Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Tuesday, 25 June, 2013

U.S. should solve PRISM debacle by holding a national referendum

Main point: The debate over whether the US government should continue to conduct surveillance of mobile phone and internet activity should be solved by having a national vote.

As a U.S. citizen overseas, I often get the nasty receiving end of U.S. policies which people in other countries don’t like. If I happen to be the token American around, people seize the opportunity to tell me how much they dislike a particular American policy. Europeans or Australians, a well-educated lot who were raised to expect that their rights and civil liberties be respected are usually the most likely to raise these points. Among the points that they often raise are Guantanamo Bay, drone strikes, the invasion of Iraq, the general U.S. policy of thinking that it should “police” the world, interference in other countries’ affairs, etc.

I’ve been hiding out lately, knowing that I’d be a sure target after news broke of the secret PRISM program, in which a US government agency is secretly monitoring everyone’s mobile phone communications. Later, allegations were made that internet activity is also being monitored. This issue is sure to rile up non-U.S. citizens, as claims have been made that it doesn’t target US citizens, but targets everyone else. Many people abroad, no doubt feeling innocent and wrongly targeted, will probably feel resentment that they are being monitored by a foreign government. Of course, they also feel that it makes the US look pretty hypocritical, since the US often professes to be promoting human rights, but then appears to be violating people’s right to privacy. Much criticism has been leveled at the U.S. in China, for example, after the news broke.

Reaction in Washington has been mixed. Some representatives have criticized the practice, while others have defended it. The Obama administration has defended the program. And it turns out that a Senate Intelligence Committee has been approving it all along.

My analysis is that beneath all of this is a fear among leaders in Washington that they will be blamed if there are terrorist attacks in the U.S. In order to avoid being blamed for a terrorist attack, U.S. government leaders have developed all kinds of elaborate ways to attempt to prevent terror attacks. Of course, we all are very familiar with the inconvenient searches we are subject to when we board a flight in the U.S.

I would propose that, rather than governing on the people’s behalf, and assuming people want their privacy invaded in order to prevent terror attacks, that the government just put it up to a vote. Every adult citizen has one vote.

You decide: would you rather have your privacy, and the increased chance of a terror attack, or would you rather give up your privacy and have more security?

Once the people have decided, then they can’t blame their representatives or the President’s administration for any attacks. They have only themselves to blame.

Another vote to confirm the referendum/initiative could be held two or four years later to see if people had changed their mind, based on experience.

Of course, this is currently impossible in the U.S. because there is no national level referendum. There are only state referendums in some states.

But this example illustrates how easy it would be to solve a difficult public issue if reforms were made creating a national referendum. Representatives would no longer need to do what they think people want them to do on key issues. Rather, the people can just decide for themselves.

Problem solved.

For all of America’s talk about democracy, the country still just doesn’t seem ready to let the people decide on major issues that affect everyone.

Of course I may be wrong in my analysis. It may be that it’s not fear on the part of government leaders, but rather it’s some zealous, rogue part of the administration that is carrying on a crusade of its own accord. Its certainly possible that the real culprit is some corner of the U.S. government that has determined that this is the right thing to do, and they just keep carrying on with it, despite everyone else’s interest. Heck, there could even be some economic motive involved: lucrative contracts?

Anyway, for some reason, the issue of democratic reform doesn’t seem to be high on most people’s list at this juncture. Most people are just cruising along, taking little action even though they fundamentally don’t like certain things that are happening. Democratic/electoral reform in the U.S. could certainly be used in some areas, especially controlling the role of money in elections. Creating a national initiative would be another.

Note: The blog post above represents solely the opinion of the author and does not represent any organizational affiliation.

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Wednesday, 31 October, 2012

Think I Finally Quit Smoking

It was always one of those things that just really annoyed me.

How could I waste so much of my energy smoking cigarettes? It made me tired and grumpy (seems to have had a worse effect on me than most people). It seemed totally contrary to my image of myself as a person trying to do good things in the world. How can someone who does meditation also smoke?

It went on for about six years (although I had previously had short periods of light smoking). I had tried to quit smoking many times, and had had a few successful periods.

I don’t know what happened a month or two ago, when I just started and succeeded in stopping. At first I used both nicotine gum and bupropion. After a few weeks, I gave up the bupropion and now am just using the nicotine gum.

