Saturday, March 23, 2013


As of the last few weeks I'm back among the gainfully employed, and am no longer calculating how many wooden spoons I'd have to carve each day to avoid homelessness.  One of the many perks of my new 1.5 hour commute time is the fact that I have an hour and a half to listen to audio books.

The first book I chose is a NY Times bestseller  -- Confessions of an Economic Hitman.  The author worked as an economic forecaster working for the Chas T. Main company - a defunct consulting and engineering firm on the order of Halliburton or Bechtel (made famous for their excellent support of our soldiers in Iraq or their excellent service to the citizens of Paraguay).

The author details his marching orders -- to provide wildly optimistic economic forecasts for various countries which would only come to pass if Main's engineering projects (typically financed by entities such as the World Bank or the IMF) were put into motion.  The leaders of whichever country they were working in were invariably sold on the projects with threats, bribery, or the knowledge of what happened to peers who refused such deals.

The country receiving the loans for these projects invariably defaults, while the engineering firms waddle home with pockets full of cash.   I don't know how they manage to get such projects financed so often, but I suspect they have good lobbyists.

Leaders who refused the terms of such projects invariably met with untimely deaths after being vilified as communist dictators or defamed in some way.  Panama's Omar Torrijos knew full well what the consequences of his refusal would be, and accurately predicted the means of his own assasination.  Ecuador's Jaime Roldós Aguilera met a similar fate, despite maintaining a second decoy aircraft whenever he traveled.   Between that, and our similar involvement in installing Augusto Pinochet in Chile (what's not to like about dismembering people in a soccer stadium?), or installing the Shah in Iran, our government has been up to quite a few things over the last few decades which some of us might not approve of.

Have you ever wondered why it is that as 5% of the world's population, we're able to consume roughly 25% of the world's energy resources?   This sort of activity on our behalf is exactly what has enabled it. Well... either that or the fact that Americans are infinitely better than the people of other countries.  As the keepers of the world's reserve currency, we don't even need to worry about countries that go delinquent on their loans.  We just print a little more, while strong-arming the countries and getting favors like votes in the UN.  Sounds like the mafia, eh?

So does this make Americans evil?   Much of the world seems to think so, because they see our actions in their countries rather than the propaganda you and I see on TV about places we've never been.  I guess it all depends on your definition of evil.   As Americans, we all know full well that evil people are driven by diabolical motives, perhaps with a touch of insanity.  You know... like Lex Luthor or Batman's Joker.   We're not like that, so we're not evil, right?

I'd suggest that the evil as it's presented to us by Hollywood doesn't really exist.  I've never met anyone even remotely resembling the Hollywood definition of evil.

True evil, as I see it, is comprised mostly of two traits.   Greed and indifference.  Greed is a pretty natural trait.   We've all felt it at one time or another.  Most of the time, however, our greed is tempered by social pressures, or simply the knowledge that acting on impulses of greed tends to have negative consequences that exceed any benefits.  Indifference is the key enabler to greed.  As a country, few are more indifferent than the US.  Our knowledge of foreign geography, cultures, and languages is among the worst of any country.  It's much easier to be indifferent towards people you don't know or understand.  

Are Americans evil?  My ancestors kept slaves in North Carolina.  Though I'm sure they never considered themselves evil, many would consider slavery an evil pursuit.  I regularly indulge in exorbitant quantities of energy (by historical if not by contemporary American standards), which I know full well leaves a world like this or this to future generations, including my own family.  I don't like to think of myself as evil though.  Would my descendants agree?

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