The never-ending cycle of revolutions


“A revolution is the climax of a long philosophical development and expresses a nation’s profound discontent; a Putsch is a minority’s seizure of power. The goal of a revolution is to overthrow tyranny; the goal of a Putsch is to establish it.” Ayn Rand

The day after Revolution the streets were in silence. Anarchy was the rule and a no man’s land emerged. The protests against the ruling party had started several weeks before. However, as my grandmother recalled, the problems that had ignited the most recent uprising had always existed: ” these were the very old unfulfilled promises long inherited from Colonial times.”  Indeed, these promises were the idea that Government was here to rule over Us, to give Us and to provide Us for our needs and to care for our frailties.  The Global South has known dozens of revolutionary movements, dozens of attempts of revolutions and a handful of sanguinary coup d’états. Unfortunately, not much if anything has changed after the uprisings.

Around the world today conflict  continues in many areas that were once colonized or controlled by Western European or Soviet powers. The source of many of these protracted conflicts, in large part, lies in past colonial  policies, and especially those “regarding territorial boundaries, the treatment of indigenous populations, the privileging of some groups over others, the uneven distribution of wealth, local governmental infrastructures, and the formation of non-democratic or non-participatory governmental systems.”

It is therefore essential, if one wants to understand current revolutionary movements, intractable conflict and its causes, to examine not only the issues and problems of the moment, but also influential historical factors and actors – most notably, past colonial policies and today’s ruling power of these metropolis over former colonies – and their lingering effects.

The idea that the government should provide for our needs is more accepted in post-colonial governments that inherited institutions of dependency and granted privileges by the metropolis.  Imagine yourself traveling 200 years back in time to the period in which colonies were ruled by Western Capital. Interestingly, you will find yourself observing almost the same institutions and the same old problems that societies in the Global South still face today in Africa, the Middle East, South America, Eastern Europe and South Asia. The problems in these societies are the result of a long list of misguided decisions all centered in one fatal conceit: the conceit of revolution by force, not in defense, but in violation, of individual rights.

The colonial institutional heritage of the Global South is built around the abuse and violation of individual rights. Not a single revolutionary movement in the Global South has really aimed at restoring individual rights but to the granting of privileges for a minority.  The minority groups have taken many forms, received many names and have taken many slogans. They have been revolutions organized by and in contraposition of one minority group versus a majority: of the poor versus the rich, of the middle classes versus oligarch classes, of national interests of capital versus foreign interests, of enlightened groups versus conservative groups, of different ethnic groups against each other, of indigenous groups tired of being exploited, and many many more.

In order for a revolution that aims at restoring individual rights to take place it would be  necessary for all citizens to first redefine their code of values upon principles that allow them to pursue happiness without violating the rights of others.  This means that for a “revolution and not a putsch” to take place in the Global South we need first to understand that today’s revolutions have no moral justification and are all gang warfare.  As such, in order to change our immoral systems of government we require to first our own immoral code of values.  This means that we need to learn our history and fix all those immoral decisions taken in the past by our former enslavers.

I believe that the ideal way for starting to learn which is the code of values that provides for a consistent philosophy of life that protects individual rights and allows for humans to pursue happiness is the philosophy of Objectivism and the Objectivist Ethics.

If successful, most probably, the ongoing revolutionary movements in the Middle East, Ukraine and Venezuela will reflect to be nothing but immoral putsches of the very same old privileged groups that they were supposed to fight.  Corruption will take a new name, the citizens will be again defrauded by their leaders, immorality will again reign.  the power currently upheld by immoral leaders is not a simple system of domination of one specific group but it completely traverses the entire social body.  When social relations are not based upon a consistent and ethical code of values its result is “the immanence of force” that Foucault widely studied.    In this game of power, the incessant struggle and confrontation will be reinforced, transformed and reshaped without any meaningful outcome.  This never-ending cycle of revolutions will encrust and institutionalize itself if it hasn’t already. I truly believe that a Peaceful Philosophical revolution is Possible.  It is up to you reader, to chose wether to start it or not.


