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February 27, 2007

Underrated Bloggers of Our Times (#2 in a series)
Posted by Patrick at 06:04 PM *

Hilzoy, of Obsidian Wings.

Violence is not a way of getting where you want to go, only more quickly. Its existence changes your destination. If you use it, you had better be prepared to find yourself in the kind of place it takes you to.
Much more at the post; read it all. Why doesn’t this woman have an opinion column in a national newspaper?
Comments on Underrated Bloggers of Our Times (#2 in a series):
#1 ::: Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 06:27 PM:

Because she's not a tool, in several senses of that word?

#2 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 06:34 PM:

I read that earlier this evening, and will need to reread it again when I am less tired.

And again, and again, and again. She takes what I believe in and unfolds it like origami. And this is the best yet.

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 06:41 PM:

The question is "Can democracy be installed from the outside on the point of a bayonet?"

The answer is "No."

(I've said this before.)

#4 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 06:53 PM:

It's not only democracy that you can't install that way.

It's liberty. You can topple a government by force, but you can't impose liberty by force: the most you can produce is anarchy, and as Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq are showing, that's quite different.

#5 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 08:32 PM:

I can't disagree with the bolded point, but there are certainly counterexamples to her other main one, which is that you can never install democracy and/or freedom in a despotic country using external force.

#6 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 08:55 PM:

DaveL @5 - could you provide some of these counter-examples? I'm racking my memory, but I can't seem to remember any.

#7 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 09:04 PM:

I assume he's thinking of Germany & Japan, post WWII?

(I'm not sure I'm saying I agree, although at first glance I think I am...)

#8 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 09:09 PM:

Because she's not inciting, she's thoughtful.

#9 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 09:10 PM:

Why doesn’t this woman have an opinion column in a national newspaper?

I'd prefer to think this was a rhetorical question, so I'm eager with anticipation for the hopefully forthcoming rhetoric. I'd offer my own, but I suspect I'd be disemvowelled for it.

#10 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 09:17 PM:

Just reading the excerpt, not having read the entire essay:

"Violence is not a way of getting where you want to go, only more quickly. "

That is exactly right, with excellent economy of language. The only moral use for violence is if it's the only alternative.

#11 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 09:37 PM:

#10 Mitch Wagner "The only moral use for violence is if it's the only alternative."

While I agree with that, personally, I think her point is that accepting that violence is a choice, and using violence, ultimately taints and changes those who used the violence in such a way that their goals become unobtainable. That the means necessitate, at least, the flavor of the ends. So for her, violence is never the choice because what it brings, and the price of its use, is more undesirable than what you are using violence against.

#12 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 10:09 PM:

I assume he's thinking of Germany & Japan, post WWII?

Except that we didn't - we did that with money, and unions, and stuff like that.

#13 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 10:33 PM:

We didn't install democracy in Germany and Japan, we restored it. Both nations were constitutional democracies before they went fascist.

All of the fascist nations -- Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain under Franco, Greece under Metaxas -- were democracies just before fascism. That's one of the things fascism is, a failure mode of democracy.

#14 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 11:17 PM:

All of the fascist nations -- Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain under Franco, Greece under Metaxas -- were democracies just before fascism.

Another commonality between the fascist nations is that all of them believed very strongly that they were democratic while they were under the control of the fascist dictator. They'd given up some parts of their participation in the democratic process slowly (like boiling that unfortunate archetypical frog) and were excluded from other parts "in their own interests", and thus didn't know the full story until it burst in on them in all of its horrible glory. From the inside, their leaders looked sane enough, at first. Mussolini made the trains run on time; Hitler returned some sense of German national identity and pride (as well as appearing to deal with the hyper-inflation which had collapsed the Wiemar Republic); Franco brought a period of seeming calm to a nation which had been feuding inside itself for the better part of a century. It was only after they'd been running without any effective "brakes" for a while that the outside world started to see gaps between the rhetoric and the reality, and between the world view on their side of the border, and the world view on the other side. But inside, the illusion was still seamless, and remained so, largely through the willing collaboration of enough of the citizens of each country who either didn't know what to do to change things, or who feared the effect change would have.

