Posts tagged Barack Obama

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? (#5)

Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken — you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

— President Barack Hussein Obama (29 January 2009): Inaugural Address

The problem with that is that every day that United States government soldiers spend on beginning to leave, instead of actually leaving — every day that is spent on that responsibly instead of that leaving — every day that is spent in the forging of peace in Afghanistan, rather than in the practicing of it, by withdrawing all United States government soldiers immediately and completely — is another day when Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis and Americans will all be killed by this Peace President’s war and his policies of gradualism. Another day when yet more people will be killed in the name of prolonging the final end of a Bush Administration war policy now universally acknowledged as a catastrophic failure and a stupid mistake.

On Friday, April 10, two months and 12 days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq, a suicide bomber drove a truck bomb into an Iraqi government police compound in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Besides the bomber himself, the bombing also killed two Iraqi government police, one soldier in the Iraqi government’s army, and five soldiers in the United States government’s army. About 65 others — including dozens of civilians living in the nearby neighborhood — were wounded by flying shrapnel.

Every death and every wound is blood on Barack Obama’s hands. Every one of these people who were maimed or killed, were maimed or killed because of Barack Obama’s standing orders and for the sake of his war policy. Because Obama wants to wash his hands of the United States government’s war on Iraq, every day that he delays getting out, completely — delays getting out in the name of exit strategies and central fronts and responsibility — which is to say, delays ending this war because he is still convinced that, with the right sort of gradualist policy, he can somehow try to win a war that should never have been fought — is another person who is maimed or killed so that Barack Obama, after being elected as a peace candidate, can adopt and prolong the colossal, catastrophic mistakes of a disastrous failure of a predecessor, so that he won’t come off as being soft on national defense.

Mr. Obama, how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq?

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

See also:

On the social engineering of the governmentalist Left and the social engineering of the governmentalist Right

From Jesse Walker at Reason (2009-02-11):

What gets people upset, and rightfully so, President Barack Obama declared last week, is executives being rewarded for failure. Especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. Pounding his fist, he announced that the flood of federal money into corporate hands would cease, effective immediately.

Ha! No, of course he didn’t say that. He announced that henceforth, when taxpayers subsidize a failing Wall Street firm, the company will have to cap the boss’s pay at $500,000 a year.

It was merely the latest effort to expand the bailouts into a behavior modification program. When Democrats proposed a subsidy package for Detroit last year, for example, the plan included another set of limits on executive pay. Not to be outdone, the Republicans countered with a requirement that union workers agree to wage cuts. But for the most part, the idea of using the taxpayers’ money as a Trojan horse for new controls has been a Democratic enthusiasm, not a Republican one.

Or at least that’s how it’s been during this crisis. In the early and mid-1990s, it was Republicans who called for social engineering via the public purse, and it was Democrats who served as inconsistent opponents. That time, the money wasn’t destined for banks and auto giants. It was earmarked for poor people, and the instructions attached to the money involved working, going to school, or taking birth control. The most extreme proposal, endorsed by James Q. Wilson, Myron Magnet, and other neoconservative social critics, would have required many welfare mothers to live in group shelters. Magnet was willing to achieve this through directly coercive means. (In his 1993 book The Dream and the Nightmare, he proposed that if mothers refuse to enter the group homes and fail to support the children, then the state will intervene to take the children away.) But Wilson framed the proposal the same way Obama framed his Wall Street plan. Interviewed by Reason magazine in 1995, he said his system would be voluntary in the sense that, if you want public support, that’s the way you get it. You don’t have to go there. But you won’t get any money and you won’t get any housing units.

That suggestion never became law, but a host of milder workfare and learnfare proposals were enacted on the state level. And in 1996, of course, Bill Clinton signed the federal welfare reform bill, which established new work requirements for people on the dole and strengthened social workers’ surveillance of their lives.

— Jesse Walker, Reason (2009-02-11): Corporate Workfare

Read the whole thing.

