A Symposium: On Paradoxes, Autocracy and the Betrayal of a Nation

By: Tarnue Johnson and Cheryl Patrick

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 7, 2003

Authors’ note: The most distinctive feature of Plato’s symposium is that Socrates and his peers gather for a dinner and drinking party at the home of Agathon of Athens to discuss the category of love in all its complexities and variable dimensions.1 In our imagined symposium, past and present Liberian leaders, without the boundaries of time and space, have gathered to ponder over several critical paradoxes. These paradoxes regard the causes and consequences of political autocracy and the resulting betrayal of a nation. The accounts presented in these exchanges are both fictional and a representation of original, primary and secondary sources. We believe that the origins of Liberia’s troubles, like the history of all human conflicts, can be traced in its past. By trying to retrace this past, distant and immediate, we have attempted to add a new dimension to our critical discourses. In this pertinent and crucial context, this study is an exercise in reflection and social criticism.

Samuel K. Doe [1980-1990]: We came to power on April 12, 1980 to extinguish political autocracy. Our actions, preoccupations and underlying motivations were purely altruistic. I would submit here to you all that we did achieve a lot for the nine years we still in office. Why can’t everyone see that? While didn’t Charles Taylor and his followers see that? The fact that no one can see that to me is a principal paradox!

William Tolbert [1971-1980]: I am glad that we have congregated here today to take stock and ponder over some fundamental issues. What this thing about paradox? There is another important question I must pose immediately. Are we arguing here today that the search for paradox is a search for an explanation of state failure in Liberia? In what way does this constitute a general understanding? My good old friends, I maybe inclined to think that we might have already discovered a conceptual framework for our dialogue.

Amos Sawyer [1991-1994]: By paradox, do you mean that the views of the Liberian people are contrary to received wisdom on this matter? Or have they unfairly denigrated your achievements and lofty aspirations? Do you mean that you were hailed as liberators and healers, and yet, in the fullness of time you proved to be a curse and blight on the nation? Thus, your term in office was tumultuous times indeed! Those times were extraordinary years as some of my good old friends have claimed in their writings!

Samuel K. Doe [1980-1990]: I would not put it quite like that? If you like we can examine the records. I am certain that we would soon realize that my assertions about our achievements in office are correct. In fact you would see that any contrary opinion simply amounts to a paradox, because that would be an opinion with infinitely contradictory qualities.

William Tolbert [1971-1980]: Let’s examine the records; I believe that it is in my prime interest to do so. I also believe that it would be in the interest of posterity to dig out the facts. As you might know, it is also in the interest of the living to undertake such endeavor. I say this because I now believe in the notion of fallibility, meaning simply that we must always try to improve our understanding of the forces that drive our motivations and actions, both in the past and in the present. Being the president of our country in the 1970s, and for few months in 1980, has taught me one cardinal lesson. That lesson is that our search for meaning must always be a departure from errors, not merely a search for absolute truths. In fact I no longer believe in absolute truths. Indeed, the search for reasons to justify actions can never be a search for absolute truths. I make these utterances knowing fully well that I may be contradicting the gist of my own argument as the great thinkers have claimed.2

Amos Sawyer [1991-1994]: I wish you had known that prior to your inauguration in 1971 Mr. Tolbert. I wish you had come to terms with the true meaning of that postulate, say, at least by 1973. Perhaps there would have been enough time to recover and restructure the civil discourses of our nation. I would suppose that if that had been the case, then, the outcome of our collective history would have been different. If that had been the case, perhaps Samuel K. Doe and his band of lumpen proletarians and marauders would not have seized power in 1980.

Samuel K. Doe [1980-1990]: Don’t’ you think that is too optimistic a view of Liberian history? In fact, was such a monumental change possible by merely restructuring discourse and political institutions within less than a decade? Is that what you are claiming here today my old friend?

