Hyperpower and high finance

In a 2002 blog entry, Imperialists by necessity?, I wrote:

There is precedent [for civilizing barbarians by force]; the British did a pretty good job of civilizing India and we did a spectacularly effective one on Japan. And the U.S. would be well equipped to do it again; our economy is now so large that we could run a globe-spanning empire from the petty-cash drawer. Seriously. The U.S, a hyperpower so dominant that no imaginable coalition of other nations could defeat it at conventional warfare, spends a ridiculously low percentage of GNP (6%, if I recall correctly) on its military.”

A commenter ask how the financial crisis in the U.S. (and elsewhere) changes this, and others brought up the possibility that the U.S. could be starved of critical resources . My answers are: it changes less than you might think, and a hearty guffaw. There are a couple of facts on the ground that it’s easy to lose sight of during the political panic of the week.

Fact #1: Finance is marks on paper chasing each other around. The U.S. has a combined stock of real wealth — physical capital, population, and talent — that is not far from parity with the rest of the world combined. It is often noted that if just one of our states (California) were counted separately, it would be the sixth largest national economy in the world.

Fact #2: The U.S.’s demographics are still improving, and will continue to improve until 2050, while the rest of the developed world is in demographic freefall. I described the situation in Europe in Demographics and the Dustbin of History; it has since become clear that Japan is in even more desperate shape, anticipating a population collapse so severe that they’re researching robot caregivers for the elderly because there won’t be enough younger people alive to do those jobs.

Fact #3: The U.S. still has an ability to project military power that cannot be matched by any even remotely conceivable coalition of opponents. How the marks on the paper change is not actually very relevant to that; we have the soldiers, and the tanks, and the warplanes, and the ships. We have the stuff, and the people to use it. The recent victory in Iraq is yet another demonstration that our military can cash just about any check our political class is capable of deciding to write.

These strengths are fundamental, and they constrain anything the U.S.’s rivals or opponents might like to do to it pretty seriously. Among other things, it means that resource blackmail of the U.S. on any level nearing an actual survival threat would be a Really Bad Idea for whatever J. Random Foreigner tried it, because we’d just send troops to kill J. Random Foreigner and take his stuff. That, after all, is what nation-states are for. There is no realistic prospect that anyone could prevent this, which (for example) has to be giving Hugo Chavez serious pause for thought. That is, on the optimistic assumption that he’s not already committably insane.

Is this the world I’d prefer to be living in? No, I’m an anarchist. So don’t tell me I’m advocating violence and warfare; I’m simply recognizing the brute facts of reality for what they are. The U.S.’s ability to kill you and take your stuff is barely affected, if at all, by marks on bankers’ papers.

Those marks have meaning only as long as no party with over 50% of the guns refuses to play the game. So let’s consider another possibility. What if the U.S. were to default on its debt? I actually think this is a fairly likely outcome at some point; as I’ve written in Timing the Entitlements Crash, the private-debt crisis is only a prologue to what’s going to happen when it becomes obvious that the U.S. government’s finances are fucked up beyond repair. At that point, hyperinflation or default will be the only options.

There is no doubt the consequences of default would be pretty ugly all around — millions of investors wiped out, widows and orphans in the streets, and so forth. But let’s consider what all that T-bond debt to people like the Communist Chinese actually means. It means they took marks on paper that were promises to be paid back in dollars at a future date in exchange for other pieces of paper which the U.S. Government used to buy stuff. If we default, they have the marks on paper and we still have the stuff.

So, however bad the consequences in the U.S., the geopolitical effect of a default would be to inflict a larger aggregate loss of wealth on the rest of the world. The net effect would probably be that the U.S. would re-emerge as an even more dominant hyperpower afterwards. First, because we’ve still got all that military we bought with borrowed money; and second, because, really, where else are investors going to take their money for stable returns? There’s only so much you can do with camel-futures markets in Uzbekistan.

Of course it would be more difficult for the U.S. government to borrow money after a default. Er, but, how exactly would that be a bad thing?

229 thoughts on “Hyperpower and high finance

  1. However Eric, what we display less and less of is backbone. When we use our wealth for so much that is nonproductive, then we weaken our society and economy – the strongest creature can be felled by the tiniest infection when the basics of self-care are neglected.

  2. I see your point but nevertheless I really hope the US will not default on its debt. There is just something inherently wrong about this. Banana republics default on their debt. I thought of the US as something better – nobler – than a Banana republic. Aren’t we supposed to be the shining city on the hill? An example to the world?
    Maybe I am in denial and the US really is just another banana republic, but I am not willing to accept that just yet.

    – Christof

  3. I’m fairly sanguine about entitlements and don’t think they’ll be that hard to handle. For SS, we will simply cut back outgoing payments or phase out the system altogether, starting around 2017 when incoming payments won’t cover outgoing payments. The alternative is raising taxes on the rest of us and we won’t go for it. Those who depend on SS will have no excuse as if they’d put in more money or put the trust fund portion into better investments than Treasuries, they’d have had more money. As for medical payments, medicine will be revolutionized in the coming years and current services will cost a fraction of what they do now. Most of those trillions in expected entitlement shortfalls are based on naively extrapolating existing medical costs, which is ridiculous. Rather, the biggest issue is always current public spending, all the money that is shit away on real “projects” like the bridge to nowhere or idiotic defense contracts. Finally, we will be unimaginably richer in the coming decades compared to what we are today, as the pace of economic growth keeps accelerating. Yes, those whose who don’t plan ahead and invest wisely won’t get much help from SS, but that’s always been the case and will be politically easier to take later, considering they’ll still be richer than they are today. I’m all for dismantling the entitlements today, but I’m confident that we can both rewrite and phase out those laws later and that the world will be so different and unimaginably richer then that this won’t be a big deal.

  4. >I see your point but nevertheless I really hope the US will not default on its debt.

    Hyperinflation is the only other alternative, and that would be worse.

    >An example to the world?

    In fact, we are are an example to the world in many ways, most but not all of them positive. Now we’re going to be a negative example, showing that state collectivism is unsustainable even when it’s parasitic on the most vigorous market economy the world has ever seen.

  5. >The recent victory in Iraq is yet another demonstration that our military can cash just about any check our political class is capable of deciding to write.

    Dear Eric, Defeating those rag-head Bai’thi Arab-motherfuckers is not such hot stuff. Even Persia was advancing through Baghdad before the UN’s 1988 resolution and the ceasefire came out; and Iraq had the backing of US and most of the West World at that time. Sorry, Not a good example at all.

    >Is this the world I’d prefer to be living in? No, I’m an anarchist. So don’t tell me I’m advocating violence and warfare; I’m simply recognizing the brute facts of reality for what they are.

    IMHO, you seem more like a neoconservative, or at least a sympathizer; correct me if I’m wrong…

    There is precedent [for civilizing barbarians by force]; the British did a pretty good job of civilizing India and we did a spectacularly effective one on Japan. And the U.S. would be well equipped to do it again; our economy is now so large that we could run a globe-spanning empire from the petty-cash drawer. Seriously. The U.S, a hyperpower so dominant that no imaginable coalition of other nations could defeat it at conventional warfare, spends a ridiculously low percentage of GNP (6%, if I recall correctly) on its military.”

    Civilizing by force?! Can I possibly decode as “Imperialism” or “colonization”? In the civilized India people are still worshiping cows, penis and sun; living in dirt, poverty and ignorance and oh,…they are speaking English too. I don’t want to completely ignore the benefits of the British influence there, but saying that “Britain brought civilization to India” is not correct given the roots of Indian culture and civilization. Sorry about that too.

    The most severe state of human rights can be clearly found in Saudi Arabia. They are the dictionary definition of “barbaric”, but have you ever tried to figure out why the U.S (savior of the world) is in such good terms with the dickhead fat Sheiks? No, they are not consuming volumes of psychoactive/mood-altering drugs; it’s all about money. Indeed, forget about “moralization of war” and “bringing civilization to the uncivilized tone” because that’s merely petty political humbug.

  6. >IMHO, you seem more like a neoconservative, or at least a sympathizer; correct me if I’m wrong

    Can’t say you’re wrong, because as near as I can tell the term “neoconservative” is meaningless now. It used to mean something, referring to a pretty specific group of Jewish former leftists (Irving Kristol and John Podhoretz among them I think), but the left and the media morphed it into a content-free term of abuse. I wasn’t one of them.

    For whatever it’s worth, I don’t consider myself a conservative of any sort, and never have. The only thing I have in common with “conservatives” is that I detest the left. Contrast me with, say, Jay Maynard, who really is a conservative.

    >“Britain brought civilization to India” is not correct given the roots of Indian culture and civilization.

    They burned their widows alive. The British at least put a stop to that. Railway trains and decent sanitation aren’t trivial things either.

  7. as near as I can tell the term “neoconservative” is meaningless now.
    It’s become a label for leftists to bash anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

  8. esr:

    > What if the U.S. were to default on its debt? I actually think this is a fairly likely outcome at some point;

    > Hyperinflation is the only other alternative, and that would be worse.

    Historically large states have chosen the hyperinflation option almost without exception, and at the moment the US seems no different. The Fed is currently pumping money into the system as fast as it can, on top of the bailouts etc.

    The trade deficit with China has in fact handed them the means to destroy the dollar. They are now holding more than a trillion. The US is relying on China not dumping them, and it’s probably a good bet, since that would create total chaos for the Chinese export industry. Still, China (and everyone else for that matter) cannot sit by indefinitely and watch the value of its dollar reserve shrink.

    ESR wrote that in case of a default, the US will end up holding all the stuff bought with borrowed money that it didn’t intend to pay back (otherwise known as stealing). Think of what was bought from China. Will that stuff be some sort of an economic advantage in hard times? Some of the computers and such might be, but there have been countless containerloads of rubber ducks, barbie dolls and cheap clothes.

  9. The British did *not* put a stop to sati, the practice of burning widows. Nor did the British put a dent in the caste system. It was the uncivilized barbarians (according to your terminology), i.e., Gandhi, who believed and practiced Hinduism who developed broad movements to put an end to sati and reduce the paralyzing effects of the caste system. The result? Sati is now rare, and a major state in India, Uttar Pradesh now has an untouchable as its Chief Minister. The British were fully complacent, and even encouraged, the caste system in India.

  10. Your analysis is faulty. The combined military and production power of the rest of the world is much larger than that of the US. The rest of the world is currently not too dissatisfied with the way the US wields its military dominance and how it deals with its foreign debt. If you radically change your policy and start using your power to grab resources or start defaulting on your national debt, the rest of the world will forget about its current squabbles and come smack your butt.

    As for the glorious victory in Iraq, it is my understanding that it takes about half of the military resources of the mighty United States, assisted by several allies, to keep one technically and organisationally backward nation in moderate control. While tanks and strike aircraft reign supreme on the battlefield, it is quite obvious that wars are no longer won and lost on the battlefield. The purpose of waging war is to break the enemy’s will to resist whatever you want to impose on him. Lots of people (in Iraq, Afganistan and many other parts of the world) would rather be dead than accept cut-throat capitalism, inane TV-shows and bible-belt Creationism as their way of life. If the US really wants to win in Iraq and Afganistan, it has to convince the entire population that a) it is not trying to impose an American way of life and b) what it actually imposes is in the short and long term interest of the locals. I was about to say “is in the short and long term interest of the individual”, but realised that it would be a flawed statement. The interests and well being of the individual is secondary to the interests and the well being of the extended family (in the minds of every person in the extended family).

  11. esr said:
    > Railway trains and decent sanitation aren’t trivial things either.

    Who knows, one day that will be brought to the U.S.A. as well. ;-)

  12. Our demographics aren’t as strong as all that; it’s mostly composed of Hispanics. They don’t earn parity with whites even 3, 4 generations after immigrating.

  13. We get more than rubber ducks, dolls, and cheap clothes from China. Go to any farm store and look in the parking lot. You’ll find a lot of inexpensive Chinese made small and medium tractors for sale. That’s just one example of many items of real value that come from China.

  14. One of the things that gives the US clout in the world is something most people ignore.

    We are the largest consumer nation on the earth.

    The general rule of thumb for economists studying the Pacific Rim is that every 1% increase in unemployment in the US translates into a 2% drop in GDP in the countries that export to us. When there’s an actual drop in GDP in the US, that plunge is about 5:1.

    China’s Olympics Construction Bubble hit about the same time our housing bubble popped. Nobody has trustworthy figures about the Chinese economy…but friends I know who do business there are giving anecdotal evidence that the Chinese economy got kicked in the nuts by this.

  15. > We are the largest consumer nation on the earth.

    Also the largest debtor nation. To oversimplify, it is the job of the US in the scheme of things to consume what everyone else produces, and pay for it with paper that may or may not be worth something. Unfortunately, said everyone else are going to put two and two together sooner or later.

    > Chinese economy got kicked in the nuts by this.

    Of course. A huge part of their economy is configured to manufacture goods to be exported to the US. I haven’t really followed the news, but I understand that there have been colossal lay-offs in the newly sprouted manufacturing centers in southern China. They have been depending on the financial bubble as much as the US has, and large parts of their population are very poor and will be hit hard by the contraction.

  16. I re-post it here with slightly different wordings. Do me a favor and delete this if the previous one is not lost.

    @ESR:

    Off-topic: Rumor has it that Open Source companies are getting much benefit from the current economic climate. other than selling their software for free, how exactly? [Probably needs an entire post]

    On-topic: To be honest, I wasn’t aware of “neocon” being a practically meaningless word, thanks for the pointer. I think, in that case, the usage of “leftist” is the other side of the neocon coin.

  17. > To be honest, I wasn’t aware of “neocon” being a practically meaningless word, thanks for the pointer.

    You could ask your question including the meaning that you thought that it had. You did have a substantive meaning in mind, right? If not, what was the point of the question?

    > I think, in that case, the usage of “leftist” is the other side of the neocon coin.

    Not at all. A leftist is someone who thinks that govt should control resources and behavior at a fairly strong level. The reasons why said someone thinks that vary.

  18. > For SS, we will simply cut back outgoing payments or phase out the system altogether, starting around 2017 when incoming payments won’t cover outgoing payments. The alternative is raising taxes on the rest of us and we won’t go for it.

    There’s actually nothing significant about 2017. The relevant change happened several years ago, when the difference between the incoming and outgoing started dropping. At that point, the subsidy to the rest of govt from SS started decreasing. We had to raise tax revenues or borrowing to make up the difference.

    SS is “just another” debtor. We’ll pay it back with some combination of borrowing, taxes, inflation, and default.

  19. > I see your point but nevertheless I really hope the US will not default on its debt. There is just something inherently wrong about this. Banana republics default on their debt. I thought of the US as something better – nobler – than a Banana republic. Aren’t we supposed to be the shining city on the hill? An example to the world?

    You’re confusing the political class/govt with the US. The US govt and the US country are both examples, one bad and one good.

    The US political class/govt is largely a disaster. Unfortunately, we haven’t figured out how to starve the beast.

    Default might do it. Yes, I’m saying that it would be good if folks refused to lend money to govt.

    And, if it doesn’t, default will at least put some special hurt on folks who insist on giving whiskey and car keys to teenagers.

  20. > And the U.S. would be well equipped to do it again; our economy is now so large that we could run a globe-spanning empire from the petty-cash drawer.

    Note that a globe-spanning empire can be profitable….

  21. > Note that a globe-spanning empire can be profitable….

    The profits tend to go somewhere other than the state treasury, though.

  22. >Note that a globe-spanning empire can be profitable….

    In the short term, yes. In the long term, that’s actually pretty questionable. The post-imperial history of imperial powers is pretty bleak, as a rule.

  23. @Andy Freeman:
    1. Yeah, I could do that too; but dear ESR et al say that the word is meaningless. So I don’t see any reason to do it now, too.
    2. There is either a misunderstanding happening here or as usual yours truly is ignorant of some critical facts. Originally, “leftist” or “leftwing” referred to the supporters of Socialism; no doubt. “leftist” in the sense of “rightist-leftist” means politically liberal, in contrast to “rightist” which means politically conservative. Liberal is someone who defends individual freedom and is supportive of political/social changes. But the meaning of “leftist” has been obscured further and is really fuzzy. For example the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has hardline islamic-socialistic trends (alongside Chavez) is considered a conservative not only by exactly all Iranians but also everyone who has heard his name! :)
    This is the case with libertarianism too: Eric and Chomsky in the same category!
    See? So I’m saying that the word is screwed in the semantic war just like “neocon”.

  24. Steven, I think the word “libertarian” is still in good shape semantically. Chomsky has tried to hijack it, but the effect has been more to distort people’s perception of Chomsky’s beliefs than their perception of the meaning of ‘libertarian’. True libertarians should, nonetheless, protest loudly whenever the words ‘Chomsky’ and ‘libertarian’ are used in the same breath.

  25. IMHO it’s a perfectly true post and perfectly useless because it’s only pointing out the obvious.

    Everybody who is unable to look back in history even 80-90 years, to Weimer Germany & the Nazis and from it conclude that even a complete financial/currency collapse does not mean the loss of military power, but can mean the opposite of it is IMHO not really worth blogging/commenting/talking to.

    One remark: yeah, the papers held by the Chi-Coms would become worthless but the “stuff” doesn’t last forever either. Most of it is in the form of consumer goods with _very_ limited durability.

  26. Thinking it a bit more through, the average Chi-Com has papers, which is fictional wealth, even he loses it, he still has whatever he had before in physical goods. He just loses a dream. He does not have to start to live differently. The average American has stuff of very limited durability, if after a default he won’t get any replacements, because the Chi-Coms won’t ship more, he will have to start to live very differently, he really loses something he is used to having. Thus, the average American would be much more unhappier than the average Chi-Com.

    OTOH, as I indicated above, you are perfectly right about that stuff about power.

  27. > Thinking it a bit more through, the average Chi-Com has papers, which is fictional wealth, even he loses it, he still has whatever he had before in physical goods. He just loses a dream. He does not have to start to live differently.

    He might well be out of a job and a livelihood, though, which does mean a change or two in his life. It’s not as if a lot Chinese people life off of the interest on their paper wealth.

  28. While tanks and strike aircraft reign supreme on the battlefield, it is quite obvious that wars are no longer won and lost on the battlefield. The purpose of waging war is to break the enemy’s will to resist whatever you want to impose on him.

    that’s because we fight wars under liberal terms in the 21st century. if wars were fought as they should be — i.e., if the entire nation is considered a battlefield and civilian casualties are viewed as necessary collateral damage in breaking the enemy’s will to resist — then the “battlefield” is exactly where wars can and should be won or lost.

  29. The countries with “paper money” as you say don’t only have paper money. They certainly stand to lose, but not as much as you imply. The Chinese have built an incredible amount of infrastructure in a short period, including technology, education, industry, military, etc. — if the US defaults on its loans, the Chinese don’t lose that, and they certainly don’t lose the 1.5 billion people that contribute to the largest army (in manpower) on the planet. Their army might not have the tanks and bombs that the US does, but they have the capacity (in every regard: material, expertise, industry, etc.) to build it in short order, and they have about 5 times the number of people available given a conflict.

    The Germans were eventually overcome by the Russians not because their military was inferior–everyone knows the Russians were a mess from the top down because of the purges–but because the Russians had more people and simply wouldn’t give in. Germany ran out of people and resources and simply collapsed. The US can too, particularly if the enemy has significantly more of something vital like manpower, and even more importantly a political structure that encourages fighting indefinitely (e.g. China’s dictatorship vs. the US “democracy”).

    It isn’t nearly as simple as you portray it. Add to China countries like Brazil, India, etc. who are also growing in terms of industry, education, technology, etc., and things become even more murky. Within a generation a country can completely turn around, as the past 50 years or so have proven. It’s only a matter of time until the US is just one of many powerful nations, and if there’s some massive armed conflict, there’s certainly no guarantee that the US will come out on top (e.g. if the Russians and Chinese were to join forces, which is not at all far-fetched, the US would likely lose).

  30. >that’s because we fight wars under liberal terms in the 21st century. if wars were fought as they should be — i.e., if the entire nation is considered a battlefield and civilian casualties are viewed as necessary collateral damage in breaking the enemy’s will to resist — then the “battlefield” is exactly where wars can and should be won or lost.

