Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The wisdom of Solomons

Imagine a country which up to now had maintained its stability through a network of dysfunction and a web of corruption. Sharar Hameiri in the Age described this country.

In the past, personalised networks of patronage and loyalty were precisely the way political leaders managed to maintain a modicum of cohesion in this geographically and ethnically fragmented country. ... [which] was ruled by a small group of corrupt politicians and ex-militants who milked the country dry for personal benefit.

But although things had gone on for a long time, the system was starting to run down. Political leaders at the top had become too greedy and began impoverishing the people. Money was not trickling down through the old tribal networks. Unrest was starting to grow. Imagine further that a contingent of foreign troops arrived in comparatively overwhelming strength arrived to set things right, but in the process disturbed the status quo ante. Although the foreign presence:

was particularly successful in the area of law and order because most [inhabitants] and eventually political elites, had had enough of this exploitative and unsustainable political order but were unable to remove the thugs by force.

Unfortunately the reforms also created its own tendency toward destabilization.

However, most [inhabitants] did not want [the foreign contingent] to eliminate personalised rule completely because it was the glue that connected [the national capital] to the provinces.

The country is not Iraq but the Solomon Islands; and the foreign contingent was not American but Australian and New Zealand. Not MNF-Iraq, but RAMSI. Let's hear the story again with the right names.

The development model RAMSI and other donors promote relies on the supposed "trickle-down" effect of private sector-led economic growth through export-oriented, market-driven reform. However, the measures pursued to attract investors actually increase poverty, at least in the short to medium term, because they stipulate severe cuts in government spending and public sector redundancies, as well as apply pressure on the customary land ownership system.

Consequently we have seen wealth disparities increase in the Solomon Islands in tandem with the rise of a small mostly Chinese business class that has benefited from RAMSI contracts and the presence of aid workers and other personnel.

Before RAMSI's arrival, the Solomons was ruled by a small group of corrupt politicians and ex-militants who milked the country dry for personal benefit. RAMSI was particularly successful in the area of law and order because most Solomon Islanders, and eventually political elites, had had enough of this exploitative and unsustainable political order but were unable to remove the thugs by force. However, most Solomon Islanders did not want RAMSI to eliminate personalised rule completely because it was the glue that connected Honiara to the provinces.

In the Solomons, political and economic power is gradually shifting from the public sector to the Chinese-dominated private sector, partly as a result of RAMSI's governance reforms. A dangerous disparity has thus appeared between the expectations and interests of ordinary islanders that their representatives in Honiara look after, and the needs of a market-driven economy, which tend to concentrate wealth in the hands of few. As the riots demonstrate, the legitimacy of formal political institutions is difficult to achieve in this context.

The Australian reports:

THE Australian-led and funded intervention team in Solomon Islands is finding itself on increasingly uncomfortable ground.

And for RAMSI, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, which was welcomed with open arms by 99.9 per cent of Solomon Islanders less than three years ago, this is very unfamiliar territory.

As young islanders openly sneer at the heavily armed Australian troops making their rounds of Honiara's market, the real cost of last week's violence and RAMSI's mishandling of it is becoming apparent.

Images of the lockdown of the Solomon Islands parliament only add to the sense of a well-intentioned mission going terribly wrong. Parliament sat yesterday under the guard of highly armed, black-suited Australian and New Zealand anti-riot police.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports: Solomons Parliament Locked Down in a kind of Green Zone.

More, but not much more blog discussion here.

The Head Heeb


I am waiting for someone to call for the resignations of the Australian and New Zealand Defense Ministers. But joking aside, sounds eerie, doesn't it?

One of the problems with the paradigm of nation building is the expectation of effecting change while ensuring that in the meantime things remain the same. The ancien regime and its supporters are somehow supposed to be overturned and supplanted by a new order through a procedure more painless than modern dentistry. Or our money back. And so there are calls for UN Relief Missions to Somalia to be protected from gangs; calls for intervention in Darfur; calls to end the Chinese occupation of Tibet. But nobody wants to think about what that really means.