Amos Sawyer [1991-1994]: Well, I am an eternal optimist if that is the case. I always believe in the powers of creative and positive agency. What I am simply saying is that change is always possible because humans, through their individual and collective actions, are always capable of fostering change. In other words, what seems to be permanent is the contingent and transient quality of the capacity to foster change in the human condition.

Samuel K. Doe [1980-1990]: Your assertions indicate that you may be a very cunning and slake intellectual. Because you are sophisticated at your trade, you may be adept at navigating the most difficult terrains by always walking the middle path. It seems as though you always maintain a sense of balance in your politics. Perhaps your statement here is a testament to that. You seem to have an infinite reservoir of hymns that you employ to suit all occasions! I have observed this in my numerous dealings with you especially when I enlisted your services to advise me on cultural policy and intertribal relations. I believe that is a more distinctive feature of your character, which I admire, but perhaps, others might view cynically.

Charles Taylor [1997-2003]: Let us now examine the record of my good old friend Samuel K. Doe as he has requested. I hope my coming into the fray, as a “revolutionary fighter” in 1989 would be thoroughly appreciated once this critical examination is done. For a starter, in 1986 the good old gentleman was kind enough to admit that the Liberian economy was on the verge of total collapse due to mismanagement. Around this period, the monetary economy declined by more than $100 million due largely to capital flight, and the cumulative budget deficits exceeded $900 million. The economic wrongdoings of this administration were catalogued in a number of reports such as the Jeffy Commission report of 1983, the economic memorandum prepared for the donors’ conference of 1983 etc.3 By 1989 economic growth had granted to complete halt as the situation worsened by the day on the monetary and fiscal fronts. The extraordinary years of the Doe regime were, indeed, distinguished by deepening economic recession and a subversion of constitutional principles, interpretation and order.

Amos Sawyer [1991-1994]: Did you use the monograph I wrote about the Samuel Doe regime in the 1980s as a source for your arguments? Your arguments here today sound exactly like every account I had in that monograph. As you may be aware, the accounts in that monograph were later amplified in a subsequent volume in which I sought to elaborate on the trajectory of our collective failings within the span of almost a century and a half. You may be aware that I was not only preoccupied with the failings of the Doe regime. In that work I sought to elaborate a conceptual framework that would explain the emergence of autocracy in Liberia among others. I know you have said all the right things about the excesses of the Doe regime, but I must hasten to inform you that I strongly detest your advocacies and brand of revolutionary change. Your model of a revolutionary transformation was a calamitous infamy in the history of all humanity! Your merciless purging of conscienscious objectors smacks of the days of the Chinese infamous “cultural revolution” and the “great leap forward” as a growth model in terms of its totalitarian dimensions. If I may add, this has turned you and your cheering supporters into some of the worst abusers of human rights ever to visit planet earth. I also find wanting your perspectives on economic change, regional stability and the nature of justice. In general, your philosophy of power baffles me and shall continue to do so to the end of my days. I have exercised my mind regarding what I could have done or not done to stop you during the heydays of your venomous crusade. I have imagined many scenarios in my mind’s eye, but all I can say now is what if, what if!

Samuel K. Doe [1980-1990]: As a fully functioning adult, I have now come to the conclusion, albeit upon critical reflection and hard introspection, that ethnic nativism is the greatest evil in political and social life. If I had known, I would not have sought to construct an ethnic based political hegemony on the basis of an obnoxious paradigm. I would have striven for the development of an all inclusive and authentic national consciousness. I say this because I realize that there is more to unite than divide us as a people. We often say we are one but our practice creates the impression that that is not so. And this to me is a paradox, specifying a contradiction between speech and action. The second group of peoples, the Kumbas, who arrived in our region, came from the Western Sudan around 6,000 B.C. As you may be aware this was even before the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. The third group of peoples including the Bassa, Kru, Dei, Mamba etc. also came to this region as the result of population and political pressures in the Western Sudan. The last group of tribes to arrived here, such as the Mandingo and the Vai, also originated in the Western Sudan. Their migration toward what is now known as Liberia was prompted by the victory of Askia Mohammed, which reduced the Empire of Mali in the sixteen century. It is not my place and I have no intension of making an exegesis of historical texts. I leave the business of interpretation and criticism to the scholars. My message here is a simple one that says that the sooner we realize that we may all have the same origins the better. Oh! By the way! The first group of inhabitants that lived in Liberia were Pygmies, as has been recorded by the Liberian historian Abayomi Karnga.

