Nightcap

  1. Astrobiology highlights of 2018 Caleb Scharf, Life, Unbounded
  2. How the British constitution created the Brexit mess John McGinnis, Law & Liberty
  3. Government as a branch of culture Arnold Kling, askblog
  4. Russia moves to strangle Ukraine from the sea Christian Esch, Der Spiegel

Nightcap

  1. Don’t say that to me Stephen Cox, Liberty Unbound
  2. Misconceptions about religiously radicalized women Chelsea Daymon, War on the Rocks
  3. Ukrainian autocephaly Bruce Clark, Erasmus
  4. Why liberalism’s critics fail Deirdre McCloskey, Modern Age

Nightcap

  1. Lessons of the Westphalian Peace for the Middle East Andreas Kluth, Handelsblatt
  2. Is Democracy Dying? Francis Fukuyama (interview), Hromadske
  3. Yes, the Press Helps Start Wars Ted Galen Carpenter, American Conservative
  4. The Most Hawaiian Stephanie Lee, Coldnoon

From the Comments: New Republics, Westphalia, and Russian Strategy

Thomas L. Knapp (check out his two contributions to the most recent Cato Unbound symposium on voting) has a great comment about Ukraine (Russia) that deserves further scrutiny:

In order for Putin to “pull out of” Ukraine, he’d first need to be in Ukraine.

The new republics which seceded from Ukraine are not in Ukraine.

Knapp brings up an interesting point that most geopolitical outlets and experts rarely consider (the Washington Post‘s Worldviews is a notable exception, as is Ilya Somin over at Volokh Conspiracy), and because of that these outlets fail to provide any depth or light to the world around us. There are three aspects of Knapp’s excellent comment that I’d like to hone in on.

The new republics

First, what are these “new republics” Knapp mentions? If you don’t count Crimea (wiki), which Moscow formally recognized in 2014, then the new republics that declared their independence from Ukraine are Luhansk (wiki) and Donetsk (wiki). Both polities are roughly 3300 square miles in area and house roughly 1.5 million people (you can get the exact numbers from the wiki links I provided above). Here is a map:

74717073_ukraine_donetsk_luhansk_referendum_624
(source)

Alarmingly, both republics style themselves “people’s republics” and (less alarmingly) have aligned publicly with Moscow. Russia, by the way, has not recognized these “new republics,” for geopolitical reasons I hope to make clear below.

Westphalian sovereignty

Russia does not like to recognize new polities (“republics”) because of its adherence to the ideal of Westphalia, which is state sovereignty (elsewhere at NOL Barry Stocker argues that the Westphalian ideal can be better understood as an early modern cosmopolitanism rather than state sovereignty). All throughout the Cold War Russia and China were staunch supporters of the Westphalian ideal (as were states in Africa and Asia that broke away from colonial empires), and they became even more so after the collapse of socialism in 1993. State sovereignty is the idea that states (“countries”) have sole control over what goes on in their own borders, and that any interventions of any kind, by any type of organization, needs to be approved by the state. It is called “Westphalian” because of the Treaty of Westphalia that was signed by a number of major and minor European states in the 17th century. The major states were able to maintain a balance of power and the minor states were able to assert more sovereignty over their territories than ever before because they were signatories of an international treaty. (Edwin van de Haar’s article in the Independent Review [pdf] on the balance of power as the most libertarian option available is worth reading, and is made stronger, I believe, by Giovanni Arrighi’s argument [pdf] that the balance of power led directly to the “capitalist oligarchies” that eventually pushed feudalistic institutions out of Europe beginning in the late 15th century.)

Russia, China, and other autocratic regimes prefer an international system that is respectful of state sovereignty because of the fact that this idea helps their governments to administer an amount of coercion on populaces that Western states consider immoral or rights-violating.

