Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Life in the Echo Chamber

You folks will have to excuse me if this article sounds like a rant, and I suppose it is. But please bear with me. This is a criticism directed at the online community. Namely the online 'echo-chamber' that many of us live in. This loosely refers to the process by which the sheer mass of material available on the internet allows us to be highly selective in the information we consume.  Therefore forming tacit online comfort zones. It is the nature of the enthusiasts of the 'internet reformation' to stress the use of the web as an open forum for ideas. Evidently this is true, there is more information online at this moment in time than any one person could consume in a life time. However this easy access to information is having a pernicious effect on our political discourse. 
        For example i'm sure that anybody reading this article will not need to be reminded that the comments section on a YouTube video are not likely to be a place of intense philosophical enlightenment. It stands to reason that we shouldn't expect every comment or blog post to be a revelation, nor do I advocate any sort of quality control over the internet. However I can't help be slightly disheartened when I see people who I presume to be adults descend into vicious grandstanding rather than intelligent discussion.

Ultimately the reason I'm writing this article is because certain sections of what are supposed to my own ideological community seem so hopelessly inept at arguing the case for freedom. I believe this is a fact that can be directly attributed to the 'echo-chamber'. Arguably when an someone gets the lions share of their news from the same source, they are inevitably going to have weak arguments for their positions. It can be assumed that when an individual doesn't challenge their own assumptions their arguments are likely to be less than convincing. This trend isn't restricted to the freedom movement but extends around the ideological spectrum and into the political mainstream. Weather it's one newspaper, one news website or a similar group of digital sources being in an environment where everybody agrees with you or reinforces your opinion means those individuals are going to struggle when their positions are brought into dispute.

Though some may suggest that because they know they are right in there opinions, there is no need to call them into question. I can understand this view, why traipse through a deep metaphysical swamp simply to arrive at the same conclusion you reached before you entered? Any cursory assessment of online activism reveals the reason. Unconvincing arguments,exhausted themes and appalling syntax are some symptoms of the echo-chamber.  I often read an article or book and end up slightly disheartened by it's lack of any discernible  insight. It is often striking to me how easy an article or book could be improved if the author had spent more time entertain opinions that run counter to their argument. 

       Yet perhaps this is just me being picky and anyway, why should anyone feel compelled to conduct themselves like an eighteenth century philosopher online? In reality I would argue that simply taking a step out of our comport zone every once in a while would suffice to broaden our perspective. As for established academics of all political stripes, they must surely be aware of the drivel that exists out there in cyberspace and owe it to their profession not to contribute to it. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

'Evo Once Again'!

Bolivia's president Evo Morales won his third term in office, having one of the highest approval ratings of any world leader. Far from being an isolated case, the mass appeal of Mr. Morales is symbolic of a left wing consensus across most of South America. Otherwise known as the 'Pink Tide'. The importance of this continental shift towards the left cannot be denied. Here in 'The West' socialism has ceased to be a feature of our vernacular when discussing everyday politics. A dream of  a bygone age, only to be seen in the crumbling relics of our civil institutions and read about in the pages of left wing academics. It is worth mentioning here that the most striking feature of mass political unrest across Europe since 2008 has been the lack of any discernible Marxist vanguard. Instead most disgruntled Europeans (including us in the UK) are turning towards popular nationalism. Even the way we talk about politics has changed, the traditional left/ right paradigm is
collapsing under the weight of its own inadequacy.

The lands between the Rio Grande and the Tierra Del Fuego have traditionally been the stronghold of Marxist academics. Perhaps unlike any other place on earth, South America's historical narrative has been shaped to emulate an arena for a bitter class war. Latin America's history has been perceived as ripe and ready for the journey towards Utopia. If the Revolution is to have a vanguard, they speaks Spanish. After over half a century of communist rule Cuba remains a defiant bastion of collectivism. Despite mass protests, a skydiving economy and the death of its cherished leader Venezuelans under Nicolas Maduro show no signs of discarding the United Socialist Party  just yet. And in Brazil's recent presidential elections the three main candidates where Social Democrats. Latin America's most famous liberalising programme was initiated under the iron fist of general Pinochet with the help of his hated 'Chicago Boys'. So the election in Bolivia is surely another nail in the coffin for Capitalism in South America. It is this claim that I will be addressing here.

The Election

On Sunday Evo Morales won 60% of his countries vote, a landslide. His nearest opponent Samuel Doria Medina a wealthy entrepreneur received a disappointing 25%. It goes without saying that compared to British standards where leaders struggle to achieve an approval rating higher than 30%, Mr Morales' popularity in his country of 10 millions is astronomic. Ravaged  by decades of neo-liberal authoritarianism Bolivia's first Aymara president has brought about a much appreciated sense of stability to one of Latin Americas poorest countries.

Historically Bolivia has been a divided country with its traditional  economic center being in the western lowlands ( the Medialuna). However Morales' popularity originates from his supporters from Bolivia's indigenous communities in the Andes, poor labourers in Santa Cruz department and La Paz. Clearly Morales' ability to coordinate these often ignored and repressed groups in Bolivian society has been the key to his success. Yet Morales' presidency hasn't been without opposition. In 2007 ex-president Reyes Villa attempted to resist Movement  for Socialism's (MAS) plans to redesign Bolivia's constitution and sparked disgust and rioting from MAS supporters when he and his allies tried to hamper Morales' government. Reyes Villa has since fled the country.

However his 60% landslide wasn't the victory Morales was hoping for. His supporters were eager for the ex coca leaf grower to run for a third term in office at the next election, something that is prohibited under the Bolivian constitution. Unfortunately for the president he failed  to receive the 66% of the vote needed to make an amendment to this existing law. Perhaps slightly disapointing for the hugely popular president. Although the election result and Morales' reaction to it speaks volumes about the reson behind his appeal. Ultimately it is the stability that he has brought to a vehemently divided country that makes him so popular. Morales' fiery anti-western rhetoric has predictably won him the title of 'despot' amongst western leaders. Yet the fact that in a country ( indeed a region) with a long history of dictatorship he simply accepts this election result and prepares to move on speaks volumes about why he is so universally popular in Bolivia. It is this sober, cautious dynamic about Bolivia's revolution that we proceed to assess.

Socialism in the Twenty First Century?

Undoubtedly it is Morales' confidently anti-capitalist oratory that wins him a place at the seething heart of Latin America's Pink Tide. Morales has spoken before about how capitalism has destroyed Pachamama ( the earth). Indeed to many observers Bolivia's newly re-distributive economic system will raise this impoverished nation into the ranks of the 'first world' in a matter of decades. And the statistics seem to bore this out. Since MAS ascended into power in 2006 Bolivia has undergone an economic boom. With 5% GDP growth annually, a 10% decrease in the number of people living in poverty and a domestic consumer boom with supermarket sales increasing 529% and Restaurant sales increasing 686%. This economic boom has led to a massive investment in infrastructure in Bolivia.

