The Joke of Democratic Accountability

by Kevin Carson

Note: Since I don’t have to pay his taxes, or be beaten up by his uniformed thugs, or impoverished by his money printing, or live through his cultural revolution, I can appreciate Mr Obama’s comparative lack of enthusiasm for starting wars. SIG

Back in 2008, now-president Barack Obama ran against the Bush administration’s runaway national security state, created partly via legislation like USA PATRIOT and partly via executive practices like warrantless wiretapping, waterboarding and the like. One of Obama’s biggest applause lines was “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States; and in the Red States we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries.” Obama strongly suggested — in vague but quite vehement language — his intention of rolling back this national security state. And besides that, he promised “the most transparent administration in history.”

I, cynical anarchist that I am, considered it entirely plausible that we might expect as vigorous a rollback of executive power under Obama as the Church Commission carried out after Watergate.

So much for that theory. Obama may actually be telling the truth about ending torture at Guantanamo. But he still explicitly supports so-called “extraordinary rendition,” by which “terror suspects” are handed over — with a wink and a nudge — to allied regimes that do practice torture. He claims to have shut down so-called “Black Ops” sites where the military and CIA practiced torture under Bush — although there’s no way of verifying this. And Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield (aka Guantanamo East), where we have no idea what still goes on, is still very much in business.

Obama’s attitude toward torture and illegal surveillance by the Bush administration, in every case, has been to use the full power of his office to prevent prosecution of Bush era officials for their crimes against humanity. For this, Obama should personally apologize to the families of the Nazis executed at Nuremberg.

As for Obama’s promises of transparency, in office he has in fact pursued whistleblowers with a level of vindictiveness unprecedented in recent years. He’s actually resurrected Wilson-era legislation like the Espionage Act — originally used against Wobbly and Socialist political prisoners who opposed WWI as a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” — to go after those who’ve exposed the sordid workings of his national security apparatus. Nixon would be proud.

On virtually every aspect of his 2008 promises to scale back Bush’s executive power grabs and restore civil liberties, Obama has proven to be an out-and-out liar. Far from undoing Bush’s police statism, in the words of Rehoboam, Obama’s little finger has been thicker than Bush’s loins. Whereas Bush chastised us with whips, Obama has chastises us with scorpions.

The remedy for this sort of thing, as it’s presented in the civics texts, is to punish such betrayal by voting against the betrayer next time. But thanks to the “lesser of evils” dynamic inherent in America’s two-party system, this is impossible.

An entire community of “Pragmatic Progressives” have circled their wagons in defense of Obama (or PBO, as they call him) against left-wing critics who might weaken him against Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Some, like leading PragProg Scott Finley, have actually resorted to baiting left-wing critics of the American security state for their lack of patriotism, making tactical alliances with right-wing troglodytes like Todd Kincannon to harass them. A movement founded on the unum necessarium of defending Obama against the GOP at all costs has gradually slipped down the proverbial slope, now actually allying itself with the GOP to suppress Obama’s left-wing critics.

Mainstream “Progressives,” the most vocal opponents of the Imperial Presidency during Republican administrations, become a captive clientele — no matter how egregious the executive power grab — when a Democrat’s in power. Because, you see, now matter how disappointing they may privately concede Obama’s performance on civil liberties has been, Romney would be even worse! And believe me, his frustrated supporters’ sense of nowhere else to go isn’t lost on hacks like Obama. So in practice, the lesser of evils seems to get a little more evil with each election cycle. And the repressive apparatus of the state ratchets ever upward.

Even when you get an ideal “Progressive” candidate who says all the things that make your heart go pitty-pat, you have absolutely no way of knowing until he gets elected whether he’s a damned liar. And once he’s in there, you’ve got nowhere else to go — because the other guy’s always worse.

All this should be more than sufficient as an object lesson on the futility of political reform in ending economic exploitation and state repression. Any movement that seeks social justice through political involvement and attempting to hold public officials democratically accountable is doomed to failure. The only real way to achieve social justice is by bypassing the state, treating it as irrelevant, and building the kind of society we want without the government’s permission.

We can always use your help.

3 responses to “The Joke of Democratic Accountability

  1. For a while I thought I was in danger of agreeing with a Kevin Carson post (a scary thought).

    After all I support civil liberties and oppose Executive overreach – and I do not like torture. And the counter argument, that what is done to the Islamists is not torture because the same methods are used in the training of U.S. military personal, is somewhat undermine as the training is about how to withstand torture.

    However, then we had the true agenda – “social justice”.

    The doctrine that all income and wealth rightly belong to the collective (not called the state by”anarchists” – they tend to use terms like “the people” instead) and should be “distributed”.

    See F.A. Hayek (Law, Legislation and Liberty – although his claim that John Rawls is not really a social justice guy is rather undermined by Hayek admitting that he has never actually read “A Theory of Justice” by Rawls, which is a social justice work), M.J. Oakeshott (the pointing out that distributive justce is not compaible with civil association – made in “On Human Conduct” and other works) and Antony Flew (many works – lastly “Equality in Liberty and Justice”).

    Social justice is the core principle of totalitarian movements – whether Fascism (both Mussolini in Italy and Father C. and his journal “Social Justice” in the United States) socialism (out of which, of course, Fascism developed), and even Islamism – the Islamists say (and say quite sincerely) that they support social justice – and they do.

    Whether one calls the collective the “state” or not (and Black Flag “anarchists” do not call it the state) it is the collective.

    To enforce “social justice”, to forbid what Robert Nozick called “capitalistic acts between consenting adults” one needs a strong (unlimited) Executive – whether one uses the word “government” or not is not relevant.

