In Greek Mythology, Procrustes (who’s name means ‘The Stretcher’) the son of Poseidon, lured weary travelers from Athens to Eleusis to stay with him where he would fit them to his iron bed. He would stretch those too short to fit his bed and amputate the legs of those too long. Procrustes continued his reign of terror until Theseus traveling the same route killed Procrustes, by convincing him to fit himself to his own bed.
A Procrustes bed is used as a modern analogy of an “arbitrary standard by which exact conformity is required“. It has been used as comparisons in literature, math and computer science. In his 2010 book, ‘The Procrustes Bed: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms’, Nassim Taleb says that it is not only that many times we try to fit into wrong boxes, but that the emphasis is on the box rather than the object. He also points out the danger of overestimating or under estimating variables as in Modern Portfolio Theory that uses risk assessment like Bell Curve distribution sigmas to gauge investment pairing and balancing. In a sense, Modern Portfolio Theory is a Procrustes Bed as it lops off 3rd or 4th sigma risk as inconsequential, only to find out later as we have with recent financial crises, those variables played a greater role.
A Procrustes Bed analogy of government policy can be made in areas like health care, education and other areas where centralized government tries to create solutions. As Procrustes would stretch his shorter victims and amputate his taller ones, government health care policy would give more health care to the healthy and less to the very sick. Individuals with health care needs ‘out of the bed’ of protocol would either have to look for it on the private or black market while the healthiest would be required an annual exam and other benefits that they don’t want. The same could also apply regarding cost sharing as healthy and unhealthy would be in the bed with the same premiums. Alternative care options which even now are generally only available to those with discretionary income, might under government health care be outlawed or even more expensive. Those who have the money might be joining those already fleeing other nation’s government health care, like a Danny Williams former Canadian MP who flew to Miami, FL for a heart procedure a few years back.
The Procrustes Bed of public education as it exists today is particularly cruel. I’d refer to an earlier article on a brief history of US education, that was loosely state regulated, decentralized and adaptable to different regions of the country and even up until the early 20th century was local and neighborhood focused. Today education is highly centralized through the Dept of Education, federal mandates and state enticements of money and credits to cash strapped states. Public school children are at the mercy of every new lab project coming through teacher colleges like Columbia, that weigh priorities of traditional skills of reading, writing, arithmetic and critical learning against socialization and tolerance which was John Dewey’s goal in the early 20th century, who believed changes in societies have to start in the classrooms. But the experiments are failing dramatically as US test scores have plummeted against other nations and the US has even pulled out of some competition.
If these experiments in healthcare, education and other non-delegated state powers had been done on a decentralized state by state basis as was the original system, the failures would have been isolated, less impacting nationally and successful models would be adapted in other states.
The Procrustes Bed can be applied in so many areas where federal government in particular creates arbitrary policy with rigid compliance. There is almost a unanimous conclusion that something is wrong in Washington, DC, while some consider the government as being ineffective and needs to be ‘fine tuned’, most believe it is doing too much and needs to do less.
As a fitting (pun intended) end of the mythological story, Procrustes is done in by his own device. Wouldn’t a fitting end to an uncontrollable and runaway federal government be a Procrustes Bed of Constitutional measures?
Statists, Governmentalists, Collectivists for over a century now have lured weary citizen travelers journeying through life, into the secure and comfortable bed of federal government powers to solve all problems, only to find out too late the limits it put on individual freedom. There is an inverse relationship between Government and Individual Liberty – as government power increases, individual liberty decreases. The framers of the Constitution understood the natural process of government was to grow and that it needed to be limited through constitutional restraint.
Are there Theseus’ in Washington or in state governments who can lure the Federal Government back into the bed of constitutional restraint so we can once again ‘fit it’ so it functions as was intended as a protector of individual liberties and not as a provider of rights and services?
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform which released a budget proposal on December 1, 2010, proposed $4 billion in deficit cuts and to a balance budget by 2035, Congressman Paul Ryan(R) was also on that committee and came out with his own plan that proposed to eliminate the US deficit in 30 years and to reduce the US debt, the 2012 version passed the House along party lines in 2011. Unfortunately nothing passed the Senate and nothing made it to the President’s desk to sign.
