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Financial skeptic

Notes on "neoliberalism enforced" cruise to Frugality Island for 401K Lemmings

News Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Recommended Links Peak cheap Energy and Oil Price Slump Secular Stagnation under Neoliberalism Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks: The efficient m hypothesis Casino Capitalism
Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime Neoliberal Attacks on Social Security Unemployment Inflation vs. Deflation Coming Bond Squeeze Notes on 401K plans Vanguard
401K Investing Webliography Retirement scams Stock Market as a Ponzy scheme Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability Neoclassical Pseudo Theories The Great Stagnation Investing in Vanguard Mutual Funds and ETFs
OIL ETNs Peak Cheap Energy and Oil Price Slump Notes on 100-your age investment strategy behavior in rigged markets Chasing a trade The Possibility Of No Mean Reversion Junk Bonds For 401K Investors Tax policies
John Kenneth Galbraith The Roads We Take Economics Bookshelf Who Rules America Financial Quotes Financial Humor Etc

“When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product
of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.”

John Maynard Keynes

"Life is a school of probabilities."

Walter Bagehot

Neoliberal economics (aka casino capitalism) function from one crash to another. Risk is pervasively underpriced under neoliberal system, resulting in bubbles small and large which hit the economy periodically. The problem are not strictly economical or political. They are ideological. Like a country which adopted a certain religion follows a certain path, The USA behaviour after adoption of neoliberalism somewhat correlate with the behaviour of alcoholic who decided to booze himself to death. The difference is that debt is used instead of booze.

Hypertrophied role of financial sector under neoliberalism introduces strong positive feedback look into the economic system making the whole system unstable. Any attempts to put some sand into the wheels in the form of increasing transaction costs or jailing some overzealous bankers or hedge fund managers are blocked by political power of financial oligarchy, which is the actual ruling class under neoliberalism for ordinary investor (who are dragged into stock market by his/her 401K) this in for a very bumpy ride. I managed to observe just two two financial crashed under liberalism (in 2000 and 2008) out of probably four (Savings and loan crisis was probably the first neoliberal crisis). The next crash is given, taking into account that hypertrophied role of financial sector did not changes neither after dot-com crisis of 200-2002 not after 2008 crisis (it is unclear when and if it ended; in any case it was long getting the name of "Great Recession").

Timing of the next crisis is anybody's guess but it might well be closer then we assume. As Mark Twain aptly observed: "A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes" ;-):

This morning that meant a stream of thoughts triggered by Paul Krugman’s most recent op-ed, particularly this:

Most of all, the vast riches being earned — or maybe that should be “earned” — in our bloated financial industry undermined our sense of reality and degraded our judgment.

Think of the way almost everyone important missed the warning signs of an impending crisis. How was that possible? How, for example, could Alan Greenspan have declared, just a few years ago, that “the financial system as a whole has become more resilient” — thanks to derivatives, no less? The answer, I believe, is that there’s an innate tendency on the part of even the elite to idolize men who are making a lot of money, and assume that they know what they’re doing.

As most 401K investors are brainwashing into being "over bullish", this page is strongly bearish in "perma-bear" fashion in order to serve as an antidote to "Barrons" style cheerleading. Funny, but this page is accessed mostly during periods of economic uncertainty. At least this was the case during the last two financial crisis(2000 and 2008). No so much during good times: the number of visits drops to below 1K a month.

Still I hope it plays a small but important role: to warn about excessive risk taking by 401K investors in neoliberal economic system. It designed to serve as a warning sign and inject a skeptical note into MSM coverage. There are not many such sites, so a warning about danger of taking excessive risk in 401K accounts under neoliberalism has definite value. The following cartoon from 2008 illustrated this point nicely

As far as I know lot of 401K investors are 100% or almost 100% invested at stocks. Including many of my friends. I came across a very relevant to this situation joke which nicely illustrated the ideas of this page:

Seven habits that help produce the anything-but-efficient markets that rule the world by Paul Krugman in Fortune.

1. Think short term.
2. Be greedy.
3. Believe in the greater fool
4. Run with the herd.
5. Overgeneralize
6. Be trendy
7. Play with other people's money

I would like to stress again that it is very difficult to "guess" when the next wave of crisis stikes us: "A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes".

But mispricing of risk in 401K accounts is systemic for "overbullish" 401 investors, who expect that they will be able to jusp of the train in time, before the crash. Usually such expectations are false. And to sell in the market that can lose 10% in one day is not easy psychologically. I remember my feelings in 2001-2002 and again 2008-2009. That's why many people who planned to "jump" stay put and can temporarily lose 30 to 50% of value of their 401k account in a very short period of time (and if you think that S&P500 can't return to 1000, think again; its all depends on FED). At this point some freak out and sell their holdings making paper losses permanent.

Even for those who weathered the storm and held to their stock holdings, it is important to understand that paper losses were eliminated mostly by Fed money printing. As such risks remains as at one point FED might find itself out of ammunition. The fact that S&P500 recovered very nicely it does not diminish the risk of such behavior. There is no guarantee that the third crisis will behave like previous two.

Next crash will have a new key determinant: the attitude toward the US government (and here I mean the current government of Barack Obama) and Wall Street after 2008 is the lack of trust. That means that you need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Injection on so much money into financial system was a novel experiment which is not ended yet. So how it will end is anybody's guess. We are now in uncharted waters. I think when Putin called Bernanke a hooligan, he meant exactly this. Since Bernanke was printing money out of thin air to buy financial paper, his action were tantamount to shoplifting. In some way this probably is more similar to running meth labs inside Fed building. The system was injected with narcotics. Everybody felt better, but the mechanism behind it was not healthy.

The complexity of modern financial system is tremendous and how all those new financial instruments will behave under a new stress is unknown. At the same time in the Internet age we, the great unwashed masses, can't be keep in complete obscurity like in good old time. Many now know ( or at least suspect ) that the neoliberal "show must goes on" after 2008 is actually going strongly at their expense. And while open rebellion is impossible, that results in lack of trust which represents a problem for financial oligarchy which rules the country. The poor working slobs are told be grateful for Walmart's low (poverty-subsidized) prices. Middle class is told that their declining standard of living is a natural result of their lack of competitiveness in the market place. Classic "bread and circuses" policy still works but for how long it will continue to work it is unclear.

But nothing is really new under the sun. To more and more people it is now clear that today the US is trying to stave off the inevitable decline by resorting to all kinds of financial manipulations like previous empires; yesterday, it was the British Empire and if you go further back, you get the USSR, Hapsburg empire, Imperial Russia, Spanish empire, Venetian empire, Byzantium and Roman empire. The current "Secretary of Imperial Wars" (aka Secretary of Defense) Ashton Baldwin Carter is pretty open about this:

“We already see countries in the region trying to carve up these markets…forging many separate trade agreements in recent years, some based on pressure and special arrangements…. Agreements that…..leave us on the sidelines. That risks America’s access to these growing markets. We must all decide if we are going to let that happen. If we’re going to help boost our exports and our economy…and cement our influence and leadership in the fastest-growing region in the world; or if, instead, we’re going to take ourselves out of the game.”

For the US elite it might be a time to rethink its neocon stance due to which the US is exposing ourselves to the enmity of the rising economic powers, and blowing serious cash to maintain it hegemony via maintaining huge military budget, financing wars and color revolutions in distant countries. In a way the US foreign policy became a financial racket, and racket can't last forever because it incite strong opposition from other countries.

Neoliberalism (aka casino capitalism) as a social system entered the state of decline after 2008. Like communism before it stopped to be attractive to people. But unlike communism it proved to have greater staying power, surviving in zombie state as finanfial institutions preserved political power and in some cases even enhanced it. It is unclear how long it will say in this state. Much depends on the availability of "cheap oil" on which neoliberal globalization is based.

But the plausible hypothesis is that this social system like socialism in xUSSR space before entered down slope and might well be on its way to the cliff. Attempts to neo-colonize other states by the West became less successful and more costly (Compare Ukraine, Libya and Iraq with previous instances of color revolutions). Some became close to XIX century colonial conquests with a lot of bloodshed (from half million to over a million of Iraqis, by different estimates, died ). As always this is mainly the blood of locals, which is cheap.

Libya and Ukraine are two recent examples. Both countries are now destroyed (which might be the plan). In Ukraine population is thrown in object poverty with income of less that $5 a day for the majority of population. And there is no other way to expand markets but to try to "neo-colonize" new countries by putting them into ominous level of debt while exporting goods to the population on credit. That is not a long term strategy as Greece, Bulgaria, and now Spain and Portugal had shown. With shrinking markets stability of capitalism in general and neoliberalism in particular might decrease.

Several researchers points to increased importance Central banks now play in maintaining of the stability of the banking system. That's already a reversal of neoliberal dogma about free (read "unregulated") markets. Actually the tale about "free markets", as far as the USA is concerned, actually was from the very beginning mainly the product designed for export (read about Washington consensus).

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[Dec 17, 2017] Retiring abroad

Notable quotes:
"... Canada is as neoliberal as almost anywhere else in the Anglo developed world. You can think of us as being just like the USA or UK, but about a decade behind in the adoption of dumb and cruel ideas. In the Anglo neoliberal family, Canada is the slightly retarded little sibling. ..."
"... Ireland allows you to claim citizenship if you have an Irish grandparent (with some caveats). Many US and Canadians use this to work/settle in the EU. A Chicago friend who was working in London and HK got her Irish passport without ever bothering to visit Ireland. ..."
"... Yves, Sweden might take you, if you can take the winters the requirements for self-employed residence permits aren't too harsh. So far they've managed to not overdo it on neoliberalism, although there are forces that sure try to make it happen. ..."
"... I also live near San Miguel de Allende in a small, agricultural Mexican community perched on the side of an extinct volcano. I pretty much avoid the expat scene, shop in the mercados, hang with Mexican friends and am thoroughly enjoying soaking in this wonderful way of life. I made this move at age 70. ..."
"... When I'm in Mexico the feeling is of constantly hitting my head against a glass ceiling and biting my tongue. ..."
"... But for the love of God, stay on the beaten tourist path (SMA-Oaxaca City-Cholula etc.). Don't go into Guerrero except maybe Taxco. I was just in Chilpancingo for a professional event, taking every precaution, and the stories you hear first hand are horrifying. The security situation in Mexico is deteriorating badly. ..."
"... Even states like Puebla that used to be safe are seeing kidnappings and other extreme crime. If you speak Spanish, the issue of security it is utterly unavoidable, it creeps into many conversations and dominates the local news. ..."
"... 'According to Pew Charitable Trusts, only 13 percent of Baby Boomers still have [defined benefit pensions].' ..."
"... This 13 percent remnant overwhelmingly consists of government employees, whose defined benefit pensions are uniformly underfunded (and even understated as to HOW underfunded they are). ..."
"... I had a work colleague from Sweden. She had been a school teacher there and came to the U.S. to sell financial products, make a lot of money and avoid Swedish taxes. I asked her if she were going to become a U.S. citizen. She looked at me like I was crazy, laughed and said, "Hell no, I would never wish to be old in America." ..."
"... From my perch, if any Americans want to make the move, I would say over the next decade before that door closes. The regulations are already tightening up such as making sure that you owe no taxes or the like before you leave. More Americans are now renouncing their citizenship as America still want to tax them even when they have moved away. After this decade, I regret to say, that America will be no country for old people. ..."
"... And speaking of inequality, most countries have far worse inequality than the US and it is savage and painful to watch when your security guard finishes a 12 hour shift and then starts another 12 hour shift across the street. ..."
"... By the way don't get me started on the cost of healthcare. It's cheap until you run into a major complication. I had surgery in Peru for something minor and the total bill was over $5000 USD. Imagine if it were heart surgery. My expat insurance paid it but you can't get that if you're over a certain age. ..."
Dec 01, 2014 | nakedcapitalism.com

Roland , December 14, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Canada is as neoliberal as almost anywhere else in the Anglo developed world. You can think of us as being just like the USA or UK, but about a decade behind in the adoption of dumb and cruel ideas. In the Anglo neoliberal family, Canada is the slightly retarded little sibling.

The cost of living is high in Canadian cities. In Vancouver and Toronto, the cost of living has soared out of any sort of proportion to employment incomes. Affordable rental housing is often infested with bedbugs or other vermin (Vancouver alleyways are strewn with stained mattresses and other abandoned furniture). Beggars are seen everywhere, while the Teslas and Lexuses roll past. Not a day goes by that I don't see elderly persons climbing in and out of dumpsters. Permanent shantytowns have arisen on the outskirts. We got almost the same opiates problem as the USA.

The province of Quebec used to be more social-democratic in orientation than other parts of Canada. But even the Quebecois seem to have caught the mental and spiritual diseases of the globalist bourgeoisie. I recently spent a month in Montreal, and was aghast to see the staircases of downtown Metro stations rendered almost impassable by the large numbers of homeless men and women trying to sleep there.

My younger relatives look at me very sceptically, when I tell them that as late as 1990, a beggar was an unusual sight in Vancouver. Of course, people born since that time would think that what you see today is normal .

Wukchumni , December 14, 2017 at 8:10 am

We were at a commercial hot springs somewhere in France about 15 years ago, and it cost around $5 to go in, and before entering, there was a doctor and nurse that checked your blood pressure, etc., for no extra charge. It was so over the top in terms of anything compared to here, in a delightful way.

artiste-de-decrottage , December 14, 2017 at 3:23 pm

In France, doctors make a lot less than in the US, particularly general practitioners. The GP doctors make on the order of what a senior manager or engineer makes.

There are good reasons for that (among them free education for doctors and a totally different societal attitude towards healthcare, based on SOLIDARITY – whose outcome is a more reasonable cost and coverage. Yes, they also do use that word a lot in general public discourse, in many European countries. Have you heard the word SOLIDARITY in the US in public discourse, ever?).

A good summary of that and meaningful comparisons with other nations' healthcare systems is provided in the book 'The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care' by T. R. Reid.

Larry , December 14, 2017 at 7:44 am

Don't worry, Marcon and Merkel are accelerating the crapification of France and the wider EU. The next generation will get to experience the joys of economic and health insecurity in abundance.

vidimi , December 14, 2017 at 8:05 am

the main project now is to gut the public pensions. the PIIGS countries have already had to slash theirs, so the plan now is to bring the rest of Europe to Canadian levels (retirement age at 67 or higher with a minimal state component).

JEHR , December 14, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Retirement levels were put back to 65 with our Trudeau Liberal government.

kukuzel , December 14, 2017 at 3:31 pm

By the way, it is not widely known for example that the retirement age in Russia is 60. And, judging by the tens of thousands of healthy and active Russian retirees (these are teachers and professional workers, "middle class" people, not oligarchs – those go to Monaco and Switzerland of course) living on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria (mild winters, culturally and geographically close, inexpensive by developed world standards, gateway to the EU), their pensions cannot be that bad.

And no, they don't look like they are about to die at 65.

So, take that, dear future US retirees (myself in that number).

Robert McGregor , December 14, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Wikipedia says the retirement age in Russia is 60 for men, and 55 for women !!! My personal family practice physician is a Russian immigrant and pre-GFC she claimed, "Most Russian men die before 60. (Wikipedia now says 70.91) Next time I see her I may ask her about Russian retirement, and life expectancy etc. Another topic is the prevailing attitude of Russian immigrants when they came to America. They really expected to clean up! I'd be interested in what other NC readers think about this.

Certainly I can imagine the distress of Russian immigrants who through a lot to move to the US only to find by age 60–55 for women–they might have been better off being back in Russia.

OIFVet , December 14, 2017 at 10:19 pm

Indeed, the Black Sea coast is overran by Russkies, younger ones as well. The countryside is where the Brits move to to feel like country squires on the cheap. And Americans are concentrated in Sofia, doing the heavy lifting of pretending to be civilising the natives while securing staging areas for the future war against Russia. It's all one big happy international family :) Can't wait to move back there permanently in 30 months.

Jeff Mintz , December 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm

I believe that Medicare benefits cannot be used outside the US at all.

kazy , December 14, 2017 at 3:58 pm

You can't use Medicare anywhere other than the US

David Carl Grimes , December 14, 2017 at 5:19 pm

They should allow Medicare to be used outside the US, especially for low cost countries in the Third World. They are cheaper and just as good as the US for many medical services – maybe not for transplants but for heart bypasses, dialysis, etc., they are ok.

annie , December 14, 2017 at 7:01 pm

correct: medicare cannot be used outside the u.s.
we are retirees living abroad much of the year. our secondary insurance (which we are lucky enough to have from former teaching job) becomes our primary insurance. we submit bills to them and they pay (reimburse) fairly well.
we use local doctors and clinics at much lower rates than in the u.s.
emergency medical care in europe is nearly always free or all but free.

gardener1 , December 14, 2017 at 4:13 pm

We've been to Ecuador twice in the last 4 years exploring retirement there – and decided against it. For a combination of reasons.

1. In spite of what gets touted in the retirement media, for the most part Ecuador is a third world country with everything that entails.

2. The much ballyhood Cuenca is in an Andes plateau at 8,000 ft. elevation. Not a fan, and it's isolated, if you want to get out of Cuenca there's a lot of nowhere to go. Cuenca has been haggling with airlines to get some service providers since TAME cancelled its routes, that's been a constant and ongoing problem.

3. I liked Quito, It's at 9,000 ft. I really couldn't take it.

4. The coast is a very narrow strip of land at the bottom of the mountains, and outside of a couple of areas it's a backwater. Little infrastructure, few services, dirt poor. The north coast of Ecuador (we call it the mosquito zone) shook down in a 7.8 earthquake in 2016 that wrecked everything from Manta to the Colombian border.

5. Ecuador completely overhauled its visa laws in February of this year making it much more difficult to get any kind of permanent residency permit, and requiring all visa applicants to provide proof of personal health insurance to qualify for a visa.

6. Ecuador isn't cheap. They levy enormous taxes on almost everything that's imported, which is just about everything but food. Impossible to get packages and mail in or out.

'Studies' have shown that the majority of pensioners who retire there, leave and go back home or somewhere else within 5 years.

LifelongLib , December 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

American individualism is a recent myth. I remember how my grandmother who grew up in rural Montana a century ago could rattle off the names of various second cousins, to say nothing of all the family stories. Life then was rugged but it was not individualistic.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , December 14, 2017 at 2:48 pm

That's a key consideration for me.

Friends and relatives.

Perhaps one can acquire new pals at the age of 70, as as not to be a lonely old man/woman.

Or are you just a Yankee with money?

And hopefully the new country is so subdued by the super power that there is no need to liberate it. For example, Libya, a few years ago, would not have been a good choice, in this respect.

jackiebass , December 14, 2017 at 7:31 am

If you choose traditional medicare instead of a medicare advantage plan , I don't understand how it would narrow your network. Traditional medicare is universal in the US and accepted by most providers. I've been on traditional medicare for16 years and haven't had a provider that doesn't accept traditional medicare.

doug , December 14, 2017 at 9:42 am

I wonder if that is regional. Where I live(south), I never see a problem with that.

My PCP when I asked him as I approached 65, replied, that of course he accepted medicare, that there was little difference between it and other insurance, and that folks who did not accept medicare were immoral in his view.

Left in Wisconsin , December 14, 2017 at 1:18 pm

I think out here in flyover it is less common for doctors to not take Medicare patients. My elderly father moved out here 1.5 years ago and has made considerable use of the excellent resources of the UW health system. His secondary private insurance covers very little since he is out-of-network but Medicare has covered virtually everything and no expert has refused to see him (urology, throat/swallowing, dementia, macular degeneration, etc.) due to being Medicare insured. I am pretty sure the entire Mayo Clinic operation takes Medicare patients also.

It may be that independent docs are refusing Medicare patients but there are fewer and fewer of those out here.

Yves Smith Post author , December 14, 2017 at 7:53 am

A lot of doctors do not accept Medicare. My current MD does not. I think that is even more true of specialists.

And I am not in a network. I have an old-fashioned indemnity plan. I can see any doctor, anywhere in the world. I submitted claims for 2 years from Australia, and have also submitted claims from the UK and Thailand.

pretzelattack , December 14, 2017 at 11:09 am

it happens around this southern city . scary stuff, my first world problems may turn into third world problems. trying to imagine being 70, living in a van, queing up for a chance at a valuable temp gig in an amazon warehouse.

Rhondda , December 14, 2017 at 10:41 am

I would have thought so, too. Certainly the media I have read has lead me to believe that many doctors don't accept Medicare. I wondered what the percentages were so I did a search. Surprising to me. More nuance than one might think in the results -- seems you can "accept" at finer-grained levels than one might assume in a Federal program. Here's what seems to be a reasonably objective and recent appraisal: http://www.factcheck.org/2017/03/medicaids-doctor-participation-rates/

GF , December 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Anecdotal reply from the few doctors I have seen: They state they accept Medicare because it pays them quickly and there is less paperwork than with most insurance companies, which results in less office overhead. Even with the lower payments from Medicare for many procedures, the doctors do OK when the big picture is examined.

Jack G , December 14, 2017 at 2:57 pm

One of my docs accepts no insurance. But he will file the Medicare claim. I pay him and Medicare sends me a check. It's a little unwieldy but he's a good doc (in my completely unprofessional opinion) so I put up with it. Others don't and go to other docs.

