Politics as usual is over

A number of my regulars have asked me why I don’t blog about politics as much as I used to.

Fundamentally, it’s because I think the value of political persuasion is decreasing fast. Political persuasion matters most when when policy options are relatively open and unconstrained by objective conditions that politics cannot alter. It matters less when policy options are more constrained, and not at all when there are no choices left.

The political system I have been criticizing all my adult life is fast approaching the point of “no choices left”. And not just in the U.S., either; the same problems of political overcommitment and structural insolvency are playing out in advanced nations all over the planet.

Politics as we know it has had a structural problem for a long time; the self-destructive interest-group scramble that Mancur Olson identified in The Logic of Collective Action continually makes parasitic demands beyond the capacity of the underlying economy to supply, and the difference has to be papered over by massive government borrowing.

This is all very well until, as Margaret Thatcher put it about socialism, “you run out of other peoples’ money.” The system is reaching that point now. Bond investors are figuring out that the debt load has become impossible and are increasingly refusing to either purchase new debt or roll over existing paper. The muni and state-bond market in the U.S. is near-moribund, and the threat of sovereign debt default is tearing the Euro zone apart. U.S Treasuries increasingly look like Wile E. Coyote running in midair; they’ll keep selling only as long as nobody actually looks down.

I described the underlying structural problem in Some Iron Laws of political Economics. I laid out more of the logic in Timing the Entitlements Crash. I described the near-term fiscal consequences in Other Peoples’ Money and Social Security and the Fiscal Event Horizon – and it’s at this point a minor miracle that my prediction of a T-bond debt-rating downgrade hasn’t already come true. Goddess knows what kind of pressure the Feds are putting on the ratings agencies.

Insolvency is no longer a sporadic problem, it’s become pervasive at all levels of government everywhere. This is why the recent brouhaha in Wisconsin was so surreal. The public-employee unions weren’t just rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic, they were fighting to preserve their right to bore more holes in the hull.

When these are the objective conditions, what point is there in arguing that the whole system is corrupt and that middle-class entitlements have to go on the scrap-heap along with every other big-government program? It’s going to happen anyway soon enough. A year ago the U.S. government was only taking in a third of what it needed to cover annual outlays; today it’s so much worse that individual monthly deficits are larger than the entire Bush administration’s. The money’s all gone. Our options are closing down to default or hyperinflation.

It’s going to get ugly out there. A lot of old people are either not going to get their pensions and Social Security at all or get them in hyperinflated dollars that won’t be worth anything. Anyone else dependent on government transfer payments will be similarly screwed. Urban poor, farmers, veterans, the list goes on. Imagine the backlash when that really hits – when it sinks in that the promises were lies, the bubble has popped, the Ponzi scheme is over.

And if you’re prone to schadenfreude, you’ll at least have this consolation: at least here in the U.S. we have favorable demographics with a productive age cohort that will keep rising until 2050. Elsewhere, notably in Europe and Japan, the crash will be far, far worse.

There’s a not a lot of point in arguing about the aftermath, either. Whatever survives the worldwide crash in government finances is going to look like austere, minimalist night-watchman states simply because they will no longer be able to borrow the money to spend at anywhere near today’s levels.

Reality is about to smash the dreams of the world’s collectivists like the hammer of an angry god. They won’t even have the right categories to think about a world in which government is not defined and legitimized by its ability to hand out goodies and entitlements like so much addictive candy.

So…Argue about politics? Not me, not much. What would the point be, anymore?

365 thoughts on “Politics as usual is over

  1. I think you’ve got a missing tag (in whatever markup variation you’re using) after the word ‘Action’.

    Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying (or quoting, I’ve forgotten the attribution) “Things that can’t go on forever, won’t”

  2. Maybe, if we are lucky. More likely things are going to go bad slowly and unevenly enough that there is going to be a lot of really nasty thrashing around while things get “worked out”. Visualize a 800# rabid gorilla, and you will see how I expect the near future of government to work out.

  3. What gets me is that there are so many, many people who do not see the cliff we are about to go over.

  4. I subscribe to the narrative that Wisconsin’s union-stripping measures are primarily a Republican-party power grab, secondarily an attack on democracy, and perhaps in some tertiary sense a boat repair.

    The question that’s been on my mind lately is: do “austere, minimalist night-watchman states create a platform for corporate feudalism?” And what would that look like?

  5. When I screw my eyes shut real tight, I can almost see a US future more aligned with the anti-federalist “articles of confederation” view.

    Makes me happier for a while.

    Die leviathan, die…and crush the parasites under your bloated carcass as you fall.

  6. If the fit really hits the shan, what are people here going to do for a career? What about you ESR? If things really go south in a hurry, I imagine OSS writings and speaking gigs will be pretty thin on the ground…and as for Cathy’s lawyering stuff, I can only imagine that there will be a blessed lack of need for those services..no offense, Cathy ;) I understand you’re a fine seamstress though – a truly valuable skill.

    I can turn my trade to hunting, farming, blacksmithing and carpentry…maybe some civil engineering type work too. I actually don’t think it will go that far, but it never hurts to be prepared.

    As for militia-related provisions…perhaps the less said, the better ;)

  7. There are two distinctly different “societies” that could be called “corporate feudalism”. Either would require a distinctly interventionist government, that is NOT a “night watchman” government, even to exist. One could be a regression to a “company town” type situation where the company basically had more extreme control over its employees. The other, which is what most of you leftist twits seem to be hyperventilating about, could be like Stephenson’s The Diamond Age where everything of value is controlled by large corporations; that has never happened in the past and seems to be even less likely to occur anytime in the future, even with extremely powerful government assistance; I suppose a new totalitarian nation like a reborn Stalinist USSR may be able to do it, but I doubt it – there were good reasons the USSR collapsed.

  8. I gave up a couple of years ago when it was clear that even people I called friends were willing to demonize anyone and everyone who disagreed with them. Some were useful idiots and they annoyed me, but what was far worse were the ones I just feel like have to know better. They kinda scare me.

  9. @NotReynolds

    From Wikipedia: [Herbert] Stein was the formulator of “Herbert Stein’s Law,” which he expressed as “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop”

  10. >If the fit really hits the shan, what are people here going to do for a career? What about you ESR?

    All else fails, I can teach self-defense and firearms. But I don’t think demand for people who know their way around computers is going to collapse even in the worst-case scenarios. It’d take something like the Carrington Event or an EMP bomb over Kansas to do that.

  11. Meanwhile, I am holding some of my saving in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency. Currently, its price is floating around .90 and technical analyst are expecting a upside breakout into rally mode. In October 2010, the price of bitcoin used to be 0.90. With adoption and hard money supply limit of 21 million bitcoin, I can expect deflation in the long run.

    I don’t know if bitcoin is destined to succeed as the global currency, but I have a feeling that bitcoin is a pivotal technology in the history of mankind. If it doesn’t succeed, a newer and more powerful version will.

  12. Hm. So… how would that work out? The Feds are out of money. A good portion of their power comes from the ability to offer funds to states that follow their rules and procedures…

    So if the US dollar becomes greatly devalued…we’re back to the states having to issue their own currency to function? Maybe a fully electronic payment system finally?

    I live in Colorado and we’re pretty self sustaining. The only issues we have that require Federal intervention is water rights. And that’s because we’re capable of taking the entire output of rivers instead of letting them go to other states.

    I agree the old way of politics is dead for now. That was arguing procedure. The new political discussions will be around “Getting things to work” and “How to manage situations without summoning mobs of angry people”

  13. Political debate is a waste of time, but I learn a great deal from reading Eric’s analysis and the comments of many of the regular contributors to this blog. This is a good thing. As we enter uncertain and treacherous waters, it’s helpful to have some insight into what the future may hold. As bad as things may now appear, I would argue that the glass is half full. For example, amid all the calamity now unfolding in Japan, Tokyo is still standing and relatively unscathed despite being only 250 miles from the epicenter of a 9.0 earthquake. I’d say the engineers did a pretty good job of designing those tall skyscrapers. We have a lot going for us, if you just take the time to look for it.

  14. Swift– It’s been a while since I read Diamond Age, and I can’t recall how it goes, or what aspects I’d consider plausible or implausible. But we’re talking about a situation in which “everything of value” is controlled by something that isn’t the government. Who will control it then, and how will they differ from a corporation?

  15. I subscribe to the narrative that Wisconsin’s union-stripping measures are primarily a Republican-party power grab, secondarily an attack on democracy, and perhaps in some tertiary sense a boat repair

    Yes, that’s a narrative alright.

    Consider for a moment the well-known union-stripper FDR’s opposition to public-sector unionization. Wisconsin state/local employees under the new law have more collective-bargaining power than USGOV employees.

    We don’t have a “Democracy” in this country. Democracy is two sheep and three wolves voting on what’s for dinner.

    Then let us disambiguate between “rights” and “powers”. The position expressed in the founding document of our nation was that “rights” are inherent in our nature as humans, incapable of being alienated from that nature. Sadly, many of my co-religionists seize upon the phrase “God-given”, which both scares off the unbelievers (or those who fear their belief is unlikely to be seen as legitimate by a State empowered to meddle in such affairs), and feeds the notion that “rights” are “given” as somehow separate from our nature. God Himself cannot alienate our true rights from us without also changing our nature, because He cannot contradict Himself.

    That document goes on to explain that to secure our rights, we grant governments “powers”, which are just powers only to the extent that they do in fact operate to secure those rights. This is a very important distinction. Governments do not have rights. (This is why I really dislike the formulation “state rights” in discussion of Federal balance of power issues, but I digress.) People, as agents of government, are not exercising their individual personal rights, but the power with which they have been vested. There is no right to wield power over others. There is no right to be a government employee.

    In assuming power over others in a free nation, one also accepts limits on how that power is to be used. The default assumption is always that an agent of the government does not have some power, unless and until the agent can point out the exact chain of authority by which he wields it. Any law that proposes to limit the power of government employees gets my endorsement unless and until I can see a reason to oppose it. So, if anyone’s in favor of granting government employees additional collective-bargaining power, let’s hear the reasoning.

  16. “That was arguing procedure. The new political discussions will be around “Getting things to work” and “How to manage situations without summoning mobs of angry people”

    Not going to happen. Reality meet angry mobs of people (see Wisconsin, which was a relative nothingburger – they ended mandatory dues checkoff for public employee unions, which generated Godwinesque hysteria utterly out of proportion to the situation.)

    We’re in for interesting times, and for this reason I believe 2012 will flip conventional wisdom on its head politically. We must see a real “prick” (iow someone who’s going to make the tough decision and take the blows that inevitably follow) get elected, not the “why don’t we all get along” typical slickster pol.

  17. Dan wrote:
    I can turn my trade to hunting, farming, blacksmithing and carpentry…maybe some civil engineering type work too. I actually don’t think it will go that far, but it never hurts to be prepared.

    The world will not turn into Mad Max. It will turn into Argentina, post 2001 peso devaluation and debt default. Ferfal, an Argentine native, has a very good blog about what happened at http://ferfal.blogspot.com/

    The main point he makes is that the world doesn’t end, and that we won’t go back to the stone age. It’ll be a dirtier and poorer world than today, but it will still be today’s high tech world.

  18. Elsewhere, notably in Europe and Japan, the crash will be far, far worse.

    I can understand the schadenfreude over Europe, they’ve come out with all sorts of self-satisfied skepticism about the American Way over the years, but Japanese anti-Americanism has generally been a lot more fringe.

    Gold is probably good. Might think about burying it somewhere a little higher up now, though.

  19. “The main point he makes is that the world doesn’t end, and that we won’t go back to the stone age. It’ll be a dirtier and poorer world than today, but it will still be today’s high tech world.”

    I suspect welfare statism will be replaced by volunteerism and corporate welfarism (corporations will have “welfare departments” which will be run more efficiently and effectively than the federal government.)

    Like Rahm said, you don’t let a crisis go to waste. Whatever libertarians aren’t busy toking themselves into oblivion would be wise to follow that advice.

  20. I’m inclined to believe that gold is not currently a good thing to buy. There are just too many people who think of it as a store of value in times of economic instability . . . and we’re currently quite visibly in a time of economic instability. Even with a lot of complacent people trusting the mainstream financial system, worried people can bid the price up gold up enough to absorb any gains from having it as an inflation hedge . . . or possibly even turn it into a bubble. And I understand that gold has trended up steeply of late.

  21. What you describe is basically what happened in Germany in the 1920’s. Germany still exists and has very lively politics and a healthy economy. Both Thailand and Russia saw comparable collapses in recent history. They still exist. In the end it is just money we are talking about.

    I consider politics “the art of living together”. If there is anything apocaliptic I sense in this blog and US, it is the manifest unwillingness to live together. In most of Europe you can be married to a member of the other camp. Euro Commissioner Kroes, a conservative, used to be married to a prominent Labour politician (a socialist) and no one really cared. I was rather stunned when someone told me that this cannot happen in the US.

    That is to me a more worrying sign that the USA might see its end comming.

  22. Gold will be useful if governments panic into hyperinflation. I’m in Japan and I don’t see how they can avoid a default of some kind. I’m aware the deflation camp is convinced gold is going to plummet when everyone rushes for cash at some point, but I’m not convinced that anyone has a crystal ball here. I think we’re looking at possible collapse of fiat currencies, presumably with the dollar going down last. There isn’t much precedent of such things happening on this scale, though.

    I’m not crazy about agreeing with Glenn Beck about something, mind.

  23. In the second half of the 19th century there was this German guy living in London who also wrote that politics was over and history was moving inevitably towards a certain conclusion… We know how that panned out.

    I don’t think that the world is headed for an inevitable dénouement. We are having problems. But we’re good at solving problems. Just look at them seperately:
    – The “productive age cohort” is decreasing. That just means that we need to increase productivity. Something we are very good at. I’d even say that here Europe and Japan are in better shape than the US because they have a better education system. Japan is investing heavily in robotics for a reason. If not enough workers are made in the bedroom you make them in factories…
    – We might be living above our means. Then a downward adjustment in living standards might indeed be inevitable. But a lot of the “living about your means” the US is currently engaged in are things the US can easily dispense with. (Like a military presence abroad). Europe has a lot of useless programs it can get rid of too. I would like to point out that there are western industrialized nations out there that managed to maintain a fiscal surplus, a high standard of living and a functioning democratic state so far all through the financial crisis.
    – It is possible to get the voters to accept reductions in entitlements. There was recently a referendum in Switzerland to reduce unemployment benefits. That was accepted by the public, even though the trade unions spend oodles of money campaigning against it. A “popular initiative” that called for the government to spend more money subsidizing health insurance was rejected…

    So I think that visions of doom are not called for, as usual…

  24. @K
    “So I think that visions of doom are not called for, as usual…”

    They are called for I think. But only for the US, and not for the reasons stated.

    Money is not important. Most countries have gone through a complete financial meltdown somewhere in their history. The people curse, weep, and pick up their shovels to clear away the rubble and rebuild their country.

    In those countries, people wanted to build an new home for all.

    But what I read here is about people who just want to get rid of the other half of the population. They do not want to live together. These “culture wars” seem less and less just a figure of speech.

    And as Belgium shows now, and Yugoslavia showed 20 years ago, if people really do not want to live together anymore, they simply will “divorce” their country.

  25. > Whatever survives the worldwide crash in government finances is going to look like austere, minimalist night-watchman states simply because they will no longer be able to borrow the money to spend at anywhere near today’s levels.

    of course that would imply drastically reducing defence costs, and I simply cannot see that happen in the US.

    If ESR is right that the natural centre of US politics is much to the right than what is acknowledged on mainstream media, and ‘right’ here means ‘conservative’, than public opinion is going to bo ready to run huge deficits, and even impoverish the country, in order to stick to a strong military force….

  26. assuming the deafault/hyperinflation scenario is correct, what about a VAT? that should be able to fix the deficit, I think

    I understand the majority of public opinion would be against it, but the alternative is sale taxes that (at least from the outside) look much more complicated or unfair ….

    would an argument be possible in the US public discourse in favour of a VAT?

  27. @Winter – In the US, 150 years ago, one part of the country decided it couldn’t live with “the other” in the form of President Lincoln…

    That having been said, it looks like the states are beginning to fight back against the overbearing Fed. I know of at least 3 bills that have been introduces in 3 different statehouses to criminalize the intrusive searches of the TSA at the level of sexual molestation. The states are PA, NJ, and NH… Add to this the various states’ suits against PPACA and the Firearms Freedom Acts (symbolic though they be), and I think the way may be slow and difficult, but not violent.

    Americans don’t, by and large, settle issues with violence. They settle them in courts, legal or pubic opinion. There is often incidental low-level violace associated with settling things in the court of public opinion (cf Wisconson), but I just don’t see political violence on the level that Europeans accept without comment happening in the US this decade. (If nothing else, the chance of a mob stumbling across an armed person who can convince 12 “unbiased” jurors that his use of deadly force was “reasonable” is a tad high in a lot of places.)

    Yes, political violence can be seen on the news; because it is news, it’s unusual. And it generally does the rioters no favors in the courts of public opinion.

  28. @Ian Argent:
    “Americans don’t, by and large, settle issues with violence. ”

    Yugoslavia was bloody (except for Slovenia). Chechoslowakia was peaceful, and the Belgians show absolutely no inclination to raise anything but their voices. Divorces do not have to be violent, I agree (and sincerely hope).

  29. >assuming the deafault/hyperinflation scenario is correct, what about a VAT?

    A VAT won’t work because raising taxes won’t work. The underlying structural problem is that the interest-group scramble spends money faster than the economy can generate it. One recent empirical study of this effect showed that, since the 1940s, every $1 in increased Federal revenue generated $1.17 in additional spending.

  30. Americans don’t, by and large, settle issues with violence.

    Well, except for in Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Vietnam, Korea, Europe, Japan, the Spanish Empire, etc. Then there’s the little matter of the American Civil War you’ve already alluded to. Let’s not forget that that a bloody revolution is what started this country, either.

    OTOH, I agree that violence does not have to occur, I’m simply afraid that it might very well occur.

  31. The underlying structural problem is that the interest-group scramble spends money faster than the economy can generate it.

    How about throwing all the interest groups in prison? ;)

  32. Well, except for in Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Vietnam, Korea, Europe, Japan, the Spanish Empire, etc.

    I think he meant domestic issues since the Civil War.

    But yeah, more a luxury based on circumstances than a fundamental aspect of the American character.

  33. I think self-defense and firearms training are more growth areas, at least in a post-collapse USA.

    Call me cynical, but unless the Internet cables from the US are cut as a result, being competent at computers is going to be increasingly outsourced to places that are cheaper.

  34. And while I’m at it, US military dominance will only last so long as the core infrastructure technologies – more advanced computer chips, basic manufacturing of all sorts of materials – can continue to be imported. I give that about 20 years more, tops, with systemic failures starting in 8 years or so.

  35. Suppose it become literally impossible or extremely difficult to tax the population, what would happen?

  36. The world doesn’t go Mad Max when the dollar collapses. Finances are mainly marks on paper or bits in a computer.

    No, the world goes Mad Max when energy becomes scarce. And I have yet to see any substitute with anything near the EROEI of our now rapidly dwindling supplies of oil…

  37. @kiba
    “Suppose it become literally impossible or extremely difficult to tax the population, what would happen?”

    No tax, no government.

    If federal taxes stall in the USA, the states who are net consumers of federal money will suffer most. I was not surprised when I saw which states in the USA were net consumers of federal money, and which states were net producers.

  38. And here is some information on a Solar Breeder project. Mind you, this could have been investigated a few years earlier because time starts to run out. But maybe it is still better late than never.

    The Sahara Solar Breeder Project
    http://www.diginfo.tv/2010/11/24/10-0135-r-en.php

    This project will use the world’s biggest desert, the Sahara, as an energy source. Deserts have ample sunlight over a vast area, and their sand contains lots of silica – the raw material for silicon. So the idea is to build silicon manufacturing plants around the desert and solar power plants in the desert, and use the power generated to build more silicon and power plants in a “breeding” process. In the future, such plants could supply energy worldwide, through DC power lines using high-temperature superconductors.

    More links
    http://www.gizmag.com/sahara-solar-breeder-project/17054/
    http://inhabitat.com/sahara-solar-breeder-project-will-turn-desert-into-energy-source/

  39. @Winter – Pie in the sky. First, high-temp superconductors don’t exist. Second, you aren’t gonna get enough energy from solar to power a silicon refinery, so it’s a net negative, like bio-ethanol.

    The only thing that’s going to replace oil is something else with a significant energy density and a high EROEI. Something like Uranium or Thorium.

    Get enough cheap electricity, then the low energy return of Hydrogen becomes moot, and we can see things like the Honda FCX Clarity on the road for real.

    Of course, that’s completely irrelevant if we don’t solve the structural insolvency of the world’s governments. There is simply not enough economic activity occurring in America to cover the governments’ spending.

  40. @Winter, re: Solar Breeder Project

    I work in that industry. The capital required to build ONE modern wafer fab is on the order of 2-3 billion USD. That’s just the fab, which doesn’t include the silicon foundry where the crystals are grown and sliced into wafers, and any of the associated support industries. And all this in an part of the world almost entirely devoid of the infrastructure needed to support wafer fabrication (constant, reliable power; clean water; workforce; transportation, etc). Plus, there would be no profit for 50-75 years, if ever. So, you’re talking about 20-30 billion (just a weakly educated guess, since I have no clue how much it would cost to develop these areas to the level needed to support high-tech manufacturing) PER fab times…what? 100? 1000? You’re getting into a significant fraction of the entire world’s economic output. And that solely the economics. This doesn’t address the fact the politics of the region are chronically UNSTABLE.

    In short, it would never happen. Theoretically, yes, it’s possible. Technologically, it could be done. Is it realistic? Absolutely not.

  41. >A VAT won’t work because raising taxes won’t work.

    ok, but then why do you assume noone will cut expenses? You are not alone in assuming that no politician has the guts to propose radical cuts, or if he does, to be electorally viable, but from the outside I find this very surprising. One would assume that if there is a country in the world ready to listen to such a policy would be the US.

    What about (for instance) ‘fiscal conservatives’? Don’t they have a presidential hopeful that runs on a balanced budget promise? Isn’t the GOP explicitely commited to balanced budgets?

    If even fiscal conservaties cannot face the electoral pressure about cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, the Military etc, then what does it say about your claims that the political centre in the US is much more conservative than usually admitted?

  42. As a follow up, more effort needs to be put into IEC-type fusion research (Bussard device, Z-pinch device) and much, MUCH less into tokamak-style reactors. Tokamaks make great science experiments, but horrible commercial power generators. Should governments support this research with tax dollars? I don’t know…the constitutionalist in me says no, but at the same time, I feel like a Manhatten/Apollo style effort is needed, given the urgency.

  43. >ok, but then why do you assume noone will cut expenses?

    Because the blocking coalitions against serious cuts are too powerful. Every serious attempt to cut spending to sustainable levels has been met by concerted screaming that it’s an attack on the poor, minorities, the elderly, the environment, etc, etc, etc.

    >If even fiscal conservaties cannot face the electoral pressure about cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, the Military etc, then what does it say about your claims that the political centre in the US is much more conservative than usually admitted?

    The ugly truth is that the median American voter is a ‘fiscal conservative’ who thinks the entitlements flowing to him are only right and just – it’s everyone else’s that are wasteful and corrupt. (So, for example, you get Tea Party activists railing against government spending but fiercely defensive about Medicaid.) This is why fiscal conservatives are near impotent in the U.S. – everyone but a handful of ornery libertarians like me has been gradually conditioned into accepting the game of handouts and subsidies.

  44. @Mat Minton
    Solar panels a currently deposited on folie on a roll. You can use amorphous silicon. A little more trust in technological ingenuity.

    The numbers are clear. If we can produce solar panels with a net EROIE we can produce as much solar energy as we care to pay for. And EROIE is an empirical question. Simply do your own research (I have to tend the oven).

  45. @Matt Minton:

    > I work in that industry. The capital required to build ONE modern wafer fab is on the order of 2-3 billion USD.

    When you say “that industry” it implies solar. When you say “ONE modern wafer fab” and “2-3 billion” it implies modern, fast, high-performance integrated circuits. Which is it?

    > That’s just the fab, which doesn’t include the silicon foundry where the crystals are grown and sliced into wafers,

    OK, semiconductors. But you can make solar cells out of lots of things, including amorphous silicon. AFAIK, most solar is not done with monolithic sliced wafers any more.

    Some of the underlying technologies might be the same as with IC fabrication, but the requirements aren’t. In fact, the extra leakage associated with modern small geometry ICs could be detrimental to solar cells, and for solar, you don’t care nearly as much about defect density, and if you’re starting out in the Sahara, you probably don’t even care that much about efficiency to start with. In other words, you are optimizing for completely different parameters.

    Applied Materials, which is huge in semiconductor handling equipment, tried to ramp up in solar, but mostly exited that business now.

    In short, there is no doubt that leading edge highest performance solar will require the sorts of infrastructure you describe, but it’s much easier for someone to make a useful solar cell in their garage than a useful X86 clone.

  46. ok, but then why do you assume noone will cut expenses?

    The bare minimum: eliminate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare/ADC/WIC/etc., HUD, reduce military spending to about a 10th of what it is now, privatize the Department of Transportation, further privatize the Post Office, eliminate or privatize NASA, the FBI, the Secret Service and the CIA — and radicially restructure everything to reduce costs.

    You ready for that kind of pain?

  47. > If federal taxes stall in the USA, the states who are net consumers of federal money will suffer most.

    Not necessarily. It’s a lot easier for someone in Missouri (for example) to become food&water self-sufficient than it is for the typical LA/Chicago/NYC resident. (And no, the “rural” folk in states like CA, IL, NY are not likely to help.)

    While some may think that mad hacker skilz will be highly prized in the event of social breakdown, I’m betting on folks who can produce and harvest food.

    Also, govt spending isn’t just transfer payments (like unemployment, welfare, SSI, etc.), it’s also military spending. The blue states have more military bases. It’s unclear how stopping payments to soldiers would play out.

  48. >While some may think that mad hacker skilz will be highly prized in the event of social breakdown, I’m betting on folks who can produce and harvest food.

    They’re more tied than you think. The logistic network that connects food producers to consumers – and food producers to their capital-goods suppliers – probably can no longer be run without computers. This is why a repeat of the Carrington Event would cause megadeaths today, but it also puts a floor on domestic demand for system administrators and programmers.

  49. >You ready for that kind of pain?

    Given the percentage of revenue going to debt service, even cuts in discretionary spending and entitlements that drastic probably wouldn’t do it. I don’t see any way out other than default or hyperinflation.

  50. >if the US dollar becomes greatly devalued…we’re back to the states having to issue their own currency to function?

    Not at all. We just return to market currencies. Personally, I would expect gold and silver coinage to regain their historical popularity.

  51. @esr
    “Given the percentage of revenue going to debt service, even cuts in discretionary spending and entitlements that drastic probably wouldn’t do it. ”

    The way out of debt practiced most over history is to default. Or to devalue your currency enough in case your debt is oversees.

  52. @some guy
    If the world economie grows faster than the supply of gold&silver you get constant price deflation.

  53. The problem with the gold standard is that people end up digging rocks instead of doing something useful. Hence the appeal of bitcoin.

  54. The US is the most solvent of the major western nations, so chances are that Japan and most of Europe will collapse before the US does. The end is in sight, but not nigh. I would say around 2016-2027

  55. @Patrick

    Yes, AMAT dropped out of the solar business when they realized c-Si solar cells were on their way out. And I’m not arguing that it’s not technologically feasible; right now, with thin film solar cells at about 10% efficiency, you’d only need to cover 1/10 of the area of the Sahara to cover the world’s current energy needs, or only 17% of that (17/1000 of the Sahara) to power Europe.

    But think about that for a minute…one TENTH of the Sahara Desert, which is probably the most inhospitable, to both man and machine, place on the planet. Or even 17/1000ths…it would be a maintenance and logistical nightmare. And yes, it’s easier to produce a thin film PV than an x86 or an ARM…but you’re not going to do it in your garage :) You still need vacuum chambers and equipment to support plasma deposition, all of which draw enormous amounts of power that simply doesn’t exist in the region.

    I apologize if any of my data is out of date. Quick google searches only yield up stuff dated 2007 or earlier.

  56. I’ve been noticing over the last year or two that in most of my policy debates (vs both liberal and conservative friends), my arguments have become less prescriptive and more predictive. Two years ago, I was telling folks *how* to fix a problem (health care, immigration, retirement). I’ve given up on that. Now I find myself describing *what* I think the long-term effects will be. This trend had been bothering me. I sense you’re running into the same effect.

    Still, I don’t think it’s a reason to give up the occasional policy debate. No better way to rally opinion on the design of the next USG than to have an archive of discussion about the former to point to and say, “I told you so!” :)

  57. > fiscal conservatives are near impotent in the U.S. – everyone but a handful of ornery libertarians like me has been gradually conditioned into accepting the game of handouts and subsidies.

    if so, that is certainly not good news for democracy in the first place.

    Indeed, while googling on the topic, I could not find much in the way of specific proposals about cutting expenses – the right-wing blogosphere, instapundit in primis, seems to think that cutting ‘earmarks’ will do.

    I stumbled on this interesting video, though. Do not know how much the guy is viable at the national elcectoral level, but his defensive tone does not sound as a good omen for democratic debate:

  58. >being competent at computers is going to be increasingly outsourced to places that are cheaper.

    Or wages in the US will come down to the point they are competitive again.

    >Suppose it become literally impossible or extremely difficult to tax the population, what would happen?

    See Marc Stiegler’s Earthweb. Though they also had the advantage (disadvantage?) that the world’s major capitals and many large cities had all been bombed to oblivion by aliens.

  59. As far as deflation goes, it may be worth looking at The Long Wave, by Fischer, which chronicles the currency history of the English-speaking nations. There have apparently been several eras during which there was no significant inflation, but rather a slow deflationary trend. The Victorian Era was one. In some ways the stable/mildly deflationary periods are more attractive.

  60. > the right-wing blogosphere, instapundit in primis, seems to think that cutting ‘earmarks’ will do.

    Huh? Instapundit definitely doesn’t believe that cutting earmarks is enough. Reynolds does believe that earmarks are a good indicator and a “gateway drug” but he’s never suggested that they’re enough. He often approvingly quotes folks saying that entitlements must be cut.

    He lets his links speak for him, but in his own words we find:
    http://pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/109773/
    http://www.pajamasmedia.com/instapundit-archive/archives2/024693.php

    How about some examples that actually support the claim that the “right-wing blogosphere” thinks that cutting earmarks is adequate?

    Note that cutting spending (including entitlements) back to 200n levels is close enough that if we kept it there, growth would produce a surplus within a few years.

    2006 expenditures were 2.66T. 2010 revenues are about 2.4T. 2007 revenues were almost 2.6T.

    Instead, we’re spending over 3.8T in 2011. No, that’s not unemployment….

  61. @Federico:

    > if so, that is certainly not good news for democracy in the first place.

    America’s Founders rightly feared democracy, because they led to precisely the sort of environment we’re in today, where Western governments are breaking under the strain of entitlements, because people figured out they could “vote themselves largess from the public treasury” (attributed to Alexander Tytler)

    > Do not know how much the guy is viable at the national elcectoral level, but his defensive tone does not sound as a good omen for democratic debate:

    You probably know this, but Gov. Christie is something of a darling of the Right at the moment, because of the kind of attitude he takes in the video. There are no sacred cows to this guy (entitlements, public employee unions, etc), but he holds other positions that would not fare well with a national electorate.

    I’m curious: why would his tone not be a good omen?

  62. More on Reynolds advocating cutting beyond earmarks – http://pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/114863/ .

    ” I really don’t think that’s true [that the gop is cutting with an axe], but he says that like it’s a bad thing.

    What I’d say is that for the time being at least, across-the-board cuts are better than cutting with a “scalpel.” First , scalpels aren’t good for cutting very much at a time. Second, wielded by incompetents, scalpels don’t cut any more precisely. Now, how competent do you think our political class is?

    If they cut with a “scalpel,” it’ll mostly be used to carve out exceptions for favored constituencies. I’d rather see an honest axe than a dishonest scalpel.

    Even 5% across the board would be a good start, and even more politically defensible. Then repeat.”

    Let’s see some specifics supporting the claim that the right-wing blogosphere thinks that cutting earmarks is enough.

    BTW – Reynolds is actually libertarian, but I suppose if you’re a lefty, anything in opposition is “right-wing”.

  63. @James A. Donald

    The end is in sight, but not nigh. I would say around 2016-2027

    What makes you think this? (No, it’s not a rhetorical question; I really want to know.)

  64. A sign of the inflationary times:

    The donut has achieved exchange parity with the dollar. At least if Dunkin’s exchange rates are to bebelieved. Which means “dollars to donuts” ain’t the expression of certainty it once was.

  65. “What gets me is that there are so many, many people who do not see the cliff we are about to go over.”

    Part of the reason for this is that the normal economic signals have been suppressed for an extended period.

    When an individual gets deeply into debt, he finds that either no one will loan him additional funds, or they are available only at exhorbitant rates. When a corporation is not deemed credit-worthy because its revenue does not keep up with outflow, it sees the interest rate on its bonds rise.

    So in a world where U.S. Treasuries are trading around 4%, it’s hard to convince everyone that we are in a severe debt crisis. I’ve been trying for some time to understand how and why these signals have been suppressed, and I think it mainly comes down to Bretton-Woods II. As long as a certain Asian power running a sizable trade surplus with America keeps reinvesting the resulting dollars back into U.S. federal debt, the problem is masked.

    This isn’t to say that I think the root problem of American public debt is China’s fault; however, I do blame them almost entirely for masking the problem as it has gotten steadily worse. If they had cut back on this “lending” (more akin to free crack for addicts) years ago, we could have fixed the problem before it became so severe.

    Personally, I have the opposite problem: substantial personal savings, and no place to invest them that appears likely to generate a reasonable real (i.e., after inflation and taxes) return over the coming decade. Right now I’m more concerned with preserving the purchasing power of that capital in a scary economic time.

  66. earmarks are a good indicator and a “gateway drug”

    Earmarks are a form of bribe paid to grease the wheels for the big graft.

  67. “Of course that would imply drastically reducing defence costs, and I simply cannot see that happen in the US.”

    On the contrary, once things really and truly hit the fan I predict that our two-ocean navy and ability to project power around the globe will be the first thing cut.

  68. I, for one, propose that we change the expression to “dollars to donut holes.” Of course, a hole is a void, and a void is nothing, so dollars still won’t be worth much, I guess! :-P

  69. Does the devastation in Japan immediately put them at risk of default if they try to borrow to rebuild? People have been pointing out for quite awhile that they’ve spent 10 years responding to their flailing economy by doing what we’ve been doing for the past couple, and they’re already way overleveraged.

  70. @Matt Minion
    “thin film solar cells at about 10% efficiency, you’d only need to cover 1/10 of the area of the Sahara to cover the world’s current energy needs, or only 17% of that (17/1000 of the Sahara) to power Europe.”

    1.5 times the surface of Germany is enough for a billion people. Follow my original comment link for the numbers. Other continents have their own deserts.

    It is neither easy nor cheap, but it can be done. Currently their are no cheaper or safer alternatives for the long run.

    And without taxes, no army. Without an army, no oil. If there is oil left.

  71. @Matt:

    > I’m curious: why would his tone not be a good omen?

    because he sounds like he is saying something scandalous (he even jokes about it), when he is not, he is just being specific about what to cut (but not about _how much_ to cut it).

    No politician is ever happy to be specific about who will make unhappy, especially before an election, but usually good journalists manage to extract some more specific information. In the last British elections, the tories were rather clear about what to cut – and adamant that large cuts had to be done.

    > How about some examples that actually support the claim that the “right-wing blogosphere” thinks that cutting earmarks is adequate?

    I was thinking of the ‘porkbusters’ campaign on instapundit and the surrounding rhetoric – some of the posts about it did sound as if waste was the only reason there was a deficit.

    But more generally, I fail to see how any pledge to balance the budget can be taken seriously without explicitly mentioning defense costs. The instapundit post you link to also excludes those costs. Defense is also not mentioned in this thread. Yet, it is clear that no balanced budget in the near future is possible without reducing that spending as well.

    I am not aware of any non-left politician or commentator that has publicly spoken in favour of cutting the military budget (would love to be wrong) – which is particualrly ironic, since Gates is actively cutting his own budget.

  72. @cathy

    >> “Of course that would imply drastically reducing defence costs, and I simply cannot see that happen in the US.”

    > On the contrary, once things really and truly hit the fan I predict that our two-ocean navy and ability to project power around the globe will be the first thing cut.

    you mean the majority of public opinion would actually be in favour of such an option?

  73. “What you describe is basically what happened in Germany in the 1920?s. Germany still exists and has very lively politics and a healthy economy.”

    With only a wee smidgin of, um, eventshaving taken place in Germany between the 1920s and our own peaceful, unsinkable, end-of-history epoch. Yup. No worries about the U.S. now.

  74. >If the world economie grows faster than the supply of gold&silver you get constant price deflation.

    That’s a good thing. It rewards savings, which is critical for capital formation.

  75. >Utah has already started down that route:

    Yeah, I heard about that. The problem remains though that there are unconstitutional federal laws that prohibit gold payment clauses in contracts from being enforced.

    What i want to see happen, and what I expect to happen when the fiat money debacle finally crashes to earth, is the abolition of legal tender laws, the emergence of any number of competing currencies, and clearing markets to exchange them. Letting governments have local monopolies on currency has done incredible amounts of damage to the world economy for centuries.

  76. >I am not aware of any non-left politician or commentator that has publicly spoken in favour of cutting the military budget (would love to be wrong) – which is particualrly ironic, since Gates is actively cutting his own budget.

    Rather to my surprise, we have actually started to hear talk of defense cuts from fiscal-conservative Republicans — the group of deficit hawks around Paul Ryan, in particular.

  77. Well, apparently Europe will dissemble itself even earlier. At least, their power horse Germany is about to go into the Dark Ages threatning to take the nuclear power plants of the grid in the wake of the Japanese tragedy. This and the fact that there are about 4 to 5 nations that are almost bankrupt and the more solvent countries are not that much better, will only speed up the process over there. Funny fact, one of the 5 states will include the CAPITAL of the EU, Bruxelles, because Belgium is already on the verge of a secession (the Dutch north from the French south – of course, it is because the French south has no money and demands more).

    But while a night-watch state is an option in the USA, the training and conditioning of more than 200 years under elitist total state reign will probably produce a totalitarian or communist state rather than a nightwatch state in Europe. If I look around in my close environment, people would rather kneel before a strong state than take up some self-responsibility, which is truly a sad state of affairs…

  78. >>I am not aware of any non-left politician or commentator that has publicly spoken in favour of cutting the military budget (would love to be wrong) – which is particualrly ironic, since Gates is actively cutting his own budget.

    > Rather to my surprise, we have actually started to hear talk of defense cuts from fiscal-conservative Republicans — the group of deficit hawks around Paul Ryan, in particular.

    I am quite surprised. this is the last I had read about him:

    http://blog.american.com/?p=17155

  79. @federico: “Of course that would imply drastically reducing defence costs, and I simply cannot see that happen in the US.”

    @Cathy: On the contrary, once things really and truly hit the fan I predict that our two-ocean navy and ability to project power around the globe will be the first thing cut.

    @federico: “you mean the majority of public opinion would actually be in favour of such an option?”

    When the options are (1) cut your Social Security, (2) cut your Medicare, or (3) cut military spending? Yes, the military will go first, because electoral support for it is weaker. Cutting it won’t be enough, but that’s where the cutting will start, because it’s the least painful to voters. esr has already noted that even the right-wing is starting to talk about military cuts.

  80. >>If the world economie grows faster than the supply of gold&silver you get constant price deflation.

    >That’s a good thing. It rewards savings, which is critical for capital formation.

    Er… it rewards saving to such an extent that it punishes spending or investment. Not usually a good thing.

  81. @Winter:

    If that were a viable solution, we would already have had a Desertec project some years ago, but there are several problems:

    Maintenance, political instability, sustainability of power output (remember, sometimes it is night), transmission networks, prices, overhead, Insurance, ROI, weather to name just a few. In the end it is very unclear whether you could sell it at a comparable price with coal or even highly expensive nuclear power (especially as first time investment).
    If you want to compete with nuclear power, you would have to drop as low as 5-8 ct/kWh. The standard photo-voltaic cells in Europe get you a 15-year amortization only by getting state subsidies in various ways: Initial investment reduction and then a set-price for which you can put it into the grid (around 40 ct/kWh). This alone should dissuade most people from doing any investment in large-scale photo-voltaic power generation.
    But even if we consider that someone could do it and bring down the price to say 10 ct/kWh. We still have the problem that cell output is very volatile and partially random. Measurement and control of large electricty networks are not easy and volatile sources in addition to already highly volatile demand do pose a great problem, especially since fast backup plants are very expensive.

    There are applications for solar cells like traffic signs, insular power usage (f.e. in areas where no other connection is available), field trips into the wilderness. These are all valid applications, but large scale electricity production is not one of the stronger points of solar cells, especially as long as we need so much power and money to produce them.

  82. @Federico

    > because he sounds like he is saying something scandalous (he even jokes about it), when he is not, he is just being specific about what to cut (but not about _how much_ to cut it).

    I’m not sure how familiar you are with American politics, but Social Security has long been considered the “third rail” of politics, with anyone who spoke openly and truthfully that the system AS DESIGNED is fundamentally flawed was widely criticized by both political parties as an alarmist at best, or wishing destitution and starvation on the elderly at the worst. Public attitudes about the entitlements are changing, albeit slowly. Hence, his flippant attitude about it. His point about increasing the retirement age costs nothing, since people pay in longer and draw less back out.

    Here’s a good example; my grandfather died last year at the age of 91. He retired in 1984 and drew SS ever since, collecting $234,684 in total. Based on what his salary was when he retired, I back calculated yearly earnings based on 3% increase per year from 1944-1984. Total, employee and employer, contributions into SS were $45,525, over 5x what was paid in. That’s why the system is broken: people are living longer, drawing far more benefits than they pay in, and there aren’t enough workers currently to support the burden.

  83. @Mike E.

    > it rewards saving to such an extent that it punishes spending or investment. Not usually a good thing.

    Saving IS investment, unless you consider saving to be stuffing gold coins under your mattress. Increased savings makes capital cheaper, allowing more economic development and output.

  84. Cathy, what you said about having no place that looked like a good investment is the scariest thing on this thread because it’s more about the current situation.

    Have you read Tyler Cowan’s “The Great Stagnation”? I’ve only read reviews, but he seems to think that the developed world isn’t growing because of a lack of good new ideas.

  85. Cutting our military budget is going to have a few major negative repercussions elsewhere.

    First, we aren’t going to be able to do any more rescue missions to Japan or Sri Lanka in the wake of massive natural disasters.
    Second, we aren’t going to be basing in foreign nations; leaving them to bear the full cost of their own defense for the first time in decades.
    Third, we aren’t going to have a precision-strike deterrent; which means our first response to any attack will be massive aerial bombardment or nuclear strike.

    In other words, if there’s another 9/11, some country is going to get vaporized.

  86. @ Cathy “his isn’t to say that I think the root problem of American public debt is China’s fault; however, I do blame them almost entirely for masking the problem as it has gotten steadily worse. If they had cut back on this “lending” (more akin to free crack for addicts) years ago, we could have fixed the problem before it became so severe.”

    So, if I understand that correctly, the US puts debt paper on the market, and the Chinese bought it (with the US dollars the acquired from trading with the US). And you blame the Chinese for … what exactly ? For acting in what they think is their best interest ? For trading in a free market ? For lending the US money when the US was looking for loans ?

  87. >In other words, if there’s another 9/11, some country is going to get vaporized.

    You left out loss of expeditionary capability. That, more than “precision-strike deterrent”, is what removes options short of mass destruction. Precision strike is built into our cruise missiles and carrier air, which can reach 75% of the world’s population fairly easily; on the other hand, expeditionary capacity depends on a relative handful of heavy sealift and airlift vehicles.

    Someone else talked of giving up on a two-ocean navy, but from a strategic point of view, the Navy is probably the service we can least afford to cut — power projection is just too important. The single most effective cost-cutting move would probably be to stop building manned warplanes and go all-UAV, all the time.

  88. “because Belgium is already on the verge of a secession (the Dutch north from the French south – of course, it is because the French south has no money and demands more). ”

    I wouldn’t call it the verge of a secession. Belgium has been evolving towards a federal state since the 1960s – what’s going on now is yet another stage of reshuffling power/responsability between the “federal” level and the levels below it.
    There may come, at some point, a secession or, as Winter puts it, a “divorce”, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.

  89. > Rather to my surprise, we have actually started to hear talk of defense cuts from fiscal-conservative Republicans — the group of deficit hawks around Paul Ryan, in particular.

    I am socially and fiscally conservative, and I’ve been in favor of defense cuts since I realized several months ago that we were $14 trillion in debt with a $70 to $107 trillion in unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. I may not have said it here, but I’m pretty sure I said it on Dean Esmay’s blog. As David Koch pointed out, if we wanted to pay off that debt and unfund those liabilites we could NOT do so if we confiscated every stock, bank account and piece of real estate owned by the private sector.

    In other words, we ran out of other people’s money to promise to pay later long ago.

    I know Jessica has said (here) that if the feds sold all the land they own we could pay it all off, but my gut says no. You can’t hardly keep Americans from exploiting land to it’s economic fullness if there is something really valuable to be had. I think most of the easy economic leases have been leased and the most valuable land sold. Our political system is usually pretty good at getting out of the way (and grabbing tax revenue) when there is real money to be made.

    Yours,
    Tom

  90. @Matt

    > I’m not sure how familiar you are with American politics, but Social Security has long been considered the “third rail” of politics, with anyone who spoke openly and truthfully that the system AS DESIGNED is fundamentally flawed was widely criticized by both political parties as an alarmist at best, or wishing destitution and starvation on the elderly at the worst. Public attitudes about the entitlements are changing, albeit slowly. Hence, his flippant attitude about it.

    that’s very clear. I knew SS was a “charged” topic, but did not know it was so politically explosive.

    My question is then: how does the existence of such a system, and its-near universal acceptance, square with the US’s self representation as a country based on free markets, that stresses the responsibility of the individual to care for himself?

    The background to my question is that i find the whole ‘libertarian US’ versus ‘statist Europe’ debate quite useless in understanding the ways these two different (and varied) realities work. My own country, Italy, is usually quoted as the paramount example of all the evils of statism and trade uniions, yet we have had a contribution-based pension system since 1995, and since 1989 most people have to pay for hospital services …

  91. >My question is then: how does the existence of such a system, and its-near universal acceptance, square with the US’s self representation as a country based on free markets, that stresses the responsibility of the individual to care for himself?

    It doesn’t. Welcome to the U.S.’s culture wars.

  92. @brian

    > Second, we aren’t going to be basing in foreign nations; leaving them to bear the full cost of their own defense for the first time in decades.

    from an European perspective, that can only be a very good thing.

    Europe’s irresponsability in military affairs (which once suited the US fine) has had mostly negative consequences, first among these the inability to think about foreign policy in any realistic terms: if you are not ready to engage militarily, you have nothing to lose, and any talk about the problems of the world becomes very cheap.

  93. @federico –

    Yes, but it is only the fact that Europe hasn’t had to pay for its defense that allowed it to engage in all those experiments in Social Democracy. I suspect that if we leave and the various nations of Europe have to care for themselves again we have two decades before there’s yet another World War started in Europe. The Euro was France and Germany’s attempt to conquer Europe without having a military. I doubt that their national desire for conquest will ever be completely eliminated.

    But no matter what happens, no politician in America has the balls to do what needs to be done, so we’re boned.

  94. >from an European perspective, that can only be a very good thing.

    A substantial reduction in overseas basing would be be an easy and productive target for cuts. There’s a lot of resentment in the U.S. of the fact that we pay billions to underwrite the strategic defense posture of Europe and Japan and seem to get back in return mainly repeated rations of anti-U.S. propaganda.

  95. Does anybody know if there are reasonably accurate sources of number for the costs for individual things? Like the cost of maintaining an aircraft carrier, for example? Or, how much money it would cost annually/save annually to eliminate the air force bases in Germany (or staff them only with a skeleton crew so that the place would be there if we needed it)? So much of the defense budget is pretty obfuscated. You can get a reasonably good number for the operating cost of an aircraft carrier, but not combined with the cost of staffing it, or in comparison to other options, like mothballing for future use should we *need* it rather than just *want* it.

    Likewise, are there any good estimates as to any other policy options? Like requiring people to be 68 to get Medicare, or selectively changing the criteria for whether a treatment is covered under Medicare? I’d love to see what would happen if non-palliative treatments were covered under Medicare only if it could be shown that it has a 50% chance of providing another quality year of life….

  96. @ Cathy: “This isn’t to say that I think the root problem of American public debt is China’s fault; however, I do blame them almost entirely for masking the problem as it has gotten steadily worse. If they had cut back on this “lending” (more akin to free crack for addicts) years ago, we could have fixed the problem before it became so severe.”

