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Thread: Afghanistan's Economy

  1. #1 Afghanistan's Economy 
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    This problem just seems like a huge "Catch 22" problem. If Afghanistan's economy improves, the insurgents will be much better equipped. If it doesn't improve, then the government we set up there is always going to be this massive cesspool of corruption and incompetence.

    Perhaps military domination and nation building are mutually exclusive goals?


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  3. #2  
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    If you see economic development as injection of wealth then yes the warlords (and everybody else) will vie to catch (or take a cut from) that flow of wealth.

    If you see development as economic inter-dependencies then a player's ability to dominate diminishes with the diversity of multilateral transactions. Afghanistan today has aid and opium, and little else. This is vertical and narrowly defined. Individual players easily dominate such transactions. A complex web of alternative transactions, though, is impossible for any player to monopolize. See how monopolies work in your own country.

    So I recommend diffuse development for Afghanistan. The antithesis is targeted aid.

    It is counterintuitive, but I think engaging warlords economically can help. People act with impunity when they have nothing to lose. So, make them inter-dependent members within a growing web much larger than themselves. Let one run a telephone service, another a trucking company, etc. etc. as diversely as possible with simultaneous, indiscriminate engagement.


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    If you see economic development as injection of wealth then yes the warlords (and everybody else) will vie to catch (or take a cut from) that flow of wealth.

    If you see development as economic inter-dependencies then a player's ability to dominate diminishes with the diversity of multilateral transactions. Afghanistan today has aid and opium, and little else. This is vertical and narrowly defined. Individual players easily dominate such transactions. A complex web of alternative transactions, though, is impossible for any player to monopolize. See how monopolies work in your own country.
    It sounds like the warlords would have a strong vested interest in putting a stop to this. We'd probably see some people tortured to death, doused in acid, etc during the early stages. Think people would be brave enough to push through it?

    It sounds like pushing through it is their best shot. Maybe we could start out by letting some locals start businesses within a few miles of our key military bases, maybe even providing them with the capital. Then, let them expand out from there once they've got enough momentum to be sure and keep going. It all just comes down to how well we can defend it, and how safe people feel about becoming clients for these businesses. We know the warlords are going to have agents in the area taking names, but if their lists start becoming long enough with too many names on them, the warlords can't retaliate against everyone.
    It is counterintuitive, but I think engaging warlords economically can help. People act with impunity when they have nothing to lose. So, make them inter-dependent members within a growing web much larger than themselves. Let one run a telephone service, another a trucking company, etc. etc. as diversely as possible with simultaneous, indiscriminate engagement.
    Kind of ties into the idea of legitimizing. I like it. So, you're suggesting that we give each of them their own separate industries, so they have nothing to fight over?
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  5. #4  
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    It doesn't matter, in my opinion. Whatever happens, Afghanistan will be the pipeline to the natural gas in the Caspian and there is no likelihood of it being free in any sense in the near future.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Maybe we could start out by letting some locals start businesses within a few miles of our key military bases, maybe even providing them with the capital.
    I see no good in playing favourites. The have-nots would understandably resent the haves. That's how you divide a people & seed conflict.

    The kind of aid I'm thinking of is very modest, spread broadly. And I'd try to help all sorts of small enterprises forge more links. It is risky to grow a ton of tomatoes when your one potential customer may bail on you or underpay 'cause you have no option.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    you're suggesting that we give each of them their own separate industries, so they have nothing to fight over?
    Interdependent, not separate. No need to micromanage either because people will naturally exploit their own particular resources given a market, and will tend to specialize. I'm suggesting we help people grow increasingly stuck in a web of inter-dependencies. So if Warlord A needs Warlord B's phone service for his trucking company, B needs poles delivered, and both need Farmer C's prosperity as a customer, no one's going to rock the boat. An injury to one is an injury to all.



    Quote Originally Posted by samcdkey
    It doesn't matter, in my opinion. Whatever happens, Afghanistan will be the pipeline to the natural gas in the Caspian and there is no likelihood of it being free in any sense in the near future.
    Freedom's overrated IMO. I want Afghanistan to grow stable, from the ground up. They can do that in the shadow of a pipeline, since the pipe does not affect them materially.
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    Freedom's overrated IMO. I want Afghanistan to grow stable, from the ground up. They can do that in the shadow of a pipeline, since the pipe does not affect them materially
    Would you switch places with one of them?
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  8. #7  
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    No I wouldn't. What's that got to do with me personally valuing stability over freedom, or believing one of those a better cure for anarchy?
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    No I wouldn't. What's that got to do with me personally valuing stability over freedom, or believing one of those a better cure for anarchy?
    Those who value stability over freedom have never lived under occupation.

