How a sustainable superpower was crafted
“The individual to me is everything…I would circumscribe him just as little as possible” -Vannevar Bush
Many of us liberally toss around the title “superpower” for countries like China and India. This warrants a couple of questions: Is a superpower defined by the means to an end or the end itself? Does a superpower sustain off of its renewable intellectual capital or is it the end product of its armed forces? In fact, no matter where you are or where you come from, America becomes the default topic of discussion on issues ranging from politics, war, environment, immigration, terrorism and middle-east, trade, technology and other myriad issues that affect everybody. The dinner table becomes a venue for polemical eruptions between family members and friends, and especially, between the indignant citizens and the newly minted tech-degreed green card holders. The “discussions” invariably veer to the declining preponderance of America, and the nation being on its rickety innovative limbs. And, that the new “superpowers” will be eclipsing the U.S. is just a matter of time. Didn’t we hear this argument before, in the 60s-70s, on the Japanese ascendance over America, and the possible relegation of the U.S. to a secondary status?
We all agree the last decade, since 9/11, was a turbulent one. America had sustained some serious body blows with terrorism, war and the political corruption of the financial institutions, the latter being the most enervating of all. But, what distinguishes a real super-nation from the others is the morphology of its being, its vascular system and the ability to spawn, grow and nurture individuals of ideas; and the freedoms that facilitate their combustive ideas, igniting new growth, new industries, new revenue and tax streams. A historical detour into the early deliberations on the design of this nation should be a revelation, for all of us, as well as the doubters, and all the nascent Neo-socialists, as to why the U.S., is indeed, the only regenerative and sustainable superpower on the planet.
Even before this nation came into being, the citizens of the colonies were people of the trades. It was the freedom of commerce that brought in immigrants and forged a nation out of disparate groups. But, it was unfair taxation that pulled together every one of the founding fathers that were farmers, skilled tradesmen, businessmen and workers whose lives were affected. Washington and Jefferson were cash strapped farmers, Franklin was perhaps, the first true entrepreneur, and Hamilton was a precocious teen book keeper in the Caribbean, with a complete understanding of humans as “trading animals” with ambitions, as well as greed. Ironically, Washington, as a farmer, was the “CEO” of a larger operation at his Mount Vernon, than when he was the president, in terms of men under his command.
We don’t have to peer deep into their psyches to know that these founders were, more than anything, agnostic humanists, interested in the concept of commerce and profit; which was the first civil activity of humanity anyway, even before farming, that required individual initiative and freedom from the shackles of governance, and particularly, the forms of governments that existed from antiquity through the mid 20th century. And even today, there are governments that are the antithesis to basic human freedoms, let alone freedom of commerce. Let’s take a look at the kinds of ideas the founding fathers pursued, in order to shape what we today call a superpower.
George Washington’s farewell address at the end of his presidency seeded two critical issues: “preserving the union and the diffusion of knowledge.” America, was actually conceived in an era that is commonly acknowledged as the “age of enlightenment” or “the great age of reason” and science was considered the pinnacle of human expression and rationality. Despite the conventional belief that our founding fathers were men of god, which they may very well have been, but they, unequivocally, were first and foremost, men of science and commerce, especially men like Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison , Hamilton, Pinckney and Washington to a great extent.
Eminent science historians have cleared the murky waters of history for us to see some of the early deliberations, which were incredibly revelatory, among the founding fathers. They found some “incriminating” evidence of science being the predominant force behind the nation building. Jefferson’s book: Notes on the State of Virginia 1787 contained an exact statement from Isaac Newton’s Principia that was included in The Declaration of Independence. Newton’s book on natural history was seemingly an incongruous source for a seminal political document, or was it? Today, more than ever, historians explicitly and by implication affirm the use of Newtonian concepts of static balance and equilibrium in our constitution.