Jer Bear , December 14, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Physicians in private practice often do not accept Medicare or Medicaid do to billing issues. These are usually older doctors with established practices. Younger physicians often end up working as employees of large chain hospitals to stay solvent, and they will accept any form of payment.

Tinky , December 14, 2017 at 7:32 am

I now live in Portugal. The quality of life is high, and cost of living quite low (though Lisbon has become pricey in terms of property).

A few months ago I sustained a cut that wasn't healing well, and decided to visit a private walk-in clinic. It was clean, modern, and there was virtually no wait. The nurse took care of me, as no doctor was required. She spent about twenty minutes cleaning and dressing the wound, and gave me some extra waterproof bandages to take home.

The cost? Six Euros. You read that correctly: Six Euros.

RabidGandhi , December 14, 2017 at 7:45 am

To the issue of cost of living, I was in Portugal last week and had a myocardial infarction upon seeing petrol prices at 1.55€/litre. Good thing is not only are there excellent public hospitals for such MIs, but the extremely relaxed recreational pharmaceuticals policy makes for good prevention as well.

Tinky , December 14, 2017 at 8:04 am

Petrol is expensive throughout Europe, but who really needs a car? Public transport in Portugal is largely excellent, and cheap.

Carolinian , December 14, 2017 at 10:04 am

Where I live a liter is about .48 euro if I have my conversion right. So retirees here do catch some breaks. Also there's no VAT although we do of course have sales tax. And finally many US retirees fully own their homes whereas in, say, Germany almost everybody rents. Indeed I'd say that so far the US elderly have it easy compared to the millenials who are the ones really getting screwed. Just reading an article the other day about the record number of millenials living with their parents or, undoubtedly, their grandparents.

And finally I've read Nomadland and should be said that many of those older people wandering around the country do so by choice. RVs are not cheap. A new one can cost as much as a house. Amazon prefers to hire these people for their work ethic and because they bring their own housing with them which is handy for a temporary workforce. Amazon even tries to sugarcoat the exploitation by making a kind of club out of it called CamperForce.

Pinhead , December 14, 2017 at 11:51 am

Home ownership in Germany is 52% and it is below 45% in Switzerland. It is 65-75% in almost all other rich countries including the US. It is actually around 85% in Russia and 90% in Cuba although the amenities are not quite the same.

jCandlish , December 14, 2017 at 12:01 pm

As a Swiss I can say that it does not pay to own your house outright. The way our taxes are structured you are cash ahead to carry your mortgage in perpetuity. It is a nice gift for our banks.

Anon , December 14, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Many 'Mericans say they own their home, but actually the bank (mortgage) owns the home. They're simply trying to improve their equity (and freedom to paint it whatever color they please) in the home.

I've owned (completely mortgage free) several homes, and between crazy neighbors, time involved in upkeep, and property tax the best hope is to sell them to a greater fool. (Price appreciation.) Spending over half of one's income on a home mortgage and hoping the next generation will buy it when it's time to move on is more risky than many other "investments".

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , December 14, 2017 at 5:03 pm

I'm in the middle of re-piping the whole house.

It's not cheap.

witters , December 14, 2017 at 5:18 pm

All them pipe-fitters gone to France?

oliverks , December 14, 2017 at 1:28 pm

I was in Italy this year, in a remote part where you really needed a car to get around. The diesel prices were shocking, but the small car efficiency actually balanced out the price. I don't think I spent any more per mile than I did in the US. For reference, I drive a 4 cylinder Toyota which is not exactly a gas guzzler here.

Larry , December 14, 2017 at 7:46 am

How would that visit go in Greece?

Wukchumni , December 14, 2017 at 7:46 am

My mom gave me her checkbook register from mid 1961-62 a few years ago, and for a family of 6, there was a total of $88 paid to Dr. Evers, our family physician. My coming out party was $190.

The checks were mostly $6 and $7, with one $14 whopper.

I asked my mom if we had health insurance, and she told me that aside from a few that had Kaiser, nobody had health insurance back in those days.

cojo , December 14, 2017 at 9:36 am

Health insurance was not as critical in those days. The low prices you quote for day to day purchases could also be found in the healthcare of the day. Not the inflated prices we have now. Same with education. I recall seeing old tuition receipts from my university that maxed out at a few hundred dollars per semester in the 1950's.

Eclair , December 14, 2017 at 10:47 am

My dad's brother was a physician, an old-fashioned family doctor whose office was in his home and who made house calls. This was in the 1940's and 50's. Many of his patients paid 'in kind;' although he lived in the city, people still had large gardens or lived on outlying small farms, and in August and September especially, my aunt would routinely find boxes of fresh fruits and veggies on their porch. She joked that she was kept busy canning and preserving for at least three months of the year.

Yves Smith Post author , December 14, 2017 at 7:55 am

Yes .but you are in Portugal. For someone old to get permanent residence in a foreign country is generally an insurmountable obstacle.

Tinky , December 14, 2017 at 8:02 am

Actually, there are some avenues available for some, depending on ancestry, but work is required.

My father was born in Europe, and, after three years and the help of an inexpensive lawyer, I was able to gain a second citizenship. That, in turn, allowed me to live in Europe.

I believe that Ireland has fairly liberal rules along these lines, but it is worth checking into it no matter what foreign country one's parents were born.

Yves Smith Post author , December 14, 2017 at 8:10 am

Won't even remotely work for me. I'm from old and undistinguished stock. All my grandparents were born in the US and three of my four grandparents have gene pools that go back to before the Revolution (two English, one bizarrely Hungarian).

vlade , December 14, 2017 at 9:45 am

If you could speak Hungarian (which would be a feat ), you could apply for Hungarian passport by ancestry (assuming you can track your Hungarian roots with sufficient documentation). That would open all of EU, and I think you might like Berlin

Yves Smith Post author , December 14, 2017 at 2:00 pm

No, my Hungarian ancestors have supposedly been here over 200 years, plus my mother was terrified of both her parents, in particular her Hungarian father, who was estranged from the rest of his family, and so she knows nothing about his ancestors. The claim was they came to help fight in the Revolutionary War and stayed. That's likely family urban legend, but my mother is pretty sure his parents were born here too.

PlutoniumKun , December 14, 2017 at 8:18 am

Ireland allows you to claim citizenship if you have an Irish grandparent (with some caveats). Many US and Canadians use this to work/settle in the EU. A Chicago friend who was working in London and HK got her Irish passport without ever bothering to visit Ireland.

PlutoniumKun , December 14, 2017 at 8:12 am

Easy enough within the EU of course – there are huge numbers of northern European retirees living on the Med and in Portugal. But plenty of Britons are finding out to their horror they are very vulnerable to both Brexit and a weakening sterling.

I've not looked into the visa side of things, but some Asian countries target retirees as a source of investment in rural areas. I don't know if it still does, but Taiwan used to market itself to Japanese retirees as a cheap place to move with your yen pensions. There are a lot of retirement developments in Thailand and elsewhere, marketed on cheap property and good quality health systems. They seem to aim mostly at Europeans and Japanese.

FreeMarketApologist , December 14, 2017 at 8:27 am

Mexico. I have friends (gay, married; a retired nurse and retired librarian), who moved there full-time 3 years ago after 30+ years in NYC, and nearly 15 years of periodic vacations all over Mexico, to consider possible locations. They moved to a medium-sized city about 3 hours by bus from Mexico City, somewhat off the beaten path of the usual expat communities. Very affordable, and permanent residency is not a problem. Mexico City is very affordable, very good subway system, and has lots of things to do if you're retired and need to fill up a day. Over their years of visits, they built up a network of friends and connections, and have found good local doctors and dentists. One is fluent in Spanish, the other not so much.

Alex V , December 14, 2017 at 7:48 am

To me, another thing that makes the US horrible and expensive for older people (among other groups) is the virtual requirement for a car. Outside of a few major metro areas you're basically screwed without one. Part of why I encourage my mother to move back to Germany after my father passed away (even though she drives now and has a car) she can get basically anywhere in Europe without needing to get behind the wheel.

Yves, Sweden might take you, if you can take the winters the requirements for self-employed residence permits aren't too harsh. So far they've managed to not overdo it on neoliberalism, although there are forces that sure try to make it happen.

Alex V , December 14, 2017 at 8:58 am

Here you go!

https://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Working-in-Sweden/Self-employment.html

Wait times for decisions are long, but they're actually quite helpful and nice in general. Almost like they want people to move here

Mark Alexander , December 14, 2017 at 11:04 am

Thanks for the link. These bits from "Requirements for obtaining a residence permit as a self-employed" do seem a bit daunting, though: "show that you have established customer contacts and/or a network in Sweden", and "show that the business' services or goods are sold and/or produced in Sweden". This would be tough for us, since our main business now is fiber arts (weaving, etc.) and farming, all very local things. I do some part-time programming but that's also quite local.

Fifteen years ago, I qualified for NZ immigration, just barely. Now I'm too old (their points system penalizes you on age). Sad, really, since I spent a year in NZ as a child, went to school there, went on camping trips and adored the landscape, etc. I still consider it my first home.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , December 14, 2017 at 3:34 pm

When Bush got appointed the second time in 2005 we made the move to Australia and boy are we glad we did.
The concerns about family and friends cited here are real but we have adjusted and Aussies are very easy and welcoming as new friends.

We recently dropped our "private health coverage" which is essentially an American-style system that sits atop the existing public system. So when my son recently had a non-serious health problem we were really astonished when, at 2 hours' notice, a doctor showed up at our house to treat him. Bill? Zero. All of the health care we've received here has been top-notch.

Not mentioned in the article is that many countries, especially in Asia, are not ageist . Employers actually value and respect the experience and wisdom older workers bring.

But my view is that the only hope is to hijack the politics of everything in the U.S., the richest country on Earth has more than enough money to solve its woes. So pick a single issue, a simple one that everybody can understand, one that is so destructive and hateful and wasteful that everybody can get behind it, and organize. Can I suggest Permanent War ? Maybe mention the $21 trillion that went missing at the Pentagon in the last decade? Maybe help people understand that the enemy (Osama, ISIS) is dead ? Show them a quick chart and ask them to pick which one they want to buy , an electronic gun that can shoot Middle Eastern goat herders from space, or 25 new hospitals.

Stop the War. It's what worked in the 60's, and it can work again. A New Peace Dividend that can be spent on the things people are crying out for like retirement and health care. Leave out all of the other divisive stuff like gender and race and abortions and green energy and net neutrality. The party platform has one item on it: Stop The War. Peace, Bread, and Land.

Paleobotanist , December 14, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Hi Yves

Think seriously about Montreal. It's one of the world's great cities. Great public transport. We don't own a car. Life is good here.

Yves Smith Post author , December 14, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Yes, the trick is getting to Canada and Quebec at my advanced age. I know the provinces have job categories where they are seeking workers, otherwise my impression is it's by points, and I fail on that. The only way in might be if I got some sort of teaching post at one of the unis for something where my background would add something they couldn't get locally.

mtnwoman , December 14, 2017 at 7:21 pm

What if one doesn't speak French? Would it be hard to live in Montreal?

Paleobotanist , December 14, 2017 at 9:22 pm

I speak French. The spousal unit is learning. The cats picked it up quickly ;^) They are quite happy being "minous", rather than kitties.
Actually in Montreal you can get by fine with English only in the West Island. I have anglophone colleagues who only speak English.

vidimi , December 14, 2017 at 8:10 am

this is so true. 2 or more cars per household, and the ridiculous quantities of meat in their diet, are probably the two main reasons why americans consume more than twice as much as the EU average.

el_tel , December 14, 2017 at 11:06 am

I lived in Sweden for 6 months (as an EU citizen). There is indeed a lot going for it but there are a lot of issues too that don't get media attention. As a Professor in Uppsala I was warned by a friendly local that "even if you were a Stockholm-based immigrant to here you'd find it difficult to integrate". This was not due to any latent racism or anything like that – merely that Swedes have quite an ingrained way of "putting down roots" (compared to, say, Denmark). So I was warned that socialising means many many weeks of doing the coffee and cakes thing, then, if things go well, you may get invited out for a drink in a bar, then again, if weeks of that work you may get an invite for a home visit.

It's tough – and I was someone who (unlike many anglos) was keen to learn the language so as to fit in better – though (of course) Swedes typically have brilliant English you can't expect them all to speak it exclusively in a social context just to accommodate you. So I witnessed Europeans (central, southern and western) tended not to integrate well and instead formed their own groups. Furthermore Swedish healthcare, although overall cheap and good, does not do well on the "integrated care" front – IIRC (don't have reference to hand) some "official" comparisons of industrialised countries bear this out and its ranking dropped several places due to this issue.

It was incredibly difficult (even with employer sponsorship) to get Aussie permanent residency .but the "final hurdle" of citizenship was a cinch (given that most of the "benefit" is accrued through PR, not citizenship) .I don't think any non-North American industrialised country is unequivocally "better" – you decide what you want most and what you'll compromise on and take your choice. I'm probably going to get citizenship of a 3rd country (Ireland – not cheap but I'm entitled to it via Irish mother and Irish paternal grandfather) to hedge my bets if my company stays afloat but I have enough relatives there to know it has its own set of issues.

Alex V , December 14, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Agree on the integration part, but if you know this going in I think it's a bit more manageable (you learn not to take it personally, that's just the way Swedes are, and it's definitely not universal). It also helps to join activity groups – they're into that in a major way.

rusti , December 14, 2017 at 2:26 pm

There are also large ex-pat communities in towns and cities of virtually any size. My circle of friends and acquaintances is a Sesame Street-like cast of people from all over Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia who have all moved here to study and work. Many of us speak Swedish with full professional fluency, hold dual-citizenship and regularly consume Swedish media but have found other transplants to be among the most welcoming and have gravitated towards each other for that reason.

Yves Smith Post author , December 14, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Oh, this is an entrepreneurial visa. That's; how I got into Oz but they shut that down. They typically require that you show sufficient net worth to fund a business and you need to generate a certain level of domestic revenues and/or employment to stay.

Alex V , December 14, 2017 at 3:07 pm

The way "in Sweden" is tacked on at the end regarding where you make money makes it a little vague as to which part of the and/or it applies to. I think they also do a reasonable job of looking at the whole case and would understand someone making a living online or remotely. They just want you to pay tax here. If you haven't done the conversion already, 200,000 SEK is around 25,000 USD at today's rate, which I think is pretty modest from my vague knowledge of this type of visa in other parts of the world.

But like I said, in my experience Migrationverket is quite polite, professional and even welcoming when you deal with them, so it de worth contacting them if you're interested.

And yes, I'm a bit of a shill for my adopted home

Alex V , December 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Alternatively, because I love NC quite deeply, we can commit visa fraud and get married ;)

Yves Smith Post author , December 14, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Aaw, that's really kind! And I am 1/4 Swedish if that at all helps, although my grandmother was born here (her father came over and then had kids here after he got established).

Matt , December 14, 2017 at 8:05 pm

I emailed one of our corporate attorneys today, he's been with the company since the early 1990s, and Outlook told me he resigned on 12/8. I asked someone about it, and they said, yeah, he's moving to Sweden. I'm dying to find out why, and what he's going to do.

Sam Adams , December 14, 2017 at 7:58 am

It's the tax and treasury account compliance that stops many and causes more to renounce US citizenship combined with many European banks refusing to do business with Americans that make expatriating very difficult. It's a feature and not a bug as Lambert would say

visitor , December 14, 2017 at 8:19 am

FATCA has been a source of unending critical trouble for expatriates from the USA but also bureaucratic hassle for non-US citizens who have strictly nothing to do with the USA.

Christine , December 14, 2017 at 8:04 am

I live 2 miles outside of San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. It's been voted the best tourist city in the world by several magazines a little Paris. Settling here was tough, and ultimately I had to become functional in Spanish to get the 13 year lease at $500/mo for a 4 bedroom 3 1/2 bath, needs work house, on 2 acres, since my landlord doesn't speak English. But I live far and away better than I could in the US, on 1/3d to 1/2 of the cost. I am living in the only sustainable place of my life pretty friendly, pretty clean, awfully nice a veritable garden of fireflies, butterflies, bird life, decent animal husbandry, up against the mountains, much in nature reserve. There is excellent medical care at reasonable prices. I am 8 hours from the US border if I have serious Medicare needs. Town offers wonderful food, luxuries, entertainment if I want to go in. Down here we say, thank god people in the US are afraid and ignorant of Mexico. It keeps them away.

david , December 14, 2017 at 9:05 am

Does Doc Severinsen still play at the club in town? great town San Miguel – huge art community

Joel , December 14, 2017 at 9:41 am

There is a lot of hand wringing in the Mexican press about how American and Canadian retirees have gentrified and de-Mexicanized San Miguel de Allende. If the shit ever hits the fan, at the very least I would want my immigration papers in order, but really I just would rather not be there.

Plus, quality major healthcare (the kind that a 65+ person may need suddenly at any time) is not cheap in Mexico and the Mexican government has made it much harder for new arrivals to get onto the Institute of Medicine and Social Security.

When you add in the very high levels of xenophobia in Mexico (just look at how the Central Americans and even Mexican Americans are treated) and deteriorating security situation in more and more states it is a risky proposition. I would not want my mom to move there.

Lee , December 14, 2017 at 9:46 am

We take their low wage huddled masses and they get our gentry who benefited from paying low wages. It's win win! Or a stupid circle jerk. Not sure which.

Joel , December 14, 2017 at 10:30 am

Unfortunately given escalating healthcare costs in Mexico, plus the same xenophobia as ever, they're much less keen on taking our huddled masses. Plus they have a big problem now with American retirees who are trying to live on less than $1000 a month in US social security, well under the approx $2500 month required to get a retiree visa, who can no longer return to the US for healthcare or family visits because they can't even afford the bus ticket and might not be let back into Mexico because of their massive immigration violations.

vidimi , December 14, 2017 at 11:27 am

I think that's part of the problem. America is more and more reluctant to take in the huddled Mexican masses which means that these huddled Mexican masses may begrudge more and more the privileged gringos who make the trip down south.

LaGringa , December 14, 2017 at 11:07 am

I also live near San Miguel de Allende in a small, agricultural Mexican community perched on the side of an extinct volcano. I pretty much avoid the expat scene, shop in the mercados, hang with Mexican friends and am thoroughly enjoying soaking in this wonderful way of life. I made this move at age 70.

Certainly, this required a major adjustment. It's not like moving from Boston to Tucson. It's more like moving to a different universe. But if a person is open, hangs loose and finds someone to help work through the ins and outs of the immigration process, it's not all that difficult.

My health insurance is free because of my age and health care here puts the emphasis on *care*. An acquaintance had a knee replacement and the total out-of-pocket cost to her was 3300 pesos – about 170 usd. The entire surgical team came into her room and introduced themselves before the procedure. The surgeon was top notch and she is fully functional with no pain for the first time in years.

I've taken road trips from Chihuahua to Oaxaca alone with my dogs and have never felt unsafe. There are certain roads in Guerrero, certain parts of Mexico City, etc that I avoid because it's just common sense. I did the same in parts of NYC and Albuquerque.

It was clear to me that I would outlast my savings if I'd stayed in the US. Here, I can afford to live here modestly but comfortably. I have a Spanish tutor and I can get by. I am obviously a gringa but when Mexicans speak English to me and I answer in Spanish, they smile and everything changes. People here are kind, polite and, if you don't behave like the proverbial "ugly American" (some expats do, unfortunately), you may find yourself treated like family. And the way of life, the quality of the food, so many things have had a hugely positive effect on my health. My borderline hypertension has given way to BP numbers I haven't seen since I was in my 20s – and I take no pharmaceuticals.

I lived all over the US before moving here. I have no intention of going back. I'm eligible to become a Mexican citizen soon and I will do so. Whether I renounce my US citizenship remains to be seen. I haven't been back to the US since moving here so .

Joel , December 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

I speak Spanish at a near-native level (started learning as a child and lived years in Latin America).

My sincere advice is don't learn much more, if you're happy now, just keep being happy. If you're able to understand better the world around you, the glow will rub off and you'll likely find that you are not in fact being treated as family but as a guest. I once spent a year in South East Asia and made a conscious decision not to get too involved, and loved it. I pretty much had the same experience you're having in Mexico. When I'm in Mexico the feeling is of constantly hitting my head against a glass ceiling and biting my tongue.

The wonderful thing about not speaking the language is it's an automatic filter. Only people who like foreigners talk with you and you are constantly in the position of wonderful people helping you out, because you need help.

But for the love of God, stay on the beaten tourist path (SMA-Oaxaca City-Cholula etc.). Don't go into Guerrero except maybe Taxco. I was just in Chilpancingo for a professional event, taking every precaution, and the stories you hear first hand are horrifying. The security situation in Mexico is deteriorating badly.

Even states like Puebla that used to be safe are seeing kidnappings and other extreme crime. If you speak Spanish, the issue of security it is utterly unavoidable, it creeps into many conversations and dominates the local news.

jrs , December 14, 2017 at 2:04 pm

because there isn't a lot of evidence most labor gets a very good return for crossing borders (like maybe all the low paid mexican immigrant laborers with no rights for example?). Well yes and maybe it's better for them than staying put, but it isn't any kind of good life. Most labor, even most skilled labor, is a lot closer to that "dime a dozen" bucket than any kind of name your own price bucket. As individuals labor just doesn't have much power, now maybe labor movements need to cross borders have all the workers at whole companies emigrate even.

