TCS Daily

Is Rule of Law Possible in Iraq?

By Ilya Shapiro - August 14, 2007 12:00 AM

BAGHDAD - Because of my temporary and purposely broad role here as a rule of law advisor, I have the luxury of being able to think about the bigger picture (and indeed am occasionally specifically asked to do so).

For example, is it even right to talk about developing "rule of law"—as we understand that term—in Iraq? Does it not betray a Western bias, not in the politically correct sense, but in terms of political anthropology? And even if it is right, and what we should in theory be doing, is it realistic—in Iraq generally but especially under the current conditions of insurgency?

1. Is Rule of Law a Western concept unsuitable to Iraq?

Answering in the affirmative explicitly consigns a society to whatever is not the rule of law: arbitrary detention and punishment, state (and non-state) actors behaving with impunity, rule by personal or oligarchic caprice (or by war-lords), and constantly shifting "rules of the game." On the other hand, we can't simply impose a foreign legal system (substantively or procedurally) and expect it to take root. Like political institutions, legal ones must be organic—and foreign-borne innovations must be graftable onto local legal-political cultures—or they will be rejected.

Clearly, establishing law and order is a vital component of both counterinsurgency and post-conflict reconstruction. People must be able to live without fear, and feel secure that the rules under which they conduct their lives today will be there tomorrow, for a country to prosper. Which doesn't mean that every country is ready for American-style (or French- or German- or Singaporean- or whichever model you prefer) justice. Even setting aside issues of culture, you cannot implement centuries of development overnight.

For example, it is much harder to implant modern conceptions of human rights than it is internet cafes and cell phones. Conversely, it is probably easier to implant evidence-based trials—Iraq's criminal justice system has functioned almost exclusively on confessions—than to introduce and maintain a technologically sophisticated police/detainee database.

Which brings us to the second question.

2. Is it realistic to talk about instilling Rule of Law in Iraq?

This is a separate issue because it is wholly practical whereas the above is legal/political/anthropological theory. But before we begin to answer it, we must ask what it is the practicality of which we are questioning.

I began to answer that above: We're neither transplanting the Constitution and American laws nor simply codifying tribal dispute resolution practices (or religious rites). Instead we're advising the locals on best practices and thinking about what those mean for conditions on the ground—acting as consultants given local customs, traditions, culture.

Of course, where those local customs, traditions, and culture are wholly illiberal, universal principles must trump, because part of nation-building is fixing what's broken. Like the British general said in India:

'You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.'

Establishing the rule of law is just as much development work as creating industry and agriculture and a financial system and all the rest of it; indeed, it's a condition precedent for those things. Just as quelling the insurgency and ensuring physical security is a condition precedent to establishing the rule of law.

We are assisting the "development" (as in advancement) of their legal system. In doing so, we must be aware that the system must be perceived as locally run and not an extension of American "imperialism." In Germany and Japan, we were dealing with completely defeated and unconditionally surrendered countries where we could impose whatever we wanted with a virtual guarantee that it would take (and still we respected local legal traditions). Here in Iraq we would need several multiples of troops to do that, and the legal culture is more primitive.

The goal, then, should be to simultaneously stand up a regularized legal system while at the same time gaining popular support (read: legitimacy) for that system. It is moving the ball up a hill without having it roll back, and the steeper the hill, the smaller our steps must be.

That's realistic here so long as we have manpower and political support—which is probably the response to questions about the practicality of any part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

3. The Bottom Line

Stated another way, sure we (the US) could make things better by just running the country and letting a sense of law and order take root in the body politic by osmosis over many years. But that's not the mission, and not at all in the realm of reality.

Ultimately, the Iraqis have to want the rule of law, or it will fall apart even if Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the other extremists are decisively put down. That means the man on the street has to want proper treatment of detainees, quick processing, real tracking from arrest to conviction/acquittal, release where appropriate, punishment where appropriate—instead of an endless cycle of violent retribution and other extra-legal solutions.

Even more, though, it means the people in charge have to want a non-sectarian and non-corrupt police, judiciary, and corrections system—and have to be willing to make political sacrifices to get there. These elites have the capacity to lead their people down the right road. This is a very hierarchical society, after all, and the feudal tribal structures can be used to our advantage. (An example of turning weakness into strength, which is one of the tenets of counterinsurgency.)

