ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Part I The Evolving Paradigm
The eradication of poverty and the end of racial injustice embodied the noble causes espoused by Lyndon B. Johnson that ushered in The Great Society, one in which all would be protected from the human condition and all would enjoy the bounty of The Great Nation upon which God shed His grace. The questions of who would protect and who would provide were details obscured by a vision of a Utopia that promised everyone their cut of the spacious skies, the amber waves of grain, the purple mountain majesties, and the fruited plains.
The Great Society was not the first great promise proffered to alleviate the pain of the masses and deliver to them “all things good.” There was JFK’s “New Frontier,” much of which formed the basis of the “Great Society” programmes, preceded by Truman’s Fair Deal, Roosevelt’s New Deal, and more. Yes, deals, deals, deals - step right up, everyone’s a winner - a basic tenant we all know is false, if not by reason, then intuitively. Nonetheless, a deal by any other name, (The Great Society), is still a deal, the essence of which comprises parties involved in a symbiotic exchange, satisfying their respective needs. It’s easy enough to understand the allure of such deals for the masses, but exactly what are the needs of government that are satisfied in pursuit of such lofty ideals?
In reality, government has nothing to offer in the exchange associated with any deal because governments don’t produce anything. Whatever they offer must by definition have been confiscated from the productive segment of society by means of taxation, coercion, or manipulation of systems and markets, better framed in simple vernacular as outright theft. The crowning achievement of governments throughout history has been to convince the masses of their need to be ruled. Times of crises, especially war, have always been prime time for governments to justify their existence and to consolidate power by assuming the role of protector and provider through which their “ultimate need”, i.e., government expansion, can be satisfied.
In the United States, this process began with the Civil War and escalated through the two World Wars that followed. Neither conservatives nor liberals are without blame for government expansion that’s out of control. Conservatives point the finger at liberals, claiming that their policies favoring the interests of unions, farmers and other proletariats are the root cause, while liberals point fingers at conservatives for hawking the build up of both the military industrial complex and big business in the interests of national security and American hegemony. Simply put, it is the proverbial tug of war between the welfare and warfare states that provides the placental fodder that gives birth to the “Deals.”
In fact, US Government expansion is rooted in the success of big business efforts to lobby the government for the creation of unfair advantage in its favor. America’s history is replete with instances of industry leaders writing the laws to which they themselves would be subject. One of the most egregious was the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Authored by the very industry leaders that it was chartered to regulate, it resulted in not just unfair but even worse, monopoly advantage. Such efforts by industry accelerated until they came to a head in 1933 with Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act, the first piece of legislation to openly facilitate collusion between industry and government through the creation of the National Recovery Administration (NRA). Although the NRA was declared unconstitutional in a unanimous supreme court ruling in 1935, causing it to cease operation, many of the provisions it created were incorporated in the National Labor Relations Act passed into law shortly thereafter. Much of the legacy of the National Recovery Act was passed on to The Great Society and on from there to globalization. Today we see that the center of power has been assumed by the government and that the government is used by a coalition of big businesses to operate and manage the economy.
The casual observer can see evidence of this in every aspect of government. Indeed, Goldman alumni have infested Washington like cockroaches, while lobbyists and lawyers have been appointed to key posts in the agencies that were established to oversee the very industries from whence they slithered.
The idea that such a construct was created for the benefit, as opposed to the exploitation, of the poor is absurd. During LBJ’s administration, the poor suffered most due to the good will of their benefactors. They died in the wars, were dislocated through urban renewal, lost jobs, and were subjected to the ravages of inflation far more than others, all for the benefit of special interests such as the military industrial complex, the construction industry and others. It should be apparent that the benevolent promises of government to protect and provide must ultimately be paid for by the majority of the citizenry, thereby draining the life blood of productivity.
Today, just as the remnants of the National Recovery Act were woven into the fabric of The Great Society, so too have the remnants of The Great Society been woven into the fabric of globalization. We now see the emergence of a new “New Deal”, one that will transcend the borders of sovereign states disposing of the last bastions of free markets at the behest of a corporate state whose only purpose for existence is to further enrich the elite by relentlessly disenfranchising not only the poor but the middle class as well. A truly “NOT SO” Great Society.
