Sunday, January 25, 2009

Helping Africa, A new form of government

The basis of the "nonconservative" doctrine is simple: Just as the Romans used military power to colonize the world, the U.S. should use its power to democratize the world. It is viewed as a moral imperative, under the basic principle that, if a fellow human is suffering under tyranny, you should help liberate him, if you can. That was the underlying basis of the War in Iraq, i.e. to establish a democracy in the heart of the middle east. I supported the war originally on this basis alone (I never bought the WMD argument), but changed my opinion after the high cost was revealed. In short, because we can't afford it, we shouldn't do it. Too late now, I suppose.

I am of the opinion that Bush will be viewed quite favorable by history regarding Iraq because a democracy will emerge there. The younger generation will have access to the internet. If you go to a third world country, and see all the school kids on computers and surfing the internet, you are immediately struck by the notion that these kids will almost surely improve upon the society that they inherited. Their minds have been set free, in a very real sense. Their parent stare at them in wonder. Its hard to imagine computer and internet literate people living in mud huts.

To Africa: The problem we face in trying to help Africa is that most of the continent lacks the basic foundations for growing a free society. The three legs are (1) the uncorrupted rule of law under liberal, minimalist principles and a strictly limited government focused on police and public safety issues, (2) protection of private property rights, and (3) a stable currency. Once these three legs are in place, a stable, free society will grow, no matter what else happens. The Africa problem will not be solved until institutions, likely government institutions, are established that guarantee these things over an adequate geographic area.

I think we should now focus our attention on establishing a stable society somewhere in Africa. This we could likely afford. The plan, in short: (1) Pick a nice piece of land appropriate for the establishment of a new African state, (2) send the military to occupy it, (3) govern according to the three legs. I would also note that democracy is overrated. In fact, it would be counterproductive to establish democratic rule until the populace is educated, which will happen only after decades of evolution, if ever.

A post arguing against representative democracy would be too long to complete here. But I would suggest that a better form of government might be semi contractual, with the agreement between the people and the government being something along the lines of this: The government agrees to provide certain government services. The citizens agree to pay taxes to support these services. So how do we choose the rulers? We vote on contracts of a certain term, say 10 years, proposed by various sets of aspiring ruling parties, with each contract listing the power structure proposed, the services to be rendered, and the cost. Long term debt would not be allowed. If you want a contract with more services, you need to pay as you go. Also, the tax structure outlined by the contract would have to be evenly spread among the population as a flat tax, possibly with an exemption on the first, say $10,000 of income. That is the only way I see for the cost of government services to be taken into account by the body of voters. And of course, the tendency of voters to ignore the costs of the government they demand is at the root of our current problems.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yay for Obama

The current media take on the large "economic stimulus" package now being advanced by Mr. Obama is that it is an "attempt to save capitalism".

It is quite the opposite. It is rather a last ditch attempt to save the concept of central government planning in America. It is beyond reasonable dispute that the American economy has been centrally planned since at least the early 1970s, and the intensity of the planning effort has increased every single day, and continues to increase. Without going into the details of the myriad government interventions, regulations, and plans, suffice it to say that the vast majority of capital allocation decisions in our economy have been either directly made or fundamentally influenced by government programs, policies, or regulations. Every decision, down to a decision as small as to whether or not to buy an apple, is heavily influenced or directly controlled by government (in the case of apple, an apple is normally not subject to sales tax, so government encourages it, and a host of international trade regulations that regulate type and price of apples further limit consumer choices among foods and relative prices).

When Mr. Obama was elected, I was pleased, but was having trouble articulating why. I decided to write this post because my feeling have crystallized a bit.

The next president is going to be the standard bearer of the pro-government forces last stand, their last chance to demonstrate that a society characterized by government planning and intervention is sustainable.

Both Republican and Democratic Parties (along with all minor parties other than the Libertarians) are devout planners and regulators. It is an unfortunate fact that Americans, thanks to inexcusably incompetent media organizations and the government educational establishment, have been taught that the Republicans are a "small government" party, that they represent a non-central-planning philosophy. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

So either party, if given power, would do the same thing: Take all steps possible in an attempt to "save government."

Put simply, I'm happy that Obama will soon be president because I want the best, most honest, most well-intentioned, most popular, most "progressive" central planner in charge of the last ditch attempt to save government.

I (unlike many of my progressive buddies) am not thoroughly convinced in my convictions. I know that the evidence is strong and growing that a society planned by the government is not sustainable. But now we are going to find out whether central planning can work or not. If Obama cannot make it work, who can?

I would be willing to bet that Obama, despite his intelligence, integrity, and good intentions, will utterly fail. But we don't need to speculate. We're now, finally, going to see.