News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Review: The French Betrayal of America by Kenneth R. Timmerman

The overeager and inflammatory title is one of several flaws which prejudiced this reader but which happily do not destroy the book by a long stretch. The author is given to labeling the French as, the French, which at times uncritically lumps a people of disparate opinions, agencies, individuals, cultures, religionists, and so forth together. Most of the time though, the French, refers to the government and its policies at the national level; but sometimes to the people, whoever they are and whatever that means, in a manner too pat and, no doubt, tailored as if to facilitate verbal skirmishing in bars by zenophobes. This manly bluntness is somewhat par for the course though as the author's website is belabored with enormous blue lettering at the bottom of each page to GET YOUR ATTENTION.

And the book's a bit hard to swallow in one-stroke because of the density of information, with a huge range of names and companies scattered across Arabia, the US, and France, making it is rather confusing to the casual ignoramus, like myself, on being introduced to such a wild circus of international shennanigins.

The author claims the French (whoops!) take on the post Cold War era is that the world needs to be multipolar to ensure no single country (i.e. the US) dominates and becomes insufferable. This forms part of the rationale for France's commercial involvement (i.e. weapons and nuclear reactor sales) and political support of various slippery Third World countries with most of the rest of the rationale being that France's military-industrial-political complex needs a bigger pie, less thumbs and more customers, as domestic sales aren't sufficient to fund expensive weapons R&D and thereby keep up with the satanic mills of the US. Well, France probably has a sad tale of shocking unfairness to tell, but given the inherent weaknesses of socialist economies it's hard to be shocked and awed by it all. Given that weapons R&D is expensive and all, the French munitions boys and the French government boys got together to square the circle and level the playing field and bring the multipolar global village into reality via bag men and industrial espionage.

Page 167: Former DGSE director general Pierre Marion publicly acknowledged the increasing emphasis his former service placed on economic espionage against "Allied" countries such as the United States... Just before the 1991 Paris air show opened its gates, the French newsmagazine L'Express revealed that the DGSE had planted moles in the French offices of IBM, Texas Instruments, and Corning Glass between 1987 and 1989, to steal economic and industrial secrets on behalf of French state-owned enterprises. Marion confirmed the story to NBC's Expose, which broadcast his interview on September 13, 1991. But when pressed by French state-run radio, Marion denied the most spectacular allegation of the NBC documentary, that state-owned Air France regularly planted microphones in the seats of its first-class compartment, to record conversations of US businessmen (Marion had been president of Air France before taking over as French spy chief in 1981). However, he did acknowledge that French intelligence officers regularly "visited" the Paris hotel rooms of US businessmen, to take a look at confidential papers. Indeed, several businessmen had complained that while staying at the Concorde Lafayette, operated by Air France, their rooms had been broken into and important papers and laptop computers stolen.

Indeed, pages and pages and pages are given over to industrial espionage.

The author points to structural differences between US and French governance which were also pointed out by de Toqueville a hundred and eighty years ago: the inefficiency and corruption occasioned by the over-concentration of power in French governance. Page 170: Jean-Michel Boucheron, the Socialist member of Parliament who headed the defense commission, saw no reason why the French parliament should be given oversight over French arms exports just to meet US norms for transparency. "All we need is a summary presentation of government's arms export policy," Boucheron told a conference in Paris devoted to the new arms-control proposals. "Once a year will do." (Imagine members of the U.S. Congress telling the White House they didn't want to be briefed on anything! The US emphasis on transparency and accountability is one of the most significant differences between the French and US political systems.)

Indeed, given the nationalization of industry and the pervasive nannying and wet-nursing of the French proletariate, the predictable has come to pass: low efficiency, high prices, shoddy worksmanship, the national hero as cry-baby shivering and shedding tears over global arch-villain Ronald McDonald. On page 171, with regard to the Dubai air show in November 1991, the author writes: The French lost out to American arms exporters in virtually every competition where they went head-to-head. They lost a deal to sell tanks to Saudi Arabia; they failed to convince the Kuwaitis after Desert Storm to resume buying Mirage jet fighters or combat helicopters; even in Qatar and the UAE, they were having difficulties. And the problems weren't confined to the Middle East.

