We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

(The USA has) limited government? Joking right? The USA spends nearly half the entire world’s military spending (yes, that is more than Russia, China, UK, France and Germany combined) and locks up more of its population per capita than any other place on this planet. Yes, more that those ‘paragons of liberty’ Russia, Burma, Cuba, China etc. It applies its laws and taxes to its hapless citizens extra-territorially as if they were branded livestock who had strayed off the ranch, which only the African neo-Stalinist state of Eritrea does.

If that is what limited government looks like, I would hate to see what unlimited government looks like.

– Perry de Havilland

82 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • In terms of micro-regulations, those petty annoyances like mandatory certification / licensing / registration, etc. some parts of the US like Kalifornia can be worse than Europe as you have to deal with Federal, State and City statutes and ordinances.

    It might not be a massive amount when talking about headline figures, but it’s a lot of bureaucrats sticking their hands out for sizeable chunks of cash at regular intervals and if you don’t cough-up with a smile your business can be wiped out with a few clicks of the mouse.

    Even the Nazis had to break down doors on occasion.

  • RickC

    As a citizen of the country in question, I salute you. I remain in a perpetual state of bewilderment or really just sadness over where my country is today. The worst thing about it is my belief that it’s gotten this way, not because of mendacious politicians (haven’t they always been thus?), but because the vast majority of my fellow citizens wanted it. By forgetting the principles and values that did indeed make us exceptional and ignoring all the warnings of how tyranny could come to our form of government, think Tocqueville, Franklin, Popper, Hoffer and many other names I could list, they have pushed us to where we are. I said sadness above because that’s the best description of how I feel. The greatest experiment in freedom in human history, however imperfectly realized has come to this, and I don’t believe it will end well. Sad.

  • “If that is what limited government looks like, I would hate to see what unlimited government looks like.”

    Yes. Yes, you will.

  • RRS

    This will not be news to PdeH nor to the Paul marks organization:

    In the US we have a Constitution that provides for a Federal Government having Enumerated Powers (not specifically “limited government”). While that Constitution provides for some limitations on how and in what circumstances those powers may be used, it, so far, has not been recognized by the electorate as limiting the functions that may be assigned to the mechanisms of that government. That implied acquiescence by the electorate has resulted in arrogations of functions by those charged with administration of the mechanisms, in addition to those assigned functions.

    Those same factors of assigned and arrogated functions are noted that all three of the general levels of governments in the US, local, state and federal.

    Judging limitations in terms of measuring the extent of government activity by expenditures in any particular area needs to be considered in terms of the overall economic activity that supports that government.

    The proper measure lies in the limitation of functions or in limiting the expansion of the assignment and arrogation of functions. For that measure we have to look at the actions or passivity of the electorate and the motivations of that electorate which also shape the culture of its society.

    It is not so much what we spend, how much we spend, but what we spend it on through the activities of government, and why it is spent on those particular activities, that deserve examination for questions of limitations.

    Perhaps we are thrown back on remarks attributed (erroneously?) to Alexander Fraser Tytler.

  • Regional

    Under the Boganstan Constitution laws have to applied evenly but when the Labor Party tries to stiff one sector it backfires on them, the reason being is that politicians are dumb and the people they’re trying to screw are smarter than them.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Don’t the various governments in the US now routinely do all the felonies that were listed as the cause of the American Declaration of Independence? You’ve got your Boston Tea partiers, so when do you intend to attack the British?

  • Well, we have a lot more black and Hispanic criminals than other countries.

  • Dom

    “The USA spends more than half of the world’s military budget”

    That’s not a meaningful statistic in this context. Do you want the US to spend less than half? Then tell Europe to spend more.

    The statistic you want is the percent of GDP spent by the US military compared to other countries. I don’t know what this statistic looks like (it may prove the same point) but the point PdH is trying to make is not supported by this statistic.

  • Veryretired

    Well, I was writing a response to this post on my Ipad, which I don’t normally use for this, but I’m travelling, when I touched it wrong and e very thing went away. Rather than throw the damn thing against the wall, which has been known to happen to laptops and phones in the past, I will summarize as follows:

    The rise of collectivist influence during the last century has been in response to the collapse of the ruling aristocratic social order that had existed across the globe for many centuries.

    Many of the inroads of collectivist thought into the US were impelled by the need to respond to various external forces, some threatening, some intellectual schools of thought, some just miscalculations by our own ruling elites which fell under the same spell of over-confidence and incompetence as the failed nobility they replaced.

    While there is no doubt that the American public has allowed the state to grow wildly out of control in many, many areas of life, much of that growth was hidden behind claims of well intentioned.Efforts to solve societal problems, and objections were usually dismissed as the grumblings of rich people protecting their money, or racists protecting their prejudices.

    The American polity has gone through several political and social reformations and re-alignments in it’s history, and we are in the beginnings of another major upheaval.

    I do not believe the battle has been lost, nor are the advocates of liberty and state reduction in as perilous a position as has often been theorized by those both discouraged or triumphant, depending on their point of view.

    It is common to hear all sorts of insults about the ignorance or stupidity of the American people, and there is no doubt we have made some terrible and damaging mistakes over our history, but ignorant and stupid people do not build what we have built, nor achieve what we have achieved.

    The future is there to be guided by those who are committed to the rights of man, if they will only generate the will and determination to do so.

    This struggle is the great challenge of our era, just as other great challenges confronted other generations in other eras.

  • Dom

    Federale, just read your site. Go away.

  • Lee Moore

    The US is by no means the beacon of limited government that it would like to believe, but I’m not at all convinced that military spending and incarceration rates are particularly relevant to the question.

    Certainly there is loads of bloat in the US military, but the reason why spending is so high relative to other nations is that the US is the technological leader. It’s the same reason that the US spends loads on health. Other nations piggy back on US research spending. The US is like the rich guy whose lavish overspending on luxury cars finances the technological advances that are later exploited for cheaper better technology in ordinary cars. And the US military has labor costs based on the US labor market. The Chinese military has labor costs based on Chinese labor rates. Gross military spending is a very poor measure of the extent to which any country’s military breaches the proper bounds of limited government. By comparison with the US military, the North Korean military costs, after roundings, absolutely nothing. But it pokes its nose into citizen’s private affairs to a much greater extent than the US military.

    As far as incarceration is concerned, the US rate is high for two reasons – (1) longer prison terms for serious crimes (including prison for crimes that are fairly serious but which attract community sentences in other countries) and (2) the war on drugs. The second is obviously a serious failing of limited government, but the first is not. Serious crimes ought to be seriously punished – that is a proper function of limited government and essential to the protection of individual liberty. It is the lenient countries which are failing by underpunishing serious crime. (For the avoidance of doubt, I am not pretending that there are not very serious flaws in the US criminal justice system – particularly overcharging and the plea bargain system.)

    The US’s chief failings as far as limited government is concerned are not in the traditional fields of state responsibility – defense and law enforcement – but in the traditionally European fields of state encroachment – the regulation of everything.

  • Laird

    Dom and Lee Moore both object to PdH’s statement that “the USA spends more than half of the world’s military budget”, arguing that it’s not a proper measure of whether that spending is objectively excessive. I disagree. If the rest of the world is spending relatively little (emphasis on “relatively”) on its collective military forces then logically so could we. We vastly overspend on our military for a variety of reasons, but a large part of it is due to our determination to remain the “world’s policeman” and stick our noses into every local or regional conflict anywhere on the globe. Reduce the focus of the military to true national defense and its budget could be reduced substantially. We’d all be better for it.

