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The Secular Stagnation as an Immanent Feature of Post-2008 Neoliberalism

Image courtesy of Koren Shadmi (What’s Behind a Rise in Ethnic Nationalism? Maybe the Economy - The New York Times, Oct 14, 2016)
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Introduction

Secular stagnation is a term proposed by Keynesian economist Alvin Hansen back in the 1930s to explain the USA dismal economic performance during this period. The period in which sluggish growth and output, and employment levels well below potential, coincide with a problematically low (even negative) real interest rates even in the face of the extraordinarily easy monetary policy. Later a similar phenomenon occurred in Japan. that's why it is often called called Japanification of the economy.  Secular stagnation returned to the USA in full force after the financial crisis of 2008 (so called The Long Recession), so this is the second time the USA society experience the same socio-economic phenomenon. 

Formally it can be defined as any stagnation that lasts substantially longer then the business cycle (and dominates the business cycle induced variations of economic activities), the suppression of economic performance for a long (aka secular) period. It also can be viewed as the crisis of demand, when demand became systemically weak (which under neoliberalism is ensured by redistribution of wealth up).

The global stagnation we are experiencing is the logical result of the dominance of neoliberalism and a sign of its crisis an a ideology. It is somewhat similar to the crisis of Bolshevik's ideology in the USSR in 60th when everybody realized that the existing society cannot fulfill the key promise of higher living standards. And that over centralization of economic life naturally leads to stagnation.  The analogy does not ends here, but this point is the most important.

Neoliberalism replaced over-centralization (with iron fist one party rule) with over-financialization (with iron fist rule of financial oligarchy), with generally the same result as for the economy ( In other words neoliberalism like bolshevism is equal to economic stagnation; extremes meet).  The end of cheap oil did not help iether. In a sense neoliberalism might be viewed as the elite reaction to the end of cheap oil, when it became clear that there are not enough cookies for everyone.

This growth in the financial sector's profits has not been an accident; it is the result of  engineered shift in the elite thinking, which changed government policies. The central question of politics is, in my view, "Who has a right to live and who does not".  In the answer to this question, neoliberal subscribes to Social Darwinism: ordinary citizens should be given much less rather than more social protection. Such  policies would have been impossible in 50th and 60th (A Short History of Neo-liberalism)

In 1945 or 1950, if you had seriously proposed any of the ideas and policies in today's standard neo-liberal toolkit, you would have been laughed off the stage at or sent off to the insane asylum. At least in the Western countries, at that time, everyone was a Keynesian, a social democrat or a social-Christian democrat or some shade of Marxist.

The idea that the market should be allowed to make major social and political decisions; the idea that the State should voluntarily reduce its role in the economy, or that corporations should be given total freedom, that trade unions should be curbed and citizens given much less rather than more social protection--such ideas were utterly foreign to the spirit of the time. Even if someone actually agreed with these ideas, he or she would have hesitated to take such a position in public and would have had a hard time finding an audience.

And this change in government polices was achieved in classic Bolsheviks coup d'état way, when yoiu first create the Party of "professional neoliberal revolutionaries". Who then push for this change and "occupy" strategic places like economics departments at the universities, privately funded think tanks, MSM, and then subvert one or both major parties.  The crisis of "New Deal Capitalism" helped, but without network of think tanks and rich donors, the triumph of neoliberalism in the USA would have been impossible:

...one explanation for this triumph of neo-liberalism and the economic, political, social and ecological disasters that go with it is that neo-liberals have bought and paid for their own vicious and regressive "Great Transformation". They have understood, as progressives have not, that ideas have consequences. Starting from a tiny embryo at the University of Chicago with the philosopher-economist Friedrich von Hayek and his students like Milton Friedman at its nucleus, the neo-liberals and their funders have created a huge international network of foundations, institutes, research centers, publications, scholars, writers and public relations hacks to develop, package and push their ideas and doctrine relentlessly.

Most economists are acutely aware of the increasing role in economic life of financial markets, institutions and operations and the pursuit of prifits via excotic instruments such as derivatives (all this constituted  financialization). This dominant feature of neoliberalism has huge the re-distributional implications, huge effects on the US economy, international dimensions and monetary system, depth and longevity of financial crises and unapt policy responses to them.

They have built this highly efficient ideological cadre because they understand what the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci was talking about when he developed the concept of cultural hegemony. If you can occupy peoples' heads, their hearts and their hands will follow.

I do not have time to give you details here, but believe me, the ideological and promotional work of the right has been absolutely brilliant. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, but the result has been worth every penny to them because they have made neo-liberalism seem as if it were the natural and normal condition of humankind. No matter how many disasters of all kinds the neo-liberal system has visibly created, no matter what financial crises it may engender, no matter how many losers and outcasts it may create, it is still made to seem inevitable, like an act of God, the only possible economic and social order available to us.  

Neoliberalism naturally leads to secular stagnation due to redistribution of wealth up. which undermines purchasing power of the 99%, or more correctly 99.9 of the population. In the USA this topic became hotly debated theme in establishment circles after Summers speech in 2013.  Unfortunately it was suppressed in Presidential campaign of 2016. Please note that Sanders speaks about Wall Street shenanigans, but not about ideology of neoliberalism.  No candidates tried to address this problem of "self-colonization" of the USA, which is probably crucial to "making America great again" instead of continued slide into what is called "banana republic" coined by American writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter 1862–1910). Here is how Wikipedia described the term:

Banana republic or banana state is a pejorative political science term for politically unstable countries in Latin America whose economies are largely dependent on exporting a limited-resource product, e.g. bananas. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy of business, political, and military elites.[1] This politico-economic oligarchy controls the primary-sector productions to exploit the country's economy.[2]

... ... ...

In economics, a banana republic is a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by a collusion between the State and favoured monopolies, in which the profit derived from the private exploitation of public lands is private property, while the debts incurred thereby are a public responsibility.

This topic is of great importance to the US elite because the USA is the citadel of  neoliberalism. It also suggest that the natural way neoliberal economic system based on increasing of the level of inequality (redistribution of wealth up) should behave: after the initial economic boom (like in case of steroids use) caused by  financialization of economy (as well as dissolution of the USSR), helped by off-shoring of manufacturing, the destructive effects of this temporary boost come into foreground. Redistribution of wealth up increases inequality which after a certain delay starts to undercuts domestic demand. It also tilts the demand more toward conspicuous consumption (note the boom of luxury cars sales in the USA).  

But after  inequality reaches certain critical threshold  the economy faces extended period of low growth reflecting persistently weak private demand (purchasing power of lower 90% of population).  People who mostly have low level service economy jobs (aka MC-jobs) can't buy that much.  Earlier giants of American capitalism like Ford understood that, but Wall Street sharks do not and does not want.  They operate under principle "Après nous le déluge" ("After us, the deluge").

An economic cycle enters recession when total spending falls below expected by producers and they realize that production level is too high relative to demand. What we have under neoliberalism is Marx's crisis of overproduction on a new level. At this level it is intrinsically connected with the parasitic nature of complete financialization of the economy. The focus on monetary policy and the failure to enact fiscal policy options is the key structural defect of neoliberalism ideology and can't be changed unless neoliberal ideology is abandoned. Which probably will not happen unless another huge crisis hits the USA. That might not happen soon.  Bolshevism lasted more then 70 years. If we assume that the "age of neoliberalism" started at 1973 with Pinochet coup d'état in Chile, neoliberalism as a social system is just 43 years old (as of 2016). It still has some "time to live"(TTL) in zombies state due to the principle first formulated by Margaret Thatcher as TINA ("There Is No Alternative") -- the main competitor, bolshevism, was discredited by the collapse of the USSR and China leadership adoption of neoliberalism. While Soviet leadership simply abandoned the sinking ship and became Nouveau riche in a neoliberal society that followed, Chinese elite managed to preserved at least outer framework of the Marxist state and the political control of the Communist party (not clear for how long). But there was a neoliberal transformation of Chinese economy, initiated, paradoxically, by the Chinese Communist Party.

Currently, no other ideology, including old "New Deal" ideology can  compete with neoliberal ideology, although things started to change with Sanders campaign in the USA on  the left and Trump campaign on the right. Most of what we see as a negative reaction to neoliberalism in Europe generally falls into the domain of cultural nationalism.    

The 2008 financial crisis, while discrediting neoliberalism as an ideology (in the same way as WWII discredited Bolshevism), was clearly not enough for the abandonment of this ideology. Actually neoliberalism proved to be remarkably resilient after this crisis. Some researchers claim that it entered "zombie state" and became more bloodthirsty and ruthless.

There is also religious overtones of neoliberalism which increase its longevity (similar to Trotskyism, and neoliberalism can be called "Trotskyism for rich"). So, from a small, unpopular sect with virtually no influence, neo-liberalism has become the major world religion with its dogmatic doctrine, its priesthood, its law-giving institutions and perhaps most important of all, its hell for heathen and sinners who dare to contest the revealed truth.  Like in most cults adherents became more fanatical believers after the prophecy did not materialized. The USA elite tried partially alleviate this problem by resorting to military Keynesianism as a supplementary strategy. But while military budget was raised to unprecedented levels, it can't reverse the tendency. Persistent high output gap is now a feature of the US economy, not a transitory state.

But there is another factor in play here: combination of peak (aka "plato" ;-) oil and established correlation of  the speed of economic growth and prices on fossil fuels and first of all on oil. Oil provides more than a third of the energy we use on the planet every day, more than any other energy source (How High Oil Prices Will Permanently Cap Economic Growth - Bloomberg). It is dominant fuel for transport and in this role it is very difficult to replace. 

That means that a substantial increase of price of oil acts as a fundamental limiting factor for economic growth. And "end of cheap oil" simply means that any increase of supply of oil to support growing population on the planet and economic growth now requires higher prices. Which naturally undermine economic growth, unless massive injection of currency are instituted. that probably was the factor that prevented slide of the US economy into the recession in 2009-2012.  Such a Catch-22.

Growth dampening potential of over $100-a-barrel oil is now a well established factor. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true. Drop of oil price to below $50 as happened in late 2014 and first half of 2015 did not increase growth rate of the USA economy. It might simply prevented it from sliding it into another phase of Great Recession. Moreover when  economies activity drops, less oil is needed.  Enter permanent stagnation.

Also there is not much oil left that can be profitably extracted at prices below $80. So the current oil price slump is a temporary phenomenon, whether it was engineered, or is a mixture of factors including temporary overcapacity . Sooner or later oil prices should return to level "above $80", as only at this level of oil price capital expenditures in new production make sense. That des not mean that oil prices can't be suppressed for another year or even two, but as Herbert Stein aptly noted   "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop,"

 The alien spaceship landing

Imagine the alien spaceship landed somewhere in the world. There would be denial, disbelief, fear, and great uncertainty for the future. World leaders would struggle to make sense of the events. The landing would change everything.

The secular stagnation (aka "end of permanent growth") is a very similar event.  This also is the event that has potential to change everything, but it is much more prolonged in time and due to this less visible ("boiling frog effect").  Also this is not a single event, but a long sequence of related events that probably might last several decades (as Japan had shown) or even centuries. The current "Great Recession" might be just a prolog to those events. It is clearly incompatible with capitalism as a mode of production, although capitalism as a social system demonstrated over the years tremendous adaptability and it is too early to write it down completely.  Also no clear alternatives exists. 

A very slow recovery and the secular stagnation is characteristic of economies suffering from a balance-sheet recession (aka crisis of overproduction), as forcefully argued by Nomura’s Richard Koo and other economists. The key point is that private investment is down, not because of “policy uncertainty” or “increased regulation”, but because business-sector expectations about future profitability have become dramatically depressed — and rationally so — in a context characterized by heavy indebtedness (of both households and corporations). As businesses see the demand falls they scale down production which creates negative feedback look and depresses demand further. 

The key point is that private investment is down, not because of “policy uncertainty” or “increased regulation”, but because business-sector expectations about future profitability have become dramatically depressed — and rationally so — in a context characterized by heavy indebtedness (of both households and corporations). As businesses see the demand falls they scale down production which creates negative feedback look and depresses demand further.   

Five  hypothesis about the roots of secular stagnation

There are at least five different hypothesis about the roots of secular stagnation:

Summers’s remarks and articles were followed by an explosion of debate concerning “secular stagnation”—a term commonly associated with Alvin Hansen’s work from the 1930s to ’50s, and frequently employed in Monthly Review to explain developments in the advanced economies from the 1970s to the early 2000s.2 Secular stagnation can be defined as the tendency to long-term (or secular) stagnation in the private accumulation process of the capitalist economy, manifested in rising unemployment and excess capacity and a slowdown in overall economic growth. It is often referred to simply as “stagnation.” There are numerous theories of secular stagnation but most mainstream theories hearken back to Hansen, who was Keynes’s leading early follower in the United States, and who derived the idea from various suggestions in Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936).

Responses to Summers have been all over the map, reflecting both the fact that the capitalist economy has been slowing down, and the role in denying it by many of those seeking to legitimate the system. Stanford economist John B. Taylor contributed a stalwart denial of secular stagnation in the Wall Street Journal. In contrast, Paul Krugman, who is closely aligned with Summers, endorsed secular stagnation on several occasions in the New York Times. Other notable economists such as Brad DeLong and Michael Spence soon weighed in with their own views.3

Three prominent economists have new books directly addressing the phenomena of secular stagnation.4 It has now been formally modelled by Brown University economists Gauti Eggertsson and Neil Mehrotra, while Thomas Piketty’s high-profile book bases its theoretical argument and policy recommendations on stagnation tendencies of capitalism. This explosion of interest in the Summers/Krugman version of stagnation has also resulted in a collection of articles and debate, edited by Coen Teulings and Richard Baldwin, entitled Secular Stagnation: Facts, Causes and Cures.5

Seven years after “The Great Financial Crisis” of 2007–2008, the recovery remains sluggish. It can be argued that the length and depth of the Great Financial Crisis is a rather ordinary cyclical crisis. However, the monetary and fiscal measures to combat it were extraordinary. This has resulted in a widespread sense that there will not be a return to “normal.” Summers/Krugman’s resurrection within the mainstream of Hansen’s concept of secular stagnation is an attempt to explain how extraordinary policy measures following the 2007–2008 crisis merely led to the stabilization of a lethargic, if not comatose, economy.

But what do these economists mean by secular stagnation? If stagnation is a reality, does their conception of it make current policy tools obsolete? And what is the relationship between the Summers/Krugman notion of secular stagnation and the monopoly-finance capital theory?

... ... ...

In “secular stagnation,” the term “secular” is intended to differentiate between the normal business cycle and long-term, chronic stagnation. A long-term slowdown in the economy over decades can be seen as superimposed on the regular business cycle, reflecting the trend rather than the cycle.

In the general language of economics, secular stagnation, or simply stagnation, thus implies that the long-run potential economic growth has fallen, constituting the first pillar of MISS. This has been most forcefully argued for by Robert Gordon, as well as Garry Kasparov and Peter Thiel.6 Their argument is that the cumulative growth effect of current (and future) technological changes will be far weaker than in the past. Moreover, demographic changes place limits on the development of “human capital.” The focus is on technology, which orthodox economics generally sees as a factor external to the economy and on the supply-side (i.e., in relation to cost). Gordon’s position is thus different than that of moderate Keynesians like Summers and Krugman, who focus on demand-side contradictions of the system.

In Gordon’s supply-side, technocratic view, there are forces at work that will limit the growth in productive input and the efficiency of these inputs. This pillar of MISS emphasizes that it is constraints on the aggregate supply-side of the economy that have diminished absolutely the long-run potential growth.

The second pillar of MISS, also a supply-side view, goes back at least to Joseph Schumpeter. To explain the massive slump of 1937, Schumpeter maintained there had emerged a growing anti-business climate. Moreover, he contended that the rise of the modern corporation had displaced the role of the entrepreneur; the anti-business spirit had a repressive effect on entrepreneurs’ confidence and optimism.7 Today, this second pillar of MISS has been resurrected suggestively by John B. Taylor, who argues the poor recovery is best “explained by policy uncertainty” and “increased regulation” that is unfavorable to business. Likewise, Baker, Bloom, and Davis have forcefully argued that political uncertainty can hold back private investment and economic growth.8

Summers and Krugman, as Keynesians, emphasize a third MISS pillar, derived from Keynes’s famous liquidity trap theory, which contends that the “full-employment real interest rate” has declined in recent years. Indeed, both Summers and Krugman demonstrate that real interest rates have declined over recent decades, therefore moving from an exogenous explanation (as in pillars one and two) to a more endogenous explanation of secular stagnation.9 The ultimate problem here is lack of investment demand, such that, in order for net investment to occur at all, interest rates have to be driven to near zero or below. Their strong argument is that there are now times when negative real interest rates are needed to equate saving and investment with full employment.

However, “interest rates are not fully flexible in modern economies”—in other words, market-determined interest rate adjustments chronically fail to achieve full employment. Summers contends there are financial forces that prohibit the real interest rate from becoming negative; hence, full employment cannot be realized.10

Some theorists contend that there has been demographic structural shifts increasing the supply of saving, thus decreasing interest rates. These shifts include an increase in life expectancy, a decrease in retirement age, and a decline in the growth rate of population.

Others, including Summers, point out that stagnation in capital formation (or accumulation) can be attributed to a decrease in the demand for loanable funds for investment. One mainstream explanation offered for this is that today’s new technologies and companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, require far less capital investment. Another hypothesis is that there has been an important decrease in the demand for loanable funds, although they argue this is due to a preference for safe assets. These factors can function together to keep the real interest rate very low. The policy implication of secular low interest rates is that monetary policy is more difficult to implement effectually; during a recession, it is weakened and can even become ineffectual.

Edward Glaeser, focusing on “secular joblessness,” places severe doubt on the first pillar of MISS, but then makes a very important additional argument. Glaeser rejects the notion that there has been a slowdown in technological innovation; innovation is simply “unrelenting.” Likewise, he is far less concerned with secular low real interest rates, which may be far more cyclical. “Therefore,” contends Glaeser, “stagnation is likely to be temporary.”

Nonetheless, Glaeser underscores secular joblessness, and thus the dysfunction of U.S. labor markets constitutes a fourth pillar of MISS: “The dysfunction in the labour market is real and serious, and seems unlikely to be solved by any obvious economic trend.” Somehow, then, the problem is due to a misfit of skills or “human capital” on the side of workers, who thus need retraining. “The massive secular trend in joblessness is a terrible social problem for the US, and one that the country must try to address” with targeted policy.11 Glaeser’s argument for the dysfunction of U.S. labor markets is based on recession-generated shocks to employment, specifically of less-skilled U.S. workers. After 1970, when workers lost their job, the damage to human capital became permanent. In short, when human capital depreciates due to unemployment, overall abilities and “talent” are “lost” permanently. This may be because the skills required in today’s economy need to be constantly practiced to be retained. Thus, there is a ratchet-like effect in joblessness caused by recessions, whereby recession-linked joblessness is not fully reversed during recoveries—and all this is related to skills (the human capital of the workers), and not to capital itself. According to Glaeser, the ratchet-like effect of recession-linked joblessness is further exacerbated by the U.S. social-safety net, which has “made joblessness less painful and increased the incentives to stay out of work.”12

Glaeser contends that, if his secular joblessness argument is correct, the macroeconomic fiscal interventions argued for by Summers and Krugman are off-base.13 Instead, the safety net should be redesigned in order to encourage rather than discourage people from working. Additionally, incentives to work need to be radically improved through targeted investments in education and workforce training.14 Such views within the mainstream debate, emphasizing exogenous factors, are generally promoted by freshwater (conservative) rather than saltwater (liberal) economists. Thus, they tend to emphasize supply-side or cost factors.

The fifth pillar of MISS contends that output and productivity growth are stagnant due to a failure to invest in infrastructure, education, and training. Nearly all versions of MISS subscribe to some version of this, although there are both conservative and liberal variations. Barry Eichengreen underscores this pillar and condemns recent U.S. fiscal developments that have “cut to the bone” federal government spending devoted to infrastructure, education, and training.

The fifth pillar of MISS necessarily reflects an imbalance between public and private investment spending. Many theorists maintain that the imbalance between public and private investment spending, hence secular stagnation, “is not inevitable.” For example, Eichengreen contends if “the US experiences secular stagnation, the condition will be self-inflicted. It will reflect the country’s failure to address its infrastructure, education and training needs. It will reflect its failure to…support aggregate demand in an effort to bring the long-term unemployed back into the labour market.”15

The sixth pillar of MISS argues that the “debt overhang” from the overleveraging of financial firms and households, as well as private and public indebtedness, are a serious drag on the economy. This position has been argued for most forcefully by several colleagues of Summers at Harvard, most notably Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.16 Atif Mian and Amir Sufi also argue that household indebtedness was the primary culprit causing the economic collapse of 2007–2008. Their policy recommendation is that the risk to mortgage borrowers must be reduced to avoid future calamities.17

As noted, the defenders of MISS do not necessarily support a compatibility between the above six pillars: those favored by conservatives are supply-side and exogenous in emphasis, while liberals tend towards demand-side and endogenous ones. Instead, most often these pillars are developed as competing theories to explain the warrant of some aspect of secular stagnation, and/or to defend particular policy positions while criticizing alternative policy positions. However, the concern here is not whether there is the possibility for a synthesis of mainstream views. Rather, the emphasis is on how partial and separate such explanations are, both individually and in combination.

Neoliberal economy actually needs bubbles to function

As Krugman said "We now know that the economic expansion of 2003-2007 was driven by a bubble. You can say the same about the latter part of the 90s expansion; and you can in fact say the same about the later years of the Reagan expansion, which was driven at that point by runaway thrift institutions and a large bubble in commercial real estate." In other words blowing bubbles is the fundamental way neoliberal economy functions, not an anomaly.

As much as the USA population is accustomed to hypocrisy of the ruling elite and is brainwashed by MSM, this news, delivered to them personally by the crisis of 2008 was too much for them not question the fundamentals (A Primer on Neoliberalism):

Of course, the irony that those same institutions would now themselves agree that those “anti-capitalist” regulations are required is of course barely noted. Such options now being considered are not anti-capitalist. However, they could be described as more regulatory or managed rather than completely free or laissez faire capitalism, which critics of regulation have often preferred.

But a regulatory capitalist economy is very different to a state-based command economy, the style of which the Soviet Union was known for. The points is that there are various forms of capitalism, not just the black-and-white capitalism and communism. And at the same time, the most extreme forms of capitalism can also lead to the bigger bubbles and the bigger busts.

In that context, the financial crisis, as severe as it was, led to key architects of the system admitting to flaws in key aspects of the ideology.

At the end of 2008, Alan Greenspan was summoned to the U.S. Congress to testify about the financial crisis. His tenure at the Federal Reserve had been long and lauded, and Congress wanted to know what had gone wrong. Henry Waxman questioned him:

[Greenspan’s flaw] warped his view about how the world was organized, about the sociology of the market. And Greenspan is not alone. Larry Summers, the president’s senior economic advisor, has had to come to terms with a similar error—his view that the market was inherently self-stabilizing has been “dealt a fatal blow.” Hank Paulson, Bush’s treasury secretary, has shrugged his shoulders with similar resignation. Even Jim Cramer from CNBC’s Mad Money admitted defeat: “The only guy who really called this right was Karl Marx.” One after the other, the celebrants of the free market are finding themselves, to use the language of the market, corrected.

Raj Patel, Flaw PDF formatted document, The Value of Nothing, (Picador, 2010), pp.4, 6-7

Now for the second time in history, the challenge is to save capitalism from itself

Now for the second time in history, the challenge is to save capitalism from itself: to recognize the great strengths of open, competitive markets while rejecting the extreme capitalism and unrestrained greed that have perverted so much of the global financial system in recent times. It took such a statesman as Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rebuild American capitalism after the Great Depression. New Deal policies allowed to rebuild postwar domestic demand, to engineer the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and to set in place the Bretton Woods system to govern international economic engagement.

With the abolishment of those policies blowing of one bubble after another, each followed by a financial crisis  became standard chain of the events. Since 1973 we already have a half-dozen bubbles following by economic crisis. It started with  Savings and loan crisis which partially was caused by the deregulation of S&Ls in 1980, by the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act signed by President Jimmy Carter on March 31, 1980, an important step is a series that eliminated regulations initially designed to prevent lending excesses and minimize failures.

To hide this unpleasant fact neoliberals resort to so called the Great Neoliberal Lie:

What is neoliberalism

The fallacious and utterly misleading argument that the global economic crisis (credit crunch) was caused by excessive state spending, rather than by the reckless gambling of the deregulated, neoliberalized financial sector.

Just as with other pseudo-scientific theories and fundamentalist ideologies, the excuse that "we just weren't fundamentalist enough last time" is always there. The neoliberal pushers of the establishment know that pure free-market economies are as much of an absurd fairytale as 100% pure communist economies, however they keep pushing for further privatizations, tax cuts for the rich, wage repression for the ordinary, and reckless financial sector deregulations precisely because they are the direct beneficiaries of these policies. Take the constantly widening wealth gap in the UK throughout three decades of neoliberal policy. The minority of beneficiaries from this ever widening wealth gap are the business classes, financial sector workers, the mainstream media elite and the political classes. It is no wonder at all that these people think neoliberalism is a successful ideology. Within their bubbles of wealth and privilege it has been. To everyone else it has been an absolute disaster.

Returning to a point I raised earlier in the article; one of the main problems with the concept of "neoliberalism" is the nebulousness of the definition. It is like a form of libertarianism, however it completely neglects the fundamental libertarian idea of non-aggression. In fact, it is so closely related to that other (highly aggressive) US born political ideology of Neo-Conservatism that many people get the two concepts muddled up. A true libertarian would never approve of vast taxpayer funded military budgets, the waging of imperialist wars of aggression nor the wanton destruction of the environment in pursuit of profit.

Another concept that is closely related to neoliberalism is the ideology of minarchism (small stateism), however the neoliberal brigade seem perfectly happy to ignore the small-state ideology when it suits their personal interests. Take the vast banker bailouts (the biggest state subsidies in human history) that were needed to save the neoliberalised global financial sector from the consequences of their own reckless gambling, the exponential growth of the parasitic corporate outsourcing sector (corporations that make virtually 100% of their turnover from the state) and the ludicrous housing subsidies (such as "Help to Buy and Housing Benefits) that have fueled the reinflation of yet another property Ponzi bubble.

The Godfather of neoliberalism was Milton Friedman. He made the case that illegal drugs should be legalised in order to create a free-market drug trade, which is one of the very few things I agreed with him about. However this is politically inconvenient (because the illegal drug market is a vital source of financial sector liquidity) so unlike so many of his neoliberal ideas that have consistently failed, yet remain incredibly popular with the wealthy elite, Friedman's libertarian drug legalisation proposals have never even been tried out.

The fact that neoliberals are so often prepared to ignore the fundamental principles of libertarianism (the non-aggression principle, drug legalisation, individual freedoms, the right to peaceful protest ...) and abuse the fundamental principles of small state minarchism (vast taxpayer funded bailouts for their financial sector friends, £billions in taxpayer funded outsourcing contracts, alcohol price fixing schemes) demonstrate that neoliberalism is actually more like Ayn Rand's barmy (greed is the only virtue, all other "virtues" are aberrations) pseudo-philosophical ideology of objectivism  than a set of formal economic theories.

The result of neoliberal economic theories has been proven time and again. Countries that embrace the neoliberal pseudo-economic ideology end up with "crony capitalism", where the poor and ordinary suffer "austerity", wage repression, revocation of labor rights and the right to protest, whilst a tiny cabal of corporate interests and establishment insiders enrich themselves via anti-competitive practices, outright criminality and corruption and vast socialism-for-the-rich schemes.

Neoliberal fanatics in powerful positions have demonstrated time and again that they will willingly ditch their right-wing libertarian and minarchist "principles" if those principles happen to conflict with their own personal self-interest. Neoliberalism is less of a formal set of economic theories than an error strewn obfuscation narrative to promote the economic interests, and  justify the personal greed of the wealthy, self-serving establishment elite.
 

Bubbles as the neoliberal tool for wealth redistribution

The 1930s, a well researched period of balance-sheet recession, provides some interesting perspective despite large historical distance.  Roosevelt was no socialist, but his New Deal did frighten many businesses, especially large business which BTW attempted a coupe to remove him from is position. Fortunately for Roosevelt CIA did not exist yet.  And New Deal  government projects has been much bigger and bolder, then anything Obama ever tried, because Obama administration was constrained in its action by dominant neoliberal thinking. Like regulatory capture, which is an immanent feature of neoliberalism,  there is also less known and less visible ideological capture of the government. Which also makes neoliberalism more similar to bolshevism as this ideological capture and related inability of the USSR elite to modernize the economy on some "mixed" principles, when over-centralization stopped working. It, along with the collapse of the ideology,  probably was one of the main reasons of the collapse of the USSR.  Chinese leadership managed to do this and introduced "new economic policies"(NEP). 

Uner New deal regime when public investment and hence aggregate demand expanded, the economy started to grow anyway. Roosevelt did have a vision and he did convince the electorate about the way to go. Cheap optimism of Reagan, or even audacity of hope "Obama style" were not enough. After all, as Francis Bacon may remind us: “Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper” (Apophthegms, 1624).

Obama/Bernanke-style attempts to stimulate growth by pure injection of cheap money in this environment not only inflate new bubbles instead of old one, with which the fighting starts. They also lead to massive redistribution of wealth that makes the problem even worse:

Paul Krugman tells us that Larry Summers joined the camp concerned about secular stagnation in his I.M.F. talk last week, something that I had not picked up from prior coverage of the session. This is good news, but I would qualify a few of the points that Krugman makes in his elaboration of Summers' remarks.

First, while the economy may presently need asset bubbles to maintain full employment (a point I made in Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy), it doesn't follow that we should not be concerned about asset bubbles. The problem with bubbles is that their inflation and inevitable deflation lead to massive redistribution of wealth.

Larry Summers was the first establishment economist who conceded that this is the fact (Wikipedia)

... Larry Summers presented his view during November 2013 that secular (long-term) stagnation may be a reason that U.S. growth is insufficient to reach full employment: "Suppose then that the short term real interest rate that was consistent with full employment [i.e., the "natural rate"] had fallen to negative two or negative three percent. Even with artificial stimulus to demand you wouldn't see any excess demand. Even with a resumption in normal credit conditions you would have a lot of difficulty getting back to full employment."[13][14]

Robert J. Gordon wrote in August 2012:

"Even if innovation were to continue into the future at the rate of the two decades before 2007, the U.S. faces six headwinds that are in the process of dragging long-term growth to half or less of the 1.9 percent annual rate experienced between 1860 and 2007. These include demography, education, inequality, globalization, energy/environment, and the overhang of consumer and government debt. A provocative 'exercise in subtraction' suggests that future growth in consumption per capita for the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution could fall below 0.5 percent per year for an extended period of decades".[15]

One hypothesis is that high levels of productivity greater than the economic growth rate are creating economic slack, in which fewer workers are required to meet the demand for goods and services. Firms have less incentive to invest and instead prefer to hold cash. Journalist Marco Nappolini wrote in November 2013:

 "If the expected return on investment over the short term is presumed to be lower than the cost of holding cash then even pushing interest rates to zero will have little effect. That is, if you cannot push real interest rates below the so-called short run natural rate [i.e., the rate of interest required to achieve the growth rate necessary to achieve full employment] you will struggle to bring forward future consumption, blunting the short run effectiveness of monetary policy...Moreover, if you fail to bring it below the long run natural rate there is a strong disincentive to increase fixed capital investment and a consequent preference to hold cash or cash-like instruments in an attempt to mitigate risk. This could cause longer-term hysteresis effects and reduce an economy's potential output."[13] 

Cost of energy as a defining new factor

The cost of energy is probably another reason of secular stagnation along with excessive public and private debt. Rising cost of energy is deadly for capitalism.  Here are some comments that might clarify the situation:

raskolnikov:

This is the biggest crybaby column Krugman's ever written. He should be ashamed of himself and return his Nobel prize immediately. Has he ever put down Keynes long enough to read a little Marx?  Here's Robert Brenner summing it up in 2009:

 What mainly accounts for the long-term weakening of the real economy is a deep, and lasting, decline of the rate of return on capital investment since the end of the 1960s.

The failure of the rate of profit to recover is all the more remarkable, in view of the huge drop-off in the growth of real wages over the period.

The main cause, though not the only cause, of the decline in the rate of profit has been a persistent tendency to overcapacity in global manufacturing industries."

 There's more, too. Instead of siding with crackpot Summers, Krugman should expand his research and be of some use to us all.

Kievite

I am not sure that it is correct to think about public debt as internal debt. It's all about energy.

That means that public debt is to a large extent foreign due to unalterable oil consumption (and related trade deficits). And that completely changes the situation unless you are the owner of the world reserve currency.

But even in the latter case (exorbitant privilege as Valéry Giscard d'Estaing called it ) you can expect attacks on the status of the currency as world reserve currency. The growth is still supported via militarization, forced opening of foreign markets (with military force, if necessary) and conversion of the state into national security state. But as Napoleon admitted "You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them"

One positive thing about high public (and to a large extent foreign owned) debt in the USA is that it undermines what Bacevich called "new American militarism" (http://www.amazon.com/The-New-American-Militarism-Americans/dp/0195173384). Bacevich argues that this is distinct political course adopted by the "defense intellectuals," the evangelicals, and the neocons. And they will never regret their failed efforts such as Iraq invasion.

From Amazon review:

=== Quote ===

Bacevich clearly links our present predicaments both at home and abroad to the ever greater need for natural resources, especially oil from the Persian Gulf. He demolishes all of the reasons for our bellicosity based on ideals and links it directly to our insatiable appetite for oil and economic expansion. Naturally, like thousands of writers before him, he points out the need for a national energy policy based on more effective use of resources and alternative means of production.

=== End of Quote ==

Heinberg's Five Axioms of Sustainability

As Heinberg explained fossil fuels, primarily oil, permeate every aspect of our modern culture - from agriculture to cities and a long-term perspective. In the age of almost 7 billion people demanding more and more of limited resources, the media, politicians and governments tend to only report short-term perspectives and ignore Heinberg's Five Axioms of Sustainability to the extent that these concepts are taboo to be spoken, discussed or thought (Heinberg, Richard (2007) Five Axioms of Sustainability):

1. (Tainter’s Axiom): Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse.

Exception: A society can avoid collapse by finding replacement resources.

Limit to the exception: In a finite world, the number of possible replacements is also finite.

...

2. (Bartlett’s Axiom): Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.

...

3. To be sustainable, the use of renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is less than or equal to the rate of natural replenishment.

...

4. To be sustainable, the use of non-renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is declining, and the rate of decline must be greater than or equal to the rate of depletion.

The rate of depletion is defined as the amount being extracted and used during a specified time interval (usually a year) as a percentage of the amount left to extract.

...

5. Sustainability requires that substances introduced into the environment from human activities be minimized and rendered harmless to biosphere functions.

In cases where pollution from the extraction and consumption of non-renewable resources that has proceeded at expanding rates for some time threatens the viability of ecosystems, reduction in the rates of extraction and consumption of those resources may need to occur at a rate greater than the rate of depletion. 

Archaeologist Joseph Tainter, in his classic study The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988), demonstrated that collapse is a frequent if not universal fate of complex societies and argued that collapse results from declining returns on efforts to support growing levels of societal complexity using energy harvested from the environment.  Jared Diamond’s popular book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005) similarly  makes the argument that collapse is the common destiny of societies that ignore resourse constraints. This axiom defines sustainability by the consequences of its absence—that is, collapse.

Historical periods of stagnation in the United States

Adapted from Wikipedia

Excluding the current, there were two period of stagnation in the USA history:

Construction of structures, residential, commercial and industrial, fell off dramatically during the depression, but housing was well on its way to recovering by the late 1930s.[17]

The depression years were the period of the highest total factor productivity growth in the United States, primarily to the building of roads and bridges, abandonment of unneeded railroad track and reduction in railroad employment, expansion of electric utilities and improvements wholesale and retail distribution.[17]

The war created pent up demand for many items as factories that once produced automobiles and other machinery converted to production of tanks, guns, military vehicles and supplies. Tires had been rationed due to shortages of natural rubber; however, the U.S. government built synthetic rubber plants. The U.S. government also built synthetic ammonia plants, aluminum smelters, aviation fuel refineries and aircraft engine factories during the war.[17] After the war commercial aviation, plastics and synthetic rubber would become major industries and synthetic ammonia was used for fertilizer. The end of armaments production free up hundreds of thousands of machine tools, which were made available for other industries. They were needed in the rapidly growing aircraft manufacturing industry.[18]

The memory of war created a need for preparedness in the United States. This resulted in constant spending for defense programs, creating what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex.

U.S. birth rates began to recover by the time of World War II, and turned into the baby boom of the postwar decades. A building boom commenced in the years following the war. Suburbs began a rapid expansion and automobile ownership increased.[17]

High-yielding crops and chemical fertilizers dramatically increased crop yields and greatly lowered the cost of food, giving consumers more discretionary income. Railroad locomotives switched from steam to diesel power, with a large increase in fuel efficiency. Most importantly, cheap food essentially eliminated malnutrition in countries like the United States and much of Europe.

Many trends that began before the war continued:

Researchers who contributed to understating secular stagnation

One of the first researchers who clearly attributed secular stagnation problem to neoliberalism was Alan Nasser, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy and Philosophy at The Evergreen State College. In his September 22, 2005 paper  ECONOMIC LAWS, STRUCTURAL TENDENCIES, SECULAR STAGNATION THEORY, AND THE FATE OF NEOLIBERALISM  he pointed out the key features of secular stagnation long before Summers started to understand the problem  and even befor the economic crash of 2008 ;-)

September 22, 2005 | alannasser.org

Alan Nasser Invited presentation, University of Lille,

"We have now grown used to the idea that most ordinary or natural growth processes (the growth of organisms, or popu- lations of organisms or, for example, of cities) is not merely limited, but self-limited, i.e. is slowed down or eventually brought to a standstill as a consequence of the act of growth itself. For one reason or another, but always for some reason, organisms cannot grow indefinitely, just as beyond a certain level of size or density a population defeats its own capacity for further growth."

Sir Peter Medawar, The Revolution of Hope

"A business firm grows and attains great strength, and afterwards perhaps stagnates and decays; and at the turning point there is a balancing or equilibrium of the forces of life and decay. And as we reach to the higher stages of our work, we shall need ever more and more to think of economic forces as those which make a young man grow in strength until he reaches his prime; after which he gradually becomes stiff and inactive, till at last he sinks to make room for other and more vigorous life."

Alfred Marshall, Principals of Economics (1890)

"Though Keynes's 'breakdown theory is quite different from Marx's, it has an important feature in common with the latter: in both theories, the breakdown is motivated by causes inherent to the working of the economic engine, not by the action of factors external to it."

Joseph Schumpeter, Ten Great Economists

In this paper I shall address two major issues. Firstly, I shall discuss the implications for economic theory of a conception of economic laws widely at variance with the empiricist and/or positivist account of what laws are, how they are discovered, and how they are related to theory. At the same time, I will reject one cornerstone of anti-positivist thought, namely the idea that one cannot provide an account of laws that is fundamentally the same for the natural and the social sciences. Thus, I shall argue that an anti-positivist account of laws is entirely compatible with a conception of scientific laws that applies to both the "hard" (natural) and the "soft" (social) sciences. I shall defend this position by showing its application to economics and economic laws. In doing so, I will compare and contrast both natural-scientific (primarily physical) laws and social-scientific (primarily economic) laws. Secondly, I will argue that perhaps the most significant economic law descriptive of mature capitalism is the law of secular stagnation. The latter states that it is the natural tendency of a developed, industrialized capitalist economy to default to a state of chronic excess capacity and underconsumption. And this is itself a result of the tendency in advanced capitalism for the economic surplus (roughly, the difference between the Gross Domectic Product and the cost of producing the GDP) to grow at a rate more rapid than the growth of profitable industrial investment opportunities. In the course of my discussion I will use the United States as a paradigm case, Much as Marx attempted to identify the underlying features of the accumulation process by reference to England during the Industrial Revulution.

This has in fact been the state of global capital since the end of the "Golden Age" and the commencement of the age of globalized Reaganism/Thatcherism, i.e. the Age of Neoliberalism. I date the transition as commencing in 1973, the last year of post-War Keynesian growth rates in the USA. In fact, I will argue, neoliberal economic policy exacerbates capitalism'a tendency to stagnation. Let me begin with an account of economic laws.

LAWS, GENERATIVE MECHANISMS AND TENDENCIES

On the Humean or radical empiricist (positivist) account of laws, the latter are descriptions of observed regularities. Presumably, the scientist observes a "constant conjunction" of different kinds of happening, and infers from the regularity of the conjunction that the latter could not be merely accidental, and so concludes that the observed pattern of regularities must be nomological or law-like. 'Sodium chloride dissolves in water' and 'Metal expands when heated' would be simple examples of the results of this account of how laws of nature are discovered.

That this empiricist account is flawed becomes evident when we consider full-fledged laws of a genuine natural science, e.g. physics. I emphasize that laws are components of theories, which themselves are constitutive of established scientific disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, and biology. In fact, the two "laws" mentioned at the end of the preceding paragraph are not laws of physics at all. Among the genuine laws of physics is, e.g., 'Falling bodies near the surface of the earth accelerate at a constant rate.' This law is certainly not established by the observation of repeated conjunctions of events. On the contrary, actually observed falling bodies in "open systems", that is, in the circumstances of everyday life, conspicuously fail to conform to this law. Yet this is not taken to refute the law. For the law describes the behavior of bodies in a vacuum, that is to say, in a "closed system", one created by the scientist, typically in a laboratory situation. Philosophers of science have tended to ignore the distinction between regularities observed only in closed systems, and conjunctions observed in everyday life, which, as such, have no value as contributions to scientific knowledge. These philosophers have, accordingly, written as if the regularities in question were features of open systems, of nature. This confusion impedes our understanding of all types of laws, from physical to economic.

This failure –until relatively recently- of philosophers of science to properly attend to the importance of laboratory work in the acquisition of scientific knowledge is due to the fact that these philosophers have focused almost exclusively on science as established theory, i.e. as a way of representing the world. They had ignored how these theories were actually established. That is, they paid little attention to experiment, which is a way of intervening in the world. This inattention to what happens in closed systems created in the laboratory led thinkers to miss the importance of the concept of tendencies or dispositions in grasping the concept of a law of science. Let us dwell on this point and its relation to economic laws.

It is not that our knowledge of natural laws is not based on observed regularities. The point, rather, is that these regularities are not found in nature. They are found in closed systems, elaborately designed experimental circumstances found in laboratories. Yet, we correctly believe that what we learn in experimental situations gives us knowledge that is not confined to these situations. We believe that what we learn from observations of repeated patterns in experiments gives us not only knowledge of the behavior of objects in laboratory circumstances, but also knowledge of these same (kinds of) objects as they behave in nature, in the open systems of everyday life. But scientifically significant repeated patterns are not found in the world of daily life. This raises profound epistemological and ontological questions.

The most significant epistemological question arises from the following consideration: Were it not for the intervention of the experimenter, closed-system regularities would not obtain. Hence, the experimenter is a causal agent of the pattern of regularities observed in the laboratory. It is these contrived conjunctions which we invoke to justify our belief in (usually causal) laws. And while these regularities are the (partial) result of the intervention of the experimenter, we do not believe that the experimenter in any way originates the laws whose existence is attested to by the contrived regularities. The question therefore arises: What justifies our (correct) belief that knowledge obtained in closed laboratory systems designed by an agent applies also in open systems, i.e. in nature, which of course is not designed by scientists and does not evidence the regularities found under designed experimental circumstances?

I want to suggest that this question comes to the same as the following question: What must nature be like, and what must experiment reveal, in order for experimental knowledge to be able to be legitimately extended to the world outside of the laboratory, i.e. to nature? Note that this is a Realist question: it asks what we must presuppose about the constitution of the world in order that our experimentally-based scientific beliefs be justified. This is the precise Realist counterpart to Kant's Idealist question: What must we presoppose our minds –as opposed to nature or the world- to be like in order for scientific knowledge to be possible? I will argue that the answer to our Realist question provides the conceptual resources to elucidate the general nature of economic laws and economic theory, and the nature of the subject matter investigated by economists.

I will argue that since we believe that what we learn by experimental observation justifies our claim to knowledge of the experimental objects as they behave in nature, we must assume that these objects possess natural structures, similar to what Aristotle and the scholastics called "natures" or "essences." A natural structure must be conceived as what Critical Realists call a generative mechanism (hereafter, GM). The latter is a specific mode of material organization. What GMs generate are tendencies or dispositions to behave in characteristic ways. The statement that a physical thing or a social institution or structure tends to generate characteristic regularities is a statement of a law. The natural structure of salt, expressed in chemistry as HCl, is such that when it is mixed with water, whose natural structure or organization is expressed as H2O, it tends to dissolve. Gases tend to expand when heated and falling bodies near the surface of the earth tend to accelerate at a constant rate. These are statements of chemical and physical laws. We shall see that precisely the same kind of analysis can be made of laws in economics.

Tendencies are not the same as trends. The latter are merely observed regularities; there need be no implication that an underlying structural feature of the thing in question generates the regularity. This feature of laws is reflected in ordinary language in non-scientific contexts: we might say "He has a tendency to exaggerate." We mean that a disposition to exaggerate is a natural expression of his underlying character. We do not usually mean that he exaggerates whenever it is possible for him to exaggerate. This is part of the meaning of 'tendency.' Thus, tendencies can exist without being exercised. This happens when, e.g. salt is not mixed with water. Salt's nomological tendency to dissolve in water remains its categorical property even in the absence of circumstances in which its tendency to dissolve can be exercised. In addition, tendencies can be exercised without being realized. This is the case in the natural sciences when we observe, in non-laboratory situations, falling bodies accelerating at different rates. Indeed, no falling body in open systems is observed to accelerate at a constant or the same rate. But of course this is not taken to falsify the law of falling bodies. In nature, GMs continue to act in their characteristic ways without producing the patterned outcomes observable in closed experimental systems. This is so because in nature a multiplicity of GMs combine, interact and collide such as to result in the (scientifically irrelevant) flux of phenomena of the everyday world. The realization of a natural tendency can, in other words, be offset by counteracting forces. Thus, empiricism's mistake is to fail to recognize that GMs operate independent of the effects they generate. That is, GMs endure and go on acting (in the way that experimental closure enables us to identify) in nature, i.e. in open systems, where patterned regularities do not prevail. Statements about tendencies are not equivalent, salva veritate, to statements about their effects. Laws may exist and exercise their tendencies or powers even though no Humean "constant conjunctions" are observed. (This would be the case if it happened that the practice of creating closed experimental conditions had never been engaged in, i.e. in a world without science.)

LAWS, GENERATIVE MECHANISMS AND TENDENCIES IN ECONOMICS

GMs are not confined to the natural world. Natural structures are not the only structures there are. Plainly, there are humanely constructed structures. Capitalism is one such structure. Structures of this kind, GMs, that are dynamic by nature, i.e. which are characteristically diachronic, be they natural or socially constituted, share the same ontology. This should not be confused with the radical empiricist (positivist) claim that the natural and the social sciences share the same method. Clearly they do not: closed experimental situations exist but are not typical i istic outcomes ceteris paribus, ie. other things being equal, i.e. ceteris absentibus, other things being absent. When we identify the tendency of a thing, we specify what will happen, as a matter of course, if interfering conditions are absent. That is the point of vacuums in the closed systems created in laboratory experiments: they permit exercised tendencies, i.e. tendencies in operation, to be realized. If we want to know what gases tend to do when acted upon by heat, we eliminate all potential counteracting forces by creating a vacuum in the chamber, so that both gas and heat can express their natures unimpeded.

Thus, implicit in both physical- and social-scientific practice is the crucial distinction between the exercise and the realization (or manifestation) of a tendency. This distinction is essential to structural analysis in economics because of the impossibility of creating the social equivalent of a vacuum in the social sciences, which deal with the open systems of everyday life, where a great many forces and tendencies collide. Accordingly, just as the law of the tendency of falling bodies to accelerate at a constant rate is not falsified by the failure of falling bodies to behave accordingly in open systems, so too, e.g., the law of the tendency of the growth of productive capacity to outpace the growth of profitable investment opportunities -the thesis of secular stagnation theory- is not undermined by the remarkable growth rates of the Golden Age. In both cases, the presence of offsetting factors prevents the structurally generated tendency from being realized or manifested. I argue that the same can be said for any putative economic law.

In social science –and this is most conspicuous in economics, the most theoretically developed of the human sciences- we compensate for the absence of experimentally closed systems by constructing their functional equivalent, which we might call, in terms redolent of Weber, an ideal-typical theoretical model. It is an unfortunate habit (perhaps a tendency in the above-elaborated sense…) of mainstream economists to employ these models as if they described the open-system observable facts of economic life. This is, I suspect, a consequence of the economic empiricist's mistake referred to above, namely to think that GMs, if they must be spoken of at all, are to be conceived as reducible to their effects. (Recall Hume's claim, inspired by his reading of Newton, to expunge all notions of "power", "generation" and "production" from his analyses.) But, as noted above, GMs in both the social and the natural sciences employ unrealistic models, i.e. models which do not pretend to offer the equivalent of a photographic representation of the world. In both natural-scientific experiments and social-scientific ideal-type models, an attempt is made to abstract from the nonessential. We seek to place the spotlight of theory on what is necessary to the situation, system or institution under investigation, and to prescind from the arbitrary and accidental. In economics we seek to identify those features of capitalism that make it what it is. This enables us to identify capitalism's distinct and characteristic tendencies, and to describe what will happen as a result of the exercise of these tendencies, ceteris absentibus.

That there are such tendencies seems to me to be uncontroversial. We all know, for example, that cyclical downturns are not mere empirical contingencies of capitalist development, but structurally generated tendencies which follow inexorably from the specific mode of organization (structure) of capitalism. And like all tendencies, their realization can be offset, as we have seen above, by counteracting factors, such as fiscal and monetary policy. Other examples would be what Marx called the tendencies of capital to concentrate and centralize. The tendency, and corresponding law, with which I will be primarily concerned in this paper is constitutive of the theory of secular stagnation, and is far more likely than the immediately foregoing examples to generate controversy. I refer to the tendency of mature capitalism to suffer from a chronic paucity of profitable industrial investment opportunities, relative to the great magnitude of its investable surplus. Let us look more closely at this tendency.

THE THEORY OF SECULAR STAGNATION

It is worth mentioning that the view that the continuous accumulation of capital is both essential to the normal development of capitalist societies and essentially self-limiting was held by virtually all of the major modern political economists, in the form of one version or another of the doctrine of the falling rate of profit. Adam Smith explained the secular decline of the profit rate by the increasing abundance of capital in a developing capitalist society. Ricardo and Mill believed that the rate of profit would be depressed by the diminishing productivity of the land which would drive up the price of wage goods and therefore of the wages of labor, and so drive down the profits of capital. Marx pointed to the increasing capital-intensity of industry and the paucity of working-class purchasing power relative to the productive capacity of the economy, as the principal threat to the profit rate. And Keynes held that in mature capitalist economies the "marginal efficiency of capital", i.e. the expected rate of return (over cost) on an additional unit of a given capital asset, would tend to decline. All these thinkers had an at least intuitive appreciation of the fact that the growth of capital tends to be terminally self-limiting. (It is worth citing a remark of Joseph Shumpeter at this point:

"Though Keynes's 'breakdown theory is quite different from Marx's, it has an important feature in common with the latter: in both theories, the breakdown is motivated by causes inherent to the working of the economic engine, not by the action of factors external to it.")

In my estimation, no one understood the underlying dynamics of the tendency to stagnation better than the Polish economist Michal Kalecki, who is known to have developed the essentials of Keynes's General Theory before Keynes himself (and to have produced far more elegant mathematical formulations thereof). Perhaps the best way to understand Kalecki's thought is to see him as having argued that certain features of a not-yet-mature industrializing economy persist after the process of industrialization has been accomplished, with the effect that the developed capitalist economy is saddled with a problem of chronic excess capacity. Let me sketch this train of thought.

In the course of their natural growth capitalist economies reach a level of industrial development characterizable as maturity, a point beyond which growth must either cease, or be sustained by exogenous (in a sense to be elucidated below) means. Straight away we are confronted with a rejection of an assumption that is implicit in mainstream neoclassical theory, viz. that both the supply and the demand curves shift, virtually automatically, to the right. On the stagnationist conceptualization of growth or development, the process of development is not everlasting, but rather is at some point accomplished. There is the period, industrialization, during which the economy is developing, and which culminates in a (finally) industrialized or developed infrastructure. At this stage there will have been built up, or "accumulated", a complement of plant and equipment in steel production, machine tools, power stations, transport systems, etc., that is capable of satisfying a level of consumption demand consistent with the moral limits of a reasonably civilized style of life, the constraints imposed by a finite fund of natural resources, and, most importantly for stagnation theory, the limited possibilities of what Marx called "expanded reproduction" imposed by the accumulation process itself.

This account point can be expanded as follows. During any period of industrialization, the growth of the capital goods industry (hereafter, following Marx, Department I, or DI) must outpace the growth of the consumption goods industries (hereafter, again following Marx, Department II, or DII). Indeed, it belongs to the nature of the process of industrialization that the demand for the output of DI cannot be a function of the behavior of consumption demand; during industrialization, investment demand is both rapid and relatively autonomous. For if the principal project is to develop the means of production, then a disproportionate share of national wealth must be devoted to investment/accumulation at the expense of consumption. Strategic capital goods such as transport and communications networks and steel mills cannot be built bit by bit. This is clear with respect to railroads (Recall Keynes's remark that "Two pyramids are better than one, and two masses for the dead better than one; but two railroads from London to York are not necessarily better than one."), but perhaps not as clear with respect to steel facilities.

Suppose 1) that the efficient production of steel requires equipment with the capacity to produce 200,000 tons of steel, and 2) that demand turns out to be for 300,000 tons. The investor has two alternatives, either to forgo an extra market or to take a chance and add another 200.000 tons. On the second alternative, the one virtually assured in a period of (rapid) industrialization, the manufacturer is left with a surplus capacity of 100,000 tons. Here we see, writ small, a crucial source of two basic tendencies of capitalist development, the unrelenting pressure to expand markets, and the tendency to overproduction of a specific kind, namely the overproduction of capital goods, the tendency to overaccumulation. Each of these tendencies is the basis of a corresponding law of economics: Wherever we find a competitive, profit-driven market economy, we must also find a system-driven tendency to expand markets, and: Wherever we find a competitive, profit-driven market economy, we must also find a system-driven tendency for the growth of productive capacity to outpace the growth of effective demand.

As we have seen, all the major classical political economists anticipated the stationary state; they all assumed that the period of development or industrialization would come to an end. Basic industries would be in place, and DI would be capable of meeting all the replacement and expansion demands of DII. Prescinding for the moment from the emergence of new industries, DI would no longer be a source of substantial expansion demand for its own output; most of DI's internal expansion demand would be extinct.

