Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

Perversions of Democracy by Wendy Hamblet

Hamblet, Wendy, “Perversions of Democracy and the Need for Global Federalism,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (2006)

“Most people are bad judges in their own case.” Aristotle (Politics. 1280a15-16)

1. The Problem of Democracy

When one looks across the globe today, a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the utopian fantasies that died with it, the least discerning observer is forced to admit that these ideological finales have failed to usher in the anticipated new age characterized by freedom from oppression, universal human rights, and the triumph of human dignity. It seems that democracy’s promises are failing as badly as communism’s had. In fact, given what John Stockwell has named “The War Against the Third World” that has been fought under the guise of the battle for democracy, and that has resulted in the brutal deaths of millions upon millions of third world peasants in response to their demand for these coveted goods (human rights, human dignity and freedom from oppression), one is tempted to suggest that democracy turns out to be as brutal—if more subtle—a tyrant as any communist dictatorship. What has gone amiss in the democratic dream that has led to this state of affairs where, in the very name of democracy, democratic leaders across the third world are deposed and replaced by bloody dictators, and their peasant supporters slaughtered when they seek to realize the rewards that democracy promises?

This paper considers where democracies have gone wrong between the utopian blueprint and the dark realities of its global realization. By attending to the warnings recorded in Aristotle’s account of democracy in the Politics, and considering the socio-economic realities of the first democracy in Athens, I shall consider whether democracies of the modern era have indeed been corrupted as true democracies by their agenda of a globalized capitalism, or whether the blueprint has always gone morally astray in its accounting for the needs of the demos it claimed to serve.

2.Aristotle On the Special Nature of the State

Aristotle traces the development of the state genealogically, and from the bottom up, so to speak. He begins with an account of the family, a human grouping that, formed by nature and bound by blood, seeks as its primary goal the continuation of life, the whole unit dedicated to the flourishing of each of the constituent parts. It is in the name of this goal that the family directs its attentions toward the accumulation of wealth. This material goal, according to Aristotle, remains the teleological framework within which come into being the earliest forms of societies; that is, early communities dedicate their energies toward the simple accumulation of wealth, promoting the welfare of the whole for the sake of securing life for each of the members.

Only when the threat of their extinction was less nagging, as penury gave way to wealth, did “states” proper come into being. For Aristotle, this material self-fulfillment marks the threshold of the evolved nature of the thing as it comes to serve a higher goal—the quest not for mere life but “the good life.” This emergence is not a simple enlargement of the task of material accumulation, not a mere collection of wealthy families, but, rather, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It becomes a new kind of thing—a state. The state now “truly come[s] into itself [by] becoming toward the best it can be.”

The “end of the thing,” the reason for its being, becomes its striving toward its own ideal form. Self-sufficiency is certainly tied up in this final goal, but the nature of the thing has so qualitatively evolved that it now mirrors the activity of the gods, seeking after a final and not a material goal. The evolution into statehood is proven in the fact that the reason for its being has become a good in itself and not a good for the sake of. That is, the thing to be preserved has become worthy of preserving by virtue of its becoming directed toward the good in itself rather than toward the “goods” that give life. Again, the whole proves to be greater than the sum of its parts.

A further ‘good” emerges with the coming to be of the state. Only within a state can a human being fulfill its peculiar excellence. States enable individuals to realize themselves as the rational and political animals that they, by nature, are. And this active seeking after excellence is the “just result” of states proper, according to Aristotle. One who lives outside the state therefore is not rightly said to be “human.” The alien is either a monster or a god, “a bad man or above humanity.”1 So the state is the setting within which humanity’s fullest good becomes possible, because, like the state, a person’s true telos is the seeking of excellence. “If [a person] has not excellence, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals.”2 The natural outcast, explains Aristotle, is a lover of war and may be compared to an isolated piece in the game of draughts.

Let us summarize the argument thus far: Now, the good of all things is that which preserves them, and, as we have seen with the family and early communities, their good exists in their striving for continuance. They seek mere life in the quest after material wealth, a good that is for the sake of. In the case of the state, with its higher goal of goodness in itself, material accumulation is left behind as its driving motivation and the state seeks after “the good life” (eudaimonia). Let us consider the meaning of this ancient Greek term in its fullest unfolding of nuance. Heraclitus had said: Ethos anthropoi daimon. The ethos of anthropos is daimon. To extrapolate, the fullest ethos (the most comely being-togetherness-of-all-beings) in its form peculiar to anthropoi (human beings) is given the special name of daimon. So, eudaimonia, the being-well-daimon’ed of anthropoi, is the most comely coming-togetherness of human beings within a cosmos of all beings coming together in a comely way—people living ethically.

Since the integral lawfulness of the cosmos is just, for Aristotle as for the Greeks in general, we may say that the family and the early human community deserve to be preserved precisely to the extent that they serve their rightful goals, the extent to which they take care of the vital needs of their member parts, the individuals and the families within their trust.3 Similarly, the state, with its higher function as its driving goal, deserves to be preserved to the extent that it seeks to realize the good toward which it strives, contained in the rich articulations of eudaimonia. So the state deserves to be preserved to the extent to which it promotes the being well-daimon’ed of its citizens, the extent to which it helps to bring about the “comely coming-togetherness” of its citizen parts as parts of a greater whole, their ethical fulfillment within the whole of all beings within the whole of the cosmos.

3.Aristotle on Democracy

Now, when Aristotle speaks of the kinds of states wherein human animals can best realize their goal of surpassing mere nature and fulfilling themselves as rational and political beings, he finds the defining characteristics of that state in the judicial and deliberative opportunities extended to its citizens. When Aristotle launches into a more profound treatment of the various forms of governments that might provide those necessary opportunities, he engages in a more exacting definition of states, differentiating between “true” forms of governance and those merely pretending to be so, according as they meet the requirements of justice. True forms of government, he explains, are those which govern with a view to the common interest, and “are constituted in accord with strict principles of justice [keeping to the goal of the good in itself]—but those that regard only the interest of the rulers [reverting to the mere good for the sake of] are all defective and perverted forms, for they are despotic, whereas a [true] state is a community of freemen [enjoying equal rights and privileges before the law, according as they merit].”4

A true state seeks “the good life” for all its constituents, and whether the number of rulers is one, few, or many, the degree to which the rulers serve the citizenry marks the degree of their verity as rulers and marks the degree of the verity of the state; whereas the degree to which the rulers serve the interests of themselves marks the degree to which the rulers are less legitimate and the degree to which the state is but a “perversion” of the ideal.5

Aristotle continues with his description of true states. Kingship is the best form of government where it is true, that is, where the king serves the good of his people. But where that system has become perverted, redirected from the interests of the ruled to the interests of the ruler, we call this perversion tyranny. Echoing Plato in the Republic and elsewhere, Aristotle affirms that the greater danger lies with the greater men, who are like the proverbial girl with the curl, when they are good they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they are horrid. So monarchy is the most risky form of true government, because its perversions are the most horrid, its governing resources being concentrated in a man of most powerful capacities.

Aristocracy is the next best form of government when it is realized in its truest form, because power is concentrated in the hands of the nobles (aristoi) who have the excellence (arête) of birth, rearing, education, soldierly training, and natural disposition to be counted upon to do the best for all out of the nobility of their natures. But, when the good men (aristoi) are replaced by simply the few men (oligoi) without regard for their merit but on account of their wealth, the aristocracy becomes perverted and falls into oligarchy. The oligarchy is not quite so dangerous as is the fallen monarchy simply because the men who rule are not aristoi but less capable men, so their capacities are less potent for evildoing as for good. And power being shared over a greater number of these less capable men, the moral fall of the state is not so extensive, the perversion not so abyssal.

This leads Aristotle to posit a constitutional government as the best of true states and the best choice for all states because its risks are less ghastly. The constitutional government has greater numbers of good men to balance its true form, and, even if its trueness collapses, its perversion in democracy risks less than other forms of government, because its greater number of less capable men provides greater balance to the mischief of the whole by virtue of the diminished capacity for corruption in each of these lesser men. In fact, Aristotle improves the diagnosis when he adds the following clarification of their prospects in his concluding assessment of democracy: “For the many, of whom each individual is not a good man, when they meet together, may be better than the few good, if regarded not individually, but collectively.”6 Once again, the whole proves greater than the sum of its parts.

Aristotle then offers a genealogy that traces the evolution of the forms of states. In earliest times, good men were few, so cities made their benefactors kings. With time, more men of merit arose, forming a ruling class and together they desired a commonwealth, the good not wishing to be ruled by one, but to take their turns at rule. However, the ruling class fell into corruption, enriching themselves out of the public treasury (aristoi became degraded into oligoi). Thus did rule-of-the-best collapse into rule-of-the-wealthy. Love of gain and rivalries among the oligarchy diminished their number and left the few struggling for supremacy. Each, to strengthen his own position, turned to the masses for support, who, in time, turned upon their masters and established democracy.

This leads Aristotle to conclude that different types of people are best suited for different forms of government. Those who are capable of producing a race superior in the excellence of political rule are best fitted for a monarchy. Those who are ready to submit to being ruled as freemen by men whose excellence renders them fit for political command are best suited to aristocratic government. But for men among whom there exists a warlike multitude, constitutional government fits best. In any of these cases, when the form of government makes for a “true state,” the principle of reciprocity guides them. All shall have their equitable voice in state matters and their equitable turn at rule according as their merits qualify them. Merit is the measure of the justness of their rule. The excellent and not the wealthy must prevail if the best interests of the many are to be realized.7

4.The Collapse of Constitutional Government

Constitutional government is the best of alternatives for rule in states, because it is led by the best of the citizens and not by the merely wealthy. Meritocracy is necessary because the best will adhere to the laws and, where the laws are not held supreme, the constitution collapses. Aristotle states: “In all well-balanced governments, there is nothing which should be more jealously maintained than the spirit of obedience to the law, more especially in small matters, for transgression creeps in unsupervised and at last runs the state.”8 When intemperance creeps in and corrupts the rule of law, then, properly speaking, the state can no longer be named a state at all. “The law ought to be supreme over all—and only this should be considered a constitution.”9

Should the constitutional government become corrupted, Aristotle believes the resulting democracy will prove less dangerous than other corrupt forms of governments because, despite the aggregate incapacities of the many, the many together will improve the overall goodness of the whole. However, Aristotle warns that when the perversion of the constitutional government occurs, and democracy takes its place, extreme care must be taken, because the best may be replaced by the merely wealthy, and their “spirit of obedience to the law” is weak, and will easily be abandoned. When this happens, mediocre rulers become demagogues, wooing the multitudes with seductive words and flatteries, and persuading them not toward excellence, but enflaming their warlike features.

5.Questions about Modern Democracies

Aristotle is harsh indeed with his ominous forewarnings about the corruption of constitutions, but I believe that he has failed to foresee the most abyssal depths of corruption to which states can become degraded, depths demonstrated in the moral failure of modern capitalist democracies. To measure the success of modern democracies at achieving trueness of form, we must challenge them with the ancient questions about their forms and methods and motivating goals. Are they founded on the principles of justice—equality and freedom—for all their constituents? Do they, within their constituency, promote eudaimonia (the comely coming-togetherness of all human beings)? Do they support freedom and equality for all the beings that populate the earth? Do they govern with a view to the common interests or merely to the interests of the rulers? Does the principle of reciprocity between the free bring just measure to their decisions?

Or, when democracies form into party systems to raise up leaders in and over their constitutional bodies, is it money that talks to charm the people into casting their votes? Do the people have the option to vote for this excellent person or that one? Are the millionaire-rulers they elect (when election results are counted fairly at all) the best men, the meritorious excellent people?

Aristotle warns of the rise of “dangerous demagogues” who will flatter the many and favor the interests of the needy, rather than embracing the interests of the whole citizenry. Certainly the flatteries of the masses might be seen in today’s world, with the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the “defenders of freedom and democracy” that so often fulfills itself in calls to war. But if the rulers of modern democracies were unduly favoring the needs of the needy, would there be millions of homeless littering the streets of the richest democracy of the world? Would the wealthy’s race to the top in this richest of nations be carving out a socio-economic abyss into which the middle class is plummeting at the rate of 1.3 million people a year (that is, would 600,000 more children per year be falling below the poverty line)? Far from the needs of the commoners taking undue precedence, have the leaders of capitalist democracies today reverted to the accumulation of their wealth and forgotten the sacred charge of the statesman?10

Or worse, when the oligoi, replacing the aristoi, serve global corporate interests (invested in weapons, oil, and drugs) instead of their constituents, is not the rule of law within the nation at risk? And when corporations are larger and richer than countries, is there not the risk that both national interests and commitments to international law will be sacrificed to profit? Without rule of law, Aristotle has asserted, the state is no longer a constitution; constitutional rights give way to coercion and the republic gives way to tyranny. Furthermore, following Aristotle’s logic here, a state that has been corrupted to the point where law is no longer supreme, is not, properly speaking, a “state” at all. States only come into being when their goal serves the higher end of excellence for its own sake rather than for the sake of its rulers.

For Aristotle, states are desirable, because they serve the higher purpose of providing an arena in which human beings fulfill their natures as rational and political animals and thus overcome their warlike savagery and their enslavement to the material. The democratic state, in theory, provides a setting in which its citizens take their rightful part in the judicial and deliberative acts that fulfill their humanity.11 Aristotle made no distinction between citizens of different times and different places. All people in all democracies deserve freedom within their states. Those who are put to rule the democracy must always be the best of available men, those who have proven their merit and served their country well, and who submit to its laws in all things. Then they will serve its citizens by ruling them nobly and justly.

6.Degraded Ideal or False Reality?

We could argue whether current capitalist democracies are truly democracies at all, or whether the state’s foundational ideals (of freedom and equality) have been eroded by the greedy interests of the wealthy class. We could argue whether modern capitalist democracies maintain kratein in the hands of the demos, or if they compose an oligarchy of the rich and unmeritorious. We could argue whether modern democracies have fallen prey to that “misuse from within” that signals immanent collapse. Indeed, since the good of all things is that which preserves them, we might argue whether modern capitalist states have enough good in them to be worth their being preserved.12 We could argue whether the “disproportion” in rights, responsibilities, and freedoms that capitalist democracies grant to differing citizens erodes the integrity of the structure and collapses its constitutional base, as Aristotle claims it does. We could argue whether, when corruption infects the power-nodes of a state, it is certain to seep down to the depths of the entire structure, infecting every man and woman, every family, every part that composes the whole, as many anthropologists claim.

We could argue whether modern capitalist democracies continue to promote that excellence in their constituents without which those citizens revert to unholy savages and monstrous lovers of war, isolated pieces in games of global draughts. We could argue whether, when a superpower becomes corrupt, since a superpower serves as the moral exemplar for lesser states, the tragedy will afflict the global moral well-being; whether the world is destined to the onslaught of a global corruption that will take centuries—and perhaps millennia—to heal. We could argue, if one democracy does not respect the democratically-elected leaders of another democracy, whether all democracy is dead. To return to the opening query of this paper, given “The War against the Third World” that has been fought under the guise of the battle for democracy and that has resulted in the deaths of millions of third world peasants, we might argue whether democracy turns out to be as brutal a tyrant as any communist dictatorship. We could argue any one of these questions.

However, before we argue whether modern capitalist democracies are preserving “true” democracy, we must decide whether democracies per se are worth preserving, whether the ideal form was ever realizable.13 I shall close my paper with the argument that democracy’s fundamental principles of freedom and equality for all were a ruse from the beginning. Just as Bush’s proud boasts that his country composes a “beacon of freedom and opportunity” for all offers little of concrete utility to the homeless, the poor, the deserted mothers and fatherless children who dwell on the margins of America’s prosperity; so democracy in its Athenian roots, so philosophically rich, so politically self-righteous, so ethically trumpeted throughout the ages, offered little to the hungry and destitute families who struggled under its realities.

I am suggesting that democracy’s founding blueprint was also its founding myth, a true Platonic utopia. Since it is the work of philosophy to think politics in truth, let us finally admit the empirical truth of the façade of equality and freedom that compose the founding principles upon which democracies have always been erected. In ancient Athens, as in modern democracies, equality was not equal distribution of goods; it was equal opportunity before the law. When Athens abolished debt slavery, a new concept arose—eleutheria (freedom). With the erasure of this fundamental wrong from the polis, poor citizens came to recognize their possession of a “quality” that, in theory, permitted their separation from the slave population: eleutheria. Though the poor still lived lives no better than slaves, their citizenship in the community of “freemen” was now inviolable. So everybody got a share of the common good of the democracy: the rich well-born had their excellence (arête) and honor (tim), the wealthy had their prosperity (ploûtos), and the people (demos) had their freedom (eleutheria). But where people do not have enough to eat, can we truly say they have freedom? Freedom that condemns them to the fields so they cannot exercise their rights of citizenship? Freedom that condemns them armour-less to the frontlines of battle where they are free to die for their polis? Freedom that condemns them to ridicule and humiliation, to hunger and disease, to ignorance and hopelessness?

Democracy was born upon a fundamental ruse. Where there is not some degree of economic freedom, some degree of equitable distribution of goods, freedom is the quality of those who have nothing but the liberty to go hungry and die, and to curse their children to the same fate. The homeless and the poverty-stricken in the rich West suffer from the same deception as the poor of the Third World, the same deception as the demos of the first superpower, the deception that, even without bread or warm clothing, shelter or health care, democracy grants freedom and equality for all.

Modern capitalist democracies have forgotten the wisdom of the ancients. They have disregarded the warnings of the great thinkers. Accumulation of wealth has eclipsed the quest for the good life (eudaimonia) and seeking after excellence. They have lost sight of the notion of the unity of the virtues, inscribed in the heavens as the assumption that humaneness is the supreme excellence, human beauty is its justice, courage is its temperance, wealth is its noble-minded generosity.

