Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Monks' Example

Right now, in Burma, Buddhist monks are demonstrating the most effective means of dealing with tyrants and oppression and government they despise:

Ignore it.


Refuse to cooperate.

Even the most heavily armed tyrant cannot fight this, not without killing everyone. Then, as Carl Watner shows, "the victor is defeated, cheated of his prize, since nobody can rule over dead people."

No need for armed revolution or civil war, for outright violence.

"When people refuse their cooperation, withhold their help, and persist in their disobedience and defiance, they are denying their opponent the basic human assistance which any government or hierarchical system requires. if they do this in sufficient numbers for long enough, that government or hierarchical system will no longer have power" - Gene Sharp.
This is the power of Civil Disobedience and can open up an avenue of change to everyone, not just professional agitators and revolutionaries. No need for arms, insurgency and guerrilla warfare. Just withhold your consent and refuse to cooperate.

"I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — "That government is best which governs least" and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have." - Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, 1849.

Are you ready? If so, follow the example of the monks.


Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Left to Right - A perspective

With the latest electoral machinations going on in Quebec, the confusion that is the "left-right" paradigm has reared its head again. Despite the efforts of the Stageleft Bunker to bring some sanity to the discussion using the "quadrant" picture of political belief, clearly some people don't get it.

While the quadrant is much better than the old left-right idea, I prefer a simpler and more historically accurate line of reasoning as presented by Karl Hess in his book Dear America:

My own notion of politics is that it follows a straight line rather than a circle. The straight line stretches from the far right where (historically) we find monarchy, absolute dictatorships, and other forms of absolutely authoritarian rule. On the far right, law and order means the law of the ruler and the order that serves the interest of that ruler, usually the orderliness of drone workers, submissive students, elders either totally cowed into loyalty or totally indoctrinated and trained into that loyalty. Both Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler operated right-wing regimes, politically, despite the trappings of socialism with which both adorned their regimes....

The far left, as far as you can get away from the right, would logically represent the opposite tendency and, in fact, has done just that throughout history. The left has been the side of politics and economics that opposes the concentration of power and wealth and, instead, advocates and works toward the distribution of power into the maximum number of hands.

—Karl Hess, Dear America [emphasis mine]

Hess was a former Barry Goldwater speech writer and Republican hawk that went through a kind of conversion to anarchism in the 60's and 70's. It was through his travels across the spectrum that he came up with the above observations and I believe it is most accurate.

It is about authoritarianism and hierarchy, not who supports what program. Based on this then, out Canadian spectrum would look like this:

Libertarians------------>NDP->Liberals-->CPC-->Nazis/Communists-->Absolute Monarchs

Economically it resembles this:

Decentralized voluntary------------>Planned--Corporatist-->Planned Communist---> Feudal
Free Market----------------------------------------------------------------------->Total Control

So, as Sheldon Richman has observed, the true left are the libertarians and the anarchists, who most value freedom - both social and economic - while the right are those who wish to impose their authority - both social and economic - upon others. The imposition of authority can come directly from the state, or via crony capitalism and state intervention in the economy on behalf of the corporate elites.

In Canada then, we really only have varying degrees of authoritarianism in our mainstream parties. So, when a Conservatives says they are a libertarian, they are lying - as long as they are okay with state or corporate control and favors, they are not in favour of freedom. When a Liberal or NDP says they are concerned with your liberty, they are lying - as long as they wish to regulate and legislate your economic activity and behaviour, the are not in favour of freedom.

The only real difference between our parties are who their corporate and union friends are and who they will rule for.


As per Ron's comment below, I'd like to make it clear that I don't see much of a difference between the major parties. Sadly my ascii art capabilities are not up to the task. There are very little differences between them. The NDP would have you give up economic liberty for lots of (perceived) personal liberty and the Conservatives would have you give up personal liberty for lots of (perceived) economic liberty. The Liberals will take a bit of both, and tell you they are moderate. In the end, you are still ruled by people who will use force and coercion against you and tell you they are doing it in your best interests, when its really in their interests and that of their cronies, be they unions or corporations or both.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ode to Geddy Lee: Against Mandatory Voting

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice"
- Rush 'Free Will'

With that one simple line, Canadian rock group Rush has summed in total, the arguments against mandatory voting.

The belief seems to be that if we force people to choose, then government will truly be democratic and representative of the will of the people - all the people, since they vote. Further, it will prevent disenfranchisement, as the 'Jim Crow' laws of the 50's and 60's.

Brilliant, if only the root cause of 'not voting' were merely being too lazy to show up to cast a ballot or being kept away by the Klan. But such is not the case in modern Canada. During the last few elections voter turnout has dropped to the between high 50 to low 60s after traditionally being around 70%. The rates are higher the younger the person is. What this shows is not laziness on the part of the electorate, but rather disillusionment with the choices or the system in general.

If there are no real choices, is being forced to choose really free? The Soviet Union had 100% voter turnout regularly, but that did not mean their system was free. There is precious difference between being forced to choose from a field of one and being forced to choose from a field of two or three or even 4 if there is no real difference between them, or if there is no choice that represents your views.

And that gets to the heart of the matter - voter turnout is not only provided a measure of legitimacy for the government and the state, but it indicates the health and legitimacy of the system itself. Thus, in a truly free society, it is a legitimate political stance to choose not to participate in a system one feels is illegitimate or no longer represents that person's wishes and beliefs. It is Tommy Douglas' 'Mouseland" taken to its logical extreme - rather than merely being forced to vote for the white cats or black cats, or choosing other mice, some may choose to forgo the system altogether and strike out on their own.

So, if it is wrong and contrary to the ideas of freedom and liberty to, by force and coercion, prevent someone from exercising their franchise as the Jim Crow laws did, it is equally contrary to those principles to force people to exercise that franchise if the choose not to.

There are many perfectly legitimate reasons for not voting:

1. No choice - all of the running candidates either do not differ to offer real choice, or none provide a platform that matches the voter's preference. This could be for one election or all of them.

2. Choice - the person has decided that they do not wish to lend legitimacy to a system they no longer support. This could range from simply not supporting an unfair "first-past-the-post" voting system all the way to those who do not see the state, non-consensual government and non-voluntary laws as illegitimate and do not wish to enable and empower the current system (ahem...).

3. Just don't want to - for whatever reason, a person is simply not engaged and does not wish to, for whatever reason.

The result of mandatory voting will not be, then, more legitimacy, but less. As in the Soviet Union, it will create a false legitimacy, because no dissent will be accepted and people will be forced to vote for people and positions they do not truly believe in. Or worse, force legitimization from an ignorant, uninformed and disengaged electorate.

Mandatory voting and forced enfranchisement is as draconian and against the idea of freedom as race-based Jim Crow forced disenfranchisement and should fought just as hard. Mandatory voting is the moral and logical equivalent of 'freeping' an election.

To see the other side, check out this debate at The Great Canadian Debate on Mandatory Voting where I match up with Dr. Dawg.

To comment, please drop by the debate forum.

Labels: , ,