Drugs: A Legal Market is not a Free Market

English: Flower of a Opium Poppy
Image via Wikipedia

A couple days ago, Otto Perez Molina, recently elected as President of Guatemala; announced that he was willing to decriminalize the commercialization of drugs. According to U.S. authorities, Guatemala has became the transshipment point for more than 75 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States since 2005.  Along with this, the Opium poppy cultivation is already done in large parts of the countryside making the production of Guatemalan heroin a greater and the newest worry for the United States. The country’s elites are already part of this business and the paranoia of crimes that used be a remembrance from Colombia‘s 1990s history seems to be repeating in these Central American countries.

What impresses me the most now is how this news has started spreading around my Facebook contacts (mostly libertarians and liberals). Both groups seem to be happy to hear this announcement by Guatemala’s President.  However, both groups applaud the news for different reasons.  The legalization/decriminalization of drugs will not be the panacea we all are hoping for.  Specially not if started by any of the Central American governments.  The reasons are many and I will begin by listing some of them to open the discussion,

  • Corruption, lax enforcement, and judicial impunity levels in Central America are among the highest of the world.
  • Drug lords and their new and powerful money have been mentioned by many analysts to be already part of the politic and economic elites of these countries.
  • The Central American countries in which this drugs are produced and transported are inhabited by a large majority of people living in the lowest leves of Human Development.
  • If legalized, the trade, production and commercialization of drugs (cocaine and heroine mainly) will be regulated by these governments.
  • Without any doubt, this regulations will enable and create legalized monopolies ruled with the partnership of previous drug lords and government officials.
  • It has not been advocated by any of the political leaders which road would take the legalization of drugs. This is important, because under current legalization procedures it is not the same to get the approval for a new medicine in the market as to get the approval for a new liquor, a new energizing drink or of a new edible product.

The history of the legalization (production, trade and commercialization) of items considered by many as drugs and for others as commodities has shown that for as long as a government elite hold the power to legalize it; it was in their power to take the first steps into the acquisition of a monopoly of its trade and production.

If legalized, the emergence of a coercive monopoly would be inevitable. As noted by Ayn Rand, the governments and their partners in these coercive monopolies “will be able of setting the initial prices and production policies independently of the market, with immunity from competition, from the law of supply and demand. An economy dominated by such monopolies would be rigid and stagnant.”

If we support the complete and absolute free trade of all commodities it is necessary that we do not grant to government an intrinsic right to regulate it.  No compromise should ever be done with a government that requires regulation in order to give us legalization.  Legalization should result in freedom and not in regulation.  The drug trade should be opened to businessmen and entrepreneurs in the freest way possible. The freest way is that of requiring the traders to inform their buyers about all the necessary information about the products they are offering.

We may be taking part in a historical moment in which the most important thing are principles.  Let us remember that one of the most valuable principles of trade is Freedom; and that one of the most valuable principles of government is to seek that i will Protect Individual Rights and not to regulate their lives.

Note: To understand more which are the principles that really matter in this discussion, I invite you to take a look to the video titled: The Drug War in Guatemala: A Conversation with Giancarlo Ibarguen.

From One Prohibition to Another (1933-2011)

On December 05, 1933 the Prohibition on the production and commercialization of Alcohol was finally over in the United States when Utah became the 36th U.S. state to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution. Thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to enact the amendment (this overturned the 18th Amendment which had made the manufacturing, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages illegal in the United States).

Since then, the alcohol industry (widely hated and considered evil before 1933) started developing into one of the most successful industries of the modern world.  The access to competition ignited an immense diversification of marketing, production and commercialization strategies that improved the quality, safety, additives and capabilities of the previous distilled liquors.

By 2010 The world’s five biggest alcohol companies by market cap had their hubs in Beligum Anheuser-Busch Inbev (BUD), Brazil (Companhia de Bebidas das Américas (AMBEV) (ABV); United Kingdom (Diageo plc (DEO), The Netherlands (Heineken (HINKY.PK) and France (Pernod-Ricard (PDRDF.PK).  And the industry gives provides with jobs to millions of workers around the globe.

