Quick Roundup 300

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lordy mercy! It's hard to believe I've done three hundred roundup posts (out of 1,570 total)! I saw this milestone coming a few weeks ago and debated changing the feature name to something else, but ultimately decided against it.

If nothing else, the running total lends an air of venerability to the feature.

On with the show....

Christian Leader Advocates Sharia Law

This morning's paper and a reader alerted me to the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury, citing its "inevitability", has come out in favor (alternate URL) of instituting elements of Islamic law within the British legal system.

Aside from demonstrating that religion is not and cannot be the foundation for a free society, the comments show that the bishop is heavily influenced by multiculturalism.

But equally, he said, "I don't think we should instantly spring to the conclusion that the whole of that world of jurisprudence and practice is somehow monstrously incompatible with human rights simply because it doesn't immediately fit with how we understand it ."
Is the Most Rev. Rowan Williams so befuddled by relativism that he regards Islamic jurisprudence as equally valid as British? Or does he want to use such confusion as multiculturalism generates as a toehold for greater influence of religion in legal matters generally? Your guess is as good as mine, and as irrelevant. There is no place for religious dogma in the jurisprudence of a free society.

Justice for Hugo Chavez?

Reader Dismuke informs me that Exxon Mobil is not taking the seizure of its Venezuelan assets by dictator Hugo Chavez sitting down. The Caracas Chronicles quotes a Bloomberg report on a series of court orders obtained by the petrochemical giant to freeze the overseas assets of Venezuela's state oil company pending arbitration on the seizure:
The U.S. freeze is less than 3 percent the size of the U.K. and Netherlands orders because Exxon Mobil reckoned it would be more difficult to obtain a freeze on PDVSA's U.S. refineries and filling stations without first winning at trial. In the meantime, PDVSA probably would sell the plants, Exxon Mobil's U.K. lawyer said.

The asset freezes will damage PDVSA's ability to raise funds from international investors for drilling and refinery projects, said Asdrubal Oliveros, chief economist at Caracas-based Ecoanalitica. He estimated PDVSA has $13 billion in "liquid'' international assets.

"This is going to put a lot of pressure on country risk, and on the price of the company's bonds in the international market,'' Oliveros said. "Loaning money to a company that's in this kind of dispute, and also is facing this kind of injunction, is going to be very delicate.'' [bold added, minor edits]
This is fun to see on one level, and frustrating on another. This shouldn't be in court at all, and it wouldn't have been if Western nations consistently protected property rights and had foreign policies based on self-interest.

Theft is wrong, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a government and regardless of its official excuse, and the function of the government of a free country is to protect the rights of its citizens. Any nation whose citizens had assets stolen on such a scale by the Chavez government has the right to invade Venezuela. And any nation which judges that such seizures represent significant damages or threats to its citizens has the obligation to take whatever measures it deems feasible and necessary to rectify or remove them.

Hugo Chavez should have been made a historical footnote by George W. Bush long ago.

That would have been justice for Hugo Chavez. This is a really only a chance to win a booby prize.

Wrong Question

The following subject line from a Human Events mass mailing appeared in my email this morning:
Should Illegal Aliens Be Given Tax Rebates?
Forget the illegal aliens. Why not ask the following question: "Should American citizens have income confiscated every year by the federal government?"

When such publications start asking questions like these, we will know that the tide is turning in favor of individual rights.

-- CAV


Burgess Laughlin said...

"There is no place for religious dogma in the jurisprudence of a free society."

According to the news reports I have read, British civil law, which is what the archbishop is talking about (for now), already has a place for religious dogma. The news accounts I read said Orthodox Jews involved in a civil dispute, can, under English law, choose together to adjudicate their dispute in a "court" of Orthodox Jews (rabbis, i suppose).

If that is true, then the Archbishop is extending that situation to Muslims. Once the principle of adjudication outside the system has been admitted, no one can logically stop a progression to more and more religious groups.

Also according to my reading of various, somewhat confusing articles, this situation under English law applies to secularists as well. For example, if you and I have a contract, and it says that in case of dispute between us we will turn to our local bowling club (or whatever) for adjudication, we can do so.

I don't see any objection to such a system on principle, assuming that the parties voluntarily agree to the adjudication or arbitration process ahead of time and, preferably, in writing.

I would very much like to hear from lawyers on this situation.

Burgess Laughlin said...

RE: shari'a in England

From p. 2 of the UK Telegraph article cited, with my interpolation in square brackets and my bold:

"Stephen Green, the director of Christian Voice, said: 'This is a Christian country with Christian laws. If Muslims want to live under sharia law then they are free to emigrate to a country where sharia law is already in operation'.

But Dr Williams said the argument that "there's one law for everybody" was "a bit of a danger" and called for "a constructive accommodation" with aspects of Muslim law.

The Church of England was [now already] allowed to operate its own courts, as were Orthodox Jews, and the anti-abortion views of Roman Catholics and other Christians were taken account of within the law."


This supports my comments in the previous post--assuming I have interpreted it correctly.

P. S. -- Stephen Green offers Christian theocracy, an instance of what Dr. Peikoff (2004) has called misintegration. Dr. Williams offers disintegration through multiculturalism in law and elsewhere.

The question is: Which is more dangerous in the long-term, or does it make a significant difference?

