Episode 267 – Clive Palmer, QAnon and The Commons
In this episode we discuss Clive Palmer, QAnon and The Commons.
Clive Palmer and WA
What is going on?
Will WA’s extraordinary measures against Clive Palmer pay off?
Western Australia has used its legislative power to get itself out of a very bad bargain. But what has been lost in the process?
Among Clive Palmer’s gifts to Australia — which include, arguably, the Morrison government — is a lot of interesting law.
Palmer’s constitutional challenge to Western Australia’s border closure is significant enough, but it’s dwarfed by the wow factor of the law he recently provoked the WA Parliament into passing.
Just before midnight last Thursday the WA governor signed off on an emergency bill designed to block a damages claim from the mining magnate. It had been a race with Palmer’s lawyers, and the WA government believed it had won. But the issue is far from over.
Palmer is now claiming the law is unconstitutional, and he’ll no doubt be asking the High Court to agree. After all, there’s supposedly $30 billion on the line…
What is this all about?
The story starts in 2002, when the government of then-premier Geoff Gallop created the Iron Ore Processing (Mineralogy Pty Ltd) Agreement Act.
This act gave legal force to a “state agreement” made between the government and Palmer’s company Mineralogy, under which WA promised to help Palmer exploit his iron ore mining tenements in the Pilbara. Such agreements had become standard in the state as a means of encouraging the big mining companies to come in and dig deep into WA’s incalculable mineral wealth.
The agreement was extraordinary in its generosity. The basic scheme was that Palmer would come up with proposals for mining projects on the land (including transport, ports and shipping), and the minister was obliged to either approve these proposals or give his approval subject to conditions which had to be “reasonable”.
Critically, if he took the second course Palmer could then invoke his right to have the minister’s conditions reconsidered in a compulsory arbitration. The arbitrator’s decision on their reasonableness would be binding. (Arbitration is a dispute resolution process conducted privately, outside the court system. It’s supposed to be simpler, faster and cheaper than litigation, but it removes many of the options parties would have if they went to court.)
In 2012 and 2014, then-premier Colin Barnett refused to approve proposals put up by Palmer for his Balmoral South tenements, and an arbitration commenced with former High Court judge Michael McHugh as arbitrator.
That proceeded in secret, but McHugh has reportedly made decisions in Palmer’s favour. My guess is that he’s determined that Barnett’s refusals were unreasonable and that approval should have been given back in 2014.
Palmer claims he would have been operational and earning revenue by 2016. The next step would be to determine how much WA owes Palmer for its breach of the agreement. The $30 billion number comes from WA’s attorney-general, stated in parliament as part of his pitch for the extraordinary law last week. Palmer says it didn’t come from him.
Palmer’s latest movements
On Tuesday, Palmer went to the Supreme Court of Queensland, registering the arbitration “awards” made by McHugh, so as to give them the force of law and protection of the courts.
Palmer then approached the Federal Court, seeking to pre-empt the WA government’s attempt to kill his case altogether. That didn’t go anywhere, because the WA bill is now law.
The new law amends the original 2002 act, with a pile of provisions expressly overriding much of its content and legal effect.
The central elements of the law are that it says that Palmer’s Balmoral South proposals have no legal effect (that is, they’re dead); and the arbitration is “terminated”. Any awards made by McHugh in 2014 and 2019 are declared to have no effect. Even the arbitration agreement is deemed to be invalid.
Everything else in the amending law (there’s a lot of it) is consequential. The drafters have tried to cover off every possible angle. All legal remedies are explicitly cancelled, the state and everyone in government is immunised from liability. Even freedom of information rights are extinguished.
Palmer has focused on one particularly exotic aspect of the law: its grant of immunity to everyone on the government side from criminal liability. Fairly enough, he’s asking what’s being hidden. Probably nothing really criminal, but it does underline how bizarre the situation is.
Who’s in the right here?
It is not unusual for a government to make laws extinguishing contractual or other rights. Parliament is the supreme law-making body, and its power is essentially unlimited. It can validly do things which have unfair or arbitrary consequences.