Arguably this is evidence that Bolivia's leftist government is finally ridding the country of the poverty that has plagued its history. However the reality of Bolivia's economic miricle is more sobering. Morales' resource nationalisation programme of oil and natural gas is largely responsible for Bolivias recent success. Its no coincidence that MAS' successful wealth distribution programme coincides with a corresponding rise in the price of oil worldwide. Similarly the stubbornly high price of natural gas seems to be helping to fill Bolivias coffers. Furthermore under the stewardship of finance minister Luis Arce natural gas and oil have increased from 10% of Bolivia's economy to over a third, additionaly one of MAS' most notable moves has been to enable Bolivian government bonds to be sold abroad for the first time in just under a century.

Clearly underneath the revolutionary edifice lies a calculated and relatively mundane economic formula. Gonzalo Chavez, a Bolivian economist has criticised Arce's policy, claiming that Bolivia's success relies too heavily on primary resource extraction. He says that the country is at serious risk if there is a shift in global commodity prices. Undoubtedly it is fortunate for Morales that oil and gas prices are high. However according to the World Bank, Bolivia's unusually high growth rate is set to slow down dramatically over the next five years

One of the most striking features of the Sunday election was Morales' triumph over traditional opponents in the rich lowlands of the Medialuna. Including the large agribusiness state of Santa Cruz. Corporate leaders have praised Morales' policies for keeping the economy stable; in stark contrast to other socialist run countries in Latin America. Morales even received a fairly positive write up in the Wall Street Journal. Although Morales' new friends have left some of his traditional supporters with a bitter taste in their mouths. Indigenous environmentalists, a core part of MAS' support network have denounced  plans to construct a highway through unspoiled nature reserves. Furthermore, a big part of MAS' appeal is their implicit promise not to nationalise any more industries. However in the immediate future it looks likely that Morales' supporters will encourage their idol to go beyond oil and gas.

'America No More'!

Ultimately the reality of Morales' Bolivia is a more somber mix of cool headed nationalisation and redistribution policies; a far cry from revolution. Certainly not 'proof that Socialism doesn't damage economies' as was argued by Ellie Mae O'Hagen in The Guardian this week. Yet it would also be wrong to condemn Morales' regime as adamantly as some media outlets have done. The Financial press have been keen to characterise Bolivia as riding a commodities boom that is ultimately unsustainable in the long run. A scathing analysis indeed.

A natural gas operation in Bolivia
However Bolivia's latest election has proven that for many in Latin America 'capitalism' and 'liberalisation' are by-words for dictatorship and oppression. In this respect I would agree with them. What many leaders in the western world call capitalism is a monstrously deformed and destructive entity, wholly unworthy of the name. The lasting legacy of Evo Morales will be his legacy to Bolivian politics, not its economy. It doesn't look like Morales' regime is going to collapse anytime soon, Hugo Chavez's sudden succession by Nicolas Maduro has shown that Pink Tide governments can be extremely resilient to implosion. Evo Morales' successor will inherit a relatively stable country that has made strides towards being a more socially liberal society. Additionally Bolivia's new found confidence has won it friends in Moscow and Beijing. Arguably a significant reason for the emergence of the Pink Tide throughout Latin America is the regions genuine exhaustion with being dominated by the USA, opposing western imperialism is clearly a vote winner in Bolivia. In 2000 a  handful of western backed companies tried to take over Bolivia's water supply causing what many call 'the water war'. It is no coincidence that the mainstay of Morales' programme is his nationalisation policy.

Therefore Bolivia's latest elections prove that sometimes when addressing issues in far away countries we often have the debate we want to have as opposed to the discussion we ought to have. It is wrong to assume that Bolivia is showing the world that 'Socialism works' in much the same way as politicos are ready to condemn Morales as a tyrant in waiting. Until we learn to examine the reality of the developing world the extraneous ideological quarrels will continue. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Pessimists Take on the Scottish Referendum

A recent article in The Economist highlighted that two Britains are emerging one cosmopolitan the other communal. The Scottish cry for independence is the loudest communal voice in Britain right now. Politicos are predicting that the SNP are the beginning of a Communal revolution. I take a less optimistic view on the vote.

“As ever, political tectonics are following socioeconomic ones. Just as England is splitting along lines perpendicular to its traditional divisions, so its two main political parties are tearing along their middles. Mr Parris’s column and the reaction to it neatly depict the debate within the Conservative Party. A very similar conflict is playing out in Labour ranks, too. In both, communitarians have come to blows with cosmopolitans.

The communitarian argument, as the responses to Mr Parris indicate, starts with the claim that Britain’s political disillusionment stems from the haughtiness of liberal metropolitan elites. In particular those of this outlook cite immigration and the EU, but other bugbears like MPs’ expenses, big business and purported NHS privatisation also play a role. London-bashing often features, too. Thomas Friedman, a New York Times writer, describes the political expression of such concerns as “the olive tree”—the outlook that most venerates that which is rooted and has existed for generations.

The cosmopolitan argument, by contrast, takes London as its starting point. In this philosophy, the capital’s success lies in its liberal-minded embrace of open markets, immigration and globalisation in general. Though the London-bashing communitarians are reluctant to admit it, successful English towns and cities beyond the M25 exhibit the same characteristics. Milton Keynes and Swindon, for example, are similarly pro-development. Manchester shares the capital’s knack for integrating a single urban economic area. Leeds has a pro-finance creed that has served it well. Coventry has made promising steps towards a post-Fordist manufacturing world. As Mr Friedman would put it, these places are embracing the “Lexus”—that which is disruptive and modern.”-The Economist, Clacton Versus Cambridge

The article goes on to conclude that a political party that fully embodies the 'cosmopolitan' principles will dominate Twenty First century politics. Despite being a thought provoking and original article, I would argue the The Economist is wrong in it's conclusion. I would argue that despite being the dominant ideological vision of our time. The neoliberal cosmopolitan vision is being slowly washed away by a tide of popular nationalism.

           The Scottish vote will soon be upon us, at the time I am writing this article the verdict is far from certain. As is to be expected political commentators are already forecasting the wide ranging implications of this important event. Whatever path the Scots decide, the result will be monumental for the future of British political life. However in my opinion the enormous fun of futurology must make way for the undoubtedly somber reality of British political life.

There has been talk already of a 'secessionist revolution'. A notion that in the wake of an SNP victory aspiring states across Europe and perhaps further afield will clamor for their own independence referendums. Even in the event that Alex Salmond is defeated there will be a significant constitutional shift in the UK towards 'Devo- Max', in such a circumstance it would be difficult to see how even if the no campaign wins it could be considered a complete victory.

       One of the most interesting aspects of the independence campaign Scotland is that it is primarily a 'working class' campaign. Alex Salmond's agenda is decidedly left wing and writers on the left have keen to stress the proletarian credentials of the Scottish cry for independence. Arguably UKIP represents a similar phenomenon albeit the popular appeal of Mr. Farage's throng of supporters lies in much different areas than the SNP.

        So why the pessimism? Surely the success of the Nationalists in Scotland and the disquiet UKIP caused in the local council elections shows that the winds of change are blowing through Britain. Ultimately there is little doubt in my mind that the status quo will remain. It would seem that among pro-independence supporters in Scotland one of their main gripes with the union is that England is dragging the rest of the UK down a neoliberal cosmopolitan path against their will. A point I happen to sympathize with. Yet if Scotland decides to secede from the British Union little will change for both countries.The political energy in Scotland and the rest of Britain is directed into the existing political system representing an internal quarrel rather than a revolution.  Arguably the nationalist convulsion that is pulsating through Britain is unlikely to have a lasting impact.

