07 December 2008

The Law of Unforeseen Consequences

Ahn "Joseph" Cao, a naturalized US citizen, beat out William "Freezer Cash" Jefferson for Louisiana's Second Congressional seat. Yesterday all the talking heads from Fox News Channel to the more left-leaning cable news channels were predicting that Jefferson would retain his seat despite being under indictment on bribery charges. Well, surprise, surprise! The pundits were wrong.

Thinking about this for a little bit, it occurs to me that we won the war in Southeast Asia after all. People like Ahn Cao and his family fled South Vietnam when the communist North overran their country. They were among the lucky ones, but there was also a large measure of intelligence, determination, and inspiration involved in their escape. They got out of Vietnam around 1975; they were among the Boat People. They came to the United States of America and prospered. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese left behind, for whatever reason, continue to languish under some altered brand of communism.

We know a local family who also made it out of South Vietnam. The parents run a Vietnamese restaurant they call "Saigon." What else? We have been dining at that restaurant for many years now; it's the only restaurant we return to time after time. We watched the children of that family grow up. The kids worked in the restaurant and did their school homework in one of the booths in their slack moments. One of the sons is a very successful computer whiz who was taken under Bill Gates' wing. He set up a computerized ordering system for the restaurant that allows orders to be sent back to the kitchen and be translated into Vietnamese. Why? Because Mom is the head chef and she still doesn't speak much English. The kids do though and speak English well. They are all intelligent and industrious. They will succeed.

We as a country are lucky to have people like these and all of the others who have immigrated to America. They are the most valuable asset a country can have: human capital. All of the other things that count as capital, e.g., cash, real estate, equipment, credit, are nothing without innovated people with new ideas to bring them into productive use. The late Julian Simon maintained that human capital is the only real resource. I think he was right.

The recent political victories in Louisiana strike me as a significant change in the way the political game is played in that state. Cao offers change just as surely as Obama did; Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's Republican governor, offered the same thing when he was elected. Jindal, Cao, and all the rest of the Asians who have come to the United States have been an injection of new blood, ideas, and hope for this country. Places like Louisiana need that for sure. Change is in the air and it's not just the liberal-left change Obama was preaching when he was running for President of the United States. Change is also, finally, getting rid of the corruption that has riddled Louisiana politics for decades.

Change is good.

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