Tuesday, August 22

Why make the world free for capitalism?

Peggy is a new and active commenter on Tom's website since she saw him on C-SPAN friday night. (Have I mentioned he was on and I've been typing like crazy since then? ;-). She asked a bunch of questions in a comment today and my reply ended up being too long to put in a comment over there, so I'm posting it here.

Peggy,

i do not speak for Tom. here are some of my thoughts:

i think it's a little too simplistic, and gives terrorists too much credit, to argue that their primary motivation is to keep up out and to protect their (virtue-implied) way of life. one of the things that i like about Tom's approach is it takes account of primary motivations in people's lives: women, money, lifestyle, hopes for our children, etc.

Tom says 'raise a nation's GDP above X/year (i forget the #) and i guarantee they'll get out of the terror business'. sure, there are still true believers. in our society they have names like Koresh, Jones, and Hale-Bopp (comet people). but they're few and far between and they have no (comparatively) disaffected masses to influence.

i share your distaste for consumption/accumulation culture. i would counter that these are some of the challenges of a basically affluent society where we do not have to worry about (again, comparatively) women staying in their place (like not commenting on weblogs, for example! ;-). i would be very hesitant to trade our attendant challenges for civilian life in Iraq or Iran.

yes, to some degree, we are trying to make the world safe for capitalism. there are many great things that come with capitalism: motivation, entrepreneurial culture, etc. the greatest is probably economic freedom. it's like Tom says when talking about China: they're relatively free, economically and relatively un-free politically. but how much of life does each relate to? we make economic choices everyday, and it's awfully nice to make them freely. we rarely make political choices everyday. in fact, if you boil it down to things like voting, we don't make political choices very often at all.

we make the world free for capitalism because it's the best foreign aid program there is, bar none. this is a big emphasis with Tom: some arch-liberals might say we're taking advantage of cheap, Chinese labor. if the Chinese person is making twice the average income, she says 'pick me, pick me!'. Foreign Direct Investment is far more effective at local development than all of the Official Developmental Aid we have flushed in Africa. the US gets a bum rap for not giving enough Offical Aid. if you count our military activity (security, peace-keeping, and emergency/disaster operations), remittances by foreign workers, and FDI, we dwarf any other economy.

Tom does acknowledge that, increasingly, globalization does not look like Americanization. The Japanese, to name one, are setting cultural trends left and right around the globe.

Tom has said the ultimate exit strategy for Iraq is jobs. it's not our stuff. building a nation where people can get jobs and provide for themselves and their family in relative security will bring peace.
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