I personally don’t believe it is our moral duty to do so. Before we start helping anyone else out, if at all, we need to solve our own issues, like the $16+ trillion debt that we have.
Is it our job to send billions of dollars to foreign contries to help them build up? Is it our moral duty? For example, why are we sending a billion dollars a year to Pakistan when they sold our stealth helicopter to China?
Joelle is absolutely right, we have to get ourselves back on solid ground before we should even think about trying to help someone else. After we have taken care of our debts and we are able to create a surplus then, and only then, I see nothing wrong with helping another country when we can, but not to the point where we are unable to care of our own in a case of a natural disaster. All that is needed is to use some common sense and not let our emotions carry us away. That’s part of how we got in the mess we’re in now.
The United States, by itself, cannot nor should not engage in any nation building. The last successful efforts in nation building were in East Germany and Japan following WW II; I believe the reason for their success was because Germany and Japan in defeat had ceased to exist as nations and were forced to accept what ever was presented to them. Any of the more recent attempts at nation building have not ended well because they have only been a change of leaderships, from leaders who hate the west to leaders who don’t hate us so much. They were started by revolutions which resembled more the French Revolution, in punishing those who were previously in power, than the American Revolution whrre the winners wanted to start something new with the people in charge..
If the question is “Country Building: Our Job or Our Duty” then the answer in words is very simple although in practice it is very complex and difficult and easy to get wrong. When we get it wrong we waste taxpayer money and sometimes embolden our enemies.
You all present valid arguments. The simple answer is “yes” AND “no.”
If nation building is in our national security interest then we should entertain the idea. Jim mentioned the very good point of Germany and Japan. These are two countries that wanted to destroy us and now they are our allies. Was it expensive? Very, but since these countries are now our allies they play a role in our own national security. We clearly did the right thing.
Was it a good thing in Afghanistan? Yes and no. Is it wrong to believe that a democratic world is a bad idea? A democratic world would go a long way toward ending or reducing war. However, forcing countries to become democratic is nearly impossible.
The other side of that coin is to let them side with our enemies who will give them money to re-build and then they become enemies of the United States, eventually strengthening enemy forces. If this happens we will someday be at war with them once again. Is that a good thing?
This is a complex and difficult subject but I do know one thing and that is that an unequivocal answer, either “yes” or “no” is probably not the best answer.
Personally I think we are pushing policy more than intending to build nations. The government is using our tax payer dollars to teach other countries how to enforce our policies. Pakistan is a huge supplier of clothing for America. By enforcing these policies, we will be able to create regulations to how their economy works. our policies will ensure control over their commerce…
Its interesting to rejoin this discussion after the fallout from Egypt. I am beginning to realize that spreading Democracy is not the best way to gain alliances with countries for American interest. As in Egypt, we encourage democracy, and we’ve created a mess. I agree with Brian that we should push policy rather than build nations. We should encourage capitalism, and allow them to have whatever style of government they want as long as they allow a free market within that system. Thoughts?
@twocents, I could not agree more that encouraging capitalism is a good step. But before we talk to them about the virtues of capitalism, let’s get this country back on track and away from the socialist way of thinking. It would be hard to show someone how well a system works when your own country is 16+ Trillion dollars in debt, as @joellemartin had mentioned earlier, and we send our manufacturing jobs to other countries, while millions of our own people are jobless.
I’ve always found this interesting. If a person who made $100,000.00 a year and they were in debt 4 million dollars, which means he’s way over extended as it is, why would that same person borrow another 1.5 million to build someone else a house. It makes absolutely no sense at all, but that’s exactly what our government does.
Also, I am curious as to how well capitalism would work in a country that is communist, socialist, or has a dictatorship. Knowing that free enterprise typically does not thrive in these environments, it would be an interesting experiment to see if any country of this type could make it work.
James, interesting question you pose and I think an important question. That question being how well would capitalism work in a communist or socialist society or in a dictatorship.
These are mutually exclusive terms, mostly in the means of production. In communism, the society (or community) owns the means of production. If you work harder at your job you do not get rewarded for your extra efforts and as such there is no incentive to excel.
In socialism (akin to communism) you might own the means of production but the government controls that means. The government believes it is responsible to ensure that there is economic equality and that economic inequality is bad. We see this today in our country.
In a similar fashion to the communist approach to economics there is no incentive to work hard to improve your lot in life and possibly get ahead. Socialism believes that the workers in a factory (unions) are more important than the management of the factory or even the owners of the factory and this can destroy the ability of the owners to grow their business because the workers (whose desires count more than management) don’t care about a new product line or a new factory as much as they care about increasing their wages and benefits. This in-turn eats up profits and then eats operating capital and the operation slows until it stops.
In socialist societies you see the expansion of welfare programs paid for by the “wealthy.” This is the government’s way to redistribute the wealth and stop charitable giving (that which comes from the heart and is given to those who truly are needy because of some unfortunate event, not laziness) and replace it with government mandated law.
Then the welfare programs get even more expanded and more people get on them because it beats working for a living. This destroys the incentive of the once-hard-worker because if he works harder his reward will be giving more to the government to give to those who don’t want to work.
When the tail wags the dog pretty soon the dog will die. The business will close because the workers goals were more recognized than managements goals. We are seeing this everyday. In a nutshell, with socialism or communism you do not have the right to the pursuit of happiness as we stated in our Declaration of Independence.
Karl Marx was a big proponent of socialism/communism and he is well known for the phrase “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” In other words if you are good at repairing shoes then that is your assigned job and you (and other shoe repairmen) will work until everyone’s shoes are repaired and then you will be allowed to rest. Don’t worry about working extra to get ahead because you can’t. Oh, you say you don’t like shoe repair and would like to do something else… “shut up and color” because your life isn’t about you but what government can require you to do.
