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IPFS News Link • Economy - Economics USA

Terry Coxon: Potential Danger Is in Government Responses

• The Daily Bell

Introduction: Terry Coxon is the author of Keep What You Earn and was for many years a close collaborator with and editor for the late Harry Browne. He currently is a regular contributor to The Casey Report. Mr. Coxon has a distinguished history as an architect of innovative financial planning arrangements, including the Permanent Portfolio Fund, the United States Gold Trust (the first gold ETF), the Passport Financial Offshore Trust and the Open Opportunity IRA.

Anthony Wile: For many people, including some of our subscribers to The Daily Bell Newswire, interest in asset protection has been eclipsed over the past few weeks by concerns about personal safety. Everything you've written or said publicly about protecting personal wealth from lawsuits, seizures and taxes assumes a stable legal and social backdrop. But what happens if that backdrop isn't really available?

The ISIS murder project in Paris ten days ago is just the most recent reminder that you can get hurt without anyone pausing to hire a lawyer. Of course, the risk of being a target in the next made-for-media slaughter spectacle is extremely remote, but the damage that could come from government responses to so-called "radical Islam" is another matter. Where do you see it all leading?

Terry Coxon: I wince every time I hear that phrase, "radical Islam." It usually comes from one politician denouncing another politician for not denouncing radical Islam.

There is in fact something dangerous and unbending at work in the world, but we should try to give it a name that fits. A "radical" movement is driven by abstract principles divorced from history, experience and customary practice. Trotskyites are radicals. Libertarians are radicals (at least the ones with a passion for consistency). Adherents to a 1,400-year-old religion aren't radicals.

Anthony Wile: If "radical Islam" isn't it, what is the correct label for an organization that proposes to establish a caliphate over all the lands ever occupied by Muslims, enforce the precepts of the Koran and Sharia by the lash and the executioner's sword and do battle with all unbelievers?

Terry Coxon: "Reactionary Islam" is more to the point, because the organization's message is about the past. What ISIS and similar movements propose to do is to preserve the Islam of the past where it still survives and to restore it where it has withered.

Anthony Wile: Whatever it should be called, what is the source of the ferocity and passion, and why now?

Terry Coxon: I have an answer, but I want to warn you that it's not as simple or crisp as I'd like.

The Islam of the past does not seem to migrate comfortably into the modern world built by the West. Yet the benefits of that modern world are attractive to almost everyone. The result is inner conflict for some individual Muslims, conflict within the Islamic world and conflict between at least part of Islam and the West.

If you dig down to the foundation of the modern Western world, what you'll find is an assumption so basic that almost no one notices it unless it is pointed out. It is the unexamined, uncritically accepted idea that there are immutable, objective constraints on what is possible. That idea has been loose in the West since at least the time of Aristotle and certain of his contemporaries, who tried to sort out the natural principles that govern existence. The scientific revolution of the 17th century and the Enlightenment of the 18th century were the triumph of the idea of immutable, objective constraints among the leaders of Western culture. From there on, Western society's belief in witchcraft and alchemy went into rapid decline.

The notion of immutable, objective constraints on the possible is essential to the modern world. Try to imagine the science of physics without it. But acceptance of the notion isn't universal. It marks some cultures but not others. Where the notion doesn't prevail, something else does – a belief in magic.

Magical thinking is entirely natural and normal. It's not because their brains haven't yet developed fully that children in Western societies believe in magic. It's because they haven't yet absorbed the culture's message about immutable constraints. That's the message that drives away magical thinking.

The Islam of the past seems not to have incorporated the concept of immutable constraints on what is possible. Magic is real to it. And a belief in magic leaves a society allergic to modernity – even though the society may want and need much of what modernity has to offer. That conflict is the source of the ferocity of reactionary Islam. It's what makes killing 127 people in Paris an agreeable thought.

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