Saturday, June 26, 2010

Toying with Isolationism

I’ve never considered myself an isolationist but I confess I’m toying with the idea.

A search of “Isolation, recession” turned up this, which seems extreme, but well worth reading. Here’s a bit of it for those of you not visiting Hal Licino’s site.

The Canadian-USA border is erased. The Mexican border is turned into the Berlin Wall.

All Military and Homeland Security forces are turned towards defending the continental perimeter.

Immigration is stopped. All visitors and tourists must obtain a visa and place a $50,000 bond, returnable only on their departure.

Based on a retroactive date, all citizens within that border are granted full North American citizenship, no questions asked.

On that same retroactive date, all citizens have title deed to whatever housing unit they resided. The North American government will hold a 50% 30 year mortgage and will enforce monthly payments at a fixed 2.5% annual rate.

A 250 percent tariff is set on every single imported product with absolutely no exceptions.
The gold reserves of North America are fixed to the common currency. A constitutional amendment forbids any change to this policy for 50 years.

Private banks are closed. Lending centers are set up where investors can pool their available funds. Interest cannot exceed 5% annually for any reason or any purpose.

All current taxes are eliminated. There is a 20% V.A.T. on the purchase of every item, no exceptions.

Interestingly, Licino, in making this immodest proposal, fails to mention the huge saving that would accrue to us by no longer being the “world’s cop on the beat.” More about money later, but imagine being able to redirect our military resources to productive, not destructive, investments.

Clearly Licino’s isolationist scenario raises more questions than it answers.

Just for starters, why eliminate the border with Canada and put up “A Berlin Wall” along the Mexican border? There are all kinds of nasty answers to this one. But, hey, I’m just asking?

And then what about that 20 percent across-the-board value-added tax and the elimination of all other taxes. So the person struggling to get by on $20,000 (if that in this economy) pays at the same tax rate as some Wall Street rip-off artist. This is a perverse form of equity.

The list of questions grows.

Remember, we are talking about economic isolationism too, not just a military hunkering down. Before we close the ports we might ask what natural resources are essential to our economy and how many of them come from abroad. Could we manage without such “essentials”? We might be surprised by the answer. Then again, we might not . . . .

Would adversary nations, previously held in check by our military might, immediately leap at each other’s throats? Consider North and South Korea, Israel and Iran (and Syria etc.), Pakistan and India, mainland China and Taiwan. The line forms on the right.

Then there are the internal rivalries we have tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to influence. The Sunnis and the Shiites, the tribes of Rwanda and Burundi, the clans of Sudan, and religious fundamentalists and the secular everywhere,

Questions, questions.

One idea I'd throw into the mix is this: While we are isolating ourselves economically, politically and militarily, we should vigorously reach out socially and culturally. Consider this a variation of the distinction between economic capital and social capital. We need to invest in, and trade in, social and cultural capital. In so doing we might find that our failed fixation on amassing economic capital has blinded us to our own human potential.

The world-wide web, which grows stronger and more influential by the nano-second, makes investment in social capital magnificently simple.

In short, life here is about people, a planet and survival — not money.


Consider the truth to that simple statement: “In short, life here is about people, a planet and survival — not money.” It has the whiff of cant.

Are we really in an either/or world? Can’t we pursue wealth AND still save our souls, ourselves and the planet.

Add the question to the list and see where the discussion takes us.

One thing is for sure. We need to break out of rigid, unquestioned assumptions about “national security,” “defending democracy,” “free trade” and “America’s role in the world.”

Some vested interests — the arms industry and Wall Street come to mind — want nothing to do with rethinking assumptions that have made them insanely rich at the expense others. But if you can overcome such greed (no small task, particularly because we are all infected with it to some degree), my guess is that the large majority of Americans, of every political stripe, would leap at the chance to explore where isolationism, in its considerable variations, might take us.

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