The new Bowles-Simpson plan is a little lighter as it would cut $2.4 billion over 10 years, cutting $600 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, $600 billion from new tax deductions and tax revenues, while $1.2 Billion in discretionary spending would be cut. It would also consider changes to slow increases in Social Security and other federal retirement payouts.
Last night at an Arizona Maricopa County Legislative District meeting, US Congressman David Schweikert(R), former Committee Member on Financial Services, shared his frustration in solving the budget and deficit problem and spoke of the urgency of a budget and how four years without one has meant no formal financial decisions made and that borrowed money goes to post budget commitments or status quo which compounds many financial problems within government.
Schweikert also hinted at a ‘news making’ tax policy announcement to be released by the GOP later this month, that would be ‘Flat tax’ in nature and could be a game changer in the Sequestration drama. Could mortgage interest, 179 deductions (accelerated depreciation) for business be on the table? Would GE (years ago paid no taxes on profit) or Face Book this year have to ante up? Schweikert believes this will force the Democrats to have to use logic and numbers in approaching spending and not emotional appeal to the public that he says quite frankly has been working.
The skeptic in me thinks this may be more of another stall to kick the can down the road a few more months for another ‘financial cliff’ or sequestration crisis. We’ll see.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
For those of us old enough to remember ‘Supply-side’ Economics during the Reagan years can appreciate the nostalgia as it is being bandied about in the media as either an economic pariah or last hope in solving the ‘Fiscal Cliff’. In some ways as most other public policies for either party, this is the other side of the tennis match for Republicans.
The two economic philosophies at play in the budget/tax/spending negotiations is ‘Demand-Side’ economics or Keynesianism (John Maynard Keynes) that the Democrats believe if you stimulate demand by putting money in the consumers’ hands you can spend your way out of a recession. The other philosophy as mentioned earlier is ‘Supply-Side’ economics that believes if you instead put money through tax breaks, credits, subsidies in the producers hands that they will produce more product and presumably less expensive which will in turn cause the consumer to show up in the marketplace.
Both of these philosophies and economic principles are flawed and here are some reasons why:
First, the presumption that belies these beliefs is that government can manage the complexities of the market and has the knowledge of both how much and what the market needs and what the demands and wants are from the consumer.
Second, neither system accounts for malinvestment and human behavior responses, that results from market intervention and neither allows for the correction that the market provides which leads to a healthier economy.
Third, both systems and beliefs are latched onto by the parties precisely because they support the need for larger government that oversees all market activity, rather than the federal government playing a more passive and negative position that ‘stands down’ until the freedoms of the individual and the markets are violated. The private sector through competition, success and yes – failure, does a much better job in regulating economic activities and where necessary states and local government could get involved with the Fed as a far away ‘watch dog’ mostly interceding where there’s disputes between the states. The recessions and depressions of the past where there were no centralized banking or financial systems saw failure but they were decentralized, diffused for the most part and allowed for the market to clear resources more efficiently.
Finally, the `Fiscal Cliff’ and the choice in solutions offer an interesting dialogue regarding ‘Tax Cuts, Credits and Deductions’. As was mentioned earlier, Supply-Side uses incentives through tax cuts but also credits and deductions to pass money through to Producers and Higher Income Earners with the philosophy that they would do better with it than the consumer. So a $2,000 car purchase credit would make consumers show up at the local dealerships or a mortgage deduction on Schedule A would make consumers purchase homes. This month around the nation, clients are showing up in Accountants’ offices seeing what new equipment needs to be purchased in order to take advantage of ‘Section 179’ deduction, which allows for certain asset purchases to accelerate depreciation as a ‘onetime expense’ instead of over the life of the asset.