William V.S. Tubman [1944-1971]: Your metamorphosis regarding matters of conscience and national integration is very impressive Mr. Doe. I wish I were around in the 1980s to show you the ropes. I am sure you may have heard from someone that I had an explicit national integration and unification policy. How times have change! However, I must admit that I was not impressed with your performance on the economic front. You inherited an economy that was in some trouble but you did little to halt the decline, instead, your judgments were so myopic that they actually led to further decline. During my administration, I opted for an explicit and strategic vision that would be undergirded by an exogenously induced economic growth. This meant that I was going to leave no stone unturned in encouraging inward investment in Liberia. Thus, the economy experienced extensive growth during my tenure. From 1946 to 1960, we attracted $500 million in foreign investment.

Exports rose from $15.8 million in 1948 to $82.6 million in 1960, an increase of 422.8 percent; and Government revenue rose from $32.4 million in 1960 to $69.9 million in 1971, an increase of 115.7 percent. I strongly believe that we did achieve a lot during long tenure, although my detractors like Robert Clower and his team of experts from that “bloody” Northwestern University in the United States have attempted to subvert the truth. Did they really appreciate the value of apprenticeship education in the legal professions with a provincial flavor? There have been talk of “growth without development” and widespread political repression in the immediate postwar years and subsequently. Everything I did during my administration I thought was in the interest of modernization of an essentially backward and pre-capitalist society. Ours was a “forced march” and a struggle for modernity, and of course hearts and minds. This is while I had little regrets for using the stake ever so often, even if they interfered and impeded the normal democratic and institutional growth of the nation. I did exactly what my communist nemesis, Joseph Stalin, would have done to turn around old, tired and Czarist Russia.

Charles Gyude Bryant [2003-Present]: I want to see this country move forward and be at ease with itself as it was in the past. But I have no illusions that this can only happen without retribution. Retribution is a circular notion in terms of pure justice. The pleads for justice is sound but it must be based on the principle of forgiveness. “Let by-gones be by-gones as they say in the Liberian vernacular.” Forgiveness is the underpinning logic of the politics of empowerment, diversity and inclusiveness. I would argue that there is an element of collective quit in all of us because everyone did something wrong to somebody during the war. However, I would not say that I am sure anybody beside me shares this judgment. Well, maybe a few of my friends and cheering supporters!

Joseph J. Roberts [1847-1856; 1872-1876]: I do not envy your position Mr. Bryant. But you will have to rethink your principle of justice. I am saddened to note that things had to turn out this way after almost 200 years. It is sad that our country had to go through all these troubles for the last 25 years. Most of the problems that are confronting you today originated in the beginnings of our great patrimony. There were both conceptual and practical difficulties associated with the enterprise of building a “Christian Civilization” on the West Coast of Africa. There were issues of identity and representation in the constitution of order, which we did not do well in tackling. I now have serous doubts that declaring independence (statehood) on July 27,1847 was the right thing to do. It may have been too early, coming in less than 28 years after the first settlement was formed on the Atlantic Coast. This is just one of several alternative hypothesis. For, I am not unaware that this presupposition may be challenged by several counterarguments, such as the claims on Liberian territory by the French and the British leading up to 1847. Hence, the declaration of independence at the time it did may be rationalized by the imperial and unsavory territorial ambitions of the French and the British in our sub-region in the 19th century.

