Framing the Dialogue

A New Global Authority

“There is urgent need (for) a true world political authority that can manage the global economy, guarantee the environment is protected, ensure world peace and bring about food security for the poor.”

This is a recent quote from a world leader.  I want you to guess who made the statement. 

  1. Barack Obama
  2. Ban Ki-moon (head of the U.N.)
  3. Warren Buffet (second richest man in the world)
  4. George Clooney
  5. Hu Jintao (leader of China)
  6. Fidel Castro

Barack Obama is not the answer, but he probably wishes that he said it and if there were a position for president of this organization, he would immediately start running for the position even though he has only been U.S. President for less than six months.  This is not without precedent as he was only a U.S. Senator for a year or so before running for president. 

Ban Ki-moon is not correct either.  Why would the United Nations want another organization to have more authority they do?  Another entity might also interfere with the money corrupt members of the U.N. “accumulate” for themselves as they did with the Oil for Food program.  What ever happened to the investigations of corruption in that program?  Get the U.S. out of the U.N. and get the U.N. out of the U.S.

Warren Buffet did not say it.  Warren is a capitalist with a dilemma.  He loves Obama and the left, but he understands capitalism and understands the problems with the global economy.  I cannot imagine that he would ever say such a thing, but he is no John Galt and would never speak truth to power to try and set the record straight.  Where is John Galt?

I know nothing about George Clooney except having watched him on E.R. and having seen some of his movies.  I do know that he is an outspoken liberal (is that redundant?) who probably believes in some sort of global governance.  I do, however, know that he did not make this statement.

You would think that the leader of the largest communist nation would be the owner of that quote, but Hu Jintao did not say it either.  The Chinese may quietly have become the most capitalist country on earth.  They still repress their citizens and kill opposition, but they have embraced capitalism as far as making money goes. 

That leaves the beloved Fidel Castro.  If you remember that I said the quote was recent that would leave out our buddy Fidel as he has most likely been dead for months.  He probably was not for global government.  He was just a plain old communist dictator with wonderful health care.  Someone should ask Mike Moore if anyone ever risked their life swimming/boating from Florida to Cuba?

The man who made this quote is a world leader, but many would consider his expertise to be more metaphysical even though he is the CEO of one of the largest organizations in the world.  Nothing in his bio, however, suggests that he has a strong background in economics.   So who is this leader?  If you anwered Pope Benedict XVI you would be right.  That is right; the Pope has weighed in on the global economic crisis and his answer seems to be that it was caused by a profit at all cost mentality.

The Vatican has released a paper on the issue titled “Caritas in veritate” (or Charity in Truth – I thought a little latin would give my web site some gravitas).  As I read through the document, I was struck by some of the catch phrases that generally trip my radar such as “justice,” “new solutions,”  “stakeholders,” and “the common good.”  I am not being paranoid as the document goes on to disparage “protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care.”

Another excerpt from Charity expresses a very disturbing line of thinking:

“one of the greatest risks for businesses is that they are almost exclusively answerable to their investors, thereby limiting their social value.”

It is, however, followed by:

“it is becoming increasingly rare for business enterprises to be in the hands of a stable director who feels responsible in the long term, not just the short term, for the life and the results of his company.”

I did experience this working in industry where it was commonplace to implement short-term fiscal policies in order to placate some large institutional investor.  Many of these decisions seemed to ignore long term consequences. 

Charity’s good stuff, however was followed by:

“outsourcing of production can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders — namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society — in favour of the shareholders.”

I am a firm believer in capitalism and free markets.  I am not sure that there are any truly free markets anymore, certainly not in the United States.  In a free market, any company that screws suppliers, mistreats its workers, provides an inferior product to consumers and harms the environment will not last long.  They will exist for a time, but cannot last.  A company’s responsibility should be to its shareholders.  Shareholders invest their capital in companies thereby allowing them to produce.  They take the risk, they deserve the reward.

What can be better for society than having competition for goods and services?  Free competition always brings prices down allowing more of us to afford a better standard of living.  The United States is the greatest example of innovation and wealth and has dragged the world forward.  These accomplishments and the framework from which they emerged MUST not be forgotten.  Read The 5000 Year Leap.   

His Excellency makes another good point with;

“Economic science tells us that structural insecurity generates anti-productive attitudes wasteful of human resources, inasmuch as workers tend to adapt passively to automatic mechanisms, rather than to release creativity. On this point too, there is a convergence between economic science and moral evaluation. Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.”

I believe that our economic recovery is being hindered, in large part, because of uncertainty.  How likely are you to build or expand your manufacturing facility when you do not know what the government is going to do?  Will you face higher taxes?  Will you be forced to unionize?  Will your energy costs increase?  How much government control will there be? 

Uncertainty kills business.

If you go back to the original quote, Pope Benedict XVI suggests that poorer nations be given a seat at the table to set global economic policy.  How does it make any sense to take economic advise from any nation that cannot prosper in today’s global economy?  That would be like having China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Contrast Japan and Africa as economic entities.  By all accounts, Japan is poor in raw materials, has minimal land available, and has a fairly small population.  Japan has one of the strongest economies in the world.  If you then look at Africa (I know that one is a country and the other is a continent) which has resources, yet is generally considered in need of vast amounts of aid.  It is difficult to document the amount of foreign aid that is given to African nations, but an estimate that I saw was $215 billion through 2005.  If you add another $10 billion for the next three years and consider the $35 billion debt release, that would set the aid at $280,000,000,000.

So why has this stimulus not worked?  There are complex answers, but none of them have to do with “greedy” corporations pursuing profits at all costs. 

“Give a man a fish; you fed him for one day.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”

My message to Pope Benedict XVI is that I accept and believe that there is a Creator, I would not, however, accept a band of misfits from the United Nations setting economic policy for the world.  I visualize the bar scene from Star Wars with the world’s dictators spreading the world’s weath and keeping the lion’s share for themselves.

Let us open markets and take another 5000 year leap.

I must confess (I am catholic, but I am not “confessing” in that way) that I did not read the whole “Charity in Truth” document.

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