Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lessons from the Ukraine

Roger L. Simon notes that we need an American Spring to cut away the excess and superfluous laws and bureaucracy that  are choking our freedoms and economic development. He writes:
We need some government, obviously, but at this point in American history, in order to save our nation, we need to get the state as much as possible out of our lives, to cut its functions with a meat cleaver to release our better impulses, to have the renewal of Spring. Deep down even some modern liberals realize this. (Bill Clinton famously said the era of big government is over before running the other way as if in fear of his own honesty.)

In this coming crucial year, those of us who feel the overweening state is the problem must reach out our hands to our fellow citizens as never before. My sense is that many of them are ready to hear our message. (The fiasco of Obamacare has been a gift in that regard.) And if we don’t reach out our hands, there will be no American Spring. Things will only get worse. (The horrific attempt of the FCC to monitor newsrooms is a harbinger of totalitarian things to come.)
However, Simon still believes it can be achieved through normal political channels and processes. I'm not so sure for several reasons.

     First, we run up against public choice theory--that most, if not all, people vote in ways that favor their self interest (as they perceive that self-interest); and that bureaucrats, unable to maximize "profits" as in a normal economic model, instead attempt to maximize their power, be it through increasing budgets, increased authority, or increased number of staff. The worst thing for a bureaucrat to do is to actually solve the problem his or her agency was created to solve. This, to a great extent, explains the failure of the war on poverty. The goal was not to move people out of poverty, but to create a population of voters that would loyally vote democratic and large federal bureaucracy. In short, there are entrenched interest groups and government bureaucrats willing to fight tooth and nail against any cuts in government.

     Second, there is a huge disconnect between our political elite and the bulk of America. The elite might as well be aliens--they grow up, are educated, are entertained and work in a world so different from the rest of the country that they do not understand Americans; and, frankly, hold Americans in the deepest contempt.

     Now many conservatives are calling for peace within the party--that we need to work with establishment Republicans to wrest control of Congress and the Oval Office back from Democrats and then implement the needed reforms. Roger L. Simon, for instance, says in the article cited earlier:
But in order to achieve this American Spring, those who favor  a diminished state must exercise discipline and kindness as never before.  They should avoid internal rectification campaigns (shooting their own, looking for ideological perfection that doesn’t exist).  We are not communists.  That’s what they do. 
Those already convinced of our cause — small-government conservatives, Tea Partiers, libertarians — should put aside their squabbles for now,  join together and seek to be as inclusive as possible.  Ideological purity, indeed ideological terminology itself, is inherently exclusionary and often obfuscating. Gloating of any sort is also counter-productive, possibly terminally.  Instead, we must patiently explain, even to our most intractable adversaries, why our proposals for limited government are for their benefit as well as our own. We must do this in the face of a troglodytic and reactionary media and entrenched bureaucracies and interest groups from over a century of statism.  We cannot stop or give up.
     I don't see this working, mostly because working with the Tea-Party is anathema for most establishment Republicans. RINOs such as John McCain actually enjoy greater influence through brokering deals when Republicans are in the minority than they would ever enjoy with Republicans in control of the Senate. Plus, the RINOs know that if the nation swings conservative or libertarian, many of them could end up losing their jobs and associated perks.

     In any event, we know from recent experience that working with the RINOs won't work. The Tea Party swept Republicans into power in the House in 2010. Although there have been a few short-lived fights, the House Republican leadership has pretty much caved to everything offered up by the Democrats while at the same time vilifying the Tea Party. They plan on rolling over on the illegal alien issue, over the clear opposition of the Republican base, even though it will make much more difficult--perhaps impossible--for Republicans to win the White House in the future.

     I will concede that once primaries are over, it is necessary to unite against the liberals. But before primaries, I see no reason to support a RINO over someone who actually believes in fiscal conservatism and small government.

