Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Red Lake Reservation Massacre

Many of my readers from around the world have no doubt seen or heard about the terrible massacre of young high school students, a teacher, a security officer, and two senior citizens by a deranged teenager on the Native American reservation at Red Lake, Minnesota. It is yet another tragic reminder to the people of the United States of America that we have some serious, serious problems with gun violence in our own country and that the time is long overdue to pass and enforce laws that severely restrict access to and use of firearms by ordinary citizens. Our Constitution does not guarantee ordinary citizens the right to bear arms and blow each other’s heads off because somebody has had a bad day. That is not what the authors of the 2nd Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution meant, or is it?

I’m certain for many of us (Americans) this rampage of murder and violence is sad, painful, and disgraceful. It is especially tragic and sad for the people of the Chippewa nation who live in and around the beautiful Red Lake area in the State of Minnesota. We as a nation are many times far too eager to point out and criticize the violence in other societies around the world without first reviewing how violent our own cities, small towns, and sovereign lands of our own native peoples have become over the past decades. As the President and his administration are focusing on the War on Terror abroad they had better make damn sure they don’t take their eyes off the ball regarding violent crime and law and order at home.

In order to supplement the MSM (mainstream media) sources for news on this story, I thought it would be nice to share with you other sources I read from today. The first is from an online news and information portal owned and operated by Native Americans themselves named
Indian Country Today. Here is the link to an article written by the staff journalist David Melmer. As you read down through the article you will note that the community of Red Lake is no stranger to turmoil and violence. I would bookmark the site Indian Country Today for future reference and to learn more about how Native Americans view life today on the continent.

I found a good article with photos about Red Lake at the
Grand Forks Herald online. The Herald’s staff writer Stephen Lee leads into his story with words that aptly describe the natural beauty and wonders of “Indian Country” in America’s Far North Woods:

An eagle soared high overhead as sage smoke drifted northwest over a circle of hundreds of people gathered at noon…” and he continues further down in the article with “…many of them craned their necks and shaded their eyes against the noonday sun to the watch the bird, sacred to Indians.”

And for you budding online citizen journalists (bloggers) and pro journalists alike out there who think that you can just march onto the sovereign territory of Native Americans and do what you like with your cameras and tape recorders I would have you pay very close attention to this article by Joshua Freed of the Associated Press titled “
Journalists covering Red Lake shooting find different rules”. Here are brief excerpts from his story featured in the Duluth News Tribune:

Police in this Indian reservation town have set strict limits on the journalists trying to cover the nation’s deadliest school shooting since 1999…” and it goes on to say “Reporters and photographers were coralled in the parking lot of the reservation jail on Tuesday…”.

Well, so much for freedom of the press and the 1st Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution. This is Indian Country (paleface) and the Tribe calls the shots on this land. Sometimes we (Americans) forget that, don’t we now? That should slowdown the hungry media herd in the United States for awhile so that these people can come to terms with this tragedy in their own traditional ways.


Ingrid said...

** ... And for you budding online citizen journalists (bloggers) and pro journalists alike out there who think that you can just march onto the sovereign territory of Native Americans and do what you like with your cameras and tape recorders ... **

Heh. Howdy paleface, good to see you back in fine form.

Sorry I am not up to talking about the genocide in USA and Australia and how native Americans and aborignes are still suffering or why KKK are still operating in America today.

Been busy at my blog Congo Watch keeping tabs on DRC where the world's worst humanitarian crisis is happening - surpassing Darfur - 4m dead - savagery beyond imagination.

I don't have a thing about genocide and savagery you know. Just trying to understand how and why it occurs and am learning a lot in the process. I've been looking for answers over the past two years as to how it was possible, after the Holocaust, for genocide to occur in Bosnia ten years ago, just a two hour plan ride away from England.

If there were some Vikings still hanging around these shores, I can't imagine us Brits wanting to shoot them or push them into the sea.

Having said that, we have now a tense situation here in England where traditional gypsies (Romany) have so few places to go and live legally and peacefully because of past Tory policies that withdrew land they used to be allowed to park on.

The travellers are forced by the police to keep moving with their children. It's creating havoc wherever they park and an emotive mess for the present Labour Government. Nobody wants the gypsies in their back yard. Showdowns are being televised between local residents and nomads who are now purchasing greenfield sites adjacent to homeowners and, without applying for residency planning permission, set up camps of 60 or more caravans and start living like a community without integrating into the existing community [I believe the locals shun them because they are not playing the game on a level field or paying proper taxes etc]. In the Sudan the government there would just kill the nomads and those who argue.

