Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Abuse of Reason

A short time ago, Mr. Burns posted (as part of an ongoing reactionary barrage against this blogger) a denouement of small government in the form of a photo of a starving boy crawling along the street.

Heartbreaking photo, and not even close to the most heart-rending starving child images one can find online. What this photo does offer though, is the image of a rich person stealing food from a starving child.

(photo by Tom Stoddart)

Mr. Burns wrote "This Is Goverment Without Law or Regulation [sic]". "There is a reason that people all over the world are willing to risk life and limb to come to the United States, but they flee countries without taxes, without government, and without social security systems."

Presumeably, in such a world without law or regulation or government, rich people will regularly steal food from starving children.

Presumeably, in a world with law and regulation (and maybe government), children will not starve, rich people will not steal and everyone will be taken care of.

The photo is credited (though not by Mr. Burns) to Tom Stoddard, and is part of a group of photos from the country of Sudan. It is labeled Winter 1998. A wretched, wretched period in Sudanese history. 1998 was the peak of a famine and civil war in Sudan. 1998 was the year the Americans (land of government and regulation) destroyed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. A hundred thousand people died in the Sudan in 1998.

The group Human Rights Watch states "But the famine itself was a product of human action."

If only the Sudan had had a government committed to providing for the people; if only the government had imposed some law or regulation on the populace guaranteeing wealth, health and good citizenship.

If only.

Uh oh.

A brief history - Sudan achieved independence from the Brits and Egypt in 1956. It immediately plunged into civil war. The US and the Soviets (powerhouses of regulation) began a Sudanese arms race that led up to the second civil war in 1983. The second civil war was sparked by Islamic takeover of government. Up until 1988, the Sudan was basically under Sharia law, as noted in the 1985 Interim Constitution.

Part I stipulates that Islamic Sharia Law shall be the main source of legislation.

The BBC recently gave these comments on the thoroughness of Sharia regulation:

But Sharia differs in one very important and significant way to the legal traditions of the Western world: it governs, or at least informs, every aspect of the life of a Muslim.

Western law confines itself largely to matters relating to crime, contract, civil relationships and individual rights.

Sharia is however concerned with more. Sharia rulings have been developed to help Muslims understand how they should lead every aspect of their lives according to God's wishes.

So Sharia covers a lot of very mundane and banal daily issues where observant Muslims want to ensure they act within the legal framework of their faith.

Like any legal system, Sharia is complex and its practice is entirely reliant on the quality and training of experts.

There are different schools of thought, which consequently lead to different rulings.

Scholars spend decades studying the law and, as with Western law, an expert on one aspect of Sharia is by no means the authority on another.

So we can reasonably conclude that the Sudan, constitutionally under Sharia law, was not without law or regulation.

And in July 1998, the year of the famine, Sudan got a new constitution.

Under this new constitution (the one in effect during the famine), the government concerned itself very closely with controlling all aspects of life. It was a very facist regime. Here are some exerts from that 1998 Constitution.

National economy
8. The State shall promote the development of national economy and guide it by planning on the basis of work, production and free market, in a manner fending off monopoly, usury and fraud, and strive for national self-sufficiency for the achievement of affluence and bounty and endeavour towards justice among states and regions.

11. The State shall give due regard to social justice and mutual aid in order to build the basic components of the society, to provide the highest standard of good living for every citizen, and to distribute national income in a just manner to prevent serious disparity in incomes, civil strife, exploitation of the enfeebled and to care for the aged and disabled.

Children and youth
14. The State shall care for children and youth and protect them against exploitation and physical and spiritual neglect, and shall direct policies of education, moral care, national guidance and spiritual cleansing to grow a good generation.

Family and women
15. The State shall care for the institution of the family, facilitate marriage and adopt policies to purvey progeny, child upbringing, pregnant women and mothers. The State shall emancipate women from injustice in all aspects and pursuits of life and encourage the role thereof in family and public life.

Redistribution of wealth, education, care and national guidance of children and youth. "The State shall ..." "The State shall ..." "The State shall..."

Now just because some of us Americans would not be comfortable living under Sharia law, does not mean Sharia law is not a legal or regulatory system. So, lack of laws and regulations were clearly not the cause of the Sudanese famine or the poor starving child being robbed of his food by a rich person.

What was?

What is?

Sudan today, several constitutions later, is still embroiled in genocide and civil war. Today, the popular cause of Darfur has thrust Sudan again into the limelight. So has its popular natural resource - oil.

Sudan, like too much of Africa, suffers as a pawn of heavily militarized, regulated and law enforcing states like the US and Russia and China. It suffers as a pawn of religious groups. It suffers from a sever lack of freedom, from one group of people always trying to control the actions of another. It suffers from a lack of liberty.

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