Israel's Foreign Minister has warned Benjamin Netanyahu that the governing coalition will fall part if the Prime Minister doesn't take punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority for its decision to bid for independent statehood at the United Nations. A report in Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper claims that Avigdor Lieberman has demanded that Netanyahu responds to the unilateral Palestinian step by cancelling the Oslo Accords, annexing the large West Bank settlement blocs and withholding tax transfers to the Authority.
Earlier reports said that Lieberman had threatened the Palestinians with "very serious" consequences in the event of a UN vote in favour of an independent state. Israel, claimed Lieberman, "won't stand still" if a Palestinian state is recognised by the UN. Lieberman's deputy, Danny Ayalon, backed the call for punitive measures, although he expects the UN to reject the Palestinian application.
According to Netanyahu's deputy, Silvan Shalom, the Palestinian bid constitutes a violation of the agreements signed between the two sides.
Liberty & Power: Group Blog
David T. Beito
One of the worst violations of academic freedom in many years is now occurring at UW-Stout. See here.
Campus police, backed up by spineless administrators, tore door a poster from the door of Professor James Miller in the Department of Theater featuring a quotation from the popular series, "Firefly." In response, Miller put up another poster (shown above) with another quotation from the series. The police also tore it down.
Although Miller is getting full backing from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), he needs reinforcements. A chilling effect has already taken place among many UW-Stout faculty who, rather than showing support for Miller, are now removing anything "controversial" from their doors.
The best place to start, in my view, is to start calling each member of the Board of Regents of the UW System. Here are their numbers. You can also call , Paul Stauffacher , the chair of the Theater Department and urge him to back his colleague.
In my calls, I stressed that this incident had put a black mark on Wisconsin's reputation as a beacon for academic freedom. Phone calls are best. Start now!
The Cato Institute has released my Briefing Paper titled "Herbert Hoover: Father of the New Deal." I try to cover all the major evidence for Hoover's role as precursor to FDR and why connecting him with laissez-faire is simply wrong. Here's the Executive Summary:
Politicians and pundits portray Herbert Hoover as a defender of laissez faire governance whose dogmatic commitment to small government led him to stand by and do nothing while the economy collapsed in the wake of the stock market crash in 1929. In fact, Hoover had long been a critic of laissez faire. As president, he doubled federal spending in real terms in four years. He also used government to prop up wages, restricted immigration, signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, raised taxes, and created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation—all interventionist measures and not laissez faire. Unlike many Democrats today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's advisers knew that Hoover had started the New Deal. One of them wrote, "When we all burst into Washington ... we found every essential idea [of the New Deal] enacted in the 100-day Congress in the Hoover administration itself."
Hoover's big-spending, interventionist policies prolonged the Great Depression, and similar policies today could do similar damage. Dismantling the mythical presentation of Hoover as a "do-nothing" president is crucial if we wish to have a proper understanding of what did and did not work in the Great Depression so that we do not repeat Hoover's mistakes today.
Hat tip to David Hart who refers to the following quote as classical liberal Richard Cobden's "I had a dream" speech.
COBDEN: But I have been accused of looking too much to material interests. Nevertheless I can say that I have taken as large and great a view of the effects of this mighty principle as ever did any man who dreamt over it in his own study. I believe that the physical gain will be the smallest gain to humanity from the success of this principle. I look farther; I see in the Free-trade principle that which shall act on the moral world as the principle of gravitation in the universe,—drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race, and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace. I have looked even farther. I have speculated, and probably dreamt, in the dim future—ay, a thousand years hence—I have speculated on what the effect of the triumph of this principle may be. I believe that the effect will be to change the face of the world, so as to introduce a system of government entirely distinct from that which now prevails. I believe that the desire and the motive for large and mighty empires; for gigantic armies and great navies—for those materials which are used for the destruction of life and the desolation of the rewards of labour—will die away; I believe that such things will cease to be necessary, or to be used, when man becomes one family, and freely exchanges the fruits of his labour with his brother man. I believe that, if we could be allowed to reappear on this sublunary scene, we should see, at a far distant period, the governing system of this world revert to something like the municipal system; and I believe that the speculative philosopher of a thousand years hence will date the greatest revolution that ever happened in the world’s history from the triumph of the principle which we have met here to advocate. I believe these things: but, whatever may have been my dreams and speculations, I have never obtruded them upon others. I have never acted upon personal or interested motives in this question; I seek no alliance with parties or favour from parties, and I will take none—but, having the feeling I have of the sacredness of the principle, I say that I can never agree to tamper with it. I, at least, will never be suspected of doing otherwise than pursuing it disinterestedly, honestly, and resolutely.
