Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:



Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.


The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.


The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.


Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income



Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market



Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.



Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.


Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.



Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.



Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.


Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President



Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

France: Rogue Nation

Joe Katzman at Winds Of Change posts this editorial by "Gabriel Gonzalez" (Paris, France):

After reading Kenneth Timmerman's condemnation of France's $100 billion profiteering from Saddam's cruel regime (The French War For Oil), and my own recent article (From Madrid to Paris), some commentators expressed the view that France is just an ordinary country defending its interests and is no different than any other country, including the U.S. Indeed, for some in the anti-war camp France is even assumed to be necessarily a morally superior nation.

This view is so thoroughly ignorant of French foreign policy realities that it should really be put to rest once and for all.

Timmerman points out France's irresponsible dealings with Iraq, which included conditional oil contracts, huge infrastructure deals (construction, roads, utilities, etc.), as well as illegal weapons sales and perhaps even bribes under the UN oil-for-food regime.

I think France took a strategic gamble that it would oppose U.S. policy on control of WMD, proliferation, and fighting the War on Terror, by aligning itself with third world dictatorships, the Arab world and the transnational third world/alter-globalization movements. The payoff would come in the form of more defense, commercial and infrastructure contracts with third world countries and enhanced geopolitical prestige gained, it was hoped, at the expense of the U.S.

I can see why the average American would have trouble accepting this view, precisely because the U.S. could not pursue its interests in this manner without major condemnation by the rest of the world and by its own citizenry. Still, before dismissing this view out of hand, consider what France has accomplished in the last twelve months (a list by no means exhaustive):

1) In the months following the Iraq war, France spent much time courting much of the Arab/Muslim world (Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco), in order to improve its diplomatic and commercial relations by presenting itself as an alternative pole for opposing U.S. strategic interests. (Just Google de Villepin's itinerary over that period and this will become clear.)

2) Those interests now clearly extend to opposing U.S. policy for self-determination, liberalization and human rights in the Arab/Muslim world. Chirac has recently officialized, including at a recent joint appearance with [the African dictator] H. Mubarek, French opposition to U.S. policy of encouraging liberalization, denouncing this as "interference" and favoring an "alternative" model of political development from within.

Just as France's "alternative" model for "combating" terrorism by opposing U.S. "militarism" is based on nothing of substance, it's "alternative" model for political development in the Middle East would also appear to be little more than a front for promoting French commercial and strategic interests in the region, with the complicity of authoritarian regimes perfectly willing to agree to this "alter" political model.

3) France's noisy condemnation of U.S. Iraq policy was reported to have spurred residents of Arab countries to name their newborn children "Chirac" and Chirac's 63% favorability rating in Morocco in the most recent Pew survey of Middle East attitudes, an incredibly high figure for a former colony not ordinarily well disposed to the French Republic, is part of the pay-off for its "alternative" "third worldism".

4) Through its policies, France has recently won defense contracts throughout the Middle East (which are routinely procured through bribery), including for sales of Leclerc tanks to the Emirates and Saudi Arabia (at a loss, I might add).

5) France has recently announced a new initiative to renew arms sales to China and, just a couple of days ago, conducted joint naval exercises off the China coast ahead of Taiwan's elections. This was strongly protested by Taiwan, with whom France is embroiled in a dispute over French bribery of Taiwanese officials in connection with the sale of naval vessels.

(The contract included a French warranty of no bribery and indemnification of Taiwan for the full amount of any bribery discovered, all to the great embarrassment of the French state.) As the U.S. is the guarantor of stability in Asia and protection of the democratic government of Taiwan, the French military exercises conducted with China were directed as much at the U.S. as at Taiwan.

What allows France to engage in such conduct much more freely than the U.S. is:

1) A thoroughly corrupt business culture and state bureacracy (that has a paranoid view of itself as being in a fierce Machiavellian competition with a U.S. business establishment presumed to be equally or more ruthless),

2) The demonization of an imperialist United States as a distraction, and

3) The passive support of its citizenry.

This last point - the passive support of the citizenry - is very important to understand: unlike the U.S., France has effectively no political or citizen control over its foreign policy, which is a purely executive function. This stems from the relationship of the citizen to the State: whereas state power is perceived as inherently dangerous by Americans in our historical tradition of scepticism towards official power, the French centralized state is glorified by its citizenry as the ultimate protector of citizen interests, rather than as a danger to them. As a result, the citizenry has little interest in the details, substance or moral dimension of foreign policy, which are fully delegated and blindly entrusted to this Collective Protector.

The U.S. and most of its allies respect certain bounds of mutually shared collective interest that, I think it is clear, France will freely overstep in ways that put it closer to the Soviet Union and Pakistan than to the U.S. or Great Britain. This might be arms sales to highly questionable regimes. France stands alone in having sold nuclear weapons capable technology to two Middle East regimes: Israel and Iraq.

I am not sure that "evil" is the right word, but France is, among Western powers, the closest one can get to a "rogue" state.

Read the whole thing... he's pretty much hitting the nail in the head.

Sean: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


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