Jun 06 2009

Combat Power, Capitalism and the real enemy

Category: capitalism,economy,government,liberty,socialismharmonicminer @ 9:00 am

To win battles, you have to achieve adequate combat power in relation to your enemy:

… Combat power is created by combining the elements of maneuver, firepower, protection, and leadership. Overwhelming combat power is the ability to focus sufficient force to ensure success and deny the enemy any chance of escape or effective retaliation. … Overwhelming combat power is achieved when all combat elements are violently brought to bear quickly, giving the enemy no opportunity to respond with coordinated or effective opposition. …

Commanders seek to apply overwhelming combat power to achieve victory at minimal cost. … They attempt to defeat the enemy’s combat power by interfering with his ability to maneuver, apply firepower, or provide protection.

Four primary elements – maneuver, firepower, protection, and leadership – combine to create combat power – the ability to fight. Their effective application and sustainment, in concert with one another, will decide the outcome of campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements. Leaders integrate maneuver, firepower, and protection capabilities in a variety of combinations appropriate to the situation. …

The idea of combat power may seem a bit abstract, so a few examples may help.

If you have a combat force of 100 soldiers, how should you distribute weapons?   How should you distribute ammunition?   How should you distribute the soldiers in the battle space?  The answer can be stated generally this way:  you want the best, most powerful weapons to be gathered at the point where they will be most effective, with the most available ammunition, supported by as many soldiers as necessary to use the weapons, protect the weapons, and protect the soldiers who are USING the main weapons until those weapons have been effectively employed and the enemy is destroyed or neutralized.

Here is what you don’t do.  You don’t automatically distribute the ammunition evenly to each soldier.  You don’t just spread the soldiers out and hope that one of them runs into the enemy.  You don’t hold a lottery to decide who gets the biggest guns, or the ones with the highest rate of fire.  You don’t give all the soldiers identical training, and you don’t place soldiers in particular roles without primary regard for their achievement and acquired skills.

Combat power is the idea of focusing energy and resources where they will do the most good in defeating the enemy.  Somebody has to be in command, to make the decisions that will lead to that timely concentration of power.  It won’t happen by accident.  Ideally, an officer moves up through the ranks by demonstrated success against the enemy, although in this imperfect world, other criteria will sometimes be applied.

There is a strong relation between the concepts of combat power and capitalism.  Capitalism gets its name from the fact that it involves building up sufficient resources to accomplish economic tasks that are beyond the “average resources” of individuals.  An important point:  although “capital” is analogous to “combat power,” the enemy for capitalists is poverty.   This fact is not obvious, on the surface, to anti-capitalists, including socialists, who also claim that their enemy is poverty.  But consider: there is an upper limit (and it’s pretty low) to how rich a person can be in a poor society.

The richest man in a third world country may still have to spend a lot of time in considerably less luxurious circumstances that most American inner cities, where no one spends much time bouncing over dirt roads, rarely has to smell open sewage, can safely drink water from pretty much any tap, and so on.  You know all those rich people you read about in third world countries?  They are often rich only because they have managed to sell a product into a developed middle-class economy (think Saudis selling oil to the USA), or because they just plain stole it by means of military force, or maybe both.  Would you rather be the richest guy in Zimbabwe, or comfortably middle-class in Topeka?  The richest guy in Zimbabwe has to watch his back….  In any case, the best way to STAY rich (and alive) is to be rich in a middle-class economy.  Globalization has masked the fact that the rich in third-world countries are often dependent on the middle-class of developed nations, again proof that capitalists need markets with disposable income, while statists/socialists need a lower class to justify themselves.

It took capital to build the first railroads, the first airlines, the first automobile factories, and the first computer businesses, not to mention electronics factories, farm equipment factories, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, clothing factories, retail outlets for all of these, and more. In each case, poverty was the enemy of the capitalists who funded these things, who took risks to make them happen.  If your society is poor, its members don’t have the resources to buy whatever you’re selling.  It really is that simple.  (A secondary enemy of capitalists is people whose power is threatened by them, mostly statists/socialists/royalists/entrenched privilege…  but even then, the major enemy is still poverty, which limits the ability to market what you make or do.)

John D. Rockefeller ruthlessly suppressed his competition by the simple expedient of finding every possible way to deliver his product at a lower price than his competitors.  But he depended on a technological infrastructure that created a need for the product he wanted to sell.  That is, if people hadn’t needed kerosene and oil, Rockefeller couldn’t have sold it to them.  They needed oil because they lived in a society that was rich enough to afford devices that required oil.

The enemy of capitalists is poverty, not other capitalists.

