Michael Hudson: U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses

By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is “and forgive them their debts”: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year    Keynote paper delivered at the 14th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy, July 21, 2019

Today’s world is at war on many fronts. The rules of international law and order put in place toward the end of World War II are being broken by U.S. foreign policy escalating its confrontation with countries that refrain from giving its companies control of their economic surpluses. Countries that do not give the United States control their oil and financial sectors or privatize their key sectors are being isolated by the United States imposing trade sanctions and unilateral tariffs giving special advantages to U.S. producers in violation of free trade agreements with European, Asian and other countries.

This global fracture has an increasingly military cast. U.S. officials justify tariffs and import quotas illegal under WTO rules on “national security” grounds, claiming that the United States can do whatever it wants as the world’s “exceptional” nation. U.S. officials explain that this means that their nation is not obliged to adhere to international agreements or even to its own treaties and promises. This allegedly sovereign right to ignore on its international agreements was made explicit after Bill Clinton and his Secretary of State Madeline Albright broke the promise by President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker that NATO would not expand eastward after 1991. (“You didn’t get it in writing,” was the U.S. response to the verbal agreements that were made.)

Likewise, the Trump administration repudiated the multilateral Iranian nuclear agreement signed by the Obama administration, and is escalating warfare with its proxy armies in the Near East. U.S. politicians are waging a New Cold War against Russia, China, Iran, and oil-exporting countries that the United States is seeking to isolate if cannot control their governments, central bank and foreign diplomacy.

The international framework that originally seemed equitable was pro-U.S. from the outset. In 1945 this was seen as a natural result of the fact that the U.S. economy was the least war-damaged and held by far most of the world’s monetary gold. Still, the postwar trade and financial framework was ostensibly set up on fair and equitable international principles. Other countries were expected to recover and grow, creating diplomatic, financial and trade parity with each other.

But the past decade has seen U.S. diplomacy become one-sided in turning the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, SWIFT bank-clearing system and world trade into an asymmetrically exploitative system. This unilateral U.S.-centered array of institutions is coming to be widely seen not only as unfair, but as blocking the progress of other countries whose growth and prosperity is seen by U.S. foreign policy as a threat to unilateral U.S. hegemony. What began as an ostensibly international order to promote peaceful prosperity has turned increasingly into an extension of U.S. nationalism, predatory rent-extraction and a more dangerous military confrontation.

Deterioration of international diplomacy into a more nakedly explicit pro-U.S. financial, trade and military aggression was implicit in the way in which economic diplomacy was shaped when the United Nations, IMF and World Bank were shaped mainly by U.S. economic strategists. Their economic belligerence is driving countries to withdraw from the global financial and trade order that has been turned into a New Cold War vehicle to impose unilateral U.S. hegemony. Nationalistic reactions are consolidating into new economic and political alliances from Europe to Asia.

We are still mired in the Oil War that escalated in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, which quickly spread to Libya and Syria. American foreign policy has long been based largely on control of oil. This has led the United States to oppose the Paris accords to stem global warming. Its aim is to give U.S. officials the power to impose energy sanctions forcing other countries to “freeze in the dark” if they do not follow U.S. leadership.

To expand its oil monopoly, America is pressuring Europe to oppose the Nordstream II gas pipeline from Russia, claiming that this would make Germany and other countries dependent on Russia instead of on U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG). Likewise, American oil diplomacy has imposed unilateral sanctions against Iranian oil exports, until such time as a regime change opens up that country’s oil reserves to U.S., French, British and other allied oil majors.

U.S. control of dollarized money and credit is critical to this hegemony. As Congressman Brad Sherman of Los Angeles told a House Financial Services Committee hearing on May 9, 2019: “An awful lot of our international power comes from the fact that the U.S. dollar is the standard unit of international finance and transactions. Clearing through the New York Fed is critical for major oil and other transactions. It is the announced purpose of the supporters of cryptocurrency to take that power away from us, to put us in a position where the most significant sanctions we have against Iran, for example, would become irrelevant.”[1]

The U.S. aim is to keep the dollar as the transactions currency for world trade, savings, central bank reserves and international lending. This monopoly status enables the U.S. Treasury and State Department to disrupt the financial payments system and trade for countries with which the United States is at economic or outright military war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin quickly responded by describing how “the degeneration of the universalist globalization model [is] turning into a parody, a caricature of itself, where common international rules are replaced with the laws… of one country.”[2]That is the trajectory on which this deterioration of formerly open international trade and finance is now moving. It has been building up for a decade. On June 5, 2009, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev cited this same disruptive U.S. dynamic at work in the wake of the U.S. junk mortgage and bank fraud crisis.

Those whose job it was to forecast events … were not ready for the depth of the crisis and turned out to be too rigid, unwieldy and slow in their response. The international financial organisations – and I think we need to state this up front and not try to hide it – were not up to their responsibilities, as has been said quite unambiguously at a number of major international events such as the two recent G20 summits of the world’s largest economies.

Furthermore, we have had confirmation that our pre-crisis analysis of global economic trends and the global economic system were correct. The artificially maintained uni-polar system and preservation of monopolies in key global economic sectors are root causes of the crisis. One big centre of consumption, financed by a growing deficit, and thus growing debts, one formerly strong reserve currency, and one dominant system of assessing assets and risks – these are all factors that led to an overall drop in the quality of regulation and the economic justification of assessments made, including assessments of macroeconomic policy. As a result, there was no avoiding a global crisis.[3]

That crisis is what is now causing today’s break in global trade and payments.

Warfare on Many Fronts, with Dollarization Being the Main Arena 

Dissolution of the Soviet Union 1991 did not bring the disarmament that was widely expected. U.S. leadership celebrated the Soviet demise as signaling the end of foreign opposition to U.S.-sponsored neoliberalism and even as the End of History. NATO expanded to encircle Russia and sponsored “color revolutions” from Georgia to Ukraine, while carving up former Yugoslavia into small statelets. American diplomacy created a foreign legion of Wahabi fundamentalists from Afghanistan to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya in support of Saudi Arabian extremism and Israeli expansionism.

The United States is waging war for control of oil against Venezuela, where a military coup failed a few years ago, as did the 2018-19 stunt to recognize an unelected pro-American puppet regime. The Honduran coup under President Obama was more successful in overthrowing an elected president advocating land reform, continuing the tradition dating back to 1954 when the CIA overthrew Guatemala’s Arbenz regime.

U.S. officials bear a special hatred for countries that they have injured, ranging from Guatemala in 1954 to Iran, whose regime it overthrew to install the Shah as military dictator. Claiming to promote “democracy,” U.S. diplomacy has redefined the word to mean pro-American, and opposing land reform, national ownership of raw materials and public subsidy of foreign agriculture or industry as an “undemocratic” attack on “free markets,” meaning markets controlled by U.S. financial interests and absentee owners of land, natural resources and banks.

A major byproduct of warfare has always been refugees, and today’s wave fleeing ISIS, Al Qaeda and other U.S.-backed Near Eastern proxies is flooding Europe. A similar wave is fleeing the dictatorial regimes backed by the United States from Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia and neighboring countries. The refugee crisis has become a major factor leading to the resurgence of nationalist parties throughout Europe and for the white nationalism of Donald Trump in the United States.

