Canadians now the biggest foreign purchasers of Florida real estate: BMO
More than 500,000 Canadians now own property in what was one of the hardest hit U.S. states in the 2008 housing meltdown.
Snowbirds have helped drive a 12 per cent increase in Florida real estate over the last two years.
By: Susan Pigg Business Reporter, Published on Thu Apr 11 2013
Canadians’ unrelenting passion for sun and sand has helped drive a 12 per cent increase in Florida real estate over the last two years, according to a BMO report.
More than 500,000 Canadians now own property in what was one of the hardest hit U.S. states in the 2008 housing meltdown, making them the biggest foreign purchasers of Florida real estate.
Their purchases are picking up steam, says a report by BMO Financial Group released Thursday.
The price of a single-family home has climbed 12 per cent since hitting its low point in April 2011, according to the most recent S&P Case-Shiller study of U.S. house prices.
Chinese, the new Florida snowbirds
The report paints an interesting picture of where Snowbirds have landed in the sunshine state, many of them what Florida Home Finders of Canada has dubbed “endvestors” – folks scooping up real estate while it’s cheap and interest rates low and renting properties out until they can eventually retire to Florida for winter or vacation there more often.
"Beyond the obvious attraction of great weather and beautiful beaches, there are two factors that are making Florida real estate an especially good value for Canadians," said Jack Ablin, Chief Investment Officer, BMO Private Bank. "The first is that Florida properties are a bargain compared to real estate in Canada. The median priced home in Florida is nearly half than that in Canada. At the same time, the Canadian dollar is trading nearly 10 per cent above ‘fair’ value versus the U.S. dollar, arming Snowbird shoppers with extra buying power."
Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice remains the most popular destination by far, says BMO. A whopping 17 per cent of Canadian purchasers have bought up homes and condos in the gulf coast area renowned for its sugary beaches, stunning keys and cultural offerings.
Second most popular is the more easterly destination of Orlando-Kissimmee, home to Disney and dozens of other amusements parks, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach with its vibrant nightlife and ocean vistas where some 13 per cent of Canadians have invested in properties, according to the BMO study.
Nine per cent of Canadians have opted to buy in gulf coast areas of Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Naples-Marco Island.
The remaining 30 per cent are scattered throughout the state. Florida has also seen a surge in Asian investment companies buying up multiple properties, sensing prices are about to rise.
Canadians accounted for almost 40 per cent of all real estate purchases in Florida in 2010, BMO notes, adding that a report from 2012 found 16 per cent of Canadians were considering making a purchase south of the border, some 29 per cent of them as an investment and 56 per cent simply to have a fun family gathering place.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:55 am
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RBC replaces Canadian staff with foreign workers
Axed employee blows whistle; federal government investigating
By Kathy Tomlinson, CBC News
Posted: Apr 6, 2013 5:31 PM PT
Dozens of employees at Canada’s largest bank are losing their jobs to temporary foreign workers, who are in Canada to take over the work of their department.
“They are being brought in from India, and I am wondering how they got work visas,” said Dave Moreau, one of the employees affected by the move. “The new people are in our offices and we are training them to do our jobs. That adds insult to injury.”
Moreau, who works in IT systems support, said he is one of 50 employees who facilitate various transactions for RBC Investor Services in Toronto, which serves the bank’s biggest and wealthiest institutional clients.
As a result of Go Public’s inquiries, the office of the minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada — the federal office that approved iGATE’s plans to bring in foreign workers — issued a statement late Saturday.
"We have recently learned of allegations that RBC could be replacing Canadian workers by contracting with iGate, which is filling some of the roles with temporary foreign workers. If true, this situation is unacceptable.
"The purpose of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is to fill acute labour needs when Canadians are not available for the work required. It was never intended as a means to bring in temporary foreign workers in order to replace already-employed Canadian workers.
"I have instructed my department to work with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to determine the next steps."
In February, RBC told Moreau and his colleagues 45 of their jobs with the regulatory and financial applications team would be terminated at the end of April.
"There are a lot of angry people," Moreau told Go Public. "A lot those people are in their late 50s or early 60s. They are not quite ready for retirement yet, but it may be very difficult to employ them."
Moreau will get a severance package, but expects it won’t last long.
“I am going to be broke," he said. "I don’t have enough money to live on. I have some RSPs. I have very little in the pension plan at RBC … I have a wife that works part time at a very low wage.”
Another RBC staffer, who didn’t want to be named, said it’s devastating.
“It’s horrible to be in this situation,” the employee said. “The bank is doing this while making billions of dollars in record profits and they don’t think about the impact on us. We are like fleas on an elephant.”
The foreign workers who are taking over the RBC work in Toronto are employed by a multinational outsourcing firm from India – iGATE Corp. – which has a contract with the bank to provide IT services.
The two companies have been working closely since 2005. There is an "RBC Offshore Development Centre" in the iGATE facility in Bangalore.
RBC spokesperson Rina Cortese told Go Public several foreign workers from iGATE will be working in the bank’s Toronto offices until 2015. By then, she said, most of the work will be transferred abroad, but a few of the foreigners will remain indefinitely.
Displacement against rules
However, it is against federal rules for any company to bring foreign workers into Canada temporarily if it will put citizens out of work.
“The rules are very clear. You cannot displace Canadians to hire people from abroad,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
The federal government recently announced it is tightening rules for its Temporary Foreign Worker program because of criticism over foreigners taking jobs from Canadians.
RBC said the work is being outsourced for cost savings and efficiency.
“External suppliers with the right skills allow us to introduce new efficiencies, continually improve our service at reduced cost and reinvest in initiatives that enhance the client experience,” a statement from the bank read. “Agreements with our suppliers include strict controls and ongoing monitoring to ensure full compliance with all regulatory requirements.”
However, the bank refused to answer repeated questions about the type of work visas the iGATE employees have or how they were approved, given the job losses involved.
“We do not comment on specific supplier relationships,” Cortese said.
Moreau called the situation "a mass exodus. It’s the first time that they’ve taken this many people and terminated their jobs. I would like to know how this happened. If it’s possible I would like to see it stopped.”
iGATE, a rapidly growing company with offices around the world, including Mississauga and Toronto, has been in trouble before over foreign worker hirings.
This plaque is on an RBC building in iGATE’s Bangalore facility. The bank has been outsourcing IT work to iGATE for several years. This plaque is on an RBC building in iGATE’s Bangalore facility. The bank has been outsourcing IT work to iGATE for several years. (CBC)
In 2008, the multinational paid $45,000 to settle charges by the U.S. Department of Justice for discriminating against American citizens. iGATE was advertising jobs in the U.S. for foreign workers — effectively saying Americans need not apply.
iGATE said it brings its foreign workforce into Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and under intra-company transfer visas.
However, a Toronto immigration lawyer says there is no loophole in any visa category that allows companies to displace Canadians who are able to do the work.
“It should not happen,” Mario Bellisimo told Go Public. “The overarching legal standard is to supplement and to fill labour shortages or to bring job creation and retention, knowledge transfer to Canada, not the opposite."
But iGate spokesperson Prabhanjan Deshpande said the company is operating within the law: "For any engagement requiring foreign workers, appropriate immigration applications are filed by iGATE and all work authorizations are properly issued under existing law and policy."
Go Public asked whether the company had told federal authorities Canadian jobs would be terminated when iGATE temporary foreign workers were brought in to work at RBC. Go Public did not receive a direct answer.
Foreign workers lack skills
The iGATE employees don’t appear to have any special skills Canadians don’t, the RBC workers told Go Public.
“That’s why we are training them,” Moreau said. “The person who is replacing me has asked a lot of questions and doesn’t know a major portion of the type of systems that we are working with."
Dave Moreau and his co-workers at RBC are being replaced by temporary foreign contractors. He can’t understand how or why those workers got visas to come into Canada and take his job. Dave Moreau and his co-workers at RBC are being replaced by temporary foreign contractors. He can’t understand how or why those workers got visas to come into Canada and take his job. (CBC )
“If they had the knowledge [to do the jobs] it would be easier to swallow,” said the unnamed employee, who predicted client service will suffer.
The workers also said they were not offered jobs with iGATE and were told this "realignment" might expand to affect more of the bank’s 57,500 employees in Canada.
“We were told this is almost like a pilot project,” the unnamed employee said.
“I am certain this isn’t an isolated incident,” Moreau said. “I know that iGATE has a very aggressive plan to grow their business over the next few years, and that’s going to be at the expense of Canadian citizens who are working.”
Kenney said he was not aware of this case, but the onus is on both companies to obey the rules.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says that under federal rules, no foreign worker can be allowed into Canada if the move displaces a Canadian from their job.Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says that under federal rules, no foreign worker can be allowed into Canada if the move displaces a Canadian from their job. (CBC)
“If an employer is playing some kind of a shell game, that is not consistent with the rules,” the immigration minister said. “[The Temporary Foreign Worker Program] is not there for employers to make short cuts to displace Canadians — and if they are trying to do that, they should have the book thrown at them.”
