Thursday, January 8, 2015

Defending Saddam Hussein---my 2004 op-ed

 This article was published after Saddam Hussein was captured but  before he was tried and executed.  Needless to say,  he did not take my legal advice,  nor did I expect him to.  

It should be clear by now that Saddam Hussein was a terrible person, but that the average Iraqi would be better off today if we had left him alone.  And so would we!


Published on Tuesday, December 7, 2004 by
Defending Saddam Hussein
by Paul F. deLespinasse

Iraq`s interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi reported recently that he had received an appeal for mercy from a "depressed and broken" Saddam Hussein. Allawi said Hussein claimed that he had been "working for the general good and ... didn`t aim to harm."

Hussein`s claim sounds outrageous when we consider how many people he bumped off during his career. But it is not inconceivable that he was telling the truth, and if he gets a fair trial, he just might be acquitted.

American experience demonstrates that Iraq is not an easy country to govern. Given Iraq`s history and ethnic and religious divisions, any leader who is less willing than Hussein to kill large numbers of people may not be able to govern at all. The one thing worse for the average person than a government like Hussein`s is the total absence of government.

Niccolo Machiavelli, writing 500 years ago, puts it to us bluntly: A leader, he says, "should care nothing for the accusation of cruelty so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal; by making a very few examples he can be more truly merciful than those who through too much tender-heartedness allow disorders to arise whence come killings and rapine."

There is no danger that Saddam Hussein will be convicted of tender-heartedness. But if he had not been overthrown, today`s average Iraqi would be better off financially and enjoy more personal security.

Iraqi life today is characterized by bombings, murders, rapes, assassinations, robberies, kidnappings and a total disruption of daily life. Sen. John McCain says that when looting broke out after the United States seized Baghdad, our forces should have shot looters on the spot. Our failure to do this undoubtedly reduced Iraqi support for the occupation, emboldened petty criminals and "resistance fighters," and helped to produce today`s general mess. But public opinion back home would have been horrified if we had done what McCain now recommends.

More than 300 years ago, Benedict de Spinoza noted the immense dangers in removing a tyrant: "For a people accustomed to royal rule, and kept in check by that alone, will despise and make a mockery of any lesser authority; and so, if it removes one king, it will find it necessary to place him by another, and he will be a tyrant not by choice but by necessity."

Of course, Hussein and his buddies lined their own pockets and lived very high on the hog out of the public treasury. But that is hardly a hanging offense, and there was nothing unique about their behavior. Like corporate executives who can determine their own compensation, all rulers have a high estimate of their own worth and pay themselves accordingly.

It would be a horrifying commentary on Iraqi circumstances if a government like Saddam Hussein`s is the best one possible there. But that may well be the case, and in that event it would be unjust to convict Hussein.

Of course, few tears will be shed for Saddam on the day he is executed, if it comes to that. A little injustice is inevitable once in a while.

Paul F. deLespinasse is professor emeritus of political science at Adrian College in Michigan. He can be reached at

Sunday, December 7, 2014


The science of chemistry really took off after Dmitri Mendeleev published his periodic table in 1869. Is it possible that a periodic table of human associations could propel a similar great leap forward in political science, sociology, and law? Such is the hope of the discoverer of this new table, Paul deLespinasse (Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1966; Fellow in Law and Political Science, Harvard Law School, 1970-1971; author, professor, and journalist). For a brief introduction to this "table" see Basic Political Concepts, which has been published as a free Global Text.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Unpublished 1970-1971 article: Behind Every Policeman, A Fair Witness

I have just scanned and posted on my website a 2100 word article I wrote during my 1970-1971 sabbatical at the Harvard Law School.  National Review wouldn't use it, and it was never published.  It seems to have great relevance given the mess resulting from the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.  The parents of the man killed today asked people to: "Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera."   If you read my article you will see why I think this is a great idea.

See the article here.  

It is also available under the Fundamental Concepts Papers link.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

1984 paper "Beyond Capitalism and Communism" now available

I have now posted the paper I wrote to deliver as the keynote address to a conference in Boston sponsored by CARP,  the Collegiate Alliance For the Research of Principles in April of 1984:  Beyond Capitalism and Communism,  on my website.  It is available under Fundamental Concepts Papers. 