Dollarization as the Vehicle for U.S. Nationalism

The Dollar Standard – U.S. Treasury debt to foreigners held by the world’s central banks – has replaced the gold-exchange standard for the world’s central bank reserves to settle payments imbalances among themselves. This has enabled the United States to uniquely run balance-of-payments deficits for nearly seventy years, despite the fact that these Treasury IOUs have little visible likelihood of being repaid except under arrangements where U.S. rent-seeking and outright financial tribute from other enables it to liquidate its official foreign debt.

The United States is the only nation that can run sustained balance-of-payments deficits without having to sell off its assets or raise interest rates to borrow foreign money. No other national economy in the world can could afford foreign military expenditures on any major scale without losing its exchange value. Without the Treasury-bill standard, the United States would be in this same position along with other nations. That is why Russia, China and other powers that U.S. strategists deem to be strategic rivals and enemies are looking to restore gold’s role as the preferred asset to settle payments imbalances.

The U.S. response is to impose regime change on countries that prefer gold or other foreign currencies to dollars for their exchange reserves. A case in point is the overthrow of Libya’s Omar Kaddafi after he sought to base his nation’s international reserves on gold. His liquidation stands as a military warning to other countries.

Thanks to the fact that payments-surplus economies invest their dollar inflows in U.S. Treasury bonds, the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit finances its domestic budget deficit. This foreign central-bank recycling of U.S. overseas military spending into purchases of U.S. Treasury securities gives the United States a free ride, financing its budget – also mainly military in character – so that it can taxing its own citizens.

Trump Is Forcing Other Countries To Create an Alternative to the Dollar Standard

The fact that Donald Trump’s economic policies are proving ineffective in restoring American manufacturing is creating rising nationalist pressure to exploit foreigners by arbitrary tariffs without regard for international law, and to impose trade sanctions and diplomatic meddling to disrupt regimes that pursue policies that U.S. diplomats do not like.

There is a parallel here with Rome in the late 1stcentury BC. It stripped its provinces to pay for its military deficit, the grain dole and land redistribution at the expense of Italian cities and Asia Minor. This created foreign opposition to drive Rome out. The U.S. economy is similar to Rome’s: extractive rather than productive, based mainly on land rents and money-interest. As the domestic market is impoverished, U.S. politicians are seeking to take from abroad what no longer is being produced at home.

What is so ironic – and so self-defeating of America’s free global ride – is that Trump’s simplistic aim of lowering the dollar’s exchange rate to make U.S. exports more price-competitive. He imagines commodity trade to be the entire balance of payments, as if there were no military spending, not to mention lending and investment. To lower the dollar’s exchange rate, he is demanding that China’s central bank and those of other countries stop supporting the dollar by recycling the dollars they receive for their exports into holdings of U.S. Treasury securities.

This tunnel vision leaves out of account the fact that the trade balance is not simply a matter of comparative international price levels. The United States has dissipated its supply of spare manufacturing capacity and local suppliers of parts and materials, while much of its industrial engineering and skilled manufacturing labor has retired. An immense shortfall must be filled by new capital investment, education and public infrastructure, whose charges are far above those of other economics.

Trump’s infrastructure ideology is a Public-Private Partnership characterized by high-cost financialization demanding high monopoly rents to cover its interest charges, stock dividends and management fees. This neoliberal policy raises the cost of living for the U.S. labor force, making it uncompetitive. The United States is unable to produce more at any price right now, because its has spent the past half-century dismantling its infrastructure, closing down its part suppliers and outsourcing its industrial technology.

The United States has privatized and financialized infrastructure and basic needs such as public health and medical care, education and transportation that other countries have kept in their public domain to make their economies more cost-efficient by providing essential services at subsidized prices or freely. The United States also has led the practice of debt pyramiding, from housing to corporate finance. This financial engineering and wealth creation by inflating debt-financed real estate and stock market bubbles has made the United States a high-cost economy that cannot compete successfully with well-managed mixed economies.

Unable to recover dominance in manufacturing, the United States is concentrating on rent-extracting sectors that it hopes monopolize, headed by information technology and military production. On the industrial front, it threatens disrupt China and other mixed economies by imposing trade and financial sanctions.

The great gamble is whether these other countries will defend themselves by joining in alliances enabling them to bypass the U.S. economy. American strategists imagine their country to be the world’s essential economy, without whose market other countries must suffer depression. The Trump Administration thinks that There Is No Alternative (TINA) for other countries except for their own financial systems to rely on U.S. dollar credit.

To protect themselves from U.S. sanctions, countries would have to avoid using the dollar, and hence U.S. banks. This would require creation of a non-dollarized financial system for use among themselves, including their own alternative to the SWIFT bank clearing system. Table 1 lists some possible related defenses against U.S. nationalistic diplomacy.

As noted above, what also is ironic in President Trump’s accusation of China and other countries of artificially manipulating their exchange rate against the dollar (by recycling their trade and payments surpluses into Treasury securities to hold down their currency’s dollar valuation) involves dismantling the Treasury-bill standard. The main way that foreign economies have stabilized their exchange rate since 1971 has indeed been to recycle their dollar inflows into U.S. Treasury securities. Letting their currency’s value rise would threaten their export competitiveness against their rivals, although not necessarily benefit the United States.

Ending this practice leaves countries with the main way to protect their currencies from rising against the dollar is to reduce dollar inflows by blocking U.S. lending to domestic borrowers. They may levy floating tariffs proportioned to the dollar’s declining value. The U.S. has a long history since the 1920s of raising its tariffs against currencies that are depreciating: the American Selling Price (ASP) system. Other countries can impose their own floating tariffs against U.S. goods.

Trade dependency as an Aim of the World Bank, IMF and US AID

The world today faces a problem much like what it faced on the eve of World War II. Like Germany then, the United States now poses the main threat of war, and equally destructive neoliberal economic regimes imposing austerity, economic shrinkage and depopulation. U.S. diplomats are threatening to destroy regimes and entire economies that seek to remain independent of this system, by trade and financial sanctions backed by direct military force.

Dedollarization will require creation of multilateral alternatives to U.S. “front” institutions such as the World Bank, IMF and other agencies in which the United States holds veto power to block any alternative policies deemed not to let it “win.” U.S. trade policy through the World Bank and U.S. foreign aid agencies aims at promoting dependency on U.S. food exports and other key commodities, while hiring U.S. engineering firms to build up export infrastructure to subsidize U.S. and other natural-resource investors.[4]The financing is mainly in dollars, providing risk-free bonds to U.S. and other financial institutions. The resulting commercial and financial “interdependency” has led to a situation in which a sudden interruption of supply would disrupt foreign economies by causing a breakdown in their chain of payments and production. The effect is to lock client countries into dependency on the U.S. economy and its diplomacy, euphemized as “promoting growth and development.”

U.S. neoliberal policy via the IMF imposes austerity and opposes debt writedowns. Its economic model pretends that debtor countries can pay any volume of dollar debt simply by reducing wages to squeeze more income out of the labor force to pay foreign creditors. This ignores the fact that solving the domestic “budget problem” by taxing local revenue still faces the “transfer problem” of converting it into dollars or other hard currencies in which most international debt is denominated. The result is that the IMF’s “stabilization” programs actually destabilize and impoverish countries forced into following its advice.