----Richard Cobden, Speeches on Questions of Public Policy by Richard Cobden, M.P., ed. by John Bright and J.E. Thorold Rogers with a Preface and Appreciation by J.E. Thorold Rogers and an Appreciation by Goldwin Smith (London: T.Fisher Unwin, 1908). 2 volumes in 1. Vol. 1 Free Trade and Finance. Chapter: FREE TRADE. XX. MANCHESTER, JANUARY 15, 1846.
For more commentary, visit www.wendymcelroy.com
A human catastrophe is taking place in Somalia, the result of drought, famine — and the savage war conducted by the Obama administration, complete with a CIA training facility and prison....
The catastrophe is often attributed to natural conditions, but neighboring areas are not experiencing the same threat.
The difference is Obama’s war. In the guise of fighting terrorism the U.S. government, beginning under George W. Bush and continuing with a vengeance under the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Obama, has turned Somalia into a hellhole. If Americans knew what was happening in their name, they would hang their heads in shame. Or would they?
Read the full op-ed: "Peace Prize-Winner Obama Savages Somalia" here.
On September 9th Sheldon Richman put up a post, Ron Paul and Immigration: A Speculative Theory, that reminded me very much of some conversations I took part in back when I was very active with the Montgomery County Maryland Libertarian Party. They revolved around the issue, were we a real political party or just a glorified debating society. At the time that was a legitimate question because our candidates had no chance of winning power and gathering 3% of the vote was considered a good outing. It is different with Ron Paul he can and must win the presidency in 2012. He is the only one running who will take us off the road to serfdom before it becomes too late to change our direction without massive suffering or even bloodshed.
However, Richman seems willing to condemn millions of Americans to increasing poverty and perpetual warfare because Ron Paul is not ideologically pure enough to suit his tastes. At first glance his piece seems to favor immigrants but it really does not. I too favor open borders because I have always had a problem with the notion that someone is a criminal merely for existing in a particular space but I also agree with Ron Paul that economic prosperity relieves the need for scapegoats a role now filled by so called illegal immigrants. All the other candidates are defenders of a status quo which will keep these people despised. Ron Paul is the only one offering real change if you oppose him you also oppose their interests as well.
When I used to work events for the Libertarian Party I gave thousands of Nolan Chart quizzes and occasionally compiled statistics on the answers. By far the question which received the most negative responses was the one on open borders even considerably exceeding the one on legalizing drugs. The human tendency to blame ones problems on others is a very powerful one. Now, Sheldon Richman argues that Paul’s failure to loudly proclaim his support for open borders “doesn’t speak well of the candidate.” He could not be more wrong. First off we do not even know if Paul really supports open borders but even if he does it is much more important to win the election then to make pure rhetorical points. Or, perhaps Ron Paul and I disagree on this particular point, so I should just forgo all of the positive change a Ron Paul presidency would bring?
I would ask Sheldon Richman what is the purpose of your discourse? Is it to discourage people from working for, financing, and voting for Ron Paul? I must say it is very sad for me to see you and so many other libertarians joining the ranks of such defenders of the status quo as Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow. It is very easy to argue that Ron Paul has no chance of winning, as you do in the last line of your post, it provides a convenient excuse for doing nothing and makes you seem smarter than though if that is the way it turns out. However, if you truly believe in human freedom you would use your considerable eloquence and logic to make it more likely that it turns out the out the other way.
I understand Rush Limbaugh has nominated George W. Bush for the next vacancy on Mount Rushmore because “the United States” has not been attacked since 9/11. Okay, if you ignore the fact that more Americans have been killed in aggressive foreign wars since 9/11 than were killed on the day the World Trade Center and Pentagon were hit and that Osama bin Laden got what he was after: American imperial overreach and a financial hemorrhage that won’t be stanched.
Roderick T. Long
I have a new post up at BHL: The Libertarian Three-Step Program. It addresses good and bad ways of answering the healthcare question that Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul.
Thomas Mayer is the chief economist of Deutsche Bank Group and head of Deutsche Bank Research. He has an impressive background as a highly placed analyst in major private and public financial institutions. Which is to say, when he speaks, people are much more likely to pay attention and to give weight to what he says than they are when those of us on the lunatic fringe spout off.
