Category Archives: Op-Eds

Happy 20th Anniversary. Guess What Your Gift Is?

Platter, JingdezheExhibit in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Photo by Daderot. Public Domain.
Platter, Jingdezhe. Exhibit in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Photo by Daderot. Public Domain.

Twenty years after the 9/11 attacks, the US government is finally — well, probably, kinda sorta — ending its lost war with Afghanistan, drawing down its presence in Iraq, and reducing the heat of its “global war on terror” from a rolling boil to  hot-tub temperature.

Good news, right?

After two decades of getting groped at airports, searched and surveilled without warrant or even probable cause, and paying through the nose to finance the murders of hundreds of thousands of civilians  in the Middle East and Central Asia BECAUSE OSAMA BIN LADEN, we can get back to an America that looks a little bit more like an America nobody under the age of 20 or so remembers, and a little bit less like East Germany, right?

And without the burden of $70 billion per year in Afghanistan war costs alone, not even counting other “war on terror” boondoggles, we can take a chainsaw to the “defense” budget and cut America’s military machine down to something resembling a reasonable size, right?

Well, not so fast.

So far there’s no sign of the Transportation Security Administration being disbanded or of the FBI ceasing to use paid informants to  manufacture “terror plots” to justify its existence, or of the NSA taking off its headphones, cruising off to the break room for a cup of coffee, and letting us make our phone calls with a reasonable expectation of privacy.

And the US House Armed Services Committee wants to increase the “defense” budget by even more than President Biden has requested, rather than give it even a moderate haircut.

What’s up with that?

The national security state that took root in the US after World War 2 has always required a designated enemy, a boogey-man sufficiently threatening to make its massive and continuous transfers of wealth from your wallet to the bank accounts of “defense” contractors seem reasonable.

Until 1990, the main designated boogey-man was the Soviet Union. When that paper tiger fell through the shredder and into the dustbin of history without warning, a decade-long scramble to manufacture a new enemy ensued, and found success when al Qaeda finally managed a successful stroke on US soil after years of warning of its intention to do exactly that if US troops didn’t get out of Saudi Arabia.

Now that the “war on terror” — an obvious scam from the beginning — is all played out after working its boogey-man magic for 20 times as long as even the most optimistic con artist would likely have predicted way back when, it requires a replacement. Hopefully a more expensive replacement, and certainly one that doesn’t reduce the revenues of the previous grift.

What kind of gift do you get for the country that has everything, including ubiquitous surveillance cameras, facial recognition systems, airport body scanners, and “Real ID” internal passports?

Well, the traditional 20th anniversary gift — and, it seems, the national security state’s romantic and thoughtful choice of new designated enemy for America — is China.

Happy anniversary, I guess. But frankly I’d prefer divorce papers and no alimony demands.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION HISTORY

More Reasons of State, More Troubles

Publications associated with the CNT and FAI
Ideas on liberty in CNT-FAI publications during the Spanish Civil War. Public domain.

Linguist Noam Chomsky is known for mincing no words about the corruptions of political power. Yet when asked whether “government of the people, by the people, for the people is just a sham” at the end of an interview by John Rachel for CounterPunch (August 27), Chomsky insists that it is only “if we let it be,” and that Americans could instead “choose to exercise” their ability to turn their nation into a “cooperative commonwealth.”

This is at odds with Chomsky’s preceding replies, which detail how the United States wages war in ways that not only contradict popular opinion but violate its own laws. Chomsky’s 1973 book For Reasons of State took its title from a passage by Mikhail Bakunin about how “the State is the organized authority, domination, and power of the possessing classes over the masses.”

Chomsky holding out hope in 2021 that the people can and should “take the reins of government into their own hands” likewise ignores Bakunin’s observation that the state’s use of force necessarily “shatters the universal solidarity of all men on the earth, and brings some of them into association only for the purpose of destroying, conquering, and enslaving all the rest.”

Chomsky himself documented in Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship how the “organs of power and administration remained separate from the central Republican government” in the social movements fighting the fascist seizure of power during the Spanish Civil War, yet he reinforces what Larry Gambone calls “the myth of socialism as statism,” the very conflation of popular and political power for which Chomsky famously took mainstream historians to task.

Modern-day popular movements seeking an end to social warfare could do well to rediscover the forms of voluntary socialist organization noted by Chomsky and Gambone. They should also revive Bakunin’s vigilance against the “bold plunder” and “shabby betrayal that [is] daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states.”

Correction: In the original version of this op-ed, John Rachel was misidentified as John Roberts.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

  1. “More Reasons of State, More Troubles” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, September 3, 2021
  2. “More reasons of state, more troubles” by Joel Schlosberg, Lake Havasu City, AZ News, September 3, 2021
  3. “More reasons of state, more trouble” by Joel Schlosberg, Sidney [Montana] Herald, September 11, 2021
  4. “More Reasons Of State, More Troubles” by Joel Schlosberg, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, September 12, 2021
  5. “Do the regulators view Bitcoin as a real alternative?” by Joel Schlosberg, The Press [Millbury, Ohio], August 23, 2021
  6. “The money monopoly itself is the abuse” by Joel Schlosberg, Elko, Nevada Daily Free Press, August 27, 2021

COVID-19: Technocracy Flowered, and Failed

TechnocracySign

History is littered with social and political movements which, while failing to survive as movements, largely achieved their goals.

The Prohibition Party’s national conventions could take place in a phone booth these days, but its disastrous single policy proposal was adopted as a constitutional amendment, mutated into the equally disastrous war on drugs, and continues to torment the modern marketplace with draconian regulation.

Most “socialist” parties have either disappeared into the dustbin of history, or find themselves reduced to glorified supper clubs featuring loud arguments over whether the Soviet Union was a bureaucratic deformation or a degenerated workers’ state. But Socialist Party candidate Norman Thomas’s 885,000 votes in the 1932 presidential election arguably led to FDR’s “New Deal” and the modern welfare state.

Few people remember, or ever learned about, the technocracy movement of the 1930s. That movement failed in its formal goal of replacing democratic legislatures with boards of “experts” to run society (including the economy) in accordance with “science.”

But over time, the concept took root in America’s regulatory apparatus. Nearly every aspect of our lives has, for several decades, been subject to scrutiny and oversight by “experts.” The food we eat. The drugs we take. The cars we drive. The securities we invest in. You name it, there’s a government bureau somewhere full of whirring computers and nerds with slide rules, figuring out what we may or may not do, or  in what way we may do it.

While most of us gripe about particular technocratic edicts, few question the premise itself. It’s just taken as obvious that the man in the lab coat knows more about air bags and crop yields than the Honorable Representative from Minnesota.

Technocracy took root. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, it blossomed … into the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors.

Starting last year, “public health” technocrats (with, of course, the assistance of opportunistic politicians) seized control over huge parts of our lives — mass house arrests without charge or trial, mask mandates, vaccine mandate and “passport” schemes, etc. — then proceeded to vacillate and scrap among themselves over the divvying up of their new power, as more than 600,000 Americans died and the economy tanked.

To add insult to injury, the parts of the country where the “experts” enjoyed less deference seem to have fared no worse, and in some cases better, than areas where politicians slavishly and without question enforced every technocratic edict.

Technocracy finally got its big shot at proving itself, and failed miserably. Why? Because “public health”  technocracy isn’t about the health of the public. It’s about policy, which is about politics, which about power.

The technocrats exercised their power abusively — and ineffectually too boot. It’s time to take that power away.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION HISTORY