See also:

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

(Indirectly via Austro-Athenian Empire 2009-01-25: The Atrocity of Hope.)

Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken — you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

— President Barack Hussein Obama (29 January 2009): Inaugural Address

The problem with that is that every day that United States government soldiers spend on beginning to leave, instead of actually leaving — every day that is spent on that responsibly instead of that leaving — every day that is spent in the forging of peace in Afghanistan, rather than in the practicing of it, by withdrawing all United States government soldiers immediately and completely — is another day when innocent Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis will be killed by this Peace President’s army and his policy of gradualism. Another day when yet more innocent people will be killed in the name of prolonging the final end of wars now universally acknowledged as catastrophic failures and stupid mistakes.

Yesterday in Iraq, Barack Obama’s responsibly leaving army blockaded a village, invaded a family home at 2:00 in the morning, and gunned down a mother and father in the bed they shared with their 9 year old daughter. (The girl, besides being orphaned, was also wounded by the gunfire.)

An Iraqi couple was killed in their bed Saturday morning as their daughter slept between them when U.S. forces raided their home.

The U.S. military said that the raid, in the area of Hawija, just west of Kirkuk, was an Iraqi government-approved operation against a wanted man and that the killings were in self-defense. But the family described the slayings of a modest farmer and his wife and the wounding of their daughter by U.S. forces as the three slept.

According to a U.S. military statement, at 2 a.m. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers entered the bedroom where the couple lay and the woman reached under the mattress. The soldiers told her multiple times to show her hands; when she didn’t, they shot her, the statement said.

The woman’s husband, Dhia Hussein Ali, jumped up and physically attacked the soldiers after his wife was shot, the statement said. The soldiers killed him in self-defense, the statement said. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Alham, was injured during the attack.

. . .

In the small village where Dhia Hussein Ali lived, his children and his father questioned the reason for the raid. Ali was a modest farmer with a small fish pool where he raised the popular carp eaten in Iraq, they said. The man was a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army.

Omar Dhia Hussein, 14, was in shock Saturday night. He said in a telephone interview that in the morning he’d seen his parents’ bodies side by side in their bed, the sheets covered in blood. The wall was covered with his father’s blood, he said.

At 2 a.m., Omar said, he heard a bang of a percussion grenade. When he opened his eyes he saw American soldiers standing over him in the room where he slept with his two sisters. Except for an Iraqi interpreter there were no Iraqis with the Americans, he said.

The interpreter shouted at the young boy.

You are hiding weapons, Omar recalled the interpreter saying. Where are you hiding the weapons? You are terrorists, you are hiding weapons in that unfinished house. Confess!

Omar began to cry and his sisters wept with him, he said. Then the American soldiers left and he heard gunfire next door. The soldiers carried Omar’s wounded sister from the room and took the remaining four children, including Omar, to his uncle’s home. Outside were at least four U.S. Humvees and two SUVs, Omar said. His grandfather, Hussein Ali, who lives next door saw no Iraqi soldiers, either.

After the Americans left, Omar and his sisters returned to their home with their grandfather. In his parents’ bedroom, Omar said, he saw his father’s body at the very edge of the right side of the bed, motionless and bloody.

His mother lay in the middle of the bed in a pool of her own blood. She’d been shot in the head, the family said.

Calgary Herald (2009-01-24): U.S. military raid kills Iraqi man, woman in their bed

Reporting from Baghdad — U.S. forces killed a couple and wounded their 9-year-old daughter during a raid on their home in northern Iraq early Saturday, U.S. military and Iraqi officials said.

The U.S. military said the man was suspected of being part of the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq, but local officials said he was a retired colonel with no links to insurgent groups.

. . .

People in the village of Alewya, where the couple lived, said the raid involved helicopters and a security cordon that sealed off the village.