What methodology was invented to overcome socialism's limitations? A familiar one indeed ... "Yes, my continental European friends, we have spied on you," former CIA director Jim Woolsey wrote playfully in the Wall Street Journal. But it wasn't to steal technology or to benefit American manufacturers. The real reason, said Woolsey, was bribery. "That's right, my continental friends, we have spied on you because you bribe. Your company's products are often more costly, less technically advanced, or both, than your American competitors. As a result you bribe a lot. So complicit are your governments that in several European countries bribes still are tax-deductible." Though the author does not mention France as being one of these nations, a quick scan on Internet revealed that it is. Call me naïve, but I found this amazing. The US passed laws in 1976 forbidding companies to engage in bribery overseas.

Reading case after case after case of national-level government corruption in France, reminding me of Canada oddly enough, and not America, I figured I was seeing a pattern. Nevertheless, the French boondoggle seems a riper, cheezier, hale and heartier brother to its anemic Canadian relative. An example of the latter is former Canadian prime minister Mulroney back in the 1980's arranging for a government-funded modern log processing plant being built in his tiny hometown, located only about 250 miles south of the perma-frost line (no more trees beyond the line) in a region where trees require 70 years to mature. At the time the future of lumber lay in importing from the Amazon Basin where trees require 7 years to mature.

American scandals at the national level pertain to sex or some other moral preversion (sic) charge. Can you imagine G.W. boondoggling a Ski Park with snow machines into existence in Crawford Texas? And if he did, wouldn't he be impeached? Mulroney just kept on ticking.

Remember Taiwan's French frigate scandal of 1991? This pet project found the French defence minister in the center of a monster cash free-for-all (a project which involved the bribing of Taiwanese officials, French officials, and even mainland China officials (so much for the pretense of recovering the sacred real estate of Taiwan)). In the end, when the shite (sic) hit the fan, the French defense minister fled his office and spent several months on the lam over the border, hiding like a common criminal. Can you imagine Rumsfeld charged with a criminal offense and fleeing to South America, showing up in a van dyke and living under an assumed name? If you wrote this up as a novel, it would be rejected by the publisher as too far fetched.
But French politicians have more imagination, more passion. In fact, it sounds like you have to get to Russia or China to find worse: where the corrupt are proud, living large, enjoying the public light and consider honest folk to be a sort of backward sucker. One thinks of current-day Shanghai, run by one of the kids of Jiang Ze-min, who himself just recently had his favorite bodyguard promoted to general as part of his ongoing establishment of a praetorian guard.

Page 192: Hoshyar Zebari, the Kurdish member of the opposition Iraqi national Congress who went on to become Foreign Minister of the Iraqi provisional government and 2003, told me that... the French were refusing to send their oil engineers into an area where they could potentially be kidnapped by rebel forces. So they suggested that the Iraqis "clean up" the area ahead of time. Thousands of Iraqi "Marsh Arabs" paid the ultimate price for this particular instance of French cupidity. Ultimately, Saddam ordered Hussein Kamil and his armaments engineers to divert the water sources feeding the marshes, drying up thousands of square miles of Marsh land and ending a way of life that had enchanted Western Explorers since Wilfred Thesiger. Some 300,000 Marsh Arabs went into forced exile in Iran, their way of life gone forever.

Page 193: The next chapter of the France-Iraq saga was subtley shaped by the corruption scandals of 1994-1995 that Interior Minister Charles Pasqua tried to obfuscate by concocting an anti-American spy frenzy, in an attempt to deflect attention from his political ally in the presidential race, prime minister Edouard Balladur. An investigative magistrate in the Paris suburb of Creteil, Eric Halphen, was looking into apparent kickbacks paid on construction and maintenance contracts for the Bureau of Public Housing... in Paris and its suburbs. Ironically, Halphen's investigation would ultimately lead to Chirac's doorstep. But in the early stages, Pasqua was concerned because Halphen was examining an alleged kickback scheme in the... regional government Pasqua headed. In December 1994, Halphen's father-in-law, Dr. Jean-Pierre Marechal, was arrested at the Paris Airport just as a Pasqua adviser "was handing over a suitcase full of cash, allegedly aimed at buying the clemency of his son-in-law." While Halphen acknowledges in his memoir the cupidity of his relative, he believes that Pasqua's team was seeking to undermine his investigation, with Balladur's approval.

The interior minister receiving kickbacks, magistrates receiving suitcases full of cash? It sounds like 1960s mob-run Montreal. Someone accusing Clinton or Bush of paying judges off with suitcases of money would be taken for a crank. As far as I know, that sort of corruption went out at the US federal level in the early 1970's.

More conspiracy theories on page 199: By the time I met Bernard Guillet at the arms bazaar soirée on the French Riviera, the French feared once again that the Americans were going to beat them to the punch in Iraq. In fact, they were convinced that US insistence on maintaining the US sanctions was a secret plot, aimed at better positioning US companies to pounce the instant sanctions were lifted. They saw that the Americans were getting all the arms export contracts in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf and had cornered the market for the massive reconstruction projects in Kuwait.

From a free-market perspective, a more rational explanation for cornering markets is the aforementioned superiority of American products, their lower prices, and the fact that the United States was opposed to the rearming of Iraq which had threatened both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, thus prejudicing both to make their purchases from a nation with common foreign policy goals. But, of course, if you exist in a thoroughly corrupt political millieu, you impose different expectations upon the world's events. Plus, given the French-English language barrier and given that most politicians are but loud-mouthed, platitude-ridden, show-boating larger-than-life reflections of the ignoramuses that put them in office, they aren't likely to know much about their own country, let alone any other.

So when the French government took its munitions companies on business tours of the Middle East and to Iran in particular, it was only natural, even predictable, that a body of individuals with no more than a heroic medieval mythology to explain the world around them would sprout conspiracy theories infested to explain the situation when things got tight. From page 201: the French felt no military threat from Iran, because the new Iranian missiles could not reach Europe. But they felt acutely the commercial pressures from United States. They became convinced that the Clinton administration was working hand in glove with Israel to concoct a " fake threat" from Iran whose goal, once again, was to destroy the French arms industry and French export markets.

Even after [Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.)] passed a new bill in 1996 and imposed a secondary boycott against foreign companies investing more than $40 million in the Iranian oil or gas markets (the Iran-Libyan sanctions act, or ILSA), the French thought it was all just a trick. [The French state-owned company] Total jumped into the game, seizing the $600 million contract to rebuild the Sirri gas field of Iran's Persian Gulf coast that [American] Conoco had been forced to abandon. By May 1997, Total president Thierry Desmarest announced that he was ready to sink $2 million into the year-end gas project. The State Department shot back that ILSA "is the law and we will apply it fully... our position on any investments in Iranian gas and oil fields is clear: such investments make more resources available for Iran to use in supporting terrorism and pursuing missiles and nuclear weapons."

Behind the scenes, Total rushed to sell its US assets - leaving nothing behind for the United States to freeze - while the French government backed Total to the hilt. Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt told reporters helpfully, "it is not a matter for governments... it is a commercial contract between companies." But Total, of course, was a state-owned company.

...It became impossible after these Persian intrigues to make a straight case with France that the United States had cut off investment in Iran as part of a larger strategy to weaken the clerical régime or in support of the legitimate aspirations of Iranians to select their own form of government. The French believed the Clinton administration was just seeking to leverage its commercial advantage...