Capitalism on the other hand recognizes that we are free to pursue our happiness. If working hard and reaping the benefits of your hard work makes you happy then more power to you. If you want to work just enough to get by and always drive a used vehicle, you can do that as well. In other words the individual is responsible for his own lot in life.
Free market capitalism is the ONLY economic system that can survive in a free society. Some government regulation is necessary but too much destroys the free market and takes away the freedom of the individual and gives it to the government. In a true free market you would not see these business cycles of bubbles and destructive economic crashes.
The Federal Reserve with their manipulation of the money supply which manipulates the value of the money in your pocket (destroys that value) and also falsely manipulates interest rates, when combined with excessive government regulation destroys that free market, destroys capitalism, and destroys your freedom.
Over the years politicians have consistently but incorrectly blamed capitalism for their ill conceived policies and over-regulating. The uninformed voter unknowingly buys into this bogus line of thinking and the downhill trend continues.
As for a dictatorship, this is self explanatory. You say you are good at repairing shoes and not much else, well today you are a painter and if you don’t do it right you will be killed or tortured (have a nice day).
In a dictatorship there is no freedom and the economy does whatever the dictator wants it to do. As a result all the wealth goes to the dictator and the people do all the hard work while MAYBE getting enough food to eat. Ask the North Korean peasants and they will tell you they go hungry most days but the dictator is very wealthy.
@kevlar, I guess what I was trying to show is that it may be all well and good to encourage capitalism in these countries without bringing up democracy, but as you just correctly stated, capitalism doesn’t work unless it is backed up by a democratic government.
But since we live in a democracy and we have capitalism why is our economy in the dumper? Why aren’t we over loaded with jobs for our citizens? Why don’t other countries use the U.S. as an economic role model?
The answer to these and many other questions is pretty simple. We have allowed our government to become too big. We have allowed ourselves to have a president who would further socialistic ideas. To increase socialism is to reduce capitalism and when you reduce capitalism you reduce the economy.
A lot of people get a bad taste in their mouth when they hear the word capitalism. To them it simply means that the owner gets rich and the workers make less than enough to live on and they will have to live in shacks and wear rags. I suppose there are those business men who try to do this but if the economy is good and there are plenty of jobs to go around, they will see the light when no one will work for them because there are jobs out there that pay better.
Is Capitalism perfect? Absolutely not. But it’s as close as we are going to get and it worked well enough for us until politicians started fooling around with it and started it on a downhill slide.
The warning signs were there, we just weren’t pay attention. When our elected officials, and that includes the president, starts side-stepping, ignoring, or trying to do away with Our Constitution or Our Bill of Rights, that should be like a warning flare and “We The People” should act immediately. If obama hasn’t served to do anything else, by his actions during his time in office, at least we know what to look for in the future.
James, excellent post. Great explanation of how capitalism wrongly came to be a bad word.
Again, free-market capitalism is THE ONLY economic system that will allow a free society. All other economic systems rob the people of some of their freedom. Free market capitalism works and works very well. Over-regulation of that free market such that it is no longer a free market causes the economy to have problems, as we are now seeing.
The housing market and subsequent bubble that triggered the fall of the economy was running along well until the government started to interfere in the free market. This interference dates back to at least the 1930,s with FDR. The government got more involved under Jimmy Carter with CRA (Community Reinvestment Act), and even more involved under Bill Clinton and to some extent George W. Bush. GWB wasn’t so bad but this is where Barney Frank and Chris Dodd did much of their dirty work.
In a nutshell these government programs interfered in the housing market because they wanted to share the wealth and make it so that the poor could own their own homes. I am all for helping people out when they are down and out but they did it in such a way as to destroy the world’s largest economy.
The risk to loaning money (in this case to buy a house) is that the money won’t be repaid. To hedge the bet of loaning their own money the banks and mortgage houses had always required a 20% down payment. This by itself kept many people who could not pay back the loan or would not by choice (didn’t have the integrity) out of the housing market.
If you wanted a house you had to work and save for the down payment. This protected the borrower, the lending institution/bank, and as it would eventually turn out, the taxpayer. There was always a place to live because you could rent without having to meet these standards (nobody was on the street because of this).
Along comes the government (FDR, Carter, Dodd/Frank and a few others) and feeling sorry for those who were unable to buy a house because their income couldn’t support the loan and they create Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to guarantee (with yours and my tax dollars) the repayment of the loan to the guy who had insufficient income.
Well since most of the sales in housing is commission based and now that all the market risk of loaning money has been assumed by the government (with yours and my money) these people who are on commission had the freedom to crank the sales business into high gear – all profit and no risk because the government assumed the risk so the lenders didn’t have to.
Any casual observer could see that this was a bubble just waiting to pop and guess what, IT DID.
This destroyed the economy for years (still destroyed because Obama is intentionally holding it down but that is for another thread). There are numerous examples of government interference in the free market that eventually brought that market to a screeching halt.
So what do you think might happen if the government interferes in something they have no constitutional authority to interfere in and then break that which they screwed? They can go to the people and say “we screwed up and ask for your forgiveness” which we all know will never happen.
Or they could tell the people that these are the pitfalls of capitalism and capitalism is bad. Of course this will only work if the public is uninformed and guess what – they are. At least a small majority of them are, just enough to re-elect an incompetent president to further the destruction of the country.
Free market capitalism is the only economic system that can exist in a free society. The government is tired of that free market stuff because they cannot use it to buy votes (only governmental control of the market can buy votes) so they are eagerly trying to usher it out the door and they have a bunch of uninformed liberal voters to act as cheerleaders.
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