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The Fed and the “Salvador Dali Effect” – Article by Dante Bayona

The Fed and the “Salvador Dali Effect” – Article by Dante Bayona

The New Renaissance Hat
Dante Bayona
November 28, 2014
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There is a story about the great Catalan surrealist painter Salvador Dali. It is said that in the last years of his life, when he was already famous, he signed checks knowing that they would not be submitted to the bank for payment. Rather, after partying with his friends and consuming the most expensive items the restaurants had to offer, he would ask for the bill, pull out one of his checks, write the amount, and sign it. Before handing over the check, he quickly turned it around, made a drawing on the back and autographed it. Dali knew the owner of the restaurant would not cash the check but keep it,put it in a frame, and display it in the most prominent place in the restaurant: “An original Dali.”

It was a good deal for Dali: his checks never came back to the bank to be cashed, and he still enjoyed great banquets with all of his friends. Dali had a magic checkbook.

But what would have happened if one day art collectors concluded that Dali’s work really did not capture the essence of surrealism, and therefore that his art was not of great value? If that had happened, every autographed check would have come back to the bank (at least in theory), and Dali would have had to pay up. If Dali had not saved enough money, he would have had to find a job painting houses.

While the analogy is not perfect, we may find that something similar can happen with the Fed and the dollar. For now, The Fed has a magic checkbook that allows it to spend without paying the bill because it thinks the checks will never come back to be cashed.

Dali died long before people stopped valuing his art, but the US economy does not enjoy such a convenient escape. What if, as in the case of art collectors who might no longer see great value in Dali’s work, the world loses faith in the quality of the dollar and stops using it for large international transactions? If that happens, in the same way Dali would have had to pay his bills, the US would also have to make good on the checks it signed. Would the US be able to pay its checks with more checks?

Since each country has its own currency, every central bank around the world has to print more of its national currency to buy the excess of dollars entering the country whenever the US expands its money supply. Thus, in the 1970s, in the wake of the Nixon Shock, members of OPEC accused the US of exporting inflation.

Recall that during the mid-1960s, the US central bank was financing a war in Vietnam and as well as funding Lyndon B. Johnson’s programs of “The Great Society”that supposedly would eliminate poverty. As the Fed was printing money, OPEC members had to inflate their currencies to buy the excess of dollars.

Central banks around the world have to buy excess of dollars entering their countries so their exports do not lose competitiveness. Thus, a double inflation is imposed on every country in the world, one created by its own domestic central bank, because all central banks inflate on their own, and another created by the US central bank. Hans-Hermann Hoppe wrote about the perils of monetary imperialism:

The dominating state will use its superior power to enforce a policy of internationally coordinated inflation. Its own central bank sets the pace in the process of counterfeiting, and the central banks of the dominated states are ordered to use its currency as their own reserves and inflate on top of them. Thus, along with the dominating state and as the earliest receivers of the counterfeit reserve currency, its associated banking and business establishment can engage in an almost costless expropriation of foreign property owners and income producers. A double layer of exploitation of a foreign state and a foreign elite on top of a national state and elite is imposed on the exploited class in the dominated territories, causing prolonged economic dependency on and relative economic stagnation in comparison with the dominant nation. It is this — very uncapitalist — situation that characterizes the status of the United States and the US dollar and that gives rise to the — correct — accusations concerning US economic exploitation and dollar imperialism. 1

While it is true that in the 1970s the dollar enjoyed a worldwide hegemony — given that all European countries had their currencies separated, and given that China and Russia were outside the capitalist world — now the situation is different. Vladimir Putin recently stated that “The international monetary system itself depends a lot on the U.S. dollar, or, to be precise, on the monetary and financial policy of the U.S. authorities. The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) want to change this.” 2

Salvador Dali had devised an ingenious method for not paying his bills. Similar stories are told about Pablo Picasso. But the Fed does not produce tangible items that people would rather hold on to, like an original Salvador Dali. The Fed does not produce work or items of value. The Salvador Dali effect, i.e., the ability to prevent checks from being cashed by creating something of real value, does not apply to the Fed. That is why it is good to remind the Fed, and the government, to be careful with the expenditures when partying, just in case the magic checkbook disappears.

  • 1. See Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 9, no. 2 (Fall 1990). www.mises.org/journals/jls/9_2/9_2_5.pdf
  • 2. See Vladimir “Putin, No plans for BRICS military, political alliance.” Russia: RT. Retrieved 16 July 2014. www.rt.com/politics/official-word/172768-putin-brics-economies-alliance

Dante Bayona received his master’s degree in Austrian economics under the direction of Jesús Huerta de Soto in Spain. He was a 2014 Summer Fellow at the Mises Institute, works in the banking sector in New York, and collaborates with MisesHispano.org.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Why Won’t Obama Just Leave Ukraine Alone? – Article by Ron Paul

Why Won’t Obama Just Leave Ukraine Alone? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 4, 2014
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President Obama announced last week that he was imposing yet another round of sanctions on Russia, this time targeting financial, arms, and energy sectors. The European Union, as it has done each time, quickly followed suit.

These sanctions will not produce the results Washington demands, but they will hurt the economies of the US and EU, as well as Russia.

These sanctions are, according to the Obama administration, punishment for what it claims is Russia’s role in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and for what the president claims is Russia’s continued arming of separatists in eastern Ukraine. Neither of these reasons makes much sense because neither case has been proven.

The administration began blaming Russia for the downing of the plane just hours after the crash, before an investigation had even begun. The administration claimed it had evidence of Russia’s involvement but refused to show it. Later, the Obama administration arranged a briefing by “senior intelligence officials” who told the media that “we don’t know a name, we don’t know a rank and we’re not even 100 percent sure of a nationality,” of who brought down the aircraft.

So Obama then claimed Russian culpability because Russia’s “support” for the separatists in east Ukraine “created the conditions” for the shoot-down of the aircraft. That is a dangerous measure of culpability considering US support for separatist groups in Syria and elsewhere.

