The Wave Held

The children over the walls and the concertina wire are in school. The chattering of recess which belies the poverty, reminding we who live in Elysium that all people are the same; the same, equality – that wicked word, harsh as a desert sun and unforgiving as the winds that whip around the sands of the Sahara. Equality of outcomes, some like to say; until they perish in quiet desperation in the middle of a bread line; equality of opportunities, except this is nonsensical, for we all are unique and different and special and cursed. Equality of nature – that is the only true equality I suppose; in the image of God Genesis says, though from that image our paths stray as we travel the trails of opportunity and folly.

School, which will leave the little children ill-prepared, in a place of no work, no opportunity – clinging to humanity is difficult when the pangs of hunger twist one’s face, contorting the images. But the children don’t know this; they scream as they chase each other around the dusty fields, climbing a mango tree for the ripened fruit – the mango rains have come again to West Africa, and as always they bring hope amidst the madness. And at the end, hope is what we are left with.

More than three years ago I wrote about a wave – a wave I was to catch, my wars in Africa which were set to extend. A post filled with the anguish of uncertainty and unknowing juxtaposed against the specter of death and destruction. Three years ago, “I cannot help but wonder if my luck will hold. Will the wave support me just a little longer? Or will the tide crashing around transform me into another victim of the madness – like so many I have known?”

waveBut the wave held. Yes, the wave held – and as I silently slide from its funnel and let the power surge over me, I look up to see the rainbow above which represents that most ancient of promises, and I am happy. Oh, it has not been easy; riding this wave. There have been bumps and twists, I have slipped on more than one occasion to find my footing thanks only to a kindly hand in a moment of darkness. But the wave held – and as I see it power off in front of me, leaving me on the board seated in the sun with the water lapping gently against my knees I can only feel grateful. The wave held – and there is nothing more to say.

To be sure, the wars go on. Was this my last war in Africa? Only time will tell; did I make any difference? Perhaps when I reach the pearly gates St. Peter will have a list of my accounts. Friends I have made and trophies for my wall secured; glory sought and achieved through some victories and some valiant fights, futile perhaps but nevertheless noble. I do know that six years of war in Africa has left its mark; it makes us humble, more sure of ourselves but also less sure of the world around us and the confidence we have that we too will be forever-protected. More wary at those who say that safety requires no effort; that bad ideas demand no challenge.

My little boy is African – though he is not, of course. His Africa was so different than those of the little voices that scream in peals of joy from the mango trees. But Africa it was, too, at the end – it is what he knows and will forever be a part of him; how to account for that?

And to the future and what it holds?… only God or fate control – and that is OK. As for me, today, I can only be thankful that the wave held.

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“Island” by Aldous Huxley

I just finished reading “Island” by Aldous Huxley. Huxley is (of course) the author of “A Brave New World” – and “Island” continues along that tradition — sort of…

“Island” was Aldous Huxley’s final novel, and according to him his most important. I suppose a famous writer (I won’t say great, those are not the same thing) at the end of his life lets his guard down as to how the reader feels about his work. Perhaps he has been convinced everything that flows from his pen onto paper is the work of the golden gods and need not respond to any sort of form. Why should it? Guaranteed a publisher, content in his position, and assured readership – he can finally dispense with the niceties of sweat and blood in trying to tell a good story and – if you are a political writer – you can just write out your opinions.

That’s what Huxley did in “Island”. The setting for this book is a lost pacific island where the master-planners of society have built their utopia; how they try (and ultimately fail) in keeping it pristine and isolated from the rest of the world; and how Will Faranby – a journalist – experiences this.

