Individual Freedom Defeats Collective Identity Politics

The deadliest political scourge of the twentieth century is certainly the political project of socialism. Between Maoist China and the Stalinist Soviet Union, more than 100 million people died in the transition from democracy and capitalism to the false utopia of government-enforced equality.13 The more recent cultural revolution in China also killed millions.14 Today, we are witnessing, at a global and American level, a triumph of individual freedom. Individual human freedom is ascendant. The most spectacular contradictions to this trend include events like ISIS in Syria and Iraq. As horrific and despotic as this group is, the total death count from these atrocities is approximately 200,000 since 2011. The spectacle of the violence led the government of Syria to immediately ban iPhones from its Sovereign space. The fact that this was deemed a national government emergency points to the reality of how communication idealism is undermining the former world of the AK-47, where one could enact a political revolution and kill millions in the process without notice. The risk of being caught and “shot” by a cell phone jeopardizes the insular propaganda-seeking supremacist wherever they are in the world today.

In 1994, Rwanda bottomed out global life expectancy in the world with an average life expectancy of 25 years. Today, less than 25 years later, the average life expectancy is about 65. It is among the best on the continent of Africa and ten years better than neighbors such as Congo and Burundi. The determination of free and open societies can and do repeal the dangers and violence of human politics. Here in the USA, only one state (Michigan) has, since 2000, experienced a decline in human development measures such as life expectancy.15

One of the most vexing political dilemmas of the past 50 years has been all but solved by the deliberative model of American thinking: the energy crisis. Beginning in 1973, the dominant source of energy for the USA and the world—fossil fuels—came under the market control of an international cartel: the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC conspired to limit the supply of oil to global markets in order to blackmail oil-consuming nations such as Japan, the USA, Great Britain, and Germany to pay higher prices. The manipulation worked for decades. It was an important problem overshadowing Carter’s comments in 1979 about American cynicism. Oil prices have recently been as high as 100 dollars a barrel. American oil entrepreneurs in Texas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota came upon a radical, revolutionary model for extracting fossil fuels: fracking. Since 2010, the technology has revolutionized fossil fuel production and consumption. The technology made the USA the largest producer of fossil fuels by 2015. The economic arrangement of 1973 that transferred roughly one trillion dollars a year from the developed countries of the world into dangerous radical regimes such as Saudi

Arabia was reversed. Something Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush regularly railed against as a threat to America—energy dependence—became energy independence. Today American ships filled with natural gas sail toward Europe and threaten the military hegemony of Russia in places such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Poland. An open economic system free to deliberate about how to solve problems found a solution that seemed out of reach for nearly 50 years. Instead of billions of dollars leaving the USA, billions can pour into the USA and her North American partners in Canada and Mexico. The Scientific American recently published an article explaining the great good coming from this revolution:

The abundance caused by the revolutions will lead to hard to fathom changes in international political relations. We surmise that much of the oil importers’ urge for political intervention and control will dissipate as access to oil becomes less urgent. For instance, the heavy diplomatic and military presence of the US in the Middle East is likely to be questioned when the country’s dependence on oil from the region is further reduced.16

These dramatic changes are the by-product of sustained critical thinking and open arguments about how to best solve a pernicious problem such as energy dependence.

The dominant argument against this extraction is concern about the environment. With little notice, the USA is no longer the largest emitter of CO2 gases. China is number one. Our economy continues to grow, but since 2005 American CO2 emissions have declined—because of cheap fossil fuels. How is this possible? The super inexpensive price of natural gas is allowing a prudent economic choice that replaces coal plants with cleaner natural gas energy. Natural gas-based electricity is so cheap that it now threatens to bring manufacturing industries lost to China back to America. One of the dominant internal costs of manufacturing is energy. American engineering and deliberation has solved a huge human problem without the assistance of politicians. In fact, the Obama administration hired an EPA Czar to “crucify” the fossil fuel energy in Texas and surrounding regions. His goal of destroying fossil fuels was exposed. He resigned from his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) position in response to public outcry over his remarks.17

At the same time, federal spending remains one of the most vexing and inexorable problems of American political life. Recent years have witnessed annual deficits passing one trillion dollars for the first time in

American history. The total spending annually for the US federal government is well over three trillion dollars. The partisan gridlock suggests that there is no reasonable solution to the problem since Democrats want to increase spending and Republicans want to cut revenues. But here we again see how the recovery and renaissance may work as it has in the area of energy production.

