Monday, March 18, 2013

Washington vs. Moscow: Competition vs. Cooperation

Since I began watching Russia Today - referred to by American politicians as ‘Putin’s Channel’ - I’ve been trying to figure out what the Russian President’s message is.

A recent guest of Thom Hartmann’s confirmed what I have been writing here: although Russia’s switch to capitalism began with a free-for-all, with its industries auctioned off to a clique of oligarchs, twenty-some years later, ‘Putin’s channel’ promotes a healthy mix of cooperation and competition. Steve Keen, author of ‘Debunking Economics” says the U.S. needs to return to making stuff rather than playing with financial bubbles. Another recent TV guest, economist Peter Brian Henry Dean of New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business, and author of the new book ‘Turnaround: Third World Lessons for First World Growth” noted that cooperation was indispensable to early American success, and points out that during the Cold War the Soviet Union promoted cooperation but failed to provide a framework for competition, while the U.S. did the opposite. Noting that both countries had to add their respective missing element, he added that Russia has embraced economic competition while maintaining the socialist inspired commitment to political cooperation embodied by the United Nations. The United States however continues to condemn social spending at both the domestic level and in its choice of foreign governments to back.

RT Documentaries on both foreign and domestic subjects suggest that Putin’s vision is a capitalism that harks back to FDR, where the 99% were protected from the excesses of the 1%. However, he’s not only concerned about politics and economics: the Russian leader appears to also hanker after an era when ‘fun’ was ‘clean’ and families were intact.  (The Pussy Riot trial is less a defense of religion than the belief that all freedoms have limits, in contradiction to Washington’s unqualified commitment to the First Amendment.)

I can’t conclude this article without mentioning the fact that the state of modern society, characterized by unlimited freedom, is what most troubles Muslims, hardening retrograde attitudes among Muslim clerics, delaying both women’s emancipation and democratization.

Egyptian President Morsi’s recent troubles over death sentences meted out to football fans who caused the deaths of seventy people exemplifies the Muslim Brotherhood’s determination to preserve the respect for the lives of others that characterizes all religions, as opposed to Western acquiescence to ‘anything goes’.

Capitalism provides the practical conditions for innovation, but the world as a whole only benefits when it is practiced within a framework of cooperation, and the same is true of societies.

P.S. Over the weekend, the new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the following statement at a press conference: "Our government will work with the Obama administration to build a new type of relationship between great countries."   He also condemned confrontation, particularly in cyberspace: "I think we should not make groundless accusations against each other, and spend more time doing practical things that will contribute to cyber-security,"




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