And then there will be calls to examine 'what went wrong?'; to identify the defects in planning that led to the moment of disillusionment when it proved after all to be impossible to change things while keeping them the same. But the first thing that went wrong was the acceptance of the flawed premise.

As I walk along,
I wonder what went wrong ...
And as I still walk on,
I think of the things we've done
Together, a-while our hearts were young


Blogger salvakiirmayardude said...

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark.

Walk on, through the wind,
Walk on, through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.

THX Wretchard for the timely response.

4/25/2006 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Dell Shannon vs Rodgers and Hammerstein.

4/25/2006 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...


Lyrics are from Del Shannon's "Runaway".

"Runaway", that may well bespeak the situation. These nation building exercises also may be suicidal.

4/25/2006 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Considering that the Solomons are Australia's neighbors it wasn't possible to first let things go to hell and then intervene. Thomas Barnett wrote about the "Pentagon's New Map" and the areas of disconnectedness, etc. But I have a feeling that in the end nation building is a problem that has to be solved. That we have to learn to solve. The post Colonial world is out there as much of it is a mess.

The kinds of intervention on the cheap that have been tried in the past, like aid packages, UN agencies and even NGOs have had about the same effect on the problem as a BB gun fired at a T-Rex. And still the T-Rex rumbles forward.

4/25/2006 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Admittedly off topic, Michelle Malkin is reporting that Ms. McCarthy will be interviewed this evening. Thought you might want to know.

4/25/2006 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

This "instant-oligarchy" formation has been a massive problem when we suddenly throw capitalism and democracy together in trying to reform an unstable country, or transition one from dictatorship and government control over an economy or key economic systems.

What seems to happen is a group, frequently from the outside, of wealthy and connected people, insinuate themselves into the center of power and collect preferences. Slowly the people realize that things are not getting better, but worse, and their anger grows as they discover "Trickle-Down" is a timeworn fantasy. That anger increases to rage when they discover the wealth is going to a small band of "influencers" and worse of all when that group harvesting the windfall wealth of reforms happens to be outsiders.

That is why Latin America is moving Left. Crony capitalism.

That is why Russia is so supportive of Putin and rolling back freewheeling democracy. They woke up one day to find much of the countries wealth had been seized by 6 Jewish and 2 Gentile Oligarchs who used outside money to wheedle privileges from the corrupt Yeltsin regime and became instant multibillionaires in the process.

In Iraq, we are finding that billions in American aid dollars and control of key industries is going down a rat hole of wealthy Iraqi Exiles who lived outside Iraq for decades before arriving like locusts - and using their schmoozing with the Occupying forces and bribes to nascent government to further their enrichment while little has improved down at the Iraqi street level.

In Asia, the Chinese business minority has long been a problem and has been dealt with by law limiting their rapaciousness and reluctance to extend their business prosperity to native peoples over their own ethnic comrades. Or by outright slaughter. The China business elite was killed off in Indonesia and in Malaysia - in part because the wealthy overseas Chinese also backed Communist insurgencies. In Cambodia, the Khymer Rouge went the other way - and pretty much killed all the local ethnic Chinese merchants and professionals to as a small part of the slaughter they did to help further their bloody vision of a classless society. In Vietnam, the ethnic Chinese dominated the S Vietnam economy, ducked the fighting to get rich off the American involvement - then were cleansed out. The Philippines has its issues with inordinate Chinese ethnics control over industries. Thailand limits the ability of ethnic Chinese to dominate critical sectors by legislation. In smaller island nations like the Maldives, Marshall Islands, the resentments towards the Chinese outsiders who control much of the economy is intense.

In Fiji, the same violent unrest has hit in past years - but it is the Indians there dominating the native Fijians. Which itself is just a small echo of the wholesale cleansing African nations decided to do of outsiders from the Subcontinent. When they got independence, they found too much of their economy, professions, and resources were controlled by "West Asians".

I guess the lessons are two-fold.

1. Americans, Australians - whoever decides to do nation-building must be exceptionally wary of just slapping capitalism in place, allowing a favored few to get filthy rich, and assuming "trickle-down" will work. History generally shows oligarchies will hang on to every cent they can and will disrupt previous systems where some wealth did flow to the people at the bottom of the food chain.

