Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Year of the Dead Cat: Groucho Marxism and the End of Globalization

by Bernie Quigley for The Free Market News Network, 3/15/07

Beneath economy lies faith, within which lives the invisible world of shared myths and archetypes. It presents itself to the visible world not in language but in symbols. The move by Halliburton to Dubai is a major change in American symbolism. It is as if Mickey Mouse converted to Islam. Or, as we heard last week, Captain America died.

It could have eventual, long-term consequences for markets and bring on an "organic" world crisis (as opposed to one intentionally generated by Bush and his neocon friends in their drive for manly feelings). If so, it will be a crisis for which we are not only entirely unprepared for but have long been in denial of.

And it will require real and actual leadership. Like Eisenhower. Like Lee. Like George Washington. It will require the rise of First Team people and send Bush League and the current batch of Presidential Pretenders into remission. (But Ron Paul will enliven the debate and Mitt Romney and Wesley Clark are up to the task.)

This will be the year of the dead cat; Wall St.’s phrase for a market that falls, then appears to come back to life. And what we are seeing this week we will continue to see as the stock market goes up and down and up again and down again for the second time in ten years.

It is the end of globalization. It is the end of the globalization of capital and culture as well, as both are hooked up together.

Globalization was always an illusion. It was simply an extension of American influence in the world at a time in our history when we had influence. Globalization was an extension of Hamilton’s government-sponsored capitalism expanded across the world. In the post-war period, three people were responsible for its rise and fall: Reagan, Clinton and the Dark One, Dick Cheney.

Oddly enough, globalization seemed killed off intentionally by the Republicans once it was adopted by a group of Clinton Democrats in the early 1990s who were known at the time as the Democratic Leadership Council. The whole initiative was kind of odd. Where I grew up, we always considered the Republicans to be the capitalists. Then the Democrats started wanting to do it. And when that happened, the Republicans seemed disinterested.

There could be a syndrome here which might be called Groucho Marxism, from the line in the George S. Kaufman film “Horse Feathers” in which Groucho, as Professor Wagstaff sings, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” It is nature’s way: When one party adopts the other’s ideas, the first party will always drop the whole idea. Whatever it is.

I first heard of the end of globalization when John Ralston Saul, husband of Canada’s Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, made a few public comments on the new Bush administration. He made the point that when Bush signed on to the “preemptive doctrine” it bought an end to globalization and a return to the nation-state.

The Canadian press got a good laugh out of it (and they are very good at that), but I thought he was right. Because what disappeared when Bush came to office was the illusion that we Americans live in a world without walls and given the choice, everyone in the world would want to be just like us. Just like Bill and Hillary Clinton, that would be, as it was they and Vice President Al Gore, as agents of the DLC, who rode the new wave of capital from Wall St. to Beijing.

Then these new Republicans came along and changed all that. Once again the world had walls and increasingly, we were coming to be seen as the ones behind the walls.

We were at the turning point anyway. The Chinese and the Indians were about to gain all the cards and nothing could be done about it according to Adam Smith’s playbook. Certainly, they would not take second seat under Clinton, Bush or anyone else, once they became first in the world: It is no where in human nature to do so.

Enter Dick Cheney, the Republican Party’s answer to Sid Vicious. Cheney, like the medieval torturer in Kafka’s great story, “In the Penal Colony,” was born to play an end-game: He was always the panderer of the Old School, even when that era was passing on into oblivion. He was the panting and adoring provincial from the heartland, tagging-along with first-class Republicans like Ronald Reagan and gentry like George Bush the Elder.

But plain folk often misunderstand the royals. Cheney probably thought as we Boston Irish did growing up that all these Republicans ever cared about was oil and money and money and oil. And he could be good at that.

But what was odd about these new Bush, Jr. Republicans was that they did not seem to care about money any more. They cared about church. They passed the dirty work of oil and capital, and the tawdry issues of influence peddling with desert sheiks, over to Dick Cheney, President of Halliburton and all plugged in with the gnarly oil guys. Just as Jimmy Carter passed his peanut farm over to brother Billy when he went to Washington, D.C. You decide, Dick. Whatever. Of course, when President Carter went back to the farm four years later, there wasn’t much left.

The departure of Halliburton to Dubai brings into focus what globalization and "multi-national" implies. In the world of capitalism, America is not the shining city on the hill. Capitalism is an angel. It goes where it likes.

The failure of globalization could be a turning point for the “new Democrats" in opposition to the Clintons, Gore and the DLC Dems which sponsored "globalization" in the first place (as Zbigniew Brezinski points out in his new book). It should be the opening for Jim Webb Democrats as well as Libertarians. It should be viewed in the context of Webb's response to Bush’s recent State of the Union and Webb’s pithy observations on the Robber Barons of Wall St.

But irony upon irony, the strongest comments in opposition to the Halliburton move to Dubai are from the current DLC Presidential candidate Senator Clinton. And for once, she seems to speak freely.

"Does this mean they are going to quit paying taxes in America?” she asks. “They are going to take all the advantage of our country but not pay their fair share of taxes? They get a lot of government contracts - is this going to affect the investigations that are going on?”

Shocking news.

“I think it is disgraceful that American companies are more than happy to try to get no-bid contracts like Halliburton has and then turn around and say we are not going to stay with our Chief Executive Officer or the President of our company in the U.S. anymore.”

No duh!

“Well, I am proud to be an American and I am proud to be part of the greatest country in the world.”

Singer Lee Greenwood and Haggard the Venerable couldn’t have said it better, and The Hag don’t back no dogs.

Bill Clinton and the DLC sponsored and even invented the globalization of economy as we have come to understand it in the past 15 years. It is possible that Senator Clinton is entirely unaware of this.

Anyway, most of the big boys have already moved from New York and Texas to Singapore, Sri Lanka, whatever - avoiding taxes, environmental legislation, labor laws (as in child labor and slave labor) and all the finer points of civilization herewith. This commentary by Senator Clinton in almost comical, considering that it was the DLC which sent American capital and American sovereignty across the waters in the first place.

We have lived in two ages since Vietnam: The Age of Leadership and Excellence and the Age of Diversity and Globalization. The ages changed in an afternoon.

James A. Baker, when working as Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan, is said to have gotten so tired of hearing the expressing, “leadership and excellence” that he rigged the White House computers to fail when someone used the expression.

We love clichés: They bond us. But soon the Age of Leadership and Excellence would yield anyway to another. When the Age of Diversity and Globalization rose at the beginning of the Clinton period, it was difficult for a journalist to go an afternoon without hearing the phrase.

And there was the mad dash of new professions to use the phrase first in the new regime.

I remember calling the President of a junior college in Florida with a question at the beginning of the Age of Diversity and Globalization. As soon as I identified myself and said I wanted to ask about such and such, she said, “Diversity and globalization.”

I said, “I haven’t asked the question yet.”

Now the Age of Diversity and Globalization has ended. Time to change the buzz words again.