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Half A Century of Empire: A Progress Report

by BruceMcF Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 12:47:22 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun

We are sabotaging our main labor resource with mindless rote learning to pass "achievement" tests to avoid being punished for not being full of kids of upper middle class households, we are allowing our equipment resource to collapse through lack of demand and we are sabotaging our natural resource through treating nonrenewable resources as an excuse to destroy renewable resources and treating renewable resources as non-renewable resources, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In fifty years we have gone from technological leadership on all fronts to technological leadership only in some of those areas under the umbrella of War Department Industrial Policy, and from massive trade surpluses that demanded recycling via overseas investment and imports to maintain international liquidity, to massive trade deficits to allow the Chinese to export their unemployment to us.

In forty years we have gone from energy independence to importing twice as much oil as we produce.

And thirty years, we have shifted our record on land wars in Asia from 0-1 with one draw, to at best 0-2 with two draws, and at worst 0-3 with one draw.

If this damn Empire collapses soon enough, we might have a chance to start rebuilding from the catastrophe it represents, but an equally plausible outcome is falling apart into a squabbling series of small and mid-sized nation states, many harboring revanchiste dreams of re-establishing the Empire.


We, mostly Americans but with much international collaboration, built this Empire out of immediate and temporary needs, some of them in service of public interests, some of them in service of vested private interests. For the good of the Republic, it is long past time to tear it down.

Burning the Midnight Oil ~ Forgotten Years

Update [2010-11-21 23:28:53 by BruceMcF]: NB. On Saturday, Chalmers Johnson canceled his membership in the Council on Foreign Relations

Display:
Burning the Midnight Oil

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 12:57:03 PM EST
Beppe Grillo's Blog
The United States, the most indebted country, Is responsible for 50% of the world's military spending. An enormous amount. Russia, the historical antagonist, is spending 3.5%. The United States is transforming the debt into weapons. So basically anyone buying United States stocks is financing the war in Afghanistan and the military bases of Dal Molin of Vicenza and of Okinawa where they have been settled in for 65 years. The Roman Empire collapsed under the attack of the barbarians at its borders. Its legions withdrew from the Rhine and from Britain. Perhaps the United States will follow the same idea because of the economic impossibility of keeping 716 military bases in 40 countries.


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:54:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wars sending U.S. into ruin | Eric Margolis | Columnists | Comment | Toronto Sun

More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself into ruin by buying tanks.

Washington's deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a vertiginous $1.6 trillion US this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, to which the U.S. already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion.

To spend $1 trillion, one would have had to start spending $1 million daily soon after Rome was founded and continue for 2,738 years until today.

Obama's total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $880 billion. Add secret black programs (about $70 billion); military aid to foreign nations like Egypt, Israel and Pakistan; 225,000 military "contractors" (mercenaries and workers); and veterans' costs. Add $75 billion (nearly four times Canada's total defence budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees.

The Afghanistan and Iraq wars ($1 trillion so far), will cost $200-250 billion more this year, including hidden and indirect expenses. Obama's Afghan "surge" of 30,000 new troops will cost an additional $33 billion -- more than Germany's total defence budget.

they bought tanks, we bought banks!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 10:26:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It starts as another fantasy world piece that imagines that the US would be better off mired in a deep rather than a shallow depression, since a deep depression is what we would have got from full-on Coolidge speculation followed by full-on Hoover fiscal policy in response to the Panic of 2008.

And the elephant in the room, the fact that the US consumes 1/4 of the world's oil supply, and imports twice what we produce, completely ignored.

But then it slides toward reality, since the military spending includes such a major contribution to the US trade deficit, and its the trade deficit that causes the capital inflows from overseas, no the government deficit.

If we spent the same $1T on things that would reduce our trade deficit by as much as $1T in military spending will increase our trade deficit, it would be a budget deficit very well spent indeed.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 01:22:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
an equally plausible outcome is falling apart into a squabbling series of small and mid-sized nation states, many harboring revanchiste dreams of re-establishing the Empire.

Do you really think this is a serious possibility? From the outside, the US looks very much like a coherent polity with not nearly enough potential fracture lines (and too few of them coinciding geographically) for dissolution to be a realistic option.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 01:39:24 PM EST
Over fifty years, yes, certainly. The US has not been under anywhere near the stress that it faces in the next half century under the most optimistic of scenarios. An oil-independent transcontinental transport system could well prevent it, but there's no guarantee that the vested private interests of the Oil industry can be overcome to make it happen before the US is in too severe economic distress to allow the project to be started.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 01:47:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you really think this is a serious possibility? From the outside, the US looks very much like a coherent polity with not nearly enough potential fracture lines (and too few of them coinciding geographically) for dissolution to be a realistic option.

It is not just a serious possibility - I think it is highly likely. The 50-year timespan that Bruce mentions above is what I've always felt we could expect for this to unfold.

The US is anything but a coherent polity. We have numerous fracture lines, many of which are starting to show up in geographical self-sorting. The economic base and social, cultural, and ideological values of different regions is becoming more pronounced, not less. Those seem to be basic building blocks of the eventual dissolution of the USA.

Let me use California as an example. From the American conquest in 1846 to sometime in the late 20th century, California needed federal spending and projects to prosper. The feds built our interstates, some of our ports (including LA), and enabled prosperity through beneficial fiscal and monetary policies.

Now that is all changing. California is a donor state - we get 0.78 cents back in spending for every dollar in taxes we send to Washington DC. Meanwhile the Feds run deeply harmful economic policies that worsen our situation while benefiting a different base in other states. California lacks the monetary tools of a state with a sovereign currency.

And as the feds start scaling back their expenditures, in the service of a right-wing agenda this state has repeatedly rejected, CA is going to go it alone in building projectsand supporting R&D that the feds used to fund themselves. We will likely have to fund our high speed rail system ourselves (including finding private funding) since it looks unlikely that we'll get more than the $3 billion we've already received from the Feds. In short, CA is going to discover very soon that we don't need the federal government for very much, and that we are instead being hindered by them as they treat CA more and more like a colony.

That's not to paint us as innocent victims. Prop 13, state-sanctioned sprawl, and government paralysis in Sacramento are of our own doing. And the factors described above aren't sufficient to convince people here it's time to go our own way.

But that will change. For the first time since the conquest, a majority of Californians are now native to this state. And their values are increasingly divergent from the extremist agenda being pursued by the right and backed by residents of other states. That creates the conditions that could eventually lead us to strike out on our own.

This is reminiscent of the situation in the 13 colonies in the 1760s. As the colonies became populated by those born there, or by those who were not originally British subjects, a new identity as "American" emerged. That was necessary for the Revolution to occur.

But it wasn't sufficient. It took a political crisis that brought home the problems of rule from London to show the colonists that independence was desirable. And even then it happened late in the crisis - the colonies had been at war with Parliament for a year when the Declaration of Independence was passed.

