Life as a ‘zero-sum game’

Ronald Reagan once said “We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion that the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one!”
This applies in international affairs as well.
Perhaps authoritarian personalities believe the zero-sum view of life.
The extreme left, at least in its Marxist incarnation, believes that the factory owners exploit the workers.  So in their view, there are two social classes, and one rises by pushing down the other.  Its a zero-sum game.
SchmittThe extreme right, in its Nazi incarnation, had a philosophy of “lebensraum” or living space.  Herpen writes that German theorist Friedrich Ratzel developed an organic state theory. States were, according to him, living creatures that could not be restricted by frontiers: they expanded or contracted according to their organic structure. They needed Lebensraum, “living space.”   The Nazi ideologue Carl Schmitt adapted Ratzel’s theory to the needs of Hitler’s Germany.  Of course to get that Lebensraum, the Nazis decided Slavic peoples had to be conquered, and often killed.

HayekFree-market theorist Friedrich Hayek wrote that what in the United States we call the free-market conservative, or libertarian, is not on the left-right spectrum at all. Rather than a line with the extreme left on one side, and the extreme right on the other, and the rest of us in the middle, he sees a triangle, and the third vertex is the believers in free markets and human rights.
Lets take a look at Russia. That country is spying on Western countries just as much as it did in the bad old days when it was the Soviet Union.  Also, Russian and Chinese (and other) hackers steal U.S. trade and technology secrets.  This type of espionage was described by NSA expert Keith Alexander as “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”  They win, we lose.
Russia does not want its people to admire the United States, and its internal propaganda makes us look decadent, and not only decadent, but responsible for starting an anti-Russian campaign in the Ukraine.
In March 2014 a group of Ukrainian journalists started a website,, run by the London-based Ukrainian Institute, with the aim of checking the facts and verifying the information disseminated by Russian news channels.
One of the examples of misinformation they found was a video on YouTube of Russian soldiers throwing into a heap bodies of Dagestanis they had killed. This video was “recycled” and spread on YouTube with the (false) text “Punitive Ukrainian National Guard Mission throwing dead bodies near Kramatorsk” (Donetsk region)
In July 12, 2014, the Russian Pervyy Kanal (First TV Channel) interviewed a woman named Galina, who claimed to be a refugee and who told how Ukrainian soldiers had taken a three-year-old boy and crucified him “like Jesus.” This story caused great outrage in Russia, which was unfortunate, because it was invented.
In another post of mine I had this quote from the WSJ:
They [the Russians] are writing things about us and our defense forces that are not from this world,” says the senior [Finland] official, such as the yarn that the Finnish government removes children from ethnic-Russian Finnish families for adoption by gay couples in the U.S.
The above shows a contempt by the Russian leadership for their own people, who they feel must be deceived. They might be deceiving you too, for instance, if you see a set of comments on your favorite news or opinion site, those comments may come from a surprising source.  There are internet warriors, working for the Kremlin as paid online mercenaries: “Each troll is expected to post 50 news articles daily and maintain six Facebook and ten Twitter accounts, with 50 tweets per day.”
Van Herpen adds:
Hackers from Anonymous, a vigilante activist network, hacked the e-mail account of one “trolling” group that is charged with running the campaign in the U.S. and gave me some of the information they discovered. . . . Russia’s “Internet trolling squad” made detailed studies of such sites as The Blaze, The Huffington Post and Fox News, including their audiences, owners, official and actual editorial policies, as well as their attitudes toward Russia and Obama. Screenshots show comments posted in English with serious grammatical errors. According to the Ukrainskaya Pravda, the Kremlin bloggers were also active in Ukraine. They were said to be paid twenty-four euros per day for their activities.
So if you read those comments by those trolls, you are being manipulated.  You may be led to believe that there is a large number of your fellow citizens who feel a certain way, for example.
 The cable channel Russia Today, (which is larger than Fox News)  has direct access to the homes of tens of millions of Europeans and Americans.