Among the founders, were men, who understood the basic axioms of Newtonian physics, in his third law of motion – that action and reaction are always equal, and this very principle was cited by two founding fathers in suggesting the form of legislature aptly suited for American states. An explicit invocation of the scientific paradigm. Adams and Madison at Harvard and Princeton had studied the science of Newton and all its consequences, as undergraduates. Madison even wrote an essay on parallelism between the world of nature and the world of human affairs, and who, later would buttress the constitutional convention in his great essays. This provides an astonishing insight into the cognition, erudition, foresight, and prescience of these relentless thinkers, that were influenced by the science and commerce of their day. And how fortunate was the U.S. for their intellectual gifts and foresight. What is even more amazing is that Hamilton and Madison were in their early thirties.
The founding fathers were cognizant of the fact that they were invoking metaphors and analogies from physical-biological sciences in their political deliberations. Analogy becomes a tool of explication after a discovery had been made. The use of analogy becomes necessary to validate a new concept, make it rational and acceptable. Analogy also enables an idea to go beyond the boundary of rhetoric and become a reality. This is where analogy becomes metaphor and the distinctions evaporate in the transfer of value systems. In the founding of the nation, brilliant and prescient examples of the use of analogy in the sociopolitical context were found in the deliberations of the founding fathers, as well as researching intellectuals after the fact. The building blocks of a superpower were actually being crafted on the anvil of analogies and metaphors, derived off of the natural laws.
One of most astounding contemplation and use of analogy was by the 17th century political theorist James Harrington, whose work, “Oceana” became the Constitutional blueprint, explicating his methodology as a “political anatomy.” His source of inspiration was William Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of blood. Harrington supported a bicameral legislature on the analogy based on Harvey’s discovery of the functions of the two ventricles of human heart, even going as far as offering an argument on the distinction in size and strength between ventricles. Adams knew about Harrington’s concept of political balance founded on Harvey’s discoveries, astounding ideas and parallelism in context of human physiology, even by today’s standards.
Alexander Hamilton, more than any founding father, was the Prophet of American economic philosophy. His reports on public credit, finance-revenue and manufacture to the congress, during his tenure as the first Secretary of Treasury, not only provided the blueprint for the U.S. economic preponderance, but were referred to and adopted verbatim by Japan’s Meiji leadership, Germany’s Bismark, and deployed by Taiwan and Korea in establishing their own modern financial systems. All of these nations today sport powerful economies, right behind the U.S. Then, there was a another founding father we tend to forget.
Somehow, the contemporary historians seemed to have overlooked the role of a Mr. Charles C. Pinckney, a man of science and law, and a revolutionary war veteran, as a key contributor to the American predominance. It was Hamilton’s deal with Madison and Jefferson along with Pinckney’s patent proposals that sealed America’s economic ascent. Considerable amount of credit must go to the two men above in the formative years of the nation, besides the other founding fathers, for the crafting of this super-nation. Here’s why Pinckney is important: he is the one who proposed many paradigmatic issues to be included in the Patent Act of 1790.
*Establish seminaries for the promotion of literature, arts and sciences.
*Grant charters of incorporation.
*Grant patents for useful inventions.
*Secure to authors exclusive rights for a certain time
*Establish public institutions, rewards & immunities for the promotion of agriculture, commerce, trade and manufacturing.
Pinckney was a pioneering advocate of assigning patents to inventors, and his state, North Carolina led the nation in the matters of patent legislation. By the late 18th century most states were granting patents, and almost all were granting copyrights.
All this may sound like fiction, but this was the germinal basis of a super nation, the U.S. How many nations can claim that level of intellectual engagement and discourse in their founding? I have to say none, with the possible exceptions of England and Netherlands. The founding fathers of the so called emerging or unsustainable “superpowers” were either ideologues like Gandhi or tyrants like Mao and Lenin, whose singular goal was to enhance central government’s power over the individual, with confiscatory and redistributionist shackles, in the name of a condescendingly euphemistic concept called “social equality” in a vast system Socialist Progressivism. Unequivocally, vehemently and diametrically opposite to the founding deliberations here, that sought to reduce the burden of government on the creative individual. This fundamental difference in the pathology of self governance versus total governance accounts for the vast technological disparity that exists today between the original and the only superpower and the aspiring ones like China and India or the has been, like Russia. Socialistic justice and equality is the poison that kills individual initiative, innovation and entrepreneurship. In this equation, the bitter truth is that huge populations alone do not make superpowers. China and India are not the originators, but “processors” of ideas from the west and possibly Japan. For that matter, despite its size, Israel may be the largest source of ideas in the west, ironically surrounded by a sea of fanatical Islamic futility.
