WORLD CITIZEN

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The SympathizerTHE SYMPATHIZER

Written by: Viet Thanh Nguyen

Narration by:  Francois Chau

VIET THANH NGUYEN (AUTHOR)
VIET THANH NGUYEN (AUTHOR)

“The Sympathizer” defines the idea of a world citizen.  It is the first novel of Viet Thanh Nguyen.  In the beginning, “The Sympathizer”, Nguyen’s fictional hero, seems like another version of a war Americans would like to forget.  Chugging through the story a listener nearly derails but the denouement spectacularly realigns one’s senses.

As widely acknowledged, America’s abandonment of Vietnam in 1973 left thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers in peril. (A scenario that may repeat itself in 2021 with America’s departure from Afghanistan, but that is another story).

In 1975, the last American marine leaves the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon.  Nguyen’s novel begins with hard decisions made by South Vietnamese commanders to identify native supporters, and their families, who would or would not be saved by American military transport.  Nguyen’s main fictional character is chosen to be one of the lucky evacuees.  The irony of that selection is that he is a communist sympathizer, a spy.

LEAVING SAIGON
 In 1975, the last American marine leaves the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon.

Nguyen’s spy is a Vietnamese outcast.  He is one of the “children of the dust” noted in the musical “Miss Saigon”.  He is a bastard son of a white American priest who seduces his teenage mother.  As a sympathizer, he becomes an undercover agent working for a committed South Vietnamese general.  It appears this communist sympathizer has gained the trust of the General by being the go-between for the murder of North Vietnam collaborators.

WHO SHOULD STAY-WHO SHOULD LEAVE
When evacuation from Saigon is imminent, the General asks the sympathizer to choose who should join them on their flight to America.

When evacuation from Saigon is imminent, the General asks the sympathizer to choose who should join them on their flight to America.  The sympathizer has two close friends.  One friend is a communist; the other is not.  The three are “blood-oath” brothers, characterized as “The Three Musketeers”.  The two friends are chosen by the sympathizer to go on the journey to America.  The communist friend declines and stays in Vietnam to be the sympathizer’s handler; the other friend agrees to leave when his wife and son become collateral damage in the war.  His communist friend tells the sympathizer to never come back to Vietnam.  The significance of that statement becomes clear at the end of the story.

FREEDOM
Most of the novel is about the sympathizer’s experience in America.  He experiences a degree of freedom and independence never felt before. 

Most of the novel is about the sympathizer’s experience in America.  He experiences a degree of freedom and independence never felt before.  But he still reports to the General.  His close non-communist friend is an assassin for actions demanded by the General.  The sympathizer is the go-between when orders are given.

The obvious irony is that this communist sympathizer carries out orders to kill suspected communist sympathizers in America when he is the penultimate sympathizer.

The General is planning an insurgent action to be organized in Thailand to attack communists in Vietnam.  The sympathizer’s best friend is selected as one of the people to go to participate in the insurgency.  The sympathizer asks the General to let him go.  However, his primary reason for going is to protect his friend.  The General initially says no but recants when another suspected spy is targeted.

The General advises the go-between sympathizer that he does not feel he is qualified for the Thailand mission because he has never killed anyone himself.  If he can murder the newly suspected spy, the General will let him go on the Thailand mission.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION TORTURE
The sympathizer, upon returning to Vietnam, is protected by his friend by using sleep deprivation to make him understand something he knows but cannot remember; the other is left to be physically tortured by camp rules, but not killed because of the camp commander’s orders.

The sympathizer haphazardly murders a suspected spy and goes to Thailand.  The valued meaning of the story becomes clearer.

The sympathizer and his friend are caught by a communist cadre.  The cadre is led by the communist friend (the third musketeer) that told the sympathizer to never come back to Vietnam.

Both the sympathizer and the non-communist friend are imprisoned, under the command of their communist friend.  Under the guise of communist re-education, the communist friend protects his two blood-brothers.  The sympathizer is protected by his friend by using sleep deprivation to make him understand something he knows but cannot remember; the other is left to be physically tortured by camp rules, but not killed because of the camp commander’s orders.

While many escaped death from America’s abandonment of the South Vietnamese, the communist friend who stayed is severely wounded from an American napalm attack.  His experience from the severe wounds and life under communist rule appears to have taught him an indelible lesson.

NAPALM USED IN THE VIETNAM WAR
While many escaped death from America’s abandonment of the South Vietnamese, the communist friend who stayed is severely wounded from an American napalm attack. 

The communist friend asks the sympathizer what is most important about being either a citizen of America or of Vietnam.  After many days of sleep deprivation, the sympathizer says it is freedom and independence.  Wrong says the friend.  After more sleepless days, the sympathizer says death.  Wrong again.  Finally, after more wakeful nights, the sympathizer answers the question correctly.

CITIZEN OF THE WORLD
All people are citizens of the world.

The answer is a seven letter word–nothing.  The answer cuts through political ideology.  All people are human beings; subject to the sins of being human.  All people are citizens of the world.

RUSSIAN REALPOLITIK

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Red NoticeRed Notice

Written by: Bill Browder

Narration by:  Adam Grupper

WILLIAM FELIX BROWDER (AKA BILL BROWDER-CEP AND CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT, NOTED CRITIC OF PUTIN)
WILLIAM FELIX BROWDER (AKA BILL BROWDER-CEP AND CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT, NOTED CRITIC OF PUTIN)

If only a few of Bill Browder’s facts and accusations are true, the realpolitik of Vladimir Putin shocks the senses.  “Red Notice” reflects on the diplomacy of Russian power.

In his book, “Red Notice”, Browder tells a story that implies Putin is a thug.   Browder infers that Putin will lie, steal, and murder with the brutality of Joseph Stalin, the cunning of Machiavelli, and the tenacity of Genghis Kahn.  Browder believes Putin uses his position as President to acquire wealth as second only to his desire for power.

Acquiring wealth is something Browder knows quite a lot about.  William Browder is an investment fund manager/partner who ventures into Russia at the beginning of glasnost.  Russian businesses and industries became private rather than state-owned enterprises at the end of the 20th century.

Beginning in 1996, Browder and his investors assemble a capital investment fund worth billions of dollars in 2005.  Browder began the fund with other people’s money.   The fund becomes known as Hermitage Capital Management.  As a result of his analysis, Browder’s investment group buys Russian assets at steeply undervalued prices.  He earns over two hundred million dollars per year for himself in 2006 and 2007.