    With respect to Lee’s discussion of the US incarceration rate, I agree with his points but think he underemphasizes the impact of imprisonment for drug crimes. In 2011 (the latest available figures) persons convicted of violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) constituted less than 12% of all prisoners. Furthermore, the incidence of violent crime has been steadily declining for the last decade or so. Those persons certainly should receive harsh sentences, but that’s not what is driving the national incarceration rate. According to figures provided by DrugWarFacts.org, almost 21% of all prisoners in the US are incarcerated for “drug crimes” (the number in federal prisons is almost 50%!), so this is a significant factor in the overall incarceration rate. And I suspect that does not include various forms of “ancillary” crimes (such as money laundering) which are directly related to drug crime. Abandon the war on drugs and incarceration rates would decline precipitously.

    I do agree with Lee’s last paragraph.

  • The US is by no means the beacon of limited government that it would like to believe, but I’m not at all convinced that military spending and incarceration rates are particularly relevant to the question.

    On the contrary. They indicate that far from being the limited-by-separation-of-powers government envisaged in the 1700’s, the US government does what it pleases to whoever it pleases, overseas (which is why I mention the size of the US military budget) or domestically (which is why I mention the mind boggling incarceration rate in the USA).

    Certainly there is loads of bloat in the US military, but the reason why spending is so high relative to other nations is that the US is the technological leader.

    No, it is not ‘bloat’ that accounts for the size of the US military budget and it is not being on the cutting edge of technology, it is investing in the ability to project power globally. It is the huge logistic tail for the huge navy and huge airforce and enough army to fight significant wars almost anywhere.

  • Lee Moore

    Unfortunately, all Great Powers seek to project power globally. If the US were to cease to do so, that would simply make it easier for rival powers, once Germany, then Russia, now China, to project their own power. And before long that power would be projected on the US. The notion that modern military technology permits a strategy of passive defence is simply naive. In fact it was naive even in the days of the Spartans and the Athenians.

    It’s fine being Switzerland and having a Swiss defence policy, so long as no Great Power so dominates the world (or in Switzerland’s case, Europe) to the extent that it can tell you what to do. The Swiss survived univaded in WW2 because the Germans were otherwise occupied, and because the Swiss have a fortunate geography for a strategy of passive defence. But they had to submit to a certain amount of German pressure. And even now they have to submit to a certain amount of American pressure.

  • ErisGuy

    I agree.

    I have long wondered why the citizens of Rwanda, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Liberia, and Uganda, to name several, have remained so law-abiding under states of limited government (that is, low incarceration rates and little or no military compared to the US). I hope the peoples of EUrope lead the way in following their examples, instituting similar wise government policies.

    Furthermore, the worst mistakes of the USG have been the military- and state-department enhancing interventions in EUropean affairs. If EUropeans wish to kill their Jews and kulaks or each other, it should have been no concern of America. Our founders warned us against entangling alliances and military adventurism, but we didn’t listen. I wish we could restore the status quo ante, but that’s water under the bridge. I certainly want all US forces withdrawn from the EU. Let the EU be the EU.

    The US Constitution can best be understood as an obsolete historical document and the “rights” in it a kind of joke. There is no freedom of the press (Snowden), no freedom of religion (compulsory obedience to homosexual marriage), no security in one’s person (NSA spying), no fair trials (plea bargains), etc.

    “Limited government” is a self-contradiction. Such a beast is a chimera, impossible unless the people who wish to institute are, well, more upright, more moral, and less corrupt than the subjects of the USG, but the subjects will never abandon their depravities, self-indulgencies, and self-regard (which these days they mistakenly call their “rights,” having abandoned their Constitutional rights).

    From a glance about the world and richest countries in it, I’d conclude that technological modernity requires fascism, the political ideology that most nearly fulfills the needs of human nature.

  • So who exactly do you think is threatening the nations of Europe, Lee? Sclerotic Russia?

    For protection of SLOC, you don’t need a bunch of carrier battle groups. Indeed unless one is looking to expand one’s Empire, you don’t need a massive US style projection capability at all… it really is enough to just plonk a brigade somewhere to chastise whatever uppity fuzzy wuzzies are currently having the temerity to interfere with the Oil (or Opium or whatever) Concessions.

    Do you really think the world will unwind without the constant threat of the Godzilla-like spectre of US intervention?

    And inappropriately named ErisGuy is clearly mistaken if he thinks technological modernity requires fascism. Indeed technological modernity requires steadily more heterarchical modes of organisation and thinking. Methinks he does not understand Eris at all.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    You know, for years I’ve been trying to move to the US because things like wide open spaces, the right to bear arms, less burdensome local government (away from the cities) and lower property prices are all very important to me in defining the kind of life I want to live.

    With the passage of FATCA I’ve been re-evaluating that. There’s not many other places that offer the above in the sorts of levels I could have found in some pockets of the US though. Costa Rica maybe. Some Canadian backwaters where folks don’t take the government too seriously perhaps.

    I feel a great sense of loss that America is becoming a country I no longer want to live in.

  • Johnnydub

    I think another manifestation of overbearing government is the rise of the political trial – a la Zimmerman.

    The irony of MLK’s anniversary when the Zimmerman trial proved quite conclusively that the black community/Eric Holder/Barack Obama for example has totally disregarded the “judge a man by his character, not the colour of his skin” approach

  • Brad

    To sum up, the US has wound itself up tightly because it has a mobilized minority of people who cannot apply the clarifying filter of disinterest. The unleashing of broadcast force, foreign and domestic, traces back to roots of applying interests where there actually are none. We are in the last stage of the superstition-religion-collective-behavioral control-dystopia cycle. I think plenty of people have finally woken up, but I fear that it is already too late. The impact of imminent bankruptcy due to the bankrolling of those imaginary interests for the last 100 years will more likely cement support of those who will use broadcast force with glee rather than those who would choose another path.

  • Well, we have a lot more black and Hispanic criminals than other countries.


    In fact the USA has more black and Hispanic people in jail per capita than all the various other countries on this planet, including those which are made up entirely of black and/or Hispanic people.

    Yet somehow I think, looking at your site, that you will not see what that implies.

  • RRS

    Douglas C North and his cohorts (among others) have supplied us with studies and analyses of the functions of violence in the various stages of social orders; their organization, stabilization and operation; their expansions into civilizations, followed by periods of stagnation with resultant disorders related to decline and disintegration.

    Of course those are not the only views of social and historical significance.

    If we are looking at, and living in, as many perceive, a period of stagnation in Western Civilization, which now has its core in North America, there is historical precedence for a correlation of rising disorders and increasing functions for violence.

    In its increasing disorders, the roots of which can probably be traced back to the end of the 19th century when the core began movement from Northwestern Europe to North America, Western Civilization has returned to the sustaining force of the function of violence to maintain sufficient desired order.

    From the experience of history, it is not unnatural or unexpected that a significant degree of the effective powers of violence should be concentrated at the core of Western Civilization.

    Disorders and their effects have historically been both internal and external in their origins and forms of presentation. Internal examples are increasingly abundant in the “developed” cultures and nations of Western Civilization.

    We are not “victims of history.” We are simply participants. How we participate and to what ends is another matter.

  • RRS

    Very Retired –

    From your observations,knowledge of, and experience in, American history do you sense that the motivations of the “American Public,” or at least of its electorate portion, have changed significantly since about 1912, and at an increasing rate of change correlated with the increasing mobility of population flows, and the economic experiences of the first half of the 20th century?

    Would you care to comment on such changes, if any, in motivations as you have observed and have a sense of their impact on both general culture and the processes of governance?

  • Phil Ossiferz Stone

    A few inconvenient facts to help put things into perspective:

    Our national government still consumes a lower percentage of our GDP than any in the industrialized world. Counter-intuitive, but true.

    Our foreign debt to GDP ratio is just over 100%. This frightened us, for when Chocolate Nixon got into office it stood at a mere 60%, and produced the Tea Party movement as a sort of autoimmune reaction. Meanwhile Britain’s foreign debt to GDP ratio is closing in on 400% and growing like a balloon (Perry and his countrymen are apparently fine with this.) Holland, Denmark, and Switzerland suffer from similar debt loading. Even mighty Germany is at 160%, and France’s foreign debt to GDP is double ours at 200%.

