Saturday, October 3, 2015

Whither the US?

What is our purpose in the world? I mean the United States, not humanity. Humanity serves no purpose except itself. But is that all the US does as well? And even if that is all the US does, what is it that serves the US?

I wonder about this today because I just read how the US bombed a hospital today in Afghanistan run by Doctors Without Borders. The US has been engaged in wars in central and west Asia now for the better part of 25 years going back to the first Iraq war in 1991. And involvement arguably goes back further to the Iran-Iraq War, and of course the Cold War before that, and before and before...

Since World War II, American foreign policy had the bipolar world of the threat of the red menace to use as an explanation for almost every adventure and intrigue in which it engaged. But that threat has been gone as long as the direct warmaking in the middle east and subcontinent.

But the US won. What's been the point since then?

Neo-Conservative ideology developed by spitshined genius Paul Wolfowitz and other notorious Republicans created a reason for a monopolar world of US world-beating and freedom-spreading before any other nations or peoples could have the chance to challenge it. It was a simple notion: the US is really fucking rich and powerful and unchallengeable for the moment so use that power to spread the fuck out of freedom across the world because it's so awesome.

Of course, like most Americans, other people across the world don't care much to be told what to do, especially when it comes under threat of violence. And especially if they happen to have cultures--regardless what anyone else may think of them--which are thousands of years old versus the couple hundred that the US is.

Well, ok, but a bunch of folks from that area attacked the US on 9-11 and they should be rooted out. So the US went into Afghanistan to get a bunch of Saudis in an organization run by a Yemeni and Egyptian. The locals who protected them were mostly Pakistani and were originally trained by the US to beat up on the Russians 20 years prior. Although, everyone there knew how to beat the big boys already. And there is a very long track record of outsiders failing miserably when coming in to bring freedom or whatever to the goat-herders and poppy farmers of the region.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ok, then make up a bullshit excuse to do the same to our old buddies in Iraq again. Take the lid off a simmering millennium-plus old blood feud between religious sects. Great idea!

Spreading the shit out of freedom, instead, has resulted in the spreading the shit out of Islamic fanaticism in response. The US isn't really getting the benefit of the oil in the region; and doesn't really need it anymore either. The only winners are the same old war-mongers and materiel suppliers that always seem to do well when hospitals filled with volunteer healers and their maimed patients get blown to bits. OOps!

It seems the only reason to still be involved at this point is to save face. But I have a hard time understanding how face is saved by blowing up the faces of doctors, staff, and people whose faces are already half-blown off.

The US has proved long ago incapable of having any useful effect on the people of the region. Or any other region. At least through military action. The Cold War was not won by force. It was won by American blue jeans, The Beatles, and a Polish Pope.

The US wins not by force of arms, but by being a force for good and by having good friends in high places. By the use of hearts and minds. Not bullets and bombs. The US beat Hitler and Hirohito a long time ago now through a massive amount of might which has not been brought to bear since. But more importantly, the US sustained that military victory through sustained good works. In an ADHD culture, that's just not possible.

The answer is, we have no purpose in the world. We don't even serve our own interests anymore. We bombed it to smoldering ashes in a volunteer hospital.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What is a Liberal? Liberal Economics and Neo-Liberal Economics

Strangely enough, the economic approach favored by today's conservatives is called "neo-liberalism". It developed out of a fundamental misinterpretation of Adam Smith's original concepts of liberalism in economics.

By misinterpretation I mean that today's conservatives leave out a basic concept which is the centralizing force behind Smith's economics: moral control. He made the same academic error in the 18th century that Marx made in the following century; he assumed a basic morality in humans which would make the need for government intervention unnecessary in the face of excess and abuse. In Smith's case morality or virtue derived from the operation of God in earthly affairs while Marx derived it from the evolution of human nature.

The Liberal of the 21st century long-since threw off notions that government intervention in economics is by definition a bad thing. The modern Liberal knows that the when modern Conservatives use the phrase "invisible hand" what they really mean is only "the finger". Where Smith defined "rational self-interest" in terms which included a balance between the individual and the society in which the individual lives in a manner which today's adherents to Smith almost entirely ignore.

Experience in the real world teaches Liberals that the rationality of Smith and the moral evolution of Marx don't play enough of a role -- to the extent that they even exist -- to properly temper the drive to excess that human economic behavior so often unleashes.

Modern Conservatives cling to the mythical notion of inherent human kindness. Liberals hope for and encourage it wherever possible, but prefer to find a means to account for the failings of such a hope. In Democratic societies, where the people as a whole express their need for social control, the surest means of tempering the economic excesses of individuals falls to their government. The amount of control exerted varies from state to state and how well it functions is as variable as the personalities of every individual in the society, but the alternatives are found wanting. But that is a topic for another post (which hopefully will occur before another 3 years pass...)