    Even back in the 1930s this was obvious – the old idea that Congress makes the laws and the Executive puts them into effect was attacked as a “horse and buggy” view of the Constitution (by Franklin Roosevelt and his apologists) – the Supreme Court judgement that the National Recovery Administration could not just make up “law” on whims was savagely attacked.

    President Roosevelt accepted the judgement. Otherwise the United States would have become a Fascist country in 1935 (with General Johsnon and his jackbooted “Blue Eagle” thugs allowed to do whatever they felt like doing), but the principle remains.

    Contrary to Kevin, Mussolini did not mean companies in charge when he spoke of a “corporate state” – he meant the opposite. The government in charge (as with German “War Socialism” in the First World War) but in a “guild socialist” style wrapping. After all Mussolini was a Black Flag guy himself – he went from being the number one Marxist in Italy (and better known that Lenin in the international Marxist movement) to takeing over the anarchosynidicalist colour (the Black Flag rather than the Red Flag of Marxism) – but he took it from wanting to get rid of the state to making the state cover everything.

    It seems like a blatent contradiction – but Mussolini (correctly) argued that if you really want to remake society (to establish social justice and so on) one should not seek to roll back the state (as the Classcial Liberals had hoped to do) but, on the contrarty, one should seek total statism (totalitarianism).

    Again it does not matter if the word “state” is used – if the collective is given total power (if social justice is considered more important than private rights) then the results are the same.

    At least Mr and Mrs Ayers (long term Obama friends and allies( and Jeff Jones (now at the Apollo Alliance – the people who wrote Barack Obama’s “Stimulus”” Bill) were honest about it (in their private conversations) back in the 1960s – and they have never changed their fundemental social justice principles.

    Tens of millions of people (in the United States – and everywhere else also) would have to be sent to “Reeducation Camps” (from which many would never emerge) – this sounds like rather unlimied Executive power to me.

    “Paul these people were Marxists I am an anarchist”.

    Bill Ayers says – “I am as much an anarchist as I am a Marxist”.

    The Black Flag “anarchists” happily cooperate with the Red Flag socialists in such things as the “Occypy” movement (which you openly support Kevin) and in the unions (which you also support Kevin) – and it is understandable that they do. After all both groups support Social Justice.

    Tell the truth Kevin – you are not an “anarchocapitalist” you hate capitalism (hatred of rich guys is at the core of your mind and soul) – you stand for Social Justice.

    You also not (not) an ignorant man – you are not David Cameron.

    You know what the Great Charter of 1215 means (you just oppose it – after all it was really about protecting the property rights of selfish barons – everything else is built upon that foundation), and you do not know use the words “social justice” (like Cameron) without knowing what the term means – i.e. that it means that all income and wealth rightly belong to the collective and should be “distributed”.

    And, in practice, that means things like torture.

    And mass killing.

    And all the rest of the stuff.

  2. keddaw – yes Gary Johnson both opposes the wars and opposes the Social Justice stuff. If only he had a chance of winning….

    On Social Justice generally – in the long run one can have this “fair shares for all” (no matter how brutal the government or “the people” are) as Social Justice undermines an extensive econonomic order – it leads to economic meltdown.

    As Mises, Hayek and the others pointed out – one needs large scale private property in the means of production, distribution and exchange (real private property – not German style “War Socialism” where private owners are kept but only as “shop managers” under the control of the state) to maintain the existance of the vast population that exists on Earth today. A return to the “fair shares” doctrine of the hunter-gatherer pack would lead to a crash in population back to the level it was then. And the “Good Life” everyone growing their own food (in the back yard) and making their own clothing (and so on) will not work either – although it is not as drastically wrong as “fair shares for all”/

    One can not have, again in the long run, capitalist production and then socialist “distribution”. And Black Flag “anarchism” (as opposed to the anarchcapitalism of Murray Rothard and co) does not change this.


    One can have Social Justice in the short term – if one is prepared to have a Police State and so on.

    I think I understand Kevin Carson – I am told that (as I was for many years) he was a security guard. And it is easy to hate rich people who have a comfortable life – when one is doing 12 hour shifts (or 24 hout back-to-back shifts) and one sees a bunch of ignorant people who are as drunk as skunks. How can they “deserve” their wealth – the only “Sam Adams” they have heard of is a type of beer…. (and on and on). So it is easy (quite undertandable) to slip over to the “dark side”.

    What I do not understand is someone like Roderick Long.

    He has not had (as far as I know) a tough life. And he must know that one can not have Social Justice and civil liberties at the same time (indeed that, in the long run, one can have Social Jutice at all).

    Yet he denies everything – and even pretends that Social Justice and the traditional libertarian principle of nonaggression principle Justice are compatible (which would astonish the people on both sides of this war – for centuries, indeed much longer). Roderick Long even greets with abuse anyone who points out the traditional, opposed, definitions of “Justice” and “Social Justice”.

    What is going on – has Roderick Long realy gone over to the Dark Side, or is it a con? Is the idea to win over the collectivists (both socialists and Black Flag “anarchists”) by using their language?

    That will just not work. To a hardcore “Occpy” type (waving their Red Flag or Black Flag – and going on about how the Jews were behind 9/11) the Death Camps (and so on) that Social Justice would depend on – are not a problem, they are not a bug. They are a feature – it is not just Mr and Mrs Ayers and Jeff Jones who look forward to setting up the Death Camps (and so on) these collectivists (both socialist and Black Flag “anarachist”) are Legion.

    In the end one is either for capitalism or one is for social justice.

    Gary Johnson is for capitalism. Murray Rothbard and his supporters were/are even more hardcore – anarchocapitalists.

    But the “Occupy” crowd (and so on)? No they are against capitalism, they are for Social Justice. They support a doctrine that in the long run is impossible (because it would lead to total economic meltdown and mass starvation), and even whilst it could exist could be sustained by a Police State – i.e. by the total extermination of what remains of civil liberties.