is america free?

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    LAND OF THE FREE
    by Bill Bonner

    "This is a society of true believers. The belief in
    democracy, market economics and the importance of religion is
    far more pervasive here than Marxism ever was in Russia."

    Michael Ignatieff,
    in The Daily Telegraph


    It is the Fourth of July. Should we hang out the red, white,
    and blue bunting from our office balcony...or the black
    crepe? Should we whine about the America we have lost, or
    give a whoop for what we have left of it?

    That star-spangled banner still waves, but does it still fly
    over the land of the free, we ask? Or over a country with a
    spy camera on every street corner...a nation so deeply in
    debt that freedom has become a luxury it can no longer
    afford?

    Whatever direction we take, we trip over a contradiction.
    Things always seem to be black and white at the same time.

    That is why we took up tango, dear reader. People who dance
    the tango or write poems don't let contradictions bother
    them. They glide across the floor and enjoy themselves. As
    far as we know, no serious tango dancer has ever committed
    suicide. It's the mathematicians and engineers who blow their
    brains out.

    An ideologue or a mathematician cannot tolerate
    contradiction. His little world has to fit together neatly,
    like a crossword puzzle. It is 'cat' in one direction and
    'day' in the other. Each intersection has to work perfectly.

    But that is not the way real life or real people work. A
    healthy woman loves her husband, but often hates him too. She
    has two eyes, and sees a slightly different view of him with
    each of them. What is wrong with that? Likewise, even a man
    with only a single eye cannot help but notice that the world
    is menaced by inflation and deflation at the same time...and
    that America is both free and un-free at exactly the same
    moment.

    What we have come to dislike about the neo-conservatives is
    not that their view of the world is right or wrong - for how
    could we know? - but that it is so small. They are true
    believers in a very tiny world...one with no room in their
    world for mystery, contradiction, ignorance or humility. It
    has to be small, otherwise they could not understand it.

    Neo-cons think they can see what no mortal has ever seen: the
    future. That is the twisted genius of the 'Preemptive
    Attack'; they stop the criminal before he has committed his
    crime!

    They think they can know what no mortal has ever known: not
    only what is good for himself and his country...but what is
    good for the entire world. And they intend to give it to
    them, whether they want it or not. In today's email box, for
    example, George W. Bush himself sends us the following
    message:

    "...liberty is God's gift to humanity, the birthright of
    every individual. The American creed remains powerful today
    because it represents the universal hope of all mankind."

    Here we will take a wild guess: there are probably more than
    a few bipeds hobbling around the planet for whom the
    'American creed' is not so much a hope as a dread.

    But the president continues:

    "We are winning the war against enemies of freedom, yet more
    work remains. We will prevail in this noble mission. Liberty
    has the power to turn hatred into hope."

    "America is a force for good in the world," continues the
    leader of the world's only super-duper power, "and the
    compassionate spirit of America remains a living faith.
    Drawing on the courage of our Founding Fathers
    and the resolve of our citizens, we willingly embrace the
    challenges before us."

    America's citizens, meanwhile, are deeply in debt. They see
    little choice but to back the system, such as it is. Free or
    un-free, they could care less. Just keep the money flowing.
    They have come to rely on government. They need Fannie
    Mae...and unemployment insurance...and social security...and
    jobs...and the Fed...and fiscal stimulus. Or, at least, they
    think they do.

    After 50 years of the Dollar Standard boom, the average
    American finds himself less free than ever. He is a slave to
    the highest government spending and biggest public debt
    burden in history...and to the heaviest mortgage and other
    private debt load ever. He has mortgaged up his house...he
    has taken the bait of credit-card lenders. Now he has no
    freedom left; he must keep a job...he must pay attention to
    the Fed's rates...he must have an interest in George Bush's
    government ( for now he depends on it ) !

    "July 4 should be about celebrating freedom and
    independence," wrote Richard Benson, published in this week's
    Barron's, "yet the bankers are the only people jumping for
    joy. Never have Americans owed so much in terms of their
    total debt, the ratio of total debt to income and the amount
    of cash flow the debt needs to serve it. Americans used to
    believe that if they were debt-free, they were free. Today,
    Americans just want the freedom to borrow more, even if it
    means they are on the way to becoming enslaved by their
    debt."

    The average citizen is only a few paychecks from getting put
    out of his house. He no longer has the freedom to step
    back...to reflect...to think...to wonder about things...or
    enjoy the contradictions. Instead, he must listen to the
    words of economists as if they meant something...and bow
    before the politicians who control his livelihood...and place
    himself at the beck and call of every government agency with
    a dollar to spend.

    The message from George W. Bush concludes with an endearing
    personal note, in which "Laura joins me in sending our best
    wishes for a safe and joyous Independence Day..."

    Laura who, we wondered? Oh yes...the First Lady.

    How we got to be on a first-name basis with the woman, we
    don't know. We have never even met her. Why she should wish
    us a happy day, we don't understand. But these are the
    peculiar, baroque eccentricities of America that make it such
    an endearing place to its citizens and such a rich treasure
    for contemporary ethnologists and stand-up comics.

    They, too, will wonder about the contradictions. Why do
    Americans celebrate 'freedom' ever more loudly, while
    becoming ever less free...? How can they crow about the "home
    of the brave" when they attack pitiful, third-world nations
    that can't defend themselves? How can they ballyhoo their own
    independence when their armies occupy two foreign nations?

    Most people will ignore the contradictions altogether. Many
    will see them as hypocrisy. Some will be outraged. And a few
    will hear the off-tempo tango beat, and enjoy the holiday
    anyway.


    Your editor,

    Bill Bonner


 
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