Fascism is something of a "there but for the grace of the gods" thing, as far as I'm concerned. I can see my own country slipping very easily into such a regime, because what's required for democracy to fail in this way is not so much the assumption that "this is the right way to do things" as "she'll be right in a couple years time".

#15 ::: Lawrence Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 11:38 PM:

My father vacationed in Italy in 1938. The Fascists did not make the trains run on time; they made everyone say the trains ran on time. (And the trains were apparently better than they had been, even if they were still usually twenty minutes late.)

#16 ::: hilzoy ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 11:50 PM:

Hi, and thanks. I didn't mean to say that war is never the right choice. It's unbelievably horrible, but I think that some things are worse. (Genocide, for instance.) I only meant that you have to be aware of what you're choosing, in a way that Beinart didn't seem to be. (And isn't that astonishing in itself?)

I also didn't want to say that you can never install democracy by force. I do think it's hard, and it becomes -- well, being a philosopher, I don't want to say impossible, but at any rate very, very difficult -- when you invade a country in order to install a democracy.

The reason, basically, is that building a democracy requires building institutions, and that requires cooperation by a non-negligible number of the people in the country you've invaded, and that is very unlikely to be forthcoming unless the people in that country regard your presence there as legitimate. (Not that they have to like it; I suppose almost no one actually likes being invaded.)

If that country started a war with yours, and you have invaded because they lost it, they will, presumably, not wonder: what gives YOU the right to be here? The answer is obvious. If that country was in the midst of a genuine humanitarian catastrophe (e.g., Rwanda), then again people will generally understand why you are there. In either case, they might be willing to work with you. But if you invade in order to change their government, then I think it's a lot less likely that your presence will be seen as legitimate, and thus a lot more likely that you'll fail to achieve any goal that requires the cooperation of the invaded people.

Which, if true, means: you can create a democracy when you invade for other reasons, but if that's the point of invading, it will almost certainly fail.

#17 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 12:14 AM:

Since all of Hilzoy's examples seem to be drawn from recent history, I thought I'd throw out an older one: The French had a devil of a time getting a functioning democracy running after their Revolution. (Quite peculiar, no, that Napoleon's legacy ended up being a functioning legal code?)

#18 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 12:18 AM:

Personally, I doubt that the forces of a democracy, operating according to its principles, are ever going to be capable of imposing anything on any population. They have only one specific task: defending the democracy by defeating the ability of an aggressor to invade it. To this end, they may be capable of destroying opposing military forces where found, but they are never going to be able to counter a popular insurgency by force.

They may be able to act as the agents for installing such institutions as will reconcile the population to a new regime, but this will depend on a pretty wide consensus in itself. Absent this consensus, and given a wide and popular insurgency, the best result for the democracy is withdrawal and retreat. That's a defeat, but not as bad as the worst, which is that by doing the things that will defeat a popular insurgency, the forces of a democracy will cease to be the forces of a democracy.

#19 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 04:11 AM:

Lawrence, the story I heard from Italian connections was that Mussolini did try to make the international trains run on time, as that was a matter of national pride.

#20 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 07:21 AM:

Dave Luckett #18: the forces of a democracy ... are never going to be able to counter a popular insurgency by force.

Correct. But they can sometimes counter an unpopular insurgency. For example, the episode in the 1960s called "Confrontation" in which the Indonesian dictatorship under Sukarno tried to infiltrate the eastern states of Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) and were successfully countered by British forces including Gurkhas, helped by local irregulars and later by Australian troops. You can argue about whether they were "forces of democracy", but the point is that they kept the insurgency unpopular, and they did that by not becoming an enemy themselves. They took great care to avoid civilian casualties; they showed respect to the local people, listened to their concerns and responded to them. SAS patrols lived with the people of remote villages. They "won hearts and minds", not by rhetoric but by the way they operated on the ground (and in the air).

