Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The defence of neccesity.

So George Bush has been using the NSA to spy on Americans. This is shocking but not exactly surprising, and so is his justification for it. He claims that it's his duty to do what is necessary to protect Americans from terrorism. But is it and is that what he's doing? It stands to reason that no job can impose a duty that exceeds it's authority. Nobody can be given a responsibility to do what they are forbidden to do. If they were they would be in a position where there was no legally acceptable choice and that's a mockery of law. So clearly since warrantless wiretaps are not allowed the president cannot have a duty to authorise them.

But what of the other claim, that he is doing what is neccesary to protect American's from terrorism? I submit that not only is this claim false but it can be proven so from publically available sources. Firstly if he was doing what was necessary to protect against terrorism he would obviously move against their main source of funding, the War On (Some) Drugs. It has been well known for years that Islamic terror groups finance themselves through drugs. This is true not just of al-Quaeda affiliates but also the PLO and Hezbollah. Non-islamic terrorists in South America are so involved in the drug trade it's hard to tell whether some are political terrorists financing themselves with drugs or drug dealers who use to terrorism to bolster their justification of being political groups. Clearly if the war on drugs was ended this would be a major blow to terrorism worldwide, yet it is not. Why? It's not like Americans aren't prepared to make political sacrifices to win the WO(S)T*. Sure some will bleat a bit and predict the world will come to an end if people get high with a different chemical than usual. However all GWB would have to do is say something about how 9-ll "changed everything" and how this is essential to preserving the lives of our brave men and women overseas yadda, yadda and it would fly. So why the reluctance?

The answer lies in what GWB believes is "necessary". It is not necessary to actually minimise violent deaths by terrorist action. Although this would be nice it's not a critical objective. To be fair I feel the same way, there are plenty of other problems that kill more people and cause more suffering than terrorism and it's rightfully a low priority for the government. What is "necessary" is to preserve the belief that the State is the answer to the problem of terrorism. If people were to come to the conclusion that terrorism is best dealt with via non-State action they might come to the conclusion that most other things are too. This would lead to a gradual unravelling of the entire concept that most of what the State does is beneficial.

This would pretty much end the gravy train for Georgie-boy. While most people would say that this would deprive him of an undeserved income this is not the important thing. It would deprive him of an undeserved social respect and respectability. At the moment people assume that people in government are both good and important. They may quibble with the occasional emphasis, like thinking the Bill Clinton is Satan's spawn because he only spends 20 times what America needs to defend itself instead of 100 times, but generally they are impressed with the government appartachiks, politicians and technocrats. They do not regard them as they do say, drug dealers, prostitutes and purveyors of phony baldness cures. If the actual effectiveness of government were to become known then people might think of them as much less. Imagine if for years you went to a doctor that believed in bleeding and vomiting his patients for all ills and perscibed lambs blood intravenously for violent mood swings. How would you feel about him after you found out that his treatments all did serious harm to the patients health and had no beneficial effects**? This is exactly the sort of reaction that the architects and builders of government efforts hope to avoid.

To prevent this it's not only "neccesary" to avoid the apperance that no government intervention is the answer. It's also "neccesary" to avoid the appearance that _less_ government intervention might be the answer. If people began to think the the government intervening less might help solve terrorism they would apply pressure to achieve this. Eventually this pressure would result in some limited reduction in some government interference with people's lives. This would likely be successful in reducing terrorism, at least to some extent. Once one positive of reform is found people will push for others. Eventually the whole edifice would dissolve.

Another reason to make sure that no reduced intervention solutions (RIS) are tried is that the government has presented it's increased intervention solutions (IIS) as necessary which they are not if there exist RISs. Since the IISs are very unpopular in certain circles the government cannot afford to have the made to look unneccesary. People are prepared to forgive the problems caused by IISs if there is no alternative, so no alternative must be found. This explains why "crises" always increase government power, because to reduce it would be to admit that the government has been submitting people to needless bother with the previous IISs. For instance suppose there was a wave of terror bombings in the UK that the police had no idea was going to happen. Now suppose someone were to suggest an end to preventive detention under laws designed to fight the IRA. The reasoning is that without the fear that their friends and relatives would be locked up without a fair trial people would be more likely to come forward with information against them. This leads to more good leads and police possibly catching the terrorists before they can strike. The government would not do this because then they'd have to admit that they locked people up unfairly not only without a good reason but without a good result. So instead a solution that increases intervention would be suggested and been implemented, and it has.

The object of the State is not in fact to do what is necessary but to make necessary thing that would otherwise not be. For instance it would not be "necessary" to conduct the WO(S)T* if the policies of various governments didn't give people reasons to try change that policy and good reason to doubt that anything but violence would do that. The State is not there to find solutions to but to avoid the solutions that would have occured without it. Without Social Security people would look after their parents, invest for their retirement or otherwise take care of the entirely predictable problem of old age. Without unemployment benefits workers would either look after each other or accept lower wages to retain employment. Without government protection people would form alliances with their neighbours to defend their persons and property. All these are what the State is designed to avoid. If such solutions take off anyone with a connection to the State will see the value of their work degraded by the comparative efficiency of these solutions. Eventually their work will be a social and even economic negative. This is what government find "necessary" to avoid.

* War On (Some) Terror
** Other calming the lamb's blood recipient by making him so sick he can't be violent.