The plot of the story, after perfunctorily placing Will on the island of Pala, basically consists of Will walking around getting endless lectures on how the Palanese organized their society. Children are shared around; religion is not banned but not encouraged; Buddhist ideas are preferred; a special drug called makshe which is basically some kind of mushroom hallucinogen keeps folks calm; sex is encouraged, etc. The book is replete with extensive diatribes about western consumerism, carbon economy, rapacious corporatism, and any other bugbear that might inspire adolescent reactionary fervor: Leninist Marxism without the conflict; Stalinism without the Gulag. (Incidentally the story could have been made slightly better if it had become literary fiction, delving deeply into the thoughts of Will as he was challenged in his thinking. That would have been conflict which might have added depth to the tale and character to what is in fact a colorless cardboard cutout of a protagonist. Alternatively it could have had epic descriptions of the Island’s beauty, which would have made it exotic. Didn’t have those either…)

This book was unreadable.

The book was as unreadable as Huxley’s Palanese society was unlivable. Because it was a society in which there was no wonder; nor was there any glory (principles which are also missing from communist utopianism, a project which Huxley was said to have hated but after reading “Island” I’m not so sure he did. This book could have been written by Hugo Chavez). The search for wonder and glory, the hallmarks of western civilization – of progress and advancement and philosophy and science. Universal basic incomes, parents who share their children, societies where there is no competition (and hence no good conflict — yes there is good conflict) and in which the embers of significance die out not in a bloody gulag but tired in that overweight way, sitting quiet in a La-Z-Boy – none of these do greatness inspire.

Platform pieces are rarely any good. When the ulterior motive of the author is to manipulate you into reading what you hope is a story which will make your heart sing and you find yourself hooked to the nozzle of a fire hose while you rapidly expand with half-baked ideas and hardly-thought-out recipes for utopia, you know you’ve got a bad one. “Island” is a bad one.

I would be more forgiving of Huxley if this was his first book, not his last.

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Marco Polo’s World – A Book Review

Curiosity – and a joyful quest for wonder. For wonder is not something that hangs low on branches for the feckless or lazy to grasp. Wonder is a reward for hard work, searching and understanding and discovery – a journey which begins with curiosity.

Robert D. Kaplan has two main, overarching theses that come through in all of his books. The first is what he sometimes calls “the revenge of geography”. That place matters, the mountains and the dales and the passes – the seas and the straits and the special experiences in faith and freedom and empire and tyranny of those who traverse them.

The other is the importance of realism and the danger of utopia. People are not the same, ideology is a simplistic utopian panacea by which we like to pretend others see the world as we do and wish it to be as we wish it. But they don’t; a lesson hard-learned by evangelical nations like the United States which wears her morality on her sleeve, and etches her values along the lines of her fingers, to be observed and understood in either a handshake or a fist as part of the promise or the punishment of our power.

“The Return of Marco Polo’s World” is about this. Anchored by an essay written for CNAS, it is a collection of other essays and treatises written over a period of perhaps ten or fifteen years about different areas which have aroused Kaplan’s curiosity. China; the Baltics; the Balkans; Russia; Iran and Turkey.

It is a book written for US policymakers but not about US policy, at least not mostly. It is about the way the world is and what is going on and how we should see things and understand them; it is an eloquent appeal to be humble in our dealings with other nations and not allow our actions to be driven by hubris or our great and overflowing impetus for freedom – however good the latter might be.

I find Kaplan’s writing comforting – for it is both sweeping and epic but brimming with the minutiae and anecdotes which lend power and truth to his observations. Its no surprise that I am not particularly sanguine about the future of our world or our arriving ordeal – but its also important to remember that America’s time at the top is but twinkle of a moment in relation to the march of empires. They ebb and flow as people change and the world changes around them – and yet still the grand story of humanity powers forward; captured by so great of thinkers as Robert D. Kaplan.