(A good book about Confrontation is "The Undeclared War" by Harold James and Denis Sheil-Small.)

#21 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 08:06 AM:

Violence is not a way of getting where you want to go, only more quickly.

This is definitely pointing to a deeply embedded worldview. Didn't yoda say the dark side was quicker?

But if you invade in order to change their government, then I think it's a lot less likely that your presence will be seen as legitimate,

The invader says "We are here to liberate you."
the invadee says "You liberated my house to rubble."

War has a cost and a benefit. Sometimes the cost outweighs the benefit. Sometimes the Benefit outweighs the cost.

The problem is that the invader uses a different formula to calculate costs and benefits than the invadee. And while the invadee calculated that carpet bombing his country into the stone ages just isn't worth it, the invader might tally a different score.

Iraq is orders of magnatude worse than New Orleans right after Katrina hit. But when its our city and our people dying, you see outrage on TV 24 hours a day, day after day. When it's Iraqi civilians being killed for years on end, nothing.

#22 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 08:13 AM:

#16 hilzoy, "a democracy requires building institutions"

If the country that's invaded doesn't have these institutions in place, do you feel they could ever be delivered, installed, instilled or enforced using violence or at the very least the carrot and stick approach?

In my personal opinion, if a people are to have democracy, they need to take it (that can mean violence or non-violent means), that democracy can't be delivered. Are the institutions you're discussing include the desire for democracy and freedom in the people, or external apparatus?

#23 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 09:41 AM:

The invader says "We are here to liberate you."
the invadee says "You liberated my house to rubble."

As someone else said, "We went into Baghdad to free the people. We freed them of running water and electricity."

#24 ::: D. ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 09:42 AM:

#22:

In my personal opinion, if a people are to have democracy, they need to take it (that can mean violence or non-violent means), that democracy can't be delivered. Are the institutions you're discussing include the desire for democracy and freedom in the people, or external apparatus?

It is probably a side-effect of coffee deprivation, but that statement put me strongly in mind of Wile E. Coyote.

Perhaps Acme has a Democratic Institutions subcontract from Halliburton?

#25 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 09:43 AM:

#22:

I believe that they can certainly be created with the carrots-and-carrots approach. It's working, gradually, in other parts of the world. The stick works too, for restraining the excesses of dictatorships (like Saddam! The no-fly zone was a success.)

#26 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 09:53 AM:

#24 D., he he, I'm now picturing the DC9 parachute dropping the huge wooden crate with "ACME, Democracy In a Box" on the side.

Of course, only to break open when it hits the ground and Bugs Bunny spills out. (I think #25 BSD's carrots and carrots image helped)

#27 ::: Dan R ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 09:54 AM:

...getting where you want to go, only more quickly...

Stewart Brand has said that the problem is not wanting things, it's wanting then right now.

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 10:13 AM:

Steve @ 26... Bugs Bunny spills out

Bugs IS one of the three Trickster figures found in those old Warner Bros cartoons after all.

#29 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 10:40 AM:

#28 Serge, as someone whose pseudonym is Laughing Coyote (it's still winter, right?) I am very aware of that (Endicott Studio's Journal current issue has excellent materials on tricksters, BTW). The good news for those areas that Bugs does spill out on is that his effects are mostly positive (unlike other trickers whose effects could be 50/50).

#30 ::: Alex R ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 11:03 AM:

For some reason this comment reminds me of the Ares/Athena distinction made in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. The author (or his apparent surrogates in the novel) uses Athena to represent, roughly, "intelligent" and somehow moral warfare, as contrasted with Ares who represents amoral, chaotic warfare.

Back when I read Cryptonomicon, I couldn't help but think that no matter how moral, intelligent, and "Athenian" warriors try to be, Ares always, always gets his due... I think this is related to what hilzoy is saying, and is also why I would not have supported this war even if it had been undertaken by a competent, moral administration.