The USA is currently experiencing the most rapid decline in US fiscal deficits in its history. This is in some part due to the incredibly high deficits run in 2009, 2010, and even 2011. But since that time, annual deficits have plunged by more than half. From 2010 to 2016, the annual deficit has fallen from over 1.5 trillion to 0.4 trillion dollars. This more than one- trillion-dollar drop places true fiscal responsibility within political reach. The primary obstruction is low economic growth. The cynical assumption that partisan bickering hurts America is actually not necessarily true. The immobilization of the largest corporation in the world—the US federal government—has freed individuals to pursue better material goals and for the government to consume less of those efforts because it cannot legislate that consumption as easily.

American media and pundits also tend to lose sight of another political reserve to our national system—federalism. The 50 states of the USA are each rather large, somewhat independent political entities that are greater than many sizeable European economies. Each state offers a form of political referendum on what political solutions are most workable. This political laboratory serves as a compass that can redirect the larger federal system. American voters have switched political control within the USA rather decisively from one party to the other. That rather large switch that began in 2010 and continues to the present has given Republicans the largest hold on local, state, and federal positions in more than 50 years. A study of the 50 states examines the fiscal realities emerging from their politics.18 All of the top ten fiscally positioned states are controlled by the Republicans. All of the top ten worst fiscally positioned states are controlled by the Democrats. This study looks at governor and legislative chamber control. States like Ohio have dramatically improved their fiscal position. The same switch in the federal legislative chambers arrested budget growth at the federal level beginning in 2010. Changes like this have happened every decade going back to the 1980s.19 The American model of federalism is decisive. As part of this study by Mercatus Center of George Mason University, Puerto Rico was added for the first time. They ranked last in every category of fiscal responsibility. Perhaps entering this study process and a closer orbit of American communication idealism will lift the semi-Sovereign Puerto Rico out of its present despair and desperation.

The potential power of the American economy is no mere domestic matter. As the largest economy and consumer community in the world, America sets the global agenda regarding economic needs. This century is witness to some of the most incredible leaps forward that would make Chairman Mao blush with envy for the capitalist conspiracy against poverty. America is fuelling an economic salvation that lifts 70 million people every year out of extreme poverty.20 In the past 20 years, more people have left poverty than at any time in human history. Explaining why has complex interweaving causes. The simplest and most direct cause is the massive 20-trillion-dollar annual economic activity of the US economy pressing 7-billion global inhabitants forward. Since 1990, the USA has been the largest economy for sending remittances back to dozens of countries around the world.21 Roughly half a trillion dollars in global remittances was sent abroad in 2015.22 The USA provides roughly 25 percent of all remittances from its economy as migrants send money home to families and communities around the world. This aspect of economic activity often dwarfs government aid or other forms of potential assistance. For example, the number one input to the Mexican economy is often the 20-25 billion dollars that flow from the USA to Mexico each year. This rivals the dominant economic force of oil that usually leads the prosperity of Mexico with almost 20 billion dollars in annual revenue. India took in 69 billion dollars in 2012 from the US economy by the way of remittances.23 That is almost 1000 times more than US foreign assistance for India per year.24 For more than 24 global economies, remittances make up the number one input to the economy. This is an important indicator that is the tip of a visible iceberg of assistance. The connections between the USA and the world provide a basis of movement to and from these countries when human assistance is needed. It also often provides educational enhancement and opportunity for nations abroad that can be advised and assisted by way of these millions of connections. As has long been true, the USA is the number one immigration target in the world. Globally, more than 100 million people want to leave their current international home and come to the USA. These immigrants have vast networks and connections back home that form the basis of relationships throughout the world. Information worlds represented by the cell phone make such an array of transactions possible that we know we are only able to observe a fraction of the benefits being exchanged. In this new communication-rich environment, the new ethic of communication idealism thrives. The US economy in its vast size enacts an ever more complex symbiotic relationship with tens of millions of individuals for which a powerful practice of enrichment is taking place both inside and outside our borders. America provides five times the level of remittances as other major economies like Great Britain or more than ten times the level of remittances from Russia. Both nations are major contributors to the global remittances economy. It may be one of the most important, yet largely unknown, positive forces of the new American global economy.

