Monday, February 28, 2005

Liberalism, and a crossing of the Rubicon.

What does Liberalism mean anymore? Many appear to claim the mantle of Liberalism without apparently understanding the formulation of the concept. Once Liberalism encapsulated the idea that humanity should move away from the rule of elites and toward the vox populi, vox deus – The voice of the People is the voice of God. Or, to adopt an overused slogan, power to the people. However, somewhere, somehow, this became lost by later day adherents of Liberalism who identify themselves as ‘Progressive’.

Recent events are casting a new light or who or what Liberalism may be. There are those figures who are openly calling for an end of stability, and end of the status quo, for change. And then there are those who are appealing to their ‘friends’ to help maintain stability. Individuals like Bashir Assad. What is stunning to me is that in spite of everything, despite being damned behind the ‘Stability’ of the Cold War, Liberalism is still alive and well in the world:

Walid Jumblatt:

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Even better is we all ready have a ‘proof of concept’ that Liberalism can win over tyrrany.

Claus Christian Malzahn of der Spiegel:

Yet three years later, East Germany had disappeared from the map. Gorbachev had a lot to do with it, but it was the East Germans who played the larger role. When analysts are confronted by real people, amazing things can happen. And maybe history can repeat itself. Maybe the people of Syria, Iran or Jordan will get the idea in their heads to free themselves from their oppressive regimes just as the East Germans did. When the voter turnout in Iraq recently exceeded that of many Western nations, the chorus of critique from Iraq alarmists was, at least for a couple of days, quieted. Just as quiet as the chorus of Germany experts on the night of Nov. 9, 1989 when the Wall fell.

So what exactly is the stated principle of 21st century Liberalism? To state it simply, by the person you’d probably expect to be the last proponent of Liberalism;

GW Bush:

"the false stability of dictatorship and stagnation can only lead to deeper resentment," and that "lasting successful reform in a broader Middle East will not be imposed from the outside. It must be chosen from within."

In other words, the best way to save ourselves and the Arab world from the cul-de-sac that have placed themselves in is through the rigorous application of Liberalism.

One thing that we can’t argue is that during the Cold War we became a Conservative power, pursuing the status quo, propping up odious but ‘friendly’ regimes in the name of containment. But after events that have unfolded since that September, it became hard to ignore a recurring theme: the Rose revolution in Georgia. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Iraqi’s voting by the millions. The people of Lebanon demanding that the Syrians stop oppressing them. Demonstrations against Mubarak in Egypt and his stunning response.

Can all of these things be a coincidence? I find that unlikely. Perhaps, a better explanation is that the fist nation born of the Humanist Enlightenment has returned to its roots and is demanding the world change, instead of it changing for the word. That vox populi, vox deus matters. And the people of the world are listening.

None of this is settled. We still stand at a Crossroads of history. The Middle East may yet fall apart into an orgy of violence and repression. We may yet turn away from Liberalism and toward fear and repression at home and abroad. But today, at this moment, things haven’t looked this hopeful since Berliners scaled the Wall, dancing, singing, hammers in hand. And the world cheered.

Update: The Governmet of Lebanon has quit because of mass protest
Update 2: And what is this? Discontent in Syria?
Update 3: Azerbaijan!?!? With more from the BBC.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Kelo v. City of New London

Or, eminent-domain, Property Rights and wither you actually own anything.

One of the more serious questions we face as citizens is where Individual Rights end for the sake of the Community. In the case of Kelo v. New London Connecticut, eminent-domain is being utilized not to clear the traditional eyesore, but rather to complete a development parcel for private industry.

The relevant justification for the definition for eminent-domain comes from the Fifth Amendment, the relevant portion being:

nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The key element of this statement is ‘public use’. So, what comprises public use? Normally the exercise of eminent-domain occurs when a developed parcel has degraded to the point that it is lowering the value of surrounding parcels, or if a public work requires the land that is occupies by said development. However, in the Kelo v. New London, neither of these is the case.

Apparently, the city of New London has decided it is acceptable to exercise eminent-domain on a piece of well maintained, developed property for undetermined private use. A business park of some sort. So this begs the question, does a potential economic benefit outweigh private property rights.

Now the justification for all of this comes from a 1954 case before the Supreme Court, Berman v. Parker, which ruled that governments can seize blighted property and transfer it to a developer who can build something clean and modern in its place.

But what if the property isn’t ‘blighted’? Or does a potential increase in sales tax revenue from a business development when compared to private dwelling constitute ‘blight’?

A market economy ONLY works when property is clearly defined in a non-volatile manner. If a municipality can override property rights for any reason whatsoever without limit, then property no longer is any such thing.

At the end of the day, we should all know how this turns out in the end of June.

In case anyone is still paying attention, 'blight' is now officially defined as 'whatever we want'.

Wherefore art thou, Mercurio?
For those of you who may be wondering about my silence of late, it comes from two sources: life, and the fact that much of my rambling has been occurring over here. Does this mean my blog experiment is dead? No. I just haven't had much to write about. Oh, I suppose I could be gleeful about Iraqi elections, and Ukrainian elections and the protests in Lebanon, and the fact that honest to God Liberalism (not the common term appropriated by 'Progressives', but rather the Liberalism of the Enlightenment - Humanist Liberalism vox populi et al) is on the march. Maybe. Hopefully. But life must come first.

Hmm. Perhaps I need to take a stab at defining Liberalism. We shall see.