    Correct. And if the U.S. faces a survival threat, those rules will go right out the window.

  31. >Steven, I think the word “libertarian” is still in good shape semantically. Chomsky has tried to hijack it, but the effect has been more to distort people’s perception of Chomsky’s beliefs than their perception of the meaning of ‘libertarian’.

    I think Daniel is correct about this in the U.S. However, it is worth noting that Chomsky, lying scummy apologist for Communist genocide though he is, has at least a threadbare case for his sense of the term; in Europe, it’s often used by left anarchists such as he claims to be.

  32. Andy, the significance of 2017 is that that is when the SS taxes themselves will have to be raised to cover outgoing payments or we will have to institute new taxes so that money is going in to SS from the rest of the govt, rather than just being raided as it has been for decades. I agree that other agencies have to raise taxes today because the SS surplus has been winding down, but that doesn’t provide quite the political impetus that SS taxes not even covering outgoing payments would provide. At that point, those of us not on SS will easily outvote those who want to keep such a dumb system going, since the SS dependents are heavily outnumbered, or at the very least start a phased privatization. I don’t think SS is quite a debtor or that any of the options you suggest will happen, rather we’ll likely just phase it out.

  33. You sell our country short, Eric. There is no reason to seize resources. If a country denies resources to us, they will still have to sell it to someone. The oil will still be available; there will merely be a higher transaction cost, but it would be less than an invasion. Plus, our land has plenty of resources to meet our basic survival needs.

  34. Andy,

    “A leftist is someone who thinks that govt should control resources and behavior at a fairly strong level. ”

    That definition could fit anyone from a leftist through a neocon – my definition of neocon is the _least_ small-govt kind of con, see: Irving Kristol: The Conservative Welfare State – to a lot of other schools of thought such as nationalism etc.

    So, you left out the purpose from the definition: control the resources and behaviour for what purpose? The purpose of the left is generally equality, whatever that means.

    Other kinds of statisms use the govt for different purposes.

  35. “medicine will be revolutionized in the coming years and current services will cost a fraction of what they do now.”

    Medicine will cost as much as people are willing to pay for it, which is quite a lot. I sincerely believe medical technology is the main reason to bother with the pyramid scheme known as the modern economy, rather than working two hours a week to stick at a level.

    “Rumor has it that Open Source companies are getting much benefit from the current economic climate. other than selling their software for free, how exactly? [Probably needs an entire post]“

    Customers pay a gushing river to Microsoft or a relative trickle to Red Hat. Red Hat does quite well on this trickle, thank you. Everyone wins! Except the proprietary software companies.

  36. Seinberg, your analogy about the Germans is inaccurate in several ways. First, the Germans were basically defeated when there army was wiped out at Stalingrad. This model would hold true only if the US invaded China, which is not likely. Second, cannon fodder is not very useful in modern warfare, so large standing armies are not that relevant. Third, the Soviets could roll their tanks into Berlin so easily because there was nothing in between except dirt. The Americas are separated from China by the Pacific Ocean, and the US navy could likely make the voyage very unpleasant for Chinese invaders.

  37. > Medicine will cost as much as people are willing to pay for it, which is quite a lot. I sincerely believe medical technology is the main reason to bother with the pyramid scheme known as the modern economy, rather than working two hours a week to stick at a level.

    This is a whole another can of worms and going off topic, but I’ll bite. Your statement is assuming that there is no competition in the market, which is true today in large parts of medical practice. One might wish that that would change in the future. Also, ‘willing to pay’ is perhaps not a useful way of putting it in e.g. the case of life-saving treatment. I think I read somewhere that medical expenses are, or at least were before the financial implosion, the most common reason people go bankrupt. Not surprisingly, people will pay everything they have, and then some, to survive.

    I’m not quite convinced that future technology will make medicine cheap. Drugs maybe, but a lot of the cost would probably still be highly skilled labor (unless they get replaced with AIs way sooner than we think), and that’s still not going to come cheap.

  38. Phil — yes, and the German army was defeated at Stalingrad because they lacked manpower and resources that they’d had earlier in the war. Certainly it’s a little more complicated than that, e.g. the winter and supply routes complicated things greatly, but not much: the German army was superior in every way except manpower and supplies.

    Furthermore, how exactly are you defining “modern warfare”? What it took to “stabilize” Iraq was pouring 25,000 more soldiers into the country to patrol the streets. Are you imagining large-scale conflict being only a computer launching missiles across the Pacific? Likely scenario are a nuclear holocaust, satellite wars, or massive movements of troops. As you say, the Chinese aren’t likely to get across the Pacific to invade–so what’s the other option? The US invading via Japan or fighting another war in Korea? Maybe India lets the US launch from bases in their country? No matter what scenario you envision, there is no decisive victory in sight for the US.

    But really, my point is mainly that esr’s post was vastly oversimplified and had huge gaping holes in the argument. Essentially what it was was waving his wang in circles while saying “The US r0xor!!!” He wants to make the US out to be an unbeatable God-like superpower that will Rule the World under every interpretation of future circumstances (and does so with a “hearty guffaw”). Among his “facts” are supporting evidence like the war in Iraq — seriously? (No, seriously? That disaster that certainly can’t be called a “victory” by any stretch of the imagination?) Or that the only thing debtors of the US have are slips of paper, while completely ignoring that many have used the wealth wisely and done massive infrastructure building that is rapidly closing the gap between US superiority in nearly every area. No doubt that right now the US is still clearly the only super power. But within a generation–and probably sooner given the increasingly accelerating pace of technological progress world-wide–the US will be one of many powerful nations.

  39. esr said: Correct. And if the U.S. faces a survival threat, those rules will go right out the window.

    Sure, of course they will. But that just means a long, grinding war without decisive victors. And if we don’t end up in some nightmare nuclear holocaust scenario (which is actually very likely if any nuclear power faces a survival threat), the other scenario is massive conflict with huge casualty numbers. In that case, it won’t be a blitzkrieg “lightning war.” No side will give in easily, and a war with China or Russia–which I think pretty unlikely in any event, for lots of reasons–would end up a disaster for the US. Nobody can win: if they invade, they’re doomed; if the US invades, they’re doomed too. It’s a total stalemate.

  40. Chomsky, lying scummy apologist for Communist genocide though he is

    What? How on earth is he an apologist for Communist genocide? That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard! He actually considers himself an anarchist and libertarian–which is precisely what you claim to be! His whole mission is to oppose any genocidal government. I challenge you to show us where he defends any genocidal government without taking his quote out of context. Methinks you’re reacting to his liberal social tendencies and not at all to what he actually says.

  41. I regard Chomsky as one of the greatest brains in the history of mankind; but his field is Linguistics and Computer Science (I’m talking about his normal form which affected the theory of authomata). But some of his political ideas are so ridiculous and deluded that they don’t need much commentary. He is “the ayatollah of anti-america” afterall, hating his own country.
    Indeed, ESR’s claim doesn’t seem that shaky: The turd provides rhetorical cover for almost anyone who has something against the US!

  42. Seinberg Says: yes, and the German army was defeated at Stalingrad because they lacked manpower and resources that they’d had earlier in the war. Certainly it’s a little more complicated than that, e.g. the winter and supply routes complicated things greatly, but not much: the German army was superior in every way except manpower and supplies.

    From what I read, the Germans lost the battle of Stalingrad largely because the city fighting nullified most of their advantages, and Hitler did not allow them to defend their flanks adequately.

    What it took to “stabilize” Iraq was pouring 25,000 more soldiers into the country to patrol the streets.

    From what I have heard, the implementation of standard counterinsurgency practices mattered far more than the addition of troops.

    Are you imagining large-scale conflict being only a computer launching missiles across the Pacific? Likely scenario are a nuclear holocaust, satellite wars, or massive movements of troops.

    No, the most likely scenarios is giant robot duels (I’m serious).

    I challenge you to show us where he defends any genocidal government without taking his quote out of context.

    Well, if these quotes are accurate, it seems like he dismissed the idea of the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge while it was occurring. That does make me question him somewhat.

  43. @Steven Ray: I agree he’s a great mind (not so sure about the CS thing, though — Chomsky Normal Form is helpful especially in NLP, but not of the magnitude of e.g. Turing), but I doubt he “hates his own country”; critique and disliking the political elite doesn’t equate to flat out hatred. Besides, that line of reasoning, the “you hate your own country!” stuff, is a slippery slope… unless it’s very explicit like Bobby Fischer or something! (How the hell did I get on the side of defending Chomsky, anyway??)

    @Phil — We’re getting sort of beside the point, which was really just that: there isn’t a scenario in which the US could decisively win any large-scale war, especially if it involves China. A nuclear war would hurt the US just as bad as a nuclear-armed enemy; same with biological or chemical warfare (which the Russians lead in); nobody is likely able to invade the US; and the US would very likely lose any invasion of China or Russia. You’re right that the analogy of Germany/Russia in WW2 only holds for the latter of the three. Even in some Singularity world where wars are waged via giant robot duals (which, I grant you, probably isn’t very far-fetched in the future), the US doesn’t have any clear advantage–in fact, any material advantages of the army’s tanks, planes, etc. are off-set by other countries’ equal ability even right now to build robots just as good as the US can. Japan, for instance, can wipe the floor with the US in robotics, and China probably isn’t far behind. So my point still stands: under what scenario is the US going to continue to rule the world in the next generation?

    p.s I’ll bite on off-topic points too, since I sorta-kinda started it. The flanks may have been left undefended because of Hiter’s fanaticism, but Stalin was sending every able-bodied male to Stalingrad to defend: one way or another, the Russians would have won. I’m sure there are books written about that very subject–whether the Soviets would have ultimately won had Germany defended the flank–so I’m sure it’s open to debate, but the Germans couldn’t possibly continue to fight at Stalingrad and other theatres had the battle continued even longer.

    Re: Chomsky, that quote is a pretty massively debated piece that Chomsky still says was taken out of context. Here he says his point was:… there was massive lying, but in opposite directions. In the case of East Timor, it was ignored and denied. In the case of Cambodia, it was wild accusations without a particle of evidence. So what was the fundamental difference between the two cases – in Indonesia we were responsible, and we could have done something. But in the other case, an enemy was responsible.

    Is there anything else besides the Khmer Rouge (who in any case certainly aren’t supported by Chomsky now, though his writing at the time is debatable)?

  44. >Is there anything else besides the Khmer Rouge (who in any case certainly aren’t supported by Chomsky now, though his writing at the time is debatable)?

    Castro. Like most of the left, he’s been operating as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Castro regime for decades. Yeah, sure, they’ve got universal medical care that should be the envy of the world and nobody being tortured in political prisons – and if you believe either of those steaming horse turds, Chomsky is part of the apparat that sold them to you.

  45. @Plato: I guess you are right. Real cultural reforms emerge from within. The so-called “civilizing by force” is far from being credible unless the said nation is a real threat to a superpower (i.e, talking big and trying to kill non-muslims in the name of Jihad).
    Indians were lucky to have the likes of Gandhi, Gora et al.

  46. “I agree he’s a great mind”

    Er… “It’s not clear what usefulness there is in the notion of universal grammar. It appeals to the public at large, and it used to appeal to linguists, but as you work more and more with it, there’s no way to test it—I can’t think of a single experiment—in fact I asked Noam this in an e-mail, what is a single prediction that universal grammar makes that I could falsify? How could I test it? What prediction does it make? And he said, It doesn’t make any predictions; it’s a field of study, like biology. ”

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/everett07/everett07_index.html

  47. (Libertarianism) “in Europe, it’s often used by left anarchists such as he claims to be.”

    Only in France, for obvious linguistic reasons (“liberté”). And even there increasingly rarely, since a truly Libertarian organization, Liberté Chérie, is getting more and more attention from the media.

  48. >Only in France, for obvious linguistic reasons (”liberté”).

    It’s live in Italy, too, where anarchists of all stripes are called “liberteri” (I used to live there). It’s very likely there are parallel terms in most Romance languages.

  49. > It isn’t nearly as simple as you portray it. Add to China countries
    > like Brazil, India, etc. who are also growing in terms of industry,
    > education, technology, etc.

    Problem is that the resources that the US has are more than guns, tanks, industry, education and so forth. The fact is that American high schools are a disgrace, in terms of their comparable performance to other nation’s high schools, nonetheless, at least 50% (as a SWAG) of all important research, applied and theoretical, comes out of US Universities and industry. Why? There are a number of reasons, two that are very important, and often neglected are the culture and the attitudes of the people. Simply speaking, effort is rewarded, and Americans simply work harder and smarter than most people in most other countries.

    For example, I have a friend who lives in Brazil who has said on many occasions that the only thing Brazilians excel at is being half-assed. They simply don’t work as hard, they don’t respect or reward hard work and success as much, and they do not have a culture that encourages quality and effort: good enough is too much effort, lets hit the beach! I am picking on Brazil, because I know the culture a little, but the same is true in many other places such as China under communism, India and many parts of Europe. One can measure this by some degree in proxy by how strongly workers are protected by labor laws. The stronger the labor laws the less hard people tend to work. Whether this is a cause or a symptom or both I am not sure.

    (BTW, I don’t say this to necessarily say that that is the wrong choice. In many latin oriented countries two hour lunches with a bottle of wine, and possibly followed by a siesta are the rule. It doesn’t get as much done, and doesn’t make for a productive economy, but it might be a better life choice if happiness and contentment are your goals, YMMV. However, that is not the subject at hand.)

    Of course our government is doing everything it can to change this situation over the past 100 years, and our current President seems determined to accelerate this, whether by insane laws to strengthen unions (who seem to think people are fungible) to jejune threats against people who make a lot of money.

    I agree with Eric that the USA is in a very strong position as a world superpower, but like all limousine liberals, the USA seem committed to our own self destruction, out of some guilt addled self flagellation. We can’t be beaten on the battlefield, but we can surely stick a knife in our own belly.

  50. >Simply speaking, effort is rewarded, and Americans simply work harder and smarter than most people in most other countries.

    There are some interesting empirical checks on this. One is that the most productive automobile factories in the world are neither using American workers run by American managers nor Japanese workers run by Japanese managers, but American factories run by Japanese managers.

  51. “…and we did a spectacularly effective one on Japan”

    As I recall, when “we” discovered the Japanese, we were covered in lice, had no teeth, and had barely crawled out of the stone-age. The Japanese were technologically, militarily, hygenically, and medically vastly superior to us. So we used the only weapons at our disposal to destroy them – syphilis and smallpox.

  52. @Plato: The point was discussed; see Seinberg’s last comment.

    @Shenpen:
    1- Thanks for putting that link. I read the page with enthusiasm and learned a lot. The Pirahã language is surely a weird case but Daniel Everett’s claim that it’s a counterexample to UG is controversial:
    see this.

    2- Universal Grammar is a theory, just like Freud’s psychoanalysis or Einstein’s theory of relativity. It’s a new approach that has inevitably changed the way we do linguistics. It may have flaws, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a genius in his discipline. Generative Linguistics is almost a synonym to Chomsky.

  53. > There are some interesting empirical checks on this. One is that the most productive automobile
    > factories in the world are neither using American workers run by American managers nor
    > Japanese workers run by Japanese managers, but American factories run by Japanese managers.

    A couple of points: firstly the main reason that American car factories are so inefficient is that they are not run by the management but by the unions. This means that basic steps to optimize the manufacturing process become major industrial negotiations, whereas non-union plants can generally just implement them. Is the Japanese management the reason they are not unionized,? Probably. Do Japanese Kaizen events work well — yes they do.

    However, what is probably more important is to look outside the manufacturing sector. Japan is different than the other countries I mentioned. Japanese are very hard working, generally speaking and they do have a reward system in place. However, the nature of Japanese culture pushes against the sort of organic growth that seems to be the future. Specifically, Japan is very hierarchical, and the nature of business there is that they have huge highly integrated corporations. Small companies are rare in Japan. These sorts or corporations are excellent at Kaizen, small incremental improvements. They are not great at massive, paradigm shifters. Their culture is not supportive of the types of people who break all the rules.

    Organic growth comes from small, out of the box, risk takers, who take advice from no-one, and do what everyone tells them can’t be done. Think Jobs, think Brin, think Walgreens and Walmart. These guys don’t represent small companies now, but did at one point. Apple, Google, Walmart would not be possible in the culture of Japan. That is not to say Sony, Mitsubishi and Toyota are not great corporations, they are just fundamentally different in nature from the start up culture of America. Silicon Valley is in America, and could only be in America.

    I recently read Gladwell’s book, “Outliers”, which I really liked, though I was not down with it all. But in here he does talk about some of these issues at length, including a fairly long diatribe on the effect of culture on success, and the nature of that success. I’d recommend it as a read for everyone.

  54. Jessica,

    “effort is rewarded”

    The most impotant thing I learned from economics is that neither hard work, nor innovation are the most important things, but savings, and capital accumulation through savings are what important, because it is the unconsumed wealth that can be invested, and only through investment can the economy expand. Even _preserving_ the quality of living requires saving and investment, because capital goods don’t last forever, they need maintenance, repair and eventually, replacements. Hard work isn’t rewarded in itself, only with savings, consuming as much or more than what earns through hard work leads to shrinking.

    Last time I’ve read Mark Skousen (I unsubscribed since), US had about -2% savings rate, China had about 23%. This is what’s really important, this only determines whether the economy expands or contracts, compared to it’s present state.

  55. >Last time I’ve read Mark Skousen (I unsubscribed since), US had about -2% savings rate, China had about 23%.

    The Economist reported this week that the U.S. savings rate has apparently jumped to about 10% this year, and there are reasons to believe it will continue to head upward for a while. They didn’t say so in so many words, but it appears to have been depressed by the availability of cheap credit and the related series of asset bubbles.

  56. I like watching people who live outside the U.S. try to claim that the U.S. is weak or collapsing or merely tolerated by the rest of the world. I’m not much of a patriot but I have to be honest. Think about the idea that the one U.S. state of California would be the 6th largest economy in the world if considered alone. That suggests California itself could take over half the world by itself if only 5 other nations stayed out of its way.

    Now think about what 50 states can do.

    If I remember the figures correctly, Iraq was considered to have the 5th most powerful military in the world before the U.S. invasion. Iraq was not *militarily* a backwards or third-world country at the time — it was upper class. And the U.S. crushed Iraq with minimal American loss of life.

    The U.S. did that with no weapons of mass destruction. With much of the home population opposed to the war. Without a draft — standing army only. In about a month.

    Given sufficient motivation, and ignoring the possibility of WMD killing everybody on both sides, the U.S. could take on most or all of the world and win. But I hope that never happens. We’ve already “taken over” the world economically if not formally. I’d rather avoid the tragedies of war and continue absorbing all forgeiners into the McDonald’s economy as cheap labor.

  57. P. W. Singer’s talk at TED on robots and drones in war:

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/pw_singer_on_robots_of_war.html

    I found the talk great food for thought. He draws a parallel between open source software and the drone technology. Some of the drones are cheap to build and are available to nearly anyone. I heard him talk about his book on the subject some time ago, and I was quite surprised to learn the number of drones already in use at the moment. ESR wrote about ephemeralization some time ago. Seems like something of that sort is happening to the armed forces rather rapidly, with some truly weird consequences, such as army pilots flying planes in Iraq, while sitting in cubicles in Nevada, after getting their jobs by playing simulations and games only. Air force pilots, who have gone through multimillion dollar training and actually fly in their planes, are apparently not amused.

  58. > 1. Yeah, I could [tell us what he meant by neo-con]; but dear ESR et al say that the word is meaningless. So I don’t see any reason to do it now, too.

    They were wrong. When someone says “[x] is a neo-con”, said someone has a meaning in mind. The problem is that someone else may not know what that meaning is because there’s no generally-agreed on meaning for “neo-con”.

    Surely you had a meaning in mind when you asked the question. If you didn’t, then asking the question doesn’t make any sense.

    So, let’s find out if ESR has the characteristics that you describe as “neo-con”. All we need is to know what those characteristics are.

  59. > >Note that a globe-spanning empire can be profitable….

    > In the short term, yes. In the long term, that’s actually pretty questionable. The post-imperial history of imperial powers is pretty bleak, as a rule.

    The “post good-times” period is always bleak – that’s what “post” means.

    The instability of good times is a consequence of being dependent on a political class that fails to maintain said good times. The dependence is delegation while the failure to maintain is betrayal.

