“If You Are Not Building a Nation, Then What the Fuck Are You Doing?”

Yves here. Earlier this week, we features a post from TomDispatch, The Geopolitics of American Global Decline: Washington Versus China in the Twenty-First Century, which elicited a lot of thoughtful reader comments.

I’m hoisting a particularly insightful, broad ranging response from Tony Wikrent, who has sometimes posted on Corrente. Wikrent took aim at the post’s reliance on the geographical theory of dominance of Sir Halford Mackinder:

By turning the globe away from America to place central Asia at the planet’s epicenter, and then tilting the Earth’s axis northward just a bit beyond Mercator’s equatorial projection, Mackinder redrew and thus reconceptualized the world map.

His new map showed Africa, Asia, and Europe not as three separate continents, but as a unitary land mass, a veritable “world island.” Its broad, deep “heartland” — 4,000 miles from the Persian Gulf to the Siberian Sea — was so enormous that it could only be controlled from its “rimlands” in Eastern Europe or what he called its maritime “marginal” in the surrounding seas….the “heartland” of this vast landmass, a “pivot area” stretching from the Persian Gulf to China’s Yangtze River, remained nothing less than the Archimedean fulcrum for future world power. “Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island,” went Mackinder’s later summary of the situation. “Who rules the World-Island commands the world.”

The post then seeks to frame British imperialism, 20th century geopolitics, and China’s Silk road as confirmation of the proof of Mackinder’s thesis of the importance of control of key geographies in large-scale political dominance.

Wikrent didn’t just shred this thesis but gave one of the most compelling short overviews of America’s period of dominance in the 20th century and the seeds of its decline. I have to underscore two points that I mention from time to time. One is the revisionist history regarding how America lost its industrial dominance. Having read the business press at the end of the 1970s, the fulcrum point, it had nothing to do with now widely demonized (and then much more powerful) labor. As Wikrent points out, Germans and Japanese had an advantage by virtue of having better infrastructure, most important, newer factories. He also alludes to the fact that the comparative poverty of Japan (it had been reduced to third world status) forced them to be frugal with materials, and over time, that disadvantage was a spur to all sorts of innovation, such as just in time manufacturing. But just as obvious in the 1970s was how sclerotic American management had become, particularly in the auto industry. And rather than respond to the competitive challenge, more and more companies began to run on brand fumes and rely on cost-cutting and financial engineering as leveraged buyout artists showed that that could enrich managements more quickly and easily that doing the hard work of competing the marketplace.

Wikrent also mentions in passing the role that government has played in sponsoring new technologies. It’s even bigger than he suggests, as we discussed in this post: Government, Not the Private Sector, Leads Innovation.

By Tony Wikrent

Mackinder’s theory is bullshit. His theory completely ignores the crucial roles of human knowledge in the forms of technology, and of systems of belief.

But Yves is on the right track when she observes we have “a deceleration of technology advances (the fact that money is being poured into ventures like Uber and Lyft, whose source of return is using network effects to extract rents from laborers…” The aggregate power of any society is ultimately determined by its collective capacity to extract and process raw materials and transport and distribute the products thereof. In other words, the productive powers of labor. This is something surprisingly few world leaders have grasped. Fortunately for USA, its economy was designed by Alexander Hamilton, who thoroughly understood the need to promote and expand the productive powers of labor (through the use of machinery, i.e. technology). Note that the second section of Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures is devoted to a discussion of “An extension of the use of Machinery.”

Were Mackinder correct, the Soviet Union would have conquered the west and the Soviet bloc would never have collapsed. The USSR had control of about half of Germany (though it was, admittedly, not the half that contained the mighty industrial potentials of the Ruhr Valley; NATO commanders always expected and planned for the main thrust of a Soviet military advance to be through the Fulda Gap and into the Ruhr). And after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the West was in grave danger of losing the pivot south to the Indian Ocean. I suspect that Brzezinski’s Operation Cyclone was in response to “losing” Iran. Finally, Africa has never been completely locked down by the West. The Soviets and the Chinese gave the West serious competition. Nasser in Egypt drove the Dulles brothers, and the Bundy brothers, into fits of apoplexy.

Again, Yves is pointing to the actual dynamics that run the world. The conventional wisdom is the USA emerged as a superpower after World War 2 because the industrial bases in Europe and Japan had been destroyed. This is an extremely superficial reading of history. The most important post-war result of the war-time destruction was the building of a new industrial base in Europe and Japan, more modernized and more productive than the USA, where investment in new plant and equipment was already beginning to be dragged down in the 1960s by the emerging boom in mergers and acquisitions fueled in no small part by dirty money from organized crime. Anyone familiar with Taiichi Ohno and the Toyota Production System, knows that the amazing productivity gains of the Japanese economy were based precisely on the need to get as much productivity and squeeze out as much waste as possible from the surviving capital plant after the USA bombing campaigns and the Surrender.

USA power and superiority after World War Two is mostly based on the electronic and computer technologies which, it should be noted, came out of the war research laboratories. The idea for Silicon Valley itself – originally Stanford Industrial Park – came from Stanford University’s engineering dean Frederick Terman’s war experiences just a few years earlier directing a staff of over 800 scientists and engineers at Harvard University’s Radio Research Laboratory, creating the technology and designing and building electronic jammers to block enemy radar, tunable receivers to detect radar signals, and other countermeasures to anti-aircraft fire.

The new electronic and computer technologies spawned entire new industries, and, most importantly, a new pool of wealth, countervailing the old pool of wealth of Wall Street and its inclination toward speculation, usury, and extracting rent. Electronics and computers, and all their economic were thus the key to USA’s post-war leadership. Note the size of the spill-over effects: for example, the rapid populating and build-up of California, which doubled in population from 10.6 million in 1950, to 20.0 million in 1970, while the USA population increased by only a third in the same period, from 151.3 million to 203.2 million. For other examples, think of the way electronic and computer technologies have impacted transformed many other industries: numerically controlled machine tools; process instrumentation; communications; medical devices, aircraft and aerospace.

And let us be clear here: the development of electronic and computer technologies was NOT driven entirely by market forces. There was no small amount of direction and support provided by the national government.

The U.S. has been coasting on the tidal wave of wealth from the computer and electronics revolution. That the economy is shifting, for the worse, is indicated by the fact that in 2011, Apple and Google spent more on legal fees</a (largely for patent fights) than on research and development. This bad trend portends even worse, because we are near the end of Moore’s Law. Intel is now producing chips built on its new 14-nanometer manufacturing process, supplanting its older 22-nanometer technology. Intel CFO Stacy Smith says the company has “an early look” at seven nanometers, but is not willing to discuss the next milestone, five nanometers, about twice the size of a strand of DNA. After that, humanity will have reached the physical limit of micro-circuitry. Robert Colwell, director of the microsystems group at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and a former Intel manager of Pentium-class processor design, says there are 30 possible alternatives to the CMOS technology that has been ruled by Moore’s Law. “My personal take is there are two or three promising ones and they are not very promising”.

So the wealth-producing dynamo that was computer and electronics is spinning down. Is there anything that can replace it? China has already set out to integrate Mackinder’s central land mass with its New Silk Road projects. But in USA and the West, elites fiddle while the planet literally burns. The obvious answer is the $100 trillion in new investment needed to stop climate change by building an new world economy that does not require fossil fuels.

Ironically, Hamilton’s understanding of the need to drive forward the productive powers of labor were forgotten by all USA leaders after the war (except for small groups mostly centered in the military services and in the labor unions) while it was put into practice by the leaders of Japan, Korea, and the Asian Tigers. On this point, see James Fallow’s important December 1993 article, “How the World Works.” It’s much more than just a diatribe against free trade.: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1993/12/how-the-world-works/305854/

The sheer imbecility of American leaders is brought into glaring light by Kissinger’s praise for George Dubya Bush’s attempt at “transformation of Iraq from among the Middle East’s most repressive states to a multiparty democracy.” I can pinpoint the exact day and event that the Iraq war was lost, thanks to George Packer’s 2005 book The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq, On pages 110 to 112, Packer discusses the November 15, 2002 meeting of Condoleezza Rice and Steve Hadley of Bush’s National Security Council, with representatives from various conservative stink tanks to review plans for rebuilding Iraq after the USA invasion. The meeting ended when Chris DeMuth, then president of the American Enterprise Institute, cut off discussion. QUOTE “Wait a minute. What’s all this planning and thinking about postwar Iraq?” He turned to Rice. “This is nation building, and you said you were against that. In the campaign you said it, the president has said it. Does he know you’re doing this? Does Karl Rove know?” END QUOTE

OK, one fucking simple question here: if you are NOT building a nation, then what the fuck ARE you doing? Because of Demuth personally, and the conservative fetish against government planning generally, the USA war effort in Iraq was foredoomed from that meeting onward. We are still living with the consequences of DeMuth’s arrogant ignorance today. It is this type of arrogant ignorance which is squandering the US position of world leadership.

If you don’t have a positive vision of forward action to build a nation, then you simply do not belong in government. Period. End of discussion. And reliance on the free market is not a positive vision: Conservative Christians be warned. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

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  1. James Levy

    So Britain road to power on coal and iron, Germany got a shot at the big time with chemicals and steel, and the US has lived and may die on oil and electronics. Once technologies mature the big profits are wrung out of the system. Thus the “need”, from the point of view of our rulers, for “financial innovations” to come riding to their falling-rate-of-profit rescue.