I vote for misintegration as being the more dangerous for the reason Dr. Peikoff gives: It can last for a thousand years, but disintegrationist approaches self-destruct within a few generations.

Anonymous said...

Re: the nationalization of American's property

The question that I struggle with is just what is our government's obligation to protect the overseas property rights of its people. For example, China is an authoritarian nation; this is a well known fact. If China suddenly nationalized the properties of American businessmen in China, can it really be said that this was unexpected and that our government is obliged to act in order to recover that stolen property? When dealing with regimes that are known not to respect property rights, shouldn't the maxim be "let the buyer beware"?

I think for our government to act in retaliation, perhaps there has to be some standard, perhaps by treaty, that establishes some sort of objective trigger. For example, if Venezuela signs a treaty with the US promising to respect the property rights of Americans doing business in Venezuela and then Venezuela breaks that treaty, I think there is a basis for our government to respond. Otherwise, why is it the people's problem that an American did business in a less than savory country?

Anonymous said...

"Any nation whose citizens had assets stolen on such a scale by the Chavez government has the right to invade Venezuela. And any nation which judges that such seizures represent significant damages or threats to its citizens has the obligation to take whatever measures it deems feasible and necessary to rectify or remove them."

You have touched on something that I have yet to fully make my mind up on.

I agree that, by virtue of the fact that the Chavez regime violates rights on such a wholesale basis, there can be no moral claim whatsoever on its part that it has rights of its own. In that sense, I agree that another country has the right to to take that regime out in retaliation against its rights violations.

What I am not so sure about is whether or not a free country's government has the right to use its taxpayer's wealth and to put its soldiers' lives on the line in order to bail out private investors who volutnarily choose to put their money and other assets at risk in such backwaters.

Whenever one visits another country, let's say on vacation, one basically puts one's self under whatever laws and justice system that exists in that country and does so voluntarily. In some countries, that is riskier than others. In some countries, crime is rampant and the authorities are either ineffective or they are actually in on it themselves. If one ends up being a crime victim - well, there is very little that our government can or really should do about it.

I guess the question is what is the jurisdictional limit beyond which our government properly ought to say that citizens are basically on their own if they choose to venture there. I would say, for instance, that the high seas are definitely a place where our government ought to protect our right to travel and engage in peaceful behavior. But if one chooses to visit or invest in a country that is politically backwards or has an authoritarian regime - well, is it anyone else's problem that one chooses to make such decisions?

I am inclined to think that our government ought to step in militarily only to the degree that the matter has an impact on our national security - and oil related assets may or may not qualify under such a standard. Another possibility that MIGHT be worth considering would be for our government to grant the victims authority to hire and put together a mercenary force that would be given authority to accomplish certain specified and limited tasks such as retrieving assets, confiscating assets of the regime and/or taking out the regimes top officials. I am sure Exxon would be able to marshal enough resources to take out at least the oilfileds if not Chavez himself. But that isn't something I have really thought through and might end up not being such a hot idea.

I think, to the degree that Columbia is a valued friend and trading partner, we are much more justified in attacking the Chavez regime for its attempts to destabilize that country's government. And, if nothing else, the very minute Chavez started squawking about nationalization, Bush should have threatened to seize Citgo and auction off the assets in the marketplace with the proceeds being handed over to Exxon and other victims.

That's not to say I wouldn't be overjoyed if we actually took some action in response to Chavez's looting. But, of course, that is not going to happen. Bush sure won't do it. Obama wouldn't do it. Hillary? Yeah, right. McCain? Well why would he? He is already on record as saying that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. He is on record as being good friends with John Kerry. He pals around with Ted Kennedy and others of that ilk. Exactly what difference is there in terms of political philosophy between those people that McCain admires so much and Hugo Chavez other than their degree of buffoonery? And unlike Romney who McCain has criticized for running a business for profits and not for people, Chavez certainly doesn't run Citgo for profit. President McCain would probably tell Chavez's critics both in the USA and in Venezuela to "calm down" and then extend his thanks to Chavez for being so generous with the heating oil donations.

Chavez has to be watching our primaries and laughing his very, very, fat ass off.

Gus Van Horn said...


Regarding the quote you used as a starting point vs the actual situation in England: You are correct to point out that England already has religious law.

To the extent that it does so without limiting the reach of such law to prevent it from encroaching upon individual rights, it is failing to protect individual rights.

Having said that, if religious law is relegated to the kind of voluntary recourse to such bodies of arbitration as bowling leagues or even religious courts, I have no problem it.

But then, in such situations, religious law doesn't actually have the force of law.


Gus Van Horn said...


I have considered this very line of questioning before and offer you my previous thoughts.

Let me know if that helps.


I agree that in some cases, it should be "Let the buyer beware." That's the genius of Rand's "right (but not the obligation)" to invade. In the link above, I consider several possible scenarios where invasion is or is not a proper action, as well as an in-between case.


Mike said...

RE: Venezuela.

Would this be a good time to note that the Constitution does allow Congress to issue letters of marque and reprisal? Seems like just the tool to help reclaim assets from a rogue nation.

Or not. Just saying. (shrug)

Gus Van Horn said...

Could be, but it appears to this legal layman that there is significant confusion, some of it seen as useful to certain politicians, over what these really are.

But then, most of the country seems to have forgotten what the simple word "war" actually means....