    Or as wotzisname said: Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither

    Unless you're willing to switch places with someone who is not free and undertake to "bring stability" under someone elses idea of what your life should be, you're not really qualified to make that decision for anyone else

    A negative peace where the oppressed and disenfranchised have been gutted, culled or imprisoned is not worth the "stability" it brings.
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  10. #9  
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    May be you take some things for granted. If you want to develop a family and civil society, and every other year some bomb or bozo cuts the road, water supply, power lines, or reforms the tax system, relocates schools, revolutionizes government, shakes up the economy, etc. ideological freedom isn't helping. Freedom doesn't guarantee pensions and trains running on schedule. Stability does. Look at Palestine.

    I think you've confused civil chaos for lack of freedom.

    For thought experiment, consider that our secret masters are alien reptiles. What difference would it make? More relevant to your life, is knowing this forum will be up tomorrow.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    May be you take some things for granted. If you want to develop a family and civil society, and every other year some bomb or bozo cuts the road, water supply, power lines, or reforms the tax system, relocates schools, revolutionizes government, shakes up the economy, etc. ideological freedom isn't helping. Freedom doesn't guarantee pensions and trains running on schedule. Stability does. Look at Palestine.

    I think you've confused civil chaos for lack of freedom.

    For thought experiment, consider that our secret masters are alien reptiles. What difference would it make? More relevant to your life, is knowing this forum will be up tomorrow.
    Yeah look at Palestine. How has the seige [i.e. lack of freedom of movement] helped with the "stability"?

    For Afghanistan the problem is deeper, the United States and its allies have to undo 20 years of brainwashing

    In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.

    The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code.

    Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtu, the textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $51 million on the university's education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994.

    During that time of Soviet occupation, regional military leaders in Afghanistan helped the U.S. smuggle books into the country. They demanded that the primers contain anti-Soviet passages. Children were taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines, agency officials said. They acknowledged that at the time it also suited U.S. interests to stoke hatred of foreign invaders.

    "I think we were perfectly happy to see these books trashing the Soviet Union," said Chris Brown, head of book revision for AID's Central Asia Task Force.

    AID dropped funding of Afghan programs in 1994. But the textbooks continued to circulate in various versions, even after the Taliban seized power in 1996.

    Officials said private humanitarian groups paid for continued reprintings during the Taliban years. Today, the books remain widely available in schools and shops, to the chagrin of international aid workers.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp...nguage=printer

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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by samcdkey
    Yeah look at Palestine. How has the seige [i.e. lack of freedom of movement] helped with the "stability"?
    There we have Israel grossly exercising freedom. Impunity really. They should not be able to get away with that, right? So Israel should not be free to do X Y Z, and in fairness Palestine should not be free to do A B C, and so forth... a system of rules, either de facto or written. Why? Rules for rules' sake? What's the object? The object is stability.

    When the people of those nations are bound to mutual stability, by law, investment, common government, circumstance, whatever, they'll want to maintain stability. In other words they'll want to build bridges not tear them down.

    No one wants to invest in Palestine or Afghanistan, because they're unstable. The people themselves assess the risk, and act accordingly. Contrast the stability of China. Would you build bridges with China or the USA? Is freedom or stability the decisive factor?

    I'm quite sure Israeli policy has been to destabilize Palestine. Restricting freedoms is just one means of doing that. It's actually more effective to open and close a road at random, than keep it sealed nonstop. The Palestinians are getting played worse then they know.
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by samcdkey
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    No I wouldn't. What's that got to do with me personally valuing stability over freedom, or believing one of those a better cure for anarchy?
    Those who value stability over freedom have never lived under occupation.
    I think people who value freedom more than stability have never lived in severe poverty, or seen their kid get blown up on the way to school.


    Or as wotzisname said: Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither
    This, however, is a valid counterpoint to what I just said. :?

    A negative peace where the oppressed and disenfranchised have been gutted, culled or imprisoned is not worth the "stability" it brings.
    Also a very valid point. However, in Afghanistan, I think the people who cause the most trouble are the warlords, who have plenty of money but they're greedy for more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by samcdkey
    Yeah look at Palestine. How has the seige [i.e. lack of freedom of movement] helped with the "stability"?
    There we have Israel grossly exercising freedom. Impunity really. They should not be able to get away with that, right? So Israel should not be free to do X Y Z, and in fairness Palestine should not be free to do A B C, and so forth... a system of rules, either de facto or written. Why? Rules for rules' sake? What's the object? The object is stability.

