Author Archives: Arthur D. Robbins

War and the State: Business as usual

Part 4 of 6 parts: End Game: War goes on

All the protests, handwringing, indignation and outrage will change nothing. War will go on. As the CHAplain said in “Mother Courage . . . ,” “the war has really nothing to worry about, it can look forward to a prosperous future.” As Randolph Bourne said, “War is the health of the State.” Continue reading

War and the State: Business as usual

Part 3 of 6 parts: Origin of the State: Barbarians at the gate

The State is a modern invention. It was conceived in violence and has been true to its origins ever since. Rome was in its decline. The barbarians were at the gates. Beginning in the 5th century, Germanic tribes descended from the North, via Scandinavia. Germanic tribes with names like Franks, Angles, Saxons, Lombards, Burgundians, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals plundered their way across Europe, destroying and killing at will, lending their names to the plots where they settled. “From these raw, belligerent kingdoms rose the first modern nation-states . . .”(Simons, 13). Their society was a simple one, “explicitly organized for one activity, the making of war.” (Simons, 16) Continue reading

War and the State: Business as usual

Part 2 of 6 parts: Federated governments: The Nation vs. the State

At a fundamental level government is a means for structuring the power dynamics of a given society. It is the means by which a society takes control of itself or fails to. Continue reading

War and the State: Business as usual

Part 1 of 6 parts: War and the health of the State

War has indeed become perpetual and peace no longer even a fleeting wish nor a distant memory. We have become habituated to the rumblings of war and the steady drum beat of propaganda about war’s necessity and the noble motives that inspire it. We will close hospitals. We will close schools. We will close libraries and museums. We will sell off our parklands and water supply. People will sleep on the streets and go hungry. The war machine will go on. Continue reading

The shaping of American character

Have you ever thought that who you are as a person is determined in part by the government you live under? Political philosophers have been considering such a possibility going all the way back to the early Greeks. Government shapes us either by engaging and empowering us through participation or by assuming all power unto itself and leaving us to go our separate ways alone and isolated. Continue reading

Back to the future: The legacy of Abraham Lincoln

A president of the United States would never operate outside the law, ignore the U.S. Constitution and the courts, shut down the presses, imprison his domestic adversaries or turn his guns on his own people. Well, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president did of all of that and, curiously, has been turned into a national hero for his troubles. Lincoln ignored his closest advisors and the temper of the times to engage in the bloodiest war in American history, a war that could easily have been avoided. Single handedly Lincoln terrorized the entire nation. So let us take notice. What happened once could happen again. Continue reading

Do away with elections?

Do away with elections? To even think such a thought is treasonous. An election, or should I say a presidential election, is one of the few occasions, or should I say the only occasion, on which we take a genuine interest in government. We are spectators at a sporting event, a mix of a bullfight, prizefight and a barroom brawl. We get into heated arguments about which team is “better” about who deserves to win, about which gladiator will be the best for the country. There is an uppercut, a right cross, a roundhouse and he or she (not too often) is down for the count. No, he is not out. He is on his knees, struggling to his feet. The crowd roars. Continue reading

What would a direct democracy in the US be like?

What would it be like if we really lived in a democracy? These days just about everybody seems to be enjoying the benefits democratic government, that is if you believe government propaganda and you are one of the credulous many who are eager for a sense of well being at any price. But what is usually called democracy is in fact an oligarchy of elected representatives responsible to the business interests who bankrolled their campaign. If people were actually given the opportunity to choose democracy, they might do so, provided they understood what the word actually means. Our one uncontested example is ancient Athens. Continue reading

Which Democracy?

Which Democracy? There are so many to choose from: Rhetorical Democracy (R.D.), Civic Democracy (C.D.), Economic Democracy (E.D.), Political Democracy (P.D.), Social Democracy (S.D.). Let’s start with rhetorical democracy. Continue reading

In love with democracy

Democracy, like love, is a word oft used and little understood. We have a vague sense of what love “means.” We tend to apply the word indiscriminately, based on a deep need to be loved by the people who are important to us. We like to see the word in print. We feel warm and safe when we hear it said aloud. Continue reading

Dark times: What to do

Professor Noam Chomsky has written an essay entitled, “The End of History: The short, strange era of human civilization would appear to be drawing to a close.” Chomsky invokes the Roman goddess Minerva as she contemplates the end drawing nigh. His essay is thoughtful. It is eloquent. But something is missing. Continue reading

Through the looking glass darkly: Government as we wish it or government as we will it

One day while Alice is winding up a ball of wool that Kitty persists in undoing, she gets it into her head that there must be a world behind the looking glass (mirror) where everything is backward. Suddenly, she finds herself up on the mantelpiece staring into the looking glass. Then she walks through to the reality on the other side to find a world that is set up like a chessboard and chess pieces are animated human-like creatures. The reflected reality is the opposite of real reality. Time goes backwards. Continue reading

The constitutional hoax

For centuries, the United States Constitution has been held up to the world as one of civilization’s greatest achievements. It has been exalted and extolled at home and abroad, emulated and imitated by countries in both hemispheres. In some broad sense, it has provided a foundation for our belief in man’s perfectibility and the possibility of government that serves the common good. Continue reading