— Ned Parker and Saif Hameed, Los Angeles Times (2009-01-25): U.S. troops in Iraq kill couple, wound daughter in raid on home

On Friday, in Afghanistan, Barack Obama’s army forged peace by trooping into Laghman province, surrounding houses in a village, and then launching a raid where they killed 16 civilians — 2 women, 3 children, and 11 men — with gunfire and precision bombs dropped from planes.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticised a US military operation which killed at least 16 people in eastern Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai said most of those killed were civilians, adding that such deadly incidents strengthened Taleban rebels and weakened Afghanistan’s government.

Women and children were among those killed, Mr Karzai said.

The strike was the first controversy in Afghanistan involving US troops since US President Barack Obama took office.

In a statement, the president said two women and three children were among the dead in the attack, which the US said targeted a militant carrying a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

. . .

In response, a US military spokesman said there were plans to jointly investigate the incident with the Afghan government.

Originally the US said all of the dead, including one woman, had been militants who opened fire after its troops surrounded a compound in Mehtar Lam, about 60km (40 miles) east of the capital, Kabul.

. . .

However, officials in Laghman have since said there were civilians among the dead, a viewpoint now backed by the country’s president.

The US military insists that it goes to considerable lengths to avoid civilian casualties.

But the BBC’s Ian Pannell in Kabul says that as the US increases its military presence, it will be increasingly difficult to do so.

— BBC News (2009-01-25): Karzai anger at US strike deaths

On Friday, in Pakistan, Barack Obama’s army forged peace by firing missiles repeatedly into houses in several villages in the Waziristan region. Barack Obama’s missiles killed twenty-two people, about 15 of them civilians and at least 3 of them children. The idea was to help create the conditions for a lasting peace.

PAKISTAN received an early warning of what the era of smart power under President Barack Obama will look like after two remote-controlled US airstrikes killed 22 people at suspected terrorist hideouts in the border area of Waziristan.

There will be no let-up in the military pressure on terrorist groups, US officials warned, as Obama prepares to launch a surge of 30,000 troops in neighbouring Afghanistan. It is part of a tough love policy combining a military crack-down with diplomatic initiatives.

. . .

The airstrikes were authorised under a covert programme approved by Obama, according to a senior US official. It was a dramatic signal in the president’s first week of office that there will be no respite in the hunt for Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Sarah Baxter, The Times (2009-01-25): Obama airstrikes kill 22 in Pakistan

Security officials said the strikes, which saw up to five missiles slam into houses in separate villages, killed seven foreigners — a term that usually means al-Qaeda — but locals also said that three children lost their lives.

Dozens of similar strikes since August on northwest Pakistan, a hotbed of Taleban and al-Qaeda militancy, have sparked angry government criticism of the US, which is targeting the area with missiles launched from unmanned CIA aircraft controlled from operation rooms inside the US.

. . .

Eight people died when missiles hit a compound near Mir Ali, an al-Qaeda hub in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region. Seven more died when hours later two missiles hit a house in Wana, in South Waziristan. Local officials said the target in Wana was a guest house owned by a pro-Taleban tribesman. One said that as well as three children, the tribesman’s relatives were killed in the blast.

— Tim Reid, The Times (2009-01-23): President Obama orders Pakistan drone attacks

Every one of these deaths is blood on Barack Obama’s hands. Every one of these people who were killed, were killed on Barack Obama’s orders and in the name of his war policy. Because Obama wants to wash his hands of the United States government’s war on Iraq and its war on Afghanistan, every day that he delays getting out, completely — delays getting out in the name of exit strategies and central fronts and responsibility — which is to say, delays that happen because he is still convinced that, with the right sort of gradualist policy, he can somehow try to win wars that should never have been fought — is another person who is killed so that Barack Obama, after being elected as a peace candidate, can adopt and prolong the collossal, catastrophic mistakes of a disastrous failure of a predecessor, so that he won’t come off as being soft on national defense.

We who have come here to Washington have come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now. We could come back to this country, we could be quiet, we could hold our silence, we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel because of what threatens this country, not the reds, but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out….

. . .

