Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

> how on earth has it come to this??

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn't speak out because I was Protestant.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Martin Niemöller (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came%E2%80%A6)

It has come to this one small step at a time. That is how politicians work. They know that the "whole" is to scary for voters to accept all at once. So they find just what they can get away with this year, then grab a tiny bit more next year, and so on. Eventually, everyone looks back and thinks "how on earth has it come to this??"

The scary part is that I don't imagine any politician actually wanting this.

Or am I just too naive?

They're not scrutinized at the border.

I'll go with the too naive.

What they want is maximum power/profit.

And it's not politicians --those are mostly puppets.

America is/is becoming a corporate state, and corporatism was the very essence of Mussolini's fascism.

The very notion of lobbyist groups is fascistic (Mussolini himself partitioned the power system in Italy to consist of various group interests in a great extend).

Power and law become then an exchange between groups (lobbying), experts (often paid lackeys of said groups), and politicians, and democracy goes out of the window.

The democratic alternative would have been several opposed political parties, so that the play for power is open to the general masses --the population that supports them-- directly, and is carried out as a public struggle for the vote.

But the differences between Republicans and Democrats in most matters are mostly marginal or a joke, and mainly in issues that don't matter to the actual power play --- like playing pro or against "gay marriage" to appeal to conservative or progressive voters, the same voters that both parties pass laws to make them poorer and more controlled in every possible way.

America is/is becoming a corporate state

You're being way too reductionist, buying the anti-capitalist propaganda. To be sure, there's plenty of bad things to be said about corporations. But it's tremendously naive to believe that it's corporations that are calling all the shots.

Remember, the corporations looking for these perks are every bit as dependent on the power of government as the government is on corporate donations. So directing ire at corporations for trying to get rents out of the government, without simultaneously excoriating government officials for selling out, is misguided.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the only viable strategy to combat this is to combat the government abuses.

The corporations are doing what's natural: find places where they can get advantages over competitors, and take them to maximize shareholder value. But the government officials are more culpable. They are making promises that they (seem to) have no intention of keeping, and in doing so are blatantly violating their oaths of office. While the negative end results is the result of each, I believe that the members of the government are more immoral, and more deserving of our anger.

And the answer is not greater legislation to control corporations. That's just giving the government more power that they can sell to the highest bidder. The answer is to strip away the government's power. This may seem counterintuitive, because it appears to leave us unprotected against corporate abuse. But when the vehicle to that abuse is through government power, then curtaining that power leaves the corporations themselves unarmed against us.

This is really quite analogous to the arguments for/against gun control. Sure, demanding licensing of guns, etc., keeps the weapons out of the hands of much of the public. But the bad guys still get the guns, and the poor law-abiding citizens are then left defenseless. It's better, in my mind, to ensure that we can all compete on a level playing field, rather than handicap the citizenry so that the bad guys (or the corporations) get the power.

...You're being way too reductionist, buying the anti-regulation propaganda. To be sure, there's plenty of bad things to be said about regulations. But it's tremendously naive to believe that a lack of regulations - a case which we have recently experienced with the deregulation of the finance markets and of Wall Street, and the subsequent financial melt-down - will cure our ills.

There is ample evidence of corporate fraud in recent years, not the least of which is around the mortgage securitization processes.

We need a level playing field, with known, equitable rules, and with enforcement, and with judicial review.

Commit to regulation and a pro-governance model? Lose.

Commit to a corporate model and a pro-corporate model? Lose.

It's about balance.

it's tremendously naive to believe that a lack of regulations ... will cure our ills. ... It's about balance.

You'll have to first account for two words: "regulatory capture".

Until you can find a miracle to get around that problem, regulation is in the long run destined to be turned inside-out and used to sustain the industries. Look no farther than the current debates about various IP problems for an example.

This is one of the better reasoned comments I've read in a while.

There is an old Milton Friedman video floating around which dates back to the 1970s. At the time he was spending a lot of time trying to convince people that oversized governments weren't a good thing.

One of the very salient points he makes to a detractor is that if you limit the size of the government, you - by nature - limit the power a corporation can obtain. If the government has limited powers, so it goes that a corporation can gain limited powers - it should be impossible for a corporation to gain more power than a government.

It's the essential point that everyone skips over - they see government powers failing to check corporate growth, and so want more government power. If you take this to the argument by absurdity, you end up with a fascist government that exerts total control over the people, and then licences that control out to selected corporations in return for cash and favors.