So the question is not whether democracies have gone wrong in the modern era, but how far wrong and at whose expense? The question is, to maintain the deception of demos kratos, what new myths must be spun, whose miseries concealed, what embarrassing questions silenced? Until the emptiness of democracy’s promises are brought to the fore of political discussions, young idealists will continue to enlist in foul-purposed military campaigns, dying to preserve this illusion; foreign leaders will be assassinated and their peasants slaughtered to maintain this fiction; and foreign countries will be “liberated” into this shameless lie by massive carpet bombing, barrages of radioactive artillery, and seizure of their rightful resources.

Aristotle insists that the state is worth preserving to the degree that its form remains pure and its leaders remain in service to the good of the whole. Aristotle is critical of the insistence found in Plato’s Republic that a harmonizing unity should be imposed upon the varied parts of the state, even at the expense of the happiness of the parts. Instead, Aristotle contends that although the final ends of the various men within the state are alike in realization of their full rational and political life, men remain utterly diverse in nature and in talent, and this is happily so. It is essential that their diversity and individual merit not be sacrificed to the ideal of a homogenizing unity. Thus Aristotle affirms an attractive liberal-democratic ideal when he states: “The nature of the state is plurality.”14 Unity is not merely impracticable; it is undesirable as an end. Since plurality is the nature of individual men, it is critical that its preservation be secured by the very nature of the state.

Therefore, there must be established some principle whereby order can be maintained in the state without suppressing or erasing the prized individual merits of the members of that robust arena of difference. That principle Aristotle names the principle of reciprocity. Among freemen and equals, there must be equitable power. This maxim demands that governance of the whole must be shared in turn according to some order of succession. Justice again is confirmed: “It is just that they should all share in government.”15 This suggests a global fix for those nations whose capitalist economic structure has so perverted the foundational ideals of its political form. Just as in the individual nation the governing body (whatever its form) must ensure that the principle of reciprocity keeps the whole of things in a lively dynamism so that individual merit can blossom and special talent can freely unfold, so at the global level, what is needed is a governing body of oversight to ensure the principle of reciprocity reigns over relations among all nations.16

No human is an island. No nation a world. Common sense and ethics dictate that people must learn to share the planet in peaceful coexistence. A global federalism is needed to monitor the workings of that sharing and to keep rogue parts from upsetting the consonance that issues in the good of the whole.

Dr. Hamblet received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Pennsylvania State University in 2000. She is author of “The Sacred Monstrous: Reflections on Violence in Human Communities” (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2004), and the forthcoming, “Savage Constructions: A Theory of ’Rebounding’ Violences in Africa” (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi). Writes Hamblet, “I am interested in discovering how people who moralize against “evil” come to do harm to each other in good conscience (Holocaust and genocide studies, violence, human nature/nurture studies).”


1. Politics. 1253a3, c.f. 1253a27-28, 36-37, 1260b25-30.

2. 1253A36-37.

3. It should be noted that Plato employs the image of the shepherd as his metaphor for statesmanship. The statesman practices a higher form of governance than the mere politician, caring for his wards as shepherds for their sheep. The best states, like the world under the care of the god in the Statesman myth, before it is left to go its “natural way,” provides for all the needs of its members, and food is mentioned explicitly as one of the god’s gifts, freely supplied.

4. 1279A17-21.

5. 1279a17-21, 1281a1-2.

6. 1281A1-2.

7. 1288A14-16.

8. 1307B31-34.

9. 1292A30-33.

10. Aristotle names the middle class “the golden mean” of the state. When the erosion of this class is complete, will there be no force any longer to frustrate the excesses of the extremes (the neediest and the wealthiest)? Will constitutional rule exist no longer, as Aristotle claims?

11. Granted, democracy for Aristotle was not freedom for all, but freedom for the democracy’s freemen. Aristotle counted as “citizenry” (those who deserved the rights of freedom from oppression, full civil rights, and observance of their human dignity) the soldiering freemen of good birth, not slaves, women or other “disreputables” to whom no basic rights were due. In this, he was consonant with the founding fathers of the current superpower. Furthermore, equality was not equality of property but equal civil rights, a right to equal stature before the law, a right to equal voice as to its foreign policies and its decisions with regard to acts of war.

12. 1309a25-27, and 1309b23.

13. Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, Julie Rose, tr., (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).

14. 1261a17.

15. 1261b1-3.

16. Benedict de Spinoza, in his Political Treatise, suggests that the state is worthy of preservation to the degree that its constituent parts are themselves most fully empowered. In a twist of Aristotle’s dictum, Spinoza claims that a whole is at its greatest power when each of its parts is permitted to unfold into its greatest power and fulfill its potentiality. No one part should overtake the rest (not even the sovereign, for Spinoza). The whole can be greater than the sum of the parts when the parts are fully self-empowered and coexist in their greatest harmony. See Hamblet, “The Disarming of Being: The Metaphysics of Benedict de Spinoza” in Prima Philosophia, (Cuxhaven and Dartford: Traude Junghans Verlag, January-March, 2001).


Aristotle. The Collected Works of Aristotle. Jonathan Barnes. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).

Jacques Rancière. Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy. Julie Rose, tr. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

On World Federation by Ronald J. Glossop

Glossup, Ronald J., “On World Federation,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006).

At the global level, a democratic world federation would provide a way of using deliberation to deal with global problems such as (1) putting an end to war and the availability of increasingly deadly weapons, (2) regulating the global economy and the behavior of transnational corporations, (3) controlling the worldwide transmission of diseases in both humans and animals, (4) managing those resources and areas which are beyond the jurisdiction of individual nations (e.g. outer space and the oceans), (5) halting the process of global environmental pollution (e.g. destruction of the ozone layer and global warming), (6) protecting universally recognized human rights, (7) dealing with terrorism and international crime, and (8) promoting a sense of global community which would override loyalty to ethnic, national, or religious groups.

One of the objections typically raised against the creation of such a world federation is that it could degenerate into a global tyranny. But such a tyranny could develop even in the absence of a world government. What if Hitler’s scientists had developed the atomic bomb before the Allies were able do it? What if a national dictator acquired some new bacteriological weapon that would kill everyone but a few of his supporters who had been immunized against it? What if a national dictator gained unstoppable power by controlling cloned super-warriors? Furthermore, what is the likelihood of democracy continuing to survive at the national level if the threat of war and terrorism is not checked by instituting the rule of law at the global level?

Above and beyond rebutting these objections, world federalists note that the danger of a tyrant taking over the world is much greater under the present semi-anarchic international system than it would be if a democratic world federation were created.

Another fact worth noting in the larger debate is that humanity has gained more and more experience in establishing stable democratic governments and checking the power of the leaders. We now know how to ensure the independence of legislative, executive, and judicial powers, how to incorporate a Bill of Rights into a constitution, and how to guarantee a free and aggressive press protection from governmental interference. The danger to democratic governments at the national level now comes mainly from military or political threats originating outside the country.

Thirdly, there are some specific arrangements that could be instituted in a democratic world federation to minimize the danger of its degenerating into a tyranny. Some of these are mentioned in my 1993 book titled World Federation? For example, instead of having a single President or Prime Minister, the executive function of the world government could be performed by a five-person Global Executive Committee (GEC). The world could be divided into eight or nine regions, each with relatively homogeneous cultural characteristics, and it could be agreed that no two members of the GEC could come from the same region. Each year one new member could be elected (probably by the World Parliament) to the GEC for a five-year term, and during their fifth year that member would serve as GEC chair. There could be a two-term limit for serving on the GEC.

Such arrangements should provide assurance that no single individual or nation would come to dominate the whole.

Another way of protecting against an overthrow of a democratic world government would be to have four somewhat autonomous police forces, each of which has personnel stationed all over the world. Each force would have its own officers, training schools, supply services, uniforms, and so on. Leaders would be promoted only from within their own force, and the four forces would be kept separate from each other (except possibly in athletic competition against each other). Volunteers would be assigned to the four forces in such a manner that there would be a similar mixture of nationalities and races in all four separate forces. Besides their professional training, members of these forces could be engaged in educational programs, in fighting international organized crime, in developing personal hobbies, and in providing humanitarian assistance in case of floods and other natural disasters. Even if a small group could manage to take control of one of these forces, there would still be three other forces to hold that one in check.

Obviously, there are other concerns about possible undesirable consequences of creating a democratic world federation, but we also need to keep in mind the probable undesirable consequences of not doing so.

Still another common argument against a democratic world federation is that it is not feasible. No one can deny that there are problems to be addressed, but that is not the same as saying that there are obstacles that cannot be overcome. We need to shift from a predictive mode of thinking (what is going to happen no matter what we do?) to a prescriptive mode of thinking (what should be done, and what am I going to do to help ensure a positive outcome?) There are problems to be addressed, so let’s address them.