Similarly, the US government claimed that Russia is providing weapons, including heavy weapons, to the rebels in Ukraine and shooting across the border into Ukrainian territory. It may be true, but again the US refuses to provide any evidence and the Russian government denies the charge. It’s like Iraq’s WMDs all over again.

Obama has argued that the Ukrainians should solve this problem themselves and therefore Russia should butt out.

I agree with the president on this. Outside countries should leave Ukraine to resolve the conflict itself. However, even as the US demands that the Russians de-escalate, the United States is busy escalating!

In June, Washington sent a team of military advisors to help Ukraine fight the separatists in the eastern part of the country. Such teams of “advisors” often include special forces and are usually a slippery slope to direct US military involvement.

On Friday, President Obama requested Congressional approval to send US troops into Ukraine to train and equip its national guard. This even though in March, the president promised no US boots on the ground in Ukraine. The deployment will be funded with $19 million from a fund designated to fight global terrorism, signaling that the US considers the secessionists in Ukraine to be “terrorists.”

Are US drone strikes against these “terrorists” and the “associated forces” who support them that far off?

The US has already provided the Ukrainian military with $23 million for defense security, $5 million in body armor, $8 million to help secure Ukraine’s borders, several hundred thousand ready-to-eat meals as well as an array of communications equipment. Congress is urging the president to send lethal military aid and the administration is reportedly considering sending real-time intelligence to help target rebel positions.

But let’s not forget that this whole crisis started with the US-sponsored coup against Ukraine’s elected president back in February. The US escalates while it demands that Russia de-escalate. How about all sides de-escalate?

Even when the goals are clear, sanctions have a lousy track record. Sanctions are acts of war. These sanctions will most definitely have a negative effect on the US economy as well as the Russian economy. Why is “winning” Ukraine so important to Washington? Why are they risking a major war with Russia to deny people in Ukraine the right to self-determination? Let’s just leave Ukraine alone!

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Ukraine’s “Territorial Integrity” is Not Worth a Single Human Life – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Ukraine’s “Territorial Integrity” is Not Worth a Single Human Life – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 12, 2014
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Who likes it when a nation shoots at its own people? We weren’t against being part of Ukraine, but after the latest events, we’ve changed our minds.” ~ Natalia Vasilieva, Retiree in Donetsk, Quoted by the Wall Street Journal

On May 11, 2014, residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions voted in favor of independence from Ukraine. Irrespective of questions regarding the legality of this referendum (which can similarly be raised regarding the legality of Ukraine’s current completely unelected interim government) and the possibly biased sample of voters who turned out as compared to the general population of the regions, two facts are undeniable: (1) the turnout was massive, as any glimpse at the many images and videos of the referendum would show, and (2) the voters were overwhelmingly peaceful civilians, merely seeking to express their points of view. A third fact must also confront any reasonable observer of these events in the West: while the voters behaved peacefully, the interim government of President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk sent troops who fired on crowds of civilians.

NBC News – no propaganda outlet of the Putin regime – reported that soldiers from the Ukrainian “national guard” fired on crowds of peaceful voters in Krasnoarmeisk, Ukraine, and at least two people were observed killed. Irrespective of whether or not a referendum has legitimacy, the act of voting is the act of marking a piece of paper with one’s choice. Casting a ballot, in a valid election or not, is purely an act of free speech. How could casting a vote even remotely be equated to aggression? How could it justify the taking of a human life in any sane, rational person’s mind? How is it that Western politicians fail to denounce the Turchynov/Yatseniuk government’s brazen use of force in reaction to a peaceful, civil action? Has the concept of free speech lost all sanctity for Western leaders as well?

Moreover, how is the attack on crowds of civilians by the Ukrainian “national guard” morally different from the Viktor Yanukovych regime’s attacks on peaceful protesters during its last days? The crowds in Krasnoarmeisk consisted entirely of unarmed civilians trying to cast their ballots. Irrespective of whether or not some of the separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk region are agents of Vladimir Putin’s regime – as has been alleged – can gatherings of thousands of civilians be said to consist entirely or even largely of Russian special agents or their peons? Or is it likelier that Natalia Vasilieva is right and these crowds are made up of ordinary civilians who originally were not averse to remaining aligned with Ukraine – until the Ukrainian government sent troops, including recruited “civil activists” from known fascist and neo-Nazi groups such as Right Sector (some of whose high-ranking members are also officials in this interim government, as I have written earlier), to kill them and raze their homes? Indeed, as reported by the New York Times, it was a unit staffed by Right Sector “activists”, the Dnepr Brigade (or Dnieper Brigade or Dnieper Battalion), that opened fire on voters in Krasnoarmeisk.

It was also Right Sector “activists” who trapped tens of initially peaceful pro-Russian protesters in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2, 2014, and threw grenades and Molotov cocktails inside to set it on fire, burning 40 protesters alive – not the same protesters who initially attacked a Ukrainian unity march that day. The Turchynov/Yatseniuk government’s shameful subsequent report on the event blamed the victims, alleging that one of the building’s occupants had dropped a Molotov cocktail onto the roof, thereby setting off the blaze. Even if this happened, how does it remotely excuse the murderous intentions and behaviors of the Right Sector thugs who were caught on video, throwing fiery projectiles at the building? If an armed assailant repeatedly fires at and injures his intended victim, but fails to kill him because the victim dies of a slip and fall in the meantime, does this excuse the assailant from the charge of murder?

Turchynov and Yatseniuk are resorting to forming military units consisting of Right Sector thugs, because sane, reasonable people refuse to fight for them. This is also why the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime undid Viktor Yanukovych’s sole good action and reinstituted military conscription for young men aged 18 to 25. As I wrote earlier, any government that treats its people as disposable cannon fodder against their will is an evil government that is not worth fighting for. Conscription is murder by lottery, and civilized people can only hope that Ukraine’s young men will engage in mass civil disobedience and dodge this draft in the hopes of preserving their lives and moral innocence. Those Ukrainians who do join the military would do well to follow the example of earlier armored columns that were sent to the Eastern regions and were stopped in their tracks by outraged civilians telling them to lay down their arms and go home. Many of these initial waves of soldiers – the ones sent before the Right Sector units were deployed – saw the folly of fighting their own people and relented.

To all Ukrainians who respect peace and civilization, I say: withdraw from all military operations, refuse to obey your criminal government, and pursue peaceful commerce and amicable daily interactions with your fellow humans – no matter what their language, ethnicity, or spoken political beliefs! No “territorial integrity” is worth the sacrifice of moral integrity, and certainly not the life of a single actual living human being. If a “united Ukraine” can only be preserved through conflagrations and rivers of blood, then it is not worth preserving! What is a set of boundaries drawn on a map ordained by the United Nations (which in many cases does not correspond to de facto political control in any event), compared to a conscious, reasoning being with a rich and irreplaceable internal universe? Borders have been drawn and redrawn time and again throughout history, but a life, once lost, can never be regained.

In the West, all too many leaders and pundits – even some libertarians! – would cast Vladimir Putin’s regime as the antagonist and the culprit for the entirety of the violence that is transpiring in Ukraine. While I have few kind words for Putin, and there is much to condemn about Putin’s own violations of the rights of Russian citizens, it does not appear that the blame placed on him for this crisis corresponds to his actual offenses. As Ron Paul points out, “The US demanded that Russian President Putin stop eastern Ukraine from voting on autonomy, and last week the Russian president did just that: he said that the vote should not be held as scheduled. The eastern Ukrainians ignored him and said they would hold the vote anyway. So much for the US claims that Russia controls the opposition in Ukraine.” And yet Western leaders continue to threaten Russia with escalating economic sanctions over the outcome of the referendum, even though Putin expressly urged delaying it! Even from a sheer pragmatic standpoint, this is an exceedingly unwise tactic; Putin might come to recognize that even his attempts at defusing the situation or disentangling Russia from it would not affect the West’s response, and he would see no reason not to escalate the crisis, if de-escalation does not alleviate any of the punishments that Western governments have in store for him.

Without the resounding endorsements and material support – economic bailouts and shipments of physical resources, paid for by Western taxpayers’ dollars – from the governments of the United States and the countries of the European Union, the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime would not be able to sustain its crackdowns on its own people. Why do the United States and the European Union support this criminally negligent, civilian-killing government? While I was sympathetic to the deserved overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, I am deeply ashamed of the US government for aiding the thugs who unfortunately replaced him. Turchynov and Yatseniuk are doing to the population of Eastern Ukraine exactly what Yanukovych did to the Euromaidan protesters who disagreed with his decision to abandon a proposed trade agreement with the European Union. This time, however, the Western governments have taken the side of the oppressors, just because they are perceived to be on “our” side rather than “their” side – “they” being the Russians in the eyes of all those who have not realized that the Cold War is long over and that Cold War thinking must be resolutely abandoned if we are to avoid a hot war that could engulf all of humankind and spoil our chances at achieving radical abundance and unparalleled health and prosperity through technological progress during the next several decades.

To ensure that the progress of human civilization continues without catastrophic setbacks, the crisis in Ukraine must remain localized. Only continued intervention by Western powers would allow it to spread beyond Ukraine’s current borders. It is true that, without American and EU support, the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime will probably fall – but this will largely be achieved by Ukrainians themselves. Putin might sweep in later and occupy Eastern Ukraine – either annexing it as he did with Crimea (even though he has denied any intent to do so), or treating it much like the autonomous regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria, which broke away from Georgia and Moldova and are currently occupied by Russian troops. If the aftermath of the Crimean annexation is an indicator, this might actually result in fewer civilian deaths than a continuation of the status quo. Also, it need not affect life in the West, or continued efforts by civilians in the West to innovate technologically and raise human standards of living, by one iota. Why does anyone need to lose sleep over the existence of quasi-independent republics named Donetsk, Luhansk, or even Novorossiya? Are they any more threatening to Americans – of whom five-sixths cannot point Ukraine out on a map anyway – than South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria are today? What is threatening to Americans is their own government’s foreign policy, intervening in Ukraine apparently just to oppose any potential expansion of Putin’s power and Russia’s sphere of influence, without any compelling argument for American “national security” to be made under any remotely credible interpretation of that nebulous concept.

A month ago, I wrote that the worst scenario in Ukraine would be an escalation of military conflict, which was unfortunately beginning to occur at the time as the “anti-terrorist” operation was being launched by the Turchynov/Yatseniuk government. At present we clearly see the bloody results of this ongoing operation, as more civilians perish by the day. Of course, unleashing the Ukrainian military and ultra-nationalists within the Donetsk and Luhansk region could not be confined to dislodging armed separatists, and it has turned into a war against the civilians of Eastern Ukraine. Perhaps Turchynov and Yatseniuk did not want this, but they are now desperate, just like Yanukovych was in February 2014, and they see no other way to remain in power. They know that, if they lose, their fates will be at least as unpleasant as that of Yanukovych, and so they are willing to sacrifice the entire country to protect their hold on power. The Western governments need to cut off the lifeline they have given to this criminal regime. While the result would not be optimal from the standpoint of any cosmic justice, any local “solution” to this crisis would certainly be no worse than any “solution” that could be achieved through Western intervention. Furthermore, the effect of complete non-intervention at confining the Ukrainian crisis to a local one would be incalculably beneficial in avoiding the risk of a broader war. Let us look upward to technology and human ingenuity as the path to solving humankind’s problems, and avoid getting bogged down in the sordid muck of Ukraine’s crisis. A bright future requires and demands peace today.

What Does The US Government Want in Ukraine? – Article by Ron Paul

What Does The US Government Want in Ukraine? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
May 11, 2014
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In several eastern Ukrainian towns over the past week, the military opened fire on its own citizens. Dozens may have been killed in the violence. Although the US government generally condemns a country’s use of military force against its own population, especially if they are unarmed protesters, this time the US administration blamed the victims. After as many as 20 unarmed protesters were killed on the May 9th holiday in Ukraine, the State Department spokesman said “we condemn the outbreak of violence caused by pro-Russia separatists.”

