Monday, February 14, 2011
Monday, December 27, 2010
It seems that all the major holidays this year have gone hand in hand with some manner of international crisis. Thanksgiving brought us the North Korean artillery attack near the border, and this Christmas season has given us the rapidly escalating situation in the
Like many states in the region, The Ivory Coast gained independence in the early
And so it is here that we find ourselves at the present situation. While the leadership is in the public eye, the true crisis is one of a weak state and weak institutions. Democratic mechanisms are not things that can be built overnight, and take time to develop both legitimacy and serious linkage to society itself. Just as the Western style systems created post-independence were largely hollow due to the lack of connection between the colonial states and easily swept aside by powerful leaders, the current regime is suffering from the weak societal links between society and the Boigny regime. For example, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mr. Gbagbo, yet the ruling was dismissed by much of the country because the judicial branch itself lacks the legitimacy to assert itself. State constructs have been all but evacuated of all serious influence with society.
Regardless of how this crisis is resolved, the lesson to take away from it is that many African states need to look not so much at their states’ inner workings, but rather to their foundations. As the
And yes I am fully aware that this is pretty much a politics blog now. So sue me.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Every state requires an aspect of coercion to function, as anyone who has taken an introductory class on politics can tell you. And while some may balk at the sinister sound of such a concept; we all must remember that this is legitimate coercion, and the ability to wield it is granted to government through a comprehensive legal framework. We not only allow state institutions like the police to use coercion, but expect it for the sake of order and stability. The problem is that once the coercive arm of government has been empowered, through a constitution or something similar, its responsibilities are highly static. The responsibilities of the police are largely the same today as they were a hundred year ago. The tools and methods may have changed but the mandate has not. The problem is that the legal power of government remains the same while the world changes around it.
It does not take an academic to notice how much global realities have been realigned in the past twenty years. The internet has changed the world in a real way, as evidenced by the fact that a simple data file can radically alter the alignment of global politics. The dilemma before modern states is how to adjust policy and procedure to reflect these new realities. The problem we face is if the handling of these new considerations resides purely with government, we the run the risk of descending into tyranny. This is not tyranny in the dystopian Orwellian sense, but rather Locke’s view of the concept where tyranny is the simply act of government exceeding the authority granted to it by society, and beginning the transition to illegitimate coercion. This of course is a slippery slope, where what are initially viewed as benign indulgences can escalate into truly monstrous abuses of power.
Prevention of this will require a radical re-examination of first principles by both the state and society. Just as Madison, Adams, and the other architects of the constitution based their construction on their times, we will need to determine the true political and social realities we are surrounded by and from there decide what the government can and cannot do. As much as some try to deny it, the age that gave birth to our democracy is dead and gone. The throne once held by hard power has been taken by its softer counterpart. Blogs can often produce more change than bombs, and few can deny Einstein’s assertion that compound interest is indeed the most powerful force in the universe. While I can’t speculate as to the form the coercive arm of government will take in this new world, I do know that the longer we wait to determine it, the less of an ability we will have to influence it.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
This is where wikileaks comes in. The way one undermines these authoritarian dealings is by exposing the obfuscated dealings that are essential for their continuation. In Assange’s words, ‘How can we reduce the ability of a conspiracy to act?…We can split the conspiracy, reduce or eliminating important communication between a few high weight links or many low weight links.’
What wikileaks is therefore meant to do is reduce the conspiratorial capacity of the modern state. Every diplomatic cable released is meant to sever a strand of the web he sees running through all modern governments. What do you all think about this? His core assumption about the authoritarian nature of government is interesting but not all that well supported as far as I can tell. Sound off!
Also, for a longer and much more eloquent dissection of Assange’s writing please check out this piece. http://zunguzungu.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/julian-assange-and-the-computer-conspiracy-%e2%80%9cto-destroy-this-invisible-government%e2%80%9d/?to-destroy-this-invisible-government??/