It is this introversion that will ultimately exasperate the currents of change in Britain. Much of the vitality of these civic visions, nationalist or internationalist is directed towards the political center. History shows that the main political parties in the UK are usually able to absorb discontent with relative ease. By lurching the Tory party to the right, Margret Thatcher killed of the National Front which had around 20,000 members in the mid-Seventies. For the popular Nationalists and the cosmopolitan romanticists, their vision is ultimately the same. State power is the same weather in the guise of glistening public works projects with distant completion dates or in the footsteps of hundreds of blue clad campaigners with 'yes' plastered across their chests.

       The current  mire that the Labor and Tory party find themselves in will be temporary. With the full weight of the mass media and a hopelessly exclusive voting system the dominant party's seat on the Westminster throne will be difficult to unseat. However I would also argue that for all of those invested in mainstream politics the contemporary mistrust of the establishment won't improve much anytime soon. For this reason the effects of the Scottish vote and other communitarian movements will be limited. But it will be a similarly dismal outlook for the cosmopolite vanguard.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Ethics of Resistance

The Ethics of resistance

Since Operation Protective Edge erupted onto the world stage on July 8th and officially ended in late August there has been a deafening chorus of voices on both sides denouncing their opponents. Clearly this has been a war not just of military maneuvers but one of hearts and minds also. Each side claiming moral supremacy over the other. Wherever you stand in the Israel-Gaza conflict one issue that is of the utmost importance is the character of Hamas. The military affairs of Hamas are the cause celebre of the Israeli government, a call to arms that cannot be ignored. Hamas and its military wing the Al-Qassam brigades stand accused of using civilians to shield military equipment and enforcing a violent Jihadist regime that demands the self-sacrifice and martyrdom
.  Indeed on the surface there is much to condemn. On the August 22nd Hamas executed 21 Gazan citizens accused of collaborating with Israel.  The ethics of any armed conflict are difficult to discern. Hamas is certainly no exception. 

'[Hamas are] Digging terror tunnels to send death squads to attack Israeli children'-Benjamin Netanyahu, Hannity

Evidently the decisions that the people of Gaza have to make are not easy ones. The motif of 'victory or martyrdom' certainly has been  prevalent amongst the Al-Qassam. In addition to this worrying culture, Hamas' rhetoric stresses playing the long game, that in time they will inevitably win... Whatever the cost.  However despite calls for Hamas to  tone down its fiery oratory the failure of any diplomatic solution has exacerbated this conflict. The PLO has been sat at the negotiating table since the Oslo Peace agreement in 1993, the West Bank has seen near Half a million Israeli settlers set up homes on Palestinian land. In addition Israel outright refuses to have any official dialogue with Hamas. In contrast the militant Shiite organisation Hezbollah in Lebanon have successfully repelled Israel in 2006 by aggressive military means and received international support from major world powers. Evidently, in this most difficult situation what is ethical and what is successful are separate issues.   

Is any armed activity ethical? If the answer is yes, then are Hamas an 'ethical resistance'? Does the conflict in Gaza even qualify as a war? Or is it an occupation? Whatever our own individual answers to these questions are. These issue of ethics is worth exploring. 

Human Shields

An IDF Picture depicting Hamas rocket launch sites 
Firstly I will asses the most common charge that has been brought against Hamas. 
It is axiomatic that we asses the charge that Hamas uses 'human shields'. 

Since the conflict began in July, the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya has been completely

destroyed. Allegedly this is because of the presence of 'terror tunnels' under it's streets. 
Ultimately the Palestinian tunnel offensives have represented little strategic threat to Israel, and have not targeted civilians. I believe that given the nature of the conflict and the Al-Qassam brigades the ethnics of Hamas are difficult to analyse. Among the people in Gaza there seems to be a definite commitment to the Hamas cause. 

'What kind of government would ask people to leave their homes?'- Khaled Meshaal, BBC HARDtalk

'This man is not related to anything against Israel. He is a member of Hamas, okay but that does not mean that the three families that live in this home should have their home demolished completely'., Abu Middan (Gaza resident) after his house was attacked, Vice: Rockets and Revenge- Dispatch 8

'There wasn't a single resistance fighter here or any military action taking place. We don't like battles, destruction or escalation, but the Israeli occupation is the one hitting civilians in safe areas. Our children don't feel safe now. The resistance is a reaction to the Israeli attacks on our residential areas. The killing of children, women and the elderly. [The resistance] is all a reaction. '  Unnamed Gaza resident, Vice: Rockets and Revenge- Dispatch 12 

Despite a widespread Al-Qasssam operation in Gaza City. The morality of Israels rocket strikes remains dubious at best.

In the face of the widespread devastation of Operation Protective Edge, the will of the Gazan people is unshaken. This isn't unique to Gaza, there was a similar situation in Vietnam with regard to peasants supporting the Viet Cong. Perhaps contrary to what observers might expect, Hamas enjoys wide (and growing) popular support in Gaza and the wider Arab world.  The narrative that the cause of their plight is an external occupier, is widely accepted. Many civilians in Gaza have had to face the dreaded 'knock on the roof' ( a low power rocket fired on a building, signifying that a barrage is about to commence). But are Hamas' tactics ethical?

'Despite all drawbacks we had about Hamas when they took over the Gaza strip and despite criticism, they did well in this battle. And if god wills it, they will get us our rights. I think that the Hamas movement gained popularity during this battle.....we are all with the Hamas resistance movement if they get us the rights we lost.', Unnamed Gaza resident, Vice: Rockets and Revenge- Dispatch 12

IDF 'Buffer Zone'  covers most or Gaza's rural boarder
Therefore the claim Hamas has used 'human Shields' is extremely problematic. Despite evidence that  the IDF uses 'human shields' in the Goldstone report (paragraph 1925) .  The IDF reports that most Al-Qassam activities take place near in densely populated civilian areas. Hamas operatives certainly have their base in Gaza City. Yet despite reports otherwise, from the images that have come out of the conflict, it would appear that most Hamas rocket attacks have taken place near Gaza's rural boarder. It is  necessary to point out here that most of Gaza's rural land has been under a long IDF 'buffer zone' that the Israeli government advises is a no-go area. Any attempts to enter this area are near suicidal. Forcing civilians and resistance fighters into Gaza's already crowded cities.   

In Gaza there has been seemingly wide ranging support for the fight against Israel where morality is not a peripheral concern, it is everything. Are civilians involved in this conflict? Unfortunately yes. However the assumption that they are 'Human Shields' I believe is debatable.

Violent Jihadists or Freedom Fighters? 

