THE BLOG

Staying in One of the Catbird Seats

In order to stay in one of the catbird seats of the 21st century, and to protect the democratic components of the world order, the US has to do two things: renew its political system and/or its decision-makers, and change its economic system.

Since the current elite has the veto power on changes of the political system, these changes are unrealistic. To replace a sufficient fraction of the elite, I proposed in my last blog to create a Worker party, one that would not take any campaign contributions from corporations.

There was a strong reaction to that proposal. Naturally, there were comparisons to the communist party, to the fascist party, and so on. But the predominant reaction was positive, with some valuable contributions. I fully support proposals such as limiting the costs and length of campaigning. It is the absence of such limits (together with other factors) that makes the US political system corrupt, outdated, and inefficient. In turn, that absence is partly due to absolute, 110 percent adherence to the doctrine of free speech. Well, my first amendment is that, in human society, any absolutism is dangerous. As one reader remarked in his reaction to my last blog, Georg Hegel used to say, "Everything, taken to the extreme, becomes its opposite." If not adhered to 110 percent of time, dialectics is a very useful approach.

The economic system -- the unbridled free market -- recommended by "mainstream" economics is pure poison for the US; especially where international trade and the financial industry are concerned. Today, we see the results and they are far from final yet. This is perhaps only the first inning.

We are not moving in many necessary directions either. On June 14, in the Investor's Business Daily, Daniel McGroarty declared that "there are 54 metals and minerals on which we depend on foreign sources for more than 50% of our annual supply... The U.S. produces precisely zero kilograms of ... ['17 rare earth elements. Or bauxite. Or alumina. Or indium, niobium, vanadium or tantalium'], relying 100% on foreign imports. And these exotic elements are just a sampling of the longer list of 36 metals and minerals for which we are 100% dependent on foreign sources of supply." China "presently supplies 97% of the world's demand" of rare earth elements and recently has announced that it is ratcheting up export control.

Foreign oil imports are "only" 57%. What a relief!

In terms of civilian use, we may survive without these rare earth elements. But, as the IBD article emphasizes, "in the national security sphere 'doing without' ... is not going to be a feasible option."

"What are we doing right now...? In case of rare earths, the Defense Department is studying the issue, so is the Department of Energy. ... But in the case of the 50-plus other materials for which we're more than 50% dependent, we're doing nothing, thus far."

This comes entirely from IBD, a source that only a crank could accuse of favoring government intervention in economic activities.

I do not think that I need to add anything here. But please do not panic now. Of course, President Obama's "soft diplomacy" would get us so many reliable friends that we would not need enemies. Sure, sure.