IMF loans support pro-U.S. regimes such as Ukraine, and subsidize capital flight by supporting local currencies long enough to enable U.S. client oligarchies to flee their currencies at a pre-devaluation exchange rate for the dollar. When the local currency finally is allowed to collapse, debtor countries are advised to impose anti-labor austerity. This globalizes the class war of capital against labor while keeping debtor countries on a short U.S. financial leash.

U.S. diplomacy is capped by trade sanctions to disrupt economies that break away from U.S. aims. Sanctions are a form of economic sabotage, as lethal as outright military warfare in establishing U.S. control over foreign economies. The threat is to impoverish civilian populations, in the belief that this will lead them to replace their governments with pro-American regimes promising to restore prosperity by selling off their domestic infrastructure to U.S. and other multinational investors.




US Warfare on Many Fronts                          Dedollarization defense

Military warfare (the Near East, Asia)

NATO and bilateral treaty (Saudi, ISIS, Al Qaida). color revolutions and proxy wars.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and pressure for Europe to withdraw from NATO unless the U.S. alleviates its New Cold War threats.
Dollarization is monetary warfare. The US Treasury-bill standard finances the mainly military U.S. balance-of-payments deficit. SWIFT threatens to isolate Iran and Russia Dedollarization will refrain from foreign central banks financing U.S. overseas military spending by keeping their savings in dollars.

Creation of alternative payments clearing system.

The IMF finances US client regimes and seeks to isolate those not following US policy. An alternative global financial organization, such as Europe’s INSTEX to circumvent US anti-Iran sanctions, and Russo-China alternative to SWIFT.
Creditor policy forcing austerity on debtor economies, forcing them to privatize and sell off their public domain to pay debts. An international court empowered to write down debts to the ability to pay, based on the original principles that were to guide the BIS in 1931.
 The World Bank finances trade dependency on US food exports and opposes national food self-sufficiency. An alternative development organization based on food self-sufficiency. Annulment of World Bank and IMF debt as “odious debt.”
Unilateral US trade war based on levy of US protectionist tariffs, quotas and sanctions, Countervailing sanctions, and creation of an alternative to the WTO or a strengthened organization free of US control.
Cyber War, spycraft via US internet platforms, and Stuxnet sabotage. Work with Huawei and other alternatives to US internet options.
Class War: austerity program for labor MMT, taxation of rentier income and capital gains.
Neoliberal monetarist doctrine of privatization and creditor-oriented rules Promotion of a mixed economy with public infrastructure as a factor of production.
US patent policy seeks monopoly rents. Non-recognition of predatory monopoly patents.
Investment control Deprivatization and buyoutsof US assets abroad.
International law and diplomacy The U.S. as the world’s “exceptional nation,” not subject to international laws or even to its own treaty agreements.

Veto power in any organization it joins. The basic principle that the U.S. is not subject to any foreign say over its laws and policies.


Global Problems caused by US Policy                       Response to U.S. Disruptive Policy

U.S. refuses to join international agreements to reduce carbon emissions, Global Warming and Extreme Weather.

U.S. diplomacy is based on control of oil to make other countries dependent on U.S. energy dominance.

Trade and tax sanctions against U.S. exporters and banks. Taxes on U.S. tax avoidance by the oil industry’s “flags of convenience” (convenient for tax avoidance).

Taxation or isolation of U.S. exports based on high-carbon production.

Attempt to monopolize new G5 Internet technology, Sanctioning of Huawei, insistence on US priority in high-tech. Rejection of patents on basic IT, medicine and other basic human needs.
Patent laws in pharmaceuticals, etc. Taxation of monopoly rents.

There Are Alternatives, on Many Fronts

Militarily, today’s leading alternative to NATO expansionism is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), along with Europe following France’s example under Charles de Gaulle and withdrawing. After all, there is no real threat of military invasion today in Europe. No nation can occupy another without an enormous military draft and such heavy personnel losses that domestic protests would unseat the government waging such a war. The U.S. anti-war movement in the 1960s signaled the end of the military draft, not only in the United States but in nearly all democratic countries (Israel, Switzerland, Brazil and South Korea are exceptions).

The enormous spending on armaments for a kind of war unlikely to be fought is not really military, but simply to provide profits to the military industrial complex. The arms are not really to be used. They are simply to be bought, and ultimately scrapped. The danger, of course, is that these not-for-use arms actually might be used, if only to create a need for new profitable production.

Likewise, foreign holdings of dollars are not really to be spent on purchases of U.S. exports or investments. They are like fine-wine collectibles, for saving rather than for drinking. The alternative to such dollarized holdings is to create a mutual use of national currencies, and a domestic bank-clearing payments system as an alternative to SWIFT.Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela already are said to be developing a crypto-currency payments to circumvent U.S. sanctions and hence financial control.

In the World Trade Organization, the United States has tried to claim that any industry receiving public infrastructure or credit subsidy deserves tariff retaliation in order to force privatization. In response to WTO rulings that U.S. tariffs are illegally imposed, the United States “has blocked all new appointments to the seven-member appellate body in protest, leaving it in danger of collapse because it may not have enough judges to allow it to hear new cases.”[5]In the U.S. view, only privatized trade financed by private rather than public banks is “fair” trade.

An alternative to the WTO (or removal of its veto privilege given to the U.S. bloc) is needed to cope with U.S. neoliberal ideology and, most recently, the U.S. travesty claiming “national security” exemption to free-trade treaties, impose tariffs on steel, aluminum, and on European countries that circumvent sanctions on Iran or threaten to buy oil from Russia via the Nordstream II pipeline instead of high-cost liquified “freedom gas” from the United States.

In the realm of development lending, China’s bank along with its Belt and Road initiative is an incipient alternative to the World Bank, whose main role has been to promote foreign dependency on U.S. suppliers. The IMF for its part now functions as an extension of the U.S. Department of Defense to subsidize client regimes such as Ukraine while financially isolating countries not subservient to U.S. diplomacy.

To save debt-strapped economies suffering Greek-style austerity, the world needs to replace neoliberal economic theory with an analytic logic for debt writedowns based on the ability to pay. The guiding principle of the needed development-oriented logic of international law should be that no nation should be obliged to pay foreign creditors by having to sell of the public domain and rent-extraction rights to foreign creditors. The defining character of nationhood should be the fiscal right to tax natural resource rents and financial returns, and to create its own monetary system.

The United States refuses to join the International Criminal Court. To be effective, it needs enforcement power for its judgments and penalties, capped by the ability to bring charges of war crimes in the tradition of the Nuremberg tribunal. U.S. to such a court, combined with its military buildup now threatening World War III, suggests a new alignment of countries akin to the Non-Aligned Nations movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Non-aligned in this case means freedom from U.S. diplomatic control or threats.

