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Information Operations: Successes and Failures
Robert R. Reilly
Presented at Westminster Institute (www.westminster-institute.org)
Fighting the Ideological War
From my experiences in the Cold War and since 9/11, I have formulated a few brief principles for the conduct of wars of ideas. First, do not go into a war of ideas unless you understand the ideas you are at war with. Second, do not go into a war of ideas unless you have an idea. Third, wars of ideas are conducted by people who think; people who do not think are influenced by those who do. Try to reach the people who think.
Successful information operations understand the target audience, have the right message in the right format to reach that audience, and have the means to deliver the message through the media used by the audience. Miss any of these links and you have a failed information operation. You can have the medium but not the message, or you can have the message but not the medium – or you can be without both.
It is been generally acknowledged that we have been in the new war of ideas at least since 2001. The National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2006) stated that “in the long run, winning the War on Terror means winning the battle of ideas.” Until recently, this emphasis was reflected in every U.S. government strategy document, including the National Defense Strategy of the United States of America (2005), which calls for “countering ideological support for terrorism.”
This emphasis, however, has not produced results in practice. In fact, the U.S. side has failed to show up for the war of ideas. Strategic communication or public diplomacy, the purpose of which is to win such wars, is the single weakest area of U.S. government performance since 9/11. By almost every index, the United States is not doing well. Some say it has already lost. After a sixmonth journey through the Muslim world in 2006, Akbar Ahmed, the chairman of Islamic Studies at American University, said, “I felt like a warrior in the midst of the fray who knew the odds were against him but never quite realized that his side had already lost the war.” In a threat assessment issued in September 2013, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Homeland Security Project, chaired by former 9/11 Commission chiefs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, stated that “even though core Al Qaeda may be in decline, ‘Al Qaedaism,’ the movement’s ideology, continues to resonate and attract new adherents.” In fact, Al Qaeda is present in some 16 areas around the globe, according to the report, twice what it was five years ago. On September 28, 2013, The Economist reported that, “From Somalia to Syria, al-Qaeda franchises and jihadist fellow travelers now control more territory, and can call on more fighters than it any time since Osama bin Laden created the organization 25 years ago.”
How can this be? Why is the U.S. not winning?
My job here is not so much to answer this question as it is to reflect upon some practical experiences from the past that may shed light on the subject of what we have done that has worked, on what has not worked, and an overall view on what we have failed to do altogether. Yes, we need a new strategy against al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, but we cannot charge ahead unless we have something to charge ahead with.
I have no interest in being autobiographical, but since I have been asked to address the subject of “Information Operations: Successes and Failures,” I am invariably drawn to some operations in which I have been personally involved. I am using the term “information operations” in a broad sense to include all the activities of public diplomacy undertaken in a war of ideas. There were several huge failures and some tiny successes. I have not spoken of some of these experiences before; they are almost too painful to relate. I recount them now only in the hope that the lessons from them can be learned and related to the current conflicts in which we are involved. Sometimes the mission was right but the execution was wrong. Sometimes the mission itself was misconceived. Other times there was not even a mission to execute – just a void.
I will not dwell at great length on my experiences at the Voice of America, but I must admit that when I served as its director in 2001 to 2002, I looked forward to VOA serving as important a role in the new war as it had in 1942 when it began its broadcasts to Germany. Because of VOA’s unique reach into other lands via shortwave, terrestrial and satellite broadcasts, delivering news and information in the languages of VOA’s 120 million listeners, and featuring careful explications of U.S. policy on key issues, I thought that this would be VOA’s finest hour – the hour in which the Arabic service, which was broadcasting 12 hours a day of features, interviews and editorials, would be particularly important. Imagine my amazement when the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent entity that has executive authority over VOA, eliminated the Arabic service and substituted for it a pop music station called Radio Sawa, with two short news breaks in the hour. It carried a mélange of Arab and American music, including Britney Spears, Jay Lo and Eminem. The lyrics in the songs of some of the American singers had to be doctored so as not to offend an Arab Muslim audience.
Soon thereafter, I had the occasion to visit with one of Saudi Arabia’s most important princes. I asked him, without prejudice, what he thought of Radio Sawa. He responded, “It’s not good; it’s not bad. It’s just what it is.” He then said, “My father, King Faisal, loved the Voice of America and used to listen to it faithfully. He would often go into the desert and, in order not to miss his favorite programs, whose broadcast times he had memorized, he would bring a shortwave radio with him. I, too, used to listen to the Voice of America. Of course, I don’t listen to Radio Sawa.” Who cares if the king listens? Our Arabic radio broadcasting’s reorientation to youth lost it not just an influential audience but, one might say, the key one. Yes, Radio Sawa gained a considerable youth audience, but to what effect? Senior Jordanian journalist Jamil Nimri told me: “Radio Sawa is fun, but it’s irrelevant.”
Perhaps the best way to grasp the strategic misalignment of VOA’s broadcasting resources by the BBG is to engage in an imaginative exercise: if we were setting up a broadcasting service for the U.S. Government from scratch today, what would we do? We would probably want to focus on the 10 most important countries and languages groups in the world: in our own southern hemisphere Brazil; in Eurasia, certainly Russia, and then China to the south, India to the southwest, and then swinging around to the Middle East, certainly the Arab world with its more than 300 million people.
Our mission would be to tell these countries and audiences who we are, what we are doing, and why – say, out of a decent respect for the opinions of mankind, as the Declaration of Independence puts it. If we want the world to be reasonable, we had better give it our reasons. We might, in other words, create the Voice of America, whose purpose, by government charter, is to do these very things.
Now, if an outside observer looked at what has happened to the VOA over the past 12 years, he might notice a pattern – that broadcasting to these largest, most important countries of the world has been eliminated—Portuguese to Brazil gone, Hindi to India eliminated, Arabic to the Arab world ended,
and replaced by Radio Sawa’s pop music; Russian gone, except for the Internet; and the Chinese services imperiled by the BBG’s attempted elimination in all but their internet presences (which are blocked). In 2011,
Congress wisely stopped the BBG from doing this. In FY 2013 budget, the BBG again proposed eliminating the Cantonese Service.
The pattern is clear but the purpose is not. Why have we done this to ourselves? The excuse13 years ago, or more, was that history had ended in the sense that the model of a democratic, constitutional, free market political order stood undisputed in its moral authority. But 12 years ago, at the expense of 3000 American lives, we found out that was not true. Why, then, are we continuing the pattern?
Economic considerations might be one explanation but they cannot account for more than a decade of this behavior, or for the enormous amount of money that has been poured into Radio Sawa. The elimination of Chinese VOA radio and TV, broadcasting in Mandarin and Cantonese, would save $8 million but loose an audience of more than 6 million (according to the BBG’s own figures).
Do we no longer need to explain ourselves to the world? Do we no longer need to give it our reasons? Be sure that others are willing to give reasons for us, as China, Russia, and Qatar (with its Al-Jazeera TV in both Arabic and English) are doing with their aggressive broadcasting and biting criticism of U.S. policies.
This brings me to the most likely explanation for the elimination of VOA’s services to the most important countries in the world: a lost sense of mission. This loss began with the end of the U.S. Information Agency in 1999, when U.S. government broadcasting was placed under the BBG. As the BBG consists of 8 part-time CEOs, it is no wonder that confusion ensued. Ancient Rome had trouble with 2 proconsuls. Imagine if it had 8. Very importantly, most BBG members have been highly accomplished individuals who made their fortunes in
private sector media. They, therefore, have sought to replicate this success according to commercial criteria. This meant large youth audiences, and abandoning markets in which such audiences could not be attracted.
Who listens became less important than how many listened, or to what.
The new diminished mission became news – not the full service radio that VOA offered, which also presented and explained US policies – but news. Play music for 40 minutes or more per hour on radio Sawa if you must, so long as they listen to the news. After all, said the BBG chief of staff in 2008, “it is not in our mandate to influence.”
The BBG chairman at the time, Walter Isaacson, said in a 2011Al-Hurra TV broadcast that, “we just want to get good news, reliable news, and credible information out.” (Do not other people offer the news?) Reliable news was always a part of U.S. broadcasting, but the mission has never been reduced to just that. When the Dalai Lama called the VOA Tibet service “the bread of the Tibetan people,” and when Aun San Suu Kyi called the Burmese service “the hope of the Burmese people,” they were not just talking about the “news.” Hope is a theological virtue; it is not engendered by news alone. The Declaration of Independence was not a news bulletin.
The US has enduring interests in the world. We need to explain ourselves in the most persuasive way we can, and by the most effective means, particularly to those peoples and countries whose future is going to most affect ours. Destroying the Voice of America is not the way to do this. We need to begin again to think through to whom we should be broadcasting, about what, and with what. This needs to be done within the U.S. government in a command structure related to our national security – and not by an independent, part-time board, which can, and has, so easily confused its commercial experience with our national purposes. Failure to do this will be paid, I am afraid, in American lives. Better to win the war of ideas, than have to win a war. That’s simple economics.
It is also essential to any lasting victory. Judge Hamoud al-Hitar in Yemen said, “If you study terrorism in the world, you will see that it has an intellectual theory behind it. And any kind of intellectual idea can be defeated by intellect.” However, the language of the intellect is ideas, not pop music. The war of ideas cannot be fought by a battle of the bands. Its objective is to reach people who think, who, as mentioned before, influence those who do not. On the other hand, VOA and the BBG did get something right, at least at the start, concerning Afghanistan. (I should also say that the BBG, much to its credit, did major work in upgrading VOA’s broadcast infrastructure from shortwave to medium wave in the Middle East.) Radio was, and continues to be, the primary means through which people in Afghanistan get their information. In late 2001, I meet with the Afghan Minister of Information, Dr. Makhdoom Raheen. He explained to me the problem that the new government was facing. It had no means by which to reach its own people. It simply did not possess the broadcasting infrastructure to do so. In the meantime, Afghanistan was being bifurcated by foreign broadcasting from Iran in Farsi on the one side, and by broadcasting from Pakistan in Pashtu on the other.
The minister proposed that we provide the Afghan government with medium-wave transmitters powerful enough for it to reach the majority of the Afghan people and, in exchange, the Afghan government would provide us with the site and license for our own transmitters to do the same. Since this project would
cost more than $10 million, VOA had to go shopping for the money. Because of the tremendous work of Andrew Baird at VOA and of Brig. General Simon P. Worden in the unfairly maligned Office of Strategic Influence at the Defense Department, and with the help of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the funds were provided and this vital project was completed. At the same time, the BBG proposed merging the Pashtu and Dari services of VOA with those of RFL/RFE into one continuous 24/7 stream of a new Afghan national radio. This, too, was accomplished with alacrity by all parties involved. The VOA side of the broadcasting was directed by the immensely capable Ali Jalali, who went on to become Minister of the Interior in Afghanistan in 2003.
Almost 10 years later, however, it was revealed that something was clearly amiss with the content of US public diplomacy efforts in Afghanistan. The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) located in Kandahar found in its field research that 92% of Afghan male respondents (1000 men) in the crucial southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar were unaware of the events of 9/11. At the same time, ICOS discovered that when its representatives showed a photo of planes hitting the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11, and explained the event to 500 interviewees in Panjshir and Parwan provinces, 59% subsequently said that “it justified the international presence in Afghanistan.” How could it be that after nearly a decade of war we had failed to explain the principal reason for our presence in Afghanistan to its people? This would be very much like prosecuting World War II without mentioning Pearl Harbor. When our grievances are explained, the Afghan people are able to understand them even through their own tribal mores. Leaving this matter unexplained, however, places them in the default position of supposing foreign troops are in their country to attack Islam and to steal their land.