State governments are also not bound by the constitution’s restriction on the Commonwealth government that forces it to pay “just terms” when it compulsorily acquires private property. WA has just done that to Palmer, but it’s not legally obliged to compensate him at all.
As to what constitutional rule Palmer thinks WA has breached, it’s not immediately obvious to me. The rule of law does not include, as a fundamental principle, protection of personal spoils. A government can use its legislative power to get itself out of a bad bargain. That’s what is happening here. I don’t think his move in the Queensland court will help; it has no jurisdiction in WA.
Nevertheless, it’s a bad precedent. The real evil was the 2002 state agreement, under which WA gave away its sovereign power and obligation to protect the interests of its people, essentially selling them off to a mining magnate for the promise of royalties.
I think what WA has done will work, in that it will survive challenge and kill off Palmer’s claims. But, in doing so, it will vindicate what he is saying: that, in terms of sovereign risk, WA is an unsafe place to do business.
It may be distasteful to hear those words from a man like Palmer, but that’s the legacy of WA’s tradition of getting into bed with such people. It is paying the price of its own greed.
CRIKEY COLUMNIST @MARQUELAWYERS
Michael Bradley is a freelance writer and managing partner at Sydney firm Marque Lawyers, which was created in 2008 with the singular ambition of completely changing the way law is practised.
… Regardless how you tart this up, a state government extinguishing certain legal rights of a private entity, after having reached agreement with that entity to grant them those rights, is terrifyingly totalitarian.
… WA opposition leader, Liza Harvey, tweeted that ‘I want to assure all West Australians that we support this legislation to stop Clive Palmer’s legal challenge’. Ladies and gents, I present you ‘gutless’ in a single tweet. Instead of standing up for the fundamental rights of individuals and private enterprise, the Libs have capitulated to this abuse of power in the desperate hope they can avoid a public backlash and keep their jobs come the March election.
Trump and QAnon
Play clip Trump and QAnon
Donald Trump has welcomed the support of QAnon conspiracy theorists, describing them as patriots who want the best for the US.
During a press briefing at the White House on Thursday, the US president was asked what he had to say to believers in the widely-debunked theory, which muddles up a number of bizarre threads involving peadophilia, satanic worship and cannibalism.
Trump replied: “Well, I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.
“I have heard that it’s gaining in popularity. I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don’t like seeing it,” he added, referring to the ongoing unrest in the city of Portland, CNN suggests.
What it it?
According to Travis View, who has studied QAnon and written about it extensively for The Washington Post, the essence of the theory is that:
there is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who rule the world, essentially, and they control everything. They control politicians, and they control the media. They control Hollywood, and they cover up their existence, essentially. And they would have continued ruling the world, were it not for the election of President Donald Trump. Now, Donald Trump in this conspiracy theory knows all about this evil cabal’s wrongdoing. But one of the reasons that Donald Trump was elected was to put an end to them, basically. And now we would be ignorant of this behind-the-scenes battle of Donald Trump and the U.S. military—that everyone backs him and the evil cabal—were it not for “Q.” And what “Q” is is basically a poster on 4chan, who later moved to 8chan, who reveals details about this secret behind-the-scenes battle, and also secrets about what the cabal is doing and also the mass sort of upcoming arrest events through these posts.
Followers of QAnon also believe that there is an imminent event known as “The Storm”, in which thousands of people, members of the cabal, will be arrested, possibly sent to Guantanamo Bay prison or to face military tribunals, and the U.S. military will brutally take over the country. The result of The Storm will be salvation and utopia on earth.
QAnon may best be understood as an example of what historian Richard Hofstadter called in 1964 “The Paranoid Style in American Politics“, related to religious millenarianism and apocalypticism. The vocabulary of QAnon echoes Christian tropes—”The Storm” (the Genesis flood narrative or Judgement Day) and “The Great Awakening”, which evokes the historical religious Great Awakenings from the early 18th century to the late 20th century. According to one QAnon video, the battle between Trump and “the cabal” is of “biblical proportions”, a “fight for earth, of good versus evil.” The forthcoming reckoning is said by some QAnon supporters to be a “reverse rapture” which means not only the end of the world as it is now known, but a new beginning as well, with salvation and a utopia on earth for the survivors.