We are intelligent beings, and we should be able to act constructively to deal with the global problems confronting us. At present, we face real threats from the unleashing of weapons of mass destruction, to the global spread of dangerous diseases, to irreversible environmental catastrophes, to extreme shortages of necessities such as water and energy. We should not need the threat of an attack from inhabitants of another planet to stimulate us to collective action. We need democratic government for our global community as well as our national communities.

“Our political and social conceptions are Ptolemaic. The world in which we live is Copernican. . . . There is not the slightest hope that we can possibly solve any of the vital problems of our generation until we rise above dogmatic nation-centric conceptions and realize that . . . we have to shift our standpoint . . . . “

From: Emery Reves, The Anatomy of Peace (Gloucester MA: Peter Smith, 1969), p. 29. This book was originally published by Harper and Brothers in 1945 and was republished by Robert Betchov in 1995 with no change in pagination.

Ronald J. Glossop is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Peace Studies at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and author of World Federation? (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 1993, Esperanto translation Monda Federacio? by Johano Rapley published by Glossop in Florissant MO in 2001) and Confronting War (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 1983, 4th ed. 2001). Glossop is active in several non-governmental organizations such as “Citizens for Global Solutions” (formerly “World Federalist Association”) and Esperanto organizations at the local, national, and global level.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

Cooperative Capitalism by J.W. Smith

Smith, J.W., “Cooperative Capitalism: The Missing ‘Human Face’ of Economics,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006).

Thank you professor Martin for those kind words and thank you for the opportunity to speak to your fine audience. Good Afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It is indeed a pleasure to talk to you today. A thousand theorists can massage these concepts for 100 years. But if one is going to get anywhere one must come to some conclusions. Thus I am laying this out with firm conclusions. If you have a better plan philosophical plan for to bring peace and justice to this world, let me know when you write your book. This is written from a perspective of honest capitalism; though attaining all the goals of socialism, one could easily call it supercharged capitalism.

Ron Glossup, in your paper presentation you asked me what was economic democracy and what was cooperative capitalism? America gained only its political freedom from the revolutionary war; Britain’s warships denied Americans the right to control their own trade. It was winning the War of 1812 that gave us our economic freedom and economic freedom is the essence of economic democracy. Analyzing America’s creation of a bloc of wealthy nations (Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, etc.) to stop fast socialism was done through cooperative capitalism, not through Adam Smith free trade. It was through studying the imperial nations utilizing cooperative capitalism to build powerful blocs to protect their monopoly system which taught me the enormous powers of cooperative economics as opposed to classical and neo-liberal competitive economics.

Professor Nic Tideman: Property rights, as structured, is the problem. As structured, it is not only the foundation of capitalism it is the foundation of our monopoly structures. That we no longer have monopolies is not true; monopolies are structured right into exclusive title to nature’s wealth. All wealth is processed from humankind’s heritage, the natural wealth on or under land.

As our system of law slowly evolved from aristocracy, more and more people gained more and more rights; partly through gaining rights to those exclusive titles to human kind’s heritage, those natural resources. Each gain in rights was touted as full rights but this was not, and is not, true. Due to wealth stolen from the impoverished world, and its broad distribution through military and other unnecessary expenditures, this is hard to see.

We think we earned all our wealth. Not so! A large share was stolen. Eliminate that stolen wealth and the wasted expenditures through which it is distributed and it can be mathematically proven that, under these exclusive titles to all humankind’s heritage, only a tiny elite could ever own land or their proper share of the wealth produced. In short, our system of law is very close to aristocratic law from which it evolved.

We all know Henry George’s principles that no one produced land thus those exclusive titles should be restructured to conditional titles with society collecting the landrent. Immediately land prices drop to 0, land monopolies vanish, landowners retain title to lands upon which they are productively employed, all have rights to land, lost values are compensated for through bonds, all other taxes disappear, and economic efficiency increases equal to the invention of money. Note how, under conditional titles to land, use-values are distributed instantly and without cost.
Through elimination of monopolies we are taught are not there, economic waste is largely eliminated.

Technology is only a part of nature waiting to be discovered. Place patents in the public domain through society paying inventors and those huge monopolies disappear even as those inventors are far better paid and consumer prices, as measured by hours worked to purchase products, shrink.

Consumer prices drop and the gambling casinos called stock markets, where those technology monopoly profits are collected, shrink to a stable market for investments. Economic efficiency increases equal to the invention of the printing press as again massive waste is eliminated and use-values of mankind’s heritage are distributed at minimum cost.

Money is only a social tool waiting to be discovered; and it was discovered 5,000 years ago. Each region and each community having equal rights to money capital and to created money eliminates those monopolies. Economic efficiency increases equal to the invention of electricity and again massive waste is eliminated and use-values of mankind’s heritage are distributed at minimum cost. Those monopolies disappear even as rights of ownership, use rights, individualism, and competition are not only increased, they are maximized.

Walk into the heart of any city. Look up at the glass skyscrapers. Walk in and look at the names on the office doors. Once one understands how wealth is distributed through waste and unnecessary labor, one realizes that an efficient society does not need the entire building, or the industries which built and serviced it, or the industry that built and serviced all its furnishings.

Through a system of stolen wealth distributed through the waste of wars and monopolies, roughly half the labor, capital, and resources are wasted unnecessarily. It is through this system of wasted labor, capital and resources—not through a system of rights—that we have a good living.

We have all read the statistics on wealth distribution; the top 1% own more wealth than the bottom 90%. Eliminate the wasted labor, capital and resources through which this wealth is distributed and we stand exposed as nothing less than a duplication of the aristocratic system that supposedly disappeared centuries ago.

Eliminate military waste protecting these monopolies, and the waste of those monopolies themselves, and there are enough resources on this earth for all. Under cooperative capitalism poverty can be eliminated in 10 years and a quality life for all can be attained in 50 years. That is “Capitalism with a Human Face.” Under Cooperative Capitalism the average standard of living would rise rapidly even as the GNP and the hours worked per person would drop by possibly half. That drop in GNP and hours worked measures the previously wasted labor, capital and resources, as the money flowed through those monopolies to drop into the coffers of those who produce nothing.

I will now demonstrate that the power brokers know all this very well. Where does this violence throughout the world come from? Many reasons are cited but lets push the rhetoric aside and follow some hidden threads through history.

(1) You are in China building one model car an hour and are paid $1 an hour. I am in America building one model car an hour and am paid $10 an hour. You like and purchase my model cars and I like and purchase your model cars (which of course is world trade.) We will price these model cars at the labor cost of production which, in an efficient society, is the true cost of production. At $1 an hour, you must work ten hours to buy one of my $10 model cars. At $10 an hour, working those same 10 hours, I can buy 100 of your $1 model cars. The capital accumulation or consumption potential is not mathematical it is exponential.

If the pay differential between equally-productive labor is 5, PUSH BUTTONS: the difference in wealth accumulation potential is 25-to-1. If the pay differential is 10, the wealth accumulation advantage is 100-to-1. If the pay differential is 20, the wealth accumulation advantage is 400-to-1. If the pay differential is 40, roughly the differential between China and America, the wealth accumulation advantage is 1,600-to-1. Your good living and my good living are based upon the theft of the wealth of the impoverished world as per that formula. High pay divided by the low pay squared SHUT OFF.

Immediately I will be challenged that China is industrializing rapidly. The truth of the matter is that, if cooperative capitalism had been our philosophical underpinning instead of exclusive title to all humankind’s heritage and other forms of monopolization the entire world could have quickly industrialized generations ago. Adam Smith free-trade philosophy and structural adjustment policies openly lower wages for the weak and thus increase the take for the powerful. This simple 6th grade math exposes the fundamentals of plunder-by-trade and turns neo-liberal free trade economics to dust.

The potential wealth produced by technologies under truly free and honest trade is many times that of a monopolized economy. Powerful people have always known this and have utilized diplomatic warfare, economic warfare, financial warfare, covert warfare, and, when all that failed, they turned to open warfare to keep those monopolies in place and that wealth flowing to the imperial centers of capital. That same suppression of equal rights to the wealth-producing-process is on in full force today.

Powerful societies once plundered-by-raids. But 800 to 1,000 years ago they learned to plunder-by-trade. Within the walls of the walled cities of Europe during the Middle Ages, also called the Free Cities of Europe, there were no resources. And remember, all wealth is processed from resources. When the serfs came to town and observed the looms and fulling vats and other primitive industrial capital that produced cloth, leather, and other consumer goods, they said, “Why we can do that.” Back to their villages they went to produce their own cloth, leather, etc.

Now what happens to this city if it does not challenge the villagers? Down the tube they go. That is their living. Here is a quote is right out of the classics on the Middle Ages: “The struggle against rural trading and against rural handicrafts lasted at least seven or eight hundred years. All through the 14th century regular armed expeditions were sent out against the villages and looms and fulling vats were broken or carried away.” Ladies and gentlemen: That battle over who will control resources, control the wealth-producing-process, and thus who ends up with the wealth produced is the violence and wars ongoing throughout the world today.

