An Ottoman Warning for Indebted America

What’s interesting is that we’re talking about a shift back from one balance of the world to an older balance here.

Seriously.

Consider that, starting in the year 476 A.D. (and in actuality quite a few years before) Western Europe was the backwater of civilization, a penninsular area that the rest of the world turned its back on as a land too far. Even as they organized under the Catholic Religion (headed in Rome), other areas went forward and gained knowledge. China had empires and writing (and even knew about America on occasion), India created the concept of Zero as a number (instead of a placeholder), Timbuctu was the African center of higher learning, the lands around Mecca became centers of culture; Europe advanced mainly by bringing these innovations onto their shores.

Then Europe started advancing on its own. From Spain to the Netherlands to England to France and Russia, Europe came to straddle and own the world. Only Japan (And the United States, who turned the Western Hemisphere to their own backyard) was able to keep from going under the thumb of a European power.

The last of the independent lands (outside of Ethiopia) was the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, they were considered a portion of Europe, even if they were sick. Between them and the Egyptians (powerful enough to have some independence, even as they were nominally under the Ottomans), they kept northern Africa from being conquered by the obvious European powers (Italy, France and Spain).

Then they ran up debt. Then they found their monies going towards interest payments. Then they sold their money-making properties to Western Europe to keep making the payments. That led to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, right up to the point after WWI where plans to chop up the Turkish peninsula itself were ratified by the Turkish Government then in power.

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So how does America match up? The article from which I stole the title for this blog entry limits their considerations to the recent purchases of financial interests by China and various Middle Eastern interests, however there’s more stuff going on.

Consider that Abu Dabhi was about to purchase seven port operations from the United States Government before the American People forced Bush to rescind the sale. Consider that the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Roads were handed over to an Australian Toll Road company for 99 years (or thereabouts). Consider that Indiana and Illinois are considering privatizing their Lotteries (I have thoughts about them, but more later). Meanwhile banking companies chop up and mix mortgages and sell the mess to people in Europe, China and the Middle East.

And also consider that the only barrier that keeps citizens from the United States from being enslaved is The Thirteenth Amendment, and neither China nor the Middle East bans slavery. Indeed, I could see a situation where a new amendment allowing slavery to be instituted with articles banning discrimination for or against people by race, sex or birth (i.e. no laws banning the ownership of whites by blacks) pushed through the states and congress as a quid pro quo to help payment of debts. Debtors and those who crossed the RIAA and MPAA would, of course, be the first ones sent off; but one could see the expansion towards a general sending-off, with the discrimination-banning articles conveniently ignored (or unlearned).

Also, don’t be surprised if we start exporting factories to China. That’s right, people will come along, cut the stuff apart and ship the factory parts over to China for rebuilding.

– – – – – – – – – –

Whether we’re able to start catching up on our debts remains to be seen. Debt payoff and saving requires the ability to earn more than one spends, and The USA may not be able to do so anymore. Consider that what an average American earns in a day (after taxes) would allow a Chinaman and his family to live prosperously for a month and you see the draw of cheap construction. A computer that costs $1,000 to make in the USA costs only $75 to make in China; is it any wonder few computers are made in the USA anymore?

Consider this: many health plans are now setting up shop in Mexico and other foreign nations, betting that it will be cheaper to pay for a first-rate hospital and all the hospital workers AND a vacation in Mexico than for the client to spend a few days near their home in an American hospital. Imagine: If you had oversight, excellent care, and a few days to take in the sights and sounds (and touches, depending on the place you were sent) for about the same price as decent care near your house, you’d be tempted to go overseas yourself.

That was the logic of Wal-Mart, who decided to hold onto their profits and the wealth of the family members. That’s the logic of sex tourists who travel halfway around the world to enjoy what cannot be gotten in their lands (not so much the sex, but with whom and for how much):

Get what you can, cheaply, and never mind the neighbors or your fellow nation-men; for that money may not be there for you tomorrow and tomorrow’s money may make whomever owns it secure and powerful.

And thus nations send themselves to hell.

Interesting that much of the Ottoman debt was created by the creation of such things as new palaces and the world premier of operas. Similar stuff is happening here, with sub-cardboard housing built out in the middle of nowhere. All that gilt and glitter, all for nothing……..

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One thought on “An Ottoman Warning for Indebted America

  1. Interesting stuff: this already impacted me in that one of the transcription companies for whom I work postponed turning us loose on the peak season, because many of their clients were postponing the reporting of their fourth quarter 2007 results.

    On one level, I’d call it a case of familiarity breeding contempt — for businesses like Starbucks, or Wal-Mart (or whatever retail colossus’s name you’d want to fill in here), the challenge is reinventing yourself as the days of being the hot new thing loom farther and farther behind you in the rearview mirror. I always thought that this model of relentless double-digit growth, regardless of reality, was insane, and this is probably the final proof (as if you needed it).

    On the other hand, I guess we’re at a final, logical, if unsatisfactory conclusion: folks are impoverished to the point where they can’t afford all this crap anymore, having been largely used for 20-odd years as reverse ATMs for all of these giants. There comes a limit some time, and the bills are whizzing across the desk: for this reason, I don’t think that this so-called stimulus plan will have much impact.

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