Within less than a year of existence, QAnon became significantly recognized by the general population. According to an August 2018 Qualtrics poll for The Washington Post, 58% of Floridians are familiar enough with QAnon to have an opinion about it. Of those who had an opinion, most were unfavorable. The average score on the feeling thermometer was just above 20, a very negative rating, and about half of what other political figures enjoy. Positive feelings toward QAnon were found to be strongly correlated with being susceptible to conspiracy thinking
Morrison and QAnon
From The Guardian
A significant Australian proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory is a family friend of Scott Morrison, and his wife is on the prime minister’s staff.
In Australia, one of the more significant QAnon figures tweets under the handle @BurnedSpy34 and has amassed 21,000 Twitter followers in just over a year. BurnedSpy tweets daily QAnon material, including bizarre theories about Alexander Downer and Julie Bishop.
The Guardian has learned the identity of BurnedSpy and established he is a longstanding family friend of the Australian prime minister and his wife, Jenny.
The wife of BurnedSpy works on the prime minister’s staff.
There is no suggestion that the families’ close relationship has influenced Morrison, or that BurnedSpy poses a danger. BurnedSpy told the Guardian he had never sought to speak to the prime minister about QAnon.
Standing in parliament last October, less than two months after becoming prime minister, Scott Morrison was visibly moved as he delivered the nation’s formal apology to the survivors of institutional child abuse.
“Look at the galleries, look at the Great Hall, look outside this place and you will see men and women from every walk of life, from every generation, and every part of our land. Crushed, abused, discarded and forgotten,” he told a packed house of parliamentarians, survivors and their supporters, some of them holding back tears.
“The crimes of ritual sexual abuse happened in schools, churches, youth groups, scout troops, orphanages, foster homes, sporting clubs, group homes, charities, and in family homes as well.”
“Ritual sexual abuse”? This was not a phrase used by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse — yet it had made its way the PM’s historic address to the nation.
Why “ritual” abuse, and what does it mean?
Tim Stewart is a 51-year-old family man, Cronulla Sharks supporter, one-time operator of an online health food venture called Fruit Loop, a former bankrupt who came out of insolvency in 2015… and long-time friend of Scott Morrison.
Stewart’s wife is best friends with the prime minister’s wife, Jenny Morrison, a relationship which goes back to teenage years. The two women have been bridesmaids at each others’ weddings and, since August, Stewart’s wife has been employed by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the recommendation of the prime minister’s office, working at the PM’s Sydney residence Kirribilli House.
In the days before Morrison’s apology speech, Tim Stewart — who tweets as “Burn Notice” under the Twitter handle @BurnedSpy34 — claimed to have influenced the prime minister to make a reference to “ritual” abuse. In the hours before Morrison’s address to parliament Stewart sent a text to a colleague foretelling that it would happen: “I think Scott is going to do it!!”.
While sex abuse survivors waited for Morrison to deliver words of contrition, Stewart and key supporters specifically wanted Morrison to use the word “ritual” as applied to sex abuse because it introduced the idea of secret ceremonies with satan’s involvement, which aligns with QAnon’s theory of global threats.
Morrison’s use of the word “ritual” — instead of “systematic” or “repeated” which are factually accurate — was picked up by an international blogger who specialises in exposing religion-based conspiracy theories, but otherwise the reference went largely unremarked in Australia.
For the Stewarts, though, it was a triumph.
“Great moment,” tweeted Stewart’s son, Jesse, as @jesse_onya_m8. “You know #theGreatAwakening is in full swing when the Australian Prime Minister @ScottMorrisonMP mentions #RitualAbuse.” Jesse described it as a “big step in a good direction for Australia”. “Scott is a patriot”, he remarked.
“A new conversation began today in Australia,” Tim Stewart AKA Burn Notice tweeted out to his 20,000-plus followers. “It was a stepping stone to be sure, but we took the step. @ScottMorrisonMP took control of the narrative powerfully and commenced phase 1 of our restoration.”