Alex V , December 14, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Yes, I agree that in many cases labor doesn't necessarily win by moving in the real world. My comment was more on philosophical level – and somewhat a spin on the NC concept of "because markets" – in an ideal world countries would compete on attracting labor by what they offer in concrete material benefits.

Jim Haygood , December 14, 2017 at 9:21 am

'According to Pew Charitable Trusts, only 13 percent of Baby Boomers still have [defined benefit pensions].'

This 13 percent remnant overwhelmingly consists of government employees, whose defined benefit pensions are uniformly underfunded (and even understated as to HOW underfunded they are).

On the back side of Bubble III, as pension sponsors' equity-heavy assets shrink like an ice cream cone in the Sacramento sun, a hue and cry will arise for massive tax increases on the hapless public to bail out public employees' rich pensions. (Not that they aren't already happening -- two towns near me just hiked their sales tax by 1 percent to bail out police and firefighter pensions.)

'Pension envy' will be the defining cultural war of the 2020s. Got ammo?

PrairieRose , December 14, 2017 at 10:57 am

"Pension envy" has been around for a long time, Jim. I'm in my late 50s and grew up in one of the reddest states in the country (North Dakota). For forty years I've heard many snarky remarks about public pensioners, not to mention those gawdawful Unions (AFL-CIO, et al.). It never occurred to these people to demand the same treatment from THEIR private employers instead of complaining about collectively bargained for benefits. Much easier to beggar thy neighbor, apparently. Sigh.

jrs , December 14, 2017 at 12:18 pm

yes just unionize and get a pension from your private employer – not all of which are big employers btw which might be the only plausible shot at a private sector pension -however most people work for small to mid-size companies. And then people wonder why people think public sector employees are clueless about reality when it's all "let them eat cake" all the time.

I say let's NOT pay much higher taxes to fund the public pensions but INSTEAD pay much higher taxes to fund expanded and improved SOCIAL SECURITY for all. It's only equitable, it's only just, there shouldn't be favored types of retirees, whoever we work for, we all get old if we live long enough. Btw those same private sector unions have often sold out younger employees and accepted tiered wages etc.. I'm not anti-union, I'm skeptical of non-radical unions being sufficient.

WobblyTelomeres , December 14, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Sounds like we need One Big Union. I wonder where we could find such an organization?

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , December 14, 2017 at 3:14 pm

For me, it's about merging all plans into one universal pension – Social Security, and defend it as hard as, or harder, as pension plans are defended now.

Left in Wisconsin , December 14, 2017 at 1:27 pm

government employees, whose defined benefit pensions are uniformly underfunded

They are not uniformly underfunded. The Wisconsin state and local employee pension system is fully funded. Even Scott Walker hasn't been able to undo that.

Whoa Molly! , December 14, 2017 at 9:30 am

The only way I could figure out how to retire in the US was to find a house in a semi rural community that is a 45 minute drive past gentrification.

Start by buying a lot (bare land) then put a cheap RV on it, later a manufactured home if possible. Or find a lot with an older decrepit -- but still livable single wide trailer. Buy it for a roof and grandfathered utilities.

Medicare, plus low price house, plus low-status address. We also looked for a county with a high percentage of over-65 residents and rudimentary senior services.

Still not optimal but workable. northern California is where we landed because of family. Look for cheap towns with collapsed logging, farming or fishing industries.

Investigate by taking vacations in community.

Downsides include car-dependent culture, dependence on Medicare system, poor public transit, 2 hour drive to land of decent coffee shops.

Canada was a serious thought experiment until I realized they dont want old people unless they bring large bags of money along.

Wukchumni , December 14, 2017 at 9:40 am

That's similar to what we've done, and we're an hour away from 'civilization'. Our difference being that we're still years away-Medicare wise.

Our plan mostly revolves around the idea of not getting sick, a common way to avoid costly medical bills, combined with ACA (for the time being) and costly deductibles that will put the hurt on us financially, but not devastate us, should push>meet<shove.

Whoa Molly! , December 14, 2017 at 10:51 am

Too busy with yoga and writing to set up hostel. We do host traveling yoga teachers who come through periodically to teach at county yoga studios.

The second part of the scheme outlined above is to bring a low cost avocation that gives your life meaning and connects you with others. For me it was photography, writing, travel, and yoga. As years go by travel and photography are diminishing, yoga and writing expanding.

Wukchumni , December 14, 2017 at 10:59 am

I traveled like the dickens when I was younger, and am content now to hang out and do stuff that costs a pittance, most of which doesn't involve a computer in any capacity, aside from this here ball & chain.

Inode_buddha , December 14, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Try doing any of that in NY state you'll be so tied up in red tape and fees that it'll never happen. Yeah I looked into it.

Lee , December 14, 2017 at 9:35 am

Yves, have you checked to see if you qualify for Canadian permanent residency? I did and don't qualify. I'm retired with a good income from pension, social security, and interest from retirement savings. If I sold my house I'd nearly be a millionaire, which around here isn't that big a deal. It's also not enough for the Canadians, which makes sense, given that I've never paid into their health system and my medical expenses are likely to increase as I age. My understanding is that, given I am not going to proved the Canadian economy with a scarce skill, I would have to invest $2 million in a business in Canada that created jobs for Canadians.

I had a work colleague from Sweden. She had been a school teacher there and came to the U.S. to sell financial products, make a lot of money and avoid Swedish taxes. I asked her if she were going to become a U.S. citizen. She looked at me like I was crazy, laughed and said, "Hell no, I would never wish to be old in America."

The Rev Kev , December 14, 2017 at 9:47 am

I'm laying this one down at the door of social Darwinism at work. If you're poor then you deserve nothing and if you are rich then obviously you deserve everything. That is why someone like Peter Thiel can waltz into New Zealand and buy himself citizenship in less that a fortnight there. Not everybody can get themselves into the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India. And that mention of Ayn Rand and her influence on American life through people like Paul Ryan?

Well, if so may Congressmen want to investigate Russian influence in American politics then I present you with Ayn Rand as proof positive. In spite of all her malignant opinions, it should be noted that it did not stop her from claiming Medicare and Social Security when she got old. She did not want to be bankrupted by illness in old age so registered under her married name.

From my perch, if any Americans want to make the move, I would say over the next decade before that door closes. The regulations are already tightening up such as making sure that you owe no taxes or the like before you leave. More Americans are now renouncing their citizenship as America still want to tax them even when they have moved away. After this decade, I regret to say, that America will be no country for old people.

Wukchumni , December 14, 2017 at 9:52 am

In the most excellent book "I Will Bear Witness" diarist Victor Klemperer is often writing about German-Jewish friends that are leaving the 3rd Reich for other shores, subject to a "25% Reich Flight Tax", and in reality it was more like a 50-75% tax. What's our going rate?

Alex V , December 14, 2017 at 10:58 am

23.8% but you need relatively significant wealth: https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2017/02/27/renounce-u-s-heres-how-irs-computes-exit-tax/#4abe3c07287d

Wukchumni , December 14, 2017 at 11:35 am

Wow, just 1.2% away from the friendly rates of der Fatherland.

Alex V , December 14, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Ironic historical tidbit – the US concept of citizenship based taxation is a consequence of the Civil War.

Lee , December 14, 2017 at 9:52 am

I had another friend, a real gem of a man. From privilege, a Harvard graduate, progressive activist, who worked for low pay in the non-profit sector. He described his future retirement plan as "homeless in Honduras."

Joel , December 14, 2017 at 9:57 am

Sorry, I was triggered by the introduction. I am an American in my late 30s and I've lived a large chunk of my adult life outside the US, Latin America mostly and East Asia. Already now I'm hoping not to live long-term outside the country again.

I just made a short trip to Mexico and thought dear God I'm too old for this.

If you speak the local language and are hooked into local issues, you quickly realize that there is an unbelievable (for urban Americans who are used to a mosaic international society) amount of xenophobia in almost every other country. Being an outsider everywhere I go, with all the constant microagressions (and ocasional more major aggressions) wears on me the way Lambert says that inequality wears on the body.

And if you don't speak the local language and try to isolate yourself among other retirees -- why even be alive at that point? I don't imagine commenters on this site of all people sitting at a bar all day arguing US and UK politics in English with some other retirees far away from the action.

And speaking of inequality, most countries have far worse inequality than the US and it is savage and painful to watch when your security guard finishes a 12 hour shift and then starts another 12 hour shift across the street.

By the way don't get me started on the cost of healthcare. It's cheap until you run into a major complication. I had surgery in Peru for something minor and the total bill was over $5000 USD. Imagine if it were heart surgery. My expat insurance paid it but you can't get that if you're over a certain age.

JBird , December 14, 2017 at 5:06 pm

And speaking of inequality, most countries have far worse inequality than the US and it is savage and painful to watch when your security guard finishes a 12 hour shift and then starts another 12 hour shift across the street.

The obvious in your face OMFG inequality is often worse, but the absolute inequality in America is among the greatest in the world. Most countries, outside Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa specifically, have better income equality. We are one step up from El Salvador . I've been to El Salvador, and no offense to them, we really should be doing much, much better than that small, oppressed, corrupt, dirt poor country. Granted, we are overwhelmingly wealthier, so being poor here is often not as bad as there, but still.

With that rant done, the GINI coefficient, which is a quick dirty way of measuring inequality, and therefore the economic/social/political well being of a country with 1.0 meaning one person owns everything and 0.0 complete income equality. The figures change some depending on whose doing the figuring, but the GINI for income in the American paradise is around .47 compared to Mexico's 0.48 with the Swedish hellhole at 0.24. If you are counting wealth instead of income, the United States is 0.8. Also, our lowest, therefore our most equal GINI was 0.36 in 1968. A study was done showing Rome's GINI (income) was 0.44.

I really should check again, but I recall reading nobody, anywhere who did not have revolution, uprising, something bad once 0.59 was reached.

Eppur si muove , December 14, 2017 at 10:39 am

Come to Bangkok. The medical care here is superb.. very reasonably priced and absolutely state of the art. Yes, we pay out of pocket, but only for what we need. There's competition between health care providers and one can get a quote from multiple sources for any surgical procedure. The US, with its ever increasing costs which now are something like 17% of GDP, is on an unsustainable path. Combined with the pending pension crisis I am concerned about the future for my US colleagues.

After my first annual physical here my Dr. said, bluntly, no pills but lose 25 lbs and exercise daily and come back in 6 months. An honest answer to our metabolic issues.

The lifestyle is fantastic, food is superb, cheap direct flights to anywhere in the world, world class beaches and vineyards,which make a halfway decent red wine, with wonderful restaurants, are just two hours away. The occasional coup keeps everything interesting. I can honestly say my lifestyle has improved in my retirement by leaving the US.

Grumpy Engineer , December 14, 2017 at 10:47 am

" The U.S. Is No Country for Older Men and Women "?

Indeed, it isn't. But increasingly, it's no place for younger people either. The stagnant wages, rising housing costs, and rising medical costs impact younger people just like they do older people. And yes, I know that younger people's medical expenses tend to be lower that they are for older people, but today's youth are being socked with educational expenses that seem to know no bound: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/12/student-loan-defaults-approach-5-million-using-permissive-definition-default.html

Is the solution really to "strengthen" programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or would it be better to tackle the monopolies and rent-seeking behavior that results in the need for ever more dollars to be supplied? Bob Hertz had some excellent ideas regarding medical costs in https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/11/medical-cost-reduction-act-2017.html . I think this would be a better solution than to simply promise more money for the money-hungry beasts out there to consume on the behalf of seniors. Tackling rising costs at the source would benefit everybody .

Lil'D , December 14, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Yes

But strengthening social services can be done and will help many people. Fixing root causes looks politically impossible (today) and will be strongly opposed by powerful interests. I doubt anyone here would object but we are not in charge

jrs , December 14, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Yes, makes some sense. Fixing root causes would include things like fixing ever rising rents etc. (although sometimes seniors can get it cheaper). However, the reality is living on social security is hard at this point even for those who own a home, just because the old age benefits are so much less than almost any other industrialized country on earth. So just increasing those would help a lot.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , December 14, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Stop The War. Now there's a "root cause" for you.

Louis Fyne , December 14, 2017 at 10:51 am

the loss of the family network is an important thing to consider for many. Someone from our family always goes with my aunt to her hours-long chemo sessions and doctor appointments. In the waiting rooms, I see all these other solo cancer patients. They often look sodden. Maybe they're always going to chemo alone? The last thing you want when battling illness is also battling a sense of isolation.

Jeff N , December 14, 2017 at 11:10 am

Seriously, all the centrists act like the US should welcome people from all over the world, while Canada hardly lets ANYONE in. Also, I just got the aforementioned "Nomadland" book from my library, which I'll start on as soon as I finish "The Big Rig" which is (so far) a fantastic book about the way the trucking industry screws its workers.

Siggy , December 14, 2017 at 11:36 am

My friend Max, the neurosurgeon left the US several years ago for Switzerland. His son Peter had a serious brain tumor and went to Switzerland for treatment. Max bankrolled the treatment with a $2 million gift. Max's son is now cancer free and is now working at CERN and is also in the process of immigrating. Max and his son at beneficiaries of a very substantial trust fund that is sited in Nevada. Max renounced his US passport and it cost 30% of his assets. Max's son is facing a similar cost. It was easy for Max and his son, both are extremely wealthy and Max's parents were Swiss. Lesson: portable skills that enjoy strong demand and loads of income.

freedeomny , December 14, 2017 at 11:54 am

I've often thought of moving abroad but see myself more as living in a different country for only part of the year. I'd love to hear more from those who are ex-pats.

Pinhead , December 14, 2017 at 11:55 am

Home ownership in Germany is 52% and it is below 45% in Switzerland. It is 65-75% in almost all other rich countries including the US. It is actually around 85% in Russia and 90% in Cuba although the amenities are not quite the same.

Altandmain , December 14, 2017 at 11:56 am

I think that it has become increasingly apparent that the rich have no sense of noblesse oblige. They are in it for themselves and nobody else.

I'd be very interested to see if they believe their own propaganda on things like Ayn Rand and Social Darwinism. I know that many libertarian types can be, but the more extreme Ayn Rand types? Or is this just a coping mechanism?

It may be like oil executives who for years publicly denied global warming, but knew the truth. I think that deep inside, many wealthy people know exactly how worthless they are to society and insecure. They will never admit the truth though in public.

But the only bargain "world city" I know of is Montreal.

Canadian here. Montreal has it's pros and cons. I have talked with a few people who are fed up with that city and left.

Pros:
+ Cheap rent (especially compared to any other large city)
+ Very cultured city, for lack of a better term (night life, arts, exotic places to eat that you can actually afford, that sort of thing)
+ For a while it was Canada's job creation capital due to our weak dollar
+ Cheap tuition for students compared to rest of Canada
+ Cheap hydro! Car insurance is also much cheaper.
+ Considered the best city in North America for cycling ( https://www.mtlblog.com/lifestyle/montreal-ranked-1-bicycle-friendly-city-in-north-america ). There's also lots of parks and green spaces.
+ Apart from NYC and if you live in the middle of the city, Montreal is one of the few North American cities where you probably don't need a car

Cons:
– Becoming increasingly unillingual (French), which is one of the reasons why one of my colleagues left Montreal
– Buddy of mine says healthcare is not very good by Canadian standards and being an English speaker will be a big disadvantage (the government is actively trying to get people to be French) and I believe there is mandatory French schooling for parents of English origin
– Quality of roads is pretty awful in Quebec I find and drivers can be aggressive. Infrastructure as a whole is aging.
– Winter isn't that cold (By Canadian standards mind you), but Montreal does get quite a bit of snow.
– Outside of the boom periods, it can be hard to find a good job or frankly, a job
– Wages in many jobs isn't as good (although often the lower cost of living makes up for it, so net you may not be that much worse off, and in some cases, even better off)
– Some of the worst traffic congestion in Canada
– Quebec separatism politics
– There are cultural issues you should be aware of: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-low-birthrate-immigration-1.3573966
– A lot of consumer goods aren't as available in Canada, although you can rent a US mailbox or use Kinek at the border (Expensive because our dollar is weaker and you have to pay for import taxes, US taxes, along with the mailbox fees). On the other hand, there are some items in Canada and especially Quebec that are not as available in the US.

On the fence:
– If you own a home, I have been told that many parts of Montreal are a "Buyers market" now so if you ever want to move out
– There are government services like affordable childcare, but they do have long waitlists. That said, child care is cheaper than in the rest of Canada as this still does drive the costs of the private sector down.
– The US is making it harder for Americans to renounce their US citizenship for those moving from the US ( https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/delays-costs-mount-for-canadians-renouncing-us-citizenship/article28688026/ )
– Taxes are higher, but the majority of payers (especially those not in the six figures and with children) will find themselves better off I'd say in Quebec due to the better services.
– A lot of folks in Quebec say that Montreal is expensive compared to the rest of the province, although for a city its size, it is fairly affordable

The big challenge though is that Canada's immigration system is pretty restrictive, and yes older immigrants are at a drawback (the purpose is to attract immigrants that are likely to pay more in the system over their life than take out).

The other big issue with Canada is that neoliberalism, although not as bad as the US, has very strong backers and I fear could get worse. We seem to be following the dark path the US has undergone. I just hope that a genuine left can come out, not this neoliberal identity politics stuff that really serves the rich.

Rates , December 14, 2017 at 1:28 pm

It's really not that hard to move to a third world country. It's practically a lateral move.
1. Bad public transport. Check.
2. Corrupt government. Check.
3. High wealth inequality. Check.
4. Increasingly bad infrastructure. Check.

I am sure there are plenty of areas where the US is ahead, but plenty where it's behind like affordable healthcare. But really at the end of the day, moving is not easy because of : language, and for active people scratching that itch to be productive.

tagio , December 14, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Yves, the US is also no place for young people. My wife and I have been visiting South America checking out possible retirement locations. In Ecuador, we found a young Swiss man (late 20s) with his Ecuadorian girlfriend who were running the Hacienda we stayed in near Cotacachi. The 80-year old owner had been in a car crash and had to have someone take over operations right away. The owner's daughter was friends with the young Swiss man and recommended him to her father. In the United States you would never see someone his age given this much responsibility. He had trained in the hospitality field and came to Ecuador a couple of years earlier because he would actually have the opportunity to own and operate his own business, which he considered an impossibility in Western Europe. He told us his Swiss parents were also seriously considering re-locating to Ecuador for a better quality of life in retirement (and presumably – my guess – to be near the eventual grandchildren). They were not wealthy but had sufficient funds to provide relatively small seed capital for their son's business in Ecuador.

In Montevideo, we met a young woman in her early thirties from Montana and her French husband, a chef, who had just opened the café we had stopped in for postres and tea some 8 months earlier. They left the U.S. about 6 or 8 years ago (can't recall exactly) because they concluded they had no opportunities there, and came to Montevideo after a friend recommended it. They now have two daughters in school there.

I spoke with a prominent immigration attorney in Montevideo who told me that it's not just Americans, many Western Europeans were also emigrating to Uruguay "because of social issues." I didn't press for an explanation.

It's a mistake – and implicitly demeaning to the country – to think of these places as retirement havens. A North American or European young adult might actually be able to build a life for themselves in these places because the capital investment hurdles are low, and there are opportunities.

anonn , December 14, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Every time I talk to my Boomer father he wonders how I could be so irresponsible as to not, like him, have "saved for retirement." He's got an Air Force pension, a local government pension, a pension from a private employer, and social security. There's a 0% chance I'll ever be able to pay off my student loans. I have less take-home money after 20 ostensibly successful years in my profession than I did when I was 15 years old and working in a deli.

For most people in my generation, our retirement plans are to hope to win the lottery, and if not, suicide.

jrs , December 14, 2017 at 2:13 pm

They often did have to pay out of their salaries into those pensions as well, so he has a tiny bit of a point, it wasn't all free money. But they were of course much better deals than the 401ks on offer now, that we are lucky to even be able to have purely for the tax benefits, which most employers aren't even contributing to.

HotFlash , December 14, 2017 at 8:31 pm

I remember my friend's mother, an RNA (Cdn equiv of an LPN) who religiously contributed to her voluntary pension plan. It was hard for her, single mother in the 50's and 60's, but she considered it the responsible thing to do. When she came to retire in the mid 70's she was disappointed (understatement) to find that the pension she had sacrificed to contribute to for all those years paid her a whopping $17 per month.

When I was planning for my retirement, in the 70's and 80's, I was looking at interest rates of 7 to 10 % -- truly! It is no accident that interest rates are now less than the rate of inflation, unless you are paying out, of course. We are being robbed in every possible way.

sharonsj , December 14, 2017 at 2:46 pm

I'm pre-baby boomer, with no pension because of the industry I worked in. But I do own my own home in rural Pennsylvania for how long, I'm not sure. 20% of my modest income goes to school and property taxes. I recently let a handicapped friend live in my other building; he gets $700 a month and $85 in food stamps. Currently both of us are struggling to deal with paying to heat our homes, so the last time he was bitching to me I said: "Why else do you think old people are living in trailers in the Arizona desert?"

I considered not only Arizona but Cuba. I know enough Spanish to get by. But I decided that I would stay in the U.S. I think everyone needs to downsize and simplify because, unless the American people wake up and revolt, things aren't going to get any better.

P.S. I tried to research bankruptcy and mortgage foreclosure rates in Pennsylvania. Nothing current, but I found that the rates continually increased every year, and this was well before the 2008 implosion. So I assume that the situation is probably dire by now.