Why are people protesting in eastern Ukraine? Because they do not believe the government that came to power after the US-backed uprising in February is legitimate. They do not recognize the authority of an unelected president and prime minister. The US sees this as a Russian-sponsored destabilization effort, but is it so hard to understand that the people in Ukraine may be annoyed with the US and EU for their involvement in regime change in their country? Would we be so willing to accept an unelected government in Washington put in place with the backing of the Chinese and Iranians?

The US State Department provided much assistance earlier this year to those involved in the effort to overthrow the Ukrainian government. The US warned the Ukrainian government at the time not to take any action against those in the streets, even as they engaged in violence and occupied government buildings. But now that those former protesters have come to power, the US takes a different view of protest. Now they give full support to the bloody crackdown against protesters in the east. The State Department spokesperson said last week: “We continue to call for groups who have jeopardized public order by taking up arms and seizing public buildings in violation of Ukrainian law to disarm and leave the buildings they have seized.” This is the opposite of what they said in February. Do they think the rest of the world does not see this hypocrisy?

The residents of eastern Ukraine have long been closer to Russia than to the US and EU. In fact, that part of Ukraine had been a part of Russia. After February’s regime change, officials in the east announced that they would hold referenda to see whether the population wanted autonomy from the US-backed government in Kiev. The US demanded that Russian President Putin stop eastern Ukraine from voting on autonomy, and last week the Russian president did just that: he said that the vote should not be held as scheduled. The eastern Ukrainians ignored him and said they would hold the vote anyway. So much for the US claims that Russia controls the opposition in Ukraine.

Even though the Russian president followed US demands and urged the eastern Ukrainians to hold off on the vote, the US State Department announced that the US would apply additional sanctions on Russia if the vote is held! Does this make any sense?

The real question is why the US government is involved in Ukraine in the first place. We are broke. We cannot even afford to fix our own economy. Yet we want to run Ukraine? Does it really matter whom Ukrainians elect to represent them? Is it really a national-security matter worth risking a nuclear war with Russia whether Ukraine votes for more regional autonomy and a weaker central government? Isn’t that how the United States was originally conceived?

Has the arrogance of the US administration, thinking they should run the world, driven us to the brink of another major war in Europe? Let us hope they will stop this dangerous game and come to their senses. I say let’s have no war for Ukraine!

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Military Conscription Shows the Evil of Ukraine’s Government – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Military Conscription Shows the Evil of Ukraine’s Government – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 1, 2014
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I have, in the past, expressed ambivalence regarding the government of Oleksandr Turchynov and Arseniy Yatseniuk in Ukraine, but that government’s decision on May 1, 2014, to impose military conscription for men aged 18 to 25 clearly reveals it to be evil and unworthy of even verbal support, not to mention the material assistance and economic bailouts currently lavished on it by Western governments and the International Monetary Fund.

As I wrote in 2008 in “Why Freedom is Free and Rights Are Right: The Case Against Conscription, Compulsion, and Confiscation”, conscription is murder by lottery: “By fielding an army of conscripts, a government necessarily guarantees that some of those conscripts will be killed – although nobody knows in advance who will die. In effect, this is no different from selecting a large number of fit young men, assigning numbers to each of them, and picking a few of the numbers out of a hat – whereafter those whose numbers have been picked will be shot. Conscription is just such a murder by lottery – except that the picking of numbers is performed by the vicissitudes of the battlefield rather than the luck of a draw. The responsibility for the deaths of millions of young men from conscripted armies throughout world history lies solely on the shoulders of the governments who conscripted them. The enemy soldiers who killed them were mere instruments of murder; they were likely only following orders – and were likely themselves under compulsion to do so. The government officials who drafted the men, however, did so of their own free will and even with enthusiasm.”

It would be a complete contradiction of the principles of liberty and peace to support any government that conscripts its young men to become cannon fodder – disposable pawns in the power struggles of older, powerful leaders who will not themselves bear the physical costs of their desires to dominate over one group of people or another. Vladimir Putin’s regime is evil, too, and so are many of the militants aligned with it, as I have acknowledged previously. But supporting one evil just because it is arrayed against another is neither moral nor effective. American foreign policy engages in this support for the “enemy of the enemy” at almost every available opportunity, and this always comes back to hurt Americans in both the long and the not-so-long term.

Ironically, it was the overthrown Viktor Yanukovych who had abolished conscription in 2013 – perhaps the only good and liberty-friendly decision he made. Yanukovych deserved to be overthrown for instigating the killings of his own people, but this new government of thugs is no better. Indeed, it has managed to undo the one good legacy of Yanukovych’s reign! And yes, it is a government of thugs. This March 5 article from Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom – no Putin mouthpiece! – explains how many of the top posts in the Ukrainian government are occupied by leaders of Svoboda and Right Sector, two ultra-nationalist groups that grew out of explicitly fascist movements that use explicit Nazi symbols such as the Wolfsangel. Here are two images: at the top, Svoboda’s Oleh Tyahnybok delivers a Nazi salute; at the bottom, he poses with arch-interventionist and neoconservative warmonger John McCain. Right Sector’s leader Dmytro Yarosh is Ukraine’s Deputy Secretary of National Security – security, that is, for those who meet Yarosh’s standards of ethnic and linguistic “purity”.

Neither side in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine is just or right, or anything but destructive to the interests of the only innocent parties in the mix – civilians who seek to live and work in peace. No principle, no signal, no feverish nationalistic pride, no set of lines drawn on a map is worth the life of a single human being. As Voltaire poignantly and perceptively expressed it in his Philosophical Dictionary, “It needs twenty years to lead man from the plant state in which he is within his mother’s womb, and the pure animal state which is the lot of his early childhood, to the state when the maturity of the reason begins to appear. It has needed thirty centuries to learn a little about his structure. It would need eternity to learn something about his soul. It takes an instant to kill him.” No worthless, ephemeral power struggles and posturing can ever justify sacrificing the existence of the rich individual universe – the incomparably intricate and sophisticated mind and body – of any actual human being.