    .....

    I'm quite sure Israeli policy has been to destabilize Palestine. Restricting freedoms is just one means of doing that. It's actually more effective to open and close a road at random, than keep it sealed nonstop. The Palestinians are getting played worse then they know.
    I don't think we should call it "freedom" anymore once somebody is oppressing someone else. I think this is why anarchies almost always become dictatorships. Someone in the group decides to excercise their "freedom" to put everyone else under their thumb and hold them down.

    Rule by rules is better than rule by leaders. Rules don't take bribes. Leaders do. A democratic society where almost everyone is in consent to a certain set of laws can mostly govern itself. Then the leaders are just administrators/bureaucrats, not self entitled authorities.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I don't think we should call it "freedom" anymore once somebody is oppressing someone else.
    Freedom to jerk people around? Yeah, I was uncomfortable with that extension.

    My main point to samcdkey is: the thickening web of inter-dependencies that binds people together, is not freedom, and it doesn't build on freedom. It builds on stability.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong

    My main point to samcdkey is: the thickening web of inter-dependencies that binds people together, is not freedom, and it doesn't build on freedom. It builds on stability.
    And it's not really slavery either (depending on how you look at it.) Any time we decentralize power we're creating a stepping stone to freedom. (Which is probably what you are really getting at, right?) You really can't have democracy until you've established a certain equality. It's all about having a strong middle class.

    I mean, if 5 guys are running your whole economy, then you might as well make them dictators as well. It saves them the trouble of having to set up a bunch of puppets and pull the puppet strings, and simplifies politics for the average citizen because at least they know who's really making the decisions.
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    My main point to samcdkey is: the thickening web of inter-dependencies that binds people together, is not freedom, and it doesn't build on freedom. It builds on stability.
    The "stability" created by authoritarian oppression is illusory, and seen so by the perceptive - the whims of an arbitrary power not accountable to anyone can turn mercurial at any moment, and the rigidity of response means that even small difficulties can fester and blow up unexpectedly.

    The stability of China under Mao was a chaos of famine and insecurity, for example.

    China is attracting investment now because it is seen as allowing more freedom, with its government more accountable to changing fortune and innovation.

    If the dissidents and democratic revolts take over Iran, in the greater disorder and controversy its foreign policies and economic affairs will become easier to predict and less apparently arbitrary or ominous than those of the secretive, rigidly dedicated, unified, Republican Guard dominated government.

    This kind of dynamic but freely motivated response to an ever changing common reality is where actual stability lies in human affairs - if people are free to act, they will act as people are wont to do, and that is predictable and stable and accountable to what we all know and depend on.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura
    The "stability" created by authoritarian oppression is illusory...
    What an idealist.

    I'm not promoting authoritarianism. I'm promoting civil society through interdependence. Tangibly that means if your neighbour owes you a calf next spring in exchange for potatoes all winter, you're not likely to kill each other. You'll both want to build on the mutually beneficial exchange. The only things that really tip this boat are war, revolution, and extreme hardship, where lives are disrupted and contracts broken.

    What potatoes do your "dissidents and democratic revolts" cart to market?
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura

    The stability of China under Mao was a chaos of famine and insecurity, for example.

    China is attracting investment now because it is seen as allowing more freedom, with its government more accountable to changing fortune and innovation.

    If the dissidents and democratic revolts take over Iran, in the greater disorder and controversy its foreign policies and economic affairs will become easier to predict and less apparently arbitrary or ominous than those of the secretive, rigidly dedicated, unified, Republican Guard dominated government.

    This kind of dynamic but freely motivated response to an ever changing common reality is where actual stability lies in human affairs - if people are free to act, they will act as people are wont to do, and that is predictable and stable and accountable to what we all know and depend on.
    This shows me that balance is the key. If a few people make all the decisions, then their random caprices can disrupt the market. If your society is an anarchy, then everything is constantly shifting also. Investors want things to stay pretty much the way they are right now long enough to recuperate their investments, or else they won't risk their money. (Or they'll only risk it on ventures that are insanely profitable, like opium production.)