States like California, Oregon, and Washington will eventually go their own way, whether gradually as with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, or suddenly, as with the American Revolution. We might also see some kind of fundamental reorganization of the US itself, returning to the loose union under the Articles of Confederation, which resembled the European Community. After all, the primary reason the Constitution was written in 1787 was to force a monetary union of the 13 states. One ironic consequence of the right's attacks on federal fiscal and monetary policy is it could lay the groundwork for this sort of thing to happen.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 05:21:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Correction: we get back 78 cents on the dollar, not 0.78. Congress isn't screwing California that badly yet.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 05:23:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the US is itching for self-destruction.

From this side of the ocean, it's bizarre just how much parts of the US hate the other parts. The centre hates the coasts, the coasts hate each other, the south hates everyone, and everyone hates Washington.

This isn't, as you say, good for stable politics.

But nothing will happen unless there's a direct challenge to federal government, or federal government is stolen by any one faction.

Even then, if the states try to leave, you have too much infrastructure and too much mutual dependency to make the attempt anything other than extremely messy.

It would - not so ironically - be like the sudden appearance of the Berlin wall. And it would likely have to be enforced in much the same way.

So while I'm sure the will is there, I'm not sure the practicalities make it possible - at least not while a joint military exists.

Historically, a military coup is more likely, with martial law of a relatively mild sort used as an excuse to limit personal and commercial travel and to harden the state boundaries.

If that happens the US is more likely to collapse outwards than inwards. The military will be the last thing standing, after the rest of the population has been devastated and state boundaries don't matter any more.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 05:34:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The whole country can't be held over a longer period by a government imposing martial law. Indeed, a military coup seems just as likely to end up with multiple rival claimants for various shreds of Constitutional legitimacy and loyalty of various military branches and units as to end up with a single power bloc in control, while a single power bloc in control seems like a recipe for fracturing.

While a military coup seems like a quite plausible scenario for an effort to extend the American Empire, I don't see a military coup that successfully reforms the American Empire to the point of recovering viability as very likely at all.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 06:40:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A military coup would make it possible to introduce conscription and resource rationing. There would be many hold-outs and there might even be organised resistance. But the military would own most of the population of a continent, which would be difficult to argue with - even with the inevitable corrupt mismanagement and resource shortages.

The problem would be more about picking a victim that the war machine could pick a fight with and win. The life expectancy of the result would depend entirely on the degree of psychosis of the leader.

With a weak leader, you get an ever-shortening cycle of coup, counter-coup and shrinkage as factions fight for supremacy. With a strong leader you get an attack on a likely outside target.

With solid propaganda and a secret police force - both of which already exist - you get something that looks like North Korea but bigger, more belligerent, and not as long-lived.

Currently the militia people believe they're all that, but the reality is that a military force doesn't even need to start shooting to beat them. At best they can be left holed up in their enclaves, provided they don't make too much noise. At worst they can be starved out with gas and food rationing.

Since most of them have no clue about organised farming, and the ones that do are vulnerable from the air, they wouldn't last more than a year or two at most.

I'd be more worried about street gangs in the big cities than militia people. They're well-organised and psychotically vicious, and they'd be happy to move into any power vacuum left by existing authority.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 07:45:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where did militia people come from? That caught me by surprise.

This is heading well down an event tree ... down a branch where efforts to put the American political economy on a sustainable basis have failed, then further where a military coup has succeeded, then further where there are no successful regional counter-coups ... and finally deciding whether it is pursuing a totalitarian or authoritarian path ...

... but collecting a bunch of event twigs together in a "bad people at the center are trying to impose their will via central government control" bucket ...

... the last place I would look to for effective resistance are a bunch of fantasists in the woods. Effective resistance to an authoritarian central authority requires a more sure grip on reality than they seem to display.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 10:56:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was starting from the assumption that people who like playing with guns and don't like the bad old fed would be first to go on the offensive if TSHTF.

Also, many of them are right wing cranks with some overlap with the Tea Party.

I agree they're not the effective resistance they seem convinced they are.

They might make good brownshirts for an ambitious general, however.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 11:10:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the Tea Party "movement" is, after all, a creation of the Oil Industry and other such corporate vested interests, but that is not guarantee that they will remain subservient to corporate interests if the right reactionary populist comes along to tap the possibilities that they represent.

It would not be the first time that those who sought to sow the wind reaped the whirlwind.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 11:19:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As most here know, I've maintained for several years that
the coup already happened.
So have many others here and there. Here's a great, far wiser piece by Chris Hedges.

It's over. Now we must talk revolution.
Chalmers Johnson could not bring himself to put it in those exact terms, but the difference was minimal.
I think TBG has put his finger on two structural changes that will make the existing military/corporate dictatorship at least temporarily viable- the chance to install a command economy, a la WWII, and conscription.
A draft may not even be necessary, in a world where the other options for youth are very limited and in which the solving of problems and differences by murder or theft has been reified, raised to a national "business model", as well as a sport, a recreation.
And yes, the gangs look to me to be the greatest threat, in a continent stripped of any real faith in the rule of law.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 02:45:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm. I'm not so sure a military coup is in the cards, at least not yet. That usually happens in situations where the generals lose faith in the civilian government, and they're not at that point - they have plenty of faith in the Republican Party. As long as the GOP remains electorally viable, which it will for another decade, then the generals can just undermine the occasional Democratic politician who gets in their way, or do what they've done with Obama and simply turn him around to their thinking. (Not that Obama was a tough sell.)

What strikes me as being more likely is something more closely resembling the end of the Weimar Republic. President Teabag wins power and accelerates the dismantling of the basic elements of our democracy, empowering and extending the security state while at the same time empowering their corporate masters. If it's done via the ballot box (in contrast to what happened in Germany in 1933) then it wouldn't be easy to stop.

In the scenario I described above, there'd be some sort of political crisis that makes it clear to the West Coast (for example) that they've lost Congress for good and lost the ability to ever turn federal policy around. The Republican efforts to undermine the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship and other attacks on democratic rights such as Arizona's SB 1070 are the only ways the GOP can cling to power beyond 2020, so it's quite possible that states like California will be increasingly shut out from exercising influence over the federal government.

Once a crisis appears, and once Congress fails to act - or acts against California's values - then you'd have a moment where CA could force a redefinition of the relationship to the US. Depending on the context, this is where the role of the military becomes very important.

Another factor is the slow but steady collapse of American civilization - one reason I feel confident that California and other states will eventually go its own way is that the combination of peak oil and right-wing politics will make it increasingly difficult to actually sustain the federal government, and will lead to more localization of responsibilities and roles, fueling the drift toward some kind of either dissolution or looser federation.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 08:19:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All that stuff about the next decade is not about what this diary skims across ... long term trends in resource quality and availability don't kick a country in the present situation of the US in the head in a single decade.