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What Causes Poverty? — (Hint, nothing)

What causes poverty? Nothing. Nothing causes poverty; poverty is the natural state of man. Naked and in the dark – that is how nature birthed us. But just as we figured out how to take the fibers from banana plant leaves and weave them into garments to cover ourselves, leading to the growing of cotton and the sheering of sheep and the professionalization of tailoring in a direct line to Sachs Fifth Avenue; so too prosperity. So that makes the real question “What causes prosperity??” Because prosperity is a delicate thing; just like destruction is much easier than creation (any brute with a sledge hammer can destroy a wristwatch, but who of us can make one?) – the same is true for our national economies. They are complicated, balanced, nuanced and fragile endeavors built not upon coercion and violence and planning but upon each person in that society deciding what his or her strengths are and adding value to that society with the full expectation of reaping the rewards; rewards (at least in theory – absent overactive government manipulating the markets) directly related to the value that he or she gives to that society. Somebody who cures cancer will become a billionaire, somebody who is a security guard at a mall never will. This is not a criticism of the guards, for we need them (and if those were my two options, I too would be a guard) but a free market acknowledges the fact that so few people can cure cancer and so many of us can stand watch and assigns value correspondingly. Scarcity, another concept modern economists have trouble with.

All these interactions are governed by money, with profit as the signal to the economy as to where to invest our scarce resources (interest itself on loans is profit charged for the use of money, so floating interest rates in theory should tell us which loans are more valuable to our national economies; instead of the government pushing cheap borrowed money into the housing sector, which they are still doing incidentally). Dr. Judy Shelton, one of the U.S.’s great monetary theorists (Co-Director of the Sound Money Project at the Atlas Network and economic adviser to the White House) in her concise and extremely readable little book, “Fixing the Dollar Now” goes into the real role of money. As part of the “sound money” discipline, she explains that the true purpose of money is to serve as a unit of measure and a store of value for society; money itself which is a historical technology product of innovation by people seeking to exchange freely through the markets.

There are these days, of course, counterarguments. They have been congealing into “Modern Monetary Theory” (MMT), a sort of super-Keynsianism advanced by Krugman and his socialist politician minions arising as perhaps a nouveau-chartalist macro-economic monetary theory. This theory states that money was invented by states to maneuver their economies and serve as a mechanism to codify wealth for the purpose of taxation. But if money serves as a tool of the state to manipulate people, what keeps it from being mis-used; and for exactly that purpose?


Loose monetary policy (encouraged by isolated theorists who have never started a business, and enthusiastically embraced by politicians looking for cash to advance their pet projects) leads to loose fiscal policy which leads to irresponsible government’s malinvestment, sucking liquidity out of the market for ideas such as “cash for clunkers” and other such nonsense. Have you ever driven around an African capital city and seen unfinished highways, half-built buildings and shiny new airports unused while the Air France airplane sits on the tarmac a ways from a decrepit old terminal which still has bullet holes from the latest coup d’etat, while passengers are shuttled to and from the shiny airplane in little buses? This is all malinvestment. “Bridges to nowhere” in American political discourse.

Socialist governments are particularly guilty of all this (though there is certainly enough blame to go around), because the onrushing torrent of liquidity covers a multitude of sins and drowns out the perverse incentives created by a massive intrusive government seeking to be not an arbiter but an active player in the game. Green technology comes to mind, where government takes money from productive, profitable energy sectors of society (frackers, large oil firms) in order to drive up prices and raise money, and then funnels that cash to their competitors (Solyndra anyone?) who then use it to compete against them at the artificially low rates. Until the subsidies dry up and the ebbing of liquidity reveal that underneath the shiny new technologies was only shifting sands. Not only does this harm the fellow who pays at the pump, for he is paying twice or three times for the same thing, but it stifles innovation necessary to arrive at technological solutions to our energy problems (breeder reactors anyone??).

The biggest problem is, of course, the deficit and the debt. $22,000,000,000,000,000 owed and growing every minute of every day. “But why does the debt matter?” a friend of mine once asked; “We seem to be doing fine…” Even that question is a result of the Keynsians and the immediacy, the constant emergency which does not allow them to look at economies in a long term way. MMT, quite simplistically, believes unemployment is a result of lack of liquidity and it is government’s job then to create that liquidity. This itself isn’t true (money doesn’t create jobs just as cash doesn’t create wealth – the definition of wealth is ‘the guarantee of future income’). But if this liquidity is derived from debt (and not built upon savings and real growth), when do we reach a tipping point? Very specifically, we are currently spending $400,000,000,000 a year on servicing our debt. Enough to build a million walls and have enough left over for a more responsible health safety net. Enough for a great war – should we be attacked, or to send rockets to mars and beyond. Instead, it is wasted on interest for cash given to a housing glut which almost brought down the world. Malinvestment. But what happens when that number grows? We all watched Argentina’s collapse, or the Asian collapse, or the Mexican or the Venezuelan. But what happens when its us? Nobody knows…

