Friday, April 03, 2009

G20 Madness


I’m very tired after a long week of work, but I just can’t go to bed without posting something about yesterday’s nefarious G20 conference.
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President Obama proudly announced that the agreements reached at the G20 summit in London had marked ‘a turning point’ in the pursuit of global economic recovery. I agree that the conference on Financial Markets and the World Economy did indeed mark a turning point. They marked a turning point in the fundamental role and responsibility of government. The G20 summit put into sharp relief the emerging set of assumptions which have been slowly overthrowing the formulations of sovereignty and liberty articulated in the historic American and British traditions.

The first of these emerging assumptions is that times of crisis require restriction of liberties. In terms of world history as a whole, this isn’t a new idea. The classical Greek city states as well as pre-imperial Rome had a tradition of appointing a dictator during times of crisis. After the crisis finished, the dictator was expected to step down and government would return to normal, usually in some form of republic or oligarchy.


The classic British and American traditions, on the other hand, have prized liberty just as highly as safety, as encapsulated in Benjamin Franklin’s dictum, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Similarly, the great constitutional charters of the British tradition, such as the Magna Charta and the 1689 Declaration of Rights, took it for granted that the crown was just as responsible to safe-guard liberty as to preserve national security.


It is beyond the scope of this post to chart how, piece by piece, liberty has been sacrificed on the altar of security, in both American and the British contexts. Suffice to say that this process reached fruition in the decisions and ominous rhetoric of the G20 summit this week.


Taking it for granted that the way out of the crisis is more regulation and Government control of everything from banks to hedge funds, Obama boasted to the G-20 leaders that America has been pursuing “the strongest regulatory reforms any nation has contemplated...” Appealing to the international financial crisis as the justification for unprecedented global controls, Obama praised the G20 countries who were following America’s example of Government “partnering” with the private sector. Those who followed the news this week will know what this “partnering” meant in practice. After Obama rejected Chrysler and General Motors' restructuring plans, virtually fired the chairman of General Motors and gave Chrysler 30 days to merge with Italian automaker Fiat, the line between Government and the private sector has grown very transparent. “Partnering”, it turns out, is a code-word for nationalizing.


Don’t get me wrong. I know that Mr. Obama, like the other G-20 leaders, means well. Totalitarians always do. I have pointed out before that when Mussolini first coined the word “totalitarianism”, it was not a pejorative slur, nor was it something connoting tyranny; rather, Mussolini used totalitarianism to refer to a humane society in which everyone was taken care of and looked after by a state which encompassed all of life within its grasp. The oppressive totalitarian state always begins by being the compassionate totalitarian state.


Richard Weaver warned of this tendency in 1962 when he said, “The past shows unvaryingly that when a people’s freedom disappears, it goes not with a bang, but in silence amid the comfort of being cared for. That is the dire peril in the present trend toward statism. If freedom is not found accompanied by a willingness to resist, and to reject favours, rather than to give up what is intangible but precarious, it will not long be found at all.”

That then, is the first assumption that underpinned the G-20 conference: times of crisis require restriction of liberties.

The other assumption underpinning the G-20 conference is that national sovereignty is the enemy of peace. In the post-national climate of contemporary politics, it is routinely assumed that any nation that has too much autonomy is in a position to hold the rest of the world to ransom. Gordon Brown said, "I think the new world order is emerging, and with it the foundations of a new and progressive era of international co-operation." That may be fine words for countries like Britain who sold its sovereignty to Europe long ago, but what about those nations who don’t want to co-operate with this new G20 oligarchy? The long and the short is that they get penalized. For example, the G2o leaders announced that those nations that are tax havens will be put on a trade blacklist. Instead of letting each nation create its own banking and transparency laws, nations will effectively be bribed into complying with international regulations.

I grant that preserving the autonomy of independent states makes for a messy world. It makes for war. But consider the alternative? Immanuel Kant hit the nail on the head when he wrote: “The idea of the law of nations presupposes the distinction between independent states. Although this is a state of war...it is still, according to reason, better than the fusion of those states by means of a hierarchy of power culminating in a universal monarchy. Laws which are passed for a large area lose their vigour, and such a soulless despotism, after it has hollowed out the kernel of goodness, ultimately collapses into anarchy.”


It is getting late and I must be wrapping up. The final assumption that permeated the G20 conference is that governments are justified in plundering their citizens.

Jose Luis Zapatero, the Prime Minister of Spain was jubilant when he said, “We have set in motion the greatest concerted plan of fiscal expansion in history. It is unprecedented. It reaches five trillion ... This amount will contribute in a decisive way to facilitate a recovery of the world economy and to preserve millions of jobs." Oh joy, but did it occur to anyone to ask how the G20 countries are going to finance this huge injection of cash? As with
Obama's stimulus package, the answer is that it will be paid by the tax payer. In a Keynesian circle that is so well articulated in THIS video, governments will be plundering the market in order to inject money into the market. Like the movie villain Dr. Evil, who demands a vast sum to avert world catastrophe, the world leaders are effectively telling us that unless we fork up, the world’s economy will end in ruin. (Even money that is borrowed is eventually paid for by plundering the citizens, as is money that is arbitrarily printed, as THESE quotations show.)

I suppose here I ought to wrap things up with a nice little conclusion. But I'm going to go to bed instead.


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