Google – The Epitome of the American Way
by Thomas P. Au, CFA, Author & Market Analyst. January 20, 2010
Writers such as Shaun Rein, Managing Director of China Market Research Group, may have rightly characterized Google’s pullback from China as an “act of war.” But we do not view it in the “irresponsible” light in which he and others like him see it. Instead, we consider it as the ultimate act of American character.
The American Revolution did not originate with the “shot heard around the world at Lexington” in 1775, but rather with the Stamp Tax, and the cry of “No taxation without representation” heard ten years earlier in 1765. The first blood of the Civil War was not drawn by the shots fired at Fort Sumter in 1861, but rather by those of John Brown’s abortive raid on the arms arsenal at Harpers’ Ferry several years earlier. (His antagonist was one Robert E. Lee, then a U.S. colonel.) World War II (against Japan) did not start with the bombing of the American battleships in Pearl Harbor in 1941, but rather that of the American steamer Panay in Nanking in 1937. (Overzealous Japanese airmen had considered this ship “guilty by association” in company with American owned ships of Chinese make.) If there is a war with China (and we believe that there will be), the first salvos will have been fired by Google, and not on a conventional battlefield.
During its short history, America has always acted as a check to the ambitions of the most dangerous country in the world. In the late eighteenth century, an embryonic “United States of America” set back the plans of superpower Great Britain for colonization by over a century, robbing it of its chance at world domination. In the following century, the American Union suppressed its “evil twin,”a Confederate nation that stood for black slavery after the rest of the world had renounced it. In the past century, America broke the original “Axis of Evil,” the so-called Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis.
These three evils of fascism, slavery, colonialism, are nowadays combined in one country, the People’s Republic of China. It is an undemocratic country that suppresses basic freedoms to its own people. It’s no secret that the country manufactures goods at cut prices, sometimes in sweatshops, using the slave labor of criminals, dissidents, and other “undesirables.” And it is very heavy-handed in its dealings with other countries that it considers within its “sphere of influence.” (The Chinese name for “Vietnam,” means “extreme south.”) But China is rapidly expanding her definition of “sphere of influence,” which may soon encompass most, if not all of the world’s people. So Google’s motto, “Don’t be evil,” in this context, means “Don’t become a part of the Evil Empire.”
This event is part of a sequence of political and economic events that will be recognizable to Americans today, imperial overstretch and technological innovation, followed by a decade long depression and threatened ruin of the country. The Persian Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 unleashed a two-decade orgy of technological and financial speculation that has brought the U.S. to the brink of a decade-long depression. The collapse of Wilhelmine Germany in 1918 followed by the “Roaring Twenties” actually produced that result eighty years ago. So too, in its time, did the triumph of the Mexican War and acquisition of the west coast in the 1840s, followed by the boom-and-bust railroad driven cycle of the 1850s. Likewise, the cost of “victory” in the “French and Indian” Wars from 1740-1763 set the stage for a decade-long depression that was interrupted by another war in 1775.
The wars that result from such crises are not “trivial” conflicts like those in Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq. Instead, they are all-out, now-and-forever, do-or-die wars of national definition; cataclysms that define who we are as a nation. It is at times like these that America and Americans re-discover the American ethos, and “the spirit of its sires.” Putting aside what have become petty differences, citizens of the country rally in the face of a common, and dangerous, enemy that threatens the American way of life
At such times, Americans tell their young, who have to do the actual fighting: “Win the war and live happily ever after,” (in your time). “Lose it, and lose the American way of life.”
Such has been the role of civic-minded “GI”-type generations. In the twentieth century this task was filled by the so-called World War II generation, and during the American Revolution by the “Continental soldier” generation. A tech-savvy “new World War II generation,” (born in the 1980s and 1990s), seems admirably equipped to fulfill this function at this time.
But such struggles are not for the faint of heart. Patrick Henry’s motto: “Give me liberty or give me death” seems particularly a propos at such times. The first of these occurred with Paul Revere’s midnight ride from Boston to warn American farmers that “The British are coming.”
America would go on to win a signal victory the following day, inflicting some 273 casualties, mostly from ambush, on a force of about 800 British regulars sent on a “punitive” expedition to Concord. But the fighting could hardly have had a less promising start, as these “Redcoats” were initially faced by an advance guard of less than eighty Americans on the Lexington Green at dawn.
With soldierly decorum, America’s Captain John Parker told his heavily outnumbered men, “Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they want a war, let it begin right here.”
A British volley decimated Parker’s little force, killing or wounding eighteen Americans, while return fire wounded only two Britishers.
Captain Parker lost a skirmish, but helped win a battle and a war. Which set America on the road to independence.
© 2010 Thomas P. Au
Thomas P. Au, CFA | Author & Market Analyst, R. W. Wentworth | New York City, NY | Email