Nation Building

While the political theater over the debt “ceiling” goes on in  Washington, no-one dares to consider the extravagant and wasteful spending on “defense.” Which has to be conducted, apparently, far from U.S. shores at great expense. According to Mish, it costs a million dollars a year to keep a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq, and the U.S. military spends over $20 billion a year on air conditioning alone. As a senator notes, the U.S. is spending vast sums on “nation-building” in Afghanistan, while bridges crumble at home.

And in a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said: “We can no longer, in good conscience, cut services and programs at home, raise taxes or — and this is very important — lift the debt ceiling in order to fund nation-building in Afghanistan. The question the president faces — we all face — is quite simple: Will we choose to rebuild America or Afghanistan? In light of our nation’s fiscal peril, we cannot do both.”

Who are they kidding? You can’t impose democracy, or give it as a gift. It has to be seized and valued by the participants. And even then, it doesn’t last, as we see in the U.S. The wise Thomas Jefferson said:

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Speaking of which, it looks like the Greeks are about to do a little refreshing as their ruling elite have just voted to borrow more money from the EU, against the clear wishes of the populace. This is a deep and fatal flaw in the concept of democracy, when a decision is made on the presumption that the voters do not know what is good for them. Now there are some cases where the “tyranny of the majority” needs to be tempered – for example, minority rights – and that is what constitutions are for. Otherwise, representatives should represent the views of their constituents and not treat the voters in parent/child mode. Sure, the Greeks would probably be better off in the short run caving in to the E.U.. But they deserve the right to make the harder decision.

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