BROWDER’S STORY OF HERMITAGE CAPITAL: 

In 2005, Browder is deported by the Russian government.  In 2006, Browder is black listed by the Russian government as a “threat to national security”.  In March of 2013, the bank that serves as trustee and manager of Hermitage Capital Management announces it will cease funding operations in Russia.  Browder gleefully points out in “Red Notice” that all of Hermitage Capital Management assets had been surreptitiously withdrawn in 2007.  Browder is presently being sued in absentia by the Russian Government for tax evasion.  Therein lays a tale of suspicious deaths, human greed, and conspiracy.

Browder assembles a great deal of evidence that suggests two people are murdered; that murder’ accomplices are paid a great deal of money, and that President Putin either sets the example for thuggish behavior or is complicit in a scheme that defrauds the Russian people.

DUTCH JOURNALISM’S INVESTIGATION OF THE RISE OF PUTIN:

SERGEI MAGNITSKY (1972-2009, RUSSIAN ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR VITIMIZED IN RUSSIA--WORKED FOR BILL BROWDER)
SERGEI MAGNITSKY (1972-2009, RUSSIAN ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR VITIMIZED IN RUSSIA–WORKED FOR BILL BROWDER)

The two alleged murders are Sergie Magnitsky and Alexander Perepilichnyy.  Magnitsky dies in the custody of the Russian government.  He is identified as an attorney in Browder’s book but research suggests he is not licensed as an attorney in Russia.  Magnitsky discovers a scheme by Russian government employees to recover taxes paid by Browder’s companies in Russia.  The scheme is based on charges that the companies that paid the taxes were illegally pilfered by Browder’s investment company.  The companies were transferred, without Browder’s knowledge or authorization, to shell company Russian owners.  These owners are found to be two officers in the Russian secret police.  The new owners suggest the companies they own have been pilfered and that they should be reimbursed for taxes that were paid to the government because of Browder’s fraudulent transfer of worthless assets.

Magnitsky and two Russian lawyers present evidence to the Russian government about the fraud being perpetrated by the two Russian officers.   The two Russian lawyers decide to flee their country when they believe they are going to be arrested.  Magnitsky believes facts speak for themselves; that he is safe, and the government will recognize and arrest the real criminals.  Magnitsky is arrested, beaten, and dies in prison.  The two officers, Artem Kuznetxov, and Pavel Karpov remain free.

MAJOR KARPOV EXPOSE:

ALEXANDER PEREPILICHNY (OLIGARCH THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MURDERED AT AGE 44 FOR EXPOSING RUSSIAN TAX FRAUD CASE ASSOCIATED WITH BROWDER INVESTIGATION)
ALEXANDER PEREPILICHNY (OLIGARCH THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MURDERED AT AGE 44 FOR EXPOSING RUSSIAN TAX FRAUD CASE ASSOCIATED WITH BROWDER INVESTIGATION)

Alexander Perepilichny was a Russian business man who defected from Russia in 2009.  Perepilichny dies at the front door of his residence in the UK.  Magnitsky was a forensic accountant in Russia.  Living in England in 2012, he contacts Browder to say he has evidence of how the Moscow tax office rebated taxes to the two government officials.  Browder contacts the chief constable of Surrey in England to tell them of Perepilichny’s evidence.  Browder accuses Russian officers of fraud, costing the Russian state $230 million dollars.

Three videos of the alleged fraudsters are created as evidence of the Russian officers’ fraud.  The evidence relies on their life style versus the income they receive from the Russian government.  In Browder’s book, this evidence is overlaid with the prosecution of Russian oligarchs by Putin with the inference that those oligarchs that do not offer money to Putin are at risk of being jailed.

SYNOPSIS OF THE MAGNITSKY CASE:

“Red Notice” is a powerful statement about one man’s view of Vladimir Putin.  As noted at the beginning of this review, “if only a few of Bill Browder’s facts and accusations are true…” Putin’s reputation, if not his power and wealth, are diminished.  At the same time, Browder’s ludicrously large capitalist windfall at the expense of the Russian economy, and two Russian’ deaths, does little for his reputation.

THE NATURE OF CORRUPTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security

Written by: Sarah Chayes

Narration by:  Sarah Chayes

SARAH CHAYES (AUTHOR, SENIOR ASSOCIATE IN THE DEMOCRACY AND RULE OF LAW PROGRAM AT CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE)

SARAH CHAYES (AUTHOR, SENIOR ASSOCIATE IN THE DEMOCRACY AND RULE OF LAW PROGRAM AT CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE)

Unquestionably, Hamid Karzai and his administration were corrupt during his ten years as President of Afghanistan.  There is ample proof of corruption.  “Thieves of State” is a tiresome revelation by an author one admires for confronting state sanctioned corruption.  However, Sarah Chayes etiology for corruption is askew.

As Sarah Chayes notes, Mubarak’s government in Egypt was comparably corrupt.  Chayes ten years in Afghanistan and her ability to speak Arabic offer tremendous credibility to her observations.  However, her suggestion that corruption threatens global security is tiresome because “Thieves of State” exist in all forms of government, including the United States.

HOSNI MUBARAK (FOURTH PRESIDENT OF EGYPT 1981-2011)

HOSNI MUBARAK (FOURTH PRESIDENT OF EGYPT 1981-2011)

Most, if not all, governments have some level of corruption because their leaders are human.  In Afghanistan, Karzai protects his family’s interest by allowing his brother to sell land at high prices when it is virtually given to him by the government. 

TRUMP'S EMPIRE

President Trump chooses to stay involved in the management of his corporate interests around the world.  His justification is day-to-day management is in the hands of his sons.  How credible is that argument?

HAMID KARZAI (PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN 2004-2014) Karzai protects government functionaries that require bribes for favors because they are loyal to him. 

Trump has tweeted that loyalty, above all, is expected from the people who report to him.  Trump chooses to use government functionaries that are closely tied to industries that the government intends to regulate.  When does loyalty become more important than fair-dealing? 

Greed is a part of human nature.  It is disingenuous to think Vice President Cheney did not have an interest in seeing his former employer become the military supplier in the Iraq war. 

Money, power, and prestige motivate all human beings.  Societies only defense is government regulation but even that is subject to human nature and motivational force.

Rod Blagojevich (Former Governor of Illinois)

Desire for money, power, and prestige has no political party.  It is in the nature of all humankind.  Ironically, President Trump sets Rod Blagojevich free at the end of his presidency.

The irony is multifold. Trump is elected as a Republican, Blagojevich is elected as a Democrat. Trump is alleged to have tried to bribe a foreign head of state. Blagojevich is alleged to have tried to bribe a former President. Both choose use their elective offices to advance their ambition for more money, power, and prestige.

