Peace through Strength

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 6th, 2014

Politics 101

Bad Guys won’t open their Can of Whoop-Ass if there is a Chance they’ll get their Ass Kicked

Bullies generally pick on smaller and weaker people.  Smaller and weaker people don’t pick on tough guys.  They don’t walk up to a bully and give him a wedgie.  They’d like to.  But they don’t.  Why?  Because if a small and weak person did they’d get their ass kicked.  That’s why.  And people don’t like getting their ass kicked.  But sometimes it’s the tough guys that save the day.

In the opening scene of V for Vendetta Evey was about to get raped by some government thugs.  Then tough guy V came along and kicked their asses.  Saving Eve from a brutal rape.  In Die Hard the evil Hans Gruber was going to kill everyone in that building until tough guy John McClane happened on the scene.  And started killing the bad guys.  Saving the day.  In the movie Patton everyone wanted him thrown out of the Army after he slapped that crying soldier.  But when the Allies’ drive stalled in the Normandy hedgerow country who did they turn to?  That’s right.  Tough guy General Patton.  Who started kicking Nazi ass big time.  Breaking through their lines and advancing in every compass direction while British General Bernard Montgomery was still struggling o take his D-Day objective.  Caen.

People don’t like getting their ass kicked.  But if they are in danger of a good ass-kicking they’d want someone on their side who can kick ass as good as the next guy.  For even bad guys don’t want to get their ass kicked.  And if there is a chance of that happening they’re going to think long and hard before opening their can of whoop-ass.  Especially when someone else’s can of whoop-ass is bigger.

Only the Military Might of the United States could contain Soviet Expansion

The Roman Empire had one mighty can of whoop-ass.  Something her potential enemies understood.  And feared.  So they didn’t cause any trouble.  Because they didn’t want to get their ass kicked.  Which is why from approximately 27 BC to 180 AD there was relative peace in the world.  Pax Romana.  For the Romans had the mightiest military force in the world.  And if you went up against them you were most likely going to lose.  So they didn’t.  Instead, choosing to live in peace.

The British Empire was even larger than the Roman Empire.  And had an even larger can of whoop-ass.  Not only did they have armies throughout their empire which was so large that the sun never set on it.  The Royal Navy ruled the seas.  Which meant if you caused any trouble in the world you could expect an ass-kicking.  Either from her mighty military power.  Or her aid to a smaller and weaker country under threat from an aggressive neighbor.  The bad guys learned.  It wasn’t worth it.  If you tried to break the peace you were going to get your ass kicked.  Which is why from 1815 through 1914 when the British Empire ruled the world there was relative peace.  Pax Britannica.

The United States of America had come of age during the 20th century.  Growing even bigger and stronger than the empire that sired her.  The British Empire.  Who went into decline during the 20th century.  But just as Pax Britannica drew to a close and the world became a more dangerous place the United States stepped in.  Allowing the Allies to defeat Nazi Germany.  And Imperial Japan.  She grew to have the biggest can of whoop-ass in history.  And became the world’s policeman.  Pushing back against Soviet expansion.  In Europe.  The Balkans.  The Middle East.  And Southeast Asia.  The Soviets wanted to conquer the world.  And would have if not for America’s mighty military to counter their threat.  Leading to a period of relative peace following World War II.  Pax Americana.  As only the military might of the United States could contain Soviet expansion.

Vladimir Putin feels that he can put the old Soviet Union back together during the Obama Administration

During a sound check before a radio address President Reagan made a joke.  He said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes.”  Reagan had a sense of humor and those present laughed.  The joke leaked.  The Soviets heard it.  And they put their Soviet Far East Army on alert.  You see, they had great respect for the awesome military power of the United States.  And they respected Reagan.  They did not like him.  But they respected him.  And if he said he was going to open a can of whoop-ass on them they got nervous.  For President Reagan may have spoken softly.  But he was not afraid to kick ass.

