Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Sowell on the Symbol of Sovereignty

Thomas Sowell’s commentary on "Symbols v. Substance" pulls on a thread that I haven’t seen others tugging on: the price of symbollic sovereignty in Iraq. On the issue of rebuilding Iraq, Sowell asks: "Do you have any idea of the Iraqi legal system? Are you prepared to risk your freedom, and perhaps your life, to find out?" He goes on to write:

Obviously, subjecting foreign workers and entrepreneurs to a wholly different legal system from what they are used to creates yet another obstacle to recruiting people with skills and experience urgently needed to get Iraq back on its feet as a functioning society. But the symbols of sovereignty are apparently more important than the substance of a restored economy and society, at least to some Iraqi politicians.

If Mr. Alt has the time, I would value his insight and reaction to Sowell’s analysis.

Discussions - 1 Comment

I think Sowell is right. Exactely right only he doesn’t even touch the tip of the iceburg.

Iraqi’s seriously concerned with freedom are the victim of western symbolism over and above substance.

This is the huge fault of putting a lot of weight into catch words like "liberal democracy". The difference between this and the creation of an actual society that favours individual rights can be seen in the fact that, we did notappoint the members of Iraq’s Governing Council based on their commitment to freedom; instead, we sought ethnic and religious "diversity" in order to placate the tribal/political/religious factions that dominate Iraq. The 25 members include: the secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party; the founder of the Kurdish Socialist Party; a member of Iraq’s Hezbollah; and a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution—a group, funded by and partly founded by Iran, advocating an Islamic theocracy.

If instead the United States would have had a MacArthur (as if such a man would ever be able to become a general these days, not that we don’t have good generals, just these are not given that type of power)who would have impossed a constitution on Iraq like that impossed on Japan after World War II...

But of course this would be to make a mockery of symbolism much better to make a mockery of substance.

Why under the current political climate is it easier to make a mockery of substance than to make a mockery of symbolism? Glad you asked, you see symbolism drives institutions such as the UN, unfortunately symbolism also drives CNN, France, Fox News, New York Times, just about every media outlet. Why? well because there are so many different opinions it can become very difficult to determine what "substance" is. But on the other hand just as everything clear is lost in the fog of war certain catch words that fit easily on tickers and can be repeated with different nuances by talking heads begin to prevail like viruses, which in turn spawn refference points to future flows of conversation. Thus words like democracy, human rights, anything which carries a good connotation are repeated in all sorts of contexts and from people with very different views, it turns out the only agreement that can be reached is that "liberal democracy" is good. But "liberal democracy" created by a fiat of symbolic viruses, only spans the means for representation of the diversity that gave it still birth. No one need ever agree on the "substance" of liberal democracy just on the importance of its symbolism, in driving future symbolism/news stories. The United States could have written a constitution for Iraq, it could have instituted a government that guaranteed property rights as the foundation for all other human rights, but instead it chose to lend its weight voluntarily or by default to a council that is representative of Iraq’s powerfull groups, in this sense it failled to bring about new modes and orders, we sacrificed substance for a modicum of symbolism.

Now we are discussing the prospect of negotiations with various terrorist groups, this certainly seems like more symbolism.

Meanwhile the Iranians who used to be in the Axis of Evil are busy constructing nuclear capabilities, and without a doubt due to the necessity of symbolism we are putting pressure on the only nation willing to do something about it, Israel to remain quiet, so that we can pull off our symbolism coup in Iraq.

Only it isn’t really our symbolism coup, there can only be one victor when substance is sacrificed to symbolism and that is the power of the UN. The UN owns the meaning of the new vocabulary of symbolism, which is to say that it owns its substance.

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