So, it is an event of considerable note that Mayer has recently given a speech in which he roundly condemns the major macroeconomic theories embraced since the 1930s and the government policies that have flowed from them. He holds these theories and policies responsible for creating false understandings of how the economy works and of what governments can and should do in their efforts to manage the economy and, in particular, to stabilize its growth path.
Mayer urges a turn away from economists’ attempts to ape natural scientists and a renewed appreciation of the lessons of economic history. “A revival of Austrian economics,” he concludes, “could be a good start for such a research program.” I certainly applaud this advice. Unfortunately, Mayer’s understanding of Austrian economics in general—and its theory of macroeconomic booms and busts, in particular—is somewhat defective. Nevertheless, he gets part of it right, and he is undoubtedly moving in the right direction.
Here are the bullet points that introduce his article:
• Failure of the “liquidations” to overcome the Great Depression of the early 1930s prepared the ground for an era of interventionist economic policies. Modern macroeconomics and finance nourished the belief that we can successfully plan for the future. But the present crisis teaches us that we live in a world of Knightian uncertainty, where the “unknown unknowns” dominate and our plans for the future are regularly thwarted by unforeseen and unforeseeable events.
• In a world of Knightian uncertainty, financial firms and investors need larger buffers to cope with the unforeseen, i.e., more equity and less leverage.
• In a world where markets are not always liquid but can seize up in a collective fit of panic, financial firms and investors also need a greater reserve of liquidity.
• Regulation can help to achieve both objectives, but it needs to realize its limits. First and foremost, firms should have the incentives to follow sound business practices. The best incentive is to make failure possible. Hence, we need resolution regimes for financial firms.
• In a world where people have imperfect foresight and do not always behave rationally, and markets are not always efficient, we need to accept that economic policy cannot fine-tune the cycle.
• For us economists, the lesson from recent events should be to rely less on the development of theories by “deduction” (like in natural sciences) and to apply more “induction” (like in social and historical sciences). Failure to study history makes us repeat the mistakes of the past.
Despite my reservations in a few regards, I find Mayer’s views in this speech to be on target for the most part, and I highly recommend it. In several regards, his presentation complements a recent article of mine in which I criticize major elements of currently received wisdom in macroeconomics—what I call “vulgar Keynesianism.”
(I am grateful to Ángel Martín Oro for bringing Mayer’s speech to my attention; see his article [in Spanish] with José Abad at LibreMercado.)
David T. Beito
NPR ruined my morning drive. In typical fashion, it's morning blow-by-blow summary of the debate ignored Ron Paul (aside from a very brief mention that he was booed). The focus was on Romney and Perry and Michelle Bachmann (who Paul now leads in national polls). This was to be expected. A reporter for NPR then hit a new low, however, in the post-debate interviews when he baldly stated that Paul had said that U.S. policies "justified" the 9-11 attack by Bin Laden. As the <a href="http://www.dailypaul.com/178412/ron-paul-booed-for-suggesting-that-9-11-was-caused-by-american-foreign-policy"> youtube shows</a>, Paul, who performed magnificantly, said nothing of the sort. This example of reporting malpractice provides yet another justification for defunding NPR of tax subsidies.
Robert Fisk explains that for ten years the U.S. and UK governments have avoided asking the one real question: Why? And Patrick Cockburn explains how "[t]he atrocities against America created the image of Osama bin Laden as the leader of a global jihad upon the West ... a fantasy that governments willingly, and disastrously, helped to perpetuate."
Amy H. Sturgis
Not The Giving Tree, but The Taking Tree...
Ron Paul’s position on what I’ll call unauthorized immigration—or immigration sans government permission--is indeed strange. He calls for “secure borders” but opposes employer sanctions, Real ID, and a border wall (which he says could be used to keep people in as well as out). He also minimizes the importance of unauthorized immigration by saying it wouldn’t be such an issue if the economy were healthy (people are worried about jobs now) and the welfare state didn’t exist.
That odd mix leads me to wonder if Ron Paul is actually for open borders but doesn’t want to say it. (He was for open borders when he was the Libertarian Party nominee for president in 1988.) True, there are arguments against my speculation. His website says, “A nation without borders is no nation at all,” he’s against birthright citizenship, and he opposes amnesty, which it claims “will only encourage more law-breaking.” (I oppose amnesty too. There’s no need to forgive people for doing what they have a perfect right to do.)