The problem with Section 179 and other deductions is that it creates malinvestments, as market dynamics are temporarily thwarted through government planning and intervention. Just like you and I show up at Costco and buy tins of stuff we don’t need or over purchase, when this is done collectively it leads to malinvestments. Businesses misread the market and see demand rise so they build bigger facilities (tying into long term debt) and start to hire. This can be seen through the housing market crisis as consumers and investors purchased homes, builders built, lender lent, as prices skyrocketed and lost their fortunes as the market (which it always does) brought correction. Both the builders and purchasers suffered greatly as they signed onto long term debt agreements while both prices and demand were artificially inflated. Unfortunately the government which created the mess rather than allowing for the market to clear, thinks it has another solution.
Of course we haven’t touched on spending which is a function of the size of government and should be constitutionally aligned and restrained but that’s for another article. Tax Policy in general should be based on a low (flat) rate, with no deductions or incentives which distorts the markets as we’ve seen. If the GOP could understand this and present lower marginal rates for individuals and corporations but the elimination or phase out of deductions this would go a long way to signaling to the marketplace that a capricious runaway government has been at least for now restrained. This would free up capital on the sidelines (which there’s a lot of) to consider risk and long term investments once again.
Tell us what you think.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
In an article in the Wall Street Journal, In European Crisis, Iceland Emerges as an Island of Recovery Charles Forelle describes an unlikely phenomena, a national recovery inspite of the EU crisis. But why isn’t the media covering it more and everyone talking about it?
“In 2008, Iceland was the first casualty of the financial crisis that has since primed the euro zone for another economic disaster: Greece is edging toward a cataclysmic exit from the euro, Spain is racked by a teetering banking system, and German politicians are squabbling over how to hold it all together. But Iceland is growing. Unemployment has eased. Emigration has slowed.”
The Iceland dilemma was well covered in 2008 as we witnessed bank runs and young people fleeing the country for other opportunities; but today the reverse is happening, the young are returning, businesses are humming and jobs are more plentiful. Now, don’t be mistaken, this is a ‘European style’ recovery where inflation is high and there’s still substantial debt costs, but it is a very positive scenario in a bleak region as Greece teeters on solvency while the EU caves to lending it more money and other nations like Spain are close behind.
“Iceland—with its own currency, its own central bank, its own monetary policy, its own decision-making and its own rules—had policy options that euro-zone nations can only fantasize about. Its successes provide a vivid lesson in what euro countries gave up when they joined the monetary union. And, perhaps, a taste of what might be possible should they leave.”
In some ways Iceland and Greece’s problems could be compared to California and other state hampered budgets in the US and bond defaults and bankruptcies at local levels. Where Iceland made a bold move to allow the banks ‘to fail’ and had its own currency (whether wise or not) to devalue, the reality is that it gave clear signals to investors and the market what its intentions were – less government intervention and the allowance for clearance of malinvestments and resources.
That rescue, in turn, weighed on the financial system. But unlike Ireland, for example, Iceland let its banks fail and made foreign creditors, not Icelandic taxpayers, largely responsible for covering losses.
Iceland also imposed draconian capital controls—anathema to the European Union doctrine of open financial borders—that have warded off the terrifying capital and credit flights that hit Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and now test Spain and Italy.
While Iceland is an unusual example of financial recovery of a nation and as their 320,000 citizens is a very small sampling to apply across broader populations, that’s just it; what works there may or may not work here or other places. Financial systems that are centralized are inherently vulnerable to monolithic elements of corruption, fragility and fatal failure. Failure of a city does not have the effect of a gigantic centralized structure, though tragic and harmful just the same. But competitive elements and options are open in a decentralized system that are closed off to a centralized one.
Finally, is the reason you won’t hear this success story on the nightly news, the Daily Show or Colbert because it exposes the real villain in our financial and social problems – government itself?