But I will go back to the point that we were not ready, and perhaps, this is while most of the colonists opposed the idea. There was a cycle of dependence on the American Colonization Society (ACS), embedded in the paternalism of an earlier antebellum period. This dependence was a double-edged sword. While it was necessary to some degree especially in the initial phase, it later became a psychological and institutional burden that had to be eradicated. As Wilmont Blyden, a former President of Liberia College, observed in the 19th century, most of the people who lived in settler society at that time refused to economically and culturally divorce themselves from the United States.

This attachment was subsequently embodied in most cultural and national symbols such as the flag, the constitution and the names of towns and cities. I would argue that it was this attachment that would impinge upon our relations with our tribal brethrens and thus forming a contributive factor for state failure. It led to a convoluted system of settler nativism that would come to haunt us in the long run. And, as the economist John Maynard Keynes says, in the long run we are all dead! What is saddened to note here today is that we the leaders did nothing to discourage this drift. Now, could you argue that this was a deliberate act of national betrayal on the part of people who were mere armatures in the craft of state building? About that I am not too sure!

David Kpomakpor [1994-1995]: But Mr. Roberts the fact that you were mere armatures in state building does not explain away the grievous errors that you may have conducted. You may be underestimating the nature and significance of free choice and wills in your presentation. For me to except your argument on this account, therefore, you would have to convince me that free choice did not play a part as a determinative variable in your political calculus. And may I submit that that would be a very tall order given the empirical evidence, which exists to the contrary. Your eminence, let me inform you that I have read with great interest the 1825,1839 and 1847 constitutions, and what I see presents a different picture from your representations of reality on this particular matter.

Edward J. Roye [1870-1871]: It was not only the conservatism of the Republican Party prior to 1870 that held us back as a nation. Roberts has made reference to the drift and lack of purpose regarding matters of integration and the development of a national consciousness. I understand that the True Whig Party also had an unenviable record. Although, I recon that the history of settler society and of our country in general is incomplete without the story of the racial skirmishes that unfolded in earlier times. It is important to know how this story impacted on future political developments and our national character. One of my most pernicious follies was my attempt to subvert the electoral process partly in response to the politics of character assassination.4 This attempted unconstitutional action on our part led to my arbitrary dismissal by my political foes, which in turn helped to sow the seeds of autocracy in Liberia. You may argue that this is a stretch. But this is by no means a remote affair looking back almost two centuries ago, but one must see in our actions the beginnings of the formation of political autocracy. These were decisive and defining moments in the history of our commonwealth when the constitution gave way to mob action and protocol. “What one has sowed one shall reap!” If you know what I mean!

Joseph J. Roberts [1847-1856; 1872-1876]: I am not sure how this process can be about apportioning blame. I regard our historic exchanges here as an exercise in self-examination and reflective criticism. This being the case, I should draw your attention to a cardinal aspect of the language question in our national development. During the enlightenment, the Europeans from Kant to Hume to Willem Bosman etc. fabricated various myths and made presuppositions regarding our race and the connection between literacy and intelligence, albeit a tenuous connection sometimes. There is an individual that goes by the name of Dualu Bukele. This contemporary of ours single-handedly created a writing system for the Vai language. We did not take notice because we had no regard for the vitality of “native culture.”

By creating a syllabary, which was so popularly accepted among the Vai that by the end of the 19th century most of them were using it, this man was doing something probably as great as some of the finest achievements of an era of reason. I wish we had had a language policy that took notice during the course of settlement activities in the 1820s and thereafter. It was very important that an African culture could produce its own system of writing in an age where writing was viewed as the most visible sign of reason and by extension, human intelligence.5 Dualu Bukele achieved that, but up to this point the significance of his achievement outside the walls of the University of Liberia has never been truly acknowledged.

Arthur Barclay [1904-1912]: I wish I had implemented the United States President William Howard Taft commission’s recommendations in 1908. The commission’s report made it clear that European colonialism was less of a threat to our sovereignty then the chaotic state of our economy and public administration.