Those city states became nations and a share of the natural resources it took to be a powerful and wealthy nation still lay beyond their borders. Thus the empires of old, there were only seven of them, rushed across the world to claim every square inch of the earth. That there can be more than one empire is a contradiction in terms. The most powerful always set the rules of unequal trade. So those battles over the control of resources and the wealth-producing-process continued.

In World Wars I and II those empires broke themselves battling over who sets the rules of unequal trade. They now no longer had the wealth to maintain control and the whole world started breaking free. Africa was planning on a United States of Africa. If that continent ever organized as one nation they would in short order be the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth. The world’s darker races would now dominate history. Equally important, they would now have equal power to write history. They who write history control history. What I am telling here are only corrections of falsifications of history whose purpose was to control history.

That the world broke free and there are no empires today is pure fiction. That struggle over resources and the wealth-producing-process continues to this day; witness the current effort to gain control of what was admittedly a brutal Iraq which was only the initial move to gain firm control of the oil of the Middle East. Trying to figure out the reason for our massive covert actions kept secret from our citizens was once my passion. I finally found that answer. The reason we do not see it is that we are at the heart of this empire and we live within its created beliefs of enemies. Created beliefs in enemies—that is how the masses of every society are controlled.

Americans are not aware of it, but over the past 50 years we have covertly destroyed countries breaking free, whose only threats were that they were establishing governments more democratic than ours. This would cause the loss of control of those resources, loss of control of the wealth-producing-process, and would expose and destroy the current monopoly structure.
Notice how neatly the inconvenient history of America’s destabilization of emerging free nations and the reality that we have a monopolized economy are buried through the false writings of history. Today’s professors are not to blame. This system of control through control of belief systems of the masses has been in place for centuries. The academic and financial rewards for supporting these belief systems are high and the penalties for standing against them are normally devastating.

If you challenged the system 300 years ago, off came your head. Today is not that much different. If you in academia were to stand up and seriously challenge the system you would be immediately ostracized, you would get no promotions, your research projects would not be funded, and you may lose your job. So essentially your head still comes off today.

Each new crop of students trust what they are taught and they go on to teach the next crop of trusting students. Thus what I have laid out, no matter how simple and solidly cited, is largely unknown. How does one get better citations than 6th grade math, the classics on the Middle Ages, America’s founding fathers, and all this evident in today’s fast moving current events?

That the soft sciences teach beliefs protecting wealth and power, as opposed to an open discussion of truth, is easy to prove. America’s founding fathers rejected Britain’s attempt to impose Adam Smith free trade philosophy upon America. Friedrich List came to America, became an American citizen, and helped educate Americans on how to protect their industries and markets. He then returned to Germany to write his classic, The National System of Political Economy.
Every nation which successfully developed did so under the principles of Friedrich List. None, zero, zilch, not one, ever developed under Adam Smith monopoly rules hiding under the title of free trade. Yet, once the U.S. was industrialized, and as the old imperial powers collapsed, America immediately replaced Britain as the imperial power imposing Adam Smith fictitious free trade upon the world.

This reversal of reality can only have been accomplished through the power structure having firm control of what was taught in the university system. When America first formed, academia can only have taught the positives of Friedrich List and that Adam Smith free trade was a system of theft of weak nation’s wealth. For a century or so we mouthed support for sister colonies even as behind the scenes we backed imperialism. Then, after WWII, reversal of reality was imposed full bore by academia and full faith in Adam Smith free trade, as far away from reality as it is, is solidly in place today. We are all unwittingly, until we expose these simple truths, a part of that system imposing those fictitious beliefs.

That the imposed beliefs of society protecting a power structure and their unearned wealth can be so far from reality is a matter of deep concern; not only for the massive violence and oppression it imposes upon weak people but for its potential of mankind destroying itself. Twice before, each over a millennium ago, societies were poised for an industrial revolution. I have not researched what derailed the imminent Industrial Revolution in China, but I have looked into what derailed it in our culture. It was through imposing belief systems protecting a power structure, just as I outlined is ongoing today.

Sixteen hundred years ago, all around the Mediterranean, societies were well developed with substantial educated populations and with large libraries and cultural centers. In short, they were intellectually and culturally advanced much as we are today. Under the alliance between the Roman Empire and the church in 324 AD, all other religions and the empire’s educated came under assault. Over a period of 350 years all the libraries within the Roman Empire were burned, education was taboo, Hellenic culture centers were destroyed and their priests and educated were assassinated or forced underground.
Those 350 years of assassination and suppression of the educated classes dropped Western Society into the Dark Ages. They no longer had the educated people necessary to run their economy.

In the Library of Alexandria was a functioning steam engine. An artifact dated to those times was deduced as could only have been a battery. This means that, except for those suppressions of other people’s rights, the phones, trains, cars, planes, and TV sets of today could have been invented and in use 1,200 to 1,500 years. Run an Internet search using the keywords “libraries, burned, Christian” and you can read that story.

The irrational belief system we function under today is not that much different than the belief system which dropped us into the Dark Ages 1,600 years ago. The 40-year nuclear Cold War standoff could easily have destroyed the earth. A Pentagon study just released concludes that a global warming of six degrees is imminent and could make much of the earth uninhabitable.

Most will say there is no indication of suppression of the educated today. What about this wasteful and destructive monopoly system being touted as efficient and peaceful? What about the suppression of nations breaking free being recorded in history as a suppression of dictators and us as the bearers of the flag of peace, freedom, justice, rights, and majority rule?

The successful breakup of Yugoslavia and the current assault on Iraq under the same cover stories are only doing openly under a cover story what was done covertly for 50 years. Worldwide, between 12 and 15 million were killed and tens of millions more died due to the destabilization of their economies. Plain and simple, we are living under an imposed belief system of enemies which suppresses freedom and rights even as we tell each other how good we are and how we are trying to help other poor souls; just as that alliance of church and state did when it destroyed its own culture 1,600 years ago.

Eliminate the waste of battling over the earth’s resources and there is enough on this earth for all. It is time we shared with the world’s impoverished. After all, all wealth is processed from nature’s wealth and most those resources lie within their borders. We are wasting the very wealth that should be producing a quality lifestyle for both those impoverished people and ourselves.

Ladies and Gentlemen of academia and the media look at burden on your shoulders today. Either we break out from under these imposed beliefs protecting a power structure and their stolen wealth or we are riding a run-a-way train to disaster.

Those of you struggling to get reality out there this is your moment in history. The belief system put together to justify control of Iraq’s resources is in tatters. Where for 50 years good books, in the soft sciences, were published only on the fringes and sold only a few, today, quality books, in the soft sciences are published by the mainstream press, sell millions of copies, and there are so many good titles I quit trying to keep up.

For 50 years the mainstream media and the university system faithfully blanketed society with a belief system of enemies. This hid the real purposes of violence imposed upon the world by the very nations putting out the propaganda; suppressing those nations attempting to gain control of their resources and thus control of their destiny. Now there is substantial reality as to those depredations right on the evening news. Dish TV has three channels of full-bore reality alternative news interviewing people by the dozens who lay out reality just as I am laying it out to you today.

People are good. If they knew, they would never tolerate oppressing weak people. With your help, the reality that we are the suppressors of rights, not the carriers of rights, should burst upon them. Ladies and gentlemen. You have the opportunity to go down in history as the generation that brought peace and freedom to this earth with a quality life for all. Lets do it.

With a Ph.D. in political economics, J.W. Smith has written broadly and lectured widely at conferences around the world. He is founder and director of the Institute for Economic Democracy and author of Economic Democracy; The World’s Wasted Wealth; and Co-operative Capitalism. This keynote speech was delivered at the Seventh International Conference of the International Philosophers for Peace (IPPNO), Radford University, Virginia.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

Buying Moral Victory by Ruth Lucier

Lucier, Ruth, “Buying Moral Victory: Review of P.W. Singer, Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Cornell University Press, 2003),” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006).

I grew up hearing about the Military Industrial Complex in a home with parents who believed that almost all wars are morally wrong or unnecessary, and that many wrong and unneeded wars have occurred (and continuously occur) because of the financial interests of those who grow rich by producing the weapons. Hence, I was somewhat startled by the author’s opening remark in the preface of Corporate Warriors that prior to 1996 he had not heard of “the phenomenon of private companies offering military services for hire” (p. vii). What, I wondered, did Peter W. Singer (the Brookings scholar, not the Princeton philosopher) think private companies contracting with the US Department of Defense do?

Reading on, I found that Singer’s purpose is to help the reader to understand a particular segment of the private military industry based in the United States—a segment that doesn’t just serve up the U.S. government’s weapons; it is given the task of actually deciding when and where to apply them in actual fields of battle. Singer suggests that the reason that so much modern on-the-ground killing and guarding against killing (viz. “security”) has been delegated (and so “privatized”) not only by the U.S. government by other governments as well, are (1) released conflicts, (2) rise of non-state violence, (3) a market flood of weapons, and (4) a decline of local state governance and local military response due to diseases like AIDS (pp. 50-51). Singer also documents the interesting fact that many of today’s heads of state make use of paid foreign security forces to prevent coups and to exercise control over their own indigenous armed forces (pp. 200-201).