2. When you reform a country, or seek to fix one - never, ever let a group of outsiders arriving from outside or a pre-existing minority not on great terms or traditionally considered outsiders by the rest of the natives be the focus of most of the largess and opportunities conferred.

4/25/2006 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger salvakiirmayardude said...

Did the Taiwanese support Rini? Hence the reported warship in the harbor, etc. What of Honiara's economy, and the ethnic Chinese fleeing, and what does it mean in the near term? Ideas?

4/25/2006 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger orlandoslug said...

just like gardening we have choices...

...how to deal with the nasty weeds in the bed. I see three ways to deal with them: 1) Non-selective herbicide/Agent Orange route, or burn the whole bunch! 2) Cut out the bad weeds and then root out their stumps, or 3) The milder approach of selective herbicide, or weed killer...

...the problem with the first method is that when they start to grow back, you're just as likely to get a patch of weeds. With the latter two options the desired plants gradually grow stronger as the un-desireables are removed...

...the first option is reserved for desparate situations; the second option is the low tech option but labor intensive and a lot of hard work.
However, the selective herbicide knocks out the undesireables with the least amount of effort and does not create a void for other un-desireables to take advantage of...

I liken our current strategy to the second option; we need to put more effort into developing a third type option of selective poison pills for twisted power mongers while simultaneously cultivating principled local talent...

4/25/2006 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


One of the sleeper regional issues is West Papua, which may want to separate from Indonesia. Why? Because they have nothing in common with the Indonesians. Visit West Papua: the next East Timor. The claim is that Indonesians have reduced the population of the native Melanesians (who are largely Christian BTW) from 5 million to 1.3 million. The linked site says:

Do not doubt the above heading for one moment. The parallels to pre-referendum East Timor on the ground in West Papua are already apparent: the transfer to West Papua of police and military commanders formerly assigned to East Timor, increased profligacy of various militia activities including Indonesian military-trained Laskar Jihad holy warriors, the influx of large numbers of Indonesian paratroopers and Special Forces into West Papua, foreign journalists barred from entry unless granted special clearance, constant harassment, arbitrary arrests and murder of West Papuans expressing their basic human rights which has been denied them for so long, and on-going wholesale environmental damage by the Jakarta elite and their military cohorts with absolutely no regard of the long-term and permanent damage to one of the few remaining tropical rainforests in the world.

Indonesia has been "nation building" in West Papua for a long time; as have the Janjaweed in the Sudan. From time to time the press discovers this fact, as in East Timor. But most of the time they remain blissfully ignorant of the fact. Because the only people who are supposed to get nation building right are the White Guys, though considering the modern ethnic composition of Australia and the US, we should find some better term.

4/25/2006 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger salvakiirmayardude said...

I heard the key dude from PNG met recently with the Bougainville dude, and everything went over smashingly. And as for Aceh, Europe will be bailing out before push comes to shove (i.e. June 15). So surely someone could fill the void?

4/25/2006 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...


The disconnectedness is probably irretrievably systemic. The CIA site has statistics that are revealing: 120 dialects within a population of less than 600,000, with a median age of 19 years.

Can such a monstrosity ever be a nation? What solution would not fail to offend the sensibilities of the easily offended? Adult supervision is required and Australia is providing that, for the moment.

4/25/2006 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

The reason a return to a market economy in this sort of situation can easily lead to a sharp concentration of wealth is that the change suddenly reveals that only a small proportion of the populace has been concerning itself with doing anything productive.

In this situation everybody likes the idea of the properity which a market economy can deliver, but everyone also wants to keep getting paid for doing what they have been doing up to now, which in many cases is not much.

It's hardly surprising that this is a volatile mixture. A lot of people have to deal with downward mobility, and don't like it, but pandering to them just hoses everybody's prospects for income growth for a generation (*cough* the Germans' mistake as they absorbed East Germany *cough*).

4/25/2006 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

The solution is to learn, adapt. Work something out. I don't think there's a formula. However, there are a set of common capabilities that are probably required. Deep local knowledge. Good local partners. A willingness to use force when necessary. Timely intel. Good public diplomacy.

