Tag Archives: Nations

The Great American Delusion – Just That One Guy, by Patrick Armstrong

Looking at a country solely in terms of its leader’s policies and personality is a mistake made by many Americans and their media. From Patrick Armstrong at strategic-culture.org:

There is an objective reality: and the most powerful and strong-willed individual can only shape the future within the existing possibilities.

In my career I used to participate in regular meetings with an American intelligence agency. I – we – were always fascinated by their obsession with individuals. One time they proudly presented each of our group with a chart showing the Boss’ associates distributed into three groups. I’m sure creating this had cost a lot of time and money, but what use was it? Did it allow us to predict better, understand better? Of course it didn’t. Quite apart from the absurdity of thinking that an individual was 100% in one group and 0% in the other two – least one fitted two groups equally well – the truth was that they were a team which made decisions and outsiders had no idea what went on inside the process. The three-group division just led to more ungrounded speculation – if some decision were imagined to be to the benefit of one group, then a flurry of speculation about who was up and who was down would erupt. Theorising in the absence of data: a labour of crackpots. Lots of money, time and promotions but very little understanding. On another occasion their predictions at a leadership change were entirely personal – if X, then this, if Y, then that. (And the person who actually did succeed wasn’t on their list.) My group’s approach was to try and describe what constraints the as-yet-unknown successor would have to deal with. We were trying to work out the context; they were talking personalities. But there is an objective reality: and the most powerful and strong-willed individual can only shape the future within the existing possibilities. The American assumption seemed to be that the boss had unconstrained choices. Now it’s true that they thought of the country as a “dictatorship” but never even in the greatest tyranny has the ruler been able to do anything he wanted to. No wonder they have, over the ensuing twenty years, been invariably wrong. The simple-minded and ignorant obsession with personalities leads nowhere.

Did it begin with the Calvinists of Plymouth Rock and their division of humanity into the saved and the damned? Was it reinforced a century and a half later by the conviction that King George single-handedly caused “repeated Injuries and Usurpations” and urged on “the merciless Indian Savages”? Or is it of more recent origin? Hollywood’s rugged individuals saving the day at the end of the movie? Who can say, but it seems to be hard-wired into the American view of the world – or at least their view of the rest of the world. And the news media play along every time: the problem is Leader X, if we replace him, all will be better.

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Why Governments Hate Secession, by Ryan McMaken

Governments hate secession because it means fewer tax donkeys and businesses to tax and fewer people to push around. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:

When the Soviet Union began its collapse in 1989, the world witnessed decentralization and secession on a scale not seen in Europe since the nineteenth century.

Over the next several years, puppet regimes and states-in-name-only broke away from Soviet domination and formed sovereign states. Some states which had completely ceased to exist—such as the Baltic states—declared independence and became states in the own right. In total, secession and decentralization in this era brought about more than twenty newly independent states.

This period served as an important reminder that human history is not, in fact, just a story of ever increasing state power and centralization.

Since then, however, the world has seen very few successful secession movements. A handful of new countries have come into being over the past twenty years, such as East Timor and South Sudan. But in spite of many efforts by separatists worldwide, there have been few changes to the lines on the maps.

This has certainly been the case in Europe and the Americas, where from Quebec to Scotland to Catalonia to Venice demands for independence have been met with trepidation and sometimes outright threats of violence from central governments.

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