Kate , December 14, 2017 at 2:59 pm

What's a second world country? And Montreal is inexpensive?

Anyway thinking from a young person's perspective it's even worse. Employment prospects are crap everywhere especially Europe where there is some inkling of a social safety net.

Yves Smith Post author , December 14, 2017 at 5:34 pm

As I said, it's an inexpensive world city. You missed that. It's even been rated that way. Rent is cheap. My costs would be 40% or so lower than in NYC.

Inode_buddha , December 14, 2017 at 7:11 pm

Yeah, but that's not a very high hurdle: almost *anything* is cheaper than NYC in particular, and NYS in general. Not to mention less stressful. I tend to recommend Buffalo and outlying suburbs/rural areas, but then again I'm biased, being a native of the area. Real estate differences can be dramatic even within NYS: I routinely compare prices and taxes in Erie county vs Wyoming county. Its a real eye-opener, especially compared to anything near Albany or NYC.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , December 14, 2017 at 3:57 pm

This entire thread is simply heartbreaking, Americans have had their money, their freedom, their privacy, their health, and sometimes their very lives taken away from them by the State. But the heartbreaking part is that they feel they are powerless to do anything at all about it so are just trying to leave.

But

"People should not fear the government; the government should fear the people"

tagio , December 14, 2017 at 4:39 pm

It's more than a feeling, HAL.
https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/is-america-an-oligarchy
Link to the academic paper embedded in article.

As your quote appears to imply, it's not a problem that can be solved by voting which, let's not forget, is nothing more than expressing an opinion. I am not sticking around just to find out if economically-crushed, opiod-, entertainment-, social media-addled Americans are actually capable of rolling out tumbrils for trips to the guillotines in the city squares. I strongly suspect not. This is the country where, after the banks crushed the economy in 2008, caused tens of thousands to lose their jobs, and then got huge bailouts, the people couldn't even be bothered to take their money out of the big banks and put it elsewhere. Because, you know, convenience! Expressing an opinion, or mobilizing others to express an opinion, or educating or proselytizing others about what opinion to have, is about the limit of what they are willing, or know how to do.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , December 14, 2017 at 5:12 pm

I apologize if I missed them, but so far, no votes for

1. retiring to North Korea.

2. retiring to anywhere along the New Silk Road.

Kk , December 14, 2017 at 6:16 pm

100M US citizens in 1945; 200M in 1976; 320M in 2016. Population up and resources down. The politicians would give you anything to get a vote, the reason they don't is that the money is not there. Everything goes up in price and wages stagnant because that's how economies adjust to less resources to share. Canada and Australia and Europe are going the same way as the US, not because of nefarious politicians or greedy rich people, although they certainly exist, but because the sums don't add up any more. MMT is just one example of grasping at straws. I wonder what part of 'you are doomed' old people don't understand? Apart from the last 80 years or so, people got old and died; now they get old, get sick long term, go bankrupt and then die.

mtnwoman , December 14, 2017 at 7:10 pm

I have a very rare good, very old insurance policy.

I sure hope you can hold onto it Yves. I also had a really good private BCBS NC policy. This year they killed it and threw me onto ACA which is horribly expensive and crappy if you are single and make > $48200. 5 years to Medicare .if it's still there.

I have also lived internationally in my late 30's. It takes huge effort to liquidate here and to move. I believe it's risky to be an alien in a country if there is unrest -- and unrest is coming imo.

I'm scouting Panama this Feb but I also just read the central america will be ground zero for climate change and they are already having droughts.

Canada or NZ are likely the best choices for immigration if that were even possible.

Wukchumni , December 14, 2017 at 7:46 pm

My mom is a lapsed Canadian that became a Yanqui in the 1950's, and i've got oodles of relatives up over in the Gulag Hockeypelago

No real desire to relocate there, but am curious as to how easy/hard it would be to do it, based on my bonafides?

homeroid , December 14, 2017 at 9:05 pm

I live in Alaska. Can in no way think of living somewhere else. At sixty years of being. My body is a bit worn hard and put away wet. I have no property, no retirement, no substantial savings. What i do have is knowledge.

Now driving a cab for cash in a small city on the coast. I make furniture as my backup income. Was a cabinetmaker at a time. In fact i count on making furniture till i cannot.

Expecting to have SS is not something i count on. I know all the wild plants to forage, wild game to be had-small game. Fish of course, living on the coast.

But when i cannot pay rent i will have to rely on the generosity of friends to let me put up a shack on their property to get by, or squat on land. The woman who lets me live with her for the last twenty-two years will be able for retirement next year. We will set her up with something simple in town. I shall head for the woods. Am building a foot powered wood lathe. You may find me one day on the side of the road turning simple items for pittance + beer.

judy sixbey , December 14, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Getting a little tired of this leave the country stuff. Heard it from my dad in the 60's (Australia). Heard it from my husband this morning (Canada). I am 66 years old and intend to fight it out on this line, like Grant, until they carry me out of here in the funeral home van. This is my country, major f–ked as it presently stands.

[Dec 15, 2017] Rise and Decline of the Welfare State, by James Petras

Highly recommended!
Petras did not mention that it was Carter who started neoliberalization of the USA. The subsequent election of Reagan signified the victory of neoliberalism in this country or "quite coup". The death of New Deal from this point was just a matter of time. Labor relations drastically changes and war on union and atomization of workforce are a norm.
Welfare state still exists but only for corporation and MIC. Otherwise the New Deal society is almost completely dismanted.
It is true that "The ' New Deal' was, at best, a de facto ' historical compromise' between the capitalist class and the labor unions, mediated by the Democratic Party elite. It was a temporary pact in which the unions secured legal recognition while the capitalists retained their executive prerogatives." But the key factor in this compromise was the existence of the USSR as a threat to the power of capitalists in the USA. when the USSR disappeared cannibalistic instincts of the US elite prevailed over caution.
Notable quotes:
"... The earlier welfare 'reforms' and the current anti-welfare legislation and austerity practices have been accompanied by a series of endless imperial wars, especially in the Middle East. ..."
"... In the 1940's through the 1960's, world and regional wars (Korea and Indo-China) were combined with significant welfare program – a form of ' social imperialism' , which 'buy off' the working class while expanding the empire. However, recent decades are characterized by multiple regional wars and the reduction or elimination of welfare programs – and a massive growth in poverty, domestic insecurity and poor health. ..."
"... modern welfare state' ..."
"... Labor unions were organized as working class strikes and progressive legislation facilitated trade union organization, elections, collective bargaining rights and a steady increase in union membership. Improved work conditions, rising wages, pension plans and benefits, employer or union-provided health care and protective legislation improved the standard of living for the working class and provided for 2 generations of upward mobility. ..."
"... Social Security legislation was approved along with workers' compensation and the forty-hour workweek. Jobs were created through federal programs (WPA, CCC, etc.). Protectionist legislation facilitated the growth of domestic markets for US manufacturers. Workplace shop steward councils organized 'on the spot' job action to protect safe working conditions. ..."
"... World War II led to full employment and increases in union membership, as well as legislation restricting workers' collective bargaining rights and enforcing wage freezes. Hundreds of thousands of Americans found jobs in the war economy but a huge number were also killed or wounded in the war. ..."
"... So-called ' right to work' ..."
"... Trade union officials signed pacts with capital: higher pay for the workers and greater control of the workplace for the bosses. Trade union officials joined management in repressing rank and file movements seeking to control technological changes by reducing hours (" thirty hours work for forty hours pay ..."
"... Trade union activists, community organizers for rent control and other grassroots movements lost both the capacity and the will to advance toward large-scale structural changes of US capitalism. Living standards improved for a few decades but the capitalist class consolidated strategic control over labor relations. While unionized workers' incomes, increased, inequalities, especially in the non-union sectors began to grow. With the end of the GI bill, veterans' access to high-quality subsidized education declined ..."
"... With the election of President Carter, social welfare in the US began its long decline. The next series of regional wars were accompanied by even greater attacks on welfare via the " Volker Plan " – freezing workers' wages as a means to combat inflation. ..."
"... Guns without butter' became the legislative policy of the Carter and Reagan Administrations. The welfare programs were based on politically fragile foundations. ..."
"... The anti-labor offensive from the ' Oval Office' intensified under President Reagan with his direct intervention firing tens of thousands of striking air controllers and arresting union leaders. Under Presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Clinton cost of living adjustments failed to keep up with prices of vital goods and services. Health care inflation was astronomical. Financial deregulation led to the subordination of American industry to finance and the Wall Street banks. De-industrialization, capital flight and massive tax evasion reduced labor's share of national income. ..."
"... The capitalist class followed a trajectory of decline, recovery and ascendance. Moreover, during the earlier world depression, at the height of labor mobilization and organization, the capitalist class never faced any significant political threat over its control of the commanding heights of the economy ..."
"... Hand in bloody glove' with the US Empire, the American trade unions planted the seeds of their own destruction at home. The local capitalists in newly emerging independent nations established industries and supply chains in cooperation with US manufacturers. Attracted to these sources of low-wage, violently repressed workers, US capitalists subsequently relocated their factories overseas and turned their backs on labor at home. ..."
"... President 'Bill' Clinton ravaged Russia, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia and liberated Wall Street. His regime gave birth to the prototype billionaire swindlers: Michael Milken and Bernard 'Bernie' Madoff. ..."
"... Clinton converted welfare into cheap labor 'workfare', exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable and condemning the next generations to grinding poverty. Under Clinton the prison population of mostly African Americans expanded and the breakup of families ravaged the urban communities. ..."
"... President Obama transferred 2 trillion dollars to the ten biggest bankers and swindlers on Wall Street, and another trillion to the Pentagon to pursue the Democrats version of foreign policy: from Bush's two overseas wars to Obama's seven. ..."
"... Obama was elected to two terms. His liberal Democratic Party supporters swooned over his peace and justice rhetoric while swallowing his militarist escalation into seven overseas wars as well as the foreclosure of two million American householders. Obama completely failed to honor his campaign promise to reduce wage inequality between black and white wage earners while he continued to moralize to black families about ' values' . ..."
"... Obama's war against Libya led to the killing and displacement of millions of black Libyans and workers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The smiling Nobel Peace Prize President created more desperate refugees than any previous US head of state – including millions of Africans flooding Europe. ..."
"... Forty-years of anti welfare legislation and pro-business regimes paved the golden road for the election of Donald Trump ..."
"... Trump and the Republicans are focusing on the tattered remnants of the social welfare system: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. The remains of FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society -- are on the chopping block. ..."
"... The moribund (but well-paid) labor leadership has been notable by its absence in the ensuing collapse of the social welfare state. The liberal left Democrats embraced the platitudinous Obama/Clinton team as the 'Great Society's' gravediggers, while wailing at Trump's allies for shoving the corpse of welfare state into its grave. ..."
"... Over the past forty years the working class and the rump of what was once referred to as the ' labor movement' has contributed to the dismantling of the social welfare state, voting for ' strike-breaker' Reagan, ' workfare' Clinton, ' Wall Street crash' Bush, ' Wall Street savior' Obama and ' Trickle-down' Trump. ..."
"... Gone are the days when social welfare and profitable wars raised US living standards and transformed American trade unions into an appendage of the Democratic Party and a handmaiden of Empire. The Democratic Party rescued capitalism from its collapse in the Great Depression, incorporated labor into the war economy and the post- colonial global empire, and resurrected Wall Street from the 'Great Financial Meltdown' of the 21 st century. ..."
"... The war economy no longer fuels social welfare. The military-industrial complex has found new partners on Wall Street and among the globalized multi-national corporations. Profits rise while wages fall. Low paying compulsive labor (workfare) lopped off state transfers to the poor. Technology – IT, robotics, artificial intelligence and electronic gadgets – has created the most class polarized social system in history ..."
"... "The collaboration of liberals and unions in promoting endless wars opened the door to Trump's mirage of a stateless, tax-less, ruling class." ..."
"... Corporations [now] are welfare recipients and the bigger they are, the more handouts they suck up ..."
"... Corporations not only continuously seek monopolies (with the aid and sanction of the state) but they steadily fine tune the welfare state for their benefit. In fact, in reality, welfare for prols and peasants wouldn't exist if it didn't act as a money conduit and ultimate profit center for the big money grubbers. ..."
"... The article is dismal reading, and evidence of the failings of the "unregulated" society, where the anything goes as long as you are wealthy. ..."
"... Like the Pentagon. Americans still don't readily call this welfare, but they will eventually. Defense profiteers are unions in a sense, you're either in their club Or you're in the service industry that surrounds it. ..."
Dec 13, 2017 | www.unz.com

Introduction

The American welfare state was created in 1935 and continued to develop through 1973. Since then, over a prolonged period, the capitalist class has been steadily dismantling the entire welfare state.

Between the mid 1970's to the present (2017) labor laws, welfare rights and benefits and the construction of and subsidies for affordable housing have been gutted. ' Workfare' (under President 'Bill' Clinton) ended welfare for the poor and displaced workers. Meanwhile the shift to regressive taxation and the steadily declining real wages have increased corporate profits to an astronomical degree.

What started as incremental reversals during the 1990's under Clinton has snowballed over the last two decades decimating welfare legislation and institutions.

The earlier welfare 'reforms' and the current anti-welfare legislation and austerity practices have been accompanied by a series of endless imperial wars, especially in the Middle East.

In the 1940's through the 1960's, world and regional wars (Korea and Indo-China) were combined with significant welfare program – a form of ' social imperialism' , which 'buy off' the working class while expanding the empire. However, recent decades are characterized by multiple regional wars and the reduction or elimination of welfare programs – and a massive growth in poverty, domestic insecurity and poor health.

New Deals and Big Wars

The 1930's witnessed the advent of social legislation and action, which laid the foundations of what is called the ' modern welfare state' .

Labor unions were organized as working class strikes and progressive legislation facilitated trade union organization, elections, collective bargaining rights and a steady increase in union membership. Improved work conditions, rising wages, pension plans and benefits, employer or union-provided health care and protective legislation improved the standard of living for the working class and provided for 2 generations of upward mobility.

Social Security legislation was approved along with workers' compensation and the forty-hour workweek. Jobs were created through federal programs (WPA, CCC, etc.). Protectionist legislation facilitated the growth of domestic markets for US manufacturers. Workplace shop steward councils organized 'on the spot' job action to protect safe working conditions.

World War II led to full employment and increases in union membership, as well as legislation restricting workers' collective bargaining rights and enforcing wage freezes. Hundreds of thousands of Americans found jobs in the war economy but a huge number were also killed or wounded in the war.

The post-war period witnessed a contradictory process: wages and salaries increased while legislation curtailed union rights via the Taft Hartley Act and the McCarthyist purge of leftwing trade union activists. So-called ' right to work' laws effectively outlawed unionization mostly in southern states, which drove industries to relocate to the anti-union states.

Welfare reforms, in the form of the GI bill, provided educational opportunities for working class and rural veterans, while federal-subsidized low interest mortgages encourage home-ownership, especially for veterans.

The New Deal created concrete improvements but did not consolidate labor influence at any level. Capitalists and management still retained control over capital, the workplace and plant location of production.

Trade union officials signed pacts with capital: higher pay for the workers and greater control of the workplace for the bosses. Trade union officials joined management in repressing rank and file movements seeking to control technological changes by reducing hours (" thirty hours work for forty hours pay "). Dissident local unions were seized and gutted by the trade union bosses – sometimes through violence.

Trade union activists, community organizers for rent control and other grassroots movements lost both the capacity and the will to advance toward large-scale structural changes of US capitalism. Living standards improved for a few decades but the capitalist class consolidated strategic control over labor relations. While unionized workers' incomes, increased, inequalities, especially in the non-union sectors began to grow. With the end of the GI bill, veterans' access to high-quality subsidized education declined.

While a new wave of social welfare legislation and programs began in the 1960's and early 1970's it was no longer a result of a mass trade union or workers' "class struggle". Moreover, trade union collaboration with the capitalist regional war policies led to the killing and maiming of hundreds of thousands of workers in two wars – the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

Much of social legislation resulted from the civil and welfare rights movements. While specific programs were helpful, none of them addressed structural racism and poverty.

The Last Wave of Social Welfarism

The 1960'a witnessed the greatest racial war in modern US history: Mass movements in the South and North rocked state and federal governments, while advancing the cause of civil, social and political rights. Millions of black citizens, joined by white activists and, in many cases, led by African American Viet Nam War veterans, confronted the state. At the same time, millions of students and young workers, threatened by military conscription, challenged the military and social order.

Energized by mass movements, a new wave of social welfare legislation was launched by the federal government to pacify mass opposition among blacks, students, community organizers and middle class Americans. Despite this mass popular movement, the union bosses at the AFL-CIO openly supported the war, police repression and the military, or at best, were passive impotent spectators of the drama unfolding in the nation's streets. Dissident union members and activists were the exception, as many had multiple identities to represent: African American, Hispanic, draft resisters, etc.

Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, Medicare, Medicaid, OSHA, the EPA and multiple poverty programs were implemented. A national health program, expanding Medicare for all Americans, was introduced by President Nixon and sabotaged by the Kennedy Democrats and the AFL-CIO. Overall, social and economic inequalities diminished during this period.

The Vietnam War ended in defeat for the American militarist empire. This coincided with the beginning of the end of social welfare as we knew it – as the bill for militarism placed even greater demands on the public treasury.

With the election of President Carter, social welfare in the US began its long decline. The next series of regional wars were accompanied by even greater attacks on welfare via the " Volker Plan " – freezing workers' wages as a means to combat inflation.

Guns without butter' became the legislative policy of the Carter and Reagan Administrations. The welfare programs were based on politically fragile foundations.

The Debacle of Welfarism

Private sector trade union membership declined from a post-world war peak of 30% falling to 12% in the 1990's. Today it has sunk to 7%. Capitalists embarked on a massive program of closing thousands of factories in the unionized North which were then relocated to the non-unionized low wage southern states and then overseas to Mexico and Asia. Millions of stable jobs disappeared.

Following the election of 'Jimmy Carter', neither Democratic nor Republican Presidents felt any need to support labor organizations. On the contrary, they facilitated contracts dictated by management, which reduced wages, job security, benefits and social welfare.

The anti-labor offensive from the ' Oval Office' intensified under President Reagan with his direct intervention firing tens of thousands of striking air controllers and arresting union leaders. Under Presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Clinton cost of living adjustments failed to keep up with prices of vital goods and services. Health care inflation was astronomical. Financial deregulation led to the subordination of American industry to finance and the Wall Street banks. De-industrialization, capital flight and massive tax evasion reduced labor's share of national income.

The capitalist class followed a trajectory of decline, recovery and ascendance. Moreover, during the earlier world depression, at the height of labor mobilization and organization, the capitalist class never faced any significant political threat over its control of the commanding heights of the economy.

The ' New Deal' was, at best, a de facto ' historical compromise' between the capitalist class and the labor unions, mediated by the Democratic Party elite. It was a temporary pact in which the unions secured legal recognition while the capitalists retained their executive prerogatives.

The Second World War secured the economic recovery for capital and subordinated labor through a federally mandated no strike production agreement. There were a few notable exceptions: The coal miners' union organized strikes in strategic sectors and some leftist leaders and organizers encouraged slow-downs, work to rule and other in-plant actions when employers ran roughshod with special brutality over the workers. The recovery of capital was the prelude to a post-war offensive against independent labor-based political organizations. The quality of labor organization declined even as the quantity of trade union membership increased.

Labor union officials consolidated internal control in collaboration with the capitalist elite. Capitalist class-labor official collaboration was extended overseas with strategic consequences.

The post-war corporate alliance between the state and capital led to a global offensive – the replacement of European-Japanese colonial control and exploitation by US business and bankers. Imperialism was later 're-branded' as ' globalization' . It pried open markets, secured cheap docile labor and pillaged resources for US manufacturers and importers.

US labor unions played a major role by sabotaging militant unions abroad in cooperation with the US security apparatus: They worked to coopt and bribe nationalist and leftist labor leaders and supported police-state regime repression and assassination of recalcitrant militants.

' Hand in bloody glove' with the US Empire, the American trade unions planted the seeds of their own destruction at home. The local capitalists in newly emerging independent nations established industries and supply chains in cooperation with US manufacturers. Attracted to these sources of low-wage, violently repressed workers, US capitalists subsequently relocated their factories overseas and turned their backs on labor at home.

Labor union officials had laid the groundwork for the demise of stable jobs and social benefits for American workers. Their collaboration increased the rate of capitalist profit and overall power in the political system. Their complicity in the brutal purges of militants, activists and leftist union members and leaders at home and abroad put an end to labor's capacity to sustain and expand the welfare state.

Trade unions in the US did not use their collaboration with empire in its bloody regional wars to win social benefits for the rank and file workers. The time of social-imperialism, where workers within the empire benefited from imperialism's pillage, was over. Gains in social welfare henceforth could result only from mass struggles led by the urban poor, especially Afro-Americans, community-based working poor and militant youth organizers.

The last significant social welfare reforms were implemented in the early 1970's – coinciding with the end of the Vietnam War (and victory for the Vietnamese people) and ended with the absorption of the urban and anti-war movements into the Democratic Party.

Henceforward the US corporate state advanced through the overseas expansion of the multi-national corporations and via large-scale, non-unionized production at home.