The Ukrainian government is forcing young men to kill their fellow Ukrainian and Russian young men, against whom they have no individual grievances. This is vile and reprehensible, and the Ukrainian government deserves to fall. It would be easy for it to fall and would not require active external intervention; the West would just need to withdraw its support and let the situation unfold as it would with only the involvement of local actors. If the West continues to prop it up with aid, this would only prolong the spree of destruction engaged in by people who should never have had a chance at high office in any civilized society, who should have been marginalized much like the Ku Klux Klan and various neo-Nazi parties are treated in the United States today. No government that uses its own people as cannon fodder against their will deserves to exist; no country whose “territorial integrity” must be maintained by a conscript army deserves for its territory to remain intact.

As to the young Ukrainian men about to suffer under the yoke of military conscription, my advice to them can be found in my poem “The Draft Dodger”, written in 2004 but still just as relevant ten years later. As one who proudly escaped Alexander Lukashenko’s Belrusian military conscription myself (I have subsequently become a US citizen – so I am thankfully safe from that particular tyranny), I wish these innocent young men all the best in finding peaceful, prosperous lives outside the heinous havoc which they did not create.

The Draft Dodger (2004)
G. Stolyarov II

I have been sentenced to a war.
And my offense? Naught but my age.
I’ll suffer pestilence and gore,
And die upon a foreign stage.
The verdict has been passed by those
Who wish to equal me to rags,
Plug sand into a breathing nose,
Borrow my life, return dog-tags.

They tell me, “Freedom is not free,”
And thus they seek mine to deprive.
But no! I’ll courage have to flee,
To choose to prosper and survive!
The right that mine was from the womb,
That I had bought with Reason’s gold,
I shall not lay before a tomb,
But will Self’s Shrine from robbers hold.

I claim no more than what is mine;
To rise each morning when I will,
To build, compose, create, refine,
And heed no Congressman’s dread bill,
Whose parasitic voting bloc
My soul as spoils of war would claim,
No noble war of awe and shock,
But rabble-rousers’ power game.

When nations seek me for their slave,
Their cause, their plight shall pass in vain.
Let no man give but what he gave,
Of his own will, for his own gain.
Freedom can’t stand on sacrifice;
With blood and bones I shan’t it craft.
I shall not offer prey to vice,
And, proudly, I shall dodge this draft!

Ron Paul, Richard Cobden, and the Risks of Opposing War – Article by Ryan McMaken

Ron Paul, Richard Cobden, and the Risks of Opposing War – Article by Ryan McMaken

The New Renaissance Hat
Ryan W. McMaken
May 1, 2014
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Since at least as early as the eighteen century, classical liberalism, and its modern variant libertarianism, have opposed warfare except in cases of obvious self-defense. We see this anti-war position clearly among the anti-federalists of eighteenth-century America (who opposed all standing armies) and more famously within George Washington’s Farewell Address. Thomas Jefferson frequently inveighed against war, although in moves typical for Jefferson, he acted against his own professed ideology on a number of occasions.

On the other side of the Atlantic, liberalism finally made significant gains in Britain with the rise of the Anti-Corn Law League in the late 1830s. The head of the league, a radical liberal named Richard Cobden, rose to prominence throughout the 1840s and is notable today for his active defense of laissez-faire capitalism as a member of the House of Commons, and also for his staunch anti-interventionism in foreign affairs.

For a time, his political star rose quickly, but by the time the Crimean War ended, Cobden, had been cast aside by both a ruling class and a public enthusiastic for both empire and war.

Prior to the war Cobden traveled Europe as an honored guest at international peace conferences while advocating for free markets, civil liberties, and libertarianism everywhere he traveled. But in the end, as has been so often the case, his political career was ended by his opposition to war, and his refusal to buy into nationalistic propaganda.

Like the Crimean crisis of today, the Crimean crises of the early 1850s were caused by little more than the efforts of various so-called great powers to tip the global balance of power in their favor. Foremost among those grasping for global power was the British Empire.

But even as early as the 1830s, the British were seized by a series of national hysterias whipped up by a variety of anti-Russian pundits who were obsessed with increasing British military spending and strength in the name of “defense” from the Russians.

As is so often the case in securing the case for war, the pro-militarist argument among the Brits rested on perpetuating and augmenting the public’s nationalistic feelings that the Russians were uncommonly aggressive and sinister. Cobden, obviously far better informed on the matter than the typical Brit, published a pamphlet on Russia in 1836 actually considering the facts of Russian foreign policy, which he often compared favorably to the hyper-aggressive foreign policy employed by the British Empire.

Cobden began by comparing Russian expansion to British expansion, noting that “during the last hundred years, England has, for every square league of territory annexed to Russia, by force, violence, or fraud, appropriated to herself three.” And that among the self-professed opponents of conquest, the British failed to recognize that “If the English writer calls down indignation upon the conquerors of the Ukraine, Finland, and the Crimea, may not Russian historians conjure up equally painful reminiscences upon the subjects of Gibraltar, the Cape, and Hindostan?”

In an interesting parallel to the modern Crimean crisis, much of the opposition to the Russian among British militarists was based on the assertion that the Russians had annexed portions of Poland in aggressive moves that were deemed by the British as completely unwarranted. Cobden, however, understanding the history of the region to be much more murky than the neat little scenarios painted by militarists, recognized that neither side was angelic and blameless and that many of the “annexed” territories were in fact populated by Russians that had earlier been conquered and annexed by the Poles.

The Russians, while themselves no doubt hostile toward neighbors, were surrounded by hostile neighbors themselves, with the origins of conflicts going back decades or even centuries. The puerile and simplistic arguments of the British militarists, who advocated for what would become a global, despotic, and racist British Empire, added little of value to any actual public knowledge of the realities in Eastern Europe.

For his efforts in gaining a true understanding of global conflicts, and for seeking a policy of negotiation and anti-nationalism, Cobden was declared to be un-patriotic and a friend to the great enemy Russia during the Crimean war. Cobden, who had perhaps done more to consistently advance the cause of liberty than anyone else in Europe of his day, was declared to be a friend of despots.