    And, without investors, nothing ever happens. They're the key to everything. Make them happy and you're absolutely guaranteed to have economic growth. Scare them away, and you're absolutely guaranteed to stagnate.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pong

    I'm not promoting authoritarianism. I'm promoting civil society through interdependence. Tangibly that means if your neighbour owes you a calf next spring in exchange for potatoes all winter, you're not likely to kill each other. You'll both want to build on the mutually beneficial exchange. The only things that really tip this boat are war, revolution, and extreme hardship, where lives are disrupted and contracts broken.
    What disrupts it is when one or the other players sees a way to get those potatoes for free this year by helping the local warlord storm his neighbor's village. Most people are not far sighted enough to worry about what they'll do *next* winter, after their neighbor is dead.
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    This shows me that balance is the key. If a few people make all the decisions, then their random caprices can disrupt the market. If your society is an anarchy, then everything is constantly shifting also. Investors want things to stay pretty much the way they are right now long enough to recuperate their investments, or else they won't risk their money. (Or they'll only risk it on ventures that are insanely profitable, like opium production.)

    And, without investors, nothing ever happens. They're the key to everything. Make them happy and you're absolutely guaranteed to have economic growth. Scare them away, and you're absolutely guaranteed to stagnate.
    I agree foreign investment can be a great help. But things do "happen" without it. Well look at your own country's history. Much economy grows from the ground up. Particularly the basic social and economic infrastructure that binds a nation together and makes people productive. Foreign investors have no desire to build these things, but they appreciate them.

    It doesn't take big money to get started. The electric company may just be the guy with a 4,000 watt generator who gets a sweet deal on petrol in the next village. Of course if his supply dries up there's a problem, and a bad ripple we call "instability". If the transaction holds, people gradually build upon it, and so forth. He becomes dependent on them, and they he. This is true regardless of Mr. Electric's religious fervour, or whether he's regulated by voters or beats his wife.

    So what I'm suggesting is a lot of small scale aid and investment not discriminating, but rather giving "good guys" and "bad guys" alike the smell of profit in cooperation. It is pretty easy to design investments such that everybody wins if they succeed.

    For example kindergartens. Kindergartens would provide an instant boost to productivity, quality of life, social supports, etc. etc. besides the long term benefit of children who might actually learn to read. There are no kindergartens outside Kabul. Why? Largely because women are unsafe just going out to drop their kids off, and men don't see any value in kindergartens besides. Kindergartens are secular, often run by foreign atheists or Christian missionaries, and staffed by brazen single women who might any day surprise the children with a book about Mother Nature. That's how they're perceived anyway. See why it's not happening? Solution: Fund the local poobah fundamentalist man to set up a kindergarten at his home. As he likes it. Decent women of his household may staff. His badass nephews may extend armed protection to the mothers on the road. Now everybody is hooked into complex interdependencies, plus aid and government have a leg in the door. This does not have to go downhill.

    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura
    The stability of China under Mao was a chaos of famine and insecurity, for example.
    Yes, and before Mao it was worse: China was a mishmash of foreign occupations and feuding warlords. It was so not developing it was spiralling backwards, with the roads failing, communications bankrupt, and waves of internal refugees of which arguably Mao's Long March of "peasant soldiers" was the ultimate. I think the myth that communism hurt China only works when carefully framed - pan out a bit or expand the depth of field and the picture looks quite different.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    What disrupts it is when one or the other players sees a way to get those potatoes for free this year by helping the local warlord storm his neighbor's village. Most people are not far sighted enough to worry about what they'll do *next* winter, after their neighbor is dead.
    That's assuming that people are both evil and stupid. The evil stupid people of Afghanistan, hmm? I dunno, kojax...
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    This shows me that balance is the key. If a few people make all the decisions, then their random caprices can disrupt the market. If your society is an anarchy, then everything is constantly shifting also. Investors want things to stay pretty much the way they are right now long enough to recuperate their investments, or else they won't risk their money. (Or they'll only risk it on ventures that are insanely profitable, like opium production.)

    And, without investors, nothing ever happens. They're the key to everything. Make them happy and you're absolutely guaranteed to have economic growth. Scare them away, and you're absolutely guaranteed to stagnate.
    I agree foreign investment can be a great help. But things do "happen" without it. Well look at your own country's history. Much economy grows from the ground up. Particularly the basic social and economic infrastructure that binds a nation together and makes people productive. Foreign investors have no desire to build these things, but they appreciate them.