    The question today management of what’s left, and we have a class of careless, inattentive managers in charge of the planet. They have foisted an ideology that demonizes planning in a time when we must plan for the future or it will all come crashing down. I despise the idea, but the only organization in society that still values planning and has the clout to force such planning down the politico-economic elites’ throats is the military. I expect to see them stepping into power in one nation after another starting by 2020.

    1. Synoia

      Not so much:

      “The question today management of what’s left, and we have a class of careless, inattentive managers in charge of the planet.”

      So do empires fall, and others will rise. And climate change will be the driver, not the tools, technology.

      The author confuses tools with direction, and value with commodity pricing. The hand-wringing about Moore’s law has been said at every step along the way, and until we reach circuits of particle size, or even string size, we will will continue.

      Until we have computers with better power consumption that the brain, bringing higher memory density, and better visual processing, we are nowhere near the end of the road.

      The human brain, and probably all brains, is unbelievably fast in its visual processing, which is its prime evolutionary focus, it is fueled by a few peanuts, and you shit out 75% – 90% of the peanut used.

        1. Nathanael

          Heh. The good news is that the young punks running companies like Google don’t actually want to spend all their money on patent fights. They may just be able to change the government enough to get rid of a bunch of this crap, like software patents.

    2. reslez

      > the only organization in society that still values planning and has the clout to force such planning down the politico-economic elites’ throats is the military

      If you think military leadership in the U.S. has such ability you may find yourself disappointed. The general ranks are stuffed with careerist yes men, auditioning for gilded post-retirement nests among the military contractors. For effective leadership you need to look as Ian Welsh suggests to the individuals running Hamas and ISIS. That’s not to say the military won’t attempt to seize power in the West, merely that they’re part of the same strata of uselessness as our current pack of transparent, greedy clowns.

    3. Rosario

      Almost, you left out the ever present banking substrate. Capital will always find a way to produce more Capital until we are all sent back to stone banging days.

  2. DanB

    “The aggregate power of any society is ultimately determined by its collective capacity to extract and process raw materials and transport and distribute the products thereof. In other words, the productive powers of labor.” Something’s missing: the role of energy, specifically peak oil’s largely unrecognized impact on finance, demand destruction, and geopolitics.. A few years back NC discussed Tom Mitchell’s book, “Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil”. Mitchell’s book is central to this post.

    1. Jim Haygood

      The italicized quote reflects the conventional wisdom of the 19th century. Yeah, somebody’s got to hew wood and fetch water. But these aren’t necessarily high value added activities. Today the Materials sector is only 3% of the S&P 500, down from more like a third a hundred years ago.

      As services, know-how and technology (including technology embedded in silicon chips) gain market share in an advanced economy, GDP per pound of physical output grows faster than GDP.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Thank you. When Ben Yellen can wander over to his/her computer, dream up a number, hit Enter, and it puts the entire global economic machine into hyper-drive then quaint notions about “extracting and processing raw materials” become meaningless. Look at so-called “stocks”: utterly ridiculous figments that used to be connected to the cash flows of an underlying business. That business was probably involved in some way in actual underlying economic activity (making a product or service and getting paid for it), but today The Wizard of Yellen simply moves a few pixels and the entire economic outcome for 7 billion people is decided.
        CBs and their hideous monstrosities are the only remaining game in town, as a planet we’ve decided to sit by and watch as a handful of super-leveraged hedge funds, oops I mean CBs decide the fate of nations.

  3. equote

    Q: “If You Are Not Building a Nation, Then What the Fuck Are You Doing?”
    A: Spending public money on ‘our’ industries (supporters). (today known as ‘job-creators’) — the answer was given to me in a different context by a political operative working in Texas regarding the ‘purpose of government’. The correlation with policy is impressive.

  4. Otter

    The first sentence, “Mackinder’s theory is bullshit.”, is clever clickbait.

    Wikrent then splatters a number of different theories down our virtual page, without showing how any of them discredits, or even relates to, the theory of geopolitics.

    Wikrent’s second sentence is, “His theory completely ignores the crucial roles of human knowledge in the forms of technology, and of systems of belief.”. Yet, the title of his essay is, “If You Are Not Building a Nation, Then What the Fuck Are You Doing?”. Poignantly suggesting (as we learn daily on this site), that no one factor explains everything.

    Indeed, his second paragraph, second sentence, “The aggregate power of any society is ultimately determined by its collective capacity to extract and process raw materials and transport and distribute the products thereof.” relies on the geopolitical concepts “raw materials” and “transport”.

    Even if it be possible to have an economy lacking some defensible geographic location containing at least minimal resources and places to stand, one would need to explain how the Anglo and American empires succeeded for so long, based at least in part on systems of belief containing unarticulated principles of geopolitics. Navies, initially controlling trade and wealth, finally becoming ruinously expensive… in part.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      A quibble. Since this post was hoisted from comments, the notion of a first sentence being “clickbait” is not operative. You have to scroll down to find the comment, and as you must surely know as a commentor, none of our comments are collapsed. They all display in full.

    2. John Hemington

      I have to agree with Otter here. While the rebuttal commentary is interesting, there is really nothing in it that really contradicts the original post. What China is doing is essentially what Mackinder hypothesized needed to be done to establish a world empire. They are doing it with all of the techniques of technology, transport and resources they can muster; and they are doing it intelligently without bothering to squander their nation’s wealth and energy on attempting to exert military control over the rest of the world as is the U.S.

      Both the original post and the commentary response agree that current (and past for that matter) U.S. policy is at best stupid and self-defeating. The quibble in the commentary post seems to me to be missing the point by arguing issues that are included by inference in the original post — the use of technology and labor in fostering growth and developing empire.

      It is also true that the U.S. did prosper following World War II due largely to the fact that the German, French, Japanese and Russian industrial capacities were destroyed and Britain was left battered and impoverished. It was only in the late 1960s and early 1970s that the new infrastructure in Germany and Japan began to overtake U.S. capacities; and this was largely due to the fact that industries in the U.S. failed to invest in new plants, equipment and technologies (rent extraction) until it was too late. This was aggravated by rampant speculation on the part of capital and obstructionism (deliberate sabotage of products produced in labor fights) by major unions.

      There are, in fact, many many issues which form a part of the whole in this story, but the original premise of the initial post cannot be, and, IMHO, has not been substantially contradicted.

  5. sufferin'succotash

    MacKinder’s thesis gained traction in 1904 because it heightened British awareness of the need to find allies, or at least to avoid alienating possible allies. The context included the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902, the Anglo-French Entente in 1904 and the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907, not to mention an accommodating approach to the US regarding the Alaskan border and Panama. So, if MacKinder’s thesis has any possible relevance to today, it raises the following question: why the hell are we alienating both Russia and China?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The goal as such as it is is to isolate Moscow from Beijing and Berlin/Paris. China’s preeminence depends on a Russian counterbalance. An unthinkable relationship becomes plausible for Southeast Asia with guarantees Beijing will be restrained by Moscow. Countries such as Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, and even South American countries with no real connection to China all of a sudden have the connections Moscow brings. A Berlin/Paris/Moscow axis essentially eliminates the need for NATO, captive arms markets for the U.S., and undermines NY/London financial power.

      The goal has been to depose Putin and replace him with a Yeltsin type or at least force the Chinese and Europe to repudiate Russia. This is about maintaining American preeminence announced in the Bush Doctrine and reiterated by Obama.

      It really boils down to if the S-500 is that good, why do I need an F-35? Even the Olympics propaganda was part of the issue. The MIC doesn’t want people to go to Russia. Those people may demand a reassessment of their country’s relationship with the U.S. because despite the promises of free trade frauds all of our wonderful attributes such as technology, resources, and so forth can be replaced by a Moscow/Beijing or Paris-Berlin axis.

      1. Sufferin' Succotash

        So if the US “policy” (a bit of a stretch there) is to use Russia as a counterweight to China, why is the US in the process of thoroughly alienating Russia over Ukraine? If there’s a parallel to the early 20th century here, it’s not to Britain, but to Imperial Germany’s jawboning France over Morocco in an attempt to break up the Anglo-French Entente. The attempt totally backfired; instead of throwing the “unreliable” French under the bus the British began turning the Entente–basically an agreement to stop disagreeing over colonial issues–into a de facto military alliance. Sound familiar?
        Getting back to “policy”, it seems the only real US policy now is simply to make everyone afraid of the US and if they’re already afraid to make sure they stay afraid of the US. If there were substantial goals to be achieved which couldn’t be achieved in any other way, this policy of Global Intimidation might make sense. As it is, it’s totally senseless.

        1. Nathanael

          US foreign policy today has many parallels to the *grossly incompetent* foreign policy of Wilhelm’s Germany before World War I.

          Heck, look at the Central Powers:
          — Austria-Hungary, a state full of sub-ethnic groups angry at each other, ready to rip itself apart, supposedly with a great military (but not really)
          — The Ottoman Empire, crusing on autopilot with its inherited wealth, an anachronism from another era ready to be thrown on the scrapheap

          Now look at the two countries the US has tied itself most tightly to:
          — Israel, a state full of sub-ethnic groups angry at each other, ready to rip itself apart, supposedly with a great military (but not really)
          — Saudi Arabia, crusing on autopilot with its inherited wealth, an anachronism from another era ready to be thrown on the scrapheap

          “Getting back to “policy”, it seems the only real US policy now is simply to make everyone afraid of the US and if they’re already afraid to make sure they stay afraid of the US.”

          The result, of course, will be a World Alliance against the US. It’s already forming, kind of slowly. I’m not sure how long it will take.

    2. Nathanael

      “So, if MacKinder’s thesis has any possible relevance to today, it raises the following question: why the hell are we alienating both Russia and China?”