OTOH, the last paragraph launches right into the first paragraph of the diary.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 11:36:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
If it's done via the ballot box (in contrast to what happened in Germany in 1933) then it wouldn't be easy to stop.
What do you mean? The Nazis were nothing if not legalistic. Everything they did was formally legal and approved by the Reichstag.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:43:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's correct, which is why I specified "done via the ballot box" - the Nazis were never elected to govern Germany. Everything they did was technically legal, with the Reichstag being bullied into compliance with the Enabling Act. What I was thinking was more along the lines of a Republican presidential candidate "winning" an election, being inaugurated through the normal Constitutional methods, and then dismantling democracy soon thereafter.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:10:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
the Nazis were never elected to govern Germany
Hitler became Chancellor lawfully after his party won the parliamentary election.

You're projecting the US' Presidential system on a Parliamentary system. Please don't do that.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:16:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand the distinction and the timeline well. My comments are coming from a strand of German historiography that I was trained in, that rejects the view that the Nazis were "elected" to govern Germany and instead emphasizes the undemocratic, if lawful, nature of their seizure of power. Things get complicated, obviously, because one also doesn't want to use the results to say Germans didn't support Hitler or his party; 33.1% of the vote is pretty significant.

The Nazis may have won a plurality at the November 1932 election, but it was far from a majority. Since President Hindenburg and Franz von Papen refused to include any of the left parties in a government - particularly the SPD - they kept casting about for a suitable chancellor, and settled on Hitler only when they had no other options, and only when von Papen was able to convince Hindenburg he could keep Hitler under control.

Even then the Reichstag had the votes to block the Enabling Act a month or so later, but because the power of the state was used to bully the Reichstag members - especially Centre Party members - into backing it, it's hard to say it was truly fair.

My original comments may have lacked specificity, but they were actually intended to highlight the differences between the parliamentary and presidential systems. In Germany in 1932-33, one couldn't say that the Nazis were "elected" to govern, but they wound up doing so through lawful means. If the US were to see a similar seizure of power, the presidential system we have means that if a President Teabag can claim victory through lawful means, then it provides a more powerful mandate and argument of legitimacy than anything Hitler had, and makes it difficult to counter. Perhaps that comparison is rough and inexact, but I stand by it.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 10:19:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
My comments are coming from a strand of German historiography that I was trained in, that rejects the view that the Nazis were "elected" to govern Germany and instead emphasizes the undemocratic, if lawful, nature of their seizure of power.
With all due respect and as a non-historian, that's just self-serving historiography on the part of the Germans.

Seriously, the largest party in two elections in a row on the same year, scoring more than 30% both times and with the second party at least 10% away, and historiographers claim that Hitler didn't have a democratic claim to power while giving von Papen and the DNVP (which was openly opposed to the Weimer Republic itself throughout its short history) legitimacy...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 10:25:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Nazis may have won a plurality at the November 1932 election, but it was far from a majority. Since President Hindenburg and Franz von Papen refused to include any of the left parties in a government - particularly the SPD - they kept casting about for a suitable chancellor, and settled on Hitler only when they had no other options, and only when von Papen was able to convince Hindenburg he could keep Hitler under control.

The KPD and NSDAP had fifty percent of the vote between them (down from 52% in the previous elections). The DNVP had 8.5%.  The BVP, which other than its Catholicism and anti-centralism was very similar in attitudes to the DNVP, had 3.1%.  How do you get a pro-democracy coalition with those numbers, given that this is the pre-Popular Front era KPD with absolutely zero interest in supporting a democratic government even as a short term tactical measure?  Making Hitler chancellor was, on the numbers, what you'd expect in a PR style democratic parliamentary system of government.

You also need to understand what the Hindenburgs and von Papens wanted, that is the destruction of democracy and the imposition of a traditional style reactionary dictatorship run by the old elites.  

I agree that the way in which the NSDAP obtained its two thirds majority for the enabling law was not democratic, but at the same time, lets not lose sight of the fact that in two fully democratic elections in a row, the German electorate had given over three fifths of its vote to parties which explicitly said that democracy is a very bad thing that needs to be abolished, and that among those over forty percent were voting for a right wing dictatorship.  Furthermore, even without intimidation there was a minority of the Centre party that while not opposed to democracy on principle, wasn't made up of principled democrats either.

by MarekNYC on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 11:49:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If president Teabag is elected in a three-candidate race where a spoiler manages to carry at least his or her own state, and the president is elected through a deal in the electoral college, then you have a similar situation regarding legitimacy.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 04:13:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I was thinking was more along the lines of a Republican presidential candidate "winning" an election, being inaugurated through the normal Constitutional methods, and then dismantling democracy soon thereafter.

That's exactly what happened in Germany.  They won the largest share of the vote in fully democratic elections in Nov. 1932, formed a coalition with the ultrareactionaries of the DNVP, called another election, this time filled with considerable intimidation, including the arrest of leading communists, and did better, but didn't get a majority. However, at this point all the KPD Reichstag members were under arrest, as were some of the SPD ones, leaving the NSDAP-DNVP coalition with a large effective majority.  They then proceeded to cajole and coerce the Center(Catholic) party into voting for a law abolishing democracy.  End of story.

by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:29:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
Once a crisis appears, and once Congress fails to act - or acts against California's values - then you'd have a moment where CA could force a redefinition of the relationship to the US. Depending on the context, this is where the role of the military becomes very important.
I was in California in 2000-4, and I remember back then some paper or other (may have been the LA Times) published a wargame about the secession of California. Their premise was that, because California has so many military bases, especially air bases, it would be the only state which could mount a serious attempt at establishing air superiority over its own airspace (assuming the bases stayed under control of the state and not the federal government) which would be a necessary element of successful secession. The wargame was still supposed to end with a Federal victory...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:47:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And that assumes the military sides with California and not the federal government - which, given the fact that most soldiers stationed here in CA are not from CA (I live in an apartment building full of soldiers attending one of the DoD schools in Monterey and the vast majority of them are from the South) seems unlikely for the time being. Another reason why I think outright secession would be some years away, although a political crisis that forces a redefinition of the state-federal relationship in the direction of more state autonomy seems very likely to happen in the near future.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:07:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The obvious problem with that: The assumption that the bases stay loyal to Gullyvornyah.  The soldiers are from all over.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 05:20:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
I'm not so sure a military coup is in the cards, at least not yet.
Bernard I. Finel: The Military Coup of 2012 Revisited
In 1992 then-LTC Charles Dunlap wrote a famous article, The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012 where he warned about the dangers of the military taking on increasing numbers of civilian missions and ultimately finding itself a substitute for civilian rule altogether. In this weekend's Washington Post, Ambassador Thomas A. Schweich makes a similar argument in his essay, "The Pentagon is muscling in everywhere. It's time to stop the mission creep." Dunlap's wry tone is bookended with Schweich's more shrill assessment, but between the two is the single biggest issue that has generated virtually no serious debate in American politics.


Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:51:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A primary reason that I do not see a military coup in the cards for the USA is that the military already wields profound influence over civilian government. There's no need to antagonize the public with a direct coup when they can count on the Republican Party to do what the generals demand, and when they can now count on the Obama Administration to do the same.