The problem is human nature - and the solution must be to design a system that makes the assumption that humans will try and gather power and abuse it. It's the same concept as term limits but applied across a much broader spectrum.

People still invoke Milton Friedman like some guru to be respected? They guy's theories were the cause of the worst economic fiascos in the history of fiascos (in general, not just economic ones).

Consider this "very salient point": "if you limit the size of the government, you - by nature - limit the power a corporation can obtain. If the government has limited powers, so it goes that a corporation can gain limited powers - it should be impossible for a corporation to gain more power than a government".

This point is BS. There are places where corporations (or even one corporation) have more power than the government everywhere around the world, especially in Africa and Asia. There are entire countries where the government is just paid lackeys and a front for some mega-corporation. There is even a term for those, they are called "banana republics".

The limiting of the argument to "one corporation" is especially BS, since even if a single corporation cannot get "bigger than the government" in a place like the US, the "corporate interests" can and do get bigger than the government.

Despite fighting in the market (and that, only if they are serving the same market, which, say, Google, Exxon and GE do not), corporations also agree on a lot of things. For example media companies agree on SOPA and PIPA and a thousand other things (drm everywhere, destroy cinematographers unions, etc). And all corporate interest's also converge on a lot of things, like tax deductions, being able to fire any employee at will, lower minimum wages, unpaid overtime, etc.

Consider a country where there is no public health coverage. What will happen will not be "competing health services for the benefit of the customer" but an emergence of a health industry cartel and the total dependence of the people in it. Things that need big scale and resources, like building, buying equipment, and running a hospital or a bank or an insurance company, have been seen time and again to build cartels with "competitors" and kill competition to maximize profits.

(See also: http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27512/ , but one can also see it from experience, if one follows the political/social history of more than one country --something easy to do in Europe).

People talking about the limiting of the power of government always have in mind the equation "government = some politicians who abuse their power", and never "government = the only power body that is elected and somewhat controlled by the general public".

> America is/is becoming a corporate state, and corporatism was the very essence of Mussolini's fascism.

Not the same thing. 'Corporatism' in the Italian Fascism sense does not mean what you think it means. It means all society is organized 'corporations' controlled by the state.

Actually, the same thing.

All society is turning to "organized corporations" controlled by the state.

That's why in my comment above, I did not only talk about corporations as such ("Microsoft", "Google", "Apple", "GE", etc), but also about lobbies in general.

All those (actual companies, and aggregate lobbying entities like the health lobby, the christian lobby, the gay lobby, the gun lobby, the press lobby) etc are the equivalent of fascism corporations.

A nice discourse of this can be found in this book: http://www.amazon.com/Unconscious-Civilization-John-Ralston-...

> Actually, the same thing.

No. Look up the definitions.

> All society is turning to "organized corporations" controlled by the state.

Again, only in your mind. There is no evidence of this outside your head.


1) You go to 2 wars with the dumbest of excuses by the dumbest of presidents in order for some mega-corps in the industrial-military complex to profit.

-- said president probably got elected due to electoral fraud in the first place, anyway--

2) You have para-police security personnel do naked scans of you and cup your genitals in airpots.

3) You have laws that invalidate due process, like the Patriot Act.

4) You have mass electronic surveillance, security agencies installing backdoors in public platforms, etc.

5) You give ~ 1 trillion dollar bailout to mass financial companies that brought the economy to a halt through deregulation and greed.

6) They try to pass 2-3 laws (PIPA, SOPA, ACTA) to control the internet, including censoring whole websites.

and "there is no evidence of this". Except in my head. Right.

How is this head-in-the-sand thing working for you?

> How is this head-in-the-sand thing working for you?

And so you resort to ad-hominem and downvoting instead of argument.

First, I can't down-vote, my account is quite new still and doesn't have the capability (see the green color on my name?). Probably other people disagreeing with you have down-voted you. I happens, you know.

Second, I resort to ad-hominen? Really? Because, besides the "head in the sand" comment, my reply included SIX (count 'em!), numbered, counter arguments. It boggles the mind how one can manage to miss them.

And all those six (count 'em) arguments, in order to reply to your sans-argument ad-hominen that it's all "only in [my] mind. There is no evidence of this outside [my] head".

Do you realize how many people will find it offensive that you are using this quote to compare a treaty to the holocaust? There is a big difference between a treaty which may infringe on civil liberties and killing people based on their beliefs or ethnicity.