But this is not th hread of classical (and perhaps neoclassical) theory contains the assurance that the capitalist economy provides a mechanism that in the long run counteracts the tendency of the demand for the products of DI to peter out. As one might expect, this is the price mechanism, which brings about, in the circumstances described above, a falling rate of profit (or interest) and thereby a simultaneous check on accumulation and spur to consumption. The causal chain is simple: the fall of the profit rate would lower capital's share of national income, i.e. it would transfer income from capital to labor. Thus, the demand gap created by the sharp waning of DI's expansion demand would be made up by the increase in consumption demand, which would of course mean an expansion in the demand for the output of DII. Moreover, an immediate expansion of DII at the expense of DI in order to assure a rapid transition out of the stationary state would be entirely feasible given the adaptability of certain key industries in DI to new market conditions resulting from the newly-expanded purchasing power of the working class. The construction of new factories could, for example, yield to the construction of new homes.

The theoretical elegance of this scenario is impressive -almost inspirational- but, alas for illusions, the price mechanism does not work this way. For the above-mentioned transfer in national income from capital to labor is supposed to happen when industrialization comes to an end by virtue of its having been accomplished. But from the capitalists' perspective, it is as if nothing counts as industrialization coming to an end. New industries, for example, can create a situation functionally equivalent to industrialization. "Accumulate, accumulate, that is Moses and the prophets."

We have at this point arrived at a picture of a developed capitalist economy which is in a state of permanent industrialization. Excess capacity prevails and working-class income is stagnant or declining. Interestingly, this has in fact been the state of both the U.S. and the global economy since 1973. According to the foregoing analysis, this reflects the fact that the U.S. and global economies are now instances not merely of the exercise of the law of the tendency of mature capitalism to stagnate, but of its realization. To put it differently: these economies are now in their natural state.

But important questions immediately arise. Why are these economies in their natural state now? And if there is a structurally generated tendency for capitalist economies to stagnate, how shall we account for the historically unprecedented growth rates of the Golden Age? I have barely sketched an outline of a response to these challenges above: if there is indeed a tendency for capitalism to stagnate, then there must have been in operation during the Golden Age what I called "counteracting forces and tendencies" which had spent themselves by the mid-1970s. In the absence of new offsetting forces, the tendency to stagnate has, as we should expect, re-asserted itself. These claims require further elaboration, and it is to this task that I now turn.

SECULAR STAGNATION AND TRANSFORMATIONAL GROWTH

In order to account for the actual pattern of capitalist growth in the context of stagnation theory, we must reflect on the kind of growth required by capitalist economic arrangements. Mainstream theory does not distinguish between kinds of growth if and when it addresses the specific requirements of capitalist growth at all. This is, I believe, a serious error. I will begin by introducing the notion of transformational growth, which transforms the entire way of life of society and absorbs exceptionally large amounts of the investible surplus. My point shall be that a capitalist economy cannot sustain growth merely by producing more and more different types of widgets, in the absence of pervasive structural change. Growth sustained in the latter manner is transformational growth.

We are forced to introduce the concept of transformational growth for reasons related to my earlier discussion of the structural features of mature capitalism which generates a chronic tendency to stagnation. I will now embellish this analysis. It should be clear that capitalism cannot grow in the way in which a balloon grows: its growth cannot leave its proportions intact, i.e. such that there are no new products and no new processes of production. This is to say that a capitalist economy either undergoes transformational growth or it stagnates. The argument is as follows.

Investment expands productive capacity, which in turn requires that demand increase at the same rate as potential production. Without the required rate of demand growth, underutilization/excess capacity will discourage further investment or capital accumulation and the result will of course be stagnation. Let us not address this issue in the manner of the neoclassical economist, who seems to assume that both supply and demand curves can be counted on to perennially shift to the right (absent, of course, undue government interference). But this quaint assumption is belied by the enormous literature on the development and indispensability to capitalism of the marketing and advertising industries, which we might view as massive efforts to counteract Keynes's declining marginal propensity to consume by deliberately creating among the consuming masses a full panoply of "manufactured" consumption desires. These considerations point to the need constantly to exogenously stimulate consumption demand in order to narrow the demand gap generated by the tendency to overaccumulation. But they do not yet establish the need to generate a broad, nation-wide pattern of demand required by structural change and transformational growth.

What is needed at this point are concrete examples of the generators of transformational growth, and of exactly how these generators accomplish one of the fundamental features of transformational growth, the mobilization and coordination of the economic resources of the entire country into a grand national project which stimulates demand not merely for this and that consumption good, but for crucial commodities and institutions such as oil, steel rubber, and other primary products, and communication and transportation facilities. What this requires are what Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy termed, in their influential Monopoly Capital (Monthly Review Press, 1966), "epoch-making innovations". Edward Nell and Robert Heilbroner have characterized these same innovations as "transformative innovations". Let me approach transformative innovations by looking at the tendency to stagnation from yet another perspective, one which focuses on the role of competition as a major force behind the growth of both investment and consumption.

Competition reduces the need for investment by tending to increase both productivity and savings. Let us see how this happens. As a result of competition business is under continuous pressure to cut costs and produce more efficiently. To the extent that business succeeds in these respects, productive potential is increased. At the same time, competition also requires business to hold down wages and salaries and to pay out dividend and profit income relatively sparingly. Together, these pressures hold back both worker and capitalist consumption. The result is a tendency for productive capacity to expand faster than consumption. This means that there is no reason for investment to grow, for capital to achieve the required rate of accumulation, unless there are major pressures transforming the way people live. In the absence of such pressures, we may expect stagnation.

There are two dimensions of transformative innovations which are in fact two aspects of the same phenomenon. One dimension is solely technological, and the other points to changes in a population's entire way of life. Neither of these is part of a process of steady, balloon-like growth, nor is either automatically, or normally, generated by the fundamental capitalist dynamics identified by the mainstream textbooks. For this reason I have called the stimulus imparted by these innovations 'exogenous'. Let us look first at the technological dimension of transformative innovation.

This can be identified, after the owl of Minerva has spread its wings, by reflecting on some of the requirements of ideal-typical capitalism. Neoliberals correctly remind us that the bottom line is of course "freedom", primarily the freedom of capital to roam the world seeking markets, sources of cheap labor and investment opportunities. Microecenomic textbooks in fact tend to assume the perfect mobility of both capital and labor.

Let us focus on sources of power, which became especially important after the industrial revolution. Technological development resulted in the virtually total replacement of human and animal muscle power by inanimate sources of power, mainly water and steam. But reliance on water as a source of power places extreme limits on the mobility of capital, and hence on the possibilities of capitalist growth. Water power is site-specific, and the number of rivers and streams is limited. Moreover, the water had to be fast-running and productive facilities had to be located as far downstream as possible. And of course water power is only seasonally available. These restraints alone place an intolerable obstacle to the free and ongoing accumulation of capital. Here we find an overwhelming incentive to switch from water to steam power. This constitutes a huge stimulus to the accumulation of capital on a national scale.

Capitalism requires sources of power that are independent of nature and can be applied constantly wherever they are needed. And these are precisely what steam power made possible. It was now possible to set up productive facilities virtually anywhere; a major fetter to the accumulation of capital was removed. The universal mobility required by capital was now much more fully realized. At this point I want to emphasize that this technological /economic transformation was necessarily accompanied by profound social and cultural changes. For the steam engine's reduction of the seasonality of water power made possible a feature of work that is increasingly common on a global scale: the emergence of modern year-round work habits. With this change comes a dramatic transformation of our notions (and practices) of work and leisure, with all the consequences these have for the felt experience of everyday life. That is an instance of the second dimension of transformative innovation, i.e. its introduction of dramatic cultural changes, changes in the way populations live.

Much the same can be said for the subsequent shift to electrical power, which makes possible trolley cars, refrigerators (as opposed to what used to be called, in the U.S., "ice boxes"), ranges, toasters, radios, washing machines, fans, et al.

The railroad too is a transformative innovation par excellence. Consider the spectacular effects of railroad expansion: internal transport costs are sharply reduced; both new products and new geographical areas are brought into commercial markets; it is now possible to deliver exports to port with unprecedented efficiency, thereby encouraging the extensive development of the export sector; and impetus is provided to the development of the coal, iron and engineering industries. As with the steam engine, these technological and economic benefits wee necessarily accompanied by profound social and cultural changes. The railroads changed the way of life of the people by binding them as never before. The possibility now existed for mass production, mass consumption and indeed mass culture.

And of course the establishment of a national rail network absorbed massive amounts of investible capital, thereby spurring sustainable growth and offsetting the realization of the economic law that capitalist economies tend to stagnate. Apropos: in the latter third of the nineteenth century, railroad investment in the U.S. amounted to more than all investment in manufacturing industries.

And who can doubt that the transformative effects of the introduction of the automobile were epoch-making? The expansion of the automobile industry was the single most important force in the economic expansion of the 1920s. Car production increased threefold during this decade. (The automobile industry produced 12.7% of all manufactured output, employed 7.1% of all manufacturing workers, and paid 8.7% of all industrial wages.) Immediately after World War II the auto industry continued what was to be its breakneck expansion, and the possibilities created thereby constituted what was perhaps the most extensive transformation of the country's way of life in its history.

Consider the stimulus to capital accumulation and employment constituted by the following, each and all a consequence of the increasing automobilization of American society and culture: the migration of the population from the central city to the suburbs and exurbs (first made possible by the streetcar, before the major streetcar operations were bough and then quickly dismantled by the auto companies); the need for surfaced roads, road construction and maintenance, highway construction and maintenance (which had already accounted for 2% of GDP in 1929); the suburbanization of America, with the attendant construction of housing, schools, hospitals, workplaces, and more; the growth of shopping malls; the expansion of the credit industry; the spread of hotels and motels; and of course the growth of the tourism/travel industry. Never before had any population's way of living been transformed so profoundly in so short a period of time. And of course no one has failed to recognize that Americans' main symbol of their most precious possession, their personal freedom/liberty, is their ability to drive, solo, cars that have increasingly come to resemble tanks. Americans' liberty, embodied in the automobile, has become, literally, a commodity.

The long-term growth of the U.S. economy cannot be adequately explained or described without reference to these transformative innovations. None of these are required by the models of capital accumulation found in neoclassical, Keynesian or Marxian growth theory. After the civil war, growth in the last third of the nineteenth century was spurred primarily by the railroads. This stimulus fizzled, as railroad expansion began to slow down, around 1907, when, in spite of extensive electrification of urban (and even some rural) areas, the U.S. economy began a stretch of slow growth, which lasted until the outbreak of World War I. After the end of the War, the economy experienced a brief slump, which was followed by a period of fairly sustained expansion in the 1920s. The latter, as we have seen, was spurred mainly by the growth of the automobile industry. But the rate of growth of the automobile industry slowed down after 1926, and with it the rate of growth of almost all other manufacturing industries. And wages and employment had not risen as rapidly as production, productivity or profits.

In fact, the economic situation in the U.S. at the end of the 1920s bore a remarkable resemblance to the current economic situation in America. After 1926 overcapacity emerged in many key industries, the most significant of these being automobiles, textiles, and residential construction. Contractionary forces are cumulative: excess capacity caused business confidence to decline, with resulting cutbacks in spending on productive capacity in the consumer durables and capital goods industries. The economy was intensely unsound at the end of the 1920s, and the indications at the time were clear. Consumer demand was held down by a steadily growing inequality of income. Thus, an increasing percentage of total purchases were financed by credit in order to foster purchases of consumer durables. About seventy-five percent of all cars were sold on credit. Accordingly, both home mortgages and installment debt grew rapidly. This was the extension of a trend that had begun as early as 1922, when total personal debt began rising faster than disposable income. Thus, underconsumption and traces of excess capacity, key indicators of stagnationist forces, were in effect from the very beginning of the "roaring '20s". These tendencies became increasingly foregrounded over the course of the decade.

Excess capacity in key manufacturing industries was displacing workers from capital-intensive, technologically advanced sectors to industries relatively devoid of technological advance, i.e. service industries such as trade, finance and government. With capital unable to find sufficiently profitable investment opportunities in high-productivity industries, rampant speculative activity ensued, fostered by the growing concentration of income and therefore savings during the decade. More than two thirds of all personal savings was held by slightly over two percent of all families. The wanton optimism of the 1920s led those with substantial savings to want to get richer quickly, and with little effort. The stock market bubble that materialized at the end of the decade seemed to justify the expectations that fortunes could be made overnight in real estate and the stock market. When investors acted on these expectations, the existing bubble became bigger and hence more fragile. To those familiar with the current state of the U.S. economy, the present situation presents itself as history repeating itself -contra Marx- yet again as farce.

FROM GREAT DEPRESSION TO GOLDEN AGE TO NEOLIBERALISM

The mounting instabilities of the economy of the 1920s led to a Depression that was unresponsive to the Roosevelt administration's elevenfold increase in government spending. When U.S. entry into World War II finally brought about a resumption of growth, there was nonetheless an abiding fear among economists that once War spending ceased, the forces and tendencies that had generated the Depression might reassert themselves and exceptionally slow growth could resume. Instead, much to the surprise of many economists, American capitalism began the most sustained period of expansion in its entire history. The period from 1947 to 1973 has come to be called "The Golden Age", and appears, on the face of it, to be a fatal anomaly with respect to secular stagnation theory. After all, if the causes of the Great Depression were structural, and the exogenous stimulus provided by the War was what produced a resumption of growth, how was it possible that the economy, in the absence of powerful exogenous stimulus, exhibited an historically unprecedented period of long-term growth?

I have suggested that sustained national (as opposed to intra-national regional) growth has been engendered by the emergence of transformative innovations, and it is this kind of consideration that I believe offers the most plausible explanation both of Golden-Age expansion and of the petering out of this growth period and the resumption of (global) stagnation. Five stimuli to long-term growth were set in motion after the War, and these were for the most part exogenous in the sense indicated, and essentially limited. I will construe these stimuli as forces counteracting the tendency to stagnation. Once most of these stimuli had spent their potential, stagnationist tendencies re-asserted themselves, and overinvestment became evident once again. With profitable industrial investment opportunities in short supply, the economic surplus was invested instead in what became a vast proliferation of financial instruments. When the bubble created by this process finally burst, it was replaced with a housing bubble. Indeed a variety of bubbles, in financial assets, in housing, in credit, and a substantially overvalued dollar now threaten an historically unparalleled reassertion of the tendency to stagnation. But let us look first at the counteracting forces.

After the War, and as a result of wartime rationing, Americans had accumulated a very large fund of savings, and the time had come when these could finally be spent. This accounted for an immediate surge of consumption spending which temporarily averted the onset of recession. But the effectiveness of this source of spending was soon spent. What truly impelled the sustained growth of the Golden Age was 1) the resumption of a vast expansion of the automobile industry, and with it the stimulation of the broad range of investment and employment opportunities discussed above in connection with automobilization; 2) large-scale economic aid to Europe, which stimulated export demand; 3) a nationwide process of suburbanization, which, in tandem with the expansion of auto production, expanded significantly the demand for the output of every other major industry; 4) the emergence of what president Eisenhower christened the "military-industrial" complex, which provided additional stimulus to the industries most vulnerable to economic instability, the industries of DI, the capital goods sector; and finally 5) the steady and growing expansion of business and especially consumer credit, which in recent years has assumed elephantine proportions.

Three of these factors bear the two most important features of epoch-making innovations. The expansion of the auto industry, suburbanization, and the ever-increasing expansion and extension of credit all absorb massive amounts of investible surplus, and transform the mode of life of the entire population. In so doing they impart a massive push to the macro-growth process. The first two of these have their initial direct effect on investment. The third factor, the growing importance of credit, affects both investment and consumption, but the long-term trend of the credit industry in the U.S., evident now in hindsight, is much more significant in relation to consumption. There is now in the States a credit bubble of menacing proportions, with consumers now in debt to the tune of about107% of disposable income. The Marshall Plan (number 2 above) affected mainly and directly investment and employment, with boosts to consumption following thereupon. By the mid- to late-1970s, the employment-generating capacity of the military had declined. Washington determined, in the light of the defeat in Vietnam, that hi-tech warfare, which is of course technology- rather than labor-intensive, must replace traditional forms of subversion and aggression, in order to render less likely a repeat of the "Vietnam Syndrome."

It is worth mentioning that the military-industrial complex and the vast extension of consumer credit were what constituted what Joan Robinson called "bastard Keynesianism" in the United States. Recall that Keynes had insisted that fiscal and monetary policy were necessary but not sufficient conditions for avoiding stagnation. The tendency to stagnation could be offset for the long run only if some key industries were nationalized, and income redistributed. Nationalization would allow the State to offset lagging demand by providing cheap inputs to the private sector, thereby enabling lower prices. And redistributing income would transfer liquidity from those who had more than they could either consume or invest to those whose consumption demand was severely constrained.

American policymakers saw it as their challenge to reap the effects of nationalization and redistribution without actually nationalizing industries or redistributing income. The solution was ingenious: the military-industrial complex would be the functional equivalent of state-owned industries, and would, as noted above, stimulate the demand for the output of those very firms that produced capital goods. And the extension of consumer credit would allow working people to mortgage future years' incomes and spend more without a corresponding increase in either their private or their social wage.

As mentioned earlier, these forces counteracting the tendency to stagnation were all inherently limited and temporary. By the late 1960s, the automobile industry had achieved maturity, suburbanization had been accomplished, and aid to Europe had not only long ended, but had apparently created for America the economic equivalent of Frankenstein's monster. Europe and Japan were now formidable threats to U.S. economic hegemony. (Germany, for example, has overtaken the U.S. as an exporter of capital goods.) These three colossal absorbers of surplus were now no longer in operation. In the mid-1960s social spending had overtaken military spending as the larger share of government spending. And credit had begun to function as a supplement to declining real income, rather than a further addition to growing income.

These combined developments rendered the post-War counters to the realization of the tendency to stagnation obsolete. The result was the onset of stagnation not only in the U.S. but also worldwide. In America there has been overcapacity in autos, steel, shipbuilding and petrochemicals since the mid- to late-1970s.

This general picture is widely reflected in the business press. Business Week noted that "..supply outpaces demand everywhere, sending prices lower, eroding corporate profits and increasing layoffs" (Jan. 25, 1999, p. 118). The former chairman of General Electric claimed that "..there is excess capacity in almost every industry" (The New York Times, Nov. 16, 1997, p. 3). The Wall Street Journal noted that "..from cashmere to blue jeans, silver jewelry to aluminum cans, the world is in oversupply" (Nov. 30, 1998, p. A17). And The Economist fretted that " the gap between sales and capacity is "at its widest since the 1930s" (Feb. 20, 1999, p. 15). At this time excess capacity in steel is exceeding twenty percent, in autos it has fluctuated around 30%. And these figures look good in comparison to unused capacity numbers in the "industries of the future" of the "New Economy", semiconductors and telecommunications. Not long ago, ninety-seven percent of fibre optic capacity was idle.

MAINSTREAM ECONOMICS AND STAGNATION THEORY

Let us begin with the indisputable fact that the regime of neoliberalism has brought with it a substantial decline in economic growth. The most widely cited study on this issue, produced for the IECD by Angus Maddison, shows that the annual rate of growth of real global GDP fell from 4.9% in 1950-1973 to 3 % in 1973-1998, a drop of 39 %. Theoretical commitments can guide perception: neoliberal economists either denied or ignored the decline in global growth because of their reliance on Say's Law, that it is not possible for total demand to fall below full-capacity supply over the long run. In my earlier remarks I offered an explanation of sluggish growth rates since 1973. Many orthodox economics have done something similar: they have offered explanations of the initial rise in excess capacity. But what has not been explained is why global supply did not eventually adjust itself to the slower rate of demand growth, with the result that in the mid-1970s the global economy would enter a period of sluggish expansion. And it is worth mentioning that even Keynesian macro-theory is inadequate in this regard. It assumes that slow growth in aggregate demand will result in a proportionate decline in the growth of aggregate supply through its effect upon investment and therefore productivity.

An adequate explanation of the sustained character of excess capacity can be constructed from insights from Schumpeter, Marx and the contemporary economist James Crotty. The analysis that follows should be understood within the framework of the version of secular stagnation theory sketched above.

Before the shift to neoliberal policies by Jimmy Carter, Reagan and Thatcher, the global economy was already subject to downward pressures on demand growth resulting from two oil price shocks and the restrictive macro policy imposed in response to oil-price induced inflation. These impediments to demand growth were exacerbated by neoliberal policies. In combination, these forces led to a sharp rise in excess capacity in globally competing industries. At the same time competitive pressures were further intensified by the reduction of the market power of national oligopolies caused by the removal of protectionist barriers to the free movement of goods and money across national boundaries. Accordingly, competitive pressures between nations rose dramatically. In this context, normal stagnationist tendencies operated to further constrain global demand growth and further reproduce industrial capacity faster than either neoclassical or Keynesian theory could comprehend.

The Achilles Heel of neoclassical theory with respect to its inability to account for the persistence of overcapacity during the neoliberal period is its account of competition. So-called "perfect competition" is alleged to lead to maximum efficiency and the elimination of excess capacity. This claim appears inconsistent with the history of real-world, pre- and post-oligopolistic competition. Textbook-like competition has led to periodic market gluts or overproduction crises, price wars, plummeting profits, unbearable debt burdens and violent labor relations. Neoclassical theory banishes these demons with the aid of two assumptions which appear designed explicitly to make them impossible. The first assumption claims that production cost per unit rises rapidly as output increases, and the second that exit from low-profit industries is free or costless. If these assumptions were indeed true, then pure competition could not be shown to have stagnation- or depression-inducing effects. But these assumptions are, I shall suggest, false.

I will begin with the least plausible of these two assumptions. It states that there is free or costless exit from low-profit industries. But productive assets are typically immobile or irreversible, i.e., they are not liquid, and this forces a sizeable loss in the value of a firm's capital should it choose to leave an unprofitable industry. Whether they are sold on a second-hand market or reallocated to a different industry, productive assets will lose substantial value. Capital flowing out of the aerospace industry has been found to sell for one third of its replacement cost. Insolvent telecom firms in the U.S. have sold their assets for 20 cents on the dollar. And isn't this what one would expect? For it is usually poor profit prospects and/or great excess capacity that heighten a firm's incentive to leave an industry. But it is precisely those circumstances which deeply depress the price of industry-specific assets on the second-hand market, since the supply of these assets grows even as the demand for them has collapsed.

Before I turn to the slightly more plausible (yet still false) assumption -that unit production cost rises dramatically as output increases- I will outline the corollary of neoclassical theory itself which neoclassical economists seek to evade by introducing this assumption. The theory tells us that pure competition will force price down until it covers marginal cost. Now if unit production cost remained constant irrespective of the output level, then marginal production cost and average production cost per unit would be equal. When perfect competition forces price to equal marginal cost, total revenue will be equal to total production cost. But in this case there will be no revenue left over either to pay the "fixed" cost of maintaining capital stock in the face of depreciation or obsolescence, or to pay interest and/or dividends to investors. Thus, perfect competition is seen to cause the representative firm to suffer, in each production period, a loss that is equal to fixed costs. Keeping in mind that most important global industries have huge fixed costs, no industry could long survive the consequences of intense competition.

We seem to have found a tendency to stagnation or complete system breakdown where we would least expect to find it - in neoclassical theory itself. But the theory claims to have a response to this embarrassment. It simply denies the claim that appears to entail the undesired consequence, namely the claim that unit production cost remains constant no matter what the output level. Armed now with the (false) assumption that unit production cost rises rapidly as production increases, the conclusion is drawn that marginal cost and price are greater than average unit production cost. Thus, in equilibrium, the gap between price and average production cost is sufficiently large to cover all fixed costs. Let competition be as fierce as you wish, the typical firm will not lose money. Voila!

I have claimed that each of the rescuing assumptions discussed above is false. What would realistic assumptions about marginal cost and the reversibility of invested capital look like? To answer this question we must recognize the distinctive character of the dominant industries of global trade and investment. These industries include steel, autos, aircraft, shipbuilding, petrochemicals, consumer durables, electronics, semiconductors and banking. Studies of this type of industry suggest that marginal cost does not typically rise with output, with the rare exception of cases when the industry is producing near full capacity output. Marginal cost behaves as we would expect in cases of economies of scale: it remains constant or declines as capacity utilization rises. It follows that if free competition forces price to equal marginal cost in these industries, we should count on an ensuing wave of bankruptcies. Here again we see that neoclassical theory, corrected for unrealistic assumptions, seems to commit us to conceptualize mature capitalism as subject to the law of an inherent tendency to stagnation or worse.

The issue I am focusing on here turns on the dynamics of unrestricted competition among oligopolies in the context of economies of scale. The importance of economies of scale underscores the crucial similarity of all the dominant industries, including the new information-technology and telecommunications (ITC) industries. I stress this point because influential neoclassical economists have wanted to claim a significant difference, with respect to overcapacity problems, between the ITC industries and the other dominant industries. For purposes of explaining the persistence of excess capacity under neoliberalism, we want to remember that as scale economies grow, marginal costs fall as fixed costs per unit rise. Thus, the greater the economies of scale, the more destructive becomes the marginal cost pricing required by intense competition. With this in mind, we can more easily see that 1) these dynamics in especially conspicuous operation in the ITC industries, and 2) that such differences as there are between ITC and the other dominant oligopolies are insignificant for the analysis of secular stagnation theory, and of capitalist growth in general.

The key issue right now, recall, is the highly destructive consequences of the tendency of free competition among dominant industries to force price to equal marginal cost. That this is the case is easier to see in the ITC sector than in the other dominant industries. This is because in ITC marginal cost is often close to zero. Producing another copy of software or adding another customer to eBay is virtually costless. This has led many mainstream economists to argue that ITC industries are exempt from the laws of the neoclassical theory of perfect competition. Since ITC firms have marginal costs much lower than their large fixed costs, the argument goes, the possession of at least temporary monopoly power is the only guarantee of an incentive to produce anything at all. Without monopoly pricing power prices will be competed down to marginal cost and fixed costs will be unable to be covered. Thus, the motor of the "new economy" is said to be the constant pursuit of monopoly power. But, contrary to the neoclassical claim, none of this distinguishes significantly between ITC and other key industries. The drive to monopoly power is characteristic of all large corporations in the present age.

As Paul Sweezy argued in his Marshall Lectures, the typical firm in an oligopolized industry strives to be a monopolist. Each firm does this individually, and they all do it collectively. Individual firms seek monopoly status through the sales effort, where the firm's product is put forth as the best in the industry and as different from all the others. Firms within the same industry seek to approach monopoly status by collusion with respect to pricing policy, especially by agreeing to refrain from cutthroat price competition. For reasons developed at length above, therefore, all dominant firms, whether old- or new-economy operations, will tend to achieve monopoly status and to be chronically saddled with excess capacity.

A SCANDALOUSLY BRIEF LOOK AT SLOW-GROWTH CAPITALISM

We are in the midst of another unparalleled period of historical capitalism. Since the onset of stagnation, the median wage in the States has not changed at all for the vast majority of wage workers. Over the past six quarters the gowth of wage income has been negative. A brief sketch of the state of the U.S. economy toward the end of last year highlights features whose most plausible explanation may lie in the fact of secular stagnation. If stagnation theory is accurate, what follows is precisely what we would expect to find. The current state of the U.S. and the global economy is best understood, I believe, against the background too briefly elaborated above. Here is a picture of the U.S. economy today. The key to a healthy economy is job- and income-creating investment in capital goods, which in turn generates a virtuous cycle of further growth in investment, jobs and income. Ominously, the investment, growth, employment and income pictures are unprecedentedly dismal.

Compared to cyclical recoveries between 1949 and 1973, recoveries during the neoliberal period have been weak. Indeed, one or two of the post-1973 upturns has been weaker than some downturns during the Golden Age. Since the stock market collapse of four years ago, the situation has worsened. Growth rates since 2000 have been half their previous average. Even this weak performance required historically unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus: 13 rate cuts, three tax cuts, massive government deficits and record growth in money and credit.

Official figures mask the economy's most serious problems. Growth figures are annualized by U.S. statisticians. Thus, the much-touted 7.1% growth rate in the third quarter of 2003 was the one that would emerge after twelve months if the current trend were to continue. The same growth rate would have been reported in the eurozone as 1.8%. This is an uncommonly weak performance.

Investment data are equally misleading. Since the mid-1990s the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has adjusted upward actual business dollar outlays on computers and related equipment to take into account quality improvements (faster processors, bigger hard drives, more memory). BEA calls this "hedonic adjustment." Accordingly, the BEA estimates that business high-tech investment quadrupled between 1996 and 2002, from $70.9 to $283.7. But in actual dollars spent, the increase was only from $70.9 billion to $74.2 billion, very low by historic standards. The high-tech boom was both greatly exaggerated and misleading. After all, neither profits nor wages are taken in "hedonically adjusted" dollars.

The difference between real and hedonic outlays explains what would otherwise be a paradoxical feature of the years 2000-2003: government was reporting big increases in high-tech investment, while manufacturers were bemoaning declining sales.

Hedonic pricing has accounted for a steadily rising percentage of all reported capital investment. But if we look at actual dollars spent, we find that since 1998 the growth rate of business fixed investment has actually been declining. Real capital investment has in fact not been this weak since the Great Depression.

The fudging of investment figures also obscures the sorry state of the jobs market. The Commerce Department's figures on nonresidential investment for the third and fourth quarters of 2003 reported increases of, respectively, 12.8 and 9.6%. A closer look reveals that the "adjusted" hi-tech sector is the only bright spot, with production and capacity rising, respectively, 24.6% and 11.1% over the past year. But hi-tech is not where significant jobs increases are found. Employment in hi-tech has declined steadily through the so-called "recovery" since its 2001 peak.

In non-hi-tech manufacturing, where investment figures are not adjusted, production from January 2003 to January 2004 rose only 0.9%, while capacity actually declined -0.2%. This represents a record nineteen-straight-month decline in mainline manufacturing capacity. Since it is mainline manufacturing which employs almost 95% of all manufacturing workers, it comes as no surprise that for the first time since the Great Depression the economy has gone more than three years without creating any jobs.

The jobs crisis is even worse than it appears. Here again statistical sleight-of-hand, this time by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), obscures economic reality. Based on data gathered employing the "net birth/death adjustment," BLS announced in April, 2004, that the long-awaited jobs recovery had finally arrived. Nonfarm payrolls had allegedly surged by a whopping 308,000 in March, 2004. The birth/death model uses business deaths to "impute" employment from business births. Thus, as more businesses fail, more new jobs are imputed to have materialized through business births. This improbable statistical artefact accounts for about half of the reported 308,000 March, 2004 payroll increase.

The birth/death model is based on statistics covering 1998-2002. This was a period of explosive telecom and dot.com startups, quite unlike today's flat economic landscape. Thus, two thirds of the 947,000 new jobs BLS "imputed" for March-May, 2004, were never actually counted by BLS and never reported by any firm.

BlS's household and establishment surveys tell a more sobering story. March employment by private industry actually fell by 175,000, and the number of self-employed workers declined by 288,000. Without the simultaneous increase of 439,000 government jobs, the March job announcement would have been a calamity. And both average weekly hours and total hours worked declined markedly, even as (according to the dubious birth/death findings) the work force increased. This is the first time in U.S. history that net job growth has been negative 26 months into a recovery.

The wage and salary picture has also set grim records. During the current recovery, wage and salary growth has actually been negative, at -0.6%, in contrast to the average increase of 7.2% characteristic of this point into each of the other eight post-War recoveries. In fact, median family income in the post-War period exhibits an ominous trend. From 1947 to 1967, real median family income rose by 75%. But since 1967, it has grown by only 30%.

Labor's losses have been capital's gain: since the peak of the last recovery, in the first quarter of 2001, corporate profits have risen 62.2%, compared to the average of 13.9% at the same point in the last eight recoveries. Never in American history has any recorded recovery had such a lopsided balance in the distribution of income gains between labor and capital.

Given the dismal investment, wage/salary and employment pictures, how has it been possible for consumption to have risen to 71% of GDP in the early nineties, from its prior post-War average of 66%? The answer is a growth rate of consumer debt never seen before in America. For the first time ever, in March 2001, overall debt levels (mortgage debt plus consumer debt, mainly credit card debt and car loans) rose above annual disposable income. And from 2001 to 2004 consumer debt rose from 101% to 116% of disposable income. In the first half of 2004, consumer borrowing has been at its highest ever. It has declined slightly in the meantime. So has consumer spending. Should Americans decide to significantly increase their saving and service debts, while lowering correspondingly their consumption expenditures, the global economy could experience a major disruption.

Up until very recently, consumers had stepped up their borrowing to compensate for slowing income growth. Thus, such growth as the U.S. has experienced in recent years has been almost entirely consumption- and debt-driven. More fundamentally, it has been bubble-driven, fueled principally by bubbles in home values and credit.

Since the collapse of stock market/hi-tech bubbles in 2001, the illusory "wealth effect" has been sustained, and consumer spending thereby encouraged, by another bubble, the enormous inflation of house prices. The biggest increase in household debt came from home mortgage debt, especially home mortgage refinancing. With mortgage rates low and home prices rising, households' home equity ballooned. Bloated home equity then provided rising collateral to underwrite still more borrowing.

What makes this especially problematic is that over the last ten years, the average family has suffered under large increases in health premiums, housing costs, tuition fees and child care costs. As a result, households' and individuals' margin of protection against insolvency has dramatically declined. Filings for personal bankruptcy are approaching a record high.

There are indications that these weaknesses and imbalances in the economy are reaching a critical mass. The mortgage refi boom has fizzled, and consumer spending is beginning to decline. Two years ago the Fed's quarterly Beige Book reported a disturbing shift in the composition of credit spending: more and more families are using their credit cards to finance spending on essentials, such as food and energy.

It is no exaggeration to say that both the U.S. economy and the global economy are hugely dependent on the American consumer's increasing willingness to spend more than (s)he makes. (Imported goods have been a rising proportion of all goods purchased here.) Thus, a decline in U.S. consumer spending portends further declines in investment, jobs and income. From January to July of 2004, consumer spending rose at an annual rate of 2.8%, down from 3.3% in 2003 and 3.1 % in 2002. For perspective, during the boom years 1999-2000, growth rates were 5.1% and 4.7%.

Spending on consumer durables is the most significant indicator of healthy growth, and the drastically lower spending in this area is cause for alarm: spending for consumer durables was down to $23.5 billion in the first seven months of this year, in contrast to $71 billion on 2003 and $58 billion in 2002.

Should consumer spending continue to decline, the economy faces the genuine likelihood of a severe recession. Of course not a single American politician addresses this issue.

What is required is a shift from bubble-, debt-, and consumption-driven growth to investment- and income-driven growth. This in turn necessitates a decline in Americas principal export, jobs. Domestic job growth, a higher minimum wage, tax cuts aimed predominantly at low- and middle-income families, a sharp reduction in defense spending and a redirection of these funds to long-neglected and pressing social needs such as health care reform, the provision of universal pre-school, and across-the-board repair and upgrading of America's deteriorated infrastructure of roads, highways,tunnels and bridges, all these should be at the forefront of a Democratic administration's agenda. The restoration of infrastructure is especially labor intensive, and would generate an enormous number of productive jobs. And as a national project spearheaded by government initiative, government would emerge as a major employer.

All this si entirely incompatible with the overwhelming neoliberal bent of even the most "liberal" political leaders. It was after all Bill Clinton who urinated on the grave of Franklin Roosevelt when he proclaimed "the end of welfare as we know it".

As unfashionable as it is to suggest such a thing at a conference of economists, the only hope for the world's majority seems to be the revival of the kinds of mass movements witnessed here in May of 1968, and throughout the world during the 1960s. And time may be short.

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Alan Nasser is Professor emeritus of Political Economy and Philosophy at The Evergreen State College. His book, The “New Normal”: Persistent Austerity, Declining Democracy and the Globalization of Resistance will be published by Pluto Press in 2013. If you would like to be notified when the book is released, please send a request to nassera@evergreen.edu

Thomas Palley » Blog Archive » Explaining Stagnation Why it Matters

John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff clearly identify stagnation in their 2009 book The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (HERE). They conclude with a section titled “Back to the real economy: the stagnation problem” and they write:

“It was the reality of economic stagnation beginning in the 1970s, as heterodox economists Ricardo Belliofiore and Joseph Halevi have recently emphasized, that led to the emergence of “the new financialized capitalist regime,” a kind of “paradoxical financial Keynesianiasm” whereby demand in the economy was stimulated primarily “thanks to asset-bubbles” (Foster and Magdoff, p.129).”

My own 2009 New America Foundation report, “America’s Exhausted Paradigm: Macroeconomic Causes of the Financial Crisis and Great Recession”, concluded (HERE):

“The bottom line is macroeconomic failure rooted in America’s flawed economic paradigm is the ultimate cause of the financial crisis and Great Recession…. Now, there is a grave danger that policymakers only focus on financial market reform and ignore reform of America’s flawed economic paradigm. In that event, though the economy may stabilize, it will likely be unable to escape the pull of economic stagnation. That is because stagnation is the logical next stage of the existing paradigm.”

That report became a core chapter in my 2012 book, From Financial Crisis to Stagnation, the blurb for which reads (HERE):

“The U.S. economy today is confronted with the prospect of extended stagnation. This book explores why…. Financial deregulation and the house price bubble kept the economy going by making ever more credit available. As the economy cannibalized itself by undercutting income distribution and accumulating debt, it needed larger speculative bubbles to grow. That process ended when the housing bubble burst. The earlier post–World War II economic model based on rising middle-class incomes has been dismantled, while the new neoliberal model has imploded. Absent a change of policy paradigm, the logical next step is stagnation. The political challenge we face now is how to achieve paradigm change.”

The big analytical difference between Foster and Magdoff and myself is that they see stagnation as inherent to capitalism whereas I see it as the product of neoliberal economic policy. Foster and Magdoff partake of the Baran-Sweezy tradition that recommends deeper socialist transformation. I use a structural Keynesian framework that recommends reconstructing the income and demand generation mechanism via policies that include rebuilding worker bargaining power, reforming globalization, and reining in corporations and financial markets.

Larry Summers’ story of serial bubbles delaying stagnation has substantial similarities with both accounts but he avoids blaming either capitalism or neoliberalism. That is hardly surprising as Summers has been a chief architect of the neoliberal system and remains committed to it, though he now wants to soften its impact. Instead, he appeals to the black box of “secular stagnation” as ultimate cause and suggests fiscal policies that would ameliorate the demand shortage problem. However, those policies would not remedy the root cause of stagnation as they leave the economic architecture unchanged.

Though Summers and Krugman are relative late-comers to the stagnation hypothesis, they have still done a great public service by drawing attention to it. Now that stagnation has been identified, the real debate can begin.

The questions are what caused stagnation and what must be done to restore shared prosperity? There is no guarantee we will answer those questions correctly (my prior is mainstream economists will continue their track record of getting it wrong). But it is absolutely certain we will not get the right answer if we do not ask the right question. So thank you Larry Summers and Paul Krugman for putting stagnation on the table. Let the debate begin.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 24th, 2014 at 12:53 pm and is filed under Economics, U.S. Policy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Summers makes the idea of secular stagnation mainstream

Larry Summers (“Why Stagnation May Prove To Be The New Normal,” The Financial Times, December 15, 2013)  suggested the current "lack of demand" is not anomaly but a feature of the current sociao-economic system.  He suggested that we have been in the throes of stagnation for a long while, but that has been obscured by years of serial asset price bubbles. His article produced great public debate and marked the point when the idea became mainstream. The debate began with Summers’ speech to the IMF’s Fourteenth Annual Research Conference in Honor of Stanley Fisher. Summers noted that the panic of 2008 was “an event that in the fall of 2008 and winter of 2009 … appeared, by most of the statistics—GDP, industrial production, employment, world trade, the stock market—worse than the fall of 1929 and the winter of 1930. …”

Tha means the major defeat for “stabilization policies” that were supposed to smooth the capitalist industrial cycle and abolish panics. And the problem preceeds the 2008 panic itself.

The highly misleading unemployment rate calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor notwithstanding, there has been a massive growth in long-term unemployment in the U.S. in the wake of the crisis, as shown by the declining percentage of the U.S. population actually working.

The current situation also refute the key tenet of neoclassical economy (which is pseudo-religious doctrine, so that only increase fanatic devotion of its well-paid adherents). Neoclassical economists insisted that since a “free market economy” naturally tends toward an equilibrium with full employment of both workers and machines, the economy should should quickly return to “full employment” after a recession. This is not the case. See also Secular Stagnation Lawrence H. Summers

There were several uncessful attempts to explaint his situation from neoclassical positions. In Secular Stagnation, Coalmines, Bubbles, and Larry Summers - NYTimes.com Paul Krugman  emphasized the liquidity trap – zero lower bound to interest rates which supposedly prevents spending from reaching a level sufficient for full employment.

Larry’s formulation of our current economic situation is the same as my own. Although he doesn’t use the words “liquidity trap”, he works from the understanding that we are an economy in which monetary policy is de facto constrained by the zero lower bound (even if you think central banks could be doing more), and that this corresponds to a situation in which the “natural” rate of interest – the rate at which desired savings and desired investment would be equal at full employment – is negative.

And as he also notes, in this situation the normal rules of economic policy don’t apply. As I like to put it, virtue becomes vice and prudence becomes folly. Saving hurts the economy – it even hurts investment, thanks to the paradox of thrift. Fixating on debt and deficits deepens the depression. And so on down the line.

This is the kind of environment in which Keynes’s hypothetical policy of burying currency in coalmines and letting the private sector dig it up – or my version, which involves faking a threat from nonexistent space aliens – becomes a good thing; spending is good, and while productive spending is best, unproductive spending is still better than nothing.

Larry also indirectly states an important corollary: this isn’t just true of public spending. Private spending that is wholly or partially wasteful is also a good thing, unless it somehow stores up trouble for the future. That last bit is an important qualification. But suppose that U.S. corporations, which are currently sitting on a huge hoard of cash, were somehow to become convinced that it would be a great idea to fit out all their employees as cyborgs, with Google Glass and smart wristwatches everywhere. And suppose that three years later they realized that there wasn’t really much payoff to all that spending. Nonetheless, the resulting investment boom would have given us several years of much higher employment, with no real waste, since the resources employed would otherwise have been idle.

OK, this is still mostly standard, although a lot of people hate, just hate, this kind of logic – they want economics to be a morality play, and they don’t care how many people have to suffer in the process.

But now comes the radical part of Larry’s presentation: his suggestion that this may not be a temporary state of affairs.

2. An economy that needs bubbles?

We now know that the economic expansion of 2003-2007 was driven by a bubble. You can say the same about the latter part of the 90s expansion; and you can in fact say the same about the later years of the Reagan expansion, which was driven at that point by runaway thrift institutions and a large bubble in commercial real estate.

So you might be tempted to say that monetary policy has consistently been too loose. After all, haven’t low interest rates been encouraging repeated bubbles?

But as Larry emphasizes, there’s a big problem with the claim that monetary policy has been too loose: where’s the inflation? Where has the overheated economy been visible?

So how can you reconcile repeated bubbles with an economy showing no sign of inflationary pressures? Summers’s answer is that we may be an economy that needs bubbles just to achieve something near full employment – that in the absence of bubbles the economy has a negative natural rate of interest. And this hasn’t just been true since the 2008 financial crisis; it has arguably been true, although perhaps with increasing severity, since the 1980s.

One way to quantify this is, I think, to look at household debt. Here’s the ratio of household debt to GDP since the 50s:

There was a sharp increase in the ratio after World War II, but from a low base, as families moved to the suburbs and all that. Then there were about 25 years of rough stability, from 1960 to around 1985. After that, however, household debt rose rapidly and inexorably, until the crisis struck.

So with all that household borrowing, you might have expected the period 1985-2007 to be one of strong inflationary pressure, high interest rates, or both. In fact, you see neither – this was the era of the Great Moderation, a time of low inflation and generally low interest rates. Without all that increase in household debt, interest rates would presumably have to have been considerably lower – maybe negative. In other words, you can argue that our economy has been trying to get into the liquidity trap for a number of years, and that it only avoided the trap for a while thanks to successive bubbles.

And if that’s how you see things, when looking forward you have to regard the liquidity trap not as an exceptional state of affairs but as the new normal.

3. Secular stagnation?

How did this happen? Larry explicitly invokes the notion of secular stagnation, associated in particular with Alvin Hansen (pdf).  He doesn’t say why this might be happening to us now, but it’s not hard to think of possible reasons.

Back in the day, Hansen stressed demographic factors: he thought slowing population growth would mean low investment demand. Then came the baby boom. But this time around the slowdown is here, and looks real.

Think of it this way: during the period 1960-85, when the U.S. economy seemed able to achieve full employment without bubbles, our labor force grew an average 2.1 percent annually. In part this reflected the maturing of the baby boomers, in part the move of women into the labor force.

This growth made sustaining investment fairly easy: the business of providing Americans with new houses, new offices, and so on easily absorbed a fairly high fraction of GDP.

Now look forward. The Census projects that the population aged 18 to 64 will grow at an annual rate of only 0.2 percent between 2015 and 2025. Unless labor force participation not only stops declining but starts rising rapidly again, this means a slower-growth economy, and thanks to the accelerator effect, lower investment demand.

By the way, in a Samuelson consumption-loan model, the natural rate of interest equals the rate of population growth. Reality is a lot more complicated than that, but I don’t think it’s foolish to guess that the decline in population growth has reduced the natural real rate of interest by something like an equal amount (and to note that Japan’s shrinking working-age population is probably a major factor in its secular stagnation.)

There may be other factors – a Bob Gordonesque decline in innovation, etc.. The point is that it’s not hard to think of reasons why the liquidity trap could be a lot more persistent than anyone currently wants to admit.

4. Destructive virtue

If you take a secular stagnation view seriously, it has some radical implications – and Larry goes there.

Currently, even policymakers who are willing to concede that the liquidity trap makes nonsense of conventional notions of policy prudence are busy preparing for the time when normality returns. This means that they are preoccupied with the idea that they must act now to head off future crises. Yet this crisis isn’t over – and as Larry says, “Most of what would be done under the aegis of preventing a future crisis would be counterproductive.”

He goes on to say that the officially respectable policy agenda involves “doing less with monetary policy than was done before and doing less with fiscal policy than was done before,” even though the economy remains deeply depressed. And he says, a bit fuzzily but bravely all the same, that even improved financial regulation is not necessarily a good thing – that it may discourage irresponsible lending and borrowing at a time when more spending of any kind is good for the economy.

Amazing stuff – and if we really are looking at secular stagnation, he’s right.

Of course, the underlying problem in all of this is simply that real interest rates are too high. But, you say, they’re negative – zero nominal rates minus at least some expected inflation. To which the answer is, so? If the market wants a strongly negative real interest rate, we’ll have persistent problems until we find a way to deliver such a rate.

One way to get there would be to reconstruct our whole monetary system – say, eliminate paper money and pay negative interest rates on deposits. Another way would be to take advantage of the next boom – whether it’s a bubble or driven by expansionary fiscal policy – to push inflation substantially higher, and keep it there. Or maybe, possibly, we could go the Krugman 1998/Abe 2013 route of pushing up inflation through the sheer power of self-fulfilling expectations.

Any such suggestions are, of course, met with outrage. How dare anyone suggest that virtuous individuals, people who are prudent and save for the future, face expropriation? How can you suggest steadily eroding their savings either through inflation or through negative interest rates? It’s tyranny!

But in a liquidity trap saving may be a personal virtue, but it’s a social vice. And in an economy facing secular stagnation, this isn’t just a temporary state of affairs, it’s the norm. Assuring people that they can get a positive rate of return on safe assets means promising them something the market doesn’t want to deliver – it’s like farm price supports, except for rentiers.

Oh, and one last point. If we’re going to have persistently negative real interest rates along with at least somewhat positive overall economic growth, the panic over public debt looks even more foolish than people like me have been saying: servicing the debt in the sense of stabilizing the ratio of debt to GDP has no cost, in fact negative cost.

I could go on, but by now I hope you’ve gotten the point. What Larry did at the IMF wasn’t just give an interesting speech. He laid down what amounts to a very radical manifesto. And I very much fear that he may be right.

Supplement 1: Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit (reprint)

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit - The Baffler

David Graeber

A secret question hovers over us, a sense of disappointment, a broken promise we were given as children about what our adult world was supposed to be like. I am referring not to the standard false promises that children are always given (about how the world is fair, or how those who work hard shall be rewarded), but to a particular generational promise—given to those who were children in the fifties, sixties, seventies, or eighties—one that was never quite articulated as a promise but rather as a set of assumptions about what our adult world would be like. And since it was never quite promised, now that it has failed to come true, we’re left confused: indignant, but at the same time, embarrassed at our own indignation, ashamed we were ever so silly to believe our elders to begin with.

Where, in short, are the flying cars? Where are the force fields, tractor beams, teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, tricorders, immortality drugs, colonies on Mars, and all the other technological wonders any child growing up in the mid-to-late twentieth century assumed would exist by now? Even those inventions that seemed ready to emerge—like cloning or cryogenics—ended up betraying their lofty promises. What happened to them?

We are well informed of the wonders of computers, as if this is some sort of unanticipated compensation, but, in fact, we haven’t moved even computing to the point of progress that people in the fifties expected we’d have reached by now. We don’t have computers we can have an interesting conversation with, or robots that can walk our dogs or take our clothes to the Laundromat.

As someone who was eight years old at the time of the Apollo moon landing, I remember calculating that I would be thirty-nine in the magic year 2000 and wondering what the world would be like. Did I expect I would be living in such a world of wonders? Of course. Everyone did. Do I feel cheated now? It seemed unlikely that I’d live to see all the things I was reading about in science fiction, but it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t see any of them.

At the turn of the millennium, I was expecting an outpouring of reflections on why we had gotten the future of technology so wrong. Instead, just about all the authoritative voices—both Left and Right—began their reflections from the assumption that we do live in an unprecedented new technological utopia of one sort or another.

The common way of dealing with the uneasy sense that this might not be so is to brush it aside, to insist all the progress that could have happened has happened and to treat anything more as silly. “Oh, you mean all that Jetsons stuff?” I’m asked—as if to say, but that was just for children! Surely, as grown-ups, we understand The Jetsons offered as accurate a view of the future as The Flintstones offered of the Stone Age.

Surely, as grown-ups, we understand The Jetsons offered as accurate a view of the future as The Flintstones did of the Stone Age.

Even in the seventies and eighties, in fact, sober sources such as National Geographic and the Smithsonian were informing children of imminent space stations and expeditions to Mars. Creators of science fiction movies used to come up with concrete dates, often no more than a generation in the future, in which to place their futuristic fantasies. In 1968, Stanley Kubrick felt that a moviegoing audience would find it perfectly natural to assume that only thirty-three years later, in 2001, we would have commercial moon flights, city-like space stations, and computers with human personalities maintaining astronauts in suspended animation while traveling to Jupiter. Video telephony is just about the only new technology from that particular movie that has appeared—and it was technically possible when the movie was showing. 2001 can be seen as a curio, but what about Star Trek? The Star Trek mythos was set in the sixties, too, but the show kept getting revived, leaving audiences for Star Trek Voyager in, say, 2005, to try to figure out what to make of the fact that according to the logic of the program, the world was supposed to be recovering from fighting off the rule of genetically engineered supermen in the Eugenics Wars of the nineties.

By 1989, when the creators of Back to the Future II were dutifully placing flying cars and anti-gravity hoverboards in the hands of ordinary teenagers in the year 2015, it wasn’t clear if this was meant as a prediction or a joke.

The usual move in science fiction is to remain vague about the dates, so as to render “the future” a zone of pure fantasy, no different than Middle Earth or Narnia, or like Star Wars, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” As a result, our science fiction future is, most often, not a future at all, but more like an alternative dimension, a dream-time, a technological Elsewhere, existing in days to come in the same sense that elves and dragon-slayers existed in the past—another screen for the displacement of moral dramas and mythic fantasies into the dead ends of consumer pleasure.

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Might the cultural sensibility that came to be referred to as postmodernism best be seen as a prolonged meditation on all the technological changes that never happened? The question struck me as I watched one of the recent Star Wars movies. The movie was terrible, but I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the quality of the special effects. Recalling the clumsy special effects typical of fifties sci-fi films, I kept thinking how impressed a fifties audience would have been if they’d known what we could do by now—only to realize, “Actually, no. They wouldn’t be impressed at all, would they? They thought we’d be doing this kind of thing by now. Not just figuring out more sophisticated ways to simulate it.”

That last word—simulate—is key. The technologies that have advanced since the seventies are mainly either medical technologies or information technologies—largely, technologies of simulation. They are technologies of what Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco called the “hyper-real,” the ability to make imitations that are more realistic than originals. The postmodern sensibility, the feeling that we had somehow broken into an unprecedented new historical period in which we understood that there is nothing new; that grand historical narratives of progress and liberation were meaningless; that everything now was simulation, ironic repetition, fragmentation, and pastiche—all this makes sense in a technological environment in which the only breakthroughs were those that made it easier to create, transfer, and rearrange virtual projections of things that either already existed, or, we came to realize, never would. Surely, if we were vacationing in geodesic domes on Mars or toting about pocket-size nuclear fusion plants or telekinetic mind-reading devices no one would ever have been talking like this. The postmodern moment was a desperate way to take what could otherwise only be felt as a bitter disappointment and to dress it up as something epochal, exciting, and new.

In the earliest formulations, which largely came out of the Marxist tradition, a lot of this technological background was acknowledged. Fredric Jameson’s “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” proposed the term “postmodernism” to refer to the cultural logic appropriate to a new, technological phase of capitalism, one that had been heralded by Marxist economist Ernest Mandel as early as 1972. Mandel had argued that humanity stood at the verge of a “third technological revolution,” as profound as the Agricultural or Industrial Revolution, in which computers, robots, new energy sources, and new information technologies would replace industrial labor—the “end of work” as it soon came to be called—reducing us all to designers and computer technicians coming up with crazy visions that cybernetic factories would produce.

End of work arguments were popular in the late seventies and early eighties as social thinkers pondered what would happen to the traditional working-class-led popular struggle once the working class no longer existed. (The answer: it would turn into identity politics.) Jameson thought of himself as exploring the forms of consciousness and historical sensibilities likely to emerge from this new age.

What happened, instead, is that the spread of information technologies and new ways of organizing transport—the containerization of shipping, for example—allowed those same industrial jobs to be outsourced to East Asia, Latin America, and other countries where the availability of cheap labor allowed manufacturers to employ much less technologically sophisticated production-line techniques than they would have been obliged to employ at home.

From the perspective of those living in Europe, North America, and Japan, the results did seem to be much as predicted. Smokestack industries did disappear; jobs came to be divided between a lower stratum of service workers and an upper stratum sitting in antiseptic bubbles playing with computers. But below it all lay an uneasy awareness that the postwork civilization was a giant fraud. Our carefully engineered high-tech sneakers were not being produced by intelligent cyborgs or self-replicating molecular nanotechnology; they were being made on the equivalent of old-fashioned Singer sewing machines, by the daughters of Mexican and Indonesian farmers who, as the result of WTO or NAFTA–sponsored trade deals, had been ousted from their ancestral lands. It was a guilty awareness that lay beneath the postmodern sensibility and its celebration of the endless play of images and surfaces.

