The Dual Goals of National Strategy are Survival and then Prosperity
In the many opinions people toss about on what the US should or should not do in the world, or what any country such as France, Israel, China or Russia should do to preserve and maintain itself, I must remind people that every country should consider its international efforts and relations with neighbors in view of survival and prosperity. The various strategies a small state, middle sized state, interior state, island nation, impoverished state and macro state should pursue for survival as underlying national policy I have gone over in my book on Kuan Tzu.
First, a country should act in order to preserve itself. This is called acting for survival. The island exporting nation Japan has different survival strategies than Israel, which uses strategies different from Ethiopia, China, France, Mexico or a Vanatu, India or Saudi Arabia. Each country must seek to maintain itself and influence other countries for its own interests, which they all do though in means helpful or detrimental to their long term interests. All nations do this; Britain was a past champion of being able to influence and intervene (some would say interfere) in nations for its own interests of maintaining Empire. The question to be asked by strategist is "how will these actions threaten my survival in the short run or long run? Will they possibly threaten our survival through direct or indirect consequences, in the short run or long run, as we are most prone to simplistic straight line thinking and need to broaden our horizons. Is this the BEST strategy for our survival ?"
Frankly, the US in recent years has done a terrible job at examining these questions because many of its geo-political actions and interventions have backfired, and if institued with long term survival in mind, show a nation that has imperiled itself rather than strengthened itself.
If survival is not an issue, the country’s leaders must consider whether its actions will, in both the short run and long run, buttress or weaken its current and future prosperity. The underlying goal is called "maintaining a state of auspiciousness" and is most often achieved by a achieving a balancing of forces (a "golden mean" so to speak) in moderation over a prolonged period of time. In neither economic nor military nor social spheres should you let the nation progress to an extreme. "hubris" — the great error of the Persian Empire — should not be allowed.
In other words, statesmen should ask "will the actions we take or are currently permitting further our goal of ascension in the world, or weaken it through direct or indirect consequences?" There is definite blowback, or cause and effect, for every action taken, and we must consider the full scope, measure and width of blowback consequences to our hopeful march forward. Obviously this has not been done.
What must not be done is let corporations, which are purely money seeking ventures, call the shots or influence the shots with preponderance. Corporations, for profit, will readily gut a country without a second thought, and only wise legislation can prevent this. Furthermore, they often profit from wars, which are then seen as desired vehicles of profit for their goods and services, which provides an underlying motivation for them not to make influential moves that would help pace the way for peace and stability in troubled times. Wars are the biggest stimulators of consumption, but no populace benefits by them. Only the powerful at the head of strong banking and defense interests really benefit from military ventures that destroy property, lives and socieities. History has shown this over and over again…countless books commenting upon this have been written.
In capitalism, consumption is driven by advertising to stoke demand, consumer debt to make it possible, and war to make it necessary. Presently America has reached the limits of the capabilities of debt to stimulate production and consumption. Consumerism, or the stoking of demand by advertising and a materialistic ethos, does not have an unlimited lifespan just as capitalism does not have a guaranteed ticket to ever increasing returns (profits increasing quarter by quarter) unless new markets are constantly opened and resources made available, sometimes by force if necessary. Such is the hidden basis of capitalism’s history, whether spoken of openly or not. The inherent idea is that there must always be growth, but in actuality, the economic models do not rule out a zero growth or low growth environment, which is something that might have to be considered in the next fifty years as even China and the other former Communist regimes reach saturation. As it is, in most developed countries the consumer markets are replacement markets (eevryone has a car, tv, telephone), except for innovations.
When a government falls into the hands of large profit seeking interests or listens to them too much, thinking their interests are what is best for the people, it makes a big mistake and yet we have drifted into this teritory over the last 30 years because of PACS and the merging of economic thinking by the Democratic and Republican parties. Corporations are not synonomous with the economy, yet they are readily identified by politicians seeking election donations whereas the great mass of the public is not usually turned into an identifiable voice with a single cash wallet. As a sage once said, "the best bank is to store money amongst the people," not the corporations, yet the rise of electorial politics has caused us to forget this thinking that the benefit of the corporations, and not the working people is what matters. It is too bad that our statesmen do not read economist Michael Hudson who often paints a clear pictue of where we are.
Consider that if one is guided by profits alone, what actions would not be undertaken to further gain? Humanity, ethics, society, culture all go out the window in pursuit of the almighty dollar and profit. That is why I often bring up the commentary by the Grand Historian of China when reading Mencius:
As the Grand Historian was reading Mencius, he unconsciously put the book down and sighed when he came to the place where King Hui of Liang asked Mencius, ‘How will you profit my country?’ The historian said, ‘Ah, profit is truly the beginning of disorder. That is why Confucius seldom spoke of profit, always shoring up the source.’ The source is the beginning. Whether it is found among the upper classes or the lower classes, the degeneracy of lust for profit is basically the same. When those in public office profit unfairly, then the law is disordered. When those in the private sector profit by deception, then business is disordered. When business is disorderly, people are contentious and dissatisfied; when law is disorderly, the citizenry is resentful and disobedient. This is how people get to be so rebellious and belligerent that they don’t care if they die. Is this not a demonstration of how, ‘Profit is truly the beginning of disorder’? The sages and saints were deeply cautious and aloof from profit, giving honor and precedence to humanity and justice. But in later times there were still those who deceived each other in hopes of profit; what limit is there to those who destroy morality and ruin education? How much the more serious is the problem when the path of adventurous profiteering is publicly espoused and pursued; under these conditions, how could we hope for the world’s morals and customs to be upright, and not be thin and weak?