Singer is certainly right to identify the rapidly expanding utilization of “troops for hire” as a matter that merits discussion. And he correctly points out that it is the responsibility of citizens of a democracy to know how wars (particularly those that are conducted on their behalf) are being carried out. Otherwise, how can citizens wisely control military activities that occur on or off their country’s terrain? Singer’s attempt to supply information is surely a worthy goal—one that has important ethical implications.

The historical explanations given in the book, however, are less than satisfactory. In Chapter One, for example, Singer appears to accept David Shichor’s suggestion that military products have been and are the business of (and should remain the business of) government in cases were “death and destruction on a considerable scale are inevitable products” (p. 1), hence suggesting that past U.S. wars were exclusively and officially government endeavors. But this is surely not so. The American Governments of the invaders from Europe certainly offered land for those independent settlers who would destroy, by any means, the way of life, if not the actual existence of indigenous peoples. What followed was surely “a century of dishonor” involving numerous broken treaties and non-governmental massacres, as well as the privatized pillaging of natural and cultural resources. The century of war against Native Americans was surely largely a privatized war paid for by the offering of “free” land to the non-official, non-indigenous combatants.

In utilizing history to warn against privatization, Singer, however, looks not to America, but rather to early empires in Europe. For example in Chapter One he suggests that the use of mercenaries in Greece and Rome during these empires’ colonial periods turned military power over to private elements. He argues that this resulted in a kind of instability that, in turn, led to the destruction of democracy. In Chapter Three, Singer suggests that today the activities of private companies, with employees who act as soldiers and actually operate tremendously destructive weapons, may be problematic because their activities might also undermine democratic order. Singer later suggests that another reason for objecting to the transformation of contemporary warfare, from nation-run war to privatized “company operation,” is that the privatized conflicts may induce a “breakdown of warrior’s honor” (p. 64).

But what is it about the fact that such companies “operate as businesses first and foremost” (p. 40) that causes them to be more dangerous to democracy or more likely to create lapses of honor than governmental military institutions? Both kinds of organizations may employ soldiers who are required to fight for exactly the same non-democratic programs of, for example, land-acquisition and genocide.

Singer’s reply is that the company soldiers would be less accountable to moral standards because such soldiers may “simply harbor an open commitment to war as a professional way of life” (p. 41).

But do professional government soldiers (e.g. career officers) do otherwise? Hopefully, most US government soldiers believe the boss (e.g. the U.S. Government) is a government worth fighting for, and a large majority is morally well intentioned. But U.S. Armed Forces career professionals are surely committed to fighting, as directed, by the Country and its Commanders, on the basis of a commitment to do battle no matter what; to do battle, in effect, even if the Government’s cause is wrong.

Still, Singer sees the privatized soldier as morally less desirable for several other reasons. First, Singer believes the commitment of the soldier for hire is likely to be less stable in conflict situations because, as Singer puts it, “They have more independence” (p. 41).

Singer is probably right in suggesting that privatized soldiers who can quit easily may, in that sense, be less committed. But, this ability to quit is surely not always morally unfortunate. If the war the privatized soldier is fighting is unjust, we ought to be glad that the privatized soldier can quit and saddened that the government soldier must remain.

A second reason Singer offers for believing that the government-paid soldier would be more virtuous, is that the government soldier may be fighting for home and country, while the privatized soldier may be fighting merely for pay. But while a government-paid soldier standing at the door of his or her home and actively defending the beloved occupants within, may seem clearly more heroic than the mercenary fighting in foreign territory merely for pay, the sense of virtue collapses when that same government-paid solider is fighting an offensive, aggressive war on foreign turf many miles from home.

To be sure, soldiers fighting aggressive and unjust wars may think they are protecting their own families and exemplifying transcendent virtues; but about these matters government soldiers and hired mercenaries may both be quite equally and quite tragically wrong.

A final concern Singer poses has to do less with democracy or virtue than with the pragmatic responsibility of policing and oversight. Singer observes that if governments allow great amounts of lethal force to find their way into private hands (and particularly into the hands of unidentified persons who are outside the reach of any law), they may create a situation where the use to which these private persons put the weapons cannot be regulated, or their misuse punished. For how can private companies with no clear national base be held accountable to any deliberative body at all?

Of the many points Singer makes against privatization in Corporate Warriors, this point is, I believe, the most forceful. If increasing privatization is a way of getting war done without having anyone accountable for what is done to the victims of the war, the potential for massive injustice is certainly greatly increased.

Singer is right to suggest that democracies need to work intensively to regulate and control all potential sources of violence within their borders. And, of course, he is also right to suggest that weapons of mass destruction should be regulated by global democracies that are accountable to hopefully responsible and informed citizens. Surely, however, we must move beyond Singer’s suggestions and make certain that the possible use of any highly destructive weaponry (in private or public hands) is identified, globally regulated, and ultimately banned. While this is being accomplished, we should carefully examine claims that this or that war is morally justified, and we should work to strengthen the ability of international law to totally prevent predatory and unjust wars.

In spite of the fact that it does not make any conclusive case against privatization, Singer’s book is worth reading, just because it invites us to focus on very real threats to global peace. Nevertheless, while acknowledging the importance of Singer’s inquiries concerning the moral status of privately verses publicly funded bearers of arms, I believe we should direct most of our philosophical energies to resolving questions concerning when and whether (even apart from considerations of funding) war can be moral at all.

Ruth Lucier is Director of Interdisciplinary Studies and Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Bennett College, NC. Her recent publications include topics in moral philosophy and education.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

Can Peace be Taught? by Greg Moses

Moses, Greg, “A Review of Robert L Holmes and Barry L. Gan, Nonviolence in Theory and Practice, 2nd Ed.(Long Grove, Ill: Waveland Press, 2005),” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)

In this much expanded second edition, new co-editor Barry L. Gan joins Robert L. Holmes to produce a collection of 51 readings arranged into six parts. Following is a survey of the first three parts.


Part one, on ‘origins’ is divided into three subparts: Eastern Religions, Abrahamic Religions, and Secular Sources. This part begins with a review of the ethics of Jainism, “the oldest philosophy based on nonviolence.”

For I.C. Sharma, author of “The Ethics of Jainism”, nonviolence is often born from experience with “suffering and death”; and so it was with Jainism’s great reformer, Mahavira, who sought “abrubt renunciation and the strictest possible ascetic life” as a way to break away from the human cycle of misery. Not only abstinence from violence, but from lying, stealing, sex, and possession—such were the strict codes of Jainist liberation.

If the renunciations were strictly followed, the ascetic could aspire to Moksa, a state of “infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite power, and infinite bliss.” For this discipline to work, selfishness must give way to self-realization in which “service and self-sacrifice” would be means for perfecting being. Nonviolence, therefore, would be pursued relentlessly in thought, word, and deed.

In the second reading, these elegant yet rigorous ethical principles are taken up by Lao Tzu and applied to less ascetic pursuits, such as the management of the state. “He who delights in the slaughter of men will not succeed in the empire,” warned the sage in his verses on “Armies”. For Lao Tzu, victory in war is most properly celebrated at funerals (No. 31).

Deep love, frugality, humility; a wise contentment with small things; and attention to our own strange habits rather than to faults of others—these are the counsels of the legendary author of the TaoDeChing. But why would he encourage such things if they were already the norm? Behind the peace he bids with verse, we hear background commotions from his time and ours.

From the Buddha, reading number three brings excerpts from the Dhammapada on violence, justice, and the Brahmin. A brief introduction explains the law of karma, where every little thing tends in one direction or another and “little by little” every small thing we think, say, or do may begin to trace a path of great reversal. Of the Brahmin, says Buddha: “He neither kills nor helps others to kill”.

Gandhi’s beloved Bhagavad-Gita receives brief treatment in reading four. “It is pre-eminently a description of the duel that goes on in our own hearts,” said Gandhi about the long dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna. In the end, suggests Doris Hunter, the ethical lesson of the text is deontological: we must perform our duty, because that is the only control we know.

Turning to the Middle East, the second subpart revisits nonviolence in the great traditions of the Abrahamic religions whose one God–Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah—initiated a remarkable worldly career by adopting a native-born son of Iraq.

Reuven Kimelman glosses nonviolence in the Talmud, where ancient records of Palestinian Rabbis quote Rabbi Simeon ben Abba’s take on what in Christendom goes by the name of the ‘Old Law’: “Not only he who returns evil for good, but even he who returns evil for evil, ‘evil will not depart from his house’”–which leaves no room but to do good, period.

As a practical illustration for ordinary affairs, this same source teaches that even if you see your enemy frustrated by a sitting donkey, you are obliged to help pick up “the ass of one who hates you.” Thus spake Rabbi Alexandri.