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Why did the projected explosion of technological growth everyone was expecting—the moon bases, the robot factories—fail to happen? There are two possibilities. Either our expectations about the pace of technological change were unrealistic (in which case, we need to know why so many intelligent people believed they were not) or our expectations were not unrealistic (in which case, we need to know what happened to derail so many credible ideas and prospects).

Most social analysts choose the first explanation and trace the problem to the Cold War space race. Why, these analysts wonder, did both the United States and the Soviet Union become so obsessed with the idea of manned space travel? It was never an efficient way to engage in scientific research. And it encouraged unrealistic ideas of what the human future would be like.

Could the answer be that both the United States and the Soviet Union had been, in the century before, societies of pioneers, one expanding across the Western frontier, the other across Siberia? Didn’t they share a commitment to the myth of a limitless, expansive future, of human colonization of vast empty spaces, that helped convince the leaders of both superpowers they had entered into a “space age” in which they were battling over control of the future itself? All sorts of myths were at play here, no doubt, but that proves nothing about the feasibility of the project.

Some of those science fiction fantasies (at this point we can’t know which ones) could have been brought into being. For earlier generations, many science fiction fantasies had been brought into being. Those who grew up at the turn of the century reading Jules Verne or H.G. Wells imagined the world of, say, 1960 with flying machines, rocket ships, submarines, radio, and television—and that was pretty much what they got. If it wasn’t unrealistic in 1900 to dream of men traveling to the moon, then why was it unrealistic in the sixties to dream of jet-packs and robot laundry-maids?

In fact, even as those dreams were being outlined, the material base for their achievement was beginning to be whittled away. There is reason to believe that even by the fifties and sixties, the pace of technological innovation was slowing down from the heady pace of the first half of the century. There was a last spate in the fifties when microwave ovens (1954), the Pill (1957), and lasers (1958) all appeared in rapid succession. But since then, technological advances have taken the form of clever new ways of combining existing technologies (as in the space race) and new ways of putting existing technologies to consumer use (the most famous example is television, invented in 1926, but mass produced only after the war.) Yet, in part because the space race gave everyone the impression that remarkable advances were happening, the popular impression during the sixties was that the pace of technological change was speeding up in terrifying, uncontrollable ways.

Alvin Toffler’s 1970 best seller Future Shock argued that almost all the social problems of the sixties could be traced back to the increasing pace of technological change. The endless outpouring of scientific breakthroughs transformed the grounds of daily existence, and left Americans without any clear idea of what normal life was. Just consider the family, where not just the Pill, but also the prospect of in vitro fertilization, test tube babies, and sperm and egg donation were about to make the idea of motherhood obsolete.

Humans were not psychologically prepared for the pace of change, Toffler wrote. He coined a term for the phenomenon: “accelerative thrust.” It had begun with the Industrial Revolution, but by roughly 1850, the effect had become unmistakable. Not only was everything around us changing, but most of it—human knowledge, the size of the population, industrial growth, energy use—was changing exponentially. The only solution, Toffler argued, was to begin some kind of control over the process, to create institutions that would assess emerging technologies and their likely effects, to ban technologies likely to be too socially disruptive, and to guide development in the direction of social harmony.

While many of the historical trends Toffler describes are accurate, the book appeared when most of these exponential trends halted. It was right around 1970 when the increase in the number of scientific papers published in the world—a figure that had doubled every fifteen years since, roughly, 1685—began leveling off. The same was true of books and patents.

Toffler’s use of acceleration was particularly unfortunate. For most of human history, the top speed at which human beings could travel had been around 25 miles per hour. By 1900 it had increased to 100 miles per hour, and for the next seventy years it did seem to be increasing exponentially. By the time Toffler was writing, in 1970, the record for the fastest speed at which any human had traveled stood at roughly 25,000 mph, achieved by the crew of Apollo 10 in 1969, just one year before. At such an exponential rate, it must have seemed reasonable to assume that within a matter of decades, humanity would be exploring other solar systems.

Since 1970, no further increase has occurred. The record for the fastest a human has ever traveled remains with the crew of Apollo 10. True, the commercial airliner Concorde, which first flew in 1969, reached a maximum speed of 1,400 mph. And the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144, which flew first, reached an even faster speed of 1,553 mph. But those speeds not only have failed to increase; they have decreased since the Tupolev Tu-144 was cancelled and the Concorde was abandoned.

None of this stopped Toffler’s own career. He kept retooling his analysis to come up with new spectacular pronouncements. In 1980, he produced The Third Wave, its argument lifted from Ernest Mandel’s “third technological revolution”—except that while Mandel thought these changes would spell the end of capitalism, Toffler assumed capitalism was eternal. By 1990, Toffler was the personal intellectual guru to Republican congressman Newt Gingrich, who claimed that his 1994 “Contract With America” was inspired, in part, by the understanding that the United States needed to move from an antiquated, materialist, industrial mind-set to a new, free-market, information age, Third Wave civilization.

There are all sorts of ironies in this connection. One of Toffler’s greatest achievements was inspiring the government to create an Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). One of Gingrich’s first acts on winning control of the House of Representatives in 1995 was defunding the OTA as an example of useless government extravagance. Still, there’s no contradiction here. By this time, Toffler had long since given up on influencing policy by appealing to the general public; he was making a living largely by giving seminars to CEOs and corporate think tanks. His insights had been privatized.

Gingrich liked to call himself a “conservative futurologist.” This, too, might seem oxymoronic; but, in fact, Toffler’s own conception of futurology was never progressive. Progress was always presented as a problem that needed to be solved.

Toffler might best be seen as a lightweight version of the nineteenth-century social theorist Auguste Comte, who believed that he was standing on the brink of a new age—in his case, the Industrial Age—driven by the inexorable progress of technology, and that the social cataclysms of his times were caused by the social system not adjusting. The older feudal order had developed Catholic theology, a way of thinking about man’s place in the cosmos perfectly suited to the social system of the time, as well as an institutional structure, the Church, that conveyed and enforced such ideas in a way that could give everyone a sense of meaning and belonging. The Industrial Age had developed its own system of ideas—science—but scientists had not succeeded in creating anything like the Catholic Church. Comte concluded that we needed to develop a new science, which he dubbed “sociology,” and said that sociologists should play the role of priests in a new Religion of Society that would inspire everyone with a love of order, community, work discipline, and family values. Toffler was less ambitious; his futurologists were not supposed to play the role of priests.

Gingrich had a second guru, a libertarian theologian named George Gilder, and Gilder, like Toffler, was obsessed with technology and social change. In an odd way, Gilder was more optimistic. Embracing a radical version of Mandel’s Third Wave argument, he insisted that what we were seeing with the rise of computers was an “overthrow of matter.” The old, materialist Industrial Society, where value came from physical labor, was giving way to an Information Age where value emerges directly from the minds of entrepreneurs, just as the world had originally appeared ex nihilo from the mind of God, just as money, in a proper supply-side economy, emerged ex nihilo from the Federal Reserve and into the hands of value-creating capitalists. Supply-side economic policies, Gilder concluded, would ensure that investment would continue to steer away from old government boondoggles like the space program and toward more productive information and medical technologies.

But if there was a conscious, or semi-conscious, move away from investment in research that might lead to better rockets and robots, and toward research that would lead to such things as laser printers and CAT scans, it had begun well before Toffler’s Future Shock (1970) and Gilder’s Wealth and Poverty (1981). What their success shows is that the issues they raised—that existing patterns of technological development would lead to social upheaval, and that we needed to guide technological development in directions that did not challenge existing structures of authority—echoed in the corridors of power. Statesmen and captains of industry had been thinking about such questions for some time.

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Industrial capitalism has fostered an extremely rapid rate of scientific advance and technological innovation—one with no parallel in previous human history. Even capitalism’s greatest detractors, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, celebrated its unleashing of the “productive forces.” Marx and Engels also believed that capitalism’s continual need to revolutionize the means of industrial production would be its undoing. Marx argued that, for certain technical reasons, value—and therefore profits—can be extracted only from human labor. Competition forces factory owners to mechanize production, to reduce labor costs, but while this is to the short-term advantage of the firm, mechanization’s effect is to drive down the general rate of profit.

For 150 years, economists have debated whether all this is true. But if it is true, then the decision by industrialists not to pour research funds into the invention of the robot factories that everyone was anticipating in the sixties, and instead to relocate their factories to labor-intensive, low-tech facilities in China or the Global South makes a great deal of sense.

As I’ve noted, there’s reason to believe the pace of technological innovation in productive processes—the factories themselves—began to slow in the fifties and sixties, but the side effects of America’s rivalry with the Soviet Union made innovation appear to accelerate. There was the awesome space race, alongside frenetic efforts by U.S. industrial planners to apply existing technologies to consumer purposes, to create an optimistic sense of burgeoning prosperity and guaranteed progress that would undercut the appeal of working-class politics.

These moves were reactions to initiatives from the Soviet Union. But this part of the history is difficult for Americans to remember, because at the end of the Cold War, the popular image of the Soviet Union switched from terrifyingly bold rival to pathetic basket case—the exemplar of a society that could not work. Back in the fifties, in fact, many United States planners suspected the Soviet system worked better. Certainly, they recalled the fact that in the thirties, while the United States had been mired in depression, the Soviet Union had maintained almost unprecedented economic growth rates of 10 percent to 12 percent a year—an achievement quickly followed by the production of tank armies that defeated Nazi Germany, then by the launching of Sputnik in 1957, then by the first manned spacecraft, the Vostok, in 1961.

It’s often said the Apollo moon landing was the greatest historical achievement of Soviet communism. Surely, the United States would never have contemplated such a feat had it not been for the cosmic ambitions of the Soviet Politburo. We are used to thinking of the Politburo as a group of unimaginative gray bureaucrats, but they were bureaucrats who dared to dream astounding dreams. The dream of world revolution was only the first. It’s also true that most of them—changing the course of mighty rivers, this sort of thing—either turned out to be ecologically and socially disastrous, or, like Joseph Stalin’s one-hundred-story Palace of the Soviets or a twenty-story statue of Vladimir Lenin, never got off the ground.

After the initial successes of the Soviet space program, few of these schemes were realized, but the leadership never ceased coming up with new ones. Even in the eighties, when the United States was attempting its own last, grandiose scheme, Star Wars, the Soviets were planning to transform the world through creative uses of technology. Few outside of Russia remember most of these projects, but great resources were devoted to them. It’s also worth noting that unlike the Star Wars project, which was designed to sink the Soviet Union, most were not military in nature: as, for instance, the attempt to solve the world hunger problem by harvesting lakes and oceans with an edible bacteria called spirulina, or to solve the world energy problem by launching hundreds of gigantic solar-power platforms into orbit and beaming the electricity back to earth.

The American victory in the space race meant that, after 1968, U.S. planners no longer took the competition seriously. As a result, the mythology of the final frontier was maintained, even as the direction of research and development shifted away from anything that might lead to the creation of Mars bases and robot factories.

The standard line is that all this was a result of the triumph of the market. The Apollo program was a Big Government project, Soviet-inspired in the sense that it required a national effort coordinated by government bureaucracies. As soon as the Soviet threat drew safely out of the picture, though, capitalism was free to revert to lines of technological development more in accord with its normal, decentralized, free-market imperatives—such as privately funded research into marketable products like personal computers. This is the line that men like Toffler and Gilder took in the late seventies and early eighties.

In fact, the United States never did abandon gigantic, government-controlled schemes of technological development. Mainly, they just shifted to military research—and not just to Soviet-scale schemes like Star Wars, but to weapons projects, research in communications and surveillance technologies, and similar security-related concerns. To some degree this had always been true: the billions poured into missile research had always dwarfed the sums allocated to the space program. Yet by the seventies, even basic research came to be conducted following military priorities. One reason we don’t have robot factories is because roughly 95 percent of robotics research funding has been channeled through the Pentagon, which is more interested in developing unmanned drones than in automating paper mills.

A case could be made that even the shift to research and development on information technologies and medicine was not so much a reorientation toward market-driven consumer imperatives, but part of an all-out effort to follow the technological humbling of the Soviet Union with total victory in the global class war—seen simultaneously as the imposition of absolute U.S. military dominance overseas, and, at home, the utter rout of social movements.

For the technologies that did emerge proved most conducive to surveillance, work discipline, and social control. Computers have opened up certain spaces of freedom, as we’re constantly reminded, but instead of leading to the workless utopia Abbie Hoffman imagined, they have been employed in such a way as to produce the opposite effect. They have enabled a financialization of capital that has driven workers desperately into debt, and, at the same time, provided the means by which employers have created “flexible” work regimes that have both destroyed traditional job security and increased working hours for almost everyone. Along with the export of factory jobs, the new work regime has routed the union movement and destroyed any possibility of effective working-class politics.

Meanwhile, despite unprecedented investment in research on medicine and life sciences, we await cures for cancer and the common cold, and the most dramatic medical breakthroughs we have seen have taken the form of drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, or Ritalin—tailor-made to ensure that the new work demands don’t drive us completely, dysfunctionally crazy.

With results like these, what will the epitaph for neoliberalism look like? I think historians will conclude it was a form of capitalism that systematically prioritized political imperatives over economic ones. Given a choice between a course of action that would make capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and one that would transform capitalism into a viable, long-term economic system, neoliberalism chooses the former every time. There is every reason to believe that destroying job security while increasing working hours does not create a more productive (let alone more innovative or loyal) workforce. Probably, in economic terms, the result is negative—an impression confirmed by lower growth rates in just about all parts of the world in the eighties and nineties.

But the neoliberal choice has been effective in depoliticizing labor and overdetermining the future. Economically, the growth of armies, police, and private security services amounts to dead weight. It’s possible, in fact, that the very dead weight of the apparatus created to ensure the ideological victory of capitalism will sink it. But it’s also easy to see how choking off any sense of an inevitable, redemptive future that could be different from our world is a crucial part of the neoliberal project.

At this point all the pieces would seem to be falling neatly into place. By the sixties, conservative political forces were growing skittish about the socially disruptive effects of technological progress, and employers were beginning to worry about the economic impact of mechanization. The fading Soviet threat allowed for a reallocation of resources in directions seen as less challenging to social and economic arrangements, or indeed directions that could support a campaign of reversing the gains of progressive social movements and achieving a decisive victory in what U.S. elites saw as a global class war. The change of priorities was introduced as a withdrawal of big-government projects and a return to the market, but in fact the change shifted government-directed research away from programs like NASA or alternative energy sources and toward military, information, and medical technologies.

Of course this doesn’t explain everything. Above all, it does not explain why, even in those areas that have become the focus of well-funded research projects, we have not seen anything like the kind of advances anticipated fifty years ago. If 95 percent of robotics research has been funded by the military, then where are the Klaatu-style killer robots shooting death rays from their eyes?

Obviously, there have been advances in military technology in recent decades. One of the reasons we all survived the Cold War is that while nuclear bombs might have worked as advertised, their delivery systems did not; intercontinental ballistic missiles weren’t capable of striking cities, let alone specific targets inside cities, and this fact meant there was little point in launching a nuclear first strike unless you intended to destroy the world.

Contemporary cruise missiles are accurate by comparison. Still, precision weapons never do seem capable of assassinating specific individuals (Saddam, Osama, Qaddafi), even when hundreds are dropped. And ray guns have not materialized—surely not for lack of trying. We can assume the Pentagon has spent billions on death ray research, but the closest they’ve come so far are lasers that might, if aimed correctly, blind an enemy gunner looking directly at the beam. Aside from being unsporting, this is pathetic: lasers are a fifties technology. Phasers that can be set to stun do not appear to be on the drawing boards; and when it comes to infantry combat, the preferred weapon almost everywhere remains the AK-47, a Soviet design named for the year it was introduced: 1947.

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The Internet is a remarkable innovation, but all we are talking about is a super-fast and globally accessible combination of library, post office, and mail-order catalogue. Had the Internet been described to a science fiction aficionado in the fifties and sixties and touted as the most dramatic technological achievement since his time, his reaction would have been disappointment. Fifty years and this is the best our scientists managed to come up with? We expected computers that would think!

Overall, levels of research funding have increased dramatically since the seventies. Admittedly, the proportion of that funding that comes from the corporate sector has increased most dramatically, to the point that private enterprise is now funding twice as much research as the government, but the increase is so large that the total amount of government research funding, in real-dollar terms, is much higher than it was in the sixties. “Basic,” “curiosity-driven,” or “blue skies” research—the kind that is not driven by the prospect of any immediate practical application, and that is most likely to lead to unexpected breakthroughs—occupies an ever smaller proportion of the total, though so much money is being thrown around nowadays that overall levels of basic research funding have increased.

Yet most observers agree that the results have been paltry. Certainly we no longer see anything like the continual stream of conceptual revolutions—genetic inheritance, relativity, psychoanalysis, quantum mechanics—that people had grown used to, and even expected, a hundred years before. Why?

Part of the answer has to do with the concentration of resources on a handful of gigantic projects: “big science,” as it has come to be called. The Human Genome Project is often held out as an example. After spending almost three billion dollars and employing thousands of scientists and staff in five different countries, it has mainly served to establish that there isn’t very much to be learned from sequencing genes that’s of much use to anyone else. Even more, the hype and political investment surrounding such projects demonstrate the degree to which even basic research now seems to be driven by political, administrative, and marketing imperatives that make it unlikely anything revolutionary will happen.

Here, our fascination with the mythic origins of Silicon Valley and the Internet has blinded us to what’s really going on. It has allowed us to imagine that research and development is now driven, primarily, by small teams of plucky entrepreneurs, or the sort of decentralized cooperation that creates open-source software. This is not so, even though such research teams are most likely to produce results. Research and development is still driven by giant bureaucratic projects.

What has changed is the bureaucratic culture. The increasing interpenetration of government, university, and private firms has led everyone to adopt the language, sensibilities, and organizational forms that originated in the corporate world. Although this might have helped in creating marketable products, since that is what corporate bureaucracies are designed to do, in terms of fostering original research, the results have been catastrophic.

My own knowledge comes from universities, both in the United States and Britain. In both countries, the last thirty years have seen a veritable explosion of the proportion of working hours spent on administrative tasks at the expense of pretty much everything else. In my own university, for instance, we have more administrators than faculty members, and the faculty members, too, are expected to spend at least as much time on administration as on teaching and research combined. The same is true, more or less, at universities worldwide.

The growth of administrative work has directly resulted from introducing corporate management techniques. Invariably, these are justified as ways of increasing efficiency and introducing competition at every level. What they end up meaning in practice is that everyone winds up spending most of their time trying to sell things: grant proposals; book proposals; assessments of students’ jobs and grant applications; assessments of our colleagues; prospectuses for new interdisciplinary majors; institutes; conference workshops; universities themselves (which have now become brands to be marketed to prospective students or contributors); and so on.

As marketing overwhelms university life, it generates documents about fostering imagination and creativity that might just as well have been designed to strangle imagination and creativity in the cradle. No major new works of social theory have emerged in the United States in the last thirty years. We have been reduced to the equivalent of medieval scholastics, writing endless annotations of French theory from the seventies, despite the guilty awareness that if new incarnations of Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, or Pierre Bourdieu were to appear in the academy today, we would deny them tenure.

There was a time when academia was society’s refuge for the eccentric, brilliant, and impractical. No longer. It is now the domain of professional self-marketers. As a result, in one of the most bizarre fits of social self-destructiveness in history, we seem to have decided we have no place for our eccentric, brilliant, and impractical citizens. Most languish in their mothers’ basements, at best making the occasional, acute intervention on the Internet.

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If all this is true in the social sciences, where research is still carried out with minimal overhead largely by individuals, one can imagine how much worse it is for astrophysicists. And, indeed, one astrophysicist, Jonathan Katz, has recently warned students pondering a career in the sciences. Even if you do emerge from the usual decade-long period languishing as someone else’s flunky, he says, you can expect your best ideas to be stymied at every point:

You will spend your time writing proposals rather than doing research. Worse, because your proposals are judged by your competitors, you cannot follow your curiosity, but must spend your effort and talents on anticipating and deflecting criticism rather than on solving the important scientific problems. . . . It is proverbial that original ideas are the kiss of death for a proposal, because they have not yet been proved to work.

That pretty much answers the question of why we don’t have teleportation devices or antigravity shoes. Common sense suggests that if you want to maximize scientific creativity, you find some bright people, give them the resources they need to pursue whatever idea comes into their heads, and then leave them alone. Most will turn up nothing, but one or two may well discover something. But if you want to minimize the possibility of unexpected breakthroughs, tell those same people they will receive no resources at all unless they spend the bulk of their time competing against each other to convince you they know in advance what they are going to discover.

In the natural sciences, to the tyranny of managerialism we can add the privatization of research results. As the British economist David Harvie has reminded us, “open source” research is not new. Scholarly research has always been open source, in the sense that scholars share materials and results. There is competition, certainly, but it is “convivial.” This is no longer true of scientists working in the corporate sector, where findings are jealously guarded, but the spread of the corporate ethos within the academy and research institutes themselves has caused even publicly funded scholars to treat their findings as personal property. Academic publishers ensure that findings that are published are increasingly difficult to access, further enclosing the intellectual commons. As a result, convivial, open-source competition turns into something much more like classic market competition.

There are many forms of privatization, up to and including the simple buying up and suppression of inconvenient discoveries by large corporations fearful of their economic effects. (We cannot know how many synthetic fuel formulae have been bought up and placed in the vaults of oil companies, but it’s hard to imagine nothing like this happens.) More subtle is the way the managerial ethos discourages everything adventurous or quirky, especially if there is no prospect of immediate results. Oddly, the Internet can be part of the problem here. As Neal Stephenson put it:

Most people who work in corporations or academia have witnessed something like the following: A number of engineers are sitting together in a room, bouncing ideas off each other. Out of the discussion emerges a new concept that seems promising. Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this “new” idea is, in fact, an old one; it—or at least something vaguely similar—has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded. If it failed, then no manager who wants to keep his or her job will approve spending money trying to revive it. If it succeeded, then it’s patented and entry to the market is presumed to be unattainable, since the first people who thought of it will have “first-mover advantage” and will have created “barriers to entry.” The number of seemingly promising ideas that have been crushed in this way must number in the millions.

And so a timid, bureaucratic spirit suffuses every aspect of cultural life. It comes festooned in a language of creativity, initiative, and entrepreneurialism. But the language is meaningless. Those thinkers most likely to make a conceptual breakthrough are the least likely to receive funding, and, if breakthroughs occur, they are not likely to find anyone willing to follow up on their most daring implications.

Giovanni Arrighi has noted that after the South Sea Bubble, British capitalism largely abandoned the corporate form. By the time of the Industrial Revolution, Britain had instead come to rely on a combination of high finance and small family firms—a pattern that held throughout the next century, the period of maximum scientific and technological innovation. (Britain at that time was also notorious for being just as generous to its oddballs and eccentrics as contemporary America is intolerant. A common expedient was to allow them to become rural vicars, who, predictably, became one of the main sources for amateur scientific discoveries.)

Contemporary, bureaucratic corporate capitalism was a creation not of Britain, but of the United States and Germany, the two rival powers that spent the first half of the twentieth century fighting two bloody wars over who would replace Britain as a dominant world power—wars that culminated, appropriately enough, in government-sponsored scientific programs to see who would be the first to discover the atom bomb. It is significant, then, that our current technological stagnation seems to have begun after 1945, when the United States replaced Britain as organizer of the world economy.

Americans do not like to think of themselves as a nation of bureaucrats—quite the opposite—but the moment we stop imagining bureaucracy as a phenomenon limited to government offices, it becomes obvious that this is precisely what we have become. The final victory over the Soviet Union did not lead to the domination of the market, but, in fact, cemented the dominance of conservative managerial elites, corporate bureaucrats who use the pretext of short-term, competitive, bottom-line thinking to squelch anything likely to have revolutionary implications of any kind.

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If we do not notice that we live in a bureaucratic society, that is because bureaucratic norms and practices have become so all-pervasive that we cannot see them, or, worse, cannot imagine doing things any other way.

Computers have played a crucial role in this narrowing of our social imaginations. Just as the invention of new forms of industrial automation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had the paradoxical effect of turning more and more of the world’s population into full-time industrial workers, so has all the software designed to save us from administrative responsibilities turned us into part- or full-time administrators. In the same way that university professors seem to feel it is inevitable they will spend more of their time managing grants, so affluent housewives simply accept that they will spend weeks every year filling out forty-page online forms to get their children into grade schools. We all spend increasing amounts of time punching passwords into our phones to manage bank and credit accounts and learning how to perform jobs once performed by travel agents, brokers, and accountants.

Someone once figured out that the average American will spend a cumulative six months of life waiting for traffic lights to change. I don’t know if similar figures are available for how long it takes to fill out forms, but it must be at least as long. No population in the history of the world has spent nearly so much time engaged in paperwork.

In this final, stultifying stage of capitalism, we are moving from poetic technologies to bureaucratic technologies. By poetic technologies I refer to the use of rational and technical means to bring wild fantasies to reality. Poetic technologies, so understood, are as old as civilization. Lewis Mumford noted that the first complex machines were made of people. Egyptian pharaohs were able to build the pyramids only because of their mastery of administrative procedures, which allowed them to develop production-line techniques, dividing up complex tasks into dozens of simple operations and assigning each to one team of workmen—even though they lacked mechanical technology more complex than the inclined plane and lever. Administrative oversight turned armies of peasant farmers into the cogs of a vast machine. Much later, after cogs had been invented, the design of complex machinery elaborated principles originally developed to organize people.

Yet we have seen those machines—whether their moving parts are arms and torsos or pistons, wheels, and springs—being put to work to realize impossible fantasies: cathedrals, moon shots, transcontinental railways. Certainly, poetic technologies had something terrible about them; the poetry is likely to be as much of dark satanic mills as of grace or liberation. But the rational, administrative techniques were always in service to some fantastic end.

From this perspective, all those mad Soviet plans—even if never realized—marked the climax of poetic technologies. What we have now is the reverse. It’s not that vision, creativity, and mad fantasies are no longer encouraged, but that most remain free-floating; there’s no longer even the pretense that they could ever take form or flesh. The greatest and most powerful nation that has ever existed has spent the last decades telling its citizens they can no longer contemplate fantastic collective enterprises, even if—as the environmental crisis demands— the fate of the earth depends on it.

What are the political implications of all this? First of all, we need to rethink some of our most basic assumptions about the nature of capitalism. One is that capitalism is identical with the market, and that both therefore are inimical to bureaucracy, which is supposed to be a creature of the state.

The second assumption is that capitalism is in its nature technologically progressive. It would seem that Marx and Engels, in their giddy enthusiasm for the industrial revolutions of their day, were wrong about this. Or, to be more precise: they were right to insist that the mechanization of industrial production would destroy capitalism; they were wrong to predict that market competition would compel factory owners to mechanize anyway. If it didn’t happen, that is because market competition is not, in fact, as essential to the nature of capitalism as they had assumed. If nothing else, the current form of capitalism, where much of the competition seems to take the form of internal marketing within the bureaucratic structures of large semi-monopolistic enterprises, would come as a complete surprise to them.

Defenders of capitalism make three broad historical claims: first, that it has fostered rapid scientific and technological growth; second, that however much it may throw enormous wealth to a small minority, it does so in such a way as to increase overall prosperity; third, that in doing so, it creates a more secure and democratic world for everyone. It is clear that capitalism is not doing any of these things any longer. In fact, many of its defenders are retreating from claiming that it is a good system and instead falling back on the claim that it is the only possible system—or, at least, the only possible system for a complex, technologically sophisticated society such as our own.

But how could anyone argue that current economic arrangements are also the only ones that will ever be viable under any possible future technological society? The argument is absurd. How could anyone know?

Granted, there are people who take that position—on both ends of the political spectrum. As an anthropologist and anarchist, I encounter anticivilizational types who insist not only that current industrial technology leads only to capitalist-style oppression, but that this must necessarily be true of any future technology as well, and therefore that human liberation can be achieved only by returning to the Stone Age. Most of us are not technological determinists.

But claims for the inevitability of capitalism have to be based on a kind of technological determinism. And for that very reason, if the aim of neoliberal capitalism is to create a world in which no one believes any other economic system could work, then it needs to suppress not just any idea of an inevitable redemptive future, but any radically different technological future. Yet there’s a contradiction. Defenders of capitalism cannot mean to convince us that technological change has ended—since that would mean capitalism is not progressive. No, they mean to convince us that technological progress is indeed continuing, that we do live in a world of wonders, but that those wonders take the form of modest improvements (the latest iPhone!), rumors of inventions about to happen (“I hear they are going to have flying cars pretty soon”), complex ways of juggling information and imagery, and still more complex platforms for filling out of forms.

I do not mean to suggest that neoliberal capitalism—or any other system—can be successful in this regard. First, there’s the problem of trying to convince the world you are leading the way in technological progress when you are holding it back. The United States, with its decaying infrastructure, paralysis in the face of global warming, and symbolically devastating abandonment of its manned space program just as China accelerates its own, is doing a particularly bad public relations job. Second, the pace of change can’t be held back forever. Breakthroughs will happen; inconvenient discoveries cannot be permanently suppressed. Other, less bureaucratized parts of the world—or at least, parts of the world with bureaucracies that are not so hostile to creative thinking—will slowly but inevitably attain the resources required to pick up where the United States and its allies have left off. The Internet does provide opportunities for collaboration and dissemination that may help break us through the wall as well. Where will the breakthrough come? We can’t know. Maybe 3D printing will do what the robot factories were supposed to. Or maybe it will be something else. But it will happen.

About one conclusion we can feel especially confident: it will not happen within the framework of contemporary corporate capitalism—or any form of capitalism. To begin setting up domes on Mars, let alone to develop the means to figure out if there are alien civilizations to contact, we’re going to have to figure out a different economic system. Must the new system take the form of some massive new bureaucracy? Why do we assume it must? Only by breaking up existing bureaucratic structures can we begin. And if we’re going to invent robots that will do our laundry and tidy up the kitchen, then we’re going to have to make sure that whatever replaces capitalism is based on a far more egalitarian distribution of wealth and power—one that no longer contains either the super-rich or the desperately poor willing to do their housework. Only then will technology begin to be marshaled toward human needs. And this is the best reason to break free of the dead hand of the hedge fund managers and the CEOs—to free our fantasies from the screens in which such men have imprisoned them, to let our imaginations once again become a material force in human history.


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[Dec 12, 2018] Neoliberalism in the USA repeats the path of Marxism Leninism in the USSR

Dec 12, 2018 | www.amazon.com

During the last decades of Soviet power, the importance of Communist ideology' was frequently
overrated abroad. Only after the downfall of the regime did it become clear that Marxism-Leninism
was no longer taken seriously; lip service was still paid to it, but it became the subject of ridicule
among those at the very' top.

Is there a danger that a similar misapprehension may prevail now that political views once found only' at the periphery' of the political system have moved to its center?

... ... ....

... In the 1980s, a strange situation had arisen: The KGB spent much of its time harassing and persecuting the dissidents, but they believed as little in communism and the Soviet system as their victims. They did what they did because they had been given orders from above. What is known about their real convictions? Deep down many of them were probably cynics, willing apparently' to serve any' system as long as it preserved their privileged positions. What of the current situation? How important is ideology', and what is the specific weight of power and money'?

... ... ...

In its cultural history, Russia went through a golden and a silver age, but now there are few prospects even for a bronze age. One feels reminded of Pushkin's reaction having finished listening to Nikolai Gogol reading to him Dead Souls: "God, what a sad country, our Russia."

[Dec 10, 2018] Is the EU collapsing

As with the USSR if promised of better life are not fulfulled, ideology is bankruppt and nationalism is on the rise.
Notable quotes:
"... The Party of Davos is yet unwilling to make the fundamental changes that would reduce the huge advantages they have accumulated over the past 40 years. We should therefore expect an intensification of this conflict with the natural ups and downs but a general trend towards increasing angst and frustration manifesting in unpredictable ways ..."
Dec 10, 2018 | turcopolier.typepad.com

The main fault of the EU is that the biggest party at the table always in the end, when things get serious, gets its way. The 80 million or so people of Germany de facto rule the 500 million of the Union, or you know, the three handfuls that rule Germany. No important decision can or will ever be taken that Berlin does not agree with. Angela Merkel has been the CEO of Europe Inc. since November 22 2005, gathering more power as time went by . That was never going to work unless she made everyone richer. Ask the Greeks about that one.

Merkel was the leader of both Germany and of Europe, and when things got precarious, she chose to let German interests prevail above Italian or Greek ones. That's the fundamental flaw and failure of the Union in a nutshell. All other things, the Greek crisis, Salvini, Macron, Brexit, are mere consequences of that flaw. In absence of a forever economic boom, there is nothing left to fall back on. SF

-----------

A persuasive article, the Europeans here can now explain to us all how much better and more virtuous Europe is than the United States.

What was it that Macron was saying about a European army? The CRS and the Gendarmerie Mobile will get this under control but Macron may well be neutered by the unrest.

FWIW, the disparate power exercised by the great and the small states under present EU conditions is exactly what the US Framers successfully avoided by the Great Compromises in the US Constitution. pl

https://southfront.org/macron-heralds-the-end-of-the-union/


Adrestia , 2 days ago

Yes, the EU is collapsing unless the Euro dies.

The main breaking point of the EU is the Euro. The rules agreed in the Maastricht Treaty are not suitable for the participating countries but are written by the northern european countries such as Germany and my country The Netherlands.

The rules each Euro-country are:
* maximum of 60% debt to GDP
* maximum deficit of 3% of GDP
* maximum inflation of 1.5%

These rules made national politicians toothless. A lot of monetary policy they could use were taken away from them and delegated to the non-democratic, non-chosen technocratic institute of the European Central Bank.

They are not allowed to print money battle a recession which would increase inflation. This strategy makes a country cheap. So when there is a lot of inflation in Italy, Greece, Portugal or Greece a lot of people from northern Europe go there on holiday.

English Outsider -> Adrestia , a day ago
In your discussion of the Eurozone you do not mention the Target 2 balances. This is almost a non subject in Germany and not referred to that often elsewhere. I believe they amount to an unacknowledged form of fiscal transfer.

Even if I'm correct, I don't think it's enough.

All unified countries, from the US to Iceland, recognise the duty of the richer areas to transfer funds to poorer areas if needed. So, in the UK, HMG sends large sums of money over to Northern Ireland as subsidy.

The other side of the coin to this is that the central government may supervise the expenditure of that subsidy. That entails overall control over the entire expenditure of the recipient area.

This system of fiscal transfer is seldom adequate and seldom well supervised.
It is, however, essential in any country.

As the EU becomes more unified this question of fiscal transfer becomes more important. There are two obstacles.

1. The richer countries are reluctant to pay the subsidy. Since the EU is not yet a unified state there are no means of coercing the richer countries into paying the subsidy. To be part of a superstate, and to benefit from being part of it, is one thing. To face a reduced standard of living in order to subsidise other parts of it is quite another.

2. Even if the richer parts of the EU are willing to pay, there are no effective means of supervising the spending of the subsidy.

This is I think the greatest problem the EU faces and it faces it because it is in transition from a collection of countries to a unified state under unified control. As a collection of countries there is no onus on any one country to subsidise another. As a unified state the process would happen automatically. But the in-between stage the EU's currently at allows for neither one nor the other.

This is why we hear so often the calls for "ever greater unity" for the EU. That is no mere expression of an ideological or millenarian dream. It is a precondition that must be met if the EU is to hold together. Given the other stresses to which the EU is subjected I do not believe it will arrive quickly enough or at all at the degree of unification that will allow that precondition to be satisfied.

Jack , 2 days ago
"The Union appears fatally wounded, and that's even before the next financial crisis has materialized. Speaking of which, the Fed has been hiking rates and can lower them again a little if it wants, but much of Europe 'works' on negative rates already. That next crisis could be a doozy."

Sir

IMO, the Southfront article has a lot of merits. The problem that much of Europe faces is similar to what we face here. Extreme wealth inequality caused by the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of a few. The divide between the working class and the urban upper class. The "Deplorables" are expressing their frustration at the ballot box now by voting for Brexit, Trump, Bolsonaro, AMLO, Salvini & Five Star and what would have been considered fringe parties not too long ago. The social contract has fallen apart.

The Party of Davos is yet unwilling to make the fundamental changes that would reduce the huge advantages they have accumulated over the past 40 years. We should therefore expect an intensification of this conflict with the natural ups and downs but a general trend towards increasing angst and frustration manifesting in unpredictable ways

VietnamVet , 2 days ago
Colonel,

Russian articles are about as close to the truth as we are going to get on the internet since it serves their interests to weaken the sanctions placed on them by the West. Facts do not serve western Media Moguls. The last thing they want published is that the news is manipulated to make them richer and more powerful. The closest I ever got to the White House was standing on the lawn when Jimmy Carter welcomed Pierre Trudeau. Still, there is a video of Huma Abedin hugging Lindsey Graham with the Generals looking on at John McCain's funeral.

Mp1040 , a day ago
The fundamental problem of the EU is that the Euro is an unfinished project. Unfinished because it lacks the internal transfer payments required to make it fully functional. Every single currency essentially subsidizes to some degree it's poorer regions at the expense or the richer. This is true or the US, all European countries prior to the euro etc The reason for this is that under normal circumstances a poorer region (or under the current EURO scenario, a poorer country) would be able to benefit from a weaker currency, in its relationship with a better off country enjoying a stronger currency. By agreeing to a common currency it gives up this essential compensating mechanism, but (normally) only in exchange for meaningful fiscal transfers as compensation.

Today euro zone fiscal transfer amount to a fraction of comparative rates in the us or other countries. Practically, it's non existent.

And the main reason for the current situation is Merkel/Germany. It takes all the benefits (a lower weaker currency then it would otherwise have and unfettered access for is products across Europe) without any costs. Of course, in the long run it's undermining the golden goose, but it's difficult to focus even Germans on the long term...

The topic can be expanded at length but I've tried to keep it simple. Nothing is more important than this.

Poul , 2 days ago
The article is over the top. Brussels has very limited economic power and less political power. The EU budget is only around 1% of Gross National Income. What is the Federal Budget in the USA in comparison? Just your defence spending is around 3% of GDP. Fx. Hungary receives around 4 billion Euros in 2017 from the EU and paid ca 800 million Euros to the EU. How vital is 3.2 billion Euros for Hungary in a existential question? It's ca 2.7 % of GDP.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...
https://europa.eu/european-...

As for the commission it is only able to administrate existing rules.
New rules required the Council of Europe (the governments) and the EU parliament to pass them.

The Council's voting rules require a majority to pass and sometimes unanimity. Which is why the is no agreement on the distribution of refugees/immigrants. Member countries can refuse to take part. Germany has limited

English Outsider -> Poul , a day ago
" .. if the more national-minded parties of the EU get a majority in the EU parliament ..."

They are a most disparate group of parties and it's unlikely in any case that they'd end up having the say in the European Parliament. If they got near to it, we would see the same mechanism operating as can operate in the parliaments of the constituent countries - the status quo parties would join together to keep them from power.

But that's speculation. Here we are on firmer ground -

"The article is over the top. Brussels has very limited economic power and less political power. The EU budget is only around 1% of Gross National Income."

There are two points relevant here.

1. "Brussels" or "the EU" are very imprecise terms. It is safer to talk in terms of the Berlin/Paris/Brussels axis, with the two first components having the ultimate say and the third being mainly the means through which that say is expressed.

2. The size and expenditure of Brussels itself is remarkably small. Compare it to the massive size and expenditure of the governing apparatus in Washington and it's almost invisible. But through regulation and law it has at its disposal increasing control over the much larger establishments and budgets of the constituent nation states.

It is important not to exaggerate the reach of EU regulation. Many regulations we think of as "EU regulations" are made elsewhere at international level and the EU only transmits these regulations to its member states. For this and other reasons the Berlin/Paris/Brussels axis, or whatever term one may wish to use, cannot be directly compared with the central power in the US. But the EU does have very much more power than is indicated in the sentence quoted above.

Araminta Smade , 2 days ago
Is the EU collapsing?

Good day Colonel. We can only hope so. The EU was conceived as an idea that would prevent another European Conflict. Its initial organisation the European Coal and Steel Community was designed to bring the sinews of war under centralised control. This was a practical measure which was quite separate from the founder's beliefs about the origins of the war; this was that it was the people who by their nationalism and subordination to demagoguery that had enabled that power to be harnessed by the forces of Fascism. They thus determined to create a political system in parallel that would neutralise the people as a factor in political decisions within what would eventually become the EU. This involved rendering their choices at the ballot box ineffective puppets who can initiate no legislation and by virtue of their large constituencies are so distant from the people that no real representation can take place. I doubt that there is one person in twenty in the UK who could tell you the name of their MEP. What this means in effect is that there is no demos, no people in the original Greek political sense and since there is no demos there can be no democracy. The European Commission, which is the executive arm of the EU is voted for by the Parliament, there is no input from the people which is why you see strange anomalies like Prime Minister May negotiating with Michael Barnier or President Donald Trump talking to Jean-Claude Juncker, two men who wield enormous power and yet have never received a single vote from a citizen of the EU.

The truly frightening thing about this state of affairs is not the present EU even with its lack of accountability, malice and incompetence but the opportunities it offers for future tyranny and oppression. Human beings being what they are, no system that leaves the people out of its decision making process will endure long as a force for good in the world.

MP98 , 14 hours ago
A currency is both an instrument and a product of a nation's monetary, fiscal and budgetary policies.
Multiple nations with separate, and often contrary policies, cannot realistically share a currency.
Bálint Somkuti , 21 hours ago
Sir,

on one hand the dream of the internationalist eurocrats is the United States of Europe, that is a USA on steroids from the aspect of govt powers. They are after it with 'all possible despatch' as the old british navy slang goes. For them nation states are a thing of the past and they see a rainbow society stretching from Gibraltar to Tallinn, and from Faroer islands to Rhodes, with all possible colours, and other liberal nightmares of 'families', as well as as a refuge open to everybody, who is not christian/and or conservative. Political and economical control is absolute in their hands, and a police state is chasing 'family values', but not petty crime. Drugs are legalized and stuff.
That dream is falling apart. Thank God.
On the other hand everything a semi-official russian source says must be taken with a huge spoon of salt, since those 'pesky rooshans' are always up to something. A united and strong EU not to mention a strong european army is not in their interest, since they fear a Barbarossa 2.0. But what they want less is the version of Mr. Trump's NATO, an enlarged and obeying military AND political arm of the US.
Yes the current EU is weak and will be weaker when in April 2019 more eu-sceptical parties will join the EU parliament, I would even go as far as they will the majority. The neoliberal top down, forced 'gleichschaltung' has failed and the Yellow Vests are only one aspect. A thorough reform is needed, and as always I promote the way the austro-hungarian empire worked, and worked reliably. That is a common foreign and defence politics, financed commonly BUT this budget was to be suported by BOTH parliaments. The rest is voluntary. Standards, education, police and intelligence services obligatorily share data etc. but NOTHING ELSE is mandatory.

As of anti US sentiments. The late G. Bush with his visit in 1989 has left a deep and very positive mark on hungarian public opinion. Some 30 years later the new ambassador appointed by the running Pres himself says, that although Mr. Trump and Mr. Orban see the world very, very similarly, a gesture from the hungarian govt is needed to facilitate a personnal meeting. It could be a defence cooperation, a step to increase energy independence, or helping to resolve the ukrainian situation.
Let me translate.
Buy US weapons for billions of dollars, buy US LNG for 50-70% higher price, or let 150 000 hungarians be forcefully assimilated into ukrainians becuase that is in-line with US interests.

If you would like Sir, I would be more than honoured to write you a piece on the growing disillusionment about the „West" in the Visegrad 4 countries, and the impossibility of US geopolitical plans with this region.

Pat Lang Mod -> Bálint Somkuti , 16 hours ago
Please do so. You have guest author privileges.
Ulenspiegel , a day ago
"The 80 million or so people of Germany de facto rule the 500 million of the Union, or you know, the three handfuls that rule Germany. No important decision can or will ever be taken that Berlin does not agree with. "

Stupid lie, in the past I was used to better quality Rusian propaganda. :-)

"A persuasive article, the Europeans here can now explain to us all how much better and more virtuous Europe is than the United States."

Interesting.

Pat Lang Mod -> Ulenspiegel , 16 hours ago
You are welcome.
Jack , 2 days ago
All

The apparent demands of the Yellow Vests. I have no ability to verify if it is accurate. It is very interesting nevertheless.

https://www.lelibrepenseur....

One of the demands is Frexit. Others include banning lobbies, no foreign intervention and smaller banks.

Britam , 2 days ago
Sir;
It may be a stretch, but I can see the present state of the European Union as analogous to America under the Articles of Confederation. That experiment wasn't working out as expected, so, America went back to the drawing board and developed the Constitution. This set in train events that, arguably, culminated in the War Between the States. Out of that crucible came a strong central government, with some allowances for differences between states and regions, but a general and enforceable national system. Where is the District of Columbia for Europe? Berlin? Hardly. German civil law does not run in France, or Spain. Brussels? Conrad was right in describing it in the opening of his book "The Heart of Darkness" as full of whited sepulchers. Until some true Capitol is established for Europe, apart from and distinct from the state capitols, and given effective power, Europe will just limp along.
The real value of the European Union lies in its function as a brake on inter-european disputes. Preventing round three of the Great War might be it's biggest achievement.
As for Merkel being CFO of Germany, well, a nation is not just it's financial and economic systems. If she concentrated her energies only on the financial aspects of her country, then she deserves to go. Not enough of the 'vision' thing.
English Outsider -> Britam , a day ago
"The real value of the European Union lies in its function as a brake on inter-european disputes."

I've seen that statement so often that I might eventually have to agree with it out of weariness. But I don't think it'll do.

The reason we've had seventy years of peace, more or less, is that the European powers, possibly excepting Germany, are no longer Great Powers.

In such disputes as have seriously escalated the EU has not been a brake. It has if anything been a promoter of conflict, though its contribution to conflict so far has necessarily been less than the contribution of its constituent nation states.

blue peacock , 2 days ago
The reaction of the western media to these protests in France is quite different compared to how they reported (aka propagandized) the Arab Spring and the Color Revolutions in Eastern Europe. There they created the mythology of the liberty loving people vs the authoritarian state. And the hysteria to gin up support for regime change.

In this instance on the protests in France, on most days there is no reporting. And when there is any analysis these protesters are deemed as anarchists and troublemakers. I can't wait for the subversive Russian hand to show up in the NY Times and WaPo. I for one would be very interested to learn more about the Yellow Vests and the sentiments among the broad public they are mining. It seems their demands are the demands of the disenfranchised. Those who have paid the price for the enormous wealth of the Davos globalist elites. It also seems that 70% of the French public support the protests.

https://www.scribd.com/docu...

The poll ratings of Macron the favorite of the globalist elites has plummeted that makes Trump a very popular leader relatively. Will the "regime changers" in the west demand that Macron go as they would if these protests were taking place in Russia for example?

IMO, the biggest problem in Europe is that an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels has essentially stripped EU countries of their sovereignty and make classic bureaucratic decisions that make ordinary lives more challenging, like the well known example of the pages of directive about the shape and color of bananas that can be sold in the EU, which is an example of a bureaucracy that is so big that they have to invent knew ways to remain relevant.

We've seen many countries in Europe starting to take independent stances and pushing back against the Brussels bureaucracy. Hungary, Czech Republic, Italy are examples of countries in some conflict with Brussels. Even in Germany what would have been considered fringe political parties are gaining substantial ground in national, state and local elections. All signs that the average person is getting more frustrated.

Pat Lang Mod -> blue peacock , 2 days ago
The Western media thought these societies were in need of improvement. The same is not thought of France.
fanto , 3 days ago
this article from SF is provocative, not so persuasive. The mantra that some German Kamarilla is ruling the EU, that German "deep state" if you will, exists in order to conquer the European continent by peaceful, economic, financial means is IMO total BS. Germany is not sovereign country, that is no. 1; secondly - the important decisions like the Greece bailouts were made by France (Sarkozy) and others by "pulling Merkel over the table", by ramming these decisions through the Bundestag without proper deliberations. Thirdly, the ECB boss and the Board are totally out of German hands. Merkel saw to it that Mario Draghi became the boss, and not Weidmann. The issue of Greece´s debts and the role of Goldman Sachs in getting Greece into the Euro zone is well known, and I will not spend any more time digesting it again here. Facts are that Greece´s billions of Euro´s received from printing presses, ended up in the pockets of oligarchs, who purchased real estate in Geneva, Lausanne, Paris, Berlin, Munich, London, New York. The famous 2000 names on Lagarde´ list never materialized in public.
Now, the state of infrastructure in Germany is bad, people´s savings disappeared, poverty in old age is a big issue for average German worker. Tell me, how did Germany profit? There is no disparate power of Germany in the EU. France does not know "wo ihr der Schwanz steht" - and talking about european military force is of course excluding the control over the French nuclear arsenal.
I am not linking to sources but I can provide these if so desired, the SF article did not provide any for their claims.
English Outsider -> fanto , a day ago
Fanto - I am so glad that you distinguish between "Germany" - still one of the finest countries in Europe - and the German ruling apparatus.

The elites tend to drag us along with them when it comes to conflict. So because the Western power structures are at present opposed to, say, Russia, we must all line up dutifully and uncritically behind the anti-Russian line. And many of us do just that.

I've seen this mechanism at work in my own country. Our government, Brussels, and the Irish government are involved in a complex dispute. This is now spilling over into antagonism on our part against "the Irish" and antagonism on their part against "the Brits" - not unexpected in the latter case because the Irish do have a fair few reasons for hostility to "the Brits" in any case. What a mess!

The same mechanism operated internally in the Ukraine. A generalised sense of resentment against a corrupt and greedy elite was diverted to the quite different channel of conflict between pro-Russian and anti-Russian sectors of the population.

They got the conflict, all right, but the corrupt and greedy elite is still there.

I believe this will happen to us in Europe if we don't look out. The crony corporatist club we term "the EU", and the crony corporatist governments of its constituent nations, are the common burden of the many peoples of Europe. If we allow them to become our leaders in a fight against each other they will remain our common burden.

aint.no.robot -> fanto , 2 days ago
The Greek bailout was simply EU self preservation and not in their interests. The IMF was more lenient that Germany in those bailouts.. Seriously. =)

Germany did not mind the wealth transfer from the southern states, nor the lower euro due to their economic inefficiencies (see Pres. Trumps comments), Goldman or no Goldman. If the Chinese do it they are currency manipulators but when Germany does it...

And Germany not spending on infrastructure restrained consumption, imposing their short sighted austerity on the rest of Europe. This exacerbated the crazy trade surpluses that Europe had with the rest of the world, basically starving the European consumers and screwing the USA further.

Please define sovereignty...

Pat Lang Mod -> aint.no.robot , 2 days ago
Control of your borders.
aint.no.robot -> Pat Lang , 2 days ago
hah. I would hope no one is suggesting that Merkel's 'refugees for cheap labour' imposed on Europe was due to American pressure. It is basically an extension of the German predatory economic polices.
Pat Lang Mod -> fanto , 3 days ago
Germany is not a sovereign country? Why, because of relationship to US? If you are that stupid I do not want you on SST.
exSpec4Chuck -> Pat Lang , 2 days ago
The financial sovereignty of the Eurozone countries, Germany included, is constrained by the terms of the Maastricht Treaty, by which they are restricted from running budget deficits in excess of 3%. The north/south divide that has been unfolding since it went into effect early in this century was uncannily predicted by the late Wynne Godley in the London Review of Books a few months the treaty's ratification. Godley was a senior analyst in the British Finance Ministry and his analyses were said by some to be the primary influence in the government's decision not to forsake the pound for the common currency.

As for Germany having minimal influence on Eurozone financial policy, try telling that to Yanis Varoufakis, who was the Finance Minister of Greece during the 2015 negotiations that led to the draconian austerity program under which the country's economy has all but collapsed and its infrastructure looted at bargain basement prices. There was little question in his mind that it was Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Finance Minister at the time, running the show.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v14/n...

fanto -> exSpec4Chuck , 2 days ago
exSpec4Chuck, I see that you are full on board of emotional German bashing tour; I can recommend the book by H.W.Sinn, "Der Euro", Hanser Verlag, 2015. quote (p.27) "....Italiens große Tageszeitung iL Giornale sieht in Deutschland das Bestreben am Werk, das Vierte Reich zu errichten... Das linke englische Wochenmagazin New Statesman nannte Angela Merkel gar das ´gefährlichste deutsche Staatsoberhaupt seit Hitler´ " (if you are not proficient in German, you can try Google translate).
and what Varoufakis claims are concerned - he was refuted by the research of H.W. Sinn, who calculated that only 1/3 of money which was going to Greece - benefited the French, German, American banks, and not 90% as Varoufakis claims. The 2/3rds of it benefited Greeks, who were buying foreign assets because they did not trust their own economy.

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/...

BTW, the introduction of the Euro was a political decision to weaken to Deutsche Mark, against the Franc, it was promoted by Mitterrand as "better than Versaille", meaning better than the reparations after WW1. -also called "Versaille without war". So, tell me -who is right, give me some other points of view, please.

A.Trophimovsky -> Pat Lang , 2 days ago
No, because of the astonishing number of US military bases it has in its soil....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...

Related to the question ( rethorical? ) you pose, it was really very timely that these protests in France started just a week after Macron supported the creation of an European Army....They were organized by social networks ( not workers assemblies, as it is the usual way amongst French working class movements... )... like the last so succesful electoral campaign of Bolsonaro.... There is a significant extrem right component and claims for only low taxes..... In fact it seems that people from the "Yellow Vests" who are willing to negotiate are receiving death threats from the far-righters, who, at the same time, claim for the rise to power of a general whom Macron dismissed in the past, once taking over....Then... it is the presence of strange strong fitted masked people wearing sunglasses and dressed in military fatigues with backpacks....wearing strange white brazelets.... amongst the first line in the front of the riots...Believe me, I have seen many working class movements through these years in Europe and this one resembles more the "Ukrainian Maidan" than any other else...by its extrem violence, even attacking representative signs of French nation as Marianne statue, Arc du Triumphe , or even burning of French flags...and calls to storm L´ Elysée ...

Macron, like it or not, is the legitimate president of France elected in democratic elections....There is an excellent opportunity to fight him in the next European elections, since the real fish ( we all seem to agree in that ) is cut in Brussels.... Why it is that this people can not wait till May..., or is it that the real organizers of these riots do not expect any good result in those elections, be it because they are fringe organizations with scarce support amongst the French people, or because they can not concur as subjects to these elections because they are... well, foreigners...?

There are a lot of people who live far worst that the French today, including people in the US ( only you would wish to have the still remaining French welfare state...to which the globalist want to take a dent in...) and then, would you be happy seeing this happening in the US?

Anyway, am I detecting some schadenfreude here by this South Front people? Who they are, btw?
I use to read them when at first The Saker was publishing their "analyses"...It seemed to me they were military people then....