Chayes is absolutely right when writing about how important it is to listen to the general population about their government and its affect on their lives.  Only then can one gain some understanding of a nation’s corruption.  The consequence of human nature’s truths are dire.  Human nature’s truth, when added to an outsider’s cultural misunderstandings, can be catastrophic.

IED

Chayes suggests that an Afghani citizen will refuse to warn Afghani policemen of an IED “…because policemen require bribes to do their job”.  Chayes concludes “…corruption is a threat to global security”. 

This is a reasonable conclusion but what can an outsider do about it?  Correction of corrupt practices can only come from the people who are governed. America can only lead by example; not by force of arms. America fails itself and the countries it forcefully tries to change. Yesterday it was Vietnam, Iran, and Iraq– today it is Afghanistan.

KARL MARX (BORN TRIER, GERMANY 1818-DIED LONDON, ENGLAND 1883)

KARL MARX (BORN TRIER, GERMANY 1818-DIED LONDON, ENGLAND 1883) History shows that cultural outsiders destroy national comity and identity.  Marx was an outsider in the Russian revolution but he formed the basis for communism’s takeover of Russia.

Lenin, Stalin, and to a lesser extent, Trotsky (all indigenous Russians) changed the government based on an outsider’s machinations.  The same can be said of Mao’s China and Castro’s Cuba.  Change comes from an outsider’s interference; while revolution only comes from within.  The only consequential role an outsider like Chayes can play is publicizing indigenous public discontent.  That is the true value of her observations in “Thieves of State”.

Chayes points to a Nigerian oil CEO who makes $1,000,000 per year.  Chayes exposure of kleptocracy in Nigeria is only legally different from that which exists in the United States.  The difference is that kleptocracy in America is legalized by a stable government.  Robert Walker of Andarko Petroleum makes over $15,000,000 per year.  American tax subsidies and American tax policy subsidize the oil industry. THIS TYPE OF CORRUPTION IS LEGAL IN AMERICA.

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-CABINET

The American government protects CEO incomes that reinforce a widening gap between rich and poor.  At least two of President Trump’s cabinet are billionaires and most are multi-millionaires.  Few of the super-rich have much interest in, or concern for, the poor.

Chayes’ book would be more interesting if she had contrasted America’s corruption with Afghanistan’s.  She limits her comparisons to medieval Eastern, African, and European cultures.  Listening to “Thieves of State” is off-putting because America, like all nation-states, have some level of corruption; i.e. legalized corruption is still corruption.

HEARTS AND MINDS

Invading Afghanistan is understandable because of its role in harboring terrorists.  However, it is a waste of American lives to believe an outsider’s intervention will change the hearts and minds of an indigenous population.

If America makes the mistake of invading Iraq or throwing money at the Afghanistan economy, it is only we Americans who are to blame.    It is not only the fault of Afghani or Iraqi corruption.  It is the innate nature of humanity.  Fault lays at the feet of an outside country invading a foreign culture.

Respectfully, Chayes invested her time in understanding Afghanistan which puts her far and away ahead of most Americans but she misses the root cause of corruption which is unregulated human nature.  That is why many countries that have poor government regulation turn to religion. 

If a secular government cannot regulate human nature, Taliban-like martinets fill the vacuum with public executions or Mullah Dictates.  Neither secular nor religious governance is a guarantee of perfect human justice, equality, or equity.  Justice, equality, and equity must come from the desire of indigenous populations.

THE CAPITALIST VEIL

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK

The Souls of Black Folk

Written by: W. E. B. Du Bois

Narration by:  Mirron Willis

W. E. B. DU BOIS (1868-1963, AUTHOR, SOCIOLOGIST, HISTORIAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST, CO-FOUNDER OF NAACP)

W. E. B. DU BOIS (1868-1963, AUTHOR, SOCIOLOGIST, HISTORIAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST, CO-FOUNDER OF NAACP)

Eventually, doctors will find a coronavirus vaccine, but black people will continue to wait, despite the futility of hope, for a cure for racism.

Editorial comment in the NYT Sunday edition 5/21/2020 by Roxane Gay.

“The Souls of Black Folk” describes a veil of discrimination that covers the face of white America.  Published in 1903, it reflects on the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, America’s reconstruction failures after the civil war, and a veil that fell like an iron curtain between black and white America.  It is a veil that distorts the truth of human equality.

Slave Family In Cotton Field near Savannah

W. E. B. Du Bois is a great American who finally abandoned his country late in life because he could no longer tolerate the capitalist consequence of social, political, and economic discrimination. He describes discrimination in “The Souls of Black Folk” as a veil, a fine gauzy material that hides the details of black Americans who have the same potential as white overlords. The details are political, social, and economic discrimination imposed by a majority on a minority.  Du Bois identifies that minority as people of color; i.e. specifically black Americans.

THOMAS JEFFERSON AND SLAVERY

THOMAS JEFFERSON AND SLAVERY (Slave owner that believed blacks are inherently less equal than whites.)

Du Bois is the first black American to receive a PhD from Harvard University.  First he received a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University, a storied black college; went to Harvard to receive a second bachelor’s degree, and on to a PhD.  Du Bois studied black history and wrote “The Souls of Black Folk” to explain what it is like to be black in America.  He began with the end of the civil war and carries it through 1903 when the book is published.

PRISON

Du Bois studied black history and wrote “The Souls of Black Folk” to explain what it is like to be black in America.

Du Bois explains how black Americans are treated, how they feel about it, and how they react to it.  In the clarity of his writing, Du Bois presumes readers will understand humans, of any color, are the same.  Du Bois notes that black Americans are offered freedom without a way of making a living, without education, without any respect by fellow Americans.  Though they were no longer slaves by law they remain slaves to potential employers who see them as less equal, and less capable.  Du Bois notes blacks are denied the tools of education, opportunity for work at a living wage, and the right to participate in the politics of leadership.

SHUCK & JIVE

Without money, power, or prestige blacks are left with deception as their only defense against oppression.  “Shucking and jiving” became a pejorative description of black behavior without white’s understanding its necessity.

Without money, power, or prestige blacks are left with deception as their only defense against oppression. 

COMMUNISM IN THE USA

Du Bois misunderstood the difference between Russian and Chinese revolutions and American capitalism.  The future proved promises of communism were false.  This does not change the truth of Du Bois’s realization that a white majority denies minorities with false promises of capitalist equality of opportunity.

It is little wonder that Du Bois wandered to the idealism of communism with its false promise of equality for all.  White America gave Negroes little alternative.  However, Du Bois misreads history.  The revolution of 1917 may have started with a minority of people called Bolsheviks but they were a part of a white majority.  They promised a future of plenty to an uneducated population who were members of a majority. 