Another egregious error has been in not engaging at the religious level in Afghanistan. Since Afghans identify themselves first and above all as Muslims, whoever provides the interpretation of daily events through Islamic eyes wins the audience’s allegiance. The Taliban have been very effective in practically
monopolizing the religious network of mosques, mullahs, and madrasahs. “They’ve co-opted the religious narrative for the last several years,” said Rear Adm. Greg Smith, NATO’s communications chief in Afghanistan in 2010. “They’ve used that narrative locally very effectively.” If you are involved in a conflict which is in large part religious, failing to address it in religious terms concedes to the enemy (in the words of Robert Andrews) a “theological safe haven,” which is far more important than any physical safe havens they may enjoy.
In Yemen, Judge al-Hitar engaged in Quranic duels with captured Al Qaeda members, undermining their religious legitimacy to the point that they would pledge to abandon violent jihad. The Taliban are very vulnerable on the issue of religious legitimacy and, long ago, should have been broadly challenged in terms of it. The British Prospect magazine reported on an effective example of how this can work: “The Voice of America’s Radio Deewa, broadcasting in Pashto to the badlands of the Pakistan-Afghan frontier, has shown how much potential there is here: in the past two years, the number of pro-Taliban callers to popular daily phonein programmes in the region has declined after their views were very publicly and successfully challenged on air. Many Islamic militants have a sketchy knowledge of their religion, and their views often do not stand up to serious scrutiny.”
In a captured document, al-Qaeda declared that its greatest vulnerability is the “loss of the justice of our cause.” This is also true of the Taliban. As Mullah Omar wrote in The Islamic Emirate magazine back inD ecember 2001, “We know that taking a Muslim’s life is a cause of defeat.” On these grounds alone, the Taliban should have been defeated as they are the cause of three times more civilian casualties than have been the ISAF forces. Yet, strangely enough, this issue was purposely neglected because it was thought that publicizing Taliban atrocities would expose the weakness of the Afghan government and ISAF forces and give the Taliban a propaganda victory. To his credit, General Petraeus reversed this shortsighted policy. The new US Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual (December 2006) encourages US forces to “exploit inconsistencies in the insurgents’ message as well as their excessive use of force or intimidation.” Petraeus knew from Iraq that publicly exposing and broadly publicizing the Al Qaeda torture houses and executions helped turn the Sunni population against them.
Which brings us to the subject of Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom had two primary purposes. The first was to end the first Gulf war and finally bring Iraq into compliance with the terms of the cease-fire agreement of 1991, which Saddam Hussein had been in violation of for the prior dozen years. The second was to use the opportunity of his overthrow to sponsor a new constitutional regime in Baghdad that could serve as a model to transform the Middle East from authoritarian to democratic rule – thus, it was thought, draining the ideological swamp that had spawned Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups.
Needless to say, this was an ambitious agenda – as there had been, perhaps with the exception of Lebanon, no history of democratic rule native to Arab countries. How would the United States communicate its purpose in Iraq and encourage its democratic transformation? Iraq was a one-party totalitarian regime with statecontrolled media. Under Saddam, owning a satellite phone had been a capital offense. Possessing a satellite dish was a crime. Overnight, that regime and its media would disappear. What would appear the next day?
As I was working in the Pentagon in late 2002, I began exploring which part of the US government was going to answer this question in regard to Iraqi media. It turned out that no one was preparing a replacement for Iraq’s state media. It seemed an ideal opportunity to help create a model of free media in that country that would not only serve the immediate purposes of the Coalition, but have a broader salutary influence throughout the Middle East.
As it happened, when retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner arrived to fill out his paperwork for the position of director of the new Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), he did so in the Policy Office of Near East and South Asian Affairs, in which I was serving at the time. This gave me the opportunity to hand him a short paper in which my colleagues and I proposed the creation of an Iraqi Media Network. We proposed the following analogy: what if the people of North Korea went to bed one night after another evening of state television and radio singing the praises of the Great Leader, and awoke the next morning to find the government gone and the airways filled with South Korean broadcasts? Obviously, the effect would be electrifying and profound. Could we aim to do something similar in Iraq?
Gen. Garner immediately embraced the idea and went to the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget in the White House to obtain support. One problem was money. Even without contemplating the replacement of any of the Iraqi broadcasting infrastructure, which we knew might be destroyed in the invasion, the annual personnel and programming costs would easily reach one hundred million dollars to start a national television and radio station and newspaper. The other problem is that there was no equivalent in Arabic to South Korean broadcasting material – quite the opposite, as Al Jazeera and other Arabic state-controlled media illustrated. In other words, we would have to start from scratch. To successfully launch 24/7 TV and radio stations with original programming material would take at least a year or two of preparation.
Gen. Garner was able to pry lose around $3 million to start the IMN project in January 2003. This allowed me to leave for Europe to begin recruiting Iraqi expatriate journalists to come with us and to help develop programming ideas. This proved to be extremely difficult because the best Iraqi journalists were already employed and we were not in a position to offer them even annual contracts.
When this extremely modest effort began, we did not know how long we had to prepare. As it turned out, we were deployed in March to Kuwait to await the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom. At that point, I knew that IMN would be a failure – too little time, not enough Iraqi talent, no prepared programming,
almost no equipment, and pathetically little money. Nonetheless, the effort had to be made. When the invasion began, we awaited apprehensively to see if the Iraqi Ministry of Information would survive. Within it were all the broadcasting resources and infrastructure we needed. Unfortunately, it was destroyed, if I recall correctly, on the last day of precision bombing. My heart sank when I saw the building split in two. When the modest IMN effort arrived in Baghdad, there was no broadcasting infrastructure left. There was not a single functioning television studio or camera; there were perhaps two intact radio studios; and not one rotary press for newspaper printing remained operational. Of course, for the most part, there was no electricity either. When the television station was up and running, the tiny IMN TV news team was only able to produce 15 to 20 minutes of programming per day. The rest of the schedule was filled out with pirated tapes from Uday Hussein’s defunct Youth TV channel.
We did not have money to buy programming. IMN member Siyamend Othman offered an ingenious proposal to fill the huge gap. He negotiated a plan with an American Middle Eastern businessman to fill the TV airwaves, 24/7, with programming in exchange for a monopoly on advertising rights for a period of six months. The programming, which we would select from the archives of MBC, would be uplinked from Dubai and downlinked in Iraqi studios. IMN would retain editorial control over everything, including the advertising. When I sought approval at DOD to proceed with this plan, I was told that it was too early to introduce commercial considerations into our broadcasting. Yet there was no offer of funds to buy the programming or to provide any alternative means of obtaining it.
Another attempt was made to present the plan – this time to Ambassador Paul Bremer, the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, who immediately dismissed it and said he never wanted to hear about it again. Gen. Jay Garner, who had already been replaced by Ambassador Bremer, was in the meeting at which this happened. I remarked to him that we had just lost the war of ideas and appealed for his help. He suggested that we try again in a week. Unfortunately, a week from then, he was no longer there.
We had tried to get Iraqi Media Network’s radio station off to a start while still in Kuwait, by downlinking to an AM transmitter just over the Iraqi border which, we were told, might reach as far north as south of Baghdad at night, when transmission was best. With less than a half-dozen experienced Iraqi on-air talents operating from borrowed studios, it was very difficult to fill the airwaves. The first broadcast in mid-April announced, “Welcome to the Iraqi Media Network, the voice of the new Iraq. We are the first free, independent media broadcasting to you from inside the country in more than three decades. After so many years of lies and propaganda, we take as our first and most sacred obligation to tell you the truth. Not only were our bodies imprisoned during the reign of Saddam, but our minds as well. The truth will set our minds free so that we may live as a free people, as God intended… We will bring you news and information vital to the recovery of our country as we work together, through this difficult period of transition, to create a democratic, tolerant, and prosperous country. We will keep you informed of the intent and activities of the coalition forces and of the civic administration that is now beginning its activities. We will tell you about the issues most directly affecting the safety, health, and other humanitarian matters.” That, in any case, was the idea with which we began.
One successful and particularly powerful program, hosted by IMN member Shameem Rassam, was At Last, I Speak, which gave at least some of the survivors and families of victims of Saddam’s atrocities a chance to tell their stories. This was novel for an Arab country – to have torture victims broadcast in the country in which they had been tortured. The stories were very moving. The guests would often break down when trying to relate their experiences. When I asked IMN camerama and TV director Farid Putres what happened during his nearly four years of imprisonment in the 1990s, he laughed, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “It was normal.” However, when the time came to tape his story for broadcast, he was barely able to get through it. The underground cells, the beatings, the sounds of executions at night were not “normal.”
Another program featured Sheikh Hussein Al-Shami who was sentenced to death but escaped in 1978. His wife and five brothers were imprisoned at that time, and he has had no word from them since. His 25-year-old son, Ali, has not seen his mother since he was six months old. The frightening thing about this story is that it, too, was typical.
General Najib Salehi, with whom I lived for two months, fled with his family from Iraq to Jordan. One day, he received a videocassette in the mail. Unwittingly, he put it in the player with his family watching in the living room. To his horror, it was a film of his niece being gang raped by the Mukhabarat – Saddam’s retaliation for the general’s defection.
Other films were surfacing in Baghdad as a result of the looting of jails. Saddam had torture and mutilation sessions filmed so the he could be sure his orders were carried out. The Iraqi Media Network obtained a tape of physicians cutting off the hands of merchants who were caught pricing gold in dollars after Saddam had forbidden it. Several of them died of the complications; several fled Iraq; the others survived in Baghdad and were subsequently located by IMN journalist Don North – about which more will be told later.
Only one part of the Iraqi Media Network began completely smoothly and successfully (at least in terms of production and content, if not distribution), and that was the national newspaper, Sumer. Sumer was meant to represent the face of a new Iraq with Arab, Kurdish, Chaldean, Assyrian, Turkoman, Christian and even Jewish contributors. This was the vehicle through which we wished to attract the intelligentsia of Iraq and in which we wished to see published the Iraqi equivalent of the Federalist Papers. The senior Iraqi journalist, Hasan al Alawi, responsible for its production, did a brilliant job. Since there were no rotary presses in Baghdad, the paper had to be printed in Kuwait and shipped into Iraq. In order to secure the printing contract, Mr. Alawi gave his personal financial guarantee.
However, a rival newspaper, al-Sabah, had been started in Baghdad with local talent by an IMN contractor who had been explicitly told by me not to do so. Two papers were too expensive to sustain. Al-Sabah was printed on sheet-fed presses and was journalistically a clearly inferior product to Sumer. Nonetheless, the Coalition Provisional Authority decided in its favor and ordered the shutdown of Sumer. When I attempted to plead on its behalf, I was told that Iraq did not need its own version of the Wall Street Journal at this point in time, but only a broadsheet to announce weapons turn-in checkpoints. Kanan Makiya, one of the leading Iraqi expatriate intellectuals, tried to appeal directly to Ambassador Bremer on the behalf of Sumer, but to no avail. Mr. al Alawi, who had placed his trust in the United States, was left holding the bag for more than a hundred thousand dollars due to the Kuwaiti printing contract he had had to sign on our behalf.