A prominent QAnon figure from the US was thrilled: “Do my ears deceive me?,” asked Joe M. “The new Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison must be a rider in #TheStorm.”
Stewart and the PM
Tim Stewart has denied that he uses his access to Scott Morrison to influence the prime minister on policy. In early October, speaking as Burn Notice, he told The Guardian, “I have never spoken to Scott about anything of a political nature. I’m not an adviser. The idea of me talking to him about this … it’s just not true.”
Yet that is the opposite of what he has told at least one close confidante. In the past few weeks a former fellow traveller, Eliahi Priest, has published his text exchanges with Stewart, conducted through encrypted messaging app Signal.
Priest points to more than 50 mentions of “Scott” in text exchanges with Stewart. He has signed a statutory declaration which claims Stewart told him he had passed on “several” letters to Morrison via Stewart’s wife. Stewart is on the record telling Priest of a “massive connection with Scott tonight”. “We are moving fast,” he texted. “Scott is awakening.”
In one exchange Priest points out a reference in the Victorian schools curriculum that 13 year olds will be taught about anal intercourse. “I am in shock,” Stewart responds. “This is going straight to Scott.”
Similarities with a religious cult
Experts have classified QAnon’s appeal as similar to that of religious cults. According to an expert in online conspiracy, Renee DiResta, QAnon’s pattern of enticement is similar to that into cults in the pre-Internet era where, as the targeted person was led deeper and deeper into the group’s secrets, they become more and more isolated from friends and family outside of the cult. In the Internet age, QAnon virtual communities have little “real world” connection with each other, but online they can number in the tens of thousands. Rachel Bernstein, an expert on cults who specializes in recovery therapy, has said, “What a movement such as QAnon has going for it, and why it will catch on like wildfire, is that it makes people feel connected to something important that other people don’t yet know about. … All cults will provide this feeling of being special.” There is no self-correction process within the group, since the self-reinforcing true believers are immune to correction, fact-checking, or counter-speech, which is drowned out by the cult’s groupthink. QAnon’s cultish quality has led some to characterize it as a possible emerging religious movement. Part of its appeal is its gamelike quality, in which followers attempt to solve riddles presented in Qdrops by connecting them to Trump speeches and tweets and other sources. Some followers use a “Q clock” consisting of a wheel of concentric dials to decode clues based on the timing of Qdrops and Trump tweets.
Travis View, a researcher who studies QAnon, says that it is as addictive as a video game, and offers the “player” the appealing possibility of being involved in something of world-historical importance. According to View, “You can sit at your computer and search for information and then post about what you find, and Q basically promises that through this process, you are going to radically change the country, institute this incredible, almost bloodless revolution, and then be part of this historical movement that will be written about for generations.” View compares this to mundane political involvement in which one’s efforts might help to get a state legislator elected. QAnon, says View, competes not in the marketplace of ideas, but in the marketplace of realities
Distraught, disillusioned and plain fed up people who have lost loved ones to the QAnon conspiracy cult are sharing their experiences online in the hope of helping others avoid the same fate.
Reddit community r/QAnoncasualties has close to 14,000 members who share stories about the people they’ve watched turn into tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists, and advice on how to try and drag them out of the wormhole.
A midwest US construction worker who described himself as a “former libertarian leaning Republican” said he feels himself being ostracised from the workplace where it feels like “everyone has lost their mind”.
“Even though I know my beliefs are the mainstream, I’m stuck in this awful demographic of humans who all get to point and laugh because I don’t think masks are an attempt to rig the election,” he wrote.
“I’m supposed to pretend that we can have a rational discussion at work about whether or not Obama was a secret Muslim terrorist, and I have to pretend that this is a totally reasonable thing to discuss.
“They think the only reason you wouldn’t believe these things is ‘left wing bias’.”
“Just want to vent that I simply cannot talk to my father anymore. He is fully engulfed in the Qult and won’t listen to anybody’s point of view without going tin foil hat.”
… One woman explained how her boyfriend of five years disappeared into the wormhole.
