Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Anti-Marriage-Rights Amendment: Desperation and Blackmail

The Yes on Prop 8 people (read: religious extremists) are getting desperate, and now they're sending threatening letters to "blackmail" many businesses that are dead set against amending the California state constitution to take away people's rights. Think I'm exaggerating? They've admitted it openly; these folks don't seem to think there's a problem. Small business owners and anybody who completes a 1099 at tax-time should be worried at what these special interest groups are willing to do to intimidate you even before their measure passes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Apple and Google Line Up Against Anti-Marriage Amendment

Apple is giving $100,000 to fight Proposition 8, and Google is on record publicly opposing it as well (along with big donations from its founders).

Hey all you "conservatives" pushing Prop 8 - either your church is a church, or it's a political organization. You can't have it both ways. When Libertarians and businesses are lining up against Prop 8 to defend Americans' rights from encroaching government, what is it that you're defending?


The Great Game in Africa: And A New Growth Industry At Home

Interesting article in BusinessWeek about the increasing importance of African business to American defense contractors.

I'm posting this mostly to emphasize the importance of Africa in the first half of this century as the site of a new Great Game between the U.S. and China, as we maneuver around the resources still locked in the ground there. At the same time it bears keeping in mind that the militarization of parts of Africa has not done people there many favors, especially in places like Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur (where, after extending pressure, at least the Chinese government has finally started talking with the West about how to improve the situation).

China's strategy has been two-pronged: they don't just hand shiploads of weapons over to whatever leader is willing to make a deal with them, brutal thug or otherwise. They also directly build transportation infrastructure that not only gets commodities to ports, it helps Africans through free trade is exactly what the US">economic development. The U.S. has a golden opportunity here to focus on trade and economics over weapons delivery and retain the mantle of "the good guys".

Shameless Plug for Museum in Reading, PA

I was home in Pennsylvania a few days for a friend's wedding and also got to visit the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum, courtesy Frank Gilyard. The big sell for most people is that the museum is in an old AME church (the sixth one in the world) and there's an actual Underground Railroad hiding space dug out underneath the bottom floor. People having to escape by tunnels and underground hideouts is a story that's still going on today in places like North Korea. The whole museum is an excellent showcase for a part of Pennsylvania and American history that's often neglected, and not only does curator Frank Gilyard know everything there is to know on the topic, he's also a very interesting and nice guy. If you're in the area you should check them out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hu Jia Wins Sakharov Prize

Here. The article warns: "Hu, 35, was chosen by the European Parliament as this year's recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, despite warnings from Beijing that his selection would harm relations with the European Union."

What, exactly, is the rest of the world supposed to do to avoid harming relations with China? The answer, of course, is never to do anything that might one day stop China from repressing its people - and being complicit in repression elsewhere by dealing with amoral dictators like Robert Mugabe and supplying gunship helicopters to Sudan.

What to do? It's easy. Keep encouraging the emerging Chinese civil society - well-represented by heroes like Hu - through clear international recognition. It's my same suggestion for mitigating unmitigated Muslim outrage - publish the famous Mohammed cartoon over and over again, every single day. Eventually even the most excitable imam runs out of hot air. This is called "desensitization", and in the twenty-first century, it's hard to hide from information, even in China. Try as they might, neither Muslim fundamentalists nor the CCP's senior management can maintain their outrage at the influx of free information from liberal democracies, or at the world's recognition of Chinese government ineptitude and repression.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

People Waking Up About Talk Radio

Whatever guys like Rush and Sean Hannity are, they're not traditional facts-and-figures conservatives. That's what I've been telling people for a while. My pet name for guys like these (like to hear themselves talk, but no substance when it comes to actual conservative values) is flag-huggers (mentioned here).

I'm glad lots of people are starting to wake up to the damage flag-huggers can do to conservatism – like this guy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Eliminates the Right of..."

I don't know about you, but I typically vote "NO" on any referendum that starts out "Eliminates the Right of..."

Of course, I'm talking about California's Prop 8, "Eliminates the Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry".