The alternative is to cut and run. But the long term problem with cutting and running is that the world never actually develops the capabilities necessary to solve the problem. They just bigger and better Last Helicopters.

On the other hand, Third World nation builders have got the alternative formula down pat. Supply of machetes. Selective terror. Landgrabbing. Ethnic cleansing.

4/25/2006 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

But I have a feeling that in the end nation building is a problem that has to be solved. That we have to learn to solve.

What if, and I'm just asking the question, it's not soluble?

It's sobering to think about the implications of that. As the possible solutions to the post-colonial mess are whittled down, the remaining answers look more and more ghastly.

4/25/2006 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

8:04 PM Why not just breed a selective Slug?

4/25/2006 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...


"What if...it's not soluble?"

It is. Will it be PC is the next question? Above all else, does the civilized world have the will to apply a solution?

Possibly off topic, but the issue always arises; I wait with bated breath to hear of a solitary Jewish shoe salesman who flew into Honiara to do business with a Chinese shop owner. If that did happen, soon the Jews will be blamed for the recent unrest.

That a topic, as that above, would have to be raised, semi-tongue-in-cheek, demonstrates why solutions are just so hard to implement. The adversaries of civilization are hopelessly corrupt. You can safely bet that the Australians will face racialist criticism. News accounts from Australia indicate that, indeed, the PC chorus is already warming up.

4/25/2006 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger orlandoslug said...

you put your finger on the button: good local knowledge

What happened to USAID?
I remember an old farmer from Missouri when I was overseas helping with agriculture; the locals loved him - their rice yields quadrupled.

Kinda pie in the sky; but, why not more NGO's, give them logistical and security support from the Corp of engineers or army...

...do something! we're in the second quarter of a long game...it's not time to throw the long bomb!

4/25/2006 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...

Wow, the vilification of the ethnic Chinese here is pretty awful. Don't you know that kind of terrible behavior is sole property of the Jooooos? </sarcasm>

4/25/2006 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Will you still need me,
will you still heed me,
when I'm 64?

4/25/2006 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

Political and military action either makes you stronger or weaker. It has to have a purpose that enhances our national interest or welfare. None of that has happened since our ill thought out and disatourous intervention in Iraq and the stationing of US troops in Islamic countries. We have strengthened ourselves in Iraq? Is our position in the world more secure? We have merely demonstrated the limits of our power. Our political power is hard to get much lower. Put a world map on the wall, blindfolds on and throw a dart. Wake me up when you hit a part on the map where US political influence is on the rise.

Nation building and our mission to establish democracies in The Middle East is going to put George W. Bush on the pantheon with Jimmy Carter and the scientist that brought the gypy moth to The USA to make silk and only succeeded in the felling of entire forests.

4/25/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

Two current items demonstrating our new influence and power brought to you by the White House OJT crew in the pursuit of nation building:

"Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Iran is ready to share nuclear technology with other nations."

'Zarqawi' shows face in new video
Al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, appears unmasked in a rare video believed to be genuine.

4/25/2006 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


Of course it's a long game and it's successfully done all the time. Think of all the countries that have successfully developed, or at least not fallen to pieces. India, Singapore, even Malaysia. If you really want a prospective nightmare scenario, think of India if one didn't know how it would turn out, with its multiple religions, castes, etc. Yet India is fine.

It's a myth to say it can't be done. It simply can't be done with a stopwatch going and the PC crowd second guessing everthing. The result is it doesn't get done at all. So we flit from one place to the other, saying "we'll get it done perfectly next time". And it never happened the UN way, which is why we keep trying it that way.

Real nation builders are civilians. The businessmen, commercial agents, doctors, indigenes who've returned from abroad, etc. Plus the ports, airports, newspapers. Nothing civilizes a man like civilization. In Bobbitt's the Shield of Achilles, a metaphor for the safety of civlization, he notes that the boss of the Shield was etched with the images of temples, theaters, schools and art. The Shield of Achilles is largely comprised of the very things we consider hateful. Nor do we put much stock in the bronze of the Shield itself. What we will trust is the chimera of the official "development".