Such institutions require a more realistic economic theory and philosophy of operations to replace the neoliberal logic for anti-government privatization, anti-labor austerity, and opposition to domestic budget deficits and debt writedowns. Today’s neoliberal doctrine counts financial late fees and rising housing prices as adding to “real output” (GDP), but deems public investment as deadweight spending, not a contribution to output. The aim of such logic is to convince governments to pay their foreign creditors by selling off their public infrastructure and other assets in the public domain.

Just as the “capacity to pay” principle was the foundation stone of the Bank for International Settlements in 1931, a similar basis is needed to measure today’s ability to pay debts and hence to write down bad loans that have been made without a corresponding ability of debtors to pay. Without such an institution and body of analysis, the IMF’s neoliberal principle of imposing economic depression and falling living standards to pay U.S. and other foreign creditors will impose global poverty.

The above proposals provide an alternative to the U.S. “exceptionalist” refusal to join any international organization that has a say over its affairs. Other countries must be willing to turn the tables and isolate U.S. banks, U.S. exporters, and to avoid using U.S. dollars and routing payments via U.S. banks. To protect their ability to create a countervailing power requires an international court and its sponsoring organization.


The first existential objective is to avoid the current threat of war by winding down U.S. military interference in foreign countries and removing U.S. military bases as relics of neocolonialism. Their danger to world peace and prosperity threatens a reversion to the pre-World War II colonialism, ruling by client elites along lines similar to the 2014 Ukrainian coup by neo-Nazi groups sponsored by the U.S. State Department and National Endowment for Democracy. Such control recalls the dictators that U.S. diplomacy established throughout Latin America in the 1950s. Today’s ethnic terrorism by U.S.-sponsored Wahabi-Saudi Islam recalls the behavior of Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

Global warming is the second major existentialist threat. Blocking attempts to reverse it is a bedrock of American foreign policy, because it is based on control of oil. So the military, refugee and global warming threats are interconnected.

The U.S. military poses the greatest immediate danger. Today’s warfare is fundamentally changed from what it used to be. Prior to the 1970s, nations conquering others had to invade and occupy them with armies recruited by a military draft. But no democracy in today’s world can revive such a draft without triggering widespread refusal to fight, voting the government out of power. The only way the United States – or other countries – can fight other nations is to bomb them. And as noted above, economic sanctions have as destructive an effect on civilian populations in countries deemed to be U.S. adversaries as overt warfare. The United States can sponsor political coups (as in Honduras and Pinochet’s Chile), but cannot occupy. It is unwilling to rebuild, to say nothing of taking responsibility for the waves of refugees that our bombing and sanctions are causing from Latin America to the Near East.

U.S. ideologues view their nation’s coercive military expansion and political subversion and neoliberal economic policy of privatization and financialization as an irreversible victory signaling the End of History. To the rest of the world it is a threat to human survival.

The American promise is that the victory of neoliberalism is the End of History, offering prosperity to the entire world. But beneath the rhetoric of free choice and free markets is the reality of corruption, subversion, coercion, debt peonage and neofeudalism. The reality is the creation and subsidy of polarized economies bifurcated between a privileged rentierclass and its clients, eir debtors and renters. America is to be permitted to monopolize trade in oil and food grains, and high-technology rent-yielding monopolies, living off its dependent customers. Unlike medieval serfdom, people subject to this End of History scenario can choose to live wherever they want. But wherever they live, they must take on a lifetime of debt to obtain access to a home of their own, and rely on U.S.-sponsored control of their basic needs, money and credit by adhering to U.S. financial planning of their economies. This dystopian scenario confirms Rosa Luxemburg’s recognition that the ultimate choice facing nations in today’s world is between socialism and barbarism.


[1]Billy Bambrough, “Bitcoin Threatens To ‘Take Power’ From The U.S. Federal Reserve,” Forbes, May 15, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/billybambrough/2019/05/15/a-u-s-congressman-is-so-scared-of-bitcoin-and-crypto-he-wants-it-banned/#36b2700b6405.

[2]Vladimir Putin, keynote address to the Economic Forum, June 5-6 2019. Putin went on to warn of “a policy of completely unlimited economic egoism and a forced breakdown.” This fragmenting of the global economic space “is the road to endless conflict, trade wars and maybe not just trade wars. Figuratively, this is the road to the ultimate fight of all against all.”

[3]Address to St Petersburg International Economic Forum’s Plenary Session, St Petersburg, Kremlin.ru, June 5, 2009, from Johnson’s Russia List, June 8, 2009, #8,

[4]https://www.rt.com/business/464013-china-russia-cryptocurrency-dollar-dethrone/. Already in the late 1950s the Forgash Plan proposed a World Bank for Economic Acceleration. Designed by Terence McCarthy and sponsored by Florida Senator Morris Forgash, the bank would have been a more truly development-oriented institution to guide foreign development to create balanced economies self-sufficient in food and other essentials. The proposal was opposed by U.S. interests on the ground that countries pursuing land reform tended to be anti-American. More to the point, they would have avoided trade and financial dependency on U.S. suppliers and banks, and hence on U.S. trade and financial sanctions to prevent them from following policies at odds with U.S. diplomatic demands.

[5]Don Weinland, “WTO rules against US in tariff dispute with China,” Financial Times, July 17, 2019.

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  1. bwilli123

    A very neat summation. Thank you
    One pedantic point. I think that the following sentence is unclear, as it appears to be missing a word. Perhaps “avoid”?
    ..”This foreign central-bank recycling of U.S. overseas military spending into purchases of U.S. Treasury securities gives the United States a free ride, financing its budget – also mainly military in character – so that it can taxing…”

    Trump Is Forcing Other Countries To Create an Alternative to the Dollar Standard

  2. Mael Colium

    Views from an economist who has been promoting neoclassical ideology for decades and then wonders when there are no alternatives to escape the narrative? Completely ignores how a monetary sovereign capacity can move away from US hegemony. The countries under the heel of the US are there because the IMF has engineered their economies in favour of the US. They could all threaten default at the same time and scare off the IMF horses – the US picks off individual countries by isolating them. Play the united game and the power of division practiced by the US would crumble. Just saying.

    1. timbers

      “They could all threaten default at the same time and scare off the IMF horses – the US picks off individual countries by isolating them. Play the united game and the power of division practiced by the US would crumble.”

      This is interesting. On a similar note, I’ve wondered why Russia has not defaulted on it’s considerable USD and EUR debt (also too, why is Russia still doing debt in USD and thus strengthening U.S.?).

      But only after she sells off all her U.S. holdings which will be (and have been already) seized by Out Law America.

      I believe Russia would be on some sort of legal ground in doing so in response to the illegal sanctions imposed upon by by the EU and U.S.

      And it will be interesting to see if Germany backs down on Nordstream II. Will she be a total puppet of the U.S.?

      Of course, it’s depressing Russia has not reformed it’s internal economy so that she can grow faster. Maybe because while Putin and others don’t want to take orders from Washington they are trapped in neoliberal economic thinking and can’t think outside the box?

      Until Washington changes, I firmly believe Russia and other nations must act as if their future hold one totally without U.S. interdependence and must create completely independent economies the U.S. can not touch. China? Hard to include China in that right now with so much trade with the U.S. but on the other hand their are reports U.S. related firms are starting to move out of China.

