May 10, 2008
Seemingly random thoughts but, in fact, it's all about Life in America.
I see the world on the brink of either a major war or a couple of additional Middle East wars in Syria/Lebanon and Iran. There comes a point where the US cannot go it alone not because it lacks the technology, it simply lacks the manpower and I doubt that NATO can be relied upon to help because the European NATO nations all fear their own Muslim populations. On whose side might India and China be in case of such a major war? By logic they should side with the USA but that is in no way assured. Russia might side with the USA as a way to regain its empire. Since these will be religion inspired wars, the secular Middle Eastern despots should side with the USA but they, too, have their internal fundamentalist oppositions.
Just about now the USA should be happy that a large part of its fleet is atom powered reducing the fueling problem. But the manpower still travels on its stomach as Napoleon quipped and air and land power need jet fuel, diesel and gas.
None of this might come to pass because the USA is by nature more isolationist than interventionist but if the USA does not intervene, the ascendency of Islam will be accelerated, they will achieve the victory they were denied at Tours and Vienna.
Since one should expect the unexpected, I would not find it strange that a population rich country like Brazil will come to the aid of Western Civilization. You can be sure that the fun loving, carnival making Brazilians don't want to live under a dour theocracy.
Another likely scenario could be an European civil war: western-caucasians vs. eastern-Islamics. Lincoln's description of pre civil war America, "A house divided against itself," is an apt metaphor for the current state of Europe -- Eurabia -- which is being "invaded" by non-assimilating Muslims. On the other side you have caucasians who are upset by the invasion but are unable or unwilling to put a stop to it. This situation must come to a head, either Sharia Law governing Europe or a repeat of the "Conquest of Granada" as happened in Spain under Isabel la Católica.
The Missing Superpower
Americans tend to be America centric and happy with just reading about the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers with a passing glance at Iraq. It is almost impossible to get real world news in most American papers. I remember reading the San Jose Mercury News. They were convinced that Microsoft was in Silicon Valley.
I happen to think that we are living in a very unstable world at this time, a world that needs to find stability and often this happens through violent confrontation. A world with a single superpower is unstable unless this superpower is willing to impose "Pax Americana" like the Romans imposed "Pax Romana." America is too isolationist to do it. It will take a few more years for China to assume its role as the other superpower.
That should be interesting! The Chinese have outposts the world over in restaurants, laundries and grocery stores. They are not easily assimilated as can be seen in the various Chinatowns in the USA. Their culture is strong. Their loyalty to their adoptive country vs. their loyalty to a coming Chinese superpower will be an interesting duel to watch.
It's Different This Time
"Different this time" have often proven to be dangerous words but the entry of Red China into the modern capitalistic world is not an everyday event. Nine out of ten bubbles do not have a real root cause beyond market instability, the fabled Black Swan, but some bubbles have identifiable drivers. Deng Xiaoping could well be that driver in this case although it took a few years to ramp up:
Poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious.
When our thousands of Chinese students abroad return home, you will see how China will transform itself.Many things in an economy are not zero sum games but others, specially commodities, are bound by the economic law of decreasing returns. When an economy grows vegetatively at two or three percent yearly the disruption is minimal or non-existent but when you add consumers and producers by the tens of millions yearly, something has to give. Usually what gives are prices because that is their job.
High oil prices are the signal to switch to coal, atom power and other sources of energy. It could well be that the current oil price is a spike but the drivers are in place to pressure oil prices upward in the long run.
What should be most worrisome is the Third World's regressive tendency, the moves to hoard, to limit trade and to control prices. Markets simply stop working under these conditions: while prices are stifled, supply is stifled as well. But politicians have seldom been noted for their economic competence.
In fact, world wide food shortage should be a boon to the USA, it can, once again, become the granary of the world. Eliminate the ethanol subsidy and eliminate farm price supports and the US farmer will feed the world. With all those farm exports America can buy back the debt with cheap dollars. As Churchill said, "Some people see difficulties at every opportunity, others see opportunity in every difficulty."
I am familiar with Libertarian (economic and political) thinking and I understand its appeal. Unfortunately its "appeal" is a bit like listening to John Lennon sing Imagine.This is the reason we cannot agree. While you understand Libertarian thinking it does not appeal to you. While I understand the risks of Libertarian thinking, it appeals to me more than the alternatives.
A Life Worth Living
Sometimes you can see the system better from the outside than from the inside specially if you have watched it with interest for a very long time. Some of my best lessons were learned in Boston in the late 1950s. Since then I believe America has become a lot more affluent and a lot more oppressive and more oppressed mostly by the search for safety, safe behind a warning label, safe behind an ambulance chasing lawyer, safe behind PC-ness, safe behind the Patriot Act, safe behind barefoot access to airplanes, safe behind a Fed bailout, safe behind the DEA and the list goes on and on and on like the Energizer bunny.
I must admit I liked best the America of WWII, the self reliant America, the Yankee ingenuity America.
Curiously one of the most accurate pictures of American life is painted by Dr. William H. Thomas of the Eden Alternative, a nursing home whose motto is "A Life Worth Living." Dr. Williams had to rebel against the regimentation and the bureaucracy that was trying to keep the elderly safe while at the same time killing them with "The three plagues of nursing homes: loneliness, helplessness and boredom." These plagues exist because that is the safe way to keep the elderly alive, if you can call it that. But they certainly were not living "A Life Worth living."
The same dullness exists everywhere where the bureaucracy runs life, be it from Moscow, from Caracas or from Washington. People forget that we were born to die. All that counts is the journey. Or as Dr. William H. Thomas puts it: "The only truly safe place for a human is in a six foot box six feet underground."
The Eden Alternative
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. William H. Thomas, M.D.
Copyright © Software Times, 2000, 2001, 2003. All rights reserved