Pat Lang Mod -> A.Trophimovsky , 2 days ago
Nobody in the US disputes Macron's legitimacy. His fantastical effort to prevent global warming by raising the already sky high taxes on consumer energy products are a French problem and worthy of an Enarch. The US has far fewer bases in Europe that it used to have, especially in Germany. The remaining ones are there because of a mistaken policy of containing Russia post USSR.

You Europeans and your governments are fully complicit in that policy although as Trump observes you are unwilling to fund your own defense adequately under NATO agreements. As I have said, I personally, think NATO should be dissolved and that whatever security arrangements should exist between the US and European countries should be on a bi-lateral basis, but it appears that your governments do not want NATO dissolved.

[Dec 10, 2018] Trump and Pompeo Are Leading a Foreign-Policy Farce by James Gibney

Pompeo is pretty simplistic guy from the "Coalition for the peace from the position of strength". A neocon hell bent on US hegemony. And it not true that Mike Pompeo is doing his best to demolish the global neoliberal world order. It just point to US vassals its real place in the neoliberal pecking order.
Notable quotes:
"... "Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself," said Pompeo. "The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done." Maybe I ran in strange circles during my eight years in the State Department, but few of my colleagues were in thrall to such simplistic thinking. ..."
"... For its part, the Trump administration hasn't been shy about trespassing on other countries' sovereignty. Trump has threatened to invade Venezuela and to punish South Africa for its land-reform policies. By the end of 2017, he had also sanctioned nearly 1,000 individuals and entities. Apparently, there are limits to how much other countries can "exert their sovereignty" within their own borders if doing so goes against the interests of the U.S. ..."
"... The liberal international order actually provides a legal basis for such interventions -- if, that is, you're willing to uphold it and play by its rules. The UN Security Council has passed hundreds of Chapter VII resolutions authorizing action to "restore international peace and security." Many investigations and prosecutions by the ICC, to which all NATO members except Turkey and the U.S. belong, have advanced many U.S. policy interests. Multilateral bodies also provide a forum for resolving lesser disputes. Trump's animus toward the World Trade Organization, for instance, ignores the better than average (and better than China) U.S. winning streak in trade cases. ..."
"... Do multilateral institutions need review, reform and renewal? Well, what institution doesn't? And as the largest funder from 2014 to 2016 for 24 out of 53 leading UN and non-UN multilateral institutions (compared with nine each for Japan and the U.K.), the U.S. has a strong interest in making sure they work effectively and advance the interests of member states. ..."
Dec 10, 2018 | www.bloomberg.com

If a diplomat truly is, as the old saying goes, "an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country," then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has earned his pay. His speech in Brussels on "Restoring the Role of the Nation-State in the Liberal International Order" deserves a State Department Distinguished Honor Award for Intellectual Dishonesty.

"Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself," said Pompeo. "The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done." Maybe I ran in strange circles during my eight years in the State Department, but few of my colleagues were in thrall to such simplistic thinking.

Pompeo then hurled rhetorical grenades at a row of multilateral bunkers: United Nations peacekeeping missions don't work; the Organization of American States hasn't brought freedom to Cuba; the African Union doesn't advance the mutual interest of its members; the World Bank and International Monetary Fund just make things worse; the European Union puts the interests of its bureaucrats before those of its countries and citizens. Admittedly, each of those institutions is imperfect. But none lives down to the caricatures Pompeo made of them.

Finally, in his own Mount Suribachi moment , Pompeo brazenly planted the flag of American leadership on an international liberal order that this administration has worked harder to blow up than to build. Wisely, he beat a retreat after his speech, taking no questions.

So, let's look at his points one by one. In attacking multilateralism, Pompeo claimed that the Trump administration's mission is "to reassert our sovereignty and we want our friends to help us and exert their sovereignty as well." Trump himself played up this same theme at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

But it's not clear that multilateral agreements and institutions have actually done much to abuse U.S. sovereignty. The UN charter , for instance, clearly excludes intervention in any state's domestic affairs. The U.S. veto on the Security Council gives it an unassailable backstop. America has unrivaled voting power in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Many of the supposed threats to U.S. sovereignty that the Trump administration has cited have been either illusory -- such as a hortatory compact on migration the U.S. pulled out of last year -- or could be easily countered , such as a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court into U.S. actions in Afghanistan.

For its part, the Trump administration hasn't been shy about trespassing on other countries' sovereignty. Trump has threatened to invade Venezuela and to punish South Africa for its land-reform policies. By the end of 2017, he had also sanctioned nearly 1,000 individuals and entities. Apparently, there are limits to how much other countries can "exert their sovereignty" within their own borders if doing so goes against the interests of the U.S.

The liberal international order actually provides a legal basis for such interventions -- if, that is, you're willing to uphold it and play by its rules. The UN Security Council has passed hundreds of Chapter VII resolutions authorizing action to "restore international peace and security." Many investigations and prosecutions by the ICC, to which all NATO members except Turkey and the U.S. belong, have advanced many U.S. policy interests. Multilateral bodies also provide a forum for resolving lesser disputes. Trump's animus toward the World Trade Organization, for instance, ignores the better than average (and better than China) U.S. winning streak in trade cases.

Even in those situations where international rules may constrain future U.S. behavior, they reflect trade-offs that negotiators have weighed and accepted. As Secretary of State Dean Rusk said to Congress in 1965 about the thousands of treaties and agreements that the U.S. had inked in the previous two decades, "We are constantly enlarging our own freedom by being able to predict what others are going to do."

At their best, multilateral institutions allow their member states to leverage national power. Twice in the last decade, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has compared the cost of UN peacekeeping missions to U.S. boots on the ground and found them to be a much more cost-effective alternative . Fittingly, two days after Pompeo blasted his hosts at the EU for shortchanging the interests of its members' citizens, news broke of a massive, multi-nation EU-coordinated raid on the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate in Italy -- the kind of bust that no country can mount on its own.

Do multilateral institutions need review, reform and renewal? Well, what institution doesn't? And as the largest funder from 2014 to 2016 for 24 out of 53 leading UN and non-UN multilateral institutions (compared with nine each for Japan and the U.K.), the U.S. has a strong interest in making sure they work effectively and advance the interests of member states.

But the way to do that isn't to browbeat them, or to take your ball and go home when things don't go your way. For all the weaknesses of the UN Human Rights Council, the U.S. withdrawal (Iceland took its place) won't make it better, and makes it even less likely that offenders will be held to account. Moreover, China and Russia are busy building their own multilateral bodies or suborning existing ones like Interpol .

Pompeo claimed that the U.S. wants to create international organizations "that deliver on their stated missions, and that create value for the liberal order and for the world." But the administration's drastic budget cuts to the State Department and international organizations (which a more multilaterally-minded Congress has blunted) and its preference for bilateral over multilateral deals suggest it would rather they withered on the vine. Equally toxic has been Trump's disdain for the work of experts and seasoned public servants -- witness his recent repudiation of a searing U.S. government report on climate change's economic impact.

One of my wonkiest jobs as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo was to cover Japan's conduct in commodities groups such as the International Tropical Timber Organization, the International Coffee Organization and the now-defunct International Natural Rubber Organization. I never became an expert, though I did come to understand why Japan has such good coffee. I did, however, develop a healthy respect for the wonks, nerds and gnomes who inhabit the multilateral garden, tending to their countries' national interests while advancing the greater common good. They need and deserve your support, Mr. Secretary, not your contempt.

[Dec 10, 2018] The Crisis of Neoliberalism by Gérard Duménil, Dominique Lévy

Notable quotes:
"... The unquenchable quest for high income on the part of the upper classes must be halted. ..."
"... They maintain it is a mistake to isolate it merely in the context of the financial innovation and deregulation occurring from the late 1990s. Instead, capitalism has particular historical tendencies and specific class relations. ..."
"... However, because politics and social class alliances can change, so can the profitability. The current crisis was not caused by falling rates of profits, but by financial innovation, credit overextension, and the particular social class alliances facilitating these activities. ..."
Amazon.com

Neoliberalism is a new stage of capitalism that emerged in the wake of the structural crisis of the 1970s. It expresses the strategy of the capitalist classes in alliance with upper management, specifically financial managers, in- tending to strengthen their hegemony and to expand it globally. As of 2004, when our book Capital Resurgent: Roots of the Neoliberal Revolution was published by Harvard University Press, this strategy appeared successful, based on its own objectives, the income and wealth of a privileged minority, and the dominance of a country. The contemporary crisis is an outcome of the contradictions inherent in that strategy. The crisis revealed the strategy's unsustainable character, leading to what can be denoted as the "crisis of neoliberalism." Neoliberal trends ultimately unsettled the foundations of the economy of the "secure base" of the upper classes -- the capability of the United States to grow, maintain the leadership of its financial institutions worldwide, and ensure the dominance of its currency -- a class and imperial strategy that resulted in a stalemate.

A New Social Order-A Multipolar World

The crisis of neoliberalism is the fourth structural crisis in capitalism since the late nineteenth century. Each of these earthquakes introduced the establishment of a new social order and deeply altered international relations. The contemporary crisis marks the beginning of a similar process of transition. Not only is financial regulation involved, but a new corporate governance, the rebuilding of the financial sector, and new policies are now required. The basic tenets and practices of neoliberal globalization will be questioned, and production has to be "re-territorialized" in the United States to a significant extent. Accordingly, countries such as China, India, or Brazil will become gradually less dependent on their relationship to the United States. It will be, in particular, quite difficult to correct for the macro trajectory of declining trends of accumulation and cumulative disequilibria of the U.S. economy once the present Great Contraction is stopped.

In any event, the new world order will be more multipolar than at present. Further, if such changes are not realized successfully in the United States, the decline of U.S. international hegemony could be sharp. None of the urgently required tasks in the coming decades to slow down the comparative decline of the U.S. economy can be realized under the same class leadership and unchecked globalizing trends. The unquenchable quest for high income on the part of the upper classes must be halted. Much will depend on the pressure exerted by the popular classes and the peoples of the world, but the "national factor," that is, the national commitment in favor of the preservation of U.S. preeminence worldwide, could play a crucial role. The necessary adjustment can be realized in the context of a new social arrangement to the Right or to the Left, although, as of the last months of 2009, the chances of a Left alternative appear slim.

It is important to understand that the contemporary crisis is only the initial step in a longer process of rectification. How long this process will last depends on the severity of the crisis, and national and international political strife. The capability of the U.S. upper classes to perform the much needed adjustment and the willingness of China to соllaborate will be crucial factors. A crisis of the dollar could precipitate a sequence of events that would alter the basic features of the process.

... ... ...

The Strategy of the U.S. Upper Classes in Neoliberalism: The Success and Failure of a Bold Endeavor

Two very distinct categories of phenomena are involved in the analysis of the contemporary crisis: the historical dynamics of capitalism, on the one hand, and financial and macro mechanisms, on the other hand. The interpretation of the crisis lies at the intersection of these two sets of processes, and the difficulty is to do justice to both and account for their reciprocal relationships.

Neoliberalism should be understood as a new phase in the evolution of capitalism. As such, it can be described intrinsically-its basic mechanisms and contradictions. The reference to a m ost recent phase raises, however, the issue of previous phases. The comparison with earlier periods reveals the traits proper to the new period. The analysis of the social, political, and economic trends that led to the establishment of neoliberalism is also telling of the nature and fate of this social order. Symmetrically, the notion of a crisis of neoliberalism implies a possible transition to a new phase, and the nature of the society that will prevail in the wake of the contemporary crisis is a major component of the investigation here.

... ... ...

A central thesis in Capital Resurgent: Roots of the Neoliberal Revolution is that the overall dynamics of capitalism under neoliberalism, both nationally and internationally, were determined by new class objectives that worked to the benefit of the highest income brackets, capitalist owners, and the upper fractions of management. The greater concentration of income in favor of a privileged minority was a crucial achievement of the new social order. Income statement data make this apparent. In this respect, a social order is also a power configuration, and implicit in this latter notion is "class" power. National accounting frameworks add to this observation that a large and increasing fraction of U.S. capital income comes from outside of the United States. Not only class relations are involved, but also imperial hierarchies, a permanent feature of capitalism.

The new configuration of income distribution was the outcome of various converging trends. Strong pressure was placed on the mass of salaried workers, which helped restore profit rates from their low levels of the 1970s or, at least, to put an end to their downward trend. The opening of trade and capital frontiers paved the way to large investments in the regions of the world where prevailing social conditions allowed for high returns, thus generating income flows in favor of the U.S. upper classes (and broader groups that benefit to some extent by capital income). Free trade increased the pressure on workers, the effect of the competition emanating from countries where labor costs are low. Large capital income flows also derived from the growing indebtedness of households and the government. Extreme degrees of sophistication and expansion of financial mechanisms were reached after 2000, allowing for tremendous incomes in the financial sector and in rich households. The crisis, finally, revealed that a significant fraction of these flows of income were based on dubious profits, due to a n increasing overvaluation of securities.

Besides the comparative interests of social classes, the leading position of the United States, economically, politically, and militarily, must also be considered. The political conditions underlying the dominance of the United States in the decades preceding the crisis are well known. Two major factors are the fall of the Soviet Union and the weakness of Europe as a political entity. Neoliberalism corrected for the earlier decline of the leadership of the United States in the 1970s, at least vis-a-vis Europe and Japan. The U.S. economy is still the largest in the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), with a leadership in fields as important as research and innovation, both in production and financial mecha- nisms. As a consequence, the dollar is acknowledged as the international currency.

The international neoliberal order -- known as neoliberal globalization -- was imposed throughout the world, from the main capitalist countries of the center to the less developed countries of the periphery, often at the cost of severe crises as in Asia and Latin America during the 1990s and after 2000. As in any stage of imperialism, the major instruments of these international power relations, beyond straightforward economic violence, are corruption, subversion, and war. The main political tool is always the establishment of a local imperial-friendly government. The collaboration of the elites of the dominated country is crucial, as well as, in contemporary capitalism, the action of international institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Economically, the purpose of this domination is the extraction of a "surplus" through the imposition of low prices of natural resources and investment abroad, be it portfolio or foreign direct investment. That countries of the periphery want to sell their natural resources and are eager to receive foreign invest- ment does not change the nature of the relations of domination, just as when, within a given country, workers want to sell their labor power, the ultimate source of profit.

The same notion, hegemony, is used here to refer to both class hierarchi- cal relationships, as in neoliberalism, and imperialism internationally. No distinction is made between hegemony and domination as in approaches of Gramscian inspiration. The notion emphasizes a common aspect within class and international mechanisms. In each instance, a class or country leads a process of domination in which various agents are involved. In neoliberalism, the upper fractions of capitalist classes, supported by finan- cial institutions, act as leaders within the broader group of upper classes in the exercise of their common domination. Similarly, the United States acts as leader within the broader group of imperialist countries. ... ... .. ..the upper classes, to the Right. A shift would occur within the compara- tive interests of these classes.

b. It is hard to imagine that such a far-reaching transformation would be accomplished without significant support from the popular classes. A degree of concession to the popular classes might be necessary. Consequently, a political orientation to the Center Right could be expected.

3. Diversification in the rest of the world. Such a new strategy of strengthening of the U.S. domestic economy would have important consequences for countries of the periphery profoundly engaged in the neoliberal international division of labor. But, in the long run, such trends open opportunities toward the establishment of national development models as was the case after the Great Depression (as in import-substitution industrialization in Latin America), the much needed alternative to neoliberal globalization. Independent of the path followed by the United States, the situation will differ significantly around the globe. An increased diversity will be observed in the establishment of new social orders more or less to the Right or to the Left. Europe is not committed to international hegemony as is the United States, and the European Union is politically unable to pursue such an ambitious strategy. Europe might-paradoxically, given its history -- become the traditional neoliberal stronghold in the coming decades.

It is still unclear whether social democratic trends in a few countries of Latin America will open new avenues to social progress. The crucial factor will be the impact of the contemporary crisis on China. Either, having suecessfully superseded the consequences of the crisis, China will experience strengthened neoliberal trends as if nothing had happened, or the experience of the crisis, in China itself or in the rest of the world, will work in favor of a "third way" along the contemporary pattern of the mixed economy that prevails in China.

Even if new social arrangements are successfully established in the United States, it is hard to imagine that U.S. hegemony will be preserved. There will be no clear substitute to an impaired U.S. dominance, and a multipolar configuration, around regional leaders, will gradually prevail in the coming decades. A bipolar world, Atlantic and Asian, is a possible outcome. Abstracting from rising international confrontation if conflicting interests cannot be superseded, the optimistic scenario is that new international hierarchies will be expressed within international institutions to which the task of global governance would be slowly transferred.

This new environment would be favorable to the international diversification of social orders around the globe. This would mean a sharp break with the logic of neoliberal globalization, with a potential for developing countries depending, as in the case of the popular classes concerning domestic social orders, on what these countries would be able to impose.

The stakes are high.

Hans G. Despain, June 6, 2012

Unique and Stimulating Account of the Great Financial Recession of 2008

This book can be highly recommended as a book on the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, and a book of politics, political economy, class analysis, sociology, and history. Very impressive accomplishment.

The strength of this book on the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 is that Dumenil and Levy place the crisis in a larger historical perspective. They maintain it is a mistake to isolate it merely in the context of the financial innovation and deregulation occurring from the late 1990s. Instead, capitalism has particular historical tendencies and specific class relations.

This is a very impressive volume published by Harvard University Press. It offers a play by play of the Great Financial Recession of 2008, beginning from 2000 in chapters 12 - 17, the political response and the continued stagnation in domestic economies and instability within the international economic order in chapters 18 - 20, along with very interesting historical policy observations and recommendations for this current crisis in chapters 21 - 25. Nonetheless the real power of this book occurs in its historical analysis of capitalist development since 1970s described in great detail in chapters 1 - 11.

According to Dumenil and Levy the historical tendencies of capitalism are radically mediated by politics and social class configurations (i.e. alliances). They argue capitalistic development, since 1880s, has gone through four primary stages and corresponding crises. They emphasize these developments are not historically necessary, but contingent on politics and social class configurations. Moreover, their analysis is particular to the capitalistic development in the United States and Western Europe, they are able to generalize or internationalize their analysis because of the U.S. global hegemony (although they certainly accept there are modes of resisting this hegemony (e.g. Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, China, etc.).

Dumenil and Levy have demonstrated in previous work the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in capitalistic economies. However, because politics and social class alliances can change, so can the profitability. The current crisis was not caused by falling rates of profits, but by financial innovation, credit overextension, and the particular social class alliances facilitating these activities. There is no single cause of the crisis, but broader social political mechanisms at work and in the process of transformation.

The basic story goes like this: following the Great Depression of 1930 a strong social political alliance emerged between the management class and "popular classes" (this popular class includes blue and white collar workers, including quasi-management, clerical, and professional, which cannot be reduced to the traditional "working-class"). In the 1970s there was a severe profitability crisis, the legislative and institutional response to this crisis caused a fracture between management and popular classes, and a re-alliance between management and capitalist classes (which includes ownership and financial classes).

Once the alliance between capitalist classes and management had been forged in late 1970s and 1980s, profitability returned and financial incentives and financial innovation reconfigured personal incentives and corporate motivations. Most important according to Dumenil and Levy is that these historical transformations manifested a "divorce" between ownership/finance and the domestic economy and its actual production process. The political system did nothing to reconcile this disconnect, indeed expedited the divorce via deregulation and financial innovation, what the economic literature calls "financialization" (although, to repeat in several countries the response was radically different and in specific opposition to U.S. hegemony and the neo-liberalism which the U.S. Treasury, IMF, World Bank, and WTO exported to the rest of the world).

This is a very

[Dec 09, 2018] Nationalisation of essential services is required to put this country back on an even keel. It was a stupid idea by governments (of all persuasions) to sell off monopoly essential service assets. The neoliberal experiment has failed.

Dec 09, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

RonRabbit99 , 31 Oct 2018 01:17

Nationalisation of essential services is required to put this country back on an even keel. It was a stupid idea by governments (of all persuasions) to sell off monopoly essential service assets. The neoliberal experiment has failed.
Carlosthepossum , 31 Oct 2018 01:15
'Neoliberalism is dead.'
However, we cannot rest until it is buried and cremated.
economicalternative -> Bewareofnazihippies , 31 Oct 2018 01:03
Beware: Just build a HUGE worker owned, democratically run (by workers) sector to compete against privately owned concerns. If workers are (democratically) involved in running and managing their own workplaces that will give plenty of competition for private concerns. Workers will be involved in the 'politics' and economics of their local area as part of work. They'll have more control over the technologies they want to use, how much profit they want to make or not, wages, investment, working conditions and all aspects of their concern. Workers would 'participate' more and be more involved in thinking about larger concerns. This would make a nation/region more democratic on the 'ground'. Not just reliant on 'representative' democracy/voting. You'd still need over-arching government(s) but people would have more direct control over their livelihoods and work conditions. Such a BIG sector would give (I'm talking about Health, Education, manufacturing etc - not 'bread shop', basket-weaving coops/social enterprises) private enterprise some REAL competition on prices and services. It would deliver democracy to masses of people, some control over wealth generation/economy and on a large enough scale CHANGE society in terms of social justice and politics.

You don't need to go to State control or Private control of 'the economy'. Just the right kinds of structures.

Nintiblue , 31 Oct 2018 01:03
Its not dead yet.

Neoliberalism is like a cancer on a health democracy. If we'd treated it in its early magnifications (when the Librerals and far right old version of Labor), first started selling off public assets (that are then charged back to citizens to use at increasing price rates etc), we would have been fine.

But now the cancer is deep in democracy's lymph glads ( in many of our public services) and so needs radical prolonged treatment and some surgery to assure the country's thriving democracy survives.

First surgically remove the source: cease (vote out always) all right wing conservative nutters from ever gaining power, or media mogul influence of government. Most but not all hide in the Coalition.

Then, begin the reconstruction surgery to re-assert public assets and services. This is a temporary but life saving cost.

Then, monitor and manage, (educate) the citizens about this scourge on democracy.

Dunkey2830 , 31 Oct 2018 01:00

The death of neoliberalism means we can finally have a national debate about the size and role of government, and the shape of the economy and society we want to build.

Neoliberalism is far from dead Richard - neoliberalism is deeply entrenched in mainstream thinking its corporate enriching magic works insidiously - mostly subliminally under cover of 'sensible' free market self clearing 'orthodox' economics.
You and many others from 'progressive' TAI almost daily, unwittingly play a role in reinforcing and entrenching neoliberal ideology in the community by framing macroeconomic analysis/commentary in neoliberal terms.
Your oft repeated call for 'budget balance' over the business cycle is such an example. Only fiscal deficits can build a prosperous productive nation in the absence of consistent external surpluses - no government can ever build and expand a nation without permanently injecting more funds into the non government sector than (through taxation etc) it withdraws.

Both our major parties of government espouse neoliberal economic orthodoxy as if there is no alternative - and no one calls them out - not even the quasi progressive TAI.

DSGE based 'orthodox' economics provides the lifeblood to neoliberalism - the myth of tax collections funding expenditure provides plausible cover to constrain spending on citizen/social services - but when it comes to war/corporate subsidy spending, such constraints are immediately abandoned.
Hetereodox MMT exposes the lie of such DSGE myths - but faithful Ptolemaic 'progressives' refuse to investigate or debate such Copernican macroeconomic sacrilege.

The recent TAI 'outlook' economic conference (proudly sponsored by 'The Australian'!! ) was a classic progressive 'fail'; loaded with orthodox 'experts' like Bowen and Keating spouting austerity inducing neoliberal orthodoxy - not one heterodox economist was invited to present the unwelcome, uncomfortable truth of sovereign nation macroeconomic reality.
Prof Bill Mitchell is Australia's most widely & internationally respected REAL progressive heterodox academic - yet the TAI ignores him.

Neoliberalism won't die until it extracts the last breath of available wealth from Australia's citizenry. It will die a savage death with the onset of the impending depression 'to end all depressions' when the collapsing housing bubble leaves citizens with a 'decades long' bubble of unpayable private debt.

Only then will people realise they have been elaborately 'conned' - too late.

P.S. For all TRUE progressives:
Some brilliant short videos here and here by Parody Project.

CaligulaMcNutt -> CaptnGster , 31 Oct 2018 00:54
That's really the point, much as you might expect government like the Howard and Abbott ones to have stuck to their claimed neo-liberal principles, neither substantially altered the compulsory nature of the scheme, despite the fact that it ran more or less completely contrary to Chicago School principles. Howard might have been fond of shouting "socialism" or "nanny state" when he felt the need to criticise something, but deeds speak stronger than words, and for all his p!ssing and moaning he was never going to do anything that stopped all those truckloads of money finding their way to his friends in the banking industry.
Alltherage -> elliot2511 , 31 Oct 2018 00:51
Yes historically high mass immigration in Australia has been used as a trojan horse by the adherents of neo-liberalism - to break down the pay and conditions of Australian workers and their rights and entitlements.
By importing "ready made" skilled workers, neither the Government or the private sector have had to go to the trouble of training their workforce nor bear any of the costs of educating and training them.
As to the lower skilled imported workers, in the main, this is a crude device to cut out the locals so that accepted or legislated pay and conditions can be lowered. Most of those imported workers don't know their rights and are ripe for exploitation.
The shonks, rip off and quick buck merchants love neo-liberalism for the what it has done to the Australian labour market.
And the Labor party has been complicit in all this - when it should have been protecting Australians and Australian workers present and future from the ravaging impacts of neo-liberalism.
Ozperson , 31 Oct 2018 00:48
For something that's supposedly dead, it still looks like neoliberalism is in charge to me. The relentless commodification of every aspect of life continues apace. Money is still the measure of everything and takes precedence over the environment, ethics, community, creativity, discovery, and virtually everything else you care to name. When water thiefs, big bankers, corrupt politicians, environmental despoilers, and those that start pointless wars are IN GAOL, then I'll start to believe things are changing.
Saint-Just -> FelixKruell , 31 Oct 2018 00:47
Neoliberalism is not simply an economic agenda. From the beginning it was conceived as and then constructed to be much more than that - it was in fact as much a pedagogical cum psychological operation to change minds across generations with regard to free-market capitalism and thus to orient all thinking to that, than it was a matter of simple monetary or trade policy. Of course, this had to be done with a good deal of repression and oppression backing it up, here and there - Chile e.g. Thus electing neoliberalism is an effect of this pedagogy over time - we are all schooled in its 'normality - and not a reflection of either some natural desire for it or an educated choice.
Nicholas Haines , 31 Oct 2018 00:40
I agree that we should be discussing fiscal policy but I suspect that Richard Denniss is using a false frame for this topic. He probably adheres to the claim made by the macroeconomic equivalent of pre-Copernican physics that a government that issues its own currency, enforces taxes in that currency, and allows the currency to float in foreign exchange markets can run out of its currency.

The fiscal policy of the federal government should be to employ all available labour in socially useful and environmental sustainable productive activity, maintain price stability, minimize inequality of income and wealth, and fund public services and infrastructure to the maximum extent permitted by the resources that are available for sale in the government's currency.

If you think that the government's fiscal policy should be to reduce a fiscal deficit or deliver a fiscal surplus, you are a dill.

It makes no sense to target a particular fiscal balance because the outcome is driven largely by the aggregated spending and saving decisions of the domestic non-government sector and the external sector. The federal government does not control those variables.

The federal government needs to target economically, socially, and environmentally desirable goals and allow the fiscal balance to reach whatever level is needed at any given time to achieve those goals.

economicalternative -> BlueThird , 31 Oct 2018 00:39
'Democracy' needs to be structural as well as a moral idea. Workers have been disempowered and impoverished and disenfranchished by neoliberalism. An answer to structurally improve the wealth AND democratic power of the workers is to build a HUGE co operative sector in each economy: worker owned workplaces/businesses/concerns AND democratically run. THAT will improve the situation for workers/punters: democracy where they live and work. Democracy rooted not in fine ideas only about rights but bedded down in economic livelihoods. People will take an interest in their local 'politics' and also understand more of the politics of the nation. You don't have to get rid of 'capitalism' just give it a 'good run' for it's money - some real COMPETITION. Cooperatively run Hospitals, owned by doctors and nurses and other stakeholders - not for profit - that'll soon see the 'private' for profit' health providers/rorters wind their prices and necks in. Socially owned, worker-owned, government/taxpayer supported enterprise, work places, democratically run will boot up the level of 'democracy' in our societies. We can still have voter style over-arching national government of course. If you don't root democracy where people actually can participate and which gives them a lot of control over their workplaces/livelihood, then it can all be hijacked by the greedy and cunning (see neoliberalism). OH, a large cooperative sector in the economy democratically run by workers won't deliver 'heaven on earth' - it'll still be run by people!
slorter -> HauptmannGurski , 31 Oct 2018 00:37
It is also a tool of the neoliberals along with the whole neoliberal trend in macroeconomic policy. The essential thing underlying this, is to try to reduce the power of government and social forces that might exercise some power within the political economy -- workers and others -- and put the power primarily in the hands of those dominating in the markets. That's often the financial system, the banks, but also other elites. The idea of neoliberal economists and policymakers being that you don't want the government getting too involved in macroeconomic policy. You don't want them promoting too much employment because that might lead to a raise in wages and, in turn, to a reduction in the profit share of the national income.

Austerity fits into the mix very well Keeping wages low, or debt pressure high, means workers will be less likely to complain or make demands. As workers struggle to provide their families with all the temptations that a capitalist society offers, they become far less likely to risk their employment, and less able to improve their situation.

At bottom, conservatives believe in a social hierarchy of "haves" and "have nots". They have taken this corrosive social vision and dressed it up with a "respectable" sounding ideology which all boils down to the cheap labour they depend on to make their fortunes.

Alltherage -> misterwildcard , 31 Oct 2018 00:29
It shows a great sense of inferiority and knowing our "proper"place, that the populace apparently accepted the colloquial term for neo-liberalism or economic rationalism, as being "trickle down economics" and that all that the populace deserved and was going to get was a trickle of the alleged wealth and benefits created.
Why were most people so compliant and accepting of something that as a concept, from the outset, was clearly signalling it would economically completely discriminate against the 99% and was intended to provide such a meager share of the wealth and economic benefits generated?
eerstehondopdemaan -> MikeSw , 31 Oct 2018 00:23
Excellent statement Mike.

A quick look around the world provides clear evidence that there really are a lot of alternatives.

That's the crux: many (western, developed) countries before us have proven over and over again that the best type of democratic government is one in which consensus is the basis for long-term decisions to the benefit of all. Is it tedious? Yes. Frustrating at times? You bet. Slow? Indeed, quite often so. But the point is, consensus-based decision making works and eventually is in everyone's interest (left, right and centre), resulting in better long-term outcomes. With the added benefit that new "majority" Governments won't throw out the children with the bathwater all the time.

I'd add one aspect to the article though, and that is to combine a form of proportional representation with longer terms of Government. You won't get much meaningful done in 3 years, whatever form of representation you choose. 4 years, 5 years... whatever strikes the best balance between governments getting some runs on the board and voters feeling empowered to change government coalitions in the ballot box when they stuff up.

[Dec 09, 2018] Neoliberalism clearly works for the interests of the minority and against the interests of the majority. Households are now worse off than they were 6 years ago and large businesses are enjoying record profits.

But what economic system worked in the interests of majority of population. There was only one such system -- USA in 1935-1970th and it was the result of WWII and record profits of the US corporation after the war, when both Europe and Japan were devastated.
In no way the USSR was social system that worked for the majority of population. It worked for the Nomenklatura -- a pretty narrow caste, similar to current top 1% under neoliberalism.
Dec 09, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

regoblivion , 31 Oct 2018 00:08

I like Prof.Bill Mitchell's saying that most Progressives are Neo liberals in disguise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOMo3xuSyWM&t=66s

Until we ditch the Neo Liberal garbage about Deficits, Debt and their confusion about Monetary and Fiscal Policy, nothing can change.

meanwhile Tick Tock goes the Carbon Clock.

ianwford , 31 Oct 2018 00:02
Neoliberalism clearly works for the interests of the minority and against the interests of the majority. Households are now worse off than they were 6 years ago and large businesses are enjoying record profits. It feels as if the australian economy is being run for the benefit of a small percentage of wealthy shareholders.

[Dec 09, 2018] Neoliberalism contains policies that the right have embraced with open arms, like compulsory retirement savings (which have enriched the private sector, especially banks and their shareholders), would have caused sharp intakes of breath from the steely-eyed theorists who came up with the concept

While a purported devotion to the principles and precepts of neo-liberalism has been claimed by decades of right-wing politicians, businesses and bankers, drilling down deeper often reveals that what is really happening in favoring the economic interests of the few at the expense of the many, and very often involving compulsorily actions like switch to 401K accounts. Which was stoke of genius for neoliberals to fleeces common people. acquired
Dec 09, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

CaligulaMcNutt , 30 Oct 2018 23:45

Speaking as no fan of neo-liberalism, but there is a risk that the term gets overused. Things that the right have embraced with open arms, like compulsory retirement savings (which have enriched the private sector, especially banks and their shareholders), would have caused sharp intakes of breath from the steely-eyed theorists who came up with the concept. While a purported devotion to the principles and precepts of neo-liberalism has been claimed by decades of right-wing politicians, businesses and bankers, drilling down deeper often reveals that what is really happening in favouring the economic interests of the few at the expense of the many, and very often involving compulsorily acquired public resources being re-directed to business, with barely even the thinnest veneer of genuine theoretical observance to the neo-liberal model. Both neo-liberalism itself, and bogus claims of its practical use and benefits, need to be dead and buried.
LovelyDaffodils -> misterwildcard , 30 Oct 2018 23:45
I really would love the rich and powerful who basically prey on the average person/worker/mums and dads, to be held accountable and penalised properly in relation to their deeds. These bastards destroy families in their grab for greed, and almost every time they are excused by their cohorts, and even go on to bigger and better opportunities to keep feeding their voracious greedy appetites. Basically they steal, so why isn't their proceeds of crime taken back by government; and why do they not do any jail time?
GreyBags , 30 Oct 2018 23:36
Natural monopolies like water and power, roads and public transport should be in public hands. All call centres dealing with government issues should be done by public servants, not outsourced to foreign corporations.

I'd start with a bank. Give people a non-greed infested alternative.

Under neo-liberalism we have gone from 1 person, 1 vote to $1, one vote. The con job that is 'small government and little or no regulations' is bad for society and the environment. Greed over need.

slorter -> MachiavellisCat , 30 Oct 2018 23:20
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/10/30/why-a-neoliberal-society-cant-survive /

Dr. T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and the forthcoming Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).

Jakartaboy , 30 Oct 2018 22:42
The current economic model being used by capitalist countries across the world is failing most of the people in these countries while enriching tiny elites. Unfortunately, politicians in these countries are often in the pockets of the elite or are themselves members of the elite.

We need a new economic narrative which better reconciles the needs of the population with the directives of the market.

[Dec 09, 2018] China version of neoliberalism is not without huge problems

Dec 09, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

diggerdigger -> everywhereman , 30 Oct 2018 23:41

Why not? Profits to the nation, not greedy corporates and their shareholders.

I think you will find there were no profits made that could be put "to the nation." When the wall came down, the USSR and the entire eastern bloc were completely bankrupt.

As was Mao's China prior to the emergence of Deng and his "to get rich is glorious" mantra, that set China on its current path. Of course his generally market-oriented approach has since been bastardised to one of One Party State-capitalism dominated by cronyism, corruption, and a perverted justice system.

Yes it has generated vast wealth, but it is an empire built on sand. As any analysis of its shadow banking system will show.

And while the legions of newly minted millionaires of party benevolence celebrate, the hundreds of millions stuck in poverty are left to fend for themselves.

[Dec 09, 2018] The death of neoliberalism means we can finally have a national debate about the size and role of government, and the shape of the economy and society we want to build

Neoliberalism is a secular religion, so it doe need to be rational, to remains influential or even dominant, much like Bolshevism or Trotskyism (actually neoliberalism should be viewed as a perverted mutation of Trotskyism -- Trotskyism for irch) . It took 70 years for Bolshevism to became discredited and collapse (under the attack from neoliberalism).
In the absence of alternatives neoliberalism might continues to exist in zombie state for a very long time.
Notable quotes:
"... Poverty rate in the USA has been increasing since about the year 2000. ..."
"... Why do you think that all around the world voters are going hard against Neoliberalism and why do you think that Neoliberals are desperately trying to save their bankrupt philosophy by hiding behind Nationalism and Racism? ..."
"... While I would very much like to agree with the notion that neo-liberalism is dead, there's rather too much evidence that its pernicious influence lingers ghost-like and ghastly, having suffused far too many politicians of an ultra-conservative ilk ..."
"... The true believers in the neo-liberal faith, as it was never other than a creed espoused by Thatcher and Pinochet among others, are like those in the catholic church who continued to advocate an earth centric universe long after science proved them wrong. ..."
"... It will be a long wait until these myopic adherents to the gospel of Hayek, Friedman and Buchanan, are consigned to the waste bin of history where they belong. Until then, it will remain a struggle to right the many wrongs of this mis-guided and shallow populism. ..."
"... The neocons have had their day, though it'll no doubt take one hell of an effort to drag them out of their crony-capitalist, snouts-in-the-trough ways. The profit motive in the provision of essential services should be confined to covering costs, maintenance and associated investment. ..."
Dec 09, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

GreenExerciseAddict , 30 Oct 2018 23:29

The death of neoliberalism means we can finally have a national debate about the size and role of government, and the shape of the economy and society we want to build.

Unfortunately, I see lots of deaths but none of them is neoliberalism. I can see death of a decent safety net in Australia. Death of biodiversity. Death of ecosystems. Death of intelligent debate. Death of science.

Alpo88 -> Fred1 , 30 Oct 2018 23:26
You are completely delusional Freddie.

Poverty rate in the USA has been increasing since about the year 2000. The international poverty trend has been decreasing over time only because the definition of poverty is to earn less than $1.25 per day..... So, if you earn $10/day you are well above the poverty line: Good luck living on that income in any OECD country!

Standards of living are decreasing in Australia... ever heard of the housing crisis? The household debt crisis?.... Paying for hospital and medicines, education, electricity and other services.... should I go on?.... ACOSS found that "there are just over 3 million people (13.2%) living below the poverty line of 50% of median income – including 739,000 children (17.3%)".

"The evil neo-liberalism" has delivered poverty, massive inequality, dissatisfaction, unemployment/sub-employment and casualization, collapse of public services, high costs of living.... and deterioration of the environment...

Why do you think that all around the world voters are going hard against Neoliberalism and why do you think that Neoliberals are desperately trying to save their bankrupt philosophy by hiding behind Nationalism and Racism?

Revenant13 , 30 Oct 2018 23:24
While I would very much like to agree with the notion that neo-liberalism is dead, there's rather too much evidence that its pernicious influence lingers ghost-like and ghastly, having suffused far too many politicians of an ultra-conservative ilk.

The true believers in the neo-liberal faith, as it was never other than a creed espoused by Thatcher and Pinochet among others, are like those in the catholic church who continued to advocate an earth centric universe long after science proved them wrong.

It will be a long wait until these myopic adherents to the gospel of Hayek, Friedman and Buchanan, are consigned to the waste bin of history where they belong. Until then, it will remain a struggle to right the many wrongs of this mis-guided and shallow populism.

David Smith -> adamhumph , 30 Oct 2018 23:21
Abso-bloody-lutely! The neocons have had their day, though it'll no doubt take one hell of an effort to drag them out of their crony-capitalist, snouts-in-the-trough ways. The profit motive in the provision of essential services should be confined to covering costs, maintenance and associated investment. It's so painfully obvious that the market has not met the needs of the average citizen without absurd cost. Bring on the revolution!

[Dec 09, 2018] What made anyone think neo-liberalism was going to work? Why was this even tried or got past a focus group?

Dec 09, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

misterwildcard , 30 Oct 2018 22:12

What made anyone think neo-liberalism was going to work? Why was this even tried or got past a focus group?
Only the Murdoch press ever dreamed this could have any merit and a few totally selfish and controlling wealthy people. 2008 and the GFC should have killed this idea instead it gained traction as the perpetrators not only were not prosecuted but were subsidised to create more havoc. Find the culprits and jail them ... it is not too late.

[Dec 09, 2018] All essential infrastructure should be Nationalised. Water electricity supply and generation, ports and railways, educational facilities, one major bank, one country wide telco and mail delivery.

Notable quotes:
"... What about "competition", the God of Neoliberals?.... Competition can have some positive role in society only in an environment of Regulation. That's why the future is neither Neoliberal nor Socialist, but a Mixed Economy Social Democracy. ..."
"... Bring back a Commonwealth Bank! In fact bring back State run Electricity, Gas and Water utilities... ..."
"... The Coalition these days proudly subsidise their friends and regulate their enemies in order to reshape Australia in their preferred form. ..."
Dec 09, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

adamhumph , 30 Oct 2018 22:14

All essential infrastructure should be Nationalised. Water electricity supply and generation, ports and railways, educational facilities, one major bank, one country wide telco and mail delivery. Remove the for profit aspect, and they become assets. In at least a few of these they also provide training opportunities across a wide spectrum of careers
Joshua Tree , 30 Oct 2018 22:13
Nationalise the banks and the Mining Industry . Take back control of outrageous wages in both these sectors and return profits to the taxpayer .

Nationalise the State Governments in other words get rid of them and appoint federal controlled administrators same with local councils, sack the lot of them and appoint administrators.

Alpo88 , 30 Oct 2018 22:08
Just like the AFP is "nationalised", or education is also to a big extent "nationalised", alongside a big chunk of the health system.... so we can nationalise other things, such as the modes of production and distribution of energy, major mineral resources, etc.

What about "competition", the God of Neoliberals?.... Competition can have some positive role in society only in an environment of Regulation. That's why the future is neither Neoliberal nor Socialist, but a Mixed Economy Social Democracy.

Which party is for a Mixed Economy Social Democracy?.... Labor and to some extent the Greens. A bunch of independents are also happy with the concept.... Together they are currently a majority, only waiting for a Federal election.

JAKLAUGHING , 30 Oct 2018 22:08
Bring back a Commonwealth Bank! In fact bring back State run Electricity, Gas and Water utilities...
Joey Rocca , 30 Oct 2018 22:01

The Coalition these days proudly subsidise their friends and regulate their enemies in order to reshape Australia in their preferred form.

Spot on Richard, excellent article. A Federal ICAC is a must.

[Dec 09, 2018] Neoliberalism is more like modern feudalism - an authoritarian system where the lords (bankers, energy companies and their large and inefficient attendant bureaucracies), keep us peasants in thrall through life long debt-slavery simply to buy a house or exploit us as a captured market in the case of the energy sector.

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... I don't like using the term "neo-liberalism" that much because there is nothing "new" or "liberal" about it, the term itself just helps hide the fact that it's a political project more about power than profit and the end result is more like modern feudalism - an authoritarian system where the lords (bankers, energy companies and their large and inefficient attendant bureaucracies), keep us peasants in thrall through life long debt-slavery simply to buy a house or exploit us as a captured market in the case of the energy sector. ..."
"... Since the word "privatisation" is clearly no longer popular, the latest buzzword from this project is "outsourcing". ..."
"... As far as I can see "neo-liberalism", or what I prefer to call managerial and financialised feudalism is not dead, it's still out and about looking around for the next rent-seeking opportunity. ..."
"... In the political arena, is enabling porkies facilitate each other in every lunatic pronouncement about "Budget repair" and "on track for a surplus". And its spotty, textbook-spouting clones ("all debt is debt! Shriek, gasp, hyperventilate!") fall off the conveyor belts of tertiary education Australia-wide, then turn up on The Drum as IPA 'Research Fellows' to spout their evidence-free assertions. ..."
"... And don't forget the handmaiden of neoliberalism is their macroeconomic mythology about government "debt and borrowing" which will condemn our grandchildren to poverty - inter-generational theft! It also allows them to continue dismantling government social programs by giving tax-cuts to reduce "revenue" and then claiming there is no money to fund those programs. ..."
"... "Competition" as the cornerstone of neoliberal economics was always a lie. Corporations do their best to get rid of competitors by unfair pricing tactics or by takeovers. And even where some competitors hang in there by some means (banks, petrol companies) the competition that occurs is not for price but for profit. ..."
"... We find a shift away from democratic processes and the rise of the "all new adulation of the so-called tough leader" factor, aka Nazism/Fascism. From Trump to Turkey, Netanyahu to Putin, Brazil to China, the rise of the "right" in Europe, the South Americas, where the leader is "our great and "good" Teacher", knows best, and thus infantalises the knowledge and awareness of the rest of the population. Who needs scientists, when the "leader" knows everything? ..."
"... There are indeed alternatives to neoliberalism, most of which have been shown to lead back to neoliberalism. Appeals for fiscal and monetary relief/stimulus can only ever paper over the worst aspects of it's relentless 'progress', between wars, it seems. ..."
"... Neoliberalism seems vastly, catastrophically misunderstood. Widely perceived as the latest abomination to spring from the eternal battle 'twixt Labour and Capital, it's actual origins are somewhat more recent. Neoliberalism really, really is not just "Capitalism gone wrong". It goes much deeper, to a fundamental flaw buried( more accurately 'planted') deep in the heart of economics. ..."
"... In 1879 an obscure journalist from then-remote San Francisco, Henry George, took the world by storm with his extraordinary bestseller Progress and Poverty . Still the only published work to outsell the Bible in a single year, it did so for over twenty years, yet few social justice advocates have heard of it. ..."
"... George gravely threatened privileged global power-elites , so they erased him from academic history. A mind compared, in his time with Plato, Copernicus and Adam Smith wiped from living memory, by the modern aristocracy. ..."
"... In the process of doing so, they emasculated the discipline of economics, stripped dignity from labour, and set in motion a world-destroying doctrine. Neo-Classical Economics(aka neoliberalism) was born , to the detriment of the working-citizen and the living world on which s/he depends. ..."
Dec 09, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

ElectricJolt , 31 Oct 2018 04:38

I don't like using the term "neo-liberalism" that much because there is nothing "new" or "liberal" about it, the term itself just helps hide the fact that it's a political project more about power than profit and the end result is more like modern feudalism - an authoritarian system where the lords (bankers, energy companies and their large and inefficient attendant bureaucracies), keep us peasants in thrall through life long debt-slavery simply to buy a house or exploit us as a captured market in the case of the energy sector.

Since the word "privatisation" is clearly no longer popular, the latest buzzword from this project is "outsourcing". If you've had a look at The Canberra Times over the last couple of weeks there have been quite a few articles about outsourcing parts of Medicare and Centrelink, using labour hire companies and so on – is this part of a current LNP plan to "sell off" parts of the government before Labour takes the reins in May?

As far as I can see "neo-liberalism", or what I prefer to call managerial and financialised feudalism is not dead, it's still out and about looking around for the next rent-seeking opportunity.

Friarbird , 31 Oct 2018 04:02
Neoliberalism "dead"? I think not. It is riveted on the country like a straitjacket.

Which is exactly what it was always intended to be, a system gamed and rigged to ensure the wage-earning scum obtain progressively less and less of the country's productive wealth, however much they contributed to it. The wage theft and exploitation Neoliberalism fosters has become the new norm. Neoliberal idealogues thickly infest Federal and State Treasuries.

In the political arena, is enabling porkies facilitate each other in every lunatic pronouncement about "Budget repair" and "on track for a surplus". And its spotty, textbook-spouting clones ("all debt is debt! Shriek, gasp, hyperventilate!") fall off the conveyor belts of tertiary education Australia-wide, then turn up on The Drum as IPA 'Research Fellows' to spout their evidence-free assertions.

The IPA itself has moles in govt at every level--even in your local Council. Certainly in ours.

Neoliberalism is "dead"? Correction. Neoliberalism is alive, thriving---and quick to ensure its glaring deficiencies and inequities are solely attributable to its opponents. Now THERE'S a surprise.....

totaram -> JohnArmour , 31 Oct 2018 03:01
Agree! And don't forget the handmaiden of neoliberalism is their macroeconomic mythology about government "debt and borrowing" which will condemn our grandchildren to poverty - inter-generational theft! It also allows them to continue dismantling government social programs by giving tax-cuts to reduce "revenue" and then claiming there is no money to fund those programs.
exTen , 31 Oct 2018 02:30
Neoliberalism will not be dead until the underpinning of neoliberalism is abandoned by ALP and Greens. That underpinning is their mindless attachment to "budget repair" and "return to surplus". The federal government's "budget" is nothing like a currency user's budget. Currency users collect in order to spend whereas every dollar spent by the federal government is a new dollar and every dollar taxed by the federal government is an ex-dollar. A currency cannot sensibly have "debt" in the currency that it issues and no amount of surplus or deficit now will enhance or impair its capacity to spend in future. A currency issuer does not need an electronic piggybank, or a Future Fund, or a Drought Relief Fund. It can't max out an imaginary credit card. It's "borrowing" is just an exchange of its termless no-coupon liabilities (currency) for term-limited coupon-bearing liabilities (bonds). The federal budget balance is no rational indicator of any need for austerity or for stimulus. The rational indicators are unemployment (too small a "deficit"/too large a surplus) and inflation (too large a "deficit"/too small a "surplus"). Federal taxation is where dollars go to die. It doesn't "fund" a currency issuer's spending - it is there to stop the dollars it issues from piling up and causing inflation and to make room for spending by democratically elected federal parliament. The name of the game is to balance the economy, not the entirely notional and fundamentally irrelevant "budget".
Copperfield , 31 Oct 2018 01:51
"Competition" as the cornerstone of neoliberal economics was always a lie. Corporations do their best to get rid of competitors by unfair pricing tactics or by takeovers. And even where some competitors hang in there by some means (banks, petrol companies) the competition that occurs is not for price but for profit.

And changing the electoral system? Yes indeed. After years of observation it seems to me that the problem with our politics is not individual politicians (although there are notable exceptions) but political parties. Rigid control of policies and voting on party instruction (even by the Greens) makes the proceedings of parliament a complete waste of time. If every policy had to run the gauntlet of 150 people all voting by their conscience we would have better policy. The executive functions could be carried out by a cabinet also elected from those members. But not going to happen - too many vested interests in the parties and their corporate sponsors.

gidrys , 31 Oct 2018 01:34
With the election of Bolsonaro in Brazil (even though nearly 30% of electors refused to vote) it may be a little presumptuous to dissect the dead corpse of neoliberalism, as Richard Denniss' hopes that we can.

What is absolutely gob-smacking is that Brazilians voted for him; a man that Glenn Greenwald describes as "far more dangerous than Trump" , that Bolsonaro envisages military dictatorships as "being a far more superior form of government" advocating a civil war in order to dispose of the left.

Furthermore, the election of this far-right neoliberal extremist also threatens the Amazon forest and its indigenous people; with a global impact that will render combatting climate change even more difficult.

Locally, recent Liberal Party battles over leadership have included the neolib factor, as the lunatic right in that party - who I suspect would all love to be a Bolsonaro themselves - aggressively activate their grumblings and dissension.

Oh, Richard how I wish you were right; but in the Victorian election campaign - currently underway - I have seen Socialist candidates behaving in a manner that doesn't garner hope in a different way of doing politics.

The fact that 'our' democracy is based on an adversarial, partisan system leaves me with little hope. Alain Badiou wrote that "ours is not a world of democracy but a world of imperial conservatism using democratic phraseology" ; and until that imposition is discarded 'our' democracy will remain whatever we are told it is, and neolibs will continue to shove their bullshit down our throats as much as they can.

beeden , 31 Oct 2018 01:33
There is no abatement to the wealthiest in the global communities seeking greater wealth and thus increasing inequality.

Taking a local example,

We find a shift away from democratic processes and the rise of the "all new adulation of the so-called tough leader" factor, aka Nazism/Fascism. From Trump to Turkey, Netanyahu to Putin, Brazil to China, the rise of the "right" in Europe, the South Americas, where the leader is "our great and "good" Teacher", knows best, and thus infantalises the knowledge and awareness of the rest of the population. Who needs scientists, when the "leader" knows everything?

Have the people of the world abrogated their democratic responsibility?

Or is it the gerrymandering chicanery of US Republican backers/politicians( so long as you control the voting machines ) that have sent the ugly message to the world, Power is yours for the making and taking by any means that ignores the public's rights in the decision making process. Has the "neo-liberal" world delivered a corrupted system of democracy that has deliberately alienated the world's population from actively participating fully in the full awareness that their vote counts and will be counted?

Do we need to take back the controls of democracy to ensure that it is the will of the people and not a manipulation by vested interest groups/individuals? You're darn tootin'!!!

Matt Quinn , 31 Oct 2018 01:32
A thoughtful piece. Thanks. There are indeed alternatives to neoliberalism, most of which have been shown to lead back to neoliberalism. Appeals for fiscal and monetary relief/stimulus can only ever paper over the worst aspects of it's relentless 'progress', between wars, it seems.

Neoliberalism seems vastly, catastrophically misunderstood. Widely perceived as the latest abomination to spring from the eternal battle 'twixt Labour and Capital, it's actual origins are somewhat more recent. Neoliberalism really, really is not just "Capitalism gone wrong". It goes much deeper, to a fundamental flaw buried( more accurately 'planted') deep in the heart of economics.

Instead of trying to understand Neo-Classical Economics it is perhaps more instructive to understand what it was built, layer by layer, to obscure. First the Land system, then the Wealth system, and finally the Money system (hived off into a compartment - 'macroeconomics'). Importantly, three entirely different categories of "thing" .

In 1879 an obscure journalist from then-remote San Francisco, Henry George, took the world by storm with his extraordinary bestseller Progress and Poverty . Still the only published work to outsell the Bible in a single year, it did so for over twenty years, yet few social justice advocates have heard of it.

George set out to discover why the worst poverty always seemed to accompany the most progress. By chasing down the production process to its ends, and tracing where the proceeds were going, he succeeded spectacularly. From Progress and Poverty , Chapter 17 - "The Problem Explained" :

Three things unite in production: land, labor, and capital. Three parties divide the output: landowner, laborer, and capitalist. If the laborer and capitalist get no more as production increases, it is a necessary inference that the landowner takes the gain.

George gravely threatened privileged global power-elites , so they erased him from academic history. A mind compared, in his time with Plato, Copernicus and Adam Smith wiped from living memory, by the modern aristocracy.

In the process of doing so, they emasculated the discipline of economics, stripped dignity from labour, and set in motion a world-destroying doctrine. Neo-Classical Economics(aka neoliberalism) was born , to the detriment of the working-citizen and the living world on which s/he depends.

Einstein was a fan of George, and used his methods of thought-experiment and powerful inductive reasoning to discover Relativity, twenty years later. Henry Georges brilliant insights into Land (aka nature), Wealth (what you want, need), and Money (sharing mechanism) are as relevant as ever, and until they are rediscovered, we are likely to re-run the 1900's over and over, with fewer and fewer resources.

~ How Land Barons, Industrialists and Bankers Corrupted Economics .