I’m still not out of the woods yet as I haven’t given up the nicotine gum yet. And I’ve found in some cases I can’t have a beer and not smoke. Traveling, and all the stresses associated with it, are also possibly too challenging.

But overall, it seems that smoking may finally be history for me.

I should be partying every day but most days I have just totally forgotten about it! Maybe it’s time for another celebration!

Maybe in future posts I will share some of my tips on quitting (as I certainly have a lot of attempts under my belt!)

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Monday, 10 September, 2012

This blog reaches 24,000 pageviews

Well, I rarely write anything anymore, but people keep looking at stuff on this blog. 24,000 pageviews so far! Thanks to all readers!

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Sunday, 18 March, 2012

The Concept of a ‘Collective Human Rights Violation’

In this brief note, I’d like to introduce the concept of a “Collective Rights Violation”.  This is in response to the often repeated statement that human rights are individual rights, as explained by the author (Jack Donnely) of our textbook, for example, on page 20. (This refers to the book Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, by Jack Donnelly, Cornell University Press, 1989)

While it has often been stated that human rights are held by individuals, I argue that this actually obscures the reality that many rights violations affect many people at the same time.  That is, it affects a large group of people at the same time and in the same way.  Emphasizing that human rights are individual rights actually hides the fact that many rights violations affect many people at the same time, and therefore are far more serious than if we simply hold that it affects individuals.

Examples of cases which would be accurately described as “collective rights violations”:

~Blocking of certain parts of the internet, or certain pages on the internet, actually affects all users of the internet in that country at the same time and in almost exactly the same way.

~Censorship of the media affects all consumers of the media in a country in the same way, by denying them free access to information.


~Denial of labor rights, such as the right to form independent labor unions, affects all workers who might be unionized or carry out strike actions in almost the same way.


~Denial of the right to freedom of speech or the right to freedom of assembly, does not affect only those who attempt to express their opinions, or attempt to demonstrate.  It also affects many others, who are aware of the limitations on freedom of speech and assembly, and therefore do not attempt to exercise these rights, because they know what the consequences of these actions will be (i.e. imprisonment, harassment by the authorities, etc.).


~Land-grabbing, or seizures of land affect almost all the members of the group whose land is grabbed in an identical way.


~Many economic, cultural and social rights violations are also felt collectively by an entire group of people.  For example, a government’s failure to ensure adequate healthcare is felt by all people in that society, although in different ways (due for example to their individual wealth- wealthy people will be able to secure healthcare despite government policy, while poor people will struggle to do so.)


~Denial of the right to freedom of religion may also affect groups of people collectively.  For example, in Indonesia, only certain religions are recognized by the government as legitimate.  In Indonesia, there is one group of people called the Ahmadiyya, or Ahmadis, who consider themselves to be Muslims.  However, the government does not recognize the legal existence of this group, which has made them vulnerable to attacks by other Muslim groups in society who consider them to be heretical.  They have also faced pressure from the Indonesian government to cease practicing their religion on the grounds that their religion is not recognized.

Why is the concept of a “Collective Rights Violation” important?

Some powerful entities have tried to attack the concepts and the importance of human rights by saying that they are not relevant or applicable in their own societies.  For example, Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohammed*, of Singapore and Malaysia respectively, have tried to argue that human rights are not important in their Asian societies.  They argue that human rights are based on individualism, on the importance of the individual, while their societies emphasize the needs of society of the whole, and the necessity of individuals to sacrifice their own benefit for the sake of the whole society.  It’s the idea, for example, that people should sacrifice their political rights (which are curtailed in both Malaysia and Singapore), for the sake of the greater whole of society.  In their argument, the whole society will benefit from economic growth, for example.  And this economic growth will come about from individuals sacrificing their political rights.

Some of their supporting arguments would be that:

Only a few people are claiming their political rights (“claiming” their rights here means that they are actively seeking to exercise their rights, or challenging the denial of their right, through for example the legal system).  By trying to show that only a few people are claiming their rights, they are trying to minimize the problem of rights violations, and show that it is a minimal problem if compared to the benefits given to society as a whole (through economic growth for example.)

Individualism is a feature of Western societies, and therefore it does not apply to Asian societies.  Human rights are individual rights, whereas Asian societies are more collective in their outlook- they tend to consider the good of the whole as opposed to the welfare of the single individual.

