What's Wrong With This Picture?

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federal agents raided over seventy jewelry stores recently, contemptuous
of the dangers posed by brooch and tiara.

weren't there to burgle the baubles, but to cop the computers and
purloin the paperwork. The jewelers thus assaulted were mainly Pakistanis,
and the concern was that they were funneling money to Osama bin
Laden, or al Qaeda.

of the raids have been in the east, in Philadelphia, Atlanta, New
York, and Florida, but stores in Texas, California, Alabama, Georgia
and North Carolina have been invaded as well. Federal officials
declared that the authority to conduct the raids was "under
seal," and could not, or would not, cite the statute that authorizes
such actions. About a dozen people are in detention, although an
official acknowledged that there was no evidence of wrongdoing by
any of the raided jewelers.

it's a bit naïve to demand any statutory authorization for
such government action. One of the (many) advantages to the government
of being at war, even if an undeclared and thus unlawful one, is
that the "war" justifies anything. Besides, the individuals
being hassled have foreigner names, and who cares about them? The
main thing is to keep dollars from falling into the hands of those
dastardly Pakistanis, right? (Of course, our own government sent
packets of cash to Pakistan, to Osama bin Laden, and the taliban,
when we needed them. But that was then, and this is now.) Raiding
jewelers is part of the war on terror!

maybe, except that President Bush has cobbled together an aid package
for Pakistan totaling several billion dollars, with about 600 million
scheduled to arrive this year. This is OK, however, because money
funneled into Pakistan by the government is good; that which arrives
privately is bad. Government, legal; private, illegal. Isn't that

all, Pakistan owes the U.S. about three billion, so additional aid
is absolutely essential. Dollars dribbling into Pakistan from jewelers
in the U.S. are not likely to be officially counted, and thus would
be worthless to the financiers. Pakistan's IOUs, like those of any
other borrower, are assets of the loaning banks, and if the borrower
– Pakistan's government, not its people – goes belly-up,
the assets evaporate. So additional loans guarantee, more or less,
that Pakistan will be able to continue paying interest, which means
that it is effectively "servicing" its debt, thus preserving
its "asset" status. Besides collecting interest, the official
infusion of credit justifies the placing of conditions upon the
Pakistanis; the unofficial donations of jewelers do not. Regulation
and control are synonyms for government.

mind the logical absurdity of trying to borrow one's way out of
debt: there is no alternative, given the way our monetary system
works. Like Ponzi's scheme, the system depends upon an ever-growing
number of participants (borrowers) and it hardly matters if the
borrowing is to repay previous borrowing. As long as someone
borrows, the system can flounder on.

mind, also, that foreign aid is utterly unlawful, illogical, and
foolish. Ignore, as well, that our government, in addition to having
no authority to seize citizens' money and send it overseas to foreign
governments, has no authority to prohibit Americans – even
if of Pakistani descent – from doing what they want with their
money. Will Uncle Sam crack down on Jews sending money "home"
to Israel?

of these lawless government activities would be necessary –
or possible – if the American people had not been stripped
of actual money, and forced to use borrowed bank credit in its place.
Again, the government routinely does what the people are forbidden
to do – issue counterfeit. To prevent the "worthlessness
of the money from becoming apparent," as Keynes put it, government
ultimately ends up bursting into jewelry stores and putting people
into jail sans any good reason except the "war on terror,"
which, in turn, exists largely to enable the government to do things
like bursting into jewelry stores, and arresting people without
sufficient cause. It's all about the economy, and the absurd measures
which must be utilized to justify the efforts to keep it afloat,
at least until the next election. Government breaks laws right and
left hassling private individuals who may have broken no law at
all. It's routine.

government serve any lawful, legitimate, purpose? Does justice flourish
pursuant to its activities? Are our freedom and prosperity enhanced
by its existence?

it high time that we gently, but firmly, rid ourselves of it?

15, 2002

Hein [send
him mail
] is a semi-retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis,
and the author of All
Work & No Pay
, which will soon be available at Amazon.com.

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