For me as a Libertarian, this is an open-and-shut case. For the most part, a person can figure out what's better for him or her than an appointed bureaucrat. Doesn't seem so radical to me. Therefore, if two people want to establish a contract with
each other, they should be entitled to. Period. There's the further issue of what the government is doing telling you and/or your church who's allowed to marry who; in an ideal world there wouldn't be any laws at all about it. For now, it has to be fair. Therefore, I will vote NO on Proposition 8.

Many people who think they're conservatives or libertarians are vocal supporters of Prop 8. This is very strange because they're attempting to use the government to force their views on other Americans that are not harming them - as Jefferson said, a marriage can neither "break your leg nor pick your pocket". The fact that national-level special interests are trying to amend our state constitituion to force this down private citizens' throats is scary.

Vote NO on Prop 8 - "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry". (Check it out on Facebook too).

Vote Bermudez, California State Senate District 9

A little local Bay Area politics for a change. Vote Bermudez, State Senate District 9!

Claudia Bermudez has bona fide free-market conservative genes: by that I mean, her father was the leader of the Contras in the Nicaragua Civil War in the 1980s. Bermudez is a small business owner and promises to shake up the inbred Democratic power structure that dominates the Bay Area. Bermudez faces multi-term incumbent Don Perata, who through a special deal has avoided getting termed-out.

Bermudez took the initiative in the very blue Bay Area to run against Barbara Lee in 2004 in the US House of Representatives; you may recall that Lee was the only member of either house of the US Congress that voted against military action after September 11, and she supports such useful initiatives as creating a Department of Peace. A former Ron Dellums staff member in the capital, she replaced him in Congress (Dellums is currently one of Oakland's most passive and incompetent mayors ever). But Lee is a Democrat, which in the Bay Area gives you a free ride, whether you're doing a good job or you wouldn't be able to manage a student council position.

Vote Bermudez, California State Senate. Pro-business, fresh blood!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Defection Landslide Continues

In case you've been asleep since Friday October 17th and the first thing you do when you wake up is check this blog, Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama, a rumor which I first mentioned here.

This continues the landslide of defections. Former McCain advisor John Weaver said of the current mob mentality characterizing the campaign's waning days: "from a purely practical political vantage point, please find me a swing voter, an undecided independent, or a torn female voter that finds an angry mob mentality attractive." The same article summarizes the growing rift between McCain and the cancer that was forced on him by the rest of the party (David Brooks's words, not mine). One apparent disagreement between McCain and Palin is apparently over Palin's desire to bring back the Wright controversy, despite her own pastor problems (she can't understand that having been granted protection from witchcraft won't play well with the mainstream - link to video of witchcraft ceremony here).

In other news, I recently started fooling around with Intrade, which is a political futures market open to the public. As of this writing the market is giving Obama an 84% chance of winning the election. It's hard to argue with markets.

Predictably, even though months ago the GOP was using these conservative thought leaders' words for ammunition, now that they're inconveniently defecting, they're dismissed. Conservative history professor Allen Matusow said: "The migration or desertion of the intellectuals does not reflect the base...the average Republican will turn out [on Election Day]." Remaining Republican voters, the GOP thanks you for being reliable, average voters.

Friday, October 17, 2008

How Many Conservatives...

...have to endorse Obama before we get the message?

These are credentialed, thought-leader conservatives, and it's worrisome. The trickle has turned into a flood. Peggy Noonan told it like it is, and Christopher Buckley (conservative royalty!) endorsed Obama (it may take you a couple of tries to get through on this link - you're not the only person who can't believe your eyes). Buckley had to know he'd lose his column at the Review for this but apparently felt strongly enough to say the hell with it. Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker said Palin was unqualifed and has been crucified by the few remaining pseudo-conservative loyalists, and here she is defending Buckley. Matthew Dowd (a 2004 Bush campaign strategist) made maybe the most cutting comments of all, because he may have something of an inside line to the campaign. Neocons Robert Kagan and Francis Fukuyama have even come out in favor of Obama. A GOP ex-governor has voiced his disgust with the campaign. There are even rumors swirling that this weekend, Colin Powell will endorse Obama on television. But of course, as everyone knows, the real watershed moment was when I resigned from the McCain camp.

There are several possible explanations for what's going on here.

1) All these people have secretly been evil liberals all their lives, biding their time before they reveal their true forms and strike.