The technological changes of this period did not benefit labor. The belief, common in the 1950's, that science and technology would increase leisure, decrease work and improve living standards for the working class, was shattered. Instead technological changes displaced well-paid industrial labor while increasing the number of mind-numbing, poorly paid, and politically impotent jobs in the so-called 'service sector' – a rapidly growing section of unorganized and vulnerable workers – especially including women and minorities.

Labor union membership declined precipitously. The demise of the USSR and China's turn to capitalism had a dual effect: It eliminated collectivist (socialist) pressure for social welfare and opened their labor markets with cheap, disciplined workers for foreign manufacturers. Labor as a political force disappeared on every count. The US Federal Reserve and President 'Bill' Clinton deregulated financial capital leading to a frenzy of speculation. Congress wrote laws, which permitted overseas tax evasion – especially in Caribbean tax havens. Regional free-trade agreements, like NAFTA, spurred the relocation of jobs abroad. De-industrialization accompanied the decline of wages, living standards and social benefits for millions of American workers.

The New Abolitionists: Trillionaires

The New Deal, the Great Society, trade unions, and the anti-war and urban movements were in retreat and primed for abolition.

Wars without welfare (or guns without butter) replaced earlier 'social imperialism' with a huge growth of poverty and homelessness. Domestic labor was now exploited to finance overseas wars not vice versa. The fruits of imperial plunder were not shared.

As the working and middle classes drifted downward, they were used up, abandoned and deceived on all sides – especially by the Democratic Party. They elected militarists and demagogues as their new presidents.

President 'Bill' Clinton ravaged Russia, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia and liberated Wall Street. His regime gave birth to the prototype billionaire swindlers: Michael Milken and Bernard 'Bernie' Madoff.

Clinton converted welfare into cheap labor 'workfare', exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable and condemning the next generations to grinding poverty. Under Clinton the prison population of mostly African Americans expanded and the breakup of families ravaged the urban communities.

Provoked by an act of terrorism (9/11) President G.W. Bush Jr. launched the 'endless' wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and deepened the police state (Patriot Act). Wages for American workers and profits for American capitalist moved in opposite directions.

The Great Financial Crash of 2008-2011 shook the paper economy to its roots and led to the greatest shakedown of any national treasury in history directed by the First Black American President. Trillions of public wealth were funneled into the criminal banks on Wall Street – which were ' just too big to fail .' Millions of American workers and homeowners, however, were ' just too small to matter' .

The Age of Demagogues

President Obama transferred 2 trillion dollars to the ten biggest bankers and swindlers on Wall Street, and another trillion to the Pentagon to pursue the Democrats version of foreign policy: from Bush's two overseas wars to Obama's seven.

Obama's electoral 'donor-owners' stashed away two trillion dollars in overseas tax havens and looked forward to global free trade pacts – pushed by the eloquent African American President.

Obama was elected to two terms. His liberal Democratic Party supporters swooned over his peace and justice rhetoric while swallowing his militarist escalation into seven overseas wars as well as the foreclosure of two million American householders. Obama completely failed to honor his campaign promise to reduce wage inequality between black and white wage earners while he continued to moralize to black families about ' values' .

Obama's war against Libya led to the killing and displacement of millions of black Libyans and workers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The smiling Nobel Peace Prize President created more desperate refugees than any previous US head of state – including millions of Africans flooding Europe.

'Obamacare' , his imitation of an earlier Republican governor's health plan, was formulated by the private corporate health industry (private insurance, Big Pharma and the for-profit hospitals), to mandate enrollment and ensure triple digit profits with double digit increases in premiums. By the 2016 Presidential elections, ' Obama-care' was opposed by a 45%-43% margin of the American people. Obama's propagandists could not show any improvement of life expectancy or decrease in infant and maternal mortality as a result of his 'health care reform'. Indeed the opposite occurred among the marginalized working class in the old 'rust belt' and in the rural areas. This failure to show any significant health improvement for the masses of Americans is in stark contrast to LBJ's Medicare program of the 1960's, which continues to receive massive popular support.

Forty-years of anti welfare legislation and pro-business regimes paved the golden road for the election of Donald Trump

Trump and the Republicans are focusing on the tattered remnants of the social welfare system: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. The remains of FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society -- are on the chopping block.

The moribund (but well-paid) labor leadership has been notable by its absence in the ensuing collapse of the social welfare state. The liberal left Democrats embraced the platitudinous Obama/Clinton team as the 'Great Society's' gravediggers, while wailing at Trump's allies for shoving the corpse of welfare state into its grave.

Conclusion

Over the past forty years the working class and the rump of what was once referred to as the ' labor movement' has contributed to the dismantling of the social welfare state, voting for ' strike-breaker' Reagan, ' workfare' Clinton, ' Wall Street crash' Bush, ' Wall Street savior' Obama and ' Trickle-down' Trump.

Gone are the days when social welfare and profitable wars raised US living standards and transformed American trade unions into an appendage of the Democratic Party and a handmaiden of Empire. The Democratic Party rescued capitalism from its collapse in the Great Depression, incorporated labor into the war economy and the post- colonial global empire, and resurrected Wall Street from the 'Great Financial Meltdown' of the 21 st century.

The war economy no longer fuels social welfare. The military-industrial complex has found new partners on Wall Street and among the globalized multi-national corporations. Profits rise while wages fall. Low paying compulsive labor (workfare) lopped off state transfers to the poor. Technology – IT, robotics, artificial intelligence and electronic gadgets – has created the most class polarized social system in history. The first trillionaire and multi-billionaire tax evaders rose on the backs of a miserable standing army of tens of millions of low-wage workers, stripped of rights and representation. State subsidies eliminate virtually all risk to capital. The end of social welfare coerced labor (including young mother with children) to seek insecure low-income employment while slashing education and health – cementing the feet of generations into poverty. Regional wars abroad have depleted the Treasury and robbed the country of productive investment. Economic imperialism exports profits, reversing the historic relation of the past.

Labor is left without compass or direction; it flails in all directions and falls deeper in the web of deception and demagogy. To escape from Reagan and the strike breakers, labor embraced the cheap-labor predator Clinton; black and white workers united to elect Obama who expelled millions of immigrant workers, pursued 7 wars, abandoned black workers and enriched the already filthy rich. Deception and demagogy of the labor-

Issac , December 11, 2017 at 11:01 pm GMT

"The military-industrial complex has found new partners on Wall Street and among the globalized multi-national corporations."

"The collaboration of liberals and unions in promoting endless wars opened the door to Trump's mirage of a stateless, tax-less, ruling class."

A mirage so real, it even has you convinced.

whyamihere , December 12, 2017 at 4:24 am GMT
If the welfare state in America was abolished, major American cities would burn to the ground. Anarchy would ensue, it would be magnitudes bigger than anything that happened in Ferguson or Baltimore. It would likely be simultaneous.

I think that's one of the only situations where preppers would actually live out what they've been prepping for (except for a natural disaster).

I've been thinking about this a little over the past few years after seeing the race riots. What exactly is the line between our society being civilized and breaking out into chaos. It's probably a lot thinner than most people think.

I don't know who said it but someone long ago said something along the lines of, "Democracy can only work until the people figure out they can vote for themselves generous benefits from the public treasury." We are definitely in this situation today. I wonder how long it can last.

Disordered , December 13, 2017 at 8:41 am GMT
While I agree with Petras's intent (notwithstanding several exaggerations and unnecessary conflations with, for example, racism), I don't agree so much with the method he proposes. I don't mind welfare and unions to a certain extent, but they are not going to save us unless there is full employment and large corporations that can afford to pay an all-union workforce. That happened during WW2, as only wartime demand and those pesky wage freezes solved the Depression, regardless of all the public works programs; while the postwar era benefited from the US becoming the world's creditor, meaning that capital could expand while labor participation did as well.

From then on, it is quite hard to achieve the same success after outsourcing and mechanization have happened all over the world. Both of these phenomena not only create displaced workers, but also displaced industries, meaning that it makes more sense to develop individual workfare (and even then, do it well, not the shoddy way it is done now) rather than giving away checks that probably will not be cashed for entrepreneurial purposes, and rather than giving away money to corrupt unions who depend on trusts to be able to pay for their benefits, while raising the cost of hiring that only encourages more outsourcing.

The amount of welfare given is not necessarily the main problem, the problem is doing it right for the people who truly need it, and efficiently – that is, with the least amount of waste lost between the chain of distribution, which should reach intended targets and not moochers.

Which inevitably means a sound tax system that targets unearned wealth and (to a lesser degree) foreign competition instead of national production, coupled with strict, yet devolved and simple government processes that benefit both business and individuals tired of bureaucracy, while keeping budgets balanced. Best of both worlds, and no military-industrial complex needed to drive up demand.

Wally , Website December 13, 2017 at 8:57 am GMT
"President Obama transferred 2 trillion dollars to the ten biggest bankers and swindlers on Wall Street " That's twice the amount that Bush gave them.
jacques sheete , December 13, 2017 at 10:52 am GMT

The American welfare state was created in 1935 and continued to develop through 1973. Since then, over a prolonged period, the capitalist class has been steadily dismantling the entire welfare state.

Wrong wrong wrong.

Corporations [now] are welfare recipients and the bigger they are, the more handouts they suck up, and welfare for them started before 1935. In fact, it started in America before there was a USA. I do not have time to elaborate, but what were the various companies such as the British East India Company and the Dutch West India Companies but state pampered, welfare based entities? ~200 years ago, Herbert Spencer, if memory serves, pointed out that the British East India Company couldn't make a profit even with all the special, government granted favors showered upon it.

Corporations not only continuously seek monopolies (with the aid and sanction of the state) but they steadily fine tune the welfare state for their benefit. In fact, in reality, welfare for prols and peasants wouldn't exist if it didn't act as a money conduit and ultimate profit center for the big money grubbers.

Den Lille Abe , December 13, 2017 at 11:09 am GMT
Well, the author kind of nails it. I remember from my childhood in the 50-60 ties in Scandinavia that the US was the ultimate goal in welfare. The country where you could make a good living with your two hands, get you kids to UNI, have a house, a telly ECT. It was not consumerism, it was the American dream, a chicken in every pot; we chewed imported American gum and dreamed.

In the 70-80 ties Scandinavia had a tremendous social and economic growth, EQUALLY distributed, an immense leap forward. In the middle of the 80 ties we were equal to the US in standards of living.

Since we have not looked at the US, unless in pity, as we have seen the decline of the general income, social wealth fall way behind our own.
The average US workers income has not increased since 90 figures adjusted for inflation. The Scandinavian workers income in the same period has almost quadrupled. And so has our societies.

The article is dismal reading, and evidence of the failings of the "unregulated" society, where the anything goes as long as you are wealthy.

wayfarer , December 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm GMT

Between the mid 1970's to the present (2017) labor laws, welfare rights and benefits and the construction of and subsidies for affordable housing have been gutted. 'Workfare' (under President 'Bill' Clinton) ended welfare for the poor and displaced workers. Meanwhile the shift to regressive taxation and the steadily declining real wages have increased corporate profits to an astronomical degree.

source: http://www.unz.com/jpetras/rise-and-decline-of-the-welfare-state/

What does Hollywood "elite" JAP and wannabe hack-stand-up-comic Sarah Silverman think about the class struggle and problems facing destitute Americans? "Qu'ils mangent de la bagels!", source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake

... ... ...

Anonymous , Disclaimer December 13, 2017 at 1:40 pm GMT
@Greg Fraser

Like the Pentagon. Americans still don't readily call this welfare, but they will eventually. Defense profiteers are unions in a sense, you're either in their club Or you're in the service industry that surrounds it.

Anonymous , Disclaimer December 13, 2017 at 2:43 pm GMT
As other commenters have pointed out, it's Petras curious choice of words that sometimes don't make too much sense. We can probably blame the maleable English language for that, but here it's too obvious. If you don't define a union, people might assume you're only talking about a bunch of meat cutters at Safeway.

The welfare state is alive and well for corporate America. Unions are still here – but they are defined by access and secrecy, you're either in the club or not.

The war on unions was successful first by co-option but mostly by the media. But what kind of analysis leaves out the role of the media in the American transformation? The success is mind blowing.

America has barely literate (white) middle aged males trained to spout incoherent Calvinistic weirdness: unabased hatred for the poor (or whoever they're told to hate) and a glorification of hedge fund managers as they get laid off, fired and foreclosed on, with a side of opiates.

There is hardly anything more tragic then seeing a web filled with progressives (management consultants) dedicated to disempowering, disabling and deligitimizing victims by claiming they are victims of biology, disease or a lack of an education rather than a system that issues violence while portending (with the best media money can buy) that they claim the higher ground.

animalogic , December 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm GMT
@Wally

""Democracy can only work until the people figure out they can vote for themselves generous benefits from the public treasury." We are definitely in this situation today."

Quite right: the 0.01% have worked it out & US democracy is a Theatre for the masses.

Reg Cæsar , December 13, 2017 at 3:08 pm GMT

They elected militarists and demagogues as their new presidents.

Wilson and FDR were much more militarist and demagogic than those that followed.

Reg Cæsar , December 13, 2017 at 3:20 pm GMT
@whyamihere

I don't know who said it but someone long ago said something along the lines of, "Democracy can only work until the people figure out they can vote for themselves generous benefits from the public treasury."

Some French aristocrat put it as, once the gates to the treasury have been breached, they can only be closed again with gunpowder. Anyone recognize the author?

phil , December 13, 2017 at 4:48 pm GMT
The author doesn't get it. What we have now IS the welfare state in an intensely diverse society. We have more transfer spending than ever before and Obamacare represents another huge entitlement.

Intellectuals continue to fantasize about the US becoming a Big Sweden, but Sweden has only been successful insofar as it has been a modest nation-state populated by ethnic Swedes. Intense diversity in a huge country with only the remnants of federalism results in massive non-consensual decision-making, fragmentation, increased inequality, and corruption.

HallParvey , December 13, 2017 at 4:57 pm GMT
@Anonymous

The welfare state is alive and well for corporate America. Unions are still here – but they are defined by access and secrecy, you're either in the club or not.

They are largely defined as Doctors, Lawyers, and University Professors who teach the first two. Of course they are not called unions. Access is via credentialing and licensing. Good Day

Anonymous , Disclaimer December 13, 2017 at 4:57 pm GMT
@Linda Green

Bernie Sanders, speaking on behalf of the MIC's welfare bird: "It is the airplane of the United States Air Force, Navy, and of NATO."

Elizabeth Warren, referring to Mossad's Estes Rockets: "The Israeli military has the right to attack Palestinian hospitals and schools in self defense"

Barack Obama, yukking it up with pop stars: "Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming."

It's not the agitprop that confuses the sheep, it's whose blowhole it's coming out of (labled D or R for convenience) that gets them to bare their teeth and speak of poo.

Anonymous , Disclaimer December 13, 2017 at 5:54 pm GMT
@HallParvey

What came first, the credentialing or the idea that it is a necessary part of education? It certainly isn't an accurate indication of what people know or their general intelligence – although that myth has flourished. Good afternoon.

Logan , December 13, 2017 at 9:10 pm GMT
@Realist

For an interesting projection of what might happen in total civilizational collapse, I recommend the Dies the Fire series of novels by SM Stirling.

It has a science-fictiony setup in that all high-energy system (gunpowder, electricity, explosives, internal combustion, even high-energy steam engines) suddenly stop working. But I think it does a good job of extrapolating what would happen if suddenly the cities did not have food, water, power, etc.

Spoiler alert: It ain't pretty. Those who dream of a world without guns have not really thought it through.

Logan , December 13, 2017 at 9:19 pm GMT
@phil

It has been pointed out repeatedly that Sweden does very well relative to the USA. It has also been noted that people of Swedish ancestry in the USA do pretty well also. In fact considerably better than Swedes in Sweden

[Dec 15, 2017] Neoliberalism undermines workers health not only via the financial consequences of un/under employment and low wages, but also through chronic exposure to stress due to insecurity

Neoliberalism as "Die-now economics." "Embodiment into lower class" or "the representation as a member the lower class" if often fatal and upper mobility mobility is artificially limited (despite all MSM hype it is lower then in Europe). So just being a member of lower class noticeably and negatively affects your life expectancy and other social metrics. Job insecurity is the hazard reserved for lower and lower middle classes destructivly effect both physical and mental health. Too much stress is not good for humans. Neoliberalism with its manta of competition uber alles and atomization of the workforce is a real killer. also the fact that such article was published and the comments below is a clear sign that the days of neoliberalism are numbered. It should go.
Notable quotes:
"... In our new book , we draw on an extensive body of scientific literature to assess the health effects of three decades of neoliberal policies. Focusing on the social determinants of health -- the conditions of life and work that make it relatively easy for some people to lead long and healthy lives, while it is all but impossible for others -- we show that there are four interconnected neoliberal epidemics: austerity, obesity, stress, and inequality. They are neoliberal because they are associated with or worsened by neoliberal policies. ..."
"... Neoliberalism operates through labor markets to undermine health not only by way of the financial consequences of unemployment, inadequate employment, or low wages, as important as these are, but also through chronic exposure to stress that 'gets under your skin' by way of multiple mechanisms. Quite simply, the effects of chronic insecurity wear people out over the life course in biologically measurable ways . ..."
"... Oh, and "beyond class" because for social beings embodiment involves "social production; social consumption; and social reproduction." In the most reductive definition of class -- the one I used in my crude 1% + 10% + 90% formulation -- class is determined by wage work (or not), hence is a part of production (of capital), not social consumption (eating, etc.) or social reproduction (children, families, household work ). So, even if class in our political economy is the driver, it's not everything. ..."
"... "Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. ..."
"... Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve." ..."
"... As opposed to being champions of "self-actualization/identity" and "absolute relativism", I always got the impression that they were both offering stark warnings about diving too deeply into the self, vis-a-vis, identity. As if, they both understood the terrifying world that it could/would create, devoid of common cause, community, and ultimately empathy. A world where "we" are not possible because we have all become "I". ..."
"... Wonks like Yglesias love to mock working class concerns as "economic anxiety," which is at once belittling (it's all about f-e-e-e-lings ..."
"... "we have measurable health outcomes from political choices" So True!!! ..."
Dec 12, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

...Neoliberal epidemics are particular pathways of embodiment. From Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra in The Conversation :

In our new book , we draw on an extensive body of scientific literature to assess the health effects of three decades of neoliberal policies. Focusing on the social determinants of health -- the conditions of life and work that make it relatively easy for some people to lead long and healthy lives, while it is all but impossible for others -- we show that there are four interconnected neoliberal epidemics: austerity, obesity, stress, and inequality. They are neoliberal because they are associated with or worsened by neoliberal policies. They are epidemics because they are observable on such an international scale and have been transmitted so quickly across time and space that if they were biological contagions they would be seen as of epidemic proportions.

(The Case-Deaton study provides an obvious fifth: Deaths of despair. There are doubtless others.) Case in point for one of the unluckier members of the 90%:

On the morning of 25 August 2014 a young New Jersey woman, Maria Fernandes, died from inhaling gasoline fumes as she slept in her 13-year-old car. She often slept in the car while shuttling between her three, low-wage jobs in food service; she kept a can of gasoline in the car because she often slept with the engine running, and was worried about running out of gasoline. Apparently, the can accidentally tipped over and the vapours from spilled gasoline cost her life. Ms Fernandes was one of the more obvious casualties of the zero-hours culture of stress and insecurity that pervades the contemporary labour market under neoliberalism.

And Schrecker and Bambra conclude:

Neoliberalism operates through labor markets to undermine health not only by way of the financial consequences of unemployment, inadequate employment, or low wages, as important as these are, but also through chronic exposure to stress that 'gets under your skin' by way of multiple mechanisms. Quite simply, the effects of chronic insecurity wear people out over the life course in biologically measurable ways .

... ... ...

Oh, and "beyond class" because for social beings embodiment involves "social production; social consumption; and social reproduction." In the most reductive definition of class -- the one I used in my crude 1% + 10% + 90% formulation -- class is determined by wage work (or not), hence is a part of production (of capital), not social consumption (eating, etc.) or social reproduction (children, families, household work ). So, even if class in our political economy is the driver, it's not everything.

nonclassical , December 11, 2017 at 8:30 pm

L.S. reminiscent of Ernst Becker's, "The Structure of Evil" – "Escape from Evil"? (..not to indicate good vs. evil dichotomy) A great amount of perspective must be agreed upon to achieve "change" intoned. Divide and conquer are complicit, as noted .otherwise (and as indicated by U.S. economic history) change arrives only when all have lost all and can therefore agree begin again.

There is however, Naomi Klein perspective, "Shock Doctrine", whereby influence contributes to destabilization, plan in hand leading to agenda driven ("neoliberal"=market fundamentalism) outcome, not at all spontaneous in nature:

"Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve."

Amfortas the Hippie , December 11, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Well done, as usual.

On Case-Deason: Sounds like home. I keep the scanner on(local news) ems and fire only since 2006(sheriff got a homeland security grant). The incidence of suicide, overdose and "intoxication psychosis" are markedly increased in the last 10+ years out here in the wilderness(5K folks in whole county, last I looked). Our local economy went into near depression after the late 90's farm bill killed the peanut program then 911 meant no hunting season that year(and it's been noticeably less busy ever since) then drought and the real estate crash(we had 30 some realtors at peak..old family land being sold off, mostly). So the local Bourgeoisie have had less money to spend, which "trickles down" onto the rest of us.:less construction, less eating out even at the cheap places, less buying of gas, and on and on means fewer employees are needed, thus fewer jobs. To boot, there is a habit among many employers out here of not paying attention to labor laws(it is Texas ) the last minwage rise took 2 years to filter out here, and one must scrutinize one's pay stub to ensure that the boss isn't getting squirrelly with overtime and witholding.
Geography plays into all this, too 100 miles to any largish city.

