When facts are found to be in conflict with the principle, a realist will abandon principle; a fanatic will abandon facts.
Every so often a politician or philanthropist is heard expounding on the acute need to eradicate poverty, most often citing income figures for some tribesman or a villager forced to subsist on mere pennies. However, even leaving aside the blatantly nonsensical comparison of wealth measures for subsistence farmers in terms of a means of exchange of a fully developed society, and not to mention the fact that wealth and poverty are concepts only meaningful relative to one another — imagine for example, say, an emperor of Rome or Byzantium unable, for all his wealth, to find a decent dentist — it ignores a fundamental fact about the nature of wealth and poverty per se.
In fact, to understand the matter better, it behooves us to recall that poverty, as we most commonly perceive it, has been the natural condition of the bulk of humanity for as long as it has existed: what sort of wealth can we ascribe, for instance, to a paleolithic hunter-gatherer hard at work to find enough to eat each day? It is, in fact, possessing wealth that is the great exception to the rule — always arising as a result of a unique conjunction of access to resources, ability, effort, and — to no small extent — of luck.
It is for this reason that aid programs to poor countries have always failed in much the same way: wealth is captured by well-placed elites, while the great bulk of the poor is at best no better off, and more frequently than not is made poorer still. The perpetual surprise at the continual failure of all efforts to institutionalize wealth transfers as a means of poverty relief is rather puzzling to those of us who seek to profit by experience.
The big question of why the West broke out of the trap of poverty, even if this condition were to last, for a large proportion of its people is one that our politically correct age prefers to leave unanswered. Instead, we try to squeeze out all we can from those members of society who have achieved a measure of affluence, whether or not it was by luck or their own efforts, not stopping even at taxing their income twice or more, forgetting always that when the cow is slaughtered the milk stops flowing.
As the White House toys with thoughts of yet another Middle-Eastern intervention amidst an ever-louder chorus of demand to “do something“, nevermind the outcomes of the last two, still fresh even in memories of journalists, perhaps it is worthwhile to review the still-being-paid wages of another well-meaning bout of humanitarianism.
It is not that we are even discussing the law of unintended consequences of high-minded policy, but rather the well-documented and fully-well expected outcomes of boneheaded policies that are still claiming lives of brave Americans. A wise man once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting different results. How long can we continue tolerating moronic policy of spilling blood and treasure on the thankless sands when we can ill afford to fritter away either, especially as we are about to become drawn into yet another French-led pseudo-colonial adventure?
All history of human conflict converges on the fact that without absolute intransigence of purpose no victory could ever be achieved, for it is always has been that the side that blinks is the one routes. It is equally true, conversely, that it is this same intransigence that has precipitated the most destructive wars of recent centuries. The art of statesmanship, then, is just as much the knowledge of when to show flexibility and when to grow backbone, at the time when the nation’s interest can no longer be served by accommodation. To advocate perpetually for peace, as it is for war, will be to court destruction.
It is only with the Korean conflict that war-making has made the transition from a profit center to a cost center column. All prior armed adventures had as their am an enhancement of the national balance sheet — whatever the pretext may have been offered by the war-mongers — whether in terms of specie or commercial advantage. Instead, this was a new breed of war, born perhaps solely out of richest-nation hubris, and aimed strictly at preserving a status quo on behalf of a client state and with no advantage contemplated for itself.