My Daughter and Tibet

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My Daughter, and Tibet, China and the Neocons

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My daughter Hannah will soon receive her Ph.D. in neuroscience from a prestigious graduate school on the east coast. She tells me what she is working on, but, dufus that I am on all such matters, I haven’t got the slightest idea of what she is talking about. Something to do with spines, or brains? Maybe lesions on the brain? Something like that.

If you will forgive a proud poppa bragging about his baby girl, Hannah is a real bright woman, and very hard working, too. When she was about 2 years old, before she learned to read, she memorized entire (kiddie) books, and tried to fool me into believing she could actually read them (fooling her daddy was something she always took great delight in). I knew she couldn’t read since she wasn’t word perfect. At around this time I asked her if she wanted to invite Betty Bear to her upcoming birthday party. She looked at me with real scorn and derision in her eye and said: "Betty Bear isn’t real." I think she thought then that in the lottery of daddies, she got a real stupid one. (I’m not sure she’s changed her mind about this initial assessment.)

When she was about 8 years old, she would typically walk home from school with a book right in front of her face; she wasn’t really looking where she was going. Needless to say, she was the valedictorian of her high school. If memory serves, at university she received all A’s. Or was there some one moron professor who once gave her a lower grade? I’m not sure. (I dare not ask her; she’s a world champion eye roller.)

In any case, I am so delighted with her course of study, I can’t tell you. I hope that one day she makes a real contribution to solving some disease or other, probably having to do with the brain or spinal chord. In this regard I once (okay, okay, more than several times) gave her marching orders: next year she would cure cancer; the year after, AIDS; then, she could work on MS, and after that some other dread disease. When I first broached this subject she would roll her eyes and say "Yes, Dad." Nowadays, she doesn’t even roll her eyes. The other day some woman told me that her husband was dying of cancer. I’ll be damned if I didn’t draw some small amount of comfort from the "fact" that Hannah would soon be curing that disease, hopefully in time to save this precious life. Weird how the mind works, sometimes.

What oh what does this have to do with the present brouhaha about Tibet, and China, and the neocon present saber rattling about that country? I’m glad you asked me. It is this.

I was ruminating the other day, thinking about my medical "assignments" to Hannah. My mind, that is, what there is that is left of it, went off in the following direction: of course, she is not going to cure all diseases known to man. (We joke around a lot in my family; one of the early child books we used to read at bedtime concerned the "Clown Around" family. Well, I suppose there are worse things than helping your kids develop a great sense of humor.) If she has a very successful career, she may just be able to make a small contribution to dealing with just one of them. But, suppose, just suppose, I could have my wishes come true in this regard. What would I really ask her to do? Well, maybe, my "assignments" to her weren’t so off the wall after all, given her predilections. But suppose I wanted more realism, while still being true to my wish list ‘druthers. Then, what would I ask for? Well, still, that is not a bad set of goals. After all, who, really, opposes consigned to the dust bin of history every disease that has ever afflicted mankind? Not even Hitler, or Stalin, one would suppose.

But if I wanted to be even more realistic? That is, to ask for something that could actually come about, right now, if we were all of a mind to achieve it? See, the problem with curing all diseases is that it is really impossible given our present knowledge. Even if all scientists around the world work full out on this problem, and many of them are, they still cannot solve it. We exist in a context of ignorance.

There is, however, one problem that afflicts mankind pretty much on the same level as illness: we keep killing each other, often on truly massive scales. The latest threat in this regard, it would appear (I told you I’d get the second point of this article) is the fact that there is a very real danger of the U.S. bombing not Iran, but China. (Okay, okay, both of these "evil empires.") Why China, for God’s sake? Because they are being nasty to the Tibetans who want to secede.

Now let it be said, loud and clear, I favor secession; heck, not only at the national level, but also including states, cities, boroughs, neighborhoods, families, even individuals; see here, here and here. Certainly, I support the Tibetan cause. By all means, allow them to set up their own country. And this goes for Taiwan as well. Anyone who opposes this is certainly on the non-libertarian side of this debate.

But the call for a separate country of Tibet comes with particular ill grace from the neocons, and indeed, from any American. If this attack on China for its rejection of Tibetan (Taiwanese) separation is to come with clean hands, we must support, domestically:

  • giving large swatches of the American southwest back to Mexico
  • allowing the confederate states to set up their own country
  • rescinding the unconstitutional Louisiana purchase
  • redoing our borders with Canada in favor of the latter; "54-40 or fight," indeed

(Don’t think that if we gave up all this territory, we would somehow cease to exist. No, we could live better, and prosper to a greater degree, under much more salutary political arrangements.)

And, on the international scale, if we are to obviate the charge of hypocrisy, we must favor the separation of

  • the Basques from Spain
  • Chechnya from Russia
  • the Flemish and the Walloons
  • Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales from the UK

Unlike dealing with sickness, we could, if we were so minded, at one fell swoop, end all of man’s brutality to man. It would not require knowledge we do not have, merely an act of will. There are worse places to start this process than getting off China’s back regarding Tibet (and Taiwan.) Surely, China is in the wrong here. But the U.S. is in no position to make this case. Let us first get our own house in order, before blundering around the globe, setting things right everywhere else.

The Samuelson introductory economic text used to compare the U.S. and the USSR economy. In the view of this pinko professor, the latter would soon overtake the former in terms of economic development. Nonsense on stilts, of course. However, if there were a similar comparison made between the U.S. and China, indicating, over time, patterns of freedom within the two respective countries, it would indicate that the former is falling, while the latter is increasing at a rate perhaps never before matched in all of human history. Just a few short decades ago, the People’s Republic was wallowing in Communism, totalitarianism, central planning and outright starvation. Nowadays, there is a real question as to which is the freer country. If this past pattern persists, there will soon be no doubt. So, again, we have an anomaly: the US, bully boy to the world, where freedom is fast disappearing, is presuming to lecture China, which has no foreign military bases anywhere, and where domestic freedom is wildly on the upsurge.

With the neocons in full cry, it is possible, just possible, that Hannah and her colleagues will cure all physical ailments before we put a stop to the horrendous international slaughter — actual and threatened — that now infests our species.

Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable.

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