“He was a veteran and had a PhD from an Ivy League school. He was smart, liberal, and we shared many of the same beliefs.”
“One day he got into 4chan, and the next thing I knew he had fallen off the deep end.”
She said she studied and searched for ways to get through to him but it was no use.
“He had lost all sense of reality, and I was in complete denial.
“I didn’t tell anyone in my life about his obsession with Q, and neither did he. I was the only one that knew how he spent his free time: staying up late reading insane nonsense online.”
Another poster celebrated the fact their father appeared to be on the mend, but had really gone another layer deep into the conspiracy.
“The good news is that my father officially no longer believes in QAnon,” the poster wrote.
“The bad news is that he still believes that the world is run by a deep state that eats babies and basically everything else that QAnon teaches.
“He says that almost everything Q says is correct, but that Q was created by the deep state as controlled opposition in order to make conspiracy theorists look stupid.”
QAnon groups hit by Facebook crackdown
Aug. 20, 2020, 4:59 AM AEST
By Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny
Facebook on Wednesday banned about 900 pages and groups and 1,500 ads tied to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon, part of a sweeping action that also restricted the reach of over 10,000 Instagram pages and almost 2,000 Facebook groups pushing the baseless conspiracy theory, which has spawned real-world violence.
Facebook also took down thousands of accounts, pages and groups as part of what it called a “policy expansion,” seeking to limit violent rhetoric tied to QAnon, political militias and protest groups like antifa.
QAnon is an elaborate, unfounded conspiracy theory alleging that President Donald Trump is secretly saving the world from a group of prominent satanic cannibals who run the world. The group has been linked to several violent, criminal incidents, including a train hijacking, kidnappings, a police chase and a murder.
The new policy says “Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with these movements and organizations will be removed when they discuss potential violence.”
QAnon, militia movements and violent movements tied to protests will no longer be allowed to buy ads on Facebook. QAnon ads, which often pushed merchandise, were allowed on the platform before Wednesday’s announcement.
Facebook will now downrank QAnon, militia and anarchist protest groups on users’ News Feeds and in Facebook and Instagram’s search engines. The groups and accounts will no longer be featured in the “recommendations” sidebar on similar pages. The ban will also prohibit fundraising based on hashtags related to the movements on Facebook and Instagram.
Trump can win
If Trump holds on to the states he’s leading in now and can win Florida, Wisconsin and Arizona, he’d get re-elected.
Forget all the national polls and pundit predictions of what’s safe. This election is completely up for grabs. And we already know how Trump feels about grabbing things. When you’re a star they let you do it.
Shorten learned a lesson
Mr Shorten said he had learned valuable insights since May 2019.
‘‘ Never assume that because you think something’s right and wrong, that people automatically see it from the same viewpoint,’’ he said.
‘‘ And I’ve learned … in the hundreds of days since, that you can be a bit arrogant even when you’re fighting for what you think is fair.’’
Trump and the US postal service
Trump and the Russia Investigation
Trump has empathy
Thanks to Planet Extra Podcast
(U)REPORT OF THE REPORT 116-XX SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE UNITED STATES SENATE ON RUSSIAN ACTIVE MEASURES CAMPAIGNS AND INTERFERENCE IN THE 2016 U.S. ELECTION VOLUME 5: COUNTERINTELLIGENCE THREATS AND VULNERABILITIES
Following dinner, the group, which included the Agalarovs, their associates, and the Trump Organization group, went to The Act. Goldstone described The Act as, “a bit Cirque du Soleil and a bit burlesquey thrown into one.”1822 Cohen recalled that the club was “more than a burlesque club” and was a “wild place.”1823
1823 (U) Cohen Tr. II, pp. 109-110 (“It’s a club that puts on shows, and you never really know what the show is going to be. In this specific case they brought out a young man who was in a leotard body suit, who, to me, I would diagnose him as a thalidomide baby. And he was blind as well, but he sang like Pavarotti. And while he was singing-I forget the song, it was like a ‘God Bless America’ -type song-there was a woman who was in a thong bikini, who was large, performing sex acts on him while he was singing. Interesting, because I was with Mr. Trump at the time. It was not really a place I expected to be with him at. He looked over to me when he was finished, and I’ll never forget this, he looked me right in the face. He goes, ‘That’s a tough way to make a living.”‘); Cohen told the Committee he did not remember the name of the club. Based on testimony from other witnesses, the club was The Act. Shugart Tr., pp. 62. Goldstone Tr., pp. 63-66; Tim O’Reiley, “Curtain comes down on nearly half of edgy skits at The Act nightclub,” ‘Las Vegas Review-Journal, September 13, 2013.