Today, I was reading a really unusual report that gave me insight into why the poor in Africa are having such an impossible time. I can't find the link, but it will be interesting to see if this comment box can handle my pasting a copy of the report. I found it over at Stephen Pollard's blog and will post it at my blog some time later. Meantime here is a copy to share with you and your readers - authored by Stephen Pollard and posted in last day or two [such a complex issue cannot be explained in a few short lines, so please be warned the report is long and may at first glance appear verbose and dry, but it's quality is so unusual, I promise you it is worth taking the time to read and digest, slowly]:

I am thrilled to be able to publish an exclusive interview with the Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, founder and President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in Lima, and an intellectual hero of mine. He has published two books about economic and political development: The Other Path and The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else – one of, if not the, greatest books ever published on the issue of poverty in the developing world. As Bill Clinton puts it: “De Soto’s ideas about how to empower the world’s poor represent one of the most significant economic insights of our time”.

De Soto’s main thrust is that much of the marginality of the poor in developing and former communist nations comes from their inability to benefit from the positive effects that property rights provide. Without legal titles and the necessary property-related institutions, the poor cannot fully exploit their assets. The challenge these countries face is not whether they should produce or receive more money but whether they can identify which legal institutions are required and summon the political will necessary to build a property system that is easy for the poor to access.

Dirk Verhofstadt, of the Belgian think tank Liberales, had an exclusive interview with Hernando de Soto in his residence in Lima, and he has generously allowed me to publish it here.

The Economist calls the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) one of the most important think tanks in the world. How did it start?

At the end of the left wing dictatorship in Peru in 1979, we wanted to bring in new ideas. All we had here were traditional leftist messages, some of which I found very interesting. However, it was also very important to realize that we had nothing that related to a market economy and the more liberal view of democracy. So, the beginning was simply bringing in ideas from Friedrich Hayek, Jean-François Revel, Milton Friedman, and original Marxian thinking as well. We wanted to clear the air and explain that there was more substance to the kind of thinking which supports freedom and the efficient economies of the world than they suspected. One of these ideas was the relationship between marginality — where people are forced to live and work outside the system — and the law. At that time, I saw the law as the main factor of exclusion.

Take for example the history of Latin America where liberal ideas have come to government many times, but haven’t succeeded. The main reason for that failure was that they never included the excluded. [This was a harder task than it seemed.] We found that most ideas that related to freedom and productivity were well known by think tanks but had not penetrated to the political decision makers and the average person. So, the focus of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy very much became this extralegal sector —particularly on the areas of property rights and free enterprise because they are the trusses to everything else.

Do politicians understand the importance of property rights?

If you are poor, like the majority of the people in the Third World or the former Soviet Union, you have only two things that allow you to survive —where you are living and whatever you are working with to provide you with an income. Poor people, for instance, put their simple belongings on a piece of unoccupied ground in the countryside or in the so-called pueblos jóvenes, favelas, ranchos, barrios marginales, bidonvilles or shantytowns around big cities in the developing world. If no one disputes his or her claim, a bit of a roof follows. As time goes by, and as the neighbours come to recognize the newcomer’s property, a regular structure will be added. Over time, not only do the neighbours recognize the squatter’s property, but also informal organizations may ‘register’ the ownership — unofficially, of course. The occupants have to dedicate all their time to protecting their possessions against such enemies as poachers, intruders, and, of course, the government.

If you want to understand the importance of property rights, a good place to start is the genesis of property, something that is not controversial for the entire political spectrum. Half of the governments we work for, for instance, are definitely on the left and understand that the poor do not have property and believe that they should. So the law gives a point of penetration were everybody is in an agreement. Property rights are even recognized on a global level in points nine and ten of the Washington-consensus. However, these are the only points that have never been implemented. The objective of these points is to establish free enterprise and property. This big gap needs to be filled in. That is the objective of the ILD.

In your book ‘The Mystery of Capital’, you write that capitalism is like a private club, only open to a privileged few, enraging the billions standing outside looking in. Can you explain this?