2) These people really haven't said these things. The real Chris Buckley and Matthew Dowd and the rest of them are tied up somewhere and evil liberal impersonators have infiltrated The National Review, etc. said these things.

3) The McCain-Palin ticket really is a betrayal of conservative and GOP values, and Americans have figured that out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Midwestern GOP Governor Backs Away from McCain

William Milliken, Republican former governor of Michigan, said: "He is not the McCain I endorsed...his campaign has become rather disappointing to me." Maybe that's why McCain isn't bothering with Michigan anymore.

Milliken is joining the growing ranks of GOP and former GOP politicians who have been forced to voice their objections to, or outright leave, a party that no longer represents the values of Reagan, Eisenhower, and Teddy Roosevelt, and seems taken-over by flag-huggers. In the same article Lincoln Chafee (Independent, former GOP - Rhode Island) said "[Bush and Cheney] came in with a (budget) surplus and a stable world, and look what's happened now." Notice there aren't a lot of people defecting to the GOP these days, are there? For just a few disappointed Republicans, see Kathleen Parker (conservative columnist for the National Review), or the Libertarian Party's disgust with the GOP's sudden rush toward socialism, and even the endorsement of a founding neoconservative of Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Drill Baby Drill!

I saw the following in the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pennsylvania). At a rally in Wisconsin, everyone's favorite journalist Sarah Palin (McCain's "energy expert") got some major facts wrong about her state's oil output. She's not just a regular gal; she's the Governor of Alaska. She really should know these things.

The reality is that there is no state that eats up more of Alaska's oil than mine - and I know everyone in America always wants to do what they can to make the lives of Californians better. In fact, we Californians suck up the biggest chunk of Alaska's production of any state (including Alaska), fully 41% of the oil they pull out of
the ground up there. And thank heavens we have John McCain and Sarah Palin to fight for us by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! So drill baby drill, because we Californians need that gas to drive around Hollywood and San Francisco in our SUVs drinking latte. The hell with you people in the Midwest!

In reality, opening up protected lands wouldn't do anything to lower anybody's price at the pump. What it WOULD do is enrich a few oilmen, and take yet another public land away from hunters, fishermen, hikers and climbers, and every other American that pays taxes to protect and preserve these places.

It's worth pointing out that when I was back east in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, the price for a gallon of 87 was running in the high $3.50's, and at home in California it was in the high $3.60's. A year ago and before the spread was typically a dollar or more.

(Sources for statistics: here and here)

PBS Poll on Sarah Palin

PBS has an online poll posted asking if Sarah Palin is qualified. The poll will be reported on PBS and picked up by mainstream media. It can influence undecided voters in swing states.

Please make sure your voice is heard by voting. Make sure that first you see what conservative columnist Kathleen Parker had to say about Palin in the National Review.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ron Paul and Bob Barr: Third Party Meltdown

Lost in the glare of McCain vs. Obama and the meltdown was a meltdown of another sort between third parties. Ron Paul held a news conference to promote third party shared interests (ballot access and awareness), and Bob Barr, unfortunately, pissed Paul off by showing up 2 hours later and giving his own press conference.

We all understand that Bob Barr wants to get Bob Barr and the LP elected, not Ron Paul or Ralph Nader. But Barr also has to understand domestic realpolitik, which is to say, you can't get there from here, if you're getting excited that in one state you have two-digit share of the popular vote. This is why in the Libertarian primary I supported Michael Jingozian, because he was the only candidate serious enough to recognize the LP stood no chance in the 2008 election, so we should start building a base for 2012. But in exchange for literally nothing, Barr damaged a relationship between Paul and the LP that could have been the nucleus of a revitalized twenty-first century conservatism; either the GOP has to clean up its act and give the evangelical kids the boot, or the Eisenhower-Nixon-Reagan Republicans will find a new home elsewhere. Now Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party has Paul's endorsement, which seems odd coming from the famously lower-case libertarian Paul - since the Constitution Party wants government to decide who you're allowed to marry and whether you have a baby, not to mention strongly favoring the state's right to kill you. This is the same controversial party that in Alaska has had (among its positions) secession from the Union, and the same one the Palins have been members of (relevant link in this article).

