In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Cassius speaks to Brutus and says this about Caesar:
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Cassius is arguing that since he and Brutus were born equal to Caesar, they should not have to bow to Caesar. Recognizing that “the fault is not in our stars” gives us a pointer to understand why it is that people seek a Caesar in the first place—It is because when things inevitability go wrong, they will have someone to blame. That is easier than taking responsibility to be “masters of their fates.”
As the current economic crisis just begins to unfold, it is inevitable the public psychology will go through several stages: The first stage is denial—the situation is not really that bad and the Fed or some politicians will fix things. The next stage is blaming some politicians, while longing for the good old days under another politician. The corollary of this is hoping for a return to good times in the future when “so and so” gets into office. But, for a lasting economic recovery, we must enter the stage of public willingness to see that collectively we have chosen “dishonorable graves.”
Consider the case of Bill Clinton—arguably one of the most corrupt men to ever hold the office of president. What is disheartening is the number of people who long for a return the “great days” of the Clinton presidency. What they are longing for is a return to the days when the excesses of the credit bubbles were still building but were not yet visible.
Let me bring to your attention, not a litany of Clinton’s old scandals but a recent scandal reported by The New York Times. The former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan has suffered for 19 years under the tyrannical leadership of Nursultan Nazarbayev. According to London’s Sunday Independent, Nazarbayev “has been accused of overseeing one of the most nepotistic, ruthless and corrupt regimes in central Asia.” Nazarbayev is believed to have stolen at least $1 billion dollars of his countries oil revenue.
Given all of this, Nazarbayev would be one of the last people that you would chose to head an organization to monitor elections and promote democracy. Yet according to the New York Times, Bill Clinton is an enthusiastic promoter of just such a post for Nazarbayev:
Late on Sept. 6, 2005, a private plane carrying the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra touched down in Almaty, a ruggedly picturesque city in southeast Kazakhstan. Several hundred miles to the west a fortune awaited: highly coveted deposits of uranium that could fuel nuclear reactors around the world. And Mr. Giustra was in hot pursuit of an exclusive deal to tap them.
Unlike more established competitors, Mr. Giustra was a newcomer to uranium mining in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. But what his fledgling company lacked in experience, it made up for in connections. Accompanying Mr. Giustra on his luxuriously appointed MD-87 jet that day was a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton.
Upon landing on the first stop of a three-country philanthropic tour, the two men were whisked off to share a sumptuous midnight banquet with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, whose 19-year stranglehold on the country has all but quashed political dissent.
Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy.
According to the Times, Bill Clinton’s support paid off. Within two days, Frank Giustra had his elusive deal, and he turned his “unknown shell company into one of the world’s largest producers of uranium.”
And what was in it for Bill Clinton? Giustra has given or pledged $131.3 million dollars to the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Although this story has appeared in The New York Times it has been largely ignored by other traditional media outlets. No, there is no cover-up. The public simply doesn’t care to know. As long we don’t know, we believe the fault is in the stars.
It may be true that the current batch of presidential candidates is less corrupt than Bill Clinton. It is certainly true that none but Ron Paul has an inkling about what we as a people have to do to restore America’s prosperity. America’s decline is not in the stars—it is in our choices.