About that Democratizing Global Order

I’m a bit confused by Tom Friedman’s New York Times column this morning. I don’t like having a “lying, unethical bully at the helm”, either. Here’s what confuses me:

It all depends just how far Trump goes with this. Will it be a mild departure from the approach of every other U.S. president of the postwar era — each of whom understood that we had an overall interest in being the overall steward of a democratizing global order — or a radical departure? I don’t know yet, but if you look around, a lot of people are acting as if the cat’s away so the mice can play.

I have a three part question for Mr. Friedman. How does each of the following:

  • President Bush’s invasion of Iraq without clear casus belli and without United Nations Security Council sanction
  • President Obama’s bombing of the internationally recognized government of Libya that ultimately led to the overthrow of that government exceeding the UNSEC resolution that permitted the bombing and
  • President Obama’s support for anti-government Syrian rebels without UNSEC sanction

comport with a “democratizing global order”? And from 2012 to 2016 did the world become more democratic, less democratic, or stay about the same.

My answers to those questions is that none of those actions is consistent with a democratizing global order or liberal values more generally and none have promoted U. S. interests. I would tell a somewhat different story of the last 20 years.

All of our presidents very nearly without exception are, to varying degrees, liars and bullies. It goes with the job. Lying and bullying with nicely creased pants is still lying and bullying nonetheless. Like it or not promotion of a democratizing global order is facilitated by American military and economic strength and nothing promotes America’s military strength quite so much as its sparing use. When used it must be decisive.

Even more important we cannot maintain American economic strength without an industrial base and a revised relationship between the returns to capital and the returns to labor. Unsightly as industrial production is, we must make and build more of what we consume. The vision that so many of our elites seem to have of a park-like America with themselves in the role of the eloi and the Chinese, South Koreans, and much of the rest of the world cast as Morlocks ignores that in The Time Machine the Morlocks were the masters and the eloi cattle. That is what comes of watching movies rather than reading the books they’re based on.

I think that the world is less democratic than it was in 2012 and any globalization of democracy has declined, a victim of promiscuous use of American military strength and the decline of America’s economy and society. Government-furnished health care and higher education will not correct either of those.

12 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    Over 25 years since the end of the Cold War and the internationalists are still singing the same tune, blind to history and the effects of their policies.

  • Apparently, they believe that their beliefs are so transcendently wonderful that if enough force is used they will be universally accepted.

    As if the constant warmaking were not enough, they also fail to recognize how much attention is needed at home and that the costs will come out of their hides.

  • Ben Wolf Link

    It’s a kind of narcissism. When Friedman talks about a democratizing order he means a system which increasingly reflects and caters to his tastes and benefit. If others object they are “disruptors of the rules-based liberal world order.”

  • steve Link

    ” The vision that so many of our elites seem to have of a park-like America ”

    I have never seen anyone articulate such a vision and I doubt anyone believes it. I suspect if you asked them they would like to have industry come back here. The issue is money. Corporations have made tons of money by taking those jobs overseas. We dont tax it if they earn it somewhere else, only if they bring it back, and the corporations know if they just wait they will be able to place someone in power who will make sure they dont even have to do that.

    Note that the same class running our corporations have been the driving force behind bringing in illegal immigrants so they can have cheaper labor, replicating (partially) the effect of moving companies overseas.

    As long as there is so much money to be made by taking industry away from the US, and as long as that money can be funneled to the politicians, media and think tanks who support it, we aren’t going to change it. (Of course now we are bypassing the step where the wealthy corporate people channel money to politicians and we just have them running directly for office.)

    Libya? Meh. They were at the start of a civil war. Probably ended up the same place. Better if we stayed out? Sure. Syria? The neocons wanted to invade the place. What do you think we would have done if McCain was POTUS? Romney? We are just too eager to go to war.


  • Gray Shambler Link

    Is the U,S. a Democracy or a Republic? Why do our leaders want to remake other countries into Democracies when we know it won’t work here? Look at our polarized Democracy and ask if that would be a good thing for a country 51% Shia and 49% Sunni with both groups believing the other should be dead. Do it in Rwanda. You think politics is a blood sport here. People ask how Trump can shake hands and talk nice to Kim Jong un. How about because he’s in charge in North Korea, like it or not, shall we charge in there too?
    I’d say not.