      Because the people in power in the US are… I suppose the main word is “arrogant”. The British were *never* that arrogant, not even at the height of their world empire.

  6. steve

    Mackinder’s theory is bullshit. His theory completely ignores the crucial roles of human knowledge in the forms of technology, and of systems of belief.

    I don’t think that what Wikrent writes after thist actually supports this statement. Citing some limitations of the theory doesn’t completely negate the power of geographical determinism. Take this statement of Wikrent’s:

    The aggregate power of any society is ultimately determined by its collective capacity to extract and process raw materials and transport and distribute the products thereof. In other words, the productive powers of labor. This is something surprisingly few world leaders have grasped. Fortunately for USA, its economy was designed by Alexander Hamilton, who thoroughly understood the need to promote and expand the productive powers of labor (through the use of machinery, i.e. technology).

    The power to “extract and process raw materials and transport and distribute the products thereof” is determined, at least in part, by geopolitical concerns, that is the ability to control large expanses of territory through the threat of violence, which is precisely what Mackinder’s theory is meant to address.

    Wikrent, seeking to distinguish his position from Mackinder’s is lured into rhetorical overstatement. He emphasizes the role of technology and labor in America’s history, ignoring the presence the frontier,
    of a large, resource rich, and nearly empty continent to sprawl out over and exploit.

    Now, that said, I do think that Mackinder’s theory has its faults. For example, it treats states only as entities for projecting power over expanses of territory. It ignores their internal structure. Whether a country is an oligarchy, a democracy or a military dictatorship is simply not addressed by Mackinder. This is a major flaw since most great empires end up declining due to internal conflict rather than being defeated by some external power. Internal contradictions sap their strength, competition between elite groups, class conflict, ethnic hatreds.

    Wikrent points out that the Soviets, being the greater land power, should have won the Cold War if Mackinder’s theory had been right. This is a sound criticism. But why did the Soviets fall? Because of internal problems. What about American decline? For much the same reasons. The schism between blue and red America might be thought of as an increasingly dysfunctional and destructive conflict between the technologically and economically advanced coast regions, which are oriented towards the global economy, and the stagnant and provincial interior.

    For example, when Wikrent talks about capital being diverted from productive uses into speculation.

    The new electronic and computer technologies spawned entire new industries, and, most importantly, a new pool of wealth, countervailing the old pool of wealth of Wall Street and its inclination toward speculation, usury, and extracting rent.

    Paraphrasing this statement, we might say that American economic dynamism has declined as its elite management culture has turned away from acitivites that tended to create new social wealth and more towards elaborate forms of rent seeking, a fancy term used by economists for “taking advantage of people”.

    Perhaps what this means is that the real weakness in Mackinder’s theory is that it ignores the importance of moral order in a state’s success. A successful state ties the interests of the individual to that of society. It rewards individuals who do orient themselves towards the greater good and punish those who act selfishly. When that social cohesion breaks down, a country’s run of success ends.

    1. vidimi

      indeed, it’s hard to justify calling mackinder’s theory bullshit when eurasiafrica represents around 5/7ths of the world’s landmass and more than 6/7ths of the world’s population. if anything, claiming that controlling this area is tantamount to controlling the world is somewhat of a truism.

      1. reslez

        Historically, landmass was irrelevant because it was slow. Until the fossil fuel age, transport over land was excruciatingly slow and expensive compared to seas and waterways. The steppes birthed nomadic armies capable of conquering cities, but reaching out beyond those limits was always problematic. I’m not sure Mackinder’s analysis was even relevant to his own age much less ours.

    2. juliania

      Well, the “systems of belief” part is certainly worth thinking about. If you believe your role in life is to consume (on behalf of the powerful), shop till you drop, that sort of thing, a passivity ensues that is detrimental to nation building. (I realize I am just taking a concept from the larger comment and running with it, but that’s what we do.) Case in point, Japan’s resiliency making do with what war left them.

      The question in the heading applies also with respect to Varoufakis’ keynote address – he puts Greece in the same position as Iraq after the US invasion vis-a-vis economic warfare. Interpolating from the standpoint of Japan and Germany post WWII, there is a system of belief – call it a ‘safe’ national pride – which aids and abets a minimal encouragement from outside (or even, in the case of Russia, the awareness that there is no outside help). It’s a lovely paradox, Mephistopholes doing good while attempting to do evil.

      I’d better quit while I’m ahead.

    3. alex morfesis

      there have never been any “great” empires

      and MkC theory is total nonsense.

      there have been great scriveners and monument builders to exploits that never happened.

      alexander the great would never have been known, if his ?? half brother ?? the black thief
      (mauro cleutus) did not run in at the last second at Granikus, but most people tend to forget
      that part of the story…

      and if you think odysseus was that great a fighter…well…let’s just say the roman senators from
      Illium needed to explain how they lost Troy, and the “great” odysseus and achilles were
      unstoppable…or maybe the clowns of troy had no clue how to run a battle.

      the kindergarten version of history most are lulled into accepting is rather amusing.

      Most maps handed out from the center don’t match the reality on the ground.

      When Napoleon “sold” us his “claim” to parts of the midwest, that was only in respect
      to the rentier rights vs his european counterparts. At most there were trading posts
      in a few spots. Same goes for the Spanish conquest of Florida or California…

      a few trading posts or forts does not an empire make…

      a sophomoric reading of european history would suggest kingdoms and principalities
      without problems. A more realistic review would not ignore the Electors who had
      sway over the partitions and Morganatic marriages, one of which may have led to
      World War one, as the archduke was not much liked by his fellow nobles (which
      might explain the odd “assasination” with fellow nobles just watching as the royal
      couple died in front of them in the carriage…and also how magically,the other nobles
      were not injured in either of the two assassination attempts that day)

      The USA, in its purported domination of the world these last, how many years…???

      The USA is the dominant power, but it is not and has never been a vast empire

      What we have the most of is lead (surrounded by brass casings) and in enforcement
      of a currency, it is not gold that is most valuable…it is the capacity to insist there is
      value in the currency and its trading value…

      T/W nails it….its about the morning after the fight, as I love to chortle

      in the morning somebody has to drive the bus…there has to be a future…

      there has to be a plan…

      america got spoiled with Marriner Eccles and the time between FDR and JFK

      we went from a semi nomadic existence to an electrified and motorized nation

      It is what america is good at…the future to me is not just our focus on getting a
      different twist on how we live our lives, but how we help other nations build
      out infrastructure and create industrial jobs once again…

      How we live can easily be adjusted…we waste huge amounts of energy by having
      only 120 coming into the home or office. my computer and other items do not need
      so much, and this black box on the cord of my laptop wastes energy…

      we could easily begin to move to various other outlet power so that we would not waste
      so much energy…also, in the home, we could move to have two water lines coming into
      the home, one for fresh water, which is precious, and one for “other needs” like flushing
      and outdoor cleaning or landscape. or better planning with shade trees and lawns which
      are natural and don’t need constant pruning…

      but back to empire…no one goes looking for other worlds to conquer if things are fine at home…

      anyone using the term “empire” is really a shell of a person…and washington was right in not
      having ourselves waste time in other nations entanglements…

      peace, hope and sobriety…in that order…

      the real world order…

      1. Unkle Smokey

        anyone using the term “empire” is really a shell of a person…

        The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an Epocha when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period, the researches of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent, the Treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labours of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government; the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension of Commerce, the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality of sentiment, and above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation, have had a meliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of Society. At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own. -George Washington

        1. hunkerdown

          +1789. The USA was, under a thin veneer, simply the Roman Empire v3.0, with triple-redundant stabilizers and durable founding psychoses.

        2. alex morfesis

          Uumm…it would be nice if you didn’t edit what the speech was about or take it out of context


          he was not describing an american empire…
          duh…he was talking about the issue of
          divide and conquer by europe if there was a weak nation…

          read the entire speech….not the edited versions you can find all over the web…

          the core of his speech…

          For, according to the system of Policy the States shall adopt at this moment, they will stand or fall, and by their confirmation or lapse, it is yet to be decided, whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse: a blessing or a curse, not to the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn Millions be involved.

          With this conviction of the importance of the present Crisis, silence in me would be a crime; I will therefore speak to your Excellency, the language of freedom and of sincerity, without disguise; I am aware, however, that those who differ from me in political sentiment, may perhaps remark, I am stepping out of the proper line of my duty, and they may possibly ascribe to arrogance or ostentation, what I know is alone the result of the purest intention, but the rectitude of my own heart, which disdains such unworthy motives, the part I have hitherto acted in life, the determination I have formed, of not taking any share in public business hereafter, the ardent desire I feel, and shall continue to manifest, of quietly enjoying in private life, after all the toils of War, the benefits of a wise and liberal Government, will, I flatter myself, sooner or later convince my Countrymen, that I could have no sinister views in delivering with so little reserve, the opinions contained in this Address.

          There are four things, which I humbly conceive, are essential to the well being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an Independent Power:

          1st. An indissoluble Union of the States under one Federal Head.

          2dly. A Sacred regard to Public Justice.

          3dly. The adoption of a proper Peace Establishment, and

          4thly. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly Disposition, among the People of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community.

          These are the Pillars on which the glorious Fabrick of our Independency and National Character must be supported; Liberty is the Basis, and whoever would dare to sap the foundation, or overturn the Structure, under whatever specious pretexts he may attempt it, will merit the bitterest execration, and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured Country.

          1. Unkle Smokey

            The quote matches your source exactly, so why the accusation of editing?

