Monday, February 02, 2009
A Possible Bright Spot?
Bailout worries? Quit carping and dream big.
THE NEWS MISSES THE NEWS . I'm not predicting, mind you. I'm speculating. But there is some evidence on my side for such speculation. All I'm doing here is putting together some facts of the current situation in a way nobody else has thought to do.
Yes, it looks as if the Obama administration and the Democrat congress are actively seeking to destroy the American economy and the capitalist system. All the bailout requests from various big companies and industries have given them a long-awaited excuse for nationalizing many of the country's largest corporate entities. Their labor policies also look as if they're designed to paralyze the ability of individual entrepreneurs to respond to market conditions and weather the storms that will be created by capital scarcities caused by too many government borrowings that compete for funds which should be invested in profit-making schemes. All of this looks bad. In fact, very very bad.
But. Let me note that the doomsayers are making an argument that is at least redundant if not deliberately dim-witted. The companies and industries that are begging for government help are, by definition, already moribund. So why all the dark mutterings about what their prospects are as nationalized pawns of a government that will kill them through interference and ignorance? When your last resort is to a government that will unquestionably make your competitive situation even more untenable than it is now, you're already dead. You're in intensive care and all your negotiations aren't about being cured; they're about not having the plug pulled today.
Permit me to suggest three points. One, the giants of Wall Street, Detroit, and the mass media are appropriately at the end of their natural life cycles. Two, the government cannot nationalize the entire economy; their budget for financial misadventures of this sort has been or will be entirely consumed by the cost of the corpses they've already acquired. And, three, the underlying infrastructure of the American economy has been so much changed by technology that it is simultaneously responsible for the collapse of the elderly titans and beautifully conducive to a new phase of economic growth that can make up for all the insanity of the Democrats.
Insanity is, after all, the exact right word. Let's say you wanted to take over the NFL and remake the game so that every team finished every season 8-8, and the person in charge got to pick the playoff teams based on personnel diversity, environmental factors, and all-around niceness. Which four teams would you seize? I'm thinking you'd "nationalize" the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Arizona Cardinals, the New York Giants, and the New England Patriots. If your goal is mediocrity, cripple the best first. But in this analogy, who would the Democrats be nationalizing? The Detroit Lions, the Kansas City Chiefs, the St. Louis Rams, and the Cincinnati Bengals. They'd run them by committee, lose every game, and be out of business in two seasons. And guess what? The NFL would be better off. The worst teams would be off the field, new franchise opportunities would open up for cities and owners who are committed to winning, and the fans would be a lot more interested because of the new unfolding drama. The government would be out of money and their only remaining power would be to change the rules in eccentric ways. But if the rules got too absurd, the fans would rise up and demand a change.
That's where we are today in economic terms. Why is everyone so alarmed that the federal government is in the process of nationalizing the Detroit Lions? So what. So fucking what. America won't become Europe because Americans are not Europeans. TA DA. Who else has pointed out this particular obvious fact? We're not going to become Britain or France because we're not Brits or Frogs. We don't settle for dismal, unacceptable crap because we're not prisoners of centuries of class warfare propaganda that persuade us to put up with numbskull oppression because the weight of all our dead ancestors on our shoulders has drained away the energy to resist. We don't have ancestors. 99 percent of us don't even know the names of our grandparents' moms and dads. What we do know is that we still want cool stuff. Right now. And we'll move heaven and earth to get it. And most importantly, we also know how to move heaven and earth to get we want. It's called work. As a people, we know what that is because it's bred into us at a deeper level than all the media propaganda and government schools and political lies can overcome. Do you hate Y-Gen slackers because they think the world owes them a living? That they're the proof America's day in the sun has ended? You do? Then why are the slacker founders of Google and YouTube billionaires? You think they didn't do any work to make their billions come true? Ha.
Two key conceptual points of relevance. The average lifespan of a corporate entity is about half that of a human being. Ford, GM, Chrysler, Merrill Lynch, CitiBank, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time Magazine are extreme exceptions to this rule. As corporate organizations, they are all in late senility. IT'S OKAY IF THEY DIE. If they vanished from the scene entirely today, it would not eliminate the demand for cars, stock transactions, or news reporting. That demand would continue and new organizational entities would arise to meet that need. Government can seek to control or suppress capitalism, but capitalism is not an ideology; it is merely a description of what happens when government isn't big enough to sit on absolutely everybody. And as big as our government is, it's not big enough to sit on all of us, because we have too much stuff, too many ideas of our own, and we're Americans. Which is the perfect intro to the second point.
The government of any nation is determined by the personality and expectations of its people, not by the political framework in which that government operates. Citizens of the U.K. remain subjects of the Crown, regardless of the long steady ascendancy of democratic ideas over the perquisites of aristorcracy. That's why they stand still for the fact that they're the most camera-surveilled society in the western so-called free world. Russians remain hostages of an arbitrary, authoritarian, and bloodily ruthless czarist regime that has changed vocabulary in its transition from monarchy to communism to democracy but never the naked brutality, paranoia, and inferiority complex that drives its leaders to mindless aggression on the world stage. China remains a dynastic culture whose leaders always command absolute power over the tiniest details of individual lives, whether the government calls itself an empire, a dictatorship of the proletariat, or an oxymoronic communist-capitalist directorate. Japan remains Samurai... France remains Napoleonic... Spain remains a matador... Nigeria remains tribal... India remains a schizophrenic blend of the Raj and deep-down Hindu voodoo.. Australia remains a resentful, racist prison colony with something to prove... Canada remains a dutiful, mild-mannered colonial cipher in which freedom is merely a word... South Africa remains a volatile outpost of imperialist go-to-hell hubris... the Israeli Knesset has more in common with a board meeting of the average synagogue than it does with the U.K. House of Commons.
And America -- the United States -- remains a bubbling, irascible stew of mixed peoples, cultures, and beliefs united by an incredibly long tradition of only putting up with the shit for this long. A nakedly totalitarian regime in this country would give rise to the most indefatigable resistance movement in human history, something that would make the Civil War look like a riot at the mall. You see, our tradition is that the government cannot contain us or command us. We tolerate its impositions, and they are always impositions, up to a point.. Most of us pay the government so little mind that we notice its impositions late, reluctantly, at first with amusement and then, suddenly, with savagely creative defiance. Cowards become heroes, meek mice become attack dogs, and mere pawns become a boardful of queens moving whither they will to checkmate a king whom tradition has never allowed to move more than space at a time. Even if we had a king or emperor, he'd still be sucking up to this week's polls.
I remember when the first bailout was in place and the MSM was telling us every day that credit in the United States was "frozen." Am I the only one who noticed the flurry of new ads for immediate credit to buy a car, a house, an insurance policy against every medical and life emergency? Yes, the giants of olden times were frozen, but every entrepreneur in the country was flowing like mercury into the cracks in the ice.
That's where we are now. If the car companies fail, foreign manufacturers will build new manufacturing plants in the U.S. If the banks fail, every dreamer and weasel who owns a blue suit will open new banks. If the big newspapers cease operation, entrepreneurs will hire reporters to produce the grist for the endless Internet mill of commentary and satire. That's who we are. As a people. As Americans. If they kill the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Houston Texans will romp. We have clout because we have stuff and we are Americans. Our expectations are permanent.
And. Most critically. The technology is on our side. Never before in history has it been so comparatively easy to start a national or international business with no investment greater than a website. The reinvention of manufacturing a generation ago via "Just in Time" principles has now catapulted into the phenomenon of Just-in-Time businesses. A publication can be launched in an instant without an expensive printing press. An insurance company can be vaulted to billions in revenue by a CG lizard. New software can build an empire from a basement. And even the most onerous labor laws can be circumvented by virtual organizations that redefine what an organization is and who works for it or doesn't.
So Circuit City died. Aw. Chances are, they were obsolete, not price-competitive, Not sustainable. Maybe there will be no more strip malls in twenty years. Who knows? Maybe by then all goods will be flashed through an electronic network that makes UPS and Federal Express richer than Croesus until they expire of size, age, and senility....
Meanwhile, the U.S. government is still micro-managing the expensive hulks of CitiBank and The New York Times.
Who cares? It's entirely possible that the speed of entrepreneurially created markets will fatally outstrip the incomprehensibly slow attempts of 19th century socialists to "manage" them. Look at China.
Look at China. Then tell me we Americans can't outlast Obama's retro agenda and still come out smelling like a rose, with yet another recordbreaking run as the world's highest standard of living and freedom.
UPDATE. I shouldn't. But I will. Because I'm InstaPunk. Bruce Springsteen at the Super Bowl? He SUCKED. He can't sing any more, he was wearing a corset and a hairpiece, and I consequently broke my vow not to watch Scorsese's "Shiine a Light" because I didn't want to see the Rolling Stones fall below the standard of the five concerts I attended over twenty years. A friend of mine who saw "Shine a Light" and the Springsteen performance put it to me starkly. "The Stones can still play. Springsteen is a joke." I can't believe Bruce began with his first and biggest hit and couldn't sing it. I've seen Mick perform "Sympathy for the Devil" (not his first hit) five times live, and every time he makes it a new dramatic event. I disapproved of the Stones as a Super Bowl Act a year ago. But it can't compare to my contempt for the decision to schedule this hyper-politicized mega-millionaire from New Jersey to play out his threadbare common-man act in Tampa yesterday.