The similarities to today’s situation are of course striking. The Crimea, an area of highly ambiguous ethnic and national allegiance is declared by the West to be a perpetual territory of anti-Russian forces much like the Eastern Polish provinces of old, in spite of the presence of a population highly sympathetic to Russian rule.

Moreover, the successor to the British Empire, the United States, with its global system of client states and puppet dictatorships and occupied territories declares itself fit to rule on a Russian “invasion” that, quite unlike the American invasion of Iraq, resulted in exactly one reported casualty.

As was the case with Cobden in the nineteenth century, however, merely pointing out these facts today earns one the label of “anti-American” or “pro-Russian” as in the obvious case of Ron Paul.

Like Cobden, Paul spent decades denouncing oppressive regimes domestically and internationally, only to now be declared “pro-Putin,” “pacifist,” “unpatriotic,” and “anti-American” by a host of ideologues utterly uninterested in familiarizing themselves with Paul’s actual record, including his denunciations, while in Congress, of Communist regimes and his warnings about Putin’s desire to expand Russian influence in Afghanistan.

Of course, Russia has not been the only target. For those who can remember the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003, this should all feel like déjà vu since many at that time, including some libertarians, claimed that opponents of invasion were “pro-Saddam Hussein” for pointing out that Iraq clearly had no weapons of mass destruction, and that his secular regime was probably preferable to the murderous Islamist oligarchy that has replaced it.

Paul remains in good company with the likes of Cobden, H.L. Mencken, William Graham Sumner, and virtually the entire membership of the American Anti-Imperialist League, including Edward Atkinson who encouraged American soldiers in the Philippines to mutiny. These were radical principled opponents of militarism who opposed government violence at great risk to themselves and their reputations. Some modern American libertarians, on the other hand, well out of reach of the Russian state, would rather spend their time stating what everyone already knows: Russia is not a libertarian paradise.

Ryan W. McMaken is the editor of Mises Daily and The Free Market. Send him mail. See Ryan McMaken’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

No Excuses for Militant Barbarism in Ukraine – But the West Should Stay Out – Article by G. Stolyarov II

No Excuses for Militant Barbarism in Ukraine – But the West Should Stay Out – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 26, 2014
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I was initially reluctant to accept the Ukrainian government’s reference to the pro-Putin separatists in Eastern Ukraine as “terrorists” – since terrorists deliberately target civilians in order to achieve political and ideological objectives. However, during the past week, it has become clear that at least a significant fraction of the separatists have engaged in exactly that: hostage-takings and killings of civilians in an effort to “secure bargaining chips” or “send a message” to their political enemies.

While very little news that comes out of Eastern Ukraine now can be trusted as being unaffected by propaganda for one interest or another, I do completely trust this account by Simon Ostrovsky, a VICE journalist who was captured by armed gunmen, beaten, held in captivity for four days, and subsequently released. His account relates the identities of some of the other prisoners; a few may themselves be militants working for the other ugly nationalist group in the mix – Right Sector – but many are completely innocent: journalists, political activists, and civilians. It is completely unacceptable to abduct and hold such people hostage, for political leverage or otherwise, no matter what one’s goals or objectives are.

The separatists have committed other crimes as well. The torture and murder of Vladimir Rybak, a councilman who supported the Ukrainian government, is the most heinous among them. Rybak was a peaceful man who spoke his mind; he was vocal and passionate, but never posed a physical threat to anyone. The fact that he would be whisked away in the middle of the night, mutilated, killed, and thrown into a river smacks of Stalin-era tactics to suppress political dissidents and critics.

A further travesty is the abduction of OSCE monitors and unarmed foreign military observers, who were clearly not in Eastern Ukraine to stoke up hostilities, but rather could have negotiated a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The fact that the separatists are inclined to take the observers hostage instead of speaking with them, expressing their grievances, and attempting a diplomatic solution, shows their true colors.

While I had hoped that the multilateral Geneva Statement would be the beginning of a de-escalation in Eastern Ukraine, this has, unfortunately, not come to pass. Vladimir Putin’s regime did not play its part. Putin could have easily defused tensions by publicly speaking about the need for separatists to vacate occupied government buildings in the Donetsk region and to engage OSCE monitors and other third-party negotiators peacefully and sincerely. The fact that he failed to do this, and continues to support the separatists rhetorically, in spite of their record of hostage-takings, murders, and intimidation, gives me substantial doubts regarding his good faith.

Then again, there are very few good people involved in this entire mess – apart from the innocent civilians who are trying to live and work in peace, and to speak their minds in civilized ways, instead of resorting to violence, brutality, and brinksmanship. The pro-Putin separatists and the Putin regime are not the only guilty parties here. This past weekend, Sergei Rodenko – a beloved figure in his community – and two other civilians who performed part-time duty at a checkpoint northwest of Slovyansk, were probably murdered by Right Sector thugs. This situation increasingly reminds me of the nightmare that has unfolded in Syria over the past two years, where the regime of the tyrant and murderer Bashar Assad is fighting a war of attrition against barbarous and often equally brutal Islamic fundamentalist fanatics. Once ancient hatreds – be they religious or nationalistic – are unleashed, all goodness is at risk of being washed away by rivers of blood. It is good that, in 2013, a major public outcry in the United States prevented the US government and military from becoming involved in a conflict where it is absolutely not clear who the greater evil is. (Nor is it ever justifiable to aid evil, period – all the misguided rhetoric regarding the “greater good” notwithstanding.) A similar public outcry is needed against intervention in Ukraine; American foreign policy is terrible at dealing with “gray areas” – especially where every side has clear evil elements. One can only hope that sanity and reason will prevail in Eastern Ukraine, and peace will somehow be achieved, before the body count approaches anywhere near the catastrophic levels it has reached in Syria. As for us in the West, we can only condemn – and hope.