    @kn: “So, if I understand that correctly, the US puts debt paper on the market, and the Chinese bought it (with the US dollars the acquired from trading with the US). And you blame the Chinese for … what exactly ? For acting in what they think is their best interest? For trading in a free market? For lending the US money when the US was looking for loans?”

    For acting irrationally in a way that has negative long-term consequences for both the U.S. and China. For failing to see the long-term consequences of their continued recycling of dollars back into the U.S. economy as debt.

    If China had acted to maximize the safety and return on their accumulated dollar-denominated capital, the adjustment would have had to occur sooner and been less painful for the U.S., and China would have ended up wealthier instead of holding a pile of soon-to-be-defaulted-or-inflated IOU’s.

  97. > A substantial reduction in overseas basing would be be an easy and productive target for cuts. There’s a lot of resentment in the U.S. of the fact that we pay billions to underwrite the strategic defense posture of Europe and Japan and seem to get back in return mainly repeated rations of anti-U.S. propaganda.

    I know, yet there is a long history of the US resisting any attempt to create any real European military force outside of NATO. I remember that even deploying small European force in Macedonia required lots of diplomacy, with the usual nonsensical outcome, namely an ‘independent’ European German commander, who just ‘happened’ to be also part of the NATO command structure.

    What the US (and the British) do not seem to understand is that if a Eurpean country is to engage realistically in any kind of dangerous military conflict, then full democratic control of her own forces is a precondition. For those people who approved of the intervention in Aghanistan (i was one of them), it would have been much easier to argue for our position if our country had full control of her own military.

  98. There’s a lot of resentment in the U.S. of the fact that we pay billions to underwrite the strategic defense posture of Europe and Japan and seem to get back in return mainly repeated rations of anti-U.S. propaganda.

    Yeah, but you make billions (or at least borrow billions which you’re not going to pay back) off the dollar as reserve currency.

  99. @Nancy: “Cathy, what you said about having no place that looked like a good investment is the scariest thing on this thread because it’s more about the current situation.”

    To be fair, I am not a venture capitalist or an entrepreneur. I don’t have the time or expertise to evaluate investment opportunities in radically new technologies or processes, nor do I have sufficient capital to make bets on non-public investments.

    I’m just an average Jane trying to get some return on her retirement savings through the secondary (non-IPO) stock markets, bond markets, ETF’s, etc. Much of my savings is tied up in IRAs with regulatory limits on where they can be invested. I see an overvalued US stock market, overvalued world bond markets, overvalued Asian stock markets, high-priced gold and silver commodities, etc, etc.

    The essence both of profit-maximizing and safe/high-security investing is to seek undervalued opportunities, which I can’t seem to find anywhere.

    I can only attribute this to a capital glut, but how can there be such a glut when so much of the world is in such debt? Clearly the distribution is highly-skewed, which is probably an unstable situation long-term.

    @Nancy: “Have you read Tyler Cowan’s “The Great Stagnation”? I’ve only read reviews, but he seems to think that the developed world isn’t growing because of a lack of good new ideas.”

    Like you, I’ve read reviews but haven’t read the actual book. I have trouble believing that the world is really running out of innovative new ideas, technological and otherwise. More likely the current world sociopolitical system is making it not worthwhile to make these investments. There’s no question that in certain technologies (e.g. aerospace) there have been no revolutionary steps forward in decades. Airliners are no faster today than in 1970, just more fuel-efficient and with better electronics. Other area of knowledge, such as molecular biology, seem to have great promise and are still in their relative infancy.

    I’m still expecting the Singularity to arrive before the end of the century…

  100. A lot of people seem to be assuming that after the collapse, the ruling elite will recognize the error of their ways and go back to the good old days. That is not what happened in other collapses.

    In Argentina, which used to be first world, what happened during and after each hyperinflation, was that, as described in “Atlas Shrugged” the government would decree that employers and businessmen should act as if everything was normal, the businessmen would flee, the workers take over, chaos ensue, and when the dust settled, the economy was more third world, because large scale forms of economic organization were less functional.

    In Germany, there was a confused and half assed effort to normalize things, but the majority were displeased by having their accustomed handouts cuts, and voted nazi/commie.

    The great majority of votes were nazi/commie, but the commies refused to go into coalition with the nazis. The Nazis had a plurality of the votes, more votes than any Weimar party ever received, but not an outright majority. The votes were Nazis first, commies second, coalition of normal parties third – but, quite unconstitutionally, the normal parties continued to rule for a while.

    At first the government ignored the outcome of these votes, by a variety of measures ever less constitutional, but were reluctant to go all the way and have a Pinochet style coup, or restrict the franchise to older propertied people, and so, eventually and reluctantly, they accepted the election results, and allowed the Nazi party (which received a plurality of the votes) to form a government. They discussed holding a coup, but the army would not play ball.

    If we don’t restrict the franchise after the collapse, or hold a Pinochet style coup, Argentina or Weimar are the likely outcomes.

  101. A comment on How Will Japan Finance Its Reconstruction?

    flydye45 Just now

    This! So This!

    If anyone needs a wake up call about the American fiscal trainwreck, this is as good an object lesson as they are going to get. Can you imagine that occuring on Venice Beach, CA? I can. And we are already broke with Obama opposing insignificant cuts to the budget.

    If we want to be able to deal with Katrina or a Kobe or another San Fran earthquake, we need to get our house in order. Which means entitlements need a serious haircut.

    So what does happen when the US has a major disaster, if its debt keeps growing?

  102. @cathy

    > For acting irrationally in a way that has negative long-term consequences for both the U.S. and China. For failing to see the long-term consequences of their continued recycling of dollars back into the U.S. economy as debt.

    their behaviour does not seem so irrational to me: what else could they buy with all that money? euros? after the greek crisis?

    Besides, they do get back some fairly clear political benefit, don’t they? There is no chance any American president will criticise China or outright condemn anything they do …

  103. @brian “Yes, but it is only the fact that Europe hasn’t had to pay for its defense that allowed it to engage in all those experiments in Social Democracy. I suspect that if we leave and the various nations of Europe have to care for themselves again we have two decades before there’s yet another World War started in Europe. The Euro was France and Germany’s attempt to conquer Europe without having a military. I doubt that their national desire for conquest will ever be completely eliminated.”

    The European union makes the economies of France and Germany interdependent, in order to reduce the probability of a world war in Europe. That was one of the prime motivations way back then. The Euro is a logical contibuation of that process (with additional goals, i.e. removing currency barriers and all that).
    IIRC Gernany and France weren’t all that eager to join the Euro system.

    AFAIK, US military presence in Europe was not intended to “keep the peace” in Europe by keeping France and Germany in check – except maybe for a few years immediately after WWII; it was aimend against Soviet Russia for most of the time, but that doesn’t seem to be much of a problem anymore.

    I also doubt the US would maintain any military presence anywhere for any other reason that its own strategical or tactical interest – ‘taking care of the various European nations”, yeah whatever.

    Your view on European history and politics seems somewhat flawed and US centric, and confirms the stereotypes Europeans have about US citizens.

  104. K Says:
    - It is possible to get the voters to accept reductions in entitlements. There was recently a referendum in Switzerland to reduce unemployment benefits.

    Yes, precisely, by referendum. You will similarly notice that state referendums have generally produced outcomes that are unthinkably right wing compared to the election outcomes – for example abolish affirmative action and limit taxes

    There is no politician anywhere in the US that could possibly get elected opposing affirmative action, yet the majority oppose affirmative action in every referendum.

    This anomaly is explained if we recall that the most powerful and important element of government is the fireproof bureaucracy, whose politics resemble those of Harvard faculty, and the elected politicians are in large part competing for the opportunity to be their PR department – a PR department that represents not the people to the government, but the government to the people. The PR department represents a permanent bureaucracy that is far to the left of the people.

    Any reduction of government is a reduction of their power and privilege, so no reduction of government is possible except by a mass firing not of the politicians, but of the permanent government, which is likely to require a Sulla, someone who credibly threatens to round them all up and shoot them, or quite possibly has to make a good start on doing so.

  105. > If we don’t restrict the franchise after the collapse, or hold a Pinochet style coup, Argentina or Weimar are the likely outcomes.
    If a democracy is unstable during a crisis, and if the franchise must be suspended to keep order, than the USA is a fraud and has been a fraud since Jackson. If we truly believe that democracy can work, then we must treat your proposals as a terrible idea.

    By the way, that other Max isn’t me.

  106. federico Says:
    I know, yet there is a long history of the US resisting any attempt to create any real European military force outside of NATO.

    If the Europe actually wanted to have its own military, how could the US “resist” them?

    What Europe wants is to do is to pretend to have its own military, and send them places under their own flags and their own command, with big brother looking after them and protecting them, but not visibly holding their hands and telling them what to do. As in Aghanistan, the Europeans put up their flags, and the Americans have yet another thing to protect.

    When Europe wants to intervene somewhere without US military backing, it does so under UN flag, and the result is invariably a half assed disaster, as in Srebrenica, because the European military simply is not a real military, but a pretense at having a military because an independent nation should have its own.military and its own flag. They don’t really want to do soldiering for real any more. As Srebrenica showed, any two bit nation with a real military can defeat Europe, because the European military is pretend. The best of them are the British, and the British were humiliatingly defeated by tiny lightly armed militias in the Persian Gulf and Basra. The problem is not so much money as will – they are scared of real soldiers, so don’t have any. It will be interesting to see what happens the next time Argentinia invades the Falklands, not that Argentina has real soldiers these days either.

  107. Your view on European history and politics seems somewhat flawed and US centric, and confirms the stereotypes Europeans have about US citizens.

    That’s as may be, but Europe did manage to drag us into two wars, both against an aggressive and expansionist Germany. A good bit of the US occupation in the decade after WWII, and the permanent staging of troops in Germany and Japan, and the limits we forced on their own military abilities were to prevent us getting involved in another of “Europe’s wars”. Keep in mind that the US was still isolationist and war weary in 1938, and it took a direct attack on the US by Japan to get the population to be willing to allow our entry into the war. Hell, people were openly talking of impeaching FDR for Lend/Lease.

    What I’m saying is your stereotypes may well be correct, but it’s not like our position was without merit.

  108. >Er… it rewards saving to such an extent that it punishes spending or investment.

    It makes people far more careful about what investments make the cut, which is a bit of discipline we could have used over the last couple of decades.

  109. >A substantial reduction in overseas basing would be be an easy and productive target for cuts.

    That’s something Ron Paul has been calling for for as long as I’ve been listening to him, and he’s quite right that there’s no good reason for the USA to have troops stationed in 130 countries around the world in peacetime.

  110. Actually, there are a lot of good reasons. Like the fact that there is no such thing as “peacetime”.

  111. federico Says:
    >>I know, yet there is a long history of the US resisting any attempt to create any real European military force outside of NATO.

    > If the Europe actually wanted to have its own military, how could the US “resist” them?

    by officially and non-officially asking any such structure to fall under NATO command, or be ‘coordinated’ with NATO.

    Legally, the recent so-called “Berlin-plus” agreement between the EU and NATO makes it official policy that the EU can only intervene militarily if for some reason NATO decides not to intervene – which of course means that any european involvement in military conflicts will be guided by NATO.

    The US and the UK have shown several times to be very sensible to this issue: when the then president of the European Commission Romano Prodi said that a united European military would “in many, many years’ time’ be a reality (a purely rhetorical statement if there ever was one), it immediately prompted an _official_ condemnation from the British and the NATO headquertesr (that is, the US) as an anti NATO-move.

    US bases in europe may be very unpopular in the US,and European armies a farce, but sure your government is doing all it can to keep those bases here and those ‘pretend’ military European forces under the NATO umbrella.

  112. About referendums…. they only work when the government actively implements the referendum.

    Take prop 8 in CA. The state declined to defend it in federal court. If that position stands, it means that any state could get rid of a referendum it doesn’t like by getting someone to sue to overturn that referendum in federal court, and then decline to defend it.

    Aka, CA has just found a way for a state to ignore a referendum.

    Even if the referendum gets eventually implemented, after a 6 year court battle, the state can then decide to implement it in a highly selective way (see DC’s gun laws post 2008 Heller victory), knowing full well that the implementation would result in another court battle loss, but again, it’ll take 6 years for the implementation to get overturned.

    Basically, a referendum will only get implemented if there’s enough support in the state government to implement it. Otherwise it *will* get obstructed.

  113. You effectively cannot mothball a CVN.

    For one – there’s no way to ‘safe’ the nuclear reactors in a mothball context. You always need to have a crew on them.

    For two – the skill set of operating carriers, and flight deck operations, is very expensive to build ab novo with modern hardware, and it atrophies very quickly if NOT maintained. (Construction-wise, the Chinese are about 5 years away from relaunching the VARYAG. They are at least another decade away from being able to run sorties off of it at a reasonable rate.)

  114. I can only attribute this to a capital glut, but how can there be such a glut when so much of the world is in such debt?

    I thought most of that capital *was* debt. But there’s apparently excess capacity for all sorts of things now, leading to a lack of good investment opportunities. Let’s hope we don’t reach a point where the traditional method of removing such capacity reasserts itself.

    The single most effective cost-cutting move would probably be to stop building manned warplanes and go all-UAV, all the time.

    I didn’t think the AI for that was quite there yet, though there must be folks positively beavering away at it. Probably not a major Open Source opportunity, alas.

    and he’s quite right that there’s no good reason for the USA to have troops stationed in 130 countries around the world in peacetime.

    Well, there is the need to make sure oil supplies don’t get interrupted. But 130 is probably overkill.

    They are at least another decade away from being able to run sorties off of it at a reasonable rate.

    Not sure why they’re bothering now that they seem to have figured out how to sink one. I mean, yeah, the pleasures of force projection and all, but still. Big, expensive basket with lots of eggs.

  115. >I didn’t think the AI for that was quite there yet, though there must be folks positively beavering away at it.

    Remote-piloted UAVs. Quite effective, way cheaper to build than man-rated airframes, and you don’t lose the pilot when it gets shot down. I don’t know exactly how the military has made the control links effectively unjammable, but I can think of several obvious approaches.

  116. Oh, I thought you meant things which could dogfight autonomously.

  117. The problem with UAVs is the communication links – i.e., satellites. Which, you might remember, China has made a demonstration out of bringing down. Take down the satellites and the UAVs go silent.

  118. > It will be interesting to see what happens the next time Argentina invades the Falklands, not that Argentina has real soldiers these days either.

    GB will have to send Argentina a very stern letter. At the moment the only nation with an actual ability to project power across an ocean is the United States.

  119. >The problem with UAVs is the communication links – i.e., satellites. Which, you might remember, China has made a demonstration out of bringing down. Take down the satellites and the UAVs go silent.

    If I were a military systems designer, I’d certainly have built these so they can be run direct from ground stations or the modified 747s the Air Force uses for standoff ELINT. I can’t believe they’d be stupid enough not to do likewise.

  120. Take down the satellites and the UAVs go silent.

    And everything which relies on GPS. Kind of a doomsday maneuver unless you’ve found away to kill the birds without turning them into shrapnel, though.

  121. >The problem with UAVs is the communication links – i.e., satellites. Which, you might remember, China has made a demonstration out of bringing down. Take down the satellites and the UAVs go silent.

    It also cause debris in space, which increase the opportunity of creating even more debris in space. It’s a terrible weapon because of the collateral damage that it cause for our space infrastructure.

  122. I can’t believe they’d be stupid enough not to do likewise.

    Can you 100%-reliably bounce digital control signals off the upper atmosphere like that?

  123. > Oh, I thought you meant things which could dogfight autonomously.

    Technically we are not far from this, according to Strategy Page. Politically? Much farther.

    Yours,
    Tom

  124. > Not sure why they’re bothering now that they seem to have figured out how to sink one. I mean, yeah, the pleasures of force projection and all, but still. Big, expensive basket with lots of eggs.

    I believe China is thinking long term here. It looks to me like they intend to “own” the Pacific Rim by 2025 or so. The PRC is expected to have completed several carriers by that timeframe, possibly nuclear. By then they will also have credible aircraft to fly off said carriers, most likely suitably navalized derivatives of their own J-20 or the Russian PAK-FA T-50.

  125. > Not sure why they’re bothering now that they seem to have figured out how to sink one. I mean, yeah, the pleasures of force projection and all, but still. Big, expensive basket with lots of eggs.

    We (and they) do also know how to protect one from the way they know how to sink one, although it may have changed the percentages. Note that lots of people knew how to sink one during WWII. That did not make it a bad idea to build them. I don’t think anyone is claiming China knows how to sink one 100% of the time.

    Yours,
    Tom

  126. Politically? Much farther.

    Seeing fighter jocks join typesetters in the dustbin of technohistory might not peg everybody’s schadenfreudometer, but once the efficiency gains (AKA “winning combats”) reach a certain point it’s going to be VERY hard to stand in the way of progress there.

  127. > If I were a military systems designer, I’d certainly have built these so they can be run direct from ground stations or the modified 747s the Air Force uses for standoff ELINT. I can’t believe they’d be stupid enough not to do likewise.

    I find it hard to believe that military planners are neglecting to pay attention to the need to disrupt digital data links.

  128. We (and they) do also know how to protect one from the way they know how to sink one

    Well, I’m sure it’s been played out in simulations a few times. My money’s on them in the medium term in that particular race, nevertheless.

  129. > I find it hard to believe that military planners are neglecting to pay attention to the need to disrupt digital data links.

    I also find it hard to believe that military planners are neglecting to pay attention to the fraility of GPS, particularly since even North Korea has GPS jammers which they are using against South Korea right now.

    Yours,
    Tom

  130. > Seeing fighter jocks join typesetters in the dustbin of technohistory might not peg everybody’s schadenfreudometer, but once the efficiency gains (AKA “winning combats”) reach a certain point it’s going to be VERY hard to stand in the way of progress there.

    Winner! However, right now nobody is winning any dogfights since the USAF has complete air superiority anywhere they decide to fight, and no one is running dogfights between people and UAV’s. Actually there just isn’t any dogfighting going on anywhere.

    Yours,
    Tom

  131. Well, no, but we’re trying to look ahead a bit here, aren’t we?

  132. >Can you 100%-reliably bounce digital control signals off the upper atmosphere like that?

    Funnily enough there’s a military radio system about which some details have leaked that relies on the fact that Earth’s atmosphere is always catching meteoroids. You can bounce signals off either the meteors themselves or the ionized bow shock, accounts are unclear (my bet’s on the latter). The interesting news this implies is that upper-atmosphere meteoroids must be common enough to make it statistically certain that you can find one when you need one.

  133. >Winner! However, right now nobody is winning any dogfights since the USAF has complete air superiority anywhere they decide to fight

    And no prospect of this changing anytime soon. Ken Burnside will be able to amplify this, but the IIRC the short version is that modern U.S. birds like the F-22 and F-35 are basically untouchable by anything else that flies, including the rest of the U.S. warplane inventory.

  134. You recall correctly. The story I read was of the final war-game test of the F-22 against 6 F-16s.

    The F-16s were “dead” before they knew the F-22 was there.

    We show up, we own the air. and the Chinese aren’t going to catch up with us any time soon.

  135. Good thing there aren’t any disruptive technologies coming down the pipe, then.

  136. >Well, I’m sure it’s been played out in simulations a few times. My money’s on them in the medium term in that particular race, nevertheless.

    So’s mine. The missile-to-carrier cost ratio is just too skewed. However, there is a development in the offing that could tilt the game back towards the carriers. The Navy is well along in a program to build ship-mountable terawatt lasers, and that’s a technology that’s got “missile defense” written all over it.

  137. Max E. Says:
    If a democracy is unstable during a crisis, and if the franchise must be suspended to keep order, than the USA is a fraud and has been a fraud since Jackson

    The Jacksonian Franchise was nearly universal white male voting.

    If we restricted voting to mostwhite males, might be able to get through the coming crisis.

    Though I would favor restricting the franchise to people with good credit records, who own guns, are eligible for a concealed carry permit, and who pay property or income taxes,

  138. > > > I know, yet there is a long history of the US resisting any attempt to create any real European military force outside of NATO.

    > > If the Europe actually wanted to have its own military, how could the US “resist” them?

    > by officially and non-officially asking any such structure to fall under NATO command, or be ‘coordinated’ with NATO.

    “ask” is a considerably weaker word than “resist”

  139. # brian Says:
    > We show up, we own the air. and the Chinese aren’t going to catch up with us any time soon.

    The chinese are making the transition from copying other people’s technology to creating their own. If present trends continue, they will catch up soon. They have the biggest cranes, the highest temperature commercial nuclear reactors, and the most advanced gas to liquids plants.

  140. A) The F-22 project has been abandoned to die on the vine. The IR sensor has gone nowhere, doesn’t even have a helmet mounted sight. A real shame, because the platform has massive potential.
    B) The F-35 is not a credible air superiority fighter even against today’s top of the line fighters. It certainly has no chance in hell against Russian and Chinese developments a decade down the line.
    C) Shipborne anti-missile systems are unfortunately not enough by themselves against modern anti-ship missiles. Even is a ship engages and destroys one, it’s liable to get hit by half a ton of supersonic junk. A modern ramjet-powered anti-ship cruise missile such as the Yakhont/Brahmos is a mach 2.5 weapon.
    D) The success of our air operations in the Middle East and over Bosnia has lulled us into a complacency which I fear will prove costly. People either fail to realize or refuse to acknowledge the fact that we have yet to deal with an enemy who had a modern EW capability.
    E) China is very much thinking long term.

  141. >The Navy is well along in a program to build ship-mountable terawatt lasers, and that’s a technology that’s got “missile defense” written all over it.

    So you take them out with cavitating torpedoes, or kinetic-kill projectiles that can ablate half of their mass and still punch two-foot hole from the deck to the keel.

  142. > The F-35 is not a credible air superiority fighter even against today’s top of the line fighters.
    > It certainly has no chance in hell against Russian and Chinese developments a decade down the line.
    I’m not an expert in this, but I’ve heard this kind of claim savagely skewed before:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/16/f35_controversy_kopp_latest/

    > If we restricted voting to most white males, might be able to get through the coming crisis.
    Ah, so you’re just some nut then.

  143. So you take them out with cavitating torpedoes

    Still not convinced anyone’s built one of those that can actually steer.

  144. Jesus, this again? Because certain states, including the US, have mismanaged their finances is hardly a critique of entitlement spending. Some states have managed entitlement spending without any sign of deficit spiral (Australia for example). How scientific of you to simply cherry pick the points that agree with your argument.

    As an aside, someone mentioned investing in gold. If you’re planning on doing so, be sure to investigate your local laws; many governments have extensive legal rights pertaining to the confiscation of private holdings of gold.

  145. Really? Which ones? Most goldbugs worry more about the laws which might be passed than the ones which already have been.

  146. @Max
    “If that were a viable solution, we would already have had a Desertec project some years ago, but there are several problems:”

    Oil is cheaper.

    @Max
    “Maintenance, political instability,”

    Like oil. But you forget that the USA and China have their own desserts.

    @Max
    ” sustainability of power output (remember, sometimes it is night),”

    How could I forget? So we need storage. I take it you consider that impossible?

    @Max
    ” transmission networks, prices, overhead, Insurance, ROI,”

    Like oil.

    @Max
    ” weather to name just a few. ”

    Clouds are not a problem in the Sahara, I understand. Dust and sand are. Unsolvable?

    @Max
    “In the end it is very unclear whether you could sell it at a comparable price with coal or even highly expensive nuclear power (especially as first time investment).”

    The question was whether there is a clean and sustainable solution for our future energy needs. There is. And my numbers were for ALL energy needs, not just electrical power. Do your math replacing all other sources of energy.

    @Max
    “If you want to compete with nuclear power, you would have to drop as low as 5-8 ct/kWh.”

    Or point to Japan. Anyhow, there simply is not enough uranium to deliver all our energy needs. And breeder reactors are not exactly a proven and reliable alternative.

    @Max
    “The standard photo-voltaic cells in Europe get you a 15-year amortization only by getting state subsidies in various ways: Initial investment reduction and then a set-price for which you can put it into the grid (around 40 ct/kWh). This alone should dissuade most people from doing any investment in large-scale photo-voltaic power generation.”

    That is why the plan is to plant them in a dessert with a lot of sun. And this is about a clean and sustainable replacement for cheap fossil fuels.

  147. “That’s a good thing. It rewards savings, which is critical for capital formation.”

    No, it rewards hoarding precious metals. Saving is good if you bring it to a bank who invests it. It is bad if you lock up your gold and let no one touch it.

    I have yet to hear from an economist who has a sensible theory about deflation being good for the economy.

