One of the nice things about living near Cork Airport in Ireland is that you can easily get over to Paris.
And Cork Airport is very civilised, quiet, and relaxed. No airport goons shouting at you. No long lines.
We’re here in Paris on business, of course. But even the most hard-shelled homme d’affaires would have a hard time ignoring the buds and blossoms pullulating in every arrondissement.
It is springtime, after all.
Lovers, hand in hand, make their way to the Pont de Pietons, where they clamp a lock inscribed with their initials on the bridge. ‘As long as Paris lasts,’ they say to each other, ‘so will our amour.’
But we have no time to stop and smell the flowers. We have dots to connect…and the breakdown of Western civilisation to reckon with.
Yes, Dear Reader, gloom is what we see…doom is what we foretell. And if you are smart, you will vamoose out of the danger zone…if you can.
Alas, that will be hard to do, because civilisation itself is at risk. And herewith, we begin to connect some big, squishy dots.
One of the most cherished lessons humans ever learned is that wars are dangerous, destructive, and rarely profitable. The war-makers are wealth (and happiness) destroyers; they need to be kept on a leash.
That was the central insight of conservatism for generations: The feds may be useful servants, but they are bad masters. They have the brute force to take away life, liberty, and property. And they’ll do it, if you let them.
But before we even begin to connect the dots, we will describe the broader tableau…
In public life (as in private life), we don’t always get what we want. Sometimes, we get what no one wants. Because there are forces at work that go beyond our control…our election-day choices, our editorial-page fantasies, and the borders of our own minds.
Our old friends Lord William Rees-Mogg (now deceased) and Jim Davidson (still very much alive) called these forces ‘megapolitics.’
Sometimes, megapolitics lead us towards peace and prosperity. And sometimes, they don’t. And now? The war-mongers’ stock is rising. The feds are becoming bolder, more aggressive.
Suddenly, we are at war with nearly everyone. The United States has some 240,000 troops stationed in 172 different countries. Some 40,000 Americans are in classified combat missions, loaded down with guns and ammunition.
We’re at war with the Arabs in the Middle East…with the Persians in Iran…with Russia.
Even with each other. Republicans are at war with Democrats. Liberals are against conservatives. And, of course, there’s a trade war with China.
There’s even a trade war with Europe…and the Europeans say they will hit back, too. From Bloomberg:
‘The European Union is finalizing a list of American goods to target with retaliatory tariffs in the event that US President Donald Trump, who is expected to make a decision by May 18, imposes levies on car imports.’
And these are not polite disagreements and gentlemanly negotiations, but real threats…belligerence…and barroom-style bullying.
And for what reason? No trials are held. No verdicts are rendered. But the punishments are meted out. Sanctions for some. Bombs for others. And tariffs for almost everyone.
And now, in the ongoing trade war, the Chinese are unleashing their own dogs. They’re now threatening to stop buying food from the US altogether and even sell their US Treasuries. They’re going Full Retard, too!
What gives? Our subject today is not how these ‘wars’ will play out…but how they got started in the first place.
Win-win or lose
A few years ago, hardly anyone would have thought that we should let the feds control our commerce. If Americans wanted to buy gadgets and gizmos from the Chinese, well, that was their business.
But now, even the people who call themselves ‘conservatives’ think the government should decide who does business with whom and on what terms. Politico reports:
‘Senate Republicans acknowledge that the president’s latest levies on Chinese imports are harming farm state economies, their own constituents and some of Trump’s most reliable voters. But there’s no plan to stop, or even threaten, the president’s tariff regime — just the latest example of Trump imposing his protectionist will on a party that once celebrated free trade.’
What’s going on? Why give up on freedom? Why let the feds tell us what to do?
As we explain in our new book, Win-Win or Lose, material progress depends on win-win deals. And win-win deals also provide a rich soil in which the other elements of civilised life can take root.
In a win-win deal, threats, bombs, and sanctions have no place. You need to think about the other guy. What can you offer that he wants? What can you give so that you can get? How can you be the person he wants to do business with?
Does he want to truck with someone who might stab him in the back…belch in public…or go back on the deal? No? Then you must be honest, clean, and thoughtful.
You inquire about his family. You ask if his back pain has gone away. You invite him for a beer…and wonder how you could help him. In short, you try to do unto him as you would like him to do unto you.
And thus — as if guided by an invisible hand — civilisation advances.
But wait. What if win-win deals don’t seem to pay off? Win-win deals produce economic growth. But growth rates in the US have fallen by half over the last 40 years. And real wage growth disappeared years ago for most people.
What if it is a win-lose world again, where we can only get ahead by taking something away from the other guy? Is it time to unleash the feds?
Tune in tomorrow…