The arsehole theory of politics

Obama, if there is a hell (which there is isn’t, luckily for him), is headed there. His drone war in Pakistan is truly dystopian, and his other infringements of civil liberties would make even Blair blush, as Conor Friedersdorf describes:

1. Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.

2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama’s kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done.

3. Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security.

Aside immediately from stripping him of his Nobel Peace Prize – boy must the Norwegians be feeling silly now – we should ask “why Obama is doing this?” I wouldn’t argue that he is an arsehole. He doesn’t seem like an arsehole, he has done nice things for lots of poor Americans. I’ve also seen the point made innumerable times that Romney would be the same, or worse, but why?

Will Wilkinson seems to imply that the system of democracy in America is broken. You can vote for Obama and passively approve these attacks. You can vote for Romney and very likely end up with the same, or worse. Romney’s aides have suggested that if Romney were elected, one of his first acts would be to give back ‘mericans their right to torture people. Alternatively, you can offer a protest vote to a third party candidate like Gary Johnson, who actually opposes these attacks (imagine a third party more ineffectual and irrelevant than the Lib Dems and you begin to see how silly this last option is).

I disagree that democracy is broken. People are broken. How can you fix the fact that a lot of people are arseholes? Similarly to my analysis of Ian Cowie, as somebody who simply hates poor people, this analysis lacks a certain subtlety. But that is its strength. It is unsubtle because arseholes are unsubtle. Democrats are painted as weak on warmaking defence, and so Obama must appease the arseholes or face potential political annihilation.

This isn’t a feature of a failed democracy or of a failed republic or a failed anything. It is a feature of a democratic empire. One of the advantages of democracy is that people get what they vote for, good and hard.

Domestically this normally stays the hand of those with the most ludicrous ideas because people actually have to deal with the consequences of the actions. However, intrigue and murder are the rule internationally not because these policies are good, but because people don’t have to deal with the consequences of their own arseholeness. The same people who will refuse to starve their poor because they’ll riot will happily watch the poor starve abroad because they can deny them a visa.

Acting as a democratic empire the US has no choice but to sporadically accede to the demands of its arsehole faction. Sometimes, it will just be their turn to be appeased. Arseholes have no natural restraint on their actions because their victims are abroad. The US has the capacity for total destruction anywhere it likes. Eventually, inevitably, somebody is going to start bombing children in Pakistan.

The only way to prevent people dying in war is to throw hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, pilots, mechanics, engineers, consultants, etc. out of work. Give me an off switch and I’ll flick it in a heartbeat. However, while the technological ability remains to kill people, people will be killed. Arseholes don’t kill people, but armies do, so get rid of the army.


*Sigh* Ford didn’t pay high wages so that his employees could afford his cars

From Richie (via Chris):

When Henry Ford built his car plant he realised that unless the product he made was cheap enough for the workers to buy then there was no point in building it: there was no market to supply. This was the basis of Fordism.

Nope. The main element of Fordism is mass production of standardised products and scientific management of that process. The high wages were added later and not for the reasons Richie gives.

The high wages typically associated with Fordism were efficiency wages, wages paid to ensure people continued to work hard even though they were being managed intensively and told exactly how to do a boring repetitive job by annoying people with clipboards. Always with the clipboards.

After introducing the production line Ford was annoyed that his very profitable company was suffering because of high labour turnover and worried because this high turnover was damaging productivity. He was not worried that his potential market was not big enough.

The US economy was the richest country in the world, growing strongly and still attracting lots of migrants, his market was secure and he was always bloodymindedly sure that meant the US would need cars, lots of cars.

He decided to do the sensible thing and offer more money to his workers. That this enabled his workers to afford to buy one of his cars was incidental to the logic behind the move, although it made for good propaganda.

He didn’t do this to increase the size of his market, but because people tend to work harder for more money. Don’t take it from me though, a lowly blogger, try Larry Summers and Daniel Raff:

Ford’s decision to increase wages dramatically is most plausibly portrayed as the consequence of labor problems of the kind stressed by efficiency wage theorists. The structure of the five-dollar day program is consistent with the predictions of efficiency wage theories. There is vivid evidence that the five-dollar day resulted in substantial queues for Ford jobs. Finally, significant increases in productivity and profits at Ford accompanied the introduction of the five-dollar day.

 Moral of the story: don’t go valorising old capitalisms.

Cameron’s dreadful case for national pride

This is just wonderfully revealing from Cameron today:

Whatever the obstacles to growth today, we still boast some of the best universities in the world, the most favourable timezone in the world, and the world’s first language.

Hundreds of years ago we conquered and colonised a load of places and they and their trading partners now speak our language. Also, by historical fluke, we just so happen to sit in between populus Asia and wealthy North America.

So this is what national pride has come to. No celebration of the English Pub, the centre of the community, no longing for days of imperial grandeur, no ideological fervour for christ, cricket and capitalism. Nope, something more like this…

A cosy 25 million bedroom nation with excellent local amenities, a large secluded garden and great transport links. Comes complete with lovely views of France and neighbours who will begrudgingly speak your language.

The American Right really, really, really Hates Poor People and Loves the Rich

In graph form, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s latest tax plan and its impact on the after tax income of various Americans.

Taxation is theft! So make sure you only steal most from poor people…

[UPDATE, and here’s the link]