The jury is still out on whether the elites, as a whole, are there. Some provinces see more progress, others less. There is great pressure on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to address these issues of elite "buy-in," and the hope is that this type of leadership would trickle down. But Maliki's government itself is in danger of imploding, so the long, hard slog cannot become overly dependent on him. More next time on concrete programs and solutions.

* * *

Ilya Shapiro, the incoming Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, is currently a Special Assistant/Advisor to the Multi-National Force-Iraq's (MNFI) Law and Order Task Force (LAOTF). He writes the "Dispatches from Purple America" column for TCS and a blog of the same name at



Iraqis and other DO live under rule of law
People from all over the middle east live in the USA and Europe and seem to have been able to adapt to living under the western rule of law.

They claim to have a long memory in the middle east. Might they not remember the Code of Hammurabi?

I think the people of the middle east understand the rule of law. Maybe too well.

The nationalities issue
Acquiescing to the rule of law rather than the rule of force requires the consent of the governed. And in an artifically constructed state like Iraq you will not get people willing to be ruled by members of the other ethnicities. That's just a fact.

The Soviet Union had that problem, and Stalin crushed it with force. Any of their approx. 110 nationalities that didn't like it could be destroyed.

And Iraq had that same problem so Saddam crushed it with force. Same solution, applied to the rebellious Kurds and later the southern Shiites.

Iraq might very well be viable as three law-abiding democracies. One could imagine the tribes of Sunni Iraq coming to agreement together, and forming a nation. And the only thing Kurdistan needs is an American defensive shield, to protect their nation from Turkey.

A Shiite republic might be problematic. Half of them want to align themselves with the Iranians, half want nothing to do with the Iranians, they're already fighting between themselves and there are still those who want a secular nation. So here I think the civil war will continue until someone wins and exercises dominion over the losers.

No body of law dependent on the police for enforcement is going to be respected. The police are everywhere the enemy, being just another word for Death Squads.

How did England and USA manage to integrate so many ethnic groups?
Looking at the record of English common law and its effective dissemination around the world, how was it done without despotic force (and sometimes, in spite of such despotic force) being applied?

Could it have anything to do with ideas like individual liberty or that the state is subordinate to the individual?

What About Civil Law?
I'd be interested to hear Mr. Shapiro's views on how to stand up a viable civil law system in Iraq. No doubt there are huge abuses in the criminal system, but at least there are existing tribal and military systems to get bad guys off the street. I wonder how any development proceeds without a decent contract system, reasonable tax laws, and regulatory enforcement. Is there any progress on these fronts?

RE: Iraqis and other DO live under rule of law
The problem is that Hammurabi died before 622 AD.

Law & order in Iraq must be built on the agreements establishing Iraq's civil order. No other arrangement whether branded "imposed" or "organic" will endure. Learn what these agreements are, how they're formed, modified and enforced, and then build your legal system on and arround them.

Take it from a guy who practices law in several colorful jurisdictions: Unless you understand the local narratives and assumptions animating your clients' and opponents' remarkable actions, you'll quickly make fools of yourselves.

Common Law
The common law was cobbled together over several centuries by arbiters hearing and judging cases according to local customs. Out of this process arose discrete principles of grassroots law describing how people understood (either cognitively or emotionally) the legal and moral character of their actions before they acted, that is, of their acts in the abstract. Oftentimes, culture and religion cultivated the rationale and widespread agreement concerning these things. The common law arbiters (and later equity arbiters) would then fashion standards and rules from these principles and apply them to concrete conduct to determine the rights and obligations that must be imposed to resolve disputes.

Compare the common law to statutes, or code law. Legislators impose code law on people whether it agrees with how people understand the legal and moral character of their actions in the abstract. Worse, legislators often do so to reform the peoples' understanding of right and wrong. But this strategy almost always leads to burdensome civil conflict whose theme song is Sammy Hagar's "I can't drive 55". Or consider the abortion issue - imposed on America by its most powerful judges who still don't seem understand these simple mechanics.

I hope for Iraq's (and our) sake that the western lawyers assisting Iraq to build its legal system understand this better than the US Supreme Court.

Why England and, aparently, no where else?
What was so special about England? Why have former French and Spanish colonies become more corrupt than former British colonies?

