Thursday, September 24, 2009

Comment on The Belmont Club
"Two eras"


There are lunatics ... No one doubts ... It is accepted

The tropes used to control debate and deny those who want to consider facts access to a productive conversation have not changed although they have been refined. Socialists and utopians try to preempt any effort to disagree and to empty the intellectual market of competing content. They do not use political debate as part of a process of deductive inquiry to discover information and refine policy. Instead they advance their grip on power using an inductive method in which the conclusion is predetermined and then various components of the audience are tested to see if they conform.

Is there anything useful gained from organizations like the League of Nations or the United Nations? Yes but only if they are considered as tools to be used in the narrowest and most technical sense and without sentimentality. They could follow on to the pattern set by the Congress of Vienna. In that case the assembled leaders of the European powers responded promptly to the threat of Napoleon's escape from Elba and dispatched their armies to intercept the French at Waterloo. As communications improve the need for formal assemblies of Ministers and Ambassadors with plenipotentiary power declines.

International technical bodies, the best of which preceded the League, have done good work. Examples of useful organizations include the International Meteorological Organization and the International Postal Union.

Disarmament does not work because it is based on the false logic of Collective Security. If everyone is equally in the community then who is the community defending against? In theory that would reduce the aggressor to the status of a criminal. As the woman said in the video, "call the police." That does not work for several reasons. To do so means empowering the overall authority with significant power, including tax authority and the monopoly on violence that is the mark of a Sovereign. At the local level we can do so because the criminals are rare and the police represent a community the vast majority share common values that make us willing to submit to the judgement and wisdom of our peers and of the legitimate authority we mutually accede to. That willingness to share in a common good or commonwealth is an expression of a quality called "comity." However in the international sphere the players do not share comity, and that can not be imposed from above. Also in the international sphere violent offenders are not limited in number or poorer in resources than are the authorities they challenge. The creation of hundreds of new governments in the name of self determination after WW-I and decolonization after WW-II, most of which are not democracies, makes it impossible to trust any global organization with such authority.

In addition even in smaller groupings where the actors do share common values the risk of Free Rider effects can cripple an organization. This has crippled Nato and while it has not proven fatal to the United States the question of fair distribution of burdens and benefits and voting rights remains.

The rise of asymmetric warfare and WMD in fact means that small states and non-state actors have the ability to challenge norms of international order. The corrosive effects of wealth transfers to forces hostile to western values have further impeded the ability of institutions to respond to threats.

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