Today, in 2011 we face a different but at the same time similar Prohibition of a product.  I refer to the research, production, industrialization and commercialization of controlled drugs (marihuana, cocaine, etc.) that has been condemned by world government with the same irrational argument once used with alcohol.

Because of this Prohibition on Drugs; the world is facing a Trillionaire war leaded by the United States politicians who profit from it. More so, millions of jobs are lost every day and in the countries in which it is produced and stored before reaching the final markets the chaos reigns (for just one story of how this chaos come into being check: The Drug War in Guatemala: A Conversation with Giancarlo Ibarguen).

Let us learn from history and save our children and future generations from committing the same mistakes.

A Plan to Collapse Iran’s Central Bank and its Origins

The foreign policy of the richest countries has always depended in controlling the world’s monetary systems. As a continuation of the postcolonial systems, they continue holding the power to grant credits to poorer countries, to rescue their economies in periods of crisis and in pushing for an increase in world “reserves” and international “liquidity.” The end result of this policies resulted in creating world inflation and enriching those central banks that controlled the dice of this international game (just as it had been done in the previous colonial period).

Colonialism may seem to many an ‘old history’ that was overcome with the modernization of the world and the decolonization processes after World War II.  Nonetheless, in the following postcolonial period many already institutionalized strategies continued working and are still present today.  The IMF, for example, was one of the institutions born as a result of the decolonization process. Its results (far distant from their founding vision) were to keep the postcolonial countries in monetary and economic dependency.

For long the world’s centralized banking and monetary authorities, headed primarily by the International Monetary Fund, collaborated to initiate a period of surveillance, aid, and guarantees for the world’s financial markets as  and  explained in the post “The IMF and Moral Hazard“. However, the long-term results of theses policies fostered the dependency of postcolonial economies and, as such, empowered the populist leaderships in the former colonies that pursued expansive social programs that couldn’t be supported without their foreign aid and long-term indebtment.

Video: The Plan To Collapse Iran’s Central Bank

Today, I saw a video titled “The Plan To Collapse Iran’s Central Bank” in which analysts in the U.S.A. are evaluating the possibilities of collapsing Iran’s economy and disenabling them to continue researching their nuclear programs. Strategies as these may seem as “bogus” to many; however, the long history of international monetary intervention of the economies in postcolonial countries is long and influential (see: Pastor, Manuel (1989). Latin America, the Debt Crisis, and the International Monetary Fund. Latin American Perspectives).  The results of any of these strategies always end up creating inflation and as  mentioned in his essay “End the IMF” in the year 1963 the only solution for and end to inflation (an as such for peace and economic recovery) is to eliminate the IMF and the interventionist international monetary system that has proved, in practice, a gigantic machine for world inflation.

File:50000 IRR obverse.jpg
50,000 Iranian rial

Paper on “Craftying analytical tools to study institutional change”

Today I did a presentation on the methodological plan for a study in the Internationalization of Leipzig’s Gallery of Contemporary Art.  I received very important critics that helped me correct the way of my research.  The critics were directed at focusing on the institutional evolution of the Gallery’s agenda (to understand what was behind of the internationalization process we had identified in our preliminary research). Indeed, crafting a study is not an easy thing and today I read that UDADISI had re-posted a great article on something related to the issue I’ll be dealing with in the next couple weeks.  So it was worth republishing. 😉 Here’s the article by Ostrom and Basurto,
These are some ideas on the evolution of institutions from the [very interesting!] paper:
What are rules:

[S]hared understandings by actors about enforced prescriptions concerning what actions (or outcomes) are required, prohibited, or permitted.

[Rules] are linguistic statements containing prescriptions similar to norms, but rules carry an additional, assigned sanction if forbidden actions are taken and observed by a monitor (Commons, 1924).

What are norms:

Norms are prescriptions about actions or outcomes that are not focused primarily on short-term material payoffs to self. A participant who holds a truth- telling norm gains an internal reward (that can be modeled as an additional value added to their utility function) for telling the truth even when material payoffs would be greater when telling a lie (Crawford and Ostrom, 2005).