Had President George W. Bush chosen to confront the Islamic Republic of Iran for its clandestine nuclear weapons program, which violated its international treaty commitments, before taking the war on terror to Iraq, the French would have led the fight against him there as well (as indeed they did when the United States sought to get the IAEA to refer Iran's violations to the UN Security Council on November 2003). The policy disputes, the suspicions, and the paranoia were already there; so were the kickbacks and commissions. Only the spark was missing.

Just prior to the 2003 Iraq War, I spoke with a Taiwan legislative assistant who visited Iraq during the early 1990s on several business trips. He claimed half of the products he saw in the stores were French. He was convinced the French government's opposition to the American invasion of Iraq was commercial in origin. It sounded facile at the time. National policy makers couldn't be that primitive...

Page 207: In 1995, France was tired with socialism. But more than anything, French voters were fed up with the constant corruption scandals of the Mitterrand era. For years, the press had been writing about the reckless racketeering of socialist political barons across France, who extorted companies to use fake invoices and bogus consulting contracts to disguise hidden payments to support their personal lifestyles and their political campaigns; yet despite the exposure and, more recently, attention from French investigative magistrates, the fraud continued. Even Mitterrand's own adviser and close personal friend François de Grossouvre had grown weary of the corruption of the president's inner circle. When journalist Jean Montaldo told him the title of his forthcoming book on the scandals (Mitterrand and the 40 thieves...), de Grossouvre grimly joked: "Only 40 thieves?" Three months later, at the age of 76, de Grossouvre committed suicide in the presidential palace, apparently disgusted that the president was going to dragging down into the mud. (De Groussouvre's name appeared on the deed of the farmhouse in Gordes, near Avignon, that Mitterrand had asked him to purchase and renovate for his mistress.)

Socialism and higher levels of corruption. Again, a coincidence or an inevitability? Again, is this brazen corruption conceivable in United States politics at the presidential level? Can you imagine Clinton or George Bush or Reagan purchasing farmhouses for their mistresses and doing so in the name of their cabinet officers? To ask the question is to answer it.
This is an entirely different phenomenon. This is an overt dirty politics that I again associate with Canada; the sort of pork barreling which when exposed does not lead to people departing office; where politicians are so secure and immovable that they are above the law and beyond the usual standard of preferential treatment behind the closed door. Clinton was almost successfully impeached for what was essentially just fibbing about several blow jobs received pro bono. Compare the relative innocence of that crime with the substantial crimes of wire-tapping, bulglary and so forth that took place during the Nixon administration, which inherited such practices from Kennedy and Johnson etc.

Also, it's worth keeping in mind that France was still nationalizing industries as late as the early 1980s when the mega aircraft corporation Dassualt was stolen from its owner. Dictatorship of the proletariat indeed!

Page 210-212: The corruption scandals that grew in intensity and ultimately threatened to land Chirac in jail provide an essential backdrop to the Iraq crisis of 2002-2003 and the French president's conscious decision to sacrifice a 225-year-old alliance with America on the altar of political expediency.

...Roland Dumas was not just any former Foreign Minister. At the time he was indicted, he was chief justice of the French Supreme Court...

French writer Airy Routier observed that the relentless pursuit of the investigative magistrates in the Elf scandal showed "a conflict between two cultures - French power-play and raison d'etat, and a new approach, a more Anglo-Saxon one, which values transparency and openness and a much diminished economic role for the state."
Now the cozy schemes carried out in Chirac's name - extortion and racketeering in public housing, political campaign workers and party employees placed full-time on the municipal payroll, huge sums for nonexistent consulting jobs paid to political cronies, and cash slush funds he personally managed - were coming to light. Some of these cases were "set-aside" by public prosecutors, who remained loyal to the politicians who appointed them. Albin Chalandon, who served as Chirac's Minister of Justice from 1986 to 1988, remarked on the surreal character of the French justice system: "One day we need to get beyond the point where a Justice Minister's role, as far as the political class is concerned, comes down to getting his friends out of trouble and plunging his enemies into it." ... (Yes, in France the Justice Minister can simply call up a prosecutor and order him to set aside a case he is working on, although it is usually done with slightly more finesse through a subordinate who "suggests" that "reasons of state" make it imperative that the case be dropped.)