Before the United States or Coalition could broadcast from within Iraq, Iran had already blanketed the country with two 24 x 7 TV channels. A survey by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty found that the vast majority of radio and TV broadcasts heard in Iraq riginated in Iran. When the media vacuum in Iraq from the failure of IMN became too obvious to ignore, a large contract for $96 million to run and expand IMN was given to the Harris/LBC/Al Fawares group. It too failed. Al-Iraqiya, the TV station begun by IMN, eventually turned into another Arab state media organ, except this time a strongly Shi’a one. The opportunity was lost.
The lesson here would be: do not plan a military strategy without a communication strategy that is integral to it, or you may squander your entire effort. One may ask why preparations did not begin sooner. Who is at fault for that? Why was not the entire Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance project begun well before December 2012? The answer is, in part, political. The Bush administration had to present itself as open to solutions to the Iraqi problem short of war. Therefore, it could not afford to prepare openly for war in a way that made it seem that the war was a foregone conclusion. While that may have been a political necessity, it exacted a high price, the magnitude of which only became clear with the occupation of the country that we had come to liberate.
After this macro failure, I would now like to focus on some micro failures but also some micro successes.
After returning from Iraq in June 2003, I worked with the Spirit of America Foundation and its CEO Jim Hake, an energetic and successful entrepreneur, to support an Iraqi Federalist Papers project. We wanted to commission a group of Iraqi intellectuals to write papers on how the new Iraqi constitution ought to look in order to prevent a recurrence the nightmare through which the Iraqi people had lived under the Baath Party and to secure a democratic constitutional order. We worked up a budget for the commissioning of the papers, printing them, placing them in important newspapers throughout the country, and distributing them in mosques, as well as engaging their authors in radio and television discussions. We needed only a little more than $1 million. To lead the project, we recruited an Iraqi scholar who subsequently became the executive assistant to the president of Iraq. Unfortunately, we could not find the money either inside or outside of the government. Therefore, there were no Iraqi Federalist Papers. When I was at an interagency meeting on Iraq, I asked the head of AID’s programs in Iraq why he had not funded such a project. His dismaying response was, “we were not tasked with it.” It was such an obvious thing to do, with no one in authority to give the order to get it done.
There was, however, one project that did get done. The Iraq Memory Foundation (IMF) approached the Defense Department with a proposal to make Steven Spielberg-like documentaries on the victims of Saddam’s regime across a broad spectrum of Iraqi society in an interview format. These long interviews would then be edited down for 10-minute television spots on Iraqi TV. Enough funds were found to begin this project. IMF then proposed a more ambitious project – a one-hour television program that would incorporate the shorter interviews but also have other segments on the legacy of Saddam’s regime and how to overcome it, not only politically and legally, but psychologically and morally, as well. The discussion part of the program would also include topics such as the debate over the new constitution and human rights issues. This program helped support the ideas behind constitutional structures that would prevent the recurrence of such crimes and further discredited the Baathist revanchists, fostered reconciliation, and put the trials of Saddam and others into a larger context. It also provided a strong antidote to the Saddam nostalgia that was beginning to surface due to the disorder following his downfall.
This program, titled Light or Overcoming the Legacy of Evil, was produced in Baghdad with such fine production values that some members of the audience thought it must have been made outside of the country. In any case, it drew a large audience when it began appearing on al-Iraqiya TV. During Ramadan, when TV viewership is highest in the Arab Muslim world, Prime Minister Maliki ordered al-Iraqiya to play the program daily. Al-Iraqiya reported that Overcoming the Legacy of Evil was its second most popular program, coming in second only after Terrorism in the Hands of Justice, a program in which captured terrorists were interviewed. This project cost only a little more than $1 million per year. The funds were provided by both the Defense and State Departments. It was one of the most cost-effective and worthwhile public diplomacy programs that the US quietly sponsored. One can contrast it with the Coalition television PSAs made in London that cost eight times the annual IMF budget to produce and broadcast one 5-to-10 minute spot.
Once back from Iraq, I also concentrated on collecting the films of Saddam’s atrocities, mostly made by his own regime. While in Iraq, we were given the films of nine Iraqis having their right hands cut off in Abu Ghraib prison hospital and then having their foreheads scarified with an X. This was in punishment for these merchants’ having either possessed or priced their goods in dollars, which for a short period of time Saddam had forbidden. Don North, a very experienced journalist and original IMN team member, took it upon himself to track down the survivors. He then made a one-hour documentary about them, called Remembering Saddam.
To his enormous credit, North also sought help for them. By special order of the Secretary of Defense, DOD eventually flew the Iraqis out of the country to Germany on military aircraft. From that point on private donors took care of their airfare, lodging, and medical care, which included corrective surgery and the provision of prosthetic devices, at a cost of $50,000 each. Their new prosthetic right hands allowed them to tie their shoes, to pick up pens, and to write. After their surgery in Houston, they were brought to Washington by the American Foreign Policy Council, which served as their local host and sponsor. The US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Iraqi amputees aided by the United States: a public diplomacy opportunity provided program support and language interpretation for the men’s visit to Washington. When they visited with the Senate majority leader, Sen. Bill Frist, who was also a transplant surgeon, he asked them to give a demonstration of their prosthetic hands. One of them picked up a pen and wrote a message. He handed it to Senator Frist, who teared up when he read it. The message said: “thank you forever.”
A series of coordinated events and actions were planned to convey the powerful message that the presence of the Iraqi amputees provided. First of all, the Defense Department bought the rights to broadcast Remembering Saddam for the Middle East. The film was supplied to Al Hurrah TV, the Arabic language TV channel started by the BBG. It was shown on May 24, 2004, in Iraq, throughout the Middle East, and in Europe. The morning of May 25, the Washington Post ran a front-page story on the Iraqi amputees. Thanks to Tim Goeglein in the Office of Public Liaison in the White House, a meeting with President Bush was arranged for the seven Iraqis, the surgeon who performed the gratis operations on their right hands, Dr. Joe Agris, and Don North on May 25. Remembering Saddam had already been seen in Iraq by the time the international newscasts reported on the president’s meeting with the seven men. It was a very effective one-two punch. First, the Iraqis saw the documentary about the men, their treatment under Saddam, ending with their departure for the United States. The next day, they saw the very same men with new prosthetic hands in the office of the President of the United States. The message was clear: America was intent upon helping the very people whom Saddam Hussein had harmed. Since the Abu Ghraib scandal of the U.S. mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners was still in full bloom, this message was particularly needed. North went on to make a second documentary, A Show of Hands, highlighting the medical treatment the Iraqi amputees received in Houston, their meeting with the President, and the dramatic conclusion when they met and embraced a U.S. Marine who had also lost his right hand through injuries in Iraq. An Arabic version was completed and broadcast on Al Hurrah.
Other attempts to convey this message had to be undertaken privately or through Congress because the Defense Department public affairs office declined to sponsor them. By the time the Iraqis arrived in Washington, my colleagues and I had completed a gruesome DVD made out of Saddam’s atrocity films, titled The Victims of Saddam’s Regime. The images of the executions, tortures, and beatings were every bit as searing as the material in the Holocaust Museum. The palpable presence of evil in them was almost overbearing. I requested that the public affairs office in the Pentagon provide a stage on which we could present the seven Iraqi amputees with the film. The Iraqis were eager to speak about the Abu Ghraib scandal. They had repeatedly said to us in private: “yes, this was a bad thing to happen, but you are punishing the people who did it. Look at our hands. The people in Abu Ghraib who did this to us were promoted.” They wanted to say this publicly. It was a vitally important message. Nonetheless, the public affairs office declined to do so. An excuse was made that since the Iraqis could speak very little English, a press event with translation would not play well.
The frustrated Iraqis learned that there was going to be an antiwar demonstration in front of Donald Rumsfeld’s home. Somehow, with their very limited English, they found their own way on the Metro to the location.
Rumsfeld was overseas at the time but there, in front of his house, were the Iraqis defending the United States in a way the United States itself refused to do.
Therefore, Herman Pirchner and the American Foreign Policy Council stepped in to sponsor a press conference at the Press Club. Contrary to the DOD public affairs office’s expectations, it was very well attended by the press and was carried live on C-SPAN, where it can still be seen in the archives. In fact, the combination of the stories of the White House meeting and the press conference made national news throughout the United States, in addition to the TV and print press coverage abroad.
While DOD declined to host a showing of The Victims of Saddam’s Regime, Senators Rick Santorum, Joseph Lieberman, and Jeff Sessions sponsored a press conference in the Capitol to present the seven Iraqis and show excerpts from the film. In fact, this was the first occasion for the Iraqis to see parts of this documentary, which included footage of their hand amputations. Senator Santorum explained the source of the film footage and encouraged the journalists present to contact the Pentagon public affairs office if they had any questions concerning it. Even though the most explicit parts of the film excerpts were edited out, the small but full room of journalists was left in a state of shock after the showing. No one spoke. They silently filed out of the room.
I waited for the stories to break from the news conference. There were none. How could this be? Only later, when approached by a friendly source within the Pentagon, did I learn that, when journalists had called the public affairs office to verify the film, the public affairs office had disavowed it. This happened despite the fact that Senator Santorum, before the press conference, had called the Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs in the Pentagon to tell him of the showing and to request that the Defense Department vouch for the authenticity of the material. Apparently, the Assistant Secretary assured Senator Santorum that this would be taken care of. Obviously, it was not.
Why did this happen? It happened because the entire effort regarding the Iraqi amputees had been undertaken by various individuals in different parts of the government and the private sector. Except in barely coordinated parts, there was no executive branch institutional sponsorship of the project. It was a one-off. In fact, some of the best parts of it happened despite opposition. For instance, the relevant staff members of the National Security Council, who were first approached with the idea of the meeting with the president, were emphatically against it and expressed annoyance that it had taken place by going around them through the Office of Public Liaison. While the relevant part of DOD in the Middle East that was tasked with collecting Iraqi material was at first cooperative in providing the video material of Saddam’s atrocities, it later ceased cooperating. Nonetheless, someone in that office saw the merit of what we were attempting to do and personally carried some of the material from the Middle East and passed it off to me in a paper bag at a Trader Joe’s one night in a Washington suburb. Why was this seemingly semi-clandestine behavior necessary? Again, the answer is because there was no official institutional sponsorship of the effort.
Although the DOD public affairs office did not want to have anything to do with The Victims of Saddam’s Regime, Senator Santorum ensured that every member of Congress received a DVD copy with a dear colleague letter. Nonetheless, its impact was muted because it did not have the sponsorship of the institution that produced it. That impact could have been considerable in a number of ways. To explore its potential, I asked an officer who had recently returned from service in Al Anbar province to watch it. When I asked for his reaction, he said that every member of the US military deployed to Iraq should see it. I asked why. He responded that, “when you’re in a combat zone, you tend to develop a callous attitude that not 10 of these Iraqis is worth one American life. After seeing this, you realize what these people have been through. It develops sympathy and understanding. Next, you think – we put a stop to this? Then we have done something really fine.” I tried to pass on to the Pentagon his suggestion that it be made available to deploying troops, but it went nowhere.
