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Hang 'Em High! It's Good for the Economy!

Reported by Marie Therese - January 8, 2007 -

Last Saturday, the gang of Forbes magazine pundits that blather their way through the weekly edition of Forbes on FOX engaged in a macabre discussion about whether or not hanging dictators would be "good for the economy". I kid you not! Here's the transcript. Barf bags are recommended.

DAVID ASMAN: Up next. The more dictators we hang, the safer the world and your money is gonna be. That's comin' up. Plus, the more manufacturing jobs we lose this year, the better our economy will do. All these Flipside topics comin' up right here. You're only gonna hear it on Forbes on FOX.

DAVID ASMAN: So, Mike, hang 'em high?

MIKE OZANIAN, senior editor & sports statistician, Forbes Magazine: "Not all dictators, David. Just those dictators that have come out and said they wanna kill us, kill Israel or any of our allies. I'd start with Iran. They're already stockpiling nuclear weapons of destruction. We should go after them first and make an example of them 'cause not only would it be good for our safety, it would be good for the market as well."

DAVID ASMAN: Against the North Koreans as well?

OZANIAN: I mean, ya' make them number 2.

Comment: What has this guy smoking? First of all, Iran does not have any "nuclear weapons of destruction". By the most conservative estimate, they are at least three years away from having either a warhead or the means to deliver it. Week in and week out, Ozanian makes outrageous statements yet he is nothing more than sports statistician. He's a glorified overpaid, loud-mouthed bean counter, not a trained foreign policy expert.

DAVID ASMAN: Quentin, what do you think?

QUENTIN HARDY, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, Forbes Magazine: Oh my goodness. Two things. One. The death penalty solves nothing. It is a revenge play and it is an argument for civilization that most countries have outlawed it. But, two, you don't just get to kill them, Mike. You have to apprehend them first. In the case of Iraq that meant invading and, frankly, who likes this war at this point? And who liked the execution? Did you like that we were an accomplice to the way that guy died? Do you want to replay all this again? I don't get it.

ASMAN: Lea. Hold on. Hold on. Lea.

LEA GOLDMAN, Associate Editor, Forbes Magazine: You know what? I haven't lost a wink of sleep over that execution. And I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep if I saw, you know, Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad, you know, twisting in the wind. Those things don't bother me. My problem is that the tragic outcome that has become Iraq is going to chasten us going forward when we really have to deal decisively with military action to threats that affect us, the U. S. and the world. Iran is a global threat and we're gonna be - we're gonna be worse for the wear dealing with that country now that, you know, we have Iraq on our back.

ASMAN: Alright, we'll talk about Iran in a second, but, Rich, what about it? Do we benefit from hanging these guys high?

RICH KARLGAARD, Publisher, Forbes Magazine: Well, let's distinguish between the military threat and the economic threat, because a century ago dictators like Stalin and Hitler commanded these huge industrial economies and were bad for the world. Dictators today play a negligible role in the $50 trillion a year world economy, so we could hang 'em. That might be good for humanity but it would do nothing for the economy.

ASMAN: Steve Forbes.

STEVE FORBES, Editor-in-Chief, Forbes Magazine: Well, the great threat to our economy, of course, is nuclear weapons from Iran, nuclear weapons of mass destruction. So when we get rid of these bad guys, it's not only our safety, it's also good for the economy. And so, we don't have to depose the dictators themselves. Just provide the rope. The locals will do it.


JIM MICHAELS, Senior Editor, Forbes Magazine: I agree completely. But I also think we have to distinguish between authoritarian governments that are friendly to us and those that are hostile. I don't think we want to see the Saudi monarchy fall and be to replaced by an Islamist government. Does anybody doubt if the Shah was still in power we wouldn't be having Iran as a major threat? So, I think when you talk about dictators, ya' gotta be realistic. Ya' gotta be a little cynical.

ASMAN: Discriminating against dictators, Quentin? What do you think about that?