Steve Bannon arrested
Steve Bannon joins a long list of Trump hires who end up facing the courts.
“we are not crazy hardline nuts’’,
The Victorian Liberal party’s hard right actively recruited members to branches as part of a plot to promote religious candidates for preselection and place conservative warlords in electorates to organise internal activities.
The secret strategy was laid out in an explosive high-level discussion between former federal Liberal vice-president Karina Okotel and another senior Liberal Party member. The Weekend Australian understands the discussion was recorded,
Ms Okotel is understood to have privately admitted the existence of a party database covering conservative members and that she was “recruiting” members in the lead-up to the federal election.
Ms Okotel, who has told people “we are not crazy hardline nuts’’, admitted she blew up her relationship with powerbroker Michael Kroger and his backers because she was furious that religious candidates were not being preselected by the faction.
… The Weekend Australian understands that Ms Okotel, now in an alliance with party moderates, had been strategising to get more religious conservatives elected and backed a decentralised factional system to reduce the role of powerbrokers.
Former NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli wants governments to fully fund private primary schools on the condition they stop collecting fees from parents and agree to abide by the same enrolment and accountability rules as public schools.
The country’s most expensive private schools already receive at least $4000 per student in public funding, even if they charge $35,000 a year in parent fees.
Professor Piccoli argues non-government schools receive so much public money that the proposal would only cost governments about $500 million a year.
Under his proposal, the schools would still be run by non-government institutions, such as churches or groups with alternative education philosophies such as Steiner, but, like public schools, they would not be able to reject students or ask them to leave.
Schools could continue to charge fees, but those that did would forfeit all government funding.
They would also have to answer to accountability processes such as budget estimates and have to comply with freedom of information laws. They would also have the same amount of money as public schools to spend on extra staff or equipment.
Personal Freedom Vs Compliance with the Collective Will
In the next section Paul will emphasize the importance of personal freedom while Scott and I will probably emphasize the desirability of society be able to restrict that freedom for the overall benefit of society.
There is a balancing act where each side recognises the importance of the other but differs on where to draw the line.
Before we begin, lets look at what makes humans successful compared to other species.
The Goodness Paradox – p122 Our key feature we accumulate cultural knowledge. We are co-operative and we excel at learning from others. language – egalitarianism – domestication
This View of Life
Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary.
The number of eggs laid by an individual hen is not an individual trait so much as it is a social trait because it depends upon how members of the group behave toward each other.
The idea that anyone is self made is a fiction.
In rare cases, mechanisms evolve that largely suppress the potential for disruptive forms of selection within groups, making between group selection the primary evolutionary force for most traits of the species. Then, something magical happens: the group evolves to be so cooperative that it is transformed into a higher-level organism in its own right.
Eg insect colonies
Our ancestors evolved the ability to suppress bullying and other disruptive self-serving behaviours within groups so that the primary way to survive and reproduce was through teamwork.
Multilevel selection theory tells us that analysis should be centred on the unit of selection. Imagine that you are a biologist studying a solitary insect such as a fruit fly. You would study the individual flies in relation to their environment and then you would shift to lower levels such as organs, cells etc
But, if you were studying a social insect such as a honeybee, since the colony is the primary unit of selection, that is the unit you would focus on. You wouldn’t begin at the level of individual bees any more than the fruit fly scientist would begin at the level of organs.
This is a powerful refutation of methodological individualism which states that individuals should always be the centre of analysis.
Keep that in mind Libertarians amongst us.