Writes Kimelman, “the Midrash offers a two-point program for reconciliation. First, control your urge to hate. Second, act in such a manner that your enemy will become your friend.” In further sections of the reading, Kimelman reviews killing and self-suffering in more detail, with reference also to modern-day sources such as Richard B. Gregg’s concept of nonviolence as “moral jiu-jitsu” and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.s, concept of “cosmic companionship.”

How did early Christianity conquer the Roman Empire? In reading number six, Lawrence S. Apsey reminds us that nonviolence was the way. “During this period, Christians refused to serve in the army; and there is no direct evidence that they ever used force against the bloodthirsty persecutors to which they were subjected.” Apparently, these early Christians lived in close encounter with the example set by the founder of the sect when he was faced with the onslaught of empire close up.

As for Islam, Wasim Siddiqui argues that the concept of peace derives from “the unity of all existence: inanimate, plant, and animal.” Complete surrender to Allah is thus a kind of declaration of peace will all things, but most especially with that one called self. “Islam promotes peace in society by emphasizing to individuals their roles as recipients of God’s grace and custodians of the earth.” We are each “individual expressions of God created from one Soul.”

For secular classics, the editors present Plato and Thoreau. For Socrates, whose alleged secularism proved to be a fatal charge in his day, “fear of death is pretense of wisdom”; even in the face of evil coming, ‘tis better to suffer evil than to do it; and if we respect the structure of law, we submit ourselves dutifully to verdicts of juries.

“But when friction comes to have its machine,” writes Thoreau, “and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer.” To a state more concerned with “commerce and agriculture” than with “humanity” Thoreau says the time comes when we must tend to justice, “cost what it may”.

“Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations,” argues Thoreau; “it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides states and churches, it divides families; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine.”

Such are the classic texts of the origins of nonviolence, presented from sources in India, Iraq, Jerusalem, Athens, and Concord.


Part Two transports us from Thoreau to three of his great disciples–Tolstoy, Gandhi, and King. As the editors note, these three great philosophers of nonviolence draw upon religious commitments that compel distinctive forms of action.

For Tolstoy, the Christian sensibility is founded upon recognition that life belongs not to the receiver, but to the giver–and who is able to give themselves life? The living individual therefore owes everything to life-giving and does nothing contrary to this simple but all-consuming principle (from which each living thing has emerged).

Tolstoy was Garrisonian in his commitment to “non-resistance to evil” as his references to the Massachusetts abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison attest (although Garrison is not collected here). Should a Christian kill a criminal who is about to kill a child? Indeed, in an effort to save that child, a Christian may sacrifice herself, but in a world ordered by God, nobody should entitle themselves to make judgments about killing.

As Tolstoy sees it, the example of a robber attacking a child has wide appeal, because it is widely appealing to legitimize violence as reflex. “Therefore Christ taught us to disbelieve in any excuse for violence, and (contrary to what had been taught by them of old times) never to use violence.”

From Gandhi, the editors have selected writings on “satyagraha”, a term that originates from a South African naming contest organized in 1908 to seek a suitable replacement for the term “passive resistance”. “The movement in South Africa was not passive but active,” asserts Gandhi. How many times have nonviolent activists had to repeat the claim that what they do counts as activity? How many times have pacifists nevertheless been charged with do-nothingism? After nearly a century has gone by since the 1908 re-branding effort, what is not getting through?

The London-trained lawyer who selected the term satyagraha as most apt to describe the general strategy of his fellow strugglers argues that the moral right to civil disobedience against “certain laws in well-defined circumstances” can arise only out of profound moral allegiance to the laws of society in general. Only a sacred commitment to the laws can produce a sacred obligation to construct them justly.

“Satyagraha is pure soul-force. Truth is the very substance of the soul. That is why this force is called satyagraha. The soul is informed with knowledge. In it burns the flame of love. If someone gives us pain through ignorance, we shall win him through love. ‘Nonviolence is the supreme Dharma’ is the proof of this power of love. Nonviolence is a dormant state. In the waking state, it is love. Ruled by love, the world goes on. In English there is a saying, ‘Might is Right’. Then there is the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. Both these ideas are contradictory to the above principle.”

From Joan Bondurant’s 1958 classic, Conquest of Violence (Richard B. Gregg’s earlier book is not excerpted in this collection) we find notes for the 1924-25 campaign in India to allow untouchables the right to walk open roads in front of Hindu temples.

Here the expectations of the nonviolence formula are met by the beatings that Brahmins give untouchables during a protest march, by police arrests, by barricades erected to prevent further access to untouchables, and by negotiations with state authorities that result in the removal of the barricades. But the formula takes a surprising turn when in the absence of barriers the untouchables refuse to take the streets until the Brahmins have been convinced to allow them. The untouchable movement asserts the priority of love over power precisely at the point where power could be exercised prior to love. Satyagraha is something more than another word for passive resistance or civil disobedience.

The love centeredness of nonviolence is a virtue stressed in the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a brief account of that movement, Lawrence S. Apsey reminds us that upon returning to the buses of Montgomery, Black citizens were advised to “evidence love and good will at all times.” On the other hand, the love ethic of nonviolence or satyagraha has been distinguished from passive resistance and therefore is not shy about activating confrontation when necessary.

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue,” writes King in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. “My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word ‘tension’. I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”


Part Three of six focuses on Women and Nonviolence, a topic that the editors present as one portion of a crucial systemwide revaluation of women taking place among knowledge professionals of the contemporary academy. The late David Daube, renowned scholar of Hebrew law and scripture, opens this revaluation with a 1972 review of women in the Bible and Greece.

For Daube, the refusal of Hebrew midwives to obey Pharaoh’s genocidal order to kill newborn males (expemplified by the hiding of baby Moses among the bullrushes of Egypt) counts as the oldest act of organized civil disobedience preserved on record. In their resistance to this command of state, Hebrew women appealed to a higher law than Pharaoh’s.

Likewise with Antigone. When she disobeyed the order of King Creon, and buried her brother, Antigone told the King that that he could not contravene the “the immutable, unwritten laws of heaven.” “That both cases involve heroines is not accidental,” writes the law professor, “and if this has hitherto been neglected, it proves only that the male, scholarly world had no eyes for it. Women are largely outside the power structure; indeed, on the whole they belong to the oppressed ones of the earth.”

Margaret Hope Bacon acknowledges that roots of nonviolence and feminism run deep into antiquity, but “the specific social activism” that attaches to these terms only begins in 19th Century New England, with both movements animated by a vortex of abolitionism. The exemplary figure for Bacon is Lucretia Mott, “a small Quaker minister with a mighty spiritual stature” who synthesizes feminism, nonviolence, and abolitionism (Mott’s writing is not collected in these pages).

The Quaker doctrine of an ‘inner light’ within each human had already prepared a philosophical path for women’s equality by the time Lucretia Coffin was born on Nantucket Island. At the age of 18, Lucretia married a fellow schoolteacher and settled into the life of Philadelphia. “Although she was soon busy with a family of six children, she was independent and active, teaching school for some years after she was married, struggling against the increasing conservatism in the Religious Society of Friends, and pushing the movement against the use of the products of slavery, an early form of boycott.”

For Barbara Deming in the 20th Century, the revolutionary practice of nonviolence is a way of staying in control of oneself and one’s movement. “It is my stubborn faith, argues Deming, “that if, as revolutionaries, we will wage battle without violence, we can remain very much more in control—of our own selves, of the responses to us which our adversaries make, of the battle as it proceeds, and of the future we hope will issue from it.”

In the turbulent aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, Deming replies to the arguments of Frantz Fanon and other voices disenchanted with the power of nonviolence. “If people doubt that there is power in nonviolence,” writes Deming, “I am afraid that it is due in part to the fact that those of us who believe in it have yet to find for ourselves an adequate vocabulary. The leaflets we pass out tend to speak too easily about love and truth—and suggest that we hope to move men solely by being loving and truthful.”

For Molly Rush, the symbols of nonviolence would be hammers and blood. Her objective was to disable as many nuclear warheads as possible, and to mark them with blood as a sign of their essential function. As she was escorted away from the General Electric building with her Plowshares Eight companions, she looked back to see: “the dented gold and the scratched black cones, the dribbled blood, all vivid under the bright industrial lighting in the large, blank room.” And she was pleased.

Feminist philosopher Sara Ruddick considers nonviolence in the context of mothering. From one point of view, it appears that a mother’s nonviolence would serve as another mark of her powerlessness against men and their systems of domination. But from another point of view, mothers also exemplify nonviolence in situations where they enjoy obvious power—in relationships with children.

“I can think of no other situation,” writes Ruddick, “in which someone subject to resentments at her social powerlessness, under enormous pressures of time and anger, faces a recalcitrant but helpless combatant with so much restraint. This is the nonviolence of the powerful.”

As selections from the first half of this expanded edition demonstrate, whether peace can be taught or not, humans have produced ample resources for anyone who would learn.

