Tyranny Addiction

“The wisest use of American strength is to advance freedom.” ~George W. Bush

Is it George? Just last week three events occurred that led me to believe America is actually not concerned with advancing freedom. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez walked into New York and made a very hostile comment about you to the United Nations. "The devil came here yesterday,” he said, “right here. It smells of sulfur still today." And then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the guy you don’t like too much, went around lecturing the UN about the evils of American power and proclaiming that the Holocaust never happened. And finally, China, our favorite communist trading partner, managed to block UN efforts to establish a peacekeeping in Sudan to stop the nasty genocide that has been going on there.

Should we use our American strength to bully around these freedom haters, George? Probably not. These three events paint a pretty clear picture of the world’s dangerous oil addiction. The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation currently controls 40% of Sudanese oil wells and pumps about 300,000 barrels of crude per day. Forget that genocide in Darfur is occurring and bloodshed is everywhere, because we need China’s economy to prosper so we can get more cheap crap from them. And forget that Hugo Chavez uses the money we give him for our oil to undermine democratic elections in Latin America and crush freedom in the region, because we need fuel for our Hummers, dammit! And while we’re at it, we better whine and cry about Ahmadinejad developing nuclear weapons and running his theocratic regime with the money we hand him for oil.

Instead of bitching about how evil these leaders are and threatening to use force against them, why don’t we take away their main source of income, George? If Ahmadinejad wasn’t getting our oil money he would barely be able to run his country, let alone pursue nuclear weaponry. And he definitely wouldn’t be strolling around New York spouting off about the Holocaust being a myth. Without his main source of income Chavez would be powerless to stop democratic elections in Latin America. They may not be the best leaders in the world, but they aren’t stupid. Ahmadinejad and Chavez know that the United States is weak, the military is overstretched, and you’re extremely unpopular in your own country.

Why are you so against weaning ourselves off of oil, George? Think of how much money we could have invested in alternative fuel research and infrastructure with the money we’re wasting in Iraq. Think of how much revenue the government could generate if you taxed the hell out of gasoline and forced consumers to look for an alternative. Think of how much better the world would be without these wackos causing so much trouble. You said it yourself George, “Everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear.” How about sticking to your word?.. is it really so much to ask?
Classic libertarian thought is fairly straightforward: the government is an evil institution bent on crushing individual civil liberties and using violence for perpetual expansion. Classic Libertarians fear big government and believe that the more the government grows, the more it crushes liberties and personal space. These classic libertarians are especially afraid of expanding military and state policing powers, believing the state is only going to use force against its citizens. Fair enough… if the government is the biggest threat to personal liberty, then it’s reasonable for a classic libertarian to oppose it.

But what if the government isn’t the biggest threat to freedom and liberty?

In the past, libertarians believed in free markets because under traditional theories of economics, what is good for business is good for the consumer. Today, this isn’t quite so true. Libertarians are now rethinking their view of the government for one simple reason: corporations are becoming more powerful than governments. Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest corporation, for example, has annual revenue larger than the GDP of Peru. Those libertarians who once believed that government was a necessary evil, may begin thinking of government as a force for good.

Consider the following: defense corporations now have a huge say in the weapons systems that the US military invests in; private hedge funds hold a substantial portion of the US debt; the energy industry dominates the executive branch of the government; and oil companies have become so powerful that they can dictate when and why the United States goes to war. Regardless of whether you believe all of the above is true, it’s impossible to deny that corporations wield enormous political power in the United States. And a corporation, unlike the US government, is a hierarchical institution resembling a tyrannical regime more than a democracy.

Libertarians are justified in fearing the increasing rise of corporate power. How they re-act is still to be determined. Ultimately, it is possible that libertarians may turn to the state for help. Recognizing that the government may not be the biggest threat to personal liberty will become the beginning of a new wave of libertarianism.

Congressional Bingo

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to deliver that message to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist last week, when he tacked an online gambling prohibition bill onto a much larger port security bill up for vote in the Senate. Mr. Frist, along with other congressional Republicans, believe that online gambling is immoral; that it ruins families; that is sends young people into huge debt before they graduate from college; and that big brother needs to lead them on a path to a healthy, gambling free life. Of course, gambling is OK as long as its bingo in a Catholic Church, the Ohio Lottery, or horses running around a track. Sound a bit hypocritical?

Mr. Frist and his Republican buddies have been pushing free trade for years. The Central American Free Trade Agreement, for example, was a huge win for these free-trade Republicans. In the gambling world, it was big news when the small island nation of Antigua sued the United States in the World Trade Organization, arguing that prohibiting financial transfers to online casinos headquartered in Antigua (or any other country) was a violation of free trade. The WTO ruled in favor of Antigua. The US was unhappy, so they appealed the case. The WTO ruled in favor of Antigua again. Not only has the US failed to uphold this WTO ruling, but they have blatantly acted out against it. In the past year, US officials have arrested online gambling executives from the Caribbean and Western Europe who set foot inside US territory on the charge of soliciting illegal gambling. And now Mr. Frist is trying to push his morals on America again, despite how protectionist it may be.

The United States has recently gone to the WTO for help with a dispute over Chinese protectionism. The US is arguing that Chinese government policies that restrict importing auto parts from the US are unfair and a violation of free trade. Sound familiar? The US cries to the WTO when China starts acting like a bully; but when the WTO gives the US a slap on the hand in regards to online gambling, America sees no reason to comply. How can the US even begin to justify ignoring a WTO ruling and then expecting China to comply with a similar one?

Maybe Mr. Frist doesn’t know, but the online gambling industry is an extremely savvy one. Everyone in the United States who was gambling online before the prohibition bill passed is still gambling today. Passing the prohibition bill is not going to help Republicans at all in the midterm elections, since Christian voters are much more likely to be turned off by the Foley scandal than impressed by the online gambling ban. If anything, the bill is more likely to alienate moderates and libertarians who might have otherwise supported Republicans. But really, the only thing that this bill really does is make the US look like a clown in the eyes of the rest of the world. Picking and choosing when to respect the global community and the WTO isn’t something that the greatest country in the world should do. Maybe Mr. Frist should retake American History 101, anyone with half a brain knows how poorly prohibition works.