I used the film on a number of occasions in addressing bipartisan foreign policy groups across the United States, but I never showed it – except to a group of European parliamentarians. I would flip open a portable DVD player on the speaker’s podium and briefly tell the audience what it contained. I would explain that they were a pushbutton away from looking into the face of evil. Never once, after introducing the subject matter of the film, did the topic of weapons of mass destruction ever arise. The Victims of Saddam’s Regime could have been used overseas in this way and would have been a very powerful public diplomacy tool.
The single biggest failing on the US side in the war of ideas is that there is no institution tasked with and responsible for the conduct of it – only individual, sporadic initiatives. This is the legacy of the elimination of the U.S. Information Agency after the end of the Cold War. Therefore, whatever efforts are undertaken, like those described above, are done piecemeal and ad hoc. This is a product of both organizational dysfunction and intellectual confusion. There are a number of very experienced Americans who know how to conduct the war of ideas in the Islamic world and elsewhere. They need a place to work from and funds to work with. Neither is currently available.
If we are to have a new strategy against Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, we must first understand their claims to moral legitimacy and be prepared to undermine them. There is a theological and spiritual battle underway. We must be prepared to fight it in those terms. If not, as mentioned before, we will concede to our opponent an impregnable “theological safe haven” from which they cannot be dislodged.
What practical suggestions do I have for now? The first thing we should do is stop doing what we are doing because it is not working. It may even be counterproductive. It is not keyed to the essential effort of establishing our own moral legitimacy and undermining that of our enemy. Any activity that we are undertaking in the realm of public diplomacy that is not addressing one of those two missions, either directly or indirectly, is superfluous and possibly harmful. We must begin again from the ground up because this problem is not going away.
Robert Reilly served in the Office of the Secretary of Defence, where he Senior Advisor for Information Strategy (2002-2006). He participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 as Senior Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of information. Before that, he was director of the Voice of America, where he had worked the prior decade. Mr. Reilly served in the White House as a Special Assistant to the President (1983-1985), and in the U.S. Information Agency both in D.C. and abroad. In the private sector, he spent more than seven years with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, as both national director and then president. He was on active duty as an armored cavalry officer for two years, and attended Georgetown University and the Claremont Graduate University. He has published widely on foreign policy, the “war of ideas”, and classical music. His latest book is The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis.
How Social Justice Came to America, Thomas Patrick Burke
Why Men Fight, Robert R. Reilly
Causing Harm?, Thomas Patrick Burke
Minimum Wage Destroys Jobs and Opportunities to Develop Skills, William Dunkelberg
Speech To Swedish Free Press Society, Geert Wilders
Report on Lectures in Europe, 2012, Thomas Patrick Burke
Coercion and the Measurement of Productivity, Thomas Patrick Burke
Lecture Delivered at the European Parliament, Brussels, September 18, 2012, Thomas Patrick Burke
More "Quantitative Easing" Will Only Help Big Banks, Not Employment, William Dunkelberg
Clinton May Be "Back" But Not His Economy, William Dunkelberg
The Only International Economic Policy that a Country Needs, Patrick Barron
How Social Justice Came to America
Thomas Patrick Burke
1. “Social justice" as currently understood is the theory that justice consists, not in the right way for one individual to treat another, but in a condition of fairness or equality in society. According to this theory a state of inequality in society, such as poverty, is not merely bad or regrettable but "unjust." Although many people are misled by the name into thinking it must be a form of genuine justice, it is in fact a very big departure from ordinary justice. Fairness means treating people equally; but justice means treating them as they deserve. True justice is impartial, but "social justice" favors some more than others. True justice and injustice are qualities of actions, which individuals do and for which they are therefore responsible. But poverty or other conditions of inequality in society are not actions or the product of actions done by anybody, and no one need be responsible for them. “Social justice” cuts the essential link between ethical judgment and individual responsibility, to the great detriment of human life and society. It is not justice at all, but only fake or pseudo-justice.
That was not the original meaning of the term “social justice” when it was coined in 1840 by the Italian Jesuit Luigi Taparelli. Its original meaning was rather the opposite, a demand that the popular revolutions that were taking place in Europe around that time should respect the traditional rights of property. The term began to acquire its current meaning later in that century under the influence of the growing socialist movement. The big change, however, took place after the First World War. Unlike in the earlier wars of Europe, which were fought typically between professional soldiers, the armies now consisted largely of draftees from the working classes. As a great feeling of weariness descended on European society after the war, with it came a feeling that the working classes should have a greater share in the benefits of the victory, and in the benefits of society in general. The effect of the war was to produce a levelling of the classes. Those of you who have been watching Downton Abbey may have seen something of this. In 1908 the British government had followed the lead of Bismarck and created an old age pension. Bismarck’s action was not the product of any ideology but merely of political pragmatism: he wanted simply to get votes. But in 1922 the English writer, Leonard Trelawney Hobhouse, who described himself as a “liberal socialist,” argued, in his book, The Elements of Social Justice, that the old age pension and similar measures had a basis in justice on the ground that need created a right. In 1931 Pope Pius XI published an encyclical letter, Quadragesimo anno, which canonized this conception for the Catholic Church around the globe. The pope wrote, “…the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching.”
2. Up to this point little had been heard of the doctrine of social justice in the United States. Americans had traditionally held strongly to the principle of self-reliance. In comparison with later times many men earned their living as independent producers rather than as employees. For forty years the Supreme Court had explicitly accepted the legal doctrine of liberty of contract, namely that people had the natural right to make or not to make whatever contracts they wished. But in the meantime industrialization had set in, together with large-scale immigration, and many more men earned their living as employees of large firms, losing their economic independence. Now the Great Depression had begun, which threw an enormous number, some 25%, out of work. In 1932 there was a presidential election. One of the candidates, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, read the pope’s encyclical letter. In a campaign speech in Detroit he quoted from it the statement I have just quoted, calling it one of the greatest documents of modern times, and stating that the pope was just as radical as he, Roosevelt, was. Roosevelt’s theory about the Depression, so far as he had one, was that it was caused by the irresponsible behavior of greedy employers, and overproduction.
Once elected, he lost no time in implementing a social justice agenda. In1933 alone he secured passage by Congress of some 14 separate pieces of legislation for this purpose. Among them were :
· The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA),: by which industries set up codes to reduce “unfair competition,” and to raise wages and prices (for he thought low prices were caused by overproduction).
· The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA),: which raised farm prices by cutting total farm output of major crops and livestock;
· The Public Works Administration (PWA),:which built large public works projects, and
· the abandonment of the gold standard, which made it possible to print more paper money and thereby cause a general increase of prices.
In 1935 and subsequently he secured passage of
· The Social Security Act,
· The Works Progress Administration Act (WPA), a national labor program which created construction work for unskilled men; also sewing projects for women and arts projects for unemployed artists, musicians and writers.
· The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), often called the Wagner Act, which set the National Labor Relations Board to supervise labor-management relations.
· The Fair Labor Standards Act which: established a maximum normal work week (initially of 44 hours) and a minimum wage (of 40 cents an hour) and outlawed most forms of child labor.
The Supreme Court proceeded to reject several of these measures as unconstitutional until two Justices, the Chief Justice Charles Hughes and Owen Roberts, switched sides, giving the President a slim but effective majority on the court of one. The overall result in American society was to bring about a revolution in the American conception of social order.
Although it is generally agreed now among economists that the Great Depression did not really end until the war broke out, Roosevelt managed to convince a majority of his countrymen that his social justice agenda was economically successful. It cannot be denied that he raised the country’s morale.
In 1944 in his State of the Union speech Roosevelt proclaimed a "Second Bill of Rights" very different from those in the original Bill of Rights:
The right to a useful and remunerative job...
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and
clothing and recreation;
The right of farmers to a decent living;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care...
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of
old age, sickness, accident and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights were to be funded out of the public purse.
These "rights" were not enacted into law by Congress, but four years later, through the efforts of his widow Eleanor, who chaired the U.N. committee, they were included in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
3. But the version of social justice that he espoused was limited to questions of economics, poverty and unemployment. Since then the conception of justice has undergone a further revolution focusing especially on race and sex, in matters sometimes described as cultural. This second and twofold revolution was brought about by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The original purpose of this bill as stated by President Kennedy in his speech proposing it to Congress in June of the previous year was mainly to eliminate the system of racial segregation,
"giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments," as well as "greater protection for the right to vote."
(The military and the public schools had originally been segregated but by 1963 were already desegregated, at least in principle,) This aim of eliminating segregation was fully in accord with ordinary justice: it was entirely right and proper and long overdue. Despite that, the bill at first encountered fierce opposition. In August, however, Rev. Martin Luther King gave a speech (‘I have a dream..’) pleading for racial harmony which had a powerful effect. Over the Christmas holiday period the nation experienced a remarkable change of heart. When Congress reassembled, it was found that opposition to the bill had greatly diminished.
As the bill worked its way through Congress’s committee system, however, its purpose and nature were substantially changed by the addition of two amendments that belong, not to the realm of ordinary justice, but to that of "social justice." One was a vast broadening of its scope, from the elimination of segregation, as indicated by the president in his speech, to the elimination of discrimination in all places of employment with more than 15 employees. This was a momentous change. For while segregation involved a threat to use force against people who had done nothing to deserve it, and was an abominable offense against ordinary justice, discrimination belongs in an entirely different moral category. Segregation causes harm, but discrimination does not. For it is possible to discriminate against a person without performing any action at all in regard to him or her. All that is necessary is to give a benefit to someone else. Not long ago in a New York court the pharmaceutical firm Novartis was fined several million dollars for paying its male salesmen $75 a month more than its female salesforce. The women were not robbed or injured, their condition was not in any way worsened, which is the definition of harm. All that happened was that a benefit was given to the men. The benefit to the men was treated as if it were an injury to the women. Their treatment was certainly unequal, and possibly unfair, depending on your interpretation of the circumstances, but it was not unjust, as injustice is ordinarily understood. It is not without reason that neither in Roman law nor in English Common law was there ever a crime of discrimination. This confusion of mere inequality or unfairness with injustice is the hallmark of “social” justice.
(Furthermore, for an action to be genuinely immoral or a crime, it must be done with an evil intention. The interior dimension of actions is always a central aspect of them for moral judgment. But in 1971 the Supreme Court decided that it is possible to be guilty of discrimination even unintentionally, namely when an action has a “disparate impact” on protected groups, that is, when it creates inequality.)
This alteration in the bill was made chiefly through the efforts of one Asa Phillip Randolph (April 15, 1889 – May 16, 1979), who persuaded Rep. Emanuel Celler, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who introduced the bill into the House, to accept it. Randolph was a member of the Socialist Party, and had organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly Black labor union. In 1941 he had organized the March on Washington Movement, to pressure Roosevelt (successfully, as it turned out) into banning discrimination in defense industries. In 1948 he had successfully pressured President Harry Truman to end segregation in the armed services. He had helped organize the March on Washington in 1963 which gave rise to President Kennedy's civil rights speech and bill. Randolph was perhaps the most radical of the black civil rights leaders, and as you can see was already experienced in arguing for the banning of discrimination.