In my 2nd novel “The Burning of San Porfirio” I address this. The Burning, long I have been told and a little involved perhaps, is interesting because it goes into the self-organization of a society (in the novel it’s Venezuela, for obvious reasons) whose citizens are trying to find a way forward in the face of state failure; and as such explores many self-governed villages and creative approaches to ward off the devastation of projects and industries captured by the state and destroyed:

“To satisfy the diverse wants of our people, labor was divided—the farmer, the chemist who produces insecticide, the scientist who studies the result of the insecticide on the environment and the food, the transport driver, the mechanic who fixes the transport, the builder who builds the stall, the salesman who sells. For the clothes, we need the agronomist who studies how to rear sheep, the shepherd who watches the flocks by night, the machinist who creates more efficient looms, the tailor who cuts the suit, the vendor who sells the cloth. All of these people are part in the chain of production and consumption. The farmer buys clothes; the tailor must eat. To facilitate this division, money was invented. For everybody has their livelihood based upon a career path that they chose, emerging from their interests and their belief that through their free exchange they will achieve a higher standard of living for their families.”

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“We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin – A Book Review

Dystopian literature is a genre of fictional writing used to explore social and political structures in ‘a dark, nightmare world’.”

‘We’ by Yevgeny Zamyatin is a dystopian novel set in the distant future. Published first in 1924 in New York, it was not published in Zamyatin’s native Russia for a further six decades due to the political nature of the narrative and the fear the Soviets had over free thought.

The plot of the novel is about a nameless – faceless ‘Number’ in a society perfectly planned by a world government, following a cataclysm which killed more than 99% of the world’s population. In the aftermath of the apocalypse the state decided that each person’s life would be perfectly planned in ‘train schedule’ like precision – moments for waking and eating and working and sleeping; organized for the good of society and using the fear of the apocalypse that came before as justification for the tyranny.

The thing that interests me about early 20th century dystopian literature (‘Brave New World’, ‘1984’, ‘We’, ‘Anthem’) is the ‘bee hive’ nature of their view of perfected society. The underlying assumption is that the collectivists (fascists, communists, socialists) were going to be able to get the “planning” right to be able to order the world – and the only thing that was really objectionable about this was the destruction of self which accompanied; as if ‘self’ were this nasty little seed which, we agree, is not to be lightly sacrificed but if it was things would finally work! That the collectivists could achieve their goals – the elimination of poverty and hunger – but with the unfortunate (but necessary) sacrifice of the ‘ego’.

Today we know that even this dystopian literature was a vehicle for utopianism. The planners will never be able to order the world; even should they enslave us all. The experiments in Cuba and North Korea and USSR and Venezuela all prove to us the fundamental “knowledge problem” associated with the human condition and made real by distant, intrusive government. Ergo, modern dystopian literature (‘Hunger Games’, ‘The 100’, and even my own ‘Dreams of the Defeated’) display mostly post-apocalyptic worlds where elites live in opulent seclusion while controlling a desiccated and barren planet where the ‘proles’ fight it out on the streets of their messy worlds.

Literature shows the spirit and mood of our times. Early dystopian literature taught us to think “We can achieve a perfect society, but at what cost?” Modern dystopianism is more realistic, “Humanity is imperfectable, but there are still those who try – though this is usually a desperate attempt to find a seat on the new Noah’s Arc by admittance to a new elite. The resulting tyranny no longer promises clockwork precision, but only populism;” all this while also acknowledging that continuing on our path of debt and consumption will take us exactly where we think we are going.