The only way that would change is if a government came to power that actively resisted the generals, and sought to bring the American Empire to an end. Right now I don't see either party being willing to do that.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:05:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
---the military already wields profound influence over civilian government.-------
----- they can count on the Republican Party to do what the generals demand, and when they can now count on the Obama Administration to do the same.

Add to this statement the fact that the relationship between the remaining corporate machinery in the US and the military is-- essentially identicality of interest, and it seems clear that the coup happened a while ago.

The political machinations we watch is the political system's attempts to adapt itself to the realities of that.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 03:02:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the coasts hate each other

No. Really no.  They like to make fun of each other, but the northeast metro corridor and the pacific metropolises see each other as together against the crazy rednecks in the South and middle.  And even that is misleading since Blue America is a set of high population density islands in a low density sea of red.

by MarekNYC on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 09:09:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
nothing will happen unless there's a direct challenge to federal government, or federal government is stolen by any one faction
Hasn't the Federal Government been stolen by Wall Street?

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:41:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The federal government was stolen by the same military-industrial thugs that Eisenhower warned about. Truman was the last president to be able to oppose the military and win. But the military was traditionally inept at government by media framing, misdirection, public relations blitz. They just sorta left the mice to play, while they built up their empire. Cheny and Rumsfeld, et al saw a power vacuum in the time of the Ford administration and tried to fill it--with parallel structures under their control. But I think they were only partly successful. Now that's changing- Cheney's finally dying, Rummie's chicken soup, and the military is quickly improving their skills in these areas, and all those parallel structures are co-opted and being employed to manipulate, or to avoid congressional meddling.
These things don't seem to progress neatly. It's an interesting question where the fundamentally parasitic world of modern finance will end up. I think they have managed their fabulous theft only because of inattention.
I think the real powers will see their danger, and dump them on the ash pit- out to play with their yachts, but with little real power.
The empire cannot live with them screwing up the works every decade or two, that is now clear.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 03:20:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You may well be right. On the other hand, and again using CA as an example, LA is going to die without fresh water from the Colorado River Basin. So you need at least AZ to be in on the game, unless you plan on only seceding with the Northern half of the state. And the landlocked states are going to be massively fucked if they get cut off from global commerce, so they will have to remain on at least speaking terms with the states that control the arterial railroads and/or navigable rivers between them and the nearest blue water port.

- Jake



Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 05:56:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a complicating factor, but not an insurmountable obstacle. The US and Canada have a series of water treaties governing the Columbia River watershed that work well.

In fact, the 1922 Colorado River Compact ought to be renegotiated anyway. It allows an unsustainable taking of water from the river, and the allocations were drawn up during a particularly wet period, not taking into account the boom-and-bust nature of rainfall in the rivershed.

CA also imports some of its electricity, including from the Palo Verde Nuclear Station west of Phoenix. So that could require renegotiation.  But those aren't insurmountable barriers, and CA does have a lot of its own infrastructure. Besides, the state needs to reduce its per capita water and energy consumption anyway.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 06:12:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Its also open to question what are the conditions that would make Pacific Northwest residents of Northern California willing to go which Pacific Northwest residents of Oregon and Washington would be immune to.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 06:42:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
California, Oregon, and Washington would likely work together on some plan for greater state autonomy, redefinition of the relationship with the federal government, or outright dissolution of the union. In the latter case I could envision an independent California having trade and resource agreements with a nation-state that is a federation of Oregon and Washington (and maybe even BC).

Again, I suspect that's all some years away, though the unfolding economic/political crisis could accelerate the timeline. In any case, it seems fair to expect that the USA as we know it is going to see significant changes in how it is governed.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 08:24:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course these things take time ... but the US has never gone through a 75 year period without a major change in the order of things, so sometime in the next twenty years we are probably due. Whether we ride it out successfully or not is in the right people seeing which is the right side of the fight and then winning it.

A hollow shell center, as in the ancien regime of the DRC when it was the rotting nation-state of Zaire, is one possible outcome of failing to pick the right fight or to win it, but then the DRC is more akin to the US between the mountains (I guess that would make New Orleans equal to Kinshasa) than to the whole US. In the case of a hollow shell center, I'd expect the center would fail to hold.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 10:39:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
the landlocked states are going to be massively fucked if they get cut off from global commerce, so they will have to remain on at least speaking terms with the states that control the arterial railroads and/or navigable rivers between them and the nearest blue water port
There was an observation made in (I think) 2004 that the red/blue divide, when done at the county level revealed that pretty much "blue" America was coterminous with being on water (the sea and the big rivers, especially the Mississippi was one line of blue in a plain of red). So, do the Democrats have the Republicans over a barrel (of water)?

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:56:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting insight.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:59:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There ain't no more water in the Colorado.  It's all divided up. And - trust me on this one! - nobody is going to give-up one H2O molecule to LA.

LA has the Pacific Ocean literally on its doorstep.  The technology to make it potable exists.  It's expensive to buy and to run.  They don't want to have to raise the taxes so they can spend the money.  

Tough.  Life's a bitch and then you die.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 03:38:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why worry?  Aren't you guys supposed to start pumping it in from the Great Lakes anyway?

/runs to bomb shelter

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 05:16:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that silly thing back on again?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 06:33:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I doubt it.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 08:25:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
We have numerous fracture lines, many of which are starting to show up in geographical self-sorting.
See Here


Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:39:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And this is what happens when you take population density into account:

by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 11:36:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... but the national parties are actually coalitions of state parties, rather than anything approaching national membership parties. Given the two-party institutions put in place in the late 1800's, its natural for there to be "red" teams and "blue" teams spread across the country, but that does not mean that the Southwestern Blue and Red teams are the same as the Dixie Blue and Red team, nor are either identical to the Pacific Northwest blue and red teams.

National transportation created national markets in the late 1800's, and disruption to national transportation grids can uncreate them.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 06:15:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
National transportation created national markets in the late 1800's, and disruption to national transportation grids can uncreate them.

That would be... painful.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 07:03:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it would be painful.

We have seen countries do incredibly painful things in the past as entrenched vested interests fought for their own prerogatives ... consider the Polish nobility of the Targawica Federation appealing to the Russians for help against the reforms of Stanislaw August Poniatowski. It was only three years from the outbreak of the Polish-Russian war to the completion of the partition of Poland between Russia, Prussia, and Austria.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 08:39:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who controls the nukes, and are they going to be used as arguments in a domestic political debate over whether to permit secession or not?

In Russia, it was pretty clear-cut, because all the relevant officers were Russians, so Moskva could just order all the nuclear ships to re-base to St. Petersburg, and all the land-based warheads to be put on trains and shipped to Moskva. But the collapse of the Soviet Union was the collapse of a colonial empire. What you're talking about here is the equivalent of Kola and St. Petersburg striking out for independence.