Now we are told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while American lives are lost so that we can exercise the incredible arrogance of Vietnamizing the Vietnamese.

Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn’t have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can’t say that we have made a mistake. Someone has to die so that President Nixon won’t be, and these are his words, the first President to lose a war.

We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

— John F. Kerry (23 April 1971), then speaking for Vietnam Veterans Against the War before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

And today, the questions are questions for Barack Obama, the latest in a long and despicable line of men who have served their political ambitions with anti-war promises, and then went on killing so that they could win the peace.

So, Mr. Obama, how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq?

How do you ask a woman to be the last woman to die in Afghanistan?

How do you ask a child to be the last child to die in Pakistan?

How do you ask someone to be the last one to die for a mistake?

See also:

In reply to a reply by J.H. Huebert and Walter Block

J.H. Huebert and Walter Block have recently published an essay which claims to be a reply to Roderick Long’s essay on left-libertarianism for Cato Unbound. Huebert and Block insist that they are going to set the record straight on the correct libertarian view of these matters. But it’s not clear that they have succeeded in even setting the record straight on Roderick’s view of these matters. For example, I think they have clearly and grossly misread him on the question of selective tax breaks for politically-connected big businesses. (Roderick never claimed that getting selective tax breaks are morally equivalent to receiving a government subsidy; only that firms or practices that get a comparative advantage from government taxes on their competitors are, like firms or practices that get a comparative advantage from government subsidies, not good examples of the free market at work.) Similarly, their attempt at a response to Roderick’s claims about big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, and the importance of using government-subsidized roads to the success of their business model, wavers between an attack on a claim that Roderick never made — that Wal-Mart deserves blame for their successful exploitation of government-subsidized roads — and willfully obtuse replies to the claim that he did make — that Wal-Mart’s road-dependent business model shouldn’t be counted as an example of the free market at work, and that if Wal-Mart had to pay the full costs of its business model, without government subsidies to cross-country freight trucking, it would lose some or all of the comparative advantage that it currently holds over smaller and more local competitors. (Did you know that, since we all use government roads sometimes, that means we are all getting a subsidy like Wal-Mart? Hey, you know, back in May I got a $600 check from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which was supposed to be for economic stimulus. Just like how AIG gets $85,000,000,000 checks from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, for the sake of economic stimulus! So how could I possibly claim that AIG gets government privileges that I don’t enjoy? Well. See my discussion with Will Wilkinson in a comment thread about the original article.)

In any case, though, Roderick has promised a reply, which I eagerly look forward to. My main reason for mentioning Huebert and Block’s essay here is that it contains a link to my old post Free the Unions (and all political prisoners)! (2004-05-01), and four paragraphs which purport to be a reply to my argument, and the claims Roderick makes on the basis of that argument. Here are those four paragraphs:

Those Poor Unions

Long also laments that our hampered free market doesn’t give unions enough power. He writes: Legal restrictions on labor organizing also make it harder for such workers to organize collectively on their own behalf.

Given that the law allows some workers to not only organize themselves but also coercively organize others, it’s not clear what Long is talking about. To support his claim, he cites a blog post which laments that U.S. labor laws do not go far enough. We should support current labor laws, says Long’s source, but ideally we will return to the days of more militant unions.

You remember militant unions – the kind that used to (and, well, still do) beat and kill workers who do not cooperate with them. Long and his comrade, of course, make no mention of the unions’ bloody history.

Unions are like a tapeworm on the economy, sucking sustenance out of businesses. The entire rust belt is a result of unions demanding wages higher than worker productivity. The present problems of the Detroit Three (Ford, Chrysler, General Motors) are mainly dues to their foolishness in not withstanding the unwarranted demands of the United Auto Workers. But, Long can rejoice: under an Obama administration, these economic scourges are likely to obtain even more power.

— J. H. Huebert and Walter Block (2008-11-24): In Defense of Corporations, Tax Breaks, and Wal-Mart

This is a bizarre misinterpretation of my post, and hard to understand how anyone could make it other than through utter carelessness or willful misreading.