HARDY: You know, this show is probably on the internet and watched around the world and I have to apologize for the person who just that there are good dictators we should support and bad ones we should kill 'cause we sound like the most arrogant empire I ever saw!

MICHAELS: Look. Look at Pinochet. If he had not been in power - come to power - we would have had a Marxist dictatorship in Chile which would have been [indecipherable].

HARDY (talking over Michaels): He was elected. He wasn't a dictator.

MICHAELS: Instead, we had free elections ...

HARDY: Allende was elected.

MICHAELS: ... eventually and one of the most democratic countries in the world.

Comment: A little dose of reality about Augusto Pinochet, the "right kind of dictator":

Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (November 25, 1915-December 10, 2006) was a general and President of Chile. Pinochet led a military junta to power in 1973, through a coup d'état, deposing the democratically-elected Socialist President Salvador Allende and establishing a military government. In 1974, Pinochet appointed himself President and remained in power until 1990. Stating that Chile was under siege by communist subversives, Pinochet implemented a series of security operations, with support from the United States and other South American military governments, in which (according to the Rettig Report) around 3,000 suspected or known dissidents and leftists were killed, and (according to the Valech Report) around 30,000 more were tortured. He later implemented economic reforms which his supporters credit with the development of the robust modern Chilean economy and his opponents identify with large increases in unemployment, poverty and decline in real wages, with little effect on longterm economic performance. .... In 2004, a United States Senate money laundering investigation led by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) uncovered a network of over 125 securities and bank accounts at Riggs Bank and other U.S. financial institutions used by Pinochet and his associates for twenty-five years to secretly move millions of dollars. Though the subcommittee was charged only with investigating compliance of financial institutions under the USA PATRIOT Act, and not the Pinochet regime, Sen. Coleman noted: “This is a sad, sordid tale of money laundering involving Pinochet accounts at multiple financial institutions using alias names, offshore accounts, and close associates. As a former General and President of Chile, Pinochet was a well-known human rights violator and violent dictator.” (Wikipedia)

ASMAN: Rich, what about that?

HARDY (trying to get his point across): Allende was elected.

ASMAN: Hold on a second. What about Pinochet? Here was a dictator who actually led to economic growth in Chile, the only country in Latin America that did so in the 80s.

KARLGAARD: Well, look, the late Jeane Kirkpatrick defined this path where authoritarians like Pinochet and maybe even Lee Kuan Yew in his beginning days in Singapore are not our cup of tea. Might be somebody's definition of a dictator but they move their countries in the right direction. And let us not forget, Quentin, Pinochet, when he lost an election, stepped down peacefully.

ASMAN: Lea, let me ask. What happens if we do get rid of North Korean and Iranian dictatorships. I mean, would we feel the benefits (rubbing his fingers together) right away in the market?

GOLDMAN: Unlikely. Because they have populations that have been suppressed for years and years and when you talk about the Middle East you have populations that are completely unfamiliar with democracy. I mean, it's not - it's not like you're not going to see immediate results but do I think in the long term that the world is better without them? You bet!

ASMAN: Yeah, better, but what about right now? The money, the market and the economy?

FORBES: The market, the market would soar. It's no coincidence the market roared in the 1990s when the cold war came to an end.

ASMAN: The peace dividend.

FORBES: We could focus our brains on productive things instead of just defending ourselves.

ASMAN: So we wouldn't have that overhang, Mike Ozanian?

OZANIAN: And it's no coincidence how much the market's gone up since we abducted Saddam. That is not a coincidence. And I don't know how Rich could possibly say the economic impact is small.

Comment: And the market has tanked since Saddam's execution.


OZANIAN: You talk about the Middle East and all the oil there, Rich. You think that's a small impact? These countries may have small economies ....

ASMAN: Quickly, Rich, quickly.

OZANIAN: ... but they have big influence.

KARLGAARD: Yeah, but they're pumping oil today, aren't they? I mean, you know. What I'm saying is that dictators command very tiny economies unlike centuries ago when they commanded big ones.

ASMAN: I don't think anybody would argue that we'd be better off without these guys.