#31 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Tyranny is a failure mode of democracy ("all in Plato, what do they teach them in these schools?") and fascism is a specific variant of tyranny that's a failure mode of capitalist democracy.

Iran has been making interesting efforts to grow genuine internal parliamentary democracy in the last ten years. It makes me sick to see how the policy of Britain and the US has been so strongly opposed to that.

I think there's a way in which you can have certain things but you can't have them if they're the goal, because they are inherently things that arise out of other things. The simplest example of that is love -- you can't make yourself love, or find love, love comes along as a side effect. Happiness works the same way. I think liberty is like this, and I think liberty is quite specifically the side effect of having choices. (My three good quick examples of this are the explosion of liberty in the American colonies where there were more jobs and food than people, the internet, and the way that programmers don't wear suits.) You don't really have many choices when you're afraid, fear is a weapon against choice. If you have a goal of making people free, it isn't going to work unless you go about maximising their real choices. This is, I think, why MacArthur was so successful in Japan compared not only to other attempts to impose democracy but to other attempts at foreign aid.

#32 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 11:34 AM:

#13 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 10:33 PM:

"We didn't install democracy in Germany and Japan, we restored it. Both nations were constitutional democracies before they went fascist.

All of the fascist nations -- Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain under Franco, Greece under Metaxas -- were democracies just before fascism. That's one of the things fascism is, a failure mode of democracy. "

I've come to a somewhat differing conclusion about this. I believe that another, possibly the major, reason that post-WWII Germany and Japan remain the major successes of US democracy promotion was that they were the *only* attempts by the US to promote Democracy.

All of the US actions in South/Central America were to destroy or 'contain' democracies, or at the least, to promote an 'Our SOB' type of government. The Bush administration had no intent of promoting democracy in Iraq; it held elections after the previous two plans[1] had failed, and Sistani threatened to unleash the Shiites.

Major interests in the USA have no desire for democracy at home, let alone abroad. Democracies make it harder to screw the people over; dicatorships are far easier to deal with.


[1] First plan was to install Chalabi as a dictator; after that failed almost before it was tried, the second plan was to run the country through the CPA for several years - in short, a military dictatorship.

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 12:31 PM:

I can think of two cases in recent history in which the people of a country considered themselves to have been liberated from their own government by an invading army. Both occurred in 1979: the liberation of Uganda from Idi Amin, by Tanzania; the liberation of Cambodia from Pol Pot, by Vietnam. In both cases the idiot in question had invaded the country the armed forces of which overthrew him. In both cases the people had suffered considerable oppression (well, genocide in the case of Cambodia).

#34 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Surely, any simple formula to explain successful or unsuccessful importation of democracy in a country is going to be wrong most of the time. You're talking about a set of millions of people making decisions, in the context of recent history, surrounding nations, culture, institutional structures built up before or after the invasion, etc. Didn't the victors of WW1 also try to set up stable democracies in Europe from the remains of the Austro-Hungarian empire?

The bigger problem is that democracy is probably not what we want for other countries, though we sometimes proclaim that it is. What we want is a set of policies that go along with the interests and goals of the people in power in the US--whether that's allowing US bases on the occupied country's soil, not nationalizing industries whose owners have the right friends in Washington, or putting out the right kind of rhetoric. And if we were trying for a humanitarian goal, we wouldn't want democracy, we'd want decent government and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are a plausible way to get those, and they've worked pretty well for some wealthy nations, but they're not a magic formula for success! There are plenty of failure stories even among the wealthy western nations (cf Germany), and a horrible number of failures in poorer countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

#35 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 01:41 PM:

#33: too bad the 'liberation' of Uganda has turned out so very, very badly. Hilzoy has also written about that and it is chilling.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Jo 31: Tyranny is a failure mode of democracy ("all in Plato, what do they teach them in these schools?") and fascism is a specific variant of tyranny that's a failure mode of capitalist democracy.

I agree with the rest of this post, and think it's well stated, but I have two issues with the above.