As for the Chinese, they will survive in Southeast Asia. They always do. And they will actually outlast and thrive in despite of every effort to dislodge them. On the day the guy with the Politically Correct stopwatch quits the Chinese will sell him the airline ticket out and the meal at the departure lounge to boot. Maybe we should learn something from them.

4/25/2006 09:41:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Rini denies Taiwan link:

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Snyder Rini denied yesterday that his election was influenced by back-room bribes bankrolled by Taiwan or China.

Rumors that Taiwan or China helped fund bribes that secured Rini the prime minister's job last week in a secret ballot of the troubled South Pacific nation's 50 lawmakers have abounded in the capital, Honiara, and have been blamed in part for a rampage by looters and rioters in the city's Chinatown.

Rini Denial

4/25/2006 09:41:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

"News accounts from Australia indicate that, indeed, the PC chorus is already warming up."

For the latest see,

Australia's Pacific intervention hits snag

By Janaki Kremmer, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Apr 25, 4:00 AM ET


4/25/2006 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Keep in mind, tho, that the video is all you get to see. And that his men are masked, and the exteriors are shot out in a forlorn wadi a hundred clicks from Bumfug. And that bin Laden has to communicate thru a cassette smuggled out the Himalayas up a goats ass.

4/25/2006 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...


The French assisted the US in nation building because the Americans wanted to build a nation. The US helped France in re-building a nation wrecked by the Nazis. The French were pleased because they wanted France back. There has to be an overwhelming indigenous will that needs a boost rather than a prod.

4/25/2006 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger orlandoslug said...

the politics is the tough part...

...another part of the problem is the length of time it takes for the feedback loop.

Bush & Rummie have doggedly and sometimes raggedly stuck to the GWOT game plan for what, 4 years? and OBL's latest release a few days ago seems to be the first I see as them doing some deep soul searching (and seeking help) like they're in deep doo doo!

The best way to shorten the loop and keep tabs on the pulse of our progress may be to measure the mindset of those over there, which again requires good local interaction.

4/25/2006 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Islands in the stream
That is what we are
No one in be-tween how can we be wrong
Sail away with me to another world
And we re-ly on each other uh huh
From one lover to another uh huh

Jared Diamond looked at nation building as well.

To date, despite the wealth of material, no one has done a comparative study of the UK and Japan.

Initial conditions have a lot to do with how the equations work out. Different boundaries lead to grossly different results. Same with nations.

4/25/2006 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

re: nation building.

There appear to be a number of opportunities to experiment. All the way from, say, tough-love - i.e. shed our own blood to destroy the noxious weeds, wish whomever remains well, and say "we'll be back if the weeds return, and you really don't want us to come back." (and, "sorry, no, we don't expect you to succeed on your first few tries.") to swedish-(or U.S.)-style birth-to-death welfare.

It's bad enough being forced to do this type of police work. Playing nanny is above and beyond the call - best left to the liberated and those who did not have to get angry enough to put their sons at risk.

4/25/2006 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Policy Is More Important Than Personnel:

But the issue is not who serves as Secretary of Defense, the issue is how, when, and why the United States uses military force. It makes no sense simply to replace Mr. Rumsfeld with someone else who holds the same view, namely that it’s the job of American soldiers and U.S. taxpayers to police the world.

We should be debating the proper foreign policy for our country – utopian nation building vs. the noninterventionism counseled by our founding fathers – rather than which individual is best suited to carry it out.

Policy vs. Personnel

4/25/2006 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Not to pick to fine a nit, Sam, but our founding fathers were citizens of an upstart, relatively weak nation surrounded strategically by warring powers. Their warning was against permanent alliances. Intervention as a geo-political concept did not yet exist.

And I wouldn't say that nation building is utopian. Instead, I would say it is resignation: a grudging acceptance of the world as it is, rather than the world as it should be.

4/25/2006 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Wretchard - I have read about West Papua and it seems in reading just a awful replay of East Timor involving the same Indonesian players being used to try Jihad conquest on a more primitive, Christian-worshipping population. I despair about the notion of "moderate Islam" when the supposedly moderate Indonesians have slaughters so many since 1965 in the name of Allah.