The concept of a “Collective Rights Violation” is an effective response to this argument because:

It shows that while only a few people may be actively claiming their rights, it actually affects a much larger group of people who are too scared to claim their rights, or are not willing to suffer the costs associated with claiming their rights (such as imprisonment, possibly losing their job, being investigated by the authorities, etc.)  Other people might not even be aware that their rights are being violated due to censorship or the lack of freedom of information and freedom of speech (by which other members of society would be able to freely communicate to them about the existence of rights violations).  Even though many people do not claim their rights, or are not even aware of them, their rights are still being violated as part of the collective whole.

It undercuts the argument that rights actually reflect individualism, by emphasizing that some rights violations are actually experienced collectively by an entire group of people.  This makes it more difficult for human rights to be dismissed on the grounds that it reflects Western culture.

Conclusion:  I would welcome any feedback or criticism from you on this proposed concept. Please note that this is my own concept, and as far as I know, is not part of the normal dialogue or theory on human rights.

*The claims of these two individuals against human rights are especially suspect because they gained significant political benefit by denying others their political rights.

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Thursday, 11 August, 2011

Taking More Time to Heal Myself

Recently I have decided to take more time to take care of myself.  In fact I want to write here and have had several ideas of things to write, but I decided I need to step back a little bit and take better care of myself.

I think that this will in the long run empower me even more to be effective in seeking change in the world and the community where I live.

Of course, many people would wonder why a person would not heal themself first instead of focusing on this issue, that issue, every issue except their own issue!

Thanks to all the readers!

.وينبغي أن الناشطين في مجال الديمقراطية العربية في مصر وتونس في محاولة للحصول استفتاء في دستورهم


.والاستفتاء هو وسيلة لجميع الناس في التصويت عن شيء مهم لبلدهم


.ولكن يمكن أيضا أن يقتصر الاستفتاء بحيث لا يأخذ بعض حقوق الإنسان الأساسية


.على سبيل المثال، يمكن للدولة أن الدستور في استفتاء لا يمكن أن يسلب حق في حرية التعبير ، أو الحق في حرية التجمع


يمكن للشخص أن تقرر أيضا ما في المئة من الاصوات التي تريد أن تكون وصلت قبل نجاح الاستفتاء. (على سبيل المثال ، 50 ٪ ، 55 ٪، 60


.آمل الناشطين في العالم العربي أن يدرك مدى أهمية هذا الاستفتاء. هذه هي القوة الحقيقية للشعب


.لا تنتظر اتخاذ الإجراءات اللازمة لوضع الدستور في الاستفتاء الخاص الجديد. ربما لا يمكن أن يتم تغيير الدستور مرة أخرى لسنوات عديدة بعد ذلك


!انتقل الناشطين! وتعطي بعض القوة الحقيقية للمواطنين

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Thursday, 16 June, 2011

Just Say No To Ghadafi’s Elections Offer

I just saw the news that Saif al Islam, Muammar Ghadafi’s son, is offering to hold elections in Libya, at this news link- (Gaddafi son offers Libya elections).

Readers will note that previously I expressed that I didn’t think the European powers and a few middle eastern ones should get involved in Libya (at this link).  However, that does not mean I support Ghadafi.  In fact, I think he is awful, and it would be better for him to be removed from power, and preferably leave the country.  There’s no excuse for a person who rules unilaterally and as a dictator for 42 years.

What about all the other people in Libya?  Do they have any chance to have a say in things?  Or just one man- the BIG man, who can control everything for everyone else.  Please, this is pathetic, this man has no right to take everyone else’s power away through a reign of suppression.  I hope the Libyan people will get rid of him.

Ghadafi now senses, probably, that he is in serious trouble, as the rebel transitional council has made military gains in both the East and the far West of the country.  So now, finally, after murdering demonstrators and resisting calls to resign to the point of waging a civil war against the Libyans in the East, he proposes to hold elections.

Well, its too late buddy.  You should have done that about 37 years ago.