Russian strategy

Why did Russia hint at recognizing Donetsk and Luhansk, but ultimately decide not to recognize them? Because the West has been recognizing separatist republics since the USSR fell apart, and it has done so in the traditionally Russian sphere of influence (noticeably carving up Yugoslavia at Serbia’s geographic expense). The West has not carved up post-Soviet space by simply recognizing the sovereignty of self-proclaimed republics, but also by incorporating these polities into the international system that it dominates. Russia wants to show elites (but not necessarily the public) that it is tired of policymakers ignoring Westphalian notions of sovereignty (which are enshrined in the UN charter that almost all recognized states have signed; when they sign it they get rent-seeking privileges, but that’s a story for another day…).

This is fairly straightforward logic on Moscow’s part. When the West supported Kosovo’s secession from Serbia (in defiance of Article 2(4) of the UN charter), Russia responded by supporting South Ossetia and Abkhazia breaking away from Georgia before annexing them. The interesting thing here is that Russia even mimicked Western use of force to back up its play. When the West supported Montenegro’s secession from Serbia (in defiance of Article 2(4) of the UN charter), Russia responded by supporting Donetsk, Crimea, and Luhansk breaking away from Ukraine before annexing Crimea. The interesting thing here is that Russia even mimicked Western use of force to back up its play. Both Russia and the West used minimal military resources to achieve their objectives, and both played the sovereignty card to back up their actions.

blog-map-of-caucasus
(source)

Western policymakers will never be able to bring liberty to Russia, and liberty will never be known by Russians if the rule of law is trumped by geopolitics. The West dominates the world’s international governing organizations. It has made the rules. It has drawn up the contracts. It has invited the non-West to participate. It has given concessions in order to gain the non-West’s support. So when the West breaks the rules it first outlined and drew up, the non-Western polities it convinced to join IGOs in the first place cannot be expected to take such rules seriously. The fact that Russia does play by the West’s rules, by taking seriously the claims of breakaway regions, suggests that the West has been in the wrong post-1993.

American media pundits and critical thinking

All of this leads me back to sensationalist headlines about nefarious Russian meddling in the American presidential election. Don’t believe any of that garbage. Firstly, look at how often American foreign policy pundits have been wrong. Just look! Amid the cries of Russian meddling in the Clinton-Trump contest you can surely hear the faint echoes about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Secondly, all good analyses of geopolitical affairs provide at least some bit of historical context to them. Does your foreign policy pundit use history as a guide? Thirdly (and lastly), when thinking about a country remember that most accounts will have a point of view that shadows the consensus found in the world’s political and financial centers, which are useful but will sacrifice important details in the name of efficiency (and efficacy).

American libertarians, of all the factions out there, realize this best. Unfortunately, until they can shake the isolationist dogma that has paralyzed the movement since the Rothbard era of the 70s and 80s, they will continue to be marginalized in contemporary discussions about foreign policy, either as token libertarians in a Republican administration or as token libertarians in the “anti-war” movement (I put “anti-war” in scare quotes because by now it should be obvious that this movement represents the Democratic Party [pdf], not an ideal; see, though, Michael Kazin’s excellent, if ultimately unconvincing, argument for a different take on the disappearance of the anti-war movement once Obama and the Democrats came to power). New republics, secessionist movements, and other endeavors of exit are often embraced by American libertarians because of their autonomist appeal, but if they don’t pay attention to how state actors view such movements, especially regional and global hegemons, they may end supporting some very nasty regimes in the name of liberty.

How about no? Netherlands referendum

How-About-No-01Well, it wasn’t so unsuspected, how many people want us to think. Over 60% of 30-35% of voted citizens were against euro-association with Ukraine. Ukrainian politicans traditionally speaking about “russian hand” and other weird stuff, russian trolls experiencing huge wave of a butthurt from their ukrainian colleagues in the political articles comment sections. Everything as always. I personally think, that NO is better that YES in this particular situation:

  1. Law base is poor. Ukrainian Government should rise quality of anti-corruptional laws and deal somehow with unempoyment.
  2. Donbass civil war isn’t over yet. And it’s like a red flag before EU bull’s eyes.
  3. Panama Papers and offshore scandal.

