Saturday, June 10, 2006

An open letter to my friend Cobra

Cobra -

My reply to your comment here was getting overlong, so - thanks for inadvertantly getting me to write a new post! The question you asked:

Ponder this...exactly what argument could we make against China if they decide that Taiwan poses "an imminent threat" to them?


Give me a hard question, Cobra! The answer: We could say, in our own national interest and in complete truth, that we therefore consider China to be a threat to us. That's an oldy from the Cold War. Communism, or socialism if you like, totalitarianism in general, is a threat to what we like to call "our way of life" - which does not mean the trappings of Western society half so much as it means the Bill of Rights and the (relatively) free market. The MI complex as profit generator? Yes and no - there's a broken-window fallacy there, I think, wherein IF that money weren't spent on guns and tanks, it could be spent on other things, things that create more profit, but once it's spent, it's spent. I'm far from an economist - but here's my take on the "neo-con" strategy: We will have to deal with the consequences of totalitarianism abroad, one way or another. Containment is not a viable option any more, and hasn't been since, oh, China got the bomb, I'm gonna say. The first line of both defense and attack is economic: beat them by GDP, which is largely what we (the West) did with the Soviet Union. But when the opposition is not necessarily motivated by self-perpetuation, but is instead messianic or more or less purely ideological, the economic approach is limited: an ideological enemy is much less open to the persuasions of the market than an essentially socio-economic one like the Soviet system.

Look at China: still a totalitarian regime, but with widening cracks in its facade because it can't withstand the pressures of the market - both the economic and informational market - without giving in to some of them. The demise of that system is coming, sooner or later. I don't think we'll ever have to raise arms against China in order to bring it about.

Or, look at the current divide between Repubs and Dems: it's an ideological chasm that separates us, and appeals to common sense (in analogy, the marketplace) don't do diddly to bridge it.

It's my opinion, and one that the Bush Administration apparently shares, whatever its motives (and thank you for assigning me altruistic ones! I know your intentions are altruistic, though, as you said, I often disagree with your proposals), that nations with a strong commitment to individual rights approximately as our founders spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are good neighbors. Or at least better neighbors than those whose commitment is instead to the collective.

"Altruism" is a private matter, I think; when government attempts it, the line blurs between help and coercion, because government has power far beyond that of most individuals. An individual may choose to act outside his own self-interest without much risk of doing great harm if he's wrong in his choices; a government doesn't have that luxury. As such, it makes a lot more sense to me that government should primarily stay out of the way of individuals' attempting to exercise their freedoms to live mostly as they want to, up to the point where their exercise of freedom infringes on someone else's. That, in a nutshell, is why I named this blog what I did: because the principles of the Republican party (which, sadly, may differ a whole lot from its elected leaders' practices) suit my ideal of the least government, most of the time - but I completely reject the stereotype of Republicans as heartless.

So many of my metaphors are parental; heck, it's what I do. But here goes: It's not heartless for a parent of an adult to stand far back when the adult offspring falls into something nasty - instead, it's an acknowledgment that the adult offspring has agency, capability, pride, responsibility. However, it's also not characteristic for most parents to allow the adult offspring to die - and indeed, this is why I'm not a libertarian. If one of my kids, when grown, tries to come back home because living on his own is inconvenient, well, it was a nice visit, kiddo, but hit the road. If he comes home because he's at rock-bottom and has no other options, I'll make up the spare bedroom with love and reluctance, and try to light a fire under him to get him back on his feet as fast as possible.

Far afield. It's 3AM; I can't sleep. I hope you have fun in MD - I assume you're going there for fun, though you didn't say. We'll disagree again when you get back! Always interesting - thank you for continuing to visit.

1 comment:

Cobra said...

Jamie,

I was in Maryland and Delaware on business, but I managed to have a reasonably good time.

Now, onto matters. First of all, I think it's wonderful we can disagree on topics, philosophy and ideology in a mutually respectful and congenial way. That doesn't happen everywhere, (the floor of the US Congress, talk radio, blogs, etc.)

I asked the China question because it's NOT black and white, IMHO. Take the economic impact of China upon the US right now:

>>>"Soaring high-tech and other imports from China, sharply higher oil prices drive trade deficit to new record

The U.S. Department of Commerce today reported that the merchandise trade deficit reached a record level of $666.2 billion in the 2004, a 21.7% increase since 2003.The aggregate U.S. trade deficit, which includes both goods and services, was $617.7 billion, a 24% increase over 2003. The real goods and services deficit as a share of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) increased to an unprecedented 5.8%in the fourth quarter of 2004. Growth in the deficit reflects surging imports and a continued, rapid decline in the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing industries. The U.S. had a $37 billion trade deficit in advanced technology products (ATPs) in 2004, an increase of 38% since 2003.