[Dec 09, 2018] Neoliberalism is dead. Now let's repair our democratic institutions by Richard Denniss

Notable quotes:
"... Should we create a national anti-corruption watchdog, replace the productivity commission with a national interest commission, or abolish the failed network of finance sector regulators and build a new one from scratch? ..."
"... Proportional representation is neither radical nor a silver bullet. ..."
"... Ironically, one of the major objections to proportional representation in Australia has been that it tends to deliver minority government, a situation that the major parties prefer to avoid. But now that we are back in our second minority federal government in five years, the idea that avoiding proportional representation is an effective way to avoid minority government seems a bit optimistic. ..."
"... class warfare (by the rich against the 99%, though I should not need to say that) is still very much alive. ..."
"... The rise of nationalism is indeed worrying situation.. but its clear that mass discontent is driving a 'shift' away from the status quo and that opportunists of every creed are all trying to get in on the action.. ..."
"... the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss is population growth and lack of natural resources and meaningful 'employment' .. which self serving politicians are exploiting via playing the fear card and creating further division in society in order to embrace and increase their own power. Further more, no one, it seems, has any valid answers as regards resolving the division and creating a path forward.. thereby making more conflict an inevitability. ..."
"... Like Octopus, the globalists have every one of their eight legs in a different pot of gold. On their arms, suction cups maintain an iron grip. Trying to pull those suckers out, leaves us raw and bleeding. To release their grip, without hurting ourselves, we must aim for the brain. ..."
"... Murdoch's media empire has arms in every Democracy on earth. As his poisonous ink spread across our lands, we wallowed in the dark. ..."
"... The Oil and Coal Tycoons have arms in every black hole on earth. As their suckers pull black gold from the land beneath our feet, we choke on the air we breathe. ..."
"... The Financial Tyrants have arms in our buildings, factories, farms and homes. Their suckers stripped our pockets bare and we ran out of money. ..."
"... The False Prophets spread their arms into our private lives. Their suckers turned our modest, humble faiths into global empires filled with mega-churches, televangelists, jet-setting preachers and evangelical armies Hell bent on disruption and destruction. ..."
"... Neoliberalism may be dead but the former Trotskyites who invented it are still alive and they still have an agenda. ..."
"... Neo Liberalism was a project cooked up back in the late 1970s by the Capital owning classes & enacted by successive govts of "right" or "left" ever since. They feared the growing power of the working & middle classes which they felt threatened their own power & wealth. So they set out to destroy any ability of the working class to organise & to gut the middle class. ..."
"... Key to this was decoupling wages from productivity & forcing us all into debt peonage. Deregulation of the financial markets & the globalization of capital markets, disastorous multilateral trade deals & off shoring jobs, slashing state social programmes, Union busting laws all part of the plan. All covered with a lie that we live in meritocracies & the "best & brightest" are in charge. The result has been evermore riches funneled to the wealthiest few percent & a wealth gap bigger than that of the gilded age ..."
"... The majority press are so organised around the idea that neoliberalism in the sense captured economically and to some extent socially as construed in the article above; ..."
Oct 31, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

he opposite of a neoliberal economic agenda isn't a progressive economic agenda, but democratic re-engagement. Neoliberalism taught us that "there is no alternative" to cutting taxes, cutting services and letting the banks treat us as they see fit. But of course not even the Coalition believes that any more. These days they proudly subsidise their friends and regulate their enemies in order to reshape Australia in their preferred form.

While the hypocrisy is staggering, at least voters can now see that politics, and elections, matter. Having been told for decades that it was "global markets" that shaped our society, it's now clear that it is actually the likes of Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott who decide whether we get new coal mines or power stations. Luckily, millions of voters now realise that if it's OK to subsidise new coal mines, there's no reason we can't subsidise renewables instead.

Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world Read more

The parliament is filling with people of all political persuasions who, if nothing else, decry the neoliberal agenda to shrink our government and our national vision. While there's obviously quite a distance between MPs who want to build the nation, one new coal mine at a time, and those who want to fill our cities with renewable energy, the whole purpose of democracy is to settle such disputes at the ballot box.

The Liberals want to nationalise coal-fired power stations and pour public money into Snowy 2.0 . The ALP want much bigger renewable energy targets and to collect more revenue by closing billions of dollars in tax-loopholes . The Greens want a publicly owned bank and some unions are pushing to nationalise aged care. It's never been a more exciting time to support a bigger role for government.

So, what to nationalise? What new machinery of state should we build first? Should we create a national anti-corruption watchdog, replace the productivity commission with a national interest commission, or abolish the failed network of finance sector regulators and build a new one from scratch?

Or should we think bigger? Is it time to rethink not just the agenda of our parliament but the way that we choose our parliamentarians? Is it time to replace our system of electing one representative from each of our 150 electorates with a more proportional system of representation where each region elects multiple members of parliament?

We can finally have a national debate about the size and role of government, and the shape of the economy and society we want to build

At the last federal election the major parties attracted 76.5% of the primary votes for members of the House of Representatives but won 96% of the seats. While our system of preferential voting allowed Kerryn Phelps to win Wentworth from the Liberals with a primary vote of 29% of the vote, our "winner takes all" system means the 43% of electors who voted for Dave Sharma have no voice in the House of Representatives. But while such voicelessness might feel uncomfortably unfamiliar for the Liberal voters of Australia's wealthiest electorate, such an outcome is the norm for the quarter of the Australian population who cast a first preference vote for independents and minor parties each election.

Proportional representation is neither radical nor a silver bullet. The reason the Senate is more diverse in its representation of women and minor parties is that each state elects six members of the Senate at a half Senate election. This means that candidates only need to gain 14% of the vote to win a seat in the Senate, compared to the 50% needed to win a lower house seat. Tasmania and the ACT have systems of proportional representation, and internationally around 80 countries rely on some version of proportional representation to settle the question of who gets to sit in Parliament.

Ironically, one of the major objections to proportional representation in Australia has been that it tends to deliver minority government, a situation that the major parties prefer to avoid. But now that we are back in our second minority federal government in five years, the idea that avoiding proportional representation is an effective way to avoid minority government seems a bit optimistic.

The Liberal party and the conservative media are no longer afraid of minority government. While the government warned the voters of Wentworth that

minority government would lead to "chaos", it turns out, like most of the Coalitions forecasts, this was errant nonsense. The ACT has been in minority government for 10 years and there have been minority governments in NSW, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.

The big con: how neoliberals convinced us there wasn't enough to go around | Richard Denniss Read more

The more independents and minor party MPs winning seats in the lower house the greater the probability that a general election will deliver a "hung parliament". There are now six independent and minor party MPs in the House of Representatives and the result in Wentworth has inspired talk of Jane Caro taking on Tony Abbott , Farmers Federation chair Fiona Simson challenging Barnaby Joyce and backbench Liberal MP Julia Banks running as an independent. There is little doubt that there will be a bigger crossbench in the coming year and little doubt that it will have a larger share of women than the current Coalition party room.

The death of neoliberalism means we can finally have a national debate about the size and role of government, and the shape of the economy and society we want to build. But we need to do more than talk about tax and regulation. Australia is one of the oldest parliamentary democracies in the world, and we once helped lead the world in the design of democratic institutions and the creation of an open democratic culture. Let's not allow the legacy of neoliberalism to be a cynical belief that there is no point repairing and rebuilding the democratic institutions that ensure not just our economy thrives, but our society as well. A quick look around the world provides clear evidence that there really are a lot of alternatives.

Richard Denniss is chief economist for the Australia Institute


R_Ambrose_Raven , 1 Nov 2018 16:38

Mmmm, well, class warfare (by the rich against the 99%, though I should not need to say that) is still very much alive.

Globalisation-driven financial deregulation was commenced here by Hawke Labor from 1983 as a Laberal facade for the Australian chapter of the transnational ruling class policy of self-enrichment. It was sold to the aspirationals as the ever-popular This Will Make You Rich - as ever-rising house prices did, for home-owners then (paid for now through housing unaffordability for their descendants). Then, transnational capital was able to loot both aspirationals' productivity gains (easily 10% of GDP) plus usurious interest from the borrowings made by the said aspirationals (easily 6% of GDP) to keep up with the Joneses. Now, it loots 90% of all increases in GDP, leaving just 10% in crumbs from the filthy rich man's table for 15 million workers to share.

We don't notice as much as we should, because the mainstream (mainly but not only Murdoch) media is very good at persuading us - then and now - that there is nothing to see. It is a tool of that transnational class, its role being to manufacture our consent to our own exploitation. Thus they play the man because it is politically easier than open demands that the public be robbed. In the case of penalty rates, thus adopting the obvious hypocrisy of which "The Australian" accuses Shorten. Or they play the woman, in the case of the ferocious, relentless media vilification of Julia Gillard and Gillard Labor – five years after the demonization of Gillard Labor's Great Big New (Carbon) Tax, the need for one is now almost universally accepted. Or they play the players, hence a focus on Dutton's challenge that pretends that he has meaningful policies.

Labor's class traitors clearly intended to aggressively apply the standard neoliberal model – look at how it helps their careers after politics (ask Anna Blight)! Shorten is not working to promote some progressive agenda, he is doing as little as possible, and expects to simply be voted into The Lodge as a committed servant of transnational capitalism.

Colinn -> bushranga , 1 Nov 2018 16:14
Wait till the revolution comes and we get the bastards up against the wall.
Colinn -> WABogan , 1 Nov 2018 16:11
join the far queue
The aged are the community elders with a lifetime of experience.
The youth are the people who marched against the Vietnam War in our day.
And the boring people in the middle bringing up their families.
I want all those people having strong influence.
Colinn , 1 Nov 2018 15:53
I stopped voting 40 years ago because the voting system is mathematically rigged to favour the duopoly. Until a large number of minor parties can share their preferences and beat the majors, which is now starting to happen. This is not just voting for a good representative, but voting against the corrupt parties. A minority government should lead to proper debate in parliament. More women will lead to lower levels of testosterone fuelled sledging and better communication. A "Coalition of Representative Independents" could form government in the future, leading by consensus and constantly listening to the community.
tjt77 -> BlueThird , 1 Nov 2018 11:35
The rise of nationalism is indeed worrying situation.. but its clear that mass discontent is driving a 'shift' away from the status quo and that opportunists of every creed are all trying to get in on the action..

The big nut to crack is HOW do we collectively find sane and honest leadership ? A huge part of the problem is the ongoing trend of disdain for government in favor of embracing private monopolies as the be all and end all for solving the ongoing societal rift. .. which has created a centralization of wealth and the power that that wealth yields.. allied to the fact that huge swaths of the population in EVERY nation were hiding when the brains were allocated.. and hence are very easy to dupe..

the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss is population growth and lack of natural resources and meaningful 'employment' .. which self serving politicians are exploiting via playing the fear card and creating further division in society in order to embrace and increase their own power. Further more, no one, it seems, has any valid answers as regards resolving the division and creating a path forward.. thereby making more conflict an inevitability.

MeRaffey , 1 Nov 2018 08:05
Like Octopus, the globalists have every one of their eight legs in a different pot of gold. On their arms, suction cups maintain an iron grip. Trying to pull those suckers out, leaves us raw and bleeding. To release their grip, without hurting ourselves, we must aim for the brain.

Murdoch's media empire has arms in every Democracy on earth. As his poisonous ink spread across our lands, we wallowed in the dark.

The Oil and Coal Tycoons have arms in every black hole on earth. As their suckers pull black gold from the land beneath our feet, we choke on the air we breathe.

The Financial Tyrants have arms in our buildings, factories, farms and homes. Their suckers stripped our pockets bare and we ran out of money.

The False Prophets spread their arms into our private lives. Their suckers turned our modest, humble faiths into global empires filled with mega-churches, televangelists, jet-setting preachers and evangelical armies Hell bent on disruption and destruction.

Denniss offers us the cure! Start thinking fresh and new and starve the globalists to death. They fed us BS, we ate BS and now we are mal-nourished. We need good, healthy ideas.

Land. Infrastructure. Time.

Time - "WE" increased productivity and the globalists stole the rewards. Time to increase our FREE time. 32 hours is the NEW full time. Pay us full time wages, give us full time benefits, and reduce our work days by 20% and suddenly we have 20% more jobs. As the incomes of billionaires drop, the money in circulation will increase. We are the job creators - not globalists.

21st Century Infrastructure is about healthy human beings - not the effing economy. Think healthcare, education, senior care and child care. If we find out you have sent your money off-shore, your local taxes will increase by ten. So please, do, send your money off-shore - our cities and towns would love to increase taxes on your stores, offices and real estate by ten.

No more caps on taxes. If you are a citizen, you pay social taxes on every dime you get. In America you will be paying 15.3% of every dollar to social security. That's $153,000.00 a year for every million dollars you take out of our economy.

Land is not something you put in a museum, lock away in a vault, or wear on your neck. Think fresh and new. If you own land, you are responsible for meeting community rules.

No more empty, weed filled lots allowed. If you have empty land, you better put in a nice garden, pretty trees and walkways or we will do it for you and employ "eminent-domain" on your bank accounts to pay for it.

No more empty buildings. If you own an empty building you will put it to good use, or we will do it for you - and keep the profits to fund our local governments, schools, hospitals, and senior/child care centers.

No more slumlords allowed. We have basic standards, for everyone. If we catch you renting a slum to anyone, we will make repairs for you, and if you do not pay the bill, we will put a lien on your building and wait until you sell it to pay ourselves back.

We do not trust you big-box types anymore. If you want to build your mega-store in our cities, towns or communities, you must, first, deposit the entire cost of tearing it down, and landscaping a park, or playground when you leave. While you stay, we will invest your deposit in index funds and assure ourselves enough money down the road.

Sorry you BIG guys and gals, but you will find our countries are very expensive places for you to invest. We put our families, our neighborhoods and our lives first.

Proselytiser -> FarmerDave , 1 Nov 2018 07:30
That would be fantastic.

However - and it's a big however - there is a very real danger that at the next election the libs will again win by default due to the fact that many traditional labour voters are defecting to the greens instead. Sadly, LNP supporters are a lot less likely to vote green. Our best hope is to wipe the LNP out at the next election by voting labour, and then at the election after that establishing the greens in opposition. It is unfortunatly unlikely to happen at the next election....and I just hope that voters in certain seats understand that by voting for the greens they might be in fact unwittingly handing the reins back to the least green party of all: the LNP.

childofmine , 1 Nov 2018 04:04
Neoliberalism may be dead but the former Trotskyites who invented it are still alive and they still have an agenda.
Idiotgods , 1 Nov 2018 03:25
Neo Liberalism was a project cooked up back in the late 1970s by the Capital owning classes & enacted by successive govts of "right" or "left" ever since. They feared the growing power of the working & middle classes which they felt threatened their own power & wealth. So they set out to destroy any ability of the working class to organise & to gut the middle class.

Key to this was decoupling wages from productivity & forcing us all into debt peonage. Deregulation of the financial markets & the globalization of capital markets, disastorous multilateral trade deals & off shoring jobs, slashing state social programmes, Union busting laws all part of the plan. All covered with a lie that we live in meritocracies & the "best & brightest" are in charge. The result has been evermore riches funneled to the wealthiest few percent & a wealth gap bigger than that of the gilded age

Phalaris -> fabfreddy , 1 Nov 2018 03:18
The essential infrastructure to ensure a base level quality of life for all. Really it's not difficult. What are you afraid of?
Phalaris , 1 Nov 2018 03:15
The majority press are so organised around the idea that neoliberalism in the sense captured economically and to some extent socially as construed in the article above; as normal and natural that nothing can be done. As the system folds we see in its place Brexit, neoconservatism, Trump.

This is not new found freedom or Liberatarianism but a post liberal world where decency and open mindedness and open nuanced debate take a a back seat to populism and demagoguery.

Citizen0 , 1 Nov 2018 00:52
The whole purpose of Anglophone liberal democracy has been twofold: 1. to establish and protect private property rights and 2. TO guarantee some individual liberties. Guess who benefits from the enshrinement of private property rights as absolute? Big owners, and you know who they are. ... Individual tights are just not that sacred, summon the latest bogeyman, and they can be shrunken or tossed.
Alan Ritchie , 31 Oct 2018 22:24
Neoliberalism, the economic stablemate of big religion's Prosperity Evangelism cult. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology . Dual streams of bull shit to confuse the citizens while the Country's immense wealth is stolen.
PaulC_Fitzroy -> Bearmuchly , 31 Oct 2018 22:19
I certainly agree with you.

It seems there's been a turning point recently though in the ideas of neoliberalism, as pointed out by Denniss that suddenly it's okay for all and sundry to talk about nationalising industries and infrastructure. It will probably take a couple of decades to turn things around in practical ways. And there are surely plenty of powerful supporters of the ideas of neoliberalism still around.

HonestQuestion , 31 Oct 2018 19:00
Is neo-liberalism really dead or is it wishful thinking?
If neo-liberalism really is on the decline in Australia, all i can say is bravo to Australia, use this opportunity to build a stronger government and regain the terrain that was lost during the TINA (there is no alternative) years.
Here in Canada neo-liberalism is stronger than ever, maybe because of the proximity to the cancerous tumor at the south, so when i read this article, i did it with a bit of skepticism but also with a bit of envy and a bit of hope for the future.
MrTallangatta , 31 Oct 2018 18:58
Neoliberalism is *not* dead, and it is counter-productive to claim that it is. It is clearly the driver of what passes for policy by the LNP government. Just as trickle-down economics remains as the basis of the government's economic actions.
sangela -> mikedow , 31 Oct 2018 18:50
I love it!!
Nintiblue , 31 Oct 2018 18:48
It will look like it's dead when back bone services and infrastructure utilities are returned to public ownership.

Those things are not fit for market style private ownership for a few big reasons:

They are by their nature natural monopolies (so a market private ownership won't work and will rapidly creep up prices of reduced service precisely because they not in a natural market context.

These core services and utilities are mega scale operations beyond a natural market ROI value.

These core sovereign services and utilities, are nation critical to the national economy and political stability. The last thing we want to do is hand that sovereign power over to private control.

PaulMan , 31 Oct 2018 18:47
Australia is a very fortunate country. It enjoys national sovereignty, unshackled by crippling bonds to anything like the neoliberal EU. It is thus able to concentrate on solving its own issues.
StephenO -> ildfluer , 31 Oct 2018 18:47
When The Guardian's editorial staff goes down to Guatamala City, they can stand on a soap box in front of Subway sandwich or McDonalds or Radio Shack.

Europe doesn't do socialism. It's a capitalist system with a high rate of taxes to support a generous social welfare.

sangela -> Matt4720 , 31 Oct 2018 18:46
Jane is too radical and progressive for Warringah...maybe they don't know that?
sangela , 31 Oct 2018 18:45
Great article. Must say that we do have more than one vote per electorate. They're called preference votes. Kerryn Phelps get 23% of the primary PLUS a heap of preferences! But a proportional system would change a whole lot of results
ildfluer -> Matt4720 , 31 Oct 2018 18:41
Yes. But only if she relinquishes her British citizenship in time.
Fred1 -> Alpo88 , 31 Oct 2018 18:38
Firstly we are not in America. America is a basket case and has been since, well, forever.

Secondly the so called "housing crisis" is a simple consequence of a growing population. In the 1950s there were just 8m people in Australia, there 10m in the 1960s and 12m in the 1970s. And, no, neo-liebralism didn't cause the growing population. People having sex and living longer caused the growing population. It is therefore all the more remarkable that we have actually built enough houses to house a population which has doubled in size.

Thirdly, in the last 30 years 1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty. When you talk about huge, unprecedented, un-fucking-believable levels of poverty, super-massive inequality, dissatisfaction (Really? This is now a measure?), unemployment/sub-employment and casualization, collapse (collapse?) of public services, high(er) costs of living.....do you think you're being a little overly dramatic?

Do you really think it all comes to back to one silly economic theory?

Nothing to do with the reality of automation, globalisation, growing populations and the realities of living in 2018 rather than 1978?

Are voters around the world going hard against Neoliberalism? (I note it's now a capitalised term).

In the US they voted for a billionaire who blamed immigrants for people's problems while promising tax and spending cuts.....sounds like an even more extreme version of neo-liberlaism to me.

In Britain they voted for Brexit to....oh that's right....kick out immigrants and burn "red tape".

In Brazil, yep, more neo-liberalism on steroids.

In fact, looking around the world it's actually the far right which are seizing power.

And this is the issue with the obsessive preoccupation with community decline. It feeds directly into the hands of fascism and the far right.

I'm not saying things are perfect. I would prefer to see much more government investment. The only way we'll get that is to educate ourselves about how government finances work so that we're not frightened off by talk of deficits.

However, by laying this all on the door of one rather silly economic theory is to ignore that economics is nothing without human beings. It is human beings who are responsible for all of the good and bad in the world. No theory is going change that. If the world is the way it is it's because humans made it like this.

The "deterioration of the environment"? We did that not neo-liberalism .....

JustInterest , 31 Oct 2018 18:37
In answer to the headline article question, yes WE citizens should collectively strive to think radically, bigger and better than the existing status quo.

PAY CITIZENS TO VOTE!

We must bypass the vested interests and create a new system which encourages active, regular participation in democracy.... lest we wake up one day and realise too late that, by stealth and citizen apathy, the plutocrats and their corporate fascist servants have usurped our nation state, corrupted our law and weakened our institutions, to such a point that our individual rights are permanently crushed.

Change is coming, like it or not. This century - there is great risk to society that advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and lifespan enhancing genetic engineering will be used by ultra-rich plutocrats to make the vast majority of humanity redundant (within a couple of generations).

Citizens should advocate for DIRECT DEMOCRACY in which citizens are PAID on a per vote per issue basis (subject to verification checks that support the rewarding of effort- citizens should be asked to first demonstrate that they have made effort to obtain sufficient knowledge on a particular topic, prior to being rewarded for their service of voting. Such a process can be opt-in, those who want to be paid, work to do so by learning about the governance issue which is to be voted upon. In this way, a minimum wage can be obtained by direct citizen participation in the governance of communities and our nation). We have the technologies TODAY to undertake open-ledger, smart-phone enabled, digital/postal voting on a per issue basis... which can be funded by EFFECTIVE taxation on large multinational corporations and ultra-wealthy (foreign) shareholders. Citizen will is needed to influence change - the major political parties did not want a Federal ICAC and they certainly will not support paid direct citizen democracy unless voters overwhelming demand it.

Citizens already accept that politicians are paid to vote (and frequently "rewarded" for their "service" to large corporations and wealthy (foreign) shareholders by unethical, corrupt means). Thus, in principle, why can society not collectively accept direct payment to citizens for their individual vote upon an issue? Why do citizens continue to accept archaic systems of democracy which have clearly FAILED to meet the needs of our population in the 21st century?

Citizens are not sufficiently politically engaged in democracy and their civic responsibilities BECAUSE they are not incentivised to do so and because they are economic slaves without the luxury of time to sort through deliberate overload of disinformation, distortion, distraction and deception. Citizens are struggling to obtain objective understanding and to think critically because these crucial functions of democracy are innately discouraged by our existing 20th century economy (that is, slaves are busy support the systems of plutocrats in order that they may live, ants to a queen).

We must advocate for change in the systems of democracy which are failing our communities, our nation, our planet. For too long, plutocrats and their servants have maintained control over economic slaves and the vast majority of the population because citizens have accepted the status quo of being governed by the powerful.

Technology has permanently changed our species. We must all collectively act before innate human greed, lust for power and fear of loss of control (by the wealthy few) lead the majority on an irrational path toward destruction - using the very technologies which helped set us free from the natural world!

JustInterest -> NoSoupforNanna , 31 Oct 2018 18:35
In answer to the headline article question, yes WE citizens should collectively strive to think radically, bigger and better than the existing status quo.
PAY CITIZENS TO VOTE!

We must bypass the vested interests and create a new system which encourages active, regular participation in democracy.... lest we wake up one day and realise too late that, by stealth and citizen apathy, the plutocrats and their corporate fascist servants have usurped our nation state, corrupted our law and weakened our institutions, to such a point that our individual rights are permanently crushed.

Change is coming, like it or not. This century - there is great risk to society that advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and lifespan enhancing genetic engineering will be used by ultra-rich plutocrats to make the vast majority of humanity redundant (within a couple of generations).

Citizens should advocate for DIRECT DEMOCRACY in which citizens are PAID on a per vote per issue basis (subject to verification checks that support the rewarding of effort- citizens should be asked to first demonstrate that they have made effort to obtain sufficient knowledge on a particular topic, prior to being rewarded for their service of voting. Such a process can be opt-in, those who want to be paid, work to do so by learning about the governance issue which is to be voted upon. In this way, a minimum wage can be obtained by direct citizen participation in the governance of communities and our nation). We have the technologies TODAY to undertake open-ledger, smart-phone enabled, digital/postal voting on a per issue basis... which can be funded by EFFECTIVE taxation on large multinational corporations and ultra-wealthy (foreign) shareholders. Citizen will is needed to influence change - the major political parties did not want a Federal ICAC and they certainly will not support paid direct citizen democracy unless voters overwhelming demand it.

Citizens already accept that politicians are paid to vote (and frequently "rewarded" for their "service" to large corporations and wealthy (foreign) shareholders by unethical, corrupt means). Thus, in principle, why can society not collectively accept direct payment to citizens for their individual vote upon an issue? Why do citizens continue to accept archaic systems of democracy which have clearly FAILED to meet the needs of our population in the 21st century?

Citizens are not sufficiently politically engaged in democracy and their civic responsibilities BECAUSE they are not incentivised to do so and because they are economic slaves without the luxury of time to sort through deliberate overload of disinformation, distortion, distraction and deception. Citizens are struggling to obtain objective understanding and to think critically because these crucial functions of democracy are innately discouraged by our existing 20th century economy (that is, slaves are busy support the systems of plutocrats in order that they may live, ants to a queen).

We must advocate for change in the systems of democracy which are failing our communities, our nation, our planet. For too long, plutocrats and their servants have maintained control over economic slaves and the vast majority of the population because citizens have accepted the status quo of being governed by the powerful.

Technology has permanently changed our species. We must all collectively act before innate human greed, lust for power and fear of loss of control (by the wealthy few) lead the majority on an irrational path toward destruction - using the very technologies which helped set us free from the natural world!

exTen , 31 Oct 2018 17:13
Richard went off the rails in his opening sentence: "The opposite of a neoliberal economic agenda isn't a progressive economic agenda, but democratic re-engagement."

I say this because economically misinformed democratic engagement is a shackle around democracy, at best, if not fatal to democracy. And the biggest and most fundamental misinformation, spouted every bit as much by ALP and Greens as the Libs, is that we must strive for a "sustainable surplus".

As Richard rightly observes, "Neoliberalism taught us that "there is no alternative" to cutting taxes, cutting services and letting the banks treat us as they see fit. But of course not even the Coalition believes that any more." But that doesn't stop them, or Labor, or the Greens from guaranteeing the continuance of the neoliberal cut & privatise mania by insisting that they believe in "budget repair" and "return to surplus" - an insistence which their economically illiterate or misled supporters accept. If you believe in the obviously ridiculous necessity for a currency issuer to run balanced budgets, you are forced into invalid neoliberal thinking, into accepting a false "necessity" for cuts and privatisations, or economy-sedating taxation increases.

Thorlar1 , 31 Oct 2018 08:13
Rumours of neoliberalism's death have been somewhat exaggerated. Its been on life support provided by the LNP since John Howard and there are still a few market fundamentalists lurking in the ranks of the ALP, just waiting for their chance to do New Labor MkII in memory of Paul Keating.

Neoliberalism's lasting legacy will not be the ludicrous economic programs, privatisations and deregulation, those can all be rolled back if some party would grow a spine. The real damage was caused by the aping of the US and UK's cult of individual responsibility, the atomising effects of neoliberal anti-social policy and demonisation of collective action including unionism.

All of which have hastened the atrophy of our democracy.

First things first lets get rid of the neo-liberal national dinosaurs still wallowing in parliament unaware of the mass extinction awaiting them in March next year. At the same time vote in a minority Labor government with enough independent cross benchers, including a preponderance of Greens to keep the bastards honest.

Then just maybe we can start looking at the wider project of repairing Australian society and democracy while we try and reverse the near-decade of damage the LNP have done with their dangerous pro-fossil fuel stance, their insane climate change denial and hypocritical big business friendly economic policies.

Should be a snap!

exTen -> Loco Jack , 31 Oct 2018 08:05
The irony is that it's simple. It's the Heath Robinson contraptions that the economic priesthood for the plutocracy snow us with that are complicated, that turn us off economic thinking because they are impenetrable and make no sense. The simplicity comes from acccepting the blinding obvious truth, once you think about it. The federal government is the monopoly issuer of the AUD. The rest of the world are users, not issuers. Its "budgets" are not our budgets. Nothing like them. Kind of the opposite. Its surpluses are the economy's deficits. Its deficits are the economy's surpluses.

[Dec 09, 2018] BREAKING: UK exhausted from endless stream of Brexit bollocks so here's a picture of some puppies.

Dec 09, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Have I Got News For You @haveigotnews

BREAKING: UK exhausted from endless stream of Brexit bollocks so here's a picture of some puppies.

Theresa May told to quit by Cabinet ministers if her Brexit deal falls and she fails to get better terms from EU Telegraph

No-deal Brexit: Disruption at Dover 'could last six months' BBC. I have trouble understanding why six months. The UK's customs IT system won't be ready and there's no reason to think it will be ready even then. I could see things getting less bad due to adaptations but "less bad" is not normal

The Great Brexit Breakdown Wall Street Journal. Some parts I quibble with, but generally good and includes useful historical detail.

British MP suggests threatening Ireland with food shortages over Brexit, Twitter outrage follows RT (kevin W)

It's crunch time for Labour. Empty posturing on Brexit will no longer do Guardian. Shreds the Corbyn op-ed we criticized yesterday.

[Dec 06, 2018] Summary of Carroll Quigley's Last Public Lecture by Christopher Quigley

Notable quotes:
"... Another reason for the instability of the Western system is that two of the main areas of sovereignty are not included in the state structure: control of credit/banking and corporations. These two elements are therefore free of political controls and responsibility. They have largely monopolized power in Western Civilization and in American society. They are ruthlessly going forward to eliminate land, labour, entrepreneur-management skills and everything else the economists once told us were the chief elements of production. ..."
Dec 06, 2018 | jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com

Summary of Prof. Carroll Quigley's
Last Public Lecture Given Months Before He Died:
"The 3rd. Oscar Iden Lecture 1978"
By Christopher M. Quigley B.Sc., M.M.I.I., M.A.

"This shift from customary conformity to decision making by some other power, in its final stages, results in the dualism of almost totalitarian imperialism and an amorphous mass culture of atomised individuals.

The fundamental, all pervasive cause of World instability today is the destruction of communities by the commercialization of all human relationships and the resulting neurosis and psychosis.

Another reason for the instability of the Western system is that two of the main areas of sovereignty are not included in the state structure: control of credit/banking and corporations. These two elements are therefore free of political controls and responsibility.

They have largely monopolized power in Western Civilization and in American society. They are ruthlessly going forward to eliminate land, labour, entrepreneur-management skills and everything else the economists once told us were the chief elements of production.

The only element of production they are concerned with is the one they control: capital. Thus capital intensification has destroyed food, manufacturing, farming and communities. All these processes create frustrations on every level of modern human experience and result in the instability and disorder we see around everyday."

Carroll Quigley

In 1978 Professor Carroll Quigley, a few months before he died, gave three lectures at Georgetown University, Washington. The lecture series was sponsored by a grant from the Oscar Iden endowment.

The genius of Carroll Quigley shone through his three presentations because, as always, he forced his audience to think. His essays covered the thousand years of the growth of the State in the Western tradition from 976 – 1976. His approach went against the grain of most academics who only taught history in short sound bites.

Quigley believed that you could not understand anything unless you saw the whole, and the essence of his philosophy was that history is logical, i.e. things happen for a reason. For him the core of all that occurs throughout the ages is the underlying force of fundamental human values.

Leaders, rulers and executives who miss this point are prone to make erroneous decisions because their actions will be based on flawed analysis and understanding. The professor saw that American society and Western Civilization were in serious trouble in the late 70's. In hindsight his final essay The State of Individuals was particularly prophetic and events during the subsequent 32 years have exonerated his controversial conclusions.

In summary this essay stated the following:

There are seven level of culture or aspects of society: military, political, economic, social, emotional, religious and intellectual.

  1. Military : men cannot live outside of groups. They can satisfy their needs only by co-operating within community. The group needs to be defended.
  2. Political: If men operate within groups you must have a method to settle disputes.
  3. Economic: The group must have organizational patterns for satisfying material needs.
  4. Social: Man and women are social beings. They have a need for other people. They have a need to love and be loved.
  5. Emotional: Men and women must have emotional experiences. Moment to moment with other people and moment to moment with nature.
  6. Religious: Human beings have a need for a feeling of certitude in their minds about things they cannot control and do not fully understand.
  7. Intellectual: Men and women have a need to comprehend and discuss.

Power is the ability in society to meet these eight fore-mentioned human needs.

Community is group of people with close inter-personal relationships. Without community no infant will be sufficiently socialized. Most of our internal controls which make society function have historically been learnt in community. Prior to 976 most controls in society were internal. In the West after 976 due to specialization and commercial expansion controls began to be externalized.

Sovereignty has eight aspects: defence, judicial, administrative, taxation, legislation, executive, monetary and incorporating power.

Expansion in society brings growing commercialization with the result that all values, in time, become monetized. As expansion continues it slows with the result that society becomes politicized and eventually militarized. This shift from customary conformity to decision making by some other power in its final stages results in the dualism of almost totalitarian imperialism and an amorphous mass culture of atomised individuals.

The main theme in our society today is [ruthless] competition, and no truly stable society can possibly be built on such a premise. In the long term society must be based on association and co-operation.

From 1855 Western Civilization has shown signs of becoming increasingly unstable due to: technology and the displacement of labour: increased use of propaganda to brainwash people into thinking society was good and true; an increased emphasis on material desires; the increased emphasis on individualism over conformity; growing focus on quantity rather than quality; increased demand for vicarious satisfactions.

As a result more and more people began to comprehend that the state was not a society with community values. This realisation brought increasing instability.

Another element of the trend towards instability in Western Civilization was the growth in weapon systems that if actually used would ensure total destruction of the planet. This in effect meant that they were effectively redundant.

In addition the expansion of the last 150 years has in essence been based on fossil fuels. The energy which gave us the industrial revolution, coal – oil – natural gas – represented the combined savings of four weeks of sunlight that managed to be accumulated on earth out of the previous three billion years of sunshine.

This resource instead of being saved has been lost. Gone forever never to return. The fundamental all pervasive cause of World instability today is the destruction of communities by the commercialization of all human relationships and the resulting neurosis and psychosis.

Medical science and all the population explosions have continued to produce more and more people while the food supply and the supply of jobs are becoming increasingly precarious, not only in the United States, but everywhere, because the whole purpose of using fossil fuels in the corporate structure is the elimination of jobs.

Another reason for the instability of the Western system is that two of the main areas of sovereignty are not included in the state structure: control of credit/banking and corporations. These two elements are therefore free of political controls and responsibility. They have largely monopolized power in Western Civilization and in American society. They are ruthlessly going forward to eliminate land, labour, entrepreneur-management skills and everything else the economists once told us were the chief elements of production.

The only element of production they are concerned with is the one they control: capital. Thus capital intensification has destroyed food, manufacturing, farming and communities. All these processes create frustrations on every level of modern human experience and result in the instability and disorder we see around everyday.

Today in America there is a developing constitutional crisis. The three branches of government set up in 1789 do not contain the eight aspects of sovereignty. As a result each has tried to go outside the sphere in which it should be restrained. The constitution completely ignores, for example, the administrative power.

As a result the courts, in particular the Supreme court, is making decisions it should not be making. In addition the President, who by the constitution should be easily impeached, has become all powerful to such an extent that the office is now as basically Imperial.

However, to me the most obvious flaw in our constitutional set-up is the fact that the federal government does not have control over money and credit and does not have control over corporations. It is therefore not really sovereign and is not really responsible.

The final result is that the American people will unfortunately prefer communities. They will cop or opt out of the system. Today everything is a bureaucratic structure, and brainwashed people who are not personalities are trained to fit into it and say it is a great life but I think otherwise.

Do not be pessimistic. Life goes on; life is fun. And if a civilization crashed it deserves to. When Rome fell the Christian answer was. "Create your own communities."

Source: The Oscar Iden Lecture Series Georgetown University Library: Prof. Carroll Quigley

[Dec 04, 2018] Neoliberalism has spawned a financial elite who hold governments to ransom by Deborah Orr

Notable quotes:
"... The IMF exists to lend money to governments, so it's comic that it wags its finger at governments that run up debt. And, of course, its loans famously come with strings attached: adopt a free-market economy, or strengthen the one you have, kissing goodbye to the Big State. ..."
"... Yet, the irony is painful. Neoliberal ideology insists that states are too big and cumbersome, too centralized and faceless, to be efficient and responsive ..."
"... The problem is that the ruthless sentimentalists of neoliberalism like to tell themselves – and anyone else who will listen – that removing the dead hand of state control frees the individual citizen to be entrepreneurial and productive. Instead, it places the financially powerful beyond any state, in an international elite that makes its own rules, and holds governments to ransom. That's what the financial crisis was all about ..."
"... Markets cannot be free. Markets have to be nurtured. They have to be invested in. Markets have to be grown. Google, Amazon and Apple haven't taught anyone in this country to read. But even though an illiterate market wouldn't be so great for them, they avoid their taxes, because they can, because they are more powerful than governments. ..."
"... The neoliberalism that the IMF still preaches pays no account to any of this. It insists that the provision of work alone is enough of an invisible hand to sustain a market. Yet even Adam Smith, the economist who came up with that theory , did not agree that economic activity alone was enough to keep humans decent and civilised. ..."
Jun 08, 2013 | www.theguardian.com

The crash was a write-off, not a repair job. The response should be a wholesale reevaluation of the way in which wealth is created and distributed around the globe

he IMF's limited admission of guilt over the Greek bailout is a start, but they still can't see the global financial system's fundamental flaws, writes Deborah Orr.

The International Monetary Fund has admitted that some of the decisions it made in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis were wrong, and that the €130bn first bailout of Greece was "bungled". Well, yes. If it hadn't been a mistake, then it would have been the only bailout and everyone in Greece would have lived happily ever after.

Actually, the IMF hasn't quite admitted that it messed things up. It has said instead that it went along with its partners in "the Troika" – the European Commission and the European Central Bank – when it shouldn't have. The EC and the ECB, says the IMF, put the interests of the Eurozone before the interests of Greece. The EC and the ECB, in turn, clutch their pearls and splutter with horror that they could be accused of something so petty as self-preservation.

The IMF also admits that it "underestimated" the effect austerity would have on Greece. Obviously, the rest of the Troika takes no issue with that. Even those who substitute "kick up the arse to all the lazy scroungers" whenever they encounter the word "austerity", have cottoned on to the fact that the word can only be intoned with facial features locked into a suitably tragic mask.

Yet, mealy-mouthed and hotly contested as this minor mea culpa is, it's still a sign that financial institutions may slowly be coming round to the idea that they are the problem. They know the crash was a debt-bubble that burst. What they don't seem to acknowledge is that the merry days of reckless lending are never going to return; even if they do, the same thing will happen again, but more quickly and more savagely. The thing is this: the crash was a write-off, not a repair job. The response from the start should have been a wholesale reevaluation of the way in which wealth is created and distributed around the globe, a "structural adjustment", as the philosopher John Gray has said all along.

The IMF exists to lend money to governments, so it's comic that it wags its finger at governments that run up debt. And, of course, its loans famously come with strings attached: adopt a free-market economy, or strengthen the one you have, kissing goodbye to the Big State.

Yet, the irony is painful. Neoliberal ideology insists that states are too big and cumbersome, too centralized and faceless, to be efficient and responsive. I agree.

The problem is that the ruthless sentimentalists of neoliberalism like to tell themselves – and anyone else who will listen – that removing the dead hand of state control frees the individual citizen to be entrepreneurial and productive. Instead, it places the financially powerful beyond any state, in an international elite that makes its own rules, and holds governments to ransom. That's what the financial crisis was all about. The ransom was paid, and as a result, governments have been obliged to limit their activities yet further – some setting about the task with greater relish than others. Now the task, supposedly, is to get the free market up and running again.

But the basic problem is this: it costs a lot of money to cultivate a market – a group of consumers – and the more sophisticated the market is, the more expensive it is to cultivate them. A developed market needs to be populated with educated, healthy, cultured, law-abiding and financially secure people – people who expect to be well paid themselves, having been brought up believing in material aspiration, as consumers need to be.

So why, exactly, given the huge amount of investment needed to create such a market, should access to it then be "free"? The neoliberal idea is that the cultivation itself should be conducted privately as well. They see "austerity" as a way of forcing that agenda. But how can the privatization of societal welfare possibly happen when unemployment is already high, working people are turning to food banks to survive and the debt industry, far from being sorry that it brought the global economy to its knees, is snapping up bargains in the form of busted high-street businesses to establish shops with nothing to sell but high-interest debt? Why, you have to ask yourself, is this vast implausibility, this sheer un-sustainability, not blindingly obvious to all?

Markets cannot be free. Markets have to be nurtured. They have to be invested in. Markets have to be grown. Google, Amazon and Apple haven't taught anyone in this country to read. But even though an illiterate market wouldn't be so great for them, they avoid their taxes, because they can, because they are more powerful than governments.

And further, those who invest in these companies, and insist that taxes should be low to encourage private profit and shareholder value, then lend governments the money they need to create these populations of sophisticated producers and consumers, berating them for their profligacy as they do so. It's all utterly, completely, crazy.

The other day a health minister, Anna Soubry , suggested that female GPs who worked part-time so that they could bring up families were putting the NHS under strain. The compartmentalised thinking is quite breathtaking. What on earth does she imagine? That it would be better for the economy if they all left school at 16? On the contrary, the more people who are earning good money while working part-time – thus having the leisure to consume – the better. No doubt these female GPs are sustaining both the pharmaceutical industry and the arts and media, both sectors that Britain does well in.

As for their prioritising of family life over career – that's just another of the myriad ways in which Conservative neoliberalism is entirely without logic. Its prophets and its disciples will happily – ecstatically – tell you that there's nothing more important than family, unless you're a family doctor spending some of your time caring for your own. You couldn't make these characters up. It is certainly true that women with children find it more easy to find part-time employment in the public sector. But that's a prima facie example of how unresponsive the private sector is to human and societal need, not – as it is so often presented – evidence that the public sector is congenitally disabled.

Much of the healthy economic growth – as opposed to the smoke and mirrors of many aspects of financial services – that Britain enjoyed during the second half of the 20th century was due to women swelling the educated workforce. Soubry and her ilk, above all else, forget that people have multiple roles, as consumers, as producers, as citizens and as family members. All of those things have to be nurtured and invested in to make a market.

The neoliberalism that the IMF still preaches pays no account to any of this. It insists that the provision of work alone is enough of an invisible hand to sustain a market. Yet even Adam Smith, the economist who came up with that theory , did not agree that economic activity alone was enough to keep humans decent and civilised.

Governments are left with the bill when neoliberals demand access to markets that they refuse to invest in making. Their refusal allows them to rail against the Big State while producing the conditions that make it necessary. And even as the results of their folly become ever more plain to see, they are grudging in their admittance of the slightest blame, bickering with their allies instead of waking up, smelling the coffee and realising that far too much of it is sold through Starbucks.

[Dec 04, 2018] The neoliberal order is dying. Time to wake up by JONATHAN COOK

Notable quotes:
"... power in our societies resides in structure, ideology and narratives – supporting what we might loosely term our current "neoliberal order" – rather than in individuals. Significantly, our political and media classes, who are of course deeply embedded in this neoliberal structure, are key promoters of the very opposite idea: that individuals or like-minded groups of people hold power; that they should, at least in theory, be held accountable for the use and misuse of that power; and that meaningful change involves replacing these individuals rather than fundamentally altering the power-structure they operate within. ..."
"... The [neoliberal] focus on individuals happens for a reason. It is designed to ensure that the structure and ideological foundations of our societies remain invisible to us, the public. The neoliberal order goes unquestioned – presumed, against the evidence of history, to be permanent, fixed, unchallengeable. ..."
"... These minor narratives conceal the fact that such individuals are groomed before they ever gain access to power. Business leaders, senior politicians and agenda-setting journalists reach their positions after proving themselves over and over again – not consciously but through their unthinking compliance to the power-structure of our societies. ..."
"... They rise to the top because they are the most talented examples of those who are blind or submissive to power, those who can think most cleverly without thinking critically. Those who reliably deploy their skills where they are directed to do so. ..."
"... Were the neoliberal order laid bare – were the emperor to allow himself to be stripped of his clothes – no one apart from a small psychopathic elite would vote for neoliberalism's maintenance. ..."
"... elections become an illusory contest between more transparent and more opaque iterations of neoliberal power ..."
"... Despite its best efforts, neoliberalism is increasingly discredited in the eyes of large sections of the electorate in the US and UK. Its attempts at concealment have grown jaded, its strategy exhausted. It has reached the end-game, and that is why politics now looks so unstable. "Insurgency" candidates in different guises are prospering. ..."
"... Neoliberal power is distinctive because it seeks absolute power, and can achieve that end only through global domination. Globalisation, the world as a plaything for a tiny elite to asset-strip, is both its means and its end. Insurgents are therefore those who seek to reverse the trend towards globalisation – or at least claim to. There are insurgents on both the left and right. ..."
"... A Trump figure can usefully serve power too, because he dons the clothes of an insurgent while doing little to actually change the structure. ..."
"... Nonetheless, Trump is a potential problem for the neoliberal order for two reasons. First, unlike an Obama or a Clinton, he too clearly illuminates what is really at stake for power – wealth maximisation at any cost – and thereby risks unmasking the deception. And second, he is a retrograde step for the globalising power-structure. ..."
"... The neoliberal order prefers a Trump to a Bernie Sanders because the nativist insurgents are so much easier to tame. A Trump can be allowed to strut on his Twitter stage while the global power-structure constrains and undermines any promised moves that might threaten it. Trump the candidate was indifferent to Israel and wanted the US out of Syria. Trump the president has become Israel's biggest cheerleader and has launched US missiles at Syria. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is now so entrenched, so rapacious that even a moderate socialist like Corbyn is seen as a major threat. And unlike a Blair, Obama or Trump, Corbyn is much harder to tame because he has a grassroots movement behind him and to which he is ultimately accountable ..."
"... In the US, the neoliberal wing of the Democratic party prevented the left-insurgent candidate, Bernie Sanders, from contesting the presidency by rigging the system to keep him off the ballot paper ..."
"... How anti-semitism is being weaponised, not to protect Jews but to protect the neoliberal order, was made starkly clear this week when Corbyn criticised the financial elite that brought the west to the brink of economic ruin a decade ago, and will soon do so again unless stringent new regulations are introduced. Useful idiots like Stephen Pollard, editor of the rightwing Jewish Chronicle, saw a chance to revive the anti-semitism canard once again, accusing Corbyn of secretly meaning "Jews" when he actually spoke of bankers. It is a logic intended to make the neoliberal elite untouchable, cloaking them in a security blanket relying on the anti-semitism taboo. ..."
"... The weaponising of anti-semitism by the neoliberal order to protect its power risks turning Jews into collateral damage. It makes them another small or bigger drama in the increasingly desperate attempt to create a narrative that deflects attention from the real power-structure. ..."
"... And second, the effort to stitch together a narrative of Corbyn's anti-semitism out of non-existent cloth is likely to encourage more and more people to take a step back from the screen so that those unintelligible pixels can more easily be discerned as a smoking gun. The very preposterousness of the allegations, and the fact that they are taken so seriously by a political and media class selected for their submissiveness to the neoliberal order, accelerates the process by which these opinion-formers discredit themselves. Their authority wanes by the day, and as a result their usefulness to the power-structure rapidly diminishes. ..."
"... No one pays me to write these blog posts. If you appreciated it, or any of the others, please consider hitting the donate button in the right-hand margin (computer) or below (phone). ..."
Sep 20, 2018 | www.jonathan-cook.net
In my last blog post I argued that power in our societies resides in structure, ideology and narratives – supporting what we might loosely term our current "neoliberal order" – rather than in individuals. Significantly, our political and media classes, who are of course deeply embedded in this neoliberal structure, are key promoters of the very opposite idea: that individuals or like-minded groups of people hold power; that they should, at least in theory, be held accountable for the use and misuse of that power; and that meaningful change involves replacing these individuals rather than fundamentally altering the power-structure they operate within.

In other words, our political and media debates reduce to who should be held to account for problems in the economy, the health and education systems, or the conduct of a war. What is never discussed is whether flawed policies are really the fleeting responsibility of individuals and political parties or symptoms of the current neoliberal malaise – manifestations of an ideology that necessarily has goals, such as the pursuit of maximised profit and endless economic growth, that are indifferent to other considerations, such as the damage being done to life on our planet.

The [neoliberal] focus on individuals happens for a reason. It is designed to ensure that the structure and ideological foundations of our societies remain invisible to us, the public. The neoliberal order goes unquestioned – presumed, against the evidence of history, to be permanent, fixed, unchallengeable.

So deep is this misdirection that even efforts to talk about real power become treacherous. My words above might suggest that power is rather like a person, that it has intention and will, that maybe it likes to deceive or play tricks. But none of that is true either.

Big and little power

My difficulty conveying precisely what I mean, my need to resort to metaphor, reveals the limitations of language and the necessarily narrow ideological horizons it imposes on anyone who uses it. Intelligible language is not designed adequately to describe structure or power. It prefers to particularise, to humanise, to specify, to individualise in ways that make thinking in bigger, more critical ways near-impossible.

Language is on the side of those, like politicians and corporate journalists, who conceal structure, who deal in narratives of the small-power of individuals rather than of the big-power of structure and ideology. In what passes for news, the media offer a large stage for powerful individuals to fight elections, pass legislation, take over businesses, start wars, and a small stage for these same individuals to get their come-uppance, caught committing crimes, lying, having affairs, getting drunk, and more generally embarrassing themselves.

These minor narratives conceal the fact that such individuals are groomed before they ever gain access to power. Business leaders, senior politicians and agenda-setting journalists reach their positions after proving themselves over and over again – not consciously but through their unthinking compliance to the power-structure of our societies. They are selected through their performances in exams at school and university, through training programmes and indentures. They rise to the top because they are the most talented examples of those who are blind or submissive to power, those who can think most cleverly without thinking critically. Those who reliably deploy their skills where they are directed to do so.

Their large and small dramas constitute what we call public life, whether politics, world affairs or entertainment. To suggest that there are deeper processes at work, that the largest of these dramas is not really large enough for us to gain insight into how power operates, is to instantly be dismissed as paranoid, a fantasist, and – most damningly of all – a conspiracy theorist.

These terms also serve the deception. They are intended to stop all thought about real power. They are scare words used to prevent us, in a metaphor used in my previous post, from stepping back from the screen. They are there to force us to stand so close we see only the pixels, not the bigger picture.

Media makeover

The story of Britain's Labour party is a case in point, and was illustrated even before Jeremy Corbyn became leader. Back in the 1990s Tony Blair reinvented the party as New Labour, jettisoning ideas of socialism and class war, and inventing instead a "Third Way".

The idea that gained him access to power – personified in the media narrative of the time as his meeting with Rupert Murdoch on the mogul's Hayman Island – was that New Labour would triangulate, find a middle way between the 1 per cent and the 99 per cent. The fact that the meeting took place with Murdoch rather than anyone else signaled something significant: that the power-structure needed a media makeover. It needed to be dressed in new garb.

In reality, Blair made Labour useful to power by re-styling the turbo-charged neoliberalism Margaret Thatcher's Conservative party of the rich had unleashed. He made it look compatible with social democracy. Blair put a gentler, kinder mask on neoliberalism's aggressive pursuit of planet-destroying power – much as Barack Obama would do in the United States a decade later, after the horrors of the Iraq invasion. Neither Blair nor Obama changed the substance of our economic and political systems, but they did make them look deceptively attractive by tinkering with social policy.

Were the neoliberal order laid bare – were the emperor to allow himself to be stripped of his clothes – no one apart from a small psychopathic elite would vote for neoliberalism's maintenance. So power is forced to repeatedly reinvent itself. It is like the shape-shifting Mystique of the X-Men films, constantly altering its appearance to lull us into a false sense of security. Power's goal is to keep looking like it has become something new, something innovative. Because the power-structure does not want change, it has to find front-men and women who can personify a transformation that is, in truth, entirely hollow.

Power can perform this stunt, as Blair did, by repackaging the same product – neoliberalism – in prettier ideological wrapping. Or it can, as has happened in the US of late, try a baser approach by adding a dash of identity politics. A black presidential candidate (Obama) can offer hope, and a woman candidate (Hillary Clinton) can cast herself as mother-saviour.

With this model in place, elections become an illusory contest between more transparent and more opaque iterations of neoliberal power . In failing the 99 per cent, Obama so woefully voided this strategy that large sections of voters turned their back on his intended successor, the new makeover candidate Hillary Clinton. They saw through the role-playing. They preferred, even if only reluctantly, the honest vulgarity of naked power represented by Trump over the pretensions of Clinton's fakely compassionate politics.

Unstable politics

Despite its best efforts, neoliberalism is increasingly discredited in the eyes of large sections of the electorate in the US and UK. Its attempts at concealment have grown jaded, its strategy exhausted. It has reached the end-game, and that is why politics now looks so unstable. "Insurgency" candidates in different guises are prospering.

Neoliberal power is distinctive because it seeks absolute power, and can achieve that end only through global domination. Globalisation, the world as a plaything for a tiny elite to asset-strip, is both its means and its end. Insurgents are therefore those who seek to reverse the trend towards globalisation – or at least claim to. There are insurgents on both the left and right.

If neoliberalism has to choose, it typically prefers an insurgent on the right to the left. A Trump figure can usefully serve power too, because he dons the clothes of an insurgent while doing little to actually change the structure.

Nonetheless, Trump is a potential problem for the neoliberal order for two reasons. First, unlike an Obama or a Clinton, he too clearly illuminates what is really at stake for power – wealth maximisation at any cost – and thereby risks unmasking the deception. And second, he is a retrograde step for the globalising power-structure.

Neoliberalism has dragged capitalism out its nineteenth-century dependency on nation-states into a twenty-first ideology that demands a global reach. Trump and other nativist leaders seek a return to a supposed golden era of state-based capitalism, one that prefers to send our children up chimneys if it prevents children from far-off lands arriving on our shores to do the same.

The neoliberal order prefers a Trump to a Bernie Sanders because the nativist insurgents are so much easier to tame. A Trump can be allowed to strut on his Twitter stage while the global power-structure constrains and undermines any promised moves that might threaten it. Trump the candidate was indifferent to Israel and wanted the US out of Syria. Trump the president has become Israel's biggest cheerleader and has launched US missiles at Syria.