  148. > The F-35 is not a credible air superiority fighter even against today’s top of the line fighters.
    > It certainly has no chance in hell against Russian and Chinese developments a decade down the line.
    I’m not an expert in this, but I’ve heard this kind of claim savagely skewed before:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/16/f35_controversy_kopp_latest/

    2 engines and a more powerful radar / IRST suite means that even the current Su-27 Flanker would be a match for the F-35, plus the expected range of the F-35 is less. Ask the USAF back in the 80s if they preferred the F15 or F16 if one was heading into a dogfight.

    If one wishes to cut the budget then buying a smaller number of more powerful planes makes sense. After all why did the RAAF plead with the US to be able to buy the F22 instead of waiting for the F35. Another trick is to use the F22 as a “mother” to 2 – 4 UAV’s loaded up with missiles. Much harder to jam the links.

  149. Winter,

    It’s clear that you subscribe to the standard Keynsian confusion about thrift. If someone earns money and doesn’t spend it, but rather piles it up under the mattress, then they’re being generous: they’re producing wealth for which they’re being paid, but NOT consuming as much as they could, leaving more goods and services for others to consume. A miser benefits his neighbors; a spendthrift who runs up debts does not.

  150. >USA and China have their own desserts.

    We sure do – pecan pie, yumm!

    >No, it rewards hoarding precious metals.

    Really? I guess that’s why no one invested anything in the late 19th century, during that long period of deflation.

  151. Really? I guess that’s why no one invested anything in the late 19th century, during that long period of deflation.

    There may be a distinction to be drawn between deflation due to rising productivity and deflation due to credit collapse here.

  152. @Some Guy
    “If someone earns money and doesn’t spend it, but rather piles it up under the mattress, then they’re being generous: they’re producing wealth for which they’re being paid, but NOT consuming as much as they could, leaving more goods and services for others to consume. A miser benefits his neighbors; a spendthrift who runs up debts does not.”

    With paper money, money under the mattress means more money can be printed and brought into circulation. With precious metal currency, money drawn from circulation means less money in circulation and deflation (less precious metals, higher prices).

    @William B Shift
    “>No, it rewards hoarding precious metals.

    Really? I guess that’s why no one invested anything in the late 19th century, during that long period of deflation.”

    They used paper money then. If your gold becomes more worth when you keep it locked in a safe, the capital is NOT invested. Instead, the money supply is reduced. Which means even more deflation.

    I have the distinct feeling that those in favor of precious metal currency have not fully thought through the consequences.

  153. hsu,

    Proposition 8 has grave Bill of Rights issues. If allowed to stand it would infringe on people’s (U.S.) Constitutionally protected right to peaceably assemble or to form associations. That’s why it was overturned, and that’s why the state didn’t bother putting up a defense.

    There are many reasons why we don’t live in a democracy, one of them being to disallow the tyranny of the majority from voting away the inherent rights of a minority.

  154. >>The problem with UAVs is the communication links – i.e., satellites. Which, you might remember, China has made a demonstration out of bringing down. Take down the satellites and the UAVs go silent.

    > If I were a military systems designer, I’d certainly have built these so they can be run direct from ground stations or the modified 747s the Air Force uses for standoff ELINT. I can’t believe they’d be stupid enough not to do likewise

    of course I assume everibody here understands that the possibility of any war between the US and China or Russia is inferior to that of an invading force from Mars.

    Why would those countries bother fighting a declining (sorry) superpower? China _owns_ the US debt, if you remember. They must have more confidence in the future of the US economy than our good host here!

    besides, China and Russia are too busy getting rich and building their own spheres of influences on the world stage to engage in something so passé as a world war. The american psyche might have got stuck on the idea that projecting a huge army accross an ocean is the best way to become a superpower, but times have changed in the meantime: you don’t carpet-bomb the enemy, you finance those expenses he cannot give up.

  155. @federico
    “The american psyche might have got stuck on the idea that projecting a huge army accross an ocean is the best way to become a superpower, but times have changed in the meantime: you don’t carpet-bomb the enemy, you finance those expenses he cannot give up.”

    At least the Germans understood that it is much easier to buy Europe than to conquer it. The same for France. So they teamed up.

  156. > So’s mine. The missile-to-carrier cost ratio is just too skewed. However, there is a development in the offing that could tilt the game back towards the carriers. The Navy is well along in a program to build ship-mountable terawatt lasers, and that’s a technology that’s got “missile defense” written all over it.

    I fail to understand how all this technology (except for drones) will help the US in any military conflict it might realistically become involved in, i.e, namely an insurgency. What good is it to have scores of F22 in a war like that in afghanistan? Or take the the marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, a sort of floating tank – very useful if you have to land in normandy all over again, but where could it be realistically deployed?

    The fact that such clearly useless pieces of weaponry manage to capture the imagination of intellingent and well-informed people is a very telling sign of how military expenses and the associated advance in warfare technology can well acquire a life of its own, and get discussed outside any realistic scenario.

  157. >If I were a military systems designer, I’d certainly have built these so they can be run direct from ground stations or the modified 747s the Air Force uses for standoff ELINT. I can’t believe they’d be stupid enough not to do likewise.

    Not to my knowledge. Although there’s nothing preventing the next-gen platforms from doing likewise. Remember that UAV use has sprung up very quickly over the last ten years or so and the primary platforms are still first and second gen, and are not “mission critical” – there’s no risk of our current enemies shooting down satellites, and there’s also no risk that we’ll lose a war even if they do.

    I imagine that you’ll be correct once we start relying on unmanned strategic bombers and fighters, but there’s still a lot of physics standing in your way.

  158. @federico
    “I fail to understand how all this technology (except for drones) will help the US in any military conflict it might realistically become involved in, i.e, namely an insurgency. ”

    You don’t consider a future war with China a realistic future U.S. military conflict?

  159. Cathy says:

    >>> The essence both of profit-maximizing and safe/high-security investing is to seek undervalued opportunities, which I can’t seem to find anywhere.

    Really? Have you been checking out the stock market at all? Apple is quite attractively valued. And it is hardly alone. Partner Communications (PTNR) is another good one. There are a ton of them.

    There are opportunities all over the place out there.

  160. >I have the distinct feeling that those in favor of precious metal currency have not fully thought through the consequences.

    I’m fully aware of the disastrous history of fiat currencies, which is why I’m opposed to them.

  161. Winter: I’m baffled by your statement that “With paper money, money under the mattress means more money can be printed and brought into circulation. With precious metal currency, money drawn from circulation means less money in circulation and deflation (less precious metals, higher prices).”

    How on earth does less money in circulation lead to higher prices? It seems to me that, as David Hume pointed out more that two centuries ago, if the amount of money in the country were doubled overnight, after a period of turbulence, things would settle down with prices doubled on the average: twice as much money chasing the same goods and services. That is, increasing the money supply raises prices. Conversely, decreasing the money supply decreases prices. Or are you proposing that keeping the money supply exactly unchanged results in stable prices, whereas anything that either increases or decreases it is inflationary?

    There are arguments as to why deflation is economically harmful. But they’re not the same arguments as those about inflation, whether or not they’re valid.

    I don’t see much ground for concern, anyway. It isn’t as if people sitting on piles of money were a big deal. Yes, people do maintain nonzero cash balances. But it isn’t as if we started with no money hoarded, and then had money mysteriously vanish from the economy through hoarding, never to return again. Some of that money comes back out of hoards, too. Putting money aside is simply a means of adjusting the timing of transactions for greater convenience.

  162. > With precious metal currency, money drawn from circulation means less money in circulation and deflation (less precious metals, higher prices).

    You have that reversed. The less money is in circulation, the *lower* the prices will be. In any case, so what? The value of the money commodity is just one more market signal that determines whether it’s worthwhile to mine gold or do something else with your time and effort.

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that money is neither wealth nor capital. Goods and services are wealth. Capital is the set of goods and capabilities used to produce wealth. Money is a medium used to transfer value from one party to another, it is not wealth itself.

    The best thing the US government could do for the economy (besides drastically cutting the amount of our wealth it diverts into unproductive activities), would be to abolish fiat currency and return us to sound money. In fact, the honorable thing to do would be to steadily deflate the dollar over a period of a couple of decades until it trades at 16 to the troy ounce.

  163. esr> Funnily enough there’s a military radio system about which some details have leaked that relies on the fact that Earth’s atmosphere is always catching meteoroids.

    Um, that’s not just the military, and it’s not new. The system used by flood reporting and USGS and some other systems in very remote areas send repetitive transmissions, relying on the frequency of micro-meteroids (about 1 ever 90 seconds in our piece of the sky) creating ionization to act as a antenna/reflector for their signals. Been around since at least the ’70’s. These are burst transmissions (due to the short duration of the ionized streaks) so data is very sparse, but it works.

  164. >I fail to understand how all this technology (except for drones) will help the US in any military conflict it might realistically become involved in, i.e, namely an insurgency.

    The missile-defense lasers become relevant in a naval war with China. The Chinese are preparing to fight a naval war with the U.S., with an invasion of Taiwan as the most likely trigger.

  165. James A Donald: Your summary of Weimar political history is somewhat confused.

    The hyperinflation was in 1923, and it didn’t actuall have much effect on the voting pattern.

    The Nazis were only a fringe party until the Depression brought mass unemployment. Then they boomed to a plurality of 37% in the first 1932 election. The Communists were third, not second, well behind the Social Democrats.

    However, the Nazis and Communists between them had over half the seats in the Reichstag, so it was impossible to “form a government” without one or the other. Both the NSDAP and KPD had declared their rejection of democracy, and their intent to set up a dictatorship (of Hitler or “the proletariat”); both refused to support any ministry they did not control.

    The country was governed by decree under an emergency government for several months. Then the veteran conservative politician von Papen arranged for Hitler to become Chancellor. There were to be only two other Nazis in the cabinet, and von Papen thought that as Vice Chancellor he could control Hitler… The rest is history.

  166. > I’m not an expert in this, but I’ve heard this kind of claim savagely skewed before:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/16/f35_controversy_kopp_latest/

    If by skewer you mean launch an ad hominem attack and reveal a sad intellectual laziness, then yes.

    A) Carlo Kopp actually did a RCS analysis of the JSF. The results speak for themselves.
    B) Even assuming the JSF is stealthier than Kopp thinks, it’s inferiority in a dogfight against even a late generation Flanker derivative is indisputable. An aircraft with no supercruise capability, no thrust vectoring, a thrust to weight ratio of .8 and a 5-8g structural limit is not competitive in the air superiority role.
    C) One shouldn’t confuse the Syrians and the Chinese.
    D) There’s a reason why the JSF is proving so popular on the export market in Europe. Yeah, it sucks, but what choice do they have? The F-22 is not for sale and the Typhoon, Rafale and Grippen are effectively obsolete.

  167. FWIW, I’m not sure China is planning on a military confrontation with the US, but I am sure that they plan to establish a hegemony of the Pacific Rim. In a decade or two they will be in a position to do so.

  168. @Inkstain, fine, like I said, I’m not an expert– I was merely introducing it to the discussion.

  169. Darrencardinal Says: “Apple is quite attractively valued… Partner Communications (PTNR) is another good one.”

    AAPL is trading at 18 times earnings, and pays no dividend. What is its value, aside from what a bigger fool might pay for it? It is possible Apple might use its future profits to pay dividends or buy back stock, but that’s a very speculative value. (Disclaimer: I had some Apple stock once. It doubled, and I sold it at 22. AAPL’s now at 345. Am I envious? Just a little.)

    PTNR, otoh, is trading at 8 times earnings and pays an 8.6% dividend. That seems way too good to be for real; there must be some non-obvious risk factored in there. (I suppose the risk is obvious, just not in financial terms.)

  170. “>My question is then: how does the existence of such a system, and its-near universal acceptance, square with the US’s self representation as a country based on free markets, that stresses the responsibility of the individual to care for himself?

    It doesn’t. Welcome to the U.S.’s culture wars.”

    No, it does. Badly.

    SS and Medicare (and public education) are so popular because individuals believe that they are thereby freed from caring for anyone else.

    The most obvious anyone elses traditionally being one’s parents and children.

    The Me Generation is still very much with us.

  171. @William H. Stoddard
    “> (less precious metals, higher prices).

    You have that reversed. The less money is in circulation, the *lower* the prices will be. In any case, so what? The value of the money commodity is just one more market signal that determines whether it’s worthwhile to mine gold or do something else with your time and effort.”

    That was a classical “write first, think later” mistake of me. I was thinking “(less precious metals, higher prices *of precious metals*)”. But if your currency is in precious metals, this means obviously lower prices for everything else.

    So, for the benefits of other commenters too, I will repeat the law of prices, supply, and demand to explain my reasoning more clearly.

    Prices * Goods = Money * Velocity

    If the economy grows faster than the supply of Money, G increases relative to M. Which means that P will decrease (deflation). V can be increased by reducing the interest rates, mostly by increasing M, but the whole point of a gold currency is that you cannot manipulate M. The inability to increase M is the whole point of using a precious metal currency.

    More important, with deflation, your money becomes more worth in time. This is a very low risk interest on your money. Which will reduce V. So in a situation where you would want to increase V, people have strong incentives to reduce V, decreasing prices even more. And saved money cannot be invested as the low-risk factor lies in keeping your gold locked up in a safe.

    Prices fall. So what?

    Uniformly falling prices have a very nasty effect on commerce: People decrease spending. They will wait as long as possible to get the lowest price. Alternatively, they reap a low-risk profit by keeping money in their pockets. At least, that is what economic theory predicts. I do it myself when I need a new computer (permanent deflation). I know that if I buy it a few months early, I will regret it.

    Note that interest rates have to be above deflation. Because lending money is risky, and deflation is a risk free profit. So increased deflation means increased interest rates (see above). Which will decrease investments.

    Mining gold is the solution? Precious metal currencies are expensive to use. Mining and lugging around bullion is expensive (and non-productive). And they should be because the whole point of using precious metals as a currency is that you cannot manipulate their amount. If increasing M was easy, why bother doing away with paper money?

    How have governments handled these economic problems with precious metal currencies over history? With inflation. They simply reduced the precious metal content in their coins over time. There was a complete trade of money exchangers whose sole job it was to compare precious metal contents of different version of different currencies.

    I think the biggest problem with precious metal currencies is their devastating effect on V, the “speed” of money transactions. Money will be scarce and this will lower the liquidity of all markets. Lower liquidity in markets means less economic activity.

    So in the end, fixing M will fix G, the productivity of the economy. A new equilibrium is reached where national production grows again as fast as the supply of money. But now at a much lower level.

    The honorable readership of this blog will certainly be able to appreciate the role of money in the economy.

  172. You’ve done a fine job of reciting the usual canards against deflation, but history doesn’t support your position. Prices of electronics have been falling steadily since the invention of the vacuum tube, but people still buy those products. The cost of food fell drastically when we mechanized agriculture, but we didn’t see a lot of people starving themselves so that they could buy more food in later years.

  173. >: I had some Apple stock once. It doubled, and I sold it at 22

    What an interesting coincidence. I got most of my shares at 22 (pre-split).

  174. @Some Guy
    “You’ve done a fine job of reciting the usual canards against deflation, but history doesn’t support your position. ”

    Great, write a paper about it and get the Nobel Price. I do not feel competent to fight full time economists in their own field.

  175. @federico
    >>“I fail to understand how all this technology (except for drones) will help the US in any military conflict it might realistically become involved in, i.e, namely an insurgency. ”

    > You don’t consider a future war with China a realistic future U.S. military conflict?

    not from the chinese perspective: why would they engage in a world-wide conflict when they have the whole world (including the US) queing to have access to their money and their market?

    in case, a trade-war sounds more likely than any military conflict: remember they can pull the plug on the US debt at any moment. I have seen that possibility exorcised on CNN with the argument that their economy would also suffer deeply, but here is where being an undemocratic regime pays off: you can throw some millions of your citizens into abject poverty and not pay the political price. In the meanime, the damage to the US would have been serious indeed.

    of course their are beefing up their military and navy (and doing so fast) and reaffirmimg their role in the pacific, but that just follows from their new economic status, it does not mean they are preparing to land in caifornia. Besides, why would they gamble all that military deterrent strength in the invasion of a deeply hostile country such as Taiwan? Everybody, including China, has learned the lesson of Iraq, namely that your status as a military superpower can only suffer from any demonstration that that power is not boundless.

    Am I missing something? any link or pointer would be appreciated.

  176. FYI – UAVs have no place in a dog fight or air superiority/air supremacy role, any more than the A-10 does.

    They are slow, altitude limited, and their cameras have narrow fields of view which means that the remote operators don’t get good situational awareness. Against anything that flies, they’re targets. They’re en vogue now because we’re fighting people who have nothing that flies.

    Making something that can actually work as an ACM UCAV is a MUCH more challenging problem than the people at StrategyPage (who, if anything, have a disdain for the USAF that makes RMS look like Microsoft’s biggest cheerleader by comparison) think it is. In the StrategyPage mindset, any Air Force mission that isn’t Close Ground Support is a boondoggle and a waste of taxpayer dollars. The fact that most of the people who write there were Vietnam era Army personnel may well be telling…

  177. @Frederico
    “Besides, why would they gamble all that military deterrent strength in the invasion of a deeply hostile country such as Taiwan?”

    I would guess they will take Siberia first. That is already depopulating (from Russians) and inundated by Chinese immigrants who take their place. Russia took it from them some centuries back and the Chinese still claim it. That would be a much easier and more profitable target than taking on the USA.

    They need the fleet to keep Taiwan isolated and keep others from blocking China’s access to the Indian ocean, Africa, and Arab oil.

    They will take over Taiwan using sticks and carrots, not arms I think. A war would destroy Taiwan. That would show everybody that colluding with the Chinese is riding a tiger. Bad PR and bad for business.

  178. >What the hell happened to esr.ibiblio.org & catb.org ?

    ibiblio had an outage while they were migrating to new hardware.

  179. > Because certain states, including the US, have mismanaged their finances is hardly a critique of entitlement spending.

    It is, however, a critique of entitlement spending by those states.

    When it comes to US policy, it doesn’t matter how well Australia can do something, it only matters how well the US will do that thing.

  180. “If allowed to stand it would infringe on people’s (U.S.) Constitutionally protected right to peaceably assemble or to form associations.”

    Is “freedom to form associations” the new Commerce Clause, whereby it’s large enough to drive a truck through? I read Ars Technica lefties defending Wisconsins unions on that basis.

    Presumably by that logic, polygamy will be legalized in the US in short order.

    Or we could take a less broad interpretation and, you know, not have our Constitution be a suicide pact.

  181. >remember they can pull the plug on the US debt at any moment.

    And the US can repudiate it just as quickly. I doubt either is likely though, at least not soon; it’s going to be interesting to see how that works out, since I don’t see how the US could repay the debt without some sort of radical changes.

  182. Wiliam B Swift
    “And the US can repudiate it just as quickly. I doubt either is likely though”

    But if the Chinese dump their dollars, the exchange rate will tank. And shooting at people who accept your money and spend is not a winning stratehy.

  183. @Jeff Read
    My argument had nothing to do with prop 8.

    My argument is that California specifically chose not to defend a constitutional amendment.

    This precedent essentially means that California can ignore any constitutional amendment it wants to, as long as the 2 top elected officials in the executive branch (the governor and the attorney general) disagree with the amendment.

    I don’t know about you, but this has far, far greater implications that go well beyond prop 8.

    This is basically a template for getting rid of any constitutional amendment. Don’t like the 2 term amendment? Get someone with lots of money to fight it in court, then significantly underfund the defense, which should result in a loss, then decide to not appeal the loss. No more 2 term amendment.

  184. “but here is where being an undemocratic regime pays off: you can throw some millions of your citizens into abject poverty and not pay the political price.”

    No. The Chinese may have even thought this was true when they formulated this plan “lots of US debt” plan but by now I think they realize their relationship with their middle-class is less “rider on a horse” than “tiger by the tail”. I would be confident that if they really pulled that trigger, the ruling class would no longer be the ruling class in China within three months. Possibly with their literal death-by-mob.

    In fact my personal opinion is that the ruling classes’ top priority right now in China is to make sure the middle classes’ living standards don’t decline significantly, which has led them to do many things that will in the long term prove even stupider than what our government has done. And that’s a feat.

    On a related note, I think the idea that China is just going to continuously and linearly grow in power over the next 20 years is also likely to be very false.

  185. Is “freedom to form associations” the new Commerce Clause, whereby it’s large enough to drive a truck through? I read Ars Technica lefties defending Wisconsins unions on that basis.

    How precisely are the Wisconsin unions indefensible?

    Presumably by that logic, polygamy will be legalized in the US in short order.

    Really? Sweet!

  186. Ric Rostrom says:

    >> AAPL is trading at 18 times earnings, and pays no dividend. What is its value, aside from what a bigger fool might pay for it?

    Ok I’ll take you through it. Apple has a ton of cash (something like $47 per share), and no debt. The products are superhot and sales are growing fast.

    Given the way the tax laws are structured, dividends are not attractive. I would not want to see them.

    Apple eps is probably going to grow 50% this year, or more. At 18x earnings this thing is a steal. Apple right now is a unique, once in a lifetime chance to make a lot of money.

    And Partner is an Israeli company, so there is that risk. But that dividend is very juicy though. :)

  187. >Given the way the tax laws are structured, dividends are not attractive.

    That’s one of the most obvious indications of just how fucked up our tax system is. The whole point of investing in a joint-stock corporation SHOULD be the dividends.

  188. >>That’s one of the most obvious indications of just how fucked up our tax system is. The whole point of investing in a joint-stock corporation SHOULD be the dividends.

    Wouldn’t it be great if you can buy share anonymously and have it pay dividend automatically while paying no attention to regulatory authorities?

    Somebody is working on that.

  189. Cathy:

    @federico
    “I fail to understand how all this technology (except for drones) will help the US in any military conflict it might realistically become involved in, i.e, namely an insurgency. ”

    You don’t consider a future war with China a realistic future U.S. military conflict?

    Not one bit. There’s no way they could hope to win. In order to win, they need to occupy territory. They can’t get close enough with troop ships before we sink them. They can’t fly here, we’ll blow them out of the sky. We have many more nukes than they do, so they don’t even pose a credible MAD threat.

    The last thing China wants is war with us. Some of the party apparatchiks will talk about it like it’s some long-term goal of the empire, but it isn’t gonna happen.

    Jeremy:

    In fact my personal opinion is that the ruling classes’ top priority right now in China is to make sure the middle classes’ living standards don’t decline significantly, which has led them to do many things that will in the long term prove even stupider than what our government has done. And that’s a feat.

    This.

    This is the answer to federico’s question too. China is propping up our consumer economy so we keep buying the crap their factories churn out to keep all those people employed. If China suddenly starts having mass layoffs and factory closings, the civil unrest will take the regime down. Avoiding civil unrest is China’s top priority. They’ll give up on Taiwan before they let the regime fall.

  190. >The last thing China wants is war with us. Some of the party apparatchiks will talk about it like it’s some long-term goal of the empire, but it isn’t gonna happen.

    History is full of embarrassing quotes like this from people who underestimated the bellicosity of tyrannies – especially the bellicosity of tyrannies who think they are rising powers facing declining ones.

  191. > How precisely are the Wisconsin unions indefensible?

    Does your freedom to associate obligate me to deal only with your association?

  192. >The last thing China wants is war with us. Some of the party apparatchiks will talk about it like it’s some long-term goal of the empire, but it isn’t gonna happen.

    History is full of embarrassing quotes like this from people who underestimated the bellicosity of tyrannies – especially the bellicosity of tyrannies who think they are rising powers facing declining ones.

    Indeed. That falls into the category of “famous last words”.

  193. kiba says:

    >>> Wouldn’t it be great if you can buy share anonymously and have it pay dividend automatically while paying no attention to regulatory authorities?

    Somebody is working on that.

    This sounds interesting Kiba. What are you referring to?

    It is hard to imaging the authorities would let that happen.

  194. Somebody is working on that.

    And Senators Frank (and Franken) are probably working on a way to stop it. So that it can only be done by the very rich operating from tycoon-friendly, regulatorily loose tax havens.

  195. > We have many more nukes than they do, so they don’t even pose a credible MAD threat.

    Our nukes are irrelevant unless we’re willing to use them.

    They’re nukes are more than enough to be a credible MAD threat – we’ll fold like a cheap suit rather than risk losing a single major city.

  196. >>It is hard to imaging the authorities would let that happen.

    1. First you need a powerful technology that even authorities can’t stop.

    That’s bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that’s exceptionally well designed. Nobody is able to shut down bittorrent, and nobody will be able to shut down bitcoin either.