It's okay to make slippery slope arguments, but let's not get into Godwin territory.

I think it would be sad if Niemoller's point, that one must speak up for the rights of others, or no one will speak up for yours, was decided to be inapplicable in all situations, since his experience involved Nazis.

There's always some excuse to avoid his point, especially when it most needs to be heard.

I realise this is always a sensitive area, but please consider that there are in fact laws on the books and government policies in many Western countries today that are every bit as evil as the kind of thing that was going on in Germany at that time.

We have detention without trial for extended periods, or indefinitely if you mutter the magic word "terrorism".

We have outright torture of detainees, and people dying in prisons.

If a suspect does get to trial, it might be in a secretive court where they have no opportunity to confront their accuser or see and challenge all of the evidence against them.

We have laws that allow government agents to infringe on almost every fundamental civil liberty by one kind of executive order or another, some of which are strikingly similar to the Enabling Act in their effect even if the intent was not necessarily the same.

We have routine invasion of privacy and monitoring of the general populace without any reasonable grounds for suspicion/probable cause/whatever you like to call it. There are well-documented cases of routine national surveillance being set up by police or security services without any oversight or consent from elected governments.

We have seen far too many cases of obvious abuse of peaceful protesters (or simply those caught in the wrong place at the wrong time) and in some cases we have seen courts accept a defence of the indefensible.

We have seen deaths at the hands of police actions that were later shown to be completely unjustified and an operational screw-up from start to finish, for which no-one has ever been held accountable.

The biggest difference between the situation today and the situation in Germany around the Second World War is a matter of scale, nothing more. And I think that is exactly the lesson that Pastor Niemoeller was trying to teach. While matters of intellectual property are hardly the stuff of revolutions, when you get into things like routine searches of private matters without justification, which in turn build on other obvious abuses that have been going in in the interests of "security" at transport hubs in recent years, I think you're way over the line into "why haven't we stopped this madness yet".

All of that is terrible but it's not state sponsored genocide.

But if it started, at this point, how would we stop it? That's the problem. All it takes now is the wrong person to get power.

pwg's point is that the road to any sort of catastrophic illiberal state-sponsored action is paved slowly and incrementally. Not that we are living in mini 1930s Germany. The situations in their substance or scale are not comparable.

Saying that "government policies in many Western countries today that are every bit as evil as the kind of thing that was going on in Germany at that time" is very ignorant. Who are our Jews and Gypsies? Where is our Kristallnacht? Where is our Triumph of the Will? Where is our 'Der Ewige Jew'? Where are our massive crowds doing what is our sieg heil?

In fact a fundamental difference between America 2012 and Germany 1938 (among many) is that we have massive amounts of people vocally and publicly against the laws our politicians are pushing and the state of the country. In 1938 Germany you had the exact opposite.

> Who are our Jews and Gypsies? Where is our Kristallnacht? Where is our Triumph of the Will? Where is our 'Der Ewige Jew'? Where are our massive crowds doing what is our sieg heil?

Fortunately the situation nowadays still is different in many points. However consider that several hundred thousands Iraqis have died for no good reason at all. That two countries are under military occupation.

The main contrast, as you mentioned, is people utter apathy. Instead of rabid nazis, we're seeing only paralysed sheep; instead of angry people wanting revenge from the entire world (read about the treaty of Versailles), we have frightened people afraid of losing their material comfort.

That doesn't make ACTA and other similar laws any better, unfortunately. Now more than ever westerners look like Elois under the control of Morlocks.

Please don't turn this into a US-centric discussion. We are talking about ACTA, which is a global deal, and my post was about the current situation in the West in general. I don't really want to go off on an extended off-topic debate anyway, since as I noted before ACTA itself is hardly on the same level as what we're talking about in this side-track.

> Who are our Jews and Gypsies?

Islamophobia is widespread since 9/11. In England and Wales, black people are thirty times as likely to be subject to a stop-and-search by the police as white people. Don't kid yourself that we don't have rampant discrimination just because you aren't in a group that gets discriminated against.

Obviously no-one credible is equating the seriousness of police abuse of stop-and-search powers with gas chamber mass executions. But there really are extreme cases with consequences not so far from the concentration camps even today. There's a little US military base in Cuba you've probably heard of, for example, and if you don't know why they chose to use that particular base for what they now use it for, you should really look up the history. Once again, the scale is very different, but what is the difference in principle?

One can draw similar parallels with some of the other things you mentioned.

