Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

10 June 2019

The Quality of Her Mind


For an essay on Elizabeth Warren’s qualifications for the presidency, click here. For brief descriptions of and links to recent posts, click here. For an inverse-chronological list with links to all posts after January 23, 2017, click here. For a subject-matter index to posts before that date, click here.

I’ve spent virtually all of my several careers studying and applying laws—first the laws of physics, then the laws of men. I haven’t had much close interaction with business people, except as clients in law and consulting practices. Yet two points I heard from them while still a student have stuck in my mind to this day.

One day a business teacher came to our high-school class. He asked all who planned to go into business to raise their hands. Only a few did. Then he advised the rest of us to look at them closely, saying “You’ll be working for them.” Later, I think in college, another business guru advised, “If you don’t have a plan, you’ll be part of someone else’s.”

In essence, that’s where we are as a nation. Since our Marshall Plan at the end of World War II, we in the United States have had no real plan. Sure, we “contained” the Soviet Union. Sure, we pushed for the United Nations, nuclear disarmament, the reduction and elimination of tariffs, and freedom of trade. But all these things were not really plans of our own.

They were not plans for us. They were plans for others, for the world. They were based on abstract principles of economics that favored neutral, general rules for all.

They didn’t urge us to do anything but open our markets and get others to open theirs. They just assumed that we would win in any fair competition, because, after all, we’re Americans, and Americans are “exceptional.” So we thought as the last major power left standing—with our entire territory virtually intact—at the end of humankind’s most terrible war.

Our plan was to have no plan. We wanted every nation and people to be free to do whatever it pleased, unrestrained by threat of force or economic coercion.

Perhaps it was a utopian vision. Perhaps it was the acme of market economics. Perhaps it was an idle dream of which the “Chicago School” of laissez faire economists could be proud. But whatever it was, it wasn’t a plan of action to advance our own national success.

Fast forward through the immediate post-war and Cold War eras. What happened to us Americans? We continued to have no plan of our own. None at all. We believed that people, nations and economies thrive best without any plan, with all free to do what they will.

Soon this modern version of laissez faire capitalism began to deconstruct the regulatory state that FDR had built to restrain capitalism’s excesses, to protect labor from exploitation and poverty, and to create some semblance of economic equality. By 2008, it had eroded a key additional goal of FDR’s thinkers: to tamp down the treacherous boom-bust business cycle that had caused the Great Depression and similar financial crises virtually every generation since Colonial times, as regularly as a metronome.

As all astute observers now know, the deconstruction process started at least by Reagan’s presidency and is still going on, at full force. But we are all just beginning to understand another process that’s been going on concurrently. Having no national plan of our own, we became part of China’s plan.

It all started innocently. After our nuclear attacks, when he told his people to surrender, Japan’s Emperor was heard to remark that Japan had emphasized spirit too much, and science too little. At that time, Mao was busy conquering and pacifying a much larger country. But later, in peacetime, he, too, expressed his admiration for English and American medicine and technology. His own doctor, in his famous memoirs, recorded Mao’s admiration for posterity.

Both Japan and China understood that our nation’s supremacy in science and technology had been the source of our power and our victory in the Pacific. And both set out to duplicate them, each in its own way.

Japan used trade and joint ventures with American companies. Our pols were only too happy to oblige, seeing a modernized, re-industrialized Japan as a bulwark against the growing Communist menace.

By the 1980s, Japan had made such startling industrial progress as to have put all wartime devastation behind it. It threatened to displace our own auto industry from our own American markets. American business authors wrote a series of books bemoaning Japan’s success in our own markets and predicting a Japanese market-penetration apocalypse. But owing to an aging Japanese population and revived American innovation, that never quite came to pass.

China had to wait for Mao’s death. Mao was really China’s last emperor. He was a skilled general, but a terrible economist and peacetime leader. He had a lot of crazy ideas about how to run a modern economy, which held China back. But China’s plan took shape soon after Deng Xiaoping took over the Communist Party. Despite its anachronistic name, the Party jumped whole hog into state capitalism.

From the beginning, China’s plan had the simplicity of all great schemes. It used China’s vast markets, the hunger of its workers (and their consequent willingness to work under hard conditions and for low pay) to draw American factories and technology to China. American capitalists were the flies, and the big Chinese markets and low-paid workers were the honey.