Also, the Scandinavians seem to have a pretty good legal system.

Hasn't Iceland been functioning on the same government system for centuries?

Was our system of law responsible?
"Could it have anything to do with ideas like individual liberty or that the state is subordinate to the individual?"

I wouldn't think so. It had a lot more to do with open space, and an absence of the old social and political strictures people suffered under in the Old World.

America represented a fresh chance. Even though there was still discrimination against newcomers (beginning with the Germans, no less!) there was enough opportunity in the new world that everyone considered it a big improvement over the used up old world, with its wars, injustices built into law and ancient enmities between people.

You can't instantly transmit the same feelings to a place that's seven thousand years old and is built on a web of tribal protections.

BTW England is your idea of a successful integration? That's a dangerous place just to have red hair-- much less be a resident of Londonistan. In America the ethnic groups mix. In the UK they don't.

Progress on the civil law front
"I'd be interested to hear Mr. Shapiro's views on how to stand up a viable civil law system in Iraq."

That would probably involve replacing the Iraqi people with some other kind of people.

Iraq has never been ordered around the rule of law in any sense that Americans understand it. Judges tend to go with societal pressures in rendering their decisions. The tribes and ethnicities tend to take care of justice within their own people. Or, as was the case under Saddam, one group extends its authority over the rest.

The police units (and many of those in the army) are actually militias answerable to the various factions. So the kind of justice one receives from these death squads depends on how one prays.

A contract system and regulatory enforcement will be confounded by a system in which it's hardly even possible to speak of corruption-- everyone takes care of his people, and money is handed around freely to secure those bonds. The corruption, in a word, is institutionalized. And has been so for many centuries. That's the way business is conducted there.

In fact, no tax system is going to be honored because Iraq has never had what we consider to be "taxes". Our system is not going to be able to be translated into anything Iraqis understand.

The Supreme Court
interprets the Law. If laws do not have a Common Law feel to them, don't expect the Court to put it in there.

It is up to the Congress to write laws that can appeal to the Common Law wisdom and ethos.

Scandinavian Legal Proceedings
As far as I know, it was the Scandinavians who invented the concept of the modern lawyer and the right to advocacy by another. Yes, there was advocacy in Judea, in the Roman Empire, and such, but it was the Scandinavians who gave us the unique Lawspeaker, which was kind of a mixture of lawyer and judge.

Lyndie England&Charles Graner
My German mother told me, that if the Americans had behaved like that after the war, my Grandfather would have continued to fight just as many Iraqis are doing now.

Maybe the Americans should start to ask themselves what went wrong with their society(Moral&Ethics) since they won WWII?

Everything else is actually a waste of time. I doubt that in 2007 many Arabs wil be keen to take over the American way of life.

For Roy, the system is NEVER at "fault"
Whether it is the dozens of millions killed - mostly by the rulers - by collectivist systems OR the incredible prosperity engendered - mostly because the rulers left people alone unless they violated mostly objective laws designed in conformity with mostly objective knowledge - by relatively individualistic systems, it is NEVER the system that is responsible.

Actually, I take that back.

For Roy, ANY aberration in a relatively free society is ALWAYS the system’s fault. It is NEVER, “with better people it would have been different”.

But, remind him of the dozens of millions murdered by the rulers (and their henchmen and supported (or swept under the carpet, like the New Duranty Times did of Stalin’s pogroms) by their intellectual boot lickers) of the Collectivist Systems, it is ALWAYS the fault of the people. NEVER that of the SYSTEM. With better people it would have been different.

There's money in justice
If my understanding of history is correct, the English (Saxons & Normans) managed to develop a court system independent from other powered interests because there was money to be made from the administration of justice in the courts instead of or in addition to the tribes, the lords and the crown. Since everyone up the food chain got a piece of the action, the courts maintained some independence.

But they had to have something to sell to the disputants lest they settle matters on cruder terms. So the courts began developing principles of legal standard and rule reflecting the agreements common amongst the hoi polloi, which principles prevailed in their beliefs of right and wrong informing their deeds before they were done. In this way, the courts' decrees seemed just to most who heard them, creating the popular notions that the courts dispensed a justice the hoi polloi would themselves dispense were they so cleverly situated.