Du Bois clearly shows how black American education, employment, and political participation are subverted at every turn in American history.  Du Bois chastises Booker T. Washington for being an apologist for white suppression. Du Bois sees that, though education is improving for black Americans, they are still denied equal opportunity for employment, and are failing to capitalize on the potential of political power.  Nearing 90 years of age, Du Bois gives up on America.  Ironically, this is in the 1960’s when the Black Panther’s movement is forming.

GREED

The inherent nature of man “to be greedy” makes fools of us all.

Du Bois is a great American because he understood how American capitalism undermines core political beliefs like equality of opportunity and the equality of all human beings.  Du Bois understood the importance of education, equal economic opportunity, and political power.

Du Bois misunderstood that the drive for money, power, and prestige distorts pursuit of the “good” in all forms of government.  Communism, socialism, and capitalism require a Hobson’s choice; i.e. “a choice of taking what is available or nothing at all”.  Even for minorities, it seems capitalism offers the best hope because it attempts to regulate the worst parts of human nature.

NARCONOMICS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel

Written by: Tom Wainwright

Narration by:  Brian Hutchison

TOM WAINWRIGHT (BRITISH AUTHOR, EDITOR OF THE ECONOMIST)

TOM WAINWRIGHT (BRITISH AUTHOR, EDITOR OF THE ECONOMIST)

“Narconomics” is about the business of illegal drugs. 

Tom Wainwright notes drug cartels are modern businesses. They benefit rich owners while liberally rewarding middle class managers with money, power, and prestige.  The difference is–middle managers brutally terrorize employees, kill their customers, and murder innocent bystanders. 

Drug Cartel murders Mormon Family living in Mexico in 2019.

Picture from the New York Post, Nov. 6, 2019.

These business conglomerates systematically brutalize the public. The manufacture and sale of illegal drugs is a growth industry, diversifying its practices and products while becoming global enterprises.  An irony of Wainwright’s story is the ugliness and economic success of drug cartel businesses are abetted by bribe-taking government leaders. 

President Enrique Peña Nieto (Former President of Mexico– accused of bribery from the Oil Industry and Sinaloa Drug Cartel.)

The substance of Wainwright’s book is that cartels are run with many of the fundamental principles (aside from overt terror and murder) that make international companies richly successful.

DRUG CARTELS (ONE OF SEVERAL MONOPOLIES IN THE WORLD)

Though policies like the war on drugs and alcohol prohibition were meant to save people from themselves, Wainwright suggests they failed. 

ADDICTS SHOULD BE TREATED; NOT JAILED

When desire for money, power, or prestige is unmet, humans compensate with drug use; or other escapist behaviors.

METHODOLOGY OF DRUG REHABILITATION

Wainwright argues that understanding drug cartel business practices will show how their industry profits can be disrupted. 

Wainwright suggests changing the focus from a war on drug producers and sellers to a policy for treating, educating, and rehabilitating users.

Wainwright shows how drug cartels capitalize on fundamental human drives and weaknesses.  He goes on to suggest how drug cartels can be destroyed.

Rather than spending billions to militarize national police forces, Wainwright suggests those dollars be spent to treat, rehabilitate, and educate accused and/or incarcerated users. 

An encouraging article in the WSJ (12/15/21) notes that Mexico and U.S. drug interdiction agencies are working on a framework to combat drug cartels “… likely to focus more on drug addiction”. In destroying the drug cartel’s consumer base, they lose profit.  Without profit there is no money, no power, and no prestige.  There is only a failed business model.

Wainwright goes on to suggest that drug use be decriminalized and regulated by the government.  This is no panacea but history shows that the war on drugs is a failure.  The heart of success for drug cartels is its adoption of business practices that generate profit.  The reality of the fundamentals of well-run business organizations is that they do not disappear.  Remove the source of profit and businesses either fail or are compelled to change.

LONG REACH OF DRUG CARTELS

Wainwright explains that the business of illegal drugs is a global enterprise.

 A global level of government cooperation is needed for effective elimination of drug cartels.  No single nation can eradicate cartels because of globalization.  One nation’s success in the drug war only compels cartels to move to neighboring countries.  The solution lies in treating, rehabilitating, and educating drug users.  Only with decriminalization, user medical treatment, and public education will the source of profit for drug cartels be cut off.

DOLLAR SIGN

Wainwright offers a compelling argument for attacking drug cartels by removing the source of their profits.  The source of profits is the consuming public; not the illegal drug manufacturers and distributors.

The fact that drug cartels are run like businesses reveals an infrastructure that allows diversification.  Once profits are reduced for drug manufacture and distribution, cartels will change to survive.

Wainwright notes that drug cartels have already diversified; i.e. they are human traffickers, and extortion consortiums.  Government agencies and the general public are equally repulsed by human trafficking, murder, and extortion.  Governments and the general public are more likely to cooperate in eradicating that type of criminal activity; less so with drug addiction.

DRUG ADDICT

The glimmer of hope is that cartel diversification does not pander to the desire for escape from reality offered by drugs.

There is no simple or cheap alternative to “the war on drugs” but there is a history that shows in its current form, war does not work. The drug war is no joke, neither is it a solution.

Illegal drug manufacturers and distributors are just the cost of doing business; not the source of profit. Cure the public of its need for drugs, decriminalize drug use, or at least treat the addicted, and drug cartels have no motive to be in the business. 

POLITICAL DIVISION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a NationJEFFERSON AND HAMILTON

Written by: John Ferling

Narration by:  Stephen McLaughlin

JOHN FERLING (HISTORIAN AND WRITER, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HISTORY @ UNIVERSITY OF WEST GEORGIA)
JOHN FERLING (HISTORIAN AND WRITER, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HISTORY @ UNIVERSITY OF WEST GEORGIA)

John Ferling’s “Jefferson and Hamilton” illustrates the value of political division in the history of American government.  In 2016 a man and woman were vying for the highest office in the land.  Though Jefferson and Hamilton have no gender difference, they represent the boon and bane of political division today.

Today’s political conflict is over Covid relief.  Lines are drawn between leaders of two political parties–who wins?  John Ferling’s history implies it is the American people–as a result of compromise.

In the formative years of government, Ferling shows “Jefferson and Hamilton” as representatives of opposing parties who have a great deal to do with forging the future of America.