Secondly it is important we analyse the character of Hamas. Is Hamas' long game strategy working? Significantly Al-Qassam is highly decentralized in contrast with other resistance movements. Many are claiming that the Israeli shelling of the Gaza strip has been out of frustration. Because the Al-Qassam leaders are often elusive. I believe this is in part, a result of Israels refusal to have diplomatic relations with Hamas. For example the Hannibal Directive issued over the alleged kidnapping of IDF solder Hadar Goldin that turned out to be false. Saw the total obliteration of Khusa'a in Southern Gaza. Arguably this desperate indiscriminate shelling that has become symbolic of the whole conflict is a result of the IDF's inability to target Al-Qassam and Hamas leaders. Despite Israel claiming to  conduct 'precision strikes' against Hamas leaders. Israeli rocket attacks overwhelmingly occur at night and early in the morning when more civilians are likely to be have more difficulty fleeing from an attack. The humanitarian logic of this has always confused me. 

The claim from many in Israel where 96% of people supported the campaign in Gaza is that without their modern 'Iron Dome' defense system Hamas would pulverize Israeli cities into the ground. Despite widespread claims that 'Iron Dome' has (at most) only intercepted 20% of rockets coming from Gaza. The claim that Hamas targets Israeli civilians brings its moral legitimacy into question. 

Hamas has been guilty of providing some extremely vicious rhetoric during this conflict. And as we saw with the execution of 21 Gazan citizens, is capable of some appalling acts of barbarism. Yet I would (cautiously) suggest that there is little to suggest Hamas and the people of Gaza have the desire to do anything more than defend themselves. Ultimately, although the language Hamas uses is often incendiary. The whole idea of Hamas is build around defense. Furthermore, rather than take Hamas' rhetoric literally. It has been suggested that the language of martyrdom in Gaza fulfills a much different role than in other areas. Rather than being a call to arms, many suggest it is a psychological coping mechanism to deal with the widespread destruction. UNICEF has already announced that it is deeply concerned about the psychological effects the conflict is having on Gaza's children.

 Unlike Islamist movements from around the Muslim world. Hamas rallies in Gaza are a sea of Green and Red. A Recent speech by Hamas spokesperson Mushir Al Masri was full of references to a strong Palestinian nation as opposed to a wider Islamic Jihad. Ultimately the imagery depicted in most Hamas occasions bears little resemblance to the black clad Jihadists associated with the various Islamist movements in Iraq, Syria and North Africa. Although there is an Islamic Jihad in Palestine movement ( AL-Quds Brigades)  in Gaza it acts independently of Hamas and the Al-Qassam Brigades.

 'Hamas can arguably be considered the most nationalistic Islamist movement, openly embracing in deed and rhetoric both Islam and the Palestinian people as political objects. The Iranian Khomeinist regime, on the other hand, is skeptical of the nation in theory, but is now enjoying its fourth decade of temporal rule over the Iranian people. This gap between rhetoric and deed in attitudes toward the nation-state runs throughout the Islamist phenomenon, representing an ongoing struggle for legitimacy between different conceptions of what the nation is and what it should be. This in large part stems from the fact that although Islam is a powerful ideology, it presents no clear answers on the question of political agency in the modern era.' Hamas and Iran: Nationalism and Islam, David Donaldson, E-International Relations Students

It is hard to justify violence at any time. Hamas' violent rhetoric against Israel is to be condemned. Yet as a resistance movement, that has its origins in a widespread popular protest. The ethics of Hamas are not easy to discern.  

Ultimately it comes down to our own perception of one of the worlds most controversial issues that will decide whether or not Hamas is ethical. Since the conflict began in July both sides have been brought to a negotiating table in Cairo. Hamas publicly backed the Palestinian delegation led by Azzam al-Ahmad, between them both thay have agreed on a three point plan to create a Palestinian state. With both Hamas and Israel claiming victory it's difficult to see how history will judge Hamas.  But for now the morality of the Islamist organisation matters, because a solution to the long term crisis looks like a distant dream.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Zionism: The Revolution Continues

On 8th July Israel began the bombing of the Gaza strip. Not for the first time, and almost certainly not the last. The Israeli- Palestinian conflict is one of the most controversial and openly debated issues in modern political history. Both sides being well rehearsed in their opponents arguments. However which ever side you choose, underneath the shrill voices clamoring to be heard in the media. I believe it is beyond doubt that the current Israeli bombardment of Gaza amounts to nothing less than a prolonged ethnic cleansing campaign by the Zionist revolutionary elite. Yet the ideology involved in this conflict is rarely talked about. For the Israeli political elite, there is clearly a sense that the Jewish people have a right to dominance in the Levant. Although those in Israel and many of it's apologists around the world pay lip service to the creation of a Palestinian state. The Zionist ideology ensures that the best land, available drinking water and all economically productive areas in historic Palestine are in the clutches of the Israeli state. I would argue that the deep rooted commitment to Jewish economic and ethnic supremacy in the Levant is very much the driving force behind the current assault on Gaza. The rhetoric emanating from the Knesset  indicates that the Zionist ideal still lives on.

It would seem that public opinion is slowly turning against Israel here in the UK. Criticism of the destructive Zionist  agenda has even reached the house of commons. Whether these voices in support of Gaza are genuine or a cynical gesture to garner support coming up to the 2015 general election remain to be seen. Unfortunately for the people of Gaza even if Operation Protective Edge relents in the coming weeks, the damage will be done. The prospect of a viable Arab state in the Levant will have taken another deep laceration. An open wound that the Zionists will not allow to heal, and  the Gazan people will be powerless to stem the bleeding.

The Revolution Continues

So just what is the Zionist ideal? First of all let it be known that I am not someone who uses the term “ethnic cleansing” lightly. But I believe in this case it is justified. Over the course of the past decade, there have been deep fissures opening in Israel over the Palestinian issue. Yet at the behest of those at the top of Israeli society, the IDF massacres Arabs in Gaza with impunity. Despite the miserable conditions imposed on Gaza by Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has been under increasing pressure from his partners in the Knesset to be tougher on Fatah and Hamas. A member of Netanyahu's coalition  Naftali Bennett ( leader of the Jewish Home party who once proclaimed “Palestinians kill Jews!” and has called John Kerry an anti-Semite) claiming Netanyahu has gone soft on the Palestinian issue. Ze'ev Elkin, the Israeli deputy foreign minister and a member of Netanyahu's Likud party has flatly rejected the idea of the “two-state solution”:

Mr Elkin is not an oddity in flatly opposing his prime minister from within his ruling Likud party, on what is still the most contentious issue in Israeli politics. A sizeable majority of Likud’s central committee and most of its 20 members in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament, also oppose the idea of two states, though Mr Netanyahu formally endorsed it, albeit tepidly, five years ago”- The Economist, APR 2014

On the other side of the debate, many Israelis grow tired of the siege mentality and the constant worry of attacks into Israel. Surely this should show that the public mood is war weary and slowly moving away from an assertive Zionism and towards a two-state equilibrium?
Offshore Gas Reserves Near the Coast of the Gaza Strip
Sadly this is not the case. Even if Palestine were to be granted statehood it is looking increasingly likely that it would not survive for very long. The most arable land and available water resources are already part of the Israeli state. Furthermore, whilst Palestine has been sat at the negotiating table  since the camp David talks of 2000. The number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has swelled to beyond 350,000.  Not only has the Knesset tolerated this, it has actively promoted it. As hope dwindles for a viable Palestine, Any notion of a stable Gaza look even more remote. Therefore, I argue that the current Israeli action in Gaza represent not any form of self-defense, but a continued and ideologically committed act of ethnic cleansing. Not only focused on winning support at home but “salting the earth” for future generations of Arabs as part
of a vicious ideological 60 year land grab.