RT’s staff includes an office with about one hundred personnel in Washington.   In 2009 Nielsen Media Research found that viewers in the Washington, D.C., area preferred to watch prime-time news on Russia Today rather than on other foreign English-language networks, including Al Jazeera, France 24, and Deutsche Welle. In 2013 two million Britons watched RT regularly, and its online presence was “more successful than those of all its competitors. What’s more, in June [2013], Russia Today broke a YouTube record by being the first TV station to get a billion views of its videos.
Now such success in itself is OK, even admirable, except that they manipulate their audience.  Consider:
RT started inviting representatives of marginal, often extreme right antigovernment groups, who were presented as “experts.” One of these groups was the so-called 9/ 11 truthers, people who believe that the 9/ 11 attacks were not the work of al-Qaeda terrorists but a US government conspiracy…  RT’s “experts” also included Malik Zulu Shabazz, the leader of the New Black Panther Party, a hate group. Another invited pundit was Daniel Estulin, who considered the European Union to be the realization of a secret plan invented by the Bilderberg Group …Manuel Ochsenreiter, a guest speaker about German affairs on RT’s English-language channel, is actually the editor of the neo-Nazi magazine Zuerst!, a monthly radical-right magazine that pledges “to serve German— not foreign— interests” and speaks out against “de-nazification.” For James Miller this is problematic, “as RT used Ochsenreiter to defend Russia’s invasion of Crimea, an invasion which the Kremlin said was done to defend the peninsula against neo-Nazis.” Another RT guest, Ryan Dawson, who was presented as a “human rights activist,” was in reality a Holocaust denier who wrote blogs about anti-Semitic ideas.
Russia Today Anchor
Russian military preparations are worrisome. Their bombers fly along the coasts of Alaska and California.  They are largely responsible for the Iranian nuclear program’s technical progress.  And remember, Iran’s leaders have repeatedly called us “The Great Satan”.
Putin has noted that Russia is the only country that could “destroy America in half an hour or less.”
Four Russian bombers and a refueling tanker off California
We really have to hope that Putin does not see his competition with us as a zero-sum game.
Russian government ideology differs from ours. Russia glorifies a strong state. And from Herpen’s book, the Russian Orthodox Church preaches that human rights must be superseded by traditional values, because otherwise we lose morality and civilization. There seems to be an idea that human-rights have to give for morality to prevail. You can’t have both unlimited rights and morality.
Yanko Tsvetkov makes fun of Putin’s view of our decadence.
In this country, there is another debate where zero-sum thinking comes into play. That is the debate on whether we should put tariffs on foreign imports, and whether we should punish companies that move factories abroad.   Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, feels we were taken advantage of in our free-trade deal with Mexico and wants to renegotiate it.  In other words, he does not see mutual benefits, rather he sees Mexico profiting at our expense. On the left, Socialist candidate Bernie Sanders also believes this.
Scott L

Free trade advocates argue that the problem is not Mexican greed, or naïve American negotiators.  They argue that the United States has gotten so dominated by “progressives” that it has created a difficult environment for businesses to thrive, and so they eventually move to other locales.  Moreover, a free trade advocate such as trade-attorney Scott Lincicome stresses that when businesses do fail, there is a lack of “labor dynamism” in the U.S. so people do not find new jobs to move to, and he says free trade reveals the problems with the economy, rather than causing those problems.
Its interesting that several anti-immigrant movements in Europe are also protectionist. One example is the French National Front. In this country, Pat Buchanan is an example of a conservative protectionist who has long called for restricting immigration. My own view is that restricting immigration is reasonable, and restricting economic transactions that interfere with national security is reasonable, but otherwise, we are better off trading with the world rather than having each nation embrace so-called economic-patriotism. We are better off with strong, prosperous neighbors than with weak unstable ones.
Though some situations in life really are a zero-sum game, we should at least try to avoid that philosophy whenever possible.
NSA Chief: Cybercrime constitutes the “greatest transfer of wealth in history”
Van Herpen, Marcel H: Putin’s Propaganda Machine: Soft Power and Russian Foreign Policy   Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s