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Our Coming Dystopia

It was probably a sunny day like today when Atlantis sank to the bottom of the sea. Was it an earthquake? A tsunami? Some kind of tribal violence which wiped away those who could run the reactors and the food processors, making room only for the ideas of bean farms and vertical chicken coops? Money, sound and pure watered down with alloys and aluminum until it was crusty and brittle – emptied out of meaning until the 0s march down the front of the bill in a shameful parade? Was it that which caused Atlantis to capsize?

It is said that civilizations have the solutions; can save themselves from their cataclysms – if only they had the will to fight on. But like Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, the fight fizzles away becoming a mass of goo and resentment against which it is impossible to push – even for those who dare have congress with the stinking and fetid mess – but who would want to? Its easier to avoid offense – besides the collapse is communal and there is nobody really to blame, and that is comfortable. If the stench surrounds us as well – who bothers to sniff out the culprit?

mayanI wonder if this is what the last dynasty of Mayans said, those who still remembered the old ways even as the jungle reclaimed village after village; emptied out to fill the mega-slums which have also since fallen away? So too Tiwanaku or the great Khmer civilization which no amount of rouge could revitalize?

We hear a lot about this these days; don’t we? Will the breeder reactors be built in time; will we let them; will we get out of the way of the great minds; will we pocket our panic and prejudice against that which is new? And in doing so will we burn away our waste in explosions of energy which could power our world forever? Will we mine the seas, distilling down the uranium in a perfect answer to unlimited global power and in final glorious triumph over our carbon economies? Probably not – we’ll certainly however embrace a “green new deal” which wipes aside the tortoise populations and leaves the Masai Mara’s terrified lions vulnerable to the poison farmers. “They get a pass” say politicians in places cold and clean, condemning those who live in the Sahel to their eco-fates.

What about the plastics in our oceans and in every molecule of our bodies? Naw – I prefer trillion dollar subsidies to the well-connected. Will we go to the moon again, and in that epic effort unleash our imagination to discover the bottoms of the oceans and the cures for diseases which have so long ailed us? Naw – let’s talk more about socialism, let’s race to the bottom embracing again for the umpteenth time the ideology of loss and stupidity and death, as so many others have. It’s more correct after all – for if no star burns very bright my nakedness is much less obvious.

Will we build our sterile worlds upon the rotted bodies of the next war? Hives churning in a perfect performance pantomime? After the world population is halved, and halved, and halved again? Of course the party members survive – and sacrifice is important, as long as it’s ours – never theirs. As long as they can get us to build for them the great boats upon which they will escape, leaving us on the shores waving.

In Yevgeny Zamyatin’s little novel “We” this is indeed the case – a novel banned by the soviets for decades; the intellectual father of “Fahrenheit 451” and “1984” and “Brave New World” and “Anthem” and yes – even my own “Dreams of the Defeated”. The start of a genre we call dystopianism which has saturated our movies and shows even as we recklessly careen forward in our politics. Does life imitate art, or art life? That ancient question.

Of course we – too – know the answer to our arriving ordeal. When I say “we” I mean the west. But instead of seeking solutions we are instead engaged in an epic fight (a historic bait and switch) over who will be the elites who will find their spots in our modern day Noah’s Ark. And those who fight it out on Twitter – to their own destruction…? – cannon fodder in the culture wars.

But we do have Zamyatin, and Bradbury – and myself. So let nobody say they were never warned.

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Venezuela’s ALBA: A Reflection 7 Years On

Seven years ago, as a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, I wrote my (and perhaps the…?) hallmark book on the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas: Hugo Chavez’s grand plan. At the time I received a lot of push-back, including from people I respected, saying I “Would be sorry!” for my opposition to Chavez. This backlash led me to write the following “Authors Note” at the end; explaining why I would not be “comparing infant mortality rates or UNFAO awards” between Chavez’s dictatorships and the free world; why those were an improper metric for an analysis of ALBA; that any gains, if there in fact were any, would be ephemeral. As it turns out history favors the rational mind, and my critics have since quieted and moved on, and most of the ALBAs defenders in the region have come to their senses (Honduras, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador to name a few), while my reflections seem more prescient. But there are still those who want to talk about “Revolution” and “Socialism of the XXIst” century, desperately hoping that nobody knows what they are really talking about. That we have seen this play before, and it did not end well!! And so I’m printing below again that note, as a reminder – the planners might find desktop exercises exciting over donuts in their ivory towers; but we are dealing with real lives of real people here, and for that reason we cannot suffer fools lightly.