    The traditional approach is to try to ensure that the success of the political class is strongly dependent upon maintenance of said good times. That’s difficult and doesn’t handle griefers (which seem to be frighteningly common in the political class). However, since avoiding betrayal is the actual goal, perhaps other approaches might work.

  60. > Last time I’ve read Mark Skousen (I unsubscribed since), US had about -2% savings rate, China had about 23%.

    Interestingly enough, if you ask working Americans, they’re pretty sure that they save significant amounts of money. Yes, even those who don’t have savings accounts or investments.

    Why do they think that? They look at their paychecks and they see 7+% for SSI and know that their employer is kicking in the same amount.

    Yes, you and I know that the govt is spending that 15% as fast as it comes in, but they’ve been told that it’s being “saved” for their retirement.

  61. >If I remember the figures correctly, Iraq was considered to have the 5th most powerful military in the world before the U.S. invasion. Iraq was not *militarily* a backwards or third-world country at the time — it was upper class. And the U.S. crushed Iraq with minimal American loss of life. The U.S. did that with no weapons of mass destruction. With much of the home population opposed to the war. Without a draft — standing army only. In about a month.

    Correct. People who haven’t studied military history and the current state of the world’s militaries have difficulty grasping just how overwhelming and historically unprecedented the U.S.’s current force advantage really is. And it’s not just that we have lots of materiel, either, though little things like having a naval battle fleet the combined size of the next largest 13 national fleets in the world certainly help. U.S. military doctrine has evolved to exploit our technological advantages in ways that leave even our closest allies in the G8 unable to keep up.

    To illustrate this: U.S. night vision gear is so good, so ubiquitous, and so thoroughly integrated into force doctrine, that U.S. troops actually prefer to fight at night. Nobody else can do this. It’s not just that our obvious potential major adversaries like the Russians and Chinese can’t do it, the English and French and Germans and Japanese can’t either. They can’t keep up.

    An Economist article about six weeks back about British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan noted “a general sense…that the student has surpassed the master” even in areas like counterinsurgency warfare where it was generally believed the British had lessons to teach (and this is from a British magazine, mind you). U.S. troops are “more daring and more combat-effective” than their allies. Weapons and equipment better, training better. doctrine better.

    This didn’t happen by accident; it’s a result of trends that have been visible since WWII and really kicked in to high gear when the U.S. Army went all-volunteer. One effect of that change is that ordinary U.S. line troops are now armed and trained to a level that matches or nearly matches the elite and special-forces formations of our allies. You can’t do that with conscripts, and you can’t do it even with an all-volunteer force unless you’ve got a population and economic base the size of the U.S.

    Combine this with our materiel advantage and, yes, you do have a military that could clobber its 5th-largest competitor in a month, even with the deployed units outnumbered, technically understrength, at the end of a 4000-mile supply line, and bucking political headwinds at home.

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again: there is no rational military planner anywhere on earth who will tell his superiors they can fight a war with the U.S. and win.

  62. >> An Economist article about six weeks back about British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan noted “a general sense…that the student has surpassed the master” even in areas like counterinsurgency warfare where it was generally believed the British had lessons to teach (and this is from a British magazine, mind you). U.S. troops are “more daring and more combat-effective” than their allies. Weapons and equipment better, training better. doctrine better.

    Amen. This is why I can’t help but scoff when the Euros demand that we let them have some say in our wars; when they say we should give some thought to the opinion of the “global community”. There is no global community, this is a chimera of certain intellectual’s imagination. And it always seems to be the opinion of France and Germany, anyway. Countries like Poland are supposed to just shut up.

    The Euros since WWII have made a conscious decision to spend their money on welfare state entitlements and not their military. (This is a big factor making Europe more and more Islamic, but that is a different story….). Thus they are militarily weak but still want to be looked as equals of the US. Ha. To me, this is like the spectators at a football game demanding some say in what plays are called. Fat chance.

  63. > The most impotant thing I learned from economics is that neither hard work,
    > nor innovation are the most important things, but savings, and capital
    > accumulation through savings are what important

    Not true. Ideas, labor and capital formation all contribute. Again, if I might refer to “Outliers”, he points out that at certain times there were massive jumps forward all clustered around certain events. For example, the massive growth that occurred in the late 70s and early 80s with the breakout of the computer industry. What released this was the confluence of talent, circumstance and luck. Of course capital formation was involved too, but the capital was available in 1960, but the ideas, the people and the circumstances were not. It is all three things that make innovation happen. Again the evidence is in your very post: you say Americans don’t save enough, but, once again, a disproportionately large amount of innovation comes from the USA.

    Let me offer you another very obvious counterexample. In the Middle East, for example Saudi Arabia in particular, there is an insanely large amount of capital swilling around due to the oil industry, yet innovation is practically non-existent in that part of the world. Why? A lot of reasons, most of which I can’t say without having a fatwa put on my head.

    Why does America still lead? Where does all the capital come from? Well I ask you this simple question: in which stock market is the most money invested? If you answer that, you will know where all those Chinese and Sheiks are putting their savings, and you will recognize that they too realize that it is the hard work and innovative capacity (along with a free market system — or what remains of one) that is the engine of growth in the economy.

    But, given this is the case, obviously what we need to do is pass massive, punitive taxes on the people who make all that capital flow correctly– yeah, that is a great idea. Damn those accursed hedge fund managers. Damn those option and futures traders.

  64. > Andy, the significance of 2017 is that that is when the SS taxes themselves will have to be raised to cover outgoing payments or we will have to institute new taxes so that money is going in to SS from the rest of the govt, rather than just being raided as it has been for decades. I agree that other agencies have to raise taxes today because the SS surplus has been winding down, but that doesn’t provide quite the political impetus that SS taxes not even covering outgoing payments would provide.

    As I pointed out, the change has already occurred – the SS subsidy to the rest of govt is already decreasing so we’ve already started to do other things to cover the shortfall that SS covered. Nothing really changes when SS goes negative because it’s been a unified budget since Johnson.

    In fact, thanks to the IOUs that SS holds, there’s a huge political cost associated with treating “SS goes negative” as an event. It can’t be an event if we try to maintain the fiction that SS wasn’t a scam. And, we’re going to try to maintain that fiction for as long as possible because no one wants to take the blame for the world’s biggest fraud. I predict that we’ll try to maintain that fiction after SS goes cash-flow negative. (Sane people would admit it well before then, but ….)

    That’s not the only factor. If the US doesn’t redeem the SS IOUs as promised, that’s proof that the US will not live up to its financial agreements. Govt can argue that SS is special, that it will pay other debts, but who will believe that? And, who wants to make that argument?

    Yes, they’re real IOUs, with interest and everything. I doubt that anyone can get standing to sue, but beating back the attempt will have a horrible political cost.

    FWIW, the 2017 date may be optimistic. If the recession last longer than expected. the recovery isn’t enough, or we “double-dip”, SS can go negative well before then.

  65. > “leftist” in the sense of “rightist-leftist” means politically liberal, in contrast to “rightist” which means politically conservative.

    You’re assuming that leftist and rightist are mirror images. They’re not. And, leftists are not (necessarily) political liberals.

    > Liberal is someone who defends individual freedom and is supportive of political/social changes.

    Since political/social changes can, and often do, decrease individual freedom, that definition doesn’t make any sense.

  66. I wrote: “A leftist is someone who thinks that govt should control resources and behavior at a fairly strong level. ”

    > That definition could fit anyone from a leftist through a neocon

    Not really. The existence of rich people doesn’t offend non-leftists. The fetish with attacking and controlling concentrations of wealth as a good in and of itself is almost entirely on the left. Others look at wealth only when it advances some other goal.

    > Other kinds of statisms use the govt for different purposes.

    That’s what makes them “other kinds”.

  67. > For example the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has hardline islamic-socialistic trends (alongside Chavez) is considered a conservative not only by exactly all Iranians but also everyone who has heard his name!

    That’s because propaganda works.

  68. >> Note that a globe-spanning empire can be profitable….

    > The profits tend to go somewhere other than the state treasury, though.

    I’d argue that trying to get profits into the state treasury is probably a key factor in losing money with an empire. You do want the state to recover its costs and to spend as little as possible in maintaining an empire, but if there’s spare money wandering around in a govt, killing the golden goose is just one of the bad things that happen.

  69. > But, given this is the case, obviously what we need to do is pass massive, punitive taxes on the people who make all that capital flow correctly– yeah, that is a great idea. Damn those accursed hedge fund managers. Damn those option and futures traders.

    Are you referring to the proposal to recollect the AIG etc. bonuses by legislating taxes specifically for that purpose? I agree that it is a frightening idea that the Congress would make tax law retroactively in such a manner. As I understand it, the unit within AIG that created the mountain of credit on the worthless mortgages, Financial Products or AIGFP, is relatively small and a very small fraction of the thousands of people who work at AIG. As it happens, at least half of it was based in London, including the pricipal culprit, so there is a very good chance that the people protesting at AIG employee’s homes in Connecticut are barking at a very wrong tree. I guess it’s what usually happens when a mob takes over.

    That said, I don’t think the government should bail out AIG. If these wonderful and talented people “make all that capital flow correctly”, they should know what the other is doing, and if they don’t, then tough. Go bankrupt. People who say the institution is too big to fail invariably have an interest in the matter, from the president himself down.

  70. > You do want the state to recover its costs and to spend as little as possible in maintaining an empire,

    I suppose so, but has that ever happened anywhere? It’s certainly very far from what has been going on in practice in recent years in the US. The use of the private contractors in Iraq looks pretty much like outright looting of the treasury, if you look at the books. That is, to the extent there is bookkeeping, as the Pentagon apparently cannot account for 15 billion or something (I guess that might be considered “petty cash” these days).

  71. Fix typo: should be “what the other hand is doing” in my second to last comment.

  72. Andy, I’m not sure why you feel the need to repeat that the SS surplus has been winding down when I agreed with you that it is. Where I disagree with you is that the yearly SS surplus becoming a deficit will not bring about change. I think that most people view SS as a system that pays for itself and the few who delve any further accept the official lie that the trust fund will start paying out in 2017. Since they cannot start paying out the treasuries that currently sit in the SS trust fund, grocery stores still don’t accept treasuries as a form of payment, we will have to specifically raise SS taxes at that point, which is different from raising taxes today to cover other budget items. While SS has been known to be a scam by the informed few for some time, I claim that when the SS deficit begins is when the general public will come to realize that. As for the US govt not living up to its debts, SS is a little different since it’s a debt from several govt programs to another one. Your debt default scenario is an exaggeration because nobody’s talking about a default but an opportunity to phase out the SS program, when the SS deficit makes clear to everyone that it’s a scam. Of course, completely removing SS may not happen, it may turn into an actual govt-mandated savings program, SS privatization, where the citizenry is forced to save some proportion of their income in investments of their choice, index funds, treasuries, real estate, whatever. That would still be much better than the income transfer scheme plus govt slush fund that it is today. You seem to think that even this will be hard to politically accomplish at that point, I think it’s the most likely outcome.

  73. >Are you referring to the proposal to recollect the AIG etc. bonuses by
    > legislating taxes specifically for that purpose?

    Not especially, I was more referring to the general tenor of discussion in our politics, and the obvious instincts of Obama and Emmanuel. However, since you asked, the AIG situation is complicated. On the one hand it is frightening in a banana republic sort of a way to observe what happened there. Barney Frank demanding the home addresses of these people, with an almost only slightly veiled attempt to get the lynch mob the information they need. That particular exchange between him and the caretaker CEO of AIG was frightening in a McCarthy kind of a way. Especially when you consider that if there are half a dozen people responsible for the current crisis, Frank is one of them. And the faux outrage from the man who personally voted for the thing he is outraged about. It makes me sick to my stomach.

    However, on the flip side, AIG are, to all intents and purposes government employees. So to some degree they can do whatever the heck they want with them. Of course renaging on prior employment agreements should be illegal, but who the hell knows these days. As you rightly point out, the correct course of action would be to let them go down hard, then let the “toxic assets” be picked up in a fire sale. Same with all the banks. However, how would the administration slide their outrageous agenda into action if they didn’t have to cover of this largely manufactured crisis?

  74. @Andy Freeman:
    I really don’t have the time and incentive to take part in a useless debate full of nitpicking; but let me just say that you’re wrong on most of the key points:

    1- I didn’t ask a question from (dear) ESR, I made an assertion. So stop saying What was the point of the question? please.

    2- I don’t want to reveal my definition of “neocon” because I don’t want to fill the page with yet another off-topic debate of no use; sorry, I’m not disputatious enough to do so.

    3- If you think “rightist–leftist” are not necessarily mirror terms and leftist is not just reffering to liberal-types, you’re actually confirming my previous statements. Read carefully instead of merely thinking about throwing the ball back.

    4- It’s not just because the media/propaganda works. I am an Iranian (who lives in Iran) and I can firmly say that the dirty dwarf (Ahmadinejad) is a disgusting conservative arse. The media don’t dwell on this, though. Conservative here (in Iran) means someone who is supportive of strict Taliban-like Islamic rules, wants to save the government and revolution one way or another and usually has the backing of religious hardliners and Grand Ayatollahs. A leftist is a reformist (like ex-president Muhammad Khatami whose theory of “Dialogue Among Civilizations” is famous) or a member of the unpopular opposition groups (like MKO = “Mojahedine Khalghe Iran”). But these terms apply to Iran, I never claim that these are rigid definitions and 100% International, that would be silly. So I possibly agree with other definitions you may have in mind.

    5- Let’s stop the debate. What are we trying to achieve anyway?! (sorry; my last response to yours. I guess I shouldn’t have written this too.)

  75. > However, how would the administration slide their outrageous agenda into action if they didn’t have to cover of this largely manufactured crisis?

    Yes. ‘Cover-up’ is exactly the word used by William K. Black speaking to Bill Moyers. Video at http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04032009/watch.html

    The policies of an administration can be predicted in some detail by analysing the donations to the campaign. I can’t remember the references, but apparently there is extensive academic research on this. It’s becoming painfully obvious that something like half of Obama’s astronomical campaign budget was paid for by Wall Street and their lobbyists.

  76. I wish I could be as optimistic as you are.

    The U.S. does have a huge stock of real capital, but it doesn’t bulk as large in the world as it used to. East Asia (Japan, Korea, and China) are all big players. Brazil is becoming a factor (e.g. Embraer); India we all know about.

    Demographics is not as favorable to the U.S. as it looks. No one is compiling the numbers, but I strongly suspect that the fertility of _functional_ Americans is not much better than Japan or Europe. That is, of people who are productive citizens, as opposed to criminals, derelicts, and lunatics.

    Our military power remains unmatched. But we are all but disarmed in the mindspace theater. The enemies of free civilization have become experts in using our mass media and our academies to deceive and demoralize us.

    I think you underestimate the consequences of U.S. debt repudiation. It would be the greatest violation of trust in history. It would destroy the basis of all international trade and cooperation. Extension of the “web of trust” is the basis for the advancement of civilization. The weaker and smaller the web of trust, the less anyone can co-operate with anyone else.

    The U.S. would benefit in the short term; at least, those Americans who don’t hold Federal debt would benefit. (I can’t see how the U.S. could repudiate only foreign-held debt; American speculators would buy up foreign-held debt and commingle it with American-held debt. So if there is repudiation, millions of Americans would be cheated as well.) But the collapse of international trade and investment, and the breakdown of even domestic commerce, would follow quickly.

    Drastic inflation would be little better. It would be repudiation in all but name, and would devastate not only the debtholders, but anyone trusting in the U.S. dollar.

    In the present situation, with a pack of crony capitalists seizing and redistributing huge chunks of wealth, either procedure would be carried out to benefit politically connected interest groups at the expense of the general public. The people at large would be ruined.

  77. Someone who speaks of the ability to project force but speaks only of numbers and firepower, while completely ignoring the logistical ability to deploy those numbers and firepower, is clearly talking out of his ass.

  78. Amateurs talk tactics and strategy.

    Professionals talk logistics.

    The terminally clueless talk about “willpower” and “backbone”.

  79. Angulimala: are you questioning the ability of the United States to project its power and provide the necessary logistics to support troops in field? Clearly the US Navy and our military support services are extremely capable in these areas, arguably the US has stronger projection power, and stronger ability to fill and protect the supply line that all the other nations of the earth put together.

    So what is your point?

  80. you questioning the ability of the United States to project its power and provide the necessary logistics to support troops in field?

    Depending on the circumstances, that is exactly what I am questioning.

    Clearly the US Navy and our military support services are extremely capable in these areas, arguably the US has stronger projection power, and stronger ability to fill and protect the supply line that all the other nations of the earth put together.

    1) It does not matter if we can project power better than our enemies if we are fighting them in their home countries where we are the only ones who have to project power. No country is going to try to fight us at the end of long supply lines. They WILL try to fight us in their own countries where their lines are very short and ours are long.

    2) Projecting force in an ideal world is different from projecting it in a real world. The space between the USA and any warzone is not empty – it is filled with countries who may or may not allow us to transport things over or through them. Forget about morality or diplomacy ….. we simply DO lack the ability to “force” our supplies through unwilling countries AND fight a war at the other end. One of the main reasons we have been able to project force into Iraq is that we have neighboring countries like Kuwait that assist us. If Kuwait was a hostile beachhead that had to be defended and we had to run and gun every convoy from the shore to Baghdad, the situation would be very very different.

  81. > I think that most people view SS as a system that pays for itself and the few who delve any further accept the official lie that the trust fund will start paying out in 2017.

    Most people think that there’s a “lock box” for SS as a whole and that they have “SS accounts”. They’ve even been getting statements describing how much they’ve paid. There’s all the talk of a “trust fund”. And, there are actual debt instruments. While they are loans from one govt department to another, want to bet that they don’t say “full faith and credit”?

    That’s why I think that the “savings” embodied in those IOUs are an essential part of what people think when they say “SS is a system that pays for itself”. I think that the political cost of repudiating that debt will be huge.

    We’ll find out soon enough.

  82. > 1- I didn’t ask a question from (dear) ESR, I made an assertion. So stop saying What was the point of the question? please.

    The actual text “IMHO, you seem more like a neoconservative, or at least a sympathizer; correct me if I’m wrong…” contains an implicit question.

    > 2- I don’t want to reveal my definition of “neocon” because I don’t want to fill the page with yet another off-topic debate of no use; sorry, I’m not disputatious enough to do so.

    That’s curious. “seem more like a neoconservative” was important enough to mention, is relevant, and was clearly intended as a substantive comment, so how can describing what it actually meant be off-topic? No one is going to argue with the meaning that you had in mind and you asked whether it applied to ESR, so how can letting him respond be disputatious?

  83. >The space between the USA and any warzone is not empty – it is filled with countries who may or may not allow us to transport things over or through them.

    Actually, in most cases it’s largely filled with ocean. This is why having a large, capable navy is significant.

  84. Iraq #5? I think not. Using 2002 data in the below

    By size (number of troops), the top ten nations looks like this;

    China
    United States
    India
    North Korea
    Russia
    South Korea
    Pakistan
    Israel
    Turkey
    Iran

    But anyone who has studied military history knows that the number of troops is a misleading measure. There are several factors that make the troops of one army more effective than others. The most obvious modifying factor is weapons and equipment (quantity and quality). Closely related to this are the “combat support” elements. The most important of these are logistics (being able to move troops, and their supplies, long distances and in a timely manner) and maintenance (keeping things in repair and running under all conditions.) Then there are the intangibles (like leadership, training and the most intangible item of all; military tradition.) Apply all of those to the raw number of troops and you get different number. This number is called “combat power.”

    Top Ten By Combat Power

    United States
    China
    Israel
    India
    Russia
    South Korea
    North Korea
    United Kingdom
    Turkey
    Pakistan

    The most unusual entry here is Israel. But this is because Israel is one of the few nations to have a reserve army that can be mobilized for action more quickly than most countries can get their active duties into shape for combat. The mobilized Israeli armed forces number over half a million troops. In addition, the Israelis have world class equipment and weapons, as well as exceptional intangibles. The downsize of this is that mobilizing its armed forces also cripples the Israeli economy. Under these conditions, Israel must conduct a war that ends within a few months. After that, supplying the armed forces becomes difficult and actual combat power begins to decline, as angulimala suggests (in general).