Anyway, you get the idea. There are pages and pages, chapter after chapter of this kind of thing. The government is a huge boondoggle, the kind that Benjamin Franklin envisioned would appear in the US within two generations, with the have-less voting itself the wealth of the have-mores, exploding the constitution and launching a new bloody revolution.

Page 238: The single most important thing president Chirac did after his reelection in May 2002 was to push hard at the UN to "streamline" the procedures for getting exports to Iraq approved - in essence, gutting the export control process... The head of Middle East sales at agricultural equipment manufacturer Irrifrance told me " the UN has only two 10-day periods to review the requests. Failure to meet the deadline means automatic approval" ... In other words, thanks to the French, the UN controls over Saddam Hussein's imports effectively had been lifted. This was a major, unpublicized element that contributed to the US sense of urgency in moving against Saddam later that year. The Bush administration knew full well that it was only a matter of time before Saddam managed to acquire all the equipment he needed to fill the gaps in his weapons programs. Thanks to the French, the floodgates had been lifted.

Page 242: "Deep in the soul of Jacques Chirac, he believes that Saddam Hussein is preferable to the alternative that is likely to emerge when Iraqi is liberated," Richard Perl said prophetically in February 2003. And he was right. Chirac knew that France would never get the same kinds of deals from a free Iraqi government, established under US supervision, that operated transparently and awarded contracts according to merit in price, not political favoritism, kickbacks, and bribes. And that is one reason the French insisted the United States turn Iraq into a United Nation's protectorate, in the hope they can reassert their corrupt and corrupting influence after the liberation, far from the light of day. When that idea fell flat, the French insisted on rushing full sovereignty onto a new Iraqi government in the belief it would be crippled by factionalism and, thus, easy for France to manipulate to its benefit. There was no logical connection between these two diametrically opposed positions, other than the bold assertion of French commercial interest. French commentators, for all their slavish devotion to Cartesian logic, have universally failed to pick up on the fundamental absurdity of this policy about-face by the government.

"French diplomacy today continues to consider Iraq as a cake to be divided and not as a democracy to be constructed," former Chirac ally Alain Madelin told me. "One of the demands of France [at the UN] is that there be an [Iraqi] Authority not under American control over Iraq's economy, in charge of contracts." Top on the list of French priorities were the Total and Elf production-sharing contracts [negotiated during the Saddam regime - Biff], which combined in the now privatized TotalFinaElf conglomerate would be worth well over US $100 billion over seven years...

Page 244: In a closed door session with members of French parliament shortly before Baghdad fell,[French Foreign Minister Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin] reportedly claimed that the "hawks" in the US administration were "in the hands of [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon." The the war in Iraq was being led by a "pro-Zionist" lobby that included Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, White House staffer Elliot Abrams, and Pentagon adviser Richard Perl, all of them Jews.

Page 249: "Although he was no longer threatened with going to jail, at least for as long as he remained [president], Chirac was widely considered by friends and foes alike as a lightweight, a guignol (puppet), a poor imitation of de Gaulle. Without a grand international victory to put France back on the map, Chirac would be remembered as an affairist, a scandal plagued president who relied on black money and corruption for the source of his power because he could never muster any real depth of popular support or even respect. Opposing Americans saving Saddam [on the notion that he was a counterweight to US hegemony - Biff] was going to be Chirac's ticket to history's Hall of Fame. Chirac was determined to make France a world power once again, after 60 years of betrayal, mediocrity, and decline.

