Dealing with Violent Ideology through Economics

27 02 2015

Every generation since the beginning of the twentieth century seems to have its crises, socially and societally. Whether it was Spanish Flu, World War I and the Depression or World War II, commodity rationing and the Korean War, Vietnam War, the Oil Crisis and the rise of Terrorism in Ireland to the Iraq Wars, Afghanistan, the global financial crisis and the rise of ideological terror in the twenty first century, every generation faces dilemmas which, more than ever, affect us globally and locally.

I phrased that last sentence intentionally, because I believe that we live in a generation where global influences gain momentum and then break out in local, related events, rather than the other way around. Currently, we tend to fear, with some reasonable cause, the rise of localised violence as a result of global events and the ubiquity of ideology online which feeds minds.

It is typical that progressive leaning politically interested Australians tend to respond rather ‘tribally’ to events in other nations, notably those which involve Israelis and Palestinians but certainly not limited to such crises. Historically, the reason is rather simple and much blame must be laid at the feet of that quietest of wars that Generation X readers of my blog may well remember. Yes, the Cold War, between the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic and the United States of America. Arguably, historians recognise the end of WW2 in Berlin as the seed of this war which was as devoid in real deaths as it was dangerous for the potential of, for the first time in human history, the deaths of the majority of people on the planet through full-scale nuclear warfare. Coinciding with the glory days of socialist states worldwide, it was natural for the rest of the world to choose sides or, more correctly, with the superpowers choosing sides in virtually every violent skirmish from 1944 to 1989, with the construction and subsequent destruction of the Berlin war forming appropriate bookends for this 45 year era.

So it was that the US became the closest ally of the tiny state of Israel, established by the United Nations in 1948. Naturally, the USSR, in the politically polarised mindset of the mid 20th century, supported politically and, sometimes, militarily, the Islamic nations against Israel. With glasnost and the demise of socialism worldwide, after 1989, there was a change across democratic nations worldwide, with Communist and Socialist parties struggling for relevance in a post Soviet era. The solution came quickly, throughout the 1990s as Socialist causes united with Environmental activism to forge new “Green” parties worldwide. It is with little surprise then, that many commentators refer to such parties throughout the OECD as “Watermelon Parties”: Green on the outside but Red (Socialist) on the inside. Indeed, this most unlikely of political marriages has worked with some success in such nations as the Environmentalists had the ground support and ability to mobilise and the socialist/communist arms brought political will and apparatchiks available.

So it is that many nations in the West find themselves in a somewhat concerning situation where the voice of Progressive Politics, or the parties of the extreme left, have a disproportionately loud voice on the issue of ideological violence. Once again, it ought to come as no surprise that progressives have two main solutions for almost every political problem: educate and tax.

I suggest that it ought to be no surprise because the rise of socialism was firmly on the campus in the 19th century before it ever set foot in the factories of the 20th century. Likewise, the rise of environmentalism since the 1950s in the USA was explosive in varsity before it influenced the ‘establishment’. The socialist roots of Green Parties leads to a belief that government ought to be very large and that taxation is an opportunity cost.

The problem with this progressive political voice is that it tends to tacitly or directly support regimes that flourish with Ideological violence. In addition, it erroneously believes that education is the most effective weapon against violent ideology, despite paltry evidence-based support for such a view. It is also ironic that progressive political advocates also seek to lecture the community-at-large on the benefits of ‘dialogue’ and ‘community-based solutions’ that result in ‘postive education’ and the diffusing of ideologies which result in violence and terrorism in democracies of the West.

So let’s get something straight: It ought not be necessary to have to ‘re-educate’ citizens in the democracies of the West that blowing citizens up with car bombs, hi-jacking planes and steering them into buildings, strapping C4 to one’s self and blowing up spectators at a Marathon or killing people in Chocolate shops is anything but very, very crappy behaviour. Let’s get something else straight: anyone who has studied violent ideologies in the 20th and 21st centuries can easily confirm that violence is not largely attributed to men simply being ‘disengaged’, as perhaps the poor orphans that featured regularly in Dicken’s novels. Trying to de-radicalise any person who is deeply driven ideologically with education, community halls and ‘dialogue’ is about as effective as turning up to a bushfire with a pile of wet face-washers.