What should the United States government do? This is vital: nothing – except condemnation of all atrocities and attempts to secure the release of all captured civilians. Diplomacy has unfortunately not succeeded in resolving the present mess, and further intervention of any sort will only reinforce the perception (held by the Putin regime and many of its sympathizers in Eastern Ukraine) that the Ukrainian government is simply a tool of Western and especially American geopolitical interests. While military occupation of Ukraine has thankfully been ruled out by the United States and NATO, economic sanctions would, too, be a grave folly. The free-market argument against sanctions includes the recognition that sanctions almost never harm the regime in power; they always harm ordinary civilians and rally them around the hostile regime. In the words of Frédéric Bastiat, “When goods don’t cross borders, armies will.” Economic sanctions always set up the scene for war, because they break the ties of commerce that enable peaceful cooperation, mutual understanding, and cosmopolitanism. As the great Ludwig von Mises put it, “Wars, foreign and domestic (revolutions, civil wars), are more likely to be avoided the closer the division of labor binds men.” Mises also said that military conflicts “are an outgrowth of the various governments’ interference with business, of trade and migration barriers and discrimination against foreign labor, foreign products, and foreign capital.” To the extent that advocates of sanctions depart from this understanding, they are sacrificing free-market principles to the desire to undermine and punish Putin and Russia. Putin may deserve punishment, but his innocent subjects certainly do not.

Do nothing and allow a local solution – fueled by what Friedrich Hayek called “knowledge of the circumstances of time and place” – to emerge. The United States and European Union cannot improve on any resolution that Ukrainians and Russians might be able to arrive at, even if that resolution would be grossly sub-optimal from any reasonable standpoint. For us Westerners to inject ourselves into this horrific mess would only risk dragging us down into the thick quagmire of hatreds, hostilities, and recriminations. This is not a part of the world that can be easily fixed, and it has always suffered from deep cultural maladies. The penetration of the 18th-century Enlightenment there is only superficial and limited to a small segment of society. Those who truly seek a better life are better off just leaving than attempting to resolve the deep problems that have persisted since at least the 13th-century Mongol conquests! They are better off just leaving – as I fortunately did during my childhood – and we are better off just staying out. By attempting to “solve” the problems of post-Soviet republics, the Western powers only risk importing those problems – nationalism, xenophobia, militarism, jingoism, propagandism, and economic isolationism, just to name a few – into their own countries.

Multilateral Agreement on East Ukraine Situation Gives Peace a Chance – Post by G. Stolyarov II

Multilateral Agreement on East Ukraine Situation Gives Peace a Chance – Post by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 17, 2014
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I am immensely relieved that a deal among the governments of Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union has been reached in an effort to avert violence and de-escalate the increasingly troubling crisis in East Ukraine. (See the Washington Post article by Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan, describing the deal. Also see this article from BBC News.) While the deal does not resolve all of the outstanding key issues of contention among the parties (the various territorial and policy disputes), it is a tremendous step in the right direction in denouncing the use of violence, rejecting bigoted mindsets such as anti-Semitism and exclusivist nationalism more generally, offering those who have not committed violence a chance to return to civilian life unscathed, and holding all sides to the promise to disarm and marginalize violent militants. I have written previously that war would be the worst option for Ukraine and the world in general. Any agreement that takes us even a small step away from war and toward a civilized, peaceful resolution is a welcome development in defense of a bright, cosmopolitan future of advancing technology and rising living standards for all – instead of meaningless carnage and destruction.

If Vladimir Putin’s regime was indeed behind the arming and organizing of the insurgents in the Donetsk region, then Russia’s accession to this deal can be expected to be followed by the disempowerment of the insurgency. If the havoc wreaked by the separatist uprising cannot last without Putin’s assistance, then withdrawal of that assistance would hopefully restore a semblance of peace and safety for civilians.

War is the Worst Choice for Ukraine and the World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

War is the Worst Choice for Ukraine and the World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 14, 2014
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As I write this, people have already been killed in the confrontation between pro-Putin militants of the self-proclaimed “Republic of Donetsk” in Eastern Ukraine and the “anti-terrorist” forces sent by the interim Ukrainian government to suppress the insurgents. (Calling them “rebels”, “separatists”, “militants”, even “provocateurs” may be legitimate – but the use of the label “terrorist” here only further eviscerates any meaning that term once had in referring to people who deliberately kill civilians to make a political or ideological point.) It is not precisely clear what is happening on the ground – who is prevailing, and who is responsible for the initiation of force. What is clear, however, is that a deadly tragedy may be about to occur – unless reason, common sense, and every longing for peace and civilization are marshaled against it.

I have no love for Vladimir Putin or his regime. He is clearly an authoritarian despot, with little respect for the rights of his own people or those of others. He will pursue an agenda of personal power and aggrandizement through nationalistic rhetoric and attempts to rekindle the alleged glory of Imperial and Soviet Russia. Yet, despotic as he may be, one would hope that Putin is not suicidally stupid. It was one matter to seize control of Crimea, with its majority Russian-speaking population and popular support for annexation by Russia. Occupying the rest of Ukraine – in which even many ethnic Russians have no enthusiasm for union with Russia – is another matter entirely. A protracted occupation of Ukraine, amidst an unsympathetic populace – to say the least! – would bog down the Russian military and imperil an already precarious economic situation.  It would also risk the lives of many Russian soldiers in a prolonged partisan uprising, much like the one that the Soviet regime had to deal with for decades in Ukraine during the last century.  A reasonable person would hope that Putin recognizes this and does not stray from his characteristic modus operandi – which, however ruthless, is nonetheless marked by caution and pragmatic calculation.

Until the uprisings that led to the declaration of the “Republic of Donetsk”, it seemed to me that Putin’s conduct of “military training exercises” on Ukraine’s Eastern border was a strategic bluff. While the cover of military exercises affords Putin plausible deniability, he could also sincerely agree to withdraw the troops in subsequent negotiations, in exchange for the West’s recognition of the legitimacy of the Crimea annexation and a more loosely federated Ukraine. If Putin had pursued this approach, he would have likely gotten away with annexing Crimea after nothing worse than some griping and minor sanctions levied by Western governments.