Imports of high-tech goods from China were responsible for $36 billion of the $37 billion U.S. deficit in ATPs in 2004 (see EPI Working Paper #270). The growth of the ATP deficit was responsible for 13.5% of the increase in the non-petroleum goods trade deficit. While advanced technology goods were responsible for 19% of the growth in imports, they generated 24% of the growth in non-petroleum exports in 2004, which demonstrates that this sector has significant potential for growth in the future."

Our Consumer Infrastructure is addicted to China

That's everything from computers to catfish hooks--televisions to t-shirts--microvaves to model planes. Our largest retail stores should have Chinese subscripts on their billboard signage. The whole concept of the modern shopping mall is anchored by the Red Chinese Government.
The other problem?

>>>"China has resolved to shift some of its foreign exchange reserves -- now in excess of $800 billion -- away from the U.S. dollar and into other world currencies in a move likely to push down the value of the greenback, a high-level state economist who advises the nation's economic policymakers said in an interview Monday.

As China's manufacturing industries flood the world with cheap goods, the Chinese central bank has invested roughly three-fourths of its growing foreign currency reserves in U.S. Treasury bills and other dollar-denominated assets. The new policy reflects China's fears that too much of its savings is tied up in the dollar, a currency widely expected to drop in value as the U.S. trade and fiscal deficits climb.

China now boasts the world's second-largest cache of foreign exchange -- behind only Japan -- and is on pace to see its reserves climb past $1 trillion later this year. Even a slight diminishing of the dollar as a percentage of those holdings could exert significant pressure on the U.S. currency, many economists assert.

In recent years, the value of the dollar has been buoyed by major purchases of U.S. Treasury bills by Japan, China and oil-exporting countries -- a flow of capital that has kept interests rates relatively low in the United States and allowed Americans to keep spending even as debts mount. Some economists have long warned that if foreigners lose their appetite for American debt, the dollar would fall, interest rates would rise and the housing boom could burst, sending real estate prices lower."

The lender that pays for our massive debt is having second thoughts


Many people seem to forget that the United States in DEBT. The Federal Government is operating at a deficit.

>>>"WASHINGTON, June 12 (Reuters) - The U.S. government posted a larger-than-expected $42.83 billion federal budget deficit in May, a Treasury Department report showed on Monday.

The May deficit compared with a $35.42 billion funding gap in May 2005.

Wall Street economists polled by Reuters were expecting a $39 billion budget deficit for May."

Spending like a drunken sailor with no ceiling in sight

Now, what does this compilation of fiscal data mean in my opinion? It means that if China decides it's in their own best interest to invade Taiwan, you'll hear a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing from our government. Our corporatocracy has led us to a position where the Communist Chinese Government is not only fueling our economy, but funding our "war on terror", disaster recovery, reconstruction initiatives, etc. It's all borrowed money, primarily from China with Japan and Saudi Arabia, all at a time when conservatives argue for more tax cuts.

You can't exactly lecture your loan shark about his thumb-breaking skills during collections.

I agree with you somewhat about the industrio military complex but take it further:

>>>" The MI complex as profit generator? Yes and no - there's a broken-window fallacy there, I think, wherein IF that money weren't spent on guns and tanks, it could be spent on other things, things that create more profit, but once it's spent, it's spent."

We are borrowing MONEY from CHINA to buy these weapons systems from defense contractors who outsource the manufacturing of components for these systems to China because of the cheap labor pool and greater profit margins? Come on, now.

We are in NO position, presently to do ANYTHING to China.

The same applies to Saudi Arabia. We don't say "boo" about their VAST array of human rights abuses, teaching of wahabist Islamic fundamentalism in madrasses, funding suicide bombers in Israel and Iraq or anything else. Our corporatocracy dictates that our addiction to oil and petroleum profits outweighs any of the SAME arguments used now to justify the regime change in Iraq. And put that equation to China...

Saddam Hussein is Fred Rogers next to what the Chinese Communists did during their takeover.

More on this and other fun topics later. I'm off to sleep again--got a wedding in western Mass on Saturaday.
Till we chat again...

--Cobra