“The U.S. Economy is roughly three times larger than China’s. That’s a $10 trillion difference. Twenty-five percent of the world’s economic activity happens in the United States. The U.S. Navy controls all the oceans. We are an order of magnitude more powerful than anyone else. Undermining that kind of power can happen, but it normally takes wars, and it certainly takes generations. In which case, the United States, not China, will dominate world affairs.”
-Dr. George Friedman, CEO for Stratfor, a Geo-political consulting firm.
Here some interesting facts that manifestly distinguish the real from the wannabes.
*First modern patent was granted in Venice, Italy in 1474
*First north American patent was issued to Joseph Jenkes for making scythes, March 6, 1646.
*President Washington signed the Patent Act on April 10,1790
*European Patent convention established in 1977
*Peoples Republic of China adopted Article 52-The Patent law of TPROC, April 1, 1985.
*45% of the patents filed from 1988-2008 were of U.S. Origin.
*26% of patents filed in 2008 were from China, Japan and Korea.
*Of the 35,000+ patents filed in 2007 in India, 79% were foreign applicants.
The U.S. economic system, in essence, rewards the free exchange of ideas, “intercourse of ideas” as one may say, and the collective intelligence. Neurologists had been searching long for answers in the singular brain of individuals, but the answers lay else where. The brilliance of ideas, ingenious solutions and global innovation is a consequence of collective enterprise, it is a cumulative phenomenon, which literally means, more brains interacting, the merrier. From the inception, the essence or the core of the American progress is the simple concept of exchange, and almost every paradigmatic technology is an amalgam of disparate technologies. Apple Computer, guided by the acutely astute Steve Jobs, exemplifies what tech-combinations can do to create the next generation products and markets. Also, urbanization and trade provide explosive stimulus for life changing ideas, when pollination of ideas takes place with people meeting and interacting. Trade centers from antiquity to modernity have been the place of invention, places like Alexandria, Petra, Tyre, Amsterdam, London, Tokyo, Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Boston. Ultimately, Trade, in other words, exchange, is the catalyst, that was, and still is the ignitior of imagination, and “exchange” is the fuel that has been in abundance in the U.S., since the mid 1700s.
“In 2000, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an association of thirty democratic, free market countries, the United States was home to 12.5 million skilled immigrants, equaling the combined total for Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and japan.”
-Joel Kotkin, The Next Hundred Million
Twentieth century’s visionary engineer, Vannevar Bush claimed that “…economic dynamism based on freedoms is a sure way to the pinnacle of power. The natural aristocracy of meritorious Americans is the basis for the rise with knowledge begotten from physical encounters with stubborn realities.” It is an obdurate fact that a superpower is not built on the backs of shackled citizenry, nor is it built by ideological groups, social progressivism, oligarchic unions or fanatical religions, but by unencumbered meritorious individuals. The U.S. has had, through most of its two hundred years plus, the fortunate confluence of incredibly selfless meritorious founding fathers, followed by brilliant captains of industry, who gave us the blueprints for growth. And today, ironically, despite these blueprints, we have suffered through a debilitating drought of visionary individuals in leadership positions in recent years, hence all the doubters. In conclusion, I can find solace in the fact that, all it takes is one leader to reverse the present course, and more so in the environment that can breed such individuals. In answer to the two questions set forth at the outset: the method or the system to attaining any economic , and eventually military dominance resides in the means and never with the end. America is what it is, because of its economic system, guaranteed by the constitution, and derived from free and collective exchange of ideas.
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