Brute force does not work - The Daily Reckoning
The Daily Reckoning by Bill Bonner
On This Day - 13 September 2013
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Baltimore, Maryland

Call us traitors. Accuse us of treason. Say we're quislings and 5th columnists.

But don't forget to mention: we're also right!

Yes, today we stand shoulder to shoulder with Obama's arch-rival Vladimir Putin.

We'll come back to this in a moment...first, let's check the latest market moves.

The Dow eased off yesterday. But gold got whacked...whacked!...for a $33 loss. If gold were really in a bull market (as we think it is) it is doing a very good job of keeping it quiet.

Why did gold sell off so much? Maybe it is because of Vladimir Putin.

Yes, dear reader, when we thought we'd seen everything, along comes a column from none other than the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Putin took the extraordinary action of writing directly to the American people through the medium of the New York Times, warning the US not to do something stupid.

Here's the key point of Mr. Putin's comments:

    It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America's long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan "you're either with us or against us."

    But force has proved ineffective and pointless.
Ineffective and pointless?

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Here, dear reader, we will let you in on the deepest insight we have ever had. It is so profound we need a flashlight to find it in the darkest spaces of inner earth...and then, we stop dead in our tracks...our mouth wide open...in admiration and silent awe.

We started thinking about it years ago...as we pondered why and how our financial system had gotten so rotten and so corrupt.

No kidding. Today's financial system...and today's US foreign policy are both reacting to the same sour perversion.

You're probably reeling. We are. It is what happens when you find a piece of the puzzle and are finally able to put it in place.

Roughly 5,000 years ago, mankind made a giant leap forward, from barbarity to civilization. This was a big change. It allowed people to 1) live together even if they didn't especially trust or like each other...2) truck with other people they didn't know...

Pre-civilized people had no prohibition on killing one another. Sometimes, they ate each other too. And they had a hard time doing business with one another; first, because they were almost trying to kill each other...and second, because they had no easy way to work out an exchange.

Then, along with sedentary agriculture and far-ranging commerce came new rules: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Otherwise known as the Law of Reciprocity, it is the underlying rule governing human affairs.

"You don't kill me...and I won't kill you."

"You don't steal my stuff and I won't steal your stuff."

Simple enough. It is also why Vladimir Putin is right. Brute force doesn't work. Because it breaks the fundamental rule of civilized foreign policy:

"You don't invade my country and I won't invade yours."

The rule is often broken. But rarely with happy consequences. "Live by the sword; die by the sword," says the Bible.

More important, brute force doesn't take you where you want to go. Except for self-protection, brute force doesn't work in any aspect of life.

Which brings us to the Fed and the dollar.

The other major breakthrough of 5,000 years ago was the introduction of a new kind of money. This was money you could trust. Not a promise by someone to give you his wife's sister. Not a threat against him and his family. Not a credit against next year's hunt...or the hope that his tribe will come to your aid if you are attacked by a third tribe.

No, this new 'money' was something different. It was something you could count on. It made it easy to settle a transaction right on the spot. No need to remember who owed what to whom. No need to speak the same language or worship the same gods. This new 'money' was worth something in itself.

This new money was gold.

Gold helped cooperation triumph over brute force. With it, you could bargain for goods and services, rather than insist on them. You didn't have to take your neighbor's wheat field, by force, to feed your family...you could buy his wheat. You didn't have to drag off his daughter either; you could pay for her too.

Force doesn't work in human affairs, because it doesn't bring people what they really want. Force doesn't give you a 'win-win' trade. Instead, force sets up a win-lose transaction. A man robs a liquor store...he has booze, but the liquor store window is broken and its insurance rates go up. The world is poorer as a result.

Force rarely works in domestic affairs either. A woman coerced is rarely a happy woman. And an unhappy woman rarely makes a man happy for very long.

Nor does force work in an economy. When the Fed forces interest rates down, it is driving buyers and sellers to do something that they otherwise would not do. It is exercising brute force on markets.

Does it work? Ask any jackass who has ever tried price controls or centralized economic planning. The answer is: NO.

Why doesn't it work? For the same reason attacking Syria doesn't work. Brute force is primitive and barbaric. It brings the attacker, the rapist, the price controller and the central banker a momentary satisfaction and celebrity. But it is a losing proposition. People don't get what they really want; they get what someone else wants them to have. And since all value is measured by what people really want and freely choose, it makes the world poorer.

Why would the US do things that make the world worse off?

Dear reader, where have you been? It's got nothing to do with liberal or conservative, hawk or dove, democrat or conservative, Bush or Obama. And it's not because we are dumber than we used to be, either.

Instead, thinking people - both of them - are beginning to realize that we're right about this too. America is a victim of creeping zombieism. Economists at the Fed force down interest rates to support zombies everywhere - from Wall Street to Skid Row. Low rates also help make more money available to the zombies who are besieging the Pentagon.

Here's columnist Leon Hadar:
    Why 'This Town' Loves Going to War

    There is nothing new about the notion of political corruption in Washington. What is new-and actually quite astounding-is how big, how ugly, and, yes, how outright corrupt it has all become, especially when it comes to the amount of money passed between politicians and lobbyists every day. What was once done behind closed doors, thanks to a sense of shame, is now regarded as legitimate, if not respectable.

    ...an "insular Beltway elite" has been driving the push for military intervention in Syria at a time when public opinion polls make it clear that a large majority of Americans are opposed.

    Think about the ways our involvement in the Middle East and the so-called war on terror has helped advance the careers of government officials through bigger budgets, new departments, and more exposure and influence. Not to mention how these crises have enriched outside contractors and businesses, sent war correspondents to new assignments, and opened new avenues for TV face time and think-tank fellowships for the experts.

    Let's not forget the huge advances policymakers and their aides receive to write their memoirs describing how they saved America, Western civilization, and the world, and how such high-stress experience qualifies them for corporate boards and speaking engagements at all the best investment banks.

    The good news is that even if you actually messed things up by leading us into a disastrous war in Iraq, or wrote columns predicting that said war would be a great success, your friends in this town have a tendency to forgive and forget. Don't worry. You'll still receive those big consulting contracts, be invited to appear as an analyst on cable news shows, or get to write columns for our leading newspapers. Someone else will pay for the mistakes you made in Iraq, and those you're trying to make in Syria.

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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3 Responses to "Brute force does not work"

Ramanathan

Sep 13, 2013

An excellent article with profound meaning. It did answer some of the queries that were burning in my mind for long time. Well done to the author for this articulation of a hidden truth.

Like 

Nazim

Sep 13, 2013

Wow
What an article. Right to the point. Hope ...an "insular Beltway elite" may also read this and may be just may be some grey cells in him start working at least once.

Like 

LOVEPAREEK

Sep 13, 2013

I FAIL TO FIND WORDS TO EXPRESS MY ADMIRATION N GRATITUDE FOR THE OUTSHINING BRILLIANCE OF THIS PIECE U PENNED.
THANKS A LOT, SIR.
BEST N SINCEREST REGARDS.
LOVEPAREEK.

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