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December 31, 2011

Just came across this article by Glenn Greenwald discussing Ron Paul’s campaign and the political disorientation he causes by being a more progressive, liberal candidate than the supposedly liberal Obama.  Good point.

Where Greenwald falls short though is in attributing the anti-progressive actions that have taken place during the Obama administration to Obama himself.  He offers up a long list of criticisms of the administration, chiefly related to the strengthening of government powers, as if they were all the direct outcome of the president’s own actions.  Now, this suggestion isn’t very believable.  Why?  Simply because the head of government in a nation-state is a relatively unimportant person.  He cannot initiate sweeping changes on his own, due to his inability to legislate, and he is bound by the actions of his predecessors.  Most importantly, however, he can be automatically and instantly replaced if missing with a successor who is no more intrinsically important to the functioning of government than he is.  All the nation-state requires in order to function is a nominal figurehead.  In short, it doesn’t matter what Barack Obama’s own views or policies are.  The system would proceed full tilt with or without him.  For the same reason, were Ron Paul to be elected, he could be taxed with an equally long list of counter-progressive actions four years from now due to the same underlying cause.  The ship of state is on autopilot and not particularly concerned who wears the captain’s hat or stands on the bridge.

As far as Greenwald’s list of complaints about the administration goes, they are reasonably valid complaints.  However, can you really expect anything different from a nation-state?  It is a form of government explicitly designed to produce military and regulatory expansion, and it can only exist when those elements have established a co-dependent feedback loop with it.  The reason for the nation-state to exist is to fund and manage military defense, against both hostile foreign states and uncooperative citizens.  (And yes, police forces are a form of militarism that can only exist under a highly developed nation-state; armies targeted at internal rather than external threats.)  The reason for the military to exist is to ensure the continued existence of the nation-state and thereby its own source of funding.  It’s a symbiotic relationship.  Neither can exist without the other, and when both exist, they will both work to their mutual benefit instead of to the benefit of anyone or anything outside the relationship.  Again, the nominal leaders of the state are mostly removed from this process.  But, such are the consequences of separating rule from the ruler.


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