So, why NO is better, than YES?

In my own humble opinion, euro-association means “total victory” for Ukraine and an approvement, that Ukraine itself passed all the requirements of EU and “Maidan quest” is completed. I personally afraid that after association Ukrainian Government will forget about current problems listed above and citizens will live worse. Economical situation will get worse too. “Hey, people, what else do you want? We passed the association test and it by default means that everything is ok”. When first wave of total euphoria will come to an end, the understanding will come: for simple worker, or miner, or vaiter, etc. nothing changed. People suffered before – and they will suffer after. Dealing with unstable situation and unemployment, brother-killing war and corruption are the only ways to EU.

Обзор событий в России за последние несколько недель. Часть 1

В Санкт-Петербург пришло лето, и практически сразу же ушло. Третью неделю подряд идут дожди. Холодно – как будто поздняя осень, фермеры опасаются за свой урожай. Такими темпами скоро начнется листопад! В общем, холодное лето, на фоне которого огнём горят события последних недель, про которые я сейчас вам расскажу. В последнее время не часто пишу, так как работа на заводе и развитие собственного вебсайта требует много усилий. Ко всему прочему, я уже четвертый месяц усиленно учу норвежский язык.

Алые паруса. Это традиционный праздник моего города (я живу в Санкт-Петербурге), который собирает зрителей со всей России и даже из-за рубежа. Алые паруса – это праздник выпускников школ, который проходит после выпускных экзаменов перед началом экзаменов в университет. Он сопровождается народными гуляниями, концертами и массовыми мероприятиями с салютом. Главная особенность – в акваторию Финского залива и далее в реку Неву входит шикарный парусный корабль с алыми парусами (если вы помните, подобный образ использовался в повести Александра Грина “Алые паруса”, где героиня Ассоль ждала своего моряка – и дождалась), который символизирует достижение целей и завершение первого этапа обучения в школе. Фактически, выпускникам открывается дорога в жизнь, а корабль это символизирует. Учитывая ошеломляющую подсветку корабля – выглядит это просто потрясающе! В этом году событие также собрало множество гостей из различных регионов России и носило слегка политический подтекст, так как было сопряжено с празднованием возвращения Крыма в состав Российской Федерации. Но вообще это не политический праздник, просто в этом году так совпало…

Отмена постановления о разрешении на ввод войск в Украину. Как многие знают, при разрастании кризиса на Украине республика Крым и город Севастополь провели референдумы о независимости и пожелали вступить в состав Российской Федерации. 1 марта 2014 года президент Российской Федерации Владимир Путин запросил у Совета Федерации разрешение на применение вооруженных сил России на территории Украины при дальнейшей эскалации конфликта и появления угрозы гражданам России, которые проживают в приграничных областях, а также в самой Украине. Совет Федерации такое разрешение президенту предоставил, но по факту он им не воспользовался, чтобы в дальнейшем не усугублять ситуацию, к тому же кризис переместился на юго-восток в район Луганска Краматорска и Донецкой области. По факту президент обладал этим разрешением на применение войск для защиты граждан России. На днях президент предложил Совету Федерации отменить это разрешение, так как наблюдается определенный спад напряжения. Этот поступок должен послужить стабилизации кризиса в Украине и скорейшему разрешению ситуации. Правительство США и руководство Евросоюза положительно оценило этот шаг, так что ждем дальнейшего развития ситуации.

Укрепление отношений между Россией и Китаем. На днях был подписан очередной этап договора между российским “Газпромом” и их коллегами из Китая. Обе стороны готовы к расчетам и в российских рублях, и в юанях. Это очень важный шаг, который способствует укреплению дипломатических отношений между нашими странами. Одновременно с этим ряд китайских фирм инициирует ряд программ по строительству дешевого и доступного жилья для российских граждан.

В следующей части этой записи расскажу вам про некоторые другие важные события, которые успели произойти за последнее время. Оставайтесь на связи!