Policies and Philosophies like Keynesian Economics and Plato’s Utopia which elevate collectivism and government as the underpinning of social harmony grabs the attention of the powerful, while the importance of the Individual and that the ‘inequalities’ in society itself create opportunities for real social cooperation are discarded quickly as nonsense or fairy tales. The true ‘Romantics’ in US history were not the writers of a Constitution who designated limited power to the Federal government and those who followed in defending the restraint of centralized federal powers but instead the believers in a Utopian society and Nationalism, where through a benevolent government all are equal but none are free.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
In Obama’s Soak-the-’Rich’ article in Cato Institute, the writer Daniel J. Mitchell says,
“Tax Hikes are Worse than the Fiscal Cliff
America actually will fall off two fiscal cliffs in January, but only one of them is bad. The good fiscal cliff is the so-called sequester, which is the inside-the-beltway term for automatic spending cuts. These aren’t really spending cuts, just reductions in the growth of spending. If the sequester takes place, total federal spending will climb by $2 trillion over the next 10 years instead of $2.1 trillion. But anything that restrains the growing burden of government spending is a good idea, so a small step is better than nothing.
The bad fiscal cliff is the automatic tax hike, which exists because the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of the year. This means higher tax rates for all taxpayers, as well as increased double taxation of dividends and capital gains.”
What many economists and politicians don’t recognize is that there is a difference between money saved or spent in the private sector versus the public sector and the ‘unintended consequences’ of behavioral changes by the individual and the marketplace as a result of public policies that increase taxes, create more regulations and which usually means tax avoidance and spending decisions that are short term and counterproductive.
Unfortunately, as government does with most ‘hard political decisions’, politicians in Washington after much saber rattling will compromise on the important decisions of redefining the role of the Federal government and making some significant spending cuts and policy changes in Defense, Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs that for the most part should be remanded back to the states. Instead there will be a mirage of spending decreases from the baseline budget as mentioned earlier and there will be a phase out of tax deductions at an income level of $250,000 or so, which like the AMT was never bracketed or indexed and eventually inflated its way into the ‘Middle Class’ where most of the money is. As a result the market response will be to hide more income and investment strategies that moves more capital into the ‘shadow economy’ and overseas.
This past week in a ‘Farewell to Congress’ retiring Rep. Ron Paul took some time to reflect on his 40 year contribution to raising a warning of abusive federal power, “Dependence on our government is the worst it has been in US history..Why does the changing of parties and politicians not change policies, could it be that both parties are essentially the same?..Real Patriotism is challenging the government (and your party) when it’s wrong.”
While we appreciate past generations like those who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in WW2 and Tom Brokaw nicknamed the ‘Greatest Generation’. With deference to that generation, I believe the Greatest Generation is ahead of us, growing up before our eyes, rejecting today’s Historicism being taught of our past and embracing instead the original underpinnings of Individual Liberty that were forged in the US Constitution and which sailed a great Republic.
Hip Hip Hurrah for Elections and Representation! The Status quo won again and as Rep. Ron Paul slips out of public office, will there be a GOP or Democrat party that realigns itself to the Constitution and will there be new voices crying in the wilderness, “This is the way to Liberty, Walk Ye in it!” or are we inevitably headed down the slippery slope of more centralized government?
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
CONSIDERING RON PAUL AND THE RISKS-REWARDS OF US MILITARY INTERVENTION
“The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.” Plutarch
Plutarch’s observation, which is where the phrase a `Pyrrhic Victory’ comes from suggests that while a win (War Victory) is good, if not managed properly could be the undoing or collapse of a nation. Even in the best (for lack of better word) or most moralistic war, while the citizenry keeps its freedom it’s the State, the pilot fish (Corporations through huge government contracts) and the financiers of their excursions that make substantial gains. This group is ready to wage war again: gain territory and advantages, build weapons at a premium and of course finance it, but the citizenry is exhausted, depleted and emotionally, spiritually and physically bankrupt from the last victory (or defeat).