There is no way there can be fair elections in Libya after his own reign has brainwashed the Libyan people for the last 42 years.  There may in fact be people in Libya who support Ghadafi, but their consciousness is false- they have been brainwashed through all these years to support him.  I cannot take them seriously.  Then there are others who support Ghadafi because they have a material interest in his regime- for example if they are employed by Ghadafi’s government, or a family member is employed by that same government.  Of course, because these people have a material interest in Ghadafi, their opinion really has little moral weight to it, in terms of showing us how Ghadafi’s rule is legitimate.

But it is theoretically possible that Ghadafi would win an election at this point.  I personally doubt he would win, but I cannot gauge the real sentiment among the Libyan people at this moment.

Ghadafi’s election call should be rejected because people need to make a voting decision in a free environment, free of pressure from an imposing power, so that they can make a free choice among different candidates (or better yet, in free and fair referendums).  The only way to do that is to clear out the society of that old imposing power, which still clings desperately to its own power, and attempts to impose its will on the populace.

So I do think Ghadafi should go.  He should resign and leave the country.

Therefore, I encourage all citizens, popular activist, internet activists, influential parties, and governments in the region and in the international community, not to fall for this trick by Ghadafi, and oust the dictator once and for all.  Don’t be fooled by the dictator trying to hold onto his power even longer.  Resist him.

While I still feel ambivalent about the bombing of some targets in Libya by the “Coalition”,  the continuing of this war is really Ghadafi’s fault.  If he were reasonable and allowed people to demonstrate as much as they wanted in the very beginning, including in Tripoli, there would have been no bombing and intervention.  So it is Ghadafi’s fault.  I only hope that the casualties from the bombing will be few, and that the claims by the Libyan government of civilian casualties are false (these claims are not possible to verify in the media controlled environment of Ghadafi-oppressed areas of Libya).

I still feel that it’s too early to make a clear call on where this is actually going to end up, but I hope it will be a more peaceful, democratic Libya where most or all people have the ability and the right to participate in political life.

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Tuesday, 7 June, 2011

International Issue Forum Reaches 18,000 Pageviews

Well, another milestone has been passed- a few weeks ago this blog reached 18,ooo “hits”.

Its great to see many people checking out the blog, but only wishing that some of my more obscure posts would get more readers.  Sometimes the posts that I think are best are not getting any readers, compared to more popular subjects, like the “New World Order” conspiracy or dating “rules”.

I haven’t written many posts recently, have had many ideas but some ideas were so “alternative” that I didn’t think I could post them.

 

Thanks to all readers who have made this blog successful so far!

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Friday, 29 April, 2011

The Package Vote Problem In Representative Democracy

In a recent post “Questioning Representative Democracy” I began to discuss how I now question representative democracy- the system of electing representatives in periodic elections.  While I definitely think representative democracy is an improvement over no democracy at all, it has serious weaknesses.

Now I want to raise another of its weaknesses- what I call “the package vote problem”.

The package vote problem is when voters must vote on a whole package of different issues at one time, because they have only one chance to vote for a representative.  The current system of representative democracy assumes that citizens will be aligned perfectly with their representatives (or the party they belong to) on a whole series of different issues, when actually they may not be.

For example, in the USA, unfortunately, we only really have two main parties.  There are other parties of course, but most people don’t vote for them because they feel that it would be a wasted vote- candidates from other parties have almost no chance of winning.

So with only two main parties, citizens must vote for one or the other.  But what if a person agrees with the Democrats on some issues, and the Republicans on the other?  Or what if the position of the citizen is somehow different altogether- a third position?

Representative democracy has no solution for this problem.  Even though there are a wide variety of issues which are important in a society, the voter must essentially choose to align themselves with either one candidate or the other- on everything.

I pointed out the strangeness of this fact before, in reference to Christians who voted for George W. Bush.  Although many Christians vote for the Republicans because of abortion- essentially a position of being against violence against the unborn- they were voting for a man who was responsible for the death of thousands of adult people.  I found it to be rather ironic that so many Christians who were supposedly against killing unborn children, were voting for a man who many would describe as a killer.  The package vote problem required Christians to close their eyes, or rationalize voting for a man who was responsible for the unnecessary death of many people in Iraq.

Overall, it could be better to have those people deciding on each issue individually- in a direct vote.  (At least it may have resulted in Bush not being elected).

Which again, is another reason why I am in favor of more direct voting, and decreasing the power of politicians.