Importing the law
This is just babbling. If you have any clear point in mind, it's not coming out in your writing. It just looks like an automatic negative reaction to anything I might say.

Iraq doesn't have a tradition of blind jurisprudence for judges to relate to. So we can import our system all we like, but if the people who interpret (and in many cases decide) the law are more concerned with who is on trial than what the legal principles are, they're still not going to have American style law. That much is very apparent.

I have a Bulgarian friend who came to the US to study our body of law as a research fellow to the Supreme Court. Then he was supposed to go back and make recommendations for the Bulgarian Supreme Court to follow. The idea was that he would report back the structure and practise of our law and they could just put it into place, and be like us instead of being like the Soviets.

It didn't happen. You can write new laws, but you still have the same old people. I do know what I'm talking about here.

Sounds like a free market, independent legal system worked once.
It could do so again.

Observations from the middle east.
I don't know if all Arabs are the same, but one aspect of their culture that seems different than the USA is the idea of self control.
Somehow,at one time, it became a badge of honor in the west to try and control oneself. Maybe it was Christianity. The idea to trying to become like Christ and the concept than you can't succeed but will be rewarded for trying and will be forgiven when you fail.

In the middle east, I believe women are are required to be covered and with family in order they do not cause the men to stray. Islam means to submit and rules and rituals are established to keep men on the straight and narrow. And because men are weak, society must make all efforts to prevent the men from sinning. This philosophy manifests itself into many other areas.

There is no societal incentive for self discipline. Society must provide the discipline.

Maybe this is why the left prefers Muslim society over Christian. Islam requires a 'state' imposing its order. Christians are taught discipline comes from faith in God and trying to follow his Word. The discipline of a state of Christians is the result of the collective discipline of the governed. The state does not become between the individual and God as it appears to do in Muslim society.

The point is clear
You support collectivist regimes and excuse their murderous rampage as the fault, not of the system, but of the people who run it.

Here is what you wrote (the URL is The post title is "Don't blame the systems").

"The reasons these criminal organizations go off the tracks have less to do with their guiding ideology and more to do with the character of their leaders and their followers."

But when the ONE essential difference between US of A and most of the rest of the world is the former's emphasis, however corrupted, on individual liberty and the state existing to protect that liberty, you say that has nothing to do with the relative propsperity enjoyed by Americans.

Griswold, Roe & Casey
In these three cases, the Supreme Court stringed together a series of undiscovered penumbras and emanations they believed they had found lurking in the Constitution. But these ethereal principles were not common, not law, and certainly not findable among the masses' understanding of right and wrong. That's why they've caused so much political trouble.

I was listening to a guy on the radio yesterday complaining that Congress and the President had shredded the 4th amendment with some new legislation. He was keen to have the SC review the law. Suddenly it occurred to me: Is the SC's exercise of power any less arbitrary and any more wise than Congress and the President's? Of course not. So what does this guy think he's gonna gain by placing his hopes in the SC?

That led me to realize that every exercise of power that offends tradition is arbitrary, which is why the common law draws its legitimacy and staying power from the principles of res judicata and stare decisis.

The good guys
This is a burr under your saddle. And you drag it in inappropriately to a conversation about something totally different.

The plain fact is, the most heinous individuals to be found on this earth committed an atrocity on 9/11, designed to cause maximum suffering to innocent people. And 3,000 died.

While the United States, just trying to be helpful in Vietnam, brought them democracy by cancelling their elections, and ushering in a dictator, Diem. And two million innocent people died.

So what is one to think of this United States? Demonstrably, to the world it is the greater evil. It causes far more harm to ordinary humans than the Communists and Al Qaeda combined. I know this upsets your ideas of all that's good and right. But those are the facts. What we're spreading around in the world is not liberty.

Death by communism
I would hold up the record of the USA as one to be proud of when compared to your favorite socialist states:

"In sum the communist probably have murdered something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987. Of course, the world total itself it shocking. It is several times the 38,000,000 battle-dead that have been killed in all this century's international and domestic wars. Yet the probable number of murders by the Soviet Union alone--one communist country-- well surpasses this cost of war. And those murders of communist China almost equal it."

