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Let 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."
Larry 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 ago

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 infighting.)

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 room.

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 capitalism.

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 corn.

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.

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