Of course, Ron Paul's struggle for ballot access and media coverage is only one example of many, which is why Paul and every other third party candidate but Barr were there that day, and also why the event was given back page status by the press. Pennsylvania requires 67,000 signatures for "third party" candidates but only 2,000 for Republicans and Democrats. In Ohio the LP had to get a court order to get on the ballot. And the national media has in effect become its own self-appointed primary. There's no conspiracy here, except the pressure of selling news in soundbites to a population that demands an easily understandable world. Media coverage is badly corroding the effectiveness of American elections. For example, FOX News decided that no candidate who polls below 10% nationally is invited to the primary debates (pointed out by Ron Paul on CNN). In 2004 Dennis Kucinich was excluded from debates by ABC (at one point being in the room, but off-screen and and left on the cutting-room floor). I don't care for Kucinich's politics, but the power of the networks to exclude serious candidates from national discourse is nonetheless disquieting.

I don't have a solution for the distorting effect modern media has on the election process, but it's obvious that two-party inertia is a problem. There is a wider range of choices out there than the GOP and Democrats offer. If you're a capitalist, you believe that more choices are better, and that's why the rainbow of products on the shelves of American supermarkets outshine what you can expect to find in centrally planned economies. That's exactly why it's so strange that our political process behaves like a Soviet supermarket. "Hungry? Lucky for you stout comrade, we have made your choice easier! In the glorious Kravgeniy Oblast Market Collective, you can buy either Democrat OR Republican brand crackers!"

Evangelicals Against Palin-McCain

Frank Schaeffer is a lifelong evangelical Christian and GOP supporter who even had a book endorsed by McCain in 2000. And now he's as scared as the rest of us about the
the McCain campaign is using at their rallies. "Change the atmosphere of your campaign. Talk about the issues at hand. Make your case. But stop stirring up the lunatic fringe of haters." Schaeffer's most recent book is here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reagan Economic Advisor Wins the Nobel Prize in Economics


How Is North Korea OFF the Watch List?

Chinese client state North Korea - literally the worst regime in the world - has been taken off the U.S. sponsors-of-terrorism list. OneFreeKorea has a few choice words about this.

This is a country that not only definitely does have nuclear weapons and delivery systems capable of hitting me here in the US as I write this, it has concentration camps worse than anything in Orwell's nightmares (here's Camp 22 from orbit)and kidnaps citizens of surrounding American allies. And these guys are now OFF the terror list, as a carrot for letting UN inspectors back in?

Is this really the position we're now in? Somehow I'm no longer feeling that security is one of the GOP's strong points.

Pictures from the Olympic Torch Protest in April

A friend put up pictures from the Olympic Torch protest in San Francisco in April. This handsome devil is yours truly holding a sign that says "The Chinese government lies about Tibet"; check out the other photos on there. We were standing on the Embarcadero, not yet realizing that the torch would be diverted and run only on back streets with no crowds (presumably out of shame). One more shameful observation: here we had representatives of a real live communist country barging down our streets with shock troops from the motherland, a place where freedom of religion and speech are non-existent and the free market exists insofar as you you have connections to a Party bureaucrat - and where was the GOP and Libertarian outrage? I can't have been the only one (I hope).

You may notice in the pictures big red Communist China banners, which are very photogenic, but the following was notable that day: the pro-China people were outnumbered about 10 to 1 and to a person all appeared to be Han Chinese, whereas the pro-Tibet people had people of every stripe, including Han Chinese. Despite this, media coverage made it appear as if there were a 50-50 split between pro-China and pro-Tibet demonstrators, because the Chinese consulate packed most of the pro-China people into a dense area that would look good on camera. Many Chinese students were bussed in from outside the Bay Area, apparently under threat of losing their financial support in China if they didn't attend the event.

The current financial meltdown isn't good for anybody, including one of my least favorite governments, China. The Middle Kingdom largely depends the US for the blistering manufacturing growth that underlies its recent rise, but (judging by its still-growing trade surplus) it's somewhat insulated by its weaker-than-realized need for commodities and an underdeveloped financial sector relative to the other big players. Whoever wins in November will have to face the panicking leadership of a China that has built up its military, has become used to economic good fortune,
and is suddenly struggling.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Evangelical Movement in Canada: Coming on Strong

Politics in Canada are usually pretty boring. So it was with joy that I received this little tidbit about an evangelical office-seeker who America's evangelicals should be proud to support from across the border. And who can blame them with this guy's movie-star good looks? If the GOP of Roosevelt and Eisenhower and Reagan and pre-election McCain isn't Godly enough for you, then perhaps it's time for these folks to form a third party.