    More than half of our prison population is black. This is because nearly half the murders and more than half of all violent crimes are committed by black men — overwhelmingly from the hood-life thug subculture. You can verify all of this at FBI.gov. I’m not in favor of letting them out, thanks. Drawing a parallel between political prisoners and people who do drive-bys is idiotic.

    Our military budget stands at a reasonable 4% of GDP, which is just over half the average Cold War level. We could very nearly double our military strength and maintain it for half a century if we pleased. Even four per cent of one quarter of the economic activity of the human species can buy a lot of guns. Meanwhile, the rest of NATO continues to shrink military spending to disastrous levels. The Royal Navy cannot even afford to operate both carriers it has offered. I suppose if the Argies make another grab for the Malvinas you are counting on your world-weary and disgusted Yankee janissaries to ride to the rescue….. but I frankly doubt it. We are tired of ‘allies’ who treat us in geopolitics as the Greeks treat the Germans in finance. We are sick at the heart, and fain would lie doon.

    Perry needs to look in the mirror. He is naked. So is his nation, and so is his half of what we used to call Western Civilization. Our half will survive, warts and all. His I frankly have doubts about.

  • Dom, No, and thanks for the hit count.

  • Meanwhile Britain’s foreign debt to GDP ratio is closing in on 400% and growing like a balloon (Perry and his countrymen are apparently fine with this.)

    I am? I think this is fine? Really? I am actually in favour of reducing state expenditure to about 20% of what it currently is.

    And yes, the USA locks up more blacks as a percentage of its population than, say, that hell hole Nigeria. I know these statistics Phil, but I don’t think they mean what you think they do.

    Meanwhile, the rest of NATO continues to shrink military spending to disastrous levels. The Royal Navy cannot even afford to operate both carriers it has offered.

    And why is this ‘disastrous’? Whose armoured divisions are going to invade Europe? The Cold War is over and Europe is just adjusting to that fact. You don’t need carriers and mechanised divisions to deal with Islamic wack jobs in Marseilles, Munich or Manchester.

    And I would *love* the USA to start minding its own business a whole lot more than it does Phil. I would hate for Argentina to occupy the Falklands but you know what? It really ain’t something worth maintaining a navy with global reach for. In fact, no one actually needs such a navy any more.

    I don’t have a nation, Phil, I just live in one. The Cold War is over and the rest of the world needs the USA to adjust to that fact too.

  • Mr Ed

    @ P O S. I find your tone to be reminiscent of many posting on Youtube, as if you see any criticism as hostile to the USA and something to defend against.

    Spending 4% of GDP on defence is wasteful, for what threat does the US Army exist? The US Marines can take care of any credible external land threat, and a slimmed-down Army could be far more efficient, perhaps a 70% reduction in manpower would mean that US taxpayers had a little less debt to worry about, and neither Mexico nor Canada, nor even Greenland would be tempted to try anything.

    As for the Argentinians, their armed forces are even more decrepit than the British, see their Type 42 Destroyer on Google Earth, adopting a low-radar return profile whilst it awaits conversion to a submarine. However, you are right to say that the USA would probably shrug should Argentina invade, a war that both sides would appear to try to lose I suspect, particularly given how the UK almost lost last time but for making far fewer mistakes and massive US support (Libya, Peru, Israel and the USSR on the other side pushing the Junta forward). The UK may soon be past the point of being worth defending, and it is likely to get there long before the USA.

    NATO has outlived its purpose and is beginning to be a shadow of what it opposed, an aggressive block seeking an external enemy. It should have disbanded on Boxing Day 1992 when the USSR expired in a puff of bureaucratic exhaustion. It has, however, managed to avoid invading its own members so far, unlike the Warsaw Pact, and it achieved a great deal by doing nothing but waiting.

    But when the choice comes to pay for Medicare, Medicaid and all the alphabet soup of Federal agencies, where will the DoD sit in the pecking order before the last cheques bounce?

  • bradley13

    @Phil: It is perhaps a minor point, but I am not aware of any sources that support the kinds of debt numbers that you quote. Taking Switzerland as an example, since I’m Swiss:

    – If you mean total external debt, then Switzerland’s debts are indeed huge; this is a consequence of having many international companies based here. However, this external debt is smaller than the credits held; hence net external debt is actually negative.

    – If you are referring solely to governmental debt, then Switzerland’s debts are modest compared to other European countries. Most data show the US at around 105%, Germany at around 80% and Switzerland at around 50%.

    Now, there are public obligations (primarily future pension costs) that are not accounted for in these numbers, and there is a lot of disagreement as to just how big those numbers would be. For example, the US just pays pensions out of current funds, and does not make any attempt at calculating the present value of future pensions owed. However, Switzerland is unusual in requiring employers (including the government) to actually pay retirement benefits immediately into a separate retirement fund, rather than just carrying them on the books. Hence, there is no skeleton lurking in the closet, at least as far as pensions are concerned.

    In short, I cannot imagine where you get your figure of Swiss debt being 400% of GDP. This throws your other figures into question as well, unless you can provide a reliable source for them.

  • Richard Thomas

    Comparison of national government spending as a percentage of GDP is apples to oranges. The US has a distinctly different governmental structure than most other nations. One might better compare non-US national spending to US state spending or, say EU spending to US Federal spending. Or, just total the whole lot up and state it as net taxpayer burden. It doesn’t really matter to me if my dollar is being lifted by Washington, TN state government or the local city gov (though I’m likely to see a better return from the latter two).

  • raginnick

    The military budget is a tiny part of government spending compared to unconstitutional welfare, and unlike the latter is one of the few necessary and proper functions of government, furthermore in today’s world isolationism is a fantasy, any US retreat from the world would mean the advancement of Iran, Russia and China.

    as for incarceration rates, well again punishing crime is one of the proper functions of government.
    the best way to free up any space in the penitentiaries would be to widen the scope of the death penalty to cover other serious crimes; this would both free up space and provide a stronger deterrent to other criminals.

  • The military budget is a tiny part of government spending compared to unconstitutional welfare, and unlike the latter is one of the few necessary and proper functions of government,

    20% of Federal spending is tiny??? Yes a military is a legitimate role of a state but… the fact it is half the world’s military spending should give you a clue that all is not well.

    …furthermore in today’s world isolationism is a fantasy, any US retreat from the world would mean the advancement of Iran, Russia and China.

    Iran is a third world nation with laughable pretentions, Russia is a busted flush. They are a threat to their neighbours, no one else and both are about to get fracked into the insignificance they richly deserve. China, yeah. They are a threat but yet again to their neighbours, who include populous India and wealthy and technologically advanced South Korea and Japan. Wake me up when China starts setting up bases in the North Africa and projecting carrier groups into the Mediterranean. And I will care about them when they start exporting a ‘war against drug’ and surveillance of the international financial system.

    as for incarceration rates, well again punishing crime is one of the proper functions of government.

    Yeah and the fact it is the highest in the world mean something is very very wrong.

  • Laird

    Mr. Stone, the US national government may indeed expend a lower percentage of its GDP than any other industrialized nation (I haven’t checked your figures and so am accepting that statement arguendo), but that percentage is nonetheless the highest it has been in the nation’s history. That is a direct result of the federal government assuming ever more functions and engaging in activities which are not within its constitutional remit. Carve back the US government’s reach to its proper boundaries and federal spending could easily return to its historical norm of around 17% of GDP.

    You may consider 4% of GDP to be a “reasonable” amount for military spending, but I don’t. What is “reasonable” should be objectively determined with reference to legitimate existential threats, not arbitrarily pegged to GDP (the calculation of which I also object to, but that’s another discussion). In my opinion we should withdraw from NATO (which not only has no discernible function but no longer has any legitimate need for US support), bring our troops home from around the world, and focus on actual national defense (not empire-building, which is what we’re actually doing notwithstanding protestations to the contrary). We could then easily cut so-called “defense” spending (which is actually mostly military spending having little relationship to defense) by at least half with no risk to our national defense as properly understood. Europe and the rest of the world needs to grow up and take responsibility for its own defense needs, without subsidy from US taxpayers.