So is there a solution for the rise of violent ideologies in the present era? Maybe, just maybe. You see the penchant for taxation that progressives hold dear may very well be the very best weapon we have in the ‘war on terror’. Terrorism and violent criminal behaviour in the name of an ideology, whatever that happens to be, is certainly, by global accounts in the 21st century, on the rise. It is also true to say that the unpredictable nature of a terrorist risk or violent crime on civilians has resulted in exponential increases in budgets for policing, counter terrorism capabilities, surveillance and intelligence collection and infrastructure to support the early detection and arrest of suspected terror plots and planning towards ideological violence. The total cost is trillions annually, in worldwide terms.

Some behaviours of citizens in Australia are more likely than others to result in a commensurate cost to the burgeoning health budgets of our nation. Smoking and drinking are two such examples. One government solution to address this increased burden on the health system is to heavily tax citizens that smoke and drink. Australians, in general, tend to accept this: if your behaviour has the effect of increasing the costs of healthcare as a result of smoking and drinking then it is reasonable that you financially support the system disproportionately compared to those who don’t smoke or drink. It is not perfect but it certainly is fair.

In a very similar way, violent ideologies which lead to unpredictable and often fatal consequences for innocent Australians are a risk to security and well-being in our public places. Federal Police, the arms of the Australian Intelligence community (including ASIO and ASIS), State Police Divisions and governments (at least at State and Federal level) are spending disproportionately in order to contain this risk. Would it not be reasonable, therefore, to levy those in the Australian community who foster, support or otherwise endorse ideologies which result in this expansion and distraction of valuable resources supported by Australian taxpayers?

Yes, a Violent Ideology Levy, ladies and gentlemen. The reasoning is rather simple. Education and dialogue from those outside any community, group or political movement is expensive and patently useless in defence of such cognition and behaviour. Instead, much research would suggest that only those within a group such as this are likely at all to diffuse the propensity to act maliciously and violently for the sake of a cause. It is the responsibility of those within a community from which violence and terrorism is born to deal with it and bear the economic cost, which is currently shared by a majority of Australians for whom such ideologies are non-existent.

The way that such a levy would work is this. Any violent crime in the name of an Ideology, including acts of terrorism, past, present and future is documented and the ideologies that ‘claim’ such acts be registered. This includes religious ideologies (including mainstream religions and cults) as well as political, racial or sectarian violence. Then the economic cost is attributed to taxpayers within those communities, groups or political affiliations. Those individuals are all levied additional taxation to contribute to the disproportionate costs incurred through government resources aimed at the reduction of such violence.

Any increase of violent behaviour, including arrests due to violent crimes, inside the home or in public, or acts of terrorism, or surveillance reasonably required to prevent the occurrence of future acts of terrorism which is claimed or reasonably attributed to a particular religious, political, racial or sectarian violence is reason to increase this levy until the cost is reasonably recovered for such acts. Similarly a decrease would, by very definition of the term ‘levy’ cause a reduction in the financial obligation for those in a community to kerb the breeding of terrorists in our Australian suburbs.

The Australian Federal Governments of the last 15 years, beginning with the Howard government and continuing thereafter has shown considerable success with school attendance amongst those in lower socio-economic communities in our nation by addressing the responsibility of families to ensure that the priority of education supported by the wider Australian community pervades to all sections of the community, ensuring better outcomes for Australian children. In precisely the same way, it needs to be recognised that it is predominantly the responsibility of the families in communities from which violent radicalised Australians come, to dissuade such behaviour. If encouragement and expectation is not enough then, as with parents of non-attending students in schools, reasonable sanctions must be in place to guide such behaviour.

Whilst many in Australia might consider such a move as harsh, it needs to be realised that such violence and terrorism is unlikely to subside, if the experience of European nations in recent years is any guide. Certainly, the modern-day emigration of Jews en-masse over the last two years is testament to the very real threat that terrorism has become in our societies. It is imperative that this is dealt with when communities that breed violence are few and incidents are rare. Such a policy would not only offset the exponential increase in the cost of reducing such threats but provide a workable strategy for genuine reductions in radicalisation. It is correct to say that the solution to ideological violence lies in the communities from which perpetrators arise. Thus it is also fair to say that it is only fair that such communities ought to be held financially responsible, in part, for the increased risk of terror events as a direct result of the propagation of ideals which lead to such violence.

This would be the toughest stance on such atrocities in the developed world, but, bloody hell, it might just work. Wouldn’t that be good?

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