Jinny Sims, the opposition’s immigration critic, wants to see concrete action. RBC could afford to retrain the Canadian workers if need be, she said.
“This appears to be a blatant abuse of our system,” Sims said. “We’ve got so many well- qualified people who don’t have jobs, so surely we have a government that should be tackling the outsourcing issue and looking at how to keep jobs at home.”
RBC said it is trying to find new positions for the people affected.
“Several employees have found positions or are in the final stages of offers for other RBC roles, and a few others have chosen to retire,” RBC said. “We continue our efforts to ensure remaining impacted employees obtain suitable roles.”
However, employees told Go Public fewer than five of 45 displaced people have found new jobs.
IGATE says it deploys its foreign workforce into Canada and other countries when needed. The company got in trouble in 2008, when it was fined in the U.S. for hiring foreign workers instead of Americans for jobs there. IGATE says it deploys its foreign workforce into Canada and other countries when needed. The company got in trouble in 2008, when it was fined in the U.S. for hiring foreign workers instead of Americans for jobs there. (Reuters)
“What they are saying and what we see happening are two different things,” said the unnamed employee. “What we see happening is nothing.”
Moreau said he’s applied for 14 other jobs within RBC since the announcement. He said he’s been told he is not suitable for two of them, and has yet to hear back about the rest.
“I hate injustice, and I feel as though a lot of people are being hurt,” Moreau said. “It’s just not fair to people who have worked for years and years and years and suddenly find themselves out of work for not a really good reason.”
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Sun Apr 07, 2013 1:27 am
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Leonard Liggio is currently the Executive Vice President of Academics at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a Distinguished Senior Scholar at the Institute for Humane Studies, and a Research Professor at George Mason University’s School of Law.
In this lecture from a Laissez-Faire Supper Club meeting in 1981, Liggio gives a history of foreign policy beginning in England during the Enlightenment and spanning all the way up to the Cold War. He makes the case that government intervention abroad through the centuries has been just as disastrous and has been fraught with just as many unintended consequences as government intervention in domestic policy.
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To both a greater and lesser degree of success, foreign policy scholars have tried to explain the disconnect between President Obama’s soaring idealism of America’s role in the world and his halting political caution about it in discrete situations. That vacillation has drawn criticism, both for being too meddlesome and for not being meddlesome enough.
Daily Caller contributor Adam Bates ably sums up the president’s incoherence as “not based on any particular logic or worldview beyond the president’s own desire to distance himself from America’s foreign policy past without bothering to actually change any policies.” Indeed. As this author has written in the past, specifically on counterterrorism policies,
On the one hand, Obama openly rejected Bush’s ‘with us or against us’ approach to foreign affairs. On the other hand, Obama’s sophisticated demeanor opened him to criticism, with hawks condemning him as too weak and easily manipulated by America’s enemies.
The administration has supported policies that have failed to deliver tangible benefits to the American people (Libya), continued to prop up brutal regimes (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt), and helped tether our country to the region’s parochial quarrels (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and perhaps ever-more-so in Syria). Despite seemingly courageous attempts to distance itself from failed policies of the past, the Obama administration has managed to drift into strategic purgatory.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Benjamin H. Friedman
John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA director displayed Congress’s disinterest in checking the president’s runaway security powers. Two months ago, when I wrote an article with the unwieldy title, “Will Obama’s Brennan Pick Shed Some Much Needed Light on Drones?” I wouldn’t have guessed that the answer would be yes; it will bestir Congress to finally force the administration to say clearly that it does not reserve the right to kill Americans at home with drone strikes, insofar as they are not engaged in combat. That statement came only thanks to whomever leaked the Justice Department’s summary memo on the topic, Brennan and Attorney General Eric Holder’s impolitic reluctance to articulate limits on the president’s power to kill Americans by calling them terrorists, and, of course, Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) resulting filibuster. The Senate predictably left Brennan’s other sins against civil liberties mostly unexamined.
Paul’s hard-won “toehold of constitutionality” isn’t much to cheer about, even if we add to the spoils the administration’s vague agreement to be more open about its legal rationale for placing people on kill lists. This minimal defense of civil liberties and congressional privilege is what got Republican senators like Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz, Jr. of Texas, who seem to support unfettered executive discretion to kill in the name of counterterrorism outside the United States, to support the filibuster.