Adaptions for teamwork are baked into the genetic architecture of our minds. Absorbing this fact leads to the conclusion that small groups are fundamental units of human social organisation. Individuals cannot be understood except in the context of small groups and large-scale societies need to be seen as a kind of multicellular organism comprising small groups.
Dr David Cho invented cell ministries. If someone doesn’t attend a large service, no-one cares but if someone misses a small meeting there is effort to find out why. The optimal size for an effective group is 15 families?
Genes are not the only method of heredity. Cultural transmission is another mechanism of heredity and is powerful in humans due to our ability to think symbolically. Cultural transmission can actually change genetic evolution (eg lactose intolerance). We must become wise managers of our cultures.
The Common Good
From the NYT
The United States is becoming like Lebanon and other Middle East countries in two respects. First, our political differences are becoming so deep that our two parties now resemble religious sects in a zero-sum contest for power. They call theirs “Shiites and Sunnis and Maronites” or “Israelis and Palestinians.” We call ours “Democrats and Republicans,” but ours now behave just like rival tribes who believe they must rule or die.
And second, as in the Middle East, so increasingly in America: Everything is now politics — even the climate, even energy, even face masks in a pandemic.
… “For a healthy politics to flourish it needs reference points outside itself — reference points of truth and a conception of the common good,” explained the Hebrew University religious philosopher Moshe Halbertal. “When everything becomes political, that is the end of politics.”
To put it differently, when everything is politics, everything is just about power. There is no center, only sides; no truth, only versions; no facts, only a contest of wills.
… This trend is not only hurting us, it’s literally killing us. The reason Trump has utterly failed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic is that he finally met a force he could not discredit and deflect by turning it into politics — Mother Nature. She is impenetrable to politics because all she consists of is chemistry, biology and physics. And she will do whatever they dictate — in this case, spread a coronavirus — whether Trump affirms it or not.
The leaders of Germany, Sweden and South Korea asserted just the opposite, saying: “No, there are scientific facts independent of politics and there is the common good, and we will bow to those facts and we will serve the common good with a public health strategy.”
Plunder of the Commons
By Guy Standing
Page vii – Thatcher – “there is no such thing as society” adding “there are only individuals and families”.
When elected leader of the Conservative party, at her first shadow cabinet meeting she pulled from her bad Friedrich Hayek’s book “The Constitution of Liberty” and slammed it on the table saying “this is what we believe”.
Hayek was a guru for Thatcher and Reagan.
He set up the right wing group of economists in 1947 known as the Mont Pelerin Society. His mentor was Ludwig von Mises who taught that economic value was measured only by price and what had no price had no value.
In their view, society has no price, therefore no value and therefore the institutions that make up society can be dismantled.
Thus began a war against all organisations and mechanisms of society embodying values of social solidarity that have no price.
The commons refers to all of our shared natural resources. It also includes the knowledge that we possess as society. David Bollier a commons activist argues it includes intangible wealth such as copyrights, patents, critical infrastructure such as the internet and government research and cultural resources such as broadcast airwaves and public space
Thatcher privatised North Sea oil operations and splurged the taxation revenue on income tax and current spending. Today, China owns most of it. Contrast Norway which retained government ownership.
Fist: The commons belongs to all generations and it is illegal and immoral for one generation to sell it off for a brief sugar hit.
In 1217 we had the Magna Carta. At the same time there was a second document. The Charter of the Forest. It lasted longer on the British Statute books than any other piece of legislation, only being fully repealed 754 years later.
For generations, all churches in England were required to read it out in its entirety on four public occasions each year. At Christmas, Easter, the feast of St John in summer and the feast of St Michael in autumn.
Yet today, its principles are ignored but are relevant.
It is about a way of living as an individual in society, about communing as a collaborative and collective activity in the commons and about the rights of commoners to use and manage common resources.
It guaranteed the right to a means of subsistence. It recognised the commons, or forest, as a place of refuge for those who had fallen on hard times. It forced the monarchy to return enclosed land to the commoners and to desist from further land grabs. It was perhaps the single greatest victory for the common man in British history.
Over time it was whittled away. Between the 17th and 20th centuries parliament passed over 5,000 enclosure acts enclosing more than 6.8 million acres.