The post that they are referring to was the first in a series of annual May 1 posts, commemorating International Workers’ Day — a grassroots labor holiday originally organized by anarchists, to honor the memory of the five anarchist organizers and agitators who were murdered by the state of Illinois after the Haymarket Riot.

Block and Huebert claim to be puzzled by what Roderick could mean when he says that, due to government regimentation of labor unions, labor organizing is substantially more restricted than it would be in a free market. I’m unclear as to what they find unclear, because if it was not clear to them already, the footnoted post by me, which they claim to have read, goes ahead and lists several of the restrictions in question.

The Wagner Act was the capstone of years of government promotion of conservative, AFL-line unions in order to subvert the organizing efforts of decentralized, uncompromising, radical unions such as the IWW and to avoid the previous year’s tumultuous general strikes in San Francisco, Toledo, and Minneapolis. The labor movement as we know it today was created by government bureaucrats who effectively created a massive subsidy program for conservative unions which followed the AFL and CIO models of organizing—which emphatically did not include general strikes or demands for worker ownership of firms. Once the NRLB-recognized unions had swept over the workforce and co-opted most of the movement for organized labor, the second blow of the one-two punch fell: government benefits always mean government strings attached, and in this case it was the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which pulled the activities of the recognized unions firmly into the regulatory grip of the federal government. Both the internal culture of post-Wagner mainstream unions, and the external controls of the federal labor regulatory apparatus, have dramatically hamstrung the labor movement for the past half-century. Union methods are legally restricted to collective bargaining and limited strikes (which cannot legally be expanded to secondary strikes, and which can be, and have been, broken by arbitrary fiat of the President). Union hiring halls are banned. Union resources have been systematically sapped by banning closed shop contracts, and encouraging states to ban union shop contracts—thus forcing unions to represent free-riding employees who do not join them and do not contribute dues. Union demands are effectively constrained to modest (and easily revoked) improvements in wages and conditions.

— GT 2004-05-01: Free the Unions (and all political prisoners)!

Of course Block and Huebert are right that government patronage grants substantial illegitimate privileges to a certain kind of union (the establishmentarian, conservative unionism of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win [sic]). But those privileges come at the cost of accepting an extensive and intrusive set of government regulations on official union activity. The result is not only a violation of the rights of employers to refuse to bargain with union reps, but also a substantial government subsidy for conservative unionism as against competing forms of union organizing, like those practiced by anti-establishmentarian, radical unions like the Industrial Workers of the World — tactics like minority unionism (crowded out of the market by government-subsidized majoritarian collective bargaining), wildcat strikes (illegal under the Wagner Act), secondary strikes and boycotts (illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act), general strikes (ditto), union hiring halls (double ditto), and so on. The combination of government privilege with government controls may benefit the select outfits that toe the establishmentarian line and get their hands on the government loot. But it does so at the expense of the goals that those organizations supposedly support — in this case, organizing workers for the sake of greater control over the conditions of their labor. I know that Walter Block is perfectly well aware of the way this works when it comes to tax-funded education vouchers for private schooling: although the selected schools that receive the vouchers may profit, the availability and quality of education suffers, because of the way that government privileges squash unofficial competitors who do not qualify for the government hand-out, and also because of the way that government controls restrain the activities that the remaining privileged-and-regulated schools can perform. Have Block and Huebert failed to apply the same analysis to privileged-and-regulated labor unions, and the availability and quality of labor organizing, because they are simply ignorant of the restrictions imposed on NLRB-recognized unions? Or because they are aware of the restrictions, but it hasn’t occurred to them that they might matter as much as the government-granted subsidies?

