Voice

Let's be fair to the Jedi

In a funny blog post, Reason's Jesse Kline riffs on the rising number of Jedi knights in Canada, but concludes with the following assessment of the Jedi contribution to liberty: 

Although the Jedis did assist the Rebel Alliance in overthrowing a tyrannical emperor, it's clear that the Knights were originally setup to enforce the Galactic Senate's big government agenda.

I must say, I find Jesse's lack of faith disturbing.  Based on the Star Wars films, we know very little about the Galactic Senate's pre-Phantom Menace agenda, but we do know that Chancellor Valorum is a pretty weak leader.  We also know Palpatine's designs.  Upon becoming chancellor, he vows to put down the separatists, raises a Grand Army of the Republic, stays in power well beyond the expected number of years/terms, and finally reorganizes the Republic into the First Galactic Empire.  That's as big of a big government agenda as you're going to get. 

Are the Jedi big government advocates?  That's unclear.  I think it would be more accurate to describe them as cartelistic --  they refuse to permit a free market in learning the ways of the Force.  After all, the Jedi Council's initial inclination is not to train Anakin Skywalker despite his obvious talents, using some BS about fear as a cover.  Only when Qui-Gon threatens to go rogue do they relent.  The Council  does not inform the Senate that their ability to detect the force has been compromised.  They're reluctant to expand their assigned tasks -- they're keepers of the peace, not soldiers.  Just as clearly, their anti-competitive policies weakened their own productivity, given the fact that they were unable to detect a Sith Lord walking around right under their noses for over a decade

So, were the Jedi perfect agents of liberty?  No, probably not.  But neither were they handmaidens to the greatest concentration of state power in galactic history. 

P.S.  Beyond George Lucas' rather bigoted portrayal of anything involving commerce, another source of libertarian resentment against the Jedi might be their lack of respect for property rights.  If the Force is an energy field created by all living things, then why the hell to the Jedi get to exploit it without compensating the creatures who create it in the first place?  If you think about the Jedi as the Guardians of the Republic, this might sound absurd.  Replace "Guardians of the Republic" with "rapacious strip-miners of primordial energy," however, and suddenly they don't look so good.  At least the Sith stay small in number, so the externality problem is kept to a minimum. 

Daniel W. Drezner

Yeah, START is gonna be ratified

Peter Baker provides some lay of the land on START in his New York Times write-up: 

With time running out for major votes before the November election, the White House is trying to reach an understanding with Senate Republicans to approve its new arms control treaty with Russia by committing to modernizing the nuclear arsenal and making additional guarantees about missile defense.

The White House pressed allies in Congress in recent days to approve billions of dollars for the nation’s current nuclear weapons and infrastructure even as administration and Congressional officials work on a ratification resolution intended to reaffirm that the treaty will not stop American missile defense plans....

The critical player is Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip, who has criticized the treaty but also signaled that his reservations could be assuaged. In particular, he has sought to modernize the nuclear force, and the administration has proposed spending more than $100 billion over 10 years to sustain and modernize some strategic systems.

“I’ve told the administration it would be much easier to do the treaty right than to do it fast if they want to get it ratified,” Mr. Kyl said Thursday in an interview. “It’s not a matter of delay,” he added, but “until I’m satisfied about some of these things, I will not be willing to allow the treaty to come up.”

Mr. Kyl sounded hopeful that he could reach agreement, ticking off three ways the White House could assure him that the proposed nuclear modernization program would be adequate: ensure enough first-year money in the next round of appropriations bills, include enough second-year money in a follow-up budget proposal and revise the long-range modernization plan to anticipate additional costs in later years.

“I’m not questioning the administration’s commitment to this,” he said, “but this is a big deal, and it needs to have everybody’s commitment to it at takeoff, and I really don’t see that the groundwork has really been laid.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has met with Mr. Kyl once and invited him and other senators to talk about the treaty again next week. Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has likewise been talking with Mr. Kyl regularly and is trying to help resolve Republican demands to inspect at least some of the secret negotiating record.

For all the hand-wringing, this sounds like START is gonna get ratified.  Kyl has been very careful to avoid boxing himself into a situation where he has to vote no.  His asking price is not unreasonable, and it sounds like the Obama administration will meet it. 

This would be good - not because START is all of that and a bag of chips, but because it suggests some Very Useful Conclusions:

1)  Mitt Romney's Know-Nothing anti-START gambit failed to have any effect;

2)  Republicans are being reasonable and constructive on arms control (Kyl's requests make a good deal of sense to me);

3)  There can be bipartisan cooperation on important foreign policy questions.

4)  Spencer Ackerman was wrong and I was right.  Ha!!  [It's all about score-settling with you this week, isn't it?--ed.  It's the summer -- allow me my small, petty victories.]

Am I missing anything?