Sunday, May 22

The man who saw through people

"Dear Pundita, If many governments are as you say crooks, how is it possible for the US to make policy with crooks?
Takako in Honolulu"

Dear Takako:
That is a fair question. The answer is that you don't make policy for crooks or law-abiding governments; you make policy for the era and consistently apply the policy.

The age of globalization came and intersected with megapopulations and the scramble by poor governments to make oil payments and build up their arsenals. And nobody--no major government--was ready for the upshot, which was crime on a scale we haven't seen since the days of Genghis Khan's youth.

The Khan hadn't imagined how many crooks there were in the world but as his conquests proceeded he found out. The same key factors were in play at that time as now. There was a boom in global trade--the globe at that time. The boom was fed by the demands of the walled cities, which fed a population boom. The upshot was that a caravan couldn't travel two miles without being set upon by brigands or marauding tribes, which meant payoffs, which bumped all the way up to highest government levels.

This was accompanied by price gouging, usury, and every type of dirty business and corruption you can think of. All that led to cities living under constant threat of attack.

All that was accompanied and fed by a level of hypocrisy that would be right at home in today's world. The Khan saw it all. He saw the Chinese mandarins and the emperor worship they promoted. He saw the Calculator Christians, who totted up conversion rates while stepping over starving Christians. The Turks lectured him about Islam. He looked at their showy mosques and how they treated women and the poor. He told them to their faces they were phonies.

In short, it was chaos. All the gains civilization had made during the preceding few centuries were in danger of being wiped out. With the help of a brilliant Chinese bureaucrat, the Khan saved the day. He did this in many ways, some of them horribly ruthless. Yet the single greatest reason for his success at ruling over so many peoples was a fair code of laws that he enforced with consistency; consistency meaning no exceptions, not even for the Yakka Mongols--his own tribe.

The upshot was that, "A naked virgin carrying a sack of gold could walk unmolested from one end of Genghis Khan's empire to the other."

The key concepts are fairness and consistency of application. There is not a single factor to explain the rise and scope of globalized crime, just as there is not a single factor to explain criminality. There can be different reasons why governments come to rely on crime. However, there is only one reason governments in the modern era consistently get away with crime: that's if other governments employ a double standard in their relations with criminal governments--a standard that shifts with the expediency of the moment.

People can adjust to a double standard if it's consistently applied; what they can't adjust to is a high level of uncertainty. If you have the means to force people to live according to your shifting political whims, you breed the sense among them that nothing can be relied on, that integrity is a penalty, that truth has no meaning. So then you should not wonder why, when criminal behavior becomes rampant.

Policy begins not with your expectations of others but with how you conduct yourself. It begins with the rules you lay down for your company or government's conduct. If the rules are inconsistently applied, "foreign" policy is a joke. As with any joke, it won't be taken seriously.

One General Temujin--Genghis Khan--was quite enough for world history. We now have much experience to guide us, so humanity should be able to avoid the need for another supercop of the magnitude represented by the Khan. The ball, however, is in our court.

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