That was pretty much it. It was a good plan, and it worked. It still does, as we Americans were and are slow to awaken.

In contrast, the United States had no plan at all, except to let its capitalists wax rich and build their empires. And so they did. They transferred American manufacturing and technology to China with alacrity and expedition. They did a superb job.

They did such a good job that China not only raised almost a billion people out of extreme poverty. Today China also challenges the United States in a number of fields of twenty-first-century technology, including solar panels, electric cars, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. And all because China had a plan and we did not.

That, dear readers, is how we got where we are today. The question is what we Americans do about it now. Do we continue being part of China’s plan, or do we make a plan of our own?

In the past, no one wanted any American plan. That sounded menacingly like “industrial policy,” which might restrict our own capitalists’ “freedom.” So we let our jobs and technology drain to China until our working middle class revolted and elected Donald Trump.

Now President Trump has a plan. His “plan” is to bully and threaten everyone, including China, Mexico, and our allies, and get them to make plans to set things right. (Apparently he’s never thought of hiring people smart enough to make a good plan of our own. He’s not a good listener anyway. He just wants to bully the folks whose own plans seem to have worked against us.)

Fortunately for humanity, Trump’s bullying plans don’t include war. He doesn’t seem to like war. He used his bone spurs to avoid serving. Like most bullies, he folds when challenged seriously.

So his threats are not bellicose, except fleetingly against Kim and Nicolás Maduro. The big risk is not that his plans will set the world aflame like Hitler’s, but that they just won’t work, or will backfire. Even Republicans are starting to understand how that could happen with big tariffs on Mexican goods.

So what we need, dear readers, is a good plan. We need one that will work—one that will create millions of good jobs here in America, that will propel American industry into the forefront of twenty-first-century technologies, including renewable energy, and keep it there.

We need a plan that will give our nation a viable, solid future in a very competitive world. We need a plan that will let us stop resting on our postwar laurels, stop pretending that the Internet is all of science and technology, and put our science, technology and industry back on a path to global competitiveness. We also need a plan that includes our own workers, so we don’t worsen our already terrible inequality and create a twenty-first-century class of serfs. We need to forge our clueless capitalists into a team, like the ones that even now are propelling China, Japan and Germany ahead of us in the race for twenty-first-century economic dominance.

There is only one candidate for president who has even the faintest understanding of the basic facts laid out in this essay. Fortunately for all the women who were disappointed last time, she’s a woman, too. She can see what has happened and how to fix it because of the quality of her mind.

Her name is Elizabeth Warren. She can do for us what the original Elizabeth, the First, did for Tudor England.

Just last week, she proposed a plan to resurrect our manufacturing and put us in the forefront of “green” technology and the battle against climate change—all at the same time. She’s way ahead of the others, not because she’s more “progressive” or more “left-wing,” but because she’s simply smarter.

She can think for herself and put the pieces together—all of them. She can make a viable plan on her own. And she doesn’t rely on fourth-rate “operatives” to tell her what to think or say.

Do you miss President Obama’s good character and his freedom from corruption and scandal? Warren offers the same benefits, and for much the same reasons. Both were professors before they went into politics. Whatever else professors may be, they are not grifters. And they don’t get tenure by lying, let alone habitually.

Although other Dem candidates were not professors, all have relatively good character, especially when compared to our current president. What distinguishes Warren is the quality of her mind. She has unique abilities: a deep knowledge of banking, economics and finance and uncanny skill in penetrating layers of obfuscation to make the complex simple, the rigged system clear, and the hidden scam plain.

The bosses, oligarchs and their operatives fear her for these skills, and rightly so. She neatly dodges their name-calling and crude categorizing, saying “I am a capitalist,” just as are most people in this country. But she understands that markets need rules against bullying and cheating. She knows precisely what rules they need and why. Her foes know she can show workers how to save markets and capitalism and our middle class, too, just like FDR.

So Warren is head and shoulders above the rest, with emphasis on her head. Yes, she’s a physically slight woman with a high-pitched voice. But we desperately need a plan of our own that works and someone who can carry it out and adapt it to exigencies. Only Warren shows clear signs of being able conceive a good plan, sell it to voters, and carry it to fruition against stiff self-interested opposition under ever-changing conditions.