THE PACKAGE VOTE AND COGNITIVE ALIGNMENT

Now I want to make the case that the existence of representative democratic systems, in which people have limited choices, ultimately affects the way that they think.  The system of one party vs. the other party gives people a kind of pre-fabricated thought system on a whole range of issues.  And usually, it seems, people end up aligning themselves almost completely with all the issues that their party subscribes to.

But what if a voter is against increased immigration, but they are in favor of gay marriage?  Or what if they are anti- capitalist, but don’t really believe in abortion?  What if, overall, they side with the Democrats, but strongly believe that the government must be fiscally responsible and not run up a budget deficit?

I am suggesting, though, that when people grow up in a system with limited choices, they tend to align themselves with all the positions of their favorite party.  They may do this because they feel they need to be consistent, or they would feel uncomfortable supporting a politician that they didn’t agree with on several issues.  (So to avoid discomfort, they convince themselves that they agree with that politician on all of them.)  Or they may do it because of group dynamics (i.e. associating with others who belong to the same party).  Or they may do it because they don’t really want to think about all those issues, and its just easier to assume that they should agree with their favorite candidate or party.

And this aligning of all positions to be congruent with their party, actually prevents creativity of thought, new perspectives, and intellectual honesty.  It also fails to challenge people to think all the issues through themselves.

WRAPPING UP

People have too few choices in representative democracy.  Representative democracy actually condescends to the citizen because it assumes that they are not capable of making choices directly on important issues in society, but instead they must delegate it to some elite group who say “don’t think about it, just let us handle this for you.”

Representative democracy is essentially elitist, because it holds that the citizens are not capable of deciding for themselves, but the big decisions can only be made by elite politicians (who often actually represent the interests of other powerful groups in society).

We need to start to question representative democracy and the constraints of that system.  The system gives citizens too little power.  The first beginning of a change (a small step actually), is to create referendum/ initiative* procedures in all countries and in all jurisdictions.

* A referendum or an initiative refers to a procedure by which the citizens of a country or a jurisdiction can vote directly on a specific issue or law, rather than voting for a politician who will allegedly represent them.  

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Tuesday, 19 April, 2011

The Different Standards Problem in International Affairs

Basic question:  What does it mean when an author or institution focuses solely on the bad actions/ atrocities of one side in a conflict, and what is the effect of that singular focus?

The different standards problem in international affairs occurs when an author or institution  acts in such a way as to emphasize the bad activities of one side in a conflict, and either not mention the bad activities of the other side, or minimize them in relation to the “bad guys”.

The different standards problem can occur as a result of

~ political bias

~ a servile relationship of the author (to a local political power source)

~ due to misunderstanding/ mistake on the part of the author

~ The author truly believes that one side of the conflict is more at fault than the other, or

~ due to a choice to cover only one side of a conflict.

For example, a U.S. journalist may choose to write an article focusing on how awful the Taliban is in Afghanistan, but they fail to provide any coverage of bad things the US and international coalition has done in the war in Afghanistan.

On the other side, an Islamist or newspaper from an Islamic country may discuss only the bad side of the US in the war, but downplay the actions of the Taliban or not even discuss their atrocities.

In many cases, the practice is characterized by oppositional thinking and/or blaming, especially when the author or institution has some interest in the conflict (or reflects more indirectly, the influence of one group or dominant culture*.)

So in this post I’m going to address in more detail this phenomenon in the world of international politics.  It is a fairly common problem, among intellectuals, writers, journalists, etc., who comment on world affairs.   Initially I only noticed this with left-wing commentators, but I think this was because, in my situation, I am more likely to come across left wing comments on the international order and world affairs.

But in fact, on reflection, I remembered that the different standards problem also occurs with what would often be called a more “right wing” approach to these affairs.  I remember, for example, pro- Afghanistan War commentators focusing solely on the wrongs of the Taliban, and not recognizing the negatives of the US involvement in Afghanistan.  Other commentators, which I already noted, exclusively criticize the US involvement in Afghanistan, but routinely fail to mention the problems with the Taliban.

I initially discussed this “different standards problem” in the original post “The Secret War In Laos”  a few months ago.  (See this link)

So basically I’m saying that the different standards problem IS a problem, and that it can lead to people having an unbalanced view of a situation.  In order for people to make an informed choice about a conflict, they need to have balanced information which shows the negative actions or atrocities of both sides.  Its important to try to put the atrocities of both sides into perspective, and to use a sense of proportionality.