First, tyranny in the broad sense is a failure mode of EVERY POSSIBLE system of government, and tyranny in the obsolete narrow sense is specifically a failure mode of monarchy ('tyrannos' being more or less Greek for "absolute monarch").

Second, Plato is not a good resource to cite wrt democracy. He was an ardent oligarch, and the principles of The Republic were most closely exemplified, as Bertrand Russell has pointed out, by the Nazi state. While it certainly would be anachronistic to call Plato a fascist, it would be incomplete, but not inaccurate, to call fascism an outgrowth of Platonism.

#37 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 02:50 PM:

Xopher, isn't that exactly what Jo Walton means? As I recall, Plato calls democracies inherently unstable because the people can always opt to install a tyrant, and there's an end on't.

#38 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Xopher, please give examples of tyranny as a failure mode of monarchy?

The usual failure mode of monarchy as a system is oligarchy, with occasional examples of monarchies becoming constitutional monarchies in representative democracies.

Plato's "cycle of governments" theory is indeed outdated, but one certainly doesn't have to agree with Plato's own political position to see that while not a perfect model, it's a model that holds pretty well even now. (Tangentially, because I don't expecially want to get into this at length, I think Popper overstates the case for Plato's "fascism", which I think is understandable, but anyway.) And Plato was thinking in one dimension, politics, whereas this stuff is deeply interwoven with economics, which is why I said that in the first place.

One thing we have got that Plato didn't is the mixed republic. The failure mode of the mixed republic is empire. The failure mode of empire historically has been external conquest and disintegration, with the possible exception of China in the C.20, which I think is too recent to see clearly but really interesting.

#39 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 04:00 PM:

I would argue that Ivan the Terrible represents tyranny as a failure mode of monarchy. Also Nicholas II.

#40 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 04:07 PM:

From a functional point of view, pretty much every government reduces to Trustworthy Trent making decisions for the population.

Every form of government is basically nothing more than a different means of selecting who will play Trent. Monarcy=>Royal Birth. Republic/Democracy=>popular vote. Tyrant/Emporer=>Brute Force.

So, I'd have to agree with Xopher that tyranny is a failure mode of all governments, simply because all governments have Trent in some form or another, and any system can change how it operates, either legally or through other measures.

Certainly, some forms could fail first to some intermediate form before falling all the way to tyranny. Rather than view various forms as all that different, I view most of them as simply being at different heights on the same ladder.

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 04:11 PM:

I should add that I'd view a Good Benevolent Dictator as a failure far worse than, say, a Mediocre republic with basic checks and balances.

#42 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Greg, you're forgetting the other axis -- the amount of centralized decision-making. One difference between tyranny and liberal democracy is that in the latter form of government, there are decisions that Trent doesn't get to make.

#43 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 04:44 PM:

All the moral costs of war are heightened when it's based on nothing but lies and mad ideological dreams. See it and weep (if you missed the "To Iraq and Back" documentary on ABC last night, it can be streamed at their website): Good news that breaks your heart. The good news of Bob Woodruff's miraculous recovery just underscores the tragedy of all the others who weren't so lucky or privileged. If the Iraq war had been an honest response to a real threat, these terrible injuries and ruined lives -- both American and Iraqi -- would be the tragic price of fighting for freedom. But this war was based on lies, and there never was a real threat to our national security. This war was not a cause, it was a crime.

#44 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Avram #42:

That's an important point, and one that's easy to miss. But along with how much centralized decisionmaking you have, you need to ask how much the government has to follow some well-defined law or rules. That seems like it becomes more important, the more you interact with the government or the law day to day. A distant, uninterested government to which you send tribute isn't all that troubling if it behaves eratically, far away. It's troubling when its eratic behavior has an impact on you.

#45 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 05:07 PM:

One difference between tyranny and liberal democracy is that in the latter form of government, there are decisions that Trent doesn't get to make.

