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It is interesting to think about how the European economies managed to go from utter destruction of their infrastructure in 1945 to globally competitive in 50 years. Japan, too.

The US is living on momentum from our previously unlimited resources, a previously uninhabited frontier to absorb malcontents, and a generally low population density that allowed us to import labor and brainpower. Now that the country is essentially filled up, and the oil is running out, we're going to have to make some considerable changes to our system if we want to maintain our economic position. How we're going to manage this without serious disruption is something to ponder. Even something as simple as providing reasonable general education is going to require wrenching changes.

by asdf on Sun Apr 11th, 2010 at 01:01:59 PM EST
That, and the fact that your military policy operates on the assumption that there is no such thing as "overkill."

Wasting the next best thing to 5 % of your GDP on military pork can't possibly be a good way to run an economy. Hell, you could create a fully funded unemployment insurance system to pre-neolib Scandinavian standards with that kind of money and still have some left over.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 12th, 2010 at 02:10:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prior to, oh ... about 1975, the US political consensus was for the government to provide Guns and Butter.  Once the economy could no longer afford both the political consensus was to focus on the Guns.  This decision resulted from a fundamental agreement within the US elite and government circles: can't bomb brown people & Steal Their Stuff if you don't have guns.

I no longer expect rationality in the US, much less any vague sense of the Public Good.  The US seems to want thieves, money grubbing greedheads, and batshit insane crazy people setting the limits and terms of National Debate and deciding National Policy.

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

by ATinNM on Mon Apr 12th, 2010 at 03:20:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think the US really does, but the thieves, money grubbing greedheads and batshit insane crazy people have been winning a well-funded war of political attrition since the end of WWII.

Most of the population is broadly center-left in practice, but has been excluded from policy and the media to create an impression that the US is somewhere between hard right and economic KKK right.

We should stop being polite about the crazies, or accepting their premise that wearing a suit or being published in a serious paper makes them respectable.

The Think Tanks may not dress up in white robes so they can lynch the niggers in person, but they have no problem at all putting them out of work, making them homeless and leaving them to rot.

At least they believe in equal opportunity of a sort - it's no longer necessary to be black and poor to be a nigger who's treated abusively.

And if this rhetoric is offensive - it's not nearly as offensive as the reality.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 12th, 2010 at 06:54:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... work so hard to come up with rationalizations that say that they are not actually thieves but are instead helping "create jobs" suggests that while a minority of Americans may support the thieving and war-mongering for its own sake, a majority require their information pool to be polluted by lies and misleading conceptual frames in order to support the thievery.
 

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 Apr 12th, 2010 at 10:59:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's no such thing as overkill in preparation, not practice.

If we were really comfortable with overkill, there wouldn't be a single Afghani or Iraqi alive, and it all could have been done with far fewer US military casualties.

by Zwackus on Mon Apr 12th, 2010 at 08:11:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only in the very short term. In the longer term there would likely be many more US casualties because of (very literal) international fall out.

The US is only nominally a hyperpower. In practice its actions are always constrained by political and military consequences.

Which is why the calls for consensus and international support are more important than they seem to be. Even during the darkest and most psychotic days of King Bush it was very, very important for the US not to feel it was going it alone.

If European pols understood this more clearly, they'd realise just how much leverage they already have.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 12th, 2010 at 08:47:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes and no.

In the second world war, overkill (euphemistically known as "strategic bombing" and "total war") was the stated and practised policy on the Pacific Front. That still left enough living Japanese to warrant serious worries about casualties in the event of an invasion of the home islands. Even blanketing Iraq in nuclear fire (which, of course, would both piss off people the US can't afford to piss off and obviate the whole "take their stuff" part of "beat Iraq over the head and take their stuff") would leave quite a lot of Iraqis alive, armed and very, very pissed off.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 12th, 2010 at 09:08:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
are not their government, so it's not that personal.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Tue Apr 13th, 2010 at 04:52:08 PM EST
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I think you answered your own query. America needs to leave its 19th century expansionist mindset behind and develop a nurturing society that accepts its place in the world.  Can it institute a Marshall Plan for itself?
It still has wealth enough if it stops giving all of it to the useless leaches in banking and others at the top of the financial pyramid.
by Andhakari on Mon Apr 12th, 2010 at 03:42:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now that the country is essentially filled up,

At number 178 out of 239 in a list of countries ordered by population density, (and at only  2/3 of the world average)  your nearer empty than full.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Apr 12th, 2010 at 08:53:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By overall population density, that's true. However, middle third of the country is pretty dry, suitable for wheat farming, and the western third of the country is essentially a wasteland. West of the 100 degree longitude line, there is not enough rainfall (except in isolated areas) to support farming. Alaska is pretty tough to live in on a year-round basis, and is huge.

by asdf on Mon Apr 12th, 2010 at 09:02:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Australia may similarly seem to be "empty" but the parts that can sustain any kind of human life are actually rather restricted...

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Apr 14th, 2010 at 02:41:29 PM EST
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