What is a Rogue State?

A few days ago, I was flipping through the TV channels looking for something interesting to watch between football games.  Golf just doesn’t do it for me.  I zoomed past C-SPAN, which can be interesting at times, even if it’s also annoying.  I was on this channel long enough to hear some Republican congressman whipper-snapper use the term “rogue state.”

“What is a rogue state?” I thought to myself.  In the eyes of the U.S. government, a rogue state is a government that enjoys a monopoly on violence which refuses to do the bidding of America.  Certain governments are not allowed to do what all governments naturally do:  make weapons, enforce monopolies, engage in conquest, etc.  These governments are referred to as rogue states by the arrogant quacks who run the American machine.

In essence, however, the “good governments” are no worse than the bad ones.  They use the same monopoly on violence to drive weaker nations and peoples into submission.  A rogue state has simply suffered the misfortune of getting on the bad side of the sanctimonious oligarchs in Washington, DC.  Many of these “rogue states” were victims of American baiting and switching.  Saddam Hussein, were he still alive, would be able to testify to this.

A more basic question, however, is, What is a rogue?  A rogue is a criminal, a thief, gangster, mobster, murderer, etc.  So are all governments.  They steal the money of innocent civilians under threat of penalty as if the fruits of a man’s labor are not his own; force young men into military service as if the bodies of the citizenry are owned by the state; erode private property rights almost to the point of meaninglessness; go on conquest to enforce oil monopolies; and install puppet governments in far away lands against the consent of the people who live there.

In other words, all states are rogue states.  To use this term is redundant; it is like saying “yellow canary” or “red cardinal.”  The politicians get away with it, however, because most of us are unwilling to re-examine the assumptions that were taught to us in school.  Recently Sen.Harry Reid claimed that taxation is “voluntary.”  There should have been protests everywhere, but the remark went nearly unnoticed.  If memory serves, not even Matt Drudge took note of it.

The sad part of this whole story of “man’s inhumanity to man,” as Ronald Reagan called it, is that this kind of violence reigns on the throne of human ignorance and indifference.  If even a tithe of the citizenry were wide awake, most of the awfulness we see today wouldn’t be happening.  This leads to the most sobering lesson of all:  Most countries end up with the government they deserve.

America: Not good enough to get upset

When I was in college, I had a classmate who loved to unleash melodious, profanity-laced tirades whenever he didn’t play up to his own standards.  He was famous for this.  One day, while playing for one of the conservatory’s more notoriously tough professors, he did this.  The professor was not impressed.  He said to the student, “You’re not good enough to get upset.”

Not good enough to get upset.  I try to remember this whenever I have  a bad run a day or so after drinking too much beer or eating too much cake.  The contemporary tendency is to lean toward a megalomania which is encouraged by the empty-headed self-esteem that is taught in most places these days.  This encourages an attitude of entitlement, which is certainly a dangerous thing.  I can tell you that my worst performances as a musician have come at times when I thought that fate somehow owed me a better showing than I had earned through my own efforts.

You’re not good enough to get upset.  There is more than one sports star that could benefit from hearing this, and more than a million people glued to ESPN who pick up on the childish behaviors of these stars and translate them to everyday life, where the rest of us are left to dealing with it all.

Another parallel jumps out at me, though.  It relates, of course, to politics.  Right now, America is dealing with a lot of things that suck:  a poor economy, fascistic and socialistic dilutions of the free market, two failing wars—one of which is completely illegal and the other of which is utterly ill-advised, a political system which has descended into epithet-exchanges, an increasingly debased language (and I’m not talking about profanity), and a whole host of other things which presage the imminent collapse of this society.

The truth of the matter is that we had all of this coming to us, one way or another.  The Federal Reserve, the New Deal, borrowing money from China, and widespread deficit spending have visited economic disaster upon us.  American imperialism, snot-nosed self-righteousness, Messiah complexes (beginning not with Obama but with Wilson and championed by Bush the Lesser), and the like have have gotten us embroiled in a shaky situation that threatens the peace and well-being of most of the world.  Parents and their children stare at idiot boxes for hours a day, while the average American reads less than four books a year—and who knows what the exact quality of these books really are.