    The other nations in the top ten have large armed forces that are well equipped and trained, at least compared to most nations farther down on the list. Britain’s armed forces, like Israel’s, are better equipped, trained and more experienced than most. Turkey benefits from having a strong military tradition and excellent leadership at the small unit level, as well as good combat training.

    Overall, the U.S. combat power is about three times that of second place China, and ten times that of tenth place Pakistan. But another modifying factor is how you plan to use that combat power. Wars are not fought in a vacuum, but in places that often inconvenient places for one side. Most armed forces are optimized for fighting on their own borders; for defending the homeland. Only the United States is capable of quickly moving lots of combat power to anywhere on the planet. Moreover, given a few months, the United States can put enough combat power just about anywhere, and become the major military force in that neighborhood. Countries like Britain and France can move some forces to just about anywhere on the planet. But no one can put forces anywhere quite like the United States.

    Destroy the US Navy, however, and the situation changes rapidly. China is already toying with ship-busting high-speed missiles.

  85. >Destroy the US Navy, however, and the situation changes rapidly. China is already toying with ship-busting high-speed missiles.

    Do these not already exist? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpoon_missile And I can’t see China being able to ‘destroy the US Navy’, even with reliable anti-ship weapons.

  86. >Overall, the U.S. combat power is about three times that of second place China, and ten times that of tenth place Pakistan. But another modifying factor is how you plan to use that combat power.

    Excellent summary; I largely concur. The #5 figure for the pre-Invasion Iraqis was, I agree, probably over-focused on manpower and materiel. A couple of significant notes:

    1. The Chinese have very little ability to project power much beyond their present borders other than by walking there. We know this because if they did, Taiwan would be under much more serious pressure. In reality, the Chinese barely have a blue-water navy.

    2. North Korea could probably level Seoul in a few hours with massed artillery, but their actual capability for sustained warfighting (e.g. ability to defeat enemy military formations) is highly questionable. Their economic base is a disaster area and their leadership is insane. I judge Turkey or Pakistan would go through them like a knife through butter, assuming both sides were someplace they could engage.

    3. It was implicit in what you said, but worth noting explicitly: in the top ten by combat power, only the U.S. and Great Britain have the ability to wage expeditionary warfare on a timeframe longer than a few months. And the Brits probably no longer have the capability to do it out of coalition with the U.S.

    >Destroy the US Navy, however, and the situation changes rapidly. China is already toying with ship-busting high-speed missiles.

    Aiming such things isn’t easy, and countermeasures against them are less expensive than the missiles are. I’d be more worried if there were any evidence the Chinese were getting a clue about how to build fast-attack subs.

  87. >only the U.S. and Great Britain have the ability to wage expeditionary warfare
    > on a timeframe longer than a few months

    Right, the Brits did it in the Falkland Islands in the 80s, and, anyone who has looked at the conflict has to agree they won, by the skin of their teeth. Nonetheless, it was a pretty amazing projection of power for such a small nation. However, since Thatcher left, the Labor party has eviscerated the British Armed Services. If the Argentinians wanted Las Malvinas, they could walk in today with barely a squeak.

  88. To put things into a little bit of perspective: China’s 2008 industrial output was 46% of that of the USA, 33% of that of the EU and 20% of the US+EU combined. 20% of the output with 165% of the population size. Does not really look very impressive to me. (Yet. Of course, it’s growing fast, mainly due to the savings rate.)

    Which does sound a little bit surprising and counter-intuitive, given all those Chinese-made consumer electronics and clothes in the Western shops, my two guesstimates why it might be so is:

    1) Perhaps much of it is just the assembly of Western-made parts
    2) Western industry is focusing on the heavy stuff, capital goods

  89. “I’d be more worried if there were any evidence the Chinese were getting a clue about how to build fast-attack subs.”

    Silent attack subs, or they’d be toast very quickly – and that’s much harder to do than to build fast ones.

  90. Actually the Chinese are doing pretty good with this. See this news article where a Chinese sub tracked the USS Kitty Hawk (yup, an aircraft carrier) for days without being detected.

    tinyurl.com SLASH de825v

    Honestly, I think this is most likely to have been operator error. US sonar is amazingly good (to the point where they look not just for submarine noise but also holes in the noise signature to detect really quiet submarines.) The simple fact is that propellers cavitate.

    It is also worth noting that the usual political BS hampers this situation. Most sonar is passive (listening for noise) however there is another kind of sonar, active, which transmits sound energy and detects reflected waves. This can be used to detect even silent subs, and is often used when major battle groups are considered at risk.

    However, our Green friends are really concerned that it upsets the ears of the whales, and so our Navy is hamstrung in their ability to practice with this amazingly important tool.

  91. >However, our Green friends are really concerned that it upsets the ears of the whales, and so our Navy is hamstrung in their ability to practice with this amazingly important tool.

    I have very little doubt that if we got into a naval war in which US warships were at risk, that concern would quickly go out the window.

  92. >Actually the Chinese are doing pretty good with this.

    Your timing is interesting, because I was just trying to game out in my head the consequences of aircraft carriers not being survivable in major-war conditions. Carrier battle groups are great stuff for power-projection against an opponent without a blue-water navy; as was demonstrated in Iraq, twice, they mean you don’t really need airbases on land in the war zone if it has a coastline. The trouble is, if your opponent has either decent subs or lots of cheap shipkiller missiles, flattops are awfully big, awfully slow-moving targets. That threat environment requires a fleet structure heavier on subs and fast, small, stealthy ships.

    Without carriers in the picture, the U.S. would lose a significant amount of its rapid power-projection capacity. The interesting related point, though, is that such a loss would effect over-ocean logistical capacity very little. It’s an interesting question — and one the outcome of war with China over Taiwanese independence or the Spratlys might well depend on — whether you could protect a mixed naval task group and a bunch of transports against Chinese subs without carrier air.

  93. >I have very little doubt that if we got into a naval war in which US
    > warships were at risk, that concern would quickly go out the window.

    You have to sweat in training so you don’t bleed in battle.

  94. > The trouble is, if your opponent has either decent subs or lots of cheap
    > shipkiller missiles, flattops are awfully big, awfully slow-moving targets.

    From what I know (and I am not real familiar with US Naval doctrine on this right now, but do know a bit about sonar) it is possible to find pretty much anything in blue water if you are willing to ping your sonar enough. Since carriers are already shouting their location with radar, there seems to me to be little disadvantage to a regular ping from the naval picket line to protect the carriers. Consequently, subs are unlikely to be an issue. The situation with the USS Kitty Hawk was presumably the aforementioned green concern, and anyway, during peace carriers operated rather differently than they do during war.

    Ship killer missiles are more of a problem (as the British found out in the Falklands), however, cheap and good are often at odds with each other when it comes to missiles. (The British lost ships to expensive French Exocet missiles, and only lost a few ships because the Argentinians had very few of them.) Especially when your opponent (the US Navy) has a bottomless pocket to research countermeasures. What is more, we have a lot of carriers, so the loss of one or two is not devastating in terms of strategic situation (though it sucks if you happen to be on one of them.)

  95. Shenpen, following up on your point: If you listen to the news, it sounds like American industrial capacity has been destroyed in the past couple of decades.

    The truth is that industrial output has mostly held steady, in absolute terms. (Depends on exactly where you look.) What has been destroyed is the number of jobs; we’re doing the same work with many fewer people, and this steadiness has occurred against a backdrop of radical expansion by other countries.

    So… industrial capacity for any given purpose may not be hunky-dory for the US, but the doom and gloom in terms of capacity is oversold.

    My question is, if the situation got desperate, how quickly could we ramp up? I’m not sure anyone knows the answer to that.

  96. > and one the outcome of war with China over Taiwanese independence or the Spratlys might well depend on

    Do you think a US war with China is a serious possibility, or, are US power projection capabilities just worth it for the deterrent value? I doubt either the US or China would consider any benefit from war worth the megadeaths that would result.

  97. >Do you think a US war with China is a serious possibility, or, are US power projection capabilities just worth it for the deterrent value? I doubt either the US or China would consider any benefit from war worth the megadeaths that would result.

    That’s not an either-or question. Geostrategically, the U.S.’s ability to project power would be pretty valuable even without the possibility of a Great Power conflict in the offing. As with the 19th-century Pax Britannica, the U.S.’s national interests are served by free trade, and the ability to limit or control regional conflict in the Third World is an important policy instrument.

    As for the likelihood of war with China…low in the near-term future but rising. You need to bear in mind that while democracies are deterred by the prospect of civilian megadeaths, Communist countries never have been – only threats to the ruling elite matter. The strongest reason for suspecting war with China might occur is that the combination of the “one-child” policy and the traditional Chinese preference for sons has been a huge surplus of males in the rising generation, like a 6:5 ratio. Historically, surpluses of males tend to lead to expansionist warfare – and the combination of a surplus of males with a ruling elite that increasingly needs to distract the mob from its domestic failures is extremely combustible.

    And any serious regional war involving the Chinese will drag in the U.S., which has both treaty partners and fundamental economic interests in play.

  98. >The trouble is, if your opponent has either decent subs or lots of cheap shipkiller missiles, flattops are awfully big, awfully slow-moving targets.

    Could V-TOL make a difference here? It would certainly make for smaller carrier sizes, and a V-TOL carrier could also base helicopters.

  99. >Could V-TOL make a difference here? It would certainly make for smaller carrier sizes, and a V-TOL carrier could also base helicopters.

    As TheSwordOfDamocles pointed out, one of the contributing factors to “big” is radio emissions. Basically, you can’t run air ops without loudly announcing your position on the radar bands. Smaller aircraft and smaller carriers won’t fix this problem.

  100. US CVNs are hindered in their operational speeds by their escorts; most CVNs can reliably pull one or two more knots than their escorts can. Furthermore, the escorts need UNREPs to refuel. CVNs don’t.

    In terms of “big slow targets” for missiles, maneuver as a tactical (as opposed to operational) doctrine ceased to exist in US surface Navy parlance sometime around the late ’60s or early ’70s, when reliable Air to Surface missiles capable of hitting a ship came about.

    A ship pulling 40 knots (fast) is as stationary a target as one that’s pulling 3 knots from the perspective of a missile closing in at Mach 2 (roughly 1200 knots) and covering 200 nautical miles or so.

    The ship will see it when it breaks the horizon line in the worst case scenario (or will have a report from a remote observation station over the horizon if doctrine is followed), but even so – with the amount of time it takes to turn a ship, build a vector in a new direction, etc, a missile cannot be outmaneuvered by a surface combatant, when it’s closing at a 30:1 speed differential.

    A smaller carrier won’t help with this, and making a carrier smaller is, near universally, a move that’s penny wise and gigabuck foolish.

    While I don’t work for the Navy on this issue, I do talk shop with people who work for the Navy on studying this issue.

  101. >In terms of “big slow targets” for missiles, maneuver as a tactical (as opposed to operational) doctrine ceased to exist in US surface Navy parlance sometime around the late ’60s or early ’70s, when reliable Air to Surface missiles capable of hitting a ship came about.

    >A ship pulling 40 knots (fast) is as stationary a target as one that’s pulling 3 knots from the perspective of a missile closing in at Mach 2 (roughly 1200 knots) and covering 200 nautical miles or so.

    >The ship will see it when it breaks the horizon line in the worst case scenario (or will have a report from a remote observation station over the horizon if doctrine is followed), but even so – with the amount of time it takes to turn a ship, build a vector in a new direction, etc, a missile cannot be outmaneuvered by a surface combatant, when it’s closing at a 30:1 speed differential.

    >A smaller carrier won’t help with this, and making a carrier smaller is, near universally, a move that’s penny wise and gigabuck foolish.

    So what are the options for missile avoidance? Shooting them down? Electronic countermeasures?

  102. “(Active sonar) can be used to detect even silent subs, and is often used when major battle groups are considered at risk.”

    That’s like searching for hostile troops in a dark forest with flashlights: gives your position away and makes you a big juicy target much sooner than you find anyone with it.

  103. >some expert analysis: http://blog.usni.org/?p=1964

    Sadly, none of that comes as a surprise – I was rather expecting the politics would favor gold-plated capital ships over a force structure that might actually be robust in the presence of lots of capable ship-killer missiles.

  104. >That’s like searching for hostile troops in a dark forest with flashlights: gives your position away and makes you a big juicy target much sooner than you find anyone with it.

    I’m not sure that analogy holds. If it’s a major adversary the subs will know roughly where you are anyway from satellite intelligence. That will get them close enough to acquire surface warships with passive sonar even if the warships are operating at full EMCON.

  105. >That’s like searching for hostile troops in a dark forest with flashlights:
    > gives your position away and makes you a big juicy target much
    > sooner than you find anyone with it.

    Not true at all. active sonar is a broadcast signal much like radar (though not as accurate as radar primarily because of the variability of sea water as a sound transport medium.) As I mentioned before, an enemy can easily detect the position of a large battle group simply with a directional antenna, and even when submerged you can readily detect a battle group with passive sonar — they are very loud and noisy. So active sonar doesn’t add much to the enemy’s knowledge of your position.

    It is more like searching for hostile troops in a prison yard with the floodlights on.

    However, as I said, I don’t know US Navy doctrine on this, and whether that is what they actually do. Fact is, most subs turn tail and run as soon as they hear an active sonar ping because they know that means they will be found, and probably sunk pretty soon after that.

  106. > I’m not sure that analogy holds. If it’s a major adversary the subs will know roughly where you are anyway from satellite intelligence. That will
    > get them close enough to acquire surface warships with passive sonar even if the warships are operating at full EMCON.

    but (enemy) subs aren’t the problem. Towable arrays will find them quickly, unless they’re well-submerged, and if they’re well-submerged, then they can’t effectively track the fleet. The current USN strategy is protracted on air superiority, which means carriers.

  107. >The current USN strategy is protracted on air superiority, which means carriers.

    Right, but I’m trying to think through the consequences if carriers aren’t survivable. We probably still live in a world where they are, because ship-killer missiles are expensive and countermeasures are cheap and effective – without a Mark I Eyeball doing terminal guidance it’s not too hard to fool something aimed at a mobile target under EMCON (“mobile” is defined as “cannot aim with a GPS reference”).

    The trouble is this: Ship-killers are going to get less expensive and targeting is going to get better. Unless countermeasures keep pace, we could end up in a world where carriers are a strategic glass jaw – can’t be risked where actually needed because they’re too expensive to lose. It is just possible that the Chinese already have anti-ship missiles this good, and that the Navy is in denial because their monetary and political investment in their current force structure is too large to sink.

    That’s why I’m trying to game the consequences of losing carrier air. If we can’t protect transport convoys without it, the first overseas war in which an opponent has good shipkillers could go very badly for us.

  108. >That’s why I’m trying to game the consequences of losing carrier air.

    I wonder to what degree you can maintain air superiority over long distance without carrier air. For example, if the Gulf war had been fought with planes out of Diego Garcia with a refueling bridge? (Which they could do without leaving international waters.)

    I would sure wear on the pilots, but it is possible.

    I think that it might be possible for opponents with weak air forces, but not for anything strong.

  109. >That’s why I’m trying to game the consequences of losing carrier air.

    Really big ‘mothership’ planes? Carrier submarines?

    Just throwing those out there.

  110. hmm.
    some wildly one-eyed (fraction-eyed?) assertions in the originating 2002 blog entry. america civilised japan? eh? any awareness much, of either its prior history, its current culture, or the difference between conformity and “civilisation” (whatever that means to each reader)?

    looking more to the core thrust of your own post, eric, re “hyperpower”:
    while agreeing in general principles with much of what you observe/say:
    #3: unarguable. world wars one and two ripped the guts out of the major combatants, leaving only the one remaining major economy to grow unmolested for another 50 years.

    #2: “improving” demographics is an odd phrase, very metric-sensitive, and even as expressed here, hellaciously arguable in terms of medium-to-long term forecasts. but the conflation of population growth with demographic “succcess” i find most seriously problematic.

    but these are side issues.

    “resource blackmail”
    and here’s the BIG problem.

    our western high-technology lifestyle (and economy) depends UTTERLY on a handful of rare earths. the world’s supply of one of them comes essentially from a single mine in africa. the world’s supply of several is overwhelmingly from a (lop-fingered) handful of mines. a literally startling proportion of these is based in africa and asia.
    in the last 5+ years, as part of a deliberate strategy, most of these are now Chinese owned. i don’t mean in the sense of chinese nationals buying the mines. i mean in the sense of the chinese government owning them firsthand.

    hell YEAH is america at risk (along with all “western” nations) of sudden sovereign-level pressure against which there is little practical recourse.
    there are already serious twitchings happening in the commodity markets.

  111. That’s curious. “seem more like a neoconservative” was important enough to mention, is relevant, and was clearly intended as a substantive comment, so how can describing what it actually meant be off-topic? No one is going to argue with the meaning that you had in mind and you asked whether it applied to ESR, so how can letting him respond be disputatious?

    I think Steve Ray refrained from revealing his definition because ESR believes neo-con is a “content-free term of abuse”, but from what I read he practically means “conservative” referring to ESR’s favouring of private ownership and free enterprise.

  112. >“conservative” referring to ESR’s favouring of private ownership and free enterprise.

    Which is not a conservative position; it’s a classical-liberal or libertarian one that was accidentally associated with conservatism in the U.S. between about 1910 (the approximate date of the successful Fabian-socialist hijacking of the word “liberal”) and 1971 (founding of the Libertarian Party). Outside the U.S. the distinction remained fairly clear even during that period.

  113. Saltation,

    “our western high-technology lifestyle (and economy) depends UTTERLY on a handful of rare earths. the world’s supply of one of them comes essentially from a single mine in africa.”

    And I’d bet that five times that supply is in the garbage dumps in the West – all those previously made high-tech gadgets that were thrown out. If needed, they can be recycled from there.

    In the long run, recycling (of rare earths and stuff like that, not tin cans and plastic cups) must sooner or later inevitably become a very profitable industry anyway, as the unidirectional flow of materials (from the Earth into our homes) cannot be maintained forever and sooner or later it must become a closed cycle. As the the supply of stuff in the Earth drops and thus the price goes up, one day it will cross the graph of the price of recycling and the rest is business as usual.

  114. My suspicion is – and it’s really hard to see how this is going to play out, at this point – that in the not-as-long-as-you-might-think run missiles may be rendered ineffective by point-defense lasers. We have in test 100Kw solid-state lasers, and aiming systems that can pick mortar rounds out of the air with them. Of course, this might imply that air power itself will become ineffective and we go back to a WWI model where ship design reduces to “Who can put the biggest gun on the water?” Or not, because no laser can shoot over the horizon? Or…?

    See also: the greatest invention I’ve heard of in ages – automated mosquito-zapping lasers! http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/16/mosquito.laser.weapon/index.html

  115. > our western high-technology lifestyle (and economy) depends
    > UTTERLY on a handful of rare earths. the world’s supply of one
    > of them comes essentially from a single mine in africa.

    There are very few things that are absolutely cannot be substituted. And there is a latent supply of everything to allow a buffer to replace things should it be necessary. A perfect example of this is the RoHS directive to eliminate certain toxic substances including lead from electronics. (For the record I should say it is a really dumb rule, nonetheless it is useful for the purposes of discussion.)

    For example, the replacement of lead solder is very widespread right now. There are a number of problems with it, especially in high stress environments, however it is likely that your iPod and laptop are lead free. Similarly they are probably cadmium free, since your NiCad battery has been replaced with a lithium ion battery or a number of other alternative technologies. You probably can’t even buy NiCad batteries in Europe anymore. Any Europeans confirm this?

    Substitution of alternatives is always a possibility, where the alternative has a different profile of advantages and disadvantages. (Becoming hard to obtain being one disadvantage that might change the cost benefit profile.) Which is why there really are very few real monopolies outside the ones enforced by government control.

  116. And I’d bet that five times that supply is in the garbage dumps in the West – all those previously made high-tech gadgets that were thrown out. If needed, they can be recycled from there.

    If it were cost-effective, we’d already be doing it.

  117. > our western high-technology lifestyle (and economy) depends
    > UTTERLY on a handful of rare earths. the world’s supply of one
    > of them comes essentially from a single mine in africa.

