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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yon' Cassius Hath a Lean and Hungry Look....

I've been ridiculed for not blithely accepting the notion that much of the world's ills are because we Americans drive Humvees and eat too much and have very nice houses. Well, I'm sick of it and I'd like to challenge that "we consume way more than our share" assumption. We live comfortably in the U.S. not because we are robbing the rest of the world, but for some really basic reasons that have to do with the way the U.S. is structured and was built. Here are ten factors in no particular order.

1. Government of the people by the people and for the people. As goofy as they get sometimes, we still have the right to vote 'em out and we can even change presidents without having to throw a civil war, unlike much of the rest of the world. You can't have a healthy economy without a stable government that doesn't monkey around with your business too much.

2. Peace - We don't have other countries running over our country blowing up things with tanks and missiles and such because they know we would, as that sage philosopher Hank Hill would put it, "kick their asses" Amazing how good that is for business.

3. Safety - Internationally? See above. Locally? We have a police force that believes it's here to "serve and protect" not spy and control the masses. Makes it a much better climate in which to do business.

4. Outstanding education - A few countries may claim to do it better, but most of 'em send their kids here for college. An educated populace is a money-making populace. And if you think our kids are stupider than we were, I challenge you to take the high school exit tests we give here in Texas. Brutal!!! Also, just because some of our kids are too lazy to take advantage of an available education doesn't mean that they can't. If they do, they grow up to be very smart people who make considerably more than the world average. I don't give a gnat's testicle that someone thinks Sweden's education system is better. So what. Who's the superpower anyway?

5. Low taxes. It was an ancient Roman senator that remarked that as taxes were increased, revenue to the empire decreased for some reason. Despots, dictators and tax collectors have been scratching their heads about that one for centuries. Business works better when the king doesn't take all the extra money you make away from you wiping out an incentive you have for making all that extra money in the first place.

6. Judicial system. When the robber barons rob you, if enough of you get together and take their sorry hineys to court, you can often find redress of grievances without having to stage a revolution or organize a raiding party. Merely hiring lawyers often works quite well.

7. We are an innovative people. Now the guy who criticized me about the whole "we consume to much" thing said that this premise was just wrong. In other words, Americans are fat and lazy and stupid, not smart, hard-working and creative. Okay, anyone want to guess how many superpowers there are currently in the world? With the entire planet hoping to knock us off our pins for being arrogant, I think we're pretty remarkable to stay on top of the heap for as long as we have. We come from ancestors who were kicked out of every "civilized" country in the world - most left the Old Word because they were smart enough to see what was really going on and got out while they still could - looking for a better land where they could be free to be their own creative selves without fear of persecution and where opportunity abounds. By the process of natural selection, Americans as a people are more likely to be energetic, creative and probably a little ADD. Though we come off as brash, boorish and arrogant to the entrenched bureaucracies of the old world who believe they are superior to all other life on Earth, Americans do tend to be great problem solvers. Not a lot of lazy, stupid people moved here from overseas. It was too hard to get here for the poorly motivated and they passed their genes along to their kids and grandkids.

8. We really do believe that everybody can do well with a little personal effort. The idea that it's all a zero sum game in which folks who do well must be robbing from others is not widely accepted in America. Folks who do rob from others in order to do well are generally rewarded with jail terms when we catch them at it and because this is an open society, a whole lot of them do get caught. We buy into the idea that a "rising tide lifts all boats". Our recent financial woes stem more from meddling and profiteering by our leaders than by any over-consumption on our part. In other parts of the world there is little or no expectation that a person may rise in the world any farther than their father or mother did. They are imprisoned by class, culture and a locked in bureaucracy that does not reward or even in some cases permit people to perform at a level above their fellows. To this day, the talented people of the world in such cultures look around them and see one shining city on a hill where they may make their dreams come true and they flock here by the millions, thereby improving the gene pool. Even the guys who swim the Rio Grande, if you did a profile, you'd probably find a gene for stubbornness, hope and courage in the majority of them.

9. In America you have the freedom to fail. We can all screw up time and time again, but if we keep on getting back up and wading back into the fray, we have every opportunity to turn it all around and succeed. The freedom to screw up and wind up virtually homeless and scrambling to get back on your feet is probably the most precious freedom we have and not one that is well understood or appreciated. In many countries, to fail is to die or be cast out. Here, it's a way of life that causes our mothers to worry about us. To create a pervasive fear of failure in a society is the surest means for creating a society that enshrines mediocrity and abhors risk-taking. Freedom to fail means we are also free to take risks so long as we don't mind accepting the consequences if we screw up.

10. Freedom of religion - the fact that each of us may worship as we please creates a body of the faithful that is strong in its diversity, that embraces the charitable needs of the nation (one church works with the homeless, another with orphans, another restores neighborhoods, others build houses, others run food pantries and soup kitchens, still others run hospitals and do disaster relief, still more send money and medicine to the sick and starving in other countries). The freedom to believe or not to believe without fear of retribution gives our nation a kind of strength that is not found in repressive societies where one faith is the only faith or where none at all is permitted.

Besides, Americans are nice people for the most part. When we produce more food than any other country, we share that food, we do not take it by force from other nations. We're the only country where being fat is a sign of poverty.

When we are able to buy more than we sell worldwide, how do we do that year after year? By being a huge money-making engine such as the world has never seen before in all its history.

When we consume energy, we buy it from others who wish to sell. We do not steal it from them. If they wish to hang on to their oil, we would have to find energy elsewhere. There are lots of sources. We just use the cheapest ones while they are available. We tear around burning gas and heating and cooling our homes and eating well and living in nice houses which others make money by building for us. Why? Because we believe that a nice life can be had by all and that an artificial leveling of income that turns us all into some grim proletariat where effort receives no reward and advancement comes by the clock and not by talent combined with hard work is unacceptable!!!!

The myth of the zero-sum economy is the most pernicious pack of drivel ever foisted on a trusting public by the supposed guardians of democracy. Today was a tough day for Wall Street. Maybe they need to dig down a little and buck up too. Maybe the tough, creative, wild men that came to this country looking for a chance need to re-emerge and drive out the creeping bureaucrats that have gradually overwhelmed our economy and would stultify it in order to bring it safely under control.

America has never been at its best when it was "under control". We're wild men and risk-takers. Let's try not to forget that as we're cleaning up the mess the bureaucrats have made of things.

I'm just sayin'

Tom King

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