    It doesn't take big money to get started. The electric company may just be the guy with a 4,000 watt generator who gets a sweet deal on petrol in the next village. Of course if his supply dries up there's a problem, and a bad ripple we call "instability". If the transaction holds, people gradually build upon it, and so forth. He becomes dependent on them, and they he. This is true regardless of Mr. Electric's religious fervour, or whether he's regulated by voters or beats his wife.
    In the most abstract sense, labor has a monetary value, so any time somebody does work without an immediate return, that's investing. That might not be what most people mean when they talk about investment, but it would be more accurate if they did.

    I think a lot of economists need to broaden their scope. (Actually I'm pretty sure most do, but they need to communicate that broadened scope to policy think tanks.) You're dead right that it isn't just about money.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    What disrupts it is when one or the other players sees a way to get those potatoes for free this year by helping the local warlord storm his neighbor's village. Most people are not far sighted enough to worry about what they'll do *next* winter, after their neighbor is dead.
    That's assuming that people are both evil and stupid. The evil stupid people of Afghanistan, hmm? I dunno, kojax...
    [/quote]

    I think everyone is like that in an unstable environment. Nobody plans a whole year ahead if they can't count on that year. So basically, stability requires momentum. First people have to be convinced that they can create a stable future for themselves. If they don't believe it first, then they'll continue to use the adaptive strategies that are best suited to constant change. (Thuggery being being first on the list.)

    There's also this wonderful anti-motivation poster at despair.com.

    http://despair.com/meetings.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    any time somebody does work without an immediate return, that's investing.
    You're right. Hmm. I guess the poorest die hard Aghans have a lot invested in the country after all!

    It's a curious fallacy that sunk costs can be recouped through war of all things. I've yet to see a victorious nation win their amputated limbs back. Yet we must stay the course so that the loss of our arms and legs will not be in vain. I guess it's about matching the enemy's insane commitment with an even more insane commitment. Pray the Taliban is saner than NATO.

    I think the individuals are, mostly, when they're thinking as individuals.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I think everyone is like that in an unstable environment. Nobody plans a whole year ahead if they can't count on that year. So basically, stability requires momentum. First people have to be convinced that they can create a stable future for themselves. If they don't believe it first, then they'll continue to use the adaptive strategies that are best suited to constant change. (Thuggery being being first on the list.)
    Stability requires momentum, momentum requires stability? Them's the bootstraps.

    I knew a guy who quit Afghanistan some time after the Soviet withdrawal. I guess he had no hope in the near future there, but he always said he'd go back some day. As time wore on he got more of his extended family immigrated to Canada. Last time I saw him he was surrounded by feral little urchins with terrific wide eyes.

    Anyone alive can walk or limp away from a bombed out village. I wonder about those who don't? They must be determined to stay on and build a future where they are. So these are just the people holding greatest hope in the future.
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    any time somebody does work without an immediate return, that's investing.
    You're right. Hmm. I guess the poorest die hard Aghans have a lot invested in the country after all!

    It's a curious fallacy that sunk costs can be recouped through war of all things. I've yet to see a victorious nation win their amputated limbs back. Yet we must stay the course so that the loss of our arms and legs will not be in vain. I guess it's about matching the enemy's insane commitment with an even more insane commitment. Pray the Taliban is saner than NATO.
    The trick is that, when you're battling over political control, what you're really trying to assert is control over is real estate, and real estate is the eternal gift that keeps on giving, economically. It's hard to place a price on it that's too high. Even a human life is only a temporary, transitory, thing. The land is forever. (Or at least until the sun blows up and destroys the Earth 4 billion years from now, anyway.)

    Stability requires momentum, momentum requires stability? Them's the bootstraps.

    I knew a guy who quit Afghanistan some time after the Soviet withdrawal. I guess he had no hope in the near future there, but he always said he'd go back some day. As time wore on he got more of his extended family immigrated to Canada. Last time I saw him he was surrounded by feral little urchins with terrific wide eyes.

    Anyone alive can walk or limp away from a bombed out village. I wonder about those who don't? They must be determined to stay on and build a future where they are. So these are just the people holding greatest hope in the future.
    Going further in this vein, social networks are every bit as much a form of capital as factories are. Often corporations will brag about their "team" or their "people", because having a good group assembled can lead to a situation where they perform better collectively than they would as individuals.

    You have to build the right social network before it even matters what kind of factory machinery you have available. If your friend really wants to help Afghanistan, he should start by befriending other Afghani refugees who feel the same as he does, and maybe even form a social organization/club of some kind, so when the time comes to return, they can all return as a group, with the social network fully formed and ready to start performing.

    If he can't form that group over here, well..... good luck forming it over there.
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