Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wagging the Dog

I've long wondered why American Foreign policy is so disastrous. There is, of course, the long history of the cold war, in which the military and intelligence community backed whatever asshole they thought would help them in the fight, and came down hard on anyone deemed to be leftists. The tragedy here was that they often came down on democratic leftists, who were, despite their leanings towards Marxism, willing to negotiate for the benefit of their people. The glow of Marxism was bound to wear off, but not the glow of democracy. It was America's business to back their political ideals, rather than capitalism. Democracy is front and center in the constitution, but capitalism is not. The tragedy is that these people did not actually believe in democracy or capitalism, or they would have played to their strengths, letting the people of foreign nations choose what worked, secure in the knowledge that political and economic freedom were exactly what worked. But they swallowed Soviet propaganda without question, and believed that Communism had the upper hand.

But there is another factor involved here, which persisted long after the East Bloc fell. America allows its business community to run rampant in other countries. Worse yet, when those business interests run afoul of the local government and the local people, the American military is called in to grease the wheels of commerce.

A democratic government works for its people. That means they get the best price for their resource and commodities--market value. Only a dictator has the power to set those prices below market value, to enforce, for a cut, a price that the buyers specify. The dictator only need reward himself and his cronies; there is no requirement to do the best for his people. Not surprisingly, it is dictators that business interests prefer. In defense, the hatchetmen insist that American consumers are the ones who demand what they do. And yet, the market for fair trade goods and responsible business practices has never been greater. Why? Because for the first time, the people are beginning to understand the consequences of their economic choices.

The executives of these companies, and the hatchetmen, imagine the average American in their own image; greedy, selfish, unconcerned with the consequences of their own actions. They believe this only because they have never bothered to ask. But then, that would be democratic. It is a sad fact that most of these executives have utter disdain not only for democracy, but for free markets as well. They attempt, whenever possible, to enlist government and even the military to enforce their own agenda. Not for them the difficult details of real business; no, they want to enforce a profit margin in a way that no democratic country ruled by law would permit.

And if they had their way, no country would be ruled by law, which establishes equality of individual choice. but rather by force. Force imposes arrangements that lay outside the market, beyond the choices of all participants. The fault of American foreign policy is to allow and abet this, in contradiction to all its principles and the will of the American people.

It is a sad fact that capitalism, left to its own devices, will seek to undermine itself through the greed of its most powerful actors. Marx predicted this, although he had no solution. The solution is democracy, a tactic Marxists seem to be strongly averse to. Too bad. They might have won the ideological wars, rather than being another corpse in the abattoir of history. As it is, they deserved to die.

The solution is a government strong enough to stand up to industry and dictate policy to them, rather than the other way around. England got suckered into the same deal with the East India Company, and we're still all paying for that. Americans need a government that can say no to corporate interests. The tail must not wag the dog. The government must set foreign policy in accordance with the people's wishes--and the people must be made aware.

Bet on the people of the foreign country. Dictators are a dime a dozen. But the people are always there. How much was Saddam Hussein worth?