It Be War!
July 20, 2002
By Thomas James Martin
"The shock therapy of decisive war will elevate
the stock market by a couple-thousand points. We will know
that our businesses will stay open, that our families will
be safe, and that our future will be unlimited."
Kudlow, National Review Online, June 26, 2002
I remember my mother telling me when I was an idealistic
teenager about a person who she called an "ignorant old man,"
who she heard say in public prior to WWII, "If it means higher
prices for corn, then let it be war!"
I could not help but think of those callous words when I
ran across the esteemed Mr. Kudlow's words, which I cited
in the epigram to this essay. Now Mr. Kudlow by no stretch
of the imagination could you be considered "ignorant" like
the poorly educated farmer my mother mentioned so many years
Mr. Kudlow is CEO of Kudlow & Co. and Economics Editor of
the National Review, a respected (by Republicans anyway) conservative
periodical. I took a couple of economics courses in college,
and I know that the subject is quite difficult even if it
still retains (somewhat erroneously) Thomas Carlyle's nineteenth
century moniker, the "dismal science."
Thus, Mr. Kudlow, you are no lightweight—at least with respect
to financial theory and market savvy, and since you are a
CEO of a your own corporation, you must also be well versed
in management, and human relations. (I may have that last
bit about the human relations wrong, since in today's corporate
world, the winners are the sharks that excel at corporate
Aw shucks, Larry (May I call you, Larry), I am only a sometime
journalist and writer, but I can't help but wonder what all
those soldiers may think about your statement. Having served
one hitch in the U.S. Army, I might have felt pretty good
about keeping the "families safe," and maybe even have agreed
with some of that keeping the businesses open since that implies
keeping the breadwinners working to support their families.
However, I do know what I would have felt about elevating
the "stock market a couple of thousand points," and it probably
would have involved procreation with your self in a darkened
Now, I know playing—excuse me—investing in--the market is
supposedly not the same as "making book" on sports action
or the "ponies," as there is research done by a whole lot
of smart people—probably like yourself--who attempt to time
the market and pick the securities that are on the way up
or down (since knowledgeable investors make money either way).
Then again, maybe my naiveté exceeds that of a little old
lady buying Enron stock with the last of her nest egg from
a trusted broker at Merrill Lynch.
Hey, Larry, you know; it just dawned on me--in spite of my
persistent 3rd grade view of American history and society.
People at your socio-economic level with your inside knowledge
of markets, access to the corporate "old boy" network and
good friends over at the SEC most likely only bet on sure
things—like the fact that wars drive up the stock market.
After all, it took the entire mobilization of the country
during WWII—not to mention a few tens of million of deaths--to
end finally the Great Depression. Hey, Larry, I guess I just
made your case, didn't I?
Still, Larry, dying for one's country, making the ultimate
sacrifice for the survival of our people and our democratic
republic is one thing. I could probably have even died peacefully
while serving my country knowing that my parents were living
well and my children, eating hamburgers and fries under the
flawed economic system that some now worship as free-market
However, I don't think that I would have been exactly thrilled
to die for the greed of you and your cronies, no matter how
much it is couched in your quasi-patriotic language expressing
"that our businesses will stay open, that our families will
be safe, and that our future will be unlimited."
You go on to say in the same paragraph, "The world will be
righted in this life-and-death struggle to preserve our values
and our civilization." Since when did the upward mobility
of Dow Jones have anything to do with preserving anything
of our values and civilization other than the most crass—much
less the gallantry of our young men, Larry?
All too often the deaths of a brave soldiers merely to preserve
entrenched political and business interests smacks of the
"rich man's war and the poor man's fight." I cannot help but
think of World War I British poet Wilfred Owens' lament:
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori
Those Latin words translate to "Sweet and glorious it is
to die for one's country." Those words are not always a lie
used by elites to rally the population around the flag; occasionally
those deaths may be necessary for the greater good.
Nevertheless, Larry, it is not sweet and glorious to die
for greed and crony capitalism. Besides, I wouldn't want to
shock my sweet, 80-year old mother with the truth of your
well-wrought words about truth, money and the "American Way."
After all, she still, in all innocence, thinks that only a
low-class, semi-literate old dirt farmer would wish for the
deaths of young men and women just to drive up the price of
Certainly, she would never in her wildest dreams believe
that a man as well-educated, well-connected, and literate
enough to write for a prestigious national magazine would
want to unleash the dogs of war just to chase a few bears
on Wall Street.