Part II The Nature of Things
A ll the matter on the earth works in a cycle of transformation. Living things inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. When we reduce certain things to carbon, they become useful nutrients for farming. All of us could cite at least one of a plethora of materials and particles that engage in this recycling of energy and matter. Within the framework of these processes, the earth maintains balance.
When we witness the kill of the lion, we can recoil at the sight of its sometimes very cute prey, bellowing lowly as its life drains in the grasp of the lion; but the lion’s life and its progeny are nourished and therefore thrive. This is a cycle that we accept; however sorry we feel for the prey, few mature adults would deign to interfere with that process, for we not only understand it, but we fear the consequences of alteration.
We know when the predator is ravaged by disease or poaching, its prey proliferates until it is devastated by its own numbers, spreading disease and ravaging its habitat until the fates of both intersect in disharmonious tragedy.
The reader might ask what does that have to do with the subject? At that, I must pose a question. If I were to select at random one thousand people and ask them if they would like to have a billion dollars, what percentage of that group would raise their hands? With the presumption that the percentage is going to be hysterically high, if not unanimous, let’s expand the nominees to a whole country and hypothetically do it.
For a while, we would become children again, holding hands as we skipped down the street, perhaps in unison belting out a tune like; “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain it would be. I’d stand outside with mouth open wide, Ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah…”
I don’t think most readers would fail at realizing what would quickly follow; an example of bread would serve as a suitable metaphor – everyone would be buying the most luscious bread available, but no luscious bread would be available because everyone who baked it would now be retired, standing outside with his mouth open wide. Human nature is imbued with a natural balance just like the earth, it is dispersed to us humans in degrees of aptitude, ambition and vigor, thus creating the foundation to engage in enterprise, which always finds a man at the top referred to as CEO, with a chain of command that cascades downward all the way to a guy who is refered to as the custodian.
This may strike some as elitist, but that same practical awareness that we apply to the lion can also be applied here, and we all know intuitively that all of us are not endowed with the same attributes, and that our sense of fairness demands the objective application of reward for what we ourselves bring to the success of any endeavour.
Of course, left to its own devices, all systems evolve to oligarchy, headed by those who possess the most aptitude, ambition and vigor turned tyrannical. That is why at basic levels some regulation within the structure of organised society is necessary, with safeguards that insinuate a degree of fairness, if not from altruistic springs flowing from the heart, then certainly from a historical perspective that suggests lopsided rules of a feudal system resulting in the disgruntled and disenfranchised eventually storming the Bastille to get some of that cake.
This brings us back to consider the balance in government, because government is the sole entity on our planet that can force change by slight of hand and downright chicanery to proverbially rob us blind and convince us that we have just been healed. The main source of this chaotic imbalance is tandem: we find it in taxation first, which we have covered already, where, quite simply, funds are extracted from us for “things” that are deemed for the common good. It must be measured in a reasonable ratio of those tax dollars to a country’s Gross National Product, for this is the collective fruit of our labour.
So, how is the common good determined and by whom? And if that common good is formed by a strong consensus, what is it worth to the common man and the generations of his progeny, in terms of assumed burden for what must be clearly judged as a gift to those who allocate the spending? If thirty percent of GDP is earmarked for public spending, a threshold that I judge precarious and near, with the government able to borrow even more because it controls the system of money, endowed with the power to print as much of it as it pleases, we are euphemistically murdered by our money taxed from our left pockets, and much more simply dissolving from our right pockets under the weight of the inevitable resulting inflation, a progressive phenomenon borne on historical data, until we are reduced to the exact enslavement we thought we had escaped – serfs beholding to the lord of the manor.
Finally, what appears TOO complex FOR ANY solution is RESOLVED in a simple allegory for living that we have all heard as children. Take a lesson from the squirrel: It goes: the squirrel spends his summer months sorting out the details of life, working hard gathering those nuts, eating a few, storing a few, then frolicking to his heart’s content, repeating the process until winter arrives, at which juncture he readies himself for a time of repose in the shelter of a tree trunk with all his stored nuts close by. If Mr. Squirrel has done more frolicking than gathering, and his winter supply falls short, he has no other squirrel to blame but himself, nor has he access to a bank or government from which he can borrow.
How do we convince a government to adhere to that sound and simple principle before folks storm the Bastille? I think it would be easier to guide all the gentle readers on an adventurous expedition, using a ladder to climb to the moon, and oh my gosh, if all the raindrops were gum drops…
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