Ron Paul has been dismissed as naive and with outcries of `Appeaser’ or `Coward’ when he suggests the dangers of another war (Iran) and to verify (Reagan) intelligence carefully and to consider the risks before moving ahead. Critics who favor military intervention will highlight the `dangers’ of a nuclear Iran meanwhile not consider the full scope of risk to Individual Liberty (from bills like NDAA 2012) or the financial impact to an already dire US and global economic condition. Interventionists also don’t consider the motives and reward of the State, their corporate relationships and the banks who survive from one stimulus bill or appropriations bill to the next and look forward to the next big government excursion. In Reason Magazine, ‘Ron Paul Challenges Mindless Militarism’, Jacob Sullum writes, “This week the U.S. officially ended its war in Iraq, nearly nine years after launching it based on the false claim that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to us because he had weapons of mass destruction. The war, which replaced a brutal dictator with a corrupt, wobbly elected government that may not be able to defend Iraq’s borders or maintain peace in a country driven by sectarian violence, cost the U.S. $800 billion and nearly 4,500 American lives. More than 100,000 civilians were killed during the invasion and its aftermath.
The regime installed by the U.S. in Afghanistan to replace Al Qaeda’s Taliban allies is even weaker and more corrupt than the one in Iraq. Ten years after the invasion, we still have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and so far the war has cost about $500 billion, 1,800 American lives, and thousands of civilian casualties.”
The irony in Plutarch’s statement and warning was that they were conquered by a conqueror that later would make the same mistake. Are we too myopic and blind to the dangers of `Empire Building’? Has war like the automobile industry or `Green Technology’ become a `preferred’ industry that the government funnels money into? Washington, Jefferson, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan warned of the proliferation of militaristic power rather than defense; a strong constitutionally based Defense is right they would have argued, but today if you utter a word questioning the wisdom of an aggressive military footprint and preemptive attacks you are drown out by rhetoric and name calling.
While the zeal of the Neo-Conservative GOP base is to be the `leader’ in managing world affairs and using military intervention as a tool for peace while contemplating a war with Iran and putting aside the blaring consequences of these policies the other obvious reality is that with over $15.13 Trillion in debt (more than our GDP), the USD is leveraged more than 40:1 and we can’t afford the current military footprint let alone expanding it further. Isn’t it time to talk sensibly about a well balanced strategy of Defense that is constitutionally based and fits within our budget? Can we learn lessons from Rome and Great Britain that while they achieved Empires for a time, they expanded beyond their ability to manage their affairs effectively and Individual Liberties were sacrificed in the process?
Woodrow Wilson wasn’t wrong because he was an `Appeaser’, he was wrong because he was an early `Empire Builder’ and a globalist which oversteps constitutional authority of Federal power. There was no sovereign threat to the US at the time of WW1 except possibly to the banks as they were financing the war, and that’s a harbinger on `Too big to fail’ and Moral Hazard.
Sullum concludes, “For 35 years Ron Paul has been speaking truths that the foreign policy mavens of both parties prefer to ignore: that the Constitution gives Congress alone the power to declare war, that unjustified interventions breed resentment that undermines our security, that there is a difference between military spending and defense spending, that foreign aid rewards autocrats and their cronies, and that economic sanctions are an “an act of war” that hurts people in the name of punishing the governments that oppress them. If there really is no room for these arguments in the Republican Party, that is the party’s fault, not Paul’s.”
Today, as we take a `full assessment’ of external and internal threats to our sovereignty we need to weigh the real threats to State sovereignty from terrorism and invasion from abroad, against fragilities of our financial house and the cost to Individual Liberty while tipping our hats to individuals like Ron Paul who are courageous in that they don’t back down but speak out against tyranny and the political marginalization of alternative views.
The real terror today is that the US Constitution with its separation of powers between the states and federal government and protection against the concentration of power into the hands of a few has become unfamiliar and even peculiar to most of our population who perceive it as `dangerous’ and a threat to their way of life. When you consider Pyrrhus’ warning, the irony is thick.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
There’s been an important update on the move away from the USD as a reserve currency that we’ve reported about over the past several months. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a report yesterday outlining the process to move from a world reserve currency for central banks based on the USD to a fund of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) that would include a basket of different currencies.
The IMF said that the SDRs would create a more stable currency environment by spreading the risk among several currencies while pointing out the volatility of the USD during the recession and recovery process over the past several years. US Monetary policy of quantitative easing has contributed to rising oil and food prices which has indirectly put pressure on oil dependent nations and other poorer nations that live marginally.
