Twofish's Blog

September 26, 2007

The Real World 

Exxon-Mobil has record profits, but if Iraq were online, they’d be making even more money. China and India are increasing demand for oil, and the oil companies are making large amounts of money off of this. This puts big oil on the side of China. The whole Chevron-CNOOC thing, that was a bit of hardball.

to guest:

You left off a zero. Cheney’s assets are about $90 million, most of which came from options he had in Halliburton stock. Funny thing. Once he was VP, people wanted him to sell his Halliburton stock, which he did, right before the stock plumetted.

Halliburton made about $13.5 billion of revenue. US$90 million net worth for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company is typical (and I think it’s actually on the small side). One problem with the US system is that because public official salaries are capped, all of the really talented people try to go into business or law, and having talented people go into business rather than government makes things unbalanced. The Goldman-Sachs model, where people make money then run for office, is one way of getting around that problem.

Also, once you make about $3 million/year and have about $10 million net worth, (i.e. managing director level at a bank) money no longer matters. Above that level, it’s not about the money. It’s about the power and the status.

guest: Did you mean like the “sleazy operator” George Schultz, or the “sleazy operator”,turned neocon warmonger, Donald Rumsfield? When Cheney and Rumsfield were unsuccessful with the carrot, they use the stick (“shock and awe” rather than shlock and gnaw). Is this what you mean by sleazy?

Yes exactly. If it was just about money, there are lots of deals that could have been made with Sadaam. Lots of deals *were* made with Sadaam. The whole “oil for food” sham.

Cheney and Rumsfeld went wrong when they stopped being sleazy operators and got convinced by the neo-conservatives that they could build a democracy in Iraq. If it’s about money, you can make a deal. Go to Sadaam, ask him what his price is. $1 billion? $2 billion? $10 billion? $50 billion? $100 billion? Write the check and then have the lawyers and lobbyists make sure it is all legal, and the PR people make sure that the story gets buried in the press.

If they were just in for the money, then they wouldn’t have gotten the US in nearly the amount of trouble that they’ve gotten. The US is going to be dealing with the Iraq mess for *at least* the next decade. Realistically, the next two or three. Everyone with half a brain knows it, but no one is talking loudly because they don’t know what to tell the spin doctors to say.

But I still think that the US has a good economic and political system. The thing I find interesting about ideologues on both the right and the left is that they are interested in “selling democracy” but what they are trying to sell is some system that exists only in their minds, and not some real world system.

The basic reality is that people with money get power, and people with power get money. If you try to build a political or economic system that ignores that fact, you are ignoring basic human desire and emotion, and what you come up with will be a mess. However, you can build a system that acknowledges human desire and still manages to do social good. Arrange things so that the people with money have to spread some of it around to get more money. When people complain about corruption, they usually are just upset that they aren’t getting any of the good stuff. Give it to them.

When I say that I think that there are some parts of the US system that China should adopt, I’m talking about the real world, not some imaginary system. Even with the spin doctors, the lobbyists, the lawyers, the overpaid incompetent CEO’s, there is still a lot of good stuff in the US economic and political system. With all of the damage that Cheney and Bush have done, it’s still recoverable. Not anything like the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution.

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