Hamas: The Fabricated Monster

Most of the mainstream media in the UK reinforce the idea that Israel is somehow under attack by Hamas. In Israel, the voices decrying Hamas are shrill and many in number. Their is little talk in the media of the 3 teenage boys allegedly killed by Hamas a couple of weeks ago. And how the Zionist elite capitalized on the public outrage clearing the way for Operation Protective Edge. Despite Khaled Meshal the leader of Hamas publicly claiming his support for coexistence with Israel and expressing that Hamas is opposed to Israeli occupation and not the presence of the Jewish people in the Levant. A central element of the Zionist ideology is the narrative of victim hood. Here I feel obliged to address some of the claims made by Israel:

“The final moral argument portrays Israel as a country that has sought peace at every turn and showed great restraint even when provoked. The Arabs, by contrast, are said to have acted with great wickedness. This narrative — which is endlessly repeated by Israeli leaders and American apologists such as Alan Dershowitz — is yet another myth”- The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John J. Miersheimer

The most widely reported defense of Zionist aggression is that “Israel is using rockets to defend its citizens, whilst Hamas is using citizens to defend its rockets”. As far as I am concerned, this claim does not stand up to the light of reality. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the Middle East. Just under two million people live in a tiny 360 KM2 box. Although Israel technically withdrew from Gaza in 2005. It's people have been subject to a dizzying array of blockades and diplomatic assaults. Amounting to a pernicious siege on Gaza by the Zionist ideologues. Logic dictates that wherever Hamas decide to place rockets, it will be near civilians. It is also worth pointing out that many of the rockets fired into Israel are low tech, nothing compared to the 400 tonnes of bombs that have targeted targets in Gaza killing a least over one thousand people ( as of the writing of this article). Most of which  are non-combatants. The most advanced military equipment Hamas possess is a couple of M-302 missiles from Syria, nothing compared with Israels “Iron Dome” defense system. There are those that claim Israel is merely defending it's citizens better than Hamas and the Palestinian families trapped in Gaza deserve no sympathy because they elected the regime that now condemns then to areal bombardment. To this I can only reply, look again at how over the course of the past decade, the Zionist regime ( who receive $3bn worth of U.S. Aid each year) has attempted to starve Gaza into submission, and how the western backed imperial land grab continues.
Moreover assessing the narratives surrounding the Gaza conflict through the lens of ideology allows us to discern the true nature of Operation Protective Edge. The first explanation for aggression is the most fallacious; that Hamas poses a real military threat to the people of Israel and it must respond with military action. Even if there were a concentrated effort by Hamas to conquer Israel it would make little difference to Israel's current position. Diplomatically and geographically isolated, economically poor and technologically at a massive disadvantage. Gaza poses at best a minor threat to Israel. It would take Hamas years if not decades with massive amounts of international backing to take and hold territory in Israel. In which time it would be easy enough for the wider international community to put a stop to it. Hamas poses no real threat to Israel's territorial integrity or it's people. The second explanation, more cynical and much more believable is that Israel is attempting to strengthen itself politically under the context of war. In recent years there have been widening divisions in Israeli society at large. Netanyahu's coalition in the Knesset is looking increasingly unlikely to win again in an election and large swathes of Israeli society are growing war weary. Also, there is the USA's supposed foreign policy pivot towards East Asia and away from the Middle East. Again this explanation isn't adequate to explain the fervor with which Israel has invaded Gaza. Although divided, there is little evidence that Israeli public opinion is prepared to radically reverse their country's position as supreme in the Levant. Especially as 90% of Israelis are supposed to support the war on a Gaza. Moreover current events in Syria, Iraq and North Africa make the Middle East look more unstable than at any point In the past decade. Surely Benjamin Netanyahu needs no more reasons to request continued support from Western powers and to consolidate Israel's position as a military superpower. Evidently the current invasion if Gaza must be for ideological reasons. Nothing else but a motivated group of Zionists justify and explain the recent atrocities committed against the people of Gaza. That is to make an Arab state nonviable and further the Zionist cause towards fully occupying the promised land.

Where to Turn?

Finally we should also consider the ideological decisions faced by the people of Gaza. Of course Hamas is not completely innocent in this atrocious conflict. Hamas certainly does fire dangerous weapons into Israeli territory and that is to be condemned. We leave out here the fate of the many Arabs who live within the state of Israel, that usually live completely outside of the remit of Israeli society and face persecution and ghettoisation. However a brief look as the Arab world, and one has to conclude that there is no clear path to victory. Since 2006 when Hamas was voted into power, Israel has tried to strangle it in its cradle:

“To suffocate Hamas and punish the people who voted it into power, Israel began a tight siege over the entire strip, stopping the movement of people, goods and supplies in and out of the region. The siege resulted in an acute humanitarian crisis”, Tarek Osman, Egypt: On the Brink

Despite receiving widespread support from Arab people around the Middle East. Hamas has been treated with contempt by big players like Egypt and ( Sunni) Iraq. At the beginning of the 21st century. The Palestinian cause remained popular with Arabs in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. However since the second Intifada, that support has waned significantly. Although Hamas has its roots in Islamism ( the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt facilitating its rise) the call of secularism is a strong one.
It is important to note that Hamas has no official support from the Takfiri warriors that are running amok in North Africa and Northern Mesopotamia. For Hamas the decision of what it  should do to oppose Zionist invasion must be a difficult one. Moreover this sense of frustration is reinforced when we look at the recent history of the Levant. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation led by Yasser Arafat, the main proponent of a peaceful solution has become an object of ridicule and frustration among the wider Palestinian people. Whilst the PLO has been in open dialogue with Israel. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank has escalated exponentially.  It is difficult to see Arab efforts to bring Israel to the diplomatic table as anything more than a failure. Yet crucially to the north of Israel Hezbollah, a militant Shia group from southern Lebanon has been widely successful in repelling Israeli incursions into their lands. As well as gaining huge amounts of diplomatic and financial backing from Iran. Something Hamas is keen to do.
To conclude, given the widespread media bias against Hamas, it is easy to believe that Israel is threatened as the voices on both sides grow louder still. Yet ultimately I believe that this episode in Gaza, and others like it are symptomatic of a wider ethnic cleansing campaign by a committed Zionist elite.

(Opening Pictures: 1. Palestinian Refugees, Nakba Day 1948 2. Israeli commanders enter Jerusalem's old city, 6 days war 1968 3. Israeli Tank during the Yom Kippur war, 1973 4.  Israeli settler village in the West bank 2005 5. Current devastation in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, 2014).