      1. Synoia

        Among the reports of companies leaving China, I’ve not seen any who declare they will return manufacturing to the US.

        One of the major objectives of Tariffs, historically, is to favor local manufacture over imports. Other than defense, is that happening?

        Boeing appears to be the poster child of how well a company with a large defense arm performs in the commercial sector.

        1. Oh

          The corporations that moved manufacturing to Mexico and then subsequently to China will continue to seek cheaper labor so that their management can feather their own nests. They’re not going to bring back manufacturing to the US. Look at these greedy corporations that sell Hanes underwear for example. They get rid of labels on their product to save less than a cent per item and spend money and spend millions in extolling the virtues of not having labesl on their tee shirts (Michael Jordon is the spokesman in the ad). Greed has no limits.

      2. lazycat1984

        “Maybe because while Putin and others don’t want to take orders from Washington they are trapped in neoliberal economic thinking and can’t think outside the box?”

        Probably a lot there. Maybe the idea is that the system can work but needs to be fiddled with to make it more fair to B stringers like Russia and China.

        The only time anyone has had any success escaping Anglo-American finance was Germany, Japan and the USSR in the 1930-45 period. The Soviets managed to keep their thing going until much later, but internal corruption ( where isn’t this a factor?) did them in.

        1. Oh

          Post WWII Japan kept away from the stranglehold of US Financiers by only purchasing technology and protecting their markets which other countries have to emulate.

      3. Plenue

        “I’ve wondered why Russia has not defaulted on it’s considerable USD and EUR debt (also too, why is Russia still doing debt in USD and thus strengthening U.S.?)”

        They have. Russia has dropped 84% of the Treasury Securities it held. https://money.cnn.com/2018/07/30/investing/russia-us-debt-treasury/index.html

        Notice how this hasn’t effected anything; other parties just happily bought it all up. The Russians were stupid to drop it because Treasury Securities are a guaranteed return on investment. Because, stick with me here on this, the US government can’t run out of US dollars.

        1. Roger Boyd

          They have removed those assets from the very great possibility of seizure by the US and others (like the Venezuelan gold seized by the UK). When push comes to shove the US and its minions have no ethics abut breaking whatever laws they deem to be in their way.

          They bought quite a lot of gold, which seems to be doing pretty well these days.

        2. timbers

          You misunderstood me. Russia borrows USD and EUR from Western banks. That makes US – Russia’s enemy – stronger. Russia should borrow from Russia not the US. I’m asking why don’t they default on that debt. Your response assumed I was referring to Russia holding US assets. That’s different. BTW I don’t agree with you that Russia made a mistake getting rid of US assets given the US has stolen Russian real estate holdings in the US and other nations property held in US banks like Venezuela’s USD deposits and gold.

      4. Sven Lystbæk

        “On a similar note, I’ve wondered why Russia has not defaulted on it’s considerable USD and EUR debt (also too, why is Russia still doing debt in USD and thus strengthening U.S.?)”
        It should be noted that Russia has almost zero foreign public debt and that the private foreign debt has been much reduced and now amounts to US dollars 450 billion.

        As Russia has a surplus of more than US dollars 100 billion on the current account the total foreign debt amounts to 4 years current account surplus only.

        Ad to this that Russias international currency reserves amounts to ca. US dollars 500 billion which meens that Russia is in a very strong fiscal position as it is capable of paying off its entire foreign debt any time it chooses.

    2. Ian Perkins

      Along the same lines, the summary starts with, “The first existential objective is to avoid the current threat of war by winding down U.S. military interference in foreign countries and removing U.S. military bases as relics of neocolonialism.” Either would be taken as proof of evil anti-US intentions, leading to sanctions, coups, assassinations, regime change, and eventually outright war. As Mael Colium says, the US picks off individual countries by isolating them.

    3. Oscar Peterson

      Michael Hudson has been promoting Neo-classical economics for decades?

      Could you elaborate on that claim?

      Easier said than done for sovereign states to unite–that’s the thing about sovereignty. Default can have lots of blowback and domestic repercussions even if it could be done en masse. The US is trying to pick off Iran and even though China, India, Russia, Turkey et al are very sympathetic, none of them is willing to go all in in support of Iran, because their interests and timelines are not congruent. Still, the tide is going out for the US.

      1. Oh

        Modi in India is digging a hole for India by purchasing arms from the US. The US will at any time will embargo the sale of spare parts just like they did to Iran post Shah.

        1. The Rev Kev

          And to Iraq. The US sold Iraq a fleet of modern M1 Abrams tanks but then had the company – General Dynamics – that did the servicing pull out after the US had a disagreement with Iraq. Before long half those tanks were out of service so Iraq has now bought modern T-90 Russian tanks instead.

        1. RBHoughton

          I believe his hope is for the world to recognise that Athens, Rome and Constantinoiple collapsed economically due to legislatively favoring creditors over debtors. Its a process we see alive in North America and Europe today. That’s where he is coming from

    4. jsn

      “Views from an economist who has been promoting neoclassical ideology for decades and then wonders when there are no alternatives to escape the narrative?”

      Really, you should read the article you posted this note under. What text is this comment in reference to?

    5. Vato

      Michael Hudson promoting neoclassical ideology for decades?? Are we talking about the same Michael Hudson from UMKC?
      Could you please provide one single link to a paper that was written by him relying on inductive methodology-based equilibrium theory??

      Thank you

    6. eg

      Michael Hudson “has been promoting neoclassical ideology for decades?”

      Is there some other economist named Michael Hudson with whom I’m unfamiliar?

  3. Trey N

    There are a number of such “unclear sentences” in the article. Is the original article so poorly written/edited, or is it errata in the transcription here?

    Either way, it’s a shame that such errors detract from the clarity of the ideas presented. Is there any way to go back and clean this mess up??

    1. barefoot charley

      Reading Michael’s fascinating history of debt forgiveness isn’t much different. I’m grateful for his writing but suffer from his typing. Have proofreaders gone the way of buggy whips?

      (And we must stipulate that typos here on NC are so buggy they’re a feature. Which makes me wonder if/when Roman inscriptions went illiterate–first century BC civil wars, or third century AD Christian takeover? Valuable historic perspective!)

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        ” Have proofreaders gone the way of buggy whips?”

        Yes. The job has been outsourced to Spellcheck.

      2. Vato

        The translations of his books into German are even worse. Lots of typos and often contentual mistranslation.

    2. Adams

      Support. I would go further and say the article should be taken down for editing. Needs to be translated into English.

      Also, too, the final sentence: “This dystopian scenario confirms Rosa Luxemburg’s recognition that the ultimate choice facing nations in today’s world is between socialism and barbarism.” is a rather large jump from the text. While many regular NC readers will agree, the connection for others is obscure.

      1. Anon

        Wait…the final sentence is what it is because it comes after everything before it. The quote distills much of what precedes it: The US is determined to be “the winner” in all dealings and nations acquiescing to US goals will likely lead to barbarism (austerity) for those populations.

        Sometimes a phrase hits to the core of a wider meaning: “Send Her Back!” (a racist chant in any language).

    3. jsn

      When we have MMT paying for arts, history, journalism and particularly editors, I won’t be so irritated by these kinds of criticisms.