Both Jefferson and Hamilton are shown to be highly intelligent leaders with philosophies shaped by entirely different life experiences. Both are patriots but each sees the role of a national government differently.  Ferling notes that Jefferson is raised in an intellectual and upper middle class environment while Hamilton is raised in the school of hard knocks.  Jefferson’s brilliance and farsighted thought is evident in his authorship of the “Declaration of Independence”.  Hamilton’s brilliance and farsighted thought is evident in his role as the first Secretary of the Treasury.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1755 OR 1757-1804)
ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1755 OR 1757-1804, 1st SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY)

 

THOMAS JEFFERSON (1743-1825, 3RD PRESIDENT OF U.S., PAINTING OF IN 1786)
THOMAS JEFFERSON (1743-1825, 3RD PRESIDENT OF U.S., PAINTING OF IN 1786)

 

THOMAS JEFFERSON AND SLAVERY
Though Jefferson is against slavery, he believes blacks are inherently inferior.  Jefferson slaves are property and, with the exception of the Hemming’s offspring, Jefferson refuses to release any slaves during his life time.

The fascinating value of Ferling’s book is how these two men and their beliefs are built on life experiences that formed their characters.   Jefferson, through marriage and inheritance, becomes a wealthy landowner but lives life as a profligate who squanders his family fortune.  Jefferson graduates from William and Mary and becomes a lawyer.   Ferling explains that Jefferson believes his years as an American diplomat in Paris are the best years of his life.  Though Jefferson leaves Paris in 1789, he supports France’s revolution; even as it murders the royal family who supported America’s war for independence.  Jefferson believes periodic revolution is a good thing; despite the near term consequence of “The Terror” in France (its human butchery and property destruction).

18th CENTURY MERCHANTS
Hamilton works for a merchant in the West Indies and becomes acquainted with mercantilism and the importance of business.  Because of Hamilton’s hard work ethic, he is supported by his West Indies employer as an émigré to America.

In contrast to Jefferson’s birth into a conventional American family, Hamilton is born out-of-wedlock in the West Indies.  Because of Hamilton’s hard work ethic, he is supported by his West Indies employer as an émigré to America.  Hamilton exhibits an extraordinary ability to get things done. With his West Indies employer’s financial assistance, Hamilton enrolls in King’s college.  He becomes a lawyer with ambition to participate in the formation of the American nation.

Both Jefferson and Hamilton are shown by Ferling to be in direct conflict on the purpose of the federal government.  Jefferson emphasizes State’s rights while Hamilton argues for strong Federal oversight.  Jefferson looks to the States for national defense while Hamilton argues for a standing army.  Jefferson opposes creation of a national bank while Hamilton insists on federalized control of the value of money.  Jefferson believes the economic future of America is dependent upon farming while Hamilton believes mercantilism. industrialization, and trade should be at the center of economic growth.

STATES' RIGHTS VERSUS FEDERALISM
STATES’ RIGHTS VERSUS FEDERALISM

Ferling’s characterization of these two scions of America implies Jefferson is a thinker while Hamilton is a doer.  Jefferson uses his formidable intellect to rationalize his racist beliefs while insisting slavery is a sin against man.  Jefferson seeks a life of tranquility and believes it lies in an agrarian way of life; i.e. away from war and urbanization. His ambition for high public office is hidden but surreptitiously pursued through association with like-minded Americans.  In contrast, Hamilton is a risk taker and pines for military command in the revolutionary army.

WASHINGTON, A LIFE
Ferling suggests both Jefferson and Hamilton underestimate Washington’s inherent ability to measure the value of subordinates and get things done through other people.

Washington chooses Hamilton as his military aide because of his organizational ability.  Hamilton resents Washington’s aloof treatment of him but sees Washington as a ticket to fame; i.e. a seat at the table in the formation of a new nation.  Hamilton appreciates Washington’s bravery under fire but considers him a poor strategist in war.  Hamilton’s relationship with Washington is utilitarian in the sense that Washington’s renown is a tool for Hamilton to accomplish his life ambition.  

Ferling contrasts Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s personalities.  Both are sensitive to slights.  Both act surreptitiously to accomplish their objectives.  Both have what some call libertine leanings with illicit female relationships.  However, Jefferson is reserved and patrician in conduct while Hamilton is outgoing and vociferous in public.  Jefferson is inclined to theorize while Hamilton acts.  The consequence of acting versus theorizing is exemplified by the duel with Burr that ends Hamilton’s life and allows Jefferson to become the third President of the United States.

SECREACYBoth Jefferson and Hamilton suffer from their secretive way of getting things done.  Jefferson loses his relationship with Washington by writing correspondence to a friend that is critical of Washington’s presidency.  Hamilton is openly hated and vilified by President Adams for his secretive manipulation of his only term as President.  Adams’ hate is magnified by Hamilton’s interference in Adams’ attempted re-election.

DONALD TRUMP (REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 2016)Ferling makes a strong case for the importance of both Jefferson and Hamilton in forging the American nation.  One is reminded of the humanness of all leaders.  President Trump is no Jefferson or Hamilton.  He is neither charismatic nor intellectual.  Like Jefferson, Trump is raised as an elitist, but without the intellect of either Jefferson or Hamilton.

 

After reading John Ferling’s book about “Jefferson and Hamilton”, one is convinced that America will prevail, even in the worst of times; which, to some, may be today.

FEAR ITSELF IS CLICHE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

Written by: Ira Katznelson

Narration by:  Scott Brick

IRA KATZNELSON (AUTHOR, AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST AND HISTORIAN)

IRA KATZNELSON (AUTHOR, AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST AND HISTORIAN)

“Fear Itself” has become cliché and authors of FDR’s administration are as plentiful as pixels on an HD screen.  However, Ira Katznelson offers a sharpened image of a past and present that threatens American democracy.  Don’t succumb to panic. Life is life. It demands compromise.

The Biden/Trump differences in governance are legion. Today’s political climate is reminiscent of America’s civil war and great depression. Though Biden may or may not be up to the task, the nation needs a healer and leader more like Lincoln or FDR, than Andrew Johnson or Jackson.

SLAVE TREATMENT

Katznelson argues that FDR’s New Deal to pull America out of depression would have never passed Congress without support of the segregated south. He implies that FDR views murder and discrimination of blacks a lesser threat to American Democracy than failure of the American economy.

The threat posed by the fictional “House of Cards” President, Frank Underwood,
plays out in fiction and reality. One might argue that FDR sacrifices black America to gain political clout. America’s benighted pretender to a throne, Donald Trump, seems to endorse a similar morality.

Katznelson suggests economic stimulus from the New Deal accelerates recognition of black equality.

Maybe, but that is similar to President Trump’s rationalization for Saudi Arabia’s assassination of Khashoggi.