    I also believe it is time we begin to look at the possibility--just the possibility, mind you--of having to act outside the normal political process to protect our rights. Andrew Wood, writing at the American Interest, notes the following about the Ukrainian Revolution:
The seismic shift in Ukraine was achieved by its people, not outside forces, and not its politicians. There was no conspiracy, no mob violence let alone “pogroms”, and no march of eastern Ukraine against the west and center of the country in defense of Yanukovych. Of course there were fears and divisions, and the future is uncertain, but the central, momentous fact was this: the refusal of the Ukrainians to accept that their rulers have the right to compel them to obedience, and the lesson that, on the contrary, Ukraine’s rulers must govern in the interests of the people, as their servants not their masters.
 The protests in Venezuela may be heading down the same path. The New York Times reports:
As dawn broke, the residents of a quiet neighborhood here readied for battle. Some piled rocks to be used as projectiles. Others built barricades. A pair of teenagers made firebombs as the adults looked on.

These were not your ordinary urban guerrillas. They included a manicurist, a medical supplies saleswoman, a schoolteacher, a businessman and a hardware store worker.

As the National Guard roared around the corner on motorcycles and in an armored riot vehicle, the people in this tightly knit middle-class neighborhood, who on any other Monday morning would have been heading to work or taking their children to school, rushed into the street, hurling rocks and shouting obscenities. The guardsmen responded with tear gas and shotgun fire, leaving a man bleeding in a doorway.

“We’re normal people, but we’re all affected by what’s happening,” said Carlos Alviarez, 39, who seemed vaguely bewildered to find himself in the middle of the street where the whiff of tear gas lingered. “Look. I’ve got a rock in my hand and I’m the distributor for Adidas eyewear in Venezuela.”

The biggest protests since the death of the longtime leader Hugo Chávez nearly a year ago are sweeping Venezuela, rapidly expanding from the student protests that began this month on a campus in this western city into a much broader array of people across the country. On Monday, residents in Caracas, the capital, and other Venezuelan cities piled furniture, tree limbs, chain-link fence, sewer grates and washing machines to block roads in a coordinated action against the government.

Behind the outpouring is more than the litany of problems that have long bedeviled Venezuela, a country with the world’s largest oil reserves but also one of the highest inflation rates. Adding to the perennial frustrations over violent crime and chronic shortages of basic goods like milk and toilet paper, the outrage is being fueled by President Nicolás Maduro’s aggressive response to public dissent, including deploying hundreds of soldiers here and sending fighter jets to make low, threatening passes over the city.
      I believe that we cannot affect change through elections if the IRS and other agencies are going to persecute and harass conservative advocates and donors to influence the outcome of elections; if federal and state officials are going to idly stand by in the face of voter fraud; if the media is going to conceal fraud and corruption and actively undermine one party while blatantly supporting the other. Our only recourse may be through widespread protests, boycotts and strikes. Not a gradual "going Galt" but a sudden unified voice saying "no more!"

     Would these protests turn violent? Probably. The militarization of the police has almost guaranteed it. Men in unmarked cars and wearing military fatigues, will pull up and whisk protesters away; police will use tear gas and sonic weapons (video)--perhaps even microwave weapons--to drive protesters away. Flammable gas grenades ("burners") will be used against tents and shacks. Flash bang grenades and grenades firing "non-lethal" shrapnel will be used. "Accidents" will happen, and some protesters will be seriously wounded or die from these "non-lethal weapons." If the protesters try and protect themselves, police snipers firing from rooftops and helicopters will attempt to engage and eliminate the leaders. At some point, police will resort to live ammunition, including using the tens of thousands of automatic weapons (i.e., weapons of war) in the hands of our police forces. The military may even become involved in breaking up such protests. Entire cities may be placed in "lock down." (See also here).

     I guess we will see how this next election turns out, but I for one don't see anything in the excesses and hubris of the media or government that encourages me to believe that this election will be run any different than that of 2012.

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