Almost 5 billion people out of the 6 billion in the world live in either developing or formerly communist countries, where much of the economy is extralegal. Capitalism doesn’t thrive in these countries because of their inability to produce capital. However, capital is the force that raises the productivity of labour and creates the wealth of nations. It seems that poor countries cannot produce capital for themselves no matter how eagerly their people engage in all the activities that characterize a capitalist economy. In fact, the poor inhabitants of less developed countries do have things, but they lack the process to represent their property in such a way that it can create and transfer capital. They have houses but no titles; crops but no deeds; businesses but no statutes of incorporation. In other words: their property is not registered, not formally legalised. This last fact is crucial, for only through property rights is it possible to obtain credit. Property converted into capital provides the potential to create, to produce, and to grow. Landownership can only be exchanged for a loan if it is registered. The main objective of the ILD is to establish and incorporate the invisible network of laws that turns assets from ‘dead’ into ‘liquid’ capital.

One of the conclusions in your book ‘The Mystery of Capital’ is that poor people are not the problem, but the solution.

They certainly are, and there are very simple reasons for this. First of all, wherever we go, we see that the poor have the majority of a country’s savings, which means that they have done the majority of the work. Look at the situation in Egypt. There, extralegals have accumulated up to $ 248 billion in their enterprises and homes. This is 37 times more than all the loans received from the World Bank. It is 55 times greater than all the direct investments in Egypt and 35 times more than the value of the companies listed in the Cairo Stock Exchange.

In fact, the total value of the assets held but not legally owned by the poor in the Third World and former communist nations is at least $ 9.300 billion. So, the poor are obviously the solution.

The history of many countries shows that very poor people have built today’s wealth. The poor today form a large entrepreneurial force, but it is a force that cannot leverage its assets. And that is the situation in all of the developing countries and in the former communist nations we have been in. There is no lack of entrepreneurship. There is no lack of a will to build assets. There just isn’t the legal system to allow these assets to be leveraged the way you can do so in the West. International financial institutions have traditionally not counted these assets. Poor people have always been seen as recipients of benefits. We are changing this around by saying that whatever you are giving to them is peanuts compared to what they themselves can do. So, the direction should be to enable them, to empower the poor.

So, to solve the real problem we have to make the informal world formal?

Well, that’s it, but it’s not the old formality. You’ve got to think of a new formality. The old one has been offered to the poor, but they have obviously rejected it. There is the law. Don’t forget that informal and customary systems of property rights exist, but mostly outside the legal framework of the country.

I am now a member of a newly created agency for foreign assistance. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan and the Administrator of the UNDP, Mark Malloch Brown, have set up a commission targeting private sector development. These kinds of agencies had never focused on the private sector, in spite of the fact that they are a big part of the world economy. So, the agenda seems to be moving in the right direction now.

But isn’t the main problem legislation? Don’t lawyers stick on to the existing laws?

That’s right. The legal and administrative mechanisms for creating live capital either do not exist or are complicated, these take ages to navigate and cost far too much for the ordinary person. Rich people, on the other hand, have easy entry to business; that is, they have easy access to the tools that facilitate their entry, such as lawyers, accountants, and legal advisors who are able to safeguard their interests in the labyrinth of bureaucracy.

If a squatter wanted to acquire a legal title to his or her property, it would take at least 13 years in the Philippines, over 11 years in Haiti, and 6 years or more in Egypt.

Moreover, in business, it takes you 549 days to get a license to operate a bakery in Egypt and that is with a lawyer. Without a lawyer, it takes about 650 days. In Honduras, it costs an individual entrepreneur 3.765 dollar and 270 days to legally declare, register, and start up a business.

To create a mortgage in Mexico it takes 2 years. It takes 17 years to get a title on a house in Egypt; in Peru it used to be 21 years before we corrected that, and in the Philippines it’s 24 years. These are but a few examples of complicated ownership legislation. The procedures for getting official authorization to build are so formidable that people chose to build without authorization. The entire phenomenon forces poor people into illegitimate and informal negotiations. It forces them to create extralegal means to gain access to a home or a business.

So, what the people in these countries need are transparent laws and efficient administration. One of the main reasons that laws are so complicated, and procedures are so costly and inefficient, is that legislators in developing countries only want to adopt western rules. They remain blind to the extralegal reality. In fact, they should leave their studies and offices and investigate the extralegal sector because that is where they would find all the information they need to create a legitimate legal system that everyone would understand and accept. By investigating and penetrating the ‘law of the people’, legislators and regulators can set up a better legal system. Most of the lawyers in developing countries are educated to protect the interests of their wealthier clients and write the law to assist them. However, they have an instinctive tendency to protect the legal status quo instead of to extend it or adapt it to suit the needs of an evolving reality.

You have been working in several developing countries by giving advice to their heads of state. What is your method of working?