"How can we understand all this killing by communists? It is the marriage of an absolutist ideology with the absolute power. Communists believed that they knew the truth, absolutely. They believed that they knew through Marxism what would bring about the greatest human welfare and happiness. And they believed that power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, must be used to tear down the old feudal or capitalist order and rebuild society and culture to realize this utopia. Nothing must stand in the way of its achievement. Government--the Communist Party--was thus above any law. All institutions, cultural norms, traditions, and sentiments were expendable. And the people were as though lumber and bricks, to be used in building the new world."

"But what connects them all is this. As a government's power is more unrestrained, as its power reaches into all the corners of culture and society, and as it is less democratic, then the more likely it is to kill its own citizens. There is more than a correlation here. As totalitarian power increases, democide multiplies until it curves sharply upward when totalitarianism is near absolute. As a governing elite has the power to do whatever it wants, whether to satisfy its most personal desires, to pursue what it believes is right and true, it may do so whatever the cost in lives. In this case power is the necessary condition for mass murder. Once an elite have it, other causes and conditions can operated to bring about the immediate genocide, terrorism, massacres, or whatever killing an elite feels is warranted."

How do you defend communism?

How do I defend Communism?
I don't... and I haven't. You just haven't been reading one word I've read.

What I've been doing is condemning possibly well-intended American interventionism. If one doesn't inhabit your black and white world, that's not the same thing.

The good guys of Roy killed more than 100 million,
more than 90% of them their own citizens. Killed by Governments founded on the Collectivist principles that Roy holds dear.

But we were talking about a country' prosperity within its boundaries. And its causes.

What differentiates the relatively rich countries (or even currently rich countries compared to the SAME countries in the not so remote past, as in INDIA) from those poorer ones is the extent of treating each "man" as an end in himself, not as a means to the prosperity of "men". The extent GOVAGs meddle in the non criminal activities of the non-GOVAGs. The extent GOVAGs control the means of production.

A point of clarification
I think most of the problem arises from the tendency on your side of the table to confuse two totally different things under the single word "communism".

Do I approve of Stalinist or Maoist totalitarianism? Of course not. But those things are not "communism". That's just the word they chose to justify control. Its the same sense in which the word "capitalism" is used over here.

Do I approve of governing principles designed to promote social justice? Yes I do.

I approve just as much of the democratic principle-- that a people should be free to choose their own form of government. And that's why I chose Vietnam as my example. Elections were scheduled under Geneva auspices. And the US cancelled them to install the odious dictator Diem. In the name of what high-falutin' principle?

Definitions Please
Define Social Justice. How isn't that just a phrase to justify control?

What definition of Capitalism allows you to say that it is used to justify control. While you are at it, define what you mean by "control".

And while you are still at it, define what you mean by democracy also.

Socrates was put to death by what is generally accepted as democratic vote.

Do you approve of that?

America was 'good' in 1945.
You asserted the USA was at its best in 1945 and then began its interventionist policies around the world causing much conflict.

Welll, USSR tried to take Berlin. USSR authorized North Korea to invade and provided pilots and MIGs.

Did you conveniently forget about USSR causing problems all over the world? Or were you secretly cheering them on hoping they would win?

Your 'social justice' requires the state to take property.
Which you approve of in Venezuela.

Any state control of private property is socialism whether the state is a tyrannical majority or a tyrannical dictator or committee.

Tyranny of the majority
If the majority believes they can take your property, is that ok with you?

Or if the majority believe rape should not be a crime?

Where do you draw the line at mob rule?

The majority approved of the murders. Must be OK, right Roy?
The people chose to live under such tyranny right?

As for Viet Nam, why did millions flee to freedom instead of accepting the will of the people?

It's funny that you mention "Geneva auspices", rb, because social justice is rampant in conservative, Calvinist Geneva. Why? Because most Genevoise believe their lives are going right and don't require a political adjustment. Hence the desire to "conserve" the present, just state.

So what is "social justice", then? Merely the idea that the present state is wrong and requires a radical political adjustment to set it right. But such adjustments inevitably require a top-down transformation of society at odds with a substantial number of the population's understanding of what is just, which understanding has of course provided the basis for how they lived their lives and intend to continue living them.

See what you're up against, rb? Understanding this, I always begin to tackle the question of "social justice" at the same place St. More did - with society, not law and politics. You'd do well to do the same, for I see no way to transcend the current left-right stalemate when both sides' standard of measure of all things human is material well-being.

What the state giveth, the state can taketh away
In Venezuela I don't think you can find an instance where the state has taken away something it has not first given.

For example the television station whose broadcast license has recently been rescinded. That broadcast license was first awarded by the state. The station continues to be seen on satellite and cable.

Or the famous farmlands that were allegedly seized. In no instance that I've seen was land taken to which the holder had clear title. The taking covered federal lands that had been used by latifundistas for many years without payment to the federal government, or clear permission being granted. If a person could produce clear title, the land was not taken.

So if there is no taking of private property, there is no fault.

Majority rule
Majority rule doesn't always result in decisions I'm happy with. But you seem to be arguing instead in favor of rule by a minority. How is that superior?

The Geneva Accords
Geneva just happened to be the place where they had the conference, and forged the agreement we later breached. That's all. Don't think if you're Genevois that your organic byproduct no longer stinks.

Social justice, of course, means the greatest good for the greatest number. And it needn't require a radical reordering of society-- only that men and women of good will outnumber those who are trying to get their extra portion. We had such a condition in the US during the Roosevelt years, and I believe the well advantaged survived that experience.

You claim, I think, to value the spiritual above the material. Excellent. As a show of good will, why don't I trade you half my fortune for half of yours? That would impress me as to the nobility of your character.

All I can see at present is that you derive your wealth from the value of the labor of others. Is that property then not based on theft?

Now support censorship?
You defend the state's 'right' to control free speach?

Missing the point.
You seem to believe that somehow the majority will rule with some morality. They won't vote to murder the minority, for example.

How do you ensure the majority will protect the minority?

"the greatest good for the greatest number"
The moral dilema: murdering one to save many or murdering hundreds to save thousands or murdering thousands to save tens of thousands.....

That is social justice?

Logical consequence of greatest good for the greatest number; Only two left standing
Let's see how.

If a society starts off with 100 members, then 49 can be disposed off to give the greatest good for the (remaining) greatest number.

Then 25, then 12 then 6 then 3 then 2 then 1 can be disposed off to greatest good for the (remaining) greatest number.

Since Roy claims that he is concerned only with the material realm, and since "life" itself is not material (as in one being able to perceive it using the senses, as opposed to perceive using the mind and/or intellect), taking of "life" shouldn't matter to him.

Material measures
"You claim, I think, to value the spiritual above the material. Excellent. As a show of good will, why don't I trade you half my fortune for half of yours? That would impress me as to the nobility of your character."

I am tempted to write: "Only a soul-less man would measure the soul by a material measure," but I think with a bit forethought, you wouldn't have written the above paragraph. Apples & oranges, you see, rb.

Next ...

"All I can see at present is that you derive your wealth from the value of the labor of others. Is that property then not based on theft?"

Having attended public schools, financed by others, and one public college, financed by others, and two public universities, financed by others, I suppose my wealth, which I largely derive from selling my very unique knowledge partly gained from said public institutions financed by others, is then based on theft via the tax code. Of course, this damns the institution of public education, does it not?

Care to rephrase your argument, rb?

Censorship in America?
Let's put it this way. The station in question was instrumental in carrying out the 2002 coup, announcing the orders of the new, one day government. If a station in the US were to do the same thing, do you think we would wait until their license was up for renewal before initiating any action? Or would we shut them down and throw their managers and officers all in the dungeon?

The USG threatens to pull the licenses of stations whose only sin is broadcasting Howard Stern.

As for political suppression, I would recall you to the old web site, which was shut down by the government for publishing pictures of flag draped caskets on the web. Don't tell me we don't have political censorship!

Finally, note that the station in question is still seen throughout Venezuela, on both cable and satellite. In contrast Al Jazeera, which is far from being a radical news channel, has never been granted permission to be seen in the US, whether on broadcast, cable OR satellite.

Ensuring minority rights
"How do you ensure the majority will protect the minority?"

That's a very good question... and one that has never been satisfactorily addressed. In fact it is the basic unanswered question for our time. A good answer would have helped immensely in stabilizing places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Iraq. Most of today's killings arise from ethnic cleansing run amok.

A basic format would be to set up a government of minority representation, where any religious or ethnic minority would have veto power over decisions they could clearly show were inimical to their existence. And the makeup of the armed services, security and police would have to be laid out in some detail.

