Monday, January 12, 2009

colonial democracy (and its modern day advocates) Part 1

Given all the recent inattention being paid to the ongoing violence in the failed states of Sudan and the Congo, one must be wondering why nothing is being said or done by the West to prevent these atrocious wars from causing any more destruction. After all, if the governments of the West can invade other sovereign nations and violate their rights to property by stealing resources for the benefit of corporations that, coincidentally, paid for the majority of seats in various European Parliaments and the American Congress, why shouldn’t we be using this might instead for humanitarian military missions into sub-Saharan Africa? Why don’t we send a brigade of NATO troops into Zimbabwe and oust President Mugabe from power? Isn’t the West, by ignoring some failed states and dumping billions of taxpayers’ dollars into others being hypocritical? Isn’t there anything that the West can do to help out sub-Saharan Africa? Given all these questions posed by the few individuals who seek to understand the miseries afflicting Africa, one must delve into Africa’s rich history and explore concepts that are, today, mocked, brushed aside as ignorant or altogether ignored by contemporary advocates and activists of modern Africa’s enslavement.

The answer to most of the questions above is ‘no’, with the exception of the hypocrisy of the West. In fact, Western governments already do more than enough to "help" African failed states. The amount of aid donated by foreign governments to sub-Saharan failed states is in the trillions of dollars. Foreign government intervention in the creation, managing and administering of environmental parks has made life much worse for the countless number of Africans would don’t have enough to pay their way into the labyrinth of colonial bureaucracy. And, contrary to the popular delusions of both the socialists and nationalists of the West, sending a military force into a sovereign territory actually causes severe anathema towards the invading army. If one actually thinks about the role of Western nations in African societies over the past two hundred years, one would presumably be inclined to advocate less government-to-government cooperation in the sub-Saharan sphere. If one looks closely at the atrocities in Africa, one will come to the conclusion that Western government aid and agencies are keeping Africans poor, hungry and sick.

As far back as the Roman Empire, and probably much further than even that, trade has existed between the diverse peoples of Africa and the rest of the equally diverse world. Africa’s main exports over the millennia seem to have some constants, most notably raw commodities such as gold and timber, as well as slaves. Though the slave trade ceased in Europe with the advent of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy after the fall of the Roman Empire (which began as a representative republic), slavery continued to persist among the various African empires as well as into parts of the non-African Islamic world, most notably in various Gulf states and the Ottoman empire, based in Turkey.

In the early 15th century, European merchants began to rent land from sovereign African kings to build trade forts on. This mutually beneficial arrangement, that is, trade between the Africans kingdoms and European merchants, was relatively free of government intervention, and lasted for four hundred years. In that time there was not always peace, but where war broke out, there was always government intervening in the affairs of traders, merchants and workers. Throughout this period of relatively free trade and open borders between societies, individuals of both continents traveled amongst each others’ lands. European missionaries were exceptionally focused on converting Africans to the beliefs of their various faiths. While missionaries belonging to churches that had no ties to government coercion (Swiss and German protestants, for example) focused on feeding the poor and clothing the naked, missionaries who represented churches that were State-sanctioned, or official bearers of the State religion (England’s Anglican Church, France's Catholic Church) called upon their governments time and time again to impose European culture and European law upon the African people. The governments of these various Western nations were all too happy to oblige the humble missionaries’ requests for means to civilize the African people. History has shown, after all, that government will not hesitate to make itself bigger, more powerful, more intrusive and, ultimately, more terrible.

The most traditional way that government grows is foreign policy. By acting on the public’s violent impulses of passion and prejudice, the State seeks to exploit these passions for its own survival. In the early decades of the 19th century, the governments of Europe, under the various guises of “ending slavery”, “bringing Christianity”, and “civilizing Africa”, began waging war on the sovereign nations of the African continent. By the end of the 19th century, most had surrendered or succumbed to destruction. In 1884, a European conference was held in Berlin, Germany, by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, himself victorious in a war against 39 independent Prussian states that led to the unification of Germany, to peacefully divide the African continent amongst the various states. Although the United States was invited to attend, the Congress at that time followed a policy of non-intervention and neutrality, much like Switzerland, and as a result, has largely been spared the dreadful consequences that have followed in attempting to govern conquered peoples. The governments of Europe then sliced up the African peoples into various territories that were to be controlled and administered by European bureaucrats. This was known as the General Act of the Berlin Conference and was massively popular with the European public. Corporations, banks, Churches of the State were all instrumental in drumming up support for the Act. In addition, socialists of all varieties supported the act because it officially claimed to end the slave trade and promote the general welfare of the African people. Everyone from prohibitionists to Christian socialists gave their strong endorsement for the Act.