    Just as an add on to my previous comment, I remember a while ago the whacko MSM were going nuts over a putative shortage of copper. “The whole of the electronics world is coming to an end!!!” I wonder if anyone pointed out that there were other metals that can act as a conductor too?

  118. > If it were cost-effective, we’d already be doing it.

    What is not cost effective today might be cost effective tomorrow due to about a million different factors such as: changes in supply and demand; investment of capital; innovation; changes in the content and pre-processing of the garbage; changes in regulations; government grants and manipulation of the market and so forth.

    Additionally, it is simply incorrect to say that “we” do everything that is cost effective. Just because something is cost effective doesn’t mean that there is not an alternative solution that is more cost effective, or that there are more productive ways to use the required capital. For example, it is cost effective for IBM to do their $150 an hour software consulting in the USA, but they push a lot of it to India, because (in their judgment anyway) it is more cost effective there. Additionally, as is evident from IBM’s declining stock price, apparently, even with cost effective Indian programmers, investors think their money would be more effectively used in other places.

    In the particular case you cite, it might be cost effective to recover copper from used circuit boards, but it might be cheaper to simply dig it out the ground.

    So your statement is both sort of correct, and deeply misleading at the same time.

  119. >ust as an add on to my previous comment, I remember a while ago the whacko MSM were going nuts over a putative shortage of copper. “The whole of the electronics world is coming to an end!!!” I wonder if anyone pointed out that there were other metals that can act as a conductor too?

    Of course not. That wouldn’t fit the required political narrative.

  120. >america civilised japan?

    Yes, we did. I think you must be a victim (like most Westerners) of recent romanticizations of the place, and have little concept of how truly nasty and barbaric Japan was when it was a closed society – but read any account of the Rape of Nanking or the conquest of Korea to find out what happened when that culture got Western weapons and started to play the imperialism game. Took us a couple of generations, beginning with forcing the place open to trade in 1845 and ending with MacArthur’s proconsulship and imposing a constitution written by Americans on them, but we did it.

    > our western high-technology lifestyle (and economy) depends
    > UTTERLY on a handful of rare earths. the world’s supply of one
    > of them comes essentially from a single mine in africa.

    I’ve been curious about this claim ever since you first made it – the rare earths are misnamed, they’re not really very rare. Which one do you mean, and what mine? I’d like to do some research on this.

    As for improving demographics, I mean that pretty strictly in terms of the worker-to-dependent ratio.

  121. >Saltation: I’ve been curious about this claim ever since you first made it – the rare earths are misnamed, they’re not really very rare. Which one do you mean, and what mine? I’d like to do some research on this.

    I think columbium (now niobium) and tantalum are the metals in question:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coltan

    although Wikipedia suggests that “a single mine in Africa” is not the only source.

  122. Are the Malthusians ever right about anything?

    I have heard this stuff my whole life: we, as a society, are always running out of stuff. What stuff is that, you ask? You name it.

    Food, water, air, rare earth metals, copper, gold, magnets, whatever it is that we use, there is somebody somewhere saying that we are running out of it. And then painting an end-of-days scenario and telling you to start stockpiling canned food and ammo.

    To anybody out there who is ever worried by these types, don’t be. History clearly shows they are always wrong. We humans are tricky and inventive, we find new ways to extract materials, and are good at finding substitutes.

    These modern day chicken littles are just trying to draw attention to themselves and advance their careers and reputations. Being a prophet of doom is a great gig if you get enough people believing, just ask Paul Erhlich or Al Gore. They are always wrong but they never give up.

  123. Jeff,

    “If it were cost-effective, we’d already be doing it.” How does it follow the fact that recycling is not cost effective at the current prices of mined rare earths, that it won’t be cost effective at _any_ price of them? Please… I know you aren’t really into economics but at least the basic Marshall-cross you shouldn’t ignore IMHO…

  124. Eric:
    >>america civilised japan?
    >Yes, we did. I think you must be a victim (like most Westerners) of recent romanticizations of the place

    oh no no no. you’ve misunderstood me. i am extremely aware of the histories and behaviours of the asian races — a couple of my relatives fought japan in WWII and researching japan (and then wider) was a hobby of mine for some years, originally because i was an intrigued fan (my home state in oz was heavily invested-in by the japanese, and we were swamped with laudatory praise for their “superior” methods). and i have had a great deal more exposure to the japanese in social and business life than most people. the annual iron ore bidding process alone spins most people’s heads.

    i’m saying that no real change has taken place.
    that’s what i was driving at with “[mistaking] conformity for civlisation”.
    the surface may look shiny, but what’s underneath hasn’t changed.

    my home state was heavily invested-in by the japanese in the 80s and early 90s.
    in my home town now there are shops i’m not allowed into because i’m white.
    and we can now buy “darkie” toothpaste. for that great big googly white smile!
    gaijin does not mean white person, it means barbarian. and the word for blacks means subhuman.
    and don’t get them started re the koreans. here’s a fun experiment: tell a cultural-japanese person (vs racially japanese: i find racial differences generally to be vanishingly small and innocuous next to cultures’ differences and impacts. i have a good number of good friends who are asian, but they’re culturally australian or american — humans in groups are overwhelmingly meme animals) that you thought s/he was korean. be prepared to step back quickly, or to be permanently shunned thereafter.

    i’m saying that no real change has taken place. theatre. all is theatre. directed at the audience.

    the australians have already discovered how the behaviours change dramatically as the audience declines relatively in terms of economic power/status. hasn’t happened to america yet. but note the changing behaviour of china towards america et al in recent years as their economy grows.

  125. Shenpen:
    >And I’d bet that five times that supply is in the garbage dumps in the West

    and, alas, you’d be wrong.

    and yes, the Proved reserves on several are startlingly low. for example, if photovoltaic solar energy (the main one proposed) was scaled up to about 8-10% of the world’s current energy needs we would completely exhaust all known deposits of one of them.

    In the long run, recycling
    sadly, recycling is “lossy” — it is much harder to extract something post-production and return it to a production-useful state than most people realise. iirc, even pure paper is only about 40% recyclable in terms of useful output vs input. glass is the standout exception, at ~98% for clear glass (but ~60% iirc for coloured glass).

    and as Jeff Read so succinctly put it:
    >If it were cost-effective, we’d already be doing it.

    don’t be misled by the relative ease of recycling gold out of old mainframes. there the gold is pure and simply laid on surfaces, and is naturally non-reactive so simple heat is sufficient. these rare earths are typically chemically embedded in solids in what at our current state of technology (and commodity prices) strongly appears to be a one-way process.

    TheSwordOfDamocles:
    >There are very few things that are absolutely cannot be substituted.

    true. unfortunately, in high-tech, we are very dependent on those selfsame “very few things”

    hopefully new discoveries will change that. but they will be wholly new discoveries — we have nothing in train now which can materially address the problem.

    Eric & Mitch:
    >I’ve been curious about this claim ever since you first made it – the rare earths are misnamed, they’re not really very rare. Which one do you mean, and what mine? I’d like to do some research on this.

    actually they ARE quite rare. consider that if iron or copper was as expensive as the rare earths they could be economically extracted from almost anywhere. but yes, the “rare” earths are more common than, say, diamond or ruby.

    i don’t have a list to hand. there’re about 8 majors, iirc. it’s been a while since i looked at the topic in detail — it’s utterly out of my hands so not useful obsessing about it/keeping all the details at fingertip. but all the doping agents and catalysts critical to production of silicon chips, capacitors, high-energy powersupplies, RAM, etc are on the list. google/wikipedia is your friend.

    eric, if you’re keen, your best bet is to read an article that The Economist published a year or three ago. collated a lot of statistics and data and industry-insider knowledge that’s quite hard to get hold of normally. subsequently i’ve become closely involved with the commodities industry and haven’t come across any conflicting assertions from industry-insiders, only reinforcements. the article’s quite dense, only about 2 pages long, definitely worth a subscription if you’re keen to learn the most the fastest.

    >coltan… columbium (now niobium) and tantalum

    that’s one example. galladium also rings a bell.
    the “single mine”: “essentially” does not imply 100% — iirc it contains 80% of the world’s reserves, the rest scattered over small deposits. consider that a 25% “corner” is sufficient for most western countries’ monopoly laws to be triggered due to the extreme market pressure arising.

  126. >i’m saying that no real change has taken place. theatre. all is theatre. directed at the audience.

    Bah. Mere racism is trivial compared to the shit I’m thinking about. The good news is that their soldiers no longer think it’s amusing to toss living infants in the air and catch them with the points of bayonets while their mothers watch. Real progress has been made; it’s just a shame it took nuking two of their cities to do it.

    >don’t be misled by the relative ease of recycling gold out of old mainframes. there the gold is pure and simply laid on surfaces, and is naturally non-reactive so simple heat is sufficient. these rare earths are typically chemically embedded in solids in what at our current state of technology (and commodity prices) strongly appears to be a one-way proces

    There’s actually a known solution to this problem: MHD burners. The technique was developed in the 1960s but wasn’t cost-effective then. Commodity prices wouldn’t have to go up very far for that to change.

    >our best bet is to read an article that The Economist published a year or three ago

    I subscribe to The Economist. Can you give a reference URL? Or a key phrase?

  127. ESR,

    “The good news is that their soldiers no longer think it’s amusing to toss living infants in the air and catch them with the points of bayonets while their mothers watch. Real progress has been made;” – do you see it as a one-way, irreversible change? Because that’s the definition of progress. I mean, exactly, literally this shit was done by the French Revolutionaries during the Vendée Massacre, in a country where a couple of decades before wars were all about colourful uniforms and very little blood and NO civilian blood, indeed, it was called the “game of kings” because it was so civilized and low-harm. Then… all that civilization just went out of the window with the Revolution. Or compare Kant’s Germany with Hitler’s.

    I don’t really see one-way, irreversible changes in human behaviour. There are just some better and worse periods.

  128. yeah, i’m with you, shenpen. although i will say that various cultres have disparate proclivities which appear strongly internally consistent over longer periods of time. and eric, to be clear, i was trying to phrase what i wrote to make it clear it was NOT racism, but assessment of evidence. (i acknowledge ruefully ex post experience-driven culturalism but i will not countenance accusations of ex ante racism. i was raised in an environment where it was considered inflammatorily racist to even suggest there might be physical differences between races. my current opinions are a result of evidence overriding training.)

    the veneer of civilisation is awfully thin.

    >MHD burners
    don’t know these. can you elucidate in a few words? i wouldn’t ask but a quick google/wikipedia’ing doesn’t shed a lot of light.
    i’m assuming very high temperature or suchlike.

    >I subscribe to The Economist. Can you give a reference URL? Or a key phrase?
    alas no. i read the paper version. the annoying thing is, i KNOW i HAVE the article still, but it’s in a 2+foot pile labelled “to be scanned”.
    i would suggest just searching on “rare earths” then sorting by date. or perhaps “rare earths mine photovoltaic” (or photo-voltaic)

  129. > living infants

    also to be clear: i am aware of this. also to be clear: i have not yet seen anything to convince me this couldn’t happen again in a heartbeat.

  130. >do you see it as a one-way, irreversible change? Because that’s the definition of progress.

    Huh? In that case there is never any progress at all. You’ve made the word vacuous. I’m not buying it. Progress happens when there’s positive change that feeds back to more positive change — like societies that were previously barbaric, isolated and unspeakably cruel joining (or being dragged into) the international trade network and learning manners. Sure, the trade network could break down; progress could reverse, but it’s still progress.

    Saltation, I wasn’t accusing you of racism, I was referring to the significant strain of xenophobic racism still alive in the Japanese. Yeah, the damn silly fuckwit left-liberals in the U.S. who love to moan about how the U.S. is such a racist society should go to Japan – if they weren’t blind to anything that didn’t confirm their prejudices, they could learn what a really racist society looks like. Been there. Know that.

    Still. Racism is declining in Japan, because it’s maladaptive. And going to get more so when the Japanese birth dearth really bites. Cultures do learn, if only (as Churchill said of Americans) when all alternatives have been exhausted.

  131. >>There are very few things that are absolutely cannot be substituted.
    > true. unfortunately, in high-tech, we are very dependent on those selfsame “very few things”

    So you claim, but you haven’t given any specific examples to back up that claim. You suggest solar cells, but that is clearly not a good example, since, even if you accept your claim that there is some magic pixie dust required by solar cells that can only be found in some Chinese controlled secret cave in Africa, your point still doesn’t hold any water. Obviously the goal is not to produce solar cells, but to produce the electricity that solar cells produce. And there are hundreds of substitute ways to do that (each with a slightly different cost-benefit profile.) The world would function just fine without solar cells.

    >i don’t have a list to hand. there’re about 8 majors, iirc. … google/wikipedia is your friend.

    I suggest that google is your friend. If you want to make a claim like you did, I think you need a few more details than your handwavy response here.

    > >coltan… columbium (now niobium) and tantalum
    > that’s one example. galladium also rings a bell.
    > the “single mine”: “essentially” does not imply 100% — iirc it contains 80% of the world’s reserves,

    I did look up coltan in your recommended Wikipedia. I don’t know if the article is accurate, but it said Australia was the primary source, which as far as I understand is not in Africa.
    Niobium? (A component of Coltan) Apparently Brazil and Canada are the biggest producers. Again not in Africa.
    Tantalum? (The other component of Coltan) Apparently Australia, Brazil and Canada are the main sources. Also, not in Africa.
    Galladium? I presume you mean Gallium, again, from the footnotes in Wikipedia, China, Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine are the main sources. Again not in Africa.

    What are these rare minerals that the whole of civilization is built on that can’t be replaced? Last I checked there are plenty of ways to make capacitors without tantalum and magnets without niobium.

  132. MHD = magnetohydrodynamics. Plasma flames, basically. Feed crap in one end, do a mass-spectroscope like hack and get pure elements out the other.

  133. >MHD = magnetohydrodynamics. Plasma flames, basically. Feed crap in one end, do a mass-spectroscope like hack and get pure elements out the other.

    I think I read something about some similar technique being used for generating power by burning landfill trash.

  134. >I think I read something about some similar technique being used for generating power by burning landfill trash.

    You did. There were experiments with this back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

  135. a few misconceptions about the nature of modern naval-combat doctrine have been expressed in this comments thread, especially regarding submarine warfare. apologies in advance for a long post.

    From what I know (and I am not real familiar with US Naval doctrine on this right now, but do know a bit about sonar) it is possible to find pretty much anything in blue water if you are willing to ping your sonar enough. Since carriers are already shouting their location with radar, there seems to me to be little disadvantage to a regular ping from the naval picket line to protect the carriers.

    the flaw in this line of reasoning is that while a US carrier battle group is indeed giving away its location via radar, a submarine is not privy to that information. subs want to stay away from the surface to avoid detection via MAD (magnetic anomaly detection, a system of electromagnets that respond to the presence of large hunks of metal in the water) or the old mk. I eyeball, and to stay on the other side of the thermocline to prevent acoustic detection. they don’t surface to collect EM data or transmitted intelligence; they stay low, move slow and listen carefully. there’s a reason it’s called the silent service.

    unless a foe is known to be danger-close, a ping announces its sender’s location much more than it reveals that of others; that’s why active sonar is most often used when actively prosecuting a hostile contact. and even then it’s used by ASW helicopters and/or torpedoes — not by vessels in the main body of a battle group.

    Could V-TOL make a difference here? It would certainly make for smaller carrier sizes, and a V-TOL carrier could also base helicopters.

    the US uses plenty of smaller aircraft carriers. several of them are used as mobile assault bases for the marine corps — helicopters land the jarheads onshore, then the deck serves as a launching pad for AV-8 harriers used for close air support. (the dearly departed iowa-class battleships would have served as huge offshore artillery bases in such a scenario.) others, intended to protect shipping convoys during wartime, berth large numbers of ASW helicopters. i’m not sure if or how the services plan to integrate the V-22 osprey into service with VTOL carriers.

    So what are the options for missile avoidance? Shooting them down? Electronic countermeasures?

    both — US ships bristle with missile launchers, cannons and gatling guns meant to knock down incoming ordnance, as well as ECM generators and physical measures such as chaff launchers. the carrier at the center of a battle group is surrounded by a ring of frigates, destroyers and cruisers, all equipped with these countermeasures in an effort to protect the center of that particular tootsie roll pop.

    the navy is well aware that ever since surface-to-surface missiles came into vogue in the late 1960s, an insufficiently defended capital ship could be dunked by a couple of tiny patrol boats equipped with SSM launchers.

    That’s like searching for hostile troops in a dark forest with flashlights: gives your position away and makes you a big juicy target much sooner than you find anyone with it.

    absolutely correct. the thing you have to remember is that an active-sonar ping can be heard from much farther away than its echo. the sound-conductive properties of water are largely known, and so is the way those properties are affected by temperature and salinity. a sub commander knows whether or not his echo can be heard based on those conditions and the distance of the vessel issuing the ping. if he’s too far away, he learns more about the target than the target does about him — and that is why pounding away with active sonar generally isn’t worth it.

    this the same reason that F-14s flying to prosecute an airborne target keep their radars off, letting instead a remote airborne early warning aircraft transmit target data directly to them.

    If it’s a major adversary the subs will know roughly where you are anyway from satellite intelligence. That will get them close enough to acquire surface warships with passive sonar even if the warships are operating at full EMCON.

    satellite photos just get you into the neighborhood; they’re generally not up-to-date or acccurate enough to provide fine-grained targeting data. (only the US military, at this point, has the satellite and IT infrastructure to allow anything even close to real-time satellite recon.)

    that still requires sonar tracking and plotting while navigating through a thicket of ASW choppers, sub-killer frigates and destroyers, and hostile attack subs that will surround a US carrier group during hostilities, all to get in close enough to launch a spread of torpedoes or a SSM salvo with reasonable chance of a kill.

    on the other hand, a few pings from the target’s active sonar will very quickly give a sub commander all the data he needs to fix position and course and launch missiles or torpedoes from literally miles away.

    Fact is, most subs turn tail and run as soon as they hear an active sonar ping because they know that means they will be found, and probably sunk pretty soon after that.

    as stated above, this is purely dependent on the distance from the pinger to the pingee.

    also, to wrap up, posters above are spot-on about the existence of xenophobic racism in japanese culture. my mother, a woman of korean ancestry, grew up in japan around world war II; i am her half-caucasian child. i’ve experienced such attitudes directly, though nothing to compare with the stories she and her siblings can tell. esr tells it like it is regarding the “civilized” state of japan, as it were, and how it got there; i recommend alex kerr’s “dogs and demons: the fall of modern japan” for a sober look at that nation’s current status.

    thanks, all, for a great, wide-ranging, knowledgable thread.

  136. > I think Steve Ray refrained from revealing his definition because ESR believes neo-con is a “content-free term of abuse”, but from what I read he practically means “conservative” referring to ESR’s favouring of private ownership and free enterprise.

    While ESR may believe that “neo-con” is a “content-free term of abuse”, I don’t think that Steven Ray intended it as such. I think that he thought that it had a substantive meaning and that ESR’s position wrt said meaning was relevant. I suspect that ESR’s position wrt said meaning is relevant and am disappointed that ESR’s comment shut down that discussion.

    Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Steven Ray did intend it as a content-free form of abuse and ran because he decided that things weren’t going to work out as he hoped.

    It doesn’t look like we’re going to find out.

  137. When I read this article, I recall a diary from a family member that lived (and wrote it) in Germany before the WWII. He exposed exactly the same situation, changing USA by Germany.

    Germany had the most brightest scientist, the most educated people (sorry, here europeans and asians are way better than americans) most powerful army, strong industry…Thinking they could win over the entire world was their destruction, their scientist going half to USA(rockets…) half to URSS, and you know the rest.

    Every empire on earth has come, and gone, from roman empire to british one, and the same is going to happen to USA, the only question is “when”.

    Facts that american people don’t know until they go out:

    They are uneducated, more than half your scientist are foreigners, americans prefer to life the easy way than prepare as hard other people are or will be.

    New York is the financial centre of the world, but it could change to another place, as is not their money, the can’t do anything about it.

    Americans life needs 4xmore for everything, they need cheap gas(no public transport, everything needs the car), and like to “use and strip”. People in the world could live with much less.