Links to Popular Recent Posts

For analysis of the disastrous effect of our leaders’ failure to take personal responsibility, click here.
For brief comment on China’s Tiananmen Square Massacre and its significance for our species, click here.
For reasons why the Democratic House should pass a big infrastructure bill ASAP, click here.
For an analysis why Nancy Pelosi is right on impeachment, click here.
For an explanation how demagoguing the issue of abortion has ruined our national politics and brought us our two worst presidents, and how we could recover, click here.
For analysis of the Huawei Tech Block and its necessity for maintaining our innovative infrastructure, click here.
For ten reasons, besides global warming, to dump oil as a fuel for ground transportation, click here.
For discussion why we must cooperate with China and how we can compete successfully with China, click here.
For reasons why Trump’s haphazard trade war will not win the competition with China, click here.
For a deeper discussion of how badly we Americans have failed to plan our future, click here.
For an essay on Elizabeth Warren’s qualifications for the presidency, click here.
For comment on how not doing our jobs has brought us Americans low, click here.
To see how modern politics has come to resemble the Game of Thrones, click here.
For a discussion of the waste of energy and fossil fuels caused by unneeded long-range batteries in electric cars, click here.
For a discussion why Democrats should embrace the long campaign season and make no premature moves, click here.
For a discussion how Trump and Brexit have put the tree world into free fall, click here.
For a review of how our own American acts help create our president’s claimed “invasion” of Central American migrants, click here.
For a review of basic facts that must inform any type of universal health insurance, click here.
For a discussion of how the West’s fall and China’s rise affect the chances of our species’ survival, click here.
For a discussion of what the Mueller Report is and how its release could affect American politics, click here.
For a note on the Mueller Report as the beginning of a process, click here.
For comment on the special candidacies of Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg, click here.
For reasons why the twin 737 Max 8 disasters should inspire skepticism and caution with regard to potentially lethal uses of software and AI, click here.
For my message to Southwest Airlines on grounding the 737 Maxes, click here.
For an example of even the New York Times spewing propaganda, click here.
For means by which high-school teachers could help save American democracy, click here.
For a modern team of rivals that might comprise a dream Cabinet in 2021, click here.
For an analysis of the global decline of rules-based civilization, click here. For a brief note on avoiding health lobbying Armageddon, click here.
For analysis of how to save real news and America’s ability to see straight, click here.
For an update on how Zuckerberg scams advertisers, click here.
For analysis of how Facebook scams voters and society, click here.
For the consequences of Trump’s manufactured border emergency, click here.
For a brief note on Colin Kaepernick’s good work and settlement with the NFL, click here.
For an outline of universal health insurance without coercion, disruption of satisfactory private insurance, or a trace of “socialism,” click here.
For analysis of the Virginia blackface debacle, click here. For an update on how Twitter subverts politics, click here.
For analysis of women’s chances to take the presidency in 2020, click here.
For brief comment on Trump’s State of the Union Speech and Stacey Abrams’ response for the Dems, click here.
For reasons why the Huawei affair requires diplomacy, not criminal prosecution, click here. For how Speaker Pelosi has become a new sheriff in town, click here.
For how Trump’s misrule could kill your kids, click here.
For comment on MLK Day 2019 and the structural legacies of slavery, click here.
For reasons why the partial government shutdown helps Dems the longer it lasts, click here.
For a discussion of how our national openness hurts us and what we really need from China, click here.
For a brief explanation of how badly both Trump and his opposition are failing at “the art of the deal,” click here.
For a deep dive into how Apple tries to thwart Google’s capture of the web-browser market, click here.
For a review of Speaker Pelosi’s superb qualifications to lead the Democratic Party, click here.
For reasons why natural-gas and electric cars are essential to national security, click here.
For additional reasons, click here.
For the source of Facebook’s discontents and how to save democracy from it, click here.
For Democrats’ core values, click here.
The Last Adult is Leaving the White House. Who will Shut Off the Lights?
For how our two parties lost their souls, click here.
For the dire portent of Putin’s high-fiving the Saudi Crown Prince, click here.
For updated advice on how to drive on the Sun’s power alone, or without fossil fuels, click here.
For a 2018 Thanksgiving Message, click here.

Links to Posts since January 23, 2017

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