4. The second great alteration to the Civil Rights Bill of 1963 was the addition of the word "sex." The original concern of the Civil Rights Act was restricted to the question of race. The bill made no mention of sex. The amendment was added to the bill in the House by Howard Smith, Chairman of the Rules Committee. On February 8th, at a sparsely attended Saturday session with the final vote in the House looming near, at the last minute Smith offered an amendment to additionally prohibit discrimination in employment on the ground of sex. Representative Carl Elliott (D-AL) later explained, "Smith didn't give a damn about women's rights ... he was trying to knock off votes either then or down the line because there was always a hard core of men who didn't favor women's rights."
Onlookers tell us that Smith's amendment was initially greeted by "hoots of laughter" from the floor. He read from a letter — "to show you how some of the ladies feel about discrimination against them" — that he had received from a Nebraska woman upset about the nation's "surplus of spinsters." He explained "through interruptions of howling laughter" her demand that Congress equalize the sexual ratio in the population, and recited her indignant charge that "instead of assisting these poor unfortunate females in obtaining their 'right' to happiness, the Government has on several occasions engaged in wars which killed off a large number of eligible males."
Congressman George Andrews (D-AL) shouted, "Unless this amendment is adopted white women of this country would be drastically discriminated against in favor of a Negro woman!" Emanuel Celler tried to kill the amendment with ridicule, belittling it as unnecessary because of the "delightful accord" that had prevailed in his own household for fifty years. "I usually have the last two words, and those words are, 'Yes, dear.'"
But female members of the House — there were 12 — apparently unaware that the amendment on sex was intended by its mover, not for its own sake but for the purpose of killing the bill on race, took it on its merits. Martha Griffiths (D-MI) declared "...a vote against this amendment today by a white man is a vote against his wife, or his daughter, or his sister." Katherine St. George (R-NY) argued: "We are entitled to this little crumb of equality. The addition of that little, terrifying word, 's-e-x,' will not hurt this legislation in any way."
Suddenly, what had been nothing more than a ploy to both mock the bill and poison its passage in the Senate was taken with literal seriousness and transformed into a live question. The amendment eventually passed by a vote of 168-133 and the clause was revised to read: "prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin."
In this ironic manner, with no public demand, no hearings and no national debate, and as the result of a misunderstanding, did "social justice" in the form of "women's liberation," come to America.
Why men fight
Robert R. Reilly
Will women in front-line combat duty change the way men behave in combat?
Men fight to protect their women. Or, at least, that's the way it used to be.
On Thursday, however, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, "Today Gen. Dempsey and I are pleased to announce that we are eliminating the ground combat exclusion rule for women and moving forward with a plan to eliminate all gender-based barriers to service." This, in effect, voids the 1994 rule that mostly excludes women from units below the brigade level when the primary mission is direct ground combat.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, proclaimed that, "The time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service."
Why is this necessary? How did such a "time" arrive upon us? According to the Wall Street Journal, "last February, Mr. Panetta ordered US military service chiefs to find ways to expand the role of women." In other words, the military chiefs did not go to the Secretary of Defense and say, "we need to place women in combat units in order to fulfill our military mission."
Had they said this, it could have been for two possible reasons. One is that there are not enough men willing to serve in combat. Or two, women are demonstrably better in combat than men. The first is clearly not the case, as the military is cutting back on personnel. The Armed Forces have more men in combat units than, according to President Obama, they need. Two, there are no studies demonstrating women's superiority or even equivalence to men in combat. In other words, this came from the top - the political top. It is ideological pressure that created this requirement, not military necessity.
The rationalizations for it are almost amusing in the distance they have achieved from reality. One of the women who filed a lawsuit to challenge the combat ban, Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, who was injured in 2007 by a roadside bomb in Iraq, said, "Right before the IED went off, it didn't ask me how many push-ups or sit-ups I could do." Yes, indeed, an explosive can rip right through a woman as well as a man. It does not discriminate. Death is an equal opportunity killer. Usually, that would be a reason to keep women out of harm's way, not put them in it.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D. Ill), a former Army pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, said the decision will allow the "best man or woman on the front line." Absolutely, if a woman can kill men more effectively than a man can, why not let them? Women killing men is an essential part of equal opportunity.
Sen. Jack Reed (D, RI) said that on the current battlefield "all who serve are in combat." Absolutely, the person who cuts his or her finger at the company mess hall slicing bread should get a purple heart just like the infantry man who is shot by an enemy soldier. All wounds are equal. If we define everything as combat, then there are no obstacles to women in combat.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama thinks that the end of the combat exclusion is "appropriate." Appropriate to what? Apparently to removing "unnecessary gender-based barriers," as Mr Carney said.
Here is evidence of the barrier. Since 2001, 152 women have been killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 946 wounded. Considering that women make up some 14 percent of the active duty military, the killing is obviously not proportional to their participation. It only represents .019 of US fatalities in these two wars. Clearly, this must be the result of discrimination. To make sure women are given a fair shake in their new roles as front-line fighters, perhaps the fatality figure could be brought up to 14 percent. In fact, this might be the new metric of success for the integration of women into ground combat.
There is another serious problem that requires no sarcasm. According to John Luddy, in a 1994 backgrounder for the Heritage Foundation, "History shows that the presence of women has had a devastating impact on the effectiveness of men in battle." Why? For example, "a review of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War revealed that men tried to protect and assist women rather than continue their attack. As a result, they not only put their own lives in greater danger, but also jeopardized the survival of the entire unit. The study further revealed that unit morale was damaged when men saw women killed and maimed on the battlefield."
According to the late Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, women reduced the combat effectiveness of Haganah units because men took steps to protect them out of "fear of what the Arabs would do to [the] women if they captured them." In other words, men will behave like men, nowhere more so than in the presence of women. This is why Israel barred women from direct combat until 2000, when the so far only mixed gender infantry battalion was organized to patrol the relatively quiet borders with Jordan and Egypt.
There is another less appetizing way in which men will be men in the presence of women. General Dempsey, apparently with a straight face, suggested that allowing women into combat units may alleviate the military's serious problem with sexual harassment: "I have to believe, the more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally." In other words, if we pretend that women are just smaller men, sexual harassment will go away.
Here is the political program: Inject sexual tension into combat units by mixing genders, which results in an explosion of sexual harassment; then blame the military and insist that it transform itself - not to fight the enemy and win wars - but to fight sexual harassment.
A rare voice of sanity was heard when Rep. Duncan Hunter (R, Calif) said, "The focus of our military needs to be maximizing combat effectiveness. The question here is whether this change will actually make our military better at operating in combat and killing the enemy, since that will be their job, too."
Should it be their job to kill or to be killed? Retired four-star general Volney Warner said that, "I remain convinced that women are better at giving life than taking it." What kind of society seeks to put its women, it's life givers, directly in harm's way - to endanger that which is most precious to it? The answer is a society that no longer knows what women are or why men fight to protect them. In turn, it asks men not to be men - not to be protectors. What is there left to defend in such a society?
President Obama said, "Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love." Instinctively, one feels that this sentence should say the opposite - that we can be proud that our military is protecting "our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters" by keeping them from harm, not by placing them in it. One reason this is a "country we love" is that we can keep our women safe here. Obama brings us only one step away from the idea that "our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters" should be the ones protecting our military. This is a proposal that the ancient Greek playwright and satirist Aristophanes could have had great fun with. "Honey, tell the kids that mommy will be late tonight. I've still got some killing to do."
* * * * *
John Stuart Mill
It is to the lasting credit of John Stuart Mill that he formulated the basic ethical principle of the liberal society: people should be free to do as they please, so long as they cause no harm to others. But when do we cause harm to others? Mill believed that it is possible to cause harm to a person not only by performing an action which inflicts harm on him directly, but also by not performing an action that one ought to have performed to help him.
Of course everyone has long known that this is true in some circumstances. If the captain of a ship neglects to take the necessary measures to keep his ship from running aground, then by not performing certain actions he has caused harm to his employers, crew and passengers. He has an obligation to care for his ship because he has deliberately taken that obligation on himself by contract and is being paid to fulfill it. He has led others to rely on his performance of certain actions, and so he harms them by failing to perform those actions.
Mill’s view, however, goes far beyond that. It says that even where a person has not deliberately placed himself under any obligation to perform some action, it is still possible for him to cause harm by failing to do it. “There are also many positive acts for the benefit of others, which he may rightfully be compelled to perform; such as … saving a fellow-creature’s life, or interposing to protect the defenseless against ill-usage, things which whenever it is obviously a man’s duty to do, he may rightfully be made responsible to society for not doing. A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.”
This view runs counter to the common law tradition of the English-speaking peoples. However, since Mill wrote, the idea has become widely accepted in the United States also, and in recent years many laws have been passed that effectively put it into practice. For example, this applies to almost all of the laws which are based on the idea of fairness, or, as it is called, social justice. If it be asked what is wrong with refusing to employ minorities or women or the elderly, i.e., practicing job discrimination, many people will reply that it is unfair, for it causes harm to those discriminated against. If it be asked what harm is done to them, a likely reply will be that it deprives them of an opportunity they ought to have. The employer has not shot or robbed or defrauded the individual; he has simply not given him or her a job. In Mill’s words, he has caused evil not by his actions, but by his inaction.
Similarly, if someone should inquire what is wrong with making jobs available at a low wage, say $2 an hour, he will be told that this is taking unfair advantage of the worker. If he asks why it is unfair, a typical answer will be that an individual cannot live and support a family on such a wage. It is not that the employer has harmed the worker directly, by theft or deception, but that he is not giving him what (according to the commentator) he needs. He is causing harm by what he is failing to do, namely, pay a wage of a particular amount.
Or again, if a seller is charging a much higher price for an article than people are accustomed to, or if the price is much higher than the item seems to be worth, the seller is frequently felt to be taking unfair advantage of the buyer (“ripping him off,” in the popular phrase), especially if the buyer is ignorant of the market price or needs the product urgently. The seller is not inflicting any direct injury on the person or property of the buyer, he is simply not helping him as much as it is felt he ought to help him, and this is taken as being equivalent to harming him directly.
Since some very significant laws and court decisions now rest on this view, it is a matter of importance to know whether it is sound or not. Is it the case, as Mill says, that we can cause harm to others by inaction, by failing to help them when we ought?
For one person to cause harm to another, two essential requirements must be fulfilled. The first is that the condition of the person who is believed to be harmed must be worse after than it was before. There must have been a deterioration in his situation. For that is what we mean by harm.
The second requirement is that causation must have taken place. The deterioration in the condition of the other person must be the result of the action or inaction of the first person if he is to be held responsible for it and punished because of it.
Deterioration and the Baseline
To harm a person is to make his condition worse. If Brown shoots Smith, it is clear that he has harmed him because it is clear that Smith’s condition is worse after being shot than it was beforehand. “Worse” implies a comparison, and the comparison in the first place is a temporal one, between the condition of the person after the harmful event has taken place and his condition immediately before it took place. The “baseline” or benchmark for the comparison is the moment just before the harmful action began.
