Consider A Fair and Just Way - Have We Ever Really Considered?



Has our government ever considered comparing the cost of waging wars and relying on its military to simply paying a fair price for the resources and just wage for the labor in developing countries? I think a majority of Americans would choose the fair and just way.

An Alternative - The Fair and Just Way

I've been lucky enough to spend time on five continents while carrying-out feasibility studies for clients ranging from national governments to small farmers. I got to meet many of the people who would be affected by those studies -- heads-of-state, other elected officials, bureaucrats, CEOs, employees, union workers, and the tillers of the land who had no ownership or rights under their system of governance. While varied, their opinions about "America" often made distinction between "the American people" and "the US government". It was not uncommon to hear, "we like Americans, but not your government". Traveled readers have undoubtedly experienced the same. "The U.S. government" to those in other countries often means military and/or economic hegemony, applied directly or via aid to their own corrupt and too often brutal governments and corporations.

So, when I hear, "what alternative do we have", as justification for invasions and occupations to, supposedly, end "terrorism", I do think of one. It's time we asked if our government ever considered comparing the cost of waging wars and relying on its military, to simply paying a fair price for the resources and a just wage for the labor in developing countries? That would not only be fair and just, it would begin to address some significant reasons we are under attack.

Although an economic cost-benefit analysis is not the only determining factor in a feasibility study, it is the one which usually prevails. Even when the initial factor may appear as one of aesthetic, not economic, value. For example, potential water usage demands elsewhere led to feasibility studies for the National Park Service which included economic values formulae for natural wonders in Yellowstone and Yosemite Park. How many visitations - with their paid entry fees, purchases of ice cream cones, hotdogs and souvenirs - would not occur if Old Faithful was no longer faithful? If Yosemite Falls didn't fall.

Since America prides itself on this adherence to economic rationalism and market capitalism, I have come to wonder why our government hasn't shown us its cost-benefit analyses on alternative policies for keeping Americans materially well-off, and safe from "terrorism". Our government describes September 11th, 2001 as a "wake up call", and the March 19th, 2003 attacks on Afghanistan, and subsequent invasion of Iraq, as a response to that. But, would these events even have occurred if we'd applied our supposed economic rationalism before they took place?

It was the Pentagon and The World Trade Towers attacked, not a football stadium during the Super Bowl, or St. Patrick's Cathedral at a Christmas Midnight Mass. It was about our foreign policy and hegemony, not about our way of life, our democracy, our religion.

Of course the economic costs of maintaining hegemony in the developing world compared to simply paying fair prices for resources and labor can never account for the human lives lost in war -- military and civilian on all "sides" - or the human misery suffered by those not paid fairly. Nor is the euphemistic "collateral damage" limited to the countries we invade, occupy and/or covertly subvert. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower observed,

Every gun that is made, every warship launched,
every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft
from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are
cold and are not clothed. This world at arms is not spending
money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the
genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…

That was said in 1954. Today, what we spend to invade, and occupy - whether by force or co-erced "invitation"-is not spent on our schools, our health care systems, our environment. The lives and human misery Ike refers to are not like visitations to Old Faithful. Hardcore economic rationalists, and our courts, pretend they can come up with a dollar figure for a human life based on a person's earning power and life expectancy -- I don't. And, I have faith that the majority of Americans value these beyond any means of economic accounting, even if our governments and corporations do not.

We could account the costs of the military presences we have in 132 countries, as well as the overt military assistance and aid doled out to our "friends". Granted, there are substantial real dollar costs hidden in other budgets, covert operations, and administered via corporations subsidized by our taxes. But, even if it proves impossible to get an authentic accounting of all the military dollars being spent, we'd arrive at a total that could be compared to what we would need to pay in fair prices and just wages for the resources, goods, and services. And, we'd never lose sight of the human lives saved, human misery prevented, the animal species and ecosystems not wiped-out by the devastation of war and dollars spent on it instead of spent doing some good.

Until now, countries and indigenous peoples that have objected and fought the hegemony of the US government and corporations always did so on their own territories. Now there are groups using injustice - both real and convoluted -- as the bases for attacking America. So, we now have to factor in the economic costs of providing the illusion of Homeland Security via a department of that name, and the enormous increased budgets of the CIA, NSA, and FBI, to name a few of the agencies involved. Additionally, the socio- psychological costs of destroying the civil rights and protections of the United States Constitution.

Even if the cost-benefit showed that it is a little cheaper to do it the military way, is there any one of us - because I believe we can be both patriotic and honest in our relationships with the rest of the world - who wouldn't be willing to pay a nickel more for some of our material benefits in exchange for knowing we are acting with the justice that could bring peace ? If all those people I met were right in deeming it is the US government, not Americans, deserving of their distain, then the people of America would chose the fair and just way.

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalatarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy." Gandhi

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
ML King

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." Abraham Lincoln



Mr George Besch

Fulbright Scholar, environmentalist,
UNITED STATES filmmaker and Transpersonal psychologist.