I am not so sanguine about the Chinese ability to stay in several Asian nations and run their economies. They have run into real trouble by being a little to aggressive and a little too self-aggrandizing in several Asia nations, and China's rise may make other countries a little paranoid about having much of their sovereignity and wealth in the hands of ethnics from a growing power they fear at a certain level.

Meme Chose - I disagree with your premise that sudden sharp wealth concentration into an oligarchy proves the rest of a population isn't doing anything productive.

Most people in a population are productively employed be it as teachers, masons, engineers, doctors...what has happened in places like Argentina, Russia, Iraq, the Solomons is that while "reform" may improve net GNP, those productive workers see their real wages and standard of living decrease as the GNP gains and a chunk of pre-reform revenue that was more evenly distributed is scooped up by the Oligarchs. And by now we ought to have enough historical examples to recognize "Trickle-Down" is an economic myth. It has little to do with "retraining" workers - except in the east German absorbtion case. In other examples, indigenous workers were 99.9% of the economy pre and post "reform" by oligarchs.

Kirk Parker -

People of an ethnic minority that focus on being the "middlemen" for everything and come to dominate an economy and harvest most wealth for themselves over a much larger native population are always going to endanger themselves.

Unless the majority is convinced that the wealthy minority group or outsiders coming in and setting up an oligarchy somehow benefit most of the people. The middlemen sometimes are critical to an economy and not easily replaced, as many African nations learned as they booted the Indians and Pakis. Who the middlemen are is not as important as what they are and how they interact with the majority. Americans were resented when we were in the middleman role in several Latin American countries. In inner cities, native black Americans resent others who dominate portions of their local economy..

But the middlemen ethnics do have to walk a very tight line. They cannot be overly ostentatious or they push the majority to an eruption, as happened in Russia to the Oligarchs. And they cannot succumb to the tempation to - since they personally consider themselves smarter, harder working, better educated and better connected than the natives - to push for political dominance and complete control. That usually, as recorded even in long ago times, gets them killed or chucked out eventually.

When a dominant ethnic minority does it, most recently by the Indians trying it in Fiji, bloodshed is almost an automatic thing. The fastest "fix" was when the ethnic Chinese dominating the Indonesian economy decided they would seize Indonesia as a new Communist nation. They thought their bribes for a military coup would work...but they were found out. They were outsiders to Indonesia in a way that Arabs and others were not thought of as, they were of a different religion, and the result was the fastest butchery in recent memory. In one month in 1965, almost all the Chinese were killed - 500,000 of them.

4/26/2006 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Cedarford, sometimes you are so close to a solid rational thought, but then you latch onto the inevitable vapor.

For instance, trickle-down economics doesn't work? How 'bout doesn't exist, at least as a defended theory. It is an apparition, a buzz-word created by critiques, and a fundamental misunderstanding of economics.

Trickle-down is a term of derision for supply side economics. Bush I also called it Voodoo Economics in the 1980 Primary. Paul Krugman thinks the entire supply side theory is a ruse for Republicans to enrich their wealthy constituents. It is, in fact, none of the above.

Supply side economics is not simply giving money to the rich and waiting for it to trickle down to the poor. The most significant goal of supply side economics is to increase production. The theory is to increase the incentive to save through tax-manipulation to encourage asset allocation to investment, which would then spur production, which would then create jobs, which would then create income. This income would then be taxed, and the remainder would be traded for goods and services or it would be invested. Both would create positive returns on the initial investment, and away we go.

This is not trickle down, it is wealth generation. This process writ large creates wealth, and it creates tax revenue. If the incentive to invest is considerable, "rich people's" money (the one's with the disposable income) goes to work, instead of being tied up in tangibles like gold and land.

So it's not merely tax cuts for the rich. It's more like miracle grow. The only problem with exporting it is that it needs a viable seed on which to act.

And as to "middlemen", I would recommend Thomas Sowell's well-researched chapter on Middlemen in Black Rednecks and White Liberals. According to Sowell, the ill-treatment of middlemen is more a jealous racism and a lower-class ignorance of why they are necessary than anything else.