  • I have never seen anyone articulate such a vision

    You have. You just don’t recognize that’s what it is. Just because something is not said in so many words does not mean it is not being said. Let me give you an example of how something can be implicit in a statement.

    If I say “I’m going to go from Chicago to Pittsburg” it is implicit that I will walk, bicycle, drive, take the bus, fly, etc. Just because I didn’t expressly say “I will walk, bicycle, drive, etc. from Chicago to Pittsburg” does not mean I have not implied it. It is as good as saying it. It is equivalent to saying it.

    Now I’ll give a specific relevant example. When environmental regulations are imposed on the production of rare earth metals that make them uneconomical to produce here, that is the equivalent of saying we don’t want to produce them here. If we say “we don’t want to produce coal in the U. S.”, that is the equivalent of saying “we don’t want to produce steel in the U. S.” and saying we don’t want to produce steel in the U. S. in turn implies we don’t want heavy industry in the U. S. And so on down the chain.

    Additionally, when China imposes 25% tariffs on U. S. manufactured goods (that’s been the case for many years) while we impose much lower tariffs on theirs and they provide substantial export subsidies for their manufacturers we are effectively saying that we don’t want to compete with China in those areas.

    In addition when you remove tariff barriers from manufactured goods but retain barriers on services through licensing, etc. that is in effect saying that we want to specialize in producing those services.

  • Guarneri Link

    “I have never seen anyone articulate such a vision and I doubt anyone believes it.”

    C’mon, steve. You know better than that. Don’t be a literalist pedant.

  • steve Link

    But no one really says we dont want to produce coal or steel. They say coal has huge externalities and we should factor those in, rather than blindly subsidize it. They say coal is a lot cheaper to mine out West, so why are we subsidizing it in the East. Then, who has ever actually said we dont want to produce steel here? No main stream person I can think of. As I have noted, we have set up our tax policy so that it favors making almost everything overseas, not just steel, but that was a response to corporate influence, not some vision of these mythical elites.

    Why haven’t we ever addressed those Chinese tariffs? Answer that. You seem to be making the case that it is because a bunch of elites somewhere want us to live off of Starbucks and Google. Dont buy it. I think it is much more likely because American businesses are afraid of losing access to Chinese markets. Look, they know if they open a branch in China they are going to have to give up all of the information on their production and research secrets. They go their anyway. Sure, they whine and want the US government to “Do Something” about it, but they still go. There is no grand vision here, just a relatively small but influential group of people making a lot of money off of our choices. As I noted, we see the same thing here with companies bringing in illegal workers to make money.

    Can we say that our elites ( not really sure who you are talking about to be honest) are guilty of not working to bring manufacturing back? Yes. Are they guilty of accepting money for letting corporations do this? Yes. Are they part of the group making the money off of this? Sometimes.


  • Ben Wolf Link


    Think about it. What do the top three thousand corporations gain from sending productive capacity to China?

    One thing is leverage to break unions, which they’ve done. Another is to crack down on manufacturing worker wage gains, reducing the inflation of the 1970s that was impacting their profits, particularly those of the financial sector. They get to push more and more costs onto workers while reducing and eliminating their benefits. They get more control ovwr society, as a desperate and indebted populace is less able to resist economic and political domination.

    There’s one other thing they get that no one talks about, a thing they could get only from China: 1.2 billion low-paid workers trained into obedience by a Communist regime.

  • walt moffett Link

    Remember Bishop Fulton Sheen explaining how the UN would lead to world peace, cooperation, etc thru the General Assembly and the judicious use of embargoes when the sweet light of reason failed. Some of his stuff on youtube and makes the rotation on EWTN.

  • Guarneri Link

    You guys have apparently not ever tried to manufacture in China. Its not a simplistic as you portray. Further, and more broadly, you refuse to acknowledge how the tax rate differentials affect decision making.

    As far as the icky industries. If you don’t understand how they have been chased off shore I don’t know what to tell you. Willful ignorance.

  • TarsTarkas Link

    ‘The vision that so many of our elites seem to have of a park-like America’

    I agree, and I consider myself an environmentalist (but a realistic one, as I’m also a businessman). An acronym for that vision is NIMBY.

    When you shove the hard and dirty work off onto someone else but continue to expect to reap the rewards of that work, you shouldn’t be surprised when the workers eventually decide to stop sharing those profits with you. And then you’re out of an income, if you’re lucky.

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