To assure the south’s support FDR ignores lynching and degradation of black Americans during his first years as President.  Similarly, President Trump willfully disregards the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Because the south believes the New Deal poses no threat to their belief in white supremacy, they voted as a near unanimous block to support FDR’s administration.  Black discrimination and murder did not disappear then (or now) but the New Deal changes the course of history.

MARTIN LUTHER KING (1929-1968, PROMOTING EDUCATION IN THE 1950 S)

Some argue the New Deal bends the arc of the moral universe toward justice (a pronouncement in 1860 by Theodore Parker and made famous by Martin Luther King). Other’s may argue it prolongs discrimination.

Katznelson argues that the great depression and FDR’s response raises the power of labor through job creation and unionization.  A consequence is to create a march for labor’s special interests that influence public policy in a way that endorses democratic ideals of free trade and competition. 

Unions eventually get a seat at the table of major corporations and public policy boards.  With that seat, arguably, the arc bends toward justice.  Of course, there are many seats at the table that frequently out vote minority interests. However, as Katznelson notes–the door for Union influence is opened as a result of FDR’s administration.

Katznelson’s point is that principles of Adam Smith, promulgated for the private sector, are translated into the public sector as a result of the New Deal and America’s mobilization for WWII.  The myth of the invisible hand is extended to government.

Of course, the addition of competition to the public sector is dual edged.  Though it helps level the playing field between public and private interests, it opens a Pandora’s box of problems.  As the myth of Pandora’s box is known, only hope remains when emptied of its content.

The invisible hand is largely a myth, but competition is real. As labor and minorities gain power, their seat at the table allows them to be heard.  On the one hand being heard is a first step in bending the curve toward justice. On the other, the mythical invisible hand favors industry over labor.

MONEY

Money is power.  Most special interests that sit at a public policy table are focused on singular (usually corporate); not general public interests. 

Government agencies can have their funding cut at the behest of elected officials.  Katznelson notes how the southern bloc in the FDR years fails to support many social reforms because of their interest in separation of the races.

Only the fear of a common enemy seems to mitigate (not eliminate) discrimination in the United States. The “common enemy” trope is two edged. It is as likely to mislead as lead to moral and/or ethical decisions.

As an example of misleading the public, President Trump uses the “common enemy” trope to exaggerate immigrant criminality.

Southern Democrats begin siding with Republicans to combat unionization and equal opportunity for all.  Many of FDR’s attempts to create jobs are sidelined because they compete with private sector manufacture or offer equal opportunity for employment to minorities. 

Katznelson explains how the Department of Labor is stymied by Republican opposition and Southern representatives.  By insisting on State’s rights, the South can continue discriminating against minorities and private sector entrepreneurs can subvert federal interference in employment law.

WINSTON CHURCHILL (1874-1965_

Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech in Truman’s home town sets the table (a common enemy trope) for an American black list that ruins a number of American lives. 

JOSEPH McCARTHY (1908-1957)

Now that government policy is influenced by special interests, communist hunters like Senator McCarthy look for ways to exploit American fear of a communist takeover. 

The seeds for the Red Scare and the rise of McCarthyism are planted with the beginning of the cold war.

Katznelson’s theme is “Fear Itself” and how it is used to interfere with the moral universe’s curve toward justice. Katznelson explains how important a role the south plays in determining public policy. 

“Fear Itself” is Donald Trump’s hole card, his uncovered ace in a game of chance.  Trump gambles with the fate of America by creating fear of terrorism, Muslims, Mexicans, and immigration.

DONALD TRUMP (REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 2016)

Terrorism is real but Trump’s use of fear is disingenuous.  His ambition is the power and prestige of office; not protection of America from terrorism.  Trump is the Senator McCarthy of our time. 

Katznelson is another historian proving the irrelevance of history because we keep repeating ourselves.  We forget the past and blunder down the same path, tripping and falling, leaving more blood and pain borne by the children of our future.

America needs to invest in its future. A 3.5 trillion dollar investment today will raise the standard of living for all those who have lost their jobs in manufacturing. They are not just tech jobs. They are jobs for infrastructure repairs, helping working families cope with the rising costs of child care, jobs for care of ageing parents’ health, work force’ retraining jobs, and jobs in education for future generations.

The world is adjusting from an industrial to a technological revolution. That transition requires investment in those who have lost their jobs in industry. Child care, elder care, and training for new jobs in a changing employment environment is worth much more than a 3.5 trillion dollar investment.

MORE OR LESS FREE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Privacy, Property, and Free Speech: Law and the Constitution in the 21st Century

The Great Courses Series

Lectures by: Professor Jeffrey Rosen

JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)

JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)

The public sector continually revises laws regarding the internet.  Laws passed by government attempt to regulate internet use, ownership, and censorship by redefining freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of religion, and the freedom from want and fear. Technology encroaches on privacy with internet access by the public and private sectors. 

Are Americans more or less free in the 21st Century? 

Professor Jeffrey Rosen in “Privacy, Property and Free Speech” leaves the question unanswered.  However, he clearly frames the question for listeners to draw their own conclusion.  It is difficult to give a definitive answer for three reasons.  One, new technology redefines freedom.  Two, September 11, 2001 redefines security.  Three, globalization redefines nationalism.

Government classifies organizations and decides which can legally access the internet.  Government is in the process of defining who can own the internet and how access can be regulated.  Government has the power to censor information that it views detrimental to the freedoms historically held by Americans.  Control of internet use, ownership, and censorship by the government encroaches on freedom.

WOMEN'S RIGHTS MOVEMENT

Women, in some men’s lives, are expected to bear children, be silent, cook and clean house, be dependent on their husbands, and respect males in all circumstances of life.

Professor Rosen addresses the issue of property by lecturing on women’s rights and the right of government to claim eminent domain on property owned privately that can be taken for the public good.  In addressing women’s rights, Rosen reviews the history of Roe v. Wade and implies that the judicial system may have acted too quickly by not allowing the States and the general public to fully address the issue.

Rosen is equally conflicted by the government’s right to claim eminent domain.  He notes how confiscation of private property at fair market value has a spotted history of success when claimed by the government for the public good.  In some cases, the taking has resulted in failed projects; in others, like Baltimore’s revitalized harbor, the taking revitalized a neglected and deteriorated landmark.

EMINENT DOMAIN

Rosen notes how confiscation of private property has a spotted history of success when claimed by the government for the public good.

The American judicial system encroaches on the freedom of women to choose and the fifth amendment clause says private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The private sector uses the internet to define consumers.  What an internet user purchases becomes a profile factoid used to pander to consumer desires.  The detailed profile can affect the price advertised and the personalized pitch made by a retailer.  Private sector search engines use consumer profiles to pitch private sector businesses for advertising.  Consumer manipulation by the private sector encroaches on freedom.  Web-based profiling steers the public by profiling individuals and algorithmically congregating personal information.