The description of the person’s condition immediately before the harmful action took place must be complete. Sometimes the person’s condition is not static, but is in the process of changing, either for better or worse, and this process of change is interrupted by the harmful action of the other person. In that case the description of the harmed person’s condition must include the likelihood of the change continuing, so far as that can be estimated. Suppose for example that White injures Black while Black is on his way to be interviewed for a job, with the consequence that Black is prevented from obtaining the job. The description of Black’s condition just before he was injured includes a certain probability that he would have obtained the job; and so an account of the harm White has done to Black cannot be confined to the physical damage that he did to him but must also include the harm he did by depriving him of that probability that he would have obtained the job, if it is at all significant.
It is sometimes maintained that the baseline for comparison ought to be not the actual situation of the person in distress at the time the action of the other person started, but the hypothetical situation that the person in distress would be in but for the action or inaction of the other. If Brown encounters difficulties while swimming and Green throws him a rope, it may be said that Green is benefiting Brown because if Green had not thrown him a rope he would have drowned. But although this may be a convenient manner of speaking, philosophically it is a mistake to formulate it in this way. We can never be certain what would have happened. At most we can say what would have been more or less likely to happen, and that may be very far from what would actually have happened. The result of such a formulation is to make all benefits and all harms merely conjectural. Smith declares that he is going to commit suicide. Suppose that I would like to have the experience of killing someone, and I shoot Smith. Could I argue that I didn’t harm him, because if I hadn’t killed him he would have died anyway? Assuredly not.
Where it is necessary, that is, where there is good reason to believe that some significant change would have taken place in the person’s condition, everything that may be gained by formulating it in terms of what would have happened hypothetically can be gained equally well by a full description of the person’s actual condition at the time of the event in question. The idea that Brown would have drowned can be formulated equally well as the idea that he was in danger of drowning. This danger constitutes an integral part of his situation at the time Green threw him the rope, and in assessing the danger we take account of the degree of likelihood involved. It is not necessary to go beyond the actual condition provided it is fully described.
Since it is sometimes questioned whether an action has harmed or benefited a person, we may note that the same baseline applies in the case of a benefit as in that of a harm. We must compare the person’s condition after the action has taken place with what it was immediately before the action in question commenced. It is clear that if you give a gift of $1,000 to Robinson you have benefited him, because after you give him the money he has $1,000 more than he had beforehand. And again, the description of the person’s condition before the action commenced must be complete and must include the likelihood of any change that was in process continuing, so far as that can be estimated.
We mentioned above the case where Green, standing idly by a stream, notices that Brown, who is swimming, appears to be in serious difficulties and likely to drown. He throws Brown a rope, and with that Brown succeeds in making his way ashore. We assumed, as most people probably would, that Green has benefited Brown, because before Green threw him the rope he was in danger of drowning, while afterwards he was not. But such a case is more controversial than a reader unacquainted with modern liberal thought might suspect. The modern liberal tends to deny that Green has benefited Brown, because he believes that there should be a law requiring the Greens of this world to save the Browns.
Thomas Patrick Burke: No Harm: Ethical Principles for a Free Market
(New York, Paragon House, 1994)
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Notes on the Economy
Prof. Bill Dunkelberg
January 14, 2013
Minimum wage destroys jobs and opportunities to develop skills
The minimum wage is a major anti-jobs policy. Ten states have announced an increase in their minimum wage effective January 1, mostly because their legislation requires an adjustment to the Consumer Price Index inflation measure. Some political jurisdictions take it further, San Francisco has a minimum over $10 per hour and the state of Washington is above $9 on average. Supporters hail this as a victory for "fairness" and a benefit for poor people. This, it is alleged, will provide more income to support spending and stimulate the economy. If it works that well, why not make the minimum $50? This would provide someone working 2,000 hours a year an income of $100,000, eliminating poverty and stimulating the economy. Obviously, $50/hour would be detrimental to employment as is $7/hour, it's just a matter of degree.
The President of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce suggested that the higher labor cost could be offset by eliminating waste in other aspects of the business. Really? So employers are wasting money that they could eliminate and add to the bottom line but they chose not to, to earn less than they could if waste was eliminated. But, with a higher minimum wage they will suddenly eliminate that waste to cover higher labor costs, adding nothing to the bottom line? This is the kind of absurd thinking that leads to bad policy.
As a poverty program, raising the minimum wage is like killing flies with a shotgun, not very well targeted. About 60% of the officially poor don't work, so the only thing raising the minimum wage does for them is to make it harder for them to get a job if they ever decide they want one. Workers must bring at least as much value to the firm as they are paid or the firm will fail and all jobs will be lost (no GM bailouts are available to our 6 million small employers that employ half of our private sector workforce). Raising the minimum wage raises the hurdle a worker must cross to justify being hired.
It is estimated that less than 15% of the total increase in wages resulting from an increase in the minimum will go to people below the poverty line and less than a third of those receiving the minimum wage are families below the poverty line. Most minimum wage workers are from above median income families. So, most of the people benefiting from the minimum wage are not the intended targets of the "anti-poverty" aspect of raising the minimum wage.
As a jobs program, raising the minimum wage is a real loser. Congress raised the minimum wage 10.6% in July, 2009 (know of anyone else getting a raise then?). In the ensuring 6 months, nearly 600,000 teen jobs disappeared, even with nearly 4% growth in the economy, this compared to a loss of 250,000 jobs in the first half of the year as GDP growth declined by 4%. Why? When you raise the price of anything, people take less of it, including labor. The unemployment rate for teens remains unacceptably high. Workers of all ages that are relatively unskilled are adversely impacted by this policy.
Another argument in favor of the minimum wage is that it is a stimulus, introducing new income and spending into the market. But was there more income to spend in 2009 when nearly 600,000 teen jobs were lost? Common sense says that every dollar a minimum wage worker receives must have come out of somebody else's pocket, either small business owners or their customers. The money for a higher minimum wage does not come from thin air.
Consider a community based pizza parlor selling 100 pies a day for 360 days at $10 each. Total revenue is $360,000. It employs 10 minimum wage workers earning $7 per hour, working 2000 hours a year, making labor costs $140,000. Assume rent, utilities, equipment, depreciation, insurance, supplies, licenses, and food costs come to $170,000 per year, leaving a profit of $50,000 for the owner and his/her family. Raising the minimum wage $1 would raise labor costs by $20,000 (paying more for the same amount of labor) and reduce profit to $30,000. The owner must either move into a smaller house or raise prices, which reduces the demand for pizza, resulting in the loss of a worker. So, the full increase in the wage cost of an increase in the minimum wage comes out of the pockets of customers or the owner's family, and the one person who loses a job. There was no net gain in income to increase spending in the community served as every dollar the minimum wage workers received came out of someone else's pocket in the community.
Supporters of raising the minimum cite poorly done studies by agenda driven "research" groups that allege to show that raising the minimum doesn't harm employment. This defies common sense and is not supported by good academic research. The Law of Demand always works: the higher the price of anything, the less that will be taken, and this includes labor.
Firms cannot pay a worker more than the value the worker brings to the firm. Raising the minimum denies more low skilled workers the opportunity to get a job and receive "on the job" training. The impact of raising the minimum wage in 2009 on teen employment makes it very clear that this is especially harmful for young teen workers looking for their first opportunity to have a job. Raising the cost of labor raises the incentive for employers to find ways to use less labor. Most minimum wage earners are not in poverty, yet their employment opportunities are impaired as well as those who are. This is but one of the poorly designed policies that are created by politicians who have little or no understanding of how business works. They promise higher legislated wages or other benefits to constituents who don't understand the true economic impact in order to gain votes.
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Geert Wilders: Speech to Swedish Free Press Society
Dear friends, I am very happy to be in your midst today. Thank you, Ingrid, for inviting me to address the Swedish Free Press Society. No demonstrator will prevent me to speak in Sweden.
I love Sweden and its people. One of my great heroes, Raoul Wallenberg, was a compatriot of yours. Wallenberg embodies all that is good and generous in the Swedish people. He defended the freedom and dignity of others. He protected those who had been marked for death by an evil ideology. And he gave his own life for it.
Recently, your minister for Integration, Erik Ullenhag, was in The Hague on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Wallenberg's birthday. He abused the occasion to attack my party, the Dutch Party for Freedom.
Minister Ullenhag said that in Sweden a party like mine would never be given the opportunity to influence politics. I wonder what these remarks had to do with Wallenberg. But I know that Mr Ullenhag is wrong: Like the Netherlands, Sweden, too, and all the Western countries need a party defending freedom.
Because Sweden has the same problem as the Netherlands, Denmark and the rest of the Western world. We are all in the same boat. Our freedoms are in danger. Our political and often leftist media establishment turns a blind eye to the largest threat to liberty in our present age. This threat is called Islam.
Islam commands its followers to establish a worldwide Islamic state, where everyone has to live according to the Sharia, the barbaric law of Islam. And where Islam's opponents are being marked for death.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn used to say that the truth is "seldom sweet; it is almost invariably bitter." But the truth should be heard. The bitter truth that Islam is the largest threat to freedom today. And the unpleasant truth that Islam is already all around us.
The sign of Islam's presence is visible in all our European cities. To read further, click here.
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Report on Lectures in Europe, 2012
Thomas Patrick Burke
In September and October I gave lectures in Europe on my recent book, The Concept of Justice: Is Social Justice Just? (London, Continuum, 2011). It proved to be a rewarding experience, for it showed me, what I did not previously know, that there is a public even in "Old" Europe for the rejection of "social justice" and for the restoration of the justice that is genuine and true.
The first presentation was held at what might be considered an unlikely place, the European Parliament in Brussels, on September 25. The invitation came through the good offices of our own Patrick Barron, the well-known Austrian economist and columnist, who has spoken there on economic topics several times. He informed the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in Brussels, who have sponsored him, that I was available. This is a small but rapidly growing party based in Great Britain who are swimming against the tide of socialization by aiming to take the UK out of the European Union. This goal is more or less the opposite of that of the Parliament itself! They (UKIP) also want the citizens of the UK to be allowed to vote directly on their membership in the Union, rather than simply have it decided for them by their alleged representatives in Westminster. This is a view sufficiently radical to prepare UKIP to be open to the radical and kindred message of the Wynnewood Institute.
In Brussels, the parliament is housed in a sumptuous new building on which no expense seems to have been spared. About 25 to 30 members of the parliament with their aides came to the lecture, which was organized by Michael Jose, the party's secretary. It was a good audience! Michael added an excellent strong speech in support. The more mainstream parties object to the stance of UKIP that the national representatives are elected for the purpose of settling questions like sovereignty. But UKIP's position resembles that of the successful movement in the US early in the 20th century to elect the members of the Senate directly rather than have them be appointed by the state governments, as originally provided in the Constitution. The political classes of the EU have notoriously turned a blind eye to their publics' manifest desire for a vote. But the lesson of the US's 17th Amendment is that the voice of the people confers legitimacy.
UKIP seems to be the strongest political force in Europe, and perhaps even the only one, defending the idea of national sovereignty, which Wynnewood staunchly supports. In Michael Farage they have an eloquent and courageous leader. His videos on YouTube are nothing short of rivetting. If you are interested in the fate of Europe they are likely to give you hope against hope. UKIP has been much in the news lately. In Britain they have been growing in strength. A few days ago they did very well in a by-election, far better than expected. Some observers expect them in the next British election to beat out the Liberal Democrats and perhaps join the Conservatives in government.