To us the most important part of our work is that part that we call the diagnosis. When we are hired by heads of state, we form a team of maybe seven people from our side and a hundred from theirs. Then we draw a line and find out what’s inside the law and what’s outside the law. In the case of Egypt, we found that 92% of all the constructions and the land and 88% of all enterprises are outside the legal system. This means that the large majority of owners are not registered as such and are therefore not visible to councils, town planners, investors, banks, post offices, water companies, electricity providers, and other firms. The results of our diagnosis show politicians that something is very wrong. It even has a Marxists element of class, an element that has always been missing, even in liberalism. Because people do have specific positions. People in the so-called informal economy are the biggest entrepreneurial class in the world. There are more entrepreneurs in any Third World country than there are in the rich countries.

Over the past fifteen years or so, your Institute has worked in Peru, Egypt, El Salvador, the Philippines, Honduras and Haiti. In which country are you working now?

We are currently working with the Mexican government. We have finished the diagnosis. Seventy-eight million Mexicans — this is almost 80 percent of the total population — is either living or working in the extralegal economy. They produce approximately 35% of the GNP. In total there are about 137 million hectares of rural real estate, 11 million houses, and 6 million businesses that are not registered. Those are assets that can only be used as a shelter or as business tools, but not as a means to obtain collateral for a loan, to generate investment or to create additional functions to obtain surplus value. The whole value of this ‘dead capital’ amounts to $ 315 billion. That is equivalent to seven times the value of all known oil reserves in the country and 31 times the value of foreign direct investment. So, we are advising President Fox on the ways to reform all of this in order to integrate the excluded citizens. An efficient means is designing a legal framework to transform property and businesses into liquid assets. And by reducing the costs and increasing the benefits of operating legally, they can increase public tax revenues.

Is there a relation between corruption and the lack of property rights?

Yes, of course. Because a great part of corruption is essentially the purchase of the law; that is, you pay somebody to stop looking your way or to draft the law in a certain direction. When I was working in the Middle East, there was an entrepreneur that I got to known so well that I could ask him about corruption and pay-offs —‘baksheesh’ is the local word. He explained: “I love baksheesh because it gives me certainty and predictability.” They change the law continually. We have calculated that the government brings out about 30.000 new rules every year. None of these is enacted in a transparent manner, with public participation. The result is that the law is totally unpredictable and only serves the powerful and htose who have the means to remain informed. So, from this point of view, ‘baksheesh’ gives a kind of predictability. All the entrepreneur had to do was pay-off five key policemen either near his workplace, or where he made his transactions. And he knew what his outcome would be.

Now, traditionally that is what the law is supposed to do — give you predictability. However, if the law is inadequate, then your way of getting predictability is corruption. Therefore, when you have property rights — understanding “property rights” as your right to do business, hold shares and carry out business transactions —, it is clear that people will not look to corruption for security and predictability, wherever you go in the world.

Some people say that culture is separating the Third from the First World. Do you agree?

That is a myth. I really don’t think culture has very much to do with the fact that some people are desperately poor and others are wealthy. It’s an unfair proposition. It predisposes people to do the wrong things. It may even have racist implications. Instead of focusing on culture, let’s take away all of these enormous legal obstacles that poor people have to face. We’re absolutely convinced it does work because people are actively in enterprise all over the world. Countries that are less occidental than Latin American nations were poorer than us barely 50 years ago –like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea—changed their laws and are now in average 10 times wealthier than we are. Most of the people who say that ‘cultural’ handicaps do exist don’t have much solid facts to prove it. Development will not be achieved by throwing money at the problem but rather by radically changing the legal systems. And I don’t think it is primarily an IMF or World Bank responsibility. I think it’s a local responsibility.

Despite privatisations and deregulations, the Russian economy is not doing well. Do you attribute this situation to a property rights problem as well?

There is only one way of knowing that and it is by getting the numbers on the shadow economy, which is precisely what we at the ILD do. It’s like in medicine: the doctor has to see the patient. You can have the best written law in the world, but if it doesn’t work on the ground it is only ink on paper. I wouldn’t be surprised if in Russia the law looks good on paper, but, on the ground, it doesn’t work. This is why a very important ingredient of any reform towards the market is feedback from the people so that you can create law based on general consensuses and on people’s beliefs. There is no way of designing it in the air as bureaucrats of the old class often do. If you want to get law that is enforceable you’ve got to go get to the street!

How is it possible that those liberal ideas were never popular in Latin America?