Inside Venezuela’s Bolivarian Alliance: Author’s Note

The hallmark of western democratic governance is the principle that the individuals within society surrender the right to use force, the right to sit in judgment and the authority to use coercive methods based upon an act of willful consent; this is called the consent of the governed.

This consent is not static; it changes, morphs, as the governments that sit above society become more or less representative of the people they are chosen to lead. It is for this reason that transparency, accountability and good faith are important in the acts of governing. When governments use populist pandering and authoritarian maneuvering to secure electoral victories that allow them to radically socially engineer their societies, they lose the consent of an increasingly large portion of their societies. And in this process they break the social contract they signed with their citizens: to govern for the wellbeing of the majority with the careful protection of the minorities.

The ALBA has violated these fundamental rules. In their attempts to build authoritarian states that guarantee the permanence of the ruling elite and the ruling elite’s ability to build their partisan, illegal and dangerous political project, they have dismantled the democratic institutions that have been so carefully crafted and painstakingly protected. This has been done with the complicity of the Organization of American States and the west.  This book has served to highlight the political project of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas, as well as its philosophical foundations and its desired end state. Research for this project was long and arduous, and involved travel to a half dozen countries of the region and interviews with hundreds of people, as well as the review of hundreds of documents, articles and studies.

The constitution of Venezuela clearly states that the purpose of that magna carta is to “establish a democratic society (…) which consolidates the values of liberty, independence, peace, solidarity, the common good, territorial integrity, peaceful coexistence and the empire of the law.” It is for those who come after to decide whether the political project of Hugo Chavez and his ALBA live up to those lofty ideals.

I fought with myself quite a bit while researching and writing this book, about how far I should go in attempting to demonstrate some of the abuses and dangers represented by the ALBA countries. I was repeatedly urged by the left—and people I greatly respect—to be intellectually honest with my research and demonstrate some of the benefits brought by the ALBA to the world. Yet as I thought about these requests, I realized these are the same people who consistently refuse to condemn Fidel Castro as he is perched in luxury atop his island gulag. They refuse to condemn Hugo Chavez as he wraps the frayed fabric of a society ever tighter around his widening shoulders. And, they are the people who say Morales should be able to get away with blatant abuses of power represented by illegitimate constitutions written by excluding opposition from deliberations. Yet I watch the political prisoners rot in Venezuelan jails and I see mass political discrimination across the continent. I watch violence, drug trafficking and criminality wrack the foundations of these societies and the morgues fill up with the brutalized bodies of people who had no power to control their fate and their future. I chat online with my friends who have had their farms seized, or with human-rights colleagues on trial for treason. And for those of us who have friends exiled from the ALBA because of political beliefs—we listen to stories of secret cemeteries wherein the buried bodies of the ALBA’s foes lie. As we hear stories about tortures and drug battles between gangs controlled by government ministers seeking to seize the lucrative trade to West Africa, as loved ones are forced to repeat the empty epithets of the revolution to find work, as the tales become more sordid, of beautiful Miami penthouse apartments for revolutionary leaders, of whiskey and parties, of intrigue and sex and drugs, I am slapped with a stunning reality.