            And the point is, from GW on, many Americans have referred to the USA as an empire. Whether it is GW’s “infant empire” or “rising empire” or Alexander Hamilton’s “embryo of a great empire” or Ben Franklin or down to the present with Niall Ferguson’s “benign empire” or Chalmers Johnson’s “empire of bases”. I would argue that none of these men are, as you say, “a shell of a person”.

            Post-WWII there was a nice word for it, when many wanted to be our friend and benefited from our policies: hegemony. That sparkling period is definitely over and the tactics of empire are quite clear to see for anyone paying attention. In fact, it’s so obvious it’s not even controversial.But you call it a Republic or whatever makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

          2. Unkle Smokey

            The quote exactly matches text in your link, so why the accusation of editing?

            The point is, the term empire has been used by Washington, Hamilton, Ben Franklin and others in reference to the USA. Ferguson’s “benign empire” and Chalmers Johnson’s “empire of bases” also come to mind. None of these men are mere shells of a person as you say.

      2. Gio Bruno

        …I can agree that energy conservation in electricity distribution can be improved, but I’m not certain you understand why electricity is distributed in it’s present voltages. Simply, electrical resistance in metal wire.

        Long transmission lines from central power plants are at 120 kilovolts (kV) because of substantial line losses over long distance. Local sub-stations (transformers) drop this voltage to 240 volts to your home. Some ovens/clothes dryers use this voltage, while house panels split the 240v to 120v and distribute it to your wall outlet (your computer). All the while keeping wire size and distance in proportion. (Max line loss of 5%, or so.)

        These line losses are another reason rooftop solar PV is more efficient, cleaner and the future for electrical energy.

        1. Ivy

          Long-distance transmission may be a lot higher than 120kV, as there are numerous examples at 500kV, 765kV and even a DC line at 1000 kV (two examples of the first, and the last are viewable from the I-5 freeway driving by the Sylmar substation in northern Los Angeles). Those higher voltages require more expensive transformers, and are most economical over longer distances.
          See the following for reference: Pacific DC Intertie

        2. alex morfesis

          i meant for inside the home once it comes off 240…although we could use a better infrastructure to deal with energy input variables from solar and wind

  7. Ignim Brites

    “Because of Demuth personally, and the conservative fetish against government planning generally, the USA war effort in Iraq was foredoomed…”. Hard to credit this as an especially insightful diagnosis of the problems with the Iraq war.

  8. Carolinian

    if you are NOT building a nation, then what the fuck ARE you doing?

    Isn’t it obvious? Private enrichment, extend and pretend, “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.” The author is simply restating the main conflict of the 20th century–i.e. socialism vs capitalism. Capitalism won and “ended history” just when socialism was most needed, but it doesn’t help to simply restate what we already know. That’s why some of us believe only a true crisis will spur a change of thinking among our elites. When that happens they will suddenly see the virtue of collective action when their own interests are threatened.

    It took the twin crises of the Great Depression and WW2 to create the big government that Bill Clinton declared over. It will probably take another to return to an era where government fosters innovation and takes a needed larger role in the economy. As it happens our current ruling class are busily creating crises all over the world and here in the US. So it may not take long.

    1. hunkerdown

      “We must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately.” -Ben Franklin, publishing mogul. I believe elites understand the virtue of collective action just fine, thank you, else they wouldn’t have created divide-et-impera for the rest of us.

      1. Nathanael

        Some elites understand it. We, however, are ruled by idiots. It’s quite clear the Koch Brothers do *not* understand collective action at all.

  9. John Merryman

    It’s not that Mackinder is wrong and Wikrent is right, but that they are using different maps and looking at them from different perspectives.
    Yes, Mackinder has an old world, topographic view, but when those fancy new age processes break down, the bedrock of the old has a nasty tendency to jut through.
    Wikrent’s point of view is more dynamic and the term “labor” has become a bit loaded to use objectively. Possibly we should also use the term “middle class” to signify what labor has modeled itself as, once it achieved some of its goals.
    While I largely agree with Wikrents general description, keep in mind that what he describes is, “waves.” Those dynamic processes which build up and drive society forward, before receding and being surpassed by succeeding waves.
    Remember much of that economic activity in Asia occurred because financial managers in this country found it to their advantage to ship production overseas and buy back the production, which distributed US dollars far and wide, as the industrial management of this country lost the lead in productivity.
    And not to get too rightwing, but labor didn’t appreciate their global competion was leaner and meaner and there was as much inclination to asset mine those US companies from the bottom, as well a the top.
    So that wave subsided and the advantages of the technological wave are getting rapidly dispersed around the world.
    The question then is to what comes next.
    To use the wave analogy, while everyone is looking for the next wave, what we should keep in mind is there are troughs between them and we are entering a big one. These can be very useful for driving activity and while the military and policing functions of the world are often best positioned to exploit that, there are going to be opportunities to change the nature of our economic and social conventions as well.
    For one thing, when the global economy comes apart, it will open space for more locally focused economies and so a return to the geography as a primal factor in defining social connections. The big tree falling leaves more light for the little ones.
    Reality is fundamentally bottom up and so it needs a solid foundation to support emergent structures.
    What those current elites lose sight of, is their foundations, as they drain value out of them.
    Society is always going to have structural delineations and dynamic processes playing through them, so there is no happy stable utopia, just a better understanding and appreciation for these dynamics playing out in the space of the field. Aka, time and space.
    There will always be leaders and followers. It breaks down when the leaders no longer listen to the followers and so the followers don’t listen to the leaders. The brain better listen to the feet.
    Currently our economic circulation system has been designed to extract rent for providing the service of connectivity and this works as long as it creates significantly more value to the community, then it extracts, but with everyone wanting more than they provide, because they know everyone else is doing the same, the social connections break down and we become these atomized units fighting over the flow of increasingly inflated units of value.
    Not to get too carried away, because this is an ongoing conversation, but remember there are good and bad sides to everything. Economic collapse slows greenhouse gases. Greenpeace should thank the bankers.

  10. Ishmael

    Even though I agree with the author’s comment on Kissinger regarding the idiot GWB and posted such a few days ago, I do disagree with the following statement, ” I can pinpoint the exact day and event that the Iraq war was lost,”

    The author is showing he is relatively clueless right there. The war was lost the day GWB and his supporting idiots decided to go into Iraq – period. I said that then and I will say it now. An Israeli I was working for shortly after the war started one day threw his hands up in frustration (we usually did not discuss politics) and blurted out “Your government is a bunch of idiots did they not see it only took us a few weeks to take over Lebanon and 10 years to get out.”

    1. Sanctuary

      Thank You! I had the exact same response to that last paragraph. The Iraq adventure was a lost cause the moment they decided to engage in it. It was a war of choice and a choice made by a bunch of yokels who were too ignorant, incurious, and arrogant to actually think through the logical repercussions of going into Iraq and deposing its government. Nothing that has followed that reckless choice was inconceivable to any realistic, logical person. When you were already cooking up schemes and scams to connive your way into Iraq pre-9/11, you already lost.

      1. RUKIdding

        Both of you make good points vis the Iraq War. However, I would argue that the Iraq War was wildly successful as far as how it enriched certain members of the .001%, which includes the Bush Crime Syndicate & their Sith Lord, that Dick Cheney. Cheney, in particular, made out like the bandit he is on that War – geez literally pallets of Yankee Dollar$$ poured directly into a variety of offshore and super secret Swiss bank accounts. Can we all repeat together: CHA CHING!!!!!!! x 1 zillion??

        I’m no military mind, but it didn’t take a genius to see that the Iraq War was a quagmire, whether legitimately waged (which is wasn’t) or not. And even at the time, the M$M was positing that there wasn’t any Exit Strategy. But who cares when there’s loadsa money to be hovered up and shoved into secret banks?

        THAT’s what Iraq was all about. Yeah, the Bush clan may be yokels, but they ain’t dumb. They surrounded themselves by clever thieves and they all did very very very well, thankyeweverymuch.

        Who cares if the US taxpayer is now broke, hungry and going homeless? As that Dick Cheney would no doubt say: “SO???”

        It all depends on your perspective whether Iraq is viewed as successful or not, and then again, it certainly has been a *rousing success* in creating ISIS, our new ever-so-horrid, gonna cost a bundle “enemy.” woot. CHA CHING!!!

        1. Jack

          I don’t disagree that the primary motivation was greed, but I think that the key decision makers also genuinely thought it would be more or less a cakewalk. The goal was always to extract money, but by surrounding themselves with Iraqi exiles who were always telling them that they would be ‘welcomed with open arms’ and ‘think’ tanks that told them much the same thing they lived in an echo chamber where they ended up truly believing their get rich plan would succeed at its propaganda goals. I don’t see how it actually benefited anyone for Iraq to end up as it has; they never expected things to go this wrong. Not that they much care, they’re all rich and happy, but Rumsfeld probably never envisaged his plan going so badly he would one day have to attempt to distance himself from it.

          I read a book once about the famous looting of the Iraq Museum. No one on the US side expected something like that to happen and no preemptive steps were taken to prevent it. Pretty sure it wasn’t in that same book, but I’ve seen it recounted somewhere or other that when told about the looting Rumsfeld seemed surprised Iraq even had a single antique pot, let alone a whole museum. Which tells me our leadership was profoundly ignorant of the place they were invading, and reminds me of Vietnam and how no one in charge, up to and including McNamara, even had a clear understanding of what motivated the NVA and Vietcong.

