Saturday, 19 April 2014

Sunflower Seeds

Whilst my peer cast of observers continue to walk in single-file behind the "sunflower" student leaders, I stepped out of line more or less at the beginning. I already see both the conclusions toward which they are marching, and at least some of the implications.

The precipitating events were the injustices dealt some of the poorest people in Taiwan by the government; robbing them of their land and property through a law which deflects a proper grasp of the thefts for which it was intended by covering them with the cloth-word "expropriation"; elsewhere committing similar acts of legally dressed depredation upon people living in naked poverty, lacking even the fig-leaf formality of a property title to prevent their total exposure to political power.

It was entirely proper that such violence should have called forth a defiant response.

What ought to have occurred was a popular demand for property rights as the flag under which a strategy of rational depoliticization was pursued. The poor victims of government transgression in Taipei, Miaoli and Tainan were left exposed because the political culture - not just the government per se - is not bound by any principle of private property rights. In this political culture, which is not by any means specific to Taiwan for the same thing occurs in the US, Britain and elsewhere, a property "right" appears to be indistinguishable from a politically contingent permission which may be revoked upon circumstance.

The protesters notably - and even if I were the only one who noted it, it was still noted - did not demand private property rights. They did not demand that viscerally understood limit to political power, and basic requirement of common decency as famously expressed by Pitt the elder...
"The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail — its roof may shake — the wind may blow through it — the storm may enter — the rain may enter — but the King of England cannot enter — all his force dares not cross the threshold..."
Instead of that, there were calls for "social justice" and for "amendments" to the Land Expropriation Act. The contrast may escape some people. The term "social justice", aside from being tautological as all cases of justice are necessarily "social", is a deception. On the one hand, its' two words consume the distinction between ordinary cases of justice as dealt with by the court system and those cases in which a branch of the government itself is charged with some illegality. For that reason it is easily grasped by anyone outraged at cases of government transgression. On the other hand it is a straight and direct reference to collectivism: the mob doctrine that the many have authority over the few. For that reason it is a dangerous repudiation of the protections that the private property rights principle extends to those who find themselves in the minority, or otherwise relatively powerless.

Against an unrestricted, arrogant government the poor people of Taiwan needed the defence of private property rights. Instead they were offered social justice, and the promise of saintly victimhood status in the struggle of the poor against the rich "1%" capitalists. The dangers of this kind of rhetoric should be obvious to any literate person with even a smattering of 20th century history.

There was, and continues to be, much clamouring for democracy, "thick" democracy, and further democratization. That is always now the battle-standard of the collectivists: democracy, because it to them it represents a way to take control of the coercive apparatus in order to pursue their "many vs the few" urges and purges. Restraining the government is a good thing, but when it is aimed at establishing "social justice" then it is only a matter of time before one set of tyrants is replaced with another. This is why I do not trust the student leaders of the sunflower movement.

I have indicated this before, but I believe the best way to effectively resist eventual Chinese annexation is through a strategy of rational depoliticization - of removing the powers of the central and local governments such that the available apparatus of coercion is drastically reduced and replaced with a set of healthy, fully-functioning institutions produced through civil means and operating through market mechanisms.

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