Even that was too much restraint for the neoconservative right. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) read on the Senate floor a Wall Street Journal editorial calling Paul’s effort a stunt meant to “fire up impressionable libertarian kids” and assuring us that those targeted by drones here or abroad will be “enemy combatants.” McCain and the Journal spectacularly miss Paul’s point: the issue is whether the president should make that designation, chucking due process rights, without being checked by another branch of government.
As McCain amigo Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) noted, the Republican caucus’ flirtation with civil libertarianism seems a situational consequence of partisanship. The same goes for Democrats. Were it President McCain doing what Obama is, far more than two Democratic senators (Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Pat Leahy of Vermont) would have voted against Brennan. During his filibuster, Paul asked what happened to the Senator Obama of 2007, who opposed torture and war by executive fiat. Paul suggests that those views were products of Obama’s then circumstance: not being president. Even that may be too generous. As I wrote in a recent book review concerning Obama’s counterterrorism record, “even when he took office, there was ample evidence that his dovish positions would not outlast their political convenience.”
We can hope, I suppose, that Paul’s stance will increase Congress’s willingness to assert its constitutional war powers. Although he did not, as far as I know, propose specific restrictions on the use of military force outside of the United States, Paul did complain that the 2001 Authorization of Military Force against the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks and those that harbored them has become a permanent warrant for almost limitless executive war powers, a kind of escape hatch from the Constitution opened by presidential utterance of the word “terrorist.”
These are questions that should be discussed in Congress… In fact, we shouldn’t be asking [the president] for drone memos, we should be giving him drone memos. We shouldn’t be asking him how he’s going to run the drone program. We should be telling him how he’s to run the drone program. That is our authority. We’ve abdicated our authority. We don’t do what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to be the checks and balances.
That abdication is the subject of the cover essay (“Congressional Abdication”) in the current National Interest by former Virginia senator Jim Webb. Webb argues that Congress has so thoroughly surrendered its constitutional prerogatives in foreign policy that their existence is unknown to many members. He’s especially upset by Congress’ indifference to the bombing of Libya:
It is not hyperbole to say that the president himself can now bomb a country with which we maintain diplomatic relations, in support of loosely aligned opposition groups that do not represent any coalition that we actually recognize as an alternative. We know he can do it because he already has done it. Few leaders in the legislative branch even asked for a formal debate over this exercise of unilateral presidential power, and in the Senate any legislation pertaining to the issue was prevented from reaching the floor. One can only wonder at what point these leaders or their successors might believe it is their constitutional duty to counter unchecked executive power exercised on behalf of overseas military action. At bottom, what we have witnessed in these instances, as with many others, is a breakdown of our constitutional process.
For reasons I explain elsewhere, I doubt Paul and Webb’s exhortations will move their colleagues to again struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy. I hope I’m wrong—that Congress will rewrite the 2001 Authorization of Military Force in a more restrictive way and generally revise the legal framework for lethal counterterrorism operations to create more transparency and restraint (on this, read Robert Chesney, Steve Vladeck, and Jack Goldsmith, who all write for the Lawfare blog). The chief virtue of doing so is not formal adherence to constitutional structure, but the wisdom inherent in that structure: contested authority creates better policies than the unilateral sort.
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I was surprised but pleased to see that a blog post I wrote in 2009 started getting some attention yesterday. The post, which emerged from a paper I gave at the 2010 APSA, argued that there is a big gap between the views of U.S. grand strategy in the international relations academy versus the view in the foreign policy community (FPC), and that this gap is caused by domestic politics. In short, academics tend to think American strategy is unduly grandiose and FPC types think it’s great. Dan Drezner has a post up wondering whether this is generally true, or unique to the Iraq period.
To begin, I’m not sure why Drezner thinks that in order for my argument to be correct, “the foreign policy community should be united in dispatching military force at every opportunity since Iraq.” Neither the blog post nor the paper on which it was based argued that the foreign policy community should unanimously support every potential war, but rather that they were united around an activist strategy that produced Iraq.
That’s what made the recent article by Stephen Brooks, John Ikenberry, and Bill Wohlforth so edifying. It was the first defense of American grand strategy I can recall reading that was sophisticated enough to be published in a journal like International Security. And the reason they wrote it? Because according to “many of the most prominent security studies scholars—and indeed most scholars who write on the future of U.S. grand strategy” retrenchment’s time has come.