          1. Nathanael

            Yeah. The thing which gets me about Vietnam is that it was trivially obvious what was motivating Ho Chi Minh and his government — nationalism and the desire for independence from foreign overlords. For some reason this *bloody obvious* motivation was never understood by anyone in the American administration, or they would just have aided Ho Chi Minh.

            It wasn’t as if it was a secret; he’d been fighting the same fight against the French, the Japanese, and the French again before fighting the Americans. Afterwards he fought the Chinese too, for the same reason.

            The French knew damn well what he was fighting for, too. They were colonialists and they knew it, and they knew that Ho Chi Minh was anti-colonialist first and foremost.

            Somehow the US did not figure out that he had no particular allegiance to Russia, and actual hostility to China. Because the US had a bunch of idiots in charge.

  11. Jerry Denim

    The demise of the USSR is a nice retort to McKinder’s theory. Controlling the central Eurasian landmass isn’t necessarily a bad strategy for world domination but it’s not the only way to win at empire. Very similar to how many of the more classical approaches to chess strategy extoll the absolute necessity of dominating the center, but there are players and more modern strategies capable of flaunting this classic axiom and still winning. Regarding Wikrent’s other excellent point I whole-heartedly agree.

    “If you don’t have a positive vision of forward action to build a nation, then you simply do not belong in government.”

    That big idea was the my main take-away from Naomi Klein’s excellent book “The Shock Doctrine”. Sending the US military into Iraq with the intention of creating a US client state with the government-hating Bush/Cheney crew at helm was akin to dispatching a group of vegan bakers to bring home the gold medal at a world BBQ contest. No one is going to succeed at task they are ideologically opposed to from the very start. They purposely lack the skill set, the requisite open-mind for adapting plans and hearing other viewpoints, and most importantly they lack the will to succeed at the task they have been charged with. Sending a bunch of inexperienced, chicken-hawk, government-hating, libertarian imbeciles to do the difficult work of erecting a US client state in a fraught region divided by ancient sectarian and tribal allegiances has to be one of the dumbest actions, by any empire on earth of all time.

  12. Jerry Denim

    “The war was lost the day GWB and his supporting idiots decided to go into Iraq – period.”


    They lacked the proper mindset and the will to govern. They thought they could just blow it all up, step aside and the “free-market” would just sweep in and magically fix everything to the liking of billionaire Texas oilmen.

    1. Ishmael

      Jerry in some ways we agree and in others we disagree. Why is “Nation Building” such a losing idea in the US. We attempted to do this in Vietnam and it was a total failure.

      If you were going to go into Iraqi there was only one mindset that would have worked and it is quoting a Babylonian general (but many times attributed to a US Marine general) and that is “Kill them all and let their gods (in the Marine quote it is “god”) sort them out.” I am not saying I endorse that in Iraqi but that is the only winning strategy in war from before Western Civilization. Show me a war with a clear cut winner and you will see this as their strategy in most cases. No one should go to war thinking they are going to build a nation.

      1. RUKIdding

        The goal was not to win the Iraq War, nor to bring “freedom” there or whatever other stuff one might want to say. The goal was to make a bundle on it. In that way, the Iraq War was wildly successful for the .001% who got in on the fleecing of US taxpayers in the name of “freedumb” and “safety.”

        Just depends on your perspective.

      2. Jerry Denim

        What exactly should an invading aggressor waging a war of choice think then? Let’s kill them all, let their gods sort them out and then once their gods are finished sorting they can worry about the consequences of the gigantic power vacum we are going to create in a highly unstable region with most of the world’s energy reserves?

        If you think that constitutes a sound “plan” then we agree on nothing. When an unnecessary war of choice requires nation building by the aggressor or the near-certain destabilization of the entire middle-east and the world’s oil supply, I would say you plan to nation build and do it well or you stay the hell home. That’s the sensible but ethics-free, Machiavellian, real politik answer. The better answer is thou shall not kill and thou shall not steal. Invading other countries for oil and plunder is just wrong.

        1. Ishmael

          Jerry – If you believe there has ever been a successful effort at nation building by sending in armed forces and killing a selective number of people then you are correct, we do not agree on anything.

          I do not care who was in the White House nor how much they really cared about nation building it would not have mattered one bit. You kill even a small percentage of the population and the rest of the population will hate you for several generations. The invasion of Iraq was going to be a total failure for this reason no matter what.

          That is the reason I thought the invasion of Iraq was idiotic not because you had some people who were really not into nation building was involved in it. Iraq is a country put together from a few parts of other countries after WW1. There are strong tribal ties and unless you use brutal force you would never control it.

          That is one reason for the saying, “Was Iraq the way it was because of Saddam or was Saddam the way he was because of Iraq.” I believe we know the answer to that questoin now.

      3. reslez

        > I am not saying I endorse that in Iraqi but that is the only winning strategy in war from before Western Civilization. Show me a war with a clear cut winner and you will see this as their strategy in most cases

        Wanton slaughter succeeds mostly at inspiring hatred among former allies and neutrals. Ever heard of blowback? Then there’s the moral argument, but if you’re a sociopath I don’t imagine that would be very persuasive.

      4. John Merryman

        That was originally attributed to an early Pope, trying to clear out a sect of heretics in southern France.
        “Kill them all. God will recognize his own.”
        Religions tend more toward absolutist than nations and tribes. At least they go for enslaving the losers.

      5. Nathanael

        Naw, Ishmael, there are plenty of excellent examples of successful invasions/wars with a completely different attitude: an attitude of “take over the adminstration”.

        I suggest you study the successful campaigns of the British in India to understand how to do colonialism *effectively*. Learn how the local system works, become essential “backers” to local leaders, establish *suzerainity* (an old concept and one which has been forgotten way too much)….

        If the US had done that in Iraq, we would have adopted and maintained the Ba’ath Party apparatus wholesale, removing only Saddam and a couple of others from the top. This type of “Nothing changes except the boss at the top” takeover is classic, it was done *all the time* in the Middle Ages, and it’s extremely effective.

        Of course, the British worked with natural pre-existing borders in India, rather than trying to draw their own on a map.

  13. Sluggeaux

    This is an excellent discussion. There are many more moving pieces than those that Wikrent touches, however. Let me add a few of my own over-simplifications:

    I don’t think that you can understate the importance of government intervention intended to prevent an American Bolshevik revolution during the period between 1933 and 1973 in shaping the brief “workers’ paradise” that arose in an ostensibly extractive-capitalist/neo-feudal state. FDR and his New-Dealers regulated Wall Street rent-extraction and legitimized organized labor as a political force during that period. The war effort against Germany and Japan was fueled by the promise of a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage. Revolutionary and socialist movements were pacified.

    However, the Cold War carried the seeds of the destruction of this leveling engine. Yes, the rise of Silicon Valley in California was important, but the state’s growth from 10M in 1950 to 20M in 1970 (42M draining the taps in 2015) was due to the now-defunct quasi-Pentagon-owned Southern California aerospace industry being massively funded in order to figure-out how to deliver nuclear warheads around the world and to prevent the delivery of same here, not personal computing which was merely a lucky outgrowth.

    American government Cold War policy was just as important to the growth of Japanese export manufacturing. As Robert Reich pointed out in the introduction to his book Supercapitalism (and Rose George charmingly documented in her recent book 90 Percent of Everything), the development of containerized cargo handling (CONEX) by US government-owned American President Lines and private Sea-Land Corp. in order to quickly ship war-making materiel from the Port of Oakland to Cam Ranh Bay created a stream of empty boxes floating past Yokohama that could be filled at virtually zero cost with the cheap consumer goods that changed American manufacturing from history’s greatest wealth-leveler to a looting enterprise for managers and cronies of the military-industrial complex (i.e. the Bush family).

  14. John Mc

    Grateful to Tony for this piece… deconstructing mythology and regaining some sense of context seems like a full-time job these days (one that takes extra emotional and physical resources). The premise, support, language and conclusions are all persuasive and spot on… something we need more of unfortunately.

    When we combine this with Lambert’s inclusion of Ta-Nahesi Coates’ brief bit of about the “bias of now” or what Oliver Stone (not sure if this is his citation) called “the tyranny of now”, we see how difficult it is to reboot the neoliberal narrative without taking time and energy (and then watching how less effective it can be than just repeating shit over and over again until enough people spew out their least informed orifice). Chomsky refers to this as the limits of concision in media.

    However, I wonder if we do not need more deconstruction of the dominant “stink tank” narratives as a larger professional vocation, rather than off the side of one’s desk or a personal investment in not drowning in “the man’s” propaganda.

    Nevertheless, I am grateful for Tony’s work here.

  15. susan the other

    I like Wikrent’s way of looking at the planet. And I think McKinder was right about the Eurasian land mass. Wikrent: “The answer is the 100 trillion in new investment needed to stop climate change by building a new world economy that does not require fossil fuels.” I would add nuclear energy to our huge pile of mistakes too. Which gives me a tiny realization: artists say most of their art is done fixing their mistakes. We might wanna look at civilization that way and be happier to fix the things we have screwed up rather than stubbornly denied we screwed anything up. And etc.

    1. optimader

      The answer is the 100 trillion in new investment needed to stop climate change by building a new world economy that does not require fossil fuels.”

      Isnt $100T is a bit of an abstraction until viable alternatives are on the horizon?

  16. susan the other

    About Wikrent’s plea for a vision of nation building. Easier said than done. And nations usually want to do their own nation building. As a result of our failure to stabilize Iraq we backed off, and then (my opinion) we created ISIS to do the nation building for us. After a certain ruthless period of near genocides so nobody would give them any shit. We need a conservative, authoritarian government to be our manager over there while we achieve our only objective which was to take control of the oil resources. Which leaves me wondering what we plan to do with all that oil, since it is my suspicion that we are in agreement with other world leaders that we need to just leave that stuff in the ground. And then I have to wonder about our true relationship with Russia, which is doing a good job of controlling its own resources.