    Only a very small part of USA goes to war, and is voluntary, the most similar thing they experienced to a real war is Vietnam(fighting a war across the Atlantic without city bombed doesn’t count), the lost.

    The same way europeans failed to see USA as someone to take seriously before WWII, we take today the pacific ocean countries as “poor” and this is only temporal. They are young and becoming rich, they are getting educated and want to life better, if not them their children.

    China builds the stuff USA consumes->The industrial plants are there.

    As an spanish engineer nobody could force me to work by military force. I’m your friend but the moment you try to dominate me I’m your worst enemy. European could have an army as powerful as USA, they had decided they don’t, BUT if you play the king of the world game, we are not Irak or Vietnam. As History taught us army force is not the army before war, is peace industry converted to war what makes a great army.

    So no, the moment you try to impose things by the force, you have lost.

  138. Jose,

    as I wrote above: “China’s 2008 industrial output was 46% of that of the USA, 33% of that of the EU and 20% of the US+EU combined. 20% of the output with 165% of the population size.”

    These are the empirical measurements, not really from any reliable source, just Wikipedia, and I couldn’t verify the methodology, but I guess it should be correct on the level of orders of magnitude.

    And it surprised me too – I’ve seen way too many Chinese-made trousers and mp3 players (in the UK where I live at the moment) to assume otherwise, but apparently my assumption was wrong and I think yours is too, insofar as it comes to industrial production. I guess the main reason my assumption was wrong is that I was correct in noting that many, perhaps most industrial _jobs_ were outsourced, what was wrong is assuming that that jobs=output and thust most of the output is outsourced too. (Despite that my own job is to automatize the white-collar aspects of industrial production with ERP software, but sometimes it’s hard to see the obvious.) Apparently, no, apparently most of the output isn’t outsourced.

    Check the output figures yourself, and modify your theory accordingly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_sector_composition

  139. >And it surprised me too – I’ve seen way too many Chinese-made trousers and mp3 players (in the UK where I live at the moment) to assume otherwise, but apparently my assumption was wrong and I think yours is too, insofar as it comes to industrial production.

    The obvious theory is that China specializes in consumer goods but is very deficient in some other area.

  140. both — US ships bristle with missile launchers, cannons and gatling guns meant to knock down incoming ordnance, as well as ECM generators and physical measures such as chaff launchers. the carrier at the center of a battle group is surrounded by a ring of frigates, destroyers and cruisers, all equipped with these countermeasures in an effort to protect the center of that particular tootsie roll pop.

    IIRC, there’s something called the rolling-airframe missile which was designed to counter the Russian missiles which came out in the nineties (Moskvits? Yakhontz?) and which dodge around as they come in, making ordinary point defense kind of problematic (and I think laser defenses are a few orders of magnitude away from effectiveness here as well).

    No idea if it’s any good.

  141. (ESR): I think you must be a victim (like most Westerners) of recent romanticizations of the place, and have little concept of how truly nasty and barbaric Japan was when it was a closed society – but read any account of the Rape of Nanking or the conquest of Korea to find out what happened when that culture got Western weapons and started to play the imperialism game. Took us a couple of generations, beginning with forcing the place open to trade in 1845 and ending with MacArthur’s proconsulship and imposing a constitution written by Americans on them, but we did it.

    I’d always read that Japanese military behavior in the Russo-Japanese war (04-05), frex, was quite exemplary, so I’m a bit bemused at this idea of innate cultural viciousness they’ve managed to cast aside under wise American tutelage, only to go into disastrous demographic decline HA HA HA RACIST LUSERZ. Also, with some of that Rape of Nanking stuff you’re taking at face value Chinese government claims, and those guys *definitely* have an agenda.

    There are some nasty pictures on the net for sure.

  142. > Also, with some of that Rape of Nanking stuff you’re taking at face value Chinese government claims,

    Nonsense. There are many contemporary reports from people outside the Chinese government, including extensive reporting from various Christian missionaries in the area, along with victim reports and oodles of forensic evidence. If you doubt the brutality of the Japanese military during the Second World War, consider their treatment of PoWs, which is very well documented. Japanese racism against Koreans and Chinese is very well documented.

    It is a disgrace to suggest this didn’t happen unless you have a very substantial case to make, which apparently you don’t. Human brutality lies under a very thin veneer of civilization, and it is important that sunshine reveal the perpetrators to make the cost of doing it again very high.

    FWIW, I think that the Japanese nation has changed considerably.

  143. It is a disgrace to suggest this didn’t happen

    I said *some* of that Rape of Nanking stuff, it definitely happened and the Japanese definitely try to play it down while the Chinese play it up. Do you believe everything they say about Tibet?

    FWIW, I think that the Japanese nation has changed considerably.

    They’re mostly a bit elderly for baby-bayoneting these days, to be sure. I just find Eric’s “we civilised Japan” to be one of those maximally self-flattering interpretations of the situation which some Americans not on the left are prone to. Our proctologists have to wear sunglasses, yadda yadda.

  144. strongpoint:
    >submarines… they don’t surface to collect EM data or transmitted intelligence; they stay low, move slow and listen carefully. there’s a reason it’s called the silent service.

    quite. i remember one of my navy mates in oz laughing about something that happened on a pseudo-warfooting during one of the regular ANZAC-USA exercises. the aussie subs were late for arrival. coupla days later they surfaced IN the main harbour, to vast consternation of the americans. they were a long way inside the (activated) yank sub + destroyer screens and had not been detected at any point. aussie CO immediately paid a call on the american CO, as per politeness protocol. as he walked in, he dropped a large sheaf of paper on the yank’s desk.

    word-for-wordperfect transcripts of every conversation in all the yank subs technically on a war footing and held deep underwater.

    the aussies had “old-fashioned” engines and screws that ran a lot quieter than modern kit. they crept up next to the yanks and just started recording. after a couple of days they then motored into the harbour, assembled formation, and surfaced physically next to the yank vessels.

    the aussie CO suggested they should buy more toilet paper for subs on station. some of the sailors were complaining.

    passive listening is the primary sub-detection mechanism in “normal” (alert) circumstances.

    >i am her half-caucasian child.

    ewwww. you’ve got a touch of the whitewash-brush? don’t get me wrong. i’ve got nothing against caucasians. with their cute round eyes and all.
    but i wouldn’t let my sister marry one.
    ;)

    jose:
    >New York is the financial centre of the world
    interesting little insider-knowledge oddity. for at least 20 years, in the bond markets, although the volume of trading in NY always exceeded London, if you attempted to trade in size when LON was shut, you got pushed on price. the actual depth of liquidity was far lower than it seemed.

    adrian smith:
    >I’d always read that Japanese military behavior in the Russo-Japanese war (04-05), frex, was quite exemplary

    not an expert on this particular conflict, but the preceding centuries’ invasions of china/korea are breathtaking in detail and were replicated in the repeat invasion in the ’30’s and then their WII behaviour.

    possibly the histories you’ve read were by arms-length historians? it’s always enlightening reading 4 or 5 versions of the same events. you start to learn a lot about the individual historians, and about the process of history-writing in general.

    Our proctologists have to wear sunglasses, yadda yadda.

    LOL! what a lovely slur of generic application. i’m gonna hafta remember that.

  145. >FWIW, I think that the Japanese nation has changed considerably.

    a long-time close friend of mine (school, uni, ongoing) studied a combined degree of law + japanese. he then spent a few years in japan doing a masters in japanese, at one of the top-but-socially-secondtier unis. (in USA terms, think: MIT rather than Harvard). he came back with superb colloquial japanese and an accent (in japanese) suggesting slight privilege.

    back in australia, back in our home town, he went into one of those japanese-only shops that i mentioned above. the ones where whites can’t get served and are unrelentingly ushered “politely” to the door. he pointedly barged past and around them each time, “politely”. took things off the shelf, “i like this, how much is it?”, only for every time the items to be “politely” taken out of his hands and put back on the shelf, the only response each time a perfect smile. finally, he acquiesced to one of the “usherings” to the door, then turned in the doorway and GOT RIGHT UP THEM in perfect japanese.
    colloquial, japanese-accented, and high-status-accented. “how dare you!,” etc.

    their response?
    immediate horror and abject fawning apologies in japanese:
    “i’m sorry sir, i didn’t know you were human!!” (repeated)

    direct quote. no mistakes possible. the (japanese) words were quite clear.

    .
    unless you’ve really had your nose rubbed in asian cultures, it’s easy to see only the theatre and miss what’s really happening underneath.

    i have seen, to my regret, absolutely nothing to suggest there has been any non-superficial change in japanese culture.

    my mate’s married now to a japanese girl, btw. he&i’ve both become cultural-ist as an (unfortunate?) consequence of our life experiences, but remain un-racist. we take each person as they are. but we don’t pretend groups don’t behave the way they do, nor that people drenched solely in that culture won’t (typically) be dominated by it. 50 years of aping another culture’s shiny parts does not profoundly change the humans.
    within 30 years of killing every aristocrat they could lay their hands on, the french demanded their democratically elected leader become an emperor.

  146. their response?
    immediate horror and abject fawning apologies in japanese:
    “i’m sorry sir, i didn’t know you were human!!” (repeated)

    direct quote. no mistakes possible. the (japanese) words were quite clear.

    Don’t you have laws against that kind of crap? And they don’t actually do this sort of thing in Japan. There are some clubs here which don’t admit gaijin, which might bother me if I wanted to go to clubs.

    I’m not saying there isn’t an assload of racism, either, believe me. It’s just generally more discreet.

  147. possibly the histories you’ve read were by arms-length historians? it’s always enlightening reading 4 or 5 versions of the same events. you start to learn a lot about the individual historians, and about the process of history-writing in general.

    Lawks, you can be patronising. I don’t reckon I need to read four different histories to know that there aren’t many stories of atrocities against the Russians, whereas there *are* some stories of notable acts of courtesy. First war against a Western power, probably they were on their best behavior.

    They treated the Chinese much worse than the Koreans AFAICT. But not uniformly, it depended on local commanders quite a bit.

  148. Adrian Smith,

    I agree that Japanese atrocities in WW2 had more to do with catching the distinctly Western, “gnostic” (see: Voegelin) virus of National Socialism than with original Japanese traditions. However, it also must be counted in that the original traditions, the samurai ethics that valued obedience over all other ethical values, provided an extremely fertile breeding ground for this virus.

    Civilizing Japan: see, I think it’s plainly obvious from this blog that ESR has many virtues but modesty is not one of them. So these claims are best not to taken literally but with a pinch of salt, divided by about two, more or less like this: American occupation triggered a radical reform of political institutions and provided a positive example to the Japanese, who realized that trying to become an economic rather than military great power and pursuing national glory in exports and acquisitions rather than in military conquests can be just as much gratifying to the ego, but works much better and one doesn’t get nuked for it.

  149. Tom Dickson-Hunt:

    “The obvious theory is that China specializes in consumer goods but is very deficient in some other area.”

    Yes, that’s what I suggested above: 20% of the industrial output with 160% of the population, yet our stores full of their light-industry products must mean that either we are focusing on the heavy industries, capital goods, or, that much of it is just the assembly of Western-made parts. Still, these are just guesstimates, if anyone has some facts about the detailed structure of US/EU industries as opposed to Chinese ones, I’d like to see it.

  150. Submarines: OK, so there are two ways to use this active sonar stuff.

    One, a lone submarine hunting around with active sonar – this is the “looking for hostile troops during the night in dark woodlands with a flashlight” – FAIL.

    Other: active-sonaring around CBG’s which are noisy enough both in the acousting and electronic and visual (satellite) sense that they cannot hide anyway. This is equivalent to perimeter defense in a military camp with searchlights – that’s all right, the enemy knows where the camp is anyway, so there is no harm in doing so and will probably help.

    But why use submarines for the role of perimeter defense searchlights? Cheap, simple destroyers can do that just as well with towed sonar and depth charges. Or, rather, helicopters – compared to the ships, very cheap and very effective. You could put an large and impenetrable active (or passive) sonar helocopter perimeter around a CBG for the price of one sub, price meant both in dollars and people. Subs are an expensive overkill for the role of an almost fixed-place “searchlight”.

    BTW I’m by no means a naval warfare expert, I just played a lot of Harpoon III or IV on the PC (always forget which one – BTW does anyone know of a game that’s a graphically modern version of the Harpoon series: a realistic naval tactics simulator? No, not Jane’s Fleet Command, that sucks) and I’ve read a lot of Tom Clancy when I was a teenager, like, Red Storm Rising and stuff like that. Not sure this sort of “knowledge” is reliable at all – The War Nerd for example has a very low opinion of Tom Clancy, and he seems to know his stuff.

  151. I agree that Japanese atrocities in WW2 had more to do with catching the distinctly Western, “gnostic” (see: Voegelin) virus of National Socialism than with original Japanese traditions.

    It wasn’t Nazism, or even really fascism unless you stretch the definition, though it had quite a few points of contact via some sort of convergent evolution. There’s a reasonable article on the wikipedlo.

    American occupation triggered a radical reform of political institutions

    Well, superficially, you could say that. But those who have noticed that Japan has had one-party rule ever since independence bar a period of three months or so might suspect that the Japanese are masters of doing one thing on the surface and something else entirely underneath. And who can we blame for this? Step forward the occupation authorities, who round about ’47 decided fighting Communism was more important than really rooting out the old guard. Who are pretty much the reason why the Chinese and Koreans still don’t trust the Japanese, they’re the source of most of the denial of what happened at Nanking etc.

    I’m not saying Japan hasn’t benefited economically from being an American client state. But the extent to which it’s a healthy society as a result, I mean, don’t get me started.

  152. My father was stationed in the Pacific during WWII, flying troops in a C-47. I have his flight log. He flew into Japan about a half-dozen times. He didn’t LIKE nuking the Japanese — as I expect most soldiers didn’t — but he expected a half-million casualties if we had to invade Japan, and was satisfied that nuking them was necessary. I don’t know if my father was repeating the common wisdom or speaking from his own experience.

    For a well-travelled and well-studied economist’s view of Japan, read two chapters of Wealth and Poverty:
    http://www.quaker.org/clq/wealth-and-poverty/02japan.htm

  153. He didn’t LIKE nuking the Japanese — as I expect most soldiers didn’t — but he expected a half-million casualties if we had to invade Japan, and was satisfied that nuking them was necessary.

    They were making overtures about surrender on condition that the Emperor retained his position, but the US wanted unconditional, so it had to be nukes. After which, the Emperor kept his position.

  154. >He didn’t LIKE nuking the Japanese — as I expect most soldiers didn’t — but he expected a half-million casualties if we had to invade Japan, and was satisfied that nuking them was necessary. I don’t know if my father was repeating the common wisdom or speaking from his own experience.

    This was what was generally believed on good evidence at the time. In fact, the U.S. war plans for Olympic (the invasion of Japan) anticipated U.S. casualties upwards of a million men and as many as eight million Japanese casualties, most among poorly armed and trained but fanatical civilians. Some credible estimates were significantly higher.

    One thing that sticks out in reading period sources is that U.S. war planners were genuinely horrified by the prospect of that many civilian Japanese deaths and actually believed using nukes would minimize the amount of frightfulness and casualties involved on the Japanese – and I think this judgment still looks correct in retrospect. However, they were also signaling Stalin, who had massed troops on the northern half of Sakhalin and looked ready to try and grab off the rest, and even Hokkaido if he could manage it.

    >the US wanted unconditional [surrender],

    Yes. It was believed – I think correctly – that accepting a conditional surrender would be read within the Japanese cultural framework as a sign of weakness, and would invite insurrection and later revanchism. The writing and thinking of the war planners reveals clear understanding that the belief structures underlying Japanese militarism and warrior culture needed to be smashed clear down to bedrock before Japan could be reconstructed as a modern civil society. Letting the Japanese have their emperor back after unconditional surrender was a subtle and calculated humiliation that completed a process of cultural de-construction begun by the defeat of their military and the destruction by firebombing of every city except Kyoto.

    In my nightmares, I fear we may some day soon have to bomb Saudi Arabia or Iran just as flat, for very similar reasons. That’s why I’ve been re-studying the Japanese example since 9/11. Notably, one of the impositions of the U.S. occupation was the abolition of state shintoism, the religious cult of the Emperor – so there is actual recent precedent for suppressing the barbarians’ religion by force in order to civilize them. This would be unlikely to work as well in the Arab world, unfortunately; there is not really any indigenous alternative to Islam there that has the degree of prestige that Buddhism does in Japan.

    In Japan, the U.S. succeeded so well at this that interest in certain martial arts associated with pre-1945 Japan is read in Japan even today, 60 years later, as a sign of extreme reactionary politics of a dangerous kind, and it puzzles the crap out of Japanese when a gaijin shows interest in them. I speak from direct personal knowledge here as well as secondhand report. Iaido — the art of drawing a katana and striking in one motion – is one of these informally-proscribed arts.

  155. … as many as eight million Japanese casualties, most among poorly armed and trained but fanatical civilians.

    another story my mother tells is of schoolteachers instructing children (she must have been about 10 years old at the time) in how to use pitchforks and other farm implements to resist american soldiers after the inevitable invasion.

  156. >They were making overtures about surrender on condition that the Emperor retained his position, but the US wanted unconditional, so it had to be nukes. After which, the Emperor kept his position.

    Just to reinforce my earlier point: the “condition that the Emperor retained his position” was interpreted as a demand that we let the Japanese keep their social hierarchy and cultural value system essentially intact, leaving them free to mythologize their loss as a temporary defeat to be redressed in a later war.

    The U.S.’s war planners judged that this was precisely the outcome that could not be permitted, and embarked on a deliberate program of cultural engineering to prevent it, the most obvious signs of which were the abolition of state shinto and the imposition of a constitution written by an American committee.

    I believe their judgment was correct, that the social engineering was largely successful, and that this history has important implications for the war with Islamic fascism.

  157. So where do you advise nuking? They’re a bit decentralized compared to Japan. Wouldn’t recommend Mecca particularly, the Jews managed to transcend losing the Temple perfectly well.

  158. Oh, never mind, didn’t see that bit you edited into in the post above. Can’t see the Pearl Harbor equivalent you’ll presumably be looking for unless there’s more to what some people say about nukes in shipping containers than I thought.

  159. >So where do you advise nuking?

    I don’t presently advise nuking anyone at all. Conventional warfare has not yet failed, nor are we yet in a situation where the realistic alternatives are worse than dropping a nuke. My nightmare is that we might wind up in precisely that kind of bind if people like you keep feeding the Islamofascists political cover, propaganda help, and convenient rationalizations for their hatred and barbarism.

  160. >Can’t see the Pearl Harbor equivalent you’ll presumably be looking for unless there’s more to what some people say about nukes in shipping containers than I thought

    Fool, we’ve already had Pearl Harbor. On 9/11. The question is now whether we can win this war without nuking someone. Every bit of anti-American snark you utter actually makes that happy outcome marginally less likely.

  161. My nightmare is that we might wind up in precisely that kind of bind if people like you keep feeding the Islamofascists political cover, propaganda help, and convenient rationalizations for their hatred and barbarism.

    I’m afraid if the situation was so fragile that the blog-meanderings of people like me could provide a significant push you’d probably be pretty much hosed on that one. Sheer noise would be enough to push you over the edge.

    Fool, we’ve already had Pearl Harbor. On 9/11.

    You’ve already invaded two countries on account of that, you’ll have to find something fresher.

    The question is now whether we can win this war without nuking someone.

    How can you tell when you’ve won a war against an abstract noun?

  162. > You’ve already invaded two countries on account of that, you’ll have to find something fresher.

    WWII took…let’s see, at least six actions that could easily be classified as “invasions”. Talk to me when we match that.

    >How can you tell when you’ve won a war against an abstract noun?

    Easily: when its memebots are so marginal they’re no longer a security threat. Consider, for example, “Naziism”.

  163. > upwards of a million men and as many as eight million Japanese casualties

    Right, and many of these estimates are based on something very real: namely the battle of Okinawa. In that battle for a tiny island, the first invasion of Japan proper, the US lost 12,000 soldiers, the Japanese 100,000. But of great importance is the fact that hundreds of thousands of civilian Okinawans died too. What is particularly important is why that number is so high. Of course many were killed in the cross fire, but the attitude inculcated into their thinking was such that even young children took up arms, and, when defeat was inevitable, many threw themselves and their children off the cliffs to die. The Japanese military machine had so propagandized the population to think that death was better (and certainly more honorable) that being captured by the American animals, who would enslave them, torture them, put their women in brothels and so forth. Americans were no saints when it came to treating the Japanese, but this would fit as a classic case of “I am rubber, you are glue.”