    2. An idea of dispersed stock-joint corporation that doesn’t abide by the law of any particular countries, operated via only by operator reputation, and can take advantage of bitcoin’s uncontrollability by authorities.

    That’s already germinated.

    Then you start writing and incorporating cryptography and the stuff to make it happens. If you open source it, you really let the cat out of the bag. Then, everybody will be able to operate an exchange by just setting up on their site.

    It’s some very potent technologies.

  197. > 1. First you need a powerful technology that even authorities can’t stop.

    > That’s bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that’s exceptionally well designed. Nobody is able to shut down bittorrent, and nobody will be able to shut down bitcoin either.

    You’re assuming that the company will transfer money to {somewhere} and then you’ll play your games.

    All the US govt has to do is block dividend payments that go to unapproved entities. A 200% tax on such payments will do.

  198. @Winter: “And shooting at people who accept your money and spend is not a winning strategy.”

    I’ve heard claims that Germany’s second largest trading partner in 1914 was France, and that France’s largest trading partner in 1914 was Germany. Likewise, I have read that Japan’s largest trading partner in 1941 was the United States.

    If these are true, then the idea that major commitments to international trade and finance prevent war are simply nonsense.

  199. >>You’re assuming that the company will transfer money to {somewhere} and then you’ll play your games. All the US govt has to do is block dividend payments that go to unapproved entities. A 200% tax on such payments will do.

    Transfers happen on the internet, through software. They cannot hope to block dividend payment of bits and bytes.

  200. >I have read that Japan’s largest trading partner in 1941 was the United States.

    Until FDR decided unilaterally to cut off trade with them, yes. That’s when they decided to roll the dice on a sneak attack.

  201. > Transfers happen on the internet, through software. They cannot hope to block dividend payment of bits and bytes.

    Actually, they can, as I described.

    Apple won’t send those bits to you if doing so will cost them a 200% tax.

    If Apple won’t send them, how are you going to receive them?

  202. >>The last thing China wants is war with us. Some of the party apparatchiks will talk about it like it’s some long-term goal of the empire, but it isn’t gonna happen.

    >History is full of embarrassing quotes like this from people who underestimated the bellicosity of tyrannies – especially the bellicosity of tyrannies who think they are rising powers facing declining ones.

    The quote to keep in mind when predicting what other people will do is Lazarus Long’s “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.” Rather than predicting what you think people will or won’t do, figure out the parameters of what they can do, and how to keep what they could do from hurting you too much.

  203. >>Apple won’t send those bits to you if doing so will cost them a 200% tax.

    >>If Apple won’t send them, how are you going to receive them?

    Bitcoin is just data. It’s not physical.

  204. Speaking as an Argentinian myself: the 2001 crash was not much worse than any of the previous crises the country went through, and the changes in our lifestyle were not nearly as radical as most people here will tell you. One could say our lifestyle was already as crappy as it is now.

    Without taking into account the effect of the differences that economical and tecnological advancement create when it comes to facing economic downfall, a crisis in Western Europe or the States differ from one in Latin America in that people in the former do not remember what it was being in a crisis, while in the latter they jump from one to the next. The economic problems themselves can, in ocasion, be the same, while the people’s reactions to them are wildly different in each region.

    As the last people from Europe and the US who were adults during the first half of the 20th century die, the memory of those crises fades. Sadly, I think people do not take History into account when it comes to their wallets.

  205. March 14th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    @James A. Donald

    The end is in sight, but not nigh. I would say around 2016-2027

    # Morgan Greywolf Says:
    What makes you think this?

    I attempted to fit the growth in regulation and the growth in expenditure with best fit to simple power law rules. The functions contained a term sqrt(T-t), or 1/sqrt(T-t), where t is the date, and T is around 2016-2017

    The fit was not all that good, but most hyperexponential curves a singularity coming up soon once you get to the part of the curve that is obviously hyperexponential.

  206. Typo in the date of the catastrophe: I meant to say:
    I attempted to fit the growth in regulation and the growth in expenditure with best fit to simple power law rules. The functions contained a term sqrt(T-t), or 1/sqrt(T-t), where t is the date, and T is around 2016-2027

    The fit was not nearly good enough to give a very definite date, but the basic scenario is a regulatory singularity: For example:
    1933: 17 pages Glass–Steagall Act
    1999: 385 pages Gramm-Leach-Bliley Bill, also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act
    2010: 2305 pages Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

    Although pensions are a disaster in the long term, what is driving the deficit in the short term is explosive growth of regulation – for example the financial services act replaced sound lending with politically correct lending, which in turn resulted in bailouts. The growth in regulation also prevents investment – in the sense that any investment requires an ever growing pile of permits that are ever more difficult to obtain, as described in “The coyote blog”. This produces an imbalance between savings and investment, which needs to be remedied, and Keynesians believe should be remedied by government dis-saving.

  207. >> Speaking as an Argentinian myself: the 2001 crash was not much worse than any of the previous crises the country went through, and the changes in our lifestyle were not nearly as radical as most people here will tell you. One could say our lifestyle was already as crappy as it is now.

    I hail from the region, and this is, in a word, nonsense: the crisis nearly destroyed Argentina economy and caused the most dangerous constitutional crisis the country had seen since the days of the military junta.

    In global figures, from 2001 to 2002 the percentage of population under the poverty line grew to 60%, and the PIL went down 64% per cent – which means, in concrete terms, that more than one half of the economy simply closed down. Unemplyment was, IIRC, 21%, a national record. Add to that that pensions and wages of state emplyees were cut and delayed. More people left Argentina during the crisis than in all the years of the dictatorship combined (the same holds for nearby Uruguay). A quick google search returns the figure of 128312 argentinians that entered illegaly in Spain alone in just the three months after the crisis – compare it with the 200000 who left the country in the whole 1970-80 decade. Finally, the resulting debt-structuring operation is the largest financial operation in modern history.

    Friends and relatives who went through it told us of whole streets of shops closing one afetr the other in Buenos Aires, and those signs were still clearly visible when I visited in 2006. People could not take out of their bank accounts the dollars they needed to pay life-saving medicines -I know, because we spent some weeks buying medicines and sending them by express delivery.

    I could go on – but I am very curious to know about your own case, and hear how the 2001 left you unscathed.

  208. what is driving the deficit in the short term is explosive growth of regulation – for example the financial services act replaced sound lending with politically correct lending, which in turn resulted in bailouts.

    I’d go farther and say that the regulation has had a much longer effect than that, and that the destabilization of lending practices falls squarely on the shoulders of the CRA. (Of course, mortgage securitization helped accelerate a trend, and probably was strong enough effect to convert a quantitative difference into a qualitative one, but tossing out creditworthiness standards goes back to the CRA.)

  209. Actually, they can, as I described.

    Apple won’t send those bits to you if doing so will cost them a 200% tax.

    If Apple won’t send them, how are you going to receive them?

    That’s true, as long as the companies you’re investing in are still paying attention. Once any company moves entirely online through Bitcoin or a successor and stops paying taxes, many will follow (from what I know about tax rates, that’s a really major competitive advantage). Probably won’t happen soon, because everyone’s invested in the status quo, but once things start happening I would bet that’s one of the major steps.

  210. @Cathy
    “If these are true, then the idea that major commitments to international trade and finance prevent war are simply nonsense.”

    See how careful I was to say it is not a winning strategy. In your examples everyone lost.

  211. @those who think they can subvert dividend tax

    The solution for the tax authorities is a source tax. Apple etc pay a tax on all dividends they pay. The receiver can ask for a return if the source tax was too high.

    It is common practise in Europe.

  212. Pingback: Politics as usual is over

  213. >>those who think they can subvert dividend tax

    You’re talking about taxing a corporation that formed over the internet, follow no laws other than its own charters and the need for reputation, and report to no regulatory authorities.

    They also pay themselves in bitcoin, a digital currency that is decentralized, extremely difficult to counterfeit/control, and is open source for the world to see. They issued stocks that exists only in bits and bytes, which pay in bitcoin. All the “bank accounts” exists only on someone’s physical computer, or even a thumb drive, which easily can be encrypted and hidden.They’re really just a collection of private keys.

  214. No, it rewards hoarding precious metals. Saving is good if you bring it to a bank who invests it. It is bad if you lock up your gold and let no one touch it.

    Saving ISN’T good if you build up an easy to access stash of money for emergencies?

    Yes, it’s better if you allow other people to invest it. It’s completely worthless if you don’t have access to it when you need it.

  215. They also pay themselves in bitcoin, a digital currency that is decentralized, extremely difficult to counterfeit/control, and is open source for the world to see.

    And until I can walk into my local Hy-Vee and buy groceries with it, it’s of limited utility.

    FWIW, I ran the Bitcoin generator on my machine for a month and got not a damned thing from it…

  216. @kiba
    “You’re talking about taxing a corporation that formed over the internet, follow no laws other than its own charters and the need for reputation, and report to no regulatory authorities.”

    That is old hat. That is incorporating in a tax haven. You have to incorporate somewhere to be able to handle money. If you do not want to incorporate inside any legal system, that is known too. Some kinds of informal banking systems used in Islamic countries can handle large amounts of money this way.

  217. “Belgium has been evolving towards a federal state since the 1960s – what’s going on now is yet another stage of reshuffling power/responsability between the “federal” level and the levels below it. There may come, at some point, a secession or, as Winter puts it, a “divorce”, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.”

    My money is on 2014…

  218. >>And until I can walk into my local Hy-Vee and buy groceries with it, it’s of limited utility.

    That may be so, but we’re just getting started with bitcoin.

    >>FWIW, I ran the Bitcoin generator on my machine for a month and got not a damned thing from it…

    The best way to get bitcoin is to either buy it with a national currency of some kind, or exchange goods and services for it. Mining are for people with GPU clusters.

    You can do pooled mining though. It just means that you will earn a share of the block that is generated, which is very small amount of bitcoin.

    >>That is old hat. That is incorporating in a tax haven. You have to incorporate somewhere to be able to handle money. If you do not want to incorporate inside any legal system, that is known too. Some kinds of informal banking systems used in Islamic countries can handle large amounts of money this way.

    It may be so, but making it easier and more efficient to do these kind of process is added value to the economy.

  219. “Yes, but it is only the fact that Europe hasn’t had to pay for its defense that allowed it to engage in all those experiments in Social Democracy.”

    Well, there are neutral countries in Europa, that take (or took) taking care of their own defense quite seriously. One was Yugoslavia. Another is Sweden, and another is Switzerland. Yugoslavia is history, but Sweden is doing ok it seems, and Switzerland is doing splendid at the moment…
    So I’d say that if having to take care of your own defense is a factor in how well a country in Europe fares, it doesn’t seem to be a big one.

  220. Sweden is doing OK only because it dropped its confiscatory taxation that was needed to pay for the welfare state.

    Can anyone explain why Switzerland is doing well?

  221. Well, apparently Europe will dissemble itself even earlier. At least, their power horse Germany is about to go into the Dark Ages threatning to take the nuclear power plants of the grid in the wake of the Japanese tragedy.

    As Fukushima slowly unfolds into a catastrophe, that doesn’t look like so much of a bad idea.

  222. >> If Apple won’t send [dividends to your tax haven], how are you going to receive them?

    > That’s true, as long as the companies you’re investing in are still paying attention.

    Huh?

    > Once any company moves entirely online through Bitcoin or a successor and stops paying taxes, many will follow (from what I know about tax rates, that’s a really major competitive advantage). Probably won’t happen soon, because everyone’s invested in the status quo, but once things start happening I would bet that’s one of the major steps.

    Currency, regardless of other properties, only has value to the extent that it can be used in transactions.

    Take my local food store. Govt can easily say “you have to pay $100 in taxes for each 1000 quantaloons you accept as payment” and “you have to pay $100 in taxes for each 1000 quantaloons you to pay to suppliers”.

    Yes, there are transactions that govt can’t reach, but they’re actually fairly rare.

  223. > As Fukushima slowly unfolds into a catastrophe, that doesn’t look like so much of a bad idea.

    Really? You think that the dark ages is preferrable to Fukushima?

    Note that very few of Germany’s power plants are vulnerable to tsunamis.

  224. >Really? You think that the dark ages is preferrable to Fukushima?

    Well put. In the real world, the alternative to power plants isn’t ecotopia, it’s freezing in the dark.

  225. Sorry, but Germany does not need these nuclear plants. They are reduundant. Germany will not go dark by shutting them down, far from it.

    It is just that the majority of the population hates them.

  226. >>Yes, there are transactions that govt can’t reach, but they’re actually fairly rare.

    That is reliant on the ability of governments to enforce laws. What do you think will happens when it become impossible to enforce these laws due to new, emerging technologies?

  227. > very few of Germany’s power plants are vulnerable to tsunamis.

    I wonder if there’s ever been a tsunami in the arctic ocean within the historical record?

  228. You may see European military forces as a farce in the US, but you fail to understand the difference between yoyr own military and ours. We have military forces to ensure we never need to go to war. You have military forces to enable you to go to war. You have 45% of the worlds miltary spending. It is about 45% of the federal budget. You run up a goverment deficit in order to project force all over the world. It is folly and the reason why the predictions some people here have made – that Europe will collapse before the US ring hollow. Several European nations have been able to balance government spending with available tax income. The ones in trouble will be forced to do the same. The US lacks the political mechanisms to go down that route.

  229. Pingback: Entitlement Problems « 36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

  230. To write about US insolvency without reference to the trillion dollar deficits from wars and banksters? ESR must live in a thought tight compartment.

  231. Jacob Hallen says:

    >> You have military forces to enable you to go to war. You have 45% of the worlds miltary spending. It is about 45% of the federal budget.

    Not quite. The defense budget is about 4-5% of federal spending.

  232. As shocking as military expenditures may sound on their own, it is those people who think they are the primary problem who are living in the “thought tight compartment”. Anything beyond a cursory look at the current and projected future US budgets shows the military expenditures are not the problem. Entitlements are. Military spending does not spiral out of control over the next couple of decades due to promises made fifty years ago. If we completely eliminate our entire Defense Department (20% of the 2010 budget) and make no other changes it only buys us a few years before the entitlements and interest crush us anyhow. (Assuming our feckless politicians didn’t use saving 20% of the budget as an excuse to spend 30% on more entitlements.)

    If complete elimination of the given line item does absolutely nothing to solve the problem, it’s a distraction from the core problem, not something that requires pressing analysis. Whereas if you pull a lever and Social Security and Medicare disappeared into the ether, we don’t have a budget problem anymore. The only justification for blaming the military is sheer naked politics; there’s no rational backing for it.

  233. # Christopher Smith Says:
    tossing out creditworthiness standards goes back to the CRA.

    But the CRA did not initially effect all loans. Gramm-Leach-Bliley resulted in all loans eventually being covered by the CRA.

    Gramm-Leach-Bliley made takeovers political, so instead of the most profitable bank taking over unprofitable banks, the most politically correct bank (Washington Mutual) took over less politically correct banks. Since Washington Mutual adopted a policy of treating all loans as CRA loans, all other banks had to adopt the same policy – or find themselves taken over by Washington Mutual.

    World wide, there was a move towards making loans to poltically favored people, rather than people who could and would pay the money back. The core of the problem was not CRA, but Basel. Basel put lending in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats whose focus was on politics rather than the bottom line, and in most countries this resulted in bad loans – some times to the rich and politically connected, sometimes to poor but important voter blocks (Hispanics), sometimes to people in between.

    Australia escaped the worst of it because they directed loans to the middle class, Singapore through moral integrity and commitment to free market principles, I don’t know how Israel escaped.

    Events are multicausal. The financial crisis was caused by Gramm-Leach-Bliley, by the CRA, and by Basel.

  234. >Not quite. The defense budget is about 4-5% of federal spending.

    What? Defense spending was 20% of FY2010 spending. That’s less than half of just SS and Medicare combined, and about a third of entitlements plus debt service, so the standard left-wing claim that defense spending is the problem is utter purest horseshit. But it’s more than 4-5%.

  235. Getting back to the original topic of this blog post, it is really fascinating to see the vehemence with which any suggestion that Social Security is an entitlement, and is a form of welfare, is greeted. Some samples I’ve seen:

    “The idea that we need to ‘keep our promises to our seniors’ would be politically potent in any universe, but it’s well-nigh-impregnable in a universe where millions of Americans, liberal and conservative alike, are invested in the idea that Social Security and Medicare somehow aren’t actually part of the welfare state at all.”

    “Social Security and pensions are not entitlements (whatever those are) but deferred earnings for work already done. They are contracts and they are property owned by those who deserve their Social Security and their pensions. They are not part of the deficit. Medical costs are a problem, but access to medicine is less an entitlement than a social necessity.”

    “Sense of entitlement? Absolutely – I am 100% entitled to these funds. Meanwhile, those who are introducing legislation to take that money away from me are making far more money than I and have a government backed retirement plan. Talk about a sense of entitlement!”

    These are not isolated examples, just a few things culled from reading articles and reader feedback.

    I am increasingly becoming convinced that we will do almost nothing to even attempt to fix the system until the bond vigilantes come calling. The older generations are willing to scream very loudly indeed at any hint that they are not entitled (cough, cough) to every penny of that SS/Medicare money. No one with any authority is willing stand up and say sorry, all gone, no blood available from this turnip.

    A great quote from a short story by Donald Kingsbury comes to mind: “You can’t sell a parachute to an American until after he hits the ground.”

  236. >If complete elimination of the given line item does absolutely nothing to solve the problem, it’s a distraction from the core problem, not something that requires pressing analysis. Whereas if you pull a lever and Social Security and Medicare disappeared into the ether, we don’t have a budget problem anymore.

    True, but don’t fall into the trap of blindly defending the Pentagon’s budget simply because left-wingers are chronically idiotic about this. That would be the exactly equivalent conservative mistake. There’s plenty that could be cut; we could start by reducing the number of overseas bases to a handful of logistics hubs, continue by killing off high-ticket boondoggles like the Osprey, and improve both our warfighting capability and budget position by building lots of small, cheap, fast, stealthy warships instead of a handful of big slow gold-plated targets that scream “throw a swarm of cruise missiles at me!”.

    Entitlements will have to go in the crash, but it simply isn’t politically possible – nor even desirable – for the military to be spared large cuts as well. This means that people who care about national defense are going to need to think hard about what line items really need to be preserved. “One of everything, please” simply will not remain an option.

  237. >I am increasingly becoming convinced that we will do almost nothing to even attempt to fix the system until the bond vigilantes come calling.

    This was largely the point of my original post. The logic and the incentives of the political system are too broken for reform to work. It’s going to take actual collapse and bankruptcy to sweep it away.

  238. @federico:

    > I hail from the region, and this is, in a word, nonsense: the crisis nearly destroyed Argentina economy and caused the most dangerous constitutional crisis the country had seen since the days of the military junta.

    You are either quite young, or have a very selective memory. Calling the 2001 uprising the “most dangerous constitutional crisis” is just a rethorical resource and used poorly in this case. I was barely a child during the late 1980s, and I still remember several constitutional crises during my lifetime, not to speak of those before my time and even before the 1970s dictatorships, which should not be mentioned at all since I believe I was quite clearly talking of economic crises.

    > In global figures, from 2001 to 2002 the percentage of population under the poverty line grew to 60%, and the PIL went down 64% per cent – which means, in concrete terms, that more than one half of the economy simply closed down.

    This is exactly what I am talking about, you believe those numbers are meaningful to compare the situation to others in the past history of the country. Did you know that poverty statistics only started to be gathered with the 1980 census? Proverty rose to 60% from what number and when? If you assume I only speak of the last quarter of the 20th century when I say “the 2001 crash was not much worse than any of the previous crises” then it is your mistake, not mine.

    I believe that the 64% you wrote about is a drop in the GDP at common prices, otherwise that number is BS; please search for the GDP PPP for those years, you’ll be surprised if you compare them to the numbers from the 1990s.

    > Unemplyment was, IIRC, 21%, a national record.

    It could have been as high as 23-24%, if you believe guvernmental sources, or as low as 20%, if you believe the IMF :P That is around 2-4 points higher than the 1995 peak, not especially meaningful.

    > Add to that that pensions and wages of state emplyees were cut and delayed.

    In a much milder manner and for a shorter period of time than they were at Menem’s first presidency, during which the economy was supposedly going on rails.

    > More people left Argentina during the crisis than in all the years of the dictatorship combined (the same holds for nearby Uruguay). A quick google search returns the figure of 128312 argentinians that entered illegaly in Spain alone in just the three months after the crisis – compare it with the 200000 who left the country in the whole 1970-80 decade.

    “A quick Google search” turned out nothing relevant, if you care to post a link to a page with substantiated numbers, I may buy into it (hard to do since we are talking about illegal immigration). In any case, I do know of the emigration the crisis produced (first hand), I just do not think it can be compared to any effect with others in previous history, late 20th century or otherwise. The economy during the 1970s was not disastrous (which is not to say it was good), and trying to compare people fleeing a country over politics and civil right violations with them fleeing for lack of a job is not in the best interest of your argument.

    > Friends and relatives who went through it told us of whole streets of shops closing one afetr the other in Buenos Aires, and those signs were still clearly visible when I visited in 2006.

    If you like to support your argument with statistics, I hardly think you would call the anecdote of your 2006 visit evidence. The GDP PPP for 2006 was over 35% larger than the 1998 figure (the highest before the collapse).

    As a citizen who stayed in Argentina during all these years, living in one of its largest cities, I can tell you that poverty was truly devastating, that commerces and industries did close in large numbers… and still, here we are, 10 years later in the same situation we were before the crisis. A truly devastanting economic collapse (think Germany pre-Second World War) does not allow for that kind of recovery without drastic measures, which in the case of Argentina never took place. The 1998-2001 decline was nothing but recession on steroids and, without needing to strain one’s imagination, it could have been much worse.

  239. Sweden is doing OK only because it dropped its confiscatory taxation that was needed to pay for the welfare state.

    Sweden’s welfare state is rather different from ours, since the middle class is not only the source of the lion’s share of the taxes, they’re also the recipients of most of the payouts.

  240. There is a lot of predictions floating around on this blog that the USA will fail due to a financial meltdown. I doubt that, personally I think it is the “culture wars” that will destroy it, if anything will (and a lack of productive investments, but that is a different matter). But I will gladly acknowledge that USA citizens are best qualified to see the pros and cons of their political and financial systems. So if the people living there think the USA will collapse, I can hardly argue them from the other side of the world.

    I also see a lot of predictions on this blog by Americans that the European nations will collapse from a financial meltdown. Such predictions are often accompagnied by “facts” that are manifestly wrong and presented so far out of context that they are sometimes even not wrong anymore. I have not seen comments by Europeans supporting the predictions of these Americans. But I have seen a lot of comments by Americans that attack Europeans when they try to explain that things are not as simple as portrayed by the doom-sayers.

    Now I am puzzled. Europeans think they can manage the problems ahead, and they are willing to explain how their states are able to adapt to new circumstances. Why do USA citizens on this blog think they know so much better about the situation in Europe that they can swipe asside these comments as worthless?

  241. The US has military forces to enable us to go to war in order to minimize the need to go to war. That’s been the core motivation ever since we’ve had Jefferson and Jackson.

  242. “Europeans think they can manage the problems ahead, and they are willing to explain how their states are able to adapt to new circumstances. Why do USA citizens on this blog think they know so much better about the situation in Europe that they can swipe asside these comments as worthless?”

    Probably the same reason for why Europeans think they can dismiss American comments about her foreign policy as shortsighted saber rattling: they’re not up to their necks in it, so they have the feeling of detached impartiality.

  243. Paul Brinkley,

    That kind of got screwed once G-Dub took office huh?

  244. @Paul Brinkley
    “they’re not up to their necks in it, so they have the feeling of detached impartiality.”

    Strange response. Every part of me is inside Europe. I do not feel detached at all.

    So what has USA foreign policy (which we endure too), to do with my opinion about the future of my own country? And why would you be more qualified to know what will happen in my country?

  245. Eric, if by ‘cheap, fast, stealthy’ ships, you’re referring to the LCS platform…

    1) LCS (both varieties) are hard to keep operational without anyone shooting at them. They were designed to do too many things on a ‘modular’ small hull. They are so undercrewed that if someone gets sick, they have to fly people in to hot swap berths in a lot of cases. They are so undercrewed that they have to be manned by people in the 2-3% of capability, and those people resent the jobs, because even by military standards where you work 12-14 hours a day, LCS Is a fucking grind.

    2) LCS has a purchase price per unit that’s twice what it was supposed to be – yet to preserve shipbuilding capability, we’re buying 10 of each in the initial bid, rather than two of one time, evaluate which one was best, and build 30 of that design. The so-called modularity on the LCS is a disaster.

    3) Our last three aircraft carriers purchased have had the smallest cost overruns of any procurement project of their size. Indeed, in inflation adjusted dollars, the Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford are the least expensive aircraft carriers we’ve purchased since going nuclear. (Their fighter wings, on the other hand, are now more expensive than the carriers that operate them.)

    I have friends who are serving on LCSs of both types. I really really feel for them, because they’re even more deeply fucked than the pilots who went up in the “no guns” Phantoms in the mid 1960s over Vietnam. They can feel that telphone pole bumping their sternum, and ain’t nobody put lube in their budget.

  246. Paul Brinkley: “they’re not up to their necks in it, so they have the feeling of detached impartiality.”

    Winter: “Strange response. Every part of me is inside Europe. I do not feel detached at all.”

    You’re much more detached from US foreign policy than the US is, by definition. But if you don’t feel detached, then yes, I don’t expect you have a detached view of it. So it would have to be something else (in your case, at least).

  247. @Ken Burnside

    Depressing. Is there a single military procurement decision of the last decade or so that isn’t a complete boondogle?

  248. Paul Brinkley: “The US has military forces to enable us to go to war in order to minimize the need to go to war. That’s been the core motivation ever since we’ve had Jefferson and Jackson.”

    Jeff Read: “That kind of got screwed once G-Dub took office huh?”

    You’re being kinda bumptious about it, but my answer is yes and no. Yes, it looks like the US is more likely to go to war now than in, say 2000… but that doesn’t mean that that “minimize need for war” mindset never existed. Indeed, it still does, even now, and isn’t going away any time soon. Walter Russell Mead describes it in great detail in The Jacksonian Tradition.

  249. >Eric, if by ‘cheap, fast, stealthy’ ships, you’re referring to the LCS platform…

    Not specifically. In specific terms, I’m worried about the cost ratio between a CVN and a saturation swarm of cruise missiles.

    In more general terms, there’s a pattern in military affairs of big/slow/expensive being swarmed by small/fast/cheap. I know this as the “Fuzzy-Wuzzy effect” after an observation made by some British officer during the Mahdi rebellion; there’s even a mathematical model for it. But the phrase doesn’t give good Google hits.

  250. > That is reliant on the ability of governments to enforce laws. What do you think will happens when it become impossible to enforce these laws due to new, emerging technologies?

    What “emerging technology” can keep a govt from enforcing the laws that I described wrt a grocery store, gas station, farm, fab, building supply store? There are plenty of others. Govt can enforce laws whenever a physical object is involved and “money” that can’t be used to do transactions that involve physical objects isn’t worth much.

    http://xkcd.com/538/ mentions an important truth.

  251. Speaking of SS, http://www.offthechartsblog.org/means-testing-no-answer-for-social-security/ shows that means-testing social security can’t help because “the rich” aren’t getting much SS and they can rearrange their affairs so means-testing won’t bring in much revenue.

    The SS tax and tax caps came from SS advocates because they wanted a program that the rich would ignore.

    The tax and payout caps mean that rich people don’t think about SS – it’s too little money. If you raise the tax cap without raising the payout cap, it becomes a tax that rich people care about. If you raise both the tax and payout caps, you end up paying $100k/year to Perot, which is a political disaster and you haven’t significantly helped the finances. (The payouts are fairly progressive – the less you pay, the better your return.)

    Were the SS advocates wrong?

    If not, where is the money coming from?

  252. > Why do USA citizens on this blog think they know so much better about the situation in Europe that they can swipe asside these comments as worthless?

    For the same reason that Europeans think that they know better about the situation in the US.

    Plus, in some cases, we’re paying for services that we’ll never get, that Europe may get. The IMF, to pick one institution, will never help the US. It might help Greece and other PIIGS?

    Yes, Germany and France are in roughly the same situation wrt the IMF as the US, that is, they contribute money and won’t get a bailout, but who benefits more from a “stable” Greece?

  253. > by officially and non-officially asking any such structure to fall under NATO command, or be ‘coordinated’ with NATO.

    Poor babies. Man up. Say no.

    What? You’re unwilling to accept the consequences of taking full responsibility for your own affairs?

    Whether you stay dependent or decide to pay your own way, don’t whine. It’s your decision.

  254. > Australia escaped the worst of it because they directed loans to the middle class, Singapore through moral integrity and commitment to free market principles, I don’t know how Israel escaped.

    Israel escaped because it’s a small number of fairly similar people. That lets you do a lot of dumb things without paying a huge price.

    That’s also why Sweden can have a relatively bigger welfare state than Russia.

  255. Eric, hitting a target that can move at 30+ knots with a cruise missile (which is doing about 500 mph on its terminal phase) requires knowing where it is at a given time point and a much shorter range than the cruise missile’s rated maximum

    You launch the cruise missile. Phase 1 is the rocket booster to get it to jet speeds. Phase 2 is the jet engine run. After inertial guidance says it’s in the right spot, it starts looking for notable terrain features (problem one with cruise missiles on the ocean) and then start looking for suitable targets while you’re over the right terrain features.

    While that cruise missile is covering its two hour flight, the carrier is cruising as well, and the cruise missile will get to a set of coordinates and start looking for targets. Each of those cruise missiles costs about 1.2 million a pop – which is cheap compared to an air craft carrier, but you’ll need a lot of them to secure a hit.

    I’m willing to bet that the US model of cruise missile is better than the Chinese knockoff at this juncture.

    Where cruise missiles against carriers are a threat is in an area where there’s VERY good knowledge about what local conditions are and the carrier cannot ‘steam off’ somewhere. There are sea-skimming anti-ship missiles which are a greater threat – they move faster. One of the things that P/K percentages model in military simulations is how long a target will remain in the engagement zone. Faster missiles aren’t harder to hit on a per shot basis – but when you’re rolling 80% odds to hit with each defensive shot, getting 4 shots versus 1 shot makes a big difference.

    While nobody has gotten within “bomb dropping” range of a US carrier since about 1944, there is a LOT of thought put into how to defend one. The people who really know about this aren’t talking. The people who sorta know were modeling the All Out Soviet Missile Strike from the 1970s onward.

    The reason for carriers is because a carrier air wing can strike about 1200 miles inland. Indirect fire gunnery can only go a 12th that far.

  256. The above isn’t to say that Fuzzy Wuzzy isn’t a concern. However, Fuzzy Wuzzy and Human Wave tactics tend to be overvalued in games (rather than simulations) because the effective defenses are tedious to model.

  257. Plus, in some cases, we’re paying for services that we’ll never get, that Europe may get. The IMF, to pick one institution, will never help the US. It might help Greece and other PIIGS?

    Yes, Germany and France are in roughly the same situation wrt the IMF as the US, that is, they contribute money and won’t get a bailout, but who benefits more from a “stable” Greece?

    depends how far you want to think. A “stable” grace will be beneficial for other EU members, and the EU as a whole, yes. And that includes the Germany and France, yes. The EU as a whole, and France and Germany, are also among the top trading partners of the US. The US does have a bit of a trade deficit there, but it’s still an important export market. So maybe it’s not all that bad that the US’s “customers” have money to spend ?

    But that’s economy, and I’m not really good at that, so maybe we can look at it from a different perspective.
    we’re paying for services that we’ll never get, that Europe may get. The IMF .. .
    So you see the US contributions to the IMF as paying for insurance you’ll never collect ? as payments that should entitle you to a bailout later (but which you’ll never receive) ? Kinda funny, in light of the social security and entitlements discussion here.

    I thought contributing to the IMF would be more like an investment towards financial stability, easier international trade, global economic growth, etc. Same idea, sort of, as military spending in order to avoid war.

  258. >The reason for carriers is because a carrier air wing can strike about 1200 miles inland. Indirect fire gunnery can only go a 12th that far.

    Oh, sure, I get that part. But what good is all that range if carriers aren’t survivable closer than 1200 miles from Chinese missile platforms?

    It’s a duel between effective missile range and airstrike range. If the missiles have enough effective range relative to carrier air, their presence is a mission kill – the CVN might as well be in San Diego Harbor for all the power-projection good it’s going to do.

  259. The question I have is, what good is a carrier if its aircraft are inadequate?

  260. True, but don’t fall into the trap of blindly defending the Pentagon’s budget simply because left-wingers are chronically idiotic about this.

    I do not. I’d support cutting it with some care, even quite substantially. My point was solely confined to the fact that it is not the source of the crisis, and that in general it’s not the discretionary spending that is the problem. In particular I’d want to be really careful about cutting research.

    In practice, I will probably end up any cuts actually proposed on the grounds that they will not be done with due consideration to the consequences, but there’s certainly a broad set of cuts I would support.

  261. Winter: I can’t speak for everybody, but my Euro-pessimism is demographics based. I have confidence in the ability of Europe to muddle along as we all do and will (and I do not mean that insultingly, everybody is just muddling through, we’re all just folk), but the set of European options in 2040/2050 and the set of US options in that same time frame are going to be night-and-day different.

    A lot of people seem to dismiss the demographic argument very freely, but to me they have almost all the force of a mathematical argument; a person not born in 2010 is not a 35-year-old productive tax payer in 2045, full stop. No amount of arguing can change that. If Europe was assimilating this calculation might change, but right now even its immigration isn’t to its credit as Europe qua Europe. The US isn’t perfect on this front but our hole is much less deep.

  262. On the Chinese:

    They’re pretty much actively pursuing a strategy to win a military confrontation with the US (and, quite frankly, Russia). The playbook they’re running off of is pretty close to the same one Japan was running off of in the 1930’s, except China lacks most of the structural weaknesses Japan had. China lacks resources, much as Japan did, but is not industrially weak, unlike 1930’s Japan. Japan wasn’t an industrial power until post-WW2, one major reason why they lost the war. China also doesn’t have the lack of technical support structures in their armed forces that WW2 Japan lacked, one major reason why Japan was so weak in the air after 1943 was they lacked the trained technicians to maintain their aircraft as well as the ability to build airfields in a reasonable timeframe.

    China is looking to dominate the Pacific Rim. They’re not going to try and project power across the Pacific, they just need to be able to do it as far as Indonesia. They’d probably also like to pick up Siberia for the resources, but they already have that capability already as long as they can be sure the US won’t get involved (Russia does not have the ability to defend Siberia today except via MAD). It’s pretty clear that China thinks the US doesn’t have the will to defend its allies, but they’re also well aware that they’re 5-10 years away from having the necessary capability to project power (reality is it’s more like twice that) and they know the US currently would hurt them badly even with a half-assed intervention. The other issue for them is that they’re also aware that the combination of South Korea and Japan currently outgun them in terms of naval and air power even without US support. And Japan is also building carriers again (Officially they’re Helicopter Carriers, but they’re Harrier-capable with the addition of a ski jump and could be modified to support F-35B’s as well) and Japan has access to US training via personnel exchanges which would rapidly speed up developing the ability to operate carriers. Frankly, we’re seeing something of a Naval arms race in the Pacific, with Australia, Japan, China, and South Korea all building capability and/or size in their Navy’s.

  263. @esr: The Chinese missile platforms are much shorter ranged than Carrier Air, right now their real shipkillers are their surface-launched Anti-ship missiles, with ranges in the 4-500km range. But those are ship-launched and the Chinese lack the ability to get their ships close enough for a launch and lack the ability to launch enough of the missiles to reliably get a kill.

    They do have a rumoured 2200km+ range anti-ship ALCM based on their CJ-10A Land attack missile which can be launched by the H-6 strategic bomber, but the launch platform is obsolete and incredibly vulnerable and realistic attack ranges are MUCH shorter due to target movement. Realistically they’re more likely to use the C-601 or C-801 anti-ship missiles, which require them to enter well into the carriers air-defense bubble. The H-6 also can use the Russian Kh-10 and Kh-26 supersonic anti-ship missiles, which can be nuclear-armed, but their attack profile makes them almost perfect targets for SM-2 or SM-3 AAM’s and each H-6 can only carry a single Kh-10 or Kh-26.

    The Chinese might currently be able to kill a single CVBG with an all-out push, but they’d lose most of their launch platforms doing it.

  264. Eric: It’s a story problem.

    Cruise missiles can hit a target 1200 nm away, if the following is true:

    Reasonably accurate GPS coordinates to that target exist.
    The target has not moved more than about 300 yards (0.15 nm) since the missile was launched. In practice, cruise missiles can turn, but not tightly, and it’s (currently) a real risk that the missile will go haring off never to be see again.

    Cruise missiles cover a bit over 500 knots, so to hit a target 1200 mile away, the target will have to not move more than 300 yards in 150 minutes.

    Getting reasonable accurate GPS coordinates off an enemy target at sea is challenging.
    Expecting a carrier to have not moved in the time between launch and arrival of a cruise missile is…optimistic.

    There’s a reason why we use cruise missiles to hit buildings, not armored columns.

    Second, against defenses meant to shoot down 1100 mph sea skimming missiles (which have a launch range of about 60 miles), a 500 mph cruise missile at 300 feet of altitude is, well, a duck. Put another way – one of the exercises F-18 jockeys do is stern pursuit and shoot down of drones that look a lot like a Tomahawk.

    IF you know exactly where the carrier is, and can launch the cruise missiles within about 100 miles, you’ve got a chance to hit – but at that point, you’re better off using standard missiles and getting a little closer, because 60 miles and 100 miles is still about 1100 miles inside the carrier’s strike zone.

    Or, put another way – given the Chinese desire to get into the nuclear carrier aviation power projection business – if they had a cheap and effective way to kill a carrier that wasn’t another carrier, would they be committing themselves to a ~15 year program to get competent at carrier ops?

  265. The above isn’t to say that Fuzzy Wuzzy isn’t a concern. However, Fuzzy Wuzzy and Human Wave tactics tend to be overvalued in games (rather than simulations) because the effective defenses are tedious to model.

    ZERG RUSH KEKEKEKEKE ^______^

  266. @Ken Burnside

    How is an F/A-18 going to intercept a mach 2.5 Yakhont?

  267. > So maybe it’s not all that bad that the US’s “customers” have money to spend ?

    Numbers matter. All other things being equal, the US benefits from a properous EU, but they’re not equal. The value, to the US, of a prosperous EU is not infinite.

    More to the point, Germany benefits far more from a stable Greece than the US does. I recognize that Germany has been paying more than the US, but the question for both Germany and the US is whether they’re getting their money’s worth.

    > So you see the US contributions to the IMF as paying for insurance you’ll never collect ? as payments that should entitle you to a bailout later (but which you’ll never receive) ?

    Not really. I’m just pointing out that the value that the US gets from the IMF is different from the value that other countries get.

    > Kinda funny, in light of the social security and entitlements discussion here.

    Huh?

  268. Ken Burnside wrote “Cruise missiles can hit [...] if [among other things] The target has not moved more than about 300 yards since the missile was launched.”

    It seems to me that that’s pretty optimistic over the timescales characteristic of commissioning and decommissioning warships. I don’t know where to get figures like this, but even if it’s true for stock cruise missiles today, I doubt it’ll remain effectively true once someone with capabilities similar to China gets serious about taking out a carrier battle group.

    Historically anyone who throws a wave of dozens of aircraft at you has been likely to throw in a few specialist force multiplier aircraft that may well be newer and/or have more highly secret capabilities than the main body of aircraft. For manned aircraft, examples include WWII pathfinders, EF-111s, and AWACS. Whenever two technologically capable adversaries get serious about waves of missiles, I don’t know in any detail what it will look like, but it seems likely to me that broadly similar themes will appear. And from just one possible theme, a few specialist pathfinder missiles dispensing passive optical sensor packages, I think we should perhaps be thinking about an effective terminal target acquisition radius exceeding 10 km, not just 0.3 km.

    I also don’t know where to get figures on the ECM capabilities of a carrier battle group, which is just as well because probably if I did I wouldn’t be allowed to talk about it anyway. I recognize that the neighborhood of an angry aircraft carrier must be a pretty nightmarish place to try to get a target fix or to try to communicate with allied units. But from my general assessment of current technology for semiconductors and lasers and networks and cryptology and error correction, I would definitely not want to be responsible for guaranteeing that an enemy’s 5 kg passive optical sensor package within 5 km of an aircraft carrier in daylight would have less than a 5% chance of getting a good optical ID and fix on the carrier, or for guaranteeing that enemy vehicles comparable to cruise missiles couldn’t run an ad hoc network carrying at least a hundred bits per second. And as far as I know it’s pretty hard to fake the visual signature of an aircraft carrier, especially if it’s maneuvering at speed. You can dazzle the sensor, or hide the carrier behind smoke or some such thing, but I think it’s probably hard to convince an optical sensor to falsely report the presence of a carrier. If I’m right about that, then the target acquisition risk from each of the individual 5 kg packages of a few hundred kg of passive optical sensors flying around in the vicinity of your carrier would tend to be additive until the sum asymptotically apprached 1.0.

    (That said, I don’t have a really strong technical opinion about how defensible carrier battle groups are overall. Other important issues like punching through hundreds of miles of strenuous opposition still remain. I’m just skeptical about the particular technical point of hiding big objects in the presence of increasingly small cheap sensors and computers.)

  269. @Cathy: “>I am increasingly becoming convinced that we will do almost nothing to even attempt to fix the system until the bond vigilantes come calling.”

    @esr: “This was largely the point of my original post. The logic and the incentives of the political system are too broken for reform to work. It’s going to take actual collapse and bankruptcy to sweep it away.”

    I understand, Eric. It’s just that I have this deep-seated optimism that it makes it incredibly difficult for me to understand people who refuse to deal with problems.

    I thought for that back in 2001, after the tech crash, that now America would finally have to starting living on its earned (read: wage) income, rather than on pseudo-capital-gains. Didn’t happen, they just borrowed the money against their homes. Then that crashed in 2008, and I thought, OK, NOW Americans will finally do some combination of paying off and defaulting on their personal debt, and we’ll get things stabilized. Didn’t happen; instead, we socialized a big chunk of the private debts, which I didn’t see coming.

    My personal decision making process has a relatively low discount rate. Pain tomorrow matters to me, and I’ll sacrifice today to avoid suffering tomorrow. So it’s very, very difficult for me to have much empathy for humans who apply a very high discount rate to their life decisions, implying that tomorrow just doesn’t matter.

    This of course leads us back to the famous marshmellow test. Apparently it’s true that most people just can’t delay anything, and in a socialized world the rest of us get to suffer for it.

  270. @inkstain

    By flying a lazy 8 pattern along its approach vector, timing the leg so that the side view radar gets a good look at it, matching course but not velocity, and launching a sidewinder at it.

    Hitting Mach 2+ targets with guided missiles is surprisingly easy – and the Yakhont doesn’t do much of anything that resembles evasive maneuvers.

    It also has a roughly 120 mile range – which means that the F/A 18 kills the ship it’s on before its within launch range.

  271. I gotta wonder how effective sea-skimmers would actually be against a CVNBG. The supposed advantage they have is that sea-skimming keeps the missile below the horizon of the target for longer. Except a USN CVNBG has airborne sensor platforms and wings of surface pickets that, quite frankly, aren’t worthwhile targets for sea-skimmers. And over-the-horizon-capable weapon systems was a solved problem by WWII, if not earlier (which is why the interwar capital ships carried aircraft).

    Hell, you could probably disrupt a sea-skimmer swarm at max range of whatever cannon the surface combatants have by having them shell the predicted path of the swarm with a Time-on-Target salvo. As Ken Burnside noted above, you don’t have to get your weapon platform up to intercept speed, you just have to put the warhead there.

    Nukes are the big danger to a CVNBG, especially if salvage-fused. But they’re not an insurmountable threat.

  272. @Ken Burnside

    Doesn’t this presuppose that air superiority has been established?

  273. @Jermy Bowers
    “I can’t speak for everybody, but my Euro-pessimism is demographics based. I have confidence in the ability of Europe to muddle along as we all do and will (and I do not mean that insultingly, everybody is just muddling through, we’re all just folk),”

    A legitimate concern. I think the Europeans will solve that the way the US solved the same problem, by immigration. There will be more problems in Europe because we start later. There will be countries that will resist that, like the pan-European anti-Islam movement, and the West-European anti-Pole/Rumanian/Bulgarian movement. But those that do not adapt will feel the crunch.

    There is a whole continent of young people who want to work in Europe. So the problem will solve itself.

    It is their endemic feel of ethnic isolationism that prevents the Japanese to really look at that solution. They tried and failed to get enough children of emigrants to return. And there are considerable amounts of migrant workers in Japan. But no real solution in sight.

  274. inkstain

    Yes it is. And if you can’t get air superiority with a CVN air group, then there’s no reason to put the CVN there.

    The Fuzzy Wuzzy strategy relies on “edge of map” conditions: Fuzzy Wuzzy works when you can do mass wave attacks without being thinned by an opponent with longer range.

    Right NOW the best long range delivery of firepower is a jet fighter. I am not saying that it will always be such; I am saying that the armchair theoretician saying that swarms of cheap cruise missiles/network aware missiles/flying Zulu spearmen is working from very incomplete information.

    We have a maintainable lead in carrier air technology. Indeed, we could probably increase the lead if we really wanted to. There is nobody within reach of our capabilities, and China, which is making a concerted effort, is a minimum of 10 years away from matching our roughly late 1990s capabilities…assuming everything they do on development goes without a hitch, and assuming that they can work up the skills without it being a disaster.

    The best way for a carrier to defend itself is to make sure that whatever launch platforms are out there are either out of range, or sunk, before they get within range. Without an “edge of map” miracle, being able to strike 12x farther (and more responsively) than your enemy’s missiles can reach (or in the case of the Yakhont, about 7x farther) is a powerful advantage.

    The biggest danger to a CVN isn’t a sea skimmer. It’s subs, which is why the CVN travels with ASW platforms and two hunter subs of its own in the battlegroup.

  275. Somewhat off-topic, but also the end of politics as usual, or not?

    We knew this happened, but it is nice to see more evidence. And we also know this type of manipulation is of all times.

    What can be done against it? I normally identify suspects on the basis that these astroturvers never add material information. A troll who has an opinion, but neither facts, experiences, nor insights to share is a likely paid troll. But I know there are volunteer trolss too.

    The need to protect the internet from ‘astroturfing’ grows ever more urgent
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/feb/23/need-to-protect-internet-from-astroturfing

    Like the other members of the team, he posed as a disinterested member of the public. Or, to be more accurate, as a crowd of disinterested members of the public: he used 70 personas, both to avoid detection and to create the impression there was widespread support for his pro-corporate arguments. I’ll reveal more about what he told me when I’ve finished the investigation I’m working on.

    It now seems that these operations are more widespread, more sophisticated and more automated than most of us had guessed. Emails obtained by political hackers from a US cyber-security firm called HBGary Federal suggest that a remarkable technological armoury is being deployed to drown out the voices of real people.

  276. >We have a maintainable lead in carrier air technology.

    It would be pleasant to believe all this rosy optimism. But one of the most consistent messages of history is that hegemonic militaries tend to overestimate their advantages and find themselves blindsided when the next war comes. What good is a maintainable lead in carrier air if small improvements in (for example) cross-range maneuvering capability and terminal target acquisition make every ship with a large visual signature as obsolete as a hoplite?

    Yes, yes, I understand the arguments about the difficulties of mid-ocean targeting and carriers not standing still, and I can follow the logic of the “story problem”. But it seems to me those arguments are very brittle, and CBGs are consequently quite vulnerable to technological surprises. And I can’t help thinking that the arguments are suspiciously convenient for a Navy in which capital-ship command is the big brass ring, and which therefore has an institutional need to justify as many brass rings as possible.

    Mind you, I’m not advocating scrapping all our CBGs. They’re spectacular at power protection against a low-tech opponent; one fully-committed CBG could make extremely short work of Qaddafi, for example. I’m just dubious about their survivability against a major power that can build missiles and sat-killers.

  277. Eric – let me put it like this:

    We (the US Navy or USAF) probably couldn’t hit a CVN with cruise missiles while keeping an above surface launch platform – airborne or ship – from getting smoked.

    That may not always be the case…and one of the holy grails in weapon procurement is making something that can do the ‘cruise missile’ job that can do the following three things:

    1) Fly at Mach 2+
    2) Hit a mobile target
    3) Hit a target smaller than an office building
    4) Have a range that extends farther than a CVN carrier wing can retaliate to.

    So far, that weapon has not appeared in nearly two decades of active development.

    In terms of carrier operations (in terms of experience in doing them, as well as sensor and commo hardware, and the planes and pilots themselves), we’ve got a FORMIDDABLE advantage.

    By way of analogy:

    The advantage we have in carrier operations right now is at LEAST comparable to the advantage we have in SOCOM operations, if not greater. British SAS are as good as US SOCOM folks, and may be a bit better at some types of ops. There’s NOBODY who can say that about carrier aviation right now.