      We live in a very advanced world of Bernaysian propaganda where the communicative industries are privately owned and directed to ensure deep criticisms of the hyper-exploitative current reality CANNOT be published and promoted.

      When someone takes the effort to produce something, like this or the book other commenters on this thread are also slighting, at great personal expense to themselves without corporate backing or institutional support, a decent reply would be “Thank you!”, rather than tasking them or our hosts here at this site to “go back and clean up this mess??”

      If you had any decency, you might suggest clarifying edits in comments, like changing “– so that it can taxing its own citizens.” at the end of the 23rd paragraph to, “– so that it can avoid taxing its own citizens”, to help the people you are criticizing for making things so difficult for you.

      1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        Michael Hudson is a modern day Saint!

        Who cares about a few typos when his ideas are truly REVOLUTIONARY!

        For example, i had no idea about Debt Jubilees in early civilizations 3000 years ago! The pyramids built by FREE MEN! Liberty and Freedom originating from canceling debts! Torches and Beacons of light as representatives of said Debt Jubilees!

        If you ask me, the #HudsonHawk is trying to awaken the Workers of the World in Forgiveness, Peace, Love, and Solidarity.

        HUDSON 2024

        1. softie

          I didn’t know that until I read anthropologist David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

          But there’s a fundamental difference between debt in the past and debt today. In the past debt was owed to the state, today it’s owed to some wealthy corporations. Good luck with debt jubilees in the absence of violent uprisings.

          1. Kurtismayfield

            And those corporations get favorable rates on money printed by the government.. and the government backs trillions in mortgage and student loans.

            Not much different.

            1. softie

              The difference is they internalize profit and externalize cost. And that’s fundamentally different from all other epochs in the past. Even the birth of nation state was out of their rationalization of how to maximize profit extraction and cost externalization in the 1st place. Good luck with debt jubilees.

      2. Oh

        I agree. I can read through typos, missing words, etc as long as the writing conveys the intended meaning. I think the criticism of the document for grammatical perfection is not warranted. I enjoyed the article myself anad I thank the author.

    4. Oregoncharles

      Have you offered your services as a proofreader to either NC or Dr. Hudson?

      I’ve thought about it, but I’m asleep when NC is posting.

  4. Wukchumni

    That is why Russia, China and other powers that U.S. strategists deem to be strategic rivals and enemies are looking to restore gold’s role as the preferred asset to settle payments imbalances.

    How would this occur aside from a repudiation of the almighty buck one wonders, and would it be based on reserves in the vault, or actual use as money?

    Keep in mind that there isn’t a human alive now who ever proffered a monetized gold coin in order to purchase something, and increasingly relatively few that have ever used a monetized silver coin for the same purpose.

      1. Wukchumni

        Gresham’s Law hit Cents in 1982 when the last of the 95% Copper ones were minted, replaced by 20% lighter 97% Zinc versions used today.

        There’s around $1.30 worth of Copper in a Dollar’s worth of pre 1982 Lincoln Cents, funny that.

  5. Clive

    I don’t have a huge amount of sympathy. The Eurozone and China could run trade deficits, thereby creating an opportunity for their currencies to become reasonably viable alternative reserves. But they don’t because they don’t want to cede control of their manufacturing and export-driven economic bases away.

    The US doesn’t mind and doesn’t care about the domestic repercussions. For how much longer that can continue, especially as Trump’s America First policy is putting that under some strain, is an open question. But for now, it’s willing to be satisfied with a little rowing back rather than wholesale reversal (back to, for example, an immediate-post war position of significant trade surpluses although the article is correct to point out this was due to the US being the last man standing, in terms of having a manufacturing base still intact).

    The Eurozone and China are not only not showing any signs of a policy change, they’ve continued embedding and strengthening the current modus operandi. You pays your money, you takes your choices. Here as elsewhere. If they’d rather not have the US$ having a more-or-less monopoly position in then global financial system as a reserve currency, they’ll need to make the compromises needed to set up these challenger currencies as viable alternatives.

    But they can’t have their economic cakes and eat them, too.

    And it’s not just currencies. You need legal systems which are deemed to be (which can only come through real, observational experience) investor-friendly — not just prone to supporting or at the very least given an easy ride to domestic stalwarts. Again, this has repercussions if you then have to stop cosseting domestic “champions”. The US legal system is ridiculously business friendly. But it doesn’t, overtly, differentiate between US and non-US companies in a commercial dispute.

    1. barefoot charley

      The sine qua non of our economic empire (which I learned here) is that a global currency requires global trade deficits, which must grow as quickly as the global economy to fulfill its role. Tell that to Germany! If your silly little euro or yen or renminbi tries to go global, the dollar-based currency speculators will shrivel it like Soros did the pound in the 90s. So American deficits are structural. Our debt-ceiling controversies are theater. And our dollar is exceptional until the instant it isn’t–then the Fed electron-tranfers trillions more to the speculators whose notional dollars just evaporated, keeping the currencies in the air with their new casino chips. Is this a loan? A gift? An electron cloud? It’s the fog of war by other means . . .

      It may have been Hudson who explained that a quarter (or was it half?) of all corporate profits after WWII went to American companies, when our economy was that much of the world’s. Now we’re a much smaller fraction of the global economy, but our corporate sector still profits as much as it did when it was producing, rather than marketing, real goods. Another exceptional achievement.

      1. barefoot charley

        Oops, and I meant to begin with strong agreement, Clive, just developing your point about the need for deficits to ‘buy’ control with unpayable debt. And it’s an excellent point that “The US doesn’t mind and doesn’t care about the domestic repercussions.” Just imagine if we did.

    2. Joe Well

      >>The US legal system is ridiculously business friendly. But it doesn’t, overtly, differentiate between US and non-US companies in a commercial dispute.

      How true is this statement? And would it be less true of EU courts? I am thinking of Samsung-Apple, and now the whole Huawei thing. FANG certainly seem like “national champions.”

  6. The Rev Kev

    Oh man, this is definitely a two coffee cup read with a ton of material to absorb. Definitely a keeper this. I’ll just make a brief comment as it is late here. Maybe what is key here is that there are so many trends working against the US as power shifts from a unipolar to a multipolar world that a determination has been made in Washington to try to set out a unilateral domineering position with regards the rest of the world to stop the loss of prestige and power. This is just not Trump but the Washington political establishment backing him up to put the US in a domineering position for at least the first half of this century.

  7. Peter

    This is the first serious article I’ve seen linking opposition to climate action with the US strategic focus on securing oil. The current oil wars may have started in 2003, but we’ve really been fighting them for longer, at least since the Tanker War of the late 80s, which led into the first Gulf War (which was explicitly for oil). We’ve been openly preparing for such wars since the Carter Doctrine of the late 70s as well. Those dates matter because the public generally became aware of global warming with the congressional hearings in 1988, and the oil companies (and thus presumably the rest of the deep state) became aware of the science as early as the 70s.

    US military strategy has been based around ensuring climate change happens for as long as climate change has been known about. Why isn’t this more of a scandal? Why isn’t this more openly discussed as a justification for changing US foreign policy? Why isn’t reducing imperial adventures discussed as a side benefit of any policy, like a Green New Deal, that seriously attempted to cut carbon emissions? It boggles the mind, and seems like the sort of thing that’ll be obvious to future generations so long as civilization hasn’t collapsed by then.

