Friday, January 14, 2011

Fred on the USA, Darwin and monkeys

Fred Reed is a well-known curmudgeonly writer. His 'Fred On Everything' blog is sometimes infuriating, but his acerbic wit and penetrating look at the events of the day frequently cuts through all the verbiage and gets to the heart of the matter.

His most recent column raises painful questions about the USA's current state of mind, politically, economically, militarily and internationally. Here's an excerpt.

Pondering Whither America, I reflected on a story, probably apocryphal but which I am going to believe because I like it, about catching monkeys. Tribesmen somewhere craft a heavy pot with a hole in it large enough that a monkey could insert an open hand, but not withdraw a closed fist. They then put monkey food in the pot. The monkey reaches in, grabs the food and, refusing to let go when the hunters approach, is caught and eaten.

Here we have our politics in a paragraph. The American national monkey can’t let go. The party is over, boys and girls, but we aren’t going to adapt.

For example: When people recently found that they could no longer afford the SUVs, the McMansions, the buying of absurdities in a frenzy of competitive consumerism, they just put it on the credit card. The monkey can’t let go. And now they are screwed.

Same-same domestic policy. The US has played War-on-Drugs for half a century, with no results but to make drugs an integral part of the economy. The evils engendered are great. Yet the monkey can’t let go.

It is internationally that the monkey principle really bites. The country is well on its way to being a merely regional power militarily, economically, and diplomatically. Short of a miracle, short of a conceivable but unlikely catastrophe in China, Amricans will soon be medium potatoes. There is nothing we can do about it, but we will bankrupt ourselves trying. We can’t let go.

If you look beyond the Reader’s Digest patriotism of Fox News, and the high-school cheerleading of little Sarah Palin, if you look beyond the national borders, all of this is obvious.

By Chinese standards, America is a small country, having a quarter of its population. Their economy grows at close to double digits. Yes, it may slow down, or it may not. Short of unforeseen disaster, the question is not whether but when the Chinese economy will dwarf the American economy. Tell me why this is not true.

All power springs from economic power. While America decays, plays, and sucks its thumb, China invests. Everywhere. There is nothing unprincipled in this. It is just intelligent commerce.

Do not underestimate these people of the epicanthic fold. I have lived among the Chinese, in Taiwan years ago. I liked them, and still do. I know them to be smart, disciplined, studious, practical—as well as nationalistic and very racially conscious. No, we do not think these attitudes proper. It doesn’t matter what we think.

Note that China has that perfect government, an intelligent dictatorship concerned with advancing the country. The American government consists of self-interested lobbies and Wall Street looters. China is run by engineers, America by lawyers. Watch.

The US is midway through an inexorable suicide. If a country does not manufacture things, it does not have an economy, and manufacturing has fled American shores. Ship-building, steel, consumer electronics, railroads: gone.

. . .

America is the world’s greatest debtor nation, China the greatest creditor. We cannot possibly repay what we owe, so we must either default or inflate. If another choice exists, I am unaware of it. And yet the government spends, spends, spends, and borrows, borrows, borrows. No one is in charge. No one cares. All line their own pockets. Wait.

Rationally, this would seem a good time to let go of unaffordable luxuries. But no. The US continues to buy things it can’t pay for, to play roles it can no longer maintain, because it pains the national vanity no longer to be the biggest kid on the block. The monkey can’t let go.

There's more at the link. Go read the whole thing, and see whether you agree with him. It's made me sufficiently uncomfortable to have me thinking very hard!



suz said...

Thanks, Peter! Just what I needed - another "must read" on the favorites bar. *eye-roll* You know, sometimes I have to sleep and work...

Fred's got a point (OK, several points.) Small people, big world. We just don't notice it. 16 years ago I moved to Hooterville. My assessment: What Hooterville really needs is to get out of Hooterville for a while and see how the rest of the world works. It took me a few years to realize that's true of EVERYville!

If you keep making me THINK so much, my head's gonna explode!

SiGraybeard said...

Fred has some obvious great points. China has been taking the money from the trade surplus with us, and realizing that the dollar is screwed, they've gone on an epic buying spree. They've not buying gold: they're buying gold mines. Likewise copper, aluminum, oil, everything they need. Why hold dollars when everyone with any sense knows that as long as Helicopter Ben is in charge, the dollar is going Zimbabwe?

Where I stop short is at "Note that China has that perfect government". China's government still tortures and kills dissidents and exerts dictatorial powers that the only dreams of. Surely someone with ties into the evangelical community like you have is aware of this.

To me, while it looks like the dawn of the Chinese Century, it also looks like the sunset of those quaint Western views on human rights, racial equality and due process.

Old NFO said...

Fred is a character, met him when he used to write here in NOVA. He does raise good points as always...

Anonymous said...

Fred Reed walked away from his country for the drug sewer of Mexico
he lost is right to complain and condemn America.
when the narco-terrorists finally come for him, i hope he remembers America

Anonymous said...

I've known about Fred Reed for at least ten years.

The problem with Fred is that, though he makes a good point now and then, ever since 9/11, he has taken a decidedly anti-American viewpoint in nearly *everything* he writes. And he frequently gets his facts wrong.

But what can you say. He enjoys his life there in Mexico living on his American retirement while publishing his smug opinions about anything or anyone he dislikes. What exactly is a "McMansion" anyway? Whenever I encounter that term, I translate it to "a house I don't like".

I abandoned Fred a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

"Where I stop short is at "Note that China has that perfect government"."

And IMHO the problem with that quote isn't just that the Chinese government tortures it's people (the people that we believe the power of government flows from...." it's the -idea- that embodied in: "China is run by engineers". I agree that it -is- in an economic sense run by Engineers and that is it's problem not it's great advantage. An economy is not actually "run"able. It's a collection of Markets that can only be most efficient when left mostly alone. Now, we're certainly crippling ourselves with the same thinking here. The left didn't take a hit in the last election for screwing up our freedoms and wasting our military. They took it (heaven help us all) for screwing up the economy. So to some degree voters here expect the economy to be "run". But... not to the degree that the people in Red China expect it. And one day that may save us all IMHO. BoydK425