Yet it is now unclear whether the separatist uprisings in the Donetsk region were orchestrated by provocateurs employed by Putin’s regime (as many in the Ukrainian government and foreign-policy hawks in the West allege), or whether they largely arose from local Russian nationalists who were inspired by the Crimea annexation and sought to repeat it in Eastern Ukraine (as many of the separatists do appear to be ordinary civilians). Nonetheless, Putin’s regime has officially endeavored to maintain plausible deniability – which means that an escalation of military force against the separatists by the Ukrainian government would give Putin exactly the pretext he would need to invade Eastern Ukraine, if that is indeed his goal.

The “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukrainian government of President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk is – like any attempt by Putin to even consider an invasion of Eastern Ukraine – an act of suicidal folly. Not only do Turchynov and Yatseniuk undermine their own legitimacy in the eyes of Eastern Ukrainians by treating their own citizens as “terrorists” (), they also create the actual war that they accuse Putin of fomenting! Logic suggests only two possibilities: either the separatists are Russian provocateurs, or they are not. If they are indeed Russian provocateurs, then Turchynov and Yatseniuk have effectively initiated hostilities against Russian forces. If the separatists are not Russian provocateurs, then Turchynov and Yatseniuk are deploying military and “counter-terrorist” forces against their own people, instead of dealing with any insurgent or criminal behaviors via the police and the civilian justice system. Either way, the Ukrainian government is not doing itself any favors and is itself engaged in dangerous brinksmanship, which, unless restraint wins the day, could cost the lives of at least thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians.

If this crisis were merely an episode of competing follies between two Eastern European regimes, I might have left the matter at that. Unfortunately, prominent neoconservative war hawks such as John McCain and certain NATO generals, such as Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove, remain unable to transcend the insane era of the Cold War, when the civilized world was never far from nuclear annihilation due to the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. They continue to call for “harsh” and “forceful” measures to be taken against Putin’s regime – whatever that means. Economic sanctions would, of course, be wholly counterproductive and would further impoverish Russian civilians, driving more of them, in desperation, to further embrace Putin’s nationalistic agenda. But military action of any sort by NATO or the United States would be an absolute calamity for human civilization – risking not just another cold war, but World War III between the world’s two major nuclear powers. Such a war would paralyze the progress of humankind for decades and lead to the eradication of much of the infrastructure needed to make comfortable, prosperous lives possible.

The neoconservative and NATO hawks are the Western mirror image of Putin’s nationalistic aggrandizement. They warn of the United States’ weakening image in foreign policy, of a perceived softness of the Obama administration’s response. They fear, in essence, a loss of American “national honor” and “national pride” if the United States were to withdraw from its role as global policeman and global human-rights enforcer. But they overlook the essential question: Why should the United States government be involved in the situation in Ukraine? There is no danger to American citizens, to whom the United States government’s duty of protection is owed, even in the worst-case scenario of Putin’s troops occupying all of Ukraine (which, as explained earlier, will not happen unless Putin is suicidally stupid). There is no compelling “national security” rationale of any sort for military or even extensive policy intervention in an area of the world separated from the United States by an ocean and most of the European continent!

The United States government is drowning in runaway debt, and the country is only beginning to recover from disastrous decade-long occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of American troops have been killed in the prior interventions of this millennium; tens of thousands more have come home physically and mentally scarred forever.  And the hawks want them to fight in yet another part of the world which most Americans understand nothing about, for no tangible gain, in the name of the geopolitical posturing of regimes whose leaders care not at all about them and will not bear a single physical cost of the massive killings, tortures, property destruction, and other atrocities that war inevitably brings with it? War is always fought at the behest of and for the benefit of corrupt, power-hungry leaders, and all the costs are always borne by innocent civilians and by very young armed men who know not what they fight for and who kill one another senselessly, even though they could have been good friends in other circumstances.

As the Wikileaks revelations about the conduct of some American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan showed the world, the US military is not uniquely righteous or humanitarian; torture, sadism, and perversity in the conduct of war marred the US military record, too.

The description of the horrors of war and the immense beneficence and moral imperative of peace by the great Renaissance humanist thinker Desiderius Erasmus is just as true today as it was in the early 16th century when these words were written:

Peace is at once the mother and the nurse of all that is good for man; war, on a sudden and at one stroke, overwhelms, extinguishes, abolishes, whatever is cheerful, whatever is happy and beautiful, and pours a foul torrent of disasters on the life of mortals. Peace shines upon human affairs like the vernal sun. The fields are cultivated, the gardens bloom, the cattle are fed upon a thousand hills, new buildings arise, riches flow, pleasures smile, humanity and charity increase, arts and manufactures feel the genial warmth of encouragement, and the gains of the poor are more plentiful.

But no sooner does the storm of war begin to lower, than what a deluge of miseries and misfortune seizes, inundates, and overwhelms all things within the sphere of its action! The flocks are scattered, the harvest trampled, the husbandman butchered, villas and villages burnt, cities and states that have been ages rising to their flourishing state subverted by the fury of one tempest, the storm of war. So much easier is the task of doing harm than of doing good — of destroying than of building up!

As with the remarkable surge of grassroots opposition that prevented US intervention in Syria in 2013, it is time for the American public to vociferously denounce any military intervention in Ukraine. It is not surprising, as a recent Washington Post article highlighted, that “The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want to intervene”! Education of Americans, not the inflammation of their zeal, should be the priority. The conflict in Ukraine today is a clash between two extremely ugly nationalisms – and ignorant neoconservative jingoists would add their own third flavor of nationalism to the mix. It is time for civilized individuals everywhere to reject all nationalism and all war. All of us humans – in Ukraine, Russia, the West, and everywhere else – face a choice for the next several decades. If we pursue the path of peace and non-intervention, we can become a spacefaring, cosmopolitan civilization. We are on the verge of major breakthroughs in life extension, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanoscale manufacturing, and ubiquitous, affordable energy. If we pursue the path of war, then humankind will instead become suffocated in the muck of jingoistic tribalism, with a promising future washed away by rivers of blood and consumed by an inferno of bombs.  The next few weeks will indicate which of these futures we face.