Sunday, March 12, 2006

Goodbye Dubai- The Port Operations Management Case

This week brought mixed feelings for me regarding our American democratic government experiment.

Perhaps never before have I been so proud and supportive of President Bush. His clear-sighted, broad-minded statements of concern for a growing isolationism among Congressional members, and our need for friends among Mideast states in this war on terror, caused me to have new respect and admiration for our President.

At the same time, the voices of many of our Congressional members causes me great concern for our geopolitical and economic well-being in the near- and longer-term. My own state's ill-informed and wrong-headed Senators were at the front of the legislative crowd now displaying a very un-American revulsion to free trade.

What most concerns me about this was voiced, separately, by none other than Tom Wolfe, in yesterday's excellent interview with him, written in the Wall Street Journal. Wolfe focused many of his remarks on the unique greatness of our country, in that it genuinely allows people to be free and express themselves with few limits. By being who we are as a nation, and the best that can be, we are not replicable.

This is very important economically. Friends of mine, especially liberal ones, chide me on the size of US debt held by other nations. I reply that this is no great concern, because they see the matter incorrectly.

Where else on the planet will a wise nation or individual place their trust and wealth? Which other nation offers the rule of law, opportunities to innovate, and our freedoms? We needn't worry yet, because no other nation can absorb the size of capital flows ours can, and also be trusted by the world. The day we need to worry is the day India or China are as trustworthy as is the US on the matter of transparency of government and law, and the unequivocal rule of law.

Thus, it is not good enough to say, "well, India, China, or the UAE would NEVER allow a US company to own port operations in their countries. Why should we be different?"

We should be different because that is who we are as a country. We ARE different. It is what sustains our economic lifeblood and allows us the unique ability to run large trade deficits. We don't so much owe the world, as the world wants part of our economic success, and will pay to gain that access.

In that light, the Dubai port operations management mess is a very troubling behavioral indicator. I believe our President is right to worry about the protectionist, un-American signal it may send to the Mideast Arab states, and to the world at large. This could cause lasting economic damage to the US far beyond what most of our mediocre legislators comprehend.

As usual, in our democracy, we get the government we deserve. A capable President in this case, but 535 ill-informed, small-minded headline grabbers.

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