And after all of this, we have the stubbornness and stupidity to shrug our shoulders and wonder why we’re in such bad shape these days and to insist, illogically, that we deserve better.  We have, quite simply, asked for it, and we have no right to be upset about it.  America has been sucking and rewarding mediocrity and downright corruption for years, and a situation like that cannot last forever.  We are dealing with the consequences of a century of stupidity.  Much human breath is expended upon America’s ability to regain the good will of the rest of the world, but a worse problem remains:  We have to rebuild a society that has been existing for a hundred years on false pretenses.  This is not going to be pretty.

Money, the root of all virtue

A few days ago, I was having lunch in my usual place when another customer walked in.  He was a bit strange, kind of hard to understand, and maybe a bit rude and demanding to the workers.  Nevertheless, his needs were met, and everything worked itself out smoothly.

We often hear ridiculous sayings such as that “Money is the root of all evil,” but these are naive.  The root of all evil is human nature, which is often hampered by a myopic stupidity.  A perfectly good example of this is the attitude that money is, in fact, the source of iniquity.  Greed causes us to do horrible things with money sometimes, and it would be foolish to pretend that such things do not happen.  But is money the real cause of this?

Consider all this in light of my experience at lunch the other day.  The merchant-customer relationship is not one of power and servitude, but rather one of mutuality:  the customer wants  a sandwich, and the merchant wants a livelihood.  Each helps to provide to the other what he needs.  This results in a very wonderful thing:  tolerance.  I know many fine business owners who are very nice to me when I patronize them who probably wouldn’t have a beer with me if I paid them a million dollars—and vice versa, for that matter.  This is not to be lamented.  The fact is that we can provide for each other’s needs, and so we bear with whatever annoys us about the other person.

What could be a better illustration of the peace which free trade promotes?  War is not trade, but rather organized usurpation run by the tyrants of the world and paid for with the blood of the handsome sons of our best mothers.  Tolerance and co-existence are not spread by fiat, or by force, or even by a morbid self-sacrifice, but rather by a mutuality, by the realization that we need each other.  Economic exchange helps us all to realize this more clearly.

Sometimes I think this truth is too simple for many people to accept. Virtue is supposed to be a product of “doing your duty” or of somehow suffering miserably, but in reality fraternity is nurtured by equality, by helping each other achieve the needs that we have, and no other system has proven to be better at this than the free market.

Imagine, for a moment, the reverse situation.  The sandwich shop is not a business operating on the free market, but instead is a government bread distribution center in a socialist milieu.  The “customer” does not go there because he would like to, but rather because he must; and the “merchant” is simply a bureaucrat who is under orders to give the “customer” whatever has been determined is his “right” to have in this society void of markets and indirect means of exchange (money).   This creates an environment of entitlement on the part of the “customer” and of pure duty on the part of the “merchant.”  The mutual benefit is gone.  There is no incentive for each to get along with the other.  Moreover, arguments ensue about how much each person or family is entitled to have, etc.  This is a recipe for conflict, even for all-out violence.

We human beings have a tendency to see money flowing out of our hands like water through a grate, or we observe questionable behavior and wonder who has bribed whom, and we assume that maybe money is the root of all evil.  But the devil—or, rather, in this case, the angel—is in the details.  Every time you make a purchase, you are making a decision, as is the merchant every morning when he re-opens his shop and welcomes you in.  The “thank-yous” exchanged at the end of a transaction are more than perfunctory, or at least they should be.

Remember this the next time some jackass starts complaining about wealth and how filthy it is.  Yes, there are evil rich people, but I have also known dishonest poor people.  The problem is human nature, not money.  If anything, money mitigates the bad aspects of our flawed constitution, taking our selfishness and turning it into a veritable good for all parties involved in any given exchange.