"The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin." ~ Mark Twain
The Liberation of the Middle East
The United States ' occupation of Iraq is generally referred to as the 'liberation' in the news since the state's guns aim to make the new Iraq a democracy. Recently on CNN ( 5/21/04 ), this 'liberation project' was analyzed by experts, who agreed that the success of the project could lead to an eventual democratization of all countries in the Middle East .
In the current debate, the (new) purpose of the war, i.e. democratization of the Iraqi state, seems to mean the Iraqi people are finally liberated ' and democracy is supposedly both the means to accomplish and the means to secure this liberty. According to a bunch of political 'experts,' as well as president George W Bush and his accomplices, democracy is the only way. Democracy is the only way to liberty.
The activists on the far Left share the president's belief in democracy, even though they claim the so-called liberal democracies in the West are not 'real' democracies. I have received many e-mails from such socialist-inspired activists on how a real democracy would lead to true equality and freedom. Even though they agree on the supremacy of democracy (and the state), I do not think left ist activists and president Bush agree on much in detail.
The weird thing to me is the general identification of democracy as something good in itself ' democracy is a system like any other. It does in theory provide the people with a way of choosing their leaders, but there is, as always, great differences between theory and reality. Is democratization the same thing as liberalization? Of course not!
We are told from infancy democracy is a 'free' system compared to the historical monarchies, feudal systems and aristocracies ' it is even freer than the ancient Greek democracies 'because they did not include all people in the decision process.' (Well, neither do our democracies, but that fact is generally neglected.)
If democracy is truly freer than the rule of monarchs, feudal lords and aristocracies, we should be able to prove it. Throughout history, people have been censored and even convicted because of their opinion. Compared to this, democracy with free speech must truly be a better system? Even though many countries have laws restricting the free speech of its citizens (like Germany 's prohibition of Nazism or Sweden 's prohibition of using 'political uniforms'), one is yet freer to speak one's mind today than before.
This may be true. In the 'old days' great minds such as Aristotle, Machiavelli, Galileo, and Voltaire needed to avoid the ruler's anger by fleeing. But even though they had to move away from home, they could still stay in their own country without the ruler finding them. Or they could easily move to another country. This is not the case today.
The 'free' society of our modern democracies is based upon the use of control and indirect force, while the historical systems used occasional direct force. Which is better? The modern democracies may invent new laws to restrict your life, and they will not allow you to move away from their oppression. Your property is controlled in the state, and any action you may make is carefully registered ' there is nowhere to go if you wish to be ' left alone' by the authorities but still do not want to live off roots and berries in a forest.
In the old days, you could, like Machiavelli, move to a countryside house and live off your own land. This is impossible today, since your whereabouts are registered with the state, and you usually will have to pay property tax. If there is no money in-flow with which you can bribe the authorities to leave you alone for a while (so-called taxes), you are bound to go to jail. If the authorities consider you a threat, you will go to jail as soon as they find you (which they will do rather easily in the modern police democracy).
Rousseau, the French predecessor to Karl Marx, had to flee to Prussia and England to avoid the anger of the French king. After publishing his works, he received notice of the king's intentions, so he simply packed his bags and moved across the border.
Moving abroad today is not very easy, since all states require and need to register your passport every time you approach a border. Why is this? Well, no one has really been able to tell me why this is so important. Before World War I, nobody even needed a passport to travel, and there were no problems with terrorism. After World War I, the states seemed to feel a need to treat all other states' subjects as animals, making them stand in line for hours pleading their innocence in order to move their bodies across the border.
Going from my home country Sweden to the United States means I will have to stand in line a number of times registering my passport with different authorities (even though this surveillance is partly performed by the airline staff) in order for 'my' government to register my leaving the country ' and where I am going. And then I need to show my passport to board the plane, and upon arrival I will need to fill out a number of forms and stand in line for a couple of hours with the sole purpose of the United States government wanting to register my arrival.
The modern democratic state, compared to the historical 'oppressive' states, controls my every move, and there is no attractive way of escaping this. One can try running (or swimming) across the border, but only to find there is no way of taking part in society without 'valid' papers. If you are not registered, you do not exist.
This may sound like a golden opportunity to libertarians, but since everybody is automatically registered upon birth, it is not easy to avoid the authorities. In Sweden , as will soon be the case in the United States too, everything you do is registered with your personal identification number. Nowadays you do not have to tell companies your address ' they will automatically send any correspondence to the address supplied by the state. When applying for loans, telephone or whatever, they get access to your income and your assets from the state in real-time. And when moving, one will not have to change the address with banks, insurance companies, etc. ' they are all using your personal identification number and get automatic updates from the state.
Of course, this is to most people 'very convenient' since they do not have to do anything ' it is all taken care of. Just like the Jews in Hitler's Germany were automatically 'taken care of' by the state, or the Kurds by Saddam Hussein's regime. As a libertarian, the immense threat to personal integrity and liberty in this control-freak of a state is obvious, but as I have been told many times: 'If you have done nothing wrong, there is nothing to worry about.' Right . . . .
Is the modern democracy freer than the oppressive rule in the old times? Is the democratization of Iraq really an act of liberation? The answer to these questions has to be No. The oppressive rule of a state relying on direct force is not that bad if it cannot control your whereabouts. At least it is not that bad compared to a state claiming to provide you with a few 'freedoms' while it meanwhile controls your every move.
The Iraqi people should be glad to finally get rid of Saddam Hussein, but they are heading the wrong way; from a clear and present danger to the constant surveillance and indirect oppression of Big Brother Democracy.