The good news globally driven by America is not simply economic. Death and human harm are in rapid retreat. Professor Stephen Pinker has confounded the news media with his elegant explanations of how empirically the world is becoming less violent. Deaths from rape, war, murder, genocide, and almost any manner of killing one might imaging are down. The data was dramatically displayed by the Guardian in September 2015.25 Strong long-term empirical data suggests that in all corners of the world, poverty, hunger, disease, killings, war, and genocide are all down. They are not down slightly. They are down dramatically.26 Specific snapshots help intensify our sense of why.

The continent of Africa is home to almost one billion of the world’s seven billion inhabitants. Roughly 53 nations make up the continent, and during the twentieth century, it was home to some of the most pernicious problems listed above—including the dramatic genocide in Rwanda in 1994. As noted previously in this chapter, Rwanda’s average life expectancy was 25. Today, the life expectancy is 65—dramatically higher than neighboring Burundi.27 Rwanda is now an innovator on the continent 20 years after genocide. It leads in a variety of economic, medical, and sociological measures. Liberia has a similar story. A military intervention by the USA in 2003 ended the dictatorial savagery of Charles Taylor led by individuals such as General “Butt Naked.” For Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone, life has become much better as signaled by dramatic and sharp rises in life expectancy since Taylor’s departure in 2003. That is no mere blip in reality. It connects with the larger picture of communicative idealism. If Taylor was still the dictator of Liberia when the Ebola virus broke out there ten years later, the potential catastrophe would have been much larger and far more deadly. The open-minded, Harvard educated, first female president in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, led the world toward the eventual containment and defeat of the dreaded Ebola virus. This is the new communicative idealism made possible because of the military invasion of the USA collaborating with a much larger and more indigenous force of Nigerian soldiers in 2003. Did the USA and the African Union get lucky in these two cases?

Bring your view back to the wider continent. Early in the twenty-first century, President Bush unleashed a controversial foreign-aid concept: PEPFAR—the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The dramatic increase of billions of dollars in aid for the continent of Africa was initially thought to be a wasted effort on an empirically destructive disease on the continent that was driving down life expectancy throughout those nations. The aid also provided money for reducing the risk of malaria— an equally deadly disease in Africa. Taken together, the AIDS relief and malaria relief have saved more lives than any government program in history. At the beginning of the century, nearly a million people a year died from malaria. Today, less than half a million die from that cause. AIDS- related deaths in Africa have been cut in half from a peak annual number of 1.5 million in 2004.28 The tens of millions of lives saved in Africa since the beginning of the twenty-first century are nearly incalculable. These lives are the direct result of deliberative foreign-aid choices made in the USA. Charts and graphs show dramatic twentieth century declines in average life expectancy across Africa and then suddenly and rapidly rebounding in the current century. The most damning consideration is that in the case of malaria, there is no reason for anyone to die from that disease today. It is well within the powers of political leaders inside and outside Africa to largely eradicate the deadly disease from the continent. This provides an expanse of hope for the future. With every life saved, there is one less orphan, one less damaged family, and far fewer recruits to the ranks of child soldiers that have, at times, decimated parts of Africa. The reversal of human fortunes on the continent of Africa is a profound intersection of the causality of communication idealism as rooted in America but reaching out to the world to encourage the abundance of human life.

 
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