But can one really be against unauthorized immigration if one opposes steps that seem necessary to even begin to stop it? Who wills the end, wills the means, it is said.
Hence my suspicion that Ron Paul secretly favors open borders. That may be the good news. The bad news is that if it is so, it doesn’t speak well of the candidate. Why not say what you think—that people, no matter where they were born, have a natural right to move in freedom? Imagine what a splash he would make with such a statement at a debate.
What does he have to lose? He's not even running for reelection to Congress.
President Obama’s jobs program calls for cuts in both sides of the payroll tax. That tax finances Social Security and Medicare. Social Security and Medicare are already taking in less money than they need to pay retirees. So they will have to cash in more of the Treasury IOUs left behind when previous surpluses were used to finance general expenditures. But the Treasury is also already running a trillion-dollar-plus deficit. So it will have to borrow more in the capital markets in order to pay back the Social Security and Medicare funds. Unless Obama makes up the lost revenue by changing the tax code. But then money will be withdrawn from the economy in the form of higher taxes so it can be put back into the economy through the payroll-tax cut. Somehow that’s supposed to stimulate the economy.
Got all that? There’ll be a quiz later.
Commentators and pundits, some of whom ought to know better, continue to harp on the idea that the recession persists because consumers are not spending. Every Keynesian seems to believe that because consumers are in a dreadful funk, only government stimulus spending can rescue the moribund economy, given (to them, at least) that investors will not spend more because the Fed, having already driven interest rates to extraordinarily low levels, cannot use conventional policies to drive them any lower and thereby elicit more investment spending.
People, please look at the data. They are conveniently available to one and all at the website maintained by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the outfit that generates the national income and product accounts for the United States.
According to these data, real personal consumption expenditure recovered from its recession decline by the fourth quarter of 2010. Continuing to grow, it now stands (as of the most recent data, for the second quarter of 2011) even farther above its pre-recession peak.
Real government expenditure for consumption and investment (this concept does not include the government’s transfer spending, such as unemployment insurance benefits and social security benefits) is also running higher than its pre-recession level. In the second quarter of 2011, it was running more than 2 percent higher (recall that this is “real,” or inflation-adjusted spending; nominal spending has grown substantially more).
The economy remains moribund not because consumption spending has failed to recover and not because government spending has failed to increase, but because the true driver of economic growth—private investment—remains deeply depressed. Gross private domestic fixed investment fell steeply after the second quarter of 2007, and in the second quarter of 2011 it remained 19 percent below its pre-recession peak. This figure fails to show how bad the investment situation really is, however, because the bulk of the investment spending now taking place is for what the accountants call the ”capital consumption allowance,” the amount estimated as necessary to compensate for the wear and tear and obsolescence of the existing capital stock.
The key variable is net private domestic fixed investment—the investment that builds the productive private capital stock. Quarterly data through this year are not currently available at the BEA website, but the annual data show that an index of its real amount peaked in 2006, fell substantially in each of the following three years, and recovered only slightly in 2010, when the index showed net private domestic fixed investment was running about 78 percent below its level in 2005 and 2006. Here is the true reason for the recession’s persistence.
Private investors, despite the full recovery of real consumer spending and the increase of real government spending for final goods and services, remain apprehensive about the future of new investments, especially new long-term investments. I have argued repeatedly during the past three years that an important reason for this apprehension and the consequent reluctance to make new capital commitments is regime uncertainty—in this case, a widespread, serious fear that the government’s major policies in areas such as taxation, Obamacare, financial reform, environmental regulation, and other areas will have the effect of depriving investors of control over their capital or diminishing their ability to appropriate the income that the capital generates. President Obama’s harping on the desirability of making “the rich” pay their “fair share” (that is, more) of the government’s ever-rising costs only exacerbates regime uncertainty. Business leaders have spoken again and again of how the present political environment is discouraging risk-taking and entrepreneurship.
In any event, it should be crystal clear that the problem is not the failure of consumer spending to recover. Let us please have more respect for the facts than to continue singing that old, thoroughly worn-out tune.