... ... ...

Rosario , December 11, 2017 at 10:55 pm

I'm not well versed in Foucault or Lacan but I've read some of both and in reading between the lines of their writing (the phantom philosophy?) I saw a very different message than that often delivered by post-modern theorists.

As opposed to being champions of "self-actualization/identity" and "absolute relativism", I always got the impression that they were both offering stark warnings about diving too deeply into the self, vis-a-vis, identity. As if, they both understood the terrifying world that it could/would create, devoid of common cause, community, and ultimately empathy. A world where "we" are not possible because we have all become "I".

Considering what both their philosophies claimed, if identity is a lie, and the subject is always generated relative to the other, then how the hell can there be any security or well being in self-actualization? It is like trying to hit a target that does not exist.

All potentially oppressive cultural categorizations are examples of this (black, latino, gay, trans, etc.). If the identity is a moving target, both to the oppressor and the oppressed, then how can it ever be a singular source of political action? You can't hit what isn't there. This is not to say that these groups (in whatever determined category) are not oppressed, just that formulating political action based strictly on the identity (often as an essential category) is impossible because it does not actually exist materially. It is an amalgamation of subjects who's subjectivity is always relative to some other whether ally or oppressor. Only the manifestations of oppression on bodies (as brought up in Lambert's post) can be utilized as metrics for political action.

... ... ...

Lambert Strether Post author , December 11, 2017 at 11:20 pm

I thought of a couple of other advantages of the "embodiment" paradigm:

Better Framing . Wonks like Yglesias love to mock working class concerns as "economic anxiety," which is at once belittling (it's all about f-e-e-e-lings *) and disempowering (solutions are individual, like therapy or drugs). Embodiment by contrast insists that neoliberalism (the neoliberal labor market (class warfare)) has real, material, physiological effects that can be measured and tracked, as with any epidemic.

... ... ...

oaf , December 12, 2017 at 7:11 am

"we have measurable health outcomes from political choices" So True!!!

Thank you for posting this.

[Dec 15, 2017] The underlying problem of Trump vs. Hillary choice is the problem of the degradation of the US elite, a slide to gerontocracy which reminds me the deterioration of Soviet elite. At this point people do not respect their leaders. Much like was the case in the USSR after 1960

Dec 09, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Internet-is-Beast -> Ms No , Dec 9, 2017 3:25 AM

I acknowledge what you are saying. However, I have learned that when one is in the midst of a pessimistic scenario, one tends to develop tunnel vision and assume that the future will be like the present, only worse. Though I despise psychology as a science, this is a very psychological phenomenon. Granting what you say about Trump and the false optimism he generated, I voted for him not because I hated Trump less, but that I hated Hillary more.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding, in spite of all this, I do have a certain optimism about the American people, as a rayon de lumière in a gloomy prospect.

Davidduke2000 -> Internet-is-Beast , Dec 9, 2017 3:05 AM

keep the blinders on, even better yet wear the virtual reality goggles of MAGA while the country is living off a never ending fraud.

Every part of the us government is a fraud, the money is a fraud, wall street is a fraud, 99% of the food you eat is kosher fraud and you pension is fraud as the money is not there to allow you to collect your pension yet most people are paying dearly for their pension and the money goes to either israel or the profiteers of the war machine.

Clock Crasher -> Ms No , Dec 9, 2017 12:57 AM

They are toast. The leaks are not going to stop. Once the baby boom generation dies off completely the next generations will clean up their mess. The baby boom can't see past their own prosperity. But everyone else is ready for reform.

(trying to throw a little optimism into the mix)

Think about it.. when you look at the electoral map by county HRC was thoroughly crushed. Is DJT a SomaSalesMan aka Mega Psyop.. who the fuck knows. The awakening is happen Chinese water torture style.

This is a lot like being a Gold perma Bull. We want to come into the forums every day and write about how hopeless the situation is (a lot like what I do here everyday).

Just remember this.. Even Mao's wife had to stand trial for crimes against the populace. In 20 years the babyboomers will be out of the way and we can get onto bigger and better things.

Davidduke2000 -> Clock Crasher , Dec 9, 2017 2:58 AM

the biggest problems come from the millennial who grew up with bullshit, baby boomers lived threw a lot of american bullshit and they are the ones like PCR are warning the youngs that america's days are numbered . even Deagel.com predict that the us population in 2025 will dwindle from 325 million to only 55 millions, where do you think the 275 million will go? nuclear war will take care of them.

http://www.deagel.com/country/forecast.aspx

the corruption is so great that every single new weapon does not work and all these weapons are built at a great cost. The bulk of the left activists are millennials , the same with the super left, yet on the right the millennials are busy filing their nails, surfing and buying bitcoin for a quick profit.

I am Canadian, I am an outsider and see clearly as I am not part of the system, I see a country where the leaders convinced the population that they are exceptional but the people took it as a compliment, it was meant to fool them into a sense of being above the rest of the world, yet most americans do not know the capital of florida, california, mississippi, alabama yet they are in their own country.

This exceptionalism is preventing them from understanding the danger they are in.

For the first time I see a consensus on zerohedge that PCR is 100% right and the posters are worried what will become of america if israel is left with a huge hold on all us presidents and on the political infrastructure of the us and they agree with PCR on the list of propaganda the us have been telling the citizens to keep them distracted from knowing that their days are numbered when the Russians might attack thinking america wants to annihilate them.

FredFlintstone -> Ms No , Dec 9, 2017 5:55 AM

Damnit! I just wanted to retire quietly to a golf course.

veritas semper ... , Dec 9, 2017 12:27 AM

Pax Britannica<< Pax Americana<< Pax Judaica.

We are in the late stages of Pax Judaica. They, through their money magic,usury,fiat printing,and the bought/paid for/bribed/blackmailed sycophants,rule almost the whole world.The West entirely.

They have push so much,on all aspects of the society,that the recoil is going to be devastating.We started seeing this with the Jerusalem f*ck up.

US can not be saved at this point. It is at the Event Horizon already. I don't know what will be left of it: a few 4th world small countries ,where warlords kill each other? Americans love violence.

I absolutely sure IS...RA...EL is NOT going to survive. Neither Saudi Barbaria. Especially after this last blunder.

Will they go into the dustbin of history gracefully,without destroying the whole world in the process?

I don't think so,they are psychopaths.They do not like to lose or to be exposed for what they really are.

PCR makes a valid point. The Russians are patient ,balanced, intelligent people,but if they sense they are dealing with irrational ones ,they will not take a chance. The Russians have already said that US is not agreement capable, a great insult in their view.

Internet-is-Beast -> veritas semper vinces , Dec 9, 2017 2:46 AM

Referencing your first line, there's also "army intelligence" "Long Island expressway" to cite a couple of other examples of the same wordplay.

HRClinton -> veritas semper vinces , Dec 9, 2017 3:44 AM

Pax Iudaea. Delenda est.

Hostis humani generis. Delenda est.

roddy6667 -> JibjeResearch , Dec 9, 2017 1:06 AM

In America everybody has their labels (businessman, Libertarian, Democrat, Republican) so they can all fight with each other better. The country is so Balkanized that cannot function as a whole any more. I guess that was the plan all along.

IDESofMARCH , Dec 9, 2017 1:07 AM

Peace and truth are not welcome at the Whitehouse which should be painted BLOOD RED. Politicians are a greedy bloodthirsty criminals, That includes Trump. If you want to save the world from WW3 which we are watching incubate. ALL current crop of politicians have to be thrown out of government. YOU NEED A BLOODY REVOLUTION and throw these criminals into maximum security with the killers and molestors to do as they wish with them.

Without public revolt we'll just keep seeing, hearing and swallowing fake news after fake news brain wash and send our children to kill the innocent in WAR after WAR.

Walt , Dec 9, 2017 1:28 AM

Private interests and agendas have control over the US government. As in (((Private interests and agendas))) have control over the US government.

Seasmoke , Dec 9, 2017 1:34 AM

Don't forget the biggest lie. Even bigger than 9/11. That in the mid 2000s millions of deadbeats all decided to buy houses that they could not afford. What a joke of a country. Land of the fee. Home of the Slave.

Moe Howard , Dec 9, 2017 1:46 AM

"What Mueller is doing is so corrupt that he really should be arrested and renditioned to Egypt." Best line of the whole piece. Love it. We are not, however, "Walking Into Armageddon" Rather, we are "Slouching into the Apocolypse"

I am ENTERTAINED.

Ivan de beers , Dec 9, 2017 2:05 AM

Trump handing Jerusalem to israel is just the first step in setting up the rise of Israel and the fall of America. It is a symbolic transfer of power. All is left is world war 3 and the financial system collapse.

GardenWeasel , Dec 9, 2017 2:57 AM

PCR is way off this time. Flynn is acting as bait, and the swamp critters went for it. Trump and Bannon are playing the ol' rope-a-dope rather well. After the Dems and Deep Staters wear themselves out throwing all of these ineffective punches they will take them out.

ProsperD9 -> GardenWeasel , Dec 9, 2017 3:56 AM

You might be on to something...as the Dems and Deep State reveal themselves for what they really are, it makes it easier for Trump to go in for the kill....! They are getting more and more careless and their corruption and stupidity revealed more and more each day. I hope Trump be able to pave the way to cleaning up America and getting it back on its feet....we will see...!

jafo2me , Dec 9, 2017 3:01 AM

As many of you either know or have heard...

"THE" controllers of the puppet politicans, bankers and world leaders "WANT YOU TO LIVE IN FEAR." All the reasons stated by PCR are valid but not one of them is a reason to go out and get drunk tomorrow. Either you believe in your own fate and the actions which control the fate which you harvest "OR YOU DON'T."

Why would I worry about things I have zero control over, especially when I "KNOW" "THEY" live off of that fear? I will live every moment of my life in the joy and happiness which is this blessing to be alive "AND" will live in fear of no one. If you live your life this way they lose and you get to appreciate a gift which is greater then any material object on the planet.

The worse which they can do when you decide to refuse to live in fear of "THEM" is to take your life which they have no power to do either.. Put up your middle finger to all of them, smile and move on and enjoy what time you have here to make it the best you can do.

Choose not to live in fear of them..

We all fear death and question our place in the universe. The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence. ... Ernest Hemingway

slicktroutman -> jafo2me , Dec 9, 2017 8:40 AM

And then he killed himself.....l...

Conscious Reviver , Dec 9, 2017 3:08 AM

Two interesting pieces of news out of moonofalabama.org

First b says the real buyer of the fake $450M fake DaVinci is MbS, the KSA crown prince. Second, MbS just fired his Zino-friendly, Jared-friendly foreign minister.

jafo2me , Dec 9, 2017 3:23 AM

As for Flynn...

The rumors early on were that Flynn knew who all the pedophiles were in Washington, wanted to go after them "AND" would not back down. Trump's VP was included on that list and played a part in the decision to move him out of the public eye and into the position he currently occupies behind the scenes.

Interestingly enough it was supposedly this stupid explanation of him not telling Pence about his meeting with the Russian Ambassador which was the excuse as to why he had to be removed. On face value, think about how ridiculous this is. A decorated General who answers to the President withheld information on a meeting which is fairly typical military procedure.

"IT'S CALLED THE NEED TO KNOW." HELLO....

Trump could have simply stated that Flynn was not under orders from Pence and was acting under a protocol common to members within the Military but not common to politicians. If Pence wanted to know anything about what people within my Administration are doing he is always welcome to discuss it with me. PERIOD...

THE ENTIRE EXCUSE IS TOTAL BS AND THE WEAKNESS OF THAT EXCUSE GIVES ME SUSPICION TO BELIEVE THAT THE ORIGIONAL RUMORS WERE ACCURATE.

JailBanksters , Dec 9, 2017 3:29 AM

America Isn't "Walking Into Armageddon", America Is "Pushing for Armageddon"

Conscious Reviver -> JailBanksters , Dec 9, 2017 4:46 AM

The Fascist Tom Cotton with his hair on fire leading the charge. Metaphorically leading the charge to our own destruction. He would never get himself involved in any genuine battle charge. Russia is not my enemy or adversary.

JailBanksters -> Conscious Reviver , Dec 9, 2017 5:11 AM

Has Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea ever done any physical harm to the USA ? No ... How about the reverse ? Mmm, it appears the only ones that have attacked the USA are Saudi Arabia and Israel. But America does not attack them, instead it only attacks the countries that have never attacked the USA.

Is that wierd or what ?, it's almost as if there is another agenda at play.

slipreedip , Dec 9, 2017 4:57 AM

US foreign Policy in a nutshell. Its war...one way or another.

Stan Derdissue -> Tellthetruth , Dec 9, 2017 6:25 AM

You mean the Islam that allows grandads to marry and abuse 10 year olds. Husbands to beat up their wives, hang gay teenage boys off cranes in public squares. Whip 12 year old girls in public for wearing western tight jeans ( underneath their hijab may I add). Satan would approve of this sadistic protocol.

free corn , Dec 9, 2017 5:59 AM

it's amazing to see so much naivety here. People seems to believe that America/Russia are bad/good. But people it's not just imperialism anymore it's globalism. Therefore it's not about interests of countries but rather the ones of oligarchs. And oligarchs interests are international, so why would they be interested in Armageddon? Earth belong to them, why would they want to damage their wealth so much? i think we'll see busyness as usual - small wars, removing obstacles for transnationals, concentration of wealth and power and social engineering on global scale.

Conscious Reviver -> free corn , Dec 9, 2017 7:00 AM

The NWO globalism program failed already. Now we are on to something else.

slicktroutman -> Conscious Reviver , Dec 9, 2017 8:30 AM

Can you explain how it failed already? Be specific.

WTFUD -> free corn , Dec 9, 2017 7:23 AM

Naive, ha ha! Take a look at Libya, the War Crimes & Genocide, overseen by the US & Vassals and talk about Good/Bad, NO SON, we're talking Class A EVIL here, and in the other Regime Change Neocon Playbook. How many Foreign Bases/Entanglements are Russia involved in, outside of Russia? In their Only ME base/port in Syria the US tried to fuck them over. Now Russia has half a dozen strategic Bases ( including a meeting of minds with Egypt, Qatar, Libya, Turkey, Sudan ) to eliminate DAESH/al-CIAd'uh (US Constructs).

Lastly, Only through Threat and Intimidation can the US keep these Vassals on board. Have you not noticed how the Geopolitical Landmark is changing with Sovereigns flocking far and wide to Moscow, for an ALTERNATIVE to the Vassal Prisoner Status offered up by Vichy DC.

Naive Son? Z/Hedgers will call out Russia if they deviate from the Path of Righteousness.

No Russia didn't displace, maim, murder, tens of millions of citizens in the ME, VICHY DC did.

Dark star , Dec 9, 2017 6:46 AM

I read somewhere that the Ukrainian Army has changed its rule book to allow soldiers to wear beards. The inference from this is that those ISIS members rescued by the Americans are being shipped to Ukraine to fight with the Nazis against those in the East who object to Kiev's desire to genocide ethnic Russians. It would appear that, not content with arming Nazis and putting them in Ukraine's Government, the US is now putting an armed ISIS into Eastern Europe. Does anybody have more detail?

WTFUD -> Dark star , Dec 9, 2017 6:59 AM

Airlifting them from Der el Zor ( and inevitable destruction at the hands of Syrian/Hezbollah Bravehearts ) onto the demarcation line in the Donbass? Good luck with that Chestnut! What are the Jihadi's wearing, 3 SETS OF THERMALS? Let's put it this way, no matter how many Jihadi proxy scum/Advisers they airlift into Donbass there will be 10 times more FOREIGN FREEDOM-FIGHTERS (ok mainly Russian, but from Everywhere ) ready to join that gig, me included.

Death to ZATO!

WTFUD , Dec 9, 2017 6:47 AM

How convenient that Trump gets to play the Good Guy, supposedly fingers tied at every turn by Deep State, preventing him from reaching out.

There's not a shred of evidence that he's intervened to mend relations with Russia and if there is can someone shed light on this?

First up he has a filthy Neocon POS in Nikki Haley in the UN, the Only one on the Security Council who's a War Hawk (including the Palestinian fiasco ).

Did he intervene in the ILLEGAL eviction of Russian Diplomatic Quarters? Has he worked diligently with China & Russia to resolve DPRK or contributed to the Neocon war-drum beat with more bluster? Has he increased or defused tension in the ME by withdrawing US Troops or has he added to Obama's clandestine proxy jihadi recruitment programme by sending moar ADVISERS?

They say Tillerson's on his way out, to be replaced by a Neocon war-hawk in Mike Pompeo who's current charge of al-CIAd'uh covert operations is a continuation of the Obama failings.

Unlike Obama ( one of his few credits in 8 years ) Trump's Encouraging Netanyahu's Deviancy?

I've read over at the Saker/Other that behind the scenes Vichy DC could step up the supply of WMD's/Advisers to Kiev.

The US Coalition Forces in Syria (minus the US, lol), like their Iraqi counterparts (the Kurds in the main ) are at least talking with Russia/Government to thwart, long-term US Military Bases on Syrian soil. Obviously the US is unhappy about this with their Partition ambitions.

FUCK VICHY DC & EVERYONE IN IT!

Conscious Reviver -> WTFUD , Dec 9, 2017 7:05 AM

When Vicky Nuland's relatives ran Russia. https://youtube.com/watch?v=pRfY8CwjXvY

Able Ape , Dec 9, 2017 8:15 AM

The US suffers from MIC Induced Psychosis - the only cure is stop funding the military!...

"Rebellion to t... , Dec 9, 2017 8:33 AM

Pope John Paul II, Gorbachev, and Reagan, together, ended the Cold War. HW Bush is the architect on how the USA kept its military industrial complex intact. The USA no longer had an existential threat, and no longer a reason to maintain a multiple tens of billions annual defense budget. So HW Bush picked an enemy and started a global war, that continues to this day. The British military map makers, redrew much of the middle east, after WWI.

The state of Israel was already in the works, long before the story of the holocaust, some 20 years later. Anyway, Sadaam Hussein, leader of Iraq, and US ally, spoke to the Bush administration about Kuwait; and taking back for Iraq, what Sadaam believed the British map makers took away in 1917. Saddam was fooled, and the Bush administration had a reason to keep the military industrial complex intact. The globalism/new world order, that US and EU government officials speak of, is simply another way of saying that no one has any civil liberties and everyone is being monitored.

This dangerous game was effective and working for quite a while. A great deal of wealth and power transferred to a select few. The strategy went sideways when Mr Putin said enough is enough, in roughly 2011.

Now, freedom fighters have joined Mr Putin, such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Barrett Brown, Manning, Glenn Greenwald, Sarah Carter,and many other, to restore freedom and honor back to the people of the world by shining light on all of the corruption.

It will take Trump and Sessions some time to restore trust and to root out the corruption.

The bottom line is that there are good people out there, who will never let this criminal behavior and corruption to be hidden from the unwashed masses.

Sudden Debt , Dec 9, 2017 9:01 AM

America is just looking for an excuse to send their young kids to war to get shot to pieces and get mentally fucked up so the drug industry can profit, the war industry can profit, the banks can profit...

in all...

It's clear that it's the patriotic thing to do.

[Dec 14, 2017] Tech Giants Trying to Use WTO to Colonize Emerging Economies

Notable quotes:
"... The initiative described in this article reminds me of how the World Bank pushed hard for emerging economies to develop capital markets, for the greater good of America's investment bankers. ..."
"... By Burcu Kilic, an expert on legal, economic and political issues. Originally published at openDemocracy ..."
"... Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world – tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation. ..."
"... One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants. ..."
"... Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name? ..."
Dec 14, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

December 14, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. Notice that Costa Rica is served up as an example in this article. Way back in 1997, American Express had designated Costa Rica as one of the countries it identified as sufficiently high income so as to be a target for a local currency card offered via a franchise agreement with a domestic institution (often but not always a bank). 20 years later, the Switzerland of Central America still has limited Internet connectivity, yet is precisely the sort of place that tech titans like Google would like to dominate.

The initiative described in this article reminds me of how the World Bank pushed hard for emerging economies to develop capital markets, for the greater good of America's investment bankers.

By Burcu Kilic, an expert on legal, economic and political issues. Originally published at openDemocracy

Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world – tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation.

n a few weeks' time, trade ministers from 164 countries will gather in Buenos Aires for the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC11). US President Donald Trump in November issued fresh accusations of unfair treatment towards the US by WTO members , making it virtually impossible for trade ministers to leave the table with any agreement in substantial areas.

To avoid a 'failure ministerial," some countries see the solution as pushing governments to open a mandate to start conversations that might lead to a negotiation on binding rules for e-commerce and a declaration of the gathering as the "digital ministerial". Argentina's MC11 chair, Susana Malcorra, is actively pushing for member states to embrace e-commerce at the WTO, claiming that it is necessary to " bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots ".