    1. Daniel Rich

      @ Peter,

      Perhaps we’ll get an ‘Easter Island V2.0 – The Extended Edition’ rehash…

  8. Summer

    Really all we know is that such a plan would create a different order. That so many countries have continued to pauper their populations long after the obviousness that “development” is a sham doesn’t bode well for their intentions even after the USA is brought to heel.

    1. hunkerdown

      Agreed. The likes of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership are still under negotiation and still, like every other multilateral investment agreement of recent vintage, apparently primarily concerned with creating supranational rights for landlords, especially of the absentee variety, at the expense of citizens in their collective capacity.

  9. Susan the other`

    This is a good summary of our irrational world. MMT and the GND can save the situation but only if we industrialized humans forego any more fossil fuels except for long-term survival purposes. Ration it with draconian discipline. That in turn will discipline our military and turn our energies to things we can no longer ignore. Money doesn’t bother me much. Resources and the critical health of the planet bother me a lot. Money and “gold” are, in the end, both fictitious obsessions.

  10. karlof1

    Thanks for providing this transcript prior to Hudson posting it to his own website. He was the first political-economist to lay out the Outlaw US Empire’s game plan when he published Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire in 1972. You’ll find few authors willing to provide their seminal work for free online–2nd Edition PDF. I think it fair for those unfamiliar with Hudson’s work to read his analysis prior to being judgmental.

  11. mauisurfer

    Re: Michael Hudson, SuperImperialism
    Here is a recent interview where MH reviews his book.
    And here is a wonderful autobiographical article
    a quote (hope it is not too long for you)
    > I worked at Chase Manhattan until 1967, then finally I had to quit to finish the dissertation. I spent a year on that. At Chase I had become the specialist in the oil industry’s balance of payments. When the Vietnam War began and escalated, President Johnson in January 1965, right after I joined the bank in December 1964, passed the voluntary – in reality, compulsory – foreign investment rules blocking American companies from investing more than 5% of the growth of the previous year’s investment. The oil industry objected to that. They came to David Rockefeller and said we’ve got to convince the government that we’re ripping off other countries so fast, we’re able to exploit them so rapidly, that it really helps the US balance of payments to let us continue investing more abroad. Can you help us show this statistically?
    > So David Rockefeller asked me to do a study of the balance of payments of the oil industry. Rockefeller said, “We don’t want to have Chase’s oil and gas department do it, because they would be thought of as lobbyists. Nobody knows who you are, so you’re neutral. We want to know what the real facts are, and if they’re what we think they are, we’ll publish what you write; if we don’t like it we’ll keep it to ourselves, but please just give us the facts.” He said, “You can ask the oil companies all the questions you want. They will fill out the forms you design for a statistical accounting format. We’ll give you a year to write it all up.” To me this was wonderful. Oil was the key sector internationally. It turned out I found out that the average dollar that actually was invested abroad by oil companies was recaptured by the US economy within 18 months. The payback period was that fast.
    > The report that I wrote was put on the desk of every senator and every representative in the United States and I was celebrated for being the economist of the oil industry. So this taught me everything about the balance of payments which, as I said, is a topic that’s not taught in any university. So I finished that, finished the dissertation, and then I developed a methodology for the overall US balance of payments. Most of the balance of payment statistics were changed when they designed the gross national product accounts. The accounts now treat exports and imports as if they were paid for fully for cash. So if you make a million dollars worth of grain exports, you are assumed to bring a million dollars into the economy. And if you export a million dollars of arms, of military, it all comes back.
    > What I found out is that only a portion actually of exports actually comes back. And imports have an even lower balance-of-payment costs as compared to their nominal valuation. For instance, all of America’s oil imports are from American oil companies, so if you pay a hundred dollars for oil, maybe thirty dollars of that is profit, thirty dollars is compensation to American management, thirty dollars is the use of American exports to physical equipment, oil drilling equipment and others to produce the oil.
    > The closest people that I worked with for the study were at the Standard Oil Company, which was always very close to the Rockefellers, as you know. So I went over the statistics and I said, “In the balance of payments, I can’t find where Standard Oil makes the profit. Does it make the profit by producing oil at the production end? Or does it make it selling it at the gas stations, at the retail sales end?” The treasurer of Standard Oil said, “Ah I can tell you where we make them. We make them right here in my office.” I asked how. “What countries could I find this in? I don’t find it in Europe, I don’t find it in Asia, I don’t find it in Latin America or Africa.” He said, “Ah, do you see at the very end of the geography headings for international earnings, there’s something called international?”
    > I said, “Yes that always confused me. Where is it? I thought all these foreign countries were international.” He explained that “international” means countries that are not really countries. They’re Liberia and Panama, countries that only use the US dollar, not their own currency. So the oil industry doesn’t have a currency risk. They are flags of convenience and they don’t have any income tax. He explained to me that Standard Oil sold its oil at a very low price from the Near East to Liberia or Panama or Lagos, or wherever they have a flag of convenience and no income tax. Then they would sell it at a very high price to its refineries in Europe and America, at such a high price that these “downstream” affiliates don’t make any income. So there’s no tax to pay. For all US oil investment in Europe, there’s no tax to pay because the oil companies’ accountants price it so high, and pay so little per barrel to third world countries such as Saudi Arabia, that they only get a royalty. Standard Oil and other U.S. oil companies – and also mining companies – don’t earn an income there, because they sell it so low, all the profits are reported to be taken in Liberia or Panama. These are non-countries.
    > That gave me the clue about what people these days talk about money laundering. In the last few months that I worked for Chase Manhattan in 1967, I was going up to my office on the ninth floor and a man got on the elevator and said, “I was just coming to your office, Michael. Here is a report. I’m from the State Department (I assumed that this meant CIA). “We want to calculate how much money the US could get if we set up bank branches and became the bank for all the criminal capital in the world.” He said, “We figured out we can finance, (and he said this in an elevator), we can finance the Vietnam War with all the drug money coming into America, all of the criminal money. Can you make a calculation of how much that might be?”
    > So I spent three months figuring out how much money goes to Switzerland, from drug dealings, what’s the dollar volume of drug dealings. They helped me with all sorts of statistics on that, and said, “We can become the criminal capital of the world and it’ll finance the dollar and this will enable us to afford the spending to defeat communism in Vietnam and elsewhere. If we don’t do that, the bomb throwers will come to New York.”
    > So I became a specialist in money laundering! Nothing could have better prepared me to understand how the global economy works! I had all the statistics, I had the help of the government people explaining to me how the CIA worked with drug dealing and other criminals and kidnappers to raise the money so it would be off the balance sheet funding and Congress didn’t have to approve it when they would kill people and sponsor revolutions. They were completely open with me about this. I realized they’d never done a security check on me.
    > So I wanted to do a study of the balance of payments of the whole United States. I went to work for Arthur Andersen, which was at that time was one of the Big Five accounting firms in the United States. Later it was convicted of fraud when it got involved in the Enron scandal and was closed down. But I was working before the other people went to jail, before they closed down Arthur Andersen. So I spent a year applying my balance of payments analysis to the US balance of payments. When I finally finished, I found that the entire US balance of payments deficit in the 1960s, since the Vietnam War, the entire balance of payments deficit was military spending abroad. The private sector’s trade and investment was exactly in balance; tourism, trade and investment were exactly in balance. All the deficit was military.
    > So I turned in my statistics. My boss Mr. Barsanti, came in to me three days later and he said, “I’m afraid we have to fire you.” I asked, “What happened?” He said, “Well, we sent it to Robert McNamara.” (who was the Secretary of Defense and then became an even more dangerous person with the World Bank, which probably is more dangerous to the world than the American military. But that’s another story). Mr. Barsanti said that McNamara said that Arthur Andersen would never get another government contract if it published my report.
    > In all of the Pentagon Papers that later came out of McNamara’s regime, there’s no discussion at all of the balance-of-payments cost of the Vietnam War. This is what was driving America off gold. At Chase Manhattan from 1964 until I left, every Friday the Federal Reserve would come out with its goal, its weekly statistics. We could trace the gold stock. Everybody was talking about General de Gaulle cashing in the gold, because Vietnam was a French colony and the American soldiers and army would have to use French banks, the dollars would go to France and de Gaulle would cash it in for gold.
    > Well, Germany actually was cashing in more gold than de Gaulle, but they didn’t make speeches about it. So I could see that the war spending was going to drive America off gold. There were three people, known as the Columbia Group, saying the Vietnam War was going to destroy the American monetary system as we know it. The group was composed of Terence McCarthy, my mentor; Seymour Melman, a professor at Columbia University’s School of Industrial Engineering where Terence also taught; and myself. We would basically go around the New York City giving speeches.

