The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
(Doctor’s note: In the previous session, the subject displayed a conspiratorial view of the world and people who think differently than himself, claiming to indict established philosophies that offend him, masking it all with talk of some scientific method nonsense (as if he discovered scientific way of discounting other’s views). I asked what he meant when he said his combativeness was somehow “American,” asking if he was indeed ashamed of this fact. Explaining this shame may somehow be cathartic for him. Or so I hoped…)
Yes, that’s what I said. Being argumentative is American. It’s like a disease we have, like I had shingles or something. Americans have been arguing for four hundred years.
I’m not ashamed of that, though plenty of people in the world wish I was.
But if any person in the world has the right to be arrogant, it’s an American.
In the last twenty-five years, the US military has overthrown dictators in Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, the Balkans and Afghanistan. Because of those wars, 40 million people live under better governments (not perfect, but measurably better). And the people of Iraq (25 million people) are likely to add to this total.
The US military directly defends the people of South Korea, a democracy of 50 million people, and it indirectly protects Taiwan’s democracy of 23 million people. With US victory in the Cold War, the governments of 300 million people were freed from the ridiculous economic straightjacket of socialism. In addition, the US was responsible for the direct military protection of Japan (100 million people) and the people of Western Europe (200 million) during the Cold War.
750 million people live under better government because of the US and her military.
No other government, institution, charity or foreign aid program can claim even a fraction of these historical accomplishments.
And don’t forget: the US was decisive factor in the two world wars against fascism.
The US economy is the world’s biggest, responsible for one quarter of the world’s economic growth. Our culture, our TV shows, movies and music are everywhere on the globe. We make more, we consume more, we invent more and we give more than anyone else (the US gives more to charity than all other nations combined).
We also have the world’s freest trade policy (though it should be freer). And as a result, many nations of the world owe their economies to us.
It comes down to freedom. There is no freer nation in the world, and freedom (but more importantly, the free flow of information) is essential to economic growth. It all makes sense: In a capitalist economy, the free flow of information tells everyone where the opportunities are, so that everyone has the ability to profit from them (the alternative is that the same sluggish companies have all the right information, but have no good ideas on what to do with it). In this way, you best insure that most able companies (or individuals) can be in place to take advantage. Likewise, when someone buys stock in a business, they can peruse the properly audited information about the company’s finances, all of it freely available.
All of this benefits the nation in a way that secrecy does not.
This is why I’m not all that worried about China. At a certain point, they will realize that holding back the free flow of information is inhibiting their economic growth. Restricting information about companies will alienate foreign investment, and China will increasingly find that controlling information will hurt business. They will be forced to choose: yesterday’s tightly controlled but broken socialist system or the dynamism of a 21st century information economy.
I think they will choose wisely. And a government that cannot control information finds it difficult to maintain its aura of omniscience that is so important in a one party, socialist state.
Capitalism and democracy are necessary to one another: democracy is political freedom and capitalism is economic freedom.
Some people say we should be ashamed of America’s economy. It dominates the world, and that must be (so they say) unfair.
But I’m not ashamed. It means that we are industrious and inventive and, as a result: prosperous. The stagnant economies of Europe and the artificial economies of Asia should take note and learn the power of freedom, particularly the economic freedom we know as capitalism.
Capitalism, very unfortunately, is still a dirty word in many parts of the world.
There are still many in the US who don’t realize that the US has already won, and is pulling ahead, of the rest of the world. They sooth the losers – telling them that the US doesn’t play fair or some other rubbish – they comfort them in their ways and prevent them from reforming their systems to be more competitive.
This is nonsense. The European systems are rotting and desperately need to reform their restrictive labor practices, their trade policies and their overly protective governments. The Asians need to end the cozy relationships that their businesses enjoy with each other and with their home governments. Direct political control of economic growth (which is different from simple regulation, which IS important), as practiced by Japan’s MITI, rarely ends well.
It never gets sillier, though, than when people insist that Russia, Germany, France and China should have a vital say in – or veto power over - US foreign policy.
The US, they argue, is just another nation, with no claim to be more important than… say… Luxembourg.
It's comical when you think about it.
Russia, Germany, France and China (!) – four nations that have caused more misery than any others, giving the world Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon, and Mao. Four men who improved very few lives, and together killed hundreds of millions of people.
The principal goal of US foreign policy – the expansion of human liberty – is not a goal that should be subverted to the whims of others – particularly this motley crew.
The cause of liberty is too vital for debate or half measures.
If I ever came to know of any country more devoted to the cause of human liberty than United States of America, I would pack my bags and go there right away.
So far, I’m staying put. The future of the world – so far – lies between California and New York.
But the world will be a safer place if the future can include more nations. But Europe and Asia must evolve into freer economies for that to happen.