It is not very clear what kind of gaps Malcorra is trying to bridge. It surely isn't the "connectivity gap" or "digital divide" that is growing between developed and developing countries, seriously impeding digital learning and knowledge in developing countries. In fact, half of humanity is not even connected to the internet, let alone positioned to develop competitive markets or bargain at a multilateral level. Negotiating binding e-commerce rules at the WTO would only widen that gap.

Dangerously, the "South Vision" of digital trade in the global trade arena is being shaped by a recent alliance of governments and well-known tech-sector lobbyists, in a group called 'Friends of E-Commerce for Development' (FED), including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and, most recently, China. FED claims that e-commerce is a tool to drive growth, narrow the digital divide, and generate digital solutions for developing and least developed countries.

However, none of the countries in the group (apart from China) is leading or even remotely ready to be in a position to negotiate and push for binding rules on digital trade that will be favorable to them, as their economies are still far away from the technology revolution. For instance, it is perplexing that one of the most fervent defenders of FED's position is Costa Rica. The country's economy is based on the export of bananas, coffee, tropical fruits, and low-tech medical instruments, and almost half of its population is offline . Most of the countries in FED are far from being powerful enough to shift negotiations in favor of small players.

U.S.-based tech giants and Chinese Alibaba – so-called GAFA-A – dominate, by far, the future of the digital playing field, including issues such as identification and digital payments, connectivity, and the next generation of logistics solutions. In fact, there is a no-holds-barred ongoing race among these tech giants to consolidate their market share in developing economies, from the race to grow the advertising market to the race to increase online payments.

An e-commerce agenda that claims unprecedented development for the Global South is a Trojan horse move. Beginning negotiations on such topics at this stage – before governments are prepared to understand what is at stake – could lead to devastating results, accelerating liberalization and the consolidation of the power of tech giants to the detriment of local industries, consumers, and citizens. Aware of the increased disparities between North and South, and the data dominance of a tiny group of GAFA-A companies, a group of African nations issued a statement opposing the digital ambitions of the host for MC11. But the political landscape is more complex, with China, the EU, and Russia now supporting the idea of a "digital" mandate .

Repeating the Same Mistakes?

The relationships of most countries with tech companies are as imbalanced as their relationships with Big Pharma, and there are many parallels to note. Not so long ago, the countries of the Global South faced Big Pharma power in pharmaceutical markets in a similar way. Some developing countries had the same enthusiasm when they negotiated intellectual property rules for the protection of innovation and research and development costs. In reality, those countries were nothing more than users and consumers of that innovation, not the owners or creators. The lessons of negotiating trade issues that lie at the core of public interest issues – in that case, access to medicines – were costly. Human lives and fundamental rights of those who use online services should not be forgotten when addressing the increasingly worrying and unequal relationships with tech power.

The threat before our eyes is similarly complex and equally harmful to the way our societies will be shaped in the coming years. In the past, the Big Pharma race was for patent exclusivity, to eliminate local generic production and keep drug prices high. Today, the Big Tech race is for data extractivism from those who have yet to be connected in the world, and tech companies will use all the power they hold to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or data localization.

Big Tech is one of the most concentrated and resourceful industries of all time. The bargaining power of developing countries is minimal. Developing countries will basically be granting the right to cultivate small parcels of a land controlled by data lords -- under their rules, their mandate, and their will -- with practically no public oversight. The stakes are high. At the core of it is the race to conquer the markets of digital payments and the battle to become the platform where data flows, splitting the territory as old empires did in the past. As the Economist claimed on May 6, 2017: "Conflicts over control of oil have scarred the world for decades. No one yet worries that wars will be fought over data. But the data economy has the same potential for confrontation."

If countries from the Global South want to prepare for data wars, they should start thinking about how to reduce the control of Big Tech over -- how we communicate, shop, and learn the news -- , again, over our societies. The solution lies not in making rules for data liberalization, but in devising ways to use the law to reduce Big Tech's power and protect consumers and citizens. Finding the balance would take some time and we are going to take that time to find the right balance, we are not ready to lock the future yet.

Jef , December 14, 2017 at 11:32 am

I thought thats what the WTO is for?

Thuto , December 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants. To paraphrase from a comment I made recently regarding a similar topic : "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world". With this dynamic in mind, and the "constant growth" mantra humming incessantly in the background, it's easy to see how high stakes a game this is for the tech giants and how no resources will be spared to stymie any efforts at establishing a regulatory oversight framework that will protect the digital rights of citizens in the global south.

Multilateral fora like the WTO are de facto enablers for the marauding frontal attacks of transnational corporations, and it's disheartening to see that some developing nations have already nailed the digital futures of their citizens to the mast of the tech giants by joining this alliance. What's more, this signing away of their liberty will be sold to the citizenry as the best way to usher them into the brightest of all digital futures.

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm

One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants.

Vast sums of money are already being thrown at bringing Africa online, for better or worse. Thus, the R&D aimed at providing wireless Internet via giant drones/balloons/satellites by Google, Facebook, etc.

You're African. Possibly South African by your user name, which may explain why you're a little behind the curve, because the action is already happening, but more to the north -- and particularly in East Africa.

The big corporations -- and the tech giants are competing with the banking/credit card giants -- have noted how mobile technology leapt over the dearth of last century's telephony tech, land lines, and in turn enabled the highest adoption rates of cellphone banking in the world. (Particularly in East Africa, as I say.) The payoffs for big corporations are massive -- de facto cashless societies where the corporations control the payment systems –and the politicians are mostly cheap.

In Nigeria, the government has launched a Mastercard-branded national ID card that's also a payment card, in one swoop handing Mastercard more than 170 million potential customers, and their personal and biometric data.

In Kenya, the sums transferred by mobile money operator M-Pesa are more than 25 percent of that country's GDP.

You can see that bringing Africa online is technically a big, decade-long project. But also that the potential payoffs are vast. Though I also suspect China may come out ahead -- they're investing far more in Africa and in some areas their technology -- drones, for instance -- is already superior to what the Europeans and the American companies have.

Thuto , December 14, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Thank you Mark P.

Hoisted from a comment I made here recently: "Here in South Africa and through its Free Basics programme, facebook is jumping into bed with unsuspecting ISPs (I say unsuspecting because fb will soon be muscling in on their territory and becoming an ISP itself by provisioning bandwidth directly from its floating satellites) and circumventing net neutrality "

I'm also keenly aware of the developments in Kenya re: safaricom and Mpesa and how that has led to traditional banking via bank accounts being largely leapfrogged for those moving from being unbanked to active economic citizens requiring money transfer facilities. Given the huge succes of Mpesa, I wouldn't be surprised if a multinational tech behemoth (chinese or american) were to make a play for acquiring safaricom and positioning it as a triple-play ISP, money transfer/banking services and digital content provider (harvesting data about users habits on an unprecedented scale across multiple areas of their lives), first in Kenya then expanded throughout east, central and west africa. I must add that your statement about Nigeria puts Mark Zuckerberg's visit there a few months back into context somewhat, perhaps a reconnaissance mission of sorts.

Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?

Though I've lived in California for decades, my mother was South African and I maintain a UK passport, having grown up in London.

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:34 pm

As you also write: "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world."

Absolutely true. This cannot be stressed enough. The tech giants know this and the race is on.

Mattski , December 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Been happening with food for 50 years.

[Dec 12, 2017] Can Uber Ever Deliver Part Eleven Annual Uber Losses Now Approaching $5 Billion

Notable quotes:
"... Total 2015 gross passenger payments were 200% higher than 2014, but Uber corporate revenue improved 300% because Uber cut the driver share of passenger revenue from 83% to 77%. This was an effective $500 million wealth transfer from drivers to Uber's investors. ..."
"... Uber's P&L gains were wiped out by higher non-EBIDTAR expense. Thus the 300% Uber revenue growth did not result in any improvement in Uber profit margins. ..."
"... In 2016, Uber unilaterally imposed much larger cuts in driver compensation, costing drivers an additional $3 billion. [6] Prior to Uber's market entry, the take home pay of big-city cab drivers in the US was in the $12-17/hour range, and these earnings were possible only if drivers worked 65-75 hours a week. ..."
"... An independent study of the net earnings of Uber drivers (after accounting for the costs of the vehicles they had to provide) in Denver, Houston and Detroit in late 2015 (prior to Uber's big 2016 cuts) found that driver earnings had fallen to the $10-13/hour range. [7] Multiple recent news reports have documented how Uber drivers are increasing unable to support themselves from their reduced share of passenger payments. [8] ..."
"... Since mass driver defections would cause passenger volume growth to collapse completely, Uber was forced to reverse these cuts in 2017 and increased the driver share from 68% to 80%. This meant that Uber's corporate revenue, which had grown over 300% in 2015 and over 200% in 2016 will probably only grow by about 15% in 2017. ..."
"... Socialize the losses, privatize the gains, VC-ize the subsidies. ..."
"... The cold hard truth is that Uber is backed into a corner with severely limited abilities to tweak the numbers on either the supply or the demand side: cut driver compensation and they trigger driver churn (as has already been demonstrated), increase fare prices for riders and riders defect to cheaper alternatives. ..."
"... "Growth and Efficiency" are the sine qua non of Neoliberalism. Kalanick's "hype brilliance" was to con the market with "revenue growth" and signs ..."
Dec 12, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Uber lost $2.5 billion in 2015, probably lost $4 billion in 2016, and is on track to lose $5 billion in 2017.

The top line on the table below shows is total passenger payments, which must be split between Uber corporate and its drivers. Driver gross earnings are substantially higher than actual take home pay, as gross earning must cover all the expenses drivers bear, including fuel, vehicle ownership, insurance and maintenance.

Most of the "profit" data released by Uber over time and discussed in the press is not true GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) profit comparable to the net income numbers public companies publish but is EBIDTAR contribution. Companies have significant leeway as to how they calculate EBIDTAR (although it would exclude interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization) and the percentage of total costs excluded from EBIDTAR can vary significantly from quarter to quarter, given the impact of one-time expenses such as legal settlements and stock compensation. We only have true GAAP net profit results for 2014, 2015 and the 2nd/3rd quarters of 2017, but have EBIDTAR contribution numbers for all other periods. [5]

Uber had GAAP net income of negative $2.6 billion in 2015, and a negative profit margin of 132%. This is consistent with the negative $2.0 billion loss and (143%) margin for the year ending September 2015 presented in part one of the NC Uber series over a year ago.

No GAAP profit results for 2016 have been disclosed, but actual losses likely exceed $4 billion given the EBIDTAR contribution of negative $3.2 billion. Uber's GAAP losses for the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2017 were over $2.5 billion, suggesting annual losses of roughly $5 billion.

While many Silicon Valley funded startups suffered large initial losses, none of them lost anything remotely close to $2.6 billion in their sixth year of operation and then doubled their losses to $5 billion in year eight. Reversing losses of this magnitude would require the greatest corporate financial turnaround in history.

No evidence of significant efficiency/scale gains; 2015 and 2016 margin improvements entirely explained by unilateral cuts in driver compensation, but losses soared when Uber had to reverse these cuts in 2017.

Total 2015 gross passenger payments were 200% higher than 2014, but Uber corporate revenue improved 300% because Uber cut the driver share of passenger revenue from 83% to 77%. This was an effective $500 million wealth transfer from drivers to Uber's investors. These driver compensation cuts improved Uber's EBIDTAR margin, but Uber's P&L gains were wiped out by higher non-EBIDTAR expense. Thus the 300% Uber revenue growth did not result in any improvement in Uber profit margins.

In 2016, Uber unilaterally imposed much larger cuts in driver compensation, costing drivers an additional $3 billion. [6] Prior to Uber's market entry, the take home pay of big-city cab drivers in the US was in the $12-17/hour range, and these earnings were possible only if drivers worked 65-75 hours a week.

An independent study of the net earnings of Uber drivers (after accounting for the costs of the vehicles they had to provide) in Denver, Houston and Detroit in late 2015 (prior to Uber's big 2016 cuts) found that driver earnings had fallen to the $10-13/hour range. [7] Multiple recent news reports have documented how Uber drivers are increasing unable to support themselves from their reduced share of passenger payments. [8]

A business model where profit improvement is hugely dependent on wage cuts is unsustainable, especially when take home wages fall to (or below) minimum wage levels. Uber's primary focus has always been the rate of growth in gross passenger revenue, as this has been a major justification for its $68 billion valuation. This growth rate came under enormous pressure in 2017 given Uber efforts to raise fares, major increases in driver turnover as wages fell, [9] and the avalanche of adverse publicity it was facing.

Since mass driver defections would cause passenger volume growth to collapse completely, Uber was forced to reverse these cuts in 2017 and increased the driver share from 68% to 80%. This meant that Uber's corporate revenue, which had grown over 300% in 2015 and over 200% in 2016 will probably only grow by about 15% in 2017.

MKS , December 12, 2017 at 6:19 am

"Uber's business model can never produce sustainable profits"

Two words not in my vocabulary are "Never" and "Always", that is a pretty absolute statement in an non-absolute environment. The same environment that has produced the "Silicon Valley Growth Model", with 15x earnings companies like NVIDA, FB and Tesla (Average earnings/stock price ratio in dot com bubble was 10x) will people pay ridiculous amounts of money for a company with no underlying fundamentals you damn right they will! Please stop with the I know all no body knows anything, especially the psychology and irrationality of markets which are made up of irrational people/investors/traders.

JohnnySacks , December 12, 2017 at 7:34 am

My thoughts exactly. Seems the only possible recovery for the investors is a perfectly engineered legendary pump and dump IPO scheme. Risky, but there's a lot of fools out there and many who would also like to get on board early in the ride in fear of missing out on all the money to be hoovered up from the greater fools. Count me out.

SoCal Rhino , December 12, 2017 at 8:30 am

The author clearly distinguishes between GAAP profitability and valuations, which is after all rather the point of the series. And he makes a more nuanced point than the half sentence you have quoted without context or with an indication that you omitted a portion. Did you miss the part about how Uber would have a strong incentive to share the evidence of a network effect or other financial story that pointed the way to eventual profit? Otherwise (my words) it is the classic sell at a loss, make it up with volume path to liquidation.

tegnost , December 12, 2017 at 9:52 am

apples and oranges comparison, nvidia has lots and lots of patented tech that produces revenue, facebook has a kajillion admittedly irrational users, but those users drive massive ad sales (as just one example of how that company capitalizes itself) and tesla makes an actual car, using technology that inspires it's buyers (the put your money where your mouth is crowd and it can't be denied that tesla, whatever it's faults are, battery tech is not one of them and that intellectual property is worth a lot, and tesla's investors are in on that real business, profitable or otherwise)

Uber is an iphone app. They lose money and have no path to profitability (unless it's the theory you espouse that people are unintelligent so even unintelligent ideas work to fleece them). This article touches on one of the great things about the time we now inhabit, uber drivers could bail en masse, there are two sides to the low attachment employees who you can get rid of easily. The drivers can delete the uber app as soon as another iphone app comes along that gets them a better return

allan , December 12, 2017 at 6:52 am

Yet another source (unintended) of subsidies for Uber, Lyft, etc., which might or might not have been mentioned earlier in the series:

Airports Are Losing Money as Ride-Hailing Services Grow [NYT]

For many air travelers, getting to and from the airport has long been part of the whole miserable experience. Do they drive and park in some distant lot? Take mass transit or a taxi? Deal with a rental car?

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are quickly changing those calculations. That has meant a bit less angst for travelers.

But that's not the case for airports. Travelers' changing habits, in fact, have begun to shake the airports' financial underpinnings. The money they currently collect from ride-hailing services do not compensate for the lower revenues from the other sources.

At the same time, some airports have had to add staff to oversee the operations of the ride-hailing companies, the report said. And with more ride-hailing vehicles on the roads outside terminals,
there's more congestion.

Socialize the losses, privatize the gains, VC-ize the subsidies.

Thuto , December 12, 2017 at 6:55 am

The cold hard truth is that Uber is backed into a corner with severely limited abilities to tweak the numbers on either the supply or the demand side: cut driver compensation and they trigger driver churn (as has already been demonstrated), increase fare prices for riders and riders defect to cheaper alternatives. The only question is how long can they keep the show going before the lights go out, slick marketing and propaganda can only take you so far, and one assumes the dumb money has a finite supply of patience and will at some point begin asking the tough questions.

Louis Fyne , December 12, 2017 at 8:35 am

The irony is that Uber would have been a perfectly fine, very profitable mid-sized company if Uber stuck with its initial model -- sticking to dense cities with limited parking, limiting driver supply, and charging a premium price for door-to-door delivery, whether by livery or a regular sedan. And then perhaps branching into robo-cars.

But somehow Uber/board/Travis got suckered into the siren call of self-driving cars, triple-digit user growth, and being in the top 100 US cities and on every continent.

Thuto , December 12, 2017 at 11:30 am

I've shared a similar sentiment in one of the previous posts about Uber. But operating profitably in decent sized niche doesn't fit well with ambitions of global domination. For Uber to be "right-sized", an admission of folly would have to be made, its managers and investors would have to transcend the sunk cost fallacy in their strategic decision making, and said investors would have to accept massive hits on their invested capital. The cold, hard reality of being blindsided and kicked to the curb in the smartphone business forced RIM/Blackberry to right-size, and they may yet have a profitable future as an enterprise facing software and services company. Uber would benefit from that form of sober mindedness, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

David Carl Grimes , December 12, 2017 at 6:57 am

The question is: Why did Softbank invest in Uber?

Michael Fiorillo , December 12, 2017 at 9:33 am

I know nothing about Softbank or its management, but I do know that the Japanese were the dumb money rubes in the late '80's, overpaying for trophy real estate they lost billions on.

Until informed otherwise, that's my default assumption

JimTan , December 12, 2017 at 10:50 am

Softbank possibly looking to buy more Uber shares at a 30% discount is very odd. Uber had a Series G funding round in June 2016 where a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund resulted in its current $68 billion valuation. Now apparently Softbank wants to lead a new $6 billion funding round to buy the shares of Uber employees and early investors at a 30% discount from this last "valuation". It's odd because Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has pledged $45 billion to SoftBank's Vision Fund , an amount which was supposed to come from the proceeds of its pending Aramco IPO. If the Uber bid is linked to SoftBank's Vision Fund, or KSA money, then its not clear why this investor might be looking to literally 'double down' from $3.5 billion o $6 billion on a declining investment.

Yves Smith Post author , December 12, 2017 at 11:38 am

SoftBank has not yet invested. Its tender is still open. If it does not get enough shares at a price it likes, it won't invest.

As to why, I have no idea.

Robert McGregor , December 12, 2017 at 7:04 am

"Growth and Efficiency" are the sine qua non of Neoliberalism. Kalanick's "hype brilliance" was to con the market with "revenue growth" and signs of efficiency, and hopes of greater efficiency, and make most people just overlook the essential fact that Uber is the most unprofitable company of all time!

divadab , December 12, 2017 at 7:19 am

What comprises "Uber Expenses"? 2014 – $1.06 billion; 2015 $3.33 billion; 2016 $9.65 billion; forecast 2017 $11.418 billion!!!!!! To me this is the big question – what are they spending $10 billion per year on?

ALso – why did driver share go from 68% in 2016 to 80% in 2017? If you use 68% as in 2016, 2017 Uber revenue is $11.808 billion, which means a bit better than break-even EBITDA, assuming Uber expenses are as stated $11.428 billion.

Perhaps not so bleak as the article presents, although I would not invest in this thing.

Phil in Kansas City , December 12, 2017 at 7:55 am

I have the same question: What comprises over 11 billion dollars in expenses in 2017? Could it be they are paying out dividends to the early investors? Which would mean they are cannibalizing their own company for the sake of the VC! How long can this go on before they'll need a new infusion of cash?

lyman alpha blob , December 12, 2017 at 2:37 pm

The Saudis have thrown a few billion Uber's way and they aren't necessarily known as the smart money.

Maybe the pole dancers have started chipping in too as they are for bitcoin .

Vedant Desai , December 12, 2017 at 10:37 am

Oh article does answer your 2nd question. Read this paragraph:-

Since mass driver defections would cause passenger volume growth to collapse completely , Uber was forced to reverse these cuts in 2017 and increased the driver share from 68% to 80%. This meant that Uber's corporate revenue, which had grown over 300% in 2015 and over 200% in 2016 will probably only grow by about 15% in 2017.

As for the 1st, read this line in the article:-

There are undoubtedly a number of things Uber could do to reduce losses at the margin, but it is difficult to imagine it could suddenly find the $4-5 billion in profit improvement needed merely to reach breakeven.

Louis Fyne , December 12, 2017 at 8:44 am

in addition to all the points listed in the article/comments, the absolute biggest flaw with Uber is that Uber HQ conditioned its customers on (a) cheap fares and (b) that a car is available within minutes (1-5 if in a big city).

Those two are not mutually compatible in the long-term.

Alfred , December 12, 2017 at 9:49 am

Thus (a) "We cost less" and (b) "We're more convenient" -- aren't those also the advantages that Walmart claims and feeds as a steady diet to its ever hungry consumers? Often if not always, disruption may repose upon delusion.

Martin Finnucane , December 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

Uber's business model could never produce sustainable profits unless it was able to exploit significant anti-competitive market power.

Upon that dependent clause hangs the future of capitalism, and – dare I say it? – its inevitable demise.

Altandmain , December 12, 2017 at 11:09 am

When this Uber madness blows up, I wonder if people will finally begin to discuss the brutal reality of Silicon Valley's so called "disruption".

