If you think that your government is "wasting" your tax dollars you seriously need to spend a year or two working for a national corporation. Fraud, waste, and abuse? Those people pretty much invented the notion. Not to mention greed, vanity, short-sightedness, venality, nepotism, and credulous stupidity.
Anyway, I wanted to offer up another topic for discussion. Specifically:
"If the United States had some concrete "national interests", what would you consider them to be?"
For example, in the previous post, jim asks several questions along the lines of:
"Do U.S. and Saudi interests intersect? Did they ever?", "Has Saudi Arabia split off from U.S. policy by supporting an invasion army in Iraq? If so, how does this differ from previous U.S. actions which sought to create buffer zones a la the Monroe Doctrine?", and "Why does the U.S. need allies like S.A., Pakistan and all the rest of the jokers we call "NATO allies"?All worthwhile questions, IMO, but still short of the larger question which would be;
"What are these 'national interests' of the United States, and how would acting towards them look (fill in the blank; in the U.S., in Eastern Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East)?"
Let me offer up just one example of something I think falls under this question.
One of the most salient features of the United States that I grew up in - that is, the U.S. of the Sixties and Seventies - was the widespread availability of semi-middle class/living-wage jobs that didn't require 1) an advanced degree or similar specialized training, or 2) some sort of personal "pull" or nepotism. This had the effect of producing a fairly broad swathe of Americans that lived as, thought of themselves as, and voted as "middle class". A shit-ton of government programs like the GI Bill and similar educational loans, and the mortgage-interest deduction helped that happen, too.
And, I should add, so did some fairly hefty tariffs. For most of U.S. history tariff rates have averaged in the teens, with highs as much as 44% (1870) and lows in the high single digits (about 8% in 1917 and 1946). Since 1970 tariffs on imported goods have fallen off the table - the average tariff rate in 2010 was 1.3%.
Now...in my unscientific, openly biased opinion it is in the U.S.'s best interest to have widespread economic "comfort"; that is, that the bulk of the citizenry should be neither so massively wealthy so as to become in essence a nation in themselves nor so poor as to be economically and socially fraught 24/7. IMO the political system set up in the late 18th Century doesn't work well with a small elite and a vast peasantry.
So it would seem to me that this, in turn would dictate some fairly obvious economic and social policies for the U.S. to further this "interest". Limit capital mobility so that corporations cannot flee overseas. Ameliorate techological change so as to find work for people unemployed when buggy whips become obsolescent. Provide tax and tariff incentives to prevent the destruction of domestic industries.
And that, in turn, leads to some - to me, at least - foreign policy imperatives. Don't provide incentives for foreign trade partners to undercut U.S. business. Don't subsidize subsidized foreign industries (i.e. China's...). Don't blunder around knocking over foreign governments and destabilizing other parts of the world, creating refugees (who become cheap labor pools for foreign competition) and impoverishing those who remain behind (ditto).
And that's just me, and that's just one issue.
So; here's the question for the readership.
What, in your opinion, should are U.S.' (or the EU, or whatever your polity of choice is - mine's the U.S. just because I live here...) "national interests"? And, given them (or the one you choose) what sorts of actual national behaviors, economic, political, and social acts should that polity take to address them.
Remember; we're talking purely about broad interests here, not those of any particular group. And we're also talking interests and not fantasies, interests and not dogmas; the teahadis may not believe in "anthropogenic global warming" or that "taxes are the price we pay for civilization" but that's beside the point - I don't believe in "arena football" and, yet, there it is.
So; let's talk about "national interests". What are they? What sorts of things could or should nations do to further those interests? Are there some that conflict with others? Which are "big" interests central to a people's welfare and which can be negotiated or compromised or amended?
Have at it, ladies and gentlemen.