In 1873 a report found that 710 aristocrats owned a quarter of the whole country (most of it obtained from gifts from various monarchs).
The commons belongs to everyone but there use is subject to known rules and procedures. They cannot do with it whatever they like.
The tragedy of the commons. What is it?
Imagine a village with a common pasture that was available to everyone to graze their cows. Each villager is selfish and the pasture is overgrazed.
Garrett Hardin claimed the commons was doomed because every user had an incentive to maximise what they could take out of it and this was seized upon as a justification for privitisation.
Shortly before he died, Garrett Hardin confessed he should have called his article “the tragedy of the unmanaged commons”.
Elinor Ostrom has written about how to best manage a commons.
Eg Harvesting should be allowed up to a point where further use would threaten the sustainability of the asset. This compares with private property where the owner can choose to exploit a resource to extinction.
Basically, a commons can succeed and not be a tragedy where rules are implemented and monitored (bottom up, not top down) such that it is difficult for members to benefit themselves at the expense of each other, so that the only way to succeed is as a group.
It’s not a magic word. It does not excuse everything. It does not necessarily trump responsibility.
Sometimes it’s just another word for “selfish”.
If you want to share in the collective then there are restrictions and responsibilities otherwise “freedom” is just one way taking from others.
The army, the ambush, the scouts and the ones who want to keep going. No, problem ,just leave your guns and clothes and food behind and head over the hill naked.
Or go to Libertarian Island
In the clever science fiction video game Bioshock, an Objectivist business magnate named Andrew Ryan (recognize those initials?) creates an underwater city, where the world’s elite members can flourish free from the controls of government. It is a utopian village that Ayn Rand and her hero John Galt would surely approve of, but unfortunately it ends up becoming a dystopian nightmare after class distinctions form (what a shocker) and technological innovation gets out of hand. It was a hell of a video game, for those of you into that kind of thing.
But I don’t bring up Bioshock to talk about video games. I bring it up because there is currently a similar movement happening in real life, and it is being funded by another rather eccentric businessman, the Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel. As some may already know, Thiel has teamed up with the grandson of libertarian icon Milton Friedman, Patri Friedman, to try and develop a “seastead,” or a permanent and autonomous dwelling at sea. Friedman formed the “Seasteading Institute” in 2008, and Thiel has donated more than a million dollars to fund its creation.
It goes like this: Friedman wants to establish new sovereign nations built on oil-rig-type platforms anchored in international waters—free from the regulation, laws, and moral suasion of any landlocked country. They’d be small city-states at first, although the aim is to have tens of millions of seasteading residents by 2050. Architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered, 12,000-ton structure with room for 270 residents, with the idea that dozens—perhaps even hundreds—of these could be linked together. Friedman hopes to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year; full-time settlement, he predicts, will follow in about seven years; and full diplomatic recognition by the United Nations, well, that’ll take some lawyers and time.
“The ultimate goal,” Friedman says, “is to open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government.” This translates into the founding of ideologically oriented micro-states on the high seas, a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.
One potential model is something Friedman calls Appletopia: A corporation, such as Apple, “starts a country as a business. The more desirable the country, the more valuable the real estate,” Friedman says. When I ask if this wouldn’t amount to a shareholder dictatorship, he doesn’t flinch. “The way most dictatorships work now, they’re enforced on people who aren’t allowed to leave.” Appletopia, or any seasteading colony, would entail a more benevolent variety of dictatorship, similar to your cell-phone contract: You don’t like it, you leave. Citizenship as free agency, you might say. Or as Ken Howery, one of Thiel’s partners at the Founders Fund, puts it, “It’s almost like there’s a cartel of governments, and this is a way to force governments to compete in a free-market way.”
… Thiel put forth his views on the subject in a 2009 essay for the Cato Institute, in which he flatly declared, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” He went on: “The great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms,” with the critical question being “how to escape not via politics but beyond it. Because there are no truly free places left in our world, I suspect that the mode for escape must involve some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country.”
So, when you hear me say, go and live on libertarian island, you know what I mean.