William Tolbert [1971-1980]: Both of you gentlemen are right about every point you have just made. One of my other regrets in office was the fact that I did not succeed in renegotiating all the terms of the Firestone concession agreement especially in terms of the construction of the tire plant issue. I would choose not to go into the history of how and while Firestone came to Liberia in the 1920s. One thing I know is that we were sold short by the Firestone agreement. There were many provisions, that if we had our way, we would wish to erase. It is the type of agreement that any future democratic government must avoid if Liberia is to develop. The new economic foundations must be based on mutual reciprocity, indigenous capacity building for industrialization, and self-sufficiency. Anyway, such were the times, the politics and the conditions! The paradox that exists with regards to Firestone is that this was supposed to be the path to economic takeoff, but in actuality it turned out to be a trap for neo-colonial exploitation, and what the Neo-Marxist Samin Amin calls “maldevelopment.” No one would have known in the 1920s what Firestone would amount to for our people. It is interesting to note how some of our African American cousins across the Atlantic were very enthusiastic about the Firestone contract. In 1925 a writer in the Chicago defender praised Harvey Firestone as “a great man with a great wisdom” whose plantations would benefit not only Liberians but also African Americans. In the same year another newspaper elaborated on the significance of the Firestone agreement:

“At the Census of 1920 only one colored man in the entire country gave his occupation as that of a forester; fifty reported themselves as architects; eighty as civil engineers and thirty-one as mechanical engineers…due to the fact so few of our young men have taken up these professions, because of the difficulty of obtaining employment. It appears that the Firestone Company may be obliged to select a mixed, if not all-white administrative force to put over this great piece of constructive work in the black Republic, in whose progress all of us are greatly interested.”6

Samuel K. Doe [1980-1990]: Like President Tubman, I am also a free trader. Your statement amounts to an indictment of free trade and the very logic of liberal economics. At least that is the way I see it. There are contradictions inherent in an agreement like that where the profit motive is not far from the corner, as one would expect. But are you saying that we should then conclude that liberal economics or free trade is a paradox because of the costs of capitalist investments? Maybe the real paradox lies in the dichotomy between our speech and actions. The relative costs and benefits of capitalist expansion don’t always suggest a fate accompli in terms of losers and gainers. In other words, this may be more about what we do in terms of the management of our interests than what we say we intend to do. Thus, the battleground must be expanded and reshaped to include the field of interpretive discourse and positive action.

Joseph J. Roberts [1847-1856; 1872-1876]: I guess we are all capitalists in the pantheon of economic policies, maxims and institutional ideals. Yes, free traders we are! There is the messianic purpose and there is the profit motive. It was the quest for business ventures and profit that served as the pull and push factors for some of us to the Atlantic Coast. But what we failed to realize was that our variation of that veritable protestant ethic was often times crude and an atrocious naiveté to say the least. We constantly mistook conspicuous consumption for capitalist accumulation and reproduction. I have learned that you, Mr. Doe, had vowed to stage a boxing match with Colonel Ghaddafi in defense of these “pristine” ideals. But might there now be the need to distinguish these ideals from a grand ideology of Pax Americana? This is just a thought for consideration and soul searching. It is a thought to consider as we brace ourselves to embark upon a new frontier. For, it is about time that we examine our inner most consciences to see where and how we went wrong in the past. The goal is not to arrive at some preeminent and unified theory of political behavior that would pass as universal truths. But rather it must be, as someone indicated here today, a process of departures from errors in the search for norms of appropriateness, as we discern what ought to be in the universe of choices.

Amos Sawyer [1990-1994]: There are many foundational challenges that face us as we embark upon a new frontier of social change and civic accountability. The chaotic state of our economy and public administration can be addressed within the framework of constitutional reform. We attempted in the 1980s but there are not enough gains I can point to on this front. My fears are that we may repeat the mistakes of the past if enough gains are not made in revisiting some of the unsettled issues of the past. The unsettling constitutional dispensation happens to be one of those issues.

