We, as americans, have long been characterized as people who have pulled ourselves up by our boot straps.  We boomed in the industrial revolution and create an economy that has been the largest in the world for decades.  We worked hard, fought for our share, and built the american dream.  We were able to benefit by being on the forefront of production and technology.  Other countries were not so lucky. Many of these countries are on the African continent.  Let’s look at some of their struggles, and let’s see how we have evolved.

Africa has some issues with being short-sighted, most recently an example in agriculture.  Uganda has a booming tobacco industry.  Last years alone they exported 32,000 tons of tobacco leaves.  That fetched $52,000,000 in revenue, and let’s be honest, that’s major cash flow in Uganda.  In order to cure the leaves of the tobacco they need wood to burn.  Well, as an agricultural nation they have some trees to burn.  Fruit trees.  They are simply taking water from the left side of the bucket to put on the right(this is a simple illustration as a bucket does not have sides).  This has driven up the cost of wood in Uganda, wood that is needed for the emerging furniture industry, construction and wood is still widely used to heat homes.

This is a difficult cycle to get out of, where problems are cyclical and one leads to another to another.  Fortunately, for us, we had to opportunity to develop and work through these problems, right?!

The oil spill has been horrific.  Finally it is closed and BP can start to take credit for that.  BP has put away a huge amount of money to pay pack individuals and businesses who have lost money as a result of the spill.  They will pay anyone who can provide them with a tax form showing how much they earned last year.  Well this presents a problem for some of the fishermen who work as a cash only business and didn’t pay taxes last year.  Uh oh.  So they didn’t pay taxes, but now are complaining to the government that they didn’t pay for.  Call it karma, call it whatever you want, seems like if you didn’t pay taxes, you didn’t earn anything or it is tax evasion. Easy decision for the person handing out thecash.

Maybe this wasn’t a good example of how we have developed and advanced as a nation.

Let’s look at another major problem in our country.  The housing crisis.  This is multi-layered issue but let’s simplify it dramatically.  People are buying homes that they cannot afford.  They are then foreclosing, declaring bankruptcy, something to get out of the loan.  The government has come to their aid demanding that the banks help them out.  So the financially irresponsible are getting bailed out and are staying in homes that they cannot afford, while citizens who live within their means are forced to pay for it. 

Maybe we haven’t come that far after all.

Lock your doors, close the blinds, grab your shotgun and head for the tub Danny Glover style à la Lethal Weapon 2 (as fast as you can).  America is under attack.  Oil?  Disease? World Cup fever(click that link if you can only click one)? Socialism?  Nope.  Zombies!  They are everywhere.  Your first encounter was probably on MTV, back when they played music videos instead of bad lifestyle choices.  Then zombies invaded the  movie theatre, classic literature, commercials and video games.  Now they have invaded National Security Theory.  Is nothing sacred anymore?

We can’t say we didn’t see it coming.  Last year a few teens gave us ample warning in the form of a traffic sign.  But now a professor has harnessed the power of the undead for thinking about the defense of our nation.  The work is titled Theories of International Politics and Zombies (As a brief aside, I was reminded by a reader that titles are supposed to be underlined, please remind me of the rules about punctuation and parentheses, I’m learning).  The concept is brilliant.  Zombies constitute non-state actors of any sort that cannot be threatened by use of force or other means.  They can only be stopped through directed and not insignificant response.  This does not account for all forms of attack, for instance computer virus, but it does prepare for the enemy.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this book is the comparison of 3 succinct schools of political thought, neo-conservatism, liberalism and realism.  These are 3 ends of the political spectrum but your views should be found somewhere in between.  Let’s look at a few examples.

Zombies approach, in full force, from graves across America.  They are slowly forcing their will on the people.  We respond with Military force.  First for major city centers, then for sub-urban and rural areas.  This is where the schools of thought would begin to differ.

Let’s first look at the liberalists.  After a moderate military response with some success alternative methods become necessary.  Social programs win the day and housing, medical coverage and unemployment benefits are extended to the brain-hungry invaders.  Will this be enough?  Can zombies adjust to social society? Or will they simply take advantage of the programs?

Next, the neo-conservatives.  War is waged on the undead.  Daily briefings are provided to the press to show progress.  Containment looks plausible, but inevitably it cannot be achieved.  Will we be able to train zombies in the ways of democracy?  Can we show them the light of the Western World?

Finally a look at the Realpolitik.  All out war consumes the zombie force.  Standard issue firearms are not enough and a significant part of the budget is diverted to research and development for a new weapon.  Now armed with the “President of the future’s last name”-rifle our military forces dictate the battle lines.  Walls are built to protect Americas largest cities and places of National interest.  Will we be able to protect our rural neighbors before the zombies feast? Or will they be considered an acceptable loss in the Global War on Zombies? Will zombie fences and walls litter the American countryside forever?

I have not read the book.  I have not been given any of the scenarios that are included in this book.  I will have to wait until later this year just like everyone else.  In the mean time, while zombies invade every aspect of our consumer life, we can hope that this book will provide guidance, in case Zombies invade our lives for real.

Mercantilism

April 20, 2010

Obama spoke recently about his desire to double our current amount of exports by 2015.  This is a pretty lofty goal.  This would require the US to grow at a rate faster than any other time in the last 30 years.  Think about that for a second.  We used to export Furbee and Tickle Me Elmo, to double that would be significant.  But it basically boils down to mercantilism. It means to sell more than you buy, kind of.  Not to be confused with meerkatilism which means forage for food daily and look cute in big groups(Pretty sure I am the first to use the word Meerkatilism, so if you are from Webster, give me a call, I want the credit). Back to mercantilism, sell more than you buy, this is possibly the most elementary definition for a term you may never have heard.  Why do we need a word to describe something so basic, well, it’s not really all that basic, but it’s a straight forward principle.  But it’s like “juxtapose”, when do you need to say juxtapose instead of beside or alike? The use of words like that is fine, but not entirely necessary.

Like I said earlier, mercantilism is a little more than export more, import less.  It’s almost a model of complete efficiency.  No wasted space, effort, resources.  That means no arts, no cultural things, none of that stuff.  If all resources are used on creating exports there is no room for other stuff.  This is however, when art seems to thrive.  Arts must be cheap because in times great strife, great art has prevailed.  The renaissance came right after the plague (yersinia pestus shout out).  After the initial mercantile state came the Victorian era.  I am not sure if it’s because people are inspired by strife or that paint is really cheap. Either way it seems to work out.

So I’m all about making more stuff and China playing fair with their monetary regulations.  I am not sure how we can peddle more American things to foreign countries but apparently we will.  Some of this is opening the door to small business to gain ground in the international game, but it looks like not only will foreign kids be given “Butler 2010 National Championship” t-shirts, they will also be able to buy the correct counterpart.  More importantly afterwards there may be actual art.

Modern art sucks.  There is some good stuff out there, but most of it blows something aweful.  It’s like the emperor’s new clothes.  Some one screwed up but then convinced us all it was supposed to look that way.  Well I’m the little kid that doesn’t get all the sensation.  A BBC show called “Top Gear” recently took all of the art out of a museum and replaced it with car stuff.  Some of it was part splatter from an exhaust pipe, some was cheesy stuff that you could find made miniature and minted onto a commemorative coin.  The point was that using mediocre car art they were able to draw more people in one week than the crappy regular stuff ever had.

I am inclined to agree with Obama, ashamedly.  Let’s improve the economy, let’s sell stuff to other countries and help small businesses.  But more importantly let’s usher in some new art that doesn’t look like a crayola sneeze or a piece of furniture stacked upside down.