In an article on Money.com they report that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the IMF, “acknowledged there are some “technical hurdles” involved with SDRs, but he believes they could help correct global imbalances and shore up the global financial system. “Over time, there may also be a role for the SDR to contribute to a more stable international monetary system,” he said. The goal is to have a reserve asset for central banks that better reflects the global economy since the dollar is vulnerable to swings in the domestic economy and changes in U.S. policy.”
Kahn also says that he could see where the IMF through a new reserve currency structure could issue bonds and other financial instruments. This would create a new centralized level of banking structure that would potentially sit above all national central banks. While there have been rumors of centralizing world banking and a new global regulatory structure as recently as Davos last month, this step would be a leap into that direction. The creation of a global banking structure that had the ability to produce ‘treasury-type’ bonds would compete directly with US treasuries for safety and liquidity and cause further erosion of USD value.
Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, “said at a conference in Washington that IMF member nations should agree to create $2 trillion worth of SDRs over the next few years. SDRs, he said, “will further diversify the system.”
We can’t stress enough how much the impact will be to USD value, particularly if US domestic spending and the US debt is not addressed to make the USD more attractive as it becomes more exposed to a competitive global market.
As Egyptian banks reopened on Sunday the conditions have been relatively stable all things considered, as the US dollar has made a 2.3% gain on the Egyptian pound (EP) according to the BBC, since the crisis started. Rumors are that while the Egyptian government hasn’t intervened directly that state-owned banks have been selling USD to support the EP. The Egyptian stock market will remain closed until next Sunday.
When bank doors initially opened there were a significant amount of customers waiting. But withdrawals have been limited to 50,000 EP ($8,400) and $10,000 in foreign currencies.
The Egyptian government had to pull back on a treasury auction, looking for 15bn (Euro), they had to settle for 1bn as foreign investors are reluctant to buy and borrowing costs have risen for the government around 1.5% from the last auction.
The domino effect to Tunisia’s and Egypt’s political unrest that has been taking place in some respect to other neighboring countries like Jordan and Yemen, is now feared to also destabilize currencies and financial markets as well.
While the Middle East tries to rebound from unrest, Europe is still cautiously waiting for a turnaround in some of their country-states like Greece and Ireland who have undergone renovations and Portugal, Spain and Italy who are on watch lists for now. China has made overtures to purchase European bonds and help in reworking debt.
Meanwhile, the US struggles with mounting national debt, stalled talks on budget policy and cutting spending, and unemployment which remains stubbornly high at 9.0%.
In January, a Tunisian uprising over unemployment, food inflation and government corruption caused the overthrow of the government and for President Ben Ali to flee the country allegedly with 1.5 tons of gold in his possession. The end of last month Egyptians have taken to the street in protest of the Mubarak government. The protesters include the upper middle class to the lower class, decrying the high rate of unemployment and inflation; as of this writing, Mubarak has offered to step down in September after his current term ends. With growing unrest in his own country, Jordanian King Abdullah has sacked his own government as protests against high unemployment and rising prices are growing in the streets.
Other Arab states are concerned about a Domino Effect from the uprisings spreading to their nations and the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist groups of gaining more traction by taking advantage of the social unrest.
While fundamentalists are driving some of the uprisings, the majority of the uprisings have a common thread: Unemployment, rising food and energy prices. Does US monetary policies play a role in the process?
The current world economies run off the US Dollar as a reserve currency. The Arab states trade in US Dollars for the most part through oil revenues, IMF funds and direct aid from the US. When the US decides to use quantitative easing measures to print its way out of economic malaise or to monetize its own debt, it not only destroys the buying power of its citizens but foreign governments and their citizens as well. Unemployment and rising prices are the result of currency and interest rate distortions, as governments, corporations and individuals react to changes in the supply, cost or perceived value of money in the marketplace. The poorest of nations and individuals in those nations seem to suffer the most as they live on the margins of society, meeting their food and shelter needs day by day. They lack the reserves and robustness to endure long periods of economic disruption. Meanwhile, China has been the whipping boy because of its perceived loose monetary policy as well, but from China’s point of view, the US leaves it no choice but to take a defensive posture, by print more Yuan/RMB in response to devaluation of the USD.
Many around the world are reacting to US foreign policies of intervention and involvement in other nation’s governments and of the proliferation of US military presence around the globe but there is a growing resentment to US monetary policy as well. The recent Basel Accord meetings late last year and the meetings most recently with the Chinese were about moving away from the USD as the sole reserve currency and a move toward a commodity structure (unlikely) or a basket of currencies – SDR (Special Drawing Rights). Since the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, the US has enjoyed a monopoly as the worlds reserve currency, which gave it the perception as a safe haven to hold currency and as the best means of exchange. The US has been able to take advantage of that position by making risky monetary and fiscal decisions to run up deficits in domestic and foreign policies and experiment in Keynesian monetary policy of stimulus injections when the economy slows down. This has been done for years through Congressional Budget busting programs and zealous monetary policy, all the while knowing that the world had little recourse as they needed the USD. The US has been making the bed of its own demise for years and yet there’s very little evidence that the political or monetary class is willing to change directions.
Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve, Tim Geithner of the US Treasury, the current President and most of Congress are not only not friends of the American people, they are also not friends of most people around the globe as their policy decisions are threats to government stability and individual freedoms and standards of living. If the US wants to have the greatest positive impact around the globe, she would do well to get her own house in order by using the Constitution as a plumb line to determine legitimate federal power by which to cut programs and departments and decentralize public policy decision making, in order to bring about Montesquieu’s Balance of Power (fed/states) as her nation’s founders had intended. They can start by rescinding the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.
A strong, stable US government built upon individual liberty and constitutional restraint would make for a better export to the world instead of the foreign policy bullying and economic policy time bombs we currently export. As the recent US elections show and the unfortunate unrest around the globe backup: both the American people and the world community as a whole is frustrated. The question is: Will the US find it’s historical moorings and once again step up to a leadership position among nations, or will the US continue down the road of self-inflicted destruction, as the world community looks for leadership elsewhere?
As the world observes the unrest in Egypt and the uncertain future of its citizens as political, military and religious forces jockey for power and its neighbors prepare for similar unrest; it brings to the forefront a growing global phenomena, that of the failure of US Neoconservative foreign policy.
Conservatives (Constitutional), Libertarians and some Democrats have warned of meddling US foreign policy for years and the unintended consequences of US style democratization. Egypt serves as an example of how US foreign policy of trying to choose a horse in the race to deliver US interests eventually backfire and has resulted in more times than not putting in power with US monies and military backing, a dictator who is as bad or worse than the previous regime. The seduction of aid packages like that of US aid to Egypt as part of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1979 that has averaged close to $2 billion annually, subsidizes economic and political instability just as welfare aid subsidizes poverty. The lingering hangover that has been growing as a result of these ill gotten policies is growing world resentment and suspicion of the US government.
“The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the States are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign affairs. Let the General Government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our General Government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants.” Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson understood the limiting power of the Constitution over the federal government, even regarding foreign policy. Aid, military support and most of what is done in the name of Foreign Affairs today is unconstitutional. Just like the cracks that are appearing more regularly in US economic and monetary planning around the globe and the resentment that comes with it, so are the fault lines appearing in US foreign policy that uses aid and coercion to assure favorable markets and `good neighbor’ partnering in global political design. But just like the bully in the school yard or even worse the weak kid who pays for friendships, eventually those relationships (if they ever really existed) dissolve and the resentment and marginalization that results afterwards takes a long time to heal.
The US which is becoming more and more exposed to growing financial disruptions and potential unrest within her own shores, risks a global push back and unanticipated consequences of new alliances, some of which could be ones that ironically we are currently paying big money in the form of aid and trade pacts not to happen.
Our best diplomats are not university policy wonks or think group protégés who bear little downside risk in venturing their newest coercive policy but rather those active in `free market’ commerce who while proffering their own interests sow seeds of free market economic, political and social principles.