ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
“THE MALADY OF NATIONS”
We have now come to the end of our five-part series, having offered what I hope has been viewed as a unique perspective of the economic and political trappings that have systematically stripped America of its vitality over the past 100 years. As I review the previous articles, there is a pervasive pessimism suggestive of little hope for positive change.
This article wraps my perspective in a historical context reaching back millennia. I hope you find it entertaining and personally useful. And, I bid you adieu.
During a speech, Mitt Romney opined on the health care bill in an extremely critical tone, including an overall condemnation of the entitlement mentality; he ended his tirade with this comment: “…and then they (Obama and friends) will cut Medicare benefits by $500,000,000.” Just keep this quote in mind as we proceed.
In the beginning there were tribes that were consolidated by the most powerful chiefs or warlords into tiny nations or citystates, who then expanded their territories primarily on the basis of common language until vast borders were formed under the banners of sovereign countries.
This persisted for millennia, with one potentate conquering another, from without or within, a steady flow of turmoil dependent on the nature of the ruler, be he benevolent to his subjects and respectful of his neighbors, or more often the case, tyrannical toward his subjects and full of contempt and jealousy for neighboring rulers. A study of history will reveal to the adventurous student a plethora of events costing countless lives in the pursuit of personal regal glory and gain.
A change washed over the world emanating
from the Renaissance of the 16th
century. People engaged in rare human
endeavor– they began to think; this lead to
great inventions, engaging philosophies,
art, and challenges to authoritarian rule of
both the church and state. Legal scholars
might claim that the first great leap in protection
under the law was introduced by the Magna Carta of 1215, but it did more
to ensure the rights of nobility than the
average serf who was still at the mercy
Eventually, through violent social and political revolution, most notably in European countries and/or their colonies, rule by the people evolved as the standard by which all men held the best and most fair chance to improve their lots in life.
There were three notable forms of government that emerged over time to assault the “divine rights of kings.” Fascism not withstanding because it was little more than dictatorship with a complex ideology that quickly evolved to focus on the dictator himself. This I say noting it could be argued that fascism has already taken root in America. Nonetheless, absent a succinct ideology and plan, where simple discontent served as impetus to the revolt, some military strongman consolidated power and eventually filled the void with no small measure of violence. The anointing of kings by God was supplanted by the anointing of the masses bestowed on one who was perceived as one of their own. A good example might be the reign of Napoleon after the French Revolution.
The other two forms held a distinction from the former: communism and democracy were fresh concepts borne on the provocative thought of the enlightened educated man. If we read a thousand books on these latter two forms of government, a litany of distinctions compiled in a scroll and unfurled from the top of the Empire State building would stream down 33rd St. to the Hudson River. Perhaps I exaggerate, but only to accentuate the point that from their diametric opposing philosophies, the latter two seem to be entrenched in a gravitational pull toward a center of commonality.
Let me elaborate: failure or success are the great prognosticators for the survival of all things, usually. Communism over the decades proved to stifle initiative, creativity and productivity, leaving the USSR in shambles. This led to privatization of industry and a move to a quasi-democratic state, where the core of industry was franchised to those at the top of the political rung, leaving in tact an oligarchic mix controlling the country, with the “hope” of individual success interjected into the game.
The greatest spectator to this development in the breakup of the USSR was its cousin, China. I wonder if the visionary, Deng Xiaoping, turned to his colleagues one day in the mid-80s and exclaimed: “Comrades, this ain’t gonna work out - it’s time to make a fundamental change. Let’s compile a list of what all our kids might like to own and let the bidding begin.” Well… I wonder who else but those in power had money to bid.
Now let us turn to democracy as it exists in the United States today. I think it is reasonable to suggest that the political juggernaut subsists at the teats of corporate contributions via a plethora of lobbyists doling out any number of favors and dollars, and the political enterprise of Congress holding power by doling out favors and dollars to a broad range of special interests from those same corporations to the most powerful body of voters - now in or close to retirement. Why is the outraged American population surprised at the socialistic direction of our country? Does it not stand to reason that if every elected official gets to his or her office and keeps it for an extended period of time by offering a little something to their constituents, sooner or later there won’t be much left to give? And from where does the money come to satiate the ravenous hunger of the constituent? “We the People!”
Now, I challenge the reader to offer me distinctions in practical economic terms between America and China apart from the rhetorical chiming of ideology based on personal liberties and human rights, factors that could produce a robust debate on the nuances of those same attributes that are rapidly fading away in the America of today.
So then, are we not, in fact, now racing toward the socialistic democracies of our own European cousins? One can only conclude that the outcome of democracy must always be a form of socialism, an eventuality engrained in the system, as much as socialism to survive must eventually capitulate to some form of market economy. Perhaps, then, the sentinels of economic study should not be as focused on the impact of capitalism on China as the impact of China on capitalism in determining the ultimate form of market economies in western democracies.
And there we all meet – kissing cousins – in the middle - placating the populace while we chase a buck. This all brings me back to “good ole” Mitt and his ardent complaint against the cuts in Medicare, one of the most draining entitlements of U.S. coffers, as he offers his complaint against an expanding government health-care program. Being as Mitt has proven himself to be a very successful businessman, I will not offer the accusation that Mitt is an innately stupid guy, but perhaps this behemoth contradiction indicates that he must feel that way about those who take him seriously. And over time, we can be sure that the health care bill will become as sacrosanct as Medicare for grandma, and the juggernaut continues.
How shall we then live? We could become like the mule presented with two bales of hay equidistant from where he stands to his left and his right. The mule’s gaze begins shifting slowly from one bale to the other; days pass until he rests his weary legs curled under his weight; yet, his quandary to decide remains unresolved until he is too weak to move; his ribs begin to show; and soon he is dead. So what in the world am I saying? What is my complaint? I have none. There lies no hope beyond that vortex that pulls us down to some level of mediocrity and suffering. Have I given up? No. What is the solution? Stop kicking against a brick wall – you will only break your foot. Wise is the man who knows he has reached that brick wall. Complain if you must, but make no excuses and get to work on your own bale of hay. You may be a greedy selfish person who’s positive contributions are always merely accidental, or you may be a person who cares and shares, but at least you won’t be stuck like the mule and eventually euphemistically dead.
On the outer limits of the rest of the
world, like the proverbial fly in the ointment,
the cycling of potentates in the form
of kings, dictators, revolutionaries, and
military juntas persists. Some things never
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