4/26/2006 12:48:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Why Bangladesh Matters
The new battleground between Islamic terror and democracy.

The terrorists, meanwhile, have had astounding success in a recent operation to explode 500 bombs simultaneously in different parts of the country. Five hundred bombs in one day anywhere in the world should be newsworthy, but the Western press has largely ignored these coordinated attacks.

4/26/2006 01:28:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Wretchard, I sang Del Shannon's "Runaway" at our final ball at college, but it was a costume ball, and I was made up quite like a cross between Frankenstein's monster and Nosferatu, hideous really, and my classmates didn't want to even come NEAR me...

..Then came the place we'd practiced for a month, and I played my 12-string and sang Runaway, and it was cool! :D

4/26/2006 02:02:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

An insightful dissertation is being developed on PRECISELY this question, this dynamic, at:

"Treason Forest"

4/26/2006 02:05:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

When our troops entered Somalia in 1992 for the purpose of protecting famine relief workers, they found that the local young men sat around all day chewing the leaves of a plant, Quat, which produced intoxicating effects. Then at night they shot the place up.

US troops eventually began confiscating Quat. This did not set well with the locals, even those who thought an AK-47 and a bundle of Quat did not constitute quality entertainment. (At least here in the South that is defined as a six pack of beer and a bug zapper).

A Somalian doctor summed it the local attitude. "You are supposed to be here to help us, not change our culture."

But of course, with not only Somalia, but also much of the middle east, the Amercian ghettos and the hordes of Mexicans flooding into the US, the "culture" is the real problem.

4/26/2006 05:23:00 AM  
Blogger vbwyrde said...

Brilliant observation Wretchard, thank you. In the software industry we call this 'conflicting requirements'. Yet most software managers insist on forging ahead anyway 'to get something done' and show that 'we're team players'. The results are predictable.

4/26/2006 06:06:00 AM  
Blogger fred said...

"But of course, with not only Somalia, but also much of the middle east, the Amercian ghettos and the hordes of Mexicans flooding into the US, the "culture" is the real problem."

5:23 AM rwe

That is exactly the heart of the problem: culture, which is a system of symbols and meanings governing human interactions which constitute a worldview. It's like a constellation of "values." Very often, like how it is on the individual level, change tends to occur when there is some sort of crisis and one perceives that going on in the usual way is not going to work anymore. Indeed, there are two options only, with permutations of each: denial that there is a problem in the first place, or a radical search for an alternative.

I would like to toss out in the ring a challenge to re-think a term that seems to be used without much thought given to it: colonialism and post-colonialism. While I understand the political/econonic/social phenomenon that it is in the modern world, how can it be said that European colonialism differs from empires and land grabs of prior epochs? There were "after effects" of those as well, yet somehow we assign a special nomenclature of sin for "colonialism" that is supposed to elevate this form of corruption as a special case. Speaking as a former neo-Marxist (from many years ago in my youthful exuberance and curiosity, not to mention immaturity of mind). "Colonialism" is a nomenclature borrowed from Marxist analysis that has been thoughtlessly mainstreamed. How is the British Empire somehow more sinister than that of Tammerlane or the Ottomans? Repression and exploitation are not the sole properties of "capitalism."

Maximum personal liberty is a cultural value that has its deepest roots in the ancient Celt culture. Romans and Germans tried to stamp it out, but they failed because its roots were so deep in the psyche and culture of those various peoples from the shores of Hibernia to Scotland through Wales and in Britain, Gaul, and Northern Spain. It took centuries of attempts to subdue it, but that never really succeeded, because eventually it always returned with a vengeance, asserting its primacy, and taking root in the New World with irrepressible vigor.

It is a sense of life that is not as strong in most of the rest of the world. Where it has been transplanted, it is an adaptation, not an expression of the deepest values of those cultures. We need to keep this in mind when pondering the complexities of "nation building." I am not saying that the inculcation of the values of liberty is an impossible task. What I am saying is that, as an adaptation, it requires patience of a kind we are not accustomed to exercising. Also, in all likelihood, as an adaptation, we have to be prepared to accept some form of hybridization, because the values of those cultures cannot be cast aside as if they never existed.