  17. T

    Years back I remember someone here in the NC comments posted data about the decline in American investment manufacturing, post WWII. Does anyone remember this? And if so, could I prevail upon you to post this info again? Thanks.

  18. susan the other

    About our standoff with Russia, ostensibly because they pose a threat to our military dominance. Makes me wonder if the standoff isn’t more about Russian technologicalpotential which is capable of gearing up to do whatever it needs to do. That is to say that if Wikrent’s tech industry angle holds any water then why didn’t Russia win the tech race? They could match us invention for invention any day. Like the Federales say. And here we both are, both countries, not really sure how to go forward.

    1. susan the other

      Got it. It is because Russia, combined with Germany and France and other little pockets of genius, can create a force we can’t compete with. And also that really doesn’t even need to trade with us since they have all the silk roads. Are we on the ropes or what?

  19. Steven

    ”The question then is to what comes next.”

    Whether by accident or design recent NC postings such as this one and People and Power – The Technology Threat seem to be trying to address ‘big’ questions like this. My personal take on the whole idea of geopolitics is that, while it may have some merit in helping to understand the foreign policies of potential enemies, we need to be very careful not to allow its practice to “drain value out of…(the) foundations” of the nation’s power – its wealth. Since the end of WWII the U.S. has attempted to rule the world with a combination of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power, i.e. money and guns.

    Chomsky’s “Hegemony or Survival” suggests two principle motives for this strategy: control of resources and wealth beyond the nation’s borders and the need for a sink for the continuing increase in wealth produced by advances in science and technology, AKA ‘productivity’. Simply sharing that increase with the people who produced it was always distasteful to the owners of capital and their agents on Wall Street and in Washington. The former believed that wealth could be much better employed beyond their host nation borders increasing their personal wealth. The Washington politicians believed it could be employed to increase their power.

    For both the nightmare of another Great Depression, with its threat to the existing social order, most likely powerfully reinforced their belief there was no alternative to a money and weapons based foreign policy. WWI postponed the necessity of significant changes to a profit-driven economy in which bankers could go on forever creating ex nihilo money and loaning it to the monetarily affluent to use for even more leverage in buying up the real Main Street economy than the already vast sums of money accumulated by their Robber Baron ancestors. Furnishing the nations of Europe the means to destroy each other meant that business as usual could continue in the U.S. Since the beginning of the 20th century the U.S. and other industrialized nations have been employing a combination of war and waste to keep business as usual going.

    But that strategy was fatally undermined by Wall Street’s “financial weapons of mass destruction”. For the last century, Washington has been supporting Wall Street because the soft power of its money creation was cheaper and more effective than hard power boots on the ground. The dollars Wall Street and Washington send abroad to buy up the world are no longer credible. If the world has learned anything from 2008 it should be that money – dollars OR euros – isn’t wealth. When the Fed can create $18 trillion out of thin air to keep the game going, this should no longer be in dispute. So it looks as if we can no longer postpone asking ‘What is wealth?’ It is not just the future of the United States that is at stake. That ‘capital’, i.e. machinery powered from inanimate energy sources, has been replacing human labor for the last 300 years is equally beyond dispute.

    What is not clear is what to do with the displaced labor if it is no longer useful in creating wealth. Yves opposes a guaranteed income because past experience with one

    “…proved to be destructive to the recipients while tremendously beneficial to employers, who used the income support to further lower wages, thus increasing costs to the state and further reducing incentives to work.”

    But paying exorbitant wages “useless eaters” to produce items for conspicuous consumption or war threatens to be much more ‘expensive’.

    As for ” what comes next” – NOTHING without energy. So while we are pondering the more difficult questions, how about ‘renewable energy to the hilt’? As for those more difficult questions, there may no longer be any alternative to a leisure society in which an increasing number of people are free to pursue the one ingredient of wealth creation “discovery” Frederick Soddy listed in his “Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt” which for the moment seems to be without limits. (The other two were “natural energy”, i.e. inanimate energy sources and “diligence” – the latter now made increasingly obsolete by automation.)

    Wall Street and Washington may disagree but life is a terrible thing to waste.

    1. susan the other

      yes. it is a mantra that we need renewable energy. and that’s because it is undeniable. but we also need new forms of conservation; new ways of living; new cleverness. robots are not the answer. they are just the punchline to the big joke of the last 50 wasted years.

      1. Steven

        I’m not so sure we even need “new forms of conservation; new ways of living; new cleverness”. Large parts of the modern lifestyle were put in place as an excuse for bankers and financiers to create more money and debt – NOT because they were / are more efficient. Think being stuck in traffic and / or Land Cruiser sized cars. If you haven’t seen it yet try to find a copy of Taken for a Ride on the Interstate Highway System”. Then there is planned obsolescence and all the rest of the throwaway society.

  20. Tony Wikrent

    Awww, hell: I sit down to browse during lunch and I find this. I don’t have the time until later this evening to do justice to some of the many good points raised in the comments, but here are a few quick responses. Ishmael and a few others have pointed out that the Iraq War was lost from the very second it was conceived in the neo-con’s fevered brains. I actually believe the same, given who was in power and had access to the levers of government. But I want to point out this does hardly anything in helping us identify WHO is most to blame. The argument can be made – and has – that the USA is a militaristic nation, especially since the end of World War 2. But does this mean that ALL Americans share equal culpability for the Iraq War? To do so, I believe, lets people like DeMuth off the hook.

    I will have to dig out Packer’s book and look through it for exact names, but there were specific people and specific institutions, especially in the uniformed services, who actually drew up plans for post-war Iraq, and how to rebuild it. Some of them registered their protests to the idea that the whole invasion would be a cake walk, we would be greeted like liberators, and be gone within three months. These are the competent people, who had a realistic assessment of what would be required if the political leaders did what the political leaders said they wanted to do. Are these people as much at fault as George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Chris DeMuth? Should they be punished with the severity that Bush, Cheney, and DeMuth, in a just world, would be punished with. I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that in fact these people actually were punished to so degree, in terms of their honesty derailing or damaging their careers.

    It is the same problem as the question of German’s collective guilt for Nazism. Certainly, German society in its entirety can be condemned for allowing the Nazis to take power, and for allowing and even participating in the Nazis’ programs of repression, militarist expansion, and genocide. But should the question of blame be left there? Is it wise, or just, to push the idea of collective guilt to its logical extreme? No, because there were some Germans who resisted the Nazis. And because there were some Germans who LED the Nazis. And, ideally, what you want to do is identify and punish the leaders. Just like we tried to do in the Nuremburg tribunals.

    So, yes, the Iraq War was doomed from the moment the idea was conceived – given who conceived, planned, and implemented it. But if you really want to make sure such disasters don’t happen again – if you’re really interested in changing the USA from its militaristic nature – I suggest you assign some specific names to the blame.

  21. TG

    “Again, Yves is pointing to the actual dynamics that run the world. The conventional wisdom is the USA emerged as a superpower after World War 2 because the industrial bases in Europe and Japan had been destroyed. This is an extremely superficial reading of history. The most important post-war result of the war-time destruction was the building of a new industrial base in Europe and Japan, more modernized and more productive than the USA,”

    Sorry, you’re both wrong.

    What is wrong with this statement: “In the 1950’s and 1960’s American corporations did not move their factories to Mexico because Germany and Japan had been devastated.” Ridiculous, right?

    Our trade deficit is not primarily with foreign companies in places like Germany and Japan. It is with American companies that have moved their factories to low-wage countries like Mexico and China and Vietnam. The modern industrial bases rebuilt in Germany and Japan are at best second-order effects.

    1. Sluggeaux

      Correct! Globalization is the breakdown of the nation as a barrier to capital transfers. It is American corporations who profit from the outsourcing of manufacturing, not German or Japanese concerns. “Free-Trade” has devastated the American working/middle class, but not the owners. We are becoming a Third World country as far as the average person’s quality of life.

  22. JEHR

    ‘If you don’t have a positive vision of forward action to build a nation, then you simply do not belong in government. Period. End of discussion. And reliance on the free market is not a positive vision: Conservative Christians be warned. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”’

    So our PM is tearing down Canada and, of course, does not belong in government when only 39% of the electorate voted for him. Indeed, we are in the process of perishing, as I have mentioned in many a comment. Our leader’s vision involves his being elected forever and destroying as much social cohesion as he can manage. Indeed, he will be our Napoleon but without a brain or organizational ability.

  23. Jim

    But what if nationalism itself is making us more and more delusional?

    What if the type of human consciousness imposed by nationalism (the belief that the individual is in the driver’s seat, the belief that the individual is the ultimate decision-maker and architect of his/her destiny) is both empowering as well as overwhelming?

    What if individual identity is more and more difficult to develop and maintain in a culture of nationalism where in everyday life, the pressure of self-authorship operates in an environment which offers little guidance other than the belief in equality, secularism and popular sovereignty?

    What If the capacity to form a strong self-identity is breaking down under our modern culture of nationalism?

    1. Tony Wikrent

      I believe my definition of nationalism, and of the nation-state, is a bit different than yours, and not as freighted with negative connotations.

      I come to my definition by looking at the creation of USA as the great achievement and realization of the Enlightenment, both scientific and political.