Samuel Doe [1980-1990]: I thought I commissioned you to reform our constitution during my tenure? Why was that task not completed in the 1980s when it should have been. I may be inclined now to think that perhaps attempts at tinkering with the current constitutional arrangement may not be necessary. Maybe the current constitutional framework may not be suited to our current conditions. I would take a radical approach now that we live in new historical realities. Perhaps, the particularities of our essential conditions call for a new constitutional dispensation in the establishment of new orders.

Amos Sawyer [1990-1994]: There was the constitutional drafting committee, and then, there was the constitutional assembly. These were two distinct undertakings and aspirations that I would view as being at cross-purposes. We were trying to end military rule while the assembly was interested in prolonging it. These are two distinct aspirations that were not only inherently contradictory, but were also mutually exclusive. They both coexisted in an explosive and potentially combustible political environment. In the end the constitutional assembly won because you remained in power beyond 1985.

Wilton Sankawulo [1995-1996]: I hear what you have to say but I will now turn to matters of economic policy. There has never been a forward-looking agrarian policy throughout the history of this commonwealth. But now necessity demands that the future path to economic development must first and foremost be rooted in the rural sector. The rural sector and the growth of a service sector should ensure linkages and structural mobility through the creation of jobs and services in other sectors. This is what I would call the famous demonstration effect. In the past, such outcomes were never the case because of the crowding out effect that the urban bias had on other sectors and regions. We must be very careful about setting up agricultural cooperatives, especially if they should be carried out on an involuntary basis.

There are threats of totalitarianism that must be avoided! There is always the need for an open mind on matters of cardinal principles such as these! For, agricultural cooperatives have proved to be somewhat sluggish in Eastern Europe and China in adapting to the dynamics of institutional and structural elements. These invariably include the demands of innovation, organizational change and productivity growth. This is while the collectives have been abandoned in Eastern Europe in the wake of market reforms and are being gradually abandoned in China in the new conditions of “capitalist realism.” Similarly, the existence of a market infrastructure was absent in the Stalinist model in the East and that was one of many reasons for its undoing. There are, therefore, no guarantees that such agrarian philosophy is going to work in Liberia. There is always the middle, and, there are always the extremes in these matters. Western capitalism failed in the 1930s because of the false belief in the fetishism of automatic equilibrium and market clearing.

What was essentially ignored here with practical consequences was the plausibility of market failures. This idea of automatic market clearing in the classical and neo-classical systems was rooted in the moral philosophy and deductive methodology of Adam Smith, and perhaps other pre-classical sources in the history of political economy. It was not until Keynes’ ideas came along forming a consensus in the middle ground before we knew that a permanent state of underemployment equilibrium in the form of depressed output conditions is a feasible scenario, where uncertainty regarding expectations and investment decisions is ubiquitous. Exploring the nature of uncertainty and its impact on market stability was significant. It was indeed, the epistemic dimension, which was for long overlooked in the orthodoxy of the Pre-Keynesian era in macro and micro theorizing.

Thus, voluntary cooperation should always be encouraged as a fact of life among rural farmers and dwellers. But cooperative endeavors in the rural economy must not be without the existence of a market infrastructure to connect buyers and sellers, taste, expectations and investment decisions. As with other aspects of national policy, this can take place within the context of a strategic framework of national priorities and policy preferences as a way of pursuing the middle path. There must be a reasonable degree of clarity on this issue because social cohesion and national security are impossible without economic and structural change to guarantee material well-being. If these were not the facts, then perhaps the tenor of our discourse and its theory could have been different. These are my views but I am by no means absolute that they are right. I am not so sure because I sometimes act or make utterances against my best instincts like everybody else. Is this the conduct of a reasonable person?