Sarah Palin Hanging Out With Us Elitists in San Francisco

When your campaign needs money, where do you go? To elitists! Everybody's favorite ex-journalist, Palin was here on the fifth of this month. Meanwhile the Troopergate committee says she abused her power. Tell you what - when I want small government, I don't hire an executive who was busy abusing her power in the months immediately before her nomination. I'm a proud Constitution voter.

Warning Signs of Desperation

Look for the following warning signs of GOP desperation in the waning weeks of the

- Efforts to link Obama to Muslims, terrorism, or any suggestion that he'll be weak on defense

- Emails in large fonts written in an outraged tone, ending with a challenge to pass them on if you're brave enough (these are invariably written by media consultants with the McCain campaign who think Americans are too dumb to see through them - which is about as elitist as you can get)

- Perhaps most telling, look for these things not to come directly from John McCain, who's made it clear, despite his strategists, that he really does want to run an honorable campaign.

McCain's Last Stand

John McCain seems increasingly like a guy who's not in agreement with the campaign philosophy his own staff and supporters have undertaken. Despite the flag-hugging right wing radio hosts alternately cheering on McCain then lambasting him (do Rush and Michael Savage actually want him to win?), his numbers aren't improving - and judging by how he sticks up for Obama's character, McCain seems to be a reluctant participant in the GOP's strategy. (Really - people are voting for John McCain who call Obama a terrorist in public. Is that great company to keep?)

Meanwhile, Palin is behaving increasingly more like a small-state governor who's not so worried about winning the election, since even with a loss she'll be reapin' the benefits of national media exposure without the responsibilities of a VP. Didn't I predict that the Palin pick would doom McCain? Yes, whether fair or not, public perception of the financial meltdown isn't helping Mccain either. But after the initial bump Palin has been a negative.

GOP market, nation, and small government wings: is anybody thinking it's time to either a) show the evangelicals the door (to form the American Christian Party) or b) form a third party? Even my favorite Michael Savage has been exhorting the masses on this very point, and it wouldn't even be the first such rift in the GOP. Teddy Roosevelt formed the Bull Moose Party, which was essentially the progressive wing, and there was a major split in the GOP even before that in the 1870s between the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds. Without getting into political party history, the point is that the Republican Party has split and re-invented itself before, and survived the process and been made stronger. It's high time to do it again, so moderate Americans can vote for a sensible numbers-and-facts GOP.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bailout Vote By Geography

Source: U.S. Senate Voting Records

The highly nonrandom geographic distribution of the vote is highly interesting. Also: of the 25 Senators voting against, 15 were Republican, 8 were Democrat, and 1 was independent. In Texas, Cornyn and Hutchison both voted for it (that's for you Murphy), as did both (Democrat) Senators from my state (CA), as did the conservative Democrat and liberal Republican from my home state (Pennsylvania). I'm happy to see someone making a stand for fiscal conservatism, wherever they're from and whatever their party afiliation.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Neocon Singularity: What To Do If You're "Left Behind"

For my money, there's really only one guy with the cajones to remain a seriously-received political writer who's also not afraid to deal with far-horizon issues like the destruction of human nature by bioengineering, and that's Francis Fukuyama. Overoptimistic, overblown, even a "douchebag" by the estimation of some of his students at Hopkins (as one told me), Fukuyama was a major contributor to the Reagan doctrine and a central (even founding) figure in the neoconservative movement. Because he's an academic rather than a politician, he doesn't have to engage in the team-player exercises that some of his confederates do, which is how, after the start of the Iraq War, he renounced neoconservatism and now endorses Barack Obama for president (more on that later). I was supposed to hear Fukuyama speak at the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco a couple years ago but he wrecked his motorcycle on the Beltway earlier that week, and the founder of Second Life filled in for him by talking about how flying genitalia avatars would revolutionize business and society. I skipped that one because I'd already read about it in Snow Crash and hoped in vain it would never come true.

