Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Good Plan?

Fareed Zakaria gave a fairly interesting interview to The Daily Show the other night. But through all the discussion of America's position in the international economy, and the growing challenges faced by the American worker, and the lack of coherent labor policy, and comparisons to German attitudes toward government, it was the joke shared between Zakaria and John Stewart that stuck out in my mind.

After Zakaria made reference to Silicon Valley being built in part by generous education policy and the influence of Lockheed Martin, Stewart broke in humorously, and this dialogue ensued:

Stewart: So you’re saying the key is education and war. If we can just keep starting world wars, and then keep doubling back down on GI bills, we could really have this thing worked out.

Zakaria: World wars are actually really useful; the small wars don’t help much. And then you’ve got to destroy the other competitors. See, that was the great thing about World War II: you flatten all of the other competitors, you’re left on top. Hey, this is the Stewart-Zakaria plan.

Stewart: I don’t know why no one’s running on that platform. American: We’ll flatten you… and then we’ll sell you what you need to rebuild.

Honestly, I hope that phrase gains traction - the Stewart-Zakaria plan. It is an excellent concept to have been raised by a popular humorist and a popular news personality who understands humor, because it has tremendous potential as satire.

Zakaria was joking around when he said what he did, but he was also telling the honest truth. The humor is just in the indelicate presentation. Few knowledgeable people would question the capital-forming effects of major wars, or the potential for buying, selling, trade, and construction that grows out of the years following them. But at the same time, no rational person would ever advocate for periodic war as an economic policy, no matter how effective it may be. Isn't there some tension between those two observations?

I expect that the economic potential of war is something that most people simply do not think much about. But it's worth thinking about. It says something about the very prominent dark side of our economic system. The viability of the Stewart-Zakaria plan is something that we need to either come to terms with or oppose. We need to decide whether we are content living within circumstances that prominently reward war, and if we are not, we need to consider what elements of the modern world are responsible for that situation. If we are not content with it, we need to be aware of that fact, aware of the dark side of the world economic system, and let that constant awareness drive us towards the breaking point that makes necessary the construction of another alternative.

Are you in favor of the Stewart-Zakaria plan? Would you tacitly welcome endless cycling of war if it meant taking turns with endless cycling of education and economic opportunities as well? In a sense, perhaps that is exactly what we have. Perhaps our economy is just a series of flourishing summers followed by bleak winters, with the only changing being a blurring of the sometimes stark lines between them. Are you content with that, or do you believe that another way of living is possible?

No comments: