The World is at a Crossroads – Toastmaster’s Speech

My toastmasters group recently had an International Speech Competition that I decided to compete in. The International Speeches are meant to be uplifting and universal in nature, so I decided to do a speech about the current global situation. Here is my first draft of the speech. It is written out in full sentences as I was striving for impact and I come to realize, while pursuing my MBA, that words can have a greater impact on one’s ideas than just about anything else. While there are other mediums to express data, an idea is still best expressed with the written word.

    • The World is at a Crossroads

Current worldwide economic distress has reached acute levels. For the last three years, we’ve heard about foreclosures all over America and Europe. We have seen fellow Americans without jobs and without homes. This has caused large amounts of turmoil and suffering. What has recently become particularly painful is that the world-wide cost of ‘just living’ has dramatically risen. This increase is dire for developing nations. Rice has gone up 78%, cotton by 147%, and food, in general, by nearly 100% in the last five years. In countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Haiti the average daily income is $1.75. The average citizen used to spend $1.00 per day just on food. Now they are forced to spend $2.

Gross inequality has always existed, but the internet has made it possible to see it in real time. Thanks to Google Earth, the people of Bahrain have seen pictures of the opulent palaces held by the royal family, while the vast majority live in squalor and cramped living spaces. In Egypt, their economic woes have toppled an autocratic dictatorship of nearly thirty years, with the uprising organized and coordinated on Facebook and Twitter. In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi has attacked his own people and is still fighting to maintain his tyranny. Protests have spread to Saudi Arabia against the widespread corruption, lack of infrastructure, and outright theft perpetrated against the Saudi people by their “rulers.” All of these injustices we can see instantly and vividly. What is worse is that we are partially to blame for them.

In the Middle East, America’s actions are unconscionable. We support the ruling tyranny in Saudi Arabia. We support the ruling tyranny in Bahrain. And until push came to shove, we supported Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship. Not until the Egyptian people were on the brink of starvation and were willing to be outright killed by their overlords did we “decide” to lend our support to the Egyptian people. In the name of securing oil supplies for ourselves, for maintaining stable shipping lines we have condoned, time and again, tyrants, dictators, and countless atrocities. In this respect, our Middle East foreign relations are not much different than China’s relationship with North Korea.

While this sounds dire, I believe we have but only lost our way. We still possess the ability to change. America was founded on principles of liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. We have welcomed those yearning to breathe free and we have supported countless movements for Democracy in many, many parts of the world. While we have failed, we have also succeeded. Vietnam was a visual example of our greatest failure. We hope that Iraq will be an example of success. Only time will tell. What has happened is that we have gotten tired. We have gotten lazy. We have seen that more often than not, the fight for democracy involves untold amounts of hardship, blood, and sacrifice. We have found that we cannot stomach the hardship needed to promote democracy unfailingly throughout the world. And so we have compromised.

As Americans one and all, I urge you to find the strength to carry on. I urge you to find hope and to shoulder the great burden thrust upon our shoulders. America was and continues to be a shining paragon of light for democracy around the world. More importantly, I urge you to truly consider yourself not only as a citizen of America, a great experiment in Democracy suited only to the temperament of North America, but as a citizen of the world. We need to dig deep within ourselves and find the ability to continue, to persevere, and to promote democracy throughout the world. We need to promote Democracy unfailingly, constantly, and completely. For through Democracy and solidarity alone, is there any chance that oppression throughout the world will be repressed. The time has come for America, and Americans, to rethink our position in the Middle East. We cannot promote Democracy for the people of Iraq and deny it for the people of Saudi Arabia. Our allies must realize that promotion of their lesser forms of tyranny, dictatorship, and feudalism is not our end goal. It is but a situation that we haven’t changed yet. Yet change we will.

Counterfeiting Money and Projecting Power

Since the invention of currency there has been attempts to define and stabilize its monetary value by certain parties and attempts to debase and counterfeit the aforementioned value by others. Parties that had a legitimate authority to create currency (usually armed governments) have worked hard to maintain the value of the currency, since they can create it at will. The currency was a method of projecting their power and sphere of influence. Within the Roman Empire, the denarius (pl: denarii) was used as the common currency of the empire. Anyone who accepted the denarius legitimized the power of the Roman Empire. They knew that the Roman Empire and states that traded with the Roman Empire would value this currency and there was a stable exchange rate. The stability of the exchange rate, which was set at 4.5 grams of silver, was guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the Roman Empire. This exchange rate was why counterfeiting was valuable. If you could counterfeit a Roman denarius, you could exchange the counterfeit coin for 4.5 grams of actual silver (a true denarius). This is also why the coinage was so vigorously defended. If you were found counterfeiting coins, you were executed. This didn’t stop people from trying to counterfeit coins; it just meant that the stakes were higher.

We can see the same game that was played two thousand years ago being played today. The game has gotten more complicated, but it’s virtually unchanged. Parties with power over currency wish to maintain the value of that currency and through its sphere of influence project that power over others. The same applies to the American dollar. The US Empire has two main components of power: aircraft carrier fleets and the lowly (or highly depending on your thoughts) dollar. There are currently twenty two aircraft carriers in service within the world. America operates 11 of them. Even with America operating 11 of the 22 operational carriers, no other nation (except maybe England) can support the detailed logistics, support craft and systems, and auxiliary functions that allows an aircraft carrier to be considered a true aircraft carrier fleet- a completely mobile integrated and capable military attack force that can project power anywhere within the world.  That ability belongs solely to the US. This allows the US Empire to project power capably anywhere within the world. Within the last twenty years, this capability has been deployed and successfully used twice within the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. This is Americas most overt projection of power. The US dollar is the flip side of power and is covert in nature.

When people accept US dollars, they legitimize the power within the US Empire. This power though is much more subversive and powerful than anything the Roman Empire was able to achieve. Since the American dollar is a fiat currency it is only backed by the full faith and credit of the US Empire. There is no stable exchange rate tied to the dollar. If you want to exchange the dollar the most you can get is… another dollar. This makes for a very powerful medium for projecting power. The US Empire has the ability to create dollars whenever it needs for whatever it needs ad nauseam. Since the entire world accepts dollars for any and every good, when the Federal Reserve prints more it debases the value of other countries’ goods by that amount. This shows up as inflation in other countries. It has been argued that this power might actually be more valuable than all of America’s aircraft carrier fleets and allows the US Empire to maintain its global dominance.

Other countries have tried to limit and cordon off the US dollar. They’ve tried using a fixed exchange rate that limits the ability to debase the dollar against their currency (i.e. the fixed exchange rate of the yuan to the dollar), they’ve introduced a substitute currency that acts like the US dollar (i.e. like the Euro within the European Union), and they’ve always tried to destroy the power through counterfeiting. Most Americans don’t place too much emphasis that a currency can lose value through a coordinated effort of counterfeiting, but that is probably due to the fact that the American dollar is one of the best protected fiat currencies in existence. Other countries, like Great Britain, are facing current counterfeiting issues that have the potential for destroying the legitimacy of the British Pound. If this issues skyrockets, a true solvency issue can arise as people start lacking faith in their countries’ medium of exchange. Within our current government policies, there is one policy that I am in 100% agreement with Benjamin Bernanke and Timothy Geithner; we must maintain a strong counterfeit-proof American dollar. If only for the fact that all of my money is in dollars.

Mario.

Note: The aforementioned thoughts aren’t meant as a tirade against or condoning for current actions within the United States of America. Even though I used the US Empire throughout the article, I’m not condoning or critiquing the policy; I was just trying to tie the policy to historic examples. I do hope that this can be seen as a dispassionate analysis of the current situation.