"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
National Political Radio
When I was younger, I used to laugh with all of the conservative writers about all of the dumb liberals on National Public Radio (NPR). Lately, with all of the crap in Iraq , I've found that NPR is one of the few places I can actually hear some interesting commentary. However, the last two days reminded me of my blissful youth.
Yesterday NPR had a guy who was lamenting Russian President Vladimir Putin's moves to strengthen the executive. The analyst said that Russia has always had a strong executive, not only under the rule of the Soviets but also going back to the tsars. According to this analyst, it was only under Gorbachev that the executive branch distributed some of this power to a parliament, which is necessary for representative democracy. Thus, the recent events saddened the analyst because they doomed the chances for the interests of 'the people' to be put ahead of the selfish concerns of the rulers.
Yet two seconds later, this same analyst went on to applaud Putin's jailing of the 'richest man in Russia ,' businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Now I don't know anything about this case, whether Khodorkovsky really has committed crimes or if he is just being locked up because he was getting too rich for the rulers' liking. But what cracked me up was that the NPR analyst kept referring to Khodorkovsky as an 'oligarch,' and the analyst said it was a good thing for the oil tycoon to rot in jail because 80 percent of the Russian people think he belongs there.
I found it ironic for the analyst to hold these views'that on the one hand, he lamented the growing strength of the Russian president, but that on the other, he applauded the (apparently) arbitrary arrest of a private citizen who was getting too big for his britches. What this guy (and probably most of NPR's audience) fails to realize is that you can't let the government have the power to just jail rich people to keep the masses happy, and then expect the politicians to respect the non-economic freedoms of the average person. After all, if what this analyst wants is for Putin to have some counterbalancing power, to be consistent the analyst should welcome the rise of a class of 'oligarchs,' i.e. wealthy individuals who can challenge Putin's might.
Today NPR pulled a similar stunt. This time the issue was Afghanistan and the alleged problem of its poppy seeds (which are used in opium production). This time the NPR analyst (a different one) pointed out that under the dreaded Taliban (who we know are evil because they didn't let women work professionally), there was no problem of poppy growing. But now, the liberated Afghans are growing poppies like mad. The analyst was quick to point out that the situation was as yet nothing like Colombia, with 'drug dealers going around killing people,' but reported that authorities want to get the situation under control before it turns violent.
Again, does everyone see how crazy this is?? The only reason drug dealers go around killing people in Colombia (and the U.S. and anywhere else) is that the particular drugs are illegal; cigarette and liquor CEOs don't take out contracts on each other. Thus, it would be the very attempt to 'get the situation under control' that will cause the violence in the first place! Just like the first analyst, this one wants mutually exclusive things: You can't have a government eliminate the drug trade (like the Taliban did) without also giving the government the power to violate other liberties, too (like the Taliban did).
When are people going to realize that the only way to prevent governments from doing things the masses don't like is to stop giving governments the power to do things the masses do like?