[Cleveland] and its sponsors intended it not as a celebration of leisure but as a promotion of the great American work ethic. Work, they believed, was the highest calling in life, and Labor Day was a reminder to get back to it. It was placed at the end of summer to declare an end to the season of indolence, and also to distance it from May Day, the spring event that had become a symbol of the radical labor movement.I note that Wikipedia says:
Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 after the [Pullman] strike when President Grover Cleveland and Congress made appeasement of organized labor a top priority. Legislation for the holiday was pushed through Congress six days after the strike ended. Samuel Gompers, head of American Federation of Labor, which had sided with the government in its effort to end the strike by the American Railway Union, spoke out in favor of the holiday.As Russell writes:
When President Cleveland signed Labor Day into existence in 1884, the conservative American Federation of Labor endorsed the new holiday. In deliberate contrast to “slackers,” union members used their government-approved day off to march in their work clothes alongside floats showing off the tools of their trades. They carried signs declaring the “honor” and “nobility” of work. Labor Day marches were praised by the press as “sober, clean, quiet” demonstrations of “the honest American workingman.”Bottom line: Labor was being co-opted with promises of a junior partnership in the corporate state long before the New Deal and National Labor Relations Act.
As the idea of regime uncertainty has gained ground in recent years as a partial explanation of the economy’s failure to recover quickly and fully, economists and others invested in Keynesian thinking have begun to strike back. One such Keynesian debunking of regime uncertainty was offered recently by Gary Burtless and seemingly endorsed by Mark Thoma. Now, Craig Pirrong, an economist at the University of Houston, has debunked Burtless’s arguments.
Pirrong uses options pricing theory to show why the Keynesians are missing the point of the regime uncertainty concept and why, even on their own terms, their arguments for disregarding regime uncertainty and simply pumping up aggregate demand are wrong.
To adapt a familiar saying: first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they embrace the idea and claim that they had it first. We are now passing through Stage II.
Although I am pleased that the concept of regime uncertainty has come to be recognized in some quarters as an important part of our understanding the economy’s operation, I continue to be disconcerted that many of those who speak of it, including some of those who speak favorably of it, fail to understand its full scope. As I understand regime uncertainty, it has to do with widespread inability to form confident expectations about future private property rights in all of their dimensions. Private property rights specify the property owner’s rights to decide how property will be used, to accrue income from its uses, and to transfer these rights to others in various voluntary arrangements. Because the content of private property rights is complex, threats to such rights can arise from many different sources, including actions by legislators, administrators, prosecutors, judges, juries, and others (e.g., sit-down strikers, mobs).
Because of the great variety of ways in which government officials can threaten private property rights, the security of such rights turns not only on law “on the books,” but also to an important degree on the character of the government officials who administer and enforce the law. An important reason why regime uncertainty arose in the latter half of the 1930s, for example, had to do with the character of the advisers who had the greatest access to President Franklin Roosevelt at that time—people such as Tom Corcoran, Ben Cohen, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, and others of their ilk. These people were known to hate businessmen and the private enterprise system; they believed in strict, pervasive regulation of the market system by—who would have guessed?—people such as themselves. So, as bad as the National Labor Relations Board was on paper, it was immensely worse (for employers) in practice. And so forth, across the full range of new regulatory powers created by New Deal legislation. In a similar way, the apparatchiki who run the federal regulatory leviathan today can only inspire apprehension on the part of investors and business executives. President Obama’s cadre of crony capitalists, which he drags out to show that “business is being fully considered,” in no way diminishes these worries.
Thus, regime uncertainty is a multifaceted and somewhat nuanced concept. Many economists don’t like it because it cannot be measured and compiled along with other standard macro variables in a convenient data base. But, as I have tried to show for fifteen years, various forms of empirical evidence can be and have been brought to bear to show that regime uncertainty is not simply a figment of the analyst’s imagination or an all-purpose club with which the Chamber of Commerce whacks the government’s every move to increase taxes or augment regulations. Anyone who actually manages a business or makes serious investment can readily understand the idea. Keynesian economists, who generally do not manage businesses or make serious investments, view the idea as merely something their ideological opponents toss out to obstruct the application of their “science” in policy making. It is good to have analysts such as Craig Pirrong showing that the Keynesian rejection of regime uncertainty has no firm foundation.
After the Japanese government surrendered to the Americans and their allies in 1945, the U.S. military occupied the Japanese home islands and ruled the nation for several years. In due course, however, Japan’s situation was normalized, and, moreover, in 1946 the Japanese adopted a new constitution that renounced war as an instrument of national policy:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. 2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
At that point, Japan no longer represented a threat, or even a potential threat, to the United States, apart from the threat that developed later that the Japanese would sell American consumers superior automobiles and consumer electronics, among other things.
