Wednesday, October 27, 2010
While Defending Sanity on Saturday - Bring Along (Decent & Smart) Capitalism
Folks may be curious how I can avow to be a libertarian (albeit a heretical one who despises Ayn Rand) and an admirer of Adam Smith... while urging everybody in sight to attend the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rallies, this coming Saturday and to "think blue" on election day.
For starters, because contradictions don't bother "Contrary Brin"... in fact, they're part of the fun in life! Also because most are illusory contradictions. (Have you actually read Adam Smith? Today he'd be a democrat. It's clear on almost every page.)
One commonly-used crutch that I've long denounced is the hoary-stupid so-called "left-right political axis" -- a monstrous metaphor that lobotomizes all who use it. It should be abandoned because it's puerile, misleading, illogical... and because it's French! (;-)
Seriously, if you'd like to probe everything from several dozen fresh perspectives, that I guarantee you've never thought of before, then have a look at this essay series I wrote for a group that wants to transform libertarianism from a fringe-of-flakes into a real force for pragmatic freedom in American life. I wish them luck! (Though I won't hold my breath.)
Will the comedians rescue us? To those of you heading for the Stewart-Colbert rallies, October 30 in DC... thank you, heroes! And if you cannot attend the main event in Washington? Then find a satellite rally at www.rallymao.com !
Is American Civilization in a steep decline? So you'd think from dyspeptic ads running on Fox. But for a broader perspective, historian and diplomat Joseph Nye gives us the 30,000-foot (TED-talk) view of the shifts in power between China and the US, and the global implications as economic, political and "soft" power shifts and moves around the globe.
Me? I am appalled that 99% of American are unaware of what we have accomplished. And how simple it would be for the United States to remain the rich and influential and respected leader of the world.
=== The Road We've Traveled ===
Let's start with a basic fact that is too-seldom discussed. Nearly all of world development, since WWII, has been financed by American purchasing power ... us buying countless trillions of $ worth of crap we never needed. US consumer purchases -- uplift via Wal*Mart -- has lifted more people out of poverty than all the "aid" given by all nations, across all of time. (See: How Americans spent themselves into ruin...but saved the world.)
If we set aside (temporarily) concerns about labor practices, corruption and eco-side-effects, the creation of a nascent world middle class has been one of the greatest achievements of Pax Americana, fully on a par with toppling Hitler and staunching the fever that was communism. By one light, our trade deficits have been sacred and noble things.
Find that boggling? Compare Japan and Europe in 1945 to now. Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia, Brazil... and today, as we speak, even in a recession, we are lifting the economies of China AND India... at the same time.
But how have we afforded to do this? Every decade, dour pundits predicted that calamity would result, but it never happened.... that is, till now.
The reason is simple. HALF of all GDP growth - since WWII - occurred because of scientific and technological advances. Jets, satellites, pharmaceuticals, copiers, computers, the Internet... you name it. We dealt with IP theft by creating new patents faster than others could steal them!
This is why the right's endless rants against both science and labor unions are monstrously stupid and self-defeating. The solution is not to drive working Americans into penury. Nor is it to hate the smart people who kept us dining on the 'golden eggs' of new discoveries and inventions. These were the folks who kept the rising tide that lifted all boats, and allowed the US to stay ahead, and able to pay for it all.
But today we are seeing the result of the Bushite War Against Science. Ronald Reagan shifted R&D from Carter's energy program (which would have taken us off of the Middle-East oil teat, by now) and onto frantic overdrive in developing things we prayed that we would never use! But, even still, at least in those days, Republicans liked technology! And some science.
Reagan's version of the War on Science was mild. He funded some research and listened to OSTA, now and then. In contrast to the neoconservatives, who trashed the OTSA as their very first order of business, I miss Reagan, terribly. At least he would negotiate. He called liberals foolish. He had no truck with labeling his fellow citizens as satanic beings.
The dawn of the 21st century saw the first US leadership that directly and deliberately undermined the basic source of our power and strength, as well as the health of the Middle Class. The font from which we took IN so much wealth that we were able to uplift the world, through trade.
Can we believe this? Whether this parsimonious explanation is true -- that it was done deliberately -- or else the preposterous story that is believed by nearly everybody -- that such a perfect record of harm to the United States was wreaked unintentionally, out of staggeringly uniform and manic stupidity -- either way, the harm has been grievous. And it is ongoing.
The relentless campaign of propaganda that manifests on Fox News and in the Tea Party Movement has one common them... Hatred of All Smartypants. Fuming, smoking spite toward America's "creative minority" --
-- the same minority of smart folks that the great historian Arnold Toynbee once called the core to any great nation's success. The same segment of society that Rush Limbaugh recently spewed venom toward, in openly-declared hatred and in extremely clear, general terms.
Let us be plain. They want us to cook the goose that laid all those golden eggs. And serve it to a conniving oligarchy that is almost as profoundly short-sighted and stupid as it thinks itself smart.
An afterthought... preventing this realization is probably the reason that many of the puppeteers have inflicted on us the treason of subsidized culture war. By deliberately fostering populist, know-nothing confederate hatred of urban/science/blue America and a million other distractions, they get enough political clout to prevent any populist reaction against aristocratism in Congress.
And finally... I repeat it everywhere. Liberals, get off your butts and RECLAIM THE FIRST LIBERAL! Adam Smith. The theoretician who despised conniving oligarchs far more than any other enemy of competitive enterprise.
Read Smith! Don't take the word of doofus right wingers who proclaim that Smith wanted "laissez-faire" to run roughshod over the poor. In fact, in his fervent support for public education, social mobility, transparency, open competition and the creation of power centers that can hold the oligarchy in check, Smith provides a litany of neocon-demolishing quotations!
Moreover, by reclaiming Adam Smith, we:
1- emphasize liberalism's roots in pushing social justice, not just because it is "nice" but because it is totally pragmatic to maximize the number of capable, competitors!
2- anti-monopoly sentiment is fizzing, just below the surface. Harness it!
3- It is political jiu jitsu! BE the party of enterprise! It is about time that competitive markets got a champion, after the Republican Party has spent a generation demolishing them.