Probably Fukuyama's most famous work is The End of History and the Last Man, which is where he earned the title of overoptimist. Writing at the immediate end of the Cold war, Fukuyama argued that the last two centuries have shown a natural progression of political systems toward democracy (1 for 1) and of economic systems toward market economies (1.6 out of 2). He argues that the two systems are fundamentally interlinked. He concludes that, with the defeat of the Soviet bloc, the trend toward democracy and therefore free markets will continue inexorably and indefinitely. It's here that we think of the naive but often interesting straight-line extrapolations we've seen elsewhere, in science fiction or in jokes: "Mrs. Smith, your son's fever has gone from 100 to 102 in 3 hours. Human flesh burns at 800 degrees. I'm afraid he will catch fire on November 18th at 7pm." Even if we can't articulate exactly why, it's a safe bet that the process underlying the phenomenon will break at some point, or be overtaken by another.

Science fiction, as a genre in the business of predicting things, has had its share of silly straight-line extrapolations, like the moving sidewalk and colonies on the moon by 1999. The best science fiction analogy to predictions like Fukuyama's is the currently trendy idea of the technological singularity, which results when the increasingly rapid pace of technological change one day becomes infinite, after which point we can't know what will happen. The geek rapture! Just like the fever example, the singularity rests on the naive assumption of a trend that can never become self-limiting or be interrupted by external phenomena. An automatically, inexorably liberal democratic world is Fukuyama's singularity - the neocon Rapture - and Fukuyama has been Left Behind, along with the rest of us.

Of course, I would certainly like human history to be on an unstoppable path toward more democracy and free markets, and the data from the last fifty years is encouraging (see chart in this article) but it's anything but clear that this trend is inevitable. This is not the first time that the European secular historical tradition, preoccupied with certain problems, has declared history to be at an end; people have been doing it since at least the early nineteenth century. Fukuyama's title is in part an explicit reference to these thinkers, but he thought in 1992 that this time it was different. And that's what everybody thought before, too.

Fukuyama amends his previous thesis in Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, another straight-line extrapolation which may be more interesting as a source of science fiction ideas than a political work; indeed, the central thesis (that history might not have ended since we can now alter human nature itself which history is dependent on) is so far out that I can't even really call it alarmist. As an aside, I just finished Thorstein Veblen's 1904 Theory of Business Enterprise, one of the conspicuous features of which was Veblen's concern about the profound future impact of the machine industry on human behavior and psychology. This struck me (and I'm sure most readers) as bizarre, if only because after a century, it's not obvious to us that there has been much impact.

In follow-ups to The End of History, Fukuyama would have attended better to his earlier book by exploring how the link between free markets and free democracies is not as clear as he thought it was; or, by explaining exactly how global Islamic extremism, Russia, and especially China are mere blips on the path to endless liberty, as he often claims. As it happens I agree with him that Islamic extremism is a dead end. But as it turns out, somehow people are still more worried about terrorism and autocracy than about biotechnology's threat to human nature.

It's easy to play Monday morning quarterback two decades on with books like this, and again I would stress that Fukuyama's vision of a world populated by liberal democracies is one we should all welcome. It's to what degree democracies can relax in the twenty-first century where most of us disagree. Fellow founding neocon Robert Kagan directly answered Fukuyama with The Return of History and the End of Dreams, which as you might guess recognizes that we have moved back into a multipolar world where autocracy is alive and well, especially in China and Russia. Kagan calls out the main mistake - the mistake that I and many market conservatives have made until recently - of assuming without question that market liberalization leads automatically to political liberalization. The example of the Soviet Union, over which we won an economic victory, did not test this assumption. The Soviet bloc's more rational leaders were forced into reform under the weight of sustaining a massive military without a massive economy. Perhaps any victory of one great power over another, tested as it must be repeatedly across decades and hemispheres, is necessarily an economic one. I don't know what German verb Kant used in his original statement that commerce leads to peace; perhaps a more accurate way of putting it would be that commerce often tends toward peace, but certainly doesn't make it inevitable. In Never At War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight Each Other, Spencer Weart points out how viciously the merchants of many of North Italy's medieval city states fought each other until those city states developed democratic governments. It seems that commerce tends toward peace only if it's between the citizens of democracies. I wish this were clear to the remaining market-and-country conservatives in the GOP who I look to for these kinds of hard decisions. Then, the U.S.'s China policy might aim to do something more than enriching American companies and Chinese manufacturing communes - to no benefit of Chinese citizens, or for that matter citizens of democracies in the long run. Maybe we might think about actually enforcing Jackson-Vanik occasionally. Indeed it's very difficult for the U.S. to put on a straight face when we try to pressure dictators about human rights, since we granted permanent most-favored nation status to China in 2000. Free markets do not necessarily translate into free governments. It's not automatic.