I find the notion of a disintegrating country with several thousand megaton at its disposal less than perfectly reassuring...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 09:45:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... distributed across several combat arms ~ strategic nukes in the Air Force and Navy.

Some kind of treaty to have a reduction in the total stockpile and to have inspectors from outside in place would be handy.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 10:57:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
calling blix stat!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:57:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ugh, the red looks like a giant bloodstain..

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:56:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fifty years is far to long a time frame for me to be able to rationally even play at guessing what could happen.  But over the next twenty years the only way I could see a break up is a combination of a complete lockout of the Republican party from national power and a dominant, more left wing Democratic party.  If 14 years from now the Repubs have just lost their fifth presidential election in a row, we have full single payer health care, numerous measures to sharply decrease inequality, a strong secular ethos, and a Dem party base that remains built on non-Christian whites and minorities, then I just could see it. And I'm certain there would be plenty of talk about it. Otherwise, no way. Mass civil unrest sucks for the economic elites in the short run, and by sucks I mean large scale total bankruptcies and individual members getting killed.  Personal self interest isn't everything, which is why it is possible, and the right wing of the elites has a more deeply felt ideological cast than the centrist part. It would also be the kind of situation where substantial parts of the military would be unwilling to move against separatists, and small numbers would be actively willing to join them.  I'm also pretty sure that Texas would not be part of the Red States of America - if non whites are politically split, the scenario doesn't exist, if they aren't, a two thirds non-white state isn't joining them.
by MarekNYC on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 09:22:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... but if in the next twenty years, this old Republic is not placed back on a viable path, and especially if over the next twenty years the vested beneficiaries of the obsolete order succeed in frustrating efforts to place this old Republic on a viable path, holding things together with the forms of the old order but without the resources to make things work does not work indefinitely.

Prediction fifty years ahead based on the sequence of events is impossible. But the contingent prediction, if the US insists on attempting the impossible, then it will fail, that seems possible to me.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 10:46:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And thirty years, we have shifted our record on land wars in Asia from 0-1 with one draw, to at best 0-2 with two draws, and at worst 0-3 with one draw.

So they committed one of the classic blunders, or are you going to take the Sicilian defence?  Inconceivable!

by njh on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:30:32 AM EST


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 06:17:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Half A Century of Empire: A Progress Report
We are sabotaging our main labor resource with mindless rote learning to pass "achievement" tests to avoid being punished for not being full of kids of upper middle class households
That quote is pure gold...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:36:08 AM EST
We, mostly Americans but with much international collaboration, built this Empire out of immediate and temporary needs, some of them in service of public interests, some of them in service of vested private interests. For the good of the Republic, it is long past time to tear it down.

There's a really good, imaginative new novel out about the whole collapse of the American Empire idea by Gary Shteyngart: A Super Sad, True Love Story.

But I think we also have to ask whether although there are plenty of bad things about the American Empire, does that really add up to a reason to seek its undoing without first building the foundations for a better way of organizing the world? For example, I think it can be argued pretty well that globalization (or the latest term for the post-globalized world, "globality") is almost entirely dependent upon existing within a polity we derogatively call the American Empire. And therefore, without such a polity, or an immediate replacement for it, truly catastrophic things might happen without it.  I think we may see a drastic decrease in transnational relationships of all kinds -- from Internet communications, trade, investment, migration, knowledge sharing, extreme levels of urbanization etc. And to the extent that a large part of many, especially less developed countries', recent increases in economic prosperity and population may depend almost entirely upon the continuation of such relationships, a collapse of the American Empire at this time could cause tragedy on scales unheard of before. Maybe a billion people could die quickly if we take a back-of-the-envelope calculation that about a billion people today live at the Malthusian margin of life and death.  And almost none of them would likely be Americans or Europeans or Japanese.  

Political scientist Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in economics last year for her work showing that everything we do, and particularly life-supporting economic relationships of trade and individual exchanges, are dependent upon larger institutional infrastructures of rules, narratives, and the power involved in creating and maintaining such institutions.  The implication is that if you dismantle the institutions, you also might destroy the human relationships that the institutions allowed to prosper with possibly catastrophic consequences.  This argument challenges the basic neoclassical vision of society where human relationships are naturally existing first, and the rules are imposed afterward by governmental predators. Since we don't really believe the neoclassical vision of society here at ET, I think we should also be critical of arguments that assume that most of the good things we enjoy from a globalized world would be able to continue at all if the principal institutional sponsor of that world were to suddenly collapse.

by santiago on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 01:47:40 PM EST
I don't have as sanguine a view that neoliberal globalization policies have had a net positive effect on food production in Africa. On balance, globalization causes more harm than good to the food security of the developing nations I am most familiar with, and the loss of globalization would be more akin to the loss of a plague of locusts.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 06:21:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is food production really the problem in Africa?  I thought availability and distribution were real threats to life and well-being.  The question is, can the current number of people who live in slums survive if the income of the globally-oriented elite who provide them with, essentially, the scraps they need to live on, suffer significant income declines due to a big drop in trade, investment, migration, and other transnational activities made possible by "Pax Americana?"  
by santiago on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 11:32:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The numbers of people living in slums are a function of people being driven off the land by waves of dumping of subsidized grains.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 01:19:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But is this process reversible? The fact that collapsing globalisation would stop the growth of slums is small consolation to those who are already in them if their food security deteriorates.

Though of course, stringing up some of the local "elites" from lampposts might solve part of the distribution problem. I suppose I can see scenarios there that involve only acceptable casualties (though I can also see scenarios that involve quite unacceptable casualties).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 01:37:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... or in a policy sense?

Establish market towns with local trial fields, regulated market, clinic, school and credit union, and then once the periodic subsidized grain dumping stops destroying local agrarian economies, they can be rebuilt.

Will it happen automatically? Eventually, but only with much more pain, as its harder to create than it is to thoughtlessly destroy as a side effect of income subsidies to rural areas of high income nations.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 05:30:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's certainly part of the function, but if it were the principal one, then we wouldn't see slums growing so rapidly in slumdog India where landholdings remain tiny by law (no forced migration as farms become concentrated as in other countries), and grain imports are negligible (India remains largely self sufficient in food (India imports grain on net only low production years and also imports fruits and vegetables, like many high income countries do too.)
by santiago on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 07:55:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... principle reasons to be the same in India and Africa?

And in India, it seems absurd to suggest that less powerful farmers are not forced off their land by the machinations of more powerful farmers based on the laws that are on the books to prevent it ... that would be like concluding that there is no bribery of officials in Nigeria because it is against the law.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 12:50:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, in India it is not farmers who are moving to the urban slums so much, but family members of farmers and non-farmer rural dwellers.  Why would family members of farmers have to move to the city?  Well, usually because if you can't grow the size of your farm, which is prohibited by law in India in most cases, you can't increase your family income either to keep up with the higher costs of living and affording things like cell phones and new medicines. So you send your kids to the city or to foreign countries to diversify your family income.  