    Lee Moore, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. I’m with Perry dH on this issue.

  • Lee Moore

    Perry : “Do you really think the world will unwind without the constant threat of the Godzilla-like spectre of US intervention?”

    In a word, “Yes.”

    The Pax Americana is very useful and pleasant for the peaceable people of the world, and the consequences of it coming to an end will be disagreeable. Military power is a relative thing. The Hutus killed 800,000 Tutsis with machetes only twenty years ago. You do not need modern weapons to kill lots of people, just better weapons than your enemies have got.You can impose your power on a whole continent with a few thousand horsed archers – as the Mongols did – unless and until you come across enemies with better weapons or tactics. It is not necessary that your own economy be successful – you can pillage all you need. You just need the will, and the lack of a restraining moral code. These folk seem to be quite thin on the ground at present, but get rid of Godzilla and you’ll be amazed how many come out of the woodwork.

    It took Germany just ten years to go from a collapsed economy with huge debts and social chaos, to an Empire stretching from Moscow to Brest. If American power disappeared, and the nations of Europe did not then radically upgrade their own militaries (and they almost certainly wouldn’t) even currently sclerotic Russia could be in Brest within 10 years. Indeed the fun of Empire would solve most of Russia’s current social and economic problems – a collapsed economy (who cares if you can take anything you like from rich fat Europe) and a collapsing social order (what better for morale and a revival of national pride than a splendid new Empire.) What vodka-addled jobless thug sitting in a miserable cold town on the steppes wouldn’t jump at a nice clean uniform, free food and the chance to spend his time raping the snotty posh bitches of Germany and France ? The fact that Russia is a pathetic wreck now doesn’t mean it would continue to be a pathetic wreck in the absence of American power. Even if they didn’t bother to occupy Western Europe they could still tell us what to do under the threat of invasion. But I think they’d occupy – much more fun, especially for the Emperor. Adoring Russian crowds and unlimited looting. what’s not to like ?

    Obviously the Russians would also take control of the Saudi oilfields, as that’d provide a useful source of cash, and it would be childishly easy absent American power. Though they’d probably have to cut a deal with the Chinese who might cut up rough otherwise. And in the Far East the Chinese would be telling their neighbours what to do. They probably wouldn’t do much invading though they’d certainly insist on naval bases throughout the region.

  • It took Germany just ten years to go from a collapsed economy with huge debts and social chaos, to an Empire stretching from Moscow to Brest. If American power disappeared, and the nations of Europe did not then radically upgrade their own militaries (and they almost certainly wouldn’t) even currently sclerotic Russia could be in Brest within 10 years.

    You must be joking. The Russian economy is only a bit larger than the Italian economy, only vastly less diversified and sophisticated than Italy… and its demographics make Western Europe seem like a stud farm. Moreover fracking will steadily erode its main geopolitical and economic asset. Russia is only a threat if you share a border with it and frankly if I was in Latvia I would not be losing any sleep about the future.

    As for taking control of Saudi oil fields, they had logistic problems attacking Georgia for god’s sake!

  • Eric Tavenner

    Lots of people saying, reduce the American military. We have a history of reducing our military because “there is no creditable threat”, then having to scramble to build a useable force after getting hit by some insolent upstart who thought it would be a good idea to kick the big guy while he was asleep. Better I think to keep our powerful military so those poor simple opportunists don’t see an opportunity that isn’t actually there. There is also the concept of forward defense, do your fighting on someone elses turf so your own doesn’t get messed up.
    This however does not mean I do not consider the current government horrendously bloated.

  • Veryretired

    RRS—I’m not sure I can satisfy a question of that scope here but allow me some shorthand observations.

    I think the great urban migration of the last century and more, while understandable for economic and also social reasons, led to some obvious pathologies, both in society in general, and in people’s minds in particular.

    The most obvious consequence of the crowded, and often very poor, 19th century cities was the rise of political machines which thrived on corrupt provision of various city services to their loyal followers, and penalized anyone who opposed them. This is New York and Chicago and other big cities’ history.

    On a personal level, I think that system also leads to individual citizens looking to the various city agencies for continually expanding service whenever some need arises, as opposed to a more rural expectation that one should band together with the neighbors or church congregation and seek answers and solutions without the involvement of some weak and distant county or other governmental body.

    It is interesting to note the movement away from the dinosaur cities in the last half century for properties in ever more distant suburban areas where homes, lot sizes, and such things as schools are potentially better for families than living in an apartment in a crowded city, and the resultant furious attacks on such movement by progressives claiming that the suburbs are bad for any number of reasons, which all boil down to the loss of political power by inner city power politicians.

    In most states, the large metropolitan districts vote for progressive candidates, even if the restt of the state is very conservative, and the elections of many states, and also federal contests, are determined by those concentrated vote districts.

    I believe the movement out of the dinosaur cities reflects the larger demand for mobility in general, and the key to future development in our culture are the energy and freedom which facilitate such movement, and the ever expanding use of Internet connections to do work, and thus replace the industrial factory model of work and school with a decentralized system which allows people to live and learn where they choose to be instead of having to be where they might work and go to a nearby school.

    The recent tea party and pro- gun movements are hopeful signs that these dispersed communities might be able to join together to counter-balance the concentrated urban political machines. A movement toward self-reliance and self-defense would be a healthy sign, in my opinion, of a trend favoring more emphasis on individual rights and liberties in a communalist culture which has become very pervasive over the last century.

    I don’t know if that answers the questions you asked, but it’s enough for now.

  • Laird

    Eric, that “history” is pre-WW2. Technology is vastly different today. If necessary we can project force through cruise missiles, UAVs manned in Kansas or wherever, or even ICBMs come to that. And we still have nuclear bombs. We no longer have a need for a large standing military with all the costs that entails. If we made the decision not to involve ourselves in every local conflict, and stopped absorbing the costs of defending Europe (against whom?), Japan and Korea, the costs of maintaining all that technology and a military sufficient to our legitimate defense needs wouldn’t be that great. Of course, that presupposes a national will to respond to provocations and attacks not with a cowardly “measured” response but rather with a wholly disproportionate one, pour encourager les autres (which should always be the military strategy), we wouldn’t have to use that power too often.

  • bradley13

    “some insolent upstart who thought it would be a good idea to kick the big guy while he was asleep”

    Depends on what you mean by “kicking the big guy”. In the past 60-odd years the US has been involved in more than 200 military conflicts. How many of those involved attacks on American territory or the territory of direct allies? If you’re even a bit strict on the definitions, the answer is “very few”.

    I’m sure that the Pax Americana has restrained a few tense situations. However, how many tense situations has the Pax Americana created? For example: how much of the current instability in the Middle East is ultimately due to external intervention over the past decades? Would there be less Islamic terrorism if the US (and, admittedly, other countries) had let the locals sort out their differences on their own? It seems very likely.

  • Mr Ed

    Here is an example of ‘high’ defence spending in the UK, with no obvious product, in the form of aircraft carriers.

    I for one would favour a Bill of Attainder for those involved, with Zhukovian disciplinary measures, then sack the remainder, start again and repeat.

  • Lee Moore

    bradley 13 : “For example: how much of the current instability in the Middle East is ultimately due to external intervention over the past decades? Would there be less Islamic terrorism if the US (and, admittedly, other countries) had let the locals sort out their differences on their own? It seems very likely.”

    Just out of interest, did you spot that you elided US intervention in the Middle East and all foreign intervention in the Middle East ? How, precisely, does the US declining to intervene in the Middle East prevent other powers from doing so ?