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Leviathan and the poor

For many, the ultimate goal for society should be to reduce inequality and in the long run, eradicate poverty. Throughout the 20th & 21st centuries the goal of combating the great evil of poverty has been the task of the ever expanding state. Particularly in the 1960s and 1970s the so-called 'revolutionary' years the state in Britain grew dramatically, not just in terms of building Clement Atlee's 'new Jerusalem' but also, despite going through a period of dismantling an empire a significant set of new military commitments as a result of the Cold War. To support the burgeoning state the course of the 20th century saw the abandonment of gold based currency; however it was the Breton Woods conference in 1944 that finally saw the rise of the dollar empire and the Keynesian economic maelstrom that provided the final nail in the coffin for sound economics. Large periods of time are difficult to generalise about but during the course of the 1980s, 90s and 2000s the neo-liberal debtocracy economic paradigm has been a polarising force. Whatever the result of this process, the reaction of British society has been complex. Despite an emphasis on liberal values both social & economic, government spending has risen dramatically. However, still there are those who demand the state does more to eradicate poverty. In The Precariat the New Dangerous Class (2011) the author Guy Standing laments the rise of a new fragmented at socially detached lower class. Earlier this year Thomas Piketty published a damning account of the state of contemporary capitalism. Ultimately the millions of people in Britain who have not benefited from the Corporatist nature of modern Britain are being held down by the government, not supported by it. Despite a century of failure and financial trickery, there are those that call upon the government to free society from the shackles of penury. As a result of this fact it is necessary to take a brief look at how contemporary Britain makes life hard for its most disadvantaged citizens.

Only Two Things are certain in Life...

This article will first outline these hidden taxes that represent a large cost for those on low wages. For obvious reasons pushing up taxes in unpopular and it has supposedly been an achievement of the current coalition government to have taken many low paid workers out of tax. However the use of stealth taxes through inflation and a whole plethora of fees and costs that are mandatory for most British citizens are a huge blow to those on low wages. In her seminal book Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand outlined how without being able to help ourselves, contributing to society is a great moral evil.

“You will see the rise of the men of the double standard- the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money- the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.

Mandatory taxation, the blood that courses through the veins of the modern state, is a terrifying obstacle to young people, the long term unemployed, single mothers ( childcare in the UK can cost up to 40% of household income) and any group hoping to enter the arena of the workplace. Supposedly, for those on low wages £10,000-£20,000 per annum are lucky that the government only demands 10% of their earnings. This is not a tiresome tirade against inequality in our society, but a mere observation that any contribution that we are forced to make towards the state is not only immoral but fiducially crippling. That is not to say that it is morally acceptable that government coercion demands taxes from anyone. Yet for those who earn little, it takes a more sinister dimension. It is as if the great leviathan is literally scraping the bottom of the societal trough for any scraps to fill its already bloated and rotten stomach. Although leviathan's quest to nourish itself does not stop at taxation. It continues in the form of mandatory payments. Council Tax, Road Tax, National Insurance Contributions, Television Licences, artificial price controls on alcohol and cigarettes etc. This list could go on and on, but the illusion that the British State helps those who earn little is one that surely must be eviscerated. Chris Snowden of the Institute of Economic Affairs states that the poorest 20% of households in the UK spend 22% of their disposable income on 'Sin Taxes' (added taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling outlets).
There will be many that claim that the public services the government provides more than justifies the forced contribution of millions of British workers hard earned wages. It seems that many perceive giving a proportion of our labour over to the state as a vital prerequisite to existing in our society. It is impossible to say whether a state run institution is 'good value for money'. The simple fact that the fortunes of that particular enterprise are back up by the government, an entity that feeds of the sweat of its subjects ensures there can be no objective costs or profits. Essentially, once the leviathan commits itself to provide a service then assessment in any usual way is mere speculation

“The question is: market economy, or socialism? There is no third solution. The notion of a market economy with nonmarket prices is absurd. The very idea of cost prices is unrealizable. Even if the cost price formula is applied only to entrepreneurial profits, it paralyzes the market. If commodities and services are to be sold below the price the market would have determined for them, supply always lags behind demand. Then the market can neither determine what should or should not be produced, nor to whom the commodities and services should go. Chaos results.”-Ludwig Von Mises, Human Action

It is therefore an intellectual exercise to satisfy government bureaucrats and statisticians. To suggest people have a compulsion to uphold the British state is at best a fallacy and at worst an act of repugnant extortion. Particularly for those who struggle to support themselves and their families.

Stealth Taxes

It is the provision of services where we turn to next. Even foods and services provided outside the remit of government feel the tight grip of leviathan. Britain's poor and disadvantaged are financially assaulted even in the private sphere. Food, fuel, travel and housing are all affected by government intervention. Over the course of the past 4 years wages have increased only 6% compared with CPI inflation rising 13%. In a free market society when a commodity is in demand, it is supplied. When a commodity is demanded at a lesser cost manufacturers comply. However in our modern state the power of markets to push down prices has been ruthlessly distorted. It is the iron hand of Central banking and government planning that deals a heavy blow to those on low wages. It is not possible to detail the Byzantine machinations of the modern financial system here. Although let us be clear about the consequences of a century of state capitalism. Low interest rates pushing up prices and making borrowing impossible for those outside the financial elite. Centralised money policies tailored to suit a globalised maquiladora economy refusing to let leviathans favourite companies go out of business and state of almost permanent inflation. All of these processes have made it a particularly inhospitable climate for Britain's low wage economy. In reality it is not glutinous capitalists that spit in the face of the poor but government bureaucrats. Carmen Reinhart and Keneth Rogoff point out that it is the fault of central monetary authorities that to ruin entire economies, the subsequent recession often hurting the poorest in society first.

In the run-up to the recent crisis, in the case of rich countries one of the main this-time-is-different syndromes had to do with a belief in the invincibility of modern monetary institutions. Central banks became enamoured with their own versions of “inflation targeting,” believing that they had found a way to both keep inflation low and to optimally stabilize output”..... “Policies that appeared to work perfectly well during an all-encompassing boom suddenly did not seem robust in the event of a huge recession”-Carmen M. Reinhart & Keneth S. Rogoff, This time is different.

What the final results of the distorted economy will be is the subject of debate, yet surely we can agree that for millions of people in the UK living with Leviathan can be a nightmarish ordeal. As well as collectivist economics providing a challenge for British citizens. State planning refuses to allow the supply of adequate housing to flow to those that demand it. In conclusion these 'stealth taxes' produce noxious and infuriating smog of high prices and political rhetoric.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Are the Kochs evil?...No! But they say a lot about the Libertarian Movement.