The Soviets had no such respect for Reagan’s predecessor.  Jimmy Carter.  In fact, they had so little respect for him that they developed a nuclear first-strike plan.  For Carter was gutting the military.  And wasn’t a tough guy when it came to foreign policy.  He was a president who wanted to focus on domestic policy.  A sign of weakness the Soviets could smell.   Anyone who gutted the military to pay for more domestic spending would never pull the nuclear trigger.  At least that’s what the Soviets thought.  Which is why they prepared a nuclear first-strike plan during the Carter administration.  Sure they could win a nuclear war against him.  The Soviets thought no such thing during the Reagan administration.  So instead of a nuclear war (which may have happened in a Carter second term) we had peace.  Because of our strength.

Peace through strength.  If you’re a bad-ass people will leave you alone.  Because no one wants to get their ass kicked.  If you’re hell-bent on beating the crap out of your neighbor so you can take her resources and there is a bad-ass in the world that can bring a world of hurt down on you it will make you think.  And pause.  This is why there was a Pax Romana.  A Pax Britannica.  And a Pax Americana.  Because people respect a bad-ass.  And will not incite it.  They may hate the bad-ass.  But they will respect it.  And not piss it off.

President Obama has a strong domestic agenda.  Like Jimmy Carter.  He doesn’t want to deal with foreign policy.  Like Jimmy Carter.  And he is not respected or feared by the world’s bad guys.  Like Jimmy Carter.  Who is far more inclined to make a speech and threaten action.  But is far less likely to open a can of whoop-ass.  Like Ronald Reagan.  Which is why Vladimir Putin feels that he can put the old Soviet Union back together during the Obama administration.  Because he doesn’t fear the wrath of President Obama.  As no one does.  For he is all bark and no bite.  At least, so far.  Apart from killing a bunch of people that can’t fight back.  Drone strikes.  Bombing Libya (that was no threat to American interests).  And killing Osama bin Laden with a SEAL team.  More of an imperial use of force than acting as the world’s policeman to safeguard liberty and democracy.  So Vladimir Putin has little to worry about during an Obama presidency.  Unlike conservatives in America.

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Mercantilism, Royal Navy, Napoleon, Pax Britannica, Corn Laws, David Ricardo, Comparative Advantage, European Union and NAFTA

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 22nd, 2012

History 101

Mercantilism gave Britain the Royal Navy which Ushered in the Pax Britannica

Great Britain had a rough go of it at the end of the 18th century.  They lost their American colonies in the American Revolutionary War.  A war that started over the issue of taxation to pay for the previous Seven Years’ War.  So instead of securing new revenue to pay down old debt they incurred new debt.  The French Revolution closed out the century.  Causing concern for some in Britain that their monarchy may be the next to fall.  It didn’t.  For the constitutional monarchy and representative government in Britain was a long cry from the absolute monarchy that they had in France.  So revolution did not come to Britain.  But war did.  As the French expanded their revolution into a European war.  Pulling the British back into war with their old enemy.

With a large conscripted French Army and the concept of total war France made total war.  Napoleon Bonaparte won a lot of battles.  Conquered much of Europe.  Even marched back and conquered Paris.  Proclaimed himself emperor of France.  And continued waging war.  Including an ill-conceived invasion of Russia.  Which marked the beginning of the end for Napoleon.  And the French Empire.  Weakened from war France saw her old nemesis, Great Britain, rise as the first superpower since the Roman Empire.  And like the Romans’ Pax Romana Britain entered a century of peace.  Pax Britannica.

The reason the British could do this was because of their mercantile past.  They set up colonies and international trade networks.  And they used the proceeds from that lucrative trade to finance the greatest naval power then in the world.  The Royal Navy.  And the Royal Navy would help keep the peace in the Pax Britannica.  She became the world’s policeman.  Making the world safe for trade.  Especially on the high seas.  But then something interesting happened.  She broke from her mercantile past.  Because they saw the shortcomings of mercantilism.  One of which produced wealthy landowners at the expense of a hungry population.