  • How, precisely, does the US declining to intervene in the Middle East prevent other powers from doing so ?

    Such as who? China? Russia? India? Japan? Do they have recent form for sending armoured divisions into the Middle East? And if they did, which they won’t, I doubt they would be engaged in any “democratic nation building” bollocks. If you think stability is the principle good that foreign intervention brings, I’m sure the Russians or Chinese would be a damn sight more effective on that score and the Indian army are not exactly known for their kinder gentler approach to things either.

    But the reality is without American intervention, it would all be regional players slugging it out and the Chinese, Russians and Indians would be nowhere to be seen because they’re far too realistic to want to involved in that kind of mess.

  • RRS

    Looking at all the commentary about the maintenance of military forces, their proportional costs, functions, etc., let us also consider another crucial issue in our cultures and in our civilization.

    Is violence increasing (1) in the relationships within our cultures; (2) within our Western Civilization [economic groups, social groups, ethnic groups, “nations”]?

    Please do not quote Stephen Pinker; he ain’t been there and done that!

    Are the capacities for violence, particularly forms of violence that could result in radical changes to our cultures, the relationships within them and to our civilization, increasing and growing on the peripheries of Western Civilization, and intruding into that civilization?

    If the answer to any of those questions is affirmative in any degree, what is the necessary or appropriate response of the culture, nations, or civilization and the groups that make them up? Is it counter violence or passivity?

    For those who oppose the costs and deficiencies of having the resources of counter violence, some thought should be given to the functions of violence that we are currently observing.

  • Paul Marks

    The American military has been in decline for 50 years – both in the proportion of the economy it takes, and in raw terms (the number of ships, tanks, aircraft – and so on).

    After a half a century of decline, to imply that military spending is the main problem in the United States????

    This sort of thing would make Barack Obama smile – a man who is pushing more decline for the military.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – how much Russia and China spend on their military is unknowable (as well as meaningless).

    What can be known is that the armed forces of China (unlike the armed forces of the United States) is not in decline – the armed forces of China are getting stronger.

    When Jack Kennedy was President the armed forces of the United States were indeed the major item of military spending (there was the military – and there were old age pension, and that was about it).

    However, over the last half century things have changed – fundamentally changed.

  • After a half a century of decline, to imply that military spending is the main problem in the United States????

    Who said it was “the main problem”? But you think 20% of Federal spending is no big deal? Really? Who are you and what have you done with Paul Marks?

    By the way – how much Russia and China spend on their military is unknowable (as well as meaningless).

    A good friend of mine (and someone who has actually attended one of our blogger bashes) has spent much of his career in working for a certain US government agency making precisely those kinds of calculations based on PPP. They are far from meaningless and far from unknowable. And those the figures show many useful things, such as the fact Russia is all teeth and no gums (ie they have many weapons and remarkably poor logistic capabilities to actually use them)… and China is actually somewhat similar in that sense, albeit with a very different set of dynamic at work.

  • RRS

    It may seem trite to say, but the US military and naval forces are in a period of serious transition.

    This is possibly due to the departures from the classical (Clausewitz) concept of “war.” That is, violence conducted as combat for purposes of arriving at a decision in conflicts between “enemies.” Conflicts in our time are increasingly “insurgencies” within cultures and as caused by intrusions of one culture into another.

    We are thus moving away from the instrumentalities for the conflicts of classical war. Gun platforms, which include aircraft carriers and missile armed vessels will be a decreased but will still have specialized utility. Elements such as the Rail Gun (whose development is now being outsourced to BEA) will replace destruction by explosive force with destruction by energy. The resultant costs will be higher.

    So far as it appears, the Chinese oligarchy (civil and military) is following the historical pattern of preparing to fight “war” in its last historical format. They have largely disregarded the prospects from a demographic change that may well result in a diaspora of Chinese males departing an inadequate female population. Timing may be critical for their type of planning.

    The Russian oligarchy (civil and military) shows no signs of effective abilities for classical war, and great difficulties in dealing with insurgencies or with the conditions that can lead to insurgencies.

    We may be at a point where there are no prospective “enemies” in the sense required for classical war. Nevertheless, the capacity for counter violence and the continued development of resources for counter violence will be essential to preserve some degree of control over what order we have.

  • Alsadius

    And yet, when it comes to speech laws, most nations make the US look like the internet. Ditto gun laws. The US has some genuinely good aspects to its governance, just not nearly as many as they think they do.

  • Laird

    A fair point, Alsadius.

  • Lee Moore

    me : “How, precisely, does the US declining to intervene in the Middle East prevent other powers from doing so ?”

    YorkshireBloke : “Such as who? China? Russia? India? Japan? ”

    Did you miss the cold war ? Quite apart from arming governments they favoured, the Russians sent troops to all sorts of places. We only got a Red China in the first place because the Russians kept the Chinese communists afloat during their dodgy moments during the civil war. Did you miss the Russian occupation of Eastern Europe for forty years after WW2 ? The only reason they didn’t occupy the important bits of the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States) is that they didn’t want a war with the US.

  • Alsadius, that is certainly true.

    Lee Moore, and did you miss that the Cold War is over, Russia is a dead man walking and is completely incapable of invading and actually occupying the important bits of the Middle East? If this was 1980 I would be in complete agreement with you. It ain’t and we live in a very different world now.

  • Lee Moore

    Ah, I see where Perry’s coming from. The Cold War’s over. So that’s all right then.

    Not all historical periods are like the thirties, of course, but the thirties do illustrate that it’s a fantasy to believe that because there’s no military threat now, there’s no military threat for the foreseeable future. As I mentioned in a previous post, Germany went from a situation just as dire as Russia’s now, to an Empire stretching from Moscow to Brest, in just ten years. In fact US military spending as a percentage of GDP has halved since the end of the Cold War, so they have not maintained a Cold War footing, they have adjusted to the reduced threat. But the threat has not reduced to zero. Non American forces are only pathetic by comparison with currently armed American armed forces. Military power is relative.

    I’ve always liked Goebbels’ comments on the naivety of Germany’s neighbours :

    “In 1933 a French premier ought to have said (and if I had been the French premier I would have said it): “The new Reich Chancellor is the man who wrote Mein Kampf, which says this and that. This man cannot be tolerated in our vicinity. Either he disappears or we march!” But they didn’t do it. They left us alone and let us slip through the risky zone, and we were able to sail around all dangerous reefs. And when we were done, and well armed, better than they, then they started the war!”

  • Heh, well when you can actually point at a credible threat that requires a bunch of carrier battle groups and armoured divisions, let me know. When one appears on the horizon, I will start arguing for something to be done before the threat actually starts marching down Main Street.

    But arguing we need significant military to defend us against, er, someone or other, not sure who really, does not work for me.

    If I was in Korea, sure. If I was in Taiwan, hell yeah. India… well… sort of. Europe? Er, no. Likewise it is hard to see why the USA *really* needs the capabilities it has as it is by no means clear that US actions have made the world’s oil supplies a more stable part of the world.. and hell, I actually supported the war in Iraq.

  • Eric

    Heh, well when you can actually point at a credible threat that requires a bunch of carrier battle groups and armoured divisions, let me know.

    If you wait that long it will be far too late. It takes about three decades to develop the industry and training for modern carrier operations, based on the Chinese experience. Might be less for a country that once had carriers, but probably not too much less.

    The US spends about 5% of GDP on its military, which is about half what it spent (as a percentage of GDP) at the end of the cold war.

    As far as incarceration is concerned, well, I’m second to none in my desire to jettison the drug war, but more worrysome to me are related crimes like “currency smuggling” and “structuring”. Also the assumption if you have too much cash you must be up to no good. Where I live every serious poker player knows if the cops catch you with too much cash (the actual dollar amount seems to be sort of fluid) they’ll just take it.

    On the other hand we’re not as steeped (yet) in the creeping fascism that is “hate speech” restriction and we don’t have ASBOs. The latter I find particularly creepy.

