What is “Global Interdependence”?

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Globe centred on Asia and Oceania - Satellite ...Human beings are not isolated, atomistic individuals. Both Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were flawed in holding that they are. Aristotle was on the mark when he said that “Man is by nature a political [i.e. social] animal.” Human beings share a common nature–they are “rational animals,” to use another of Aristotle’s terms. Human being are dependent rational animals–Alasdair MacIntyre was correct in focusing on the dependence aspect that is so often ignored in both Classical Liberalism and Social Democracy’s notion of “autonomy.” Humans are dependent on nature to provide an environment for the basic necessities of life and livelihood. They are dependent on other living things for food, clothing, and oftentimes companionship. They are dependent on other people from the moment they are born to the day they die, notwithstanding modern and contemporary claims of atomistic autonomy. The modern nation-state, established in root form at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, consists of people under one central government authority. Yet nation-states have never been wholly sovereign or autonomous, since their survival has been dependent on trade and cooperation with other nations. With greater integration of economies, it is easy to push “global interdependence” as a principle that removes sovereign nations and replaces them with a world unified, if not politically, at least economically and in terms of a melding of cultures. Many collages and universities push “Global Interdependence” and require that it be part of the core curriculum classes.

As good as this emphasis sounds, it is fundamentally flawed. While humans are not atomistic individuals and are, in fact, dependent on others for survival and well-being, this does not imply an artificial unity in which all cultures merge into one and the world becomes “one big happy family.” The end of the Cold War has led to the formation of nation-states divided along ethnic lines, even in parts of Europe (the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union). Cultures that have thrived thousands of years continue to thrive and demand freedom from the centralized government of the modern nation-state, as is seen in tribal resistance to the weak central government in Afghanistan. Blood and individual cultures have shown themselves to be thicker than utopian schemes of a New World Order. I do not buy into the conspiracy theorists about the New World Order–in the United States it has meant free trade and the ruin of American manufacturing, the destruction of local cultures with their rich diversity (something that pseudo-multiculturalists and proponents of a politicized “global interdependence” do not understand). Human beings develop their uniqueness in community best within local cultures that vary due to geography, tribe, history, religion, and overall world view. This is what unifies human beings in community, not a system such as the “European Union” that originally found its strongest support among French and German Marxists. It is interesting that Chancellor Merkel, a Christian Democrat, supports a strong European Union, but underneath her rhetoric is an assertion of German economic strength rather than a support of an abstract, artificial unity that harks back to the Roman Empire. Despite the claims of Pax Romana, the “Roman Peace” was filled with rebellions against the central government, including two Jewish revolts from 68-74 and from 132-135. Since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D., Europeans have gone through periods of searching for that lost unity, from the “Holy Roman Empire” to the current “European Union.” Thus, “global interdependence” cannot refer to an ephemeral political union, and with the decline of the great Medieval unifier of Europe, Christianity, there is no hope for any cultural unity within Europe. If any group has a chance of “winning” the clash of cultures in Europe, it will be Islam. Of course, since we’re so “interdependent,” even the most Islamist of Muslims will join together in one happy family in which local religions and local cultures do not matter (notice the sarcasm in that statement). “Global Interdependence” is a valid concept; the problem is when it obscures real differences between states, cultures, and ethnic groups as if they do not matter (moral and cultural relativism). That is the view of global interdependence that is being pushed by the successors of the 1960s radicals on American colleges and universities as well as in the K-12 educational system. It is a deeply flawed position and should not be used as a tool to indoctrinate students in a radical, utopian agenda.

Liberalism and the Failure to Recognize Human Limitations

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2009 Five Presidents, President George W. Bush...

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Do you remember your mother or father telling you the old saw, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” You were a child and wanted something your parents could not afford. You may have thrown a fit, but if your parents were responsible, they would not give in in order to teach you a valuable lesson about human limitation. Human beings can only buy as much as their resources allow. Any responsible parent knows that going into unnecessary debt can harm the entire family. A family receives a finite income every year. A family whose income is $50,000 a year should not buy a $40,000 car or a $1,000,000 home.

Businesses also realize that they can overreach–when a business overspends beyond the benefits and loses money, that one failure can sometimes destroy, or at the very least weaken–that business. The same thing is true with local governments and most state governments. California, with its past history of profligate spending, is an important exception–and an important lesson on recognizing that resources have limits.

The federal government has not learned these lessons. George W. Bush began the current spending spree, with the mainstream Republicans in Congress, wanting to gain votes, appropriating the money. When the banking crisis occurred, Mr. Bush and Congress spend billions on a massive bail out. But what Mr. Bush did is child’s play compared to Mr. Obama’s free spending ways. What was billions in debt quickly became trillions, to the point that there seems no end to the massive debt of the United States. China holds us over a more precarious pit than was present in the Bush administration. Problems with the Euro have helped the dollar to survive as a viable currency despite massive supply due to the government printing more money–but eventually supply and demand will catch up with the dollar. The threat of hyperinflation looms over the United States to a greater degree than in any recent decade except the 1970s.