To be developed… Initial comments welcome…

* As in for example, a journalist who has no real material interest in reflecting the dominant power in their country, but does so anyway because that is the strongest influence on their thought process, and because they want to “go along with” the general tendency in their society.

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Tuesday, 19 April, 2011

Questioning Representative Democracy- Is It The Best Humanity Can Do?

Basic Question:  Is representative democracy the best governance system, or is there something better, especially more direct forms of democracy?

As many people know, I often advocate for more democratic, open and free systems.  When I’m covering events in a country, I often evaluate it based on how democratic it appears to me.  Democracy means power coming from the people.  In voting, that usually implies the universal right to vote for all people over a certain age, such as 18.

Many people immediately know what I mean, when they think of the voting process which they have in their own country, or perhaps in another country they know about.

But actually democracy can potentially be much more than just voting for candidates in elections dominated by political parties, and their high scale campaigns.

As many people know, the original Greek democracy, which is credited with being one of the earliest organized democracies, eligible voters voted directly on a variety of measures.  That means, the Greek voters voted directly themselves each individual on laws or proposals for Athens.

So why can’t we do that now?  Well, Athens was much smaller than most modern countries are.  Until recently, it would have been very difficult to conduct regular votes- it just would have been impractical to organize so many elections, count all the votes, etc.  And the practicalities of government required that many pieces of legislation to be passed.

In addition, at the time that democracy came into existence in some Western countries, the idea even of representative democracy was very progressive*.  At that time, most governments were monarchies or perhaps dictatorships.  So representative democracy was quite a step in the right direction at that time.  To expect full direct participatory democracy at that time would have been too idealistic, and politically impossible.

So usually in the media and in international discourse, we’re sucked into this idea that democracy is exactly what we usually see in existing representative democracies in the world, of which there are many.  We are seduced into thinking that democracy only means political parties, political campaigns, and single vote elections.  In many countries, people only get to vote one time in 5 or 6 years!  But this is “democracy”.

Hey don’t get me wrong.  Even a little democracy (or power to the people) is better than nothing.  Many times periodic, single vote elections are the first step on a long (or not so long) path to a better, healthier democracy.  Now many countries, which just 20 years ago were not democratic, have since become reasonably functional representative democracies.

But there are some flaws to representative democracy, which a few people have noted, such as:

~ I realized that representative democracy actually may increase conflict in society, as all the candidates are mostly fighting all the time.  It adds a conflictual dynamic to society and the politicians of different parties do not work together to accomplish something, they just fight.

~ The politicians are often not people that are liked by the average person.  There may be a reason for that.  In many countries, at least some politicians are corrupt, and misuse their power and position.

~ Another BIG problem with representative democracy is that it often caters to the candidates with the most money.  When individual spending by candidates in elections must be very high to win, this is a bad sign for that country’s democracy.  This means the candidates will often need to cater to powerful economic interests, rich people and big businesses.  In fact, it can make democracy favor the rich and the class interest of the powerful.

~ Representative democracy, in many situations, actually gives somewhat little real voting power and control over their politicians.  The politicians are not really influenced by the opinion of the electorate, because the politicians know when they get into power, its a long time before the people will vote again.  Imperfect access to information (which exists in most societies vis a vis their government) means people often know little with regards to the actions of government in between elections.

So what I propose is introducing a system where at least some direct lawmaking decision, (and in more progressive systems even more decisions) is taken by ALL THE PEOPLE in that country/ jurisdiction.   (By all the people, I mean all the legally registered voters.)   This could be in the form of referendums on a regular basis, (say two to four (2-4) times per year).  The referendums would be for key decisions to be made in society, which the registered voters asked for the right to vote on.

Even many poor countries could afford to have a full popular referendum at least once per year.

Before the vote, different groups in society would have the opportunity to comment on the law and campaign for or against it (or the package of initiatives).  Of course, I do think some limit should be put on the monetary influence of powerful interests/ the rich, because an issue should be considered on its merit, not on how much money one side has.