Yet the Yankees never left Japan. Their military installations remain there today, sixty-six years after Japan’s surrender. These bases are staffed by some 36,000 U.S. military personnel and more than 5,000 American civilians employed by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Major U.S. Military Bases in Japan
About three-quarters of the U.S. military bases in Japan are located on the islands of Okinawa, where the fiercest battle of the Pacific war occurred in the spring of 1945, causing horrendous losses on both sides, including many thousands of civilian deaths, and the destruction of about 90 percent of the islands’ buildings.
U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa
As if the wartime devastation were not enough, the American military personnel on Okinawa since 1945 have made themselves a chronic nuisance to the local populace, perpetrating crimes that range from automobile-related incidents, such as hit and run, to assaults and rapes. U.S. aircraft sometimes crash into civilian areas. Most Okinawans devoutly desire that these unwelcome, seemingly permanent American occupiers would get out.
And well they should; indeed, they should have done so a long time ago.
Yet, many well-placed U.S. officials and public-opinion molders have insisted, and continue to insist, that even if Japan does not threaten the United States, maintenance of U.S. forces in Japan serves to protect Americans from other threats, such as that posed by China. However, the idea that the Chinese, who rely on Americans to purchase a large share of their exports and who currently own more than $1 trillion of U.S. Treasury securities, would wish to attack the United States militarily seems more preposterous by the day. This far-fetched tale is, however, the sort of story that neocons enjoy telling their children at bedtime, when the little tykes have tired of the one about the impending Iranian nuclear strike.
Keeping U.S. military forces in Japan, like keeping them nearly everywhere else they are kept around the world, serves primarily to preserve the global empire of bases that gives U.S. generals and admirals plush commands and U.S. policymakers at the Pentagon and the State Department something to toy with when they are running out of ideas about how to make the world poorer and more dangerous. At the same time, though, the U.S. government, which must borrow 40 percent of the dollars it spends and whose once-riskless securities have begun the descent toward junk status, must expend hundreds of billions every year to maintain its imperial forces abroad. Even if these foreign bases had a genuine rationale, which for the most part they do not, the simple fact is that the government can no longer afford to maintain them.
The solution ought to be obvious: Yankee, go home!
In a recently released report, the Commission on Wartime Contracting concludes that waste and fraud have consumed at least $31 billion and perhaps as much as $60 billion of the $190 billion or so that the U.S. government has expended in grants and contracts with private individuals and companies for work in Iraq and Afghanistan since fiscal 2002. According to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “The report faults poor decision making, vague requirements and a lack of training as the chief causes and says that the waste and fraud could have been avoided with better oversight and safeguards.”
To which I am inclined to respond, not bloody likely.
Think about it: $30 billion is a helluva lot of money. At my current rate of earning, I will have to work more than 300,000 years to earn this amount—and it’s entirely possible that I will not last that long. Of course, what is called “fraud and waste” is not a sum of money that simply evaporated in the hot desert sun. Aside from the small amount literally lost, every dollar of this sum ended up in someone’s pocket.
The report tells us that the contractor workforce has sometimes included as many as 260,000 persons. Let us err on the side of a probably unwarranted presumption of innocence and suppose that only 10 percent of them are outright crooks. We have, then, 26,000 crooks pocketing an increment of at least $31 billion, or approximately $1.2 million per crooked contract worker.
Are we supposed to believe that 26,000 civilians in the contracting corps have reaped not only their already handsome, legally contracted compensation, but enough additional loot to make each of them a millionaire on top of that compensation, and nobody noticed until now? Are we simply to attribute this massive amount of misspent taxpayer money to “poor decision making, vague requirements, and a lack of training” without asking, But who got the dough?
The report’s all-too-typical way of looking at the matter may satisfy you, especially if you are given to belief in fairy tales. I am more inclined to view this whole business as not so much a mass of incompetence (though there is undoubtedly plenty of that, too) as a deliberate ongoing embezzlement on the grandest scale.
Back in the 1930s, the legendary Marine general Smedley Buter, having spent his military career running errands for U.S. banks and other companies in various parts of the world, concluded that war is not what most people take it to be.
- War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
Can anyone say with a straight face that he was wrong, or that the same conclusion cannot be reached today?