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Saturday, July 20, 2024

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

Trump survived the assassination attempt. The assassin was killed. This makes me think of the book by Frederick Forsyth that I read decades ago: The Day of the Jackal. In this book the target General de Gaulle survives, while the assassin, known by his code-name “Jackal”, was killed. 

Published in 1971, the book has a passage where Forsyth suggests that the precautions exercised by the American Secret Service are not good enough. Here’s the passage:

“The Jackal was perfectly aware that in 1963 General de Gaulle was not only the President of France; he was also the most closely and skilfully guarded figure in the Western world. To assassinate him, as was later proved, was considerably more difficult than to kill President John F. Kennedy of the United States. Although the English killer did not know it, French security experts who had through American courtesy been given an opportunity to study the precautions taken to guard the life of President Kennedy had returned somewhat disdainful of those precautions as exercised by the American Secret Service. The French experts rejection of the American methods was later justified when in November 1963 John Kennedy was killed in Dallas by a half-crazed and security-slack amateur while Charles de Gaulle lived on, to retire in peace and eventually to die in his own home.”

Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Political & Philosophical Reason for Taxes

The purpose of taxation is not merely economic or collecting revenues for the government. Taxation is also a tool for achieving certain political and philosophical objectives.

When individuals and businesses file their taxes, they reveal the details of their assets and income to the government. This information about the distribution of incomes and assets in the society is a major source of the government’s political power. By examining the tax documents filed by various taxpayers, the government can identify the sectors and groups that need to be rewarded for political purposes and those that need to be penalized. Information is power—and the system of taxation is the biggest source of information for the government. In essence, gathering economic intelligence on every individual and every business is the political reason for levying taxes.

The philosophical justification of taxes hinges on the idea that equality is a social value. By taxing the rich and redistributing the wealth among the poor, the government can claim that they are trying to create an equal society. There is no evidence that redistribution of wealth leads to economic growth and social harmony—an equal society might as well be an unachievable utopia. But most intellectuals and politicians in our time take it as a proven fact that equality is by itself a great social value. They insist that building and sustaining an equal society ought to be the government’s primary moral purpose.

Saturday, July 6, 2024

'Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War' by Patrick Buchanan

Winston Churchill’s political career extended from 1900, when he entered politics at the age of 26, to 1955, when his second term as Prime Minister of Britain came to an end. 

Throughout these 55 years, he was deeply involved in wars, civil wars and coups. He had little interest in issues like economic growth, healthcare, education and social development. He saw peace as a sign of national weakness and was obsessed with waging wars. 

In his book, Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, Patrick J. Buchanan argues that Churchill was the biggest warmonger of the world in the first half of the 20th century. He holds that Churchill was as much to blame for the Second World War and the holocaust as Hitler and Mussolini. 

He also blames Churchill for the rise of Stalinist Soviet Union in the post Second World War period. Buchanan quotes historian A N Wilson: “The tragedy of the twentieth century is that in order to defeat Hitler, Churchill believed it was not merely necessary but desirable to ally himself to Stalin.”

At the height of the Second World War, Churchill said in his speech in the Commons: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’." He was being truthful—because throughout his political career, from 1900 to 1955, he had nothing to offer except unending and fruitless wars. He loved to fight wars—he despised all initiatives for peace. 

There is not a single year in Churchill’s 55 year long political career when he was not directly involved in fighting wars or in plotting coups in some part of the world. 

In the book's final chapter, Buchanan draws a comparison between Churchill and George W. Bush. He argues that just as Churchill destroyed Britain by dragging his country into one war after the other, Bush has led the USA to ruin by following the Churchillian example of involving his country into unnecessary and fruitless wars. Buchanan notes that Bush’s neoconservative worldview was inspired by Churchill’s role as a Western warmonger.