One way or the other, the post closes by calling for the immediate and complete repeal of the Wagner Act and the Taft Hartley Act, and the complete abolition of the National Labor Relations Board, and all other forms of political patronage and political control in labor organizing, which I argued would always hold the labor movement back from its professed goals:

Don’t get me wrong: the modern labor movement, for all its flaws and limitations, is the reflection (no matter how distorted) of an honorable effort; it deserves our support and does some good. Union bosses, corporate bosses, and government bureaucrats may work to co-opt organized labor to their own ends, but rank-and-file workers have perfectly good reasons to support AFL-style union organizing: modern unions may not be accountable enough to rank-and-file workers, but they are more accountable than corporate bureaucracy; modern unions bosses don’t care enough about giving workers direct control in their own workplace, but they care more than corporate bosses, who make most of their living by denying workers such control. The labor movement, like all too many other honorable movements for social justice in the 20th century, has become a prisoner of politics: a political situation has been created in which the most rational thing for most workers to do is to muddle through with a co-opted and carefully regulated labor movement that helps them in some ways but undermines their long-term prospects. It doesn’t make sense to respond to a situation like that with blanket denunciations of organized labor; the best thing to do is to support our fellow workers within the labor movement as it is constrained today, but also to work to change the political situation that constrains it, and to set it free. That means loosening the ties that bind the union bosses to the corporate and government bureaucrats, by working to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, and abolish the apparatus of the NLRB, and working to build free, vibrant, militant unions once again.

— GT 2004-05-01: Free the Unions (and all political prisoners)!

The comments expressing some watered support for the actually-existing labor movement are grossly misrepresented by Block and Huebert as support [for] current labor laws (in fact, the point was that the labor movement deserves some watered support in spite of the baleful effects of government labor laws on it). And my call for all existing government labor laws to be repealed and replaced with nothing but free association is, astonishingly, glossed by Block and Huebert as a [lament] that U.S. labor laws do not go far enough.

This is followed by a tirade about my use of the word militant to describe my ideal for free unionism. This is apparently taken, just as such, to be an endorsement of vigilante violence against non-union or anti-union workers, by unions of the kind that used to (and, well, still do) beat and kill workers who do not cooperate with them. This is an absurd and unwarranted misreading. Of course, there have been unions whose members used vigilante violence to achieve their goals. I find the use of aggressive violence, against fellow workers or against anyone else, to be completely reprehensible. But that’s not what militancy refers to in the context of labor organizing. Labor militancy is a term of art that refers to the degree to which unions are willing to use confrontational tactics with bosses, as opposed to back-room negotiations or appeasement of the boss’s demands — where confrontational means just that, not violent. Some militant unions endorsed confrontation in the form of violence against bosses, or their property, or scabs. Others refused to on principle, and expressed their militancy through strictly nonviolent forms of confrontation. I agree with the latter, and what I have argued for in more or less everything I have ever written about unions is the principle that fellow worker Joe Ettor set out when he was working to help organize the great Lawrence textile strike of 1912 with the IWW:

If the workers of the world want to win, all they have to do is recognize their own solidarity. They have nothing to do but fold their arms and the world will stop. The workers are more powerful with their hands in their pockets than all the property of the capitalists. As long as the workers keep their hands in their pockets, the capitalists cannot put theirs there. With passive resistance, with the workers absolutely refusing to move, lying absolutely silent, they are more powerful than all the weapons & instruments that the other side has for attack.

Block and Huebert complain that I make no mention of the unions’ bloody history. (An odd claim, since they seem to think that my use of the adjective militant is an explicit reference to it.) But I may as well complain that Block and Huebert make no mention of the bloody history of bosses who called out hired muscle, injunction-wielding courts, city cops, state militia, or the federal military to commit every sort of atrocity against striking workers, their wives, and their children. If Block and Huebert have not mentioned the extensive use of aggressive violence by bosses, who have always been far more politically powerful and had far greater resources for hiring on thugs than the unions had, and who were frequently able to call out the repressive forces of the State itself in addition to their own thugs — if they have not mentioned it, I say, because (of course, of course) they don’t agree with it, and intend only to defend the actions of bosses that are consonant with libertarian principles, then that’s fine; but then the reason that I didn’t spend a long time talking about vigilante violence by unionists is because (of course, of course), I don’t agree with that, and intend only to defend the actions of union organizers that are consonant with libertarian principles. But if Block want violence mentioned, then it is totally irresponsible for them to insist on such a wildly distorted and one-sided presentation of the matter, since unionists were victims of far more intense and far more systematic violence than they ever committed, and since much (but by no means all) of the violence attributed to unionists was in fact defensive force against those same company and government thugs.