Ah, but Trent is almost always given the power to modify what those decisions are. Granted, it may be that some document like the Constitution says he can or cannot torture people, but generally that same constitution contains rules for how Trent can change the rules. And while it may be that Trent is broken up into various different people to form checks and balances on abuse of power from a single bad individual, it's still possible that a bunch of bad individuals could get in, make some really bad decisions, and change what they are allowed to do for the worse.

Revolution being the final check on Trent's power.

Granted, it's a 50,000 foot view of forms of governments, but personally, I think its good to keep in mind that they're all one form or another of Trustworthy Trent. And ultimately, all forms can fail if Trent breaks the trust put in his hands.


#46 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 05:24 PM:

#30 Alex R:

For some reason this comment reminds me of the Ares/Athena distinction made in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. The author (or his apparent surrogates in the novel) uses Athena to represent, roughly, "intelligent" and somehow moral warfare, as contrasted with Ares who represents amoral, chaotic warfare.

My favorite part of that book.

What's interesting is I distinctly remember what Stephenson gave as an example of Ares worshippers fighting other Ares worshippers: "Like when Iran and Iraq went to war and nobody cared who won."

Which was Stephenson being flip and hip, but also has the unfortunate quality of being true.

#47 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 05:38 PM:

moe99 #35: The Tanzanians, at least, can be sure that the mess in Uganda is not their fault. And the Ugandans were glad to see the back of Amin.

#48 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 05:49 PM:

Leigh, I don't remember the details of that particular part of Cryptonomicon, like if Stephenson gives any reason for describing the Iraq-Iran War that way, but I don't actually think it's true.

Have you looked into the history of the war? Bits of it will no doubt seem familiar.

#49 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2007, 08:31 PM:

I think another problem with the Trustworthy Trent model is it doesn't include a dimension of accountability: can the people who put Trent in office chuck him back out if they don't like his decisions and the results thereof?

The United States Constitution seems to me to be primarily an instrument for keeping Trent as small, humble, accountable and harmless as possible. It worked darn well for a while. Lately, not so much.

Like fire, government is an unreliable servant and a terrible master. Also like fire, it isn't terribly practical to go without it altogether.

#50 ::: Lawrence Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2007, 12:57 AM:

Niall re: #19: That would make sense, and it was specifically the in-country trains my father griped about. He arrived in Italy by sea, and I don't remember him ever mentioning whether the train from Venice to Vienna was on time or not.

#51 ::: Jon Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2007, 05:38 AM:

#35, #47: mess in Uganda? Huh? I spent a few weeks wandering around there a little over a year ago, and while its north is troubled, overall it seems better off than any of its neighbours (and the LRA is very much on the decline.)

Kampala's much safer, cleaner, and friendlier than Nairobi, the countryside is beautiful, the roads are good, the infrastructure is semi-reliable, the people have some opportunity for the first time in no one remembers how long. It has many problems, of course, Museveni's power-clinging being one of them, but there's no quesiton the country has improved enormously compared to Kapuscinski's depictions in The Shadow of the Sun of how it was under Amin and then in the 1980s.

#52 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2007, 07:51 AM:

I think another problem with the Trustworthy Trent model is it doesn't include a dimension of accountability: can the people who put Trent in office chuck him back out if they don't like his decisions and the results thereof?

I think you answer your own question in the next line (emphasis added by me):

The United States Constitution seems to me to be primarily an instrument for keeping Trent as small, humble, accountable and harmless as possible. It worked darn well for a while. Lately, not so much.

So, it would seem that we put our trust in the local, state, and federal government, but the government is basically a "trusted" third party, and can abuse that trust.

Trustworthy Trent is a 50,000 foot level view. But I think it works.

#53 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 11:12 AM:

"Trustworthy Trent is a 50,000 foot level view. But I think it works."

I don't. I think you're in way too much of a hurry to simplify this stuff. Popularly-elected legislators and managers who have to answer frequent questions and justify their decisions aren't just another variety of ancient-world despot.

Also, you and Xopher are both using the word "tyranny" in a more general sense than Jo was.

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