Ruth Perry [1996-1997]:
Our discussion here today has great value in terms of taking stock and setting some parameters for our critical dialogue for the future. Through conversations like these we can achieve a lot on the path to reconstruction and national reconciliation. Through frank conversations like these we can gain greater wisdom in diagnosing the causes of political autocracy in our community. Bohm and his associates have shared the following words with us on the benefits of what I would call critical conversations:

“Dialogue, as we are choosing to use the word, is a way of exploring the roots of the many crises that face humanity today. It enables inquiry into, and understanding of, the sorts of processes that fragment and interfere with real communication between individuals, nations and even different parts of the same organization. In our modern culture men and women are able to interact with one another in many ways: they can sing, dance or play together with little difficulty but their inability to talk together about subjects that matter deeply to them seems invariably to lead to dispute, division and often violence. In our view this condition points to a deep and pervasive defect in the processes of human thought.”7

Edwin Barclay [1930-1944]: I want to come back to the point Mr. Tolbert has made about the notion of fallibility, because I am inclined to think that it has formed the conceptual framework of our deliberations at this gathering. Indeed, the lesson of falibilism is that we proceed not towards truth but away from errors. We do so because we are more likely to know when we are wrong than when we are right. But why is this the case? It is so because we are willing to accept imperfections and incompleteness as per the epistemological status of our understanding. Our willingness to do this through the exercise of judgment is what distinguishes us as reasonable actors on the historical stage. Jack Mezirow refers to subjective reframing and our willingness to tentatively accept a best judgment in the absence of empirical evidence of the truth of a belief or an assertion. Burbules calls this exercise of judgment the pragmatic spirit. Bringing this process of exercising judgment to a logical conclusion would allow us to see that we may have taken actions in the past that went against our best instincts.8 It would also allow us as leaders to atone for the injuries our actions or assertions may have caused others, and herein lies the path to humility and openness to new perspectives.

Garrestson W. Gibson [1900-1904]: You are right I find it difficult to query your positions. I am convinced that your thoughts may be rooted in the very nature of human rationality. I should submit that there are many calculations that go into our decision-making processes. These include our prejudices, ambitions, fears and other considerations in the metaphysical realms. I for instance now think that the introduction of the hut tax was not only a pernicious error of judgment, but it was driven by prejudice and sheer discrimination against the indigenes. Why wasn’t the tax a universal or progressive tax for example? We could have raised money to show up our frequently dismal fiscal position through a system of progressive taxation in the land. Furthermore, the manner in which our bureaucracy administered that tax by applying autocratic methods through the liberal use of the Frontier Force to inflict unnecessary violence was mind bugling. This was an ugly experience in the annals of our fiscal history that should never be repeated!

Alfred F. Russell [1883-1884]: I wish to thank everyone who has come to our palaver hut to participate in this discussion. It has been the most gracious opportunity of a lifetime. The most basic paradox about the Liberian condition is that a society, which was conceived on the basis of a messianic purpose to be a safe haven for liberty and the downtrodden, turned out to be a natural habitat for the rise of autocracy. Anyway, this has been probably one of the most productive sessions in the history of our social and political life. I view our gathering here today as the high point of civil dialogue as we arise out of the ashes of national decay. Quite frankly speaking, there has never been a time as far back as I can remembered when we, the past and present leaders of this suffering nation, have come together to discuss in such a fashion.

I am convinced that this action will have a lasting impact on posterity and our current efforts to right the numerous wrongs of the past. We have discussed almost everything from economics, culture, principles of morality and ethics to politics etc. We have further attempted to come to terms with the very nature of human rationality and action. We have recognized through our various arguments and counterarguments, the need for openness in our perennial search for a more rational order of society. The quintessential conclusion I have drawn from these deliberations is that our actions must always be tempered by the fact that the certainty of the information and knowledge we have can never be said to be absolute, especially in the realms of reason and secular activity. You are welcome lady and gentlemen! Oh! My palm whine cup is emptied is anyone interested in a refill?