      Further, Iwhat I believe I know about the USA has largely been shaped by my inquiries since the financial crash of 2007-2008: is there a set of political economic policies that are “republican”, “republican” being classically defined as it was understood at the time USA was founded.

      In other words, the United States was created as a republic at a point in world history when all other states and nations were ruled by a monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, or some combination thereof. Given this fact, is there a political economy that distinguishes a republic from these other forms of rule?

      I believe there is, and I think it is the reason that there is a constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare. In fact, it is exactly this constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare that is (supposed to be) the foundation of the American republic.

      But, to turn back directly to your comment, and the idea of nationalism. I have concluded that it is exactly the institution of the sovereign nation-state that serves as the best means for a people to carry into effect their political will. However, I recognize that the history of the 20th century – two world wars, nazism, and fascism, the Cold War – has led many people to conclude that there is something fundamentally flawed with the institution of the sovereign nation-state.

      My response: well, of course there is! There are always oligarchs and plutocrats trying to bend the powers of state to their own will. This becomes a dire problem given the present state of psychological and sociological knowledge that can be brought to bear in any attempt to lead a people one way or another through mass media. This is exactly the problem we now confront with Republicans and conservatives causing political dysfunction deliberately.

      So, the question that must be asked: If we do away with the institution of the sovereign nation-state, which I think would be requisite to doing away with nationalism, what other means or institutions do you propose to put its place that are able to divine, express, and put into effect, the will of a people?

  24. Noni Mausa

    I guess it depends on what flavour of nation is being formed.

    A minimal definition of “nation” is 1) a tract of land, with 2) people on it. Beyond that, there’s a legion of elements defining the specific national recipe being concocted. Some of them are inherent to the land (water supplies, soil quality, and growing season, among many others) and many more are set by the habits, knowledge and intentions, the stories, of the population. In addition, the resources and populations of adjoining nations will determine the choices of a nation, their vulnerability or their strength as an aggressor.

    The United States, being large, isolated, and naturally well endowed, has many choices in what sort of nation they want to be. Over the last few decades, intramural aggressors have forced those choices towards a model of plutocracy. This could, perhaps, be countered by universal education laying out nation building as a craft with predictable outcomes, rather than an inexorable process driven willy nilly by unspecified forces.

    I shall await this new curriculum with bated breath which, however, I will not bate for very long at any given time.


  25. steelhead23

    As a frequent reader of ZeroHedge where conspiracy theories abound, a recent, rabidly anti-central bank conspiracy theory emerged that might just answer the question “What the f*** are you doing?” The theory is that prior to U.S. intervention Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya had no central banks and may not have had any international settlement agreements, like the BIS. While I find the argument made pretty darn thin, it is true that these nations did not have central banks prior to “regime change” and now they do. So, it is at least plausible. The U.S. is a monetary hegemon.

  26. Bruce

    Short answer for Bush and BS (Bush Shadow) 0bama (or Poppy’s 2016 Janus-pick, JEBillary) :

  27. jonf

    I agree with those who find merit in both Wikrent and Mackinder. I look forward to another post by Wikrent addressing some of the points noted above. One of the ideas of interest is the impact of government on economic development and the strategic advantage thereby acquired. China has been spending billions, likely trillions, extending their infrastructure throughout their country and Eurasia. They are busy extracting and preparing to extract resources. This complements the building of their armed forces and extension of those forces in the surrounding territory. It appears to be playing out Mackinders idea.

    Meanwhile, we can’t agree on a budget let alone worry over our aging infrastrucure. We are a society controlled by corporate oligarchs. The TPP and affiliated are in no way designed to support labor. It is for the corporate and wealth interests. We have forgotten about building a nation in favor of rent taking and we have become two grand tribes with little differences—-other than rough agreement to fight terrorism and stay on permanent war footage.

    And Europe does no better. Witness the disgrace of Greece and the pious bullshit coming from Germany. Someone noticed that this time around Germany won without firing a shot. But that victory, as Israels over Hamas is empty.

  28. gordon

    Up until recently, the US’ international trade was a small proportion of its GDP. Even now, it’s the smallest proportion in this list:

    The US trade balance is regularly negative. As a result, the net international investment position slowly deteriorates

    If the US was a bigger trading nation, one supposes that the net international investment position would be worse.

    Before WWI, the UK also had persistent trade deficits. Instead of a deteriorating net international investment position, the UK made up the shortfall in its balance of payments by invisibles – dividends, shipping, insurance.

    The US would like to do that, instead of selling off assets. So the current insistence on IP and on investment being channeled through the big NY banks. Selling armaments (which are actually made in the US) works in the same way, but on the actual trade side. There may also be a finance aspect – borrowing in NY to finance fighter plane purchases, for instance.

    From the point of view of the rest of the world, the US is therefore seen increasingly as insisting on tribute. IP and US banking leadership in investment is really just that. In the same sense, the pre-WWI strategy of the UK was also a tribute-levying system, relying upon old investments and the City of London’s role in finance and insurance.

    1. Nathanael

      The big difference is that people felt like they *got* something for their payments to the UK. UK insurance was more reliable than others; UK shipping was more reliable than others; etc.

      The US used to have the same sort of “brand power”, but has lost it due to crappy quality. So now the US is genuinely seen as demanding tribute. Others can make better drugs cheaper (so the US demands tribute for its bad expensive drugs). Others can handle money better (so the US demands tribute for its incompetent financial system).

  29. Tony Wikrent

    First, in response to Yves’ last sentence, that the role of government in economic development is even larger than I suggest, I invite everyone to look at what I’m working on now: HAWB – How America Was Built, especially the chronology. Also, a comment of mine which detailed some of the government involvement in the development of computers.

    I had hoped to have this chronology ready as an ebook by the end of February, to begin to replace the very uncertain and paltry income I derive from selling books on eBay. Unfortunately, in mid-February I was beset with a medical problem, which required minor surgery at the end of April. I simply have not had the energy to accomplish what I want. Which gets a bit depressing, especially as personal finances are adversely impacted.

    Last year, I saw the note here on NC about grants from the Institute for New Economic Thinking. I applied, but received notice of rejection about three weeks ago.

    Sooooooooo, if anyone can suggest other possible sources of financial support, or finding some other means that would allow me to devote full attention to this project, I would be greatly appreciative.

  30. John Merryman

    At the end of the day, when you have billions of people, much of the particular motivations cancel out and it is those larger seeming background forces that rise up. Sort of like a tsunami is just a few meters high, but miles wide and unnoticeable traveling over open ocean.
    So when much of society is dominated by the social equivalent of foam and bubbles, we are at the crest of a wave and those who want to know the future, need to study physics more than personalities and personal actions.
    One primary feature to keep in mind is that the glue holding this melting pot of “America” together is our monetary system and as such turbocharges economic processes, while sucking the life blood out of old social orders and connections.
    We may not want to go back to the old ways, but then the way forward is looking precarious.
    While these conversations tend to focus on social and economic injustices and inequities, if we want to try to move beyond them, we need to understand the forces that give rise to them, not just react emotionally and blindly.
    Humanity has been moving onward and upward since time immemorial and now we need a new religion. One where it isn’t “go forth and multiply,” but seek balance and connection. Youth is a rush onward, but maturity is finding one’s place in the world. Hopefully this coming upheaval, is the end of the beginning and not the beginning of the end.

  31. VietnamVet

    If we keep doing the same stupid things over and over again like sending troops back into Iraq; it has to be on purpose. The simplest explanation is Emmanuel Todd’s. The USA turned from a protector to a predator. Western oligarch’s staged a counter coup in the 1980s with the Reagan and Thatcher. They seized the world when the fall of the USSR removed their fear of a people’s revolt. It just has not been reported in the mass media. War is America’s profit center. Scams and theft are global wealth creators.

    My Mother was raised on a farm. Cheap fossil fuel and the social democratic government in the USA allowed most Americans to successfully transition from rural to suburban life. But, a World at War, unpayable debt and governance by undemocratic transnational institutions do not portend well for mankind’s transition to a solar energy based civilization. Climate Change, Greece, Iraq and Ukraine indicates that the Malthusians were right after all. We are limited by the world we live in and how well mankind manages technology, the environment and ourselves. The basic problem is that this was rejected last century for a belief in magical unicorns who promise money for nothing.

  32. Paul Tioxon

    The answer to what are you building lies in the budgets of the government and private sector. Here is what we built:

    “The pioneer in analyzing what has been lost as a result of military Keynesianism was the late Seymour Melman (1917-2004), a professor of industrial engineering and operations research at Columbia University. His 1970 book, Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War, was a prescient analysis of the unintended consequences of the American preoccupation with its armed forces and their weaponry since the onset of the Cold War. Melman wrote (pp. 2-3):

    “From 1946 to 1969, the United States government spent over $1,000 billion on the military, more than half of this under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations — the period during which the [Pentagon-dominated] state management was established as a formal institution. This sum of staggering size (try to visualize a billion of something) does not express the cost of the military establishment to the nation as a whole. The true cost is measured by what has been foregone, by the accumulated deterioration in many facets of life by the inability to alleviate human wretchedness of long duration.”

    In an important exegesis on Melman’s relevance to the current American economic situation, Thomas Woods writes:

    “According to the U.S. Department of Defense, during the four decades from 1947 through 1987 it used (in 1982 dollars) $7.62 trillion in capital resources. In 1985, the Department of Commerce estimated the value of the nation’s plant and equipment, and infrastructure, at just over $7.29 trillion. In other words, the amount spent over that period could have doubled the American capital stock or modernized and replaced its existing stock.”