    One could only expect the same from the major Japanese islands which had one hundred times the population of Okinawa.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know I agree with ESR that the parallels to today’s war are all that strong. Problem is that in the WWII Americans actually knew we were at war, and the media had some semblance of honor and patriotism. If a nuclear device goes off in an American city will that change things? To be honest, our population is so emasculated I am not so sure. It think it might take the loss of several American cities before adequate action is taken, and that is pretty damn frightening. Obama resembles FDR pre Pearl harbor, not post.

  164. esr:
    This would be unlikely to work as well in the Arab world, unfortunately; there is not really any indigenous alternative to Islam there that has the degree of prestige that Buddhism does in Japan.

    Hard to see us doing that, these days, good idea or not. I think, though, you may underestimate the diversity under the “Islam” umbrella. Some of the Sufi and/or Shi’a schools are strikingly non-authoritarian and/or pacificist, if that’s what you’re looking for.

  165. Don’t you have laws against that kind of crap?

    They are probably more stringently enforced against whites than minorities, especially “model minorities” like Asians.

    I know Enzed is getting pretty aggressive about courting Asian immigrants; I suspect the same may be true of Australia, too.

  166. >Some of the Sufi and/or Shi’a schools are strikingly non-authoritarian and/or pacificist, if that’s what you’re looking for.

    They are. The Wahhabists and Deobandis consequently excoriate them for not following the latter of Koranic teaching, and (historically speaking) win that argument pretty much every time.

  167. esr > In my nightmares, I fear we may some day soon have to bomb Saudi Arabia or Iran just as flat, for very similar reasons.

    How, exactly, does your nightmare arrive at that situation? The House of Saud is an ally (if a reluctant one) and I don’t think anyone thinks that the 9/11 attackers represented them in any way. Neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran has gone on a rampage attacking their neighbors (comparing to Japan). How could there be any political support anywhere for nuking them? The consequences in the oil markets would be disastrous.

  168. They are probably more stringently enforced against whites than minorities, especially “model minorities” like Asians.

    Yeah, but it would be easy to secretly video them doing it and then raise a hell of a stink. Find a couple of Asians to carry the cameras, Korean-Australians would be fighting each other with knives for the chance to help with something like that.

  169. >How, exactly, does your nightmare arrive at that situation?

    What happens if the corrupt, weakening House of Saud gets overthrown by a gang of hardline Islamist revolutionaries, as in Iran? All of the futures that fan out from that possibility are ugly. Some are apocalyptic.

  170. I know Enzed is getting pretty aggressive about courting Asian immigrants; I suspect the same may be true of Australia, too.

    I should clarify my position: Wooing immigrants is great for the economy and culture. Foolishly trying to retain them by creating enclaves where the rule of law doesn’t apply and racism runs free undermines the purpose of law in the first place.

  171. Submarines: OK, so there are two ways to use this active sonar stuff.

    dammit, shenpen — i was going to reply to this post (mostly in agreement), but i googled “the war nerd” first and lost about four hours catching up. thanks for a good reference.

  172. >In my nightmares, I fear we may some day soon have to bomb Saudi Arabia or Iran just as flat, for very similar reasons.

    That’s probably the inevitable and eventual outcome of the current process, but not a witty move for the moment. Note that for the last 30 years Iran has unintentionally served as a scarecrow in the region for the U.S and other superpowers to help them persuade the Sheiks to buy their artillery in order to be armed-to-the-teeth against the so-called “axis of evil”. For instance, Spain sold her guns to both Iran and Iraq in the course of the 8-year-long Iran-Iraq war. Money matters after all.

    Never underestimate Iran’s geopolitical stance too: a) She has partial control on the Hormuz strait, the most important route in the world for transfer of oil. b) Shia world looks upon Iran and there will be consequences in case of a U.S-led invasion (terrorist attacks etc.)

    Indeed, U.S can hardly handle another blow to it’s economy, given the fact that Iran is way bigger and stronger than Iraq (manpower, armory. expertise, etc )

    P.S. As someone who wholeheartedly loves his country and has felt the adversity and suffering caused by the moronic 8-year war, I’m not praying for manifestation of your sweet nightmare.

  173. >P.S. As someone who wholeheartedly loves his country and has felt the adversity and suffering caused by the moronic 8-year war, I’m not praying for manifestation of your sweet nightmare.

    Well, if it makes you feel better, I’m somewhat more optimistic about the U.S. not having to bomb your country flat than I was a year ago. The difference is that I now extrapolate significant odds of you guys overthrowing your Islamists before they become a sufficiently clear and present danger to the rest of the world that the U.S. or the Israelis have to take them out.

    This is related to but distinct from my evaluation that, while Saudi Arabia seems doomed to remain a shit-hole populated by excessively wealthy barbarians for the foreseeable future, Iran has the cultural capital to rejoin civilization when its people choose to. There is, however, a religion in the way…

  174. esr, I think you agree that the current unprecedented prosperity of mankind in general (expressed by the ability to have more than 6 billion people) is based on the success of the Western civilisation which in turn relies on the concept of free societies (i.e. free individuals freely associating for mutually negotiated goals). The way I see it free societies rest on three major pillars:

    the rule of law;
    widespread access to information and the ability to process it (i.e. widespread access to education);
    most people’s ability to earn enough to pay for their essential needs.

    The USA does meet these three requirements at the moment, at least as well as any other country and military and economic might are indeed critical to protect them. On the other hand economic power and military strength as such are temporary. The system of values and the mind share it gets both at home and abroad should be much more relevant at a deeper level.

    About a hundred years ago the US were behind France and Germany in scientifically and technologically, and had significantly less economic resources than the British Empire. Yet American management was the most advanced worldwide. Half a century and a two-round World War later the US was the world leader with USSR a far behind military-only challenger.

    Moreover, when the US opened up Japan in the 19th century, Japan had a very effective and adaptable government, a population at least as educated as that of the European powers (albeit in its own feudal culture), and their peasants allegedly lived in better conditions than most of their European counterparts or than the American slaves. All Japan had to do to become an international power was to import those features that gave the Western nations a competitive edge.They tried first the more natural military path. When they failed they went for the more subtle and exotic path of the free market, they have been trying to improve upon with their traditional collectivist approaches. Hence their economic successes (and failures) of the last 60 years.

    So my question would be, how well does the US fare from a libertarian rather than imperial point of view?

  175. >So my question would be, how well does the US fare from a libertarian rather than imperial point of view?

    Increasingly poorly by its own historical standards, but still miles better than the rest of the world. And I speak from experience, having lived in Great Britain, Italy, and Venezuela – a rich though declining G8 country, a bottom-of-the-top-tier country, and a Third World country.

    I say “increasingly poorly” because the trend in the power and intrusiveness of our government is bad and getting worse. Fortunately, some other trends, notably the Internet and the democratization of computing power, are pushing in a good direction.

  176. >unfortunately; there is not really any indigenous alternative to Islam there that has the degree of prestige that Buddhism does in Japan.

    Not true; at least here in Persia: Zoroastrianism does the trick.

    >The difference is that I now extrapolate significant odds of you guys overthrowing your Islamists before they become a sufficiently clear and present danger to the rest of the world that the U.S. or the Israelis have to take them out.

    GOOD NEWS: The ugly bearded goat-fucker, Ahmadinejad, is going out of office within 4 months. Iran’s Presidential election is going to be held within approximately 2 months and early speculations all suggest that our beloved former PM Mr. Mirhossein Mousavi has the best chance. He is a pacifist, moderate Muslim and supporter of political/cultural reforms; [unlike Ahmadinejad] believes in privatization and relations with the U.S.

    O.K, that’s maybe not that impressive, but…

    >There is, however, a religion in the way…

    Iranians are the most casual Muslims ever detected on earth. I mean….I am a Muslim :-)
    For most of Iranians religion is a way of life, a set of ethical rules, not a panacea. Think about a typical Christian nowadays. What has remained from Christianity other than a name by the way? and here’s the funny part: Iranians hate Arabs and the Arabic language and because the “Salat” [in Persian: Namaz] should be done in Arabic, 8 out of every 10 Iranian Muslims don’t do the regular 5-time daily prayer! Another funny fact: Iranians neither can effectively collaborate with Arabs nor with themselves on any given critical destructive mission. The result: Not even a single Iranian terrorist wannabe has ever been able to operate in the U.S.

    P.S. I think there’s another “lunatic fringe” here called communists who have been severely oppressed. Wiping out the religion can bring them back on the political scene which we won’t really appreciate.

  177. >Not true; at least here in Persia: Zoroastrianism does the trick.

    Really? I was under the impression Muslims despised Zoroastrians…not People of the Book, and so forth. Or is that mostly a Sunni attitude?

    I actually don’t like Zoroastrianism much myself. They invented eschatological dualism and thoughtcrime. Bastards. What’s left of them, at least among the Parsees in India, is mostly harmless, but the early history of their religion was deeply evil and closely tied to the invention of theocratic totalitarianism by the First Persian Empire. Most of what’s warped and sick in both Christianity and Islam was originally their invention.

    >Iranians are the most casual Muslims ever detected on earth.

    I dunno, dude. All that mythology about the occluded 12th Imam showing up tomorrow to smite everyone is scary nuts. And that shit with gashing yourselves bloody on the day of Hussein’s death is – sorry – barbaric.

    >The result: Not even a single Iranian terrorist wannabe has ever been able to operate in the U.S.

    Alas, that’s not quite true. There were some incidents in ’79 – minor stuff, fortunately, and now almost forgotten. Probably would be entirely forgotten if they hadn’t been parodied in a movie from the early 1980s called Back To The Future that’s still popular.

  178. > She has partial control on the Hormuz strait, the most important route in the world for transfer of oil.

    It’s the most important route for Europe’s oil.

    The US can get all of its oil from the western hemisphere.

    If the mideast and Russia cut off supplies, horrible things will happen, but Europe would be the hardest hit. (I don’t know what the US would do about Japan.)

    I wouldn’t bet that the Euros would take that lightly. They know how to run a brutal occupation.

  179. > She has partial control on the Hormuz strait, the most important route in the world for transfer of oil.

    Actually, the US Navy controls the straits of Hormuz for all practical purposes, and could continue to do so indefinitely (with or without local land based support, which they most likely could have.)

  180. >Or is that mostly a Sunni attitude?

    Spot on! Shia recognizes Zarathustra as a true prophet and they are considered People of the Book. Zoroastrians enjoy a normal life in Iran, unlike Baha’i minorities who are treated like shit and saw most of their leaders executed early after the revolution. They can not enter universities, can not get a governmental job, advocate their religion, etc. They’re not recognized as humans. I mean if you kill a Baha’i, you won’t be executed in Iran. such a sad story [The number of Bahas in Iran is app. 300,000]

    >Most of what’s warped and sick in both Christianity and Islam was originally their invention.

    I agree. There’s a renowned Persian author named Sadeq Hedayat who has suggested the same idea, backing his claims with evidence in a Persian book. It is not translated and I appreciated your thoughtful comment on that; what is remained from Zoroastrianism is not harmful though. Iranians still celebrate Norouz and Char-shambe-soori which are remnants of that period. They feel a kinda strong connection with it.

    >gashing yourselves bloody on the day of Hussein’s death is – sorry – barbaric.

    I am living among them and I haven’t seen a single case, I swear my life. They do mourn, they do respect Imam Hussein and think it’s cool to cry with a disgusting voice singing sad songs [One time I screwed up my exam because I couldn't sleep; freakin' noise!]. But please! Once again you’re generalizing. Maybe some dumb-ass turks in a rural seclusion do this here and there, but the practice is even banned by the government.

    >All that mythology about the occluded 12th Imam showing up tomorrow to smite everyone is scary nuts.

    There are some people fooled into expecting him every Friday, but I say it again: The majority of Iranians don’t give a flying shit about Islam. They solely carry the name Muslim. If tomorrow Hijab will be free, I swear my life that more than 50% of the girls will come out with 100% European clothing from the very next day alone. I’m not joking, I stand to what I just said.

    The majority of people who live in big cities like Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan,.. have satellite receivers and watch, for example, every show on MTV. see? They don’t give a fart to anyone’s Fatwa anymore.

    >The difference is that I now extrapolate significant odds of you guys overthrowing your Islamists before they become a sufficiently clear and present danger to the rest of the world that the U.S. or the Israelis have to take them out.

    A couple months ago, when Ahmadinejad was giving a lecture at Amir-Kabir University in Tehran, angry students burned his pictures in front of him and shouted “Death to the dictator” many times. The incident was covered widely in the internet and the video clip was spread everywhere. Even the Wikipedia entry about the president describes the event. He is the most hated political figure alive in Iran.

    That was a good sign, but overthrowing the regime is completely another story and I doubt it will be necessary or possible in foreseeable future.

  181. esr:
    They are. The Wahhabists and Deobandis consequently excoriate them for not following the latter of Koranic teaching, and (historically speaking) win that argument pretty much every time.

    Yes… but the problem with claiming to know what God wants is that when you get a chance to implement your policies they had better work. Bin Laden’s failures and Ahmadinajad’s Chavez-esque grasp of economics are piling up points for the other side.

    And re: 12th Imam: Actually, I’ve read reasonable arguments that that sort of theology can be a plus, politically; essentially, that attempts to perfect human society prior to his return are pointless hubris and thus it discourages the utopian basis for most totalitarian schemes. Of course, Ahmadinajad seems to want to bring him around; perhaps this is the Muslim variant of immanentizing the eschaton?

  182. >Actually, the US Navy controls the straits of Hormuz for all practical purposes, and could continue to do so indefinitely (with or without local land based support, which they most likely could have.)

    It’s true that the entire Iranian Navy wouldn’t last more than about half an hour against a single U.S. carrier battle group on a war footing…but the strategic picture depends how good the ship-killer missiles the Iranians bought from the Communist Chinese are and whether they could launch before their missile boats got sunk. If they can sink U.S. capital warships, or even make the odds of a sinking look bad, they can make control damned expensive.

  183. “Letting the Japanese have their emperor back after unconditional surrender was a subtle and calculated humiliation that completed a process of cultural de-construction begun by the defeat of their military and the destruction by firebombing of every city except Kyoto.”

    I’m not sure I understand this point fully. Let me guess. Given a god-Emperor with absolute power. Turn him into something that within that framework can’t really be defined as anything else but a traitor. Then leave him on the throne. The people have two choice. Accept that that a traitor is on the throne, which was unthinkable, or revolt, but a revolt would eliminate the whole basis the system is built upon. Thus it created a whirlwind of culturally destructive cognitive dissonance. Is this what you mean?

  184. BTW Japan is a wrong historical paralell for Islamo-terrorism, so I’d advise against drawing conclusions against it.

    It’s straightforward to deal with those who are centralized and other-wordly: go for the head.

    With those who are decentralized but wordly, like the IRA, you can reason with after some show of force: their goals are wordly so they can be opened to compromise.

    Dealing with those who are decentralized and other-wordly is a wholly different matter, I can’t see any ways that would work and would be acceptably humane i.e. no genocide, of course.

    Perhaps some indirect ways – try to engineer a very fanatical, very suicidial, but rather self-loathing, guilt-tripped and self-punishing than outwardly aggressive version of radical Islam.

  185. >Thus it created a whirlwind of culturally destructive cognitive dissonance. Is this what you mean?

    Yes, though I didn’t have quite that logic path in mind. More like: The divine Emperor, who is the symbolic center of our value system, has been permitted to keep his throne by gaijin. *TILT* *TILT* *TILT*

    >BTW Japan is a wrong historical paralell for Islamo-terrorism, so I’d advise against drawing conclusions against it.

    I think it’s a very good parallel, actually. Consider kamikaze pilots as a parallel to suicide bombers. In both cases, the problem is less how you kill the terrorists than how you re-engineer the culture that produced them so it can’t any more.

  186. >I think it’s a very good parallel, actually. Consider kamikaze pilots as a parallel to suicide bombers. In both cases, the problem is less how you kill the terrorists than how you re-engineer the culture that produced them so it can’t any more.

    The problem is, though, that you could take out the kamikazes simply by going after the home islands of Japan and the emperor. Suicide bombers have no such ‘head’ to take out, at least not a living one.

  187. And Islam has no central religious authority, that’s probably more important. There is no “High Imam” to order surrender, every imam is pretty much on his own, responsible only to Allah.

  188. (I hope Steven Ray can and is willing to put some background behind the photos linked above, as they are very impressive – especially Mahasti’s photo :-) “Hot” is an insufficient term to describe her, she is more tha just hot, she is… majestic: a country that can produce people like her could not only rejoin civilization but could and shoud also _contribute_ a lot to it.)

  189. Shenpen, thanks again for putting a useful link and being a good contributor. Mahasti was a legendary Pop singer and diva. I still listen to some of her songs. Unfortunately she died of colon Cancer in 2007, while in exile (In the U.S)

    Her sister Hayedeh was even a better singer who alas, died even sooner.

    Ali Hatami (Who is shown in one of the pictures alongside her wife: Zari Khoshkam; an actress) was a prolific Iranian director who stayed in Iran after the revolution and made contributions to Iranian cinema and died several years later in 1996. His daughter Leila Hatami is now a famous actress here.

    One of the photos is related to “Vakil’s Bazaar” (bazaar is a persian word, BTW) which is a 350-year-old complex with historical value.

    I’m not sure but I think that the second photo shows some of the students of Shiraz University which was then considered a sister university to University of Pennsylvania.

    The cute babe in that page, Parvin Kheirbakhsh or by nickname “Forouzan” was the first real money-making actress in the Iran’s cinema and played in more than 50 Iranian films before the revolution [and fled the country after that]

    One Pic shows Farah Pahlavi, former Empress of Iran and the the widow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. She made notable contributions to Iranian art and culture by establishing Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art which is considered to have the largest collection of valuable Western modern art outside Europe and the U.S.A.

    Seeing those pics is both a joyful and a sad experience, you know what I mean.

  190. >Well, if it makes you feel better, I’m somewhat more optimistic about the U.S. not having to bomb your country flat than I was a year ago. The difference is that I now extrapolate significant odds of you guys overthrowing your Islamists before they become a sufficiently clear and present danger to the rest of the world that the U.S. or the Israelis have to take them out.

    Steven Ray accused you of being a neo-con without standing to his claim -ask Andy Freeman- occasionally does malicious trolling and is a chronic wanker. I thought that you would ban him but to my surprise you made some horrible mistakes:

    a- You didn’t ban him

    b- You thought all Iranians are Steven Ray

    c- You don’t fully know his political and religious opinion and that optimistic guess is a mere ‘wishful thinking’

    d- You thought that the likes of Steven Ray has the guts to oppose their country’s political elite

    Nope!, Iran is a shit-hole populated by presumptuous barbarians who are obedient of their fascist theocratic regime and are sooner or l8r destined to be ass-kicked by our soldiers.

    @shenpen:

    “a country that can produce people like her could not only rejoin civilization but could and shoud also _contribute_ a lot to it.)”

    What’s the relation with that dumb chick and civilization? I wanna know.

  191. >Steven Ray accused you of being a neo-con without standing to his claim -ask Andy Freeman- occasionally does malicious trolling and is a chronic wanker.

    I actually find him interesting and relatively polite. My positive evaluation of Iran relative to the Arab world is not based on him but on my knowledge of history. And to get banned from here takes much more sheer nastiness than he seems to have in him.

  192. “If we default, they have the marks on paper and we still have the stuff.”

    Sure, we have iPods and big-screen TVs which will be worth next to noting in a couple of years. We also have the “rust belt”. What we do not have is production facilities which we have exported to “them”, alongside with our inflated currency. So, once “they” figure out that they can have plenty of market at home with 1.5 billion of their own folks and 1+ billion in the neighbor’s household and that they have the means of production and that we are not paying back because we can not, then they will shut down the valve, buy gold, copper and whatever has value as long as it’s not the worthless US debt denominated in currency ruined by the abominable Fed and its high-priests Greenspan and Bernanke with the blessing of the army of thuggish politicians.