  278. “Yes, yes, I understand the arguments about the difficulties of mid-ocean targeting and carriers not standing still, and I can follow the logic of the “story problem”. But it seems to me those arguments are very brittle, and CBGs are consequently quite vulnerable to technological surprises. And I can’t help thinking that the arguments are suspiciously convenient for a Navy in which capital-ship command is the big brass ring, and which therefore has an institutional need to justify as many brass rings as possible.”

    You also don’t want to be the Jeune Ecole (sorry, not sure how to properly get the accent mark) and give up something that works for something that never turns out to be viable.

    Everything is vulnerable in war to some degree, which is why you never build/deploy/rely on anything that can’t be destroyed and replaced – though with ‘capital ships’ each loss is going to be considered quite painful it should never be *fatal*. One particular problem with carriers right now is that, despite their ability to project power, we can’t afford to lose ANY of them, we just don’t have the numbers.

    Technology may wind up helping as much as hurting. Remote-piloted combat aircraft would seem to have the potential to allow for a larger air wing, a smaller and cheaper carrier, or both. Developments in railguns and directed energy weapons would increase the abilities of escorting warships enormously (well against anything but submarines, anyway).

  279. @Winter and others: about foreign and military policy: what do you think about the intervention in Libya? It is very unusual, France being all vigorous and maybe even “trigger-happy” and America acting reserved and – as of the moment, this might change overnight – hands-off, in the last years / decades it was the other way around, wasn’t it? It’s quite a change in attitude, a bit of a reversal in roles, isn’t it? Personally I’m pleasantly surprised about the whole thing, I’ve always hated the sleepy, spineless, unprincipled pacifism of our old continent, I’ve always thought there are good causes worth fighting for, removing that mentally ill dictator being a rather good one. (Got that part when he called Obama his son, because he fancies himself being the King of Africa and Obama’s dad being Kenyan? The guy is long overdue for being locked in a madhouse and throwing away the key.)

    On the main topic a bit later on, I have to gather my thoughts. In a nutshell: yes, in this age thinking about politics must get more predictive than prescriptive, but we make predictions about other things than economics too, such as the cultural-intellectual suicide progressives have committed by moving from modernism to post-modernism. In an “anything goes” are lots of people are going to be strongly conservative because why not – the post-modern left have voluntarily given up the major arguments of the modern left for not doing so.

  280. > I think the Europeans will solve that the way the US solved the same problem, by immigration. There will be more problems in Europe because we start later. There will be countries that will resist that, like the pan-European anti-Islam movement, and the West-European anti-Pole/Rumanian/Bulgarian movement.

    > There is a whole continent of young people who want to work in Europe. So the problem will solve itself.

    Which young people are you planning to allow in?

    The people you choose will determine what Europe becomes.

    For example, you seem to think that resisting Islamic immigration is a bad thing. How do you think that things will turn out if Europe gets enough Islamic immigration to solve your demographic problems?

    For example, do you think that those immigrants will be willing to pay for the social benefits that have been promised to current Europeans? Why should they?

  281. > The need to protect the internet from ‘astroturfing’ grows ever more urgent

    Which definition of “astroturfing” are we using?

    I remember listening to a US congressman explain how all of the letters that he recieved on one side of a given issue were “astroturf” while all of the letters that he received on the other side were genuine. At that time, I was holding a letter that had been sent out by an organization on said other side of that issue, together with instructions to send it to said congressman.

    FWIW, the side that was supposedly astroturfing is represented by one of the largest issue organizations in the US while the organizations on said other side have never had many members, just rich ones.

  282. @Ken Burnside

    Here’s my problem with your argument. The USN currently has an overwhelming advantage in carrier-based aircraft. However, with the retirement of the F-14 the navy has lost its long range fighter/interceptor, and there’s nothing to replace it on the drawing board. Let’s consider the threat environment a decade or so down the line. I’m having trouble seeing F/A-18 and F-35C fighter bombers win air superiority even over advanced Su-27 derivatives (Su-35S, for example), to say nothing of J-20 or PAK-FA monsters currently in advanced development. Now, I’m assuming the following:

    1) J-20/PAK-FA are not paper tigers. On paper at least, they seem formidable.
    2) The F-35C will not get canceled. Hell of an assumption. The whole JSF program is in deep shit.

    Hence, how do you envision the USN establishing air superiority over Chinese land based aviation?

  283. The F-35C is unlikely to get canceled. Canceling it would cost more than completing the production run.

    The Flanker and derivatives are good jets. When they’re actually in the air.

    The dirty little secret about Sov-bloc planes is that they have SERIOUS maintenance problems, even with knowledgeable operators. They’re about two generations behind on onboard avionics compared to US stuff.

    This all ties into that “experience running carrier ops” I mentioned.

    The F/A-18E is also a good jet (and is, in all but name, a different plane from the F-18; it’s got longer range – though not as long as the F-14. It’s got a higher speed, but not as high as the F-14. It’s also got a MUCH better maintenance profile, and with drop tanks can do the range that an F-14 can.)

    I know less about the J-20 and PAK-FA, but…unless there’s something that’s changed dramatically with PLAN-Navy operational characteristics, it’s going to be a long long time before those things are operational in any kind of numbers with trained pilots.

    (Or, why do you think that the F-35 will get canceled due to project delays and failure to meet specifications, and think the J-20 and the PAK-FA, both built by countries without extensive aerospace engineering and fighter jet construction experience, will sail without technical glitches?)

  284. @Ken Burnside

    PAK-FA is a Sukhoi development. They’ve been building aircraft since 1939. No offense, but claiming that they lack aerospace engineering expertise is a bit of a stretch, IMHO. It should be noted however, that China has not announced any plans to procure any.

    As far as J-20 is concerned, I suppose you’re right.

    The thing is, once they become operational in a decade or two, the USN won’t have anything to counter them with. Either aircraft would have a massive advantage over both F/A-18E and F-35 in terms of missile loadout, range, power to weight ratio, maneuverability and weapon range. Therefore, what is the Navy going to do in 15 years or so?

  285. @esr

    Not that simple, I suspect. Just off the top of my head:

    1) Russian airplanes are designed to land on rough, semi-prepared airstrips. This means tougher landing gear and a beefed up airframe. This makes it comparatively easier to navalize them. The F-22 was never designed for that.

    2) The edge where the wing folds is going to generate a large radar return. Redesigning the F-22’s wing so it folds while maintaining its stealth characteristics will be an adventure.

    My point, is that a “F-22N” is very much a non-trivial project. I’m thinking at least half a decade from start to prototype.

    Not to mention all the politics involved.

  286. @Andy Freeman:
    “Which definition of “astroturfing” are we using?”

    First, this was the title of the article linked to.

    Second, astroturfing is writing opinion pieces for money while hidding that you are paid to do so. More specifically, lying about the faact that you have a financial interest in the matter.

  287. @Andy Freeman
    “The people you choose will determine what Europe becomes.”

    The US has had this discussion about every wave of immigration. How did it work out?

    Replace catholics by muslims and you can reuse several centuries of anti-immigration literature unaltered. So why be bothered by the one when the others fitted in perfectly.

  288. Winter,

    “Second, astroturfing is writing opinion pieces for money while hidding that you are paid to do so. More specifically, lying about the faact that you have a financial interest in the matter.”

    Not so. That definition would better fit “payola,” or a similar term.

    Astroturfing is when you simulate the appearance of a true popular movement, using sophisticated PR from a bare handful of people. E.g. having ten people send a hundred thousand letters each, as a crude example.

  289. “The US has had this discussion about every wave of immigration. How did it work out?”

    Often time, painfully. Some immigrants were very difficult to integrate (and some like the Irish, are *still* only partially integrated, as anyone who has ever gone for a walk in Southie can tell you) despite very great pressures to assimilate. Some went better than expected, like Eastern European Jews who were (despite current stereotypes) backward, dirty and really somewhat barbaric when they arrived.

    “Replace catholics by muslims and you can reuse several centuries of anti-immigration literature unaltered. So why be bothered by the one when the others fitted in perfectly.”

    Because the others started off much closer, culturally, to the host nation, and the host exerted *huge* pressures on the newcomers to conform. And even then we experienced some nightmarish difficulties (I grew up in NYC and lived for many years in Boston, I am *very* aware of the negative history of the Irish in America) with some groups that, over a centure later still haven’t entirely been resolved.

    In Europe’s case with the Islamics you have immigrants with a culture wholly alien to the host nation’s (doesn’t matter, pick a nation), and Europe notably lacks any visible inclination or ability to encourage assimilation. In fact, one and two generations ago you had immigrants welcoming assimilation, and now you have Malmo, Rotterdam and the banlieue.

    And seeing as how you’re the one making unfounded hidden assumptions, on what basis do you justify the easy assumption that assimilation of immigrants will work as well in Europe as the US, despite all the greater difficulties Europe faces?

  290. To continue from my previous post:

    For those of you who don’t know, Southie (really South Boston) is one of several Irish neighborhoods in the Boston area. But it’s an extreme case- it’s more than a neighborhood, it’s a xenophobic racial enclave (like a Chinatown that DIDN’T want outsiders to come in to do business) that permits its residents to not have to assimilate. The non-assimilated residents then have difficulty finding work outside because they haven’t learned to fit in with the dominant outside culture- kind of a vicious cycle. Southie is famed for poverty, crime and all manner of social dysfunction, starting (but not ending, oh no) with high rates of unemployment and welfare dependency. Someone who doesn’t understand that issues of ‘privilege’ in the US are more about culture than race have trouble understanding Southie, because the people there are “white”.

    Assimilation in the US was HARD, and the issue was often in doubt. To make things work as well as it did took a lot of things- there were very painful internal dialogs about how to proceed (ongoing, continuous), certain conclusions were reached and policies enacted. Those policies, official and unofficial were designed to achieve integration and assimilation, summed up in the phrase “The Melting Pot”, and they really did cause quite a bit of short-term hardship among immigrants but gave great long-term benefits. And even the US, that experienced assimilation machine, is having a harder and harder time assimilating current immigrants if for no other reason than the existence of the welfare state.

    Europe has never gone through this. They’ve never had honest debate about exactly what to *do* with immigrants, what society should be like after immigration- just sort of drifted into some fantasy of multiculturalism (which European leaders are only now starting to admit doesn’t work). It really does look like Europeans assumed that, if the Americans could get it to work, then integrating large numbers of immigrants must be trivially simple- the combined ignorance and arrogance needed to reach that kind of conclusion… is now generating its own punishment. And even now, honest debate on the subject is nearly impossible- the European nation being most open, honest and rational in its internal debate about immigration (Switzerland) is being subject to all kinds of abuse and outside pressure exactly *because* of that honesty.

    So really, how does one justify the easy assumption that assimilation of immigrants will work as well in Europe as the US, despite all the greater difficulties Europe faces?

  291. > Second, astroturfing is writing opinion pieces for money while hidding that you are paid to do so. More specifically, lying about the faact that you have a financial interest in the matter.

    You seem to think that money is the only bad influence, or at least the most important one.

    Given human experience, that’s absurd.

    However, you’re bound to disagree, so let’s see some evidence. What’s the three worst things that where financial matters were a primary motivation?

    And no, the recent financial problems aren’t an example. They started because of a political movement to get people into houses that they couldn’t afford. While some of the folks involved got some payoffs, that was a “moral” movement, not a financial one.

  292. @Greg
    “And seeing as how you’re the one making unfounded hidden assumptions, on what basis do you justify the easy assumption that assimilation of immigrants will work as well in Europe as the US, despite all the greater difficulties Europe faces?”

    Because the alrernative is collapse. And we have seen collapse several times in European history. My optimism is based on the fact that people are willing to adapt if they stare into the abyss. And if I am wrong, fretting about mispredicting the future will be the least of my worries.

    And the USA survived a far greater influx of people. Things are not ideal, but people life together in the same cities.

  293. > And seeing as how you’re the one making unfounded hidden assumptions, on what basis do you justify the easy assumption that assimilation of immigrants will work as well in Europe as the US, despite all the greater difficulties Europe faces?

    That’s an easy one. There are a bunch of white Europeans and the US had a bunch of white people during their immigration waves. European white folk are better at everything than US white folk. Look at all the evidence….

  294. “Because the alrernative is collapse. And we have seen collapse several times in European history. My optimism is based on the fact that people are willing to adapt if they stare into the abyss. And if I am wrong, fretting about mispredicting the future will be the least of my worries.”

    That comes across to me as a very sad combination of fatalism and wishful thinking. What you’re doing right now isn’t the only possible course.

    You could simply close your borders, expel current immigrants and just try to restabilize at a lower population level. The collapse of your welfare system involved in that would pretty much guarantee that your population would begin climbing again.

    Even if you insist on immigrants to pay your bills as you get old, you don’t have to commit to the current immigrants you have. In fact, the ones you have right now are almost a comically poor choice. How about some Hindus? There are enough to go around, and they’ve got pretty reasonable cultural compatibility. Or some east (not Southwest) Asians?

  295. @Winter –

    The difference between the islamic immigrants in Europe and the immigrants of various and sundry race/culture/religion combinations in the US is simple:

    Only the islamists are interested in domination of the nations they migrate to.

    We have had several waves of immigration in the US. Europe is being colonized. Look at what happened to the Native American tribes in the US after the Europeans colonized North America. That’s a best-case scenario for Europe.

  296. > And the USA survived a far greater influx of people.

    Really? How many immigrants do you think that Europe needs?

    > Things are not ideal, but people life together in the same cities.

    Are you referring to the US or Europe?

    I ask because the US hasn’t had race riots or car burnings for decades. Apart from the southern border (which is a different problem), US police can go pretty much everywhere.

  297. >> on what basis do you justify the easy assumption that assimilation of immigrants will work as well in Europe as the US, despite all the greater difficulties Europe faces?”

    > Because the alrernative is collapse.

    That’s not actually evidence for your assumption.

    > My optimism is based on the fact that people are willing to adapt if they stare into the abyss.

    Ah, but how do they adapt? You’re assuming a specific outcome and that it will just work, easy peasey.

    > And if I am wrong, fretting about mispredicting the future will be the least of my worries.

    I suspect that making it work will require a lot of effort. Is Europe willing to do that work? (Serious question.)

  298. Talking about immigration …

    The European Economic Community, as it was called at the time, saw a rather substantial influx of immigrants in the 1950s and 60s. Most of them were from “Mediterranean” countries – Turkey and Northern Africa. Different culture, different religion (muslims ! the horror!). I won’t claim they fitted right in. There was a good deal of friction. But with a bit of effort, things worked out.

    So I don’t think that the EU is that inexperienced and naive when it comes to dealing immigration. And I think there is, at least implicitly, a vision on what a post-immigration society should look like : European nations are secular nations, but with freedom of religion, and they intend to stay that way. Apart from that, the idea that people have the right to pursue happiness is not unkown to us. Most governments have also learned that “integration” doesn’t always come automatically, that they need to undertake action to make it happen.

    I don’t really get that obsession with Islam, anyway. Yeah, I kinda get that some people in the US still have post-9/11-traumatic shock, and I kinda get that some people have an aversion against anyone not white, male, and protestant, but I thought this was to be a rationaldiscussion.

    Yes, there have been those riots. Yes, they involved brown-skinned people from non-European descent. They are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those 1950s and 60s Mediterranean immigrants. They didn’t always get the best education, ended up in the lower paid jobs, or without jobs and no prospect of ever finding one in the current economical climate. You get a bunch of young people who are poor, with no future, very little to loose, and lots of time on their hands. That’s a recipe for riot and revolt.

    Yeah, I know how “leftist” that sounds. It is also more accurate than “they’re not white, they’re muslims, they’re immigrants, I told you they’d be trouble”.

  299. @????
    “Muslims are different”

    First I read that Europe will collapse from a lack of young people. But Africa has lots of yoing people willing to work.

    Then I hear to my surprise that they are all muslims. Curriously, the majority of Arabs I know are Christian ( a statistical fluke). But many Africans are Christian.

    Then I hear that Muslims cannot integrate. But the major of our second city is an arab muslim. And he is better integrated than I am, and I am a local “aboriginal”.

    And I do not see why Europeans should prefer ethnic cleansing and a combined demographic and economic collapse over an immigration model like the US? You imported latin americans by the million and survived. We can do too. Just as we have imported Indians and Indonesians as well as Chinese and others

    I know there are a lot who prefer nationalism yougoslavia style. But that just means suicide.

  300. @kn: I believe I already said:

    “In fact, one and two generations ago you had immigrants welcoming assimilation, and now you have Malmo, Rotterdam and the banlieue.”

    You describe it as:

    “Yes, there have been those riots. Yes, they involved brown-skinned people from non-European descent. They are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those 1950s and 60s Mediterranean immigrants. They didn’t always get the best education, ended up in the lower paid jobs, or without jobs and no prospect of ever finding one in the current economical climate. You get a bunch of young people who are poor, with no future, very little to loose, and lots of time on their hands. That’s a recipe for riot and revolt.”

    So, when you take peaceable folks just looking for work (the immigrants of the 50’s and 60’s were imported because there was a labor shortage and weren’t necessarily expected to stay, but they *wanted* to), apply your mad Euro skills and turn them and their offspring into a seething, resentful rioting ghetto underclass… it kind of makes me think you don’t really know what you’re doing w.r.t. that whole immigration thing. One wonders what would happen when you apply those same skills to the *current* mess.

    Despite your claims, recent past history *screams* out EU incompetence. Not sure how you can deny it, and then describe the proof at the same time.

  301. @Winter:

    Then I hear that Muslims cannot integrate. But the major of our second city is an arab muslim. And he is better integrated than I am, and I am a local “aboriginal”.

    You’re right, WInter. Muslims can integrate just fine. I live in Florida, currently, but I’m originally from the suburbs of Detroit. Detroit has a suburb called Dearborn, home of the Ford Motor Co. (You may have heard of them. They make cars. ;) Anyway, Dearborn has the largest mosque in North America, and the largest concentration of Arab Americans for a city of its size (< 100,000 people).

    Having done plenty of business with Muslims (and I'm not just talking about gas stations ;), I'd say they integrate just fine. Bear in mind, if you ever do business with Muslims, always leave room in your price for negotiation. They feel insulted if you don't give them a price break. I'm pretty sure this is cultural.

  302. So, when you take peaceable folks just looking for work (the immigrants of the 50?s and 60?s were imported because there was a labor shortage and weren’t necessarily expected to stay, but they *wanted* to), apply your mad Euro skills and turn them and their offspring into a seething, resentful rioting ghetto underclass… it kind of makes me think you don’t really know what you’re doing w.r.t. that whole immigration thing. One wonders what would happen when you apply those same skills to the *current* mess.

    not exactly. what I was going for is that this has very little to do with immigration. Think England in the ’80s : massive youth unemployent => “No Future” => punks, hooligans, riots.

    You do have a point that allowing that resentful rioting ghetto underclass to emerge shows a lack of foresight, so I won’t bragg about our mad Europ skills – otoh, it’s not like the US doesn’t have problem suburbs either. So we’re probably both biased, and both less informed about the other side than about our own.

  303. “So we’re probably both biased, and both less informed about the other side than about our own.”

    Which brings us back to my original point. But better formulated.

  304. “You’re right, WInter. Muslims can integrate just fine” [...] Having done plenty of business with Muslims (and I’m not just talking about gas stations ;)”
    good to hear, and i’m taking this as an indication that a lot of “immigrant trouble” is more related to people’s economical situation and consequent place in society, rather that their skin color, religion, race, or place of birth.

    I guess that’ll get me labelled a commie :-)

  305. @Winter @Greg

    “Because the others started off much closer, culturally, to the host nation, and the host exerted *huge* pressures on the newcomers to conform.”

    That, I think is the most important argument.

    There is an incomparably huge difference between integrating into a culture that is confident, even perhaps to being somewhat chauvinistic, and is seriously trying to project to the world that it is the best culture ever, and is seriously trying to convince immigrants to assimilate, because there is the best culture ever to assimilate to, and between integrating into a culture that is timid, unsure of itself, unsure of its values due to relativism, does not really think it is a great culture, does not belive in its value or mission or even superiority in a limited and reasonable sense.

    America and Austrialia are faring somewhat better, because they believe in their cultures, altough less than they did before.

    But here in Europe? If there is any cultural confidence left, it is in a past sense, that of a museum.

    I mean, for example, here in Austria after WW2 cultural self-repudiation went to such extents that the term “German language” was forbidden in schools, and the term “teaching language” was used. OK that was abolished fast enough, but it still describes the general mood – to repudiate 1200 years of history because of 12 horrible years.

    What is actually left here to assimilate into? When I was in the UK, 2-3 years ago, a guy got chewed out by a policeman for flying the English flag from his car instead of the British one. Everybody with half of a brain knows this does not mean much more than showing support for the English football / soccer team, yet it was deemed “racist”.

    Here in Austria, I feel little motivation to work on my less-than-perfect German because people, at least young people below 30 seem relieved and in a certain sense liberated when I address them in English – they really seem not to like their own language.

    When I was in Copenhagen I asked what the real name of the Central Station is, and they said that’s the real name, and it took several turns to really get it through that I am really, truly interested in the Danish name, and they said it is Københavns Hovedbanegård but that’s silly, nobody calls it that way. So much for cultural self-respect.

    When I am in Italy, which I do frequently, I love Toscana, there is a huge number of amazing buildings, and the locals are very proud of it, but their pride is strictly in the past sense, that of a museum: they have absolutely no ambition to build anything noteworthy, i.e. they do not believe in their current culture, they are only proud of their cultural relics of the past, they see themselves as heir of a great culture, not a currently great culture.

    What is left here to assimilate into?

    And if almost nothing, why would we expect immigrants to assimilate?

    To what? To a generic lukewarm culture of saltless, pointless, causeless, goalless multicultural tolerationism? Are we really THAT stupid to expect people who still have some nuts, testosteron, pride and red blood in their veins to really want to love and adopt and accept that as a good way of living? Really?

  306. @kn: I think it’s good you mention our US problem areas (they tend to be in the urban center rather than developed suburbs, though, our urban planners were more willing to demolish existing architecture when they put up their housing projects). They have the exact same cause as yours, which is inward migration of large numbers of culturally-incompatible outsiders, and for almost exactly the same reason- labor shortage. Your booming rebuilding post-war economies needed more labor, so you imported guest workers and things went from there. Our booming wartime industries needed more labor, so we imported workers from other parts of our country (poor Southern blacks) who were otherwise not contributing much to the war effort, and put them to work in our big industrial cities and things went from there.

    Before the influx of poor Southerners into Northern industrial cities -starting in the 20’s, turning into a huge flood during the war years, and continuing into the 60’s- those cities tended to have small to moderate and relatively integrated (compared with what we’re used to now) black populations. However the newcomers had some cultural differences that made them unwelcome, and they brought with them (nice way of saying “caused”) a great deal of crime and other unpleasantness. THIS period is when Northern urban racism really takes off, btw. (Thomas Sowell has written about this whole topic at length in various books and essays.) In itself, this is nothing new or noteworthy- poor rural immigrants had come to our cities in large numbers before and the same problems resulted: yes there was deliberate “racism” against each of these groups in turn, but it was actually revulsion against a culture that applied itself to the group as a whole, which went away when the group no longer possessed the unpleasant culture.

    But we made the same mistakes then that Europe has been making since the 60’s. We didn’t enforce assimilation (which is *painful*, culture shock is real and unpleasant), and you had multiculturalism. We lost our cities by weakening property rights (taking away the rights of landlords) and law enforcement in such a way that there was no way for communities to protect themselves from the crimes the newcomers committed, and the existing residents prudently fled. With no social pressure to conform from neighbors and no neighbors to learn the dominant culture *from* the newcomers were trapped in place. The final nail in the coffin was welfare- with no incentive to learn to get by in the dominant culture in order to find work, with no need for prudent behavior patterns like family formation and thrift required to be able to support children, the underclass became self-perpetuating. In fact, it got *worse*.

    So, we did all the proper Leftist things and it cost us our cities. You’re doing all the proper Leftist things and it’s going to cost you… well probably everything. Here we had large productive ‘native’ populations flee to the suburbs. There you have, thanks to demographic collapse, a productive ‘native’ population that is simply withering away.

  307. @Morgan: Assimilation actually works better when groups don’t form massive concentrations like that. Dearbornistan may not be the best example to use to argue successful integration.

    The town I work in has a (modest compared to the total community size) relatively large Coptic Christian community. They fit in perfectly. It works really well when individuals and small groups blend into an underlying community. I worked with a guy who was born in Jordan, who found himself a new home in central PA. (Yeah, Pennsyltucky.) Took to it like you wouldn’t believe- he tried to get me to go bow hunting. His brother (who I also worked with) is the very picture of white suburban bliss- well if you overlook his very slight accent, and didn’t know where he was born. Sure Arabs and Moslems (not one and the same, but there’s overlap) can assimilate just fine.