    In the above excerpt,Chalmers Johnson quoted Melman in another article where he pointed out the lack of investment in the tool industry left America with preWWII era industrial capacity. Of course, we invested in Germany and Japan and left those markets wide open for them in key heavy industrial areas when we went on military technology binge to end all binges. The displaced invested in military bases and technology left much of nation to grow old and rusty and merely import from more modern lower cost producers what we no longer could or were denied by calculated trade deals with foreign supplier to supplant domestic producers and their unionized work force. However, I believe what on the national and federal level was abandoned, has been taken up on the local level with the emergence of science and technology centers, all across America.

    In his final book, Giovanni Arrighi wrote of a key Adam Smith insight into the development of an economy. Giovanni wrote that Smith, without using the common phrase of today, the research scientist, the need for a philosopher like thinker with leisurely time who pondered new ideas, solutions to problems or maybe invented problems we never knew we had is among he most important function in the process of innovative advancements that propel an economy forward with inventions, new processes etc. The modern research university coupled with the commercialization effort of nearby science and technology centers or office parks is what Arrighi thought distinguish the USA from any competitors in the world today, one that we are far ahead of in investment but one that is carefully studied and emulated by the Chinese. We have been poring money into innovation, just not from the usual sources in the past. And the results are substantial and important.


  33. Ggg

    Essentially what China is doing is ‘Dao’ or ‘the way’. Laozi taught that one should honor natural cycles or patterns and do as little as possible to change what is natural.

  34. Ggg

    Essentially what China is doing is ‘Dao’ or ‘the way’. Laozi taught that one should honor natural cycles or patterns and do as little as possible to change what is natural since any such unnecessary act would be counterproductive.

  35. Roland

    Iraq is not an example of imperial “decline.”

    The American leadership took no meaningful measures to restore order in Iraq after their invasion, because they did not invade Iraq for the sake of establishing any sort of order in that country.

    The Americans invaded Iraq to destroy it as a viable sovereign state and regional power. A poor, weak, unstable, dependent Iraq was the desired end.

    Iraq was meant to become a dysfunctional petty protectorate. A weak Iraq means that the USA can maintain a garrison there indefinitely. A weak Iraq means cheaper extraction of the country’s natural resources. An unstable Iraq means the USA can engineer a coup whenever it might be convenient.

    The deepest irony of the slogan, “Mission Accomplished,” is that it’s actually true.

    Bear in mind that the war hardly cost the USA a thing. Foreign bondholders fully subscribed the financial costs. Indeed the USA was able to wage aggressive war in distant land, while at the same time reducing taxes, and meanwhile enjoy borrowing at wonderfully low rates.

    Now would Wikrent please explain why he thinks this war was an example of “imperial decline” ?

    Wikrent doesn’t seem to understand that the USA is ruled by a globalist-oriented elite. So the relative decline of industries in the USA proper is not necessarily a matter of crucial concern to that elite, as long as their overall worldwide portfolio performance continues to excel.

    In the globalist scheme of “zoning,” the USA is no longer zoned for certain kinds of industry. Today, the USA mostly serves the globalist elite as a leading worldwide provider of military enforcement and financial administration services. Note that the living standards of the mass of the USA’s population are unimportant for these functions.

    What I’m trying to tell you here, Wikrent, is that your empire is doing just fine. It’s your republic that’s dead.

    The rulers of your empire have never been richer or happier than they are today. They have never before experienced so much sense of purpose and self-fulfilment. For them, the future looks like a lot of fun, with nearly limitless opportunities to do whatever sorts of things they think are good.

    1. Nathanael

      Iraq has emerged as a protectorate… of IRAN.

      This was definitely not the goal of anyone in the US government.

      The Empire is dying. It reminds me of the era of the Sun King in France. The elite was rich and happy, but they were also losing every war they got into and bleeding money on it, setting themselves up for a disaster later.

      Remember this: the US won the war in Kosovo; won the first Gulf War (on behalf of Kuwait); and won the “war” in Grenada. Other than those three, the US has *lost every single war since the end of the Korean War*. That’s not military enforcers, that’s blunderers.

  36. Wade Riddick

    I don’t know where the Corporate Communist finance propagandists went wrong but somewhere along the way they slipped up and Mr. Wikrent managed to learn something about the creation of actual value.

    In short, there are two major factors affecting growth, new resources (people, arable land, oil reserves) and the knowledge to use these resources (technology). These are the only two things that really matter to long-term growth. There is a long history of genuine analysis of these factors, but you have to avoid the religious zealots to find it. Some of it dates back to Kondratieff. He was one of the first to notice how the life-cycle of natural resource development matched ebbs and flows of deflation and inflation. If you’re interested in the waves of resource and technological development, I commend to you the work of my pioneering old professor at U.T., Walt Rostow.

    I’ll leave aside the discovery of new natural resources and skip to the second component.

    Each technology has a growth curve. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Hardly any of us understand the beginning. Most of us spot the middle and assume it will run on forever, like we’re doing now with oil and semiconductors. Few of us see the end coming, much less the new seeds of growth that will take over.

    You mention Moore’s Law, which is rather dramatic, but Moore wasn’t the first to spot this type of curve. Each new technological revolution follows a growth curve as money is poured in and refinements becomes more efficient (and eventually peters out). Rostow has several of these charts for rail, steel, steam and the like in his books. Once you see it laid out graphically, you smack yourself in the head because it’s so obvious. (Silicon Valley also isn’t the first place this clustering of innovation occurs, as Wikrent notices. It happens in many industries over the centuries.)

    These innovations also cluster together and come in waves.

    1) steam, textiles
    2) rail, steel, telegraph
    3) cars, phones, electricity, chemicals and internal combustion engines
    4) microchips, genetics, lasers

    Moore’s law isn’t finished, by the way. It’s about to move up into the third dimension (albeit more slowly). Aside from stacked chips, you’ll also see a quick burst of improvement when spintronics and optics take over from electrical circuits.

    Countries like China experience fast growth because they are absorbing old technologies they once ignored. They aren’t great powerhouses necessarily. Somebody finally took a boot off their neck. They also don’t have the sunk cost of the old technologies and old industries hobbling them. (E.G., look at how much money the Koch brothers have thrown at ALEC trying to destroy solar.)

    As each revolution comes to its end, oftentimes the new one hasn’t reached critical mass yet to take off. That’s where we are with oil, which was a third generation technology. It’s taking more and more money to get a barrel of oil out of the ground and it’s not really generating any more electricity. The price is rising and the costs of using it are rising (pollution). It’s hard to understand the recent rash of hostilities in Ukraine, Syria, Palestine and Iraq unless you factor in natural gas exploration and pipeline rights. Articles on this site have gone a long ways to helping to explain these connections.

    It’s also a largely fruitless endeavor.

    Solar power is substantially a semiconductor industry now and it does follow a similar logic of development to Moore’s law. Every year or so you can buy 10-20% more wattage for every dollar you spend on solar panels. Oil can’t match that. Solar panel electricity – even getting only half the subsidies that fossil fuels do – is now at cost parity in Hawaii and California. Within two years, solar power will be more efficient than fossil fuel generators in most of the U.S.

    This is an earthquake for which the Republican donor class is grossly unprepared.

    This is why half of new power generating plants are solar and none are coal.

    Solar is an old technology and it’s been following this curve since the 1970s. It’s taken it this long to get this far.

    Attacking Iraq and letting Germany and China dominate the solar business are really two different sides of the same mistake Bush made. As you point out, almost none of our national policy is currently directed at developing new technologies. Public policy is propping up the increasingly decrepit old order. So is the news, which is perhaps why you haven’t heard anything about some of the new revolutions occurring under our feet.

    There’s a fifth generation of new technologies coming along. They’re part quantum physics and maybe one of them is relativistic. They are definitely game-changers.

    1) One of them is cold fusion. Yes, it’s real. Multiple reactors have been demonstrated in public and reviewed by neutral experts. Different isotopes come out than the ones that go in. It’s fusion of some sort. They have a class in cold fusion (LENR) at MIT. Guys from NASA are working on it and Airbus is trying to adapt it for its airplanes. (If you don’t believe it, buy shares in the company and go sue them for misspending your money.) The Nobel Laureate Josephsen has endorsed LENR. Bill Gates has even been at a conference on it. It’s real.

    2) Quantum temporal loop violations. X photons go in one end of the chip and 17x come out the other end. Don’t ask me about the math. I get a headache just thinking about George Zimmerman with a hand phaser. Had you asked me last year, I would have said cold fusion with its COP of 8-20 running on a few dollars of nickel a year would have beat solar hands down. Tricks like this one may improve the cost-effectiveness of solar 50x or more.

    3) The EM thruster. A new space propulsion drive has been verified by NASA. It produces thrust from microwaves without any need to carry heavy fuel. Basically, all you need is electricity. Ships would be lighter and much, much faster. It doesn’t work well enough for in-atmosphere use yet but the present design could get a crew to Mars in two months – *from any launch window*. The Chinese appear to be working on this for their own military and civilian applications. Is it relativistic or does it push on quantum sea foam? Who knows. NASA could send one into orbit tomorrow. The idea for the drive has been around since 2000. Units have been in testing for years. You can even build your own in your garage if you like (and power it with a homemade E-cat, if you want). Of course, no one with any expertise in science heads any congressional committees today so the government is completely missing the ball on this. These guys are put in power precisely because they don’t know what they’re doing.

    You don’t hear about any of these recent innovations in the press, which is a shame. It lets people like Naomi Klein run around telling us we have to sacrifice economic growth to save the planet. We don’t. We just have to be smarter.

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