Thursday, January 11, 2007

More of the same in Iraq

We can't say we weren't warned.

"In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department."

James Madison wrote that in 1793.

"Every just view that can be taken of this subject," Madison continued, "admonishes the public of the necessity of a rigid adherence to the simple, the received, and the fundamental doctrine of the constitution, that the power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature; that the executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war; that the right of convening and informing congress, whenever such a question seems to call for a decision, is all the right which the constitution has deemed requisite or proper."

In the future, it might be a good idea for the American people to stop treating the U.S. Constitution like a museum piece. Perhaps we could make our government work if we tried reading the directions.

Everybody's last resort, I know. Just a suggestion.

Last night President Bush talked wistfully about the 2005 elections in Iraq, when millions of people dipped their finger in purple ink and voted for a free government. He said he thought the elections would bring the Iraqi people together and allow some of the U.S. troops to come home. "But in 2006," the president admitted, "the opposite happened."

This is where Ayn Rand would have advised the president to check his premises. "When you are on the wrong premise," she often said, "you will always achieve the opposite of what you intend."

President Bush's flawed premise is that Iraq is a free country because it held elections.

Lots of countries have elections. That doesn't make them free.

What makes a country free is a government of limited power. Iraq's government has unlimited economic power. It owns all the oil and all the major industries of the country. It hands out all the money and most of the jobs.

That's why the Iraqis are fighting for control of the government. That's the motive for murder, "ethnic cleansing," and subterranean alliances between government officials and armed militias.

President Bush's plan for economic reform in Iraq asks the Iraqi government to hand out oil revenue and jobs to the Iraqi people.

But that's not the solution. That's the problem.

The solution is privatization of the state-owned enterprises. At the end of a successful economic reform plan in Iraq, there would be powerful private business interests, and powerful government officials, and they would be locked in a clinch like heavyweight fighters while individual Iraqis went about their jobs and their lives, complaining about the weather.

There was a newspaper report in London last week that the Bush administration has circulated a plan to oil company executives that would bring private companies into Iraq to run the oil industry. Revenue would be split between the companies and the Iraqi government.

This would provide private-sector jobs for Iraqis, which would be a big improvement over jobs handed out by the government. But as long as the Iraqi share of the oil revenue belongs to the government and not to individual Iraqi shareholders, the government will have too much power and there will be a savage fight for control of it.

Put yourself in the shoes of an Iraqi citizen. If you are forced to rely on the government for financial survival, you can't risk offending whoever is in charge--or who might be in charge--of the government. You have to show loyalty. You have to have good connections. You have to watch your words and your actions, everywhere, always.

That's not freedom. No wonder the Iraqis don't show up to fight for it.

Copyright 2007

Source note:
James Madison, Letters of Helvidius, in Writings, ed. G. Hunt (New York, Putnam, 1900-1910) vol. 6, p. 174, quoted in Raoul Berger, Executive Privilege: A Constitutional Myth (Harvard Press, 1974) p. 65, 68-9.