Much empirical work has been done on this in Africa as well. Farm consolidation and growth allows farm families to increase their income, but migration allows them to both grow and diversify their income and lower risks of income shocks, which is necessary to be able to continue to afford the ever increasing necessities of modern life.  (Alternatively, farmers could become like the anti-capitalist Amish and simply eschew modern technological benefits altogether and thereby avoid the need to grow income entirely.)

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 11:02:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... hitting the entire agrarian sector while at the same time reducing the cost of living in urban slums?

You are referring to studies on how African agrarian communities react to the impact of First World attacks on their livelihood that silo off the original cause of the sector-wide income shocks. Assuming sector-wide income shocks that are inversely correlated with urban informal sector real incomes to predict the response to the removal of that pattern of shock is begging the question.

Indeed, if access by women to education is inversely related to rates of population growth, starting an explanation of which sectors of the population of the most densely populated rural areas are forced into internal migration to the urban informal sector by assuming that poorer households will have higher birth rates is another silo.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 12:20:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and that is exactly what we're talking about here regarding the benefits of empire to lots of people that may actually now depend on it for survival. If you conceive if it just as an "attack," that is "hitting" the rural sector, as if the conservatism of rural life has a greater claim to reproducing itself than the more liberal opportunities provided by urban life, then yes, it's an argument that begs the question, as you say.

But let's conceive of it a bit differently. If the affect of liberal order was entirely on cost of living of urban dwellers and did not negatively affect the incomes of rural dwellers, we would have the same migration issues. Rural dwellers may be migrating to the cities because they want to and not because they have to.  In fact, in the US experience, the data supports this.  An acre of farmland has produced the same real income for last hundred years for which data has been collected on it. This means that the only reason that farmers have had to migrate to cities is to enjoy some of the benefits that urban progress has offered. In order to get electricity and health care and the Internet, you have to increase your income in order to pay for it, so you either grow the size/productivity of your farm or find extra work in urban economy to trade for urban goods and services.

You can only conceive of this as an "attack" on the rural sector if you assume, a priori, that few people in rural areas want to enjoy any of the benefits that liberal, urban society offers.  

Anecdotal aside: I recently met with some US farm industry lobbyists, all of them now aged children of farmers and who opted for a city job  when they were young instead of returning to their farms (and who were dismayed about the prospects for continued agriculture subsidies given the outcomes of the last congressional election).  Over beer, one them explained why he had never really been much of a supporter of rural policy initiatives to retain rural populations and had been more than happy, as was his father, to leave farm life altogether years ago.  "If the rural hometown of my childhood had been twice as large, it would have been twice as shitty" he said. Lesson: We can't assume that rural to urban migration is a bad thing for most people who do it, even if it leaves them in institutional dependency situations they would not have if they remained farmers.

The Amish are an example of people who have little need to increase income because they can be mostly self sufficient in small-holding communities by forgoing most of the benefits of urban life that other farmers don't choose to forgo.  But there are reasons why most people don't opt to become Amish, even if some do. Most people just might not view that kind of life as very much fun.  But in order to avoid the forces that push and pull people out of rural communities and into cities and slums, people actually have to eschew most of the "fun" things that the Americanized liberal order has offered them, just like the Amish try to do.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 01:33:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If food production is no problem, and starvation today is upheld by the local elites backed up by Pax Americana, it is hard to see to how the end of Pax Americana would make it worse. Could just as well go the other way.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 04:17:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It might, but the issue is that we can't assume it will.  In order to make the case that things will improve for the poor or at least not get dramatically worse we have to show that the global institutional framework we call the American Empire or Pax Americana is actually what is keeping the poor from prospering rather than what is allowing the poor to be born and exist.  

Is the American Empire and its associated neo-liberal institutions and narratives actually causing resources or potential capacities for living to be taken away from people who otherwise would have access to more of those things?  Or are the poor merely multiplying under the protective, if miserable, umbrella of cheaper food, fiber, and medicine than would have been available to them otherwise, allowing them to exist when they otherwise never would have been born?  It's not an easy question.

by santiago on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 07:48:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... if the American Empire is not sustainable, then whether maintaining it if it were sustainable would be better than not maintaining it if it were sustainable is a red herring: the live question becomes what to do to make a better aftermath of the rollback or collapse of American Empire.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 12:23:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No disagreement there.  But it's kind of sexy to be a subversive advocate for overthrowing the empire, and many such voices can be found. That doesn't make it the morally responsible thing to do, however.  Trying to build a society that is sustainable, particularly for the poor, is a lot more tedious and nerdy and often appears futile in comparison.
by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 01:58:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... this essay ... the international political economy of the 1950's and 1960's offered a better environment for economic development by low and middle income nations than the international political economy of the 1990's and 2000's. So it clearly can be better for middle and low income nations than it is today, so the conditions offered by the American Empire since it passed middle age and headed toward being old enough for Social Security can be bested: the current international political economy is clearly not the best of all possible worlds for middle and low income nations.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 03:19:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I think you are right. Does this really call for the collapse of the empire, though, or just a return to more sound policies than the neoliberal ones that have become so popular since the 1970's? America as a global, imperial type-polity has done rather well in both periods, even if various constituencies within it have fared better or worse at different times, so it would seem that a rejection of post-Reagan, rightist idealism in American politics may be sufficient for everyone involved and a bit less daunting to accomplish.
by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:28:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you assume that it will be easier to oust the neoliberal nutcases in Washington, reverse the decline of the American empire and implement sanity-based policies in the American empire than to topple the neoliberal nutcases in the local capital and implement sanity-based policies that the neoliberal nutcases in Washington will not have the capacity to suppress?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:58:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess it's because if America really can be conceived of as an empire, that is as a transnational, institutionalized polity of some kind, then this means that the most effective arena for policy change is Washington -- it's core. Most of the rest of the periphery will eventually follow what happens in the core, allowing for various degrees of resistance and diversity among its constituents.  

And the space between neo-liberal policies and progressive-liberal policies is not really all that wide either. The institutional framework, I don't think, is the real problem.  It's just the present political leadership that needs tweaking and the institutions of the empire allow for a wide range of peaceful means for doing so within the present framework. I.e., it's the path of least resistance.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 06:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess it's because if America really can be conceived of as an empire, that is as a transnational, institutionalized polity of some kind, then this means that the most effective arena for policy change is Washington -- it's core.

You assume that if nothing is done, the American empire will remain. It won't. Restoring the American empire to some semblance of sustainability will require active effort.

So in order to believe that the most effective arena for policy change in the periphery is Washington, you have to believe that the effort required to change policy in the periphery is less than the effort required to change policy in Washington plus the effort that must be expended to restore the American empire, plus the opportunity cost of the time lost between core policy propagating through the periphery, compared to changing policy directly in the periphery, minus the probability that the core resumes functioning on its own in time to salvage the empire.