Huebert and Block close with a laughably overheated ritualistic denunciation of labor unions as a tapeworm on the economy, sucking sustenance out of businesses, and an astonishing monocausal theory of middle-American industrial decline, on which the entire rust belt is a result of unions demanding wages higher than worker productivity (!). Apparently decades of unsustainable malinvestment, public-private partnerships with city, state, and federal governments, corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, bail-outs of failed business models, etc. have nothing to do with it.

But whether all that is accurate or inaccurate is something best hashed out elsewhere. For right now, my main concern is how wildly Block and Huebert have misrepresented the position that they claim to be arguing against, in the attempt to make it seem as though this overheated denunciation of state unionism had anything to do with the freed-market unionism that I advocate, or that Roderick endorsed via footnote. It is inconceivable that a post whose primary purpose was to condemn the effects of government labor laws and to call for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and the Wagner Act, for the immediate and complete abolition of the National Labor Relations Board, and in general for the exorcism of all political command-and-control (including all enforced recognition, all political patronage, and all political regulation) from organized labor could be reasonably read as support for current coercive labor laws, let alone a call for their expansion (!). An error like that must either be the cause of extraordinarily careless reading, or willful misrepresentation. In either case, Block and Huebert ought to be embarrassed that they have published it.

Rank and file

The week before the election, I complained about an ad that DNC political hacks sent out, which (wrongly, and dangerously) suggested that political change amounted to nothing more than, and ended with the success of, an effot to get some millionaire professional politician installed in office. It turns out that MoveOn agrees with me, and they’re working on organizing Fired up and ready to go gatherings in every community the can, to keep their grassroots organizing moving forward. I know because they sent me an e-mail about it. <Well, bully for them. However, having read some of the comments that MoveOn specifically selected to represent the sentiments they were hearing from their members, when they asked about what to do after the election, I can’t say I’m terribly heartened by their idea of what kind of organizing you do after an electoral victory:

From: Nita Chaudhary, MoveOn.org Political Action
Date: 3:01 PM
To: Rad Geek
Subject: Fired up and ready to go

. . .

We need to continue the same level of involvement and commitment to whatever this Presidency needs of us to accomplish all that we believe can be done. Yes we can, Yes we did, and Yes we will!—Judith C., Salem, MA

. . .

We have to be prepared to go through with whatever we need to—even if that means some sacrifice. Obama will lead the way!—Sarah A., Greer. SC

. . .

Let Barack know that we stand ready to go to work. Take advantage of our energy and enthusiasm for the common good, put us to work.—Jeff R., Boulder, CO

. . .

Be willing to work with him and make personal sacrifice for the good of our country and our children’s future.—Stephanie L., Laguna Niguel, CA

I don’t know whether these sentiments are actually representative of the MoveOn membership, or whether MoveOn selected a few unusual comments that seemed most useful to their purposes. But in either case, this sort of sentiment — that grassroots, street-level organizations should stand ready, not as a countervailing social force to direct recently-elected politicians and to keep them on track for the grassroots’ own agenda, but rather as shock troops for some messianic leader to issue marching orders to and put … to work, even at great personal sacrifice, for whatever the leader may require — is the sort of thing that ought to disgust anyone who genuinely believes in people-powered community organizing, and ought to terrify anyone who believes in the principles of a free and open society.

I’ve seen that movie before, and I know how it ends.

I guess it really is time to Move On.

See also: