OK, I admit it – I’m anti-American.

Apparently I’m anti-American.

I can’t say I’m particularly surprised. It so happens that whenever I bring up the topic of America’s record on civil liberties (warantless searches, removal of habeas corpus, secret prisons, torture, high imprisonment rates) or foreign policy (thousands of innocents dead from unjustifiable and illegal war in Iraq), the more intelligent readers of this blog have pointed out these are anti-American left-wing views.

So I’m confessing my sins. I hate America, especially their horrid day-time TV shows. I must admit though, that I wasn’t always this passionate in my hatred of America, probably because I lived there for 5 years. Back in the days when I was a John Howard loving teenager, I wrote a few articles supporting the Iraq war and praising the Americans in glowing terms. One example is this Online Opinion piece:

Withdrawing troops by Christmas however, as a Labor government has announced it would do, is a step in the wrong direction. No wonder then, that so many pundits have predicted another major terrorist attack between now and Election Day could tip odds overwhelmingly in favour of the Liberals.

It baffles me that public opinion is still divided on the issue of plans for a future Iraq. Robert Horvath in The Age was absolutely right: for all the criticisms made by anti-war commentators about the decision to go to war in Iraq, these same critics have been either strangely silent or have conveniently played down positives arising from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Therefore, despite lip service by cynics, Iraq is undoubtedly a golden opportunity to instil a government for the people, by the people.

You can see I was very wise back then, right? I wrote a pro-Iraq war article on Vibewire.net and for the Indian journal Freedom First, and was even asked to appear on the Insight program on SBS as one of the few young people who supported the war (I declined, I wasn’t a citizen at the time and they wanted to interview voters).

Yet ever since that bad man John Humphreys pointed out we should apply the same cost-benefit analysis to foreign policy as we do for domestic policy, I’ve lost my way. I’ve become a naive isolationist. And especially since the obviously un-patriotic/racist/idiot Ron Paul wrote his book, A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce and Honest Friendship, I regret to inform all of you that I turned to the dark side. I’m so ashamed.

I want to change my ways, I really do. But I’m confused. When I turn to the Cato Institute, the Libertarian Party, the Reason Foundation or numerous other American “libertarian” organisations, they tell me that I’m actually right on track with my blame-America-first policy views. But the enlightened Australian libertarians (who haven’t published any comparable research on foreign policy or civil liberties, but that’s OK – they’re naturally smart) tell me it’s not libertarian to criticise America. So who’s right??

All I’ve ever wanted to be is a good libertarian… please help me!

To prove my comittment to change I’m going to allow every single non-defamatory comment by the libertarianism expert Graeme Bird. No moderation for GMB on this post.

37 thoughts on “OK, I admit it – I’m anti-American.

  1. Tsk tsk, bex lie down & reread Norman Banks biography. There you go, that wasn’t so difficult was it? Oh sweet Jesus, another cure, blessings…fp, only for norty people, you shameless hussy youuuuuuuuu…ah, gosh that feels good. Repeat. Cheerio. Could I recommend western fart, stinks, but says it all really. Ah Norman…Laugh, just love it.

  2. PS as a last resort, except on Saturdays, I’ve always without fail recommended botty smacking; mixed success but implementation has been nothing short of well a veriatable hoot. Cheers & good fuck err that be with an l…I’m sure.
    Blaming America, now I know you have a problem…

  3. So now you write a whole blogpost making yourself out as the only libertarian opposed to foreign policy adventurism when I’d written in my comment specifically:

    “you’re not the only one here who is generally against foreign policy adventurism so don’t give me this bullshit about your being the only one to read cato papers. My point is there are enough good arguments without endorsing this nonsense designed to make China look like a slightly less repressive version of the US.”

    Grow up, Sukrit. Going from one form of zeal to another isn’t growing up. Going from being uncritically admiring of the Iraq war to wanting an evil abominable regime like China which runs over its own citizens and executes people just for show to be some counterweight to US ‘imperialism’ isn’t growing up.

  4. You don’t hate America, you hate the direction they are heading in.

    Cheer up, along with the horrid daytime TV, they also have brilliant shows on HBO. Hollywood may be trite, but it still tells some of the best stories in the world.

    Australia too is heading down the path of sacrificing freedom for security.

    I am not fond of this either.

    The thing is Sukrit, you don’t have to make concessions to crypto communists to be critical of your Government. You should point out it is shameful when a Government oppressive as the Chinese can manipulate the facts to look better than the US, when it is oibvious the US is still a beacon of freedom in what is still an awfully opressive and illiberal world.

  5. I see, so basically a good libertarian in your definition must always hedge criticism of the US by mentioning that China is worse. I’m not supposed to criticise America without having a footnote pointing out China’s record too.

    Good stuff, keep the insights coming.

  6. I think your being a child. Of course one always has the right to criticize people they feel need it, however I could think of some people better to criticize than the American government.

    Basically, if America is at the top of your priorities then I agree with what David has said in other posts, Your either an Islamofascist or French.

    Maybe if we get the rest of the world to a general standard of liberty and freedom that America has, then we could have good reason to criticize them, while America may not be perfect, it is DEFINATELY the better of the evils that exist.

  7. Sukrit, you are definitely being silly.

    Racism is holding and/or expressing views about people of another race because of that race. Anti-Semitism is being critical of Jews because of their jewishness. Anti-Americanism is being critical of America ‘because it is America’. That’s what you are doing.

    You are critical of America for:

    leading the charge into Iraq

    It was to remove a loathsome dictator who had WMD ambitions, remember? It wasn’t to oppress the natives.

    passing the PATRIOT act

    Have you looked at Australia’s anti-terrorism legislation? Or the UK’s? Where is your sense of proportion?

    a horrible incarceration rate

    I agree it’s a bad policy, but every single person in US jails has been subject to due process. With law and order an election issue in Australia, increased sentencing is having a similar effect here too. Again, a sense of proportion is missing.

    Whether its the chinese or americans that kill innocent civilians makes no difference to me. Neither does good intentions.

    Better study a bit harder. Intentions are extremely important in the law, and to most people for that matter. The Chinese deliberately have forced labour camps, persecute the Falun Gong, kill dissidents and suppress the media. The Americans have constitutional protections against these. They also go to a lot of trouble to avoid killing innocents. Intentions are crucial.

    I see that the US puts lots of people in prison for no good public policy reason (a huge amount of non-violent drug offenders). That is an infringement of human rights.

    It may be poor public policy, but it’s not an infringement of human rights in the internationally accepted sense. Australia also does it, by the way.

    Everyone already assumes that China is evil. I want to show that democratically elected governments produce evil results too.

    That’s the old moral equivalence argument. They both infringe civil rights, therefore they are equally wicked. It was used in the context of the Soviet Union and America too, by people who were anti-American.

    Your anti-Americanism is inhibiting your reasoning Sukrit. I hope you get over it.

  8. America is the world’s only superpower, the actions of America affect the rest of the world far more than the actions of any other nation.

    It may be a “lesser evil” than Sudan, but it is more influential.

    That is why, in my opinion, it is important to be critical of America. They are a world leader and it is always important to keep our leaders under a microscope lest they go astray.

  9. If we are fair, all countries are mixed bags. The main thing I hate about America is the constant boasting about how it is the best country in the world. I BRIEFLY looked at an episode of ‘Beverly Hills 90210’, and the script-writers felt compelled to have some teenagers utter banalities about how good it was to drive in America in safety. It had nothing to do with the plot- it was just an agit-prop device to reinforce American Teens with the idea that they already live in God’s gift to mankind.
    If Americans weren’t always big-noting themselves and their country, I would like the whole thing a lot more!

  10. Agreed.

    What makes me laugh is when Americans speak as if they are the only democracy on the planet. Or that they are some “bastion of democracy”. American democracy is highly flawed and based on a plurality rather than even a majority. A real democracy, in my opinion, tries to reach consensus and outcomes focused on 100% of the population, America and other FPP systems only care about 50.1% of the population.

  11. Pingback: The Soon-inspired Libertarian Disclaimer « Thoughts on Freedom

  12. I’d submit that scale was irrelevant and that governments should be judged on their actions alone. Presuming one government “better” (or “less worse”) than another because it infringes the rights of only ten million people whereas the other infringes the rights of one hundred million people is just as silly as saying this murderer is a better person than that one because he only shot one person instead of five.

    That a government is willing to infringe the rights of one citizen is indicative of their willingness to infringe the rights of many, the fact that their opportunity to do so may be limited is beside the point.

  13. I like America. In particular I like their classical liberal traditions and the fact that key negative rights are so deeply instituted. And their movies are fun. However if I compliment some limited aspect of the European Union that seems to send Jason Soon into a different kind of tail spin. Even when the things I compliment are simple facts. For instance if I say that the EU is a better federal system than the USA in so far as tax powers are decentralised that really gets Jasons goat. I’m supposed to qualify it with a long rant about how the EU defining beer a certain way is downright authoritarian. Which is true but it does not change my former point. Or if I point out that in the EU minimum wage laws are defined regionally not centrally this also agitates. I think anti-Americanism is a real problem. However reflexive pro-Americanism also pollutes rational discussion. America is a country with lots of good examples of how liberalism can work and much of this is worthy of following. However it is not the libertarian version of Zion.

  14. David – Racism is not, strictly speaking, holding views about people because of their race. I hate to split hairs but that’s racialism. If I say: “The Scots are a bunch of cheapskates or the Irish are a bunch of dumbarse’d drunks” (to insult my own ‘race’) that’s racialism. I’m expressing views about people based on their race. Racialism can also be positive: Jews are smart, Russians are tough, Somali girls are pretty etc.

    Racism is when you advocate an ideology of, say, inherent moral superiority: The Scots are the finest people in the world.

    Now Sukrit may have pissed a lot of people off with his ‘anti-Americanism’ but he hasn’t said anything that’s either racist or racialist, for two reasons.

    First – he hasn’t said that Americans are inherently liable to imprison people. That this is an inherent feature of Americanism.

    Second – American is a multi-racial civil society so ‘Americans’ aren’t a race.

    Anti-Americanism is not racism and Sukrit hasn’t even expressed anti-American views. I think concluding that they imprison less people than China is a bad call given that China has a much higher (and undisclosed) execution rate and isn’t exactly the most transparent government in the world.

    But that brings me to my next point re moral equivelancy. I’m not sure your use of the term is correct. Maybe you’re talking about moral relativism. Whatever the case, it is alarming that any democratic nation’s imprisonment rate compares with a communist dictatorship for the very reason that it is a communist dictatorship.

    We would expect China to be a draconian regime. We expect otherwise from the USA. The USA doesn’t have some special substance that makes them free and democratic. They are free and democratic precisely because of such things as elected government, separation of powers, free speech, habeas corpus etc. These things have been eroded under recent government, especially under Bush.

    Sukrit’s comparison with China may be hyperbolous but he’s right to express concern about the declining standards of civil liberty in the US. Frankly the more I find out about Bush’s administration and their various shennanigans, the more surprised I am that there hasn’t been more serious recourse to prosecutions.

    The scenario alarms me. Democracy can and has gone down the toilet in the past. Lax vigiliance is one of the contributing factors.

  15. Terje – you utter one positive word about the EU and you won’t just have Jason shouting you down..

  16. Shem

    Give me a real life example of one of your ‘real democracies’ that caters to ‘100% of the population’.

  17. I’ll utter a positive word about the EU. The open borders and freedom of labour movement are fantastic. I’m in the process of getting British citizenship so that I too can enjoy working in Europe without restriction or need for work permits or being tied down to a particular employer to do so. Being able to travel and work freely through Europe and have others travel and work freely in Britain will be sorely missed if the UK ever moves to leave.

    Of course, free trade and freedom of labour movement don’t need a super-government and bureaucracy, much less a President of Europe.

  18. So basically this whole spat is about a lack of caveats that shouldn’t even have to be made.

    I’m beginning to think this “anti-americanism” is in the eye of the beholder.

  19. Pommy – I already uttered several. You either were not paying attention or you are not sincere in your intent to shout me down. Of course I’m more than aware that you hark from one of the smaller EU states so I try to be sensitive in regards to such matters. 😉

    Is there such a thing as anti-Europeanism?

  20. Good post Sukrit. I note that the best your detractors can do is accuse you of not being as mature as them. Meanwhile, their entire argument rests on their unfounded assumptions about your motive. Pot. Kettle.

    Perhaps we should ask the detractors to actually quote your anti-american comments.

  21. Regarding #11. Of course the USA is flawed as a democracy. It was meant to be a constitutional republic with limited central government. It was not meant to bend and flex to popular opinion. However I agree that the place isn’t travelling too well right at the moment. Their massive level of government debt suggests that somewhere along the line the vehicle lost a wheel. A pity.

  22. Terje – it’s more a case of Australia being the exception in not acquiring a massive amount of government debt. The US is no different to any other European country that has become a special interest dependency culture.

    Democracy has started to deliver less liberty in these countries. I’m not sure why.

  23. Pommy- democracy is not about liberty, but about numbers! The two are separate realms, who sometimes seem to be the same, but really aren’t! For instance, the Nazies could claim to be democratic, because they worked for the majority of the German people, by inflicting injustices on minorities. That is why minorities, such as rich people, should always have strong protection for their liberties, or the survivors will end up equally poor and impoverished.

  24. Nicholas – i agree that it is about numbers, but democracy has always been the best vehicle to deliver liberty up until about 50 years ago. Now it appears to be delivering a tyranny of the majority. As over 50% of European voters are dependent on the State for a living (either thru pensions, a job or welfare), i wonder whether we have reached the tipping point of a vicious spiral of declining liberty.

    The question is what needs to happen to put this half-century long process into reverse. I have no answer to that.

  25. lol — indeed nicholas. We’re still perfect. Mark & Sukrit will get there some day. 🙂

    Pommy — Schumpeter predicted that democracy would inevitably lead to the people voting themselves steadily more hand-outs until we had “soft socialism” by stealth. He said this about 80 years ago. I think he was a smart man.

    On the positive side, one force acting against the socialisation of democracies is the increasingly international world with cheaper transport & communications. At the moment these two forces seem quite equally poised, and the eventual winner is far from clear to me.

  26. On the positive side, one force acting against the socialisation of democracies is the increasingly international world with cheaper transport & communications.

    These are pretty key issues. I know that I hark on about the EU but the implications of free movement and free trade engendered by this over grown treaty is not to be snivelled at^. Especially given that the normal federalist inclinations to centralise the military and the tax powers seems to have been put in a straight jacket. For now the EU is more good than bad.

    ^ not to mention the merits of a common unit of account.

  27. Backtracking a bit, Pommy at 17 said: “Give me a real life example of one of your ‘real democracies’ that caters to ‘100% of the population’.”

    There’s no such thing.

    Much as there’s no “real libertarian” nation, nor “real socialist” nation, nor even a “real autocracy”.

    Political theory isn’t about reality. No ideology can be represented purely.

    What is your point?

    America, in my opinion, is far less democratic than Australia, which is far less democratic than Germany or New Zealand. Which in turn are less democratic (ignoring the limited franchise) than Ancient Greece.

    FPP is less democratic than a bicameral system with IRV and STV. IRV is less democratic than STV (the Senate’s weakness lies in the state representation). IRV is less democratic for single-member electorates than Condorcet. STV is less democratic than absolute proportional representation. PR is less democratic than citizens directly voting on issues.

    Political parties like the Australian Democrats are far more democratic than political parties like the Greens, Labor or Liberal.

    The Dems did not agree with the GST and a host of other Liberal legislation when they held the balance of power. They moved proportionally more amendments than any other party- improving legislation so it took all views into account. They worked with the elected government instead of just being contrary. I’ve miss them since the coalition got the balance of power. They took all sides into account instead of running in accordance with a single-minded agenda.

    Libertarians disparage democracy as tyranny of the masses. But that isn’t what democracy means to me. Democracy is about consensus building and bridging ideological gaps. It’s about discussion between like-minded and opposite-minded groups.

    It’s essential to libertarianism, too. The most libertarian society is one without a state. The second most is a democracy where everyone gets a say. Even libertarians differ amongst themselves in deciding “what role should a minimal state have” some libertarians are pro-war, some pro-welfare, some pro-environmental action. The only way the government can legitimately decide which areas it should be involved with is democratically. That is individuals within society each being able to express their opinions.

    One of the biggest problems in recent times is the lack of withering away of state arms that are no longer valid. To use a current example- climate change- maybe there is a legitimate need for state action. But if so the state should only retain those powers while climate change is a threat. If legislation is written it is likely to be enacted indefinitely rather than expiring once the need for state action is passed.

    That needs to be resolved.

    Ultimately however, democracy, true democracy, should be our goal.

  28. This is a fascinating and frightening article. This sort of ferocious hatred of people is always damgerous, yet you boast of your hatred of Americans.

    I hope you are able to address and deal with your bitterness. It is wise for all Americans to stay away from Australia.

  29. Ok, I admit it. I’m anti-European. Why? The PC quasi-socialists that appear to be winning the culture wars over there. I hear this talk about “freedom”, but what that really means is YOUR definition of freedom.

    You take away my freedom to defend myself, by trying to take my arms, expect a fight.

  30. JimW & US Citizen — Sukrit was being facetious. He doesn’t hate America. He hates some American policies. Most Americans also hate some American policies. No country is perfect.

    Unfortunately, some people love America so much that they cannot stomach any criticism of anything American. If they hear a crticism they accuse the person of being “anti-American”. The criticism makes no sense and is used as an excuse not to engage in intellegent debate.

    Sukrit was responding to these cries of “anti-American” with the respect they deserve — ie mockery.

    Unfortunately, there is some real anti-Americanism out there. But that is NOT the same as criticising American policies. Indeed, it is more anti-American to slavishly defend government intervention.

  31. I’ve been an ardent hater of Europeans and most other coutnries since I was a teen-ager during the Cold War. I realized then that we were footing the bill will defenses against communism and getting all the condemnation. It’s easy for foreigners to complain about America’s “failures” when they do nothing. There is a surefire way of never failing—NEVER DO ANYTHING! Europeans in particular do this quite well, sitting in coffee shops with their 20 hour work weeks and 2 month vacations. Do nothing, never fail. Congrats!

  32. Mark:

    I have no idea what the map comment means.

    I am commenting on the ferocious hatred of Americans expressed in this thread. Of course, there is no excuse for the prejudice. But it is a fascinating topipc.

    Any American would INDEED be crazy to go to Australia for any reason.

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