Also interesting is the fascist element portrayed in this book:

Page 252: Alain Madelin fell silent for nearly a minute when I asked him what he thought had pushed Chirac and Villepin to actively undermine the US effort to build an international coalition at the United Nations and at NATO. Finally he gave a sigh:

"You've got to understand that a good part of this is the personal saga of Dominique de Villepin. If you read his book Le Cri de la gargouille [The Gargoyles Cry], you understand everything. His heroes are Machiavelli and Napoleon. He explains that the French people have been disenchanted by their Prince and need to fall in love with him again through a grand, flamboyant, international epic."

I would love to quote more in this vein but need to keep this already very long set of quotes to a manageable length.

On the same page: France fears "the sun of new realities," Villepin writes. (p. 17) the real struggle in today's world, he believes, is not between freedom and tyranny, but between the French religion of the all-powerful states and the Anglo-American system of transparency, checks and balances, which he reminds his readers "inspired only contempt" when the original generation of French revolutionaries looked across the Atlantic for support in 1793. (p. 33) I think he is right - for France. Americans need to understand their values and our model poses a challenge for the French, who have consistently favored authoritarian régimes over democracy, not just in the Third World but also in Europe, where they are still attempting to force an autocratic constitution for the European Union down the throats of the newly liberated nations of the former Soviet Bloc despite an outright rejection of the model by the European summit on December 14, 2003.
Page 253: [Villepin writes] "long ago, power had an aura that no one would dispute. You kneel before the powerful because a single gesture, a word spoken slightly more loudly than another, a sign of satisfaction or irritation, would be decisive, announcing an act modifying the order of the world." Today, the French believe that "power has abandoned them," Villepin writes with apparent regret. "What is power that can do nothing?" (pp. 15-16) Faced with the challenge from America, its overwhelming economic success, it's "unbridled domination" (p. 49), the frightening mobility of the classless society where social norms must be reinvented with each generation, "how could some of us not feel tempted by nostalgia for a time when France was ruled by an all-powerful state, that had only to appear to be obeyed? France is obsessed with power; it is a national illness come from the depths of the ages." (p. 17) first among Frenchmen who share that session are Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin and his "Prince," Jacques Chirac.

This is facism with all of its romantic reversion to a past that never was, the tell-tale wooly rhetoric signifying profundity but meaning in fact nothing, the fatherly and/or homo-erotic love and worship of the mythical national hero, the utter inability to see the world in terms of systems and instead reducing complex events to a combat between jarheads, with the heroic moron on our side having for his highest virtues his moral soundness, his acceptance of the prevailing superstitutions, his polite mouthing of this morning's prejudices and hearty bellowing of this evening's shibolleths, his amiable keeping up with the political trends and fashions, better described as crazes. Marx would have approved; he does approve. Read the second page of the Communist Manifesto if you doubt.

Perhaps also worth inserting at this point is that I've come to closer to understanding why the British press has such a revulsion for the French. As I understand it, frog is still acceptable in print when feeling provoked. Talk about French arrogance seemed no more than some sort of atavistic racial rumor. However, one begins to wonder if there is actually some substance behind the rumor, as, in fact, upon examination, there usually is something to most.

Page 255:Villepin's strutting and delusions of grandeur at times turned France into an object of ridicule. After the [2003 Iraq] war, at an international meeting in Versailles, Villepin solemnly proclaimed that he and the Pope - and they alone - had saved the west from a clash of civilizations with Islam. "There was an audible gasp in the room," one participant said. "People couldn't believe what they were hearing. They were visibly stunned." Within hours, Villepin's comments were being whispered in Parisian salons as if they were the stuff of divine revelation. I heard them repeated by government officials without the slightest hint of irony.

Such pretensions would be pathetic - if they weren't coming from France, a country bound to America through generations of a love-hate relationship and a country that still has much to offer.

And finally, from page 264: A source close to Chirac told the paper that the French President considered Bush and his administration "the most reactionary administration" he had ever seen - plus reac, tu meurs! In the gutter-chic slang of Foreign Minister Villepin.

There was comic relief in the wretched reporting, such as this gem from a backgrounder in Le Figaro: "Not long after the election of Bush the father, Jacques Chirac was the first French leader to meet him - even before [French] President Mitterrand - during a trip to the United States in May 1989. A trip during which the former Prime Minister [Chirac], who had just been beaten in the presidential election, met everyone who counted for anything in American society at the time: from the president of Disney, Michael Eisner, to film stars Gregory Peck, Jane Fonda, Sarah [sic] Fawcett and Sidney Poitier." The French, who pride themselves on their sophisticated worldview, still have a hard time seeing beyond Hollywood and Disney World.

Having read this book, I get the feeling that France enjoys a political structure founded upon the tribal practice of common ownership, luxuriant conspiracy theories (grasping cabals of international moguls, shady seditious Jews, cultural imperialists plotting the destruction of languages, costume, cuisine, the glory of France, etc.), plus the tribal big man who promises modern potlatch (jobs, welfare, national pride, international glory), the generation of mythologies and the veneration of larger-than-life antidemocratic heroes (Napoleon and de Gaulle), and a pre-mathematics, pre-science, pre-systems opposition to laissez-faire capitalism.

Also, the pattern appears that the greater the pervasiveness of socialism, the more profound the degree of corruption. This is easy to think through. With socialism you get union style corruption because with the nationalization of the private sector, everything is unionized and under the ageis of bosses (i.e. politicians and bureaucrats, neither of whom knows the first thing about how the private sector operates; and operating the private sector is no more possible them accurately predicting the weather, and for exactly the same elemental reason: the level of complexity involved in even the smallest of events is simply mind-boggling, let alone trying to run an entire economy). Again, the greater the degree of socialism, the greater the swallowing up of previously private-sector affairs by government officials. In other words, if you took the US drug war and the rampant corruption of US police, politicians, policy, and so forth and expanded that into many other sectors of the US economy, you would have an approximation of France. For as soon as anything is forbidden, and under socialism a great deal is proscribed and handed over to the government (that's the whole point: citizens are not to be trusted with freedom and the meek, i.e. the majority voting population, see this as the only way to inherit the earth in their lifetimes), and a black market inevitably evolves. And, given the bureaucratic nature of governments everywhere, it is only bribery and special connections which enable anything to be done forthrightly. (Without connections, it now requires 150 days to get a goddamned fingerprint check done by Canada's national police force). And this is not simply because bureaucracies are slow and incompetent by nature, but also because many bureaucrats realize that since they have monopoly power over entire swaths of the economy, they're in a position to solicit bribes; for otherwise they can deliberately prevent anything from getting done. The only alternative is the black market, the mafia, the fly-by-night shyster. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, socialism achieves just that. It deliberately eliminates competition, i.e. choice, i.e. the freedom to choose, i.e. freedom.

To conclude this rant, one of the more frustrating contradictions of socialism I witnessed in Canada was that my fellow citizens wanted big brother to solve all of their problems regarding jobs, make-work projects, welfare, inflation, interest rates, corporate bailouts, tax incentives, handouts, roads, cost of airflights, telephone service, water, alcohol sales, sex, schools, pollution, the free press, slander (via the elimination of free speech through various slippery law bills), etc., etc., etc. But when big brother gets caught with his hand in the till, which is frequently, the attitude is that government is too big and nothing can be done. I regularly saw this contradiction - greed disguised as the pursuit of economic equality and social justice on the one hand; lazy entitlement-addled passivity on the other. It was maddening. In Taiwan, people know enough to open their own business if they wish to become wealthy. In Canada, at least where I lived, it was hard to find anybody who wanted to start their own biz (and I spoke to many people about this at the time). It seemed most Eastern Canadians expected the government to raise their living standards for them; which is tantamount to, non-figuratively, trying to lift yourself up by your own bootstraps.

Biff Cappuccino

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