the standards of schooling system and education take a 180 degree turn. Whether it is a sprawling suburb of Espoo near Helsinki or the thinly populated Lapland, the country's 62,000 teachers and 3,500 schools ensure that their students get the best of education and grow as responsible citizens. Finland has consistently performed high on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15 year olds in more than 40 global venues.

Whether it is deciphering text or manipulating numbers, Finnish students are among the top performers in the world. Teachers rarely stand at the front of the classroom for the entire 50 minutes, and it is typical to see students walking around from one workshop to another which exemplifies high degree of autonomy in thinking and decision making that the students have. There is an evident disparity in educational systems and the growth of students across the world. Open data increases the understanding of this disparity across different countries tremendously. Solution providers can better understand what works where and what does not works in what parts of the world. They can also understand and analyze the situations most amicable for creating a learning environment.

A dashboard on the World Bank's open data website vividly showcases, along with other statistics, the stark difference in the autonomy in planning and management of school budget between Burkino Faso and Finland. These kind of visualizations created from open data increases the contextual intelligence and consequently equips the solution providers to focus on areas which need the maximum attention.

Improved understanding of the problem

Anything that can be measured can be resolved. Applications built on top of open data can be used to monitor among other things, the learning patterns of students, their performance patterns, teacher absenteeism, and on a larger scale regions that perform better and regions that perform poorly. This creates a better grip on the problem we are encountering as well as the scale of the problem. An educational map indicating the best and the worst areas and the scale of the problem in each of those areas can assist both the private players and the public entities to customize solutions accordingly.

Efficient public-private partnership

With the push to open data in the government sector in the US, under the leadership of Aneesh Chopra, who served as the first chief technology officer of the country, umpteen opportunities have been created for start up entrepreneurs and public sector employees. The shift of the policy towards opening up the data to the public has enhanced the collaboration opportunities between government and the citizens. Many initiatives like the School of Open, School of Data, and Open Knowledge are collaborating with public sector across the developing world to assist them make better use of their data. A bootcamp organized by the School of Data in conjunction with the government and the civil society organizations resulted in the participants creating a map showcasing whether schools in Moldova encourage rather integration or segregation. Innovation in the educational sector can result from the effective collaboration of open data, public policy and start up business dedicated to change the landscape of schooling system.

Lessons from other fields

Jay Bradner, a researcher at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, was stuck by the explosion of data about the human genome on one hand and the reliance on primitive anti-cancer drug like arsenic on the other. Bradner was a big believer in sharing research in open data. He began work on a compound that could interfere with malignant cells in a rare kind of cancer called midline carcinoma. He shared his data with other labs and got important insights from Oxford, and soon showed that the compound, which they called JQ1, could stop the growth of that cancer in mice. He later shared his research at the earliest prototype stage which in turn attracted interest from various pharmaceutical companies, academic labs, and start-ups. This example from the healthcare field exemplifies that when research comes out of an isolated lab, it benefits society at a faster rate. Many businesses in various industries ranging from telecommunication to transportation have benefited from open data. The same success built on the common methodology of leveraging open data can also be replicated in education. 
I strongly believe that improving the state of education and making children better learners is a human endeavor. It requires understanding the behavior of children, what motivates them and what demotivates them. Technology solutions based on open data can strengthen and fuel that human endeavor on which much of our future depends.

Image via Twitter user: @opencorporates.

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24 October 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.

ClubOfINFO on Facebook

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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22 October 2014

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

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

Make Your Own Headlines, Shock Waves and Markets in Six Months (2014), a guide explaining exactly how to succeed to your best potential as a blogger, is free today and through to 23 October.

Get your free electronic copy of Make Your Own Headlines via Amazon direct download, and begin your journey to refine your potential as a major influence on the blogosphere.

Everything you need to know about how to succeed as an expert influence in your chosen field is explained and laid out in a brief, accessible, digestible format by successful Internet columnist Harry J. Bentham. The book is divided into six succinct PHASES, each of which can be achieved in very little time to propel your name among some of the biggest experts in your field throughout the Internet.

In a digital age where power and authority have little to do with true influence, the world is at your fingertips. By studying the contents of Make Your Own Headlines, you will be equipped develop a plan that guarantees measurable victories as an online writer within a mere six month period!

If you have downloaded Make Your Own Headlines, don't forget to leave your review at Amazon.

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21 October 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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Buy ClubOfINFO on eBay UK

. @eBay_UK. #eBay. #books. #bargains. #fiction. #collections.

ClubOfINFO's fiction publisher, Maquis Books, is now selling a broad selection of popular book titles through the popular online retail website eBay.

