Thursday, July 07, 2005

Brilliant post:

At Positive Liberty.

My favorite passage:

The terrorists' choice of targets, though, reveals not a strength but a curious weakness. In seeking to end the West, they have attacked what they consider to be the heart of the urbane, commercial, cosmopolitan, and individualist culture they despise. Their attacks on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and the public transportation systems of major cities all reflect this tendency: Strike at the center, and everything else will fall. They have a special wrath for financial districts, for here they hope to hit the mainsprings of the West. Once these mainsprings have been destroyed, the rest of the machine will cease to function.

In particular, it is interesting to note Osama bin Laden's fascination with the World Trade Center, which his organization sought to destroy on at least one occasion prior to September 11. It is as if he believed that by striking at the center of western business, the West itself would be dealt a fatal blow.

It did hurt. But in a very real sense, there never was a "world trade center," and as such, it could not be destroyed. Trade does not have a center. The genius of the market, and of the West, is to be decentralized, to exist without any necessary order or hierarchy, to have a billion brains but not a single head.

Terrorism won't bring down an organization like that. It can't. This organization, this spontaneous order, is unique to free societies. It cannot be killed by a well-timed physical blow at some carefully chosen point. Raised on authoritarian propaganda, the terrorists do not understand this.

1 comment:

richrath said...

Interesting about world trade having no center, because unless I'm quite mistaken, one could very nearly insert "Al Qaeda" into those last two paragraphs where "world trade" is...

"AQ does not have a center. The genius of to be decentralized, to exist without any necessary order or hierarchy, to have [thousands of] brains but not a single head."

Not a perfect analogy to be sure, there is some command structure and hierarchy in AQ, according to what I read. But there are a lot of decentralized, semi-autonomous cells, too, and the "head" is more of an inspirational figurehead than a CEO. It's not like they carry around membership cards.

What can bring down an organization like that? It seems rather resilient to most physical blows when we can mount them. And the authoritarian propagandists seem easily to recruit new appendages when some are lost.

Perhaps stopping the money is best way to make this thing whither and die.