Friday, August 27, 2004

From the leader in this week's The Economist:
Effective execution is partly a matter of experience. There are signs, including in Iraq, that the Bush administration has learned from its mistakes. The Economist's bigger disagreements with Mr Bush lie beyond the war on terror, in areas where Mr Bush's very aims are questionable or worse.

The only clear political division that exists, it seems to me, is whether one is willing to sacrifice some property, if needed be, in order to secure liberty, not just for oneself, but universally. Property is undeniably a fundamental liberty, but its possession also gives the better possessed enormous power over everyone else. That such an unpleasant choice exists at all is because the propertied classes haven't had a sterling record as advocates of liberty: they were the enthusiastic cheerleaders for the Great Game, they were the ready backers of Mussolini and Hitler, they are an integral part of the military/clerical/plutocrat juntas that misrule good parts of the world, and now they are jumping into bed with supposed communists in China.

That the propertied classes act so often as de facto enemies of liberty is not because they are "evil" (a meaningless characterisation to start, and stupid to boot), but because they are so well-insulated by the social power of their properties that they simply can't imagine their own liberty taken away from them. It is the same sort of lacking in imagination that gave us "Let them eat cake." To them, their property is the source and the guarantee of their liberties, to defend their property is to defend their liberty. But hardly any or them realise such is not the case for most people, that the least propertied are also whose liberty are most threatened; nor do I think many of them really care.

It is a great credit to America that so many Americans, not only the very rich but also many who are not at all, lack the imagination to imagine their own not being free. Actually, liberty is so easy to come by in this country I doubt if that many Americans really care a whole lot about it. Youth is wasted on the young.

To give it due credit, The Economist has always taken a principled and conscientious stand on human rights, freedom of expression, and individual liberties; it criticised from the beginning Bush's arbitrary detention of so-called "unlawful combatants" without due process, and it was the first (and as far as I know) conservative newspaper to call for Rumsfeld's resignation over the Abu Gharib tortures. But that it thinks Bush's budget deficit and protectionist pandering to farm and steel are somehow worse than his contempt for liberty and the rule of law is tremendously depressing.