China's rise has surfaced this assumption and falsified it. Part of China's success lies in its actual concern for material progress, greater than it ever was in the Soviet Union. The rise of a smart autocracy that actually thinks in the long term and therefore makes internal material progress a priority is the phenomenon that interrupts the trend, just like the fever patient doesn't catch on fire because of the biochemical facts of life, or the technological singularity doesn't happen because of Microsoft. For all my polemics about China, Hu Jintao is not Robert Mugabe. China is actually trying to provide services and infrastructure to its people; even in Tibet they've built more bridges than the Tibetans ever did. Still - and here's the key - if you woke up tomorrow to find that Chinese troops had taken over your town, even if they sent someone to fix that pothole on your street that had been there for two years, even if they said you don't have to worry about environmental regulations anymore - how would you feel about that?

That said, China's major growth has been largely confined to coastal cities, and nationally per capita income is still lower than all but five Latin American countries (yes, they lag behind that Central American powerhouse Guatemala). Perhaps the more disturbing aspect of the rise of the twenty-first century autocracies is that their shallower ideological basis inevitably leads them back into good old-fashioned nationalism. Russia has slid back into a kind of post-ideological nationalist gangsterism, and the world began to see it in China leading up to the Olympics (supposedly one study commissioned by the Chinese Communist Party aimed to prove that Chinese were actually a different species than the rest of us - didn't Lenin talk about an internatioal brotherhood?) That nationalism is a part of the human nature Fukuyama took as a constant in The End of History; and human nature is a much less rational thing than the optimist Fukuyama credits it to be.

As promised, a word on Fukuyama's political evolution. I'm not so concerned about the political taxonomy of neocons and paleocons and paternalistic libertarianism. Having said that, it's interesting that somewhere in 2006 pundits gave up trying to put Bush into any of these categories (I've heard "movement conservative", and what the hell is that, and who else is in it with him? It's a political classification with one person in it.) In terms of conservative sub-movements, Bush's staff and campaign network appears like a hybrid of neocons (many of whom bailed out) and evangelicals. Neocons tend not to be very religious, as with the atheist Karl Rove - though this fact may at first be difficult to understand, if you think of Bush's power structure as a neocon-evangelical hybrid it makes more sense. Yes, the neocons may have been overambitious and abstract. On the other hand, unlike evangelicals, they could balance a checkbook and had an agenda beyond getting re-elected and protecting Americans from gay abortions, and in the essence of their foreign policy strategy and rationale, they were correct. The tragedy is that now we're faced with a failed legacy (which Fukuyama details in America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy, which I haven't yet read) which discredits this strategy in the eyes of the electorate, and it's because of his continued discourse at this time that I find Fukuyama to be an interesting icon of the post-Bush evangelical-neocon split. He has deep roots in conservatism going back before his work with Reagan to his studies under Bloom, but as an academic he didn't have to play political games. This may be why he can openly voice his opposition to the Iraq War right in the Wall Street Journal, though I can't quite follow his reasoning since he signed the September 20 letter to Bush calling for an invasion of Iraq, which is exactly what Bush did. Perhaps Fukuyama was just backing away from a presidency increasingly dominated by evangelicals, or he was just gauging his political future and saw the ship sinking a little earlier than most conservatives. Or (what I expect he does in Crossroads) he takes issue with the details of policy implementation of the movement's ideas. Of course, Fukuyama isn't the only Reagan Republican who's left the fold; some, like Former Navy Secretary Jim Webb, even got elected to the Senate as a Democrat.

At any rate, Fukuyama's switch seems to be complete, because guess who he's endorsed for President in 2008?