Justin’s note: Today, I’m continuing my conversation with Doug Casey on controversial buzzwords… and why it’s critical that you think for yourself. If you missed Part I, you can catch up here.
Below, Doug shares his unique perspective on two other terms…
Justin: What about terrorists? Surely they’re criminals, right?
Doug: There’s an old saying, "I'm a freedom fighter, you're a rebel, he's a terrorist."
I’m a fan of the American Revolution, but it can be said, accurately, that the rebels were terrorists. Why? Well, they were trying to overthrow the duly constituted government of the 13 colonies. And they used violence to do it.
They destroyed private property. They harmed lots of innocent people, starting with the Boston Tea Party.
Does that make them terrorists? Well, it’s partly a matter of definition. “Terrorist” is a word that’s usually used improperly. It turns out there are roughly 125 definitions of the word terrorist, different official definitions, used by various government agencies at one time or another.
To me, terrorism is simply a method of warfare. It can be a tactic, like artillery barrages or cavalry charges. Or it can be a strategy, used by a much stronger—or a much weaker—opponent, generally against a civilian population.
Justin: And how would you define terrorism?
Doug: I’m glad you asked because I have been trying to formulate a correct definition.
Try this, “an act, or credible threat, of violence, for political ends. It uses psychology, more than actual physical destruction, and primarily targets civilians.”
The problem is political conflict. War is the ultimate form of politics. I think it was Clausewitz who said war is just politics by other means. And any kind of political conflict is bad in my view. In fact, since politics is all about how some people get to dominate other people, and about who decides who gets what, I despise politics.
Terrorism isn’t the problem, any more than artillery barrages are. But you can’t righteously accuse the enemy of using artillery, for some reason. That’s somehow OK.
Anyway, terrorism will have an increasing place in politics as there are billions more people, and they increasingly live in giant cities. From a moral point of view, collateral damage is the problem. That’s when an attack affects completely innocent people.
For example, the Israelis blew up the King David Hotel in their war of independence against the British in 1946. That was widely seen as an act of terrorism. But, to my knowledge, they didn’t kill any innocent civilians. They only killed British military personnel. That was an effective—and in the context moral—act of terrorism.
The bombing of cities like Hamburg and Dresden at the very end of WW2, basically civilian targets killing scores of thousands of non-combatants, was an act of state terrorism. And both ineffective and immoral.
What about U.S. Marine barracks that were blown up in Beirut in 1983? That’s said to be an act of terrorism, too. Insofar as it changed the public’s psychology it was extremely effective.
The question is, what were those Marines doing there in the first place? If a bunch of Lebanese soldiers were in the U.S., would Americans have the right to blow up their barracks?
Justin: What about 9/11?
Doug: That’s once again a different thing. On the one hand, it was simply mass murder for political motives—which is exactly the essence of war. But these things are all painted with the same brush. The alleged perpetrators argue it was simply tit-for-tat, considering that Americans have killed scores of thousands of non-combatants in the Middle East in recent years.
I’ll tackle this subject in detail when we write Terrorist, the fourth novel in my series. The hero in that book, Charles Knight, is a good guy who’s accused of being a terrorist.
In the meantime, a terrorist is not necessarily worse than anybody else that destroys other people’s property or takes other people’s lives. It's an issue of circumstances. But if you call somebody a terrorist today it’s the end of the discussion. The first one to make the accusation wins.
Justin: Interesting perspective. What about tax evader?
Doug: That’s an easy one. Taxation is the compulsory and coercive collection of money by a group, usually a government. That leads to a broader question about who they might be, and why they have that power. A big topic in itself.
I’m opposed to it because taxation is theft.
The dictionary definition of theft is “To deprive someone of his property by force or fraud.” The definition doesn’t go on to say "Unless you're the government, then it’s not theft anymore."
Of course, they say taxation is the “will of the people.” But the government isn’t “all of us.” It’s a discrete entity with a life of its own. It’s no different than General Motors, the Rotary Club, or the Mexican Zetas cartel, for that matter.
Government’s interests are different from those of the people it’s supposed to represent. In fact, taxation is a form of aggression by the government against its subjects.
There’s no voluntarism involved whatsoever. If you don't comply, they will imprison or even kill you. Denying revenue to the State is a highly moral act in my eyes.
Think of it this way. If a mugger comes up to you and says, “Give me your wallet," would it be moral to try to deny it to him? Of course.
What if the mugger says, “But wait. I have a sick child at home. I need your money." Would it be moral for you to deny him then? I’d still say yes.
Now, suppose he says, "I had a vote with everybody else here on the block and I'm acting for them to take your wallet away so we can share the proceeds—for very good and necessary things, I assure you."
Is it still moral for you to deny him? Yes, because it’s the exact same situation.
So, the idea that tax evaders are immoral is a non-starter. It’s perverse. Stupid actually.
Having said that, I pay my taxes religiously. At this stage of my life, it’s not worth putting myself in a position of liability. It’s foolish to argue with a heavily armed group.
Justin: Most people disagree with you on this, Doug.
Doug: Of course. But most people start hooting and panting like chimpanzees whenever a buzzword is said. My experience is that when members of the public read controversial articles, they get tunnel vision after one of their hot buttons is pushed. At that point it becomes impossible to have a conversation with them. It’s a cause for pessimism about the future. Humans are advancing at warp speed in technology, but at a snail’s pace in rational thought.
Here’s the key: Don’t impinge on other people’s persons or property. Beyond that, it’s mostly a matter of aesthetics. And how you perceive yourself and want others to perceive you. And what kind of people you want to associate with.
In fact, all of this boils down to just one great law: “Do as thou wilt… but be prepared to accept the consequences.”
Most people would never dare discuss—forget about defend—these concepts in public. It might bring down the moral opprobrium of some people. But because people in the West no longer have their own moral compass, I guess we’ll have to await judgement from Hollywood.
I believe a conversation about these things makes more sense than joining a holy mob to jump on somebody because they aren’t automatically hostile to a given concept.
Justin: Unfortunately, few people seem interested in having these types of conversations. They’d rather go along with the mob. Hopefully, this interview inspires some people to start thinking for themselves again.
Anyway, that covers everything I wanted to ask you today. So, thank you for sharing your unique perspective again.
Doug: My pleasure. I just fear Socrates would fare no better in America today than he did in Greece 2,400 years ago.
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