One of the great American ironies is the fierce dedication and support that self-described adversaries of socialism have for our most predominate socialist systems.
Indications of this dedication and support appear in the traffic streams of bumper stickers as tributes to various “thin lines” that protect the people from all the dangers that threaten them. A blue line representing the police, a red line representing the firefighters, yellow for dispatchers, search and rescue, green for the border patrol and/or the military.
Naturally, the first image that comes to mind are the men and women that risk their lives to serve that purpose, not so much the systems that provide the means to do it.
But the fact remains… The systems that provide the means are a big part of what makes the lines work and they are almost entirely socialist systems.
As always, the reason for a socialist solution can be explained simply by looking at the capitalist bottom line… There’s really no profit in safeguarding the people from the dangers that threaten them. If a working mother struggling to pay rent is under assault, who is going to pay the police to protect her? If a retired couple living of an anemic retirement account find themselves engulfed in flames, who is going to pay the fire fighters to rescue them? Just try drawing up a business plan for any of that. Capitalism is great for consumer markets but there’s a good reason why emergences in America have been handled by socialist systems for over a century now.
So as the 2020 elections draw near and the Trump campaign starts using socialism as a derogatory term to criticize his opponents and invoke a Pavlov response at his rallies, it may be worth remembering how much of what keeps America safe ARE in fact the very successful socialist systems that we’ve been depending on for generations.
A fundamental basis of capitalism is that it’s balanced on the dollar which is naturally reconciled with basic numbers. But humanity is far more complicated and there is nothing natural about reducing it to numbers. Humanity requires judgment. So as long as capitalism drives everything to the ends, conflicts with humanity can only be expected. Socialism, which is balanced on judgment, might seem like a far better idea but is plagued with the problem that people, though capable of judgment, often suck at it.
My last entry was a slam on Wall Street journalist Holman Jenkins for whining about how Airbus gets help from the governments of countries in which Airbus designs, builds and employs. My point was simple, Airbus and the Europeans have a symbiotic relationship that obviously works well for them. It seemed Holman was crying like a baby because he thought Airbus had an unfair advantage over Boeing. But let’s stop crying for a moment and look at what Boeing is doing… it’s not a dismal story. The big news for Boeing is the new 787. This design is breaking all kinds of barriers that leads to the most environmentally safe aircraft ever. The advanced engine design, new composite materials and aerodynamics all come together to provide a 20% increase in fuel efficiency and a projected 10% decrease in operating cost. The aircraft will also be quieter while emissions such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide have decreased significantly. I travel all too often, so what I also consider great news is the effort Boeing is making to provide a better experience for passengers, including bigger windows, better acoustics, wider seats, wider isles, bigger overhead bins… The list goes on. It’s all good. I can’t wait for airlines to start replacing those awful 737’s with these babies.
So forget those stuffy Wall Street belligerents that can’t see past their politics… Who cares if Airbus gets government help? Boeing seems to be doing just fine – in fact that European tax money that flowed through Airbus and into the European sub-contracts for research and development may have turned into a benefit for Boeing anyway. Rolls-Royce in England for example, who makes the engines for the A380 is working with GE to develop the revolutionary engines for the 787 while Dassault in France provides the cutting-edge digital modeling systems for the super-computers that allow Boeing to break so many engineering barriers, even right down to the British pumps and values and French wiring the 787 is truly a global effort. It seems American and European engineers are working hand in hand to build the machines of the 21st century, the whiny bean counters in Wall Street just got to get over their stupid hang-ups.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Holman Jenkins expressed in the Feb 9, 2005 issue of the Wall Street Journal an opinion about Airbus that I’ve been noticing a lot lately. It seems the roll out of the new A380 double-decker jumbo jet has many anti-Europeans all tied up in a knot. Jenkins sets the mood of his temper tantrum by asking the question… “What has Europe got for $15 billion in taxpayer handouts over three decades, besides a fetish object that politicians can fawn over to distract attention from their economic failures?” It seems that answer
|is fairly obvious… a larger sales value than any other commercial aircraft manufacturer in the world, including Boeing. Not that Jenkins was really asking for an answer, he quickly dismisses the question and rolls into what he calls “today’s topical question”… “Are Airbus executives – who have the potential to be world-class, even if their home economies aren’t – out of their minds?” But even this question seems to be more of a rhetorical stab than anything else, maybe he just needed to vent a little bit before getting down to the nuts and bolts of his actual problem.
Yes, that’s right… HIS problem. The contents of his compliant form reveals the real nature of what he has to say. In simple words, he is miffed that Airbus is relying on government subsidies. But how is that a problem for Airbus? And since most of the Europeans don’t seem to mind paying for it then how is that a problem for them? In general, Europeans take more vacations overseas than American do, maybe they actually like the idea of Airbus rolling out a luxurious aircraft for the ride, maybe there is some value in the pride they have in such trophies of European engineering. That may seem like a hard concept to wrap our pragmatic American minds around but think for a moment about how our tune changes when we see the Thunderbirds ripping through the skies above the football stadium in their F-16’s. We don’t seem to have a problem spending our taxes on military contracts do we? Oh, that’s different, I know. The military expenses are keeping the world safe… It’s always different. I don’t need to argue the differences between what people think is important to spend money on, my point is simple… people are willing to spend taxes on what they think is important to them, and if we were less than hypocritical, we would understand that freedom includes the right for people to make that decision for themselves. But ironically, the Bush administration,
||so-called champions of democracy, can’t seem to accept this. Right now they are demanding a roll-back of a 1992 agreement that tolerates government subsidies as long as they are limited to 33% of the launch cost of a new aircraft. So much for free-will. Jenkins wraps up his gripe-session with the challenge that Airbus executives
should “show some class” by spurning further direct handouts in competition with Boeing. He says… “it’s the disciplined way to run a business that deserves the confidence of investors.” I guess he thinks that private capital is the only respectable way to get funded. That doesn’t say much for our military contractors. And really, if you think about it, it’s a sad world that relies on private capital for everything anyway, because private capital takes the wonders of science and engineering away from the realms of human capacity and ties it down to the servitude of bean-counters.