When the British repealed the Corn Laws in 1846 Food Prices fell and the Standard of Living Rose 

The British Corn Laws were a series of laws protecting those who grew cereal crops.  The stuff we grow that has edible grains.  Corn, rice, wheat, barley, etc.  What we call staple crops as they form the basic sustenance of humans everywhere.  We grow these in greater abundance than all other foods.  And when you look at the grain size you come to one realization.  It takes a lot of land to grow these crops.  And who owns large tracts of land?  The landowning aristocracy.  A small group of people with a lot of wealth.  And a lot of political influence.  Hence the Corn Laws. 

The Corn Laws were legislation with one goal.  To prevent the British people from buying less expensive food.  By either forbidding any importation of cheaper grains until the domestic price had reached a certain price level.  Or adding tariffs to the less expensive imports so the landowners could still sell their grains at higher prices.  Thus preserving their wealth.  And they made specious arguments about how lower-priced food was actually bad for the people.  For it was just a way for manufacturers to maximize their profits.  For if food was cheaper they could pay their workers less.  Being the greedy bastards that they were.  So the only fair thing to do was to keep food prices high.  To keep the living wage high.  To force manufacturers to pay their workers more.  You see, the only way to help the poor and middle class was to let the wealthy landowners become even wealthier.  By keeping the price of the food they sold high.

Opposition grew to the Corn Laws.  People studied the works of their fellow countrymen.  Adam Smith and David Hume (both Scottish).  And the Englishman David Ricardo.  All great economists and thinkers.  Who were all proponents of free trade.  Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage basically proved the case of free trade over the protectionism of mercantilism.  Eventually the political power of the landowners could not overcome the economic arguments.  Or a famine in Ireland.  And, in 1846, they repealed the Corn Laws and adopted free trade.  Food prices fell.  Leaving people with more disposable income.  To purchase the goods the Industrial Revolution was making.  Increasing their standard of living.  While small famers had to leave their farms being unable to farm efficiently enough to pay their bills at the prevailing prices.

The Success of NAFTA proves David Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage

Mercantilists and other opponents to free trade like to point at the human costs.  Small farmers losing their farm.  Just so they can preserve some semblance of privilege to protect the high prices in their industry.  But it was becoming more and more difficult to make the argument that the masses were better off paying higher prices.  Because they’re not.  Lower consumer prices increase the standard of living for everyone.  Higher living standards create healthier living conditions.  And reduces child mortality.   For the greatest killer of children in the world is poverty.

The British were both a military and an economic superpower during the 19th century.  But someone was chasing her.  The Untied States.  Who was feeling her economic oats.  Her economy would catch up and surpass the British.  Making it the mightiest economic power of all time.  How did this happen?  Two words.  Free trade.  The United States was the largest free trade zone in the world.  The economic advantages of all those states trading with each other freely across their state borders made Europe stand up and take notice.  And in response created treaties that ultimately led to the European Union and the Eurozone.  To replicate the large free trade zone of the United States.

Back across the Atlantic the Americans, Canadians and the Mexicans took it up a notch.  And created the North American Free Trade Agreement.  NAFTA.  Extending the free trade that existed in each of their countries across their international borders.  The mercantilist fought against this.  Because protectionism, restrictions and tariffs helped the privileged few protect the high prices in their industry.  In America they talked about a great sucking sound as all American jobs went to low-wage Mexico.  Some manufacturers did move to Mexico.  Primarily because like the small farmers in Britain after the repeal of the Corn Laws they could no longer sell at prices to meet all of their costs.  But it was not as the mercantilists predicted.  Yes, imports increased.  In 2010 they were up 235% from pre-NAFTA 1993.  But exports were up, too.  Some 190% for the same period.  Proving Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage.  By focusing on what we do best and trading for everything else all countries do better.

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The UK is Burning because they have too much Socialism and Class Warfare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 10th, 2011

You Simply can’t Keep Increasing the Burden on the Productive Class Forever 

The UK is burning.  Thanks to socialism.  And class warfare.  For people are rioting because they’re not getting enough stuff.  So they’re correcting that inequity by stealing stuff from others (see As rioting spreads UK’s Cameron vows crackdown by Stefano Ambrogi and Angus MacSwan posted 8/10/2011 on Reuters).

