The myth of nation building, or why you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
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Another Friday, another week of an all too fleeting life passed by, yadda yadda yadda. And as is my wont, Friday is the day I burble about random or not so random nonsense that has crossed my mind or hurt my eyeballs the previous week. It’s been a pretty good week here in Berkeley, nice warm fall weather, but our plague of rodents continues. Never seen anything like it, one couple in my building has even been driven from their apartment by them. On the plus side, my orange cat is self feeding now. And immensely popular with the neighbours, I’ve literally heard people cheering him in the yard as he trots home with yet another rat or mouse in his jaws.
Moving right along, nation building. Now I’ve always known this was more propaganda than reality. People initially loved giving the analogy of Germany and Japan after World War two, and how they turned into modern nations under US occupation. However, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, Germany and Japan were already modern nations, so the US occupation had nothing to do with them becoming nations. Iraq and Afghanistan are lines drawn on a map by nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial powers, and have little or no identity as nations. The idea that they would magically transform into modern (western compliant!) nations under US tutelage was at best insanely optimistic.
The best illustration of this is communism. Most people by now are aware that a centrally planned economy doesn’t work. The utter failure of the world’s communist nations during decades of communism attests to that quite nicely. So OK then, if a centrally planned economy doesn’t work, how does going one step higher and having a centrally planned nation going to work? It can’t of course, it’s even more absurd than trying to centrally plan an economy. In any event this article, Can a Nation be Built?, gives some nice background and context to this idea, it’s where I got it from.
In local news the American Tea Party movement and Republicans have announced a “Pledge to America” where they outline their party’s goals. I tried to read it but frankly it was pretty painful. All sorts of flowery stuff about getting back to the nation’s founding principles, followed by what appears to be basically a promise to completely re-institute every single policy of the Bush years. Yes, the party that brought us the greatest expansion in government in the history of the world is now going to make government smaller. When asked what actual programs or departments are going to be cut, it’s well, um, er, we’ll get back to you on that.
Americans have to be pretty stupid if they think the Republicans are going to cut government spending and make government smaller. I’m beginning to think actually that Americans are the stupidest people on earth, because every election both parties trot out the same old lies and broken promises … and people still swallow them and think they are voting for change. Nothing is going to change with either the Republicans or Democrats in power. Borrow and spend will continue, and our military juggernaut will continue to expand and build bases and buy weapons for wars that are never going to be fought. Till the whole edifice collapses under it’s own unsustainable weight.
I think one of the most incredible absurdities of all this is how the idea that cutting taxes for the rich is going to create jobs. This canard has been repeated so often that people actually seem to believe it. Listen very carefully, when rich people and rich executives get a tax break, what do you think they are going to do with the money? They are going to keep it, not run out and hire people. If you give poor people money, they will run out and spend it and stimulate the economy. If you give rich people money, it goes in an offshore account. This isn’t rocket science, it’s just human nature. You can’t make America richer by transferring wealth upwards, but apparently the Republicans are going to keep on trying.
So yeah, I’ve become pretty disillusioned with what passes for politics in the USA. I’m with John Galt, frequent commenter, the whole nation and economy is such a gargantuan mess that it’s all going to collapse under its own weight. You can’t build a future or an economy by borrowing and spending endless amounts of money, but apparently we’re still trying. Then there’s the whole problem of trying to kill our way out of the mess we made in Iraq and particularly Afghanistan. History has not been kind to people who tried to kill their way out of the ridiculous situations their politicians got them into, but they sure can try. “War is Murder” is a nice overview of some of the folly this engenders.
On the plus side there hasn’t been another 9/11 yet. Boy, that’s gonna be fun when it happens. Have a great weekend everybody.
(The above image, The Tower of Babel, was painted by Pieter Bruegel in 1563 and is thus safely Public Domain under US copyright law. I chose if for obvious reasons, it’s a nice analogy for both nation building in general, and the incredible government/military structure the US is ever expanding in hopes of achieving world domination, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I’ll be using more Pieter Bruegel images, I like his style. Next week, an unsolved historical carpentry mystery and other random nonsense.)