From Brussels I traveled by train in a long journey across the continent to Prague, the Czech capital, home to a think tank which was created under the old communist regime in protest, the Civic Institute. This is an organization that has many similarities with the Wynnewood Institute. Its aim is to provide adults, students and voters with the philosophical and economic insights that support Western Civilization, the free society and free markets. They have a minimal budget, but paid for my accomodation unasked.
My presentation in Prague was arranged by Roman Joch, head of the Civic Institute. I met him some years ago in the U.S. at a meeting of the Philadelphia Society. He is very ably assisted by Matyas Zrno, who is also a councillor in the Czech parliament and government. I had never met Matyas (Matthias in English) but got to know him well during my visit, a delightful fellow. A difference between their institute and ours is that they have their premises in a monastery! But it is much older, going back to the days of the communist regime, when it was spiritually and intellectually nurtured by Roger Scruton. While I was still in Brussels, the current President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, made a public statement in support of UKIP (and therefore implicitly of Wynnewood), which was reported with headlines in many newspapers.
Roman gave a short but strong speech supporting my message. The questions and discussion were even better than in Brussels, intellectually even more lively. After that, a good group of us adjourned to the Czech equivalent of a local pub, and the discussion went on, in a slightly more boisterous fashion, till late into the night. To catch my plane back home from Munich I had to take the overnight bus from Prague across the Bohemian Mountains -- not quite so riotous as their name in English might suggest!
While in Europe I received inquiries from other organizations, notably in Milan and Rome, but as it turned out there was not enough time for the travel that would be involved.
The warmth of support I experienced at both places, and the other expressions of interest I received, convinced me that Wynnewood has an audience in Europe if it wants to use it. I did not even touch institutions in Germany, where the overall political atmosphere is closer to ours. It also has suggested that perhaps something similar could be organized here in the U.S.
As a footnote, you may have noticed a short piece I sent out on Monday on "Coercion and the Measurement of Productivity." It was immediately picked up by Michael Jose and sent to UKIP's members in Europe and throughout the British Isles.
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Coercion and the Measurement of Productivity
The economic or exchange value of an item is given only by a voluntary exchange, not by one that is the result of force or fraud. If a customer buys a bag of sawdust for $30 because the seller assured him it was wheat, the $30 does not represent the genuine exchane value of sawdust. If I should succeed in persuading an acquaintance of mine to buy my house from me by the expedient of threatening to blow his car up, I may obtain money in place of the house, but the money is not a true measure of the economic value of the house. If a thug threatens to burn Smith's restaurant down unless Smith buys "protection" from him, this "protection" has no economic value, even though Smith pays a large sum for it. The concept of economic value has meaning only within the framework of a voluntary market system. Economic value represents the relationship between a voluntary supply and a voluntary demand.
Similarly, the concept of economic productivity has meaning only within the framework of a voluntary market, since a productive activity is one which results in the creation of economic value. An action is economically productive only to the extent that it produces something which other individuals desire. Neither the sale of the sawdust nor the protection afforded by the thug are economically productive.
It follows from this that various goods and services to which economic value and productivity are frequently attributed do not properly possess it. If government pays workers to produce some item which is not in demand in the market, and even more so if it then compels people by law to buy the product, no genuine economic value is created, and economic calculations based on any other assumption can only be misleading.
Throughout the United States, as in most other countries, a certain number of years of education are mandated by government. At the same time, most schools are owned by government and paid for by taxation. Public education is a not a voluntary exchange. It cannot be assumed, then, that the salaries paid to public school teachers out of taxes represent genuine economic value, or that the education the students receive has it either. Yet both educators and economists routinely make that assumption. Of course it seems reasonable to suppose that some of the education that government now provides would be provided privately if government did not, but it is only that portion of government expenditure which would otherwise be spent privately which represents genuine economic value.
Salaries paid within the context of a union contract are not simply the product of a voluntary exchange, but are imposed by the monopoly privileges of union legislation. Does the work for which these salaries are paid possess economic value? Possibly, if the firm makes a profit, but possibly not even then, if the profit comes from other areas of the firm's activities. Salaries which result from union contracts cannot be assumed to represent genuine economic value. Similar considerations apply to all employment which takes place as the result of legislation. In order to know what the true economic value of mandated employment is, we would need to calculate what the level of employment would be if the market were free.
In calculating the national income, economists customarily include all government expenditures except transfer payments, such as welfare or social security payments. It is recognized that transfer payments do not add to the nation's wealth, but it is assumed that all other governmental expenditures do, irrespective of their nature. If the U.S. government spends $40 million on a supercollider, or on the salaries of IRS agents, the assumption is made that this adds that amount to the nation's wealth. Yet economists recognize that such expenditures are anomalous, because there is no way to estimate their market value. What is the market value of a supercollider, or of the IRS? Instead of simply excluding government expenditures from the national income, however, the compromise solution is typically adopted of assuming that government output possesses economic value, and calculating it at cost, which would immediately be recognized as absurd if it were done with private business. It means that if government were to get as much work done by employing one person in place of two, its contribution to the national wealth would diminish, whereas if it spends more money on higher salaries, irrespective of the employees' actual accomplishments, its contribution to the national welfare increases. Common sense would suggest that exactly the reverse is the case. The distortions introduced into the market by economic legislation make rational economic calculation extremely difficult if not impossible, and the conclusions of economists based on such assumptions should be regarded with the greatest distrust.
Government always acts by coercion... Every time government steps beyond its task of providing protection from crime and uses the coercive power of the law to influence economic activity as such, the result is similar to that produced by the thug, or by my threat to blow up my acquaintance's car. What may appear on the surface to be genuine economic activity is actually not so, and to count it as if it were is to be snared by an illusion. This is true of all the chief macroeconomic variables: prices, employment, and output. A price resulting from coercion is not a true price, even though money be handed over, employment resulting from coercion is not true employment, even though some kind of work may be done; and products resulting from coercion do not constitute genuine output. All these measurements are systematically distorted and rendered unreliable by government intervention in the market.
In intervening in the market, however, government relies and must rely on just these measurements. When the Federal Reserve makes a decision to increase interest rates, or not to reduce them, because of the danger of inflation, it looks to a particular measurement of inflation, such as the Consumer Price Index. But this Index lumps together not only voluntary but coerced prices. Every figure government consults as the basis for its economic policies has been falsified by its own previous interventions. In attempting to direct the economy according to some policy, any policy whatever, then, government is essentially flying blind, yet it compels the entire nation to fly with it.
Economists who favor macroeconomics sometimes reply that for many purposes rough estimates can still be useful, and no doubt that is true. Yet at the present time government expenditures make up some 40 percent of the figure referred to as the Gross Domestic Product, and an analysis of the economy restricted to free prices and production might present a very different picture from the usual one.
Thomas Patrick Burke: No Harm: Ethical Principles for a Free Market
(New York, Paragon House, 1994)
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Lecture Delivered at the European Parliament, Brussels
September 18, 2012
On: The Concept of Justice: Is Social Justice Just?
(London and New York , Continuum, 2011)
Thomas Patrick Burke
Everybody knows the nations of Europe have a debt crisis. And everybody knows the United States has a financial crisis. But I am sorry to tell you there is another crisis which almost nobody knows, which is deeper and more serious than either debts or recessions, and which has in effect caused both of these crises. That is the crisis in our concept of justice. It is in crisis because, instead of having a single conception of justice, as Western civilization had from its earliest days, we now have two. They are what I will call ordinary justice, and what is called “social justice.” Many people assume these are in harmony with one another, that social justice is only an addition, or extension or new-and-improved version of ordinary justice. But the truth is, not only are they different from one another, but they are diametrically opposed to one another and in fact they are incompatible with one another. Furthermore, confusion about them is by no means the particular privilege of any one political party, but is almost universal in our society. I would like first to explain what these two conceptions are and why they are in such deep contradiction. And second, so far as time allows, to explain how the confusion between them has caused such havoc.
There is a simple distinction which lies at the heart of our problem. It does not require any abstruse philosophy, but is a matter of common sense, and at first you may feel surprised that I even take up your time with it. It is the difference between an action and a state of affairs. An action is something someone does. A state of affairs is not something someone does. An action can produce a state of affairs, but the distinction always remains between the action, which is the cause, and the state of affairs, which is its effect. A state of affairs is the way things are at some particular time and place. It is a static condition, the kind of thing we would describe as a fact or a situation. An action, by contrast, is an event, a transient happening, carried out by some person, usually for a purpose. Allow me to give you an example, which at the same time will begin to suggest its implications. A robbery is not a state of affairs but an action. Poverty is not an action but a state of affairs. The difference between actions and states of affairs is important because an ethical quality is always a quality of persons and their actions: it is first and foremost a quality of actions, and consequently a quality of the persons who perform the actions.
An action is the expression of a will, and an ethical judgment always implies a judgment on a will. It is in the will that ethical goodness resides, and ethical badness. An accidental event cannot, in any literal sense of the term, be either ethical or unethical. Accidental justice is never more than poetical. Accidental kindness is merely good fortune. Events that occur in the realm of nature, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, since they are not the product of a will, lie inherently outside the domain of moral judgment. A moral judgment is always a verdict on the quality of a person. That quality resides in his will. A person is good or evil, selfish or unselfish, kind or unkind, generous or grasping, just or unjust, depending entirely on his will. That is what Aristotle is saying when he restricts ethical judgments only to the realm of the voluntary, not to the involuntary (ekousion, notakousion). That is a fundamental truth. Whatever is involuntary, whether it be a thought or an action or a state of affairs in society, does not belong in the category of the ethical.
It is a hallmark of ordinary justice that states of affairs can be just or unjust only to the extent that rational agents can be held to account for them. And rational beings can be held to account only for those states of affairs that issue directly or indirectly from their own will. In particular, the injustice of a state of affairs is either the direct result of an unjust action, or it involves the willful or negligent mistreatment of persons. Mistreatment comes in many forms. In some cases the injustice is deliberately intended; in other cases it arises by negligence or weakness of will; in other cases still it arises from a culpable ignorance, as when a drug addict turns a blind eye to the consequences of his addiction for his family. But in all these cases a state of affairs is being imputed or attributed to the will of an agent. In all these cases someone makes himself responsible for the consequences of his own behaviour. And in the end it is this concept of responsibility that is pivotal for understanding the concept of justice. Where there is injustice, there is somebody responsible for it. Where there is no one responsible, there cannot be injustice. Click here to read more...
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Notes on the Economy
Professor Bill Dunkelberg, Ph.D
More “Quantitative Easing” Will Only Help Big Banks, Not Employment
Several Federal Reserve regional bank presidents are lobbying for Quantitative Easing 3 (QE3) to stimulate employment growth (apparently inflation is not currently a concern!). When asked for details as to just how buying another trillion or so in financial assets will do this, much hand-waving occurs. With interest rates at historically low levels, it is reasonable to ask just how this will create new jobs. Who hasn’t taken out a mortgage already (refinancing is not much of a job creator at this point)? Would a 25 basis points reduction really spur a lot of new investment spending? I can’t imagine that loan committees would suddenly approve more loans if rates fell (or if the Fed stopped paying 25bp on excess reserves). Interest rates are in the denominator of the valuation equation, but it’s the numerators that don’t look good (expected cash flow, profits etc.) and the path that Washington has us on is a major contributor to this.