  308. Amen, Shenpen.

    You can’t expect immigrants to assimilate and believe in a culture that the natives themselves don’t believe in.

    We may have been better off in the days of cultural chauvinism.

    You can’t help but notice that the Muslim peoples are not taught to be ashamed of their past.

    It may be better to believe in your culture, despite it’s defects and past crimes. No culture is perfect.

    But our left actively works to discourage such things. They seem to feel if our culture is not perfect, then it should be destroyed. They are the ones who so strongly promoted multiculturalism.

  309. @greg

    “How about some Hindus? There are enough to go around, and they’ve got pretty reasonable cultural compatibility. Or some east (not Southwest) Asians?”

    Exactly my thoughts. How comes the IT sector in Britain or America are full of Hindu names, yet there are almost no Turkish, Albanian or Bosnian names in the IT sector of Austria or Germany, and not because of the lack of said population? It might sound bad, but there seem to better and worse migrant populations. (Iranians seem to be better and they could be our ticket to getting something equivalent to Indian talent. I also want the Russkies. They tend to have a very binary distribution, either chess-master & math genius, or total alcoholic idiots with little in the middle, and that would make it easy to pick and choose the good ones. Same for our folks, the Hungarians, in this regard we tend to be very similar.)

  310. @shephen
    i won’t adress your main point since you seem to address Greg and WInter (and it’s past my bedtime) – I just want to point out a couple of flaws.

    1/ there’s no such thing as “Europe”. There are those timid, unsure cultures – Belgium is probably a good example – but France and Germany would easily qualify as chauvinistic, having a sense of superiority etc. Germany is rather careful to advertise externally, due to what happened the last time …

    2/ the US is a military, economic and political world power. Italy, quite less so. It’s rather easy to ‘believe in your culture” when your culture happens to be (or seems to be, or until recently was) the most succesful in the neighborhood

    3/ European countries in general have pretty good schools, and teaching foreign languages well is deemed important.
    As a result, most young people speak and understand English very well, especially those whose mother tongue is a Germanic language. It’s easier for us to just talk English to an (English speaking) foreigner than to try and understand the German, Dutch, Danish, … he’s trying to speak, and then have doubts about just how much he understood when we reply in our native tongue.

    Which goes to show that your indicators might not really indicate what you think.

    I’m also not convinced that 100% assimilation is the way to go.

  311. @Shenpen:

    Thanks for the cultural confidence post, it was something I’ve been meaning to get at but you said it better. :)

    I think the ‘better and worse’ immigrant population thing is sufficiently well explained by culture. Thomas Sowell’s (I don’t mean to sound like a fanboy, but his work is truly relevant here) book “Migrations and Cultures” is very much worth reading. I’d also like to read “Conquests and Cultures” but I haven’t gotten to that one yet.

  312. I rather like the idea of eliminating inflation indexing for entitlement spending.

    I also like the idea of phasing out Social Security entirely.

    Take the current retirement age. Anyone within oh, 3 years of that gets to retire at that age. Then, for each 3 years further away from that age you are, add an extra year to the retirement age. When you hit people who are currently 40 years old and below, tell them that there will be no SS for them.

  313. I’d also be ok with disenfranchising people who are net tax consumers. Not sure how you’re going to get that to pass, though. :)

  314. I just got to your objection in the “Iron Law” post about the disenfranchisement idea, but I’m not sure it works mathematically. Either your Nomenklatura has to be fantastically productive, so that when you tax everyone at 95% you can still afford to hand out direct benefits of 96%, as well as run the government on the skim, or you don’t really get enough permanent welfare recipients to keep the Inner Circle model going.

  315. >I’d also be ok with disenfranchising people who are net tax consumers. Not sure how you’re going to get that to pass, though. :)

    Bad, bad idea. For the likely long-term consequences, see the brutal social backdrop of F.M. Busby’s Rissa Kerguelen novels, in which an elite Taxpayer class connives at welfaring most of the population and reduces them to serfdom.

  316. Well, having not read the book, I’m forced to go off the description on Amazon.

    But I’m not sure that’s what we’d get. Americans are generally culturally opposed to slavery. And a situation in which oppressive taxation and regulation was disincentivized (civil service employees don’t get to vote for their bosses anymore, so people who have some idea of how to be productive will end up at least determining who gets the leadership spot) we’d tend to see more economic growth, which would lead to fewer and fewer people on the dole.

  317. > I’m also not convinced that 100% assimilation is the way to go.

    Multi-culturalism, mass immigration, welfare state – pick at most two – all three is unstable.

  318. @Andy Freeman
    “Multi-culturalism, mass immigration, welfare state – pick at most two – all three is unstable.”

    Sounds reasonable. But what should I conclude from this? That Europe will change in the future?

    Maybe the motto of life is “adapt or die”?

  319. “Sorry, but Germany does not need these nuclear plants. They are reduundant. Germany will not go dark by shutting them down, far from it.”

    Indeed. They just buy the shortfall from France at inflated prices…

  320. >“Multi-culturalism, mass immigration, welfare state – pick at most two – all three is unstable.”

    > Sounds reasonable. But what should I conclude from this? That Europe will change in the future?

    > Maybe the motto of life is “adapt or die”?

    You’ve claimed that Europe can successfully handle the likely immigration.

    What definition of “success” are you using? Is giving up the welfare state acceptable? How about democracy?

    How about if Europe becomes Egypt 1970, but with digital watches and cell phones?

  321. kiba: Bitcoin is just data. It’s not physical.

    Is this 1994? The problem is not, and never has been, one of technology. The problem, as always, is at the interface between the awesome magical technology of cryptography, and actual cash. (If you buy something with bitcoin, the person you bought from now has to eventually turn it into cash. This will be a problem until you can buy groceries, gasoline and electricity with bitcoin.) It’s a nifty-looking way to launder money. Can you explain how and why the authorities will be uninterested in this particular method of money-laundering?

  322. @Andy Freeman
    “What definition of “success” are you using?”

    In this context: Economic growth. In a wider context, support for freedom.

    Given that the current blog is about the collapse of the USA, with very nasty consequences, I definitely see survival and even economic growth as a goal worth achieving.

    “How about if Europe becomes Egypt 1970, but with digital watches and cell phones?”

    In the last months we have seen many young Arabs risking their lives fighting for freedom. The anti-islamic feelings here seem to rather ignore the fact that muslims are just people, who like freedom and wealth like any other human. Event though at this very moment we (extended fashion) are dropping bombs on that scorpion’s nest of Quadaffi to help them.

  323. PAK-FA was started nearly a decade before the J-20, and only has a T-50 flight trainer (and a second one going up.)

    It’s not a complete, deployable jet at this point. The Russians claim they’re buying 200. The Indians are planning on buying 200. 600 more will be sold to other countries.

    In roughly a decade or two. Want to wager that the CIA can’t buy two to test before they’re in series deployment?

    I’m eying the composite construction and wondering how the Russians are dealing with the MTBF numbers for composite-on-titanium construction. Particularly for a navalized versoin.

    (Composite construction tends to have a fascinating failure profile – it gives no real warning. It also doesn’t really like salt water…which has hampered a lot of attempts at making stealthy surface ships, and why the Nighthawks went into and out of service in under 25 years, and why the B-2s are not being replaced.)

    Right now, you’re reading the marketing copy of Sukhoi wanting to sell an extra 600 of them.

  324. > “How about if Europe becomes Egypt 1970, but with digital watches and cell phones?”

    > In the last months we have seen many young Arabs risking their lives fighting for freedom.

    Some surely, but it’s unclear how much of the various uprisings have been Islamic fundamentalists.

    > The anti-islamic feelings here seem to rather ignore the fact that muslims are just people, who like freedom and wealth like any other human.

    Since no one campaigns on a slogan of “less freedom and more poverty”, I don’t think that one should read too much into “we want freedom and wealth”.

    Moreover, the fact that many of the suicide bombers have significantly more wealth and freedom (by our standards) than many of their countrymen, which suggests that things aren’t quite so simple and/or they have a different definition of “freedom and wealth”.

    Also, the fact that current leaders are murderous thugs does not imply that the people who oppose them are better.

    However, I do think that the outcome of the protests is a useful piece of information.

    Will Winter’s optimism be affected if Egypt and/or Libya get worse after the revolution?

  325. “In the last months we have seen many young Arabs risking their lives fighting for freedom. The anti-islamic feelings here seem to rather ignore the fact that muslims are just people, who like freedom and wealth like any other human. Event though at this very moment we (extended fashion) are dropping bombs on that scorpion’s nest of Quadaffi to help them.”

    I believe you are projecting your oversimplifications onto us.

  326. “Will Winter’s optimism be affected if Egypt and/or Libya get worse after the revolution?”

    Likely. We would have to look for more peaceful people. Turcs, Indians, Indonesians, Phillipinos Chinese, etc. We already have lots of experience with those.

  327. @Ken Burnside

    To me, strategic procurement decisions made on the assumption that your possible opponent will fuck up seem risky. My question is, what’s the backup plan if China does manage to deploy a fifth-generation air dominance fighter in useful number in a decade in a half?

  328. Instain:

    Right now – F-35s with drop tanks and F-18E/Fs.

    In 10 years, likely we’ll have block II or block III F-35s.

    What makes you think that we’ll suddenly stop development and refinement of the F-35?

    If both sides have effective stealth/’air dominance’ platforms, then it will largely come down to stealth countermeasures, including air patrol techniques.

    Congratulations, most everything goes back to visual sighting, pilot training and skill, and ACM.

    I know that we’re already doing the development work for the F-22 successor, with delivery in the 2025 timeframe.

  329. @Ken Burnside

    1) I find it very hard to believe that an airplane with a lower sustained g-limit than a F-4, a loadout of 4 AAMs and a .8 power-to-weight ratio can be a credible air superiority fighter. Not to mention the fact that the carrier version hasn’t even flown yet. Now, I’m not arguing that development and refinement will suddenly stop. I am arguing, that on paper at least, the F-35 looks like a light tactical bomber that people intend to use for every role under the sun. I fear it will fail in most of those roles due to lack of kinematic performance. But due to the excellence of the sensor suite, the pilot will know exactly what’s killing him. If you think I’m missing something, please explain.

    2) The prototype for the F-22 first flew in 1990. The first production version was delivered in 2003. If the successor to the F-22 is expected to be delivered in 2025, shouldn’t there already be a formal program with a prototype under construction? If there is one, can you please paste a link?

  330. What makes you think that we’ll suddenly stop development and refinement of the F-35?

    Well, China might stop financing it…

  331. inkstain: If you haven’t already read i, you’ll likely find the section covering TFX, the ’60s version of the F-35, in the The Strategy of Technology to be interesting and relevant.

    I’m certainly getting a “deja vu all over again” vibe from it.

  332. I think I’ve seen this before. You’d think the sad tale of the Messerschmitt Me 210 would have taught people something.

  333. I’m very pessimistic on the value of BitCoin. If it were seriously adopted, at some point it would face a currency confidence dip. This is not because it is BitCoin, but because it is currency, and that happens periodically. We’ve seen all the major real-world currencies experience this in the past three years. I know what contains a currency confidence crisis when it is backed by the ability to use it to pay your debts to a government. (Regardless of the wisdom of making that the only viable currency. Not my point right now.) There’s a lower bound on how far it can dip as a result, bound to the thing that backs the currency. Correspondingly, if the US government falls apart, so does the dollar.

    I don’t know what arrests a panic on BitCoin value. It has no value except what value people agree it has. This does not, contrary to apparently popular belief, accurately describe a backed currency. The backing may disappear or have its own issues, but that’s still different than having no backing at all. Moreover, all other de facto currencies I’ve observed in other places, mostly online electronic communities of one sort or another, have also always backed to something of intrinsic value in the local economy, usually intrinsically valuable items of some sort conducive to serving as a currency. I’ve never seen an electronic currency develop solely out of a valueless number. I see nothing that will contain BitCoin’s first big panic.

  334. > We would have to look for more peaceful people. Turcs, Indians, Indonesians, Phillipinos Chinese, etc. We already have lots of experience with those.

    Why would you take a risk with folks of unknown peacefulness? Are you concerned that there aren’t enough peaceful people? Do you think that the unknowns have some other useful properties?

  335. @Gregg
    I just now saw than longish post of yours where you draw parallels betwen the US and European ‘underclasses’. Interesting read, I’m sorry I missed it earlier on.

    At some point you say “The final nail in the coffin was welfare- with no incentive to learn to get by in the dominant culture in order to find work, with no need for prudent behavior patterns like family formation and thrift required to be able to support children, the underclass became self-perpetuating. In fact, it got *worse*. ”
    Interesting ; you say welfare isn’t the cause of all the trouble, although it did consolidated a bad situation (while, presumably, it was intended as a remedy).

    So now I’m wondering:
    what’s the alternative ?
    doing away with welfare isn’t going to create jobs. So even if those people would learn to get by in the dominant culture (which in itself isn’t all that easy to begin with – even people born in a culture need to be brought up to fit in), they’d still be unemployed, and without income. Which would probably lead to more crime.

    People on welfare spend their income – that means that the money a government spends, returns to the economy, and increases the overall purchasing power of a population, which is good for the economy . This is classical pro welfare rhetoric, and the reasoning behind the introduction of the welfare state a couple of decades ago. Did this stop being true ?

    So, now what ? let the whole thing collapse, every man for himself, and the strong will survive ? Now that sounds like a Mad Max scenario to me. I enjoyed the movie, but I don’t think I’d want to live it.

  336. I don’t know what arrests a panic on BitCoin value. It has no value except what value people agree it has. This does not, contrary to apparently popular belief, accurately describe a backed currency. The backing may disappear or have its own issues, but that’s still different than having no backing at all. Moreover, all other de facto currencies I’ve observed in other places, mostly online electronic communities of one sort or another, have also always backed to something of intrinsic value in the local economy, usually intrinsically valuable items of some sort conducive to serving as a currency. I’ve never seen an electronic currency develop solely out of a valueless number. I see nothing that will contain BitCoin’s first big panic.

    Quite possibly the answer is for some company to follow the example of Epiphyte from Cryptonomicon (establish a Bitcoin-like online currency, then back it with significant prior assets, probably gold or similar). I should imagine such a company, if it successfully established an online currency that came into wide use, could be quite successful.

  337. @kn

    You are making a lot of assumptions that may or may not be true. For example, you say that money the governement spends goes back into the economy and increases the overall purchasing power. At best, the overall purchasing power remains the same since people are simply receiving money taken from other Americans. On the other hand, there is possibly less crime and more life oppurtunities for the children of welfare recipients who are not scrabbling to survive and can get educated.

    At worst, people are encouraged to be less productive and creative because they don’t have to be in order to survive, since they receive government checks in the mail for no effort which many of them proceed to spend on chinese goods at Target and Walmart. My roomate’s unemployment checks were delayed, so he was eventually forced to get a job as a taxi driver or move with his parents. As soon as the unemployment checks arrived, the taxi driving job was suddenly too stressful.

    Not working for long periods of time has more effect than just lack of money. Its messes people up. Humans need to work to be happy and the horrible thing about being out of a job for a ong period is that you get so down, that you don’t think you would be happy again even if you had a job, so you get in a vicious cycle where you don’t really want to work (unless it is ideal work, because you don’t have to), but you are not happy not working. It is really bad. People need to work to be happy, but they need a strong motivation to work. They also need a strong motiviation to be frugal, move in with their parents, eat oatmeal for 2 meals day, mow lawns, drive a taxi or do whatever it takes to survive, and then pass on those survival and ‘do whatever it takes’ work habits to their children.

    Even mowing lawns for $8 and hour (or driving a taxi for $15 an hour) is better sitting at home watching TV and applying for jobs online every once in a while.

    The welfare state is still, in fact, an experiment, one that is having serious problems right now.

  338. > doing away with welfare isn’t going to create jobs. So even if those people would learn to get by in the dominant culture (which in itself isn’t all that easy to begin with – even people born in a culture need to be brought up to fit in), they’d still be unemployed, and without income. Which would probably lead to more crime.

    As welfare reform in the US demonstrated, reducing welfare roles increases the incentive to find work.

    Interestingly enough, supply “creates” demand.

    > People on welfare spend their income – that means that the money a government spends, returns to the economy, and increases the overall purchasing power of a population, which is good for the economy . This is classical pro welfare rhetoric, and the reasoning behind the introduction of the welfare state a couple of decades ago. Did this stop being true ?

    It was never true.

    The multiplier is less than 1, so each time through the cycle, there’s less wealth than before.

  339. re: Medicare/Medicaid costs going through the roof.

    I’ve been watching medical care and insurance costs for some time — not in any academic setting or with any real rigor, but just observing when I have, on occasion, come into contact with doctors and clinics and hospitals.

    I think the costs of medical care could come down dramatically with a single stroke: eliminate the medical cartel’s complete control of delivery of all medical services and diagnoses.

    Hospitals have highly-paid RNs teaching diabetes courses to newly-diagnosed patients; scores of administrators and “wellness coordinators” and hundreds of ridiculous staff specialties. Requirements for crazy levels of certification and degrees for delivery of care that was taught on the job, through coaching and mentoring just a couple of decades ago.

    I could go on, but I suspect that any cost savings in the real advances in medical care from computerized lab tests and similar have been more than consumed by bureaucracy and the spectacular overhead of a medical system designed for a population of employer-paid health insurance plans. It costs $ 1500+ for an ambulance ride. If you’re paying your own way for routine medical care, you can expect to pay $ 200 and up for a simple doctor visit. A trip to the dentist for teeth cleaning seems to require X-rays now ( $ 100 + ) and at some dentists, ceramic teeth molds ( at $ 600 !) before a simple cleaning and exam.

    All of this pumps up the price of medical care to Medicare/Medicaid/whatever, even though they cap reimbursements to physicians and hospitals. The hospitals, physicians’ organizations and insurance companies continuously lobby for increases to these caps.

    My suggestion ? Simply allow a free market in health care. If someone wants to hang out a shingle as a primary-care doc, let them. They’ll be responsible if they prescribe olive oil for melanoma, but why in the world does anyone need 8 or 12 years of university-level work to diagnose the flu ? Clean and suture a cut ? Deliver vaccinations, etc. ?

    That’s only a fraction of our gigantic debt load, but that’s the bit I’ve thought about.

  340. Andy pretty much has it. Aside from that-

    I’ve seen numbers supporting the case that, after WWII and despite some of the troubles I mentioned, black performance in the US (social and economic) was definitely improving in the US (lower poverty rate, higher employment, higher per-capita income, lower rates of out-of-wedlock births and such). This was true all through the 50’s, and then started going the other way after the big increases in welfare programs in the 60’s. So yes, welfare programs can make people poorer- they provide disincentives to learn and practice the habits and traits that produce real success.

    You also need to look at how regulated your economy is, particularly w.r.t. the workforce. Eric has blogged about this several times in the not-so-distant past. The more highly regulated you are, the more you are subject to several unpleasant things- you prevent job formation, and you price marginal workers out of the labor force. Minimum wage rules in particular are deadly poison to the underclass, though they are theoretically meant to help.

    Even in a bad economy, we have sufficient room in our economy to support millions of illegals- and in fact the whole reason we *have* illegals at all, is because they’re doing jobs that either aren’t economically justifiable at minimum wage or higher (mind you, I am NOT saying all illegals work below minimum wage, because I know it’s not true) or that US nationals simply aren’t willing to do. Restrict welfare, and previously unemployed-at-least-somewhat-by-choice folks may start being willing to do some of those ‘unpleasant’ jobs. Reduce or eliminate minimum wage rules and LOTS more jobs suddenly become available to citizens.

  341. Pingback: ST Randoms. | Sullivan's Travelers

  342. @Andy Freeman
    “Do you think that the unknowns have some other useful properties?”

    They are young. And that is exactly what the USA used in the last decades.

    And European welfare seems to have damaged the European economy not enough to lead to an acute collapse. Germany is now the second exporter in the world, and the Chinese use German machines to be the biggest exporter.

  343. >“Do you think that the unknowns have some other useful properties?”

    >They are young. And that is exactly what the USA used in the last decades.

    There are enough young immigrants available from known peaceable countries, so that’s not a reason to take the unknowns. Likewise, there are also enough young and smart, and the education in the peaceable countries is better.

    So, what is it about the unknowns that distinguishes them and makes them worth the risk? Remember, “distinguish” – things that they share with known peaceable don’t count unless you want to argue that the supply is inadequate.

  344. smalldog,

    Entrusting your body to someone who hasn’t been certified as competent is a recipe for disaster. It’s also happening more and more, as pseudoscientific medicine — or “woo” in internet slang — gains credibility in mainstream culture, even among those with MDs. (Tune in Dr. Oz sometime. It’s only a matter of time before he appears dressed as The Great Karnak, with crystals and pyramids and that.)

    While I’m saying there should be a medical practitioner certification authority of some sort, I’m not saying the AMA should be the only one.

  345. smalldog, it’s also worth noting that the health care system in the U.S. was engineered by Edgar Kaiser, so he could profit by charging high rates to not give people health care.

  346. “Deep psychological theories about porn are non falsifiable.”

    I’m kind of bored this comes up over and over again. I’m feeling like repeating myself.

    So: there are two kinds of things in the world, objects and subjects, from the plain simple distinction taken from the viewpoint of the observer, yourself: stuff like you, with similar subjective consciousness, and stuff ain’t like you, without it.

    From it two ways of understanding the world arises, one that of understanding of objects, this is based on causes and effects, and thus predictions, and this is called natural science.

    The other kind of understanding, that of subjects, is based on future-based goals instead of past-based causes and on decisions instead of predictions, i.e. a certain kind of empathic understanding, mixing your mind with the mind of the decision-maker and understanding his goals. This are called either the human sciences, or J.S. Mill called them the moral sciences, or the Germans call them the sciences of the spirit, or something of that sort. (“social science” is a wrong term, it is based on a Marxian assumption of society creating minds and not the other way around.)

    It means it does not matter at all if a “deep psychological” theory if anything is descriptive-rather-than-predictive, unpredictive, unfalsifiable. If it helps your mind get an empathic understanding of another mind, grokking how and why it made a decision, how and why and in what cases and circumstances would you make the same decision, then the job is done well. Prediction based on causality belongs to the world of objects, not subjects. This is not because subjects aren’t “natural” in some sense, but because our point of view is fundamentally based on the (illusion of, but that’s a different matter) gap between the experience and the experiencer “me”.

  347. Pingback: TINA lives | Dark Brightness

  348. @ESR:
    “Rather to my surprise, we have actually started to hear talk of defense cuts from fiscal-conservative Republicans — the group of deficit hawks around Paul Ryan, in particular.”

    I don’t see why its surprising, over the last 200 years, military is almost always the first thing to get cut. Its by nature of how the outlays have to happen (there can be no military entitlements they have to be reapportioned periodically) It makes it easy to cut.

  349. There is one thing that *can* sustain a welfare state just a little bit longer … as demonstrated by the last muslim empire (the ottomans) and nazi germany (and to a much lesser extent by Stalinist Russia) : a holocaust, coupled with massive conquests.

    People have the strange idea that progressivists are somehow peaceful. But have you read the leftists leaflets. “Put the rich on trial”, “Death to America”, “Down with the Greek” (currently popular in leftist Germany), … Do you think these slogans are jokes ?

    I fully agree with the determination that the handout state can’t last, BUT 10 years before it has to finally collapse the choice will be “collapse now, or move the economy to the state, to the military”, and progressives will do exactly what you’d expect any heroin addict will do : they will arm the country to continue the handouts. A few years after that, say 5-10 years depending the question will become “do we steal the richess of our evil neighbors that don’t want to help us, or do we go down in flames ?”.

    Now ask yourself : what’s an entitlement junkie going to demand you do ?

    The only question remaining is so simple it’s beyond stupid : who will attack first.

  350. Just thinking about the practical aspects of what would happen in case of political upheaval. I think my livelihood would be ok — I have marketable skills and I expect to do ok in the tech industry. I don’t have debt. I think we’ll probably always need programmers — as the necessary skill set changes I’ll pick up new skills. My parents never planned to depend on Social Security. What does worry me is city infrastructure. I have an urban life. What if the trains and buses stop running? Or the water and power don’t work? Or the police drastically cut their staff? Losing power & transportation seems like a real problem for renters without cars. And city governments aren’t any more fiscally prudent than state or national ones. Probably want to plan for taking care of self-defense & getting a car in the next few years, but I don’t have a clue what to do about utilities.

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