ONLINE PRIVACY

What an internet user purchases becomes a profile factoid used to pander to consumer desires.


Terrorism is like lighting in a storm; i.e. it is a force of nature that can strike anyone at any time.  Governments have changed the world of travel by invading the privacy of minds and bodies to reduce the chance of a terrorist act.

9.11.01TRADE CENTER ATTACK

The Trade Center tragedy redefines security for America and the world.  September 11th convinces the world that there are no unbreachable terrorist constraints. 

GUANTANAMO

Rosen suggests governments cross the line when citizens are detained or incarcerated for what they think rather than what they do.  The fear one has is that thought becomes grounds for prosecution. 

To the extent that terrorism is like lightning in a storm, one can only wait for the storm to pass.  Invading one’s privacy and arresting citizens for what they think is a slippery slope to totalitarianism.

PREHISTORIC HUMAN KIND

When the first man and woman joined together as a couple; when the first tribe became a hunting and gathering troop, and when the first hunter-gatherers became part of a farming community, freedom diminished

There is less and less room for nation-state nationalism.  Encroachment on privacy, property, and free speech are inevitable in the 21st century (and beyond).  Freedom’s encroachment is an inherent part of civilization. 

Despite Brexit and nationalist sentiment of Trump supporters, all human beings are citizens of one world.

The last lecture in Rosen’s series is about the right to be forgotten.  Now, we are citizens of nation-states; tomorrow we will be citizens of the world.  With each regrouping, there is diminished freedom. 

The last bastion of freedom will be “the right to be forgotten”. 

It will be a programming code designed to volition-ally erase one’s identity.  This volitional reboot will be with less rather than more freedom because of the nature of becoming part of a larger human congregation.

Professor Rosen offers an excellent and informative outline of America’s history of privacy, property, and free speech.  A listener will draw their own conclusions about present and future freedoms from Rosen’s lectures.  My view is that freedom has always been thankfully limited.

A MODERN MACHIAVELLI

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Human Action (A Treatise on Economics)

Written by: Ludwig von Mises

Narrated by: Jeff Riggenbach

LUDWIG von MISES (1881-1973, THEORETICAL ECONOMIST OF THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOLD, INFLUENCED HAYEK AND FRIEDMAN)
LUDWIG von MISES (1881-1973, THEORETICAL ECONOMIST OF THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOLD, INFLUENCED HAYEK AND FRIEDMAN)

America is on the threshold of the largest tax change since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.  If past is prologue, trickle down economics will not work, the deficit will rise, and the poorest will  be victimized.  The genesis of the delusion of trickle down economics comes from interpretations of a modern Machiavelli.

Ludwig von Mises is a twentieth century Machiavelli.  This near 48-hour audio book details a theory of economics that will offend modern liberals, expose weakness of libertarians, and vilify the new American President’s nationalist policies.  The venality of treating government as a business is a mistake of monumental proportion.

Approaching von Mises as a devil incarnate is unfair.  His beliefs are pilloried by today’s liberals as loudly as aristocrats and rulers vilified Machiavelli in the 16th century.  Like Machiavelli, von Mises looks at the world as it is; not as it ought to be.  His observations cut at modern liberal, as well as anarchic, views of highly regarded liberals like Ralph Nader, Martin Luther King, Norm Chomsky, and alleged conservatives-like President Trump.

In von Mises book, Roosevelt’s New Deal is vilified.  Additionally, von Mises vociferously disagrees with the liberal John Maynard Keynes’s

JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES (1883-1946)
JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES (1883-1946)

economic interventionist creed. Ironically, Donald Trump may be the most interventionist President since FDR with a scatter brained economic plan that von Mises would equally vilify.

Von Mises observations have historical credibility.  What they do not have is social conscience.  In fact, he suggests social conscience is a fiction perpetrated by populists to distort the value of capitalist economies.  Like Machiavelli, von Mises observes the nature of human beings, and recognizes their inherent irrationality and moral weakness.  Von Mises illustrates numerous examples of human irrationality; beginning with market consumption, and ending with entrepreneurial ambition.  Donald Trump exemplifies von Mises argument that humans are irrational, greedy, power-hungry, and vain.  For President Trump to believe taxing imports by 20% makes Mexico pay for a useless five-billion-dollar wall is absurd.  The American consumer will pay for that wall in increased cost of Mexican produce and manufactured goods.TRUMP AND FREE TRADE

Von Mises criticizes famous economists like David Ricardo for introducing politics into economics.  Von Mises argues that the drive for money, power, and prestige are inherent in an entrepreneurial capitalist system.  Von Mises argues that government officials who profess social conscience distort free enterprise by picking winners and losers.  When politicians pass legislation that aids one entrepreneur over another, it distorts the driving force of capitalist economies.  He equally vilifies government leaders who impose tariffs on international trade.  Von Mises explains that the fallacy of government leaders who pass favoring legislation is that the real mover of the economy is the consumer; not the producer.

FRENCH REVOLUTION
Von Mises believes labor has a choice.  They can work for low wages or remain idle.  The fallacy of that argument is the inherent unfairness of not having enough income to live creates revolutionary discontent.

The logical extension of von Mises’ theory is that any government planning or action that affects an entrepreneur’s willingness to take a risk to produce product, or service a customer’s perceived needs, is bad for society.  To von Mises, efforts to organize labor is an interference with capitalist entrepreneurs because labor is not taking a risk. Von Mises argues that labor costs will find its own level by being an automated tool of the entrepreneur; subject to hunger and deprivation if they choose not to participate.  Von Mises point is that the entrepreneur will pay what he/she must to have labor available, but no more than what the end-product consumer is willing to pay.  Von Mises believes labor has a choice.  They can work for low wages or remain idle.  The fallacy of that argument is the inherent unfairness of not having enough income to live creates revolutionary discontent.

UNION MOVEMENTUnions offer a vehicle for leveling the power between businesses and labor.  To not allow unionization is tantamount to favoring businesses that are no longer competitive but are today recognized as an economic equivalent of individuals.  Not to give unions a place “at the table” is morally, ethically, and economically unfair; particularly in industries that are no longer entrepreneurial.

Another von Mises’ observational theory is that government policy should have no role in subsidizing new inventions, new drugs, the ecology of the world, or the elimination of slavery because such policies interfere with pure capitalism. This reinforces absurdist arguments of libertarians.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH (RESEARCH INSTITUTE FINANCED BY THE GOVERNMENT.)

