The Assets of Commerce

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
September 12, 2004

When Islamic extremists attacked the United States three years ago yesterday, they took aim at what they believed to be our centers of commerce and government. In New York, the attack rendered to rubbles two buildings that had stood seemingly invincible, alters to the financial prowess of our unique republic. Thousands of talented and gifted people perished in a battle that day, in a war they unknowingly fought simply by their participation in our capitalistic experiment.

Military planners often speak of 'high value targets' when deciding where to attack. Traditionally, these targets include things like military bases, power plants, munitions depots, surveillance facilities, etc. These are the assets of war.

In an attempt to bring our economy to its knees, however, these terrorists attacked what they believed to be our assets of commerce - or at least, symbols of our commerce. At this, they failed. The primary assets of commerce in this country does not reside in lower Manhattan or Boston or Chicago. They are not in a building. The primary asset of commerce in this country is an idea - an ideal, actually. It is the notion that free people can chase dreams, exchange property, fail, succeed and engage in almost any sort of pursuit. We have a system that operates on trust, but is supported by our government's responsibility to enforce agreements and protect natural rights. These are assets that cannot be contained in a building, or even an individual. These are rights endowed by our creator and protected by our founding fathers. Jimmy Carter was right: 'America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way around; human rights invented America.'

Although lives were lost and forever altered on 9/11, our way of life was not. We must not allow it to be.

I first visited the World Trade Center in December 1981, only eight years after its completion. Standing in the plaza, I squinted as I peered into the sky. For a kid from Alabama, it seemed as if the sun sat wedged atop the two towers. I couldn't tell if the sun was only 1,400 feet above the plaza or if the towers were 93 million miles tall. Although I had seen the buildings on television, I could not have imagined the magnitude of the structures. Over the next 20 years, the size of the buildings seemed diminished with each subsequent visit. However, my awe for the power of ideas grew every time I went inside those buildings. I once wondered how much financial genius must reside within those offices. But the buildings didn't create the genius, the genius created the need for the buildings. That genius exists on every continent, in every country or small village in the world. In the United States, however, that genius is not only accepted, it is encouraged and nurtured. This is the asset we must not ever let our enemies destroy.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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