We can quantify the time it takes for policy to propagate from Washington to Bruxelles, almost to the year, by looking at when Washington, resp. Bruxelles forgot how to resolve a systemic bankruptcy. Call it ten years (from the .com bust until today). Give or take a few years. Changing policy in Washington is likely to be harder than changing policy in Bruxelles, if for no other reason then because the American constitution is less amenable to grassroot efforts (and because the American government has far more deeply institutionalised corruption). Which in turn means that the imperial core is unlikely to resume sanity-based policies on its own. Add the effort required to restore the American empire to some semblance of viability, and the whole thing starts looking rather open-and-shut, unless you happen to be an American and therefore have to live with the America that actually unfolds.

the space between neo-liberal policies and progressive-liberal policies is not really all that wide either.

Well, compared to the space between Leninism and neo-liberalism, I suppose you might say that.

In practise, you'd have to purge half the top-tier civil servants, who have been drafted from the school of thought that grants corporations more rights than individuals, views paid-for speech as being equivalent to free speech and subscribes to fantasy-based economics. And then you'd have to destroy the neoliberals' sources of funding, academic support, media cover and intellectual foundations (OK, the last bit is easy enough), to make sure we won't be having this same discussion thirty years down the road. (The last bit was where American Keynesianism failed - it was insufficiently thorough in purging pockets of potential revanchists. It is noteworthy that the neoliberals have done their best to avoid repeating that mistake.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 07:11:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well - that depends on your definition of viabilty.

The neo-fascist model is one where 1-2% of the population can survive at the expense of the rest. This is the sole foundation and aim of the current American empire.

And it works, and will continue to work, at least until such time that the Earth itself is barely habitable.

It might even survive for a while after that.

But that's a dispiriting and fantastically stupid excuse for something that calls itself a civilisation.

While the right enjoys its fantasies of Social Darwinism, the reality is that pure Darwinian competition leads to animal idiocies. Evolutionary competition is stupid. It has no strategy, no goals, and no predictive horizon longer than the next meal, the next pecking order status play, or the next fuck.

In comparison, the progressive model of government is strategic. The aim is the full expression of a population's creative, intellectual and physical talents.

Education, food management, social mobility, and wealth redistribution aren't just moral issues, they're also practical strategies. Done properly they create dynamic, diverse, inventive and resilient societies that are capable of innovation, strategic intelligence and far-sighted goal setting.

Neo-fascism in any form always regresses into infantile fantasies of omnipotence and practical disaster. To deal with reality effectively you have to accept that reality exists, and that's something the neo-fascists are simply unable to do - which is why their future prospects are so limited.

It's not just that they harm other populations, but that they're incapable of surviving without destroying themselves.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 08:02:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The neo-fascist model is one where 1-2% of the population can survive at the expense of the rest. This is the sole foundation and aim of the current American empire.

And it works, and will continue to work, at least until such time that the Earth itself is barely habitable.

But it is less than perfectly clear that it works well enough that it can sustain a society that is capable of projecting political and military power far beyond its own borders.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 08:08:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it need to? The only difference between local and remote aggression is that you're dealing with a bigger 98%.

The essence of the fascist mindset is extreme hierarchy. It's all about relative gradations and relative resource use.

Mugabe in Zimbabwe doesn't care that his country is a festering joke. As long as he has food on his table, clean uniforms to parade around in, a few guns and a prostitute or three, the starvation and horror are either irrelevant to him.

Who knows? He may even enjoy them.

The point is that this kind of implosion is inevitable in fascist economies. But it doesn't matter to the winners, because they don't care about the total size of the pie as long as they can maintain some semblance of being special and important, and they're personally comfortable.

It's the ironic poverty of fascism that makes it such a threat. It's implacably and relentlessly hostile to stable, genuine prosperity.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:47:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it need to?

If it wants to motivate the rest of the world to care about what happens in the US, beyond the fate of one's immediate friends (and the sort of general but rather vague pity most people feel for sub-Saharan Africa), then yes.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:58:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I doubt that's been a serious consideration in Washington for quite a while now.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 10:45:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
 Or are the poor merely multiplying under the protective, if miserable, umbrella of cheaper food, fiber, and medicine than would have been available to them otherwise, allowing them to exist when they otherwise never would have been born?  It's not an easy question.

It is not that hard a question. The demographic transition has increased population in mercantilistic, late feudal, capitalistic, communistic, colonial, colonised, fascist, mixed and finally neoliberal economies. To put it down to the American Empire seems a bit odd.

santiago:

Is the American Empire and its associated neo-liberal institutions and narratives actually causing resources or potential capacities for living to be taken away from people who otherwise would have access to more of those things?

If we look at the actual actions of liberalisation on food security, things like this keeps popping up:

CADTM - Famine in Malawi Exposes IMF Negligence

The original sin seems to lie with the IMF and the European Union, which repeatedly called for Malawi's grain reserve to be privatized and run on a "cost-recovery basis." This resulted in the 1999 spin-off of NFRA from ADMARC, with a mandate to maintain adequate buffer stocks of grain and to protect Malawians against fluctuations in food production, availability and prices.

When demand destruction means death, it is hard to argue that the population on average will prosper.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:03:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not that hard a question. The demographic transition has increased population in mercantilistic, late feudal, capitalistic, communistic, colonial, colonised, fascist, mixed and finally neoliberal economies. To put it down to the American Empire seems a bit odd.

This sound observation actually argues my point exactly.  We have at least two, notable, dramatic collapses of large-scale institutional regimes in the non-American dominated world. China's Great Leap Forward, which regrouped the rural countryside into communes and, as official Chinese scholars themselves have come to recently admit, caused the great famine that killed tens of millions of people.  And we also have the disastrous effects of the neo-liberal shock therapy performed on the formerly Communist soviet states. In both cases collapse of the reigning institutional paradigms, and both of them very much imperialist paradigms, led to tragedies of enormous dimensions for millions of people.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:39:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not think I am understanding your point here. Empires falling is worse then empires existing? But empires always falls, its like saying that boom is good and bust is bad.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 06:16:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Empires don't always fall.  They eventually fall, just like people eventually die, but that is something different entirely than always falling.  

Speaking abstractly, it's only a good thing when an empire falls if the harm being done to people by that empire is truly egregious and much worse than what would occur if it collapses. I'm not sure that the "American empire" is really all that bad, even if we can find lots of bad things about it, especially compared to what could happen to a lot of people without it or if there wasn't first a better institutional framework to replace or overtake it.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 10:14:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean empires don't always fall, like people don't always die?