In fact, the little amount of opposition to this Pan-European push for power came from the classical liberals (today’s libertarians), who argued – as always - that wars and administration overseas would merely lead to more problems both at home and abroad. Some Marxists, as well, opposed the actions of the state on grounds of immoral capitalist exploitation. This Act was anything but capitalist, however. In his book Bureaucracy, esteemed economist Ludwig Von Mises explained that

“capitalism means free enterprise, sovereignty of the consumers in economic matters, and sovereignty of the voters in political matters. Socialism means full government control of every sphere of the individual’s life and the unrestricted supremacy of the government in its capacity as central board of production management.”

Obviously, this is not what happened in Africa. The governments of Europe instead disregarded all rights to property, self-governance, and personal liberty of the African people and carved up their land in a way that was suitable to those who supported (though didn’t fund; that was what taxpayers were for) the government’s action to begin with.

Indeed, as Western governments poured more blood and treasure into Africa (paid for through taxation and involuntary drafts) for the profit of big corporations (earned by government-enforced exploitation), it appeared as though the liberals were correct in their accusations of government tyranny leading to misfortune for both conquers and conquered. Unfortunately, the liberals never had a chance to point this out in Europe. During the Great Depression, merely forty years after the General Act of the Berlin Conference, fascism and communism had rose to prominence in the West. The liberals sensed that their views – limiting the State to the enforcement of contractual agreements – was becoming increasingly dangerous to espouse, especially in light of fascism and communism’s contempt for a free and open society. The rise of socialism in the West, whether the strains were fascist or communist or social democratic, was to have dire effects on the people of Africa. As the governments of Europe grew ever increasingly powerful and dangerous, many liberals began to flee Europe for the relatively safe shores of the New World. Since their policies naturally opposed the Imperial State to begin with, classical liberal ideas had a hard time reaching the interiors of colonized peoples. A great irony of Western thought at the time was that though they rightly believed in free and open debate, civil liberties, and the right to property, these concepts were something that the conquered would not able comprehend. As a result, although all the various strains of socialist thought reached Africa, especially Marxism, liberalism was unable to penetrate into the heart of African intellectual thought.

Revolution in Africa came as the governments of Europe crumbled under their own might in the wake of World War II. At the forefront of the revolution, as always, were the lawyers, many of whom made up the African bourgeoisie and had studied in the European universities. Unfortunately, as liberalism fled the destructive power of the State during the Great Depression, only socialism and its various forms of control and coercion were being tolerated by the now-totalitarian governments of Continental Europe. It was these ideas only that were to be taught in the universities. It was the socialist ideas of “one people” and “one continent” that influenced the leaders of the revolutions in Africa. Their bourgeoisie upbringings, combined with their socialist, even imperialistic, education led them to believe that they could easily manage the territories carved up by Europeans nearly sixty years ago, into an all-encompassing, all-knowing, all-peaceful existence overseen by - who else? - the very men who led the revolution in the first place. The lawyers’ claims that it is only natural that they lead in time of peace, as well as in rebellion, for it was they who led their people out of slavery are well-founded, and it has always been this way. But the ideas of Marxism that influenced these lawyers doomed them. Instead of dissolving the territories that had been carved up by their European oppressors and allowing the people of Africa to live as they saw fit, the bourgeoisie classes instead opted to keep these territories intact, believing the false economic and political theories of central planning learned in European universities would lead to prosperity and peace. Instead, they got ancient animosities between tribes, nations and families that had been festering under the boot of European government for eighty years. The lawyers of the African rebellion thereby created the failed state scenario we see today through the study and application of Marxist doctrine and theory.

Today we see the failed state scenario play out again and again in not only Africa, but virtually everywhere. Pakistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Mexico, and the Balkans states in Europe, to name a few examples, would all be better off if they didn’t exist, and in their place were small, independent, locally governed societies. If one was to look at a map of the world with political boundaries and fathom the differences between Europe, the United States, and East Asia with the rest of the world, one would notice that the failing states encompassing most of the globe are also vastly bigger, physically, than the successful states of the West. It is my belief that this is why most of the world has been unable to produce the same standard of living as the West. Most analysts have mistakenly attributed the failure of these unnatural states to be consequences of bad management or capitalist exploitation. These same analysts, have, unsurprisingly and predictably, recycled the ideas of the old State-sanctioned missionaries and, instead of advocating peaceful relations through trade and travel with all peoples have opted to lobby and/or bribe their own governments into pressuring the various dictators of these failed states into accepting socialist ideologies stressing democracy, environmentalism, and multi-culturalism. These efforts have, of course, failed over and over again.

On be continued

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