Just over a month ago Charles Koch wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal. Here one of the worlds most recognised businessmen outlined his vision for a better society (Link to editorial:http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303978304579475860515021286). The Koch brothers (David & Charles) and their involvement in politics makes them some of the most controversial figures in contemporary America. For many, the Kochs are the very face of Libertarianism. They are present in scores of Libertarian think-tanks and foundations, spend vast amounts of money backing Libertarian policies and champion the debate against man made climate change. However the truth about the Koch's relation to the Libertarian movement is more complex than this. There are those on the left who decry the Kochs and their views. Pam Martens, writing in Counterpunch magazine explains how, 'A review of documents and tax records for the dizzying, interconnected web of corporate front groups, frequently created, supported and influenced by Charles or David Koch, shows just how dangerous these groups espousing free markets and liberty have become to a free society. 'The game plan is to devalue the rights of actual citizens by seeking human voices dangling from a corporate marionette string, that might be willing for the right amount of cash incentive to broadcast the Orwellian reverse-speak: liberty means more liberty for corporations'- Pam Martens. Yet for many within the Libertarian movement the issue of the Kochtopus is benign, Tibor Machan wrote of the Koch brothers. 'Now it is true that even some libertarian economists are reductionists and hold that everything someone does comes from the belief that it will promote one’s economic advantages. On this score Marxists and some free market theorists see eye to eye. But whatever the source of the idea, it is bunk. Most of us haven’t much of a clue about whether holding certain beliefs will advance our prosperity.'- Tibor Machan. Here Machan highlights an important point, unlike the left, it is unfair to dismiss the Kochs as inherently 'evil'. Truth cannot be reduced to a technical morass of neatly fitting coincidences and connections. This purpose of this article is not to establish any objective 'truth' about the Koch brothers, but to make sense of the interpretations and assess the effects these have on the Libertarian movement as a whole.
The presence of the Koch brothers in politics is clearly a divisive issue. However in reality the role of the Kochs involvement in American politics transcends the traditional left- right paradigm. A thorough assessment of the story of the Koch brothers forces us to confront important aspects of our movement. Our relation to the current political system, internecine divisions and ultimately how history will judge us. In the past few decades the libertarian movement has grown exponentially. Essentially any attempt by me (or anyone) to 'define' Libertarian ideology is bound to be controversial.  Yet it is amazing to see an expansive and varied coalition of freedom loving individuals coming together under the same banner.

'Now, accepting that you want more people to be freedom-lovers, the questions become: Which do you care more about? How people arrive? Or that they arrive at all? If you care only about the former, you might be a one-trick pony. That is, your only approach to persuasion might be to tell people to read Human Action. And there is nothing wrong with that approach, per se. I’ve suggested Mises to many. But I also realize that a lot of people might not be willing to take such a long detour through Vienna to get to our picnic—and that’s assuming they’re curious about our ideas at all. That means it may be time to expand outward from single starting points. Your liberalism or mine works great when we can agree on a starting point. But we must first acknowledge that people don’t always start from the same point- The Freeman

Yet for the movement to last the test of time, it is essential that it is able to self-evaluate and come to terms with itself. It is for this reason why the Koch brothers matter. Ultimately they are a powerful force and need to be understood. Although virtually all of the activities of the Kochs are restricted to the USA; Coming to terms with the Kochtopus will be of great help to the UK movement.
Firstly this article will address a brief history of the Libertarian movement in the USA and outline divisions and debates that the Kochs are central to. Secondly the facts about the Koch's political activities will be outlined and analysed. Lastly, this essay will look at the wide ranging implications of the Koch brothers' relation to the Libertarian movement.

Kochs, Cato and Capitalism: A brief history of the Kochtopus

It is essential that we are aware of the history of the Koch Brothers' involvement in the Libertarian movement to fully understand the controversies it creates today. It might be worth noting here that inevitably many will find this 'history' unsatisfactory. Names unmentioned, events passed by and ideas undiscussed. However in the interest of pertinence, this article will focus only on issues directly relevant to the Koch brothers and their political activities.
It is often understood the Kochs founded the Cato Institute, arguably the most recognised and respected free-market organisation in the world. However this is wrong, the Cato Institute was founded in 1977 by Charles Koch, Edward Crane and Murray Rothbard. According to David Gordon, a senior fellow at the Mises Institute Cato was originally a platform to disseminate Rothbard's views to a wider audience. Interestingly it was Rothbard that came up with the term Cato Institute. Yet it wasn't long before the union went sour, David Koch & Ed Crane (Libertarian Party chairman from 1974-1977) clashed with Rothbard over the direction of the Cato Institute. Rothbard said of Crane:

'Consider for a moment: surely you must know in your heart that your Boss [Crane] has contempt for you just as he has for the entire human race…. I don’t care if your Boss is backed by a billion dollars. The Libertarian movement and the Libertarian party are not a corporation or a military machine. They are not for sale…. Crane is not smart enough to even try to mask his contempt for his fellow libertarians and LP members, so people cotton to him very quickly. How can a person like that succeed in politics?'- David Gordon, Mises Institute

Since then the Mises Institute (Founded 1982 between Rothbard and Lew Rockwell) has held the Kochs and the Cato institute as rivals. According to Rockwell, attempts have been made by the Kochs to stamp out Rothbard and the Mises Institute. ‘As he [Rockwell] recalls the conversation, Koch told him: "'Do you realize how much money we have spent purging Mises from Austrian economics? Everyone hates him'-Daily Bell. However the marriage between David Koch and Ed Crane didn't last long either, by the mid- 80s the Koch brothers had virtually nothing to do with the Cato Institute. This point was highlighted in a recent interview with Cato Institute chairman Robert Levy, he highlighted that throughout the 1980s and 1990s the Kochs had virtually nothing to do with Cato. 'Since Cato was formed, the Kochs have donated about $30 million, officials said, but the bulk came in its first decade; by last year [2011], the Kochs gave no money at all'- SLATE. This is revealing considering that the Koch borthers gave the Tea-Party a buget of $40 million for 2010 alone and have since given $400 million to support candidates in the 2012 presidential election.
In the past decade the Kochs have built up a huge web of influence that can justifiably be called the 'Kochtopus'. Numerous foundations and think-tanks have been embellished with Koch money. The Mercatus Centre, the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, the Tea-Party and Americans for Prosperity are a handful of the 34 organisations that are affiliated with the Kochs. This lamentable history of division within the Libertarian movement is significant, because it will help us fully appreciate that this is more than just a Left- Right issue, it creates conflict within the movement as well. It will also help us to change the free-society cause from a church of ideas to a truly potent political force.

'Beltway Libertarians?'

For us in the UK, the byzantine workings of Washington D.C may seem a million miles away. Yet these issues matter immensely to us. As the Libertarian movement grows in the UK it will become increasingly important to understand the difficulties involved in turning ideology into genuine political force. The relationship between the Koch brothers-the American Libertarian movement and Washington D.C should be of great interest to us in the UK. Lew Rockwell described the Koch's as 'Beltway Libertarians'. The Beltway being the motor-way that circles Washington D.C., Rockwell suggests that the Kochs are part of the corrupt American political establishment, rather than being genuinely committed to the free-society cause. On the other hand, it is important to note that ideological purity is not the single measure of how successful a political movement will be. Yet the Kochs connection to Capitol Hill matters, not because their presence there is a sin. But as a result of recent efforts to spread their influence (which already made many uncomfortable), the movement could look increasingly fragile and able to be co-opted by existing political powers.
Ultimately, the Kochs exists as a governmental force not a revolutionary one. As a result of the immense influence of the Koch Brothers, their presence in the Libertarian movement is controversial. This point is perfectly displayed when we look at the recent Koch activity within the Cato Institute. As has been mentioned previously despite initial involvement with Cato, since the mid-80s the Kochs had largely left the organisation to its own devices. However that all changed in 2011 when the long-term chairman of the Cato Institute William Niskansen passed away. By this time the Koch's where already a potent force in American politics 'The rift has its roots, Cato officials said, in a long-simmering feud over efforts by Mr. Koch and his brother David Koch to install their own people on the institute’s 16-member board and to establish a more direct pipeline between Cato and the family’s Republican political outlets'-New York Times. Arguably these concerns where justified, as soon after Charles Koch (the most politically involved of the two brothers) pushed for a greater presence in the organisation he soon began trying to install his own candidates including Tony Woodlief a man who had historically been cynical about most Libertarian ideas and John Hinderacker who supported the Iraq war in the early 2000s. 'Cato is the gold standard of libertarian organizations around the world,” wrote [Ed] Crane. “We are respected and admired for our commitment to libertarian principles, integrity, independence and non-partisanship. That respect encompasses traditional liberals and conservatives. That would all end with a Koch takeover, despite Charles Koch's protestations to the contrary.'-SLATE. Robert Levy said in an interview in 2012 that he had concerns over:

'Weather Cato can successfully function if it's being perceived as a partisan or an aligned or an arm of a special interest. Our argument is that Cato must be non-aligned, non-partisan and strictly independent of all special interests and so the stockholder structure in and of itself is a problem for the Cato institute. Because even if it does not compromise our independence. It could be perceived as compromising our independence. We would be perceived as a mouthpiece for special interests. And we cannot function effectively if we are perceived in that manner' – Robert Levy

Since the interview, Ed Crane has stepped down from the Cato Institute. Clearly the presence of the Koch brothers is significant due to their Washington relationships and huge financial power, no matter where you stand in the wider political nexus.
It is important at this stage to examine the broad reach of the Koch brothers into the heart of the American political establishment. Their connection to the Tea-Party is well known, large part of the wider Americans for prosperity programme.  Koch Industries and its subsidiaries spent more than $20 million on lobbying in 2008 and $12.3 million in 2009, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group. They clearly have huge sway on Capitol Hill, according to a report on the Real News Network republicans that try to raise concern over Koch industries illegal drilling practices were told to back off. This vicious criticism of the Koch Industries as malignant is the most substantial criticism made against the Brothers; Pam Martens describes Koch industries as

'a private, dark curtain corporation. Its own stock has never been subjected to price discovery in a free market; the public can’t get a peek at the financials of this firm; there is no means of determining how much debt is on the corporate balance sheet or if, as with AIG and Citigroup, we, the sheared sheep, might have to bail the corporation out some day to save some too-big-to-fail bank that holds its debt'.- Pam Martens

Despite expressing Libertarian sympathies, a brief look at some of the organisations the Kochs fund illustrates that far from a coherent set of values and beliefs. The kochtopus extends to a plethora of institutions that have competing views. For example ' [David] Koch also said he now considers himself a Republican first and foremost — rather than a Libertarian or a nonpartisan supporter of free enterprise — despite a background in Libertarian politics and some views that are out of step with the GOP orthodoxy. “The Libertarian Party is a great concept. I love the ideals, but it got too far off the deep end, and so I dropped out,” Koch said. “I think the Republican Party has a great chance of being successful and that’s why I support it,”- Charles Koch. Furthermore, despite professing Libertarian values the Kochs spent £8 million on funding the ultra-conservative Scott Walker in Wisconsin, an actively tried to damage the Ron Paul campaign, as a result of his connection to the Mises Institute. Additionally investigative journalist Greg Plast in an interview with Alex Jones highlighted that the Kochs helped found the Democratic Leadership Council and gave support to Bill Clinton.
Ultimately the Koch's and their involvement in politics is a controversial issue that is of the utmost importance for the Libertarian movement. Britain's Adam Smith Institute has so far been scathing of criticism of the Kochs. Indeed for many the presence of a rich donor is something to celebrate rather than decry, the transition from a committed group of idealists to a functioning political organisation is never an easy one. Nevertheless as a movement that should be conscious how it will be seen by history. The question of the Kochtopus will be an important one for us to understand.

Where we stand

Part of the beauty of the Libertarian movement is that it is made up of an eclectic mix of groups and ideas. Although being a varied conglomeration of differing views and intellectual traditions ensures there will be tensions, as we move from the pages of philosophy books and into the political arena. For this reason, understanding and evaluating the Libertarian movement is of the utmost importance. The early Communists of the first and second international where notorious for ideological disputes and political wrangling that ultimately resulted in Stalin's 'great purge'. This is not to suggest the same thing could happen to Libertarianism, but it does demonstrate how an unstable political movement can lead to self-destruction.
It is this reason why the Koch brothers are such a contentious force in the history of Libertarianism. Arguably their relationship with Washington D.C and wide ranging support for extremely varied groups of people highlights a movement that is not yet comfortable with this process.
The goal has always been, Charles says, “true democracy,” where people “can run their own lives and choose what they want to buy, choose how to spend their money.” (“Now in our democracy you elect somebody every two to four years and they tell you how to run your life,” he says.) People running their own lives would be less democracy and more a private property society (i.e., a Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist view), without legislators and other government operators attempting to micro-manage populations. Such a private property society would be a good thing, but it is hard to square Charles’ supposed take on this with the brothers behind the scenes role in propping up various politicians who move in a direction quite different from a private property society'-Robert Wenzel, Mises institute.
When we discuss ideas and theories, we often imagine a solitary figure or certain number of books and treatises. Yet the experience of the Kochtopus highlights world in which ideas are no longer the confines of lone philosophers and political groups. Even if this is not the case, a certain cynicism about the realm of political ideas is a defining feature of our age. Despite being nothing new, Money and politics have never gone more hand in hand.  A report in the Daily Bell confirms this reality:
'We believe that it is not so much "rich, well-connected individuals" that steer the country as a handful of top globalists with access to the incredible riches of central banking that they helped create and implement'- Daily Bell

'If competition was acknowledged as the main driver of industry standards and if the centralizing effects of modern monopoly central banking and corporate personhood were removed, oligarchic tendencies would be greatly diminished. This won't easily happen, however, because those in power SEEK an oligarchy and endorse the various socio-political and economic platforms that support it'-Daily Bell

At the heart of this issue is an uncomfortable set of decisions. Ludwig Von Mises highlights at the end of Human Action that: 'The flowering of human society depends on two factors: the intellectual power of outstanding men to conceive sound social and economic theories, and the ability of these or other men to make these ideologies palatable to the majority.'- Mises, Human Action

Therefore the issue of Koch funding requires analysis. 'Money for thought-analysis has to come from somewhere. The Cato Institute has solved the money problem by intensive fund-raising but in the process has become far less "edgy" than Mises under Rockwell'-Daily Bell. Admittedly for many the Koch brothers are wealthy political bogeymen. The Kochtopus a monster that must be removed from society. Yet this essay does not support that view. One could argue that whether the Kochs are a positive or Negative force depends on the person in question. Here we try to critically assess the relationship between the Kochs and their relationship to the wider Libertarian movement. And fundamentally we have to conclude that the relationship in an uneasy one. Conclusively for those that truly strive to achieve and accept the principles of a free-society, this is a question of our relationship to the existing state structure. Can we work with it? Can we work within it? Or does it need to be destroyed entirely? It is my fundamental belief that although we may have differing answers to these questions. As long as we are thinking about them, we ensure our place in the annals of history.