Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

PepsiCo President Poops in the Punchbowl

Indra Nooyi is President & Chief Financial Officer for PepsiCo, and lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. She thinks the United States is the cause of most of the trouble in the world, and that the entire world thinks we stink. She also thinks we don't care what the world thinks, and that's somehow wrong. That's at least what she said at a commencement program she spoke at to graduating MBAs at Columbia University. In this author's opinion, Indra Nooyi needs to be demoted to a position that will force her to travel to all those "other nations" that hate us so much, and really learn why the United States is envied, not hated throughout the world.

The "middle finger salute" isn't UNIVERSAL, but the places that don't use it, or at least don't understand it, can be counted on the same fingers Ms. Nooyi used to describe the world. Not only was it a poor choice of metaphors, but it also was poorly presented.

The majority of the nations in this world envy the people of this nation, and that envy is frequently converted into hatred of the United States. The reasons are numerous, but most boil down to two things: the undeniable individual freedom of the citizens of the United States, and their undeniable generally high standard of living compared to others. Neither were given to us by someone else: our freedom and our prosperity came from our own hard work, and a government that recognizes that individual prosperity is best achieved when government plays the smallest role possible in its citizens' daily lives.

As for Ms. Nooyi's "finger pointing", there are also some very telling generalizations and stereotyping in her remarks. Thanks to the US military, I've traveled extensively, including in Europe, North, South, and Central America, Australia, and Asia. I've also had the opportunity, because of my job, to view much of the world, and to study much of its history, economics, politics, society and culture. Perhaps Ms. Nooyi should do a bit more studying, and learn exactly why the cultures and societies of other nations are no match for the United States economically, materially, socially, politically, culturally, or personal productivity.

Africa is, indeed, the 'weak sister' of the world right now. It's not because of a lack of natural resources - Africa has perhaps the greatest supply of unexploited natural resources in the world. There are problems with extracting those resources, most of which are the result of government policies, rather than engineering problems. Government actions also limits external capitalization and investment. Most of Africa is governed by totalitarian, unelected, unrepresentative governments that enforce policies that limit economic growth and development, and impose poverty on the majority of its citizens. The personal behavior of many Africans also contributes to individual poverty, sickness, and death.

Not all of Africa is in bad shape. There are individual countries where things are quite livable, where there is a relative degree of individual freedom, industrial and agricultural productivity, and decent health care. At the same time, there is an excellent example of Africa's problems in the nation of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe could very well be the poster-child of African self-destruction. Before the election of President (for life) Mugabe, Zimbabwe had a thriving economy, personal freedom, decent education for all, and a working legal system that protected the rights of the individual. Today, Zimbabwe is on life-support, and failing. Cronyism, extortion, dictatorial one-party rule, eviscerate of private property laws, destruction of individual freedoms, and many, many other problems has reduced Zimbabwe to very close to the bottom of the heap. There isn't much in the way of a hopeful prognosis for the future.

The best analogy of Europe is that of an extended family, consisting of members at various stages in their lives. Some members are both old and sick, such as France and Germany. Others are old, but remain vigorous, such as some of the Scandinavian countries and Great Britain. Some are relatively healthy, while others have a deadly cancer or some other dreaded disease affecting them. Others are relatively young and robust, such as the newly-freed nations of Eastern Europe. Some engage in healthy lifestyles, while others flirt with fad diets, or pursue lifestyles that are definitely unhealthy, both for them and for their neighbors. Yet they're all members of the family. Some like one or all of the neighbors - Africa, Asia, North and South America, Australia - while others hate some, and feel smug and superior to others. Mostly, though, it's a family that has grown older and less capable of changing their lifestyle, even when it's killing them. There's a harridan trying to run everyone's lives in the family, and making so many outlandish rules that no human being could possibly obey them all.

Latin America and the Caribbean are object lessons in schizophrenia. The majority of the nations south of the US border have had at one time or another an elected government. Many still do. Yet the degree of personal freedom enjoyed by most of the citizens of Latin American nations is far below that of their northern neighbors. Most are ruled by an ancestral oligarchy that monopolizes the top of every power source - the judiciary, the government, the military, the Church, and most economic activity. There's still very much an underclass that lives in constant, unchanging poverty. Many nations have vast resources, but squander the income from them, or concentrate the wealth in only the hands of the uncrowned aristocracy. Nationalization of resources and industry, lack of private property guarantees, and little or no prospects for self-improvement guarantee the next generation will experience the same grinding poverty of the previous one.

Asia is a continent in transition. Many countries are under dictatorial governments that restrict personal freedom almost completely. Others are models of independent, freedom-loving, rights-guaranteeing, and prosperous nations. Others drift through the huge middle ground between these two extremes. Thanks to the United States, two nations (Afghanistan and Iraq) are making the transition to independent, freedom-loving nations that guarantee and support personal rights. India is moving more and more toward an ownership society and away from socialism. Some nations don't seem to know which way to try to go, and appear to be moving in circles, dizzy from the internal conflicts between freedom and security.

Rather than hate the United States, most nations of the world should instead try to understand what makes this nation a magnet for those who yearn for freedom, and try to emulate it. There is no reason for any nation to be awash in poverty. There is a clear blueprint for prosperity for all nations to examine, to choose what will work for them, and to implement a government and laws that will secure for them the freedom and success the United States has earned.

As Ronald Reagan said, the United States is "the bright city on the hill", offering light to all who would accept it. Dictators and tyrants, members of the ruling classes, whether their power is achieved through government, religion, economics, or culture, hate the light and hide from it. But only in the light can you see where the opportunities exist, for the people, and for the society. Ms. Nooyi gained her current position through opportunities she found here. She should not disparage or discourage others for searching for the same illumination, and equal success.


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