  • Paul Marks

    RRS – I hope you are correct, but I fear a different sort of “transition” the sort of transition that the British armed forces have already undergone.

    The transition from an effective fighting force to a force too small to be effective. Defence spending in the United States is about 3% of the economy – and a lot of the spending is on totally useless things (P.C. Civil Rights training, endless bureaucracy, civilian functions, and on and on) – the actual position in terms of effective fighting equipment (and transport and logistics)is getting very serous.

    In the past American defeats have been political – the military has not been ALLOWED to win. The future (if the present policy of cuts continues) could well end up in the British situation – where the military are so small that to send them into Syria (or wherever) is to invite MILITARY defeat (the deaths of the people one sends).

    “But Mr Cameron says that the British military is fine”.

    Then Mr David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, should personally go in with the next intervention force.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way the American government is far from “limited” – it is wildly unlimited (like all other major Western governments).

    But can we please talk about the real problem – the out of control Welfare State.

    This is 2013 – not 1963.

    Military spending is NOT the main item of government spending in the United States.

    The one good thing I hoped would come from military cuts, an end to pointless adventures, is NOT happening.

    It is true that Glenn Beck (not “crazy” as people who have never talked to him like claim) and Sean Hannity (not “stupid” – as people who have not watched his show like to claim) have, over a period of years, been converted to a more careful view of the use of military power. But the establishment have not.

    John Kerry and the rest of the “liberal” establishment (Nancy Pelosi and all the other FRIENDS of Assad – friends only a couple of years ago) are now demanding that Assad be removed by the American war – and that the military do X,Y,Z other things round the world.

    Samantha Powers (the wife of Cass Sunstein) and her United Nations(George Soros backed) “Responsibility to Protect” (a doctrine they long to use against ISRAEL).

    And the “conservative” part of the establishment (including the Wall Street Journal) also want war without clearly thought out objectives.

    About the only person I have seen, on the pro war side, doing any real thinking was a retired General I watched on Hannity’s show (Hannity is against intervention – but has on people who are pro intervention).

    The General at least had a plan.

    “We should back Colonel Idris [spelling alert] of the Free Syrian Army – he is secular and has a hundred thousand men”.

    This plan may not be sensible – but at least it is a plan.

    Most interventionists are just “we should bomb Assad”.

    And then who should be in charge?

    “Errr – the Syrian people, errr democracy, errr fluffy cats, errr motherhood and apple pie, errr….”

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – I am sorry to have offended Perry (I have just seen his comment).

    Yes 20% of the Federal budget does matter (although there was a time when military spending was close to a 100% of the Federal budget).

    And YES – the defence budget can be cut, if one is prepared to accept a fundamentally different policy.

    For example – Korea and Japan must undertake their own defence (including with nuclear weapons).

    In 2012 Republicans were depressed to lose the Asian vote – they should have expected that.

    For example, in the recent Korean Presidential election the “conservative” candidate (who won) promised endless more welfare and other “public services”.

    And the rest of Asia is no different.

    Why should Asian countries be different?

    After all the United States picks up their defence bill – and the presence of American forces (to contain China) gives the local leftists a perfect Aunt Sally to blame everything on.


    One can not support defence cuts AND argue that the United States should carry on containing China.

    If one wishes the end – one must wish the means.

    If one does not wish the means (if one supports defence cuts) then one must call upon allied nations (such as Japan and the Republic of Korea) to fund their own defence.

    By the way – on General (not “Colonel” – my apologies) Idris.

    How many of those 80 thousand (or whatever) men are really loyal to him?

    After all he only joined them last year.

  • Paul Marks

    On the American Constitution – it is not obeyed (that is the problem).

    But it is one of the few Constitutions in the world that does not make me feel sick when reading it.

    Yes I am so much of a nerd that I read the Constitutions of various countries.

  • Laird

    Paul, the “fundamentally different policy” you outline in your last post is precisely what I am arguing for. However, I take issue with one comment there: “If one wishes the end – one must wish the means.” That’s simply untrue (although the converse might be true). There can be many means to a given end, not all of which are equally efficacious or desirable. One must wish “a” means, but not “the” means. And I do call upon Japan and Korea (as well as Europe) to fund their own defense costs (Japan and Europe immediately, Korea over a reasonably short period of time).

  • RRS

    Interesting as it may be, the chattering here is getting perilously close to what ought to be transpiring amongst those charged with responsibilities in the Western Powers, not least in the US and UK.

    So let me take a leap in that direction:

    Without going into the artificialities that carved out the differentiations of Syria, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan (remember?), The Palestinian Protectorate, and Iraq, the “Syria” we observe today has been held together principally for its value as a “Proxy State,” comprised of various diverse ideological, social and economic interests.

    The Interest of the US and UK in the Middle East (areas dominated principally by Muslim ideology) certainly includes the limitation of capacities for serious disorders by intrusions instigated by actors and activities from within that area and its periphery.

    The present regime in Syria controlling the principal powers of violence, exists (apparently solely) by reason of its value to the current Persian theocratic oligarchy , as a proxy; and to the present Russian political structure for purposes of a façade of “influence.” While it is not widely noted, this proxy and façade status, and the complaisance of the present regime with that status, in conflict with public needs and desires, is a major contributing force to the current insurgency. In essence, the regime exists to serve its proxy masters at the expense of the people over whom it exercises the powers of violence.

    Much concern has been expressed over who and what would replace the current regime in the event of successful intervention from the “Western Powers.” That concern has obscured the value (and realpolitik importance) of destroying the proxy status of the present regime in Syria. The interest of the US and the “Western Powers” should be to destroy the Persian proxy and collapse the Russian façade. That does not mean that Russia need be deprived of its privileges for a maritime position in the Mediterranean. That privilege should not present risks or dangers to any other interests in the Mediterranean.

    Regardless of who or what replaces the regime in Syria, the existing proxy status would be destroyed. A pawn would be removed from the chessboard. Hezbollah, the remaining principal armed pawn will be reduced to a few squares in Lebanon, from which it will also have to be removed; but in which it would now be more vulnerable.

    To destroy a Syrian regime that is subverted into proxy status would, for the time, serve as a deterrent to any successors, regardless of their composition, to accept the role of a proxy status.

    Thereafter the theocratic oligarchy in Persia would have to expend its efforts in attempting to build or strengthen proxies elsewhere (moving pawns) or acting directly, which will expose it to direct and more immediate reactions.

    These views will no doubt never see the light of day in current political discussions.

  • Paul Marks

    Laird – I accept the correction. And the Rand Paul policy (which is also your policy – no fighting over who thought of it first) is consistent. And Rand Paul explains the policy without the moments of nuttiness that his father tended to bring to debate.

    RRS – if we are going back….

    Allowing Nasser to take power in Egypt was a terrible mistake (and it could have been prevented).

    The fact that so many people in Egypt are full of praise for Nasser fills me with dread about the future of the country.

    Allowing defeat at Suez (again it could have been avoided) was also a terrible mistake – leading directly to the rise of radicalism in other Arab lands (such as Syria and the terrible events in Iraq in 1958 – which destroyed the Baghdad Pact).

    If we go all the way back…..

    Then the key mistake was sending Kim Philby’s father to the Middle East – which led to the victory of the House of Saud (the victory of the Wahabbi).

    By the way the King of Trans Jordan clings on.

    Although for how long?

    The power of the Islamists grows.

    I remember standing looking at the border Jordan with a person who comments on this site – I half expected to see the King fleeing across the border.

    Islam wakes up so suddenly – when General Gordon made his first visit to the Sudan (to fight the slave traders) Islam was asleep (he made the fatal mistake of not understanding that the monster was only asleep).

    On his his return to the Sudan (some years later) he walked into an Islamic firestorm.

  • RRS

    P M O –

    No. We are not “going back.”

    In understanding what we are dealing with now, we have to have some understanding of how it came to be as it is.

    The Wahhabi “purification” in which Abdulaziz Ibn al- Saud cloaked his intertribal conquests to reestablish his family’s former preeminence, came after the 1920 Allied confirmation of the Hashemite “kingdoms” their competitors for authority over what is now the Saudi Peninsula.

    That is a complex era, full of hubristic errors – no doubt!

    All that aside, we are dealing with what remains and what needs to be eliminated – if, we are to mitigate actual violence against ourselves.

  • RRS

    As for the Kingdom of Jordan, it has been priceless, and remains so as the “buffer” against the past mistakes in the area.

    The preservation of that buffer is too valuable to too many interests to permit its collapse.

  • To intelligently shrink and reduce the size and scope of government in the US requires a few prerequisites, none of which are in place. Everybody assumes they are in place though which makes things a bit dicey.

    1. You need to know what all the governments are. In the US there is no universally accepted criteria of what a government is and 51 authorities (each of the states and the Feds) that can make up their own. So far in my investigations it looks like there’s 51 versions out there.
    2. You need to know what these governments are actually doing so you can identify both issues of incompetence (we’re paying how much for cement?!?) and overstepping (out of 3000 counties we’re one of the only ones that think owning an amusement park is a legitimate function of county government?)

    Who are these people and what are they doing seems to be an utterly basic level of data gathering but neither the left nor the right have done the homework to do so. You end up with things like “comprehensive” political almanacs that do not cover entire levels of government. It is utterly bizarre.


  • I beg to differ, TMLutas: all you need to do is to decentralize the system back to where it was, say, before 1913. Or, better still, before the Civil War. If you don’t like your particular government building an amusement park (I know I don’t), you vote with your feet and move to a different state. Still far from perfect, of course, but nothing ever is.

  • RRS

    (RR)S Agonistes repeats in agony:

    The only proper definition or description of Limited Government is a governmental mechanism of Limited Functions.

    That applies to governments at all levels in all societies however organized.

    While levels of taxation and expenditures do correlate with the expansion or limitation of functions of governments, they do not define the limitations of governments.

    Increases in, or expansions of, the functions of governments result in changes in the structures of their mechanisms, usually through the requirements for increased facilities (Mandarinates, Agencies, bureaucracies and other power systems) for the exercise of those functions.

    Functions are assigned to the mechanisms of governments by the action or acquiescence (occasionally submission) of the body politic. Examples are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, various programs at state and local levels, including public education; the NHS, the CPS, Counsel Housing, etc.

    Functions may expand as a result of arrogation by established departments, bureaucracies and authorities, often through “specialization” in the exercise of specific functions [e.g., “intelligence” divisions within several diverse service units having other specific functions].

    For historical examples of the results, see, The History of Government S. E. Finer (3 Vols.) Oxford 1997. The capacities for self perpetuation of the Mandarinate and bureaucratic structures of governmental mechanisms to outlast the fiscal or military viability of those governments is worth observing for its cautions to current trends.

  • RRS

    Sorry for the misspelling of Council as counsel; comes from dictating rather than typing.

  • Paul Marks

    RRS – yes but Jordan had the burden of a growing Islamist movement (and all those Syrian refugees).

    Alisa – but how?

    So many millions of people are now dependent on government (they know no other way of life).

    “I would not start from here…..”

    As the Irish traditionally say (before describing how one could get to a place, with ease, if only one was somewhere else).

    But how do we “start from here”?

    I just do not know.

  • Paul, I doubt any of us have the luxury of starting from here: it looks like we will be starting – if at all – after the “New Dark Ages” blow over.

  • Paul Marks

    Alisa – alas yes.

  • Paul Marks

    RRS – yes FUNCTIONS is the key point, once the principle that central government is responsible for everything (health, education, income support – everything) then bankruptcy is only a matter of time.

    In the United States the defeat on principle really was as far back as the time of Franklin Roosevelt – even though he did not get his “New Bill of Rights” (basing turning the idea of the old Bill of Rights LIMITING government – on its head).

    The only surprise is that the fall has taken so long.

    “There is an awful of ruin in a nation” – there was a lot of resistance to setting these schemes up (they were not really under way till the mid 1960s). And the economy has taken a lot (a awful lot) to undermine – it has been able to hold up a vast weight.

    But eventually the back breaks – and Obamacare is coming (more than a straw – and a straw broke the camel’s back).

    The financial system – scream, scream, yell, yell, pull my hair out (if I had any hair).

    Things have got to such a state on the financial side that Putin’s boy, Max Keiser, does not even need to lie anymore. He can just report straight – and then laugh (it is not a good thing that Putin’s boy can laugh).

    Still the establishment do have a plan…..

    I heard about it on the BBC recently.

    Nano factories.

    Nano technology will enable anything to be made “out of dirt – and without much energy”.

    This will create “unlimited stuff” for each person and solve all problems.

    It sounded a bit too much like magic (or Star Trek replication machines).

    But it sounds less insane than their other plans.

    The other plans depend on economics – so I know they are talking B.S.

    When they talk science and technology I do not have a clue.

    So perhaps “nano factories” will solve it all.

    Accept that they did say “in forty years”.

    How about next year?

    Or next month?

  • RRS

    PMO, et al. –
    My dirge is probably getting tiresome:

    Much of the concerns (carping?) that appears here and where other soul-mates gather focus upon the Transformations of Governments which have been occurring over observable periods of time, one of which you noted.

    More importantly, and less discussed, other than by people like Kenneth Minogue, Yuval Levin, Nicholas Eberstadt, Jacques Barzun, James Q Wilson, Edward Banfield, Charles Murray and some others in a list that only the PMO has probably mastered — is the Transformation of the Citizenry.

    It Is the Transformation of the Citizenry which leads to the Transformation of Governments (at All Levels) rather than the Transformation of Governments leading to the Transformation of the Citizenry. Of course, governments, once transformed by the transforming citizenry, become an environment for further transformation of the citizenry. Organically, that is similar to the effects on subsequent human conduct from the transformation of prairie soil into a “dust bowl” by reason of prior human conduct.

    What forces instigate, impede, and set the direction’s of those transformations? Edward Banfield and his wife certainly identified one; and, the current work of McCloskey identifies another. Basically, it seems to turn upon the attitudes of humans toward one another within a culture and its surrounding social order.

    There is no historical evidence of a complete or even significant return of a transforming citizenry to its original or optimal condition, once it has crossed into new environments; the Breathless Beeb notwithstanding. Best heed the quatrain of Omar Khayyam.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Alisa, one other trouble- even if the US Federal Government is down-sized to its’ intended dimensions, the separate States have no such limits in their make-up! Indeed, the Constitution says that the States have all powers that the US Government doesn’t have! And local governments can be just as bad- remember the Kelso case?

  • Laird

    Nick, I assume that you are referring to the Kelo case (eminent domain), and while the Supreme Court did decide that one very badly the upside is that many states responded to it by tightening their eminent domain laws to curb abuse, with a number (including my own state) even adopting constitutional amendments. You are correct that under our federal system the states retain plenary power (per the 10th Amendment), but there is still value in having the government more local and closer to the people. It’s not perfect, but it’s better (and more amendable to correction) than an omnipotent federal government. And there is always the fact that with 50 separate states and thus 50 “laboratories” (Madison’s term) for experimentation you could still “vote with your feet” and move to another state if you find the one you’re in too oppressive. This form of political competition would work to curtail the worst abuses.

    I much prefer my chances of retaining some vestige of liberty with a state government than a federal one.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Laird, yes, I agree. In principle, local governments are preferable- but we still need to be wary of them. Switzerland seems to have kept its’ Federal component small- do they have something to teach us?

  • Paul Marks

    RRS – what do you mean by a “transformation” of government?

    That the government has got bigger?

    Or that the government has got more incompetent?

    As late as the 1950s the Federal government (although very large) sort-of functioned – then Jack Kennedy unionised the Federal government (by Executive Order), and brought large numbers of “social scientists” into the government (even into the military). And since then the government seems to have moved more-and-more into a position where one can still pull leavers and push buttons – but the bureaucracy just produces a total and absolute mess.

    Even legislation is now unreadable – literally so, in the 1950s most Acts passed by Congress were a few pages long (even the Interstate Highways Act is only 15 pages long), now Acts are HUNDREDS of pages long (and written in totally unclear language).

    To use the language of 1950s sociology (Mr Parsons and so on) the Federal government has moved from being “Functional” to “Dysfunctional”.

    The “transformation of the citizens” – that is easy, the population have become ignorant and (generally – not in all areas) more unskilled. As a report pointed out a couple of decades ago (I think it was an education report at the start of the 1980s – Milton Friedman quotes it in his “Free To Choose” in 1980) “this is the first generation of Americans who are, in their basic knowledge and skills, inferior to their parents”.

    These days that would be “grandparents”.

    Stand by for the reply “not in computer skills”.

    Mr Ed.

    Yes – I heard Mr James Burke, I liked his old show “Connections” (because of his attack on the idea of “historical periods”).

    His grasp of things appears to have declined – for example his repeated statement (in his BBC Radio interview) that the job of governments is to “give people what they needs – the various goods and services”.

    That may be the view of the dominant ideology of the 20th and 21st centuries (the ideology of “Star Trek” and so on), but it was NOT the dominant ideology before the 20th century (an historian should know that – and Mr James Burke did NOT say “now” he talked as if this had always been the purpose of government).

    As for his predictions.

    The central prediction (forty years ago) was that the new generation would welcome government snooping (ID cards and so on).

    In age where people (especially the young) are fanatically opposed to government snooping (even going to the extreme of treating friends-of-Putin such as Mr Snowden as hero figures) Mr Burke’s predictive powers appear flawed.


    Just because he does not understand society, does not mean that his technological predictions are incorrect.

    They may be correct.

    Roll on the Nano Factories (each person being able to produce anything – from a bit of dirt and bit of energy).

    Even if none of us live to see them.

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly no Nick.

    Whilst the Federal (it is supposed to be a Confederation – but it is not) government of Switzerland is smaller than that of the United States – it is still huge, and has grown rapidly.

    One does not have to go back to the victories of Federal power in 1848 (the defeat of the right to secede) or 1874 (more power to the centre) or the early years of the 20th century (the creation of the Central Bank, the unified Civil Code, the first Federal “insurance” schemes…..), even if one looks just in modern times (say from 1959 when the Social Democrats entered the Swiss government – which they have never left since 1959) the Swiss government has grown dramatically.

    Next door Liechtenstein may have more to teach us.

    The statists (“moderates”) lost the last election in Liechtenstein – and the government (and the Prince) may be taking real action to prevent the welfare-state schemes bankrupting the country (this action should be studied).

    Also tiny Liechtenstein accepts a right to secede – if the people of a village really want to be independent no one is going to send men with guns to the village to kill them for the “crime” of not wanted to be part of Liechtenstein.

    Now that is something we could all learn from.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick I know of no State (not even California or New York) where government spending is as out-of-control as that of the Federal government.

    Some State Constitutions are a lot more “paranoid” than the Federal Constitution is.

    John Adams wrote that the U.S. Constitution was written for a moral and religious people – and would be no good for any other.

    That is actually a TERRIBLE CONFESSION.

    Constitutions should not be written for people-of-good-will happy to interpret words as they were intended.


    Constitutions for corrupt scumbags – people who will not openly rip them up (nothing can be done by lawyers against barbarians), but people who will seek to twist every word, trying to turn it upside down.

    A Constitution should be written with the following thought constantly in mind…..

    “How would corrupt scumbags try and twist this text”.

    A Constitution such as that of Alabama (in spite of all its faults) has the virtue that it was clearly written with that thought in mind.

    The Republic of Venice lasted a thousand years.

    Why so?

    Because its Constitutional laws were NOT written for a “moral and religious people”.

    By the way the argument that John Adams meant “the general public” does not work either – he who puts his trust in the people (to be alert in the preservation of liberty) “builds his house upon sand”, as the old Italian saying puts it.

    Only a minority of people are even awake to public affairs most of the time – a Constitutional text must understand this.

    People such as the Chief Justice of the 1930s (the Constitution gives me wiggle room, on gold, – so I can pass the buck to the people they will get rid of Roosevelt anyway) or Chief Justice Roberts now (the Constitution gives me wiggle room on Obamacare – the people will get rid of Obama anyway….) DESERVE 1936 and 2012.

    Fail in your duty – and the people will fail as well (half of Americans do not even know what Obamacare is – they are too busy watching the backside of M. Cyrus).

    No “wiggle room” – full “paranoia” in the text, harsh, blunt, detailed.


    No trust for politicians.

    No trust for judges.

    And no trust in “the people” either.

    The writers of a Constitution do not personally profit from the expansion of government (because they will be long dead).

    So they are just about the only people who are both awake, and objective enough to limit government.

    As long as they are “paranoid”.

    Practical example……

    The old Constitution of Illinois (1870 to 1970) was written by people who (although corrupt themselves – indeed possible because they were corrupt themselves) understood that government had to be limited.

    The modern Constitution of Illinois (written in 1970) is written to let government help people.

    No prizes for guessing which is the better Constitution – and which will lead Illinois to bankruptcy.

  • RRS

    P M O –


    subject to the caveat that your views may differ –

    The transformations occur in the functions assigned or devolved to the mechanisms of governments. (I accept that PdeH regards governments as institutions and not mechanisms, but our mileage varies).

    Principal among the transformations is the change in the functions of governments in the relationships amongst individuals and groups extant within the jurisdictions and peripheries of those governments. In Western societies we observe an ever broadening devolution of the conduct of relations between individuals and groups to the functions of mechanisms of governments at the various levels.

    That devolution in the conduct of relations is probably part of the general desire for “emancipation” from obligations and particularly the obligation of responsibility. Members of societies with extensive devolution seek to avoid the contentions,conflicts, and need for personal involvement in resolution of matters requiring cooperation with others.

    That is not to say that those human predilections are limited to the Western forms of the mechanism of governments. Those predilections have been observed historically in institutional structures, religious organizations, guilds, cults and communes.

    That is my view. What is yours? What is that of PdeH?

  • Paul Marks

    RRS – yes it is quite true that there has been a fundamental transformation in relation to the functions that government undertakes in most Western societies.

    More and more things that were considered basic (foundational) to civil society, are now the province of the state.

    I do not think this will endure.

    But I no longer believe that there were be rational reform (a planned roll back of function from government back to civil society).

    I believe there is going to be a mess.

  • And to Perry de Havilland, are you denying that blacks and Hispanics commit a disproportionate number of violent crime in the United States? Are you denying facts? Are you a black crime denier? Do you have an affinity for punishing white people in the United States with black crime? Do you enjoy rape, murder and robbery?

  • Paul Marks

    Federale – this thread is about Federal government military spending.

    You see to think it is about something else.

    By the way – a libertarian does not accept abstractions such as “blacks”, “Hispanics” (or “whites”).

    We are concerned with INDIVIDALS.

    I dislike some people who happen to be black (such as Barack Obama) and I like other people who happen to be black (such as Walter Williams). I also dislike some people who happen to be white (such as many mass murderers I could name).

    I judge people by their individual character – not the colour of their skin.

    I suspect Perry does the same.

    And, I suspect, you (in practice) do the same.

    For example, say in the next Presidential election in the United States (I assume you are an American) the candidate of the Democrats was Hillary Clinton – and the candidate of the Republicans was M. Rubio, or Ted Cruz.

    Would you not vote for the Hispanic over the Anglo?