Faustian pacts

The current power-structure is much more frightened of a left insurgency of the kind represented by Corbyn in the UK. He and his supporters are trying to reverse the accommodations with power made by Blair. And that is why he finds himself relentlessly assaulted from every direction – from his political opponents; from his supposed political allies, including most of his own parliamentary party; and most especially from the state-corporate media, including its bogus left-liberal elements like the Guardian and the BBC.

The past three years of attacks on Corbyn are how power manifests itself, shows its hand, when it is losing. It is a strategy of last resort. A Blair or an Obama arrive in power having already made so many compromises behind the scenes that their original policies are largely toothless. They have made Faustian pacts as a condition for being granted access to power. This is variously described as pragmatism, moderation, realism. More accurately, it should be characterised as betrayal.

It does not stop when they reach high office. Obama made a series of early errors, thinking he would have room to maneuver in the Middle East. He made a speech in Cairo about a "New Beginning" for the region. A short time later he would help to snuff out the Egyptian Arab Spring that erupted close by, in Tahrir Square. Egypt's military, long subsidized by Washington, were allowed to take back power.

Obama won the 2009 Nobel peace prize, before he had time to do anything, for his international diplomacy. And yet he stepped up the war on terror, oversaw the rapid expansion of a policy of extrajudicial assassinations by drone, and presided over the extension of the Iraq regime-change operation to Libya and Syria.

And he threatened penalties for Israel over its illegal settlements policy – a five-decade war crime that has gone completely unpunished by the international community. But in practice his inaction allowed Israel to entrench its settlements to the point where annexation of parts of the West Bank is now imminent.

Tame or destroy

Neoliberalism is now so entrenched, so rapacious that even a moderate socialist like Corbyn is seen as a major threat. And unlike a Blair, Obama or Trump, Corbyn is much harder to tame because he has a grassroots movement behind him and to which he is ultimately accountable .

In the US, the neoliberal wing of the Democratic party prevented the left-insurgent candidate, Bernie Sanders, from contesting the presidency by rigging the system to keep him off the ballot paper . In the UK, Corbyn got past those structural defences by accident. He scraped into the leadership race as the token "loony-left" candidate, indulged by the Labour party bureaucracy as a way to demonstrate that the election was inclusive and fair. He was never expected to win.

Once he was installed as leader, the power-structure had two choices: to tame him like Blair, or destroy him before he stood a chance of reaching high office. For those with short memories, it is worth recalling how those alternatives were weighed in Corbyn's first months.

On the one hand, he was derided across the media for being shabbily dressed, for being unpatriotic, for threatening national security, for being sexist. This was the campaign to tame him. On the other, the Murdoch-owned Times newspaper, the house journal of the neoliberal elite, gave a platform to an anonymous army general to warn that the British military would never allow Corbyn to reach office. There would be an army-led coup before he ever got near 10 Downing Street.

In a sign of how ineffectual these power-structures now are, none of this made much difference to Corbyn's fortunes with the public. A truly insurgent candidate cannot be damaged by attacks from the power-elite. That's why he is where he is, after all.

So those wedded to the power-structure among his own MPs tried to wage a second leadership contest to unseat him. As a wave of new members signed up to bolster his ranks of supporters, and thereby turned the party into the largest in Europe, Labour party bureaucrats stripped as many as possible of their right to vote in the hope Corbyn could be made to lose. They failed again. He won with an even bigger majority.

Redefining words

It was in this context that the neoliberal order has had to play its most high-stakes card of all. It has accused Corbyn, a lifelong anti-racism activist, of being an anti-semite for supporting the Palestinian cause, for preferring Palestinian rights over brutal Israeli occupation. To make this charge plausible, words have had to be redefined: "anti-semitism" no longer means simply a hatred of Jews, but includes criticism of Israel; "Zionist" no longer refers to a political movement that prioritises the rights of Jews over the native Palestinian population, but supposedly stands as sinister code for all Jews. Corbyn's own party has been forced under relentless pressure to adopt these malicious reformulations of meaning.

How anti-semitism is being weaponised, not to protect Jews but to protect the neoliberal order, was made starkly clear this week when Corbyn criticised the financial elite that brought the west to the brink of economic ruin a decade ago, and will soon do so again unless stringent new regulations are introduced. Useful idiots like Stephen Pollard, editor of the rightwing Jewish Chronicle, saw a chance to revive the anti-semitism canard once again, accusing Corbyn of secretly meaning "Jews" when he actually spoke of bankers. It is a logic intended to make the neoliberal elite untouchable, cloaking them in a security blanket relying on the anti-semitism taboo.

Almost the entire Westminister political class and the entire corporate media class, including the most prominent journalists in the left-liberal media, have reached the same preposterous conclusion about Corbyn. Whatever the evidence in front of their and our eyes, he is now roundly declared an anti-semite . Up is now down, and day is night.

High-stakes strategy

This strategy is high stakes and dangerous for two reasons.

First, it risks creating the very problem it claims to be defending against. By crying wolf continuously about Corbyn's supposed anti-semitism without any tangible evidence for it, and by making an unfounded charge of anti-semitism the yardstick for judging Corbyn's competence for office rather than any of his stated policies, the real anti-semite's argument begins to sound more plausible.

In what could become self-fulfilling prophecy, the anti-semitic right's long-standing ideas about Jewish cabals controlling the media and pulling levers behind the scenes could start to resonate with an increasingly disillusioned and frustrated public. The weaponising of anti-semitism by the neoliberal order to protect its power risks turning Jews into collateral damage. It makes them another small or bigger drama in the increasingly desperate attempt to create a narrative that deflects attention from the real power-structure.

And second, the effort to stitch together a narrative of Corbyn's anti-semitism out of non-existent cloth is likely to encourage more and more people to take a step back from the screen so that those unintelligible pixels can more easily be discerned as a smoking gun. The very preposterousness of the allegations, and the fact that they are taken so seriously by a political and media class selected for their submissiveness to the neoliberal order, accelerates the process by which these opinion-formers discredit themselves. Their authority wanes by the day, and as a result their usefulness to the power-structure rapidly diminishes.

This is where we are now: in the final stages of a busted system that is clinging on to credibility by its fingernails. Sooner or later, its grip will be lost and it will plunge into the abyss. We will wonder how we ever fell for any of its deceptions.

In the meantime, we must get on with the urgent task of liberating our minds, of undoing the toxic mental and emotional training we were subjected to, of critiquing and deriding those whose job is to enforce the corrupt orthodoxy, and of replotting a course towards a future that saves the human species from impending extinction.

No one pays me to write these blog posts. If you appreciated it, or any of the others, please consider hitting the donate button in the right-hand margin (computer) or below (phone). capitalism , corporations , Jeremy Corbyn

[Dec 03, 2018] Vladimir Vysotsky. My Gypsy Song (Vse ne tak rebyata )

Famous song of Vladimir Vysotsky about Soviet system. Sound now as if it was written about the current crisis of neoliberalism I found several translation of it at Vysotsky Translations Of course, original is better, but it is assessable only for Russian-speaking readers
Notable quotes:
"... Yes, something wrong along the road But at the end nightmare Neither church nor even pub Non of them is right way Nor my friends, oh nor my friends All are wrong, friends, I can say ..."
"... At the end of that long road Nothing but the gallows. ..."
"... Nothing's holy anymore, Neither drink nor prayer. ..."
YouTube
My gypsy song
Russian title: Moya cyganskaya
Dreaming I see yellow lights 
Hoarsely scream while dreaming 
Give me time, oh give me time
Morning will be easy 
But the morning was also hard 
My party have been over 
So I am smoking on empty gut
Or drinking in hangover

I saw the pub-a lot of fun 
And many sexy women 
This place is heaven for drunkard 
But for me it's prison 
In holy church was dusk and stunk 
Priest burned incensed honey 
No, even church was wrong, I think 
Nothing there was holy

I saw wild field along the stream 
That God forgot forever 
Blue bells were only in clear field 
And road that led somewhere
Dark ancient forest by this road 
With evil witches orgies
And at the end of that scary road 
Were guillotine and axes 

So loosing breath I climbed on hill
To save myself from horror 
I saw red alder on the top of hill 
But at the foot-black cherry 
If even ivy twined hills slope
I might be happy see it 
Or, if there was only something else
But nothing pleased my spirit 

So, I am dreaming on empty gut
Or drinking in hangover
Yes, something wrong along the road 
But at the end nightmare 
Neither church nor even pub
Non of them is right way
Nor my friends, oh nor my friends 
All are wrong, friends, I can say 

Hey one, another one,
And many, many, many, many ones 
Another one and other ones 
All are wrong, I can say.

Trans. by Roy

My gypsy song
Russian title: Moya cyganskaya
In my dream burn yellow lights,
And I spill my sorrow:
"Do not go - please, stay the night!
Wait! Fresh for the morrow!"
But the morning seems all wrong,
No joy - more's the pity -
Ugh - the hair of the dog,
Of the dog that bit you!

In the bars, red, bloodshot eyes,
All that sparkling poison -
Clowns' and beggars' paradise
And my gilded prison.
In the church, stench, Evensong,
Even gold looks shabby...
No, the church, it feels all wrong,
Not the way it should be!

In a hurry, I climb up,
Why? I do not know.
There's an alder-tree on top,
A cherry-tree below.
Wish there was plush on the slope -
It would look less scrubby.
There is not a bloody hope,
Nothing's as it should be.

I keep searching high and low:
Oh my God, where are you?
By the roadside, bluebells grow,
And the road climbs higher.
All along the road, a wood
Full of witches, fellows.
At the end of that long road
Nothing but the gallows.

Horses dancing all along,
Smoothly dance the horses.
On the road it seems all wrong,
At the end, much worser.
Nothing's holy anymore,
Neither drink nor prayer.
It's all wrong, boys, by the Lord,
No, boys, it's not fair...
Trans. by Tkach
My gypsy song
Russian title: Moya cyganskaya
Into my dream creep yellow lights,
And I shout myself hoarse in my sleep:
"Wait a bit, wait a bit -
It'll get better in the morning."
But in the morning nothing is right,
It's no fun anymore:
You either smoke on empty stomach,
Or drink from a hangover.

In the drinking-house there is a familiar sight
Of a green shot, white napkins, -
It's a heaven for beggars and buffoons,
I feel like a caged bird in it.
The church dissolves in stench and darkness ,
The deacons are smoking the incense...
No, nothing is right in here, either,
Nothing is the way it's supposed to be!

I hurry off onto the hill,
So nothing would come before me, -
There grows an alder on the hill
And under the hill - a cherry tree.
If only the ivy twined the slope, -
It would bring me a slight consolation,
If there only was something else...
But no, nothing is the way it should be!

I go off onto the field, along the river.
Tons of light, no God.
Corn-flowers in the clear field
And a road leading far away.
Along the road - a deep forest
With evil witches.
And at the end of that road -
A guillotine and axes.

Somewhere horses are dancing to the beat,
Half-heartedly and smoothly..
Nothing is right along the road,
And it's no better at the end of it.
And not the church or the drinking-house -
Nothing is holy!
No, folks, nothing is right!
Nothing is right, folks...

[Dec 03, 2018] American Life Expectancy Continues to Fall Rise in Suicides, Overdose Deaths the Big Culprit naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... My dentist who I think is Republican told me when I brought up Medicare for all said "I don't think we can afford Medicare for all." ..."
Dec 03, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

The evidence of social decay in America is becoming more visible. As other countries continue to show increases in life expectancy, the US continues its deterioration.

Life expectancy in the US fell to 78.6 years in 2017, a o.1 year fall from 2016 and a 0.3 year decline from the peak.

From CNN :

Overdose deaths reached a new high in 2017, topping 70,000, while the suicide rate increased by 3.7%, the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics reports.

Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, called the trend tragic and troubling. "Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation's overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable," he wrote in a statement.

While this assessment is technically correct, it is too superficial in seeing the rising rate of what Angus Deaton and Ann Case called "deaths of despair" as a health problem, rather than symptoms of much deeper societal ills. Americans take antidepressants at a higher rate than any country in the world. The average job tenure is a mere 4.4 years. In my youth, if you changed jobs in less than seven or eight years, you were seen as an opportunist or probably poor performer. The near impossibility of getting a new job if you are over 40 and the fact that outside hot fields, young people can also find it hard to get work commensurate with their education and experience, means that those who do have jobs can be and are exploited by their employers. Amazon is the most visible symbol of that, working warehouse workers at a deadly pace, and regularly reducing even white collar males regularly to tears.

On top of that, nuclear families, weakened communities, plus the neoliberal expectation that individuals be willing to move to find work means that many Americans have shallow personal networks, and that means less support if one suffers career or financial setbacks.

But the big driver, which the mainstream press is unwilling to acknowledge, is that highly unequal societies are unhealthy societies. We published this section from a Financial Times comment by Michael Prowse in 2007, and it can't be repeated often enough :

Those who would deny a link between health and inequality must first grapple with the following paradox. There is a strong relationship between income and health within countries. In any nation you will find that people on high incomes tend to live longer and have fewer chronic illnesses than people on low incomes.

Yet, if you look for differences between countries, the relationship between income and health largely disintegrates. Rich Americans, for instance, are healthier on average than poor Americans, as measured by life expectancy. But, although the US is a much richer country than, say, Greece, Americans on average have a lower life expectancy than Greeks. More income, it seems, gives you a health advantage with respect to your fellow citizens, but not with respect to people living in other countries .

Once a floor standard of living is attained, people tend to be healthier when three conditions hold: they are valued and respected by others; they feel 'in control' in their work and home lives; and they enjoy a dense network of social contacts. Economically unequal societies tend to do poorly in all three respects: they tend to be characterised by big status differences, by big differences in people's sense of control and by low levels of civic participation .

Unequal societies, in other words, will remain unhealthy societies – and also unhappy societies – no matter how wealthy they become. Their advocates – those who see no reason whatever to curb ever-widening income differentials – have a lot of explaining to do.

And this extract comes from a 2013 article, Why Are Americans' Life Expectancies Shorter than Those of People in Other Advanced Economies?

Let's talk life expectancy.

The stats first. They tell a clear story: Americans now live shorter lives than men and women in most of the rest of the developed world. And that gap is growing.

Back in 1990, shouts a new study published last week in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, the United States ranked just 20th on life expectancy among the world's 34 industrial nations. The United States now ranks 27th -- despite spending much more on health care than any other nation.

Americans, notes an editorial the journal ran to accompany the study, are losing ground globally "by every" health measure.

Why such poor performance? Media reports on last week's new State of U.S. Health study hit all the usual suspects: poor diet, poor access to affordable health care, poor personal health habits, and just plain poverty.

In the Wall Street Journal, for instance, a chief wellness officer in Ohio opined that if Americans exercised more and ate and smoked less, the United States would surely start moving up in the global health rankings.

But many epidemiologists -- scientists who study health outcomes -- have their doubts. They point out that the United States ranked as one of the world's healthiest nations in the 1950s, a time when Americans smoked heavily, ate a diet that would horrify any 21st-century nutritionist, and hardly ever exercised.

Poor Americans, then as now, had chronic problems accessing health care. But poverty, epidemiologists note, can't explain why fully insured middle-income Americans today have significantly worse health outcomes than middle-income people in other rich nations.

The University of Washington's Dr. Stephen Bezruchka has been tracking these outcomes since the 1990s. The new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Bezruchka told Too Much last week, should worry Americans at all income levels.

"Even if we are rich, college-educated, white-skinned, and practice all the right health behaviors," he notes, "similar people in other rich nations will live longer."

A dozen years ago, Bezruchka published in Newsweek the first mass-media commentary, at least in the United States, to challenge the conventional take on poor U.S. global health rankings.

To really understand America's poor health standing globally, epidemiologists like Bezruchka posit, we need to look at "the social determinants of health," those social and economic realities that define our daily lives.

None of these determinants matter more, these researchers contend, than the level of a society's economic inequality, the divide between the affluent and everyone else. Over 170 studies worldwide have so far linked income inequality to health outcomes. The more unequal a society, the studies show, the more unhealthy most everyone in it -- and not the poor alone.

Just how does inequality translate into unhealthy outcomes? Growing numbers of researchers place the blame on stress. The more inequality in a society, the more stress on a daily level. Chronic stress, over time, wears down our immune systems and leaves us more vulnerable to disease.

The Wall Street Journal has more detail on the breakdown of the further decline in US life expectancy , and also points out how other countries are continuing to show progress:

Data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Thursday show life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, to 78.6 years, pushed down by the sharpest annual increase in suicides in nearly a decade and a continued rise in deaths from powerful opioid drugs like fentanyl. Influenza, pneumonia and diabetes also factored into last year's increase.

Economists and public-health experts consider life expectancy to be an important measure of a nation's prosperity. The 2017 data paint a dark picture of health and well-being in the U.S., reflecting the effects of addiction and despair, particularly among young and middle-aged adults, as well as diseases plaguing an aging population and people with lower access to health care

Life expectancy is 84.1 years in Japan and 83.7 years in Switzerland, first and second in the most-recent ranking by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. ranks 29th..

White men and women fared the worst, along with black men, all of whom experienced increases in death rates. Death rates rose in particular for adults ages 25 to 44, and suicide rates are highest among people in the nation's most rural areas. On the other hand, deaths declined for black and Hispanic women, and remained the same for Hispanic men .

Earlier this century, the steady and robust decline in heart-disease deaths more than offset the rising number from drugs and suicide, Dr. Anderson said. Now, "those declines aren't there anymore," he said, and the drug and suicide deaths account for many years of life lost because they occur mostly in young to middle-aged adults.

While progress against deaths from heart disease has stalled, cancer deaths -- the nation's No. 2 killer -- are continuing a steady decline that began in the 1990s, Dr. Anderson said. "That's kind of our saving grace," he said. "Without those declines, we'd see a much bigger drop in life expectancy."

Suicides rose 3.7% in 2017, accelerating an increase in rates since 1999, the CDC said. The gap in deaths by suicide widened starkly between cities and the most rural areas between 1999 and 2017, the data show. The rate is now far higher in rural areas. "There's a much wider spread," Dr. Hedegaard said.

"This is extremely discouraging," Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said of the suicide-rate increase. Studies show that traumas such as economic difficulties or natural disasters, along with access to lethal means including guns and opioid drugs, and lack of access to care can affect suicide rates, she said. More accurate recording of deaths may also have added to the numbers, she said.

Japan leads the pack in life expectancy and pretty much every other measure of social well being. Yet when its financial bubbles were bigger than the ones in the US pre our crisis, and it's on its way to having a lost three decades of growth. On top of that, Japan has one of the worst demographic crunches in the world, in terms of the aging of its population. So how it is that Japan is coping well with decline, while the US is getting sicker in many ways (mental health, obesity, falling expectancy)?

It's easy to hand-wave by saying "Japanese culture," but I see the causes as more specific. The Japanese have always given high employment top priority in their economic planning. Entrepreneurs are revered for creating jobs, not for getting rich. Similarly, Japan was long criticized by international economist types for having an inefficient retail sector (lots of small local shops), when they missed the point: that was one way of increasing employment, plus Japanese like having tight local communities.

After their crisis, Japanese companies went to considerable lengths to preserve jobs, such as by having senior people taking pay cuts and longer term, lowering the already not that large gap between entry and top level compensation. The adoption of second-class workers (long-term temps called "freeters") was seen as less than ideal, since these workers would never become true members of the company community, but it was better than further reducing employment.

Contrast that to our crisis response. We reported in 2013 that the top 1% got 121% of the income gains after the crisis. The very top echelon did better at the expense of everyone else. Longer term, lower-income earners have fallen behind. From a 2017 MarketWatch story, quoting a World Economic Forum report: "America has experienced 'a complete collapse of the bottom 50 percent income share in the U.S. between 1978 to 2015.'"

There is a lot of other data that supports the same point: inequality continues to widen in America. The areas that are taking the worst hits are states like West Virginia and Ohio that have been hit hard by deindustrialization. But the elites are removed in their glamorous cities and manage not to notice the conditions when they transit through the rest of America. They should consider themselves lucky that America's downtrodden are taking out their misery more on themselves than on their betters.

The Rev Kev , November 30, 2018 at 6:30 am

God, this is so depressing to read. The worse aspect of it is that it never had to be this way but that these deaths were simply 'collateral damage' to the social and economic changes in America since the 1970s – changes by choice. This seems to be a slow motion move to replicate what Russia went through back in the 1990s which led to the unnecessary, premature deaths of millions of its people. Dmitry Orlov has a lot to say about the subject of collapse and there is a long page in which Orlov talks about how Russia got through these bad times while comparing it with America as he lives there now. For those interested, it is at-

http://energyskeptic.com/2015/dmitry-orlov-how-russians-survived-collapse/

What gets me most is how these deaths are basically anonymous and are not really remembered. When AIDS was ravishing the gay community decades ago, one way they got people to appreciate the numbers of deaths was the AIDS Memorial Quilt which ended up weighing over 50 tons. It is a shame that there can not be an equivalent project for all these deaths of despair.

Yves Smith Post author , November 30, 2018 at 6:47 am

There were pictures in the Wall Street Journal article I didn't pull over due to copyright issues, but it did show people commemorating these deaths Captions:

People in Largo, Fla., hold candles at a vigil on Oct. 17 to remember the thousands who succumbed to opioid abuse in their community.

More than 1,000 backpacks containing belongings of suicide victims and letters with information about them are scattered across a lawn during a demonstration at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on March 22.

But to your point, these seem isolated and are not getting press coverage at anywhere near the level of the AIDS crisis.

Carla , November 30, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Great post, Yves, thank you! One suggestion: might you consider putting the last word in quotes, as in "betters" ?

Spanish reader , November 30, 2018 at 1:35 pm

It focuses too much on peak oil. As if the social collapse of the United States (and the Soviet Union) was some kind of natural consequence of resources dryinf out instead of a premeditated looting.

Eclair , November 30, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Orlov's posts on how Russians survived the collapse is a small masterpiece. I read it a couple of years back and it affected me greatly. I just reread it, thanks, Rev Kev, and it seems even more relevant now.

Small gems: Money becomes useless: items or services that can be swapped are paramount. Bottles of alcohol, fresh homegrown veggies (and pot), I re-fashion your old suit and you fix my broken window.

Social networks keep you alive. Know and be on good terms with your neighbors. Communal gardens keep you fed.

War-hardened men (and the women who love them), who thrive on violence abound. They will either be hired as security or rove about as free-lancers. A community is better able either to hire them, or defend against them.

Our ancestors lived and thrived without: central heating, electric lights, hot and cold running water, flush toilets, garbage collection, the Internet. We can too; it just takes forethought and planning. Densely packed cities without these amenities are hell.

Cultivate an attitude of disdain for the 'normal' things that society values, especially if you are a middle-aged male; career, large house and SUV, foreign vacations, a regular salary. Enjoy contemplating nature. When the former disappear, you have the latter to fall back upon. And consider a second career as a recycler of abandoned buildings, or a distiller of potatoes. (Think of all the Medieval structures built from crumbling Roman edifices.)

Russians, in many ways, had more resilience built in to their system: housing was State-owned, so there was less homelessness. Private automobiles were relatively rare, but public transportation was wide-spread and remained in good-running order. Minimal universal health care existed.

Cease from trying, futilely, to change the System. Ain't gonna happen. Instead, prepare to survive, if only just, the coming dismantling.

Steve H. , November 30, 2018 at 7:24 am

> Once a floor standard of living is attained, people tend to be healthier when three conditions hold: they are valued and respected by others; they feel 'in control' in their work and home lives; and they enjoy a dense network of social contacts.

"Sapolsky: We belong to multiple hierarchies, and you may have the worst job in your corporation and no autonomy and control and predictability, but you're the captain of the company softball team that year and you'd better bet you are going to have all sorts of psychological means to decide it's just a job, nine to five, that's not what the world is about. What the world's about is softball. I'm the head of my team, people look up to me, and you come out of that deciding you are on top of the hierarchy that matters to you."

iirc, there was a perspective of some economists that infinite groaf could be carried by the creative, emergent, and infinite wants of homo sapiens. But that creates compounding deprivations, never enough time, money, resources. With the 2:1 ratio of loss aversion, what is compounded are bad affects.

That 'dense network of social contacts' means smaller groups with symmetric interactions. The multiple dominance heirarchies is the healthy version of creative emergence, but supplying needs, not creating wants.

rd , November 30, 2018 at 9:02 am

I think that one of the most valuable tools used by government in the Great Depression was the CCC, WPA, and TVA set of programs that provided jobs to people while they created valuable infrastructure and art. How many of those people could go back to the dams or state parks and tell their spouses and kids that "I helped build that." During a time of despair, it was a way of making people believe they had value.

Today, it would be viewed as a waste of money that could be better spent on the military or another tax cut for the wealthy.

Wukchumni , November 30, 2018 at 9:24 am

I'd mentioned some wrongheaded policies of Sequoia NP of 90 years ago yesterday, and they seem ridiculous in retrospect, and we no longer treat natural places as ad hoc zoos, where everybody gets to see the dancing bears @ a given hour.

Our methodology as far as our rapport with fire was just as stupid, but we've really done nothing to repair our relationship with trees and the forests they hang out in.

There's an abundance of physical labor needed to clear out the duff, the deadfalls and assorted debris from huge swaths of guaranteed employment until the job is done, which could take awhile.

There's really few graft possibilities though, we're talking chainsaws, Pulaskis, never ending burn pile action and lots of sweat equity. If KBR wanted to be in charge of backcountry camps housing crews, that'd be ok, they'd be doing something useful for a change.

False Solace , November 30, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Yes, why do you think video games appeal so much to young males? Because of the pixels? What these gamers are really after is the ability to excel in a niche hierarchy. It doesn't (usually) appeal to females as much as more traditional kinds of success but it serves a psychological need.

divadab , November 30, 2018 at 8:13 am

A traitorous ruling class that has sold out its workers in favor of foreign workers.

And it's very lucrative – the Walton's fortune was made by being an agent of communist Chinese manufacturers. In direct competition with US manufacturers. Does this not seem like treason to you?

Phillip Allen , November 30, 2018 at 9:10 am

The word 'communist' in relation to the Chinese government and party is void of content. 'Communist' in the current Chinese context is legacy branding, nothing more. Its use in this comment is inflammatory, as is the too-loose bandying of 'treason'. The Waltons are loyal to their class (however fierce their disputes may be with rival oligarch factions), and since the state exists to serve the interests of their class, how can they be traitors to the state?

divadab , November 30, 2018 at 10:34 am

"Communist" is what they call themselves. They're totalitarians. Which is what most people think "communist" means – because all countries that called themselves communist used authoritarian rule. Methinks you might be a marxist idealist. Offended by the misuse of your ideal State word by totalitarians.

Similarly, I used "treason" in the sense of acting against the interests of the citizens, not in the sense of a crime against the state. You clearly believe the state to be representative of only the ruling class. And I don't disagree wrt the USA and its imperial machine. Which would make the State treasonous, according to the sense of the word I used.

NotTimothyGeithner , November 30, 2018 at 10:51 am

One could always say communism is an end point developed through a process preceded by socialism and before that capitalism which replaces feudalism. The idea being Chinese Communists, the rich Chinese have bug out spots for a reason, believe Mao and the Soviets moved too quickly skipping a Marxist historical epoch.

The Communist Party officially is always a vanguard for the future society not the Communist society. Phrases such as "under communism" aren't Soviet features as much as they are propaganda from the West.

When the Reds were the only game in town, the greedy class joined the CCP, but since 1991, they skipped signing up, leaving believers in control. What the party congress believes is probably important.

As far as branding goes, all Communists are branded because the are all vanguard parties, not parties of blocs or even current populations. Star Trek is the only communist society. The Soviet thinkers definitely wrote about what an Ideal society would look like, the nature of work, and self and societal improvement.

Overthrowing a long established government shouldn't be done for light and transient reasons, and Xi has seemed to be concerned with the demands of the party congress. The party at large doesn't have a single voice to rally behind which makes it difficult to overthrow a government.

rob , December 1, 2018 at 7:01 am

the word is "communist". The gov't isn't anything of the sort these days. Isn't the chinese gov't of today "fascist". just like the national socialists of the german stripe? They are the state that may be lord over controller of private institutions, and ruler of other state institutions, all intermixed into what is "the chinese economy". They allow the private wealth creation in a controlled sense. that is state function serving private wealth. and if you are a party loyal, private wealth may come to you some day too.
It is just another part of the world trend "everyone is turning into full fledged fascists"
No wonder people in the states are dying earlier.. to get back on topic

Polar Donkey , November 30, 2018 at 8:29 am

Last night, my wife and I took our boys to meet Santa at my older son's school. Elementary school in Mississippi. The town is an outer suburb of Memphis. A mile east of the town you are in rural Mississippi. I noticed 2 or 3 parents with visible drug addiction issues. These folks were still people. Want their kids to see Santa and have a better life. The country doesn't care.

Janie , November 30, 2018 at 9:49 am

I'll guess that you're near Byhalia. Happy memories of visiting family there from late forties through sixties. Wonder what its like now – how the economic changes have affected it.

Polar Donkey , November 30, 2018 at 7:41 pm

Byhalia is a little further down highway 78. Kids from Byhalia drive up to Olive Branch to go to a McDonald's and other fast food. Things may be changing because they just completed an outer interstate loop that passes close by Byhalia. Byhalia was just in news a couple months ago because a kid died during a football game. People were up in arms about no doctor at game and a 30 to 40 minute drive to closest hospital. There aren't any doctors offices in Byhalia. Then toxicology report came back. Kid had cocaine in his system. Holly Springs and Byhalia area are big drug smuggling area. Close to Memphis and it's distribution network, but across state line in poor rural Mississippi. NBA players linked to this area and smuggling networks.

Wukchumni , November 30, 2018 at 8:44 am

I'm always amazed @ the suicide by gun numbers, as it strikes me as a not so fool proof way of checking out, exacerbated by perhaps dying slowly in a painful way?

Oh, and bloody, very much so.

Fentanyl seems an easier way out, you just drift into the ether and leave a presentable corpse for everybody you knew, who all wonder if they could have done something to stop it from happening, posthaste.

NotTimothyGeithner , November 30, 2018 at 10:10 am

It's cheap and fairly efficient, and the drug way out can be tricky. Silent film legend, Lupe Valez, is the famed example of suicide by drugs gone wrong. She still died but not on her own terms because the sleeping pills she took didn't react well with her last meal.

How many people have tried to check out and had it not work is something to consider.

Martin Finnucane , November 30, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Re Lupe Valdez: probably not true, at least according to the Wikipedia page . Not that it affects your point too much, I guess.

timbers , November 30, 2018 at 8:44 am

The level of denial people are capable of can be daunting.

1). My dentist who I think is Republican told me when I brought up Medicare for all said "I don't think we can afford Medicare for all." This was not an immediate response to my raising the topic, but something he told me after several visits and having thought about what I had said and around the time Sanders got media coverage introducing a Medicare for all bill (I was getting a crown and required many visits). Talking to your dentist can be a one sided conversation for obvious reasons, but I thought "don't you mean we can't afford NOT to have Medicare for all?"

2). A co-worker of mine who is African American. When I said U.S. life expectancy is falling, this is a sign of extreme policy failure and should affect how we rate the ACA (read that here, of course!) replied "You're assuming health has an impact on life expectancy." I was stunned and didn't know what to say for a second and finally said "yes, absolutely."

TroyMcClure , November 30, 2018 at 9:47 am

These are the types that are more than happy to hand the place over to the next Bolsonaro if only to protect the status gap between themselves and those beneath them.

False Solace , November 30, 2018 at 12:42 pm

They also "hand the place over" when the Bolsonaro types tell everyone they have the solution and the opposition party is tainted by austerity and corruption.

Massinissa , November 30, 2018 at 12:49 pm

"You're assuming health has an impact on life expectancy"

I have absolutely no idea how I would respond to this either. Was this comment by this person some kind of built in knee-jerk response to criticism of the ACA/Obama?

timbers , December 1, 2018 at 9:09 am

Opps I meant to write "You're assuming health CARE has an impact on life expectancy."

In response to your question, I think so, yes.

jrs , November 30, 2018 at 1:03 pm

actually you are assuming health coverage, even if it was real coverage for what one needed, has that much of an impact on life expectancy and from what I've read it probably doesn't compared to things like poverty *regardless* of health coverage. Because the greatest link to say heart attacks is with poverty (not diet etc.)

At this point though it doesn't even make sense to talk about the ACA circa now and say it's Obama's ACA, it wasn't that great to begin with. But Trump has made it worse.

Left in Wisconsin , November 30, 2018 at 2:06 pm

My dentist who I think is Republican told me when I brought up Medicare for all said "I don't think we can afford Medicare for all."

When I brought up Medicare for All to my dentist, after listening to him describe some of his ER work where he claims to routinely see people who have intentionally damaged their teeth in order to obtain painkillers (which he is not allowed to proscribe to them regardless), he said he would never want to have the kind of inferior health care they have "in Europe." He seemed genuinely surprised when I reported that my wife had done most of a pregnancy in Italy in the mid-90s and got pre-natal care that was better than anything she ever got in this country.

My dentist is definitely a Repub. And he socializes with other medical professionals, which I presume gives him a very distorted image of the health care system. I often hear him railing against the idiotic dictates of insurance companies and he seems genuinely proud that, unlike the inscrutable and BS pricing of hospitals, dentists have to have straightforward pricing because many people do pay 100% out of pocket (so he says).

This is a part of the 10% that is going to be very hard to reach. But I tell him socialists need dental care too and so he will always have work even after we take over.

Tom Stone , November 30, 2018 at 9:27 am

Suicide can be a rational and sensible choice.
Bluntly, if the quality of your life is shitty and not going to improve why stick around?
That the reason so many people's lives are bad enough that they decide death is preferable to life is societal doesn't change their circumstances.
If you are old and sick, barely surviving financially or in poor health and unable to afford care suicide might look like your best alternative.
The "Hemlock Society" has been around for quite a while, that its membership is growing in the short term says a great deal about America.

In the Land of Farmers , November 30, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Suicide is never rational. It is arrogance that one could weigh the pros and cons of suicide like they think the have all the pertinent information. The only truth is that we have no idea what happens when we die or if there is some kind of experience that continues in a form that might not be a personal consciousness. Also, why don't you see the decision to die is made under duress and therefor invalid like signing a contract with a gun pointed at your head? There were several times in my life that I determined "the quality of [my] life is shitty and not going to improve [so] why stick around", but yet, I became better off going through the struggle. As a result I have made others lives better with the understanding I have gained going through the Shaman's journey.

By considering suicide you are considering trading a known (suffering) for an unknown (Death). In what way can that be considered rational?

The sad fact is that we spend our whole lives avoiding suffering and never take the time to understand it. Opioids, all drugs, are a route to avoid suffering, to avoid looking at our trauma. Materialism is about avoiding our suffering. Suicide is materialistic because it supposes there is a mind that we can stop.

But even in the Buddhist centers I visit it has turned away from the spiritual and people go there not to understand their suffering, but rather only to escape it.

American society does not have an economic problem, it has a spiritual problem.

Eclair , November 30, 2018 at 2:48 pm

I respect your view that suicide is an arrogant act and that suffering is an unavoidable part of life. I totally agree with the latter philosophy. You suffer, and you wade through it and come out on the other side as a better person. Forged in fire, so to speak.

Plus, I am, by nature, an optimist. There is always something to look forward to, every morning.

But, a few years ago, I suffered a cascade of bodily failures, whose symptoms were at first ignored, then misdiagnosed, resulting in my taking medications that made me worse off. At one point, for two months, I had constant nerve pain (comparable to having teeny barbed wire wrapped around my torso and and being zapped by an electric charge every few seconds.) Plus back pain. I could not eat, and when I did, I vomited. I lost 20 pounds. I could not sleep for more than hour at a time, and that hour happened only once a day. I walked only with the aid of two walking sticks. I was totally constipated for a month (gross, but this condition just adds to one's misery.) There was no end in sight and my condition just kept worsening with each round of new medication.

I did not seriously contemplate suicide. But I did give some thought to what I would do if I had to face life without sleep, without food, without the ability to walk, and death came up as one of the better solutions. Fortunately, I changed doctors.

In the Land of Farmers , November 30, 2018 at 6:10 pm

I empathize with your struggles, and I have contemplated suicide myself, but contemplating death is part of the shaman's journey. I do not think that suicide is arrogant, I think it is a misunderstanding.

IMHO, medical doctors will disrupt this journey. They should be consulted but with the understanding that they know very little about the balance of the body and what is needed to heal.

Truth is, we will die. The greater the suffering the easier to find out "who" that is suffering.

sangweq , November 30, 2018 at 10:35 pm

"Life teaches you how to live it, if you live long enough.".

-Tony Bennett

witters , November 30, 2018 at 7:44 pm

"Suicide is never rational" is an arrogant assertion.

Massinissa , November 30, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Even if it *is* a 'rational' choice, that is because the system is absolutely broken and must be changed.

In the Land of Farmers , November 30, 2018 at 1:33 pm

+1000

I get in fights with my therapist all the time about this. She is always advocating for ME to change when I feel if she wants to help us all she should be helping us change the system.

jrs , November 30, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Well roles like therapist are part of what props up the system and they get paid for precisely that.

I mean if we are just living our lives we see that things are both individual and systematic. And some things are strongly systematic (economic problems), and others probably have a significantly personal component (phobias etc.). And so we have to exist with both being true, but if we are drowning in economic problems the rest doesn't matter. But therapists have a specific role to individualize all problems. But if people are just doing therapy to get stuff off their chest, who can blame them. Enough people are, although it's not how therapists like to see their role.

Ojia , November 30, 2018 at 9:34 am

Lifespan dropping, mortality going up

Are we tired of winning yet???

Jason Boxman , November 30, 2018 at 9:58 am

The only real visible sign of decay on the train to DC from Boston is Baltimore, which nearly appears bombed out.

NotTimothyGeithner , November 30, 2018 at 11:34 am

The train goes right by Chester, Pa, and you can see decay along the tracks all along BosWash. Except for Biden, a corrupt tool who hasn't figured out how to cash in, the elites don't take the train.

Tomonthebeach , November 30, 2018 at 1:07 pm

Remember the Kingsman movie where the president was going to let all the dopers die? Think Trump.

Not only is the WH response to the opioid problem merely cosmetic, they (and NIH) refuse to link it to the economics of human obsolescence. How convenient. As jobs die, the workers do too – less welfare burden. That is fascist thinking, and it is evident today.

Finally, let us recall that all public health leaders are Trump appointees – i.e., incompetent. CDC too refuses to link suicide to the economy. It's bad politics. They can do this because there are no national standards for reporting deaths as suicides or even drug overdoses. It is entirely up to the elected coroner. Thus 10s of thousands of suicides are reported as natural or accidental either intentionally to ease the grief of family members or because they lack the manpower to investigate suspicious deaths. Note the bump in accidental deaths. Driving your car into a concrete abutment or over a cliff might be an accident, but more often than not, the driver was pickled (Irish courage) and the death was intentional.

So, until we do a better job of measuring the causes of death, the administration can continue to blame the deaths on moral weakness rather than its cruel economic policies.

djrichard , November 30, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Well we might not be thriving, but our empire is thriving. And the empire has a simple message for us: embrace the suck.

How is it legal , November 30, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Sadly, I believe if suicide attempts were taken into account, the picture would even look far bleaker, and likely include far more Metro areas. In those Metro areas there are likely far less gun/rifle owners (reportedly the most successful method), far quicker ambulance response times, and significant expenditures have been made, and actions taken, to thwart attempts on transit lines and bridges, along with committing suicidal persons to locked down psychiatric facilities (which then adds further financial burden, significant employment issues, and possibly ugly, forced medication side effects); while doing absolutely nothing whatsoever to address the causes.

What a sickening blotch on the US , with such wealth and power – sovereign in its own currency – that it's citizens are increasingly attempting and committing suicide because they can no longer afford to live in any manner that's considered humane. That, while its Fourth Estate deliberately obscures the deadly problem – which cannot be cured by forcing Pharma™, Therapy™, and Psychiatric Confinement™ at it, when a predatory crippling of economic stability is the entire cause – and refuses to hold the Government and Elites accountable.

Bobby Gladd , November 30, 2018 at 3:36 pm

I would commend to all Beth Macy's riveting book " Dopesick : Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America ."

Equal parts nicely written investigative reporting and painful personal stories. I'd thought that the "opioid epidemic" meme was hyperbolic. I was wrong.

WorkerPleb , December 1, 2018 at 5:32 pm

This happened in Russian and Eastern European countries too didn't it?

[Dec 01, 2018] G20 Summit, Top Agenda Item Bye-Bye American Empire by Finian Cunningham

China does not have its own technological base and is depended on the USA for many technologies. So while China isdefinitly in assendance, Washington still have capability to stick to "total global dominance" agenda for some time.
Attempt to crush China by Tariffs might provoke the economic crisi in China and possible a "regime change", like Washington santions to the USSR in the past. And that's probably the calculation.
Notable quotes:
"... President Trump has taken long-simmering US complaints about China to boiling point, castigating Beijing for unfair trade, currency manipulation, and theft of intellectual property rights. China rejects this pejorative American characterization of its economic practices. ..."
"... The problem is that Washington is demanding the impossible. It's like as if the US wants China to turn the clock back to some imagined former era of robust American capitalism. But it is not in China's power to do that. The global economy has shifted structurally away from US dominance. The wheels of production and growth are in China's domain of Eurasia. ..."
"... Combined with its military power, the postwar global order was defined and shaped by Washington. Sometimes misleading called Pax Americana, there was nothing peaceful about the US-led global order. It was more often an order of relative stability purchased by massive acts of violence and repressive regimes under Washington's tutelage. ..."
"... In American mythology, it does not have an empire. The US was supposed to be different from the old European colonial powers, leading the rest of the world through its "exceptional" virtues of freedom, democracy and rule of law . In truth, US global dominance relied on the application of ruthless imperial power. ..."
"... Washington likes to huff and puff about alleged Chinese expansionism "threatening" US allies in Asia-Pacific. But the reality is that Washington is living in the past of former glory. Trading blocs like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) realize their bread is buttered by China, no longer America. ..."
"... Washington's rhetoric about "standing up to China" is just that – empty rhetoric. It doesn't mean much to countries led by their interests of economic development and the benefits of Chinese investment. ..."
"... China's strategic economic plans – the One Belt One Road initiative – of integrating regional development under its leadership and finance have already created a world order analogous to what American capital achieved in the postwar decades. ..."
"... American pundits and politicians like Vice President Mike Pence may disparage China's economic policies as creating "debt traps" for other countries . But the reality is that other countries are gravitating to China's dynamic leadership ..."
Dec 01, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The G20 summits are nominally about how the world's biggest national economies can cooperate to boost global growth. This year's gathering – more than ever – shows, however, that rivalry between the US and China is center stage.

Zeroing in further still, the rivalry is an expression of a washed-up American empire desperately trying to reclaim its former power. There is much sound, fury and pretense from the outgoing hegemon – the US – but the ineluctable reality is an empire whose halcyon days are a bygone era.

Ahead of the summit taking place this weekend in Argentina, the Trump administration has been issuing furious ultimatums to China to "change its behavior". Washington is threatening an escalating trade war if Beijing does not conform to American demands over economic policies.

President Trump has taken long-simmering US complaints about China to boiling point, castigating Beijing for unfair trade, currency manipulation, and theft of intellectual property rights. China rejects this pejorative American characterization of its economic practices.

Nevertheless, if Beijing does not comply with US diktats then the Trump administration says it will slap increasing tariffs on Chinese exports.

The gravity of the situation was highlighted by the comments this week of China's ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, who warned that the "lessons of history" show trade wars can lead to catastrophic shooting wars. He urged the Trump administration to be reasonable and to seek a negotiated settlement of disputes.

The problem is that Washington is demanding the impossible. It's like as if the US wants China to turn the clock back to some imagined former era of robust American capitalism. But it is not in China's power to do that. The global economy has shifted structurally away from US dominance. The wheels of production and growth are in China's domain of Eurasia.

For decades, China functioned as a giant market for cheap production of basic consumer goods. Now under President Xi Jinping, the nation is moving to a new phase of development involving sophisticated technologies, high-quality manufacture, and investment.

It's an economic evolution that the world has seen before, in Europe, the US and now Eurasia. In the decades after the Second World War, up to the 1970s, it was US capitalism that was the undisputed world leader. Combined with its military power, the postwar global order was defined and shaped by Washington. Sometimes misleading called Pax Americana, there was nothing peaceful about the US-led global order. It was more often an order of relative stability purchased by massive acts of violence and repressive regimes under Washington's tutelage.

In American mythology, it does not have an empire. The US was supposed to be different from the old European colonial powers, leading the rest of the world through its "exceptional" virtues of freedom, democracy and rule of law . In truth, US global dominance relied on the application of ruthless imperial power.

The curious thing about capitalism is it always outgrows its national base. Markets eventually become too small and the search for profits is insatiable. American capital soon found more lucrative opportunities in the emerging market of China. From the 1980s on, US corporations bailed out of America and set up shop in China, exploiting cheap labor and exporting their goods back to increasingly underemployed America consumers. The arrangement was propped up partly because of seemingly endless consumer debt.

That's not the whole picture of course. China has innovated and developed independently from American capital. It is debatable whether China is an example of state-led capitalism or socialism. The Chinese authorities would claim to subscribe to the latter. In any case, China's economic development has transformed the entire Eurasian hemisphere. Whether you like it or not, Beijing is the dynamo for the global economy. One indicator is how nations across Asia-Pacific are deferring to China for their future growth.

Washington likes to huff and puff about alleged Chinese expansionism "threatening" US allies in Asia-Pacific. But the reality is that Washington is living in the past of former glory. Trading blocs like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) realize their bread is buttered by China, no longer America.

Washington's rhetoric about "standing up to China" is just that – empty rhetoric. It doesn't mean much to countries led by their interests of economic development and the benefits of Chinese investment.

One example is Taiwan. In contrast to Washington's shibboleths about "free Taiwan", more and more Asian countries are dialing down their bilateral links with Taiwan in deference to China's position, which views the island as a renegade province. The US position is one of rhetoric, whereas the relations of other countries are based on material economic exigencies. And respecting Beijing's sensibilities is for them a prudent option.

A recent report by the New York Times starkly illustrated the changing contours of the global economic order. It confirmed what many others have observed, that China is on the way to surpass the US as the world's top economy. During the 1980s, some 75 per cent of China's population were living in "extreme poverty", according to the NY Times. Today, less than 1 per cent of the population is in that dire category. For the US, the trajectory has been in reverse with greater numbers of its people subject to deprivation.

China's strategic economic plans – the One Belt One Road initiative – of integrating regional development under its leadership and finance have already created a world order analogous to what American capital achieved in the postwar decades.

American pundits and politicians like Vice President Mike Pence may disparage China's economic policies as creating "debt traps" for other countries . But the reality is that other countries are gravitating to China's dynamic leadership.

Arguably, Beijing's vision for economic development is more enlightened and sustainable than what was provided by the Americans and Europeans before. The leitmotif for China, along with Russia, is very much one of multipolar development and mutual partnership. The global economy is not simply moving from one hegemon – the US – to another imperial taskmaster – China.

One thing seems inescapable. The days of American empire are over. Its capitalist vigor has dissipated decades ago. What the upheaval and rancor in relations between Washington and Beijing is all about is the American ruling class trying to recreate some fantasy of former vitality. Washington wants China to sacrifice its own development in order to somehow rejuvenate American society. It's not going to happen.

That's not to say that American society can never be rejuvenated . It could, as it could also in Europe. But that would entail a restructuring of the economic system involving democratic regeneration. The "good old days" of capitalism are gone. The American empire, as with the European empires, is obsolete.

That's the unspoken Number One agenda item at the G20 summit. Bye-bye US empire.

What America needs to do is regenerate through a reinvented social economic order, one that is driven by democratic development and not the capitalist private profit of an elite few.

If not, the futile alternative is US failing political leaders trying to coerce China, and others, to pay for their future. That way leads to war.

[Nov 29, 2018] If The Saudi s Oil No Longer Matters Why Is Trump Still Supporting Them

Notable quotes:
"... Washington Post ..."
"... Wall Street journal ..."
"... Everyone knows it's the US presence in the Middle East which creates terrorists, both as proxies of and in resistance to the US imperial presence (and often one and then the other). So reading Orwellian language, Pompeo is saying the US wants to maximize Islamic terrorism in order to provide a pretext for creeping totalitarianism at home and abroad. ..."
"... The real reason is to maintain the petrodollar system, but there seems to be a conspiracy of silence never to mention it among both supporters and opponents of Trump. ..."
"... everyone knows why the usa is in the middle east.. to support the war industry, which is heavily tied to the financial industry.. up is down and down is up.. that is why the usa is great friends with ksa and israel and a sworn enemy of iran... what they don't say is they are a sworn enemy of humanity and the thought that the world can continue with their ongoing madness... ..."
"... The importance of oil is not to supply US markets its to deny it to enemies and control oil prices in order to feed international finance/IMF ..."
Nov 29, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

Russ , Nov 28, 2018 3:28:31 PM | link

Why are U.S. troops in the Middle East?

In an interview with the Washington Post U.S. President Donald Trump gives an answer :

Trump also floated the idea of removing U.S. troops from the Middle East, citing the lower price of oil as a reason to withdraw.

"Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world? One reason to is Israel ," Trump said. "Oil is becoming less and less of a reason because we're producing more oil now than we've ever produced. So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where you don't have to stay there."

It is only Israel, it is no longer the oil, says Trump. But the nuclear armed Israel does not need U.S. troops for its protection.

And if it is no longer the oil, why is the U.S. defending the Saudis?

Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disagrees with his boss. In a Wall Street journal op-ed today he claims that The U.S.-Saudi Partnership Is Vital because it includes much more then oil:

[D]egrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the U.S. and its allies.

The kingdom is a powerful force for stability in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is working to secure Iraq's fragile democracy and keep Baghdad tethered to the West's interests, not Tehran's. Riyadh is helping manage the flood of refugees fleeing Syria's civil war by working with host countries, cooperating closely with Egypt, and establishing stronger ties with Israel. Saudi Arabia has also contributed millions of dollars to the U.S.-led effort to fight Islamic State and other terrorist organizations. Saudi oil production and economic stability are keys to regional prosperity and global energy security.

Where and when please has Saudi Arabia "managed the flood of refugees fleeing Syria's civil war". Was that when it emptied its jails of violent criminals and sent them to wage jihad against the Syrian people? That indeed 'managed' to push millions to flee from their homes.

Saudi Arabia might be many things but "a powerful force for stability" it is not. Just ask 18 million Yemenis who, after years of Saudi bombardment, are near to death for lack of food .

Pompeo's work for the Saudi dictator continued today with a Senate briefing on Yemen. The Senators will soon vote on a resolution to end the U.S. support for the war. In his prepared remarks Pompeo wrote:

The suffering in Yemen grieves me, but if the United States of America was not involved in Yemen, it would be a hell of a lot worse.

What could be worse than a famine that threatens two third of the population?

If the U.S. and Britain would not support the Saudis and Emirates the war would end within a day or two. The Saudi and UAE planes are maintained by U.S. and British specialists. The Saudis still seek 102 more U.S. military personal to take care of their planes. It would be easy for the U.S. to stop such recruiting of its veterans.

It is the U.S. that holds up an already watered down UN Security Council resolution that calls for a ceasefire in Yemen:

The reason for the delay continues to be a White House worry about angering Saudi Arabia, which strongly opposes the resolution, multiple sources say. CNN reported earlier this month that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, "threw a fit" when presented with an early draft of the document, leading to a delay and further discussions among Western allies on the matter.

We recently wrote that pandering to the Saudis and keeping Muhammad bin Salman in place will hurt Trump's Middle East policies . The piece noted that Trump asked the Saudis for many things, but found that:

There is really nothing in Trump's list on which the Saudis consistently followed through. His alliance with MbS brought him no gain and a lot of trouble.

Trump protected MbS from the consequences of murdering Jamal Khashoggi. He hoped to gain leverage with that. But that is not how MbS sees it. He now knows that Trump will not confront him no matter what he does. If MbS "threws a fit" over a UN Security Council resolution, the U.S. will drop it. When he launches his next 'adventure', the U.S. will again cover his back. Is this the way a super power is supposed to handle a client state?

If Trump's instincts really tell him that U.S. troops should be removed from the Middle East and Afghanistan, something I doubt, he should follow them. Support for the Saudi war on Yemen will not help to achieve that. Pandering to MbS is not MAGA.

Posted by b on November 28, 2018 at 03:12 PM | Permalink

Comments Pompeo: "Saudi Arabia has also contributed millions of dollars to the U.S.-led effort to fight Islamic State and other terrorist organizations."

Everyone knows it's the US presence in the Middle East which creates terrorists, both as proxies of and in resistance to the US imperial presence (and often one and then the other). So reading Orwellian language, Pompeo is saying the US wants to maximize Islamic terrorism in order to provide a pretext for creeping totalitarianism at home and abroad.


lysias , Nov 28, 2018 3:35:15 PM | link

The real reason is to maintain the petrodollar system, but there seems to be a conspiracy of silence never to mention it among both supporters and opponents of Trump.
Ross , Nov 28, 2018 3:41:42 PM | link
There is really nothing in Trump's list on which the Saudis consistently followed through. His alliance with MbS brought him no gain and a lot of trouble.

He did get to fondle the orb - although fuck knows what weirdness was really going on there.

james , Nov 28, 2018 3:47:06 PM | link
thanks b... pompeo is a very bad liar... in fact - everything he says is about exactly the opposite, but bottom line is he is a bad liar as he is thoroughly unconvincing..

everyone knows why the usa is in the middle east.. to support the war industry, which is heavily tied to the financial industry.. up is down and down is up.. that is why the usa is great friends with ksa and israel and a sworn enemy of iran... what they don't say is they are a sworn enemy of humanity and the thought that the world can continue with their ongoing madness...

oh, but don't forget to vote, LOLOL.... no wonder so many are strung out on drugs, and the pharma industry... opening up to the msm is opening oneself up to the world george orwell described many years ago...

uncle tungsten , Nov 28, 2018 3:49:24 PM | link
Take a wafer or two of silicon and just add water. The oil obsession has been eclipsed and within 20 years will be in absolute disarray. The warmongers will invent new excuses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Lk3elu3zf4

karlof1 , Nov 28, 2018 4:33:18 PM | link
A hypothetical: No extraordinary amounts of hydrocarbons exist under Southwest Asian ground; just an essential amount for domestic consumption; in that case, would Zionistan exist where it's currently located and would either Saudi Arabia, Iraq and/or Iran have any significance aside from being consumers of Outlaw US Empire goods? Would the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes/Picot Secret Treaty have been made? If the Orinoco Oil Belt didn't exist, would Venezuela's government be continually targeted for Imperial control? If there was no Brazilian offshore oil, would the Regime Change effort have been made there? Here the hypotheticals end and a few basic yet important questions follow.

Previous to the 20th Century, why were Hawaii and Samoa wrested from their native residents and annexed to Empire? In what way did the lowly family farmers spread across 19th Century United States further the growth of its Empire and contribute to the above named annexations? What was the unspoken message sent to US elites contained within Frederic Jackson Turner's 1893 Frontier Thesis ? Why is the dominant language of North America English, not French or Spanish?