The Story of Chinese Zen, by Nan Huai-Chin, (Charles E. Tuttle Company, Vermont, 1985), p. 205-206.
What is the passage Szuma Chien is referring to? It is from the very opening of the book of Mencius, which starts out with a conversation between Mencius and the King Hui of Liang, who said,
‘Sir, … You have come all this distance, thinking nothing of a thousand li. You must surely have some way of profiting my state?’
’Your majesty,’ answered Mencius, ‘What is the point of mentioning the word "profit"? All that matters is that there should be benevolence and rightness. If Your Majesty says, "How can I profit my state?" and the Counselors say, "How can I profit my family?" and the Gentlemen and Commoners say, "How can I profit my person?" then those above and those below will be trying to profit at the expense of one another and the state will be imperiled. When regicide is committed in a state of ten thousand chariots, it is certain to be by a vassal with a thousand chariots, and when it is committed in a state of a thousand chariots, it is certain to be by a vassal with a hundred chariots. A share of a thousand in ten thousand or a hundred in a thousand is by no means insignificant, yet if profit is put before rightness, there is no satisfaction short of total usurpation. No benevolent man ever abandons his parents, and no dutiful man ever puts his prince last. Perhaps you will now endorse what I have said, "All that matters is that there should be benevolence and rightness. What is the point of mentioning the word ‘profit’?"’
Mencius, Volume One, transl. by D. C. Lau, (The Chinese University Press, Hong Kong, 1984), p. 3
These are things you should consider when you examine the world trend of events today and try to decipher who is pulling the strings, or pulling for outcomes in certain directions. In the last 60 years a certain style of capitalism and world economic system has developed, but the system has reached a turning point that marks its end and a new one is slowly developing. But what will its shape be?
I recall several small quotes from Understanding This Chinese Generation that touch the periphery of these issues but enough to make their review worthwhile:
Throughout the cultural history of mankind our conceptions of morality have been governed by the religious principles of sin and retribution; from this our educational norms and modes of thought have taken shape, maintaining the social order for the last three millennium. With the rise of the modern culture of materialism and the consequent rapid development of commerce and industry, our view of morality has gradually fallen victim to an ideology of economic valuation that attaches a price tag to all things.
This is how danger is transformed into security, and the nation’s fears are put to rest. National salvation follows from the application of talent and wisdom, and the cultivation of talent and wisdom is the windmill which harnesses the “kinetic energy” of the winds of profound thought and learning. Based on the concepts of “rethinking the old to understand the new” and “examining the past to master the future,” we must map the recent historical evolution of our present approach to national salvation. With this in hand, the causes and effects of the complex confusion before us will be revealed and we can begin to understand how to productively direct our efforts in the perilous days ahead.
Today, universal education and the boundaries of knowledge grow with each passing day at a rate unheard of more than thirty years ago. Yet, the dedication and spiritual “zeal” of our youth to the ideals of the “movement for national renaissance” cannot compare to that of the generation before them. As we pattern ourselves on the advances of material civilization, we trade in our inhibitions and self-control for the good life, seeking refuge in its promised future of comfort and security. Blindly pursuing the development of commerce and industry, each frantic moment of our precious time is devoted to the attainment of wealth, even as our love of learning and self-realization become impoverished. As a result, we have fostered a social milieu that slavishly stresses the potential of the natural sciences, but treats the exploration of humanist thought as a profligate squandering of time. We continue to avert our eyes from the tragic future certain to result from the grotesque juggernaut of natural science as it feeds off the remains of humanist culture, like a “parasite in the belly of a lion, consuming its mighty host.”
If we truly desire to chart a new ideological course for the nation and the world, we must first come to terms with the struggles of modern life and the realization that they are the symptoms of a cultural war. Whether we look to the regions of communist control or the Free World, the industrially advanced First World or the underdeveloped Third World, as in the past we remain lost between the goals of spiritual realization and the necessities of practical existence. In other words, our frustrations are a product of the competition between man’s quest for economic equality in the face of scarcity and his search for spiritual rebirth and peace of mind. In our struggle, two preliminary issues emerge: the unabashed borrowing of capitalist economic devices by modern communism, and our own wrongheaded worship at the altar of materialism. Therefore, other than the current focus of modern youth on learning the skills necessary for everyday life and the struggle for national renaissance, there are two important topics that urgently need to be addressed by the best of this generation:
1. How to shape a new economic philosophy for the benefit of mankind
2. How to synergistically unite and harmonize the cultures of materialism and spirituality.
In the process of working towards this goal, we must proceed with the understanding that our endeavor is an outgrowth of the humanist ideal and a challenge worthy of the best among us, requiring deep reflection, a love of learning, and an inductive approach. Our task is not one of hasty plans and hurried work. While it may be true that there is an ocean of difference between our quixotic goals and the reality of the world around us, “diligent study ultimately leads to success.” Applying this wisdom to the honorable pursuit of humanist ideals will lead us to the inner realm of self-understanding. If, however, we limit our strategies to the goals of personal success and the necessities of individual life, then the historic opportunities now within our reach will be lost. We must seize our present situation and exchange it for an everlasting reality, grab hold of our individuality and transform it into an historical destiny. If we do see to it that these notions take on a renewed sense of worth in the minds of our young, we run the risk of becoming the laughingstock of future generations as we leave a legacy of blank pages to the next sixty years of scholarship.