November 9, 2008

Can't Charm the World

Justin Katz

Up there in far off Boston, Jeff Jacoby opines that the president elect hasn't thus far exhibited an accurate understanding of the world's opinion of the United States:

Sure enough, much of the international reaction to Obama's election has been ecstatic. "Legions of jubilant supporters set off firecrackers in El Salvador, danced in Liberia, and drank shots in Japan," the Los Angeles Times reported. Kenya declared a national holiday. South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu exulted: "We have a new spring in our walk and our shoulders are straighter." The Sun, Britain's most popular newspaper, headlined its story "One Giant Leap for Mankind."

For Obama, such worldwide jubilation must be gratifying. He should take it all with a healthy shake of salt, however. Because it isn't going to last.

Antagonism to the United States is as old as the United States. It didn't begin with the current president, unpopular though he is, or in response to American military action in Iraq. Nor is it going to vanish Jan. 20.

The difficulty of being the lead executive of the nation is that it rapidly becomes impossible not to get some dirt on your lapel, and it's a dangerous game to try. If President Obama moves unilaterally — or even just without the explicit permission of a corrupted United Nations — when our national security requires, he'll be reviled. If he fails to do so and the world's security worsens, he'll be reviled.

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It can't get much worse than Clinton doing everything by results from focus groups and polls.That didn't work out very well.About htis time next year we will know what direction he's going in.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 9, 2008 6:55 PM

On the international front the United States is analogous to the domestic Democrats' boogeyman "the rich."

Though the United States / "the rich" are both imperfect and one can cite wrongful acts, these are incidental and not representative. But by exploiting that old human failing of envy, both make convenient targets for demagogues, furthering their own greedy mission.

Though shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods (unless they're "rich" or a "rich country").

Posted by: Tom W at November 9, 2008 8:49 PM

Tom W,
How can you moralize when you worship personal greed in the marketplace? Is that not "the worship of mammon"?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at November 10, 2008 12:43 AM

Define what constitutes "personal greed" OTL.

Posted by: Tom W at November 10, 2008 8:39 AM

Please explain (in your humble opinion) when one crosses the line between merely supporting capitalism, actively engages in capitalism and worships capitalism. Also while we are on the topic of moralizing, how can you bring false witness against thy neighbor.

Posted by: bobc at November 10, 2008 11:33 AM

Asking two questions can never be construed as bringing false witness. To bear false witness one would have to make charges and issue declarative statements.
Humbly submitted,

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at November 10, 2008 11:54 AM

Tom W
What is that you claim drives the market? I await your answer.
Perhaps we can get a dialog going??

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at November 10, 2008 11:57 AM

"How can you moralize when you worship personal greed in the marketplace?"
Yes, this is a question, but the question is how can you moralize. Following that is the statement "you worship personal greed". You seem like an intelligent man, but you really must "read" not only what we write but also what you yourself have written. BTW you still haven't answered my question though you referenced my humble opinion portion. When does one cross the line into worship?

Posted by: bobc at November 10, 2008 12:31 PM

>>What is that you claim drives the market? I await your answer. Perhaps we can get a dialog going??

OTL, once I get your answer to my question, I'll answer yours.

Posted by: Tom W at November 10, 2008 5:48 PM

Tom W,
Here goes: It is greed that drives the marketplace.
It’s often said that Wall Street has only two emotions—fear and greed. Fear creates panic selling and drives markets down. Greed creates buying frenzies and drives markets up.

The proverb “Fear and greed move markets” (or “Greed and fear move markets") is often cited.

Who coined the “fear and greed” proverb? The bestselling book The Money Game (1968) by “Adam Smith” declared that “the strongest emotions in the marketplace are greed and fear.” In Harpers Magazine, May 1971, an unnamed New York broker said: “Downtown, there are two emotions: fear and greed. The rest is bullshit.” Many books and articles, however, credit Manhattan broker William M. LeFevre, who was quoted in Time magazine of May 1, 1978 saying: “There are only two emotions in Wall Street: fear and greed.”

So, I say that not much good can come from anything which is spurred on by anything as base as greed and fear.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at November 10, 2008 8:38 PM

Wall Street does not equal the "marketplace" as understood in capitalism.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 10, 2008 9:00 PM


Justin beat me to the observation that Wall Street is not synonymous with the economy.

Greed is a human failing on the part of some individuals. It is not a system, economic or otherwise.

There are all forms of “greed.” Someone who drops out of high school and/or has babies out of wedlock and expects others to support them via forcible taxation is “greedy.” Unions that demand wages and benefits in excess of market worth are “greedy.” Politicians who direct taxpayer monies to special interest groups – to Wall Street, to the Poverty Industry or to Organized Labor – in return for campaign support to keep their elected offices, are “greedy.”

Indeed the welfare people and unions and politicians are far more greedy than is “Wall Street” because they obtain their largess through force – taxation and the statutory imposition of employers being forced to “recognize” unions (e.g., if GM / Ford / Chrysler could dump the UAW they’d have done so years ago, and today wouldn’t be on the cusp of bankruptcy – but federal law doesn’t permit it).

In a free market system there are, and should be, penalties for fraud and the like. As there should be. The Enron guys got prosecuted.

Conversely, if someone accumulates wealth without fraud, other forms of theft but through honest labor and commercial transactions – no matter how large their accumulation – I have no problem with it (e.g., Bill Gates or Wall Street guru / Obama advisor Warren Buffett). This accumulation of wealth is a credit to the capitalist system, not an evil (as “progressives” believe).

And if those people choose not to share that wealth through charitable endeavors, one can credibly be of the personal opinion that it may be “greedy” or a personal character flaw on their part, but it is not a systemic failing of capitalism, and EVEN MORE SO, it is not a societal problem that should be touched by government.

Prosecuting fraud and enforcing contracts are legitimate functions of government, “spreading the wealth around” is not – ultimately it is not “justice” but tyranny – tyranny masquerading as “democracy” because a “majority” voting to take the personal property from a minority.

Posted by: Tom W at November 10, 2008 10:04 PM
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