Greg Moses is editor of the CPP Newsletter. He teaches philosophy in Austin, Texas.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online Resources V26.1

There are No Words by Tom Fox

Posted in the Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)

“The ongoing difficulties faced by Fallujans are so great that words fail to properly express it.” Words from a cleric in Fallujah as he tried to explain the litany of ills that continue to afflict his city one year after the U.S.-led assault took place.

“All the men in the mosque were from my neighborhood. They were not terrorists.” Words from a young man who said he left a room of men either injured or homeless thirty minutes before the raid on his mosque, the same mosque shown in the now-famous videotape of an American soldier shooting unarmed men lying on the mosque floor.

“There haven’t been any funds for home reconstruction available since the change in Iraqi government last January.” The words of a civic leader from Fallujah as he showed CPTers the still-devastated areas of his city.

There are no words. A city that has been demonized by Americans and many Iraqis, using the words “the city of terrorists.” A city that its residents call “the city of mosques.” A city that even its residents have to enter at checkpoints, often taking up to an hour to traverse. A city that is being choked to death economically by those same checkpoints.

CPTers and a member of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams came to Fallujah to meet with friends and contacts to ask them if the city was planning on doing something in remembrance of the tragic events of last November when U.S. forces attacked their city of 300,000 to root out, by U.S. estimates, 1,500 terrorists.

What we heard in response were words of remembrance, resistance and resilience. The cleric said that a number of civic leaders had come to him with a proposal for an action in remembrance of the anniversary. Their proposal was to raise funds to contribute to relief efforts for the victims of the earthquake in Pakistan. He said that a teaching of Islam is to always look to aid others in need before asking for aid yourself.

The cleric said that he recently traveled to another Middle Eastern country and during his visit he met with a cleric from Libya. The Libyan cleric said that in his city, and in other places in Libya, parents are naming newborn girls “Fallujah” in honor of the city. The cleric said that more than 800 girls had been named Fallujah in his city alone.

Words are inadequate, but words are all we have. Words like “collective punishment” and “ghettoize” come to mind for the current state of life in Fallujah.

What words or deeds could undo the massive trauma faced by the people of Fallujah every day? Everywhere we went during the afternoon young boys listened to our words and the words of those with whom we were meeting. I kept wondering what was going on in their minds as they relived the events of a year ago and the ensuing trauma. What effect will these events have on their lives as they grow up?

There are no words.

Tom Fox was a member of a Christian Peacemaker Team working in Iraq. On March 9, 2006 Fox was found dead in Baghdad. Text reprinted from Nov. 8, 2005 entry from his blog, “Waiting for the Light”.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online Resources V26.1

Email to Mother by Rachel Corrie

Posted in the Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)

(February 28, 2003) Thanks, Mom, for your response to my email. It really helps me to get word from you, and from other people who care about me.

After I wrote to you I went incommunicado from the affinity group for about 10 hours which I spent with a family on the front line in Hi Salam – who fixed me dinner – and have cable TV. The two front rooms of their house are unusable because gunshots have been fired through the walls, so the whole family – three kids and two parents – sleep in the parent’s bedroom. I sleep on the floor next to the youngest daughter, Iman, and we all shared blankets. I helped the son with his English homework a little, and we all watched Pet Semetery, which is a horrifying movie. I think they all thought it was pretty funny how much trouble I had watching it. Friday is the holiday, and when I woke up they were watching Gummy Bears dubbed into Arabic. So I ate breakfast with them and sat there for a while and just enjoyed being in this big puddle of blankets with this family watching what for me seemed like Saturday morning cartoons. Then I walked some way to B’razil, which is where Nidal and Mansur and Grandmother and Rafat and all the rest of the big family that has really wholeheartedly adopted me live. (The other day, by the way, Grandmother gave me a pantomimed lecture in Arabic that involved a lot of blowing and pointing to her black shawl. I got Nidal to tell her that my mother would appreciate knowing that someone here was giving me a lecture about smoking turning my lungs black.) I met their sister-in-law, who is visiting from Nusserat camp, and played with her small baby.

Nidal’s English gets better every day. He’s the one who calls me, “My sister”. He started teaching Grandmother how to say, “Hello. How are you?” In English. You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers passing by, but all of these people are genuinely cheerful with each other, and with me. When I am with Palestinian friends I tend to be somewhat less horrified than when I am trying to act in a role of human rights observer, documenter, or direct-action resister. They are a good example of how to be in it for the long haul. I know that the situation gets to them – and may ultimately get them – on all kinds of levels, but I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity – laughter, generosity, family-time – against the incredible horror occurring in their lives and against the constant presence of death. I felt much better after this morning. I spent a lot of time writing about the disappointment of discovering, somewhat first-hand, the degree of evil of which we are still capable. I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances – which I also haven’t seen before. I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.

Rachel Corrie died in Palestine on March 16, 2003. According to Democracy Now!, “Eye-witnesses say Rachel was sitting directly in the path of the bulldozer holding a megaphone and wearing a fluorescent jacket when it ran her over, crushing her to death. She was 23 years old.” Text reprinted from

CPP Books CPP News CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

Philosophy of Peace Series Update by William Gay

Gay, Willilam, “Philosophy of Peace: Report from the Editor of the Special Series in VIBS (Value Inquiry Book Series) published by Rodopi,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace Vol. 26 (Spring-Summer 2006)

Books under Contract:

Justice and Justification: The Relation between Justice and Peace, eds. Andrew Kelley and Deborah Peterson (presently being formatted under VIBS guidelines, but behind schedule)

Parceling the Globe: Philosophical Explorations in Globalization, Global Behavior, and Peace, eds. Danielle Poe and Eddy Souffrant (editors aim to send copy to me for review by Summer 2006; ahead of schedule)

Philosophical Perspectives on the ‘War on Terrorism.’ eds. Gail Presbey and Wendy Hamblet (editors aim to submit copy to me for review by Summer 2006; on schedule)

Problems for Democracy, eds. John H. Kultgen, Jr. and Mary Lenzi (manuscript has been completed; sample pages in pdf format were reviewed and approved by Rodopi Editor with only minor changes being required; once these changes are made and page numbers are added to the index, the camera-ready manuscript will be sent to Rodopi, probably by April, to put in their production line)

Savage Constructions: A Theory of Rebounding Violence in Indigenous Communities, Wendy Hamblet (monograph that is behind schedule)

Spiritual and Political Dimensions of Nonviolence and Peace, eds. David Boersema and Katy Gray Brown (editors aim to send copy to me for review in Spring 2006; on schedule)

Next Book Expected to Go Under Contract:

Rob Gildert and Dennis Rothermel are collecting manuscripts from our meeting California State University, Chico for an expected volume on Remembrance and Reconciliation (a contract may be issued as early as Summer 2006)

Professor William C. Gay was recipient of the 2005 Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte.

CPP Newsletter Online Notices Resources V26.1

New Computer Game: A Force More Powerful

Posted in Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)

Can a computer game teach how to fight real-world adversaries—dictators, military occupiers and corrupt rulers, using methods that have succeeded in actual conflicts—not with laser rays or AK47s, but with non-military strategies and nonviolent weapons?

Such a game, “A Force More Powerful (AFMP)”, is now available. A unique collaboration of experts on nonviolent conflict working with veteran game designers has developed a simulation game that teaches the strategy of nonviolent conflict. A dozen scenarios, inspired by recent history, include conflicts against dictators, occupiers, colonizers and corrupt regimes, as well as struggles to secure the political and human rights of ethnic and racial minorities and women.

“A Force More Powerful” is the first and only game to teach the waging of conflict using nonviolent methods. Destined for use by activists and leaders of nonviolent resistance and opposition movements, the game will also educate the media and general public on the potential of nonviolent action and serve as a simulation tool for academic studies of nonviolent resistance.

For more Info please visit the website at:

CPP Newsletter Online Notices Resources V26.1

The Acorn: Journal of the Gandhi-King Society

Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)

The Acorn: Journal of the Gandhi-King Society, is a biannual publication devoted to the examination of the theory and practice of nonviolence, especially as it relates to the philosophies of Gandhi and King. The Acorn was founded by Ha Poong Kim. Currently issues of The Acorn are published with the support of St. Bonaventure University.

Papers submitted for publication in The Acorn should be submitted both in hard copy and on disk or via e-mail, preferably in Microsoft Word format. Submissions may be up to 8,000 words in length (approximately 32 typed pages, double spaced). Shorter papers or essays are welcome. Papers should follow M.L.A. style. Papers about which there is some question regarding either quality or appropriateness are presented for blind review to members of our editorial board. Approximately half of all submissions are published.

The Acorn accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts. Unless accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope, no manuscript will be returned. The Acorn welcomes letters to the editor. The Acorn reserves the right to edit or shorten all submissions.

Subscriptions to The Acorn (two issues per year) are $12.00 (U.S. funds) for all subscribers. Checks should be made payable to The Acorn or to The Gandhi-King Society.

Papers and queries may be directed to:
The Acorn
Box 13
St. Bonaventure University
St. Bonaventure, NY 14778 U.S.A
e-mail: bgan (at)
phone: 716-375-2275