Comments on the Wall Street Journal Article, "The Marvel of American Resilience."
By Rush Limbaugh
RUSH: Anyway, folks, welcome back. I want to share with you this piece. I found it, I was referring to it earlier in the Wall Street Journal, by a guy named Bret Stephens. It's called the "The Marvel of American Resilience." Let me just give you a pull quote near the end of the piece so you'll know where it's building to. "We are larger than our leaders. We are better than our politics. We are wiser than our culture. We are smarter than our ideas. Enjoy the holiday."
Now, here's how it begins. "Imagine an economic historian in the year 2050 talking to her students about the most consequential innovations of the early 21st century -- the Model Ts and Wright flyers and Penicillins of our time. What would make her list?" What would make her list? What would be on the list of the most consequential innovations of now, the early 21st century? And there's not an iPhone on the list, and there's not an iPad on the list, and there's not an app on the list.
First thing here would be fracking. "Fracking -- shorthand for the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that is making the US the world's leading oil and gas producer -- would be noted. Surely social media -- the bane of autocrats like Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and of parents like me -- would also get a mention. Mobile apps? Check. The emerging science of cancer immunotherapy? Hopefully, with fingers tightly crossed," that will be on the list in 2050 as a great American initiative and innovation.
"After drawing up this list, our historian would then observe that each innovation had 'Made in USA' stamped all over it. How strange, she might say, that so many Americans of the day spent so much of their time bellyaching about the wretched state of their schools, the paralyzed nature of their politics, their mounting fiscal burdens and the predictions of impending decline.
"Perhaps because I grew up as an American living abroad, I've always been struck by the disconnect between American achievement and self-perception. To this day I find it slightly amazing that, in the US, I can drink water straight from a tap, that a policeman has never asked me for a 'contribution,' that my luggage has never been stolen, that nobody gets kidnapped for ransom, that Mao-esque political purges are conducted only in the editorials of the New York Times. Try saying the same thing about everyday life in Brazil, Russia, India, China or South Africa -- the so-called Brics countries once anointed by a Goldman Sachs guru as the economies of the future." But they're not; we are.
"But back to our future historian. Why, she might ask her students, did the US dominate its peers when it came to all the really big innovations?" Now, this is where it gets interesting here, folks.
"Fracking would make a good case study. The revolution happened in the U.S. not because of any great advantage in geology -- China, Argentina and Algeria each has larger recoverable shale gas reserves. It didn't happen because America's big energy companies are uniquely skilled or smart or deep-pocketed: Take a look at ExxonMobil 's 2004 Annual Report and you'll barely find a mention of 'fracturing' or 'horizontal' drilling.
"Nor, finally, did it happen because enlightened mandarins in the federal bureaucracy and national labs were peering around the corners of the future. ... Instead, fracking happened in the US because Americans, almost uniquely in the world, have property rights to the minerals under their yards. And because the federal government wasn't really paying attention. And because federalism allows states to do their own thing. And because against-the-grain entrepreneurs like George Mitchell and Harold Hamm couldn't be made to bow to the consensus of experts," who said this stuff would destroy, would pollute, and wouldn't work. They did it anyway. "And because our deep capital markets were willing to bet against those experts," and go with the entrepreneur.
So he's describing American exceptional here. He's describing American uniqueness. Property rights made it worthwhile for somebody to tear up their backyard and see what was underneath, and when they learned what was there, to go for it. They owned the property, they had the ability to do it. It doesn't happen too many other places in the world.
"My Wall Street Journal colleague, Gary Zuckerman, author of The Frackers, 'When I talk to foreigners, they're even more impressed than many Americans by this renaissance. They understand that it only could have happened in America.'" Isn't it interesting that you have nothing in your newspaper or your daily news digest about any of this? Have you seen what the unemployment rate is in North Dakota? Have you seen the economic output in North Dakota? Have you seen the boom? Do you know that they do not have enough housing yet for all the employees moving there to work? You don't hear a word about it.
You don't hear a word about fracking other than how it's destroying the planet, gonna cause an earthquake, or what have you. But you don't hear any of the upbeat, positive. Fracking, fracturing is largely to explain the falling oil price. The Saudis are scared to death. Well, wait. Not so much the Saudis, but the rest of OPEC is scared to death, and so they are trying to get the price of oil down to put the frackers out of business. After all, competition, it's bloody in the free market, folks. It's designed to be.
And so here's a guy noting something uniquely, genuinely America that's happening without government even noticing, much less being involved. It's happening because of things that are uniquely American. If it can happen here, it can happen in any number of places and usually does. Despite all the bickering, despite all the pessimism, despite all the arguments, the people in North Dakota are not paying attention to any of that. They've got fracking going on. I thought it was a fascinating take.
It's the kind of thing that is much needed. People need a dose of optimism. They need a dose of positive reinforcement. And more than that, people need to hear the evidence that America can be and still is the America they've always known. And in parts of the country it is. And if it is in parts of the country, it can be everywhere again, or we can certainly reclaim a lot of ground we have perceived to have lost.
RUSH: Bret Stephens makes the point that fracking is one thing, one industry. There will be many more. He says: "Innovation depends less on developing specific ideas than it does on creating broad spaces. Autocracies can always cultivate their chess champions, piano prodigies and nuclear engineers; they can always mobilize their top 1% to accomplish some task. The autocrats' quandary is what to do with the remaining 99%. They have no real answer, other than to administer, dictate and repress.
"A free society that is willing to place millions of small bets on persons unknown and things unseen doesn't have this problem. Flexibility, not hardness, is its true test of strength. Success is a result of experiment not design. Failure is tolerable to the extent that adaptation is possible. This is the American secret, which we often forget because we can't imagine it any other way. It's why we are slightly shocked to find ourselves coming out ahead -- even, or especially, when our presidents are feckless and our policies foolish." Americans and America still triumphs.
But we often forget it because we're in the midst of it, and we just expect it because we're Americans. But this guy was an American growing up overseas, and he didn't live it. He watched it from afar. He concludes: "We are larger than our leaders. We are better than our politics. We are wiser than our culture. We are smarter than our ideas. Enjoy the holiday." And have faith in your fellow citizens. Have faith in entrepreneurism. Have faith in freedom, because it is the nature of triumph.
Knowing full well there are all-out assaults on it, but some people pay no attention and just keep exercising their freedom and just keep plugging away. And that's the lesson for all of us. Just like I always say, "If we're gonna have a recession, don't participate. If they're gonna have a bad down economy, if they're gonna do this, don't participate. Live your life, be above it. You can."