Let’s make this a little clearer this way:  the enemy of professional baseball team owners is not other baseball teams; it is an apathetic public that no longer cares to watch baseball.  Of course, there is competition, with “winners” and “losers,” but even the losers win if the public keeps coming to watch them lose.

No capitalist is required to stay a “loser,” because in a free system they are allowed to adjust their activities until they are winners.  That is the original meaning of “win-win.”  If I can’t make a particular widget that you want to buy at the price I can sell it, then I’ll find something you DO want enough to pay me for it, and we’ll both “win.”

The enemy of capitalists is poverty, not other capitalists, because it is only poverty that makes it unlikely for captalists to be able to sell anything at all.

Committed egalitarians would have us believe that the real enemy is the “gap between rich and poor.”  This is ludicrous on historical grounds.  Would these people prefer us to live in a society where everyone is equally poor?  The very, very exciting thing about a free, capitalist society is that no one has to STAY poor.  And there is no capitalist who WANTS the poor to stay poor, for the simple reason that it’s impossible to sell much to poor people, unless the government has required lending institutions to make loans to them that can’t be repaid.   And we all know how that ends.

Just as you don’t win battles or wars by equal distribution of troops, weapons and bullets, you don’t win the struggle against poverty by equal distribution of income or goods.  Instead, you let natural forces and markets encourage the concentration of those resources in the hands of the most productive among us, to the betterment of us all, as they produce goods and services we would never have had otherwise, and offer us choices we would never have had without them.  Successful capitalists are those whose products and services make the lives of the rest of us much better than they would have been without them.  It makes no more sense to resent fabulously successful capitalists than it makes to resent the success of Alexander the Great, or General Eisenhower.  Would you rather have fought on the side of Darius?  Or Hitler?  Would you rather be equally poor with everyone else, everywhere else?

Capitalism WAS the original war on poverty, and it is a war that was being won, pretty much on all fronts, right up until the government decided to hogtie its best commanders, divert resources used in weapons production to planting daisies in the park, send half the army on furlough, sound the retreat and sue for peace.  Peace with poverty, that is.  It is one of the great achievements of the Left that the only war that can go on forever, without a significant change in strategy or tactics, and with no strategy for withdrawal, is the publicly funded “war on poverty.”  Call it The Forever War.  It is the war that socialists/statists can never allow to be won.

Conjecture:  if there had never been anti-monolopy laws, but if the rule of law was scrupulously enforced, if corporations were not penalized for success, if government did not try to pick winners and losers, if government did not allow itself to be bought BY capitalists (no one said capitalists were angels), if government did not see the success of capitalists as a source of unearned income for itself (the only reason capitalists CAN try to buy government), if bad personal behavior wasn’t rewarded by government largess, if people were not conditioned to see “the safety net” as a hammock, if government did not promise things it can’t deliver forever, and in particular, if the presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson hadn’t happened (and their allied Left political constituencies), we would be richer now than most folks can possibly believe.  We would not now be just getting around to returning to the moon in 15 years or so, we would have permanent colonies there.  The standard of living of virtually all Americans would be higher, much higher.  We would have even more medical and pharmaceutical innovation, and it would cost us less.  Fuel would be cheaper, energy in general would be cheaper, and we would have more leisure time.  And paradoxically, the air and water would probably be cleaner.  We would be profiting, all of us, from economic expansion that would dwarf what actually happened.

The reason is simple: the diversion of resources away from focused, productive use, by the programs of anti-capitalist government, has made us all poorer, because those resources did not produce greater “capital power,” and diverted many, many people away from being productive themselves.  To put it simply, we ate our seed corn, instead of planting it.

We are now hip deep in another presidency that has the ambition to make as permanent a mark on America as those of FDR and LBJ.  I have no doubt that it will be possible to reduce the average gap between “rich” and “poor,” but it will not be done by making the poor any richer, and the price will make it even harder for the poor to change their circumstances.

It’s very, very simple.  Capitalists need a middle class into which to sell their goods.  Socialists need a lower class in order to justify their existence and political power.  Socialists, if they ever succeeded in eliminating poverty, would immediately lose power.  Who would need them anymore?  Capitalists can win forever, as we all just keep getting richer, and richer.  Statists/socialists see the resources generated by a period of successful capitalism, and they lust after them.

Capitalists need middle classes, and capitalist activity tends to promote the growth of them.  Socialists/statists need lower classes, and socialist/statist activity tends to promote the growth of them.  The fact that socialists/statists seem always to manage to take over, just as capitalism starts to succeed, is all the proof anyone should require of original sin.

It is as if socialists/statists went to the front line of battle, just as their own general’s brilliant strategy is about to win a great victory, and insisted on unloading the weapons of some of their own soldiers, just to make it fair.