If you listen to Scott Horton discuss the mess in Yemen last Friday, his site was down so the podcast feed just popped back up this morning, you hear rhymes of Malcolm Gladwell’s David & Goliath all throughout it.
In his great book, much like all of his writings, Gladwell recounts these great stories of actual human beings, “defying” the so-called David and Goliath meme.
Two of the great stories he recounts involve near misses after being bombed along with the State’s theory on punishment (for our purposes the State is referred to in the Rothbardian sense as a territorial monopoly with the power of taxation). Central to understanding the latter point, and how it relates to the former accounts of near misses, is understanding the view through which the State sees the world. At the heart of their punishment theory, is the report produced in 1970 by Leites and Wolf called Rebellion and Authority. As excerpted from David & Goliath:
Fundamental to our analysis is the assumption that the population, as individuals or groups behaves “rationally”, that it calculates costs and benefits to the extent that they can be related to different courses of action, and makes choices accordingly….Consequently, influencing popular behavior requires neither sympathy nor mysticism, but rather a better understanding of what costs and benefits the individual or the group is concerned with, and how they are calculated.
This “assessment” has been used by the State to justify just about every “intervention” since World War War II. While the State had been operating under the auspices of such beliefs, Leites and Wolf finally made it “official”. While we could pick any number of recent attacks, from the events in Paris last week, to 9/11 to general murders that occur in the US every day, in looking at those events, does it seem like the terrorists or murders doing the killing were acting rationally? Is a suicide bomber rational? If you were to look up the word rational in the dictionary, here’s what you will find:
- Having reason or understanding.
- Relating to, based on, or agreeable to reason.
Do either of those definitions, regardless of how poor of a definition it is, fit the profile of a suicide bomber? Good luck trying to reason with the guy who’s willing to blow up not only himself, but people he’s never met and that have never done anything to him. Or how about this guy, a creep who shot a woman in the head and recounts “what he was thinking” when her killed the woman (which if you read the chapter in David and Goliath, which I recommend that you do, is the murder that started the 3 strikes rule in California) as excerpted again from David and Goliath:
I wasn’t really thinking much a nothing, you know. When it happens, it happens, you know. It just happened suddenly. We were just out doing what we do. I mean, that’s all I can tell you.
He continues on after being asked why he did it:
..he said that he already had the purse, so that wasn’t an issue. But that he’d shot her, instead, because of the way was looking at him. He shot her because he didn’t think she was taking him seriously, and wasn’t giving him any respect.
Again, does this sound like someone that “calculates the costs and benefits of his actions”. Does it seem like the guys that murdered over 120 people in Paris, could simply be understood through the mechanism of “better understanding of what costs and benefits the individual or the group is concerned with”? This naive view of the world, in looking at criminals through one lens, with “rational motivations” is beyond dangerous. Look at all of the problems that this type of response has caused. While both types are insane, thus not rational, the motivations of ISIS vs. your standard murderer are completely different, one group has an ideology, driven by foreign occupiers, the other, doesn’t like to be looked at in a particular way. Both are wrong, but as Scott Horton reminds us on his show, “the action is in the reaction”.
Despite the State’s massive size, the very nature of the institution, it’s bureaucracy, and stupidity as it fills its halls not with a nation’s “best and brightest” but with those that actively seek to rule others and can follow direct orders, whether or not those orders made any sense to begin with.
To further add fuel to how out of touch with reality these people are, here’s a state department rep, as recent as February 2015, discussing the notion that Islamic State types join the head chopping lunatic group because of the lack of “jobs”. In government speak, if you don’t have a job you’re magically transformed into a murder. Got that!? Can’t you see the logic in all of this. This whole farce, is simply a means to the interventionist end. Much like with the disaster in Paris, all interventions create this reflexive, negative feedback loop that continues to increase the divide of one group of people against another. Class warfare, rhyming with Marx, is used by the State to destroy liberty and to distract the sheep from the wolf lurking around the corner – the declining global economy. This may seem like a bit of a digression, but stay with me. I have already laid out the idea that the State is an incredibly slow, stupid entity. Yet, it must follow that for it to gain legitimacy, the types of people that would “elect” such an entity must also be slow and stupid. Where we can see this the most, are from two great 20th century writers – Orwell & Huxley. In 1984, Orwell laid out what society looks like under complete totalitarianism underscoring the point that “what we hate will destroy us”. While there are similarities that can be found in Huxley’s work, A Brave New World, another futuristic dystopia accurately capturing the path that current America is on, the difference between the two works lies in the means to get there. Huxley thought that what “we loved will destroy us”. All of the distractions, the gadgets, the “news” people force-feed themselves and the perpetual repeats of Dancing with the Stars will all be used to divert attention from the things that do matter, death and taxes, to those that don’t – 24 hour entertainment. As a result, State power will expand and individuality will be lost. Haven’t we been humming this tune for more than a decade now? Bringing this full circle, we have more and more technology and ways to satisfy our leisure time, as the disutility of labor always holds. Yet, while the number of time wasting activities has never been greater, our liberties have never been lower. With each terrorist attack, brought on by perpetual interventions in countries that don’t look or sound like westerners, liberties are simultaneously destroy. Therefore, it looks to me like both Orwell and Huxley were right – the worst of all possible worlds.