I suppose if you're a vampire squid you might have a different view of the process to the rest of us.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 10:35:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Great Leap Forward did not involve the sort of collapse that you seem to be discussing elsewhere in the thread. It was a purely domestic phenomenon and the existing political structure remained intact.  Sticking with China I'd think that the drawn own end of Imperial China and its aftermath would be closer to what you're getting at.
by MarekNYC on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 06:49:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not what most scholarship on it, including recent official Chinese scholarship says. Most people who have looked at it fault the institutional changes caused by the Great Leap Forward for the Great Famine which occurred a few years later as people's capacity to obtaining food, as well as agricultural production declined, precipitously due to the social reorganization into communes which had different rules and norms for distributing things and controlling behavior than what previously existed.
by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:59:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
But I think we also have to ask whether although there are plenty of bad things about the American Empire, does that really add up to a reason to seek its undoing without first building the foundations for a better way of organizing the world?

I do not see that we have the power to undo the American Empire or organise an alternative. So I do not see the relevance.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 03:54:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You certainly have the power to organize an alternative for when the American Empire collapses. You just have to have a clear eyed view of which parts need replacing.

Establish shadow periodic (eg, quarterly at first, eventually fortnightly) exchanges where developing nations can offer finished goods at set local currency prices and EU producers can offer finished goods at set Euro prices, which EU buyers bidding for quantities and EU prices of the developing nation finished goods, and developing nation buyers bidding for quantities and local currency prices for the EU finished goods, and set shadow exchange rates that clear the bids.

I've already discussed sea lane coverage versus invasion forces ... as far as keeping a sea lane open through the South Atlantic and then the southern Indian Ocean to East Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia, that seems doable with the resources that the EU nations throw away on junior partner invasion forces and defending West Germany from invasion from East Germany.

Making an international market by a capital goods producer and keeping sea lanes open to trade ... are there any another useful side effects of American Empire that is not offset by losing the drawbacks of American Empire?

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 05:45:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I used we as we here at ET.

This is, what you call it - hobby horse? pet peewee? - for me, but I think that when we start reason in terms of what should be done if we happened to hold the reins of global power, we should tread carefully. On one hand it is useful to show that there is indeed alternatives, on the other strategies for action need to be rooted in the actual limited power we as individuals and collective has. I have the suspicion that the tendency to often place ourselves in the position of powerful undermines actual activism.

Taking responsibility for what replaces the American Empire strikes me as taking it a step to far, after all when the American Empire falls (as all empires has) it is rather unlikely to do so because mainly because of a blogpost. Opposing the empire serves on the other hand the concrete need of undermining the support for the next foreign adventure.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 07:07:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... but if ET can think about the under-TINA-unthinkable question of "after American Empire collapses, what then?", it will not be caught in moment of panic when things shift under people's feet ... the moment that the corporations can be expected to make a power grab under catastrophe capitalism.

And, yes, I was answering the plural as you Europeans in general, not European civil society in general let alone ET in particular ... but what Europe can do for good rather than for ill is the first step, after all, and then what European civil society can do to make that more likely, and then how ET can contribute to that.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 08:28:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I am not opposed to investigate the question, just the framing. Could have been clearer on that though.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 03:23:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... working out the framing before we know what we want to accomplish has a very strong bias toward assuming a status quo that may in fact be unsustainable and therefore offers no foundation upon which to build solutions.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 01:24:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
 The implication is that if you dismantle the institutions, you also might destroy the human relationships that the institutions allowed to prosper with possibly catastrophic consequences.

TBTF?

i get the implication alright, it's the old blackmail by inferred-threat-of-force-by-withdrawal-of-essential-services, so big players can cheat on the rules that keep the game fair(er).

'you' destroy? no payoff for the middle class to impoverish itself!

'we' didn't hollow out the global economy with war and casino capitalism, 'they', those who most benefited from the game, shat all over it, planted explosives deep in its bowels, secretly, camouflaging their sick predations with thick layers of impenetrable jargon-rich bullshit, while they flounced into galactically absurd levels of personal and corporate wealth capture, all the while bending liberal democracies into ugly, threatening shapes, by purchasing politicians like used cars.

the world would merrily let itself be governed by responsible 'deciders'... most people would love to turn over the keys to their happiness and social equilibrium to accountable, transparent, honourable governments, and just get on with their lives, but what if those deemed trustworthy enough to be given such excessive power to fracture societies with punishing cuts, (then gallivant off to well paid pastures, far away from the scenes of their crimes, or collect in secret G-20 type connivings), those whose most sacred duty is to maintain a fiduciary, maintenance role in the very architectural foundations societies are based on, can suck whole sovereign nation/states lifeblood dry for breakfast?

these clowns are flying too damn close to the sun, and we all know how that ends!

and guess who's getting splattered with burning wax and feathers?

they break it, from the inside, and then the shafted are supposed to be too fearful to contemplate living without these planetary eco-gobbling, totalitarian-minded goons and their mentally disturbed juggling of the family jewels.

money used to symbolise intelligence and sweat, now the cart is before the horse and it has become pure vapourware...

yes there will be a terrible price to pay for such hubris, with much loss of quantity and quality of life, but what role in creating this unholy clusterfuck did the common man play? how long is everyman supposed to weep for the dissolution of one form of semi-controlled chaos, when it's screwing him six ways from sunday, even if the alternative is more chaotic, for as long as it takes for people to tire of strife, and relearn to coalesce around verifiable realities, ones they can touch and feel, instead of virtual castles in the air, that crumble every time the winds of cyclic change blow?

those who couldn't see through the tissue of lies, and trusted those who coaxed and cajoled them into denial and the cognitively challenged, sheeplike support for imperial violence and resource plunder, have the most to lose.

some of the rest of us have been watching evil defying gravity blowback for decades, and there is a ghastly sense of the other shoe finally dropping. of course there will be goodies to give up, anyone thinking the firstworld vision of the future of happy motoring and sprawling suburbia, trashy media, junk food, braindead ed, groaning hypermalls and cheez whiz snack diets, and a pill or three for all that ails ya (as you contemplate the horror of the inevitable) is going to last much longer has more faith in the lies than i do... this whole model of western(TM) life has become heartless, even as millions of new acolytes assemble to quaff the shiny koolaide.

my bet is that the novelty of events changing globally, added to the excitement of seeing rotten old edifices crumbling, and the space they will make for new and wiser constructions, will more than compensate for the sacrifices we will have to make for exchanging the present rot-riddled paradigm for something more...evolved, even if it is painful. show me any birth that isn't!

they had their fun, at the poorest and weakest's expense, for centuries, they think they can have their cake and eat it for ever. we of the future can carry over the best of what we designed, before it was corroded by people of bad faith, or no faith at all.

so it goes went...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 08:50:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... done getting mired down in the details.

And the promise of continuing to provide any essential services within the structures of the American Empire is an empty promise, since there is no question of the American Empire lasting: the question from inside the metropole is whether we here in the US start dismantling it before it collapses, and the question from inside Europe is how to prepare for riding out the shock waves that will result in either case.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 01:27:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
while i appreciate the compliment, i appreciate just as much your incredible ability to go into the details, to levels that would melt my cerebellum!

same with the other monetary gurus here.

freaking invaluable stuff...

cheers Bruce.

ET, where talents collide in fruitful profusion!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 27th, 2010 at 04:01:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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