Friday, April 29, 2011

Y's global Marshall Plan

More on the paper "A National Strategic Narrative"

I'm moving through it at a snail's pace. This is the latest small step forward:

Investment Priorities: How Mr. Y sees governmental budgeting priorities.

First, the excerpt; Commentary follows.

Our Three Investment Priorities

As Americans we have access to a vast array of resources. Perhaps the most important first step we can take, as part of a National Strategy, is to identify which of these resources are renewable and sustainable, and which are finite and diminishing. Without doubt, our greatest resource is America’s young people, who will shape and execute the vision needed to take this nation forward into an uncertain future. But this may require a reawakening, of sorts. Perhaps because our nation has been so blessed over time, many of us have forgotten that rewards must be earned, there is no “free ride” – that fair competition and hard work bring with them a true sense of accomplishment. We can no longer expect the ingenuity and labor of past generations to sustain our growth as a nation for generations to come. We must embrace the reality that with opportunity comes challenge, and that retooling our competitiveness requires a commitment and investment in the future.

Inherent in our children is the innovation, drive, and imagination that have made, and will continue to make, this country great. By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans – the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow – we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.

Our second investment priority is ensuring the nation’s sustainable security – on our own soil and wherever Americans and their interests take them. As has been stated already, Americans view security in the broader context of freedom and peace of mind. Rather than focusing primarily on defense, the security we seek can only be sustained through a whole of nation approach to our domestic and foreign policies. This requires a different approach to problem solving than we have pursued previously and a hard look at the distribution of our national treasure. For too long, we have underutilized sectors of our government and our citizenry writ large, focusing intensely on defense and protectionism rather than on development and diplomacy. This has been true in our approach to domestic and foreign trade, agriculture and energy, science and technology, immigration and education, public health and crisis response, Homeland Security and military force posture. Security touches each of these and must be addressed by leveraging all the strengths of our nation, not simply those intended to keep perceived threat a safe arm’s length away.

America is a resplendent, plentiful and fertile land, rich with natural resources, bounded by vast ocean spaces. Together these gifts are ours to be enjoyed for their majesty, cultivated and harvested for their abundance, and preserved for following generations. Many of these resources are renewable, some are not. But all must be respected as part of a global ecosystem that is being tasked to support a world population projected to reach nine billion peoples midway through this century. These resources range from crops, livestock, and potable water to sources of energy and materials for industry. Our third investment priority is to develop a plan for the sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need for our continued wellbeing, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace.

The commentary will be relatively brief for this section, because much has been said already about the rather expansive scope of the document. While it has parallels in U.S. history, especially with regard to domestic policies pursued in the 1950s during the height of the Cold War, you’ll see a domestic/global project much more expansive and ambitious in scope (to a perhaps Kirkpatrickan degree) expressed in 21st Century public policy language, the words “sustainable” and “renewable” or variants appearing often. Also, we see the word “resources” being given wider scope, talk of ‘human resources’ being the subject of the first priority. The word “investment” does similar duty, Mr. Y indulging in a leveraging of ambiguity that allows him to treat government taxation and spending as in essence similar to private investment, and combinable therewith, for broad social goals (domestic and global), under the leadership of the U.S. government. He argues (echoing Marshall) that all of this will redound to our national security interests.

First up: Mr. Y is concerned that innovation in the United States is on the wane. In order to reverse that trend he advocates as his first priority, domestic education. He believes also, that education stands its best chance of success if it takes place in a containing environment that is relatively stable for the kids. So, we need to ‘invest’ in ‘health and social services.’ On the assumption that there is here a hierarchy in the three priorities Mr. Y. is presenting in this section, the gist is that substantially more needs to be spent on these things than is now, and, this will require spending less on narrowly “defensive” institutions. How deep a cut in the latter is Mr. Y advocating? How steep an increase in the former? How much governmental funding and control of ‘health services’ does he recommend? How does the viability of all this all square with record U.S. debt and demographic trends viz tax revenue? He does not say in this section.

The second priority advocates for global extension of many key aspect of the program presented in the first priority, offered with the justification that creating a relatively secure global environment allows us some “sustainable security.”

Mr. Y has a vision of the USG mobilizing government agencies, State, DOD, Dept. of Energy, Agriculture, HHS, & etc., presumably along with NGOs and private entities, in a long term project to economically develop the world. Why? Because a developed world, a relatively prosperous world is a world more content, less likely to have eruptions to which we will have to respond militarily. Like I said earlier, this vision is reminiscent of the Marshall plan, but on a much larger scale. The Ys look at their project as the same kind of “whole nation” marshalling of resources (pun intended) as occurred during WWII, yet much more expansive. Where that marshalling was intended for a war effort, this marshalling is intended toward a “development” effort. A 'Global War on Poverty' (and other things as we shall see in ensuing sections). This raises, yet again, a slew of practical questions. Will they be addressed?

Third priority: Make sure we have stable long term reliable natural resources, given that world population is growing and will place novel stresses on the environment, and resource extraction. Presumably, this means we should lead a global effort to clean up, and wisely use the environment. OK. Sounds nice, but there are other sovereign nations far less concered about ‘sustainability’ far more polluting, and unable or unwilling to regulate or innovate. Practically speaking; how does this strategy propose we deal with that recalcitrant fact?

More Questions..

Next time: The section “Fair competition and deterrence.”