Consider Bastiat’s comments on Rome and how–if you substitute for slavery the drug war and tax slavery–they apply to the modern US:
What is to be said of Roman morality? And I am not speaking here of the relations of father and son, of husband and wife, of patron and client, of master and servant, of man and God—relations that slavery, by itself alone, could not fail to transform into a whole network of depravity; I wish to dwell only on what is called the admirable side of the Republic, i.e., patriotism. What was this patriotism? Hatred of foreigners, the destruction of all civilization, the stifling of all progress, the scourging of the world with fire and sword, the chaining of women, children, and old men to triumphal chariots—this was glory, this was virtue. It was to these atrocities that the marble of the sculptors and the songs of the poets were dedicated. How many times have our young hearts not palpitated with admiration, alas, and with emulation at this spectacle!
From Bastiat, Selected Essays in Political Economy, quoted in Geoffrey Allan Plauché, “Roman Virtue, Liberty, and Imperialism: The Murder-Suicide of Classical Civilization.” America is riddled with patriotism, with American flags senselessly displayed all over, and people mindlessly responding to criticism of the Fatherland with the retort, “You show me another country that’s better!” Its wars, the welfare state, its taxes and manipulation of money, its jails full of non-criminals have indeed debased morals. We have scourged the world with fire and sword, and statues of our modern warlord gods, such as Lincoln, adorn our capital city. As for the last line, about the youth swooning over our military might and conquest, one is reminded of the not completely tongue-in-check skit Wayne’s World during Gulf War I, when Wayne and Garth had fun watching the videos of US missiles destroying Iraqi targets.
The two are definitely in the same league, in absolute terms. Maybe Obama is Nixon to Bush’s LBJ, in that he is continuing and expanding upon his predecessor’s foreign and domestic enormities, deserving special ire for ramping them up, but with the president before still deserving special hatred for having started so many horrible policies.
Of course, it is unfair to compare Obama to Bush just yet, since Bush had eight years of destruction and Obama has only had a little over two. Nevertheless, let’s remember what Bush had done by this point in his presidency, mid-March 2003. Just over two years into his presidency, Bush had:
- Invaded and occupied Afghanistan
- Invaded Iraq
- Rounded up and detained hundreds of aliens right after 9/11
- Established a policy of indefinite detention and torture
- Created a prison camp at Guantanamo
- Signed the Patriot Act, including major assaults on free speech (National Security Letters) and a near total annihilation of the Fourth Amendment
- Created the Transportation Security Administration
- Created the Department of Homeland Security
- Instituted “Project Safe Neighborhoods” and overseen a vast increase in firearms prosecutions by the Justice Department
- Signed No Child Left Behind
- Rammed through Medicare Part D, adding $20 trillion in unfunded liabilities, the largest expansion of the welfare state in about 35 years
- Rammed through Sarbanes-Oxley, the largest expansion of the corporate regulatory state perhaps since the New Deal, which has devastated the economy
- Signed protectionist steel tariffs
- Expanded farm subsidies
- Made “free-speech zones” a commonplace
- Directed the NSA (a branch of the military) to warrantlessly wiretap the American people
- Accelerated the subsidization (directly and indirectly) of home ownership by minorities and others who couldn’t really afford houses, sowing the seeds for a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble, culminating in the crash of ’08
Obama has done a staggering amount of damage in just over two years, but I submit that Bush might still have him beat in terms of destruction unleashed in so short a time. Also, the war in Iraq has long-term consequences in foreign relations that are yet to be seen. Bush could very well be the Woodrow Wilson of the 21st century, having set in motion a series of devastating events humanity will suffer from for a century.
Obama is definitely no sort of relief from the Bush years. But never let it be forgotten how completely terrible his predecessor was, right off the bat.
With great solemnity, “Defense” Secretary Robert Gates imparted on West Point cadets this Friday a hard-earned pearl of newly discovered wisdom:
“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an assembly of Army cadets here.
In other words, ”Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”
Sounds like good advi… Wait,what? Not everyone knows this already? Inconceivable!
Any culturally literate person has seen The Princess Bride at least once in the last 24 years1 and certainly knows about the most famous classic blunder:
Andy Greenberg has a fascinating interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange posted at Forbes.com. Assange states that he has been significantly influenced by “market libertarianism,” and though I disagree with the conclusions of his “expertise in politics and history” he is most assuredly a friend to the cause of liberty. Check out this excerpt from the interview.
For decades, some elements of the Right (occasionally abetted by people who should have known better) have peddled the notion that Mexico has created a vast and well-organized “fifth column” within the United States dedicated to La Reconquista — the re-conquest of territories seized by the U.S. during the Mexican-American War. In this scenario, non-assimilated Mexicans by the millions are stealthily enlisting in a campaign of subversion orchestrated by the Mexican government with the help of foundation-funded anti-American groups on this side of the border — and, when the time is right, this fifth column will erupt in an orgy of violence and mayhem.
Whatever revanchist sentiments may exist in Mexico are the residue of Washington’s seizure of roughly half the country through a war of aggression. Washington’s proxy narco-war, which has killed tens of thousands of people since 2006 and displaced hundreds of thousands more, has done nothing to palliate those feelings. An actual U.S. invasion might be the only thing that would turn the alarmist fantasy of a nationalistic uprising on the part of Mexicans living on the U.S. side of the border into something akin to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Since 2007, when the Fed’s most recent economic bubble collapsed, immigration from Mexico has tapered off dramatically. In Arizona, immigration (both legal and illegal) and violent crime have both been in decline for a decade. Yet the state’s Republican leadership, and much of its law enforcement apparatus — from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the corrupt septuagenarian headline whore, to Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau, his younger and more telegenic understudy — insist that the state is under unremitting siege. Governor Jan Brewer, who claimed that the “majority” of illegal immigrants from Mexico are “mules” in the employ of drug cartels and that illegal immigrants had committed “beheadings” in Arizona, was headed for electoral oblivion following an unpopular tax increase — until she seized on the immigration issue, which propelled her to a dramatic political recovery.