It’s worth noting that a disproportionate number of academics writing about grand strategy are realists, so that’s coloring the ideological content of what the academics are producing. Drezner has complained about realist victimhood before, but grand strategy is an elite sport, and even he admits that “America’s foreign policy elites are more hostile to realpolitik – though even here, things can be exaggerated.” Drezner then points to Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft as bearers of the realist flag, but even if you would lump Kissinger and Scowcroft in with Posen and Walt (I wouldn’t), both men are in their late 80s. There is no realist faction in the FPC, if by “realist” we mean “person whose views on strategy comport with leading academic realists.”
Think about members of the FPC who work on strategy and scholars in the academy who do so. Is a potential strategy debate between, say, a Democrat like Anne-Marie Slaughter and a Republican like Robert Kagan very interesting? I don’t think so. It’s fought between the seven and nine-yard lines at the primacy end of the field. Then consider a debate between, say, Barry Posen or John Mearsheimer, on the one hand, and Kagan or Slaughter on the other. Pass the popcorn.
You can reconcile this one of two ways. One, you can say that there’s a problem in the academy. Primacy is so obviously the optimal grand strategy for the United States that it reflects poorly on the ivory tower that so many strategists there don’t get it. Two, you can conclude that the strategy is not self-evidently optimal, so there’s something wrong with the consensus in Washington.
While we’re here, though, let’s take Drezner’s question about whether the disagreement over Iraq was an aberration. Let’s look at two of the biggest strategic questions facing Washington over the last five and next five years: Afghanistan and Iran.
Afghanistan — I had a fairly easy time pulling together signatures from academics for the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy’s letter to President Obama urging him not to surge into Afghanistan in 2009. Signatures from Beltway types were hard to come by. For his part, Columbia’s Jack Snyder characterized the view from the academy this way:
Pretty much everyone thinks that the conditions in Afghanistan are terrible, that the political situation is terrible, and thus that the conditions for successful counterinsurgency and state-building are inauspicious,” says Snyder, warning that the current war strategy “would be costly, would take a really long time, and might not work.
As always, more/better data would be better, but other than Stephen Biddle, I don’t know a lot of academics who thought Surge Part II was a movie worth seeing.
Iran — An awful lot of academics and others are saying we could live with a nuclear Iran without too much difficulty. The most recent TRIPs survey of IR academics had the “bomb Iran/live with a nuclear Iran” count at 20 percent to 80 percent. That’s not the order of battle in the FPC. Not in public, or in the political debate, anyway. For example, in a recent “national security insiders” poll from National Journal, a narrow majority of insiders did say—implicitly—that living with a nuclear Iran would be better than a war. But, importantly, those answers were given anonymously. And half of the public Beltway commentary over what to do about Iran does not say we could live with a nuclear Iran, which again points to the incentives facing defense intellectuals in Washington. People who appear to believe we could live with a nuclear Iran aren’t saying so forcefully, despite the important consequences. Why not?
The paper argues that domestic political factors are at work. I just uploaded the final edited version at SSRN, so give it a look and, as Drezner might ask, tell me what I’m missing.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Daniel J. Ikenson
In a Wall Street Journal oped today, Former Council of Economic Advisors chairman Ed Lazear pokes some big holes in the theory that Chinese currency manipulation explains that country’s big trade surplus, contradicting the central argument of a recent paper from the Peterson Institute.
I concur with Lazear and offer my own critique of the Peterson paper on Forbes, today.
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Robert Poole is one of the founders of the Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason Magazine), and served as its president and CEO from 1978 to 2000. He is currently director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation and frequently writes about issues related to privatization.
In this video from a Libertarian International conference in 1984, Poole speaks about the moral frameworks surrounding national defense and foreign policy. He also goes into the means of national defense, including a lengthy discussion on nuclear armaments and nuclear shield programs.
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By Christopher Preble
Josh Rogin had a chance to interview Tennessee’s Bob Corker, likely to be the next ranking member or chairman (depending upon whether the Republicans regain the majority) on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In an interview with The Cable, Corker said he wants the job, that he has been making preliminary preparations just in case he gets it, and that he has a vision of restoring the committee to a place of renewed prominence in the foreign-policy discussion in Washington and around the world.
“We understand the decision about who leads the Foreign Relations Committee is up to the caucus, but in the event I end up being the person, quietly we’ve done a significant amount of travel throughout the world to understand issues more deeply, we’ve had meetings and briefings with numbers of people with varying backgrounds and have really tried to immerse ourselves in such a way that if I am the person, I have the ability to be effective,” Corker said.
I was puzzled by this, however.