Since liberation from Spain in the 1820’s, many governments have tried to bring in a liberal revolution in Latin America several times. We have tried to follow the US model or the Western European models. Latin Americans have privatized railways, lowered tariffs to zero, and opened our economies to foreign investment. And we have failed nearly every time . The reforms made sense for a very small group of people at the top, but for the majority, it didn’t fit their interests. The big mistake each time has been that although people were inspired by liberal ideas, in fact, they never had much interest for the poor. I would say that these people who pretended to be liberal, were not liberals but conservatives. By not caring for the poor, they gave the opportunity to the populist and communists to gain much ground.

Can we say that capitalism is in trouble?

Of course capitalism is in trouble, because, as usual, it is only catching among the top 20 or 10 percent of the population in Latin American countries that have got their property rights paperized in a way that they can enter the market. Capitalism is in trouble in the sense that it isn’t working for the majority. I insist that capitalism doesn’t work without universally accessible property rights. Capitalism definitely did not win the battle against communism: what happened is that communism collapsed. The main ideas or concerns held by the early communists and socialists are still around.

Do you agree with libertarians that plead for a minimal state? What is your position with regard to libertarianism and liberalism?

I think that some of the most resourceful sophisticated thinking comes from libertarians. To me, they are the ‘avant garde’ because, among other things, they point out the dangers of concentrated power. They are a continual source of inspiration to me but it is the gap between their proposals to do a way with government and reality. I am not too sure they understand that government is important to enforcing freedom and democracy --maybe this is because they do not know what it is like to live without any government like some of us in the Third World. The rule of law has to be managed and enforced by strong government if it is to prevail. In my case, I would say that I am a classical liberal, corresponding to the liberal ideas of the 18th and 19th centuries, which were characterized by being radically opposed to the concentration of power and the causes of the poor.

The reason I study the 18th and 19th centuries of Europe and North Ame3rica is not because I like the past, but because they provide me with lead to understand the present with regards to developing countries. There is a sense that individualism becomes clearer with the Renaissance. Before, people could not envisage themselves as being anything other than part of a whole. That phenomenon of individualism is now starting to take shape in Latin America. In Mexico, for example, where we are currently doing our biggest project, one of the areas we have to focus on is the ejido, which is an indigenous collective property system. We found out that the average age of the Mexican farmer is 65, which means that most of the young people have already left to the city and are becoming individuals. In other words, we are at that stage of individualization that you in Europe were at a couple of centuries ago. Europe’s 18th and 19th centuries intellectual debate are very relevant to developing countries in former Soviet Union nations in the 21st century.

Black River Eagle said...

Hi Ingrid! Thanks for stopping by to check up on us (Tonto and I) as I have been watching you out of the corner of my eye as well. Unfortuantely I am in the middle of a major technology upgrade and migration process here and cannot write as often as I would like.

That interview with De Soto you have so generously shared with me and my readers is simply... breathtaking! I've heard of this economist De Soto and have researched and archived information and documents that support what he is saying. It is a pity that it has to sit hidden in the Comments container of this blog but only you and the author have the rights to publish it.

I was successful in finding some info you had requested a few weeks back re: international bloggers posting on Sudan and Darfur but it will take a few more days before I can push it out to you. I know that you don't have a "thing" for genocide and savagery and I understand how you must feel and why you so desperately try to motivate people worldwide to action. I come from "The Colonies" remember and consider myself not only in touch with its rich history but with other things there that are not so easy to explain in words (to outsiders). We are no strangers to savagery and injustice and invaders from the East you know. The Red Lake Incident has some deep roots, and we must work harder to prevent this type of killing back home.

We will remain for several weeks more in a "Q State" with the blog postings as I and others review this whole blogging phenomena from several perspectives in an attempt to understand it better, attempt to improve Jewels in the Jungle, and share our ideas and limited knowledge with others. I've already seen some great tools that could make your multi-blog authoring and publishing easier and tools for effective online collaboration for small professional workgroups. We call this process "Swarming" in the ICT field and it can help yield quite dramatic results when the right people make up The Swarm and are trained properly to use the tools. Oh yeah, these tools are quite "affordable" too and some are built upon open-source software engines.

So to avoid making this conversation far too long and boring for my readers I'll just say again Thank You for your visit and for the De Soto interview text. Let me know when you go Live with that baby on your site(s).

P.S. Neither I nor Tonto are palefaces, although we both have some Anglo bloodlines running in our respective families...:-) Right now we are just "passing for Black" here in Europe. Keeps down the confusion and the stupid questions if you know what I mean.

Have a nice Easter weekend over there in sunny England! Get some rest, will ya?