Youths fought running battles with police in the northern cities of Manchester and Liverpool as well as in the Midlands.

They smashed shop windows, carted off televisions and designer clothes, and torched buildings as police armed with shields and batons struggled to maintain control…

Gangs of youths in hooded tops battled police in Manchester, smashing windows and looting shops, and setting fire to a clothes shop.

In nearby Salford, rioters threw bricks at police and set fire to buildings. TV pictures showed flames leaping from shops and cars, and plumes of black smoke billowing across roads…

In Liverpool’s Toxteth district, rioters attacked two fire engines and a fire officer’s car, police said. Earlier, some 200 youths throwing missiles wrecked and looted shops…

Cars were burned and stores looted in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton in central England; and in Nottingham a gang of young men set fire to a police station. There were also disturbances in Birmingham and Leicester in central England, and Milton Keynes north of London…

In Birmingham, police launched a murder inquiry after three Muslim men died after being run over by a car in the mayhem there. A friend of the men told BBC radio they had been part of a group of British Asians protecting their area from looters after attending Ramadan prayers at a mosque.

“The car swerved toward them. It was cold-blooded murder,” the friend said. The father of one of the men tried to save his dying son with CPR.

They’re not doing this in the US.  Yet.  Because the US is not quite the social welfare state the UK is.  Yet. 

These UK riots illustrate the problem with socialism.  ‘From those according to ability to those according to need’.  The youths rioting have no ability.  And have shown no effort to learn any ability.  Content to remain on the dole.  And it’s a very generous dole in the UK.  Well, it used to be.  Hence the rioting. 

The rioters have needs.  Great needs.  Widescreen televisions.  Designer clothes.  Seeing buildings and cars burn.  So they attended to their own needs.  Took from those having ability.  And burned the mother up.  Destroyed the property of the very people who pay taxes and fund the welfare state.  And provide jobs.  So it looks like the rioters haven’t helped their employment prospects in the community.

Getting a permanent underclass dependent on government benefits provides loyal voters at election time.  But it comes with a price.  The spending required to maintain this underclass eventually becomes unsustainable.  Because you simply can’t keep increasing the burden on the productive class forever.  They may just say screw this and go on the dole, too.  And let someone else put up with the high taxes.  And the looters.

“This disturbing phenomenon has to be understood as a conflagration of aggression from a socially and economically excluded underclass,” the liberal Independent newspaper said.

“These youths live in the heart of British cities but they do not feel part of them. Far too little has been done by successive generations of politicians and public servants to integrate these individuals into normal society. The fuse for this explosion has been burning down for many years.”

Oh, society’s to blame.  Not the people smashing windows and stealing stuff.  Or the people setting fires.  It’s the people who have been living by the rules, the law-abiding people, who are to blame.

Critics say government policies of chopping public spending and raising taxes to cut a huge budget deficit have aggravated the plight of urban youth as the economy struggles to grow and unemployment rises.

The awarding of huge bonuses to bankers has become emblematic of a culture of flashy consumption for the elite.

Corruption scandals within London’s police force and a 2009 scandal over parliamentarians’ expenses have also fueled the notion that greed is a motivating factor across the spectrum of British society.

“Everyone’s heard about the police taking bribes, the members of parliament stealing thousands with their expenses. They set the example. It’s time to loot,” a youth in the riot-torn London district of Hackney told Reuters.

“It’s time to loot.”  That says it all.  They don’t want to sit down and discuss socioeconomic issues.  They just want to get stuff while the getting is good.  I mean, there are protests.  And there is theft.  Labor standing in a picket line is a protest.  Smashing windows and stealing stuff is theft.

Is State Welfare so Generous that People don’t want to get off of State Benefits? 

Of course, some are politicizing this violence.  To make the case for more social spending.  Because if you don’t pay these thugs off they’ll come and smash your windows and take your stuff (see Do Budget Cuts Cause More Riots? by Bouree Lam posted 8/10/2011 on Freakonomics).