The American people’s desire for a utopia on earth has driven massive spending. Unlike Europe, which spent freely due to people wanting la dolce vita after seven years of brutal war, American’s desire to benefit from government had already begun in the 1930s with the Roosevelt administration‘s rapid expansion of federal programs in response to the Great Depression. Americans, no longer disciplined by hardship and war, turned to government to solve social problems and to provide benefits for the middle class. The idea was that only government had the massive resources to fight poverty (Lyndon Johnson‘s “Great Society“)  and protect the middle class through social security, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid. Now government has been used by Mr. Obama to solve another financial crisis and to expand social welfare benefits. Cuts in defense spending are not nearly enough to make up for massive social programs. Thus the problem of debt is just as unsolvable in the United States as it is in Western Europe. Mother was right–money does not grow on trees–and the worth of money is not guaranteed by the government’s printing more bills.  Currency traders will not ignore economic reality forever. The United States, like Western Europe, will be driven to recognize its limitations if it must be driven kicking and screaming.

Classical liberalism is superior to social democratic liberalism, but it still has an overly optimistic view of human nature and often does not recognize human limitations. Many classical liberals believe that science and the private sector will create an ideal society, and such a belief can clash with economic and other human limitations. Adam Smith believed that a society made up primarily of virtuous people, civilized by Christianity and Western culture, would make the “invisible hand” work. With the breakdown of key virtues such as taking responsibility for one’s behavior and integrity, the capitalist system will be corrupted. Even if it were not corrupted, resources for the well-being of people are finite, not infinite. Science and the market can substitute for God just as much as “the People” substitute for God in Marxism.

The truth is that there is no ideal world that any economic system can make. The world will always be a mixed bag of good and bad. People can do what they can to alleviate the negative and “accentuate the positive” (as my late colleague Parker Wilson used to say). To do so with massive government aid programs or social engineering programs creates programs that almost always fail, and the government spends more money and goes deeper into debt. Because social democratic liberals cannot follow a mother’s or father’s aphorism that “Money does not grow on trees,” the country in which I was born and reared may become unrecognizable sooner rather than later.

Conservatives vs. Liberals: Radically Different World Views

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Liberal, MO.

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Why is there is such a deep conflict between conservatives and liberals in American society? It is not because people want to argue for argument’s sake; it has to do with radically contrasting views of the world. Below are some differences between traditional conservatives and liberals. Note that I am not saying that all people who label themselves as liberals and conservatives would accept all the positions attributed to them. I do believe that the positions below are characteristic of most conservatives and of most liberals.

Conservatives believe that society is an organic structure that develops from below; liberals believe that society is an artificial construction that can be manipulated at will.

Conservatives believe that traditional religion is an important social activity that encourages virtue; liberals believe that traditional religion is an outdated system that should be abandoned in any enlightened society.

Liberals believe in unlimited human progress; conservatives believe that while scientific and technological progress occurs, this does not change the fundamental nature of human beings as capable of both great good and great evil.

Liberals believe that “evil” is due to problems with heredity and environment; conservatives do not deny the role of heredity and environment in shaping human behavior, but they deny that these factors determine human behavior.

Conservatives (at least traditional conservatives as opposed to Classical Liberals and Neoconservatives) believe in a sense of place, of a person being located in a particular place and time and finding much of his identity there; liberals believe that in order to progress, a sense of place must go, and that a person can feel “at home” anywhere.

Conservatives believe that there is an intrinsic order to human nature that must be respected; liberals believe that human nature is malleable and can be changed at will by liberal reformers.

Conservatives believe that social change must occur in an orderly fashion, even when such change is good; liberals wish to force change on a society, using police and military power if necessary.

Liberals believe that the value of human life is a matter of achievement or reason or sentience; conservatives believe that there is something intrinsically valuable about human life.

Conservatives believe that the fundamental principles of morality do not change; liberals believe that the rules of morality progress as humans progress.

Liberals believe in abstractions such as “social justice,” or “the proposition that all men are created equal”–abstractions that can never be achieved in concrete society; conservatives believe that terms such as “social justice” and “equality” must be defined in terms of the actual concrete development and life of a particular culture.

Liberals (including Classical Liberals) accept the myth of “economic man“–that humans in society are primarily driven by economic forces; conservatives recognize that human motivation is complex and includes more than mere economic motivations.

Liberals believe that all stereotypes are evil; conservatives recognize that although some stereotypes are destructive, others are peaceful ways of human beings understanding differences.

Liberals interpret “diversity” only in terms of race, class, and gender; conservatives realize that “diversity” is a much richer concept that transcends the above categories.

Liberals believe that human creativity blossoms in a cosmopolitan culture; conservatives, while not denying that cultures intermingle, believe that local cultures are the most creative.

Liberals trust in big government to solve problems; Neoconservative trust in big business; Traditional Conservatives believe that problems are best solved locally.

Conservatives believe that marriage is a natural law union of a man and a woman oriented to the birth of children in stable families; liberals believe that “marriage” can be defined in any way that people wish without harming society.

Liberals despise the wisdom of the masses; conservatives believe that sometimes the masses know better than intellectuals what is best for society.

Liberals want Heaven on earth; conservatives recognize that Heaven on earth is impossible; we can do our best to love our families and improve our small communities, but a perfect society is impossible this side of Heaven.

 

If any conservatives who read this want to add some contrasts of their own, feel free to do so.