The reality is, more than the revolutionary leaders enjoy the power their pilfering provided, they crave the legitimacy of their model. While the lights burn late into the night within the revolution’s most sacred watering holes, these leaders’ best defense comes from the uninformed. And it is a dastardly scheme. While the brutality continues without end, those of us attempting to shine a light on the bloodbath are told by the apologists for 21st Century Socialism that we must discuss the merits of their project. They press us into semantic discussions on words of democracy, or of freedom. They force us to carry out surveys ad infinitum, using, of course, their official statistics collected by revolutionary bureaucrats to demonstrate the benefit in the lives of the poor. Denying within their own countries the freedom that allows them to pontificate in ours, we are cajoled by the overwhelming weight of their propaganda.

Then it came to me, this is what the Bolivarians are counting on. The ALBA and their minions abroad wish us to argue about maternal mortality rates, about global acute malnutrition and income inequality until we are all exhausted. Meanwhile, they deepen their power and control over their abused societies. If they ensure that the discussion remains on supposed social well-being instead of fundamental freedoms, they can keep their paid foot soldiers working in manipulation of the global discussion. But our principles are not and cannot be for sale. We must not allow ourselves to be caught in their twisted logic, and thereby legitimize a plan that has as its end dictatorship and suffering. Theirs is not the path toward freedom—as the data above present more clearly than I ever could. And this is not the path toward well-being—as is argued, if unwillingly, by even the United Nation’s own figures. And I must reiterate now, once again, the fundamental tenets that have always brought about improved well-being in countries that have decided to work in honesty and principled discipline within the agreed-upon bounds of a free society.

We do not owe dictatorship the benefit of the doubt. And for my friends who think that tearing a hole in representative democracy for the stated intention of improving well-being, of allowing the 21st Century Socialists of the world to dismantle the basic freedoms set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in hopes that in doing so they will more quickly reduce hunger or illiteracy, I remind you of the truths we all continue to hold self-evident. The exclusion of representative democracy will never increase well-being. The curtailing of individual freedoms will always bring misery.

This book, therefore, is not about an analysis of the different economic models, a debate between 21st Century Socialism and capitalism—as most apologists of revolution so desperately wish. I have no desire to mock the tried and true ideals of liberal democracy. In doing such, I would be no better than the dictators themselves as I compare, on a level playing field, the benefits of good versus evil. I instead want to present with clarity of mind what I believe is an actual, current danger growing like a cancer in the hemisphere.

I want to thank you for accompanying me through this tedious process. I have tried in the previous lines, and in my year’s study, work and research, to understand what the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) is doing in the hemisphere, to unravel their plan, to tease out their intentions, and to shine a light into the dark corners of their Bolivarian Revolution. During my research and interviews I met many men and women of good faith, people who love their countries and want to build a better tomorrow for their children. They see in the ideals of solidarity, of complementarity, and of compassion a greater, less predatory nation where they will be able to at long last cast aside the chains of poverty and bondage and live up to their full potential.

That, my friends, is what makes this so sad. As I hope you have had the courage to see, the Bolivarians of bad faith use the work of the poor in their countries to install a system that seeks not their benefit, but their control. They use the right language to befuddle the weak of mind across the world, and they use powerful propaganda and mechanisms of internal control to sell their project. They use their loud voices screaming the right words at the tops of their lungs to hide a more devious, more dastardly scheme. It is for this reason that the Bolivarian Alliance’s result will be only more slavery, more suffering, and more death. As it expands its lecherous grasp across a continent, the United States and the lovers of freedom sit back and watch with indifference. Worse than that, those of a particular political ideology in fact applaud as the institutions they so freely enjoy in their own countries are rived asunder for the personal, populist project of a group of powerful men.

Now that you know the truth, I welcome you to share it with others. Don’t shy away from a controversial challenge, but embrace the debate with enthusiasm and a sense of privilege and honor. We who promote freedom and democracy are a lucky few, lucky to be in the place at the time when we can make a difference. Yet, we are few because a decreasing number are able to clearly identify, articulate and defend the truths we all hold as self-evident; that man was created to enjoy his own life, his own liberty and his own happiness. So to honor that vision, we must always stay true and boldly reject the dictators’ visions of “fatherland, socialism or death.”

The Alba: Inside Venezuela’s Bolivarian Alliance by Joel D Hirst via @amazon

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