Monday, October 03, 2005

Notes from Pawley's - Robert E. Lee's globalization dilemma

The third seminar of the Liberty Fellowship was the last week of September 2005 at Pawley's Island. Below are notes from the week.

Early in the week, we had a discussion about globalization and the loyalty of organizations to governments. For example, KEMET, Milliken, Michelin and BMW operate in a global environment. What loyalty do they owe to the US, France, or Germany - or China for that matter?

Later in the week a seminar moderator from California, who has done an outstanding job, was presented a SC flag that had flown over the state house. A discussion of SC history led to a discussion of the War Between the States and the right of states to succeed from the union. Our friend was adamant that it was very clear before the war that states had no such right to secede under the US constitution.

But the great debate of the first half of the 1800s was precisely over the supremacy of the federal government versus the states. South Carolina's greatest statesman, John C. Calhoun (no not Strom, though Strom may have met Calhoun as a child), argued fiercely that states had the right to nullify laws of the United States with which states disagreed.

Perhaps the greatest specific example of how uncertain it was to whom loyalties were owed was the dilemma faced by Robert E. Lee. His grandfather was General "Light Horse" Harry Lee, hero of the American Revolution. Robert E. Lee attended the United States Military Academy and graduated second in his class having received no demerits, which has not been accomplished again. This was a man for whom duty to God and Country was supreme in his life.

Lee’s world was in rapid transition, and it was very unclear to whom loyalties were owed. Given the choice between being loyal to the State of Virginia or being loyal to the United States of America, Robert E. Lee chose Virginia.

The world has changed so fundamentally since then, that Lee's choice is one we can not conceive of making today. Lee’s decision seems quaint and anachronistic. Our knee jerk reaction today is that KEMET and Milliken are American companies, and though operating in a global economy, they owe their loyalty to the United States. In a few decades will that loyalty seem as quaint and anachronistic, and quite frankly as misplaced, as Lee’s loyalty to Virginia?

My view is as long as it is the US government protecting us from incoming missiles, even those that may have KEMET capacitors in the nose cone, it is clear where our loyalty must lie.

But then it was clear to Robert E. Lee too.

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