Ok, I will soon be continuing this post soon.   Please leave some comment if you have any initial thoughts.  Stay tuned…

* Progressive is a term often used in political discussions to describe things that were/ are forward thinking for their time.  For example, people who promoted ideas that were advanced socially in terms of power relations, equality, race, class, gender, etc., etc.  The idea of what is “progressive” is very subjective, and there may be disagreements about what it means.

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Tuesday, 15 March, 2011

Considering An International Currency As World Money

Here I argue that world money, instead of being a national currency, such as the dollar, yuan or yen, should be a new currency, an international currency.  Instead of something like the current system, where the US dollar is world money, I am suggesting creating an entirely new currency (something akin to the Euro, except on an international scale) which would act as world money.

There are several different reasons why I make this argument.

My main argument against a national currency being world money is that it gives an already dominant country even more dominance.  It creates even more imbalance in the global system by giving “the top dog”  country even more power, and economic benefit.

In the case of the United States, it was a very dominant country in the last 60 years, if we compare to the average.  Only the USSR was really able to rival the US.  By having the world money as the US dollar, the US government was able to essentially have an interest free loan on all the US dollars in circulation outside of the US. I’m also talking about all the trading on major international commodity markets, like oil markets, which are denominated in US dollars.

This gave the United States even more of a dominant position in world affairs.  This was a negative I think, as sometimes the US misused this power  (though not always, depending on your political persuasion).  In general, as well, I would argue that a more multi- polar world, with a greater balance of power, is in fact more likely to lead to positive outcomes.   A world dominated by one power is more likely to lead to abuses and misuses of power, as they say- power corrupts.

The supremacy of the US dollar as world money has recently been challenged, although this seems to be out of the headlines for now.  When the US economy was really in bad condition, and the long term sustainability of the US dollar was in question, there were some people suggesting there could be a switch from the US dollar as world money.

It seems to me that it is almost inevitable that the US dollar will eventually cease being the world money.  Indeed, all things must pass, right?  Even the great pyramids of Egypt will one day turn to dust.

The main question then is what will replace it?  the Chinese yuan?  A group of currencies which compete with each other for dominance?  What would be the implications of that?

Rather than give China or some other country an unfair advantage over all other countries, by controlling world money, the system could be changed to make it more balanced and fair.  With an international currency, control of the currency could be shared and many economies could benefit from the use of the international currency (presumably benefit to the size of their economy, or to the degree of their use of the international currency).

Do we really want a world continuing to be marked by domination by one or a few countries?

It’s better to evolve, as human beings rather than members of nation states, and institute an international currency which would co-exist with other national currencies (and regional currencies like the Euro and CFA).

I know to most people this is probably a pretty assertive idea, or one which is perceived to be utopian, something which could never come to pass.  And you may be right- I’m just an observer and not an economist, but a person who sometimes is able to look at the big picture, in the context of justice and progress.

Do any readers have any critiques or comments?

In my last post I noted that I thought the Obama administration had handled the Libyan crisis well so far. (see here) Unfortunately, since then, the Obama administration has ramped up its rhetoric and actions, including telling Ghadafi to “leave now”, and bringing major military equipment into range of Libya.

While I personally would rather see Ghadafi go, I think the US should definitely not get involved in Libya.

We could have a long, interesting debate about the ethics of foreign powers getting involved in countries where there were alleged to have been war crimes or serious catastrophes.

But the fact is, whatever the ethical aspects, foreign powers getting involved in the conflict militarily, would not be advisable for a wide range of reasons, including potentially the best interests of the Libyan people.

Further, at bare minimum, foreign powers should definitely not overstep the requests of pro-democracy demonstrators cum resistance fighters, which have so far consisted of no-fly zones.  Even this is questionable, because then the foreign powers would essentially be taking sides militarily for one side, and against another.  Does the presumed “ethical upper hand” of the opposition demonstrators justify foreign military activities?  Do the murders of peaceful demonstrators by Ghadafi justify a military action?

These two last questions are particularly difficult, and are essentially subjective judgments.  I would say, at this historical junction, that foreign powers should only get involved militarily in a conflict against the wishes of one or both parties, when the atrocities alleged are on a fairly large scale.

 

In an interesting analysis of this same issue, the ethics of “the international community” getting involved in cases of abuse and killings of civilians, Peter Singer writes this article (Global Justice and Intervention).  He is more pro-intervention than I am, I think, but its interesting to see the logic behind this position.

Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Friday, 25 February, 2011

Why I Think Obama Has Handled the Libyan Crisis Well So Far

Well, the Libya crisis, at this moment, is still in the air.  Muammar Ghadafi is still hanging on to power despite a massive uprising.  Who knows how the crisis will be resolved?  Some commentators have said they don’t see how Ghadafi can hold on to power after all of this, but my feeling is that it is still unknown, or uncertain, and it could go either way.  Another possibility is that Libya would be split into two, with the West becoming one country, and the East becoming another.

The Obama administration’s reaction so far has been fairly mild.  While Hillary Clinton has made several fairly strong statements condemning the violence (as has just about every other country, except countries with far Left regimes), I don’t think the US has gone so far, for example, as to say that Ghadafi should resign.  Obama, in his first remarks on the crisis yesterday, said that his government  was considering all options, a very vague statement that leaves observers to interpret at will.

The main thing that the international community seems to be considering at this point is sanctions on the regime, which while it may be unpleasant for Ghadafi and his entourage, is unlikely to force him from power.  With NATO also meeting to discuss the crisis, some might speculate that military intervention is being considered.  I have no idea if they would consider that or not.

Especially some of the more extreme Left, are predicting that NATO is considering an invasion.  Of course, the extreme left often says things like this, because, like Hugo Chavez and  Fidel Castro, they would see military intervention as imperialism, rather than humanitarian intervention.  In the last few years, some elements of the Left have said that an invasion of Iran is imminent, but it has not materialized.

The Obama administration has been correct so far not to get too entangled in this situation.  The region has deep public sentiment against the United States already for a wide range of issues, including the Israeli Palestinian conflict, media manipulation inside these countries by state controlled media, possibly some other military interventions such as the Reagan administration bombing of Libya… etc., etc.  Because of this underlying negative feeling for the US, it would be unwise to get involved too much on either side.  Any indication that the Obama administration was really taking an overly anti- Ghadafi stance, would immediately be used by those who support Ghadafi, to try to show that the whole things was a plot by outsiders, or imperialism, or various similar stories.  The US could be used as a whipping boy for pro-Ghadafi propaganda.

While some Libyans might ask for US military intervention now, their feelings may rapidly change when the US would actually be on the ground.  Any incident, catastrophe, or embarrassing mistake on the part of the US military, could quickly make it difficult for the US.  In addition, the US could actually make the situation worse, unintentionally, by increasing the amount of violence or escalation, for example.

The George W. Bush administration was wrong to get the US involved in so many military conflicts.  The military adventure of Bush’s regime was a disaster.  The US is still fighting a major war in Afghanistan. Hence, I can’t see any justification for the US intervening militarily in Libya.

The Libyans, hopefully can work the problem out among themselves.  Or maybe some regional players can help out.  What about Arabs helping Arabs, instead of the US or former colonial powers getting involved so much?

Unfortunately, without outside intervention, the right, or correct side of such a conflict does not always win.  The winner of such a conflict does not always come from the side which has the best ideas, or is more fair and just, but from material conditions which pre-dispose the outcome.  In many cases, revolting groups, like those in Libya, need to overcome unbelievable odds in order to succeed.

But nevertheless, this should not tempt an external power to intervene militarily, just because they think one side is more “correct” than the other.

Cheers to Al Jazeera for the excellent news coverage.

Every now and then you see someone and you just think that these people are just out of their mind.  You see something which is beyond belief.

Well yesterday, conservative members of Iran’s government were calling for the death penalty for two major opposition figures- Mousavi and Kharroubi, who are major figures in the society- they both ran for President in the elections in 2009, and won sizable numbers of votes.

Defiant Ahmedinejad Says Protesters Will Fail, As Lawmakers Call For Death Penalty

So now for these MPs to be calling for them to be executed, that shows how whacked out and extreme these people really are.

So what exactly did these two political figures do, to deserve to be executed?  They ran for President?  They encouraged people to go out and demonstrate on Monday?  Wow!  Now they must die!!

The conservatives in Iran have gone far enough- look how out of touch with reality they are…  Hope fully the protesters will throw them out.

Note that Mousavi and Kharroubi are already under house arrest, which is in and of itself already a violation of their rights.

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