Without much fanfare, Corker has visited 48 countries over the past two years, often traveling commercial…. Here in Washington, he’s been meeting with conservatives and realists alike. Some of his briefings and social events have been organized by the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka, a former staffer for SRFC chairman Jesse Helms, who declined to comment for this article. (my emphasis)
I wasn’t aware that Pletka knew many realists. More substantively, her foreign policy views don’t seem to align very closely with Corker’s, so it is curious that she would be helping him build a staff-in-waiting for the committee.
For example, Corker has exhibited a welcome degree of pragmatism and prudence when it comes to intervening in civil wars, and he appears to share the public’s distaste for having U.S. troops carry out open-ended nation-building missions. Pletka, by contrast, was an early advocate for U.S. intervention in Libya and Syria. She championed the war in Iraq at every stage. She has scorned any suggestion that the United States should eventually withdraw from Afghanistan. And she complained that American leadership “cannot be subcontracted” to other countries, even though those other countries might have actual interests at stake. Most Americans want the U.S. government to intervene less often abroad, and they welcome other countries stepping forward, and assuming greater responsibility for their own security, and in their respective neigborhoods. I’m guessing that Sen. Corker does as well.
There is a healthy debate brewing within the Republican Party over the purpose of American power, and there does appear to be some movement toward the public’s view, which is increasingly skeptical of being the world’s armed social worker. If Bob Corker becomes the new face of GOP foreign policy, I expect that he will listen to a broad range of views, including actual realists.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Ayn Rand was a brilliant author, an influential polemicist, and a great thinker. I don’t care if the academic mainstream thinks less of me for saying so. That’s so much the worse for them.
But she wasn’t always right. Foreign policy is one of the areas where she stumbled, at least on one occasion. Her essay “The Roots of War” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal is magisterial, and I love it in particular for the following:
The trader and the warrior have been fundamental antagonists throughout history. Trade does not flourish on battlefields, factories do not produce under bombardments, profits do not grow on rubble. Capitalism is a society of traders—for which it has been denounced by every would-be gunman who regards trade as “selfish” and conquest as “noble.”
Truer or more important words have never been written about human history. I find it difficult, however, to accept the following quotation, also from her:
Anyone who wants to invade a dictatorship or semi-dictatorship is morally justified in doing so, because he is doing no worse than what that country has accepted as its social system.
I recognize no right whatsoever for dictatorships to exist. But I think that Rand erred here in two ways.
First, it is perverse to hold that people suffering under a dictatorship have “accepted” the dictator’s evil acts, such that anything we do to them in the course of a war is no better than what they are in effect doing to themselves.
Many of a dictator’s subjects doubtless are responsible. Not just the dictator and his cronies, but also his enablers in politics, the press, the academy, the business world, and elsewhere. But others surely wish the dictator were gone. If anything, they probably wish it more strongly than we do. Lumping these people together with their domestic persecutors is indefensible.
Note the collective noun, “that country,” and ponder its moral implications. It’s not the sort of thinking I would expect from an individualist like Ayn Rand. Indeed, coming from her, I find it prima facie evidence that this answer – first given in an interview – wasn’t the product of deep reflection. It’s on such thin foundations that some have even built a foreign policy approach that Jennifer Louise Burns has likened, embarrassingly, to neoconservatism. All of which I ultimately find hard to reconcile with “The Roots of War.”
Many in a dictatorship would obviously prefer a free, liberal polity. Yet achieving that goal may well be impossible, and we do not ordinarily blame or punish people for failing to do the impossible, or for not achieving it on a schedule of our devising. Nor can we discount their lives to nothing; they are not sacrificial animals any more than we are. That’s the reason why acts of war must survive an exceptionally difficult moral test.
Rand’s second mistake was to neglect another relevant group of people: the citizens of the liberating country. I agree as a matter of principle that it is always legitimate to overthrow a dictator. Dictators also need to know that when we are attacked, we will destroy them, as we should, wherever they may be located geographically.
Yet for better or worse, I am also a student of history. And in the history of our country, there has not been one single armed conflict of any note in which Americans’ liberties did not contract. War has always brought restrictions on travel, immigration, trade, free expression, habeas corpus, and the judiciary as a whole. It can still mean conscription, the closest thing to slavery that we tolerate under law. Here or abroad, it can mean displacement, dispossession, internment, and torture.
These are not accidents or coincidences. They are the very stuff of war; they are what war is. As James Madison put it, “Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”
If I could push a button and depose a dictator without any other consequences, then of course I would do it. But that is not and has never been a choice in the real world. There the question is much more complicated, and experience has shown that very often we must decline the offer, not because we are indifferent to liberty, but because we value it so much.
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