Lonely No More

It’s lonely at the top. But not for long. I picked up the Wall Street Journal this morning, and, to my dismay, China is everywhere, as evidenced by the above political cartoon. China is coming. And I don’t think political freedom and peace for all mankind is on their list of things to do upon becoming the dominant superpower on the planet. Winston Churchill – an idol of mine – said that “democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” America is a terrible country with a terrible leader who thinks that brute force can change the world, that we like the Romans before us can control the world and topple everyone who opposes us. They forget that it takes persuasion. It is not enough to win the war, you must win the hearts & minds of the people who opposed you. America once stood for good against evil, for freedom from tyrrany, and although our leaders continue to use these words, their actions bear little resemblance.

Even given that America has not done well, there is hope that the next leader could make things right. Could build new bridges with the rest of the world. But I worry that it will be impossible to do right by the world, to make amends. We have lost something – the halo of a noble purpose – that we once had.

There is a theory in political science that says that there is an equilibrium between national resources diverted to the military and resources that remain in the market economy. If too few resources go into the military, a nation cannot defend itself. If too many resoures are diverted to the military, the market economy suffers and the long-term potential of the overall economy – the lifeblood of the country – is diminshed. According to this theory then, economic might is the source of military might. If a country diverts all its resources to its military, its military in the short run grows larger and more powerful, but in the long run the economy becomes less innovative and less capital exists to build factories that can produce thousands of planes or tanks in the future.

If this is true, then China has been investing, to build an economy, while we have been spending like teenage girls, building up our military today, but leaving nothing for our future. The best minds tell us that free trade with China is good; that free trade leads to integrated economies, exchage of ideas, political openness, and mutual dependency. But China is not trading freely. They are the most mercantilistic and protectionist government on the face of the planet, and the same politicians who sputter about free trade leading to peace are in the pockets of businessmen who are falling all over themselves to do business in China to gain access to 1 billion new customers.  But its not just our goods & services they are exporting, it’s also our technology, our intellectual capital, our financial capital, our experience. And to a country that does not espouse democracy and supports North Korean nuclear proliferation.

And so we hope 2008 will bring better tidings.

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