You can now find the Maquis Books store under eBay user /maquisbooks. The page there contains everything from collections belonging to the authors whose works are represented at Maquis Books, to a developing inventory of nonfiction and fiction titles at generous prices. While at the moment sales are limited to the UK, effort will soon be invested into considering making the books also available in the US to reach a much wider readership.

Initial emphasis will be placed on finding futurist titles, widely sought works like cult expert Robert Jay Lifton's Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (1989) - for which we already provide the best available offer - and science fiction titles.

We also recommend you keep a look out for creepy stories and book choices via Maquis Books this Halloween.

In future, the scope of titles and products offered by Maquis Books will extend significantly, covering chick-lit, mystery, romance and children's books. Also, retro video-game titles and other entertainment, particularly from the 1990s, will be considered for listing at the Maquis Books store.

Keep track of everything offered by following Maquis Books at eBay today

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17 October 2014

L'Ordre: a Message

. #lordre. @Beliefnet.

I am beginning to re-brand myself as a blogger under the more memorable name L'Ordre, as my work revolves around the L'Ordre blog on Beliefnet and I must take strong steps to boost its influence and popular recognition on the internet.

Already, I have made a post at my primary blog alerting readers to this branding move and explaining everything entailed by it. In addition, you can read my new letter asking for submissions from writers and contact from readers.

As part of this re-branding effort, I have created brand new profile pages using the memorable "lordre" handle at Patreon and About, as well as purchasing the domain name lordre.net to direct people to the main Beliefnet site at the heart of all my blogging.

Everything I have described here is part of an effort to increase the ability of readers to find my primary blog at Beliefnet, as it becomes the center of all my publishing activities and the center of all my efforts to beneficially inform popular political opinions via the internet. 

I have realized that I am now effectively running three online newsletters to influence opinion: ClubOfINFO (you're here), Maquis Books and L'Ordre. I have now chosen to acknowledge this on each site by displaying the brand name of L'Ordre (search #lordre on Twitter), to help readers group all of my work together despite the diversity of channels I may be using.

All readers will still be able to keep track of my activities at the usual locations, and under my traditional byline Harry J. Bentham. The nature and mission of my blogging will not be affected by this re-branding. Keep a lookout for me on the internet as I sign my work as "L'Ordre".

With any luck, this move will make it far easier to share my writing for a much larger global audience under a much more memorable brand name rather than simply "Harry J. Bentham".


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Misplaced Criticism of "Free Trade"

. @KevinCarson1. @JeffMadrick. #imperialism. #neoliberalism. #noTTIP.

If you accept your enemy’s conceptual categories, you’re apt to wind up with a badly framed debate in which both sides are unsatisfactory. Jeff Madrick’s article “Our Misplaced Faith in Free Trade” (New York Times, October 3) clearly demonstrates this. The corporate state and its stooges in both major political parties and the commentariat are heavily invested in passing off neoliberal globalization as “free trade.” Their interest in doing so is understandable. The global corporate economy is a system of power resulting from massive government intervention in the market, and involves the use of force to promote some interests at the expense of others. It’s entirely in the interest of the beneficiaries of this system of power to use language like “free trade” to conceal its origins in force, and grant it ideological legitimacy by passing it off as “free trade.” But by taking their enemies’ terminology at face value, opponents of corporate globalization enter combat with one hand already tied behind their backs.
In the opening paragraphs of his commentary, Madrick identifies “free trade” with “more trade,” international “free trade agreements” and “globalization,” attributing the negative effects of these things to “free trade.” In fact free trade is none of these things. Corporate globalization and so-called “free trade” deals actually involve gross violations of the genuine principles of free trade.

The centerpiece of the neoliberal agenda is not “free trade” — that is, voluntary exchange of goods and services in which all parties operate on their own nickel and nobody has access to coercive power to set the rules in their favor — but the age-old ruling class agenda of “privatization” (enclosure) of the commons as a source of rents. The increased volume of international trade under the neoliberal policy regime results from direct state subsidies to long-distance trade and state intervention to reduce the transaction costs of trade — in both cases socializing the operating costs of transnational corporations.

To the extent that peasants were evicted and transformed into wage laborers working land that was previously there, or western capitalists and white settlers seized mineral resources in the global south over the past few centuries of imperialism and neo-colonialism, neoliberal “protection of private property rights” actually amounts to guaranteeing the thieves continued control of their stolen loot. Globalization guarantees the ill-gotten gains of those who engage in cash crop production on Latin American haciendas and other large-scale capitalist farming operations around the world, and those who extract the mineral wealth of Africa and the oil of Nigeria and Indonesia.