We might not have Kristallnacht, but we are increasingly living in surveillance states, and we have increasingly paramilitary police weapons and tactics, and we have military units being deployed on home soil. We are eroding the fundamental concept of due process and basic legal principles like habeas corpus. I don't really believe we're about to see the violent subjugation of an entire section of our society or that our current political leaders have any ambition to act in that way, but that's not the point. The mechanisms for such abuse should never even be created in a free country.

We might not have Triumph of the Will, but modern political machines are propagandists unrivalled in the history of humanity. For example, for several years in the early 2000s, as the most recent Iraq War was building momentum, about half of the US population thought the Hussein regime was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. That support was used to justify a war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and taken a staggering amount of time and money out of Western governments that could have been spent on far more constructive purposes.

> In fact a fundamental difference between America 2012 and Germany 1938 (among many) is that we have massive amounts of people vocally and publicly against the laws our politicians are pushing and the state of the country.

And the really scary thing in all of this is that you have massive amounts more who are openly complying and think it's all being done for their safety and well-being. As I said, modern political machines are propagandists without equal. They're just more subtle about it than they were 75 years ago.

Kristalnacht, 'Der Ewige Jew', Triumph of the Will, the death camps and concentration camps, these were all concerted campaigns against the 'undesirables' of Germany in order to promote racial purity.

You have given examples of parallels to these things but there is no commonality of purpose behind them.

'Der Ewige Jude' was not a campaign to create a 'common enemy' or hoodwink the German people as I assume you believe Islamophobia is (I can only assume you believe Islamophobia can be explained by media promotion rather than an emergent feeling among the populace in response to 9/11). It was done with the express purpose of dehumanizing Jews so the populace would be complacent with the gas chambers.

So please, show me a commonality of purpose behind all these parallels you have shown. All you have are disparate events to which you have identified a certain aspect which is similar to what Nazi Germany did.

I don't think there is much commonality of purpose with many of the legal/governmental trends today, other than acting out of fear of some perceived bogeyman (though not necessarily the same one in each case) or in the interests of a powerful minority at the expense of the majority (ditto).

Still, it doesn't matter to a black kid in London whether he's being excessively hassled because a senior officer made an active decision to employ racial profiling or because of institutional racism within the Met. The consequence is still the same.

Moreover, in most of the worst cases today, there really is someone actively making those decisions. Guantanamo Bay did not become what it is by accident. The West did not invade Iraq by accident, and the Blair administration did not fail to notice the two million citizens marching in protest to demonstrate that the war did not have popular support. More recently, the police did not detain peaceful protestors in London in a restricted area for hours without food, water or toilet facilities by accident, and the courts that condoned such behaviour did not reach their decision without looking at the evidence to establish the facts of what really happened and why.

These actions all had different victims, and obviously some had much more serious consequences than others. The one thing they all have in common is authorities that are granted powers in law that most of us don't get using those powers in ways that conflict with what we used to consider basic human rights and getting away with it. However well-intentioned they might have been in their actions, however they rationalised those decisions in their own minds, some rights and freedoms should be above interference by the administration of the day, whoever the victims are and however small their number, and any decent human being ought to stand up for those rights and freedoms wherever they are threatened. As I said, I think that is exactly the warning Pastor Niemoeller was trying to give us.

So the only difference between Western governments and the Nazis is a matter of scale and your evidence for this is that Western governments are abusing their power.

All governments past and present abuse their power. Sometimes in large ways. Sometimes in small ways. That alone is not sufficient to warrant a comparison to Nazi Germany which carries more historical baggage than it's clear you realize.

You are cheapening your position by resorting to hyperbole.

You are reading things into my posts that are not there. I am commenting only on objective things like laws that are being passed and practical policies being adopted today. Those laws and policies have very serious consequences for a relatively small number of people today, but for now only much less serious consequences for the wider population. However, they could be exploited by an undesirable administration at some future point to have serious consequences much more widely.

Please notice that at no point in this discussion have I suggested that any current Western administration is behaving like the Nazi party of 1930s Germany, equated any current leader with Hitler, suggested that the motivation for these laws was genocide, or anything similar. I have criticised only specific measures already taken that pose a much wider threat to basic human rights and freedoms than has yet been realised, and I have been careful to acknowledge that I am considering only the end results and that the motivations for such measures are probably very different.

I'd recommend reading The Road to Serfdom before continuing down that line of thought.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact