Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Case for Democratic Globalization

There is a quote, reputedly attributed to Lenin, which says something to the effect of 'a capitalist will sell you the rope with which you will hang him.'  That type of capitalism has no room in today's World, characterized by the tyrannies of Russia, China and Iran.  The Nixon-Kissenger opening of China was strategic and pragmatic in the context of the Cold War, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union it made little sense to continue the same policy.  The reason is that tyrannies do not play by the same rules as democracies.  Globalization, economic ties, and free trade should be the norm, but only between democracies.  Autocracies should be ostracized and isolated.

According to Google, Nixon visited China on February 21st 1972.  In 1972 Chinese GDP was $113B ($887B in 2022 dollars), by 2022 it was $18T. Yes, that's T as in trillion.  In 1972 China was a feeble Communist theocracy with Mao as Supreme Communist Ayatollah.  Under the theory of the enemy of your enemy is your friend, it made sense to open political and economic ties to China in order to counter the Main Adversary, the Soviet Union.  After the Soviet collapse in the late 80s and early 90s, however, with China becoming the World's manufacturing hub, the same levels of relations did not make sense anymore. The Western foreign policy establishment had drunk the 'end of history' Kool Aid and became asleep at the wheel.

To me it is quite obvious but bears repeating: tyrannies do not operate by the same rules as democracies. Whereas Western economic policy is generally guided by market principles, tyrannical regimes look at everything through the lens of strategic advantage. Russian intelligence uses deeply embedded illegals to influence everything from political parties to the media. China uses its Confucius Institutes to exert pressure and control on college campuses, as well as well-placed academics and scientists to achieve its industrial espionage goals.  It's asymmetrical warfare on a grand scale. Can anyone seriously imagine the Chinese Communist Party allowing anything remotely similar to CIs on Chinese university campuses.  I omitted the question mark on purpose.

Globalization and international trade was the tool through which the dictators of the Chinese Communist Party were able to achieve economic success and control, at a huge cost to Chinese civil society.  Beyond Tiananmen, China has been able to build a totalitarian state which would make Big Brother proud.  It is ridiculous that the China-Australia free trade agreement was signed in 2015, and that as of 2023 Australia does not yet have a free trade agreement with the European Union.

The solution to this problem is not Trumpist chaos nor the retrograde industrial policy of the Biden administration, even if it is more enlightened than the former.  We solve this problem by realizing that consolidated democracies must move towards ever greater economic, and eventually political integration.  Free trade agreements should only be entered in and globalization fostered with other democracies.  There should be trigger clauses that suspend trade agreements incrementally as a country falls deeper into populism, and the rule of law begins to wane.  The goal should not only be to achieve economic, military, and diplomatic superiority over despotic regimes; the goal should also be to prevent them from achieving this themselves.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Mob Rule in the Americas

It was with great sadness, but not surprise, that I processed the recent events in Brazil.  Populism is the cause, and the rule of law is its antidote.

Lula and the PT are, of course, hypocritical leftists who have stolen with abandon with the left hand, while holding up the Marxist bible with the right.  But just as it was, and is, a patent lie that the 2020 American election was 'stolen', there is absolutely nothing I've seen yet that indicates foul play in the recent Brazilian election.

Populism is a cancer.  The enlightened leader tells the people what they want to hear, and then wallow in the soiled adulation that follows.  It's the bread and circus of Roman times; it's nothing new nor original, regardless of how many MAGA hats or America First t-shirts you manage to sell.  Just like the Trumpist mob, the Bolsonaristas wanted to believe that the only way they could lose the election was through meddling with the electronic voting machines. They wanted to believe it, and their leader told them that it was so.  The mob that overwhelmed police in Brasilia was simply the logical conclusion of this.

In a dictatorship the law is whatever the dictator says it is.  In a failed state multiple warlords or a corrupt political/economic class determine what is legal.  One of the defining characteristics of a republic, however, is adherence to the rule of law and enforcement after its breakdown. Individuals, political parties, and interest groups are of course free to lobby for changes in the law, but they must always respect it.  The breakdowns in the rule of law that we saw in the US in 2021, and Brazil in 2023 must be corrected.

How? First, the security services must document and then refer each violator to the justice system. Everything I've read indicates the FBI has done an excellent job at this.  Second, the prosecutorial service must seek maximum penalties for those who assault the republican system of government.  Third, juries and the courts must hand down maximum penalties.  These are the immediate remedies.

Long-term fixes require long-established institutions, including the media, to regain public trust. It is just as unacceptable for The New York Times to be the official state organ of the woke left, as it is for Fox News to be the mouthpiece for the racial-populist right.  Those in leadership positions inside traditional political parties must do everything they can to resist the lobby and political horse-trading that gives their wingers any more power.  I still find it unbelievable that the Republican Party allowed itself to be hijacked by a pretender who never had more than 40% support.