It would have to be an evolving art. The Lebanese system was an early attempt to do such a thing... but it has become outmoded. Times have changed, and a set formula for power sharing must change with the times. Lebanon needs a new formula.

So where to start? First, the issue needs to be talked about. You get credit for about the first sensible suggestion I can recall ever hearing you make.

What would really help would be if there were some superpower available who could fairly judge the merits of any proposed plan. But of course we don't have one of those. Our reigning superpower is hopelessly partisan, and would never allow self rule on the part of any of the little no-account republics.

Not ready to wait for justice in Heaven
It's an old trick of the priests to tell the flock that material things are of no importance, and they can expect their rewards in the next life. Which is, of course, an assertion that has yet to be proven.

That way they can be cheated of their material rewards in this life. So if you believe me to be a soul-less person due to my insistence on justice in this material world and not the next one, I will have to plead guilty.

Regarding my argument on the value of labor, I will retain it as written. Labor creates value... and that value is then raked off to go into the pockets of the managerial and ownership classes. I will retire my argument only when the increases in productivity that the efforts of labor have made possible have been reciprocated, and reflected in comparable increases in wages.

That is the question
You seem to have a real hangup on murder. Let me ask you this. How many people has Hugo Chavez murdered?

Don't care for the logic
With logic like that, I won't be nominating you to be El Jefe.

Life does matter. In fact, life is everything. And life isn't worth much if the worker bees can't get their fair share of the material rewards their labors make possible. So I would say "From each according to their abilities, and to each according to their needs." Considering the kind of effort one has to put in to hold down a six dollar job, everyone making a million a year is highly overpaid.

As for killing more people, maybe you see the logic in that. I don't. Enough have died already in our crusade to rid the world of enemies.

How about something like the Bill of Rights?
And treating everyone the same?

So you do support censorship?

You tell me how many Chavez has murdered.
Your other communist friends have done their share. Chavez will surely try to catch up when the Chavistas turn on him.

How are you going to take "from each"?
That has led to millions of deaths through the ages.

How can you value life and even contemplate such a philosophy?

Social Justice: Envy?
"that whole societies, hobbled by envy, rejected innovation, and prosperity, preferring the arrested development of all to the advancement of the few."

"In primitive societies, “No one dares to show anything that might lead people to think he was better off,” Schoeck observed. “Innovations are unlikely. Agricultural methods remain traditional and primitive, to the detriment of the whole village, because every deviation from previous practice comes up against the limitations set by envy.”"

"Like the “scientific socialism” that concealed envy behind a slide rule, today’s liberals invoke social science as justification for their covetousness. In one famous study, a majority of people said they would rather make $50,000 if others earned $25,000 than earn $100,000 if others were making $200,000."

"But America is supposed to be different, in part because unlike, say, Germany or Russia, America had no feudal past and hence lacked the historic breeding swamps of envy. America’s egalitarianism is supposed to be political and nothing more: No man is the involuntary servant of another. Beyond that, he is the captain of his self."

Your social justice sounds like simple envy to me.

"Fair Share": tribal mentality
Who decides?

"The very complexity that makes it impossible to know all the information required to guide society, Hayek reasoned, makes it equally impossible to judge the “justice” or “worthiness” of an individual’s total actions. As a result, the popular call for “social,” or “distributive,” justice is inapplicable in a free society. Social justice requires not merely that individuals receive what is rightly theirs in general terms, but that individuals and groups also receive some stipulated distributional share of the society’s total output or wealth. However, Hayek showed that in the market economy, distributions of income are not based on some standard of “deservedness,” but rather on the degree to which the individual has directly or indirectly satisfied consumer demand within the general rules of individual rights and property.

To attempt to distribute income shares by “deservedness” would require the government to establish some overarching standard for disbursing “social justice,” and would necessitate an economic system in which that government had the authority and the power to investigate, measure, and judge each person’s “right” to a share of the society’s wealth. Hayek suggested that such a system would involve a return to the mentality and the rules of a tribal society: government would reimpose a single hierarchy of ends and would decide what each member should have and what should be expected from him in return. It would mean the end of the free and open society."

I have been accused of operating from a reptilian mind. Yet the constant drumbeat that some don't get their 'fair share' is from a tribal mentality according to this article.

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