American creativity has historically been benefited by government subsidization of technological advances.  (President Putin noted in a 60 Minutes’ interview that creativity is his most admired quality in the American economy.) The speed of improvements in health, education, and welfare historically increased with government subsidization of drug research, public education, and the energy industry.

THE CIVIL WARThe fallacy of von Mises’ theory lies in the framework of theorists.  It ignores human existence by hiding behind the unquantifiable nature of society.  One may argue that America’s Civil War had nothing to do with the elimination of slavery.  (Von Mises suggests that slavery was abolished because it became too expensive; not because it was morally and ethically reprehensible.)  One may argue that Roosevelt’s New Deal was a failure.  One may argue that the Marshall Plan after WWII rewarded failed nations.  One may argue that George Bush’s and Barrack Obama’s decisions to bail out the American economy interfered with pure capitalism. History suggests von Mises is wrong.  Government intervention can be good as well as bad.  (Bush unilaterally agreed to lend $17.4 billion of taxpayers’ money to General Motors and Chrysler, of which $13.4 billion was to be extended immediately.)

Von Mises lived into the 1970 s.  How could he ignore the moral and ethical iniquity of slavery, the value of the Marshall Plan, government subsidization of the American banking system, financial incentives for the energy industry, and the billions spent to advance technological inventions?  Those are good examples of government intervention.  On the other hand, building a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and levying a 20% import tax is a bad government intervention.TRUMP'S WALL 2

American capitalism works because of the checks and balances written in the Constitution.  Von Mises theory is based on valid observations but social conscience, whether statistically measurable or not, must be a part of decisions that affect the lives of millions.  Mistakes will be made, and have been made, but economic statistics cannot be substituted for pragmatism.

POLITICS AND ADMINISTRATION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath

Written by: Ben S. Bernanke

Narrated by: Grover Gardner

Ben Bernanke (Author, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve.)

THE FEDERAL RESERVE

Politics and administration is a marriage of necessity.  Ben Bernanke writes a “nuts and bolts version” of the role of the Federal Reserve in the United States during the economic crises of 2007.  Bernanke is the chairman of the Federal Reserve during the near collapse of the world economy.  The story Bernanke tells is consistent with most details revealed by Tim Geithner and Henry Paulson (the former Department of the Treasury Secretaries) during the worst part of America’s 2007-2008 global financial crises.

BREAD LINES IN NEW YORK 1933

BREAD LINES IN NEW YORK 1933

What Bernanke adds to Geithner’s and Paulson’s version of events is a more transparent understanding of how American politics and administration dealt with the greatest economic crises since 1929. These three managers, along with elected officials and other public administrators, cussed, discussed, agreed, and disagreed on actions taken to stabilize the American economy.  Without a level of cooperation between politics and public administration, it is entirely possible America would be in the middle of a second great depression.

THE BLACK SWAN

The mortgage crises of 2007 is a “Black Swan” event in American history.  A “Black Swan” is a metaphor for an event that is generally unforeseen that changes the direction of history.

The packaging of real estate and home mortgages of varying levels of security leads to the mistaken belief that housing and commercial land prices will always increase as the economy expands.  This false belief led to sales throughout the world of figurative IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices”) that bankrupted individuals, corporations, and Nation-State economies.  The shock waves of these instruments of economic mass destruction continue to impact the world economy.

QUANTS

QUANTS–COMPUTER TECHNICIANS WHO CREATED MORTGAGE BACKED DERIVATIVES.

With the advent of computer technology, the added assets in derivative instruments became so complex that individual human judgement of value is clouded.

With each individual asset added to a conglomeration of houses, property, and/or stocks–value changes.  The change is meant to spread risk and increase the financial stability of combined assets.  However, as similarity of combined assets accumulate, the created aggregate becomes more (rather than less) vulnerable to market change.

MORTGAGE RATING COMPANY LOGOS

The rising risk of these combined securities is compounded by “independent” rating agencies.  If vulnerabilities are not clearly understood, sellers of these security conglomerations rely on ratings from analysts that underestimate volatility.  That misunderstanding is harmful, because both sellers and buyers are incentivised to buy and sell a security that is not clearly understood. 

When one of the derivative assets begins to lose value; particularly if the asset is related (like land and vertical construction), all assets in the packaged security are infected by loss of value.

Further, rating companies lose their objectivity.  They may be incentivized by the same companies they are evaluating; or they may be paid for their review productivity rather than the quality of their investigation. Greed takes over both buyer and seller.

Though this explanation of derivatives is undoubtedly too simply described in this review, it is shown in Bernanke’s, Paulson’s, and Geithner’s books to have been a proximate cause for the loss of trillions of dollars in the world economy.

What makes Bernanke’s book interesting is his explanation of how politics and public administration worked together to right America’s sinking economy.  Even today, recovery is not complete but the ship-of-state did not sink.  “Working together” is a qualified description of what happened based on Bernanke’s view.  There were bitter disagreements among elected and administrative agents that could only be resolved with an appreciation and exercise of politics.

Politics have become synonymous with lying and misrepresentation in the modern world.  Some say President Trump exemplifies that belief. 

Democrats were not listening to middle class America.  Politics represent the will of people who are being governed.  Without politics, the best intentions of administration devolve into ineffective and autocratic actions that fail to serve the needs of a country’s citizens.

Not to defend Trump, but his election is a consequence of ignoring the importance of politics in determining what is right or wrong in America’s democracy.

CHECKS AND BALANCES

On many occasions, Bernanke shows how elected officials remind administrators of the real-world impact of their policy actions.  The give and take of politics is the bridge between a bureaucratic idea and citizen impact. 

The Affordable Care Act is not perfect because of politics but modifications made are the result of political input from the constituents of American Democracy.

Those constituents are companies, professions, and individual citizens represented by elected officials who work with government agencies responsible for administration.  It is a messy process, but politics is a bridge between thought and deed that can only be replaced by autocratic dictatorship; i.e. a dictatorship that inevitably has unintended consequences; that ignores politics, and dictates what is good.

Parenthetically, the crises of 2007 is repeatable.  Today’s political climate is to deregulate the economy.  The political intent of deregulation is to unleash capitalism.  However, deregulation gives reign to both good and bad qualities of human nature.  As Mark Twain noted, history does not repeat, but it does rhyme.

The Federal Reserve, the Departments of Treasury, and America’s elected officials successfully saved America from a second Great Depression. 

It is politics; i.e., the political interface between President Bush, President Obama, Treasury Secretaries Paulson and Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, Senators and Representatives of Congress, and the Supreme Court saved America.