Some lessons from institutional analysis:

Some of the lessons coming out of our institutional analyses in Nepal and elsewhere show that resource users who have relative autonomy to design their own rules for governing and managing common-pool resources frequently achieve better economic (as well as more equitable) outcomes than when experts do this for them.

How do rules originate on farmer irrigation systems

Farmers in old and established systems tell researchers that they do not know much about the origin of the rules they use. In Bali, for example, rules are encoded in a sacred religious system and are monitored and enforced by priests (Lansing, 1991, 2006).

What are some of the processes of rule change?

[T]he evolution of a rule system is not synonymous with progress. Certainly, evolutionary processes do not entail a priori judgments on the outcome. Evolutionary processes do involve, however, the generation of new alternatives, selection among new and old combinations of structural attributes, and retention of those combinations of attributes that are successful in a particular environment. In evolving biological systems, genotypic structures are changed through blind variation or directed variation (such as in the case of the domestication of many species of plants and animals). In evolving human-based rule systems, rule configurations within an action situation can change as a result of many self-conscious or unconscious mechanisms, including trial-and-error efforts, especially in collective-action processes. In some instances, the capacity of the biophysical resource system to buffer abuse from trial-and- error of different rule systems seems to play a necessary but not sufficient role in the emergence of successful self-governed rule systems (Basurto, 2008; Basurto and Coleman, 2010). Mechanisms for change in rule configurations can be roughly divided into relatively self-conscious and unconscious processes of change. Among examples of self-conscious processes that are frequently mentioned in the literature are those driven by imitation (Richerson and Boyd, 2005). Imitation of rules used by others can lead to rule evolution over time, especially if the farmers from multiple irrigation systems in a region regularly interact in a local market or other regular meeting place.

Imitation of entire rule systems that are thought of as ‘successful’ can also take place at the constitutional-choice level, such as the case of the adoption of the US National Parks’ law system by the Costa Rican nascent national park system. Other self- conscious processes of change in rule systems include some cases of external development interventions, such as when external aid support is conditioned to changes in local institutions based on foreign views of fairness, productivity, democracy, or development itself.

Competitive processes can also lead some users to self-consciously favor some institutional arrangements over others. Similarly, conflict over the interpretation of rules is also a process that frequently leads to self-conscious change.

Most self-conscious processes of change are based on the ability of humans to learn (Henry, 2009), such as when members of a rural fishing community organize to modify rules to control levels of exploitation based on past experiences (Basurto, 2005).

Unconscious processes of change include forgetting, like when there is a very large number of rules and no one ‘remembers’ them all without extensive research, or when laws are never practiced. The same phenomena are observed when certain taboos disappear through language loss, cognitive dissonance, technological change, or non-enforcement. These mechanisms can slowly erode rule systems, which then wither away and eventually can be replaced by new practices and norms of behavior (Kofinas, 2005).

Our dependence on language to communicate and the inherent ambiguity of language can lead to a number of unconscious processes of rule change as well. Rules are composed of mere words and, as Vincent Ostrom (1997) has frequently pointed out, words are not always understood by everyone with the same meaning (see also 2008a, 2008b). A guard may not understand the rules the same way as users. A guard, for example, may interpret rules that place heavy costs on the guard in contrast to those rules that involve low costs. Babbling equilibrium problems are widespread, even among scholars studying rules and norms systems! And, it is a key problem for the social sciences (E. Ostrom, 2005: 179).

Dopfer et al. (2004) view an economic system as a population of rules, a structure of rules, and a process of rules, where the micro domain refers to the individual carriers of rules and the systems they organize, the macro consists of the population structure of systems of meso, which is where processes of rule change take place.

It is worth restating that it would be naıve to assume that any evolutionary process always leads to better outcomes. In biological systems, competition among populations of diverse species led to the weeding out of many individuals over time who were outcompeted for mates and food in a given environment.