A couple weeks ago, Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth put out their working paper “Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe, 1919-2009.” It uses cross-country data in the 90-year period to examine whether riots and civil unrest increase as governments cut spending. They found a positive correlation between social instability and budget cuts.

I think the real question is this.  Is state welfare too generous?  Is it so generous that people don’t want to get off of state benefits?  And when said benefits are cut they riot?  Are they so lazy and have such a state-induced entitlement mentality that the thought of having to provide for themselves is so disagreeable that they prefer burning their own neighborhoods? 

And so they riot.  They torch their oppressors.  Probably drive these stores out of their neighborhoods.  And discourage anyone from opening a new store in such a violent and riot-prone neighborhood.  Now what?  Where are they going to shop with no stores?  Who will they riot against then?

The Balance of Power has always Determined whether there will be Peace or War 

As bad as all of this is, some are saying the US should follow the UK’s example.  Stop being a world superpower.  And enjoy harmonious bliss at home.  Like they have in the UK.  When they’re not rioting and burning the place down (see Three Cheers for Decline by Charles Kenny posted 8/9/2011 on Foreign Policy).

Of course, the United States still possesses greater military strength than any other country in the world. But what good has being the world’s policeman done for Americans? Wielding that might meant the United States saw more combat deaths overseas last year than any other country, according to data from Uppsala University. Beyond the blood is the treasure: U.S. military spending increased 81 percent between 2001 and 2010 and now accounts for 43 percent of the global total — six times its nearest rival, China. The U.S. military burden is equivalent to 4.8 percent of GDP, the largest economic burden of any OECD country.

Everyone attacks U.S. defense spending.  Something, by the way, called for in the Constitution.  Unlike entitlements.  Now 4.8% of GDP is too high and should be cut.  Whereas entitlement spending is twice that amount and yet no one calls for any spending cuts there.  So it’s not a money thing.  It’s a ‘let’s weaken the U.S. thing’.

Freed from the distractions of colonial oversight and global leadership, it could retire its planet-spanning chain of military bases, shrink the Royal Navy, and devalue the pound without fears that the world would come to an end. And the country learned to collaborate without feeling equal status was a slight to its dignity — joining the European Union, for example, and signing the Kyoto Protocol.

Could the United States go down the same track toward contented (well, most of the time), pretty-good-power status?

But let’s not forget something.  When the sun never set on the British Empire the world was a more peaceful place.  We call it Pax Britannica.  Latin for British peace.  The British Empire was a benign one as far as empires go.  There was prosperity and peace.  And little war.  Something only a powerful military can give you.  When in British or American hands, at least.

The world is a dangerous place.  Always has been.  And the balance of power has always determined whether there will be peace.  Or war.  When the Nazis had it there was war.  When the British had it during the Pax Britannica there was peace.  Yes, the US and UK have made some mistakes.  But ask yourself this.  Who would you feel more comfortable having the kind of military might the US has?  China?  Iran?  Russia?  I think not.

So the US should give up its national security interests.  And take that money and spend it on more state benefits.  Like the UK did following the end of her empire.  So the permanent underclass can grow larger.  And more restive.  Demanding ever more benefits.  And rioting when they don’t get what they want.  Not a very good tradeoff for living in a less safe world if you ask me.

People Dependent on Government Benefits tend to vote for Candidates who Promise more of the Same

The rise of the welfare state has created a permanent underclass dependent on government.  Because overly generous benefits made it attractive to remain in the underclass.  Happy not to be productive.  Living off the labors of those who are.  It’s good politics.  People dependent on government benefits tend to vote for candidates who promise more of the same.

But there is a limit to how much wealth you can transfer from the productive class to the nonproductive.  If you take too much away the productive class may just join the ranks of the nonproductive.  Because that’s where the incentive is.  So the government can only tax up to a certain point.  Then they have to start borrowing.  Until the borrowing creates deficits too great to borrow anymore.  So then the spending cuts begin.  And, of course, the rioting.

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