In a recent poll of the members of the National Federation of Independent Business on “Problems and Priorities” (done about every 5 years), it was no surprise to see rising health care costs in the top position, a place it has held for 25 years. But in second place was uncertainty about the economy and in fourth place was uncertainty about economic policy! More owners expect business conditions to be worse in 6 months than expect them to improve and about as many firms expect real sales volumes to fall as expect them to rise, a very weak situation. Only 5% of the owners think the current period a good one for business expansion, and plans to make capital outlays are historically very low. How is QE3 going to change this?
Here are a few relevant observations:
1. Over 60% of small business owners have no interest in a loan (and over 30% can get all the credit they want).
2. Expectations for sales growth and the economy are very poor and loans can’t be repaid without new revenue that the debt-financed investment (in equipment or workers) must produce.
3. Interest rates actually paid by small businesses have not responded proportionately to the sharp decline in Treasury yields (i.e. the Fed can’t get rates on Main Street to fall).The average rate reported on one year money by NFIB owners has averaged 6% for years even though the field on the 1 year Treasury has benn under 25bp.
So, the Fed is not “out of bullets”, there is no limit to the volume of assets it can buy (short of a supply constraint), the problem is that the bullets will not hit the target (employment), or as one colleague characterized it, the bullets are blanks. Large banks will benefit of course, not from “banking” but from “trading”. Small banks are disadvantaged in this game.
In the meantime, savers are taking a beating. Conservative, naïve savers who want to at least secure their capital are stuck with negative real returns and face the prospect of capital losses in the future if interest rates rise and they need to liquidate some of their Treasury bonds. Our national preoccupation with subsidizing debtors at the expense of savers is damaging to our long-term need for real investment and improved productivity. Our current fiscal/monetary policy mix is way out of whack, setting us up for who knows what kinds of problems in the future. Encouraging the Fed to distort this imbalance even further is counterproductive.
Clinton May Be “Back” But Not His Economy
As the press trumpets the return of Bill Clinton to the political spotlight, many partisan observers have revived the “raise taxes on the rich to improve the economy” mantra, citing the fact that Congress raised taxes on the “rich” in his first administration, a true fact, and that surpluses and record employment appeared late in his second term, also a true fact, but unrelated to the tax hike as “tax the rich” proponents would have us believe. Here are the major factors that contributed to the record level of employment in 2000 and the budget surpluses that appeared in the late 1990s:
1. The “DotCom” bubble generated hundreds of billions in capital gains tax revenue.
2. The “Y2K” calendar event triggered record spending on computers, software and related stuff along with a surge in “programmer” employment.
3. There was a “fiber optics” boom as well.
4. Surpluses appeared because employment rose to 64.5% of the adult population (more people paying taxes) as a result of these events, supplemented by capital gains tax revenues and corporate profit taxes.
5. “Deficits” were political poison in those days, and Newt and the Republicans controlled Congress and spending in Clinton's second term (and economists predicted "predicted deficits as far as the eye cansee ").
6. And finally, the “peace dividend” lowered military spending, a real boost.
In short, the fact that raising tax rates will slow economic activity was not refuted: if you tax anything, you get less of it. Other factors can overcome the negative impact of higher tax rates as was the case in the late 1990s.
The impact of these events was obvious in the small business sector (half of private GDP). A record 70% of the 350,000 National Federation of Independent Business member firms reported capital spending in the prior 6 months in the January, 2000 survey (compared to 54% today). The percent of owners with a job opening peaked at 34% in 2000 (compared to 15% today). A record 19% planned to create new jobs late in 1999 (compared to 5% today).
The employment and tax revenue implications of these data are clear: a good economy generates jobs and tax revenue. Raising tax rates reduces the attractiveness of a new hire or a new investment, as it increases the “after tax” return a business needs to earn to justify the expenditure (and repay any debt incurred to finance the expenditure). Without a “Y2K” event to provide an offsetting positive to the negative impact of higher tax rates, such a move is self-defeating. The best measure of the “tax” burden of government is its spending (including regulatory compliance costs). Perhaps reducing that burden (current and expected) would be a better policy move.
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The Only International Economic Policy that a Country Needs: "Mind your own business and set a good example"
By Patrick Barron
The international economic scene is dominated by state interventions at all levels. Daily we read of disputes over exchange rate manipulation, protectionist tariffs followed by retaliatory tariffs, highly regulated free trade blocs that erect trade barriers to non-bloc nations, bilateral trade agreements, and more. For instance, Great Britain is a member of the European Union (EU) but not of the European Monetary Union (EMU), meaning that it abides by all the regulations and pays all the assessments to remain a member of the EU in order to trade freely with the other members of the twenty-seven country EU. But it does not use the common currency, the euro, which is used by only seventeen of the EU members. British industry chafes at the many seemingly meaningless and bizarre regulations that raise the cost of British goods, just so Britain can trade freely within the EU. Some regulations are so onerous that some British manufactures will be put out of business. The pro-EU faction in Britain, such as the leadership of the three main parties--the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats--, recognizes the damage but proposes to lobby for special exemptions on a case by case basis. The anti-EU faction, led by the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP), wants Britain out of the EU entirely, arguing that the cost of membership is too great and that the loss of sovereignty is unconstitutional. The same debate can be seen within every EU nation to some degree.
By now everyone is aware of the euro debt crisis; that is, that many members of the EMU are massively in debt. Lower borrowing costs and the ability of members to monetize their debts through the European Central Bank (ECB) by way of their captive national central banks created incentives that proved too powerful for governments to resist, so they embarked on profligate spending programs at the governmental level and enjoyed, briefly, a property boom that has come crashing down. Their way out of this mess is unclear. Some economists propose raising taxes and cutting programs, commonly called "austerity". Others have called for these countries to leave the EMU, reinstate their own national currencies, and devalue against the euro, supposedly to restore "competitiveness". Others have called for outright default on their euro-denominated debt.
The common assumption behind any discussion of these debates and crises is that a country cannot stand alone in the world and needs to negotiate trade and monetary terms with its trading partners, who may require the country to adopt measures that are antithetical to its interests. Is this really the case? Is it possible for a nation to free itself from all international agreements, manage its own currency as its sees fit, and trade robustly with the rest of the world?
No Country Can Harm Another Economically Without That Country's Consent
In order to accept the wisdom of international non-interventionism in economic affairs, one must understand that no country (or bloc of countries, such as the EU) can harm another economically without that country's consent, meaning tacit compliance. In other words, a country can adopt its own trading and currency policies and need not be influenced or harmed by the actions of any other country. But first of all, we need to understand the definition of "harm".
In his book No Harm: Ethical Principles for a Free Market, Dr. Thomas Patrick Burke explains that harm consists only in physical harm or the threat of physical harm. It is not caused by discrimination or a demand for special trading terms. The most common example of real, physical harm is war. War destroys the assets of others. Likewise, blockades cause real harm, because the blockaded nation is threatened by the destruction of its outgoing or incoming goods. Because it does not choose to fight to break the blockade or is powerless to do so does not mean that it is not harmed. However, a refusal of one country to allow its citizens to trade with another--for example, the EU's recent restriction upon its members that prevents them from importing Iranian oil--does not harm Iran. An internal example would be for a person to refuse to trade with a local merchant, due to some personal disagreement. That merchant is not harmed by the trade the he does not enjoy. Dr. Burke explains that the victim of discrimination is left in the same position as before the act of discrimination and that no nation or individual can claim to be entitled to the trade of another.
In fact the discriminating nation or person causes himself some extra cost and, therefore, harms only himself. Consider that an individual most likely must travel further, pay more for goods, or purchase inferior goods that he refuses to buy from his local merchant with whom he is feuding. At the nation-state level the European Union harms its own citizens, for they must pay more for oil, buy inferior oil, or suffer some kind of inconvenience. Otherwise, why would they have purchased Iranian oil in the first place? One could even go so far as to say that the EU wages war against its own citizens and not against Iran, for, undoubtedly, there are police sanctions that the EU would employ against its members for violating the Iranian trade prohibition that must rest upon the threat of violence.
Regulatory and Monetary Interventions Harm only Those Who Impose Them
I will continue to use the EU case as illustrative of my thesis that a nation cannot be harmed except by its own consent. The EU has adopted many onerous regulations upon trade in goods and services with which its members must comply as a condition of EU membership. The EU has erected trade barriers for many goods and services against non-EU members. For example, the EU prohibits the importation of most agricultural products from Africa. Either there is an outright prohibition against importing African foodstuffs or the African nations cannot comply with complex and onerous regulations such as the prohibition against genetically engineered food. A country that wishes to trade with the EU either complies with EU demands or must find buyers elsewhere.
This practice does not fall into the Burkean definition of harm as regards Africa. It does, though, constitute harm to citizens of the EU. African countries are left in the same position as before; remember, no one and no nation has an entitlement to the trade of others. But we must assume that the EU prohibits African foodstuffs, because its citizens would have purchased them in the absence of the prohibition; otherwise, the prohibition would not be necessary. Therefore, the EU regulations and/or prohibitions against the importation of African foodstuffs harms only EU citizens themselves. The African nations are perfectly free to pursue sales elsewhere in the world, although it is true that their standard of living would have been higher without the EU regulations and prohibitions.
The same is true of currency interventions. America has complained for some time that China intervenes in its own currency markets to hold down the value of the yuan in order to increase export sales. The U.S. position wrongly claims that it is harmed, because domestic companies lose sales to cheaper Chinese goods. But this is wrong. Viewed from the standpoint of justice, domestic companies do not have an entitlement to domestic sales. And viewed from a practical standpoint, America enjoys an outright subsidy from China. China sells the US goods below cost and causes its own citizens to suffer higher prices; i.e., higher Chinese domestic prices are caused by its currency intervention that gives American importers more yuan than the free market rate, which is based upon purchasing power parity. As I explained in a previous essay, currency interventions to spur exports are paid by the exporting country's own citizens in the form of higher domestic prices. Should America foolishly prohibit the importation of Chinese goods, either by quotas or tariffs, it would cause harm only to its own citizens, who would be forced to pay higher prices, in addition to other economic dislocations.
The "only international economic policy that a country needs", (returning to the title of this essay), is to mind its own business and set a good example to the rest of the world. A just economic policy for a free and prosperous nation would be based upon the twin pillars of unilateral free trade and non-intervention into its own markets. This means a complete elimination of domestic regulations that attempt to set quality and safety standards, for the market will do that by itself, and complete abdication of manufacture and management of money. It does not need to join a trade bloc or negotiate trade terms with other nations. If a trade bloc such as the EU sets import standards different from one's own domestic standards, each exporting company can decide for itself if the rewards for meeting the importing bloc's standards warrant the extra cost. It is not an issue for the exporting nation's government to decide. Furthermore, the exporting nation does not have to concern itself about importing from a country or bloc of countries that refuses to accept the exporting nation's goods in return. After purchasing goods from the protectionist nation or bloc of nations, that nation's currency will find its way back into its economy in the form of export demand from some other nation that accepted the currency in payment for some other good or service or it will receive a capital investment. If the currency never finds its way back to the nation that adopted unilateral free trade and is held indefinitely in the coffers of some foreign bank or central bank, that nation has simply been on the receiving end of a gift. An analogy would be that of a friend or neighbor who sells you something and then never cashes your check.