Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …
There are documented emboli, blockages to otherwise healthy organisms, in the writings of some of the most luminous of authors selected for inclusion in Anthology. One in particular has to be acknowledged. Henry Adams was for women’s equality long before there was a concept of feminism. Yet in the last decade of his life he railed against the suffragettes who marched to get the vote for women. Henry Adams was also a vociferous voice for American expansionism. The policies of McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and Taft all advocated militant expansion of American influence globally and he supported those policies. They are a major cause of American difficulty in the world, in spite of the appearance of eminence gained through pursuit of them. Adams was also well known for making anti-Semitic comments socially and in his letters. He didn’t see the contradiction between such behavior and his feeling that human beings were incapable of conquering their demons.
We can test the viability of just one of these contradictions by asking for an economic comparison of American commerce with and without having control of the Panama Canal, with the cost of building it amortized over its lifetime, revenues from the start redounding to the Colombians, from whose country, during the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, the Isthmus of Panama was bullied into existence. The cost of building it would of course be similarly reimbursed to the U.S. A new, sea-level lock-free replacement canal that can accommodate ocean-going super tankers is conceptually possible now. A competition to build it would emerge naturally among the nations who believe their economies depend on oil, and may the most cost effective coalition emerge the winner. There are several competitors who are well enough placed in the deployment of the necessary technology to give the U.S. serious, above-board competition. Perhaps that eventuality would put a period to the 19th century conceits that led to the Monroe Doctrine, thereby bringing the nations of Latin America into comity with their northern neighbors. At one and the same time we could expect to see the end of any further Iran-Contra scandals. And the real banana-boys, United Fruit and Chiquita Bananas would be required to live with the realities of a market rooted in efficiency instead of bribes to (U.S. installed) officials and terrifying brutality on the locals. We consumers would see commodity prices rise. We’d also see people who plant, maintain and market commodities world-wide compete openly with each other. We’d still get the best deals available to anyone, anywhere. The people in those businesses would have had to do well if they were to enjoy safe water, indoor plumbing and electricity. With good governance, they might even have help from their fellow citizens, as was the case for our farmers in the 1930’s when the Tennessee Valley Authority was established to help enfranchise the use of underdeveloped U.S. territory for agricultural purposes. There were plenty of people willing to work the land – we were resource rich across the board. The lending hand of fellow citizens who reaped the benefit of these improvements has proved its worth. As to the “private vs. public” power debate, it continues, neither supreme, both dukein’ it out for maximum gain and no clear winner – unless you see the privatization of natural resources winning supremacy through legislative fiat, more a possibility now more than ever, with corporatization at an all-time high in the national elective processes. And how about the cost of building four-track cross-continental freight lines and a similar passenger line coast-to-coast? Prohibitive, right? Everybody says so. Yet the cost of not doing this continues to weigh heavily. The tax payers readily agreed to spend the dough putting a man on the moon when it seemed the Russians might do it first. We have had a return on that investment in the form of cell phone technology born out of the missile race (see Sheehan above), among others. A.T. & T. didn’t have such resources and didn’t have to. Burlington Northern doesn’t and doesn’t need to if the obstructionist mentality against public investment in public good can be overcome. This is more than ever a political issue. Government: Bad! Private enterprise: Good! We should know better than to be distracted by such simple-mindedness. Every major technology had help from the government to get going. Aviation was sped on its way by WWII. But we don’t need wars to improve our infrastructure. We need an enlightened public.
Our role in the Pacific, in particular at the beginning of the 20th century following the expulsion of Spain from the Philippines, would bear scrutiny, especially as regards relations with Japan. The list could grow considerably with very little effort. The question – what if America approached its reach for new markets on the basis of competition with other nations’ willingness to compete on a mutually agreed basic premise to include transfers of value paid for from the commerce generated? Would WWI have occurred? How would Southeast Asia have faired in the 1960’s if the French were not so intent on holding on to their colonial possessions? How many more spheres of commerce would have been spared conflict if technological advances could have been licensed to the people who most stood to benefit from their labor and extraction of the natural wealth under their feet, underdeveloped without participation of the Europeans, the Americans? Will the world yet be spared armed conflict brought on through the empty, self-serving rhetoric of “open markets,” “level playing field,” and all the rest?
There is every reason to doubt it can be. Unfortunately some of our best thinkers suffer from emboli that would otherwise free them to understand their contradictions. These are unaffordable in a nuclear-armed world and have to be brought into the open where they can be excised. And no one has yet issued a report on the countless sums expended on every aspect of militarization of commerce with force of arms, surreptitious political subversion, and murder to gain market advantage. The sums not spent on education and health and infrastructure that went to those activities instead is beyond imagining. And of course, the “collateral” damage to innocent families makes the heart ache.
A. Robert Johnson
September 11, 2011