The “intellectual property” regime enforced under assorted “free trade” agreements enables western-owned companies to outsource actual production of goods to Third World countries while maintaining a legal monopoly over disposal of the product. Likewise, “intellectual property” in software, entertainment and biotech enables corporations to make profits not from actually producing anything, but from controlling the circumstances under which others are allowed to produce.

The majority of global “trade” is not, as the term suggests to most people, the free exchange of goods between actual producers. It involves the importation of goods produced under contract to be sold with the Nike or Apple logo, or the movement of raw materials and unfinished goods between local subsidiaries of transnational corporations. It’s about as entitled to the “free trade” label as the movement of materials between state factories in the Soviet planned economy.

By accepting the term “free trade” at face value, Madrick allows protectionist, mercantilist global corporations to appropriate the positive aura attached to genuine free trade, and principled advocates like Richard Cobden. In so doing, he winds up with the unnecessary hurdle of opposing “free trade,” when he could instead be — much more effectively — attacking transnational corporations as beneficiaries of corporate welfare and protectionism.

The global corporations that talk the most about “free trade” are basically arms of the state. Genuine free trade would destroy them. It’s time to call things by their correct names.

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14 October 2014

You Had One Job, UN

. @KevinCarson1. #imperialism. #UN. #aggression. #hypocrisy.

This short article is being reprinted for its excellent, unrestrained and clear judgment on the rampant  hypocrisy and capriciousness at the heart of US foreign policy - to which the Obama administration is no exception.

The UN is back in the news with preparations for the opening of the 69th General Assembly session. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlights the importance of the UN’s mission in this “time of turmoil.” But maybe we should take a closer look at what that “mission” is. The avowed purpose of the UN is to maintain peace and stability — or, as former American UN Ambassador Susan Rice says, to “deter and punish aggression.”

That’s a bit odd, when you stop to think about it. The UN’s stated mission is to prevent aggression; yet it does absolutely nothing to restrain the one country whose aggression far outweighs all others in the postwar period —  perhaps in all of history. In the past seventy years the United States has invaded more countries, overthrown more governments and backed more dictators and terrorist death squads than any other country on Earth. There isn’t even a close second.

Even assorted “threats” like al Qaeda, Hamas, ISIS and Saddam’s Iraq were either blowback from aggressive American policies or were covertly sponsored by the US and its allies to further their aggressive aims. The criminal acts of al Qaeda and ISIS today result directly from past American support for the Islamic Brotherhood as a counter to Egypt’s Nasser; destabilization of Afghanistan’s peaceful, relatively progressive government (for the purpose of embroiling the USSR in its own Vietnam); support for Kosovar terrorists in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s; support for Chechen rebels against the Russian government; and covert support for anti-Assad rebels in Syria.

Both the United States and the UN proclaim spreading democracy as a central goal. Yet the US overthrew Mossadegh in Iran and Lumumba in the Congo and actively encouraged the wave of military dictatorships that swept South America in the 1960s and 1970s.

And despite packaging its criminal acts as “punishing aggression” or “spreading democracy,” the United States has been motivated almost entirely by a desire to protect the ability of extractive corporations to loot mineral resources in Africa, oil in Indonesia and Nigeria, etc., or the ability of First World manufacturers to export sweatshop production to slave labor countries.

Far from stopping the United States from any of these crimes against humanity, the UN serves as a fig leaf for US aggression against those who defy its will.

To paraphrase Lysander Spooner’s quip about the Constitution, either the UN was created to enable these crimes by the world’s largest and worst aggressor (in which case it is pernicious), or it has been unable to stop them (in which case it is worthless). The second alternative is damning enough. If the League of Nations is held in contempt for failing to stop Hitler, shouldn’t the UN be judged equally harshly for failing to stop the United States?

But I go with the first option. The UN was central to FDR’s and Truman’s vision of a postwar world order enforced by the United States and its allies. That postwar vision was to impose corporate rule on the world and punish any future power attempting to secede from that world order. That means the UN is evil and its stated purpose is a lie.

From the standpoint of radical anti-imperialist critics of US policy, American withdrawal would be a good thing to the extent it made it harder for the US to build multinational coalitions to share the fiscal and military burden of aggression with other powers. But the United States government, for that very reason, will never withdraw from the UN; the UN exists only to serve the corporate ruling class that controls the US and its allies. Even if the US did withdraw, the result would not be — as the UN’s right-wing detractors believe — to purify the US of the corrupting influence emanating from Rockefeller Plaza. The corruption is inseparable from America itself. US withdrawal would simply amputate one tentacle of the octopus, while leaving the beast’s Wall Street heart and Washington brain intact.

Instead of being distracted by the UN, we need to strike at the root of evil: Abolish the United States and the system of domination it serves.

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