    “So, however bad the consequences in the U.S., the geopolitical effect of a default would be to inflict a larger aggregate loss of wealth on the rest of the world. The net effect would probably be that the U.S. would re-emerge as an even more dominant hyperpower afterwards.”

    Not likely to happen. There is timeframe for everything. When the collapse exactly will happen, nobody knows. But to hope that U.S. would emerge out of it as a hyperpower is illusion. It did not happen to Roman Empire or Napoleon. It won’t happen to us, either. We’re broke, stretched thin and doomed. Call your representative and thank him for his dedicated contribution to this demise.

  193. “As for improving demographics, I mean that pretty strictly in terms of the worker-to-dependent ratio.”

    It seems that the wealth-to-dependent ratio or the income-to-dependent ratio would be a more useful metric. How much wealth is being produced compared to the number of people consuming it? The number of producers is an interesting metric in its own right, and is useful in figuring out the amount of wealth generated per producer, but it doesn’t tell us how well the dependents can be maintained nor how burdensome that maintenance will be for the producers.

    The most important demographic question is – are the producers outbreeding the parasites, or are the parasites outbreeding the producers? If the latter, our culture is doomed unless the parasites manage to get themselves killed in large enough numbers to offset their fecundity – which won’t happen until after our civilization falls or so drastically changes its values as to become unrecognizable.

  194. “The most important demographic question is – are the producers outbreeding the parasites, or are the parasites outbreeding the producers?”

    Even without any figures, unless something is drastically changed, it’s not at all hard to conclude who will eventually outbreed whom – if you want to multiply any behavior, be it living on welfare or spending money you don’t have – subsidize it.

    As Adrian Rogers aptly put it:

    “You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom.
    What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
    The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

    When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them,
    and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for,
    that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation.

  195. “Iran is a shit-hole populated by presumptuous barbarians who are obedient of their fascist theocratic regime and are sooner or l8r destined to be ass-kicked by our soldiers.”

    Of course, this is likely to happen. There is, however, an inconvenient fact that you have left out and that is that U.S. has had it’s fingers in the shit-hole in the 50-ies, changed regime, caused backlash which in turn has led to the current idiots leading the Iranian nation. Stories like that abound – bin Laden, Saddam, … all our ex-boys turned enemies – even Taliban are creation of our meddling. The moral of the story: bring the boys back home, spend half the money we’re currently spending to protect the homeland and, if anyone dares to touch us, fly over and turn them into a parking lot. But this – constant meddling and policing around the world – it is is entirely unsustainable and it will ultimately lead to the demise of the United States. Every empire in the history has overstretched itself and fell. Yet we stubbornly keep on doing it feeding ourselves the dumb “freedom” rhetoric. They don’t want our freedom any more than we would want theirs. Live and let live.

  196. “Of course, this is likely to happen. There is, however, an inconvenient fact that you have left out and that is that U.S. has had it’s fingers in the shit-hole in the 50-ies, changed regime, caused backlash which in turn has led to the current idiots leading the Iranian nation. Stories like that abound – bin Laden, Saddam, … all our ex-boys turned enemies – even Taliban are creation of our meddling.”

    Well, it’s not like we were doing all that meddling just for the hell of it. Look back a little further… we shipped weapons and goodies to the Russians and helped them out against Hitler. Then the Russians became our enemies, and we looked for other enemies of our enemy to lend our support to, until they became enemies in turn, and round and round it went. The alternatives in the 1940’s seemed to involve many millions of American dead and a possible Nazi domination of the planet. The alternatives later seemed to involve a nuclear holocaust with billions dead or a possible Soviet domination of the planet. Doing some balance of power games to get us between that rock and hard place was really the best available solution.

    And now we get to take on some of these new allies-turned-enemies… fortunately, they’re a lot less dangerous to us than the Nazis or the Soviets.

  197. “And now we get to take on some of these new allies-turned-enemies… fortunately, they’re a lot less dangerous to us than the Nazis or the Soviets.”

    Well, to be sure, there’s always some danger in the world to be afraid of. And what your government would want you to believe is that we must always do something about it – that’s how Leviathan feeds itself and grows. WW II was a direct consequence of Europe (and Churchill, in particular) frustrating Germans to the very limits with unnecessary prolonging the hunger blockade, which created fertile soil for Hitler. And then Churchill managed to drag us into the WW II (just like he did with WW I), although we had no business in either- even on the Pacific side things could have been much different. But FDR needed a way out of depression. Which really scares me today, when we have very similar circumstances and exactly the same medicine applied, which does not work. As I said, we could stay home and mind the security if our homeland. Let the world worry their worries. Soviet Union crumbled on its own, because of unsustainable economic system, not because we defeated them. Why do we care if the N. Korea launches a missile? If it is any threat to us, we can shut it down in no time. If it’s not, let those who are threatened worry about it.

  198. > When the collapse exactly will happen, nobody knows. But to hope that U.S. would emerge out of it as a hyperpower is illusion.

    The development of China and India is not quite as straightforward as you paint it. The poor agrarian population of China, which is still a large part of the nation, is in turmoil. The government might lose control of that situation. China is also facing colossal environmental problems. Large parts of the Indian population are also very poor. The US does not have those problems at that sort of scale. Sure, a default on the US pubic debt or dollar hyperinflation would certainly take the US down more than a couple of notches, but that still does not make anyone else a superpower.

    > Stories like that abound – bin Laden, Saddam, … all our ex-boys turned enemies

    Watch Saudi Arabia, it just might be next. I don’t take quite as dark a view of the consequences of the House of Saud getting overthrown as ESR seems to do, though.

    > When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work

    I’d argue that there is a large cultural element to this. The Nordic countries have not exactly imploded (despite of what ESR may say) even though they have had extensive unemployment benefits for decades. Work is valued highly in the Lutheran tradition (think Catholic ‘guilt’ replaced with ‘suffering’, mostly because of hard work).

  199. Alex, your so-called history is bullshit.

    “U.S. has had it’s fingers in the shit-hole in the 50-ies, changed regime, caused backlash which in turn has led to the current idiots leading the Iranian nation”. Not exactly. The US didn’t change anybody’s regime. The CIA did help the Shah with propaganda to turn the public against the coup that had ousted him. The public then revolted against the coup leaders, and restored their Shah. The Shah was grateful, and Iran was an ally for the next 20 years. This was a bad thing, why, exactly? What was the CIA supposed to do, let Iran go over to the communists? This so-called backlash took 20 years to develop, did it?

    But at least there was a kernel of fact, sort of, buried in your spin. That can’t be said for the rest: “bin Laden, Saddam, … all our ex-boys turned enemies – even Taliban are creation of our meddling.” That is utter bullshit. When were Osama or Saddam ever “our ex-boys”? And what had we to do with the Taliban?

    And what was that about WW2? Are you claiming that Hitler was not dangerous? That we were right to stay out of the war for so long, and should have stayed out altogether, and let him conquer the whole world, so long as he didn’t set foot over our borders? Let him wipe out the Jews, the Gypsies, anyone else he cared to do away with, and we should have sat there and done nothing, why exactly? Does the name Kitty Genovese mean anything to you, at all?

  200. But the economic and infrastructure growth and productive capacity is outside the USA now.

    The USA doesn’t need any more highways, strip malls, and suburbs. Boomers will be downsizing.

    Guns can’t wag economics.

  201. >Guns can’t wag economics.

    Oh, how devoutly I wish I lived in a universe where this is true.

  202. Economics defeats guns over the long run. The legions abandoned Rome when the silver coinage was debased to about 5% or less silver content. The dollars was debased of silver in 1965, gold in 1971, and JP Morgan has right now in silver the largest naked short position (as % of market size) in history of world in any commodity (by an order-of-magnitude).

  203. “and JP Morgan has right now in silver the largest naked short position (as % of market size) in history of world in any commodity (by an order-of-magnitude).”

    That’s interesting – does it mean silver is currently in a “negative bubble” due to this? Or rather that they are correctly expecting that it’s price will crash? Why would it?

  204. USA has lost every war of occupation. On the day we reached Bagdad, I said we would lose the war of occupation.

    Rome conquered successfully because it built roads and bridges and raised the level of trade and standard-of-living throughout Europe. Dark Ages when Rome imploded and the roads and peace & order on them was not maintained.

    The USA is doing nearly nothing productive in the world now. Rockefeller (JP Morgan, etc) has hijacked the govt, created $12 trillion of new public obligations with the majority of the money going to the Fed cartel.

    USA doesn’t even produce the best applied commercial technology in many cases any more. India is producing more fuel efficient motorcycles for the masses, China is leading the way on all-electric, Japan leading the way on hybrids. Our commercial software is mostly centralized, brittle junk now…

    USA has adopted all 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto. We are like trained chickens, we peck the ATM machine to get our fix.

    We are probably #1 in blogging theories, and we don’t do much real work any more.

    How much widely used software have you written lately Eric? I know my productivity is way down from my million downloads CoolPage, the million customer Fractal Design Painter (now Corel), the 30,000 customer WordUp (Atari ST).

    Face it, we are old and pontificate and not much else.

  205. Apology for triple post, just saw your question about silver being in a negative bubble.

    Paul Volcker said on his tenure in the 1970 – 80s, that his biggest mistake was not controlling the gold price.

    To have a strong debased dollar, you must have a weak gold and silver price, because Gold sits under Treasures on Exter’s safe haven inverted pyramid.

    In the end, the world chooses gold, but Rome will fight for as long as it can to keep the people fooled. The legions didn’t abandon Rome until the fraud of the silver debasement had reached the point of near 0 value.

    Right now the USA is being gutted, and the dollar is being held up long enough to complete the debasement enema. At the end, the doors will locked (capital/exchange controls), and any capital (the non-paper assets Erics writes that USA still has) still inside will rot and decay.

    Personally I am moving my assets out of the USA. I am in Asia and I see the domestic economy buzzing along with growth. Sure exports took a one time hit, but are bouncing back with more inter-Asian trade (see a flood of new Chinese imports, e.g. Chinese cars for the first time, new Indian motorcycle brands, etc). With several billion people, Asia can be it’s own economy. Small things grow faster (e.g. Oak trees can’t grow to the moon).

  206. More of my ridiculous ramblings…probably better if I had stopped with the succinct point “Guns don’t wag economics”.

    Why did we send our troops to a desert where there is very sparse population and little opportunity to build roads, economy, and win hearts and minds?

    I pontificate:

    1) Israel is of extreme importance to the banker cartel
    2) To bury our military there. I read our army machinery is basically destroyed by the sand.
    3) So the troops will be in an isolated desert far from home when the coming chaos hits USA:

    http://halturnershow.com/HomelandSecurityReport-April-7-2009.pdf
    http://turnerradionetwork.blogspot.com/2009/04/homeland-security-calls-returning.html
    http://www.yff365.com/profiles/blogs/fox-news-celente-predicts

    You can read more links and evidence I have collected here (sorry this blog won’t let me put many links in one post):

    http://goldwetrust.up-with.com/health-f5/preparing-for-coming-crisis-t41-15.htm#1343

  207. On one hand: this just has a bit of tinfoil-hat or “disaster porn” smell to it.

    On the other hand: the price of gold and silver indeed seems irrationally low. About the same as this time last year. Why didn’t the market price in inflation expetations neither in USD nor in GBP nor in EUR? Rationally it should be a lot higher. This indeed hints at manipulation.

    On the third hand, look at f.e. http://www.google.com/finance?q=slw in 5 years scale. Flailing around like a drunken octopus. This doesn’t look like direct manipulation to me – rather a totally confused market where people just don’t know what to expect.

  208. > Our commercial software is mostly centralized, brittle junk now

    I was trying to think of examples and counterexamples. Seems to me that if the US software is bad, then the rest of the world is not doing any better. Google’s stuff improves productivity, right? The company is based in the US, but I guess you could argue that a lot of their stuff is written by foreigners and a lot of it is hardware engineering. I suppose computers and programmer’s tools are now cheap and ubiquitous enough and the body of free code is large enough that good software can emerge anywhere where there is sufficient educated population.

  209. > Why didn’t the market price in inflation expetations neither in USD nor in GBP nor in EUR?

    Exponential rate of change is not noticed by humans until it is too late:

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=904#comment-234717

    > Seems to me that if the US software is bad, then the rest of the world is not doing any better

    We need to granulate the code (as the hyperlink granulated information), so the code is not the liability:

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=904#comment-234711

    So I say code is brittle every where, because we are too focus on coding and not focused enough on linking re-useable code together to find exponential growth markets. How easy is it today to go dig into Mozilla to extract modules of code I would re-use to service new dynamic markets? What the granularity, learning curve, licensing baggage? That imposes a minimum size of my target growth market.

    Smallest markets grow the fastest.

  210. I was interested by this post from Penguin Pete:

    http://penguinpetes.com/b2evo/index.php?title=america_needs_a_renaissance&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

    linking here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/business/12immig.html

    Is the US losing its innovative edge? Why H1-B when you could just give them green cards and make them *want* to lift the US?

    (I’m from Australia and now living in Britain, and both are almost as stupid about this. Immigration is *always* a net gain in the medium term and longer; but the short term doesn’t play well with protectionists.)

  211. “Immigration is *always* a net gain in the medium term and longer; ” – usually it is, but there are these painful fringe cases when you have a welfare state and then a demographic migrates in who works little but has lots of children, and they get paid way more welfare than whatever value they produce, and thus become a net liability.

  212. Er… I suppose that might have sounded a bit racist. In fact, it’s the other way around, personal experience in living 2.5 years in perhaps the worst areas of the UK (Dudley, Wolverhampton, that general area) in fact purged even the last traces of residual racism from me: I came to despise the White underclass the most.

    The Jamaican Black underclass I came to despise significantly less than the White one, as, unlike them, they at least seem to have something akin to a culture, even though a very simple one. The Indian-Pakistani underclass I almost feel respect for, for they seem to have some significant traces of civilization left in them: their children are fairly well-behaved, their teens don’t get drunk and make trouble on the streets and in the parks on Friday evenings, they actually seem to cook fresh produce for the kids and not feed them crap before the TV etc.

    So it’s mostly just a financial-budgetary welfare-demographic point of view I see them as a liability, in fact, from a cultural point of view, I think they are better than the white underclass.

    (Islam I consider very dangerous but 95% of the Indian-Pakistani in the West Midlands area don’t seem to be too strongly Muslim.)

  213. I live in Walthamstow, London E17. Lots of Muslims. When you have a bunch of Muslim youths on a street corner on Saturday night, they’re not drinking, so they tend to be polite and well behaved!

    E17 is a mix of all sorts and they all pretty much get along – a vast improvement on when it was just poor white people and poor black people. As you note, it’s the white underclass who are the problem cases.

  214. haven’t yet found the Economist (paper)article i mentioned above, but have reached in my “to be scanned” pile a googleable related article

    China takes charge of keys to technologies’ future
    >After a long, relentless campaign of price wars and export quota reductions, more than 95 per cent of the global supply of rare earth metals — a group of 17 “lanthanide” elements employed in hundreds of technologies ranging from mobile phones and BlackBerrys to lasers and aviation — is produced by China.

    Jack Lifton, an expert on rare earths, said: “Deng Xiaoping’s comment in 1997, where he said that China would be for rare earth metals what the Middle East was to oil, has become a very stark reality. The world has to wake up and start thinking of this group of elements as the ‘technology metals’ without which there will be no technology.

  215. >>possibly the histories you’ve read were by arms-length historians? it’s always enlightening reading 4 or 5 versions of the same events. you start to learn a lot about the individual historians, and about the process of history-writing in general.
    >Lawks, you can be patronising. I don’t reckon I need to read four different histories to know that there aren’t many stories of atrocities against the Russians,

    heh. misreading caution as patronising is one thing. underlining my point is quite another.

  216. >In Japan, the U.S. succeeded so well at this that interest in certain martial arts associated with pre-1945 Japan is read in Japan even today, 60 years later, as a sign of extreme reactionary politics of a dangerous kind, and it puzzles the crap out of Japanese when a gaijin shows interest in them.

    thank you. you just explained something more-better i couldn’t quite fathom as a simple postWWII reaction.

  217. >They are probably more stringently enforced against whites than minorities, especially “model minorities” like Asians.
    >Yeah, but it would be easy to secretly video them doing it and then raise a hell of a stink.

    oh god, grow up. have a crack at the real world some time. hint: it’s been tried.

    >and here’s the funny part: Iranians hate Arabs and the Arabic language and because the “Salat” [in Persian: Namaz] should be done in Arabic, 8 out of every 10 Iranian Muslims don’t do the regular 5-time daily prayer! Another funny fact: Iranians neither can effectively collaborate with Arabs nor with themselves on any given critical destructive mission.

    quite so. middle east culture is a lot larger than levantine culture and a LOT larger than arab culture.

    even some of the levantine cities used to be, until quite recently, almost as liberal as the west in many visible aspects.

    remember, the ONLY religion (as opposed to culture) to REQUIRE that females cover their hair and everything-but-face, by holy scripture, is christianity. islam, by scripture, requires only that women cover their breasts. everything else is local-cultural.

    >“and JP Morgan has right now in silver the largest naked short position (as % of market size) in history of world in any commodity (by an order-of-magnitude).”

    if that’s true, they’re being bloody fools. gold is saturated, market-position-wise, and the smart money is starting to spillover into silver. unless the global economy turns faster than it’s doing, they’re going to get hammered.

    >>“Immigration is *always* a net gain in the medium term and longer; ” – usually it is, but there are these painful fringe cases when you have a welfare state and then a demographic migrates in who works little but has lots of children, and they get paid way more welfare than whatever value they produce, and thus become a net liability.
    >Er… I suppose that might have sounded a bit racist. In fact, it’s the other way around, personal experience in

    quite so. australia has savagely different experiences of large influxes of immigrants, based entirely on “micro” aspects. where there has been uncontrolled self-isolating immigration, the experience is savagely negative (sydney). where it has been introduced at the same or higher volume but enforcedly ess self-isolatingly, it has been a gentle postive (queensland). “lebanese area” in sydney means 28yo 3rd generation girls with sharp accents being excoriated and brow-beaten by their mothers for not being virgins, “lebanese area” in brisbane means good food.

  218. >I actually don’t like Zoroastrianism much myself. They invented eschatological dualism and thoughtcrime

    Actually a later bunch of heretics related to Zurvanite Zoroastrianism defined dualism. They had a somewhat different read on Zarathustra’s Gathas. Dualism didn’t appear in the original context of Zoroastrianism. Interestingly enough Zurvanism is now an extinct cult.

    and please note that…

    “The “dualism” of Zoroastrianism is known in the “West,” but is mostly misunderstood. In the Gathas Spenta Mainyu, the “Holy Creative Spirit,” is opposed to Angra Mainyu, the Hostile Spirit. This conflict takes place in the human heart and mind, not in the material Universe. It is the constant struggle between good and evil in human beings. This is ethical dualism, the dualism of Good and Evil. In later traditions this changed into a dualism that took in the material world, dividing the Universe into two camps, each ruled by the Good God or the Evil Spirit. This is called “cosmic” dualism.”

    http://accessnewage.com/articles/mystic/zoroview.htm

  219. >GOOD NEWS: The ugly bearded goat-fucker, Ahmadinejad, is going out of office within 4 months. Iran’s Presidential election is going to be held within approximately 2 months and early speculations all suggest that our beloved former PM Mr. Mirhossein Mousavi has the best chance. He is a pacifist, moderate Muslim and supporter of political/cultural reforms; [unlike Ahmadinejad] believes in privatization and relations with the U.S.

    Yes, chances are high that Mir Hossein will win over the goatfucker:

    1- http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iran-foreign31-2009may31,0,972854.story

    2- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/03/AR2009060301359.html?hpid=moreheadlines

    3- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/29/AR2009052901128.html

    But you should not underestimate the influential reformist candidate (albeit labelled underdog) Mr. Mehdi Karroubi. Tonight there will be an important debate held between karroubi and Ahmadinejad which I label as “The End Of Ahmadinejad”.

  220. Anyone who thinks the British ‘civilized’ India is being a twit. I’m no freaking nationalist (tho I am Indian by my passport)
    but Indians were not akin to African tribes roaming the jungles. A minor pedantic point. Great blog btw!

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