Eurocraine and Russocraine

Elections are supposed to achieve social peace by providing a government that represents the people. But voting has not brought peace to Ukraine. Many people distrust the honesty of the elections, and many in Ukraine have disagreed with the policies of the government, both when policy favored association with Europe and when it favored association with Russia. The fact that many voters in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine favor union with Russia, or else independence, shows that many there do not feel well represented.

The election in Ukraine will not solve the governance problem, because it is just a continuation of the same system that some are rebelling against. Ukraine needs a new structure of government and democracy. The solution is to shift political power from the central government to the people as individuals. When a citizen of Ukraine holds power equal to that of all others, he will have nothing to rebel against.

Individual sovereignty can best be represented by a neighborhood council. The neighborhood should have a small population, such as a thousand residents. That is small enough for the people to personally know the candidates and for someone to be elected with little cost. The government of Ukraine can begin the decentralization by establishing neighborhood or village election districts. If the neighborhood population is a mixture of ethnic Ukrainians and Russians, and the people wish to have a council that is aligned with one of these groups, or other interests, then the residents may regroup their districts and have councils that best represent their individual interests. This is the level-one level of governance.

In the Russian language, “Soviet” means “council”. The Soviet Union was supposed to be a union of elected councils, and there was indeed a structure of bottom-up multi-level soviets, but in practice, the Communist Party ruled top-down. Ukraine should resurrect the old Soviet system, which actually derives from the 19th-century anarchist concept of associations of voluntary communities. The Bolshevik slogan was, “All power to the soviets!”, but instead they perpetuated the dictatorship of the proletariat, usurped by the party oligarchs.

The power of the neighborhoods has to be constrained by a constitution that recognizes and enforces natural rights. In most countries, constitutions that proclaimed liberty have failed to be implemented, mainly because the structure of mass voting facilitates plutocracy, with policies that transfer wealth from workers to the moneyed and landed interests, resulting in poverty that gets remedied by trickle-down government welfare.

But with the bottom-up system of genuine soviets, the government would much better represent the people, and constitutional rights would be more strongly protected. As the level-one councils elect level-two regional councils, and these elect the supreme soviet or national parliament, the structure would prevent the usurpation of power from the top. The president would be elected by the parliament and easily dismissed if the people are dissatisfied. Any council member could be recalled by the council that elected him.

Decentralized government gets hampered by centralized tax collection, such as an income tax or value-added tax imposed from the central government. Decentralized governance is suitable to decentralized public finance, and the source of public revenue best suited to local power is the tapping of the area’s land rent or land value. Taxing wealth and investment invites capital to flee, hide, or else it shrinks from the burden. But land cannot hide, and it does not run away, nor does land shrink when taxed. Revenue from land-value taxation can be applied by the level-two councils, with revenues sent to both the level-one and level-three governments.

Ukraine needs two things: better governance and strong economic growth. The replacement of the current complex of market-hampering taxes by taxes on land value and pollution would give the economy such a comparative advantage that investment would pour in, wages would rise, the government would be able to pay off its debts, and the economic misery that fuels much of the unrest would be replaced by an economic joy that would eliminate the economic motivation to join Russia.

With small-group voting, the residents of eastern Ukraine would have their own local Russian-speaking councils, and probably ethnic Russian level-two councils representing some 25 thousand persons. The constitution of Ukraine should devolve most government services to the level-two councils, including local security, education, and public works. The ethnic Russians would no longer feel alienated from the government, and the government of Russia would find it difficult to control the local governments, because the council members would come from the people.

As to the situation of takeovers of government buildings in eastern Ukraine, the national government should surround them with walls of troops while establishing new centers of administration in other guarded buildings. But a lasting solution needs to replace the current government with councils that people feel represents them. The one good thing about the old Soviet Union, the bottom-up multi-level system of soviets, was the element that was most discarded without any debate. Ukraine: bring back the soviets, only this time, make it “all power to the people” as individuals and their chosen councils.