The whole project requires patience and flexibility.

signed: fred, New Hampshire

4/26/2006 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

It appears that a major problem with nation building is that it looks so much like colonization.

And of course, it is, at the most basic level - that of "imposing" cultural characteristics like don't shoot your neighbor or take a crap in the middle of the street.

Some years back on 60 Minutes they talked about a program where inner city families were moved to the suburbs in an attempt to "innoculate" them with what today would be called "middle class values." And it worked. Even those who decided to move back to the city never again looked at their environment in the same way. BUT - they managed to find one critic - a black professional with a college degree - that deplored the fact that those families "had" to go to the suburbs to learn such values - and could not get them in the inner city. Of course, if those attitudes were prevalent or even available there, it would not be the innter city.

Bigotry had one useful purpose - it provided a set of guidelines for those too stupid or lazy to figure them out on their own.

4/26/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger fred said...


I agree with you. Not all cultures are equal, which puts me at odds with the Left (not unusual)and definitely at cross-purposes with multiculturalism. Also, not every aspect of every culture is on an equal footing. I default to the position of "on balance..."

How do we do "nation building" in an ADD age where the MSM is constantly portraying all Iraqis as incorrigible and violent? When our military and our more educated citizens beg to differ with this stereotype of that country and its people, they are labelled as propagandists, naive, or worse.

signed: fred, New Hampshire

4/26/2006 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

One thing we've learned--multiculti politics are less "felt" spiritually than as political weaponry. Otherwise the Iraqi people would've been worth saving, right?

4/26/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I don't know of any situation where 1st worlders have ever been able to "nation build" another nation. They build colonies, yes. Annex territories and populations, yes. That which is necessary to build a nation is not bureaucracy, nor religion, nor aid packages, nor peacekeepers -- it is legend.

Nations, empires, and all other powerful states rely upon myth and legend to build themselves and sustain themselves. It could be a contemporary legend; it could be an ancient legend; it may even be true! The key, though, is for there to be a compelling story, a creation myth if you would like, that can evoke the loyalty of the people.

Post-war Germany and Japan weren't built -- they were rebuilt. This is a major difference. And the national myths of each state were so strong that they could bend more easily to the will to an occupation. In contrast, most other states have been far more brittle.

In America, our Constitution is basically a truce between the rich and the poor, among the states, and among the confessions. A "social contract" is essentially a truce, a decision to substitute symbolic rebellion for open rebellion in exchange for government recognition of the freedom to engage in symbolic rebellion. This contract has worked reasonably well for us.

One suspects that places like Iraq would be the most likely Middle Eastern states to embrace liberal democracy if it is seen as the most effective means to manage Iraq's perpetual civil war. In this sense, Iraq's civil war can be seen to have lasted over thirteen centuries -- and perhaps thousands of years longer than that!

4/26/2006 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Alexis: Very well put! I very nearly got into similar ideas myself, but decided that it was too verbose.

Just before retiring from thE USAF I wrote a paper describing how our approach to space launch capabilities has been time and again driven by what I call "mythologies" - overall ideas which inspire detailed plans - and then we are jerked back to reality by disasters such as the loss of a space shuttle or a series of launch failures that derive from the mythology. The paper was well received, the most common comment being "That was great! I never thought of it that way..." I am working on a full length book treatment of the idea.

Thinking about this has also caused me to realize how "mythologies" drive a great many things. All are unrealistic in some way as compared to the real world, but some serve as a useful basis for thought. For example the "all men are created equal and have inalienable rights" idea is demonstrably false and is clearly a mythology - but evidence exists that building a nation based on that mythology gets some damn fine results.

4/26/2006 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Foreign Minister Downer says "the Solomons will remain unstable" and adds a 'shrug' (I thought) re the Chinese residents.

4/26/2006 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger stackja1945 said...

In 1940 Australia had to protect New Caledonia from Vichy France. Now it has to protect the Solomon Islands from the UN. Australia is a federation that once was a group of arguing colonies. They could not even agree on the gauge for a railroad between colonies.

4/27/2006 05:38:00 AM  

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