This paper first introduced some of the concepts which are the central focus of my  recently published Kindle book:  The Metaconstitutional Manifesto:  A Bourgeois Vision of the Classless Society.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My interview about top-two primary elections on Michigan Public Radio

After my op-ed piece advocating top-two primary elections ran in the Adrian Daily Telegram,  I was contacted by Michigan Public Radio and interviewed about it.  You can listen to the interview here.

Important 1973 concepts paper now available at my website

I have just posted my 1973 paper,  "The Carrot and The Stick,"  on my website.    It shows the development of my analysis of human associations as of 1972,  when I wrote the paper.  The table of associations presented was inadequate,  so before my 1981 college textbook came out I added a third type of associations on the horizontal axis and rearranged that axis (to make it jibe with my analysis of satisfaction in terms of which I distinguish sanctions and inducements).  But I still think the paper, which was published in the Michigan Academician in 1973,  does a decent job of explaining a lot of my basic concepts.

I have also posted several other things that I wrote in the early 1970s that illustrate my groping for concepts with which to systematically think about associations.  

All of these writings are on the Fundamental Concepts page.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Would A Single-Payer System Have Stopped The Spread of Ebola?

Two medical stories are headlined in recent Oregon newspapers.  One is local,  but with national implications.  The other is national,  but with local implications.  A common denominator lies beneath both stories.

In Oregon more than ten thousand people got inflated tax credits when buying insurance through the exchange set up under Obamacare.  The excess credits may exceed $100 per month, so some people will have to pay substantial amounts back to the federal government.  

The national news is the death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola and the infection of several people who treated him.  Duncan was sent home, when he first visited a Dallas hospital’s emergency room, despite highly suspicious symptoms.  After giving conflicting answers to embarrassing questions raised by this situation, the hospital has hired a public relations firm and allegedly has prohibited staff members from talking to the press. 

Obamacare may have been a step in the right direction, but a common denominator underlying both of these stories is its inadequacy and poor design. Partly due to refusal by many states (including Texas) to expand Medicaid,   tens of millions remain uninsured.  And Obamacare excluded coverage for foreign visitors and undocumented aliens. 

Thomas Duncan,  visiting from Liberia,  had no insurance.  There is informed speculation that the Texas hospital had a policy of not admitting emergency room patients who lack insurance.   If this is true,  it is no wonder that the hospital would need to hire a P.R. firm and put a gag rule on its employees.

Obamacare’s basic problem is complexity.  Complexity made creation of  web-based portals very difficult, and complexity forces individuals and employers to make choices they are poorly equipped to make.  Much of this complexity flows from government subsidies, which allow people to purchase insurance, and especially from the need to document and monitor each person’s continuing eligibility. 

Subsidies are obviously needed.  Otherwise poor people who aren’t eligible for Medicaid would be unable to comply with the Obamacare mandate.  And it is obvious that the subsidy for each individual needs to be on a sliding scale based on that individual’s income.  But incomes can change,  thus changing how much subsidy someone is entitled to and sometimes causing loss of all eligibility. Furthermore,  as people’s changing fortunes move them in and out of Medicaid,  the doctors who are “in-network” for them can change, forcing them to find new providers. 

All of these problems---the need to reimburse the government for excessive tax-credits,  the “churn” as people drop in and out of eligibility for subsidies or for Medicaid,  the lack of universal coverage which may have started an Ebola epidemic in the U.S.---could have been avoided by enactment of a single-payer insurance system covering all people in the U.S. and financed by general taxes.

If Mr. Duncan had been covered by such an insurance system, he might well be alive today and he might not have exposed so many other people to Ebola. 

Under a single-payer system people would still receive implicit subsidies based on their income,  but this would be taken care of by the existing income tax system under which lower income people pay less tax and higher income people pay more.  The Supreme Court’s highly dubious reasoning by which it allowed states to opt-out of Medicaid expansion would become irrelevant,  since with universal coverage Medicaid would no longer be needed.  There would no longer be doctors who are “in-network” or “out-of network.”

A single-payer insurance system would not  solve all our problems, but the problems with Obamacare and the even bigger problems prior to Obamacare suggest we need to enact one as soon as possible.

This op-ed has run in The Lund Report.