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.

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