None of these are rhetorical. All second paragraph questions I asked of my history students. And all have a bearing on b's fundamental question.

A. Person , Nov 28, 2018 5:20:13 PM | link
b says, "And it its no longer the oil, why is the U.S. defending the Saudis?"

The US has a vital interest in protecting the narrative of 9/11. The Saudis supplied the patsies. Mossad and dual-citizen neocons were the architects of the event. Hence, the US must avoid a nasty divorce from the Saudis. The Saudis are in a perfect blackmailing position.

Tobin Paz , Nov 28, 2018 5:50:19 PM | link
Maybe Trump is unaware, but the fracking boom is a bubble made possible by near zero interest rates:

U.S. SHALE OIL INDUSTRY: Catastrophic Failure Ahead

Of course, most Americans have no idea that the U.S. Shale Oil Industry is nothing more than a Ponzi Scheme because of the mainstream media's inability to report FACT from FICTION. However, they don't deserve all of the blame as the shale energy industry has done an excellent job hiding the financial distress from the public and investors by the use of highly technical jargon and BS.

Oil is the untold story of modern history.

NOBTS , Nov 28, 2018 6:08:53 PM | link
S.A. is a thinly disguised US military base, hence the "strategic importance" and the relevance of the new Viceroy's previous experience as a Four Star General. It's doubtful that any of the skilled personnel in the SA Air Force are other than former US/Nato. A few princes might fancy themselves to be daring fighter pilots. In case of a Anglo-Zio war with Iran SA would be the most forward US aircraft carrier. The Empire is sustained by its presumed military might and prizes nothing more than its strategically situated bases. Saud would like to capture Yemen's oil fields, but the primary purpose of the air war is probably training. That of course is more despicably cynical than mere conquest and genocide.
Pft , Nov 28, 2018 6:08:56 PM | link
Trump is the ultimate deceiver/liar. Great actor reading from a script. The heel in the Fake wrestling otherwise known as US politics. It almost sounds as if he is calling for an end of anymore significant price drops now that he has got Powell on board to limit interest rate hikes. After all if you are the worlds biggest producer you dont want prices too low. These markets are all manipulated. I cant imagine how much insider trading is going on. If you look at the oil prices, they started dropping in October with Iran sanctions looming (before it was announced irans shipments to its 8 biggest buyers would be exempt) and at the height of the Khashoggi event where sanctions were threatened and Saudi was making threats of their own. In a real free market prices increase amidst supply uncertainty.

Regardless of what he says he wants and gets now, he is already planning a reversal. Thats how the big boys win, they know whats coming and when the con the smaller fish to swim one way they are lined up with a big mouth wide open. Controlled chaos and confusion. For every winner there must be a loser and the losers assets/money are food for the Gods of Money and War

As for pulling out of the Middle East Bibi must have had a good laugh. My money is on the US to be in Yemen to protect them from the Saudis (humanitarian) and Iranian backed Houthis while in reality we will be there to secure the enormous oil fields in the North. Perhaps this was what the Khashoggi trap was all about. The importance of oil is not to supply US markets its to deny it to enemies and control oil prices in order to feed international finance/IMF

psychohistorian , Nov 28, 2018 6:35:06 PM | link
@ Pft who wrote: "The importance of oil is not to supply US markets its to deny it to enemies and control oil prices in order to feed international finance/IMF"

BINGO!!! Those that control finance control most/all of everything else.

Augustin L , Nov 28, 2018 6:37:43 PM | link

Saudi Arabia literally owns close to 8% of the United States economy through various financial instruments. Their public investment funds and dark pools own large chunks from various strategic firms resting at the apex of western power such as Blackstone. Trump and Pompeo would be stupid to cut off their nose to spite their face... It's all about the petrodollar, uncle sam will ride and die with saudi barbaria. If push comes to shove and the saudis decide to untether themselves from the Empire, their sand kingdom will probably be partitioned.
Pnyx , Nov 28, 2018 7:02:31 PM | link
The oil certainly still plays an important role, the u.s. cannot maintain the current frack oil output for long. For Tronald's term in office it will suffice, but hardly longer. (The frack gas supplies are much more substantial.)

Personal interests certainly also play a role, and finally one should not make u.s. foreign policy more rational than it is. Much is also done because of traditions and personal convictions. Often they got it completely wrong and the result was a complete failure.

Likklemore , Nov 28, 2018 7:07:15 PM | link
Let us watch what Trump does with this or if the resolution makes it to daylight:

Senate advances Yemen resolution in rebuke to Trump

The Senate issued a sharp rebuke Wednesday to President Trump, easily advancing a resolution that would end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen's civil war despite a White House effort to quash the bill.

The administration launched an eleventh-hour lobbying frenzy to try to head off momentum for the resolution, dispatching Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Capitol Hill in the morning and issuing a veto threat less than an hour before the vote started.

But lawmakers advanced the resolution, 63-37, even as the administration vowed to stand by Saudi Arabia following outcry over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"There's been a lot of rhetoric that's come from the White House and from the State Department on this issue," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "The rhetoric that I've heard and the broadcasts that we've made around the world as to who we are have been way out of balance as it relates to American interests and American values." [/]
LINK TheHill

But Mattis says there is no smoking gun to tie the Clown Thug-Prince to Kashoggi's killing.
TheHill

And Lyias @ 2 is a bingo. Always follow the fiat.

Soon, without any announcements, if they wish to maintain selling oil to China, KSA will follow Qatar. It will be priced in Yuan...especially given the escalating U.S. trade war with China.

2019 holds interesting times. Order a truckload of popcorn.

Midwest For Truth , Nov 28, 2018 7:29:46 PM | link
You would have to have your head buried in the sand to not see that the Saudi "Kings" are crypto-Zionistas. Carl Sagan once said, "One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back." And Mark Twain also wrote "It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled."
karlof1 , Nov 28, 2018 7:59:31 PM | link
Gee, not one taker amongst all these intelligent folk. From last to first: 1588's Protestant Wind allowed Elizabeth and her cronies to literally keep their heads as Nature helped Drake defeat the Spanish Armada; otherwise, there would be no British Empire root to the USA, thus no USA and no future Outlaw US Empire, the British Isles becoming a Hapsburg Imperial Property, and a completely different historical lineage, perhaps sans World Wars and atomic weapons.

Turner's message was with the Frontier closed the "safety valve" of continental expansion defusing political tensions based on economic inequalities had ceased to be of benefit and future policy would need to deal with that issue thus removing the Fear Factor from the natives to immigrants, and from wide-open spaces to the inner cities. Whipsawing business cycles driving urban labor's unrest, populist People's Party politics, and McKinley's 1901 assassination further drove his points home.

Nationwide, family farmers demanded Federal government help to create additional markets for their produce to generate price inflation so they could remain solvent and keep their homesteads, which translated into the need to conduct international commerce via the seas which required coaling stations--Hawaii and Samoa, amongst others--and a Blue Water Navy that eventually led to Alfred T. Mahan's doctrine of Imperial Control of the Oceans still in use today.

As with Gengis Khan's death in 1227 that stopped the Mongol expansion to the English Channel that changed the course of European history, and what was seen as the Protestant Wind being Divine Intervention, global history has several similar inflection points turning the tide from one path to another. We don't know yet if the Outlaw US Empire's reliance on Saudi is such, but we can see it turning from being a great positive to an equally potential great negative for the Empire--humanity as a whole, IMO, will benefit greatly from an implosion and the relationship becoming a Great Negative helping to strip what remains of the Emperor's Clothing from his torso so that nations and their citizens can deter the oncoming financialized economic suicide caused by massive debt and climate chaos.

Vico's circle is about to intersect with Hegel's dialectic and generate a new temporal phase in human history. Although many will find it hard to tell, the current direction points to a difficult change to a more positive course for humanity as a whole, but it's also possible that disaster could strike with humanity's total or near extinction being the outcome--good arguments can be made for either outcome, which ought to unsettle everyone: Yes, the times are that tenuous. But then, I'm merely a lonely historian aware of a great many things, including the pitfall inherent in trying to predict future events.

robjira , Nov 28, 2018 8:08:58 PM | link
"The suffering in Yemen grieves me, but if the United States of America was not involved in Yemen, it would be a hell of a lot worse." And I'll bet Pompeo said that with a straight face, too. lmfao

And as for "...keep[ing] Baghdad tethered to the West's interests and not Tehran's," I'm guessing the "secretary" would have us all agree "yeah, fk Iraqi sovereignty anyway. Besides, it's not like they share a border with Iran, or anything. Oh, wait..."

p.s. Many thanks for all you have contributed to collective knowledge, b; I will be contacting you about making a contribution by snail mail (I hate PayPal, too).

imo , Nov 28, 2018 8:25:35 PM | link
"... a powerful force for stability in the Middle East."

"Instability" more like it.

Paid for military coup in Egypt. Funding anti-Syrian terrorists. Ongoing tensions with Iran. Zip-all for the Palestinians. WTF in Yemen. Wahhabi crazy sh_t (via Mosque building) across Asia. Head and hand chopping Friday specials the norm -- especially of their South-Asian slave classes. Ok, so females can now drive cars -- woohoo. A family run business venture manipulating the global oil trade and supporting US-petro-$ hegemony recently out of goat herding and each new generation 'initiated' in some Houston secret society toe-touching shower and soap ceremonies before placement in the ruling hierarchy back home. But enough; they being Semites makes it an offence to criticize in some 'free' democratic world domains.

karlof1 , Nov 28, 2018 8:52:24 PM | link
Likklemore @14--

Instead of the "rebuke to Trump" meme circulating around, I found this statement to be more accurate:

"'Cutting off military aid to Saudi Arabia is the right choice for Yemen, the right choice for our national security, and the right choice for upholding the Constitution,' Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs at Peace Action, declared in a statement. ' Three years ago, the notion of Congress voting to cut off military support for Saudi Arabia would have been politically laughable .'" [My Emphasis]

In other words, advancing Peace with Obama as POTUS wasn't going to happen, so this vote ought to be seen as an attack on Obama's legacy as it's his policy that's being reconsidered and hopefully discontinued.

Peter AU 1 , Nov 28, 2018 9:44:50 PM | link
Trump, Israel and the Sawdi's. US no longer needs middle east oil for strategic supply. Trump is doing away with the petro-dollar as that scam has run its course and maintenance is higher than returns. Saudi and other middle east oil is required for global energy dominance.

Energy dominance, lebensraum for Israel and destroying the current Iran are all objectives that fit into one neat package.

Those plans look to be coming apart at the moment so it remains to be seen how fanatical Trump is on Israel and MAGA. MAGA as US was at the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Pft , Nov 29, 2018 1:15:05 AM | link
As for pulling out of the Middle East Bibi must have had a good laugh. Remember when he said he wanted out of Syria. My money is on the US to be in Yemen before too long to protect them from the Saudis (humanitarian) and Iranian backed Houthis, while in reality it will be to secure the enormous oil fields in the North. Perhaps this was what the Khashoggi trap was all about.

The importance of oil is not to supply US markets its to deny it to enemies and control oil prices in order to feed international finance/IMF .

james , Nov 29, 2018 1:57:51 AM | link
@16 karlof1.. thanks for a broader historical perspective which you are able to bring to moa.. i enjoy reading your comments.. i don't have answers to ALL your questions earlier.. i have answers for some of them... you want to make it easy on us uneducated folks and give us less questions, like b did in his post here, lol.... cheers james
b , Nov 29, 2018 2:33:04 AM | link
This came faster than assumed:

Yemen war: US Senate advances measure to end support for Saudi forces

The US Senate has advanced a measure to withdraw American support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

In a blow to President Donald Trump, senators voted 63-37 to take forward a motion on ending US support.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had urged Senators not to back the motion, saying it would worsen the situation in Yemen.

...

The vote in the Senate means further debate on US support for Saudi Arabia is expected next week.

However, correspondents say that even if the Senate ultimately passes the bipartisan resolution it has little chance of being approved by the outgoing House of Representatives.

That is quite a slap for the Trump administration. It will have little consequences in the short term (or for Yemen) but it sets a new direction in foreign polices towards the Saudis.
jim slim , Nov 29, 2018 4:04:44 AM | link
Pompeo is a Deep State Israel-firster with a nasty neocon agenda. It is to Trump's disgrace that he chose Pompeo and the abominable Bolton. At least Trump admits the ME invasions are really about Israel.
mina , Nov 29, 2018 4:14:20 AM | link
duterte...idris deby...so many democrats visiting Netanyahu lately!!
Rhisiart Gwilym , Nov 29, 2018 4:49:48 AM | link
@Uncle Tungsten, 5:

Take a look at some of the - informed - comments below the vid to which you linked. Then think again about an 'all electric civilisation within a few years'. Yes, and Father Christmas will be providing everything that everyone in the world needs for a NAmerican/European standard of living within the same time frame. Er - not.

'Renewables' are not going to save hitech industrial 'civilisation' from The Long Descent/Catabolic Collapse (qv). Apart from any other consideration - and there are some other equally intractable ones - there is no - repeat NO - 'renewable' energy system which doesn't rely crucially on energy subsidies from the fossil-hydrocarbon fuels, both to build it and to maintain it. They're not stand-alone, self-bootstrapping technologies. Nor is there any realistic prospect that they ever will be. Fully renewable-power hitech industrial civilisation is a non-deliverable mirage which is just drawing us ever further into the desert of irreversible peak-energy/peak-everythig-else.

Rancid , Nov 29, 2018 5:58:26 AM | link
@16 karlof1. I also find your historical references very interesting. We do indeed seem to be at a very low point in the material cycle, it will reverse in due course as is its want, hopefully we will live to see a positive change in humanity.
Russ , Nov 29, 2018 7:24:10 AM | link
John 28

For example we know Tesla didn't succeed in splitting the planet in half, the way techno-psychotics fantasize. As for that silly link, how typical of techno-wingnuts to respond to prosaic physical facts with fantasies. Anything to prop up faith in the technocratic-fundamentalist religion. Meanwhile "electrical civilization" has always meant and will always mean fracking and coal, until the whole fossil-fueled extreme energy nightmare is over.

Given the proven fact that the extreme energy civilization has done nothing but embark upon a campaign to completely destroy humanity and the Earth (like in your Tesla fantasy), why would a non-psychopath want to prop it up anyway?

bob sykes , Nov 29, 2018 7:37:37 AM | link
It is still the oil, even for the US. The Persian Gulf supplies 20% of world consumption, and Western Europe gets 40% of its oil from OPEC countries, most of that from the Gulf. Even the US still imports 10% of its total consumption.
y , Nov 29, 2018 7:47:36 AM | link
Peter AU 1 | Nov 28, 2018 9:44:50 PM | 20
b | Nov 29, 2018 2:33:04 AM | 23
USD as a world reserve currency could be one factor between the important ones. With non US support the saud land could crash under neighbours pressure, that caos may be not welcomed.
Guerrero , Nov 29, 2018 10:16:10 AM | link
Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 28, 2018 7:59:31 PM | 16

"Vico's circle is about to intersect with Hegel's dialectic and generate a new temporal phase in human history. Although many will find it hard to tell, the current direction points to a difficult change to a more positive course for humanity as a whole..."

Yes!

Humble people around where I live have mentioned that time is speeding up its velocity; there seems to be a spiritual (evolutionary)/physical interface effect or something...

Tolstoy, in the long theory-of-history exposition at the end of War and Peace, challenges 'the great man' of History idea, spreading in his time, at the dawning of the so-called: European Romantic period of Beethoven, Goerte and Wagner, when the unique person was glorified in the name of art, truth, whatever (eventually this bubble burst too, in the 20th C. and IMO because of too much fervent worship in the Cult of the Temple of the Money God. Dostoyevki's great Crime and Punishment is all about this issue.)

Tolstoy tries to describe a scientifically-determined historical process, dissing the 'great man of History' thesis. He was thinking of Napoleon Bonaparte of course, the run-away upstart repulican, anathema to the established order. Tolstoy describes it in the opening scene of the novel: a fascinating parlor-room conversation between a "liberal" woman of good-birth in the elite circles of society and a military captain at the party.

...only tenuously relevant to karlofi1's great post touching upon the Theory of History as such; thanks.

Now as to the question: ¿Why is Trump supporting Saudi Arabia? Let me think about that...

[Nov 27, 2018] The political fraud of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's "Green New Deal"

Highly recommended!
After Democratic party was co-opted by neoliberals there is no way back. And since Obama the trend of Democratic Party is toward strengthening the wing of CIA-democratic notthe wing of the party friendly to workers. Bought by Wall Street leadership is uncable of intruting any change that undermine thier current neoliberal platform. that's why they criminally derailed Sanders.
Notable quotes:
"... When you think about the issue of how exactly a clean-energy jobs program would address the elephant in the room of private accumulation and how such a program, under capitalism, would be able to pay living wages to the people put to work under it, it exposes how non threatening these Green New Deals actually are to capitalism. ..."
"... To quote Trotsky, "These people are capable of and ready for anything!" ..."
"... "Any serious measures to stop global warming, let alone assure a job and livable wage to everyone, would require a massive redistribution of wealth and the reallocation of trillions currently spent on US imperialism's neo-colonial wars abroad." ..."
"... "It includes various left-sounding rhetoric, but is entirely directed to and dependent upon the Democratic Party." ..."
"... "And again and again, in the name of "practicality," the most unrealistic and impractical policy is promoted -- supporting a party that represents the class that is oppressing and exploiting you! The result is precisely the disastrous situation working people and youth face today -- falling wages, no job security, growing repression and the mounting threat of world war." - New York Times tries to shame "disillusioned young voters" into supporting the Democrats ..."
"... It is an illusion that technical innovation within the capitalist system will magically fundamentally resolve the material problems produced by capitalism. But the inconvenient facts are entirely ignored by the corporate shills in the DSA and the whole lot of establishment politicians, who prefer to indulge their addiction to wealth and power with delusions of grandeur, technological utopianism, and other figments that serve the needs of their class. ..."
"... First it was Obama with his phoney "hope and change" that lured young voters to the Dumbicrats and now it's Ocacia Cortez promising a "green deal" in order to herd them back into the Democratic party--a total fraud of course--totally obvious! ..."
"... from Greenwald: The Democratic Party's deceitful game https://www.salon.com/2010/... ..."
Nov 27, 2018 | www.wsws.org

Raymond Colison4 days ago

they literally ripped this out of the 2016 Green Party platform. Jill Stein spoke repeatedly about the same exact kind of Green New Deal, a full-employment, transition-to-100%-renewables program that would supposedly solve all the world's problems.

When you think about the issue of how exactly a clean-energy jobs program would address the elephant in the room of private accumulation and how such a program, under capitalism, would be able to pay living wages to the people put to work under it, it exposes how non threatening these Green New Deals actually are to capitalism.

In 2016, when the Greens made this their central economic policy proposal, the Democrats responded by calling that platform irresponsible and dangerous ("even if it's a good idea, you can't actually vote for a non-two-party candidate!"). Why would they suddenly find a green new deal appealing now except for its true purpose: left cover for the very system destroying the planet.

To quote Trotsky, "These people are capable of and ready for anything!"

Greg4 days ago
"Any serious measures to stop global warming, let alone assure a job and livable wage to everyone, would require a massive redistribution of wealth and the reallocation of trillions currently spent on US imperialism's neo-colonial wars abroad."

Their political position not only lacks seriousness, unserious is their political position.

"It includes various left-sounding rhetoric, but is entirely directed to and dependent upon the Democratic Party."

For subjective-idealists, what you want to believe, think and feel is just so much more convincing than objective reality. Especially when it covers over single-minded class interests at play.

"And again and again, in the name of "practicality," the most unrealistic and impractical policy is promoted -- supporting a party that represents the class that is oppressing and exploiting you! The result is precisely the disastrous situation working people and youth face today -- falling wages, no job security, growing repression and the mounting threat of world war." - New York Times tries to shame "disillusioned young voters" into supporting the Democrats

Penny Smith4 days ago
It is an illusion that technical innovation within the capitalist system will magically fundamentally resolve the material problems produced by capitalism. But the inconvenient facts are entirely ignored by the corporate shills in the DSA and the whole lot of establishment politicians, who prefer to indulge their addiction to wealth and power with delusions of grandeur, technological utopianism, and other figments that serve the needs of their class.
Jim Bergren4 days ago
First it was Obama with his phoney "hope and change" that lured young voters to the Dumbicrats and now it's Ocacia Cortez promising a "green deal" in order to herd them back into the Democratic party--a total fraud of course--totally obvious!

Only an International Socialist program led by Workers can truly lead a "green revolution" by expropriating the billionaire oil barons of their capital and redirecting that wealth into the socialist reconstruction of the entire economy.

Master Oroko4 days ago
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's "Green New Deal" is a nice laugh. Really, it sure is funny hearing these lies given any credence at all. This showmanship belongs in a fantasy book, not in real life. The Democratic Party as a force for good social change Now that's a laugh!
Vivek Jain4 days ago
from Greenwald: The Democratic Party's deceitful game https://www.salon.com/2010/...
лидия5 days ago
"Greenwashing" of capitalism (and also of Zionist apartheid colony in Palestine) is but one of dirty tricks by Dems and their "left" backers.
Kalen5 days ago
Lies, empty promises, meaningless tautologies and morality plays, qualified and conditional declarations to be backpedalled pending appropriate political expediencies, devoid any practical content that is what AOC, card carrying member of DSA, and in fact young energetic political apparatchik of calcified political body of Dems establishment, duty engulfs. And working for socialist revolution is no one of them.

What kind of socialist would reject socialist revolution, class struggle and class emancipation and choose, as a suppose socialist path, accommodation with oligarchic ruling elite via political, not revolutionary process that would have necessarily overthrown ruling elite.

What socialist would acquiesce to legalized exploitation of people for profit, legalized greed and inequality and would negotiate away fundamental principle of egalitarianism and working people self rule?

Only National Socialist would; and that is exactly what AOC campaign turned out to be all about.

National Socialism with imperial flavor is her affiliation and what her praises for Pelosi, wife of a billionaire and dead warmonger McCain proved.

Now she is peddling magical thinking about global change and plunge herself into falacy of entrepreneurship, Market solution to the very problem that the market solutions were designed to create and aggravate namely horrific inequality that is robbing people from their own opportunities to mitigate devastating effects of global change.

The insidiousness of phony socialists expresses itself in the fact that they lie that any social problem can be fixed by current of future technical means, namely via so called technological revolution instead by socialist revolution they deem unnecessary or detrimental.

Me at home Kalen4 days ago
The technical means for achieving socialism has existed since the late 19th century, with the telegraph, the coal-powered factory, and modern fertilizer. The improvements since then have only made socialism even more streamlined and efficient, if such technologies could only be liberated from capital! The idea that "we need a new technological revolution just to achieve socialism" reflects the indoctrination in capitalism by many "socialist" theorists because it is only in capitalism where "technological growth" is essential simply to maintain the system. It is only in capitalism (especially America, the most advanced capitalist nation, and thus, the one where capitalism is actually closest towards total crisis) where the dogma of a technological savior is most entrenched because America cannot offer any other kind of palliative to the more literate and productive sections of its population. Religion will not convince most and any attempt at a sociological or economic understanding would inevitably prove the truth of socialism.

[Nov 27, 2018] American capitalism could afford to make concessions assiciated with The New Deal because of its economic dominance. The past forty years have been characterized by the continued decline of American capitalism on a world stage relative to its major rivals. The ruling class has responded to this crisis with a neoliberal counterrevolution to claw back all gains won by workers. This policy has been carried out under both Democratic and Republican administrations and with the assistance of the trade unions.

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The original "New Deal," which included massive public works infrastructure projects, was introduced by Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s amid the Great Depression. Its purpose was to stave off a socialist revolution in America. It was a response to a militant upsurge of strikes and violent class battles, led by socialists who were inspired by the 1917 Russian Revolution ..."
"... Since the 2008 crash, first under Bush and Obama, and now Trump, the ruling elites have pursued a single-minded policy of enriching the wealthy, through free credit, corporate bailouts and tax cuts, while slashing spending on social services. ..."
"... To claim as does Ocasio-Cortez that American capitalism can provide a new "New Deal," of a green or any other variety, is to pfile:///F:/Private_html/Skeptics/Political_skeptic/Neoliberalism/Historyromote an obvious political fiction." ..."
Nov 27, 2018 | thenewkremlinstooge.wordpress.com

Northern Star November 26, 2018 at 4:23 pm

As the New deal unravels:

"The original "New Deal," which included massive public works infrastructure projects, was introduced by Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s amid the Great Depression. Its purpose was to stave off a socialist revolution in America. It was a response to a militant upsurge of strikes and violent class battles, led by socialists who were inspired by the 1917 Russian Revolution that had occurred less than two decades before.

American capitalism could afford to make such concessions because of its economic dominance. The past forty years have been characterized by the continued decline of American capitalism on a world stage relative to its major rivals. The ruling class has responded to this crisis with a social counterrevolution to claw back all gains won by workers. This has been carried out under both Democratic and Republican administrations and with the assistance of the trade unions.

Since the 2008 crash, first under Bush and Obama, and now Trump, the ruling elites have pursued a single-minded policy of enriching the wealthy, through free credit, corporate bailouts and tax cuts, while slashing spending on social services.

To claim as does Ocasio-Cortez that American capitalism can provide a new "New Deal," of a green or any other variety, is to pfile:///F:/Private_html/Skeptics/Political_skeptic/Neoliberalism/Historyromote an obvious political fiction."

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/11/23/cort-n23.html

[Nov 27, 2018] Will Trump bring America down

Nov 27, 2018 | www.atimes.com

Why US allies are pushing back

US allies in Europe and Asia did not expect to be treated like vassal states, at least not openly. Succumbing to Trump's demands is an admission of being a lapdog.

US allies in Europe and Asia have no choice but to push back against Trump's bullying and condescending stances. They are elected by their citizens to protect the countries' sovereignty and interests, after all. Too, these leaders must save face and protect their legacies.

One of the first European leaders having the courage to defy Trump is French President Emmanuel Macron, calling for the establishment of a European Union army independent of the US to defend itself against Russia, China and possibly America itself. His proposal is supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Asian allies, particularly India, also seem to have pushed back , buying Iranian oil whether the US likes it or not.

Washington's attempt to revive the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprising itself and soulmates Australia, India and Japan may be losing support. Instead of joining with the US to contain China, India and Japan are seeking rapprochement with the Asian giant. Even "deputy sheriff" Australia is apparently having second thoughts, as one of its states is officially joining China's Belt and and Road Initiative.

In short, these three allies might finally realize that joining the US in containing China is harmful to their national interests. Fighting that nuclear power on their own soil might not be a good idea.

No country treats the US 'unfairly'

The fact of the matter is no country treats the US "unfairly" or is "eating its lunch." On the contrary, it could be argued that it is the other way around.

Having emerged as the world's strongest nation during and after World War II, US foreign policies have one goal: Shape the world to its image. That process began at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, insisting on using the US dollar as the world reserve currency and writing the trade rules. In this way, the US has accumulated a very powerful tool, printing as much money as it wants without repercussions to itself. For example, when a country wants to cash its US Treasury holdings, all America has to do is print more greenbacks.

To that end, the US is clearly "eating other countries' lunch." Indeed, a major reason the US can afford to build so many weapons is that other countries are paying for them.

US trade practices

On trade, the US in 1950 rejected the UK's proposal of forming an International Trade Organization (ITO) modeled after the International Monetary Fund and World Bank because it feared the ITO might have harmed American manufacturing. In its place, the US proposed and succeeded in forming the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) framework to negotiate tariff rates on goods.

Being the world's most powerful economy and biggest trading nation at that time, the US dominated the world trading system and wrote its rules. For example, it was the US that invented and implemented non-tariff trade barriers such as anti-dumping duties and national-security concerns to block imports. For example, the US imposed tariffs on Canadian, EU, Mexican and other countries' steel and aluminum from entering its market for security reasons.

It is laughable for the US to accuse Canada, the EU and Mexico of posing a national-security threat. They are, in fact, America's most staunch allies.

US foreign direct investment abroad

US companies bring with them ideas and technology (for which they charge exorbitant prices) when investing in a foreign market such as China and elsewhere. The capital needed to build factories is largely funded by the host country or other partners. For example, it is Taiwanese and Japanese investors that built Foxconn factories in China to assemble American electronic gadgets such as the iPad.

What's more, US companies charge huge prices for the products they make in China. According to the Asian Development Bank and other research organizations, Chinese labor, for example, receives a small percentage of the profits Apple takes in from gadgets it produces in China. This lopsided profit distribution raises the question: Who is "eating whose lunch?"

America has itself to blame

The US cannot blame China or any other country for its declining global influence and dominance – America, particularly under Donald Trump, did that to itself. Chinese President Xi Jinping, indeed, has advocated cooperation and dialogue as ways to defuse conflicts and attain a better world.

No country has ever even hinted at attacking the US; it is after all the world's most powerful nation, armed with enough conventional and nuclear weapons to blow up the world. The "threats" are exaggerated or invented by US neoconservatives and vested interests to scare Americans into supporting huge defense spending.

'Fake news' can only go so far

Using "fake news" to pressure countries into submission might work with those unable to fight back, but could be extremely costly against powers such as China and Russia. For example, Trump's escalating trade tensions with China are already adversely affecting the US economy, as seen in falling GDP growth, decreasing stock prices, a huge agricultural inventory, and rising poverty.

According to United Nations, the impoverished American population is being hit the hardest under the Trump administration. The US Federal Reserve and others are projecting significant economic decline in the foreseeable future if the trade war does not end.

One can only imagine what a nuclear war would bring.

Donald Trump is probably no less bullying than his predecessors (perhaps with the exception of George W Bush), but he is more open about it. Bush's outburst, "You are either with us or against us," earned America a bad reputation when he demanded that allies join him to invade Iraq.

Trump has bullied or offended everyone, friends and foes alike. Unless he shifts gear, he could alienate friends as well as foes, which could erode US geopolitical influence and economic growth or might even bring the country down. He cannot threaten sovereign nations without incurring huge costs to America.

[Nov 24, 2018] Peak Oil Drastic Oil Shortages Imminent, Says IEA

Nov 24, 2018 | peakoilbarrel.com

Fred Magyar x Ignored says: 11/22/2018 at 11:34 am

https://cleantechnica.com/2018/11/22/peak-oil-drastic-oil-shortages-imminent-says-iea/

LOL!

Peak Oil & Drastic Oil Shortages Imminent, Says IEA

Ron Patterson x Ignored says: 11/22/2018 at 1:59 pm
LOL!

Sorry Fred, but that joke just went right over my head. Why am I not laughing?

Fred Magyar x Ignored says: 11/22/2018 at 4:18 pm
Twas a sarcastic laugh at the expense of the IEA
George Kaplan x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 2:21 am
That discovery chart shows the problem well, I hadn't seen it before. The big blip in deep water discoveries in the 2000s from improved technologies and higher prices contributed greatly to the subsequent glut and price collapse – and now what's left? There hasn't been much of an uptick in exploration despite the price rally, offshore drillers continue to go bust, leasing activity still fairly slow – the tranches get bigger as the last, less attractive bits are released but lease ratio falls, Permian dominates all news stories. Why would the recent decline curve turn around? And the biggest surprise might be that gas is just as bad as oil, so the recent boost in supplies from condensate and NGL might also have run its course.
Survivalist x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 9:33 am
So we need to bring on approx 40 million barrels a day by 2025 to stay flat?
Should be an interesting 7 years!
George Kaplan x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 12:31 pm
I tracked FIDs for oil through 2017, I've been a bit less diligent this year so may have missed some, but for greenfield conventional plus oil sands I have for the remainder of 2018 through 2025: 400, 1770, 1170, 800, 985, 70, 250, 400 kbpd added – about 6 mmbpd total, nothing after 2025, plus another 1 mmbpd from ramp ups from this year. Only pretty small projects could get done now before 2022, and there aren't many of those left. Anything else would need to come from brownfield (in-fill), LTO or new discoveries (including existing known resources that become reserves once a development decision is made).
Hugo x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 5:34 am
GDP and Energy consumption

The link between GDP and energy consumption is very clearly shown in the graph.

https://ourfiniteworld.com/2012/10/25/an-economic-theory-of-limited-oil-supply/comment-page-2/

High economic growth matched high growth in energy consumption and recessions saw fall in energy consumption.

Since 90% of the energy consumed comes from burning the stored energy in coal, oil, gas and wood. It is hardly surprising that during high economic growth CO2 emissions increase also.
Those who not not wish to see this link, obviously think Peak Oil is not a problem. GDP growth will continue even though oil becomes more scarce.

If oil production falls by just 1% per year, taking into account new vehicle production. The world would have to produce 90 million electric cars each year in order to prevent oil prices from destroying other users such as the aviation industry.

This year 1.5 million fully electric cars were made and according to several people here peak oil is no more then 4 years away.

Fred Magyar x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 5:46 am
Since 90% of the energy consumed comes from burning the stored energy in coal, oil, gas and wood. It is hardly surprising that during high economic growth CO2 emissions increase also

I have a hunch that we are about to see some major changes to that paradigm.

Hugo x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 7:40 am
Fred

I hope you are correct, but I have done some calculations on what is needed.

According to reports around $1.7 trillion was invested in energy supply in 2017. $790 billion on oil, gas and coal supply. $320 billion was spent on solar and wind.
During 2017 oil consumption increased by 1 million barrels per day. Gas consumption increased by 3% and even coal consumption went up.

The world needs to spend about $2.5 trillion per year on wind, solar and batteries in order to meet increased energy demand and reduce fossil fuel burning by about 1% per year. This obviously depends on GDP growth being about average.

Since recent scientific observations have discovered that Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica melting much faster than anyone thought. The shift needs to be a minimum of 2.5%. Thus a spending of around £4 trillion per year is needed.

I do not see any country spending a minimum of 12 times more on solar and wind in the next 3-5 years. It would take every country doing so.

Hickory x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 12:21 pm
Agreed Hugo. The world is only making token moves towards installation of the necessary wind and solar.
This coming decade will see everyone scrambling to get the equipment built and installed.
Looks like centralized planning (China) is going to beat 'the market' on being the primary supplier. Our 'free' market has tariffs on PV imported. Brilliant.
Does having a 5 (or 10 yr) plan make you communist?
Or just smart.
GoneFishing x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 12:44 pm
"The world needs to spend about $2.5 trillion per year on wind, solar and batteries in order to meet increased energy demand and reduce fossil fuel burning by about 1% per year. This obviously depends on GDP growth being about average."
1% per year? You have got to be kidding.
The global oil consumption for transport is about 39.5 million barrels of oil per day. Using PV to drive EV transport would mean an investment of 2.2 trillion dollars in PV to provide global road transport energy.
So what do we use next year's money for?
.
HuntingtonBeach x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 5:14 pm
"The global oil consumption for transport is about 39.5 million barrels of oil per day"

39.5 million is only gasoline in the world. Add diesel and jet fuel and you get to about 75 million barrels a day for transportation or about 75% of oil produced.

GoneFishing x Ignored says: 11/23/2018 at 6:51 pm
I was specifically talking about road transport.
Argue with these guys.
https://www.statista.com/statistics/307198/forecast-of-oil-consumption-in-road-transportation/

Did you get the point? That Hugo overstated the cost of renewables to replace fossil fuels by a huge amount and understated their effect by another huge amount.
We have a couple of people that consistently do that on this site.

Hickory x Ignored says: 11/24/2018 at 12:33 am
You may have just been talking about transport energy, but the others of us were having some back and forth about fossil fuel replacement in general.

[Nov 20, 2018] The Torah, biblical and Quran stories were written in agrarian societies where capitalistic enterprise hardly existed. Loans were for not dying of hunger in the period between when the food of the last harvest had been used completely, and the new harvest was still in the future.

Nov 20, 2018 | www.unz.com

jilles dykstra , says: November 14, 2018 at 12:21 pm GMT

@tac The Torah, biblical and Quran stories were written in agrarian societies where capitalistic enterprise hardly existed.
Loans were for not dying of hunger in the period between when the food of the last harvest had been used completely, and the new harvest was still in the future.
Thus interest was seen as blackmailing people, they needed money to prevent dying of starvation.
There was enterprise long ago, and trade over long distances, in the early centuries for example swords from Damascus were famous in Europe, and exported to Europe.
Investment for business was the exception, even the first iron smelting installations were simple, those who wanted them could build them by themselves.
The idea that invested money could yield money came later, when installations became more complex, ships bigger, etc.
With investment came risk, there was not much risk in consumptive loans, they normally could paid out of the coming harvest.
And so the problem began, a church not understanding capitalism, an agrarian society based on barter changing into a money using capitalistic society.
Commercial people had no problem with interest, even now Muslims do not have problems with interest.
What they do is simply giving interest other names, such as a fine for repaying late.
It has been agreed that the repayment will be late, so anybody is happy.

[Nov 20, 2018] It is an interesting side-note that both Christianity and Islam both prohibit the use of usury

Nov 20, 2018 | www.unz.com

tac , says: November 14, 2018 at 6:35 am GMT

@renfro And there you have it in a nutshell: usary -- the usurper of civilization, the enslaver of humanity, the seed of ultimate degeneracy. It seems humanity is adverse to learn from history. It is an interesting side-note that both Christianity and Islam both prohibit the use of usury (a consideration worthy of mention when one contemplates the ongoing wars in the ME) and some who here take shots at Farakhann, 'neo-nazis', blue-hair and other deplorables.

Our dilemma today is the same that occurred in Rome. Our country and people will suffer the same fate if usury continues as it has. From the onset of history, it has been the moneychangers, who have exploited mankind for pure profit. Usury is an abomination against God's statutes, which manipulates and destroys people, families, and nations. It is by the profits made from usury used to attack Christianity. One needs only to ask- who is in control of usury worldwide? Didn't Rome suffer from these same people? Usury brings forth an insidious side to all people. The temptation to borrow is powerful, and it always polarizes lender against borrower where the former becomes the master and the later, the slave. As a vice, neighbor is pitted against his neighbor, and nation against nation.

[...]

The Roman government was far too corrupt already with its politicians bought by moneychangers for any fledgling Christian sect to have an affect on its decline. The moneychanger's demand was perpetually self-serving, which was disparate to the common good of the populace. Originally, Rome was founded as a republic. The unchecked influence of the moneychangers caused it to change into a democracy. A republic is derived through the election of public officials whose attitude toward property is respected in terms of law for individual rights. A democracy is derived through the election of public officials whose attitude toward property is communistic and respects the "collective good" of the population instead of the individual. This is the resultant system that moneychangers bring to civilization. The subversion of power is a sleight of hand that changes the right of the individual into what is often called the "collective good" of the people (communistic), which is always controlled by an alliance of powerful interests.

There is no reference in the article to the moneychangers and their lawyers sowing the seeds for Roman society to suffocate under its own lethargic weight. Lawyers were indeed a problem to Rome. The Romans were so concerned by lawyers' opprobrious effect on public morale that they attempted to curb their influence. In 204 BC, the Roman Senate passed a law prohibiting lawyers from plying their trade for money. As the Roman republic declined and became more democratic, it became increasingly difficult to keep lawyers in check and prevent them from accepting fees under the table. Indeed, they were very useful to the moneychangers. The lawyers fed upon corruption and accelerated the downward plunge of Roman civilization. Some wealthy Romans began sending their sons to Greece to finish their schooling, to learn rhetoric (Julius Caesar was one example) -- a lawyer's cleverness in oration. This compounded Rome's growing woes.
[...]
The moneychangers destroyed Rome from within by first monopolizing usury, monopolizing the precious mineral trade and then disproportionately magnifying the temporal businesses of prostitution (including pedophilia and homosexuality), and slavery. Constantine (306-337 AD) was the first Roman emperor to issue laws, which radically limited the rights of Jews as citizens of the Roman Empire, a privilege conferred upon them by Caracalla in 212 AD. The laws of Constantius (337-361 AD) recognized the Jewish domination of the slave trade and acted to greatly curtail it. A law of Theodosius II (408-410 AD), prohibited Jews from holding any advantageous office of honor in the Roman state. Always the impetus was buying influence concerning their trade.
[...]
Usury has been the opiate that has ruined the ingenuity of many of its civilizations. As this Jewish craft spread, the people increasingly suffered from the burdens of indebtedness. So troubling was the effects of usury that Lex Genucia outlawed usury in 342 BC. Nevertheless, ways of evading such legislation were found and by the last period of the Republic, usury was once again rife. Emperors like Julius Caesar and Justinian tried to limit the interest rate and control its devastating effects (Birnie, 1958). Entertainment was a way to temporarily set aside the burdens of indebtedness. It was a way to festively indulge in all the glory that Rome had to offer. Rome soon became drunk on hedonism. Collectively, entertainment helped disguise the collapsing of a great power. Spectator blood sports, brothels, carnivals, festivals, and parties substituted for everything that was wrong with Rome.
[...]
Rome became a multi-cultural state much like our own in the United States. Indeed, it was truly an international city. Foreigners of every nation resided and worked there. The Romans soon intermarried and had children with the many foreigners. This included concubines from the numerous slaves won through war. Rome had an extraordinary large slave population and was estimated to make up about two-thirds of its population at one time.
[...]
Eventually, the Romans lost their tribal cohesion and identity. The population of Rome had changed and so did its character. Increasing demands were made of the ruling patricians. The aristocrats tried to appease the masses, but eventually those demands could not be sustained. Rome had become bankrupt. The effects of usury polarized the patrician class against an increasingly dispossessed and burdened class of citizens.
[...]
Rome was bankrupt and was collapsing. The parasitic nature of usury and its effect on government was too complex for the uneducated plebeians to understand (see Addendum for an illustration of usury's power). Indeed, it was the moneychangers with the use of their lawyers that destroyed pagan Rome. The Jewish interests did not control all usury. However, they were a people well recognized as being extremely loyal to each other and adept in the black craft of usury. To all others (gentiles) they showed hate and enmity. Throughout history the weapon of usury is used again and again to destroy nations.
[...]
Fortunately, the writings of Cicero survived the burning of libraries. In the case against Faccus, we can see the crafts of the Jews are the same today. The Jews clearly held great influence in politics as a result of their professions and profited immensely at the expense of Rome. We can further deduce by the case of Faccus that the Jews were not concerned with the interests of Rome, but rather for their own interests. The Jewish gold was being shipped from Rome and its provinces throughout the empire to Jerusalem. Why? We also know that the Jews had utter contempt and hatred of the Romans. This contempt is demonstrated by their breaking of Roman law, which Faccus tried to uphold. If we look closer, we see that gold has a very special meaning to all Jewry unlike any other people.
[...]
There are enough records for us to piece together what actually occurred in Rome that led to its downfall. Rome fell as a result of corruption and the lack of cohesion of its own people. But, it was the instrument of usury that brought about this corruption and allowed its gold and silver to be controlled by Jewish interests.
[...]
It was Christianity that put an end to the destructive nature of usury on its people (see addendum for usury example). Rome's treasury became barren as a result of the moneychangers. It weakened the Roman Empire immeasurably, and thrust untold millions in poverty, debt, and in prison. It was Christianity that halted the influence of the Jews and their destructive trades and practices. And, the Christian faith spread throughout the former Roman Empire. All of the European people eventually became Christianity's vanguard and champion. Without the strict adherence to the moral ethos, any civilization will devolve into the religion of Nimrod.

http://www.vanguardnewsnetwork.com/v1/index274.htm

[Nov 19, 2018] Why the Economy Can't Recover

Nov 19, 2018 | consortiumnews.com

Mark A Goldman , November 14, 2018 at 10:17 pm

According to my calculations (admittedly simplistic), the world has past the point of peak oil and in aggregate cannot produce enough oil to meet present and future demand and that may very well be why the US is doing its best to destroy or damage as many economies in the world as it can even if it has to go to war to do it. Once it becomes well established that we are past peak oil no telling what our financial markets will look like. Would appreciate hearing from someone who has more expertise than I have. https://www.gpln.com

anon4d2s , November 14, 2018 at 10:23 pm

Why are you trying to change the subject? Please desist.

Mark A. Goldman , November 15, 2018 at 1:01 pm

I'm offering you the, or a, motive of why the deep state is pursuing the agendas we see unfolding, which is to say, the crimes, the lies, the treason that the likes of Clapper, Bush, Obama, Clinton and others are pursuing to cover up their reaction to their own fears. Of course 9/11, the false flag coup and smoking gun that proves my point is still the big elephant in the room and will eventually bring us down if the truth is never released from its chains.

Mark A. Goldman , November 15, 2018 at 2:43 pm

I didn't change the subject. I'm offering you an answer as to the motive of why so many officials are willing to trash the Constitution in order to accomplish their insane agendas. It's all about money and power and the terrified Deep State fear of facing the blowback from the lies that have been propagated by the government and media regarding just about everything. Here's another place you might want to look in addition to my website: https://youtu.be/CDpE-30ilBY It's not just about oil. But this is where the rubber's going to meet the road. This is about what's going to hit the fan at any moment and in the absence of the Truth, we are all going to face this unprepared. 9/11 is still the smoking gun. It not just a few liars and cheats we're talking about.

Mark A. Goldman , November 15, 2018 at 11:58 pm

I didn't change the subject. The purpose of the search for WMD was to misdirect the public's attention away from the real purpose of the invasion which was to gain control of Iraq's oil reserves primarily. Misdirection is primary skill used by those in power and very effectively.

Mark A Goldman , November 14, 2018 at 11:23 pm

On my website you might want to review what I wrote here: "Why the Economy Can't Recover" https://www.gpln.com/audacityofhope.htm

[Nov 16, 2018] "Peak oil consumption" for the next five to ten years remains a myth.

Nov 16, 2018 | peakoilbarrel.com

likbez says: 11/16/2018 at 1:42 am

Shallow sand mentioned EV as a sign that oil consumption might go down.

I view EVs as inefficient natural gas powered cars, or worse. And the key problem is its lithium battery. See http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/projects/lbnp/final-li-ion-battery-lca-report.pdf

The cost of producing a large lithium battery is high and it is "perishable product", which will not last even 10 years. The average life expectancy of a new EV battery at about five (Tesla) to eight years. Or about 1500 cycles (assuming daily partial recharge, which prolongs the life of the battery) before reaching 80% of its capacity rating. https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-cycle-lifetime-of-lithium-ion-batteries

Battery performance and lifespan begins to suffer as soon as the temperature climbs above 86 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature above 86 degrees F affects the battery pack performance instantly and often permanently. https://phys.org/news/2013-04-life-lithium-ion-batteries-electric.html

It is also became almost inoperative at below freezing point temperatures. For example it can't be charged.

So they need to be cooled at summer and heated at winter. Storing such a car on the street is out of question. You need a garage.

And large auto battery typically starts deteriorating after three years of daily use or 800 daily cycles.

Regular gas, and , especially, diesel cars can last 20 years, and larger trucks can last 30 years.

Recycling of lithium batteries is problematic
http://users.humboldt.edu/lpagano/project_pagano.html

In a way EVs can be called "subprime cars." Or "California cars", if you wish (California climate is perfect for this type of cars)

Switching to motorcycles for personal transportation can probably help more in oil economy aria then EVs.

That also suggest that "peak oil consumption" for the next five to ten years remains a myth.

[Oct 31, 2018] Angry Bear " Business As Usual Running on Empty

Oct 31, 2018 | angrybearblog.com
  1. likbez , October 31, 2018 1:03 am

    The key question not addressed by the author is how long the period of "plato oil production" (the last stage of the so called "oil age", which started around 1911) might last -- 10, 20 or 50 years. And the oil age is just a very short blip in Earth history.

    Let's assume that this means less the $100 per barrel; in the past, it was $70 per barrel that considered the level that guarantees the recession in the USA, but financial system machinations now probably reached a new level, so that might not be true any longer. The trillion dollars question is "How long this period can be extended?"

    It is important to understand the US shale oil is not profitable and never will be for prices under $80 or so. At prices below that level, it actually produces three products, not two – oil, gas and junk bonds.

    I view it as a very sophisticated, very innovative gamble to pressure oil prices down and get compensation for the losses due to large amount of imported oil (the USA export mainly lightweight oil which is kind of "subprime oil" often used for dilution of heavy oil in countries such as Canada and Venezuela, but imports quality oil).

    If the hypothesis that Saudis and Russians are close to Seneca Cliff (Saudi prince recently said that Russian are just 10-15 years from it) and that best days of the US shale and Gulf of Mexico deep oil is in the past if true, then "Houston we have a problem".

    That means that in 20 years, or so the civilization might experience some kind of collapse, and the population of the Earth might start rapidly shrinking.

[Oct 25, 2018] Should we trust MMT?

Oct 25, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Tvc15 , October 23, 2018 at 2:34 pm

I apologize in advance to Lambert for adding this link to his terrific daily water cooler topics, but since Yves and NC were specifically mentioned I thought it would be interesting to share. The video is titled, "Should we trust MMT?" with Joe Bongiovanni. It is 48 minutes long and I only made it about 20 minutes after becoming too annoyed. Yves/NC are mentioned at 18 minutes and 40 seconds in. Joe says he was part of the NC commentariat for years, but was banned due to his thoughts that MMT proponents are misleading and don't "tell the real truth".

https://youtu.be/jvunhn47F20

Tvc15 , October 23, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Not being an economist or comfortable enough with my understanding of MMT to know if what he was saying had merit. Plus the style and lack of preparation from the interviewer other than wanting her expert to debunk MMT for her right wing followers.

JohnnyGL , October 23, 2018 at 6:45 pm

I'm 30 min in .skip ahead to that point to get to the meat of his discussion.

He keeps repeating that he wants monetary "reform", so that the money system 'works for the people'. But he doesn't say what that change is or why MMT gets it wrong in its understanding of how the system works.

He says "govt doesn't create money by spending". Except, yes, it does. It then chooses to offset that spending later with bond auctions.

He doesn't make a distinction between public and private debt, doesn't distinguish between currency users and issuers. No distinction between stocks and flows. No discussion of capacity constraints, inflation.

He actually fear-mongers about the debt around the 38-39 min mark. Says there's going to be tough times when we get austerity (in addition to environment collapsing).

He talks a lot about how 'the monetary system works', but it's clear to me he doesn't get how the banking system works. I don't think you can understand one without the other very well.

MMT can offer a clear explanation of why:

1) 30 yr treasury bond yields fell rapidly in the 1980s while deficits were exploding.
2) 30 yr treasury bond yields rose in 2000, hitting 7% on the 30 yr at one point, when the government was running surpluses.
3) Japan has a functional currency and economy with massive debts and deficits for many years.

Conventional economics has NO explanation for the above phenomenon.

ChristopherJ , October 23, 2018 at 7:33 pm

Cheers Johnny – he's been here before and took umbrage to the NC crew saying that taxation for revenue is obsolete. Don't make me go there.

Said NC doesn't like criticism and Yves had banned him I'd be banned too if I thought that!!

Got some trolls on Youtube worked up. I'll go and finish them off after I do a little more digging on Joe and his Kettle Pond Institute for Debt Free Money.

He had a go at Bill Mitchell on this post recently:

http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=39889

IMO, Tvc, if you want some relevant stuff, look at how Jimmy Dore (a comedian turned activist) gets his head around MMT – Stephanie Kelton was good and has been linked here and also Chris Hedges

People like JD are very influential and I can see a heightened awareness out there that we are not going to get anywhere now by being polite and civil.

That's how we got here in the first place

Plenue , October 23, 2018 at 8:18 pm

"he's been here before and took umbrage to the NC crew saying that taxation for revenue is obsolete."

It's not just obsolete as in "we don't need to do this anymore". Instead it literally doesn't happen at the federal level.

Yves Smith , October 23, 2018 at 9:36 pm

I don't remember the details, but he was banned for behavior. The problem that so often happens is that the people on losing sides of arguments here (as in not just the moderators but the commentariat does a good job of debunking their claims) is they don't give up and start going into various forms of bad faith argumentation: broken record, straw manning, or just plain getting abusive. Then they try to claim they were banned due to their position, as opposed to how they started carrying on when they couldn't make their case.

ChrisAtRU , October 23, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Joe B. is part of AMI (American Monetary Institute). This installment from NEP should sort you out.

#MMT v #AMI/#PositiveMoney

Yves Smith , October 23, 2018 at 9:43 pm

The AMI people are a real problem, and the worst is that they use enough lingo that sounds MMT-like that they confuse people about MMT. They are also presumptuous as hell. I was part of an Occupy Wall Street group, Alternative Banking. Every week, a group came and kept trying to hijack the discussion to be about Positive Money. They got air time because that's Occupy but everyone else regarded them as an annoyance.

One Sunday, the president of AMI showed up in a suit, uninvited, and expected to be able to take over the group and lecture. The rules were everyone on stack got only 2 or 3 minutes each (I forget how long) and then had to cede the floor. Since everyone else was too polite, I was the one who had to shut him up by blowing up at him and telling him he was totally out of line and had no business abusing the group's rules. That is the only time in my WASPy life I have carried on like that in a public setting. Broke up the meeting, which reconvened only after he left.

ChrisAtRU , October 24, 2018 at 12:22 pm

#Yikes I learned early on to avoid the #PositiveMoney trap, and this anecdote should convince others of the same.

skippy , October 24, 2018 at 12:41 am

All part of the broader sound money camp, not unlike Mr. Volcker's recent NYT piece.

[Oct 24, 2018] Any guess what the price of crude would be today if we had no fracking in N. America? Wild guess is all I've got, but I'm saying $142

Notable quotes:
"... US tight oil output was about 6200 kb/d in August 2018 according to the EIA, not that the DPR includes oil from the region of tight oil plays that is conventional oil, also it is a model that is not very good so I ignore the DPR ..."
Oct 24, 2018 | peakoilbarrel.com

Hickory x Ignored says: 10/22/2018 at 9:49 pm

Any guess what the price of crude would be today if we had no fracking in N. America?
Wild guess is all I've got, but I'm saying $142 (and much lower economic growth over the past 9 yrs- maybe even flat averaged for the whole period).
Any other speculations on this?
ProPoly x Ignored says: 10/23/2018 at 6:36 am
USA LTO is ~7.5 million bpd. That exceeds global spare capacity over demand as-is today by at least four times. So if the world was still trying to consume what it is today, we would be several million short and would have been short by seven figures for several years.

I think we would have found out if there really are any huge but uneconomical fields out there by now as the panic from that set in a few years ago. A shortage on that scale means arbitrary prices pending demand cap/destruction.

Dennis Coyne x Ignored says: 10/23/2018 at 10:26 am
US tight oil output was about 6200 kb/d in August 2018 according to the EIA, not that the DPR includes oil from the region of tight oil plays that is conventional oil, also it is a model that is not very good so I ignore the DPR .

WAG on oil price with zero LTO output is $120/b in 2017$, plus or minus $20/b.

Energy News x Ignored says: 10/22/2018 at 1:12 pm
Canada (offshore), Hebron is expected to produce around 150,000 barrels a day, from about 40,000 barrels a day now.