  12. flora

    One quibble with the closing Summary:

    The first existential objective is to avoid the current threat of war by winding down U.S. military interference in foreign countries and removing U.S. military bases as relics of neocolonialism.

    US Naval base in Subic Bay, Philippines was closed in 1992 after a leasing disagreement with the Philippine govt .

    Clark Air Force base in Angeles City, Philippines had closed the year earlier in 1991.

    China is growing power and challenger to shipping freedom of the South China Sea trading route, building artificial fortified islands and aircraft carriers. History has not ended. Power abhors a vacuum.

    I agree with Hudson’s point about the dangers of misdirected militarism, but I don’t think closing military bases around the world necessarily guarantees the end of military adventurism dangers by other rising powers.

    1. James

      Can we please limit our rampant militarist paranoia to one “rising power” at a time? First it was RussiaRussiaRussia!, now it’s ChinaChinaChina! and IranIranIran!, and yesterday I saw that we’ve even sunk to VenezuelaVenezuelaVenezuela! now too. When all you have are weapons all you see are threats and all that.

      1. flora

        Your point of view may see the comment as “rampant militarism”. My point of view sees it as realpolitik. Adding, the South China Sea has the world’s most heavily navigated international water sea lane.

        1. flora

          adding, an article from 2012:

          The international court has rejected China’s claim. China has rejected the international court’s ruling. China isn’t alone in rejecting rulings of international courts. The US isn’t blameless in that regard.


          Never the less, it is not ‘rampant militarism’ to point out what is happening.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Because, as flora implied, the Philippines needs help versus China – also an empire, much closer, and increasingly aggessive.

      This is where regional alliances are supposed to come in.

  13. mrtmbrnmn

    Once again, the estimable Michael Hudson hits the target. Our own RogueNationUSA. To paraphrase the not late but nevertheless lamented Keith Olbermann: America! Worst country in the woooorrrrllllddd!

  14. Johny Conspiranoid

    The Russians and Chinese keep talking about an alternative to SWIFT but it never appears.

  15. Sound of the Suburbs

    After 40 years of globalisation, it’s time to learn from past mistakes.

    What does the big winner in an open, globalised world look like?
    China, It went from almost nothing to become a global superpower.

    China had all the advantages in an open, globalised world.

    Maximising profit is all about reducing costs.

    China had coal fired power stations to provide cheap energy.
    China had a low cost of living so employers could pay low wages.
    China had low taxes and a minimal welfare state.
    China also had lax regulations reducing environmental and health and safety costs.

    The 1% would get better returns from investing their capital in the rapidly growing, new Asian economies than the slow growing, mature economies of the West.

    Multi-national corporations could make higher profits in Asia due to the low cost of living that they had to cover in wages.
    (Employees get their money from wages, so the employer pays through wages.)

    The West never stood a chance.

    China had all the advantages in an open, globalised world.

    It did have, but now China has become too expensive and developed Eastern economies are off-shoring to places like Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

    An open, globalised world is a race to the bottom on costs and the West is already paying the price with massive off-shoring.

    This is the logic of an open, globalised world.

    The US hadn’t thought it through when they came up with the Washington Consensus
    The US just can’t take responsibility for its own mistakes and is now blaming everyone else for its own foolishness.

      1. Sound of the Suburbs

        This is the US (46.30 mins.)

        This comes from an MMT talk and you can see how the trade deficit balloons around 2000.

        Michael Hudson pointed out in Super Imperialism how the US can run a big trade deficit as it can just print dollars to cover it.

        Putting the two together.

        It looks like the system used to work by allowing the Government deficit to cover the trade deficit.

        Now, they have tried to balance the Government budget causing problems for the private sector and financial crises.

        It all sums to zero and something needs to cover that trade deficit.

        It worked when the Government deficit covered it, but not now.

  16. Steven

    Perhaps the most immediately effective strategy for effecting a realignment of the global economy, ending the US pursuit of global military hegemony and the other planet threatening practices of the US and Western plutocracy would be for other countries to follow the historical precedent set by the United States in its Lend Lease dealings with Great Britain as detailed in Hudson’s Super Imperialism:

    Britain was near the end of its financial tether. Its gold and dollar reserves … had fallen to $1 billion by September 1940, when it nationalized the overseas investments of its large corporations and put them up for sale abroad. (p. 119)

    (I am assuming Britain didn’t do this voluntarily.) Hudson may be hinting at this with his de-dollarization strategy suggest of “Deprivatization and buyouts of US assets abroad.”
    This would expose the whole rotten edifice of Western finance capitalism, perhaps provoking a dangerous planet suicidal response. But one or two shots over the bow would be far more effective in curbing the wealth addiction and predatory propensities of the West’s plutocracy than Trump’s tariffs. It would also provide the Western money worshipping public with a powerful lesson they need a better definition of wealth than the price of stocks.

  17. ewmayer

    This assertion puzzles me:

    “The United States is the only nation that can run sustained balance-of-payments deficits without having to sell off its assets or raise interest rates to borrow foreign money.” — I guess most of our manufacturing base and much of our real estate don’t count as “assets”? Because given that the Chinese aren’t plowing their trade-surplus dollars into Treasury debt (they have not been net buyers of same for years), those offshored-$ payment imbalances associated with our trade deficits have to come back in *some* form. Wolf Richter has been documenting the huge prop given by Chinese buyers to the current RE-price bubble, for example.

Comments are closed.