2018-10-22 (The Globe and Mail) It's been one year since ExxonMobil's long-awaited Hebron platform off the southeast coast of Newfoundland started pumping crude from its first well. It took four years, $14 billion, 132,000 cubic metres of concrete and a few thousand workers to bring it online, and so far, it's churning out about 40,000 barrels a day, with the crude bound for markets in the U.S. Gulf states, Europe and much of eastern North America. Eventually, Hebron will drill 20 to 30 wells, and is expected to produce around 150,000 barrels a day.
With an expected reserve of 700 million barrels of recoverable crude, the Hebron project is expected to operate for 30 years. As Newfoundland's fourth offshore platform, it will play a key role in the province's plan to double overall production to more than 650,000 barrels a day by 2030.
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-why-hebron-has-a-leg-up-on-albertas-oil-sands/

George Kaplan x Ignored says: 10/23/2018 at 1:28 am
Hebron is already at 70 kbpd and has been for a few months. I thinks its expected annual average for oil only is 135 and it will take a year or so to get there as the coming wells will be less productive that the first ones. In the mean time the three other platforms are in decline (Terra Nova was originally due to be taken off line next year – not sure what the latest thinking is). They dropped about 35 kbpd last year but that may accelerate as Hibernia is coming off a secondary plateau.
Energy News x Ignored says: 10/23/2018 at 6:18 am
Yes a more realistic impression of the situation than just reading the article 🙂

[Oct 24, 2018] OPEC has difficulties increasing production. Never worry, as IEA says peak oil is just a figment of our imagination

Oct 24, 2018 | peakoilbarrel.com

ProPoly x Ignored says: 10/19/2018 at 9:22 am

OPEC is, for reasons many expected (involuntary declines in Venezuela and elsewhere), having difficulty delivering on their promised output hike.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-opec-oil-exclusive/exclusive-opec-allies-struggle-to-fully-deliver-pledged-oil-output-boost-internal-document-idUSKCN1MT1G0

Guym x Ignored says: 10/19/2018 at 11:30 am
Yeah, that's going to get a lot worse. It's counting Iran production, and not what it can sell. A lot in floating storage, and being stored close to China and elsewhere. US is the only one with an increase, and that increase is on a hiatus until new pipelines come on, regardless of the EIA overstated production numbers. So, we would be short before any demand increase, or non-OPEC declines. But, never worry, as IEA says peak oil is just a figment of our imagination 🤡
Survivalist x Ignored says: 10/21/2018 at 12:40 am
"The Saudi government said it would take another month to complete a full investigation, which would be overseen by Mohammed.
Mohammad will find that Mohammad had nothing to do with the issue."

Perhaps an anti-KSA Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement will get started. Consumers and competitors might find the idea appealing.

Nice ideas for new KSA flag designs at this link here (I most like the chainsaw instead of the current sword design- reminds me of Scarface- Mo Bin Clownstick™ is about as legitimate and sophisticated as a coke runner):
https://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/10/saudis-admit-khashoggi-murder.html

The Sultan is playing his hand well (drip drip drip Turkish Int. leaks to the news with an intensifying puke factor- one recent read that Khashoggi was dismembered alive and dissolved in acid). Has Mo Bin Clownstick™ met his match?
https://lobelog.com/the-geopolitics-of-the-khashoggi-murder/

Watcher x Ignored says: 10/21/2018 at 2:51 am
I can't help but wonder about all those guys he threw into a hotel prison and shook down for billions of dollars. They can afford a lot of media with the money they had remaining.
Survivalist x Ignored says: 10/21/2018 at 5:45 pm
The House of Saud appears to be fragmenting quite severely.
Saudi Arabia's missing princes
https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-40926963
Energy News x Ignored says: 10/20/2018 at 2:22 pm
The last article he wrote before his death

Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression
By Jamal Khashoggi – October 17, 2018 – Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/opinions/global-opinions/jamal-khashoggi-what-the-arab-world-needs-most-is-free-expression/2018/10/17/adfc8c44-d21d-11e8-8c22-fa2ef74bd6d6_story.html ?

Lightsout x Ignored says: 10/21/2018 at 3:43 am
China demand for diesel only appears to be heading in one direction. Should please Watcher!

https://mobile.twitter.com/PDChina/status/1053843063003525120?p=v

Dennis Coyne x Ignored says: 10/22/2018 at 1:59 pm
Shallow Sand,

No, not familiar, did you mean article linked below?

http://ieefa.org/ieefa-u-s-more-red-flags-on-fracking-focused-companies/

Link to full report

http://ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Red-Flags-on-U.S.-Fracking_October-2018.pdf

From the report:
The $3.9 billion in negative cash flows in the first two quarters of 2018 represented an improvement over the first halves of 2016 and 2017, when red ink totaled $11 billion and $7.2 billion, respectively.

These 33 companies have had positive net income since 2017Q4 and long term debt reached its peak for these companies in 2018Q1 at 138 billion with a gradual decrease to 126 billion in 2018Q2. As prices continue to rise debt will gradually be paid down,

When I look at that report I see an improving situation for these companies. I would prefer it if they broke the data into two groups, oil focused and natural gas focused companies. There has been a better recovery in oil prices than natural gas prices though it looks like we might see a spike in natural gas prices if we have a colder than normal winter.

Energy News x Ignored says: 10/22/2018 at 5:27 am
India's crude oil imports, the average for the first 9 months of 2018 is up +279 kb/day compared to first 9 months of 2017
Seasonal chart: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DqGtWDoX4AAYDwJ.jpg
India's crude oil refinery processing, the average for the first 9 months of 2018 is up +231 kb/day compared to first 9 months of 2017
Seasonal chart: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DqGttFOW4AAr0Uy.jpg
Energy News x Ignored says: 10/22/2018 at 5:57 am
Saudi Arabia spare capacity, there seems to be a consensus that Saudi Arabia can produce 11 million b/day. I guess that producing above that level would be subject to maintenance, outages and natural decline? (Also I'm guessing that the Khurais field expansion might not be ready until later in 2019?)

2018-10-22 Saudi Arabia Energy Minister Al Falih speaks to TASS
Saudi Arabia now in October is producing 10.7 million b/day.
And is likely to go up, in the near future, to 11 million b/day on a steady basis.
Our total production capacity is currently 12 million b/day.
And that could be increased to 13 million b/day with an investment of $20 to $30 billion.
Interview with TASS: http://tass.com/economy/1026924

Reuters summary of interview
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-oil-opec-saudi/saudi-arabia-has-no-intention-of-1973-oil-embargo-replay-tass-idUSKCN1MW0JU

Energy News x Ignored says: 10/22/2018 at 10:53 am
Exxon in Brazil holds potential 41 billion barrels based on preliminary studies

2018-10-18 RIO DE JANEIRO and HOUSTON (Bloomberg) -- In a single year, Exxon Mobil has gone from being a tiny bit player in Brazil to the second-largest holder of oil exploration acreage, trailing only state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro.
The last 24 concessions the U.S. giant bought with its partners may hold 41 billion bbl, based on preliminary studies, according to Eliane Petersohn, a superintendent at Brazil's National Petroleum Agency, or ANP. While the existence of the oil still needs to be confirmed, along with whether its extraction will be cost-effective, it's a huge figure -- almost double Exxon's current reserves.
The Irving, Texas-based company is betting big in particular on Brazil's offshore, where a single block is currently producing more than all of Colombia and profitability compares to the best U.S. tight oil, according to Decio Oddone, the head of ANP.
It should take six to eight years for oil to start flowing if economically viable deposits are discovered, according to ANP.
https://www.worldoil.com/news/2018/10/18/exxon-makes-major-bet-on-brazil-as-petrobras-eases-its-grip

GuyM x Ignored says: 10/22/2018 at 12:41 pm
Other than the plethora of constraints in the Permian, I think this is going to develop into a bigger obstacle of shale growth for awhile. Especially, for those mostly Permian players for the next four quarters.
https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/US-Shale-Has-A-Glaring-Problem.html

Almost 30% of gross production may go to service debt.
https://www.oilystuffblog.com/single-post/2018/10/19/Deep-The-Denial

I think huge shale growth is possible, but only way north of $100 a barrel. At the current price, it is close to max.

[Oct 09, 2018] The Continuing Dominance of the Dollar by Josepth Joyce

Notable quotes:
"... Financial Times ..."
"... Global Financial Stability ..."
Oct 09, 2018 | angrybearblog.com

Why does the dollar continue to possess a hegemonic status a decade after the crisis that seemed to signal an end to U.S.-U.K. dominated finance? Gillian Tett of the Financial Times offers several reasons. The first is the global reach of U.S. based banks. U.S. banks are seen as stable, particularly when compared to European banks. Any listing of the largest international banks will be dominated by Chinese banks, and these institutions have expanded their international business . But the Chinese banks will conduct business in dollars when necessary. Tett's second reason is the relative strength of the U.S. economy, which grew at a 4.1% pace in the second quarter. The third reason is the liquidity and credibility of U.S. financial markets, which are superior to those of any rivals.

The U.S. benefits from its financial dominance in several ways. Jeff Sachs of Columbia University points out that the cost of financing government deficits is lower due to the acceptance of U.S. Treasury securities as "riskless assets." U.S. banks and other institutions earn profits on their foreign operations. In addition, the use of our banking network for international transactions provides the U.S. government with a powerful foreign policy tool in the form of sanctions that exclude foreign individuals, firms or governments from this network .

There are risks to the system with this dependence. As U.S. interest rates continue to rise, loans that seemed reasonable before now become harder to finance. The burden of dollar-denominated debt also increases as the dollar appreciates. These developments exacerbate the repercussions of policy mistakes in Argentina and Turkey, but also affect other countries as well.

The IMF in its latest Global Financial Stability (see also here ) identifies another potential destabilizing feature of the current system. The IMF reports that the U.S. dollar balance sheets of non-U.S. banks show a reliance on short-term or wholesale funding. This reliance leaves the banks vulnerable to a liquidity freeze. The IMF is particularly concerned about the use of foreign exchange swaps, as swap markets can be quite volatile. While central banks have stablished their own network of swap lines , these have been criticized .

The status of the dollar as the primary international currency is not welcomed by foreign governments. The Russian government, for example, is seeking to use other currencies for its international commerce. China and Turkey have offered some support, but China is invested in promoting the use of its own currency. In addition, Russia's dependence on its oil exports will keep it tied to the dollar.

But interest in formulating a new international payments system has now spread outside of Russia and China. Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called for the establishment of "U.S. independent payment channels" that would allow European firms to continue to deal with Iran despite the U.S. sanctions on that country. Chinese electronic payments systems are being used in Europe and the U.S. The dollar may not be replaced, but it may have to share its role as an international currency with other forms of payment if foreign nations calculate that the benefits of a new system outweigh its cost. Until now that calculation has always favored the dollar, but the reassessment of globalization initiated by the Trump administration may have lead to unexpected consequences.

[Oct 09, 2018] The Next Pillar Of Oil Demand Growth

Oct 09, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Nick Cunningham via Oilprice.com,

The debate about peak oil demand always tends to focus on how quickly electric vehicles will replace the internal-combustion engine , especially as EV sales are accelerating. However, the petrochemical sector will be much more difficult to dislodge , and with alternatives far behind, petrochemicals will account for an increasing share of crude oil demand growth in the years ahead.

[Oct 08, 2018] The city of Los Angeles has on its ballot for the November elections a measure to create a city-owned bank.

Oct 08, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

Grieved , Oct 7, 2018 4:13:53 PM | link

Our commenter psychohistorian and others interested in public banking, and the concept of money as a public utility rather than a private (and profit-gouging) instrument, may want to watch the latest Keiser Report, which has an interview with Ellen Brown.

Brown relates that the city of Los Angeles has on its ballot for the November elections a measure to create a city-owned bank. This was put on the ballot by the city council itself, prompted by a groundswell of support coming from constituents.

The rapid-fire interview doesn't go deeply into the politics behind this citizen initiative, but it seems like a happy story of young millennials looking for an alternative to Wall Street banks, and learning from Brown and others about the strong value of the public bank.

An interesting turn of events. The interview starts in the second half of the show at 14:40:

Episode 1289 Keiser Report

[Oct 02, 2018] Randy Wray Modern Monetary Theory How I Came to MMT and What I Include in MMT naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... By L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at Bard College. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... Treatise on Money ..."
"... State Theory of Money ..."
"... Money and Credit in Capitalist Economies ..."
"... Understanding Modern Money ..."
"... Modern Money Theory ..."
"... Payback: Debt and the shadow side of wealth ..."
"... Reclaiming the State ..."
"... Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea ..."
"... permanent Zirp (zero interest rate policy) is probably a better policy since it reduces the compounding of debt and the tendency for the rentier class to take over more of the economy. ..."
"... that one of the consequences of the protracted super-low interest rate regime of the post crisis era was to create a world of hurt for savers, particularly long-term savers like pension funds, life insurers and retirees. ..."
"... income inequality ..."
"... even after paying interest ..."
"... It seems to me that the US macroeconomic policy has been operating under MMT at least since FDR (see for example Beardsley Ruml from 1945). ..."
"... After learning MMT I've occasionally thought I should get a refund for the two economics degree's I originally received. ..."
"... See: https://mythfighter.com/2018/08/27/ten-answers-that-are-contrary-to-popular-wisdom/ ..."
"... There is no avoiding bad government. ..."
"... "Taxes or other obligations (fees, fines, tribute, tithes) drive the currency." ..."
"... "JG is a critical component of MMT. It anchors the currency and ensures that achieving full employment will enhance both price and financial stability." ..."
Oct 02, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Randy Wray: Modern Monetary Theory – How I Came to MMT and What I Include in MMT Posted on October 2, 2018 by Yves Smith By L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at Bard College. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

I was asked to give a short presentation at the MMT conference. What follows is the text version of my remarks, some of which I had to skip over in the interests of time. Many readers might want to skip to the bullet points near the end, which summarize what I include in MMT.

I'd also like to quickly respond to some comments that were made at the very last session of the conference -- having to do with "approachability" of the "original" creators of MMT. Like Bill Mitchell, I am uncomfortable with any discussion of "rockstars" or "heroes". I find this quite embarrassing. As Bill said, we're just doing our job. We are happy (or, more accurately pleasantly surprised) that so many people have found our work interesting and useful. I'm happy (even if uncomfortable) to sign books and to answer questions at such events. I don't mind emailed questions, however please understand that I receive hundreds of emails every day, and the vast majority of the questions I get have been answered hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of times by the developers of MMT. A quick reading of my Primer or search of NEP (and Bill's blog and Warren's blogs) will reveal answers to most questions. So please do some homework first. I receive a lot of "questions" that are really just a thinly disguised pretense to argue with MMT -- I don't have much patience with those. Almost every day I also receive a 2000+ word email laying out the writer's original thesis on how the economy works and asking me to defend MMT against that alternative vision. I am not going to engage in a debate via email. If you have an alternative, gather together a small group and work for 25 years to produce scholarly articles, popular blogs, and media attention -- as we have done for MMT -- and then I'll pay attention. That said, here you go: wrayr@umkc.edu .

******************************************************************************

As an undergraduate I studied psychology and social sciences -- but no economics, which probably gave me an advantage when I finally did come to economics. I began my economics career in my late 20's studying mostly Institutionalist and Marxist approaches while working for the local government in Sacramento. However, I did carefully read Keynes's General Theory at Sacramento State and one of my professors -- John Henry -- pushed me to go to St. Louis to study with Hyman Minsky, the greatest Post Keynesian economist.

I wrote my dissertation in Bologna under Minsky's direction, focusing on private banking and the rise of what we called "nonbank banks" and "off-balance sheet operations" (now called shadow banking). While in Bologna, I met Otto Steiger -- who had an alternative to the barter story of money that was based on his theory of property. I found it intriguing because it was consistent with some of Keynes's Treatise on Money that I was reading at the time. Also, I had found Knapp's State Theory of Money -- cited in both Steiger and Keynes–so I speculated on money's origins (in spite of Minsky's warning that he didn't want me to write Genesis ) and the role of the state in my dissertation that became a book in 1990 -- Money and Credit in Capitalist Economies -- that helped to develop the Post Keynesian endogenous money approach.

What was lacking in that literature was an adequate treatment of the role of the state–which played a passive role -- supplying reserves as demanded by private bankers -- that is the Post Keynesian accommodationist or Horzontalist approach. There was no discussion of the relation of money to fiscal policy at that time. As I continued to read about the history of money, I became more convinced that we need to put the state at the center. Fortunately I ran into two people that helped me to see how to do it.

First there was Warren Mosler, who I met online in the PKT discussion group; he insisted on viewing money as a tax-driven government monopoly. Second, I met Michael Hudson at a seminar at the Levy Institute, who provided the key to help unlock what Keynes had called his "Babylonian Madness" period -- when he was driven crazy trying to understand early money. Hudson argued that money was an invention of the authorities used for accounting purposes. So over the next decade I worked with a handful of people to put the state into monetary theory.

As we all know, the mainstream wants a small government, with a central bank that follows a rule (initially, a money growth rate but now some version of inflation targeting). The fiscal branch of government is treated like a household that faces a budget constraint. But this conflicts with Institutionalist theory as well as Keynes's own theory. As the great Institutionalist Fagg Foster -- who preceded me at the University of Denver–put it: whatever is technically feasible is financially feasible. How can we square that with the belief that sovereign government is financially constrained? And if private banks can create money endogenously -- without limit -- why is government constrained?

My second book, in 1998, provided a different view of sovereign spending. I also revisited the origins of money. By this time I had discovered the two best articles ever written on the nature of money -- by Mitchell Innes. Like Warren, Innes insisted that the dollar's value is derived from the tax that drives it. And he argued this has always been the case. This was also consistent with what Keynes claimed in the Treatise, where he said that money has been a state money for the past four thousand years, at least. I called this "modern money" with intentional irony -- and titled my 1998 book Understanding Modern Money as an inside joke. It only applies to the past 4000 years.

Surprisingly, this work was more controversial than the earlier endogenous money research. In my view it was a natural extension -- or more correctly, it was the prerequisite to a study of privately created money. You need the state's money before you can have private money. Eventually our work found acceptance outside economics -- especially in law schools, among historians, and with anthropologists.

For the most part, our fellow economists, including the heterodox ones, attacked us as crazy.

I benefited greatly by participating in law school seminars (in Tel Aviv, Cambridge, and Harvard) on the legal history of money -- that is where I met Chris Desan and later Farley Grubb, and eventually Rohan Grey. Those who knew the legal history of money had no problem in adopting MMT view -- unlike economists.

I remember one of the Harvard seminars when a prominent Post Keynesian monetary theorist tried to argue against the taxes drive money view. He said he never thinks about taxes when he accepts money -- he accepts currency because he believes he can fob it off on Buffy Sue. The audience full of legal historians broke out in an explosion of laughter -- yelling "it's the taxes, stupid". All he could do in response was to mumble that he might have to think more about it.

Another prominent Post Keynesian claimed we had two things wrong. First, government debt isn't special -- debt is debt. Second, he argued we don't need double entry book-keeping -- his model has only single entry book-keeping. Years later he agreed that private debt is more dangerous than sovereign debt, and he's finally learned double-entry accounting. But of course whenever you are accounting for money you have to use quadruple entry book-keeping. Maybe in another dozen years he'll figure that out.

As a student I had read a lot of anthropology -- as most Institutionalists do. So I knew that money could not have come out of tribal economies based on barter exchange. As you all know, David Graeber's book insisted that anthropologists have never found any evidence of barter-based markets. Money preceded market exchange.

Studying history also confirmed our story, but you have to carefully read between the lines. Most historians adopt monetarism because the only economics they know is Friedman–who claims that money causes inflation. Almost all of them also adopt a commodity money view -- gold was good money and fiat paper money causes inflation. If you ignore those biases, you can learn a lot about the nature of money from historians.

Farley Grubb -- the foremost authority on Colonial currency -- proved that the American colonists understood perfectly well that taxes drive money. Every Act that authorized the issue of paper money imposed a Redemption Tax. The colonies burned all their tax revenue. Again, history shows that this has always been true. All money must be redeemed -- that is, accepted by its issuer in payment. As Innes said, that is the fundamental nature of credit. It is written right there in the early acts by the American colonies. Even a gold coin is the issuer's IOU, redeemed in payment of taxes. Once you understand that, you understand the nature of money.

So we were winning the academic debates, across a variety of disciplines. But we had a hard time making progress in economics or in policy circles. Bill, Warren, Mat Forstater and I used to meet up every year or so to count the number of economists who understood what we were talking about. It took over decade before we got up to a dozen. I can remember telling Pavlina Tcherneva back around 2005 that I was about ready to give it up.

But in 2007, Warren, Bill and I met to discuss writing an MMT textbook. Bill and I knew the odds were against us -- it would be for a small market, consisting mostly of our former students. Still, we decided to go for it. Here we are -- another dozen years later -- and the textbook is going to be published. MMT is everywhere. It was even featured in a New Yorker crossword puzzle in August. You cannot get more mainstream than that.

We originally titled our textbook Modern Money Theory , but recently decided to just call it Macroeconomics . There's no need to modify that with a subtitle. What we do is Macroeconomics. There is no coherent alternative to MMT.

A couple of years ago Charles Goodhart told me: "You won. Declare victory but be magnanimous about it." After so many years of fighting, both of those are hard to do. We won. Be nice.

Let me finish with 10 bullet points of what I include in MMT:

1. What is money: An IOU denominated in a socially sanctioned money of account. In almost all known cases, it is the authority -- the state -- that chooses the money of account. This comes from Knapp, Innes, Keynes, Geoff Ingham, and Minsky.

2. Taxes or other obligations (fees, fines, tribute, tithes) drive the currency. The ability to impose such obligations is an important aspect of sovereignty; today states alone monopolize this power. This comes from Knapp, Innes, Minsky, and Mosler.

3. Anyone can issue money; the problem is to get it accepted. Anyone can write an IOU denominated in the recognized money of account; but acceptance can be hard to get unless you have the state backing you up. This is Minsky.

4. The word "redemption" is used in two ways -- accepting your own IOUs in payment and promising to convert your IOUs to something else (such as gold, foreign currency, or the state's IOUs).

The first is fundamental and true of all IOUs. All our gold bugs mistakenly focus on the second meaning -- which does not apply to the currencies issued by most modern nations, and indeed does not apply to most of the currencies issued throughout history. This comes from Innes and Knapp, and is reinforced by Hudson's and Grubb's work, as well as by Margaret Atwood's great book: Payback: Debt and the shadow side of wealth .

5. Sovereign debt is different. There is no chance of involuntary default so long as the state only promises to accept its currency in payment. It could voluntarily repudiate its debt, but this is rare and has not been done by any modern sovereign nation.

6. Functional Finance: finance should be "functional" (to achieve the public purpose), not "sound" (to achieve some arbitrary "balance" between spending and revenues). Most importantly, monetary and fiscal policy should be formulated to achieve full employment with price stability. This is credited to Abba Lerner, who was introduced into MMT by Mat Forstater.

In its original formulation it is too simplistic, summarized as two principles: increase government spending (or reduce taxes) and increase the money supply if there is unemployment (do the reverse if there is inflation). The first of these is fiscal policy and the second is monetary policy. A steering wheel metaphor is often invoked, using policy to keep the economy on course. A modern economy is far too complex to steer as if you were driving a car. If unemployment exists it is not enough to say that you can just reduce the interest rate, raise government spending, or reduce taxes. The first might even increase unemployment. The second two could cause unacceptable inflation, increase inequality, or induce financial instability long before they solved the unemployment problem. I agree that government can always afford to spend more. But the spending has to be carefully targeted to achieve the desired result. I'd credit all my Institutionalist influences for that, including Minsky.

7. For that reason, the JG is a critical component of MMT. It anchors the currency and ensures that achieving full employment will enhance both price and financial stability. This comes from Minsky's earliest work on the ELR, from Bill Mitchell's work on bufferstocks and Warren Mosler's work on monopoly price setting.

8. And also for that reason, we need Minsky's analysis of financial instability. Here I don't really mean the financial instability hypothesis. I mean his whole body of work and especially the research line that began with his dissertation written under Schumpeter up through his work on Money Manager Capitalism at the Levy Institute before he died.

9. The government's debt is our financial asset. This follows from the sectoral balances approach of Wynne Godley. We have to get our macro accounting correct. Minsky always used to tell students: go home and do the balances sheets because what you are saying is nonsense. Fortunately, I had learned T-accounts from John Ranlett in Sacramento (who also taught Stephanie Kelton from his own, great, money and banking textbook -- it is all there, including the impact of budget deficits on bank reserves). Godley taught us about stock-flow consistency and he insisted that all mainstream macroeconomics is incoherent.

10. Rejection of the typical view of the central bank as independent and potent. Monetary policy is weak and its impact is at best uncertain -- it might even be mistaking the brake pedal for the gas pedal. The central bank is the government's bank so can never be independent. Its main independence is limited to setting the overnight rate target, and it is probably a mistake to let it do even that. Permanent Zirp (zero interest rate policy) is probably a better policy since it reduces the compounding of debt and the tendency for the rentier class to take over more of the economy. I credit Keynes, Minsky, Hudson, Mosler, Eric Tymoigne, and Scott Fullwiler for much of the work on this.

That is my short list of what MMT ought to include. Some of these traditions have a very long history in economics. Some were long lost until we brought them back into discussion. We've integrated them into a coherent approach to Macro. In my view, none of these can be dropped if you want a macroeconomics that is applicable to the modern economy. There are many other issues that can be (often are) included, most importantly environmental concerns and inequality, gender and race/ethnicity. I have no problem with that.

Hilary Barnes , October 2, 2018 at 3:01 am

Out of my depth: "7. For that reason, the JG is a critical component of MMT." The JG?

BillC , October 2, 2018 at 3:07 am

Job guarantee (especially as distinguished from a basic income guarantee). See here for fairly recent coverage by Lambert.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 6:16 am

I had exactly the same question. Thank you.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:04 am

A JG is to discontinue NAIRU or structural under-unemployment with attendant monetarist/quasi inflation views. Something MMT has be at pains to point out wrt fighting a nonexistent occurrence due to extended deflationary period.

dcrane , October 2, 2018 at 5:31 am

The paragraph on "double entry book-keeping" is also a bit too inside-baseball. Otherwise I enjoyed the essay.

PlutoniumKun , October 2, 2018 at 6:11 am

Yup, he lost me on quadruple entry book-keeping, thats the first time I ever heard of that concept.

Quanka , October 2, 2018 at 8:02 am

Its double entry accounting counting both sides of the equation. Fed deposits money into bank requires 4 entries, a double entry for the Fed and for the bank. Typical double entry accounting only looks at the books of 1 entity at a time. Quadruple Entry accounting makes the connection between the government monetary policy and private business accounting. I'm not an accountant, I may have butchered that.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:15 pm

that's pretty much it

Peter Pan , October 2, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Does Steve Keen's "Minsky" program utilize quadruple-entry bookkeeping?

Todde , October 2, 2018 at 1:47 pm

Double entry

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Yes it does. Double entry for each party to the transaction.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:29 pm

you are right – it does give each parties transactions.

horostam , October 2, 2018 at 8:43 am

think about banks and reserves, your money is on the bank's liability side (and your asset), while the reserves are on the bank's asset side (and gov't or fed's liability.)

i think its the reserves that quadruple it, reserves are confusing because when you move $5 from a bank account to buy ice cream its not just one copy of the $5 that moves between checking accounts, there is another $5 that moves "under the hood" so to speak in reserve world

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Very briefly, double entry bookkeeping keeps track of how money comes in/out, and where it came from/went. Cash is the determining item (although there may be a few removes). Hence, say I buy a $20 dollar manicure from you. I record my purchase as "Debit (increase) expense: manicure $20, credit (decrease) cash, $20". Bonus! If my bookkeeping is correct, my debits and credits are equal and if I add them up (credits are minus and debits are plus) the total is zero – my books "balance". So, double-entry bookkeeping is also a hash-total check on my accounting accuracy. But I digress.

On your books, the entry would be "Debit (increase) cash $20, credit (decrease) sales, $20".

So, your double-entry book plus my double-entry books would be quadruple-entry accounting.

JCC , October 2, 2018 at 9:40 am

#7 was my immediate stopper, too. It drives me nuts when people introduce 2-3-4 letter acronyms with no explanation (I work for the DoD and I'm surrounded by these "code words". I rarely know what people are talking about and when I ask, the people talking rarely know what these TLAs – T hree L etter A cronyms – stand for either!).

Next question regarding #7: What is ELR?

Other than #7, I really appreciate this article. NC teaches and/or clarifies on a daily basis.

Mel , October 2, 2018 at 10:11 am

Employer of Last Resort? (Wikipedia)

Matthew Platte , October 2, 2018 at 11:29 am

DoD?

JCC , October 2, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Guilty as charged :-)

For non-US readers, DoD is D epartment o f D efense, the undisputed-by-many home of TLAs.

lyman alpha blob , October 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Ha! I really love this blog.

somecallmetim , October 2, 2018 at 12:51 pm

NC?

;)

Bill C , October 2, 2018 at 3:02 am

Thank you for this post!

This quick, entertaining read is IMHO nothing less than a "Rosetta Stone" that can bring non-specialists to understand MMT: not just how , but why it differs from now-conventional neoliberal economics. I hope it finds a wide readership and that its many references to MMT's antecedents inspire serious study by the unconvinced (and I hope they don't take Wray's invitation to skip the 10 bullet points).

This piece is a fine demonstration of why I've missed Wray as he seemed to withdraw from public discourse for the last few years.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:14 pm

No no! He said "Many readers might want to skip to the bullet points near the end, which summarize what I include in MMT."

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 4:55 am

Thank you! The (broad) analogies with my own experience are there. I had a decidedly "mainstream" macro education at Cambridge (UK); though many of the "old school" professors/college Fellows who, although not MMT people as we'd currently understand (or weren't at *that* stage – Godley lectured a module I took but this was in the early 1990s) were still around, in hindsight the "university syllabus" (i.e. what you needed to regurgitate to pass exams) had already steered towards neoliberalism. I never really understood why I never "got" macro and it was consistently my weakest subject.

It was later, having worked in the City of London, learned accountancy in my actuarial training, and then most crucially starting reading blogs from people who went on to become MMT leading lights, that I realised the problem wasn't ME, it was the subject matter. So I had to painfully unlearn much of what I was taught and begin the difficult process of getting my head around a profoundly different paradigm. I still hesitate to argue the MMT case to friends, since I don't usually have to hand the "quick snappy one liners" that would torpedo their old discredited understanding.

I'm still profoundly grateful for the "old school" Cambridge College Fellows who were obviously being sidelined by the University and who taught me stuff like the Marxist/Lerner critiques, British economic history, political economy of the system etc. Indeed whilst I had "official" tutorials with a finance guy who practically came whenever Black-Scholes etc was being discussed, an old schooler was simultaneously predicting that it would blow the world economy up at some point (and of course he was in the main , correct). I still had to fill in some gaps in my knowledge (anthropology was not a module, though Marxist economics was), with hindsight I appreciate so much more of what the "old schoolers" said on the sly during quiet points in tutorials – Godley being one, although he wasn't ready at that time to release the work he subsequently published and was so revolutionary. Having peers educated elsewhere during my Masters and PhD who knew nothing of the subjects that – whilst certainly not the "key guide" to "proper macro" described in the article – began to horrify me later in my career.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 5:07 am

Thanks for your efforts Mr Wray, your provide a rich resource to familiarize most and in some cases refute doctrinaire attitudes. Kudos.

BTW completely agree with the perspective against PR marketing of the topic or individuals wrt MMT or PK.

Lambert Strether , October 2, 2018 at 5:23 am

This is really great. Thanks a ton, as Yves would say.

I know I have used to "rock star" metaphor on occasion, so let me explain that to me what is important in excellent (i.e., live) rock and roll is improvisational interplay among the group members -- the dozen or so who understood MMT in the beginning, in this case -- who know the tune, know each other, and yet manage to make the song a little different each time. It's really spectacular to see in action. Nothing to do with spotlights, or celebrity worship, or fandom!

DavidEG , October 2, 2018 at 5:54 am

I'm no MMT expert, but I think this article does a good job of juxtaposing MMT with classic (non-advanced) macroeconomics. I quote:

In the language of Tinbergen (1952), the debate between MMT and mainstream macro can be thought of as a debate over which instrument should be assigned to which target. The consensus assignment is that the interest rate, under the control of an independent central bank, should be assigned to the output gap target, while the fiscal position, under control of the elected budget authorities, should be assigned to the debt sustainability target. [ ] The functional finance assignment is the reverse -- the fiscal balance under the budget authorities is assigned to the output target, while any concerns about debt sustainability are the responsibility of the monetary authority.

What about interest rate fixing? The central bank would remain in charge of that, but in an MMT context this instrument would lose most of its relevance:

[W]hile a simple swapping of instruments and targets is one way to think about functional finance, this does not describe the usual MMT view of how the policy interest rate should be set. What is generally called for, rather, is that the interest rate be permanently kept at a very low level, perhaps zero. In an orthodox policy framework, of course, this would create the risk of runaway inflation; but keep in mind that in the functional framework, the fiscal balance is set to whatever level is consistent with price stability.

It may be a partial reconstruction of MMT, but to me this seems to be a neat way to present MMT to most people. Saying that taxes are there just to remove money from the economy or to provide incentives is a rather extreme statement that is bound to elicit some fierce opposition.

Having said that, I've never seen anyone address what I think are two issues to MMT: how to make sure that the power to create money is not exploited by a political body in order to achieve consensus, and how to assure that the idea of unlimited monetary resources do not lead to misallocation and inefficiencies (the bloated, awash-with-money US military industry would probably be a good example).

larry , October 2, 2018 at 6:14 am

The best comparison of MMT with neoliberal neoclassical economics, in my view, is Bill Mitchell's blog post, "How to Discuss Modern Monetary Theory" ( http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=25961 ). I especially recommend the table near the end as a terrific summary of the differences between the mainstream narrative and MMT.

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 8:53 am

Thanks! I have enormous respect for Mitchell, given the quantity and quality of his blogging. However, my only nitpick is that a lot of his blog entries are quite long and "not easily digestible". I have long thought that one of those clever people who can do those 3 minute rapid animation vids we see on youtube is needed to "do a Lakoff" and change the metaphors/language. But this post of Mitchell (which I missed, since I don't read all his stuff) is, IMHO, his best at "re-orienting us".

kgw , October 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

I get this "http's server IP address could not be found." I'll try, gasp, googling it

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 11:24 am

FWIW I mucked around with the link in Firefox (although I typically use Opera, which gave me that same error) and could read it.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 6:34 am

Saying that taxes are there just to remove money from the economy or to provide incentives is a rather extreme statement that is bound to elicit some fierce opposition.

Yes this is a frightening statement. The power to tax is the power to destroy. If this is a foundation point of the proposal then

Having said that, I've never seen anyone address what I think are two issues to MMT: how to make sure that the power to create money is not exploited by a political body in order to achieve consensus, and how to assure that the idea of unlimited monetary resources do not lead to misallocation and inefficiencies (the bloated, awash-with-money US military industry would probably be a good example).

Bingo. My thoughts exactly. Too much power in the hands of the few. Easy to slide into Orwell's Animal Farm – where some people are more equal than others.

MMT is based upon very good intentions but, in my view, there is a moral rot at the root of the US of A's problems, not sure this can be solved by monetary policy and more centralized control.

And the JG? Once the government starts to permanently guarantee jobs

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:12 am

I suggest you delve into what is proposed by the MMT – PK camp wrt a JG because its not centralized in the manner you suggest. It would be more regional and hopefully administrated via social democratic means e.g. the totalitarian aspect is moot.

I think its incumbent on commenters to do at least a cursory examination before heading off on some deductive rationalizations, which might have undertones of some book they read e.g. environmental bias.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 7:38 am

Skippy, I read the article, plus the links, including those links of the comments. I will admit that I am a little more right of center in my views than many on the website.

The idea is interesting, but the administration of such a system would require rewriting the US Constitution, or an Amendment to it if one thinks the process through, would it not? I think of the Amendment required to create the Federal Reserve System when I say this.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:45 am

I think WWII is instructive here.

Clive , October 2, 2018 at 7:58 am

One thing I really don't like at all -- and I've crossed swords with many over this -- is that we do tend to take (not just in the US, this is prevalent in far too many places) things like the constitution, or cultural norms, or traditions or other variants of "that's the way we've always done this" and elevate them to a level of sacrosanctity.

Not for one moment am I suggesting that we should ever rush into tweaking such devices lightly nor without a great deal of analysis and introspective consultations.

Constitutions get amended all the time. The Republic of Ireland changed its to renounce a territorial claim on Northern Ireland. The U.K. created a right for Scotland to secede from the Union. There's even a country in Europe voting whether to formally change its name right now. Britain "gave up" its empire territories (not, I would add speedily, without a lot of prodding, but still, we got there in the end). All of which were, at one time or another, "unthinkable". Even the US, perhaps the most inherently resistant to change country when it thinks it's being "forced" to do so, begrudgingly acknowledged Cuba.

If something is necessary, it should be done.

vlade , October 2, 2018 at 8:06 am

Human laws (any and all, for simplicity I include culture, customs etc.. here) are not laws of nature.

They change over time to survive. The easy way, or the hard way.

Or they don't survive at all, that's an option too.

witters , October 2, 2018 at 9:09 am

"Human laws (any and all, for simplicity I include culture, customs etc.. here) are not laws of nature."

Wave Function Collapse?

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:14 am

Why would a jobs guarantee require a constitutional amendment? The federal government creates jobs all the time, with certain defined benefits. This would merely expand upon that, to potentially include anyone who wants a job.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 8:26 am

I was thinking of implementing the whole concept of MMT, of which the JG is but one part, with this statement. Perhaps I did not make that clear.

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:36 am

There are a couple different aspects of this that people are getting mixed together, I think. The core of MMT is not a proposal for government to implement. Rather, it is simply a description of how sovereign currencies actually operate, as opposed by mainstream economics, which has failed in this regard. In other words, we don't need any new laws to implement MMT – we need a paradigm shift.

The Jobs Guarantee is a policy proposal that flows from this different paradigm.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm

It has been stated many times that it is to inform policy wrt to potential and not some booming voice from above dictating from some ridged ideology.

Persoanly as a capitalist I can't phantom why anyone would want structural under – unemployment. Seems like driving around with the hand brake on and then wondering why performance is restricted or parts wear out early.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Power.

I want 12 people lined up at the door to take your job, and then you will know where the power lies

Carla , October 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

Re-writing the U.S. Constitution is something people think about and talk about all the time, FYI.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm

the Amendment required to create the Federal Reserve System

What Amendment was that?

And since the Constitution gives Congress the power to coin money I am unaware of any reason an amendment would be necessary.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Thinking of the Federal Reserve Act being enabled by the Federal Income Tax of the 16th Amendment.

Using Federal taxes to fund the JG; I do not think that this aspect of it (and others) would survive a Constitutional challenge. Therefore ultimately an Amendment might be needed.

Then again I may be wrong. Technically Obamacare should have been implemented by an Amendment were strict Constitutional law applied.

Rights to health care and jobs are not enumerated in either the Constitution or Bill of Rights, as far as I am aware.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 4:05 pm

16th Amendment had nothing to do with the Federal Reserve.

And I think you are confusing 'you must buy health insurance or face a tax", with "You have a right to have healthcare".

If the government forced you to work, you may have a case.

There are 3 things the feds can spend federal funds on, pay debt, provide for the common defense, and the general welfare clause.

The General Welfare clause has been interpreted very widely in regards to Government spending.

New Deal, Social Security, Medicare/aid all survived court challenges, or if they lost, they lost on regulatory issues, and not 'spending' issues

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 7:28 am

Not opposed to some of the principles of MMT, just don't understand, in this modern age where effectively all currency is electronic digits in a banking computer system, the issue of a currency must be tied to taxes. In years past, where currency was printed and in one's pocket, or stuffed under a mattress, or couriered by stagecoach, then yes – taxes would be needed. But today can we not just print (electronically) the cash needed for government operations each year based upon a fixed percentage of private sector GDP? Why therefore do we need government debt? Why do we need an income tax?

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:37 am

A. GDP is non distributional.

B. Had taxation not been promoted as theft in some camps Volcker would have not had to jack IR to such a upper bound during the Vietnam war.

C. Government Debt allocated to socially productive activities is a long term asset with distributional income vectors.

D. Ask the Greeks.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 7:48 am

Skippy, I have lived and worked in countries without income tax (but instead indirect tax) and where government operating revenue was based upon a percentage of projected national revenue. I have been involved in the administration of such budgets.

I am in favor of government spending, or perhaps more accurately termed investing, public money on long-term, economically beneficial projects. But this is not happening. The reality is that government priorities can easily be hijacked by political interests, as we currently witness.

larry , October 2, 2018 at 7:58 am

While I agree that political highjacking is possible and must be dealt with, this is not strictly speaking part of an economic theory, which is what MMT is. While MMT authors may take political positions, the theory itself is politically neutral.

Income taxes, tithes, or any other kind of driver is what drives the monetary circuit. Consider it from first principles. You have just set up a new government with a new currency where this government is the monopoly issuer. No one else has any money yet. So, the government must be the first spender. However, how is this nascent government going to motivate anyone to use this new currency? Via taxation, or like means, that can only be met by using the national currency, whatever form that currency may take, marks on a stick, paper, an entry in a ledger, or the like.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 8:34 am

Thank you for this explanation. I understand that, for example, this is why the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, I believe, created the Federal Reserve and Federal Income Tax at the same time.

But the US economy functioned adequately, survived a civil war, numerous banking crises, experienced industrialization, national railways, etc without a central bank or federal income tax from the 1790's to 1913.

To me, the US's state of perpetual war is enabled by Federal Income Tax. Without it the MIC would collapse, I am certain.

John k , October 2, 2018 at 10:31 am

Functioned adequately
During the 150 yr hard money period we had recessions/depressions that we're both far more frequent (every three years) and on avg far deeper than what we have had since fdr copied the brits and took us off the gold standard. Great deprecession was neither the longest or deepest.
Two reasons
Banks used to fail frequently, a run on one bank typically leading to runs on other banks, spreading across regions like prairie fires if your bank failed you lost all your money. Consequences were serious.
During GR so many banks failed in the Midwest, leading to farm foreclosures, the region was near armed insurrection in 1932. Fiat meant that the fed can supply unlimited liquidity. Since then banks have failed but immediately taken over by another. Critically, no depositor has lost a penny, even those with far more exposed than the deposit insurance limit. No runs on us banks since 1933.
Second, we now have auto stabilizers, spending continues during downturns because gov has no spending limit. Note previously in an emergency gov borrowed. 10 mil from J.P. Morgan.

Brian , October 2, 2018 at 11:30 am

But at what cost? no depositor loses money, yet huge amounts are required to be printed, thus devaluing the "currency". So is the answer inflation that must by necessity become hyperinflation?
I don't understand why it is important to protect a bank vs. making it perform its function without risking collapse. This is magical thinking as we have found very few banks in this world not ready and willing to pillage their clients, be it nations or just the little folk.
Why would anyone trust a government to do the right thing by its population? When has that ever worked out in favor of the people?
I can not understand the trust being demanded by this concept. It wants trust for the users, but in no way can it expect trust or virtue from the issuer of the "currency"

also, I can't help but think MMT is for growth at all costs. Hasn't the growth shown that it is pernicious in itself? Destroy the planet for the purpose of stabilizing "currency".

Our federal reserve gave banks trillions of dollars, and then demanded they keep much of it with the Fed and are paid interest not to use it. It inflated the "currency" in circulation yet again and now it is becoming clear a great percentage of people in our country can no longer eat, no longer purchase medications, a home, a business

If being on a hard money system as we were causes recessions and depressions, would we find that it was a natural function to cut off the speculators at their knees?

How does MMT promote and retain value for the actual working and producing people that have no recourse with their government? I would like to read about what is left out of this monumental equation.

TroyMcClure , October 2, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Money is not a commodity and does not "lose value" the more of it there is.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:57 pm

we used to protect the banks depositors and the government put the the bank in receivership.

That went away in the 21st century for some reason.

Now we protect the bank and put the Government in receivership (Greece).

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Some points:

US had a federal income tax during the civil war and for a decade or so after.

I have always assumed that mass conscription and the Dreadnought arms race led to the implementation of the modern taxing/monetary system. (gov't needed both warfare and welfare)

Taxes, just as debt, create an artificial demand for currency as one must pay back their taxes in {currency}, and one must pay back debt in {currency}. It doesn't have to be an income tax, and I think a sales tax would be a better driver of demand than an income tax.

The US had land sales that helped fund government expenditures in the 1800s.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Not all taxes are income taxes. Back in the day (20's/30's/40's),my grandfather could pay off the (county) property taxes on his farm by plowing snow for the county in the winter -- and he was damned careful to make sure that the county commissioners' driveways were plowed out as early as possible after a storm.

In the 30's/40's the property tax laws were changed to be payable only in dollars.

So Grandpa had to make cash crops. Things changed and money became necessary.

Benjamin Wolf , October 2, 2018 at 7:44 am

But today can we not just print (electronically) the cash needed for government operations each year based upon a fixed percentage of private sector GDP?

The élites could, but it would be totally undemocratic and the economics profession's track record of forecasting growth is no better than letting a cat choose a number written on an index card.

Why therefore do we need government debt?

There is no government debt. It's just a record of interest payments Congress has agreed to make because the wealthy wanted another welfare program.

Why do we need an income tax?

The only logically consistent purpose is because people have too much income.

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:19 am

I think the point they're driving at, is that by requiring the payment of taxes in a particular currency, a government creates demand for that currency. There are other uses for federal taxes, not the least of which is to keep inflation in check.

Government debt is not needed, at least not at the federal level. My understanding of it is that it's a relic from the days of the gold standard. It's also very useful to some rather large financial institutions, so eliminating it would be politically difficult.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 9:23 am

Wray has said in interviews that the debt (and associated treasury bonds), while not strictly necessary in a fiat currency, is of use in that it provides a safe base for investment, for pensioners and retirees, etc.

Sure, it could be eliminated by (a) trillion dollar platinum coins deposited at the Federal Reserve followed by (b) slowly paying off the existing debt when the bonds mature or (c) simply decreeing that the Fed must go to a terminal and type in 21500000000000 as the US Gov account balance (hope I got the number of zeroes correct!).

It could be argued that the US doesn't strictly need taxes to drive currency demand as long as our status as the world reserve currency is maintained (see oft-discussed petrodollar, Libya, etc). If that status is imperiled, say by an push by a coalition of nations to establish a different currency as the "world reserve currency") taxes would be needed to drive currency demand.

I think most of this is covered in one way or another here:

http://neweconomicperspectives.org/modern-monetary-theory-primer.html

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Government debt is not actually a 'real thing'. It is a residue of double-entry bookkeeping, as is net income (income minus expenses, that's a credit in the double-entry system). It could as well be called 'retained earnings (also a 'book' credit in the double-entry system). If everybody had to take bookkeeping in high school there would be far few knickers in knots!

Todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Its real if you pay an interest rate on it

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 3:48 pm

There are two kinds of government 'debt': the accumulated deficit which is the money in circulation not a real debt, and outstanding bonds which is real in the sense that it must be repaid with interest.

However, the government can choose the interest rate and pay it (or buy back the bonds at any time) with newly minted money at no cost to itself, cf. QE.

Neither kind warrant bunched panties.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 4:39 pm

no panties bunched.

horostam , October 2, 2018 at 8:51 am

seems to me that the guaranteed jobs would be stigmatized, and make it harder for people to get private sector jobs. "once youre in the JG industry, its hard to get out" etc.

how much of a guarantee is the job guarantee supposed to be? ie. at what point can you get fired from a guaranteed job?

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 9:31 am

Yes, my mind wandered into the same territory. While I agree that something needs to be done, it also has the potential to strike at the heart of a lean, merit-based system by introducing another layer of bureaucracy. In principle, I am not against the idea, but as they say, "God (or the Devil – take your pick) is in the details ".

The Rev Kev , October 2, 2018 at 9:48 am

Is there any point in working for a jobs guarantee when the only sort of jobs that would probably be guaranteed would be MacJobs and Amazon workers?

Newton Finn , October 2, 2018 at 11:23 am

If you haven't already read it, "Reclaiming the State" by Mitchell and Fazi (Pluto Press 2017) provides a detailed and cogent analysis of how neoliberalism came into ascendency, and how the principles of MMT can be used to pave the way to a more humane and sustainable economic system. A new political agenda for the left, drawing in a different way upon the nationalism that has energized the right, is laid out for those progressives who understand the necessity of broadening their appeal. And the jobs guarantee that MMT proposes has NOTHING to do with MacJobs and Amazon workers. It has to do with meeting essential human and environmental needs which are not profitable to meet in today's private sector.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Job guarantee, or govt as employer of last resort -- now there is a social challenge/opportunity if there ever was one.

Well managed, it would guarantee a living wage to anyone who wants to work, thereby setting a floor on minimum wages and benefits that private employers would have to meet or exceed. These minima would also redound to the benefit of self-employed persons by setting standards re income and care (health, vacations, days off, etc) *and* putting money in the pockets of potential customers.

Poorly managed it could create the 'digging holes, filling them in' programs of the Irish Potato Famine ore worse (hard to imagine, but still ). It has often been remarked that the potato blight was endemic across Europe, it was only a famine in Ireland -- through policy choices.

So, MMT aside (as being descriptive, rather than prescriptive), we are down to who controls policy. And that is *really* scary.

Todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:11 pm

Government job guarantees is an idea as old as the pyramids.

Frankly so is mmt

Mel , October 2, 2018 at 11:34 am

In terms of power, the government has the power to shoot your house to splinters, or blow it up, with or without you in it. We say they're not supposed to, but they have the ability, and it has been done.
The question of how to hold your government to the things it's supposed to do applies to issues beyond money. We'd best deal with government power as an issue in itself. I should buckle down and get Mitchell's next-to-newest book Reclaiming the State .

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Ding ding ding!

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Bill Mitchell was not too impressed with the INET paper: Part 1 .
There's three parts! Mitchell rarely has the time to be brief.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 6:02 am

I don't claim to fully understand MMT yet, but I find Wray's use of the derogatory term "gold bugs" to be both disappointing and revealing. To lump those, some of whom are quite sophisticated, who believe that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value (and no, "the military" misses the point), or those who hold physical gold as an insurance policy against political incompetence, and the inexorable degradation of fiat currencies, in with those who promote or hold gold in the hopes of hitting some type of lottery, is disingenuous at best.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 7:06 am

OMT seemingly has no reason to exist being old school, but for what it's worth, the almighty dollar has lost over 95% of it's value when measured against something that matters, since the divorce in 1971.

I found this passage funny, as in flipping the dates around to 1791, is when George Washington set an exchange rate of 1000-1 for old debauched Continental Currency, in exchange for newly issued specie. (there was no Federal currency issued until 1861)

So yeah, they burned all of their tax revenue, because the money wasn't worth jack.

Farley Grubb -- the foremost authority on Colonial currency -- proved that the American colonists understood perfectly well that taxes drive money. Every Act that authorized the issue of paper money imposed a Redemption Tax. The colonies burned all their tax revenue.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:30 am

Gold bug is akin to money crank e.g. money = morals. That's not to mention all the evidence to date does not support the monetarist view nor how one gets the value into the inanimate object or how one can make it moral.

Benjamin Wolf , October 2, 2018 at 8:01 am

Gold doesn't historically perform as a hedge but as a speculative trade. Those who think it can protect them from political events typically don't realize that a gold standard means public control of the gold industry, thereby cutting any separation from the political process off at the knees.

When a government declares that $20 is equal in value to one ounce of gold, it also declares an ounce of gold is equal to $20 dollars. It is therefore fixing, through a political decision subject to political changes, the price of the commodity.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:44 am

Nonsense. When fiat currencies invariably degrade, and especially at a fast rate, gold has proven to be a relative store of value for millennia . All one need do is to look at Venezuela, Argentina, Turkey, etc., to see that ancient dynamic in action today.

You, and others who have replied to my comment, are using the classical gold standard as a straw man, as well. Neither I, nor many other gold "bugs" propose such a simple solution to the obviously failed current economy, which is increasingly based on mountains of debt that can never be repaid.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 9:48 am

gold has proven to be a relative store of value for millennia.

As long as one is mindful that gold is just another commodity, subject to the same speculative distortions as any other commodity (see Hunt brothers and silver).

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:54 am

But that is obviously false, given that no other commodity has remotely performed with such stability over such a long period of time.

It is true that over short periods distortions can appear, and the *true* value of gold has been suppressed in recent years through the use of fraudulent paper derivatives. But again, I'm not arguing for the return of a classical gold standard.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 10:13 am

The only way the gold standard returns, is if it's forced on the world on account of massive fraud in terms of fiat money, but that'll never happen.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 10:56 am

Tinky:

I'm curious as to what you consider the "*true* value of gold". Could you elaborate?

I'm dense/obtuse and thus not an economist!

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

Don't worry, I'm likely to be at least equally dense!

I didn't mean to suggest that there is some formula from which a *true* value of precious metals might be derived. I simply meant that gold has clearly been the object of price suppression in recent years through the use of paper derivatives (i.e. future contracts). The reason for such suppression, aside from short-term profits to be made, is that gold has historically acted as a barometer relating to political and economic stability, and those in power have a particular interest in suppressing such warning signals when the system becomes unstable.

So, while the Central Banks created previously unimaginable mountains of debt, it was important not to alarm the commoners.

The suppression schemes have become less effective of late, and will ultimately fail when the impending crisis unfolds in earnest.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 10:00 am

As long as one is mindful that gold is just another commodity, subject to the same speculative distortions as any other commodity

It sounds good in theory, but history says otherwise.

The value remained more or less the same for well over 500 years as far as an English Pound was concerned, the weight and value of a Sovereign hardly varied, and the exact weight and fineness of one struck today or any time since 1817, is the same, no variance whatsoever.

Thus there was no speculative distortions in terms of value, the only variance being the value of the Pound (= 1 Sovereign) itself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_(British_coin)

Benjamin Wolf , October 2, 2018 at 12:23 pm

When fiat currencies invariably degrade, and especially at a fast rate, gold has proven to be a relative store of value for millennia.

Currencies do not degrade. Political systems degrade.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 8:25 am

" who believe that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value"

As I understand it, MMT also requires that currency be backed by something of tangible value: a well managed and productive economy. It doesn't matter in the least if your debt is denominated in your own currency if you have the economy of Zimbabwe.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:48 am

Sounds reasonable in theory, but that was supposed to be the case with the current economic system, as well, and we can all see where that has led.

I'm not arguing that there isn't a theoretically better way to create and use "modern" money, but rather doubt that those empowered to create it out of thin air will ever do so without abusing such power.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 10:10 am

Oh, I agree with you. In no universe that I am aware of would the temptation to create money beyond the productive capacity of the economy to back it up be resisted. I think Zimbabwe is a pretty good example of where the theory goes in practice.

TroyMcClure , October 2, 2018 at 12:20 pm

That's exactly wrong. Zimbabwe had a production collapse. Same amount of money to buy a much smaller amount of goods. The gov responded not by increasing goods, but increasing money supply.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Maybe because t