It is heavily built in around the idea of economic exploitation. Uber drivers are often, especially when the true costs to operate an Uber including the vehicle depreciation are factored in, making not very much per hour driven, especially if they don't get the surge money.

Instacart is another example. They are paying the deliver operators very little.

Jim A. , December 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm

At a fundamental level, I think that the Silicon Valley "disruption" model only works for markets (like software) where the marginal cost for production is de minimus and the products can be protected by IP laws. Volume and market power really work in those cases. But out here in meat-space, where actual material and labor are big inputs to each item sold, you can never just sit back on your laurels and rake in the money. Somebody else will always be able to come and and make an equivalent product. If they can do it more cheaply, you are in trouble.

Altandmain , December 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

There aren't that many areas in goods and services where the marginal costs are very low.

Software is actually quite unique in that regard, costing merely the bandwidth and permanent storage space to store.

Let's see:

1. From the article, they cannot go public and have limited ways to raise more money. An IPO with its more stringent disclosure requirements would expose them.

2. They tried lowering driver compensation and found that model unsustainable.

3. There are no benefits to expanding in terms of economies of scale.

From where I am standing, it looks like a lot of industries gave similar barriers. Silicon Valley is not going to be able to disrupt those.

Tesla, another Silicon Valley company seems to be struggling to mass produce its Model 3 and deliver an electric car that breaks even, is reliable, while disrupting the industry in the ways that Elon Musk attempted to hype up.

So that basically leaves services and manufacturing out for Silicon Valley disruption.

Joe Bentzel , December 12, 2017 at 2:19 pm

UBER has become a "too big to fail" startup because of all the different tentacles of capital from various Tier 1 VCs and investment bankers.

VCs have admitted openly that UBER is a subsidized business, meaning it's product is sold below market value, and the losses reflect that subsidization. The whole "2 sided platform" argument is just marketecture to hustle more investors. It's a form of service "dumping" that puts legacy businesses into bankruptcy. Back during the dotcom bubble one popular investment banker (Paul Deninger) characterized this model as "Terrorist Competition", i.e. coffers full of invested cash to commoditize the market and drive out competition.

UBER is an absolute disaster that has forked the startup model in Silicon Valley in order to drive total dependence on venture capital by founders. And its current diversification into "autonomous vehicles", food delivery, et al are simply more evidence that the company will never be profitable due to its whacky "blitzscaling" approach of layering on new "businesses" prior to achieving "fit" in its current one.

It's economic model has also metastasized into a form of startup cancer that is killing Silicon Valley as a "technology" innovator. Now it's all cargo cult marketing BS tied to "strategic capital".

UBER is the victory of venture capital and user subsidized startups over creativity by real entrepreneurs.

It's shadow is long and that's why this company should be ..wait for it UNBUNDLED (the new silicon valley word attached to that other BS religion called "disruption"). Call it a great unbundling and you can break up this monster corp any way you want.

Naked Capitalism is a great website.

Phil in KC , December 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm

1. I Agree with your last point.

2. The elevator pitch for Uber: subsidize rides to attract customers, put the competition out of business, and then enjoy an unregulated monopoly, all while exploiting economically ignorant drivers–ahem–"partners."

3. But more than one can play that game, and

4. Cab and livery companies are finding ways to survive!

Phil in KC , December 12, 2017 at 3:10 pm

If subsidizing rides is counted as an expense, (not being an accountant, I would guess it so), then whether the subsidy goes to the driver or the passenger, that would account for the ballooning expenses, to answer my own question. Otherwise, the overhead for operating what Uber describes as a tech company should be minimal: A billion should fund a decent headquarters with staff, plus field offices in, say, 100 U.S. cities. However, their global pretensions are probably burning cash like crazy. On top of that, I wonder what the exec compensation is like?

After reading HH's initial series, I made a crude, back-of-the-envelope calculation that Uber would run out of money sometime in the third fiscal quarter of 2018, but that was based on assuming losses were stabilizing in the range of 3 billion a year. Not so, according to the article. I think crunch time is rapidly approaching. If so, then SoftBank's tender offer may look quite appetizing to VC firms and to any Uber employee able to cash in their options. I think there is a way to make a re-envisioned Uber profitable, and with a more independent board, they may be able to restructure the company to show a pathway to profitability before the IPO. But time is running out.

A not insignificant question is the recruitment and retention of the front line "partners." It would seem to me that at some point, Uber will run out of economically ignorant drivers with good manners and nice cars. I would be very interested to know how many drivers give up Uber and other ride-sharing gigs once the 1099's start flying at the beginning of the year. One of the harsh realities of owning a business or being an contractor is the humble fact that you get paid LAST!

Jan Stickle , December 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm

We became instant Uber riders while spending holidays with relatives in San Diego. While their model is indeed unique from a rider perspective, it was the driver pool that fascinates me. These are not professional livery drivers, but rather freebooters of all stripes driving for various reasons. The remuneration they receive cannot possibly generate much income after expenses, never mind the problems associated with IRS filing as independent contractors.

One guy was just cruising listening to music; cooler to get paid for it than just sitting home! A young lady was babbling and gesticulating non stop about nothing coherent and appeared to be on some sort of stimulant. A foreign gentleman, very professional, drove for extra money when not at his regular job. He was the only one who had actually bought a new Prius for this gig, hoping to pay it off in two years.

This is indeed a brave new world. There was a period in Nicaragua just after the Contra war ended when citizens emerged from their homes and hit the streets in large numbers, desperately looking for income. Every car was a taxi and there was a bipedal mini Walmart at every city intersection as individuals sold everything and anything in a sort of euphoric optimism towards the future. Reality just hadn't caught up with them yet .

[Dec 09, 2017] November Jobs Report: good month, same caveats

Notable quotes:
"... U6 underemployment rate rose +0.1% from 7.9% to 8.0% ..."
Dec 09, 2017 | bonddad.blogspot.com

So U6 is almost 10% of population. Scary...

HEADLINES : Here are the headlines on wages and the chronic heightened underemployment: Wages and participation rates Holding Trump accountable on manufacturing and mining jobs

Trump specifically campaigned on bringing back manufacturing and mining jobs. Is he keeping this promise?

September was revised upward by +20,000. October was revised downward by -17,000, for a net change of +3,000.

  1. likbez December 9, 2017 7:52 pm

    There are now large categories of jobs, both part-time and full time, that can't provide for living and are paying below or close to minimum wage (plantation economy jobs). it looks like under neoliberalism this is the fastest growing category of jobs.

    Examples are Uber and Lift jobs (which are as close to predatory scam as one can get) . Many jobs in service industry, especially retail. See for example

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/16/jobs-earn-less-than-minimum-wage_n_2689419.html

    They should probably be calculated separately as "distressed employment", or something like that.

    Also in view of "seasonal adjustments" the number of created jobs is probably meaningless.

[Dec 09, 2017] Germany experts study if Trump tax reforms will violate the German/US friendship treaty from the 1950s -- a hostile act, providing an unfair advantage for American companies

Dec 09, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

uhland62 , Dec 8, 2017 11:01 PM

Don't panic. Sit back, take a deep breath , and wait out the new developments.

Even though they have only a caretaker government now in Berlin, they have commissioned experts to assess if and where the beautiful Trump tax reforms will violate the German/US friendship treaty from the 1950s. Not a lot is known at the moment but the reduction in corporate tax could be seen as a hostile act, providing an unfair advantage for American companies. And then there is the end of tax deductability for parts bought in Europe. One would have to look at the text of that friendship treaty but it looks all very probable.

What will happen then? Europe will have to say that they must sell their parts, to China or Russia. Sanctions? You cannot blanket us with hostile acts, someone will say. Maybe you should take a hike from Ramstein, if this is how you value our friendship. Sounds all very drastic but has been a longtime coming.

[Dec 09, 2017] China, Saudi Arabia, and the US by James Petras

Financialization of the economy and the lust for war goes hand in hand. That means that "casino capitalism" is an aggressive capitalism.
" In the transition, politicians, who had no connection to domestic industry, found a powerful niche promoting overseas wars for allies , like Saudi Arabia and Israel, and disseminating domestic spats, intrigues and conspiracies to the voters." -- this is an astute observation.
Notable quotes:
"... Simultaneously, finance reversed its relation to industry: Industrial capital was now harnessed to finance, speculation, real estate, insurance sectors and electronic gadgets/play-by-yourself ' i-phones' promoting isolated ' selfies' and idle chatter. ..."
"... Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Hollywood replaced Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago. Stockbrokers proliferated, while master tool-and-die makers disappeared and workers' children overdosed on 'Oxy'. ..."
"... In the transition, politicians, who had no connection to domestic industry, found a powerful niche promoting overseas wars for allies , like Saudi Arabia and Israel, and disseminating domestic spats, intrigues and conspiracies to the voters. ..."
"... In this historic transformation, American political culture put on a new face: perpetual wars, Wall Street swindles and Washington scandals. It culminated in the farcical Hillary Clinton – Donald Trump presidential election campaign: the war goddess-cuckquean of chaos versus the crotch-grabbing real-estate conman. ..."
"... Trump's presidential election campaign went about the country pleasuring the business and finance elite (promises of tax cuts, deregulations, re-contamination and jacking up the earth's temperature with a handful of jobs), and successfully pushed aside the outrage over his crude rump grabbing boasts. Wars, Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Hollywood all gathered to set the parameters of the United States' political economy: The chase was on! ..."
Dec 09, 2017 | www.unz.com

... ... ...

The chaotic free-for-all in the US political economy is manipulated by scandalmongers, conspirators and flight capitalists. Instead of preparing an economic plan to ' make America great again' , they have embraced the political blackmailers and intriguers of Saudi Arabia in a sui-generis global political alliance. Both countries feature purges, resignations and pugnacious politicos who have never been weaned from the destructive bosom of war.

As a point of history, the United States didn't start out as a bloated, speculative state of crony capitalists and parasitical allies: The US was once a powerful industrial country, harnessing finance and overseas investments to securing raw materials for domestic industries and directing profits back into industry for higher productivity.

Fake, or semi-fake, political rivalries and electoral competition counted little as incumbents retained their positions most of the time, and bi-partisan agreements ensured stability through sharing the spoils of office.

Things have changed. Overseas neo-colonies started to offer more than just raw materials: They introduced low-tax manufacturing sites promising free access to cheap, healthy and educated workers. US manufacturers abandoned Old Glory, invested overseas, hoarded profits in tax havens and happily evaded paying taxes to fund a new economy for displaced US workers. Simultaneously, finance reversed its relation to industry: Industrial capital was now harnessed to finance, speculation, real estate, insurance sectors and electronic gadgets/play-by-yourself ' i-phones' promoting isolated ' selfies' and idle chatter.

Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Hollywood replaced Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago. Stockbrokers proliferated, while master tool-and-die makers disappeared and workers' children overdosed on 'Oxy'.

In the transition, politicians, who had no connection to domestic industry, found a powerful niche promoting overseas wars for allies , like Saudi Arabia and Israel, and disseminating domestic spats, intrigues and conspiracies to the voters. Vietnam and Watergate, Afghanistan and Volker, Iran-Contra and Reaganomics , Yugoslavia and Iraq, daily drone strikes and bombings and Bill Clinton's White House sex scandals giving salacious birth to SpecialProsecutors . . .

In this historic transformation, American political culture put on a new face: perpetual wars, Wall Street swindles and Washington scandals. It culminated in the farcical Hillary Clinton – Donald Trump presidential election campaign: the war goddess-cuckquean of chaos versus the crotch-grabbing real-estate conman.

The public heard Secretary of State Clinton's maniacal laugh upon her viewing the 'snuff-film' torture and slaughter of the wounded Libya's President Gadhafi: She crowed: ' We came, we saw and he died' with a sword up his backside. This defined the Clinton doctrine in foreign affairs, while slaughter of the welfare state and the bloated prison industry would define her domestic agenda.

Trump's presidential election campaign went about the country pleasuring the business and finance elite (promises of tax cuts, deregulations, re-contamination and jacking up the earth's temperature with a handful of jobs), and successfully pushed aside the outrage over his crude rump grabbing boasts. Wars, Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Hollywood all gathered to set the parameters of the United States' political economy: The chase was on!

... ... ...

Joe Levantine , December 5, 2017 at 9:13 am GMT

This great article is an elaborate intellectual expansion on what Mr. Gerald Celente of Trendsresearch.com has been proclaiming for years that" while the business of China is business, the business of America is war". Professor Petras is pointing to the moral decline that is behind the social and economic decline of the nation of America that was once a beacon of light to the world.
This analysis leaves the reader with little doubt as to the direction in which the momentum of historic leadership is moving; it is to the East away from the West in a reversal of the dawn of the Renaissance era of Europe. The last hope for the west to stay at the helm of civilisation is to have a leader who can ignite a moral renaissance in the West short of which the 21st century will definitely be China's century. The impetus for such a revival is a shake up of the world of finance that will chase the money changers out of the altar of the Western economy and put he lying scribes of the Western media in labour camp where they will be re educated about the virtues of truth and reality.
Astuteobservor II , December 6, 2017 at 3:01 am GMT
there are 2 types of elites.

elites who line their pockets and only their pockets.

elites who line their pockets and also makes sure the rest of the country gets a little too.

guess which one is the american and chinese?

the saudis aren't even in the same category. they are just pets on a leash.

jacques sheete , December 9, 2017 at 11:53 am GMT

Official truth has become a stinking mound of offal.

Has become?

A good thing about it is that we should know to laugh at it whenever we hear it, and accept the fact that "authority" is lying until proven otherwise.

Were I to indulge my own theory, I should wish [the states] to practise neither commerce nor navigation, but to stand with respect to Europe precisely on the footing of China. We should thus avoid wars

-Thomas Jefferson, letter To G. K. van Hogendorp , Paris, Oct. 13, 1785

Isn't Western "civilization" just peachy? Civilization?

jacques sheete , December 9, 2017 at 12:46 pm GMT
@Joe Levantine

moral renaissance

One has to have had a "naissance" of morals to experience a "re" of them, but yes, chasing the money changers out of the temple and money worship out of our souls would have helped.

Would have.

Our great mass of workers have labored for the money changers too long.

-Jacob Thorkelson, Rescue the Republic, p 9. 1939

Few listened. We've had a moral abortion.

Joe Hide , December 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm GMT
You're right about many things you presented, but you still don't understand the multi-layered gradually administered releases of mis-information, dis-information, and information, designed to awaken and transform our nation, planet, and human consciousness. Given that half the population has below average intelligence, new positive leadership does not merely announce that generations of psychopaths have manipulated them. As a personal example, half the people I communicate with are sub-average intelligence, and I've learned to very gradually wake them up, or they will, in their unreasonable thinking, try to make trouble for me. There's the saying, "Don't throw pearls before swine." I know this too harshly stated, and I should have gradually and gently presented it for half the reader's. Sorry.
P.S. . Unz.com and it's reader's are likely far above average.

[Dec 09, 2017] America's Broken System by J. Bradford DeLong

Dec 09, 2017 | www.project-syndicate.org

Dec 7, 2017 J. Bradford DeLong

The tax-reform bill that US Republicans are attempting to implement is economically indefensible and blatantly unfair. But the US has a much deeper problem: the Anglo-Saxon model of representative government is in serious trouble, and nobody seems to know how to fix it.

BERKELEY – The tax bill that US Republicans have doggedly pushed through Congress is not as big a deal as many are portraying it to be. It is medium-size news. The big news – the much more weighty and ominous news – lies elsewhere.

Of course, medium-size is not nothing. If the tax bill does clear its final hurdle – a conference committee must reconcile the Senate-approved bill with that of the House of Representatives – and become law, it will complicate the tax system considerably, as it opens many loopholes. It won't have any impact on economic growth – positive or negative – but it would have an impact on the government's finances, causing revenues to decline by the equivalent of about 1% of national income.

The missing resources would most likely be transferred to the top 1% of earners, raising their share of total income from 22% to 23%. The top 0.01% would probably gain the most, with their share of income rising from 5.1% to 5.5%. In this sense, the tax plan would be another brick – not a huge brick, but a medium-size brick – in the increasingly impregnable fortress of American plutocracy.

But the bill may well not become law at all. Consider the Republicans' efforts earlier this year to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") – an effort that, it now seems clear, was pure Dingbat Kabuki.

The Republicans didn't actually want to take responsibility for changing the health-care financing system, much less strip their own constituents of health care. But the party's propaganda arm had worked so hard to convince its base that Obamacare represented a clear and present danger to the country that its leaders had to act as if they were making a serious effort to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace it.

So a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for the bill, expecting, with reasonable confidence, that it would be blocked in the 100-member Senate, where fewer than 40 of the 52 Republicans actually wanted it to pass. Had any of the three Republican senators who voted against the bill – John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – made a different choice, there were probably about five more who would have stepped in to nix it.

The same thing may be happening with the tax reform. It depends on whether at least three of the ten Republican senators who have raised objections are serious, or are playing a different game of Dingbat Kabuki: seeking to trick their constituents into thinking that they went the extra mile to try to help them, and are not puppets of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But, regardless of whether the tax bill survives the reconciliation process and becomes law, the big news won't change: the Anglo-Saxon model of representative government is in serious trouble. And there is no solution in sight.

For some 400 years, the Anglo-Saxon governance model – exemplified by the republican semi-principality of the Netherlands, the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom, and the constitutional republic of the United States of America – was widely regarded as having hit the sweet spot of liberty, security, and prosperity. The greater the divergence from that model, historical experience seemed to confirm, the higher the likelihood of repression, insecurity, and poverty. So countries were frequently and strongly advised to emulate those institutions.

Nobody would dare offer that same advice today. The UK, having been thrown into devastating austerity by Conservative and Liberal leaders after the global economic crisis, is now being led by the Conservatives toward a messy and damaging Brexit. And, in the US, the election of President Donald Trump heralded the age of "alternative facts" and "governance by tweet," overseen by an erratic and ignorant leader who is clearly in over his head.

When Trump was first elected, some argued that it did not have to be a disaster. After all, the optimists pointed out, President Ronald Reagan had been more a "chief of state" than a "chief executive," as had George W. Bush.

As divisive as Chief of State Trump would be, according to this view, he wouldn't derail policy, because electing a Republican president is more like electing the Republican Party establishment. And that bench was very deep and very competent, despite its weakening in recent years.

The optimists were wrong. After nearly a year in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, the Republicans haven't achieved any of their four policy goals: repeal and replacement of Obamacare, infrastructure development, trade-policy reform, or even tax reform. This points to a broken system of politics and governance, one that Americans seem to have no idea how to fix.

The US remains the world's preeminent superpower. But doubts are intensifying over whether it's still up to the job. In this context, the Republicans' tax reform, however economically indefensible and blatantly unfair it is, is far from America's biggest concern.

[Dec 08, 2017] Banking came into existence as a fraud. The fraud was legalized and we've been living with the consequences, both good and bad, ever since.

Notable quotes:
"... Ryan deficit BS there was a commenter ex-SA with a John H. Hotson link that I want to see go viral because it simply explains the history of the Gordian Knot we face as a species ..."
"... "Banking came into existence as a fraud. The fraud was legalized and we've been living with the consequences, both good and bad, ever since. Even so it is also a great invention-right up there with fire, the wheel, and the steam engine." ..."
Dec 08, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

psychohistorian , Dec 8, 2017 6:22:05 PM | 18

@ Daniel ending with "This "Clash of Civilizations" type narrative is not encouraging." That is exactly what they want you to focus on as a narrative rather than the simple truth about the demise of private banking. On the previous thread about the Republican: Ryan deficit BS there was a commenter ex-SA with a John H. Hotson link that I want to see go viral because it simply explains the history of the Gordian Knot we face as a species

The link to a 1996 article: Understanding Money by John H. Hotson . The take away quote

"Banking came into existence as a fraud. The fraud was legalized and we've been living with the consequences, both good and bad, ever since. Even so it is also a great invention-right up there with fire, the wheel, and the steam engine."

Clash of Civilizations is as vapid a meme as the common understanding of the Capitalism myth as that article so clearly states. Spread his word far and wide to wake up the zombies. It is time!

[Dec 05, 2017] I think the debt problem is a little overblown. Now people use debt differently sometimes implying "total debt" and sometimes "public debt" and sometimes "central government debt".

Dec 05, 2017 | peakoilbarrel.com

Paulo says: 11/29/2017 at 10:36 am

Up early today and lit the shop woodstove; just waiting for light to get on with my day which always starts (after chores) with my dog and I going for a walk.

Ron, I do not disagree with your post or comments, with the exception of when population will peak and the aspect/timing of social disruption?

On this morning wait for daylight I have been reading various blog sites with CNN ticking over in the background. Maybe it is the speed of the news cycle and my being used to the insanity of what is being reported, but today, after seeing the Trump tweets on Muslim Violence (film clips), the so-called tax plan, sexual misconducts, the recent reports on KSA, Yemen, Syria, and what is ramping up concerning North Korea, I think we are at a crux right now. I think there will be a Market collapse and war; perhaps global in scale. Further to that I don't see any desire or mechanism for defusing tensions or a way to recall the situation.

I am 62 and was a kid during a recent/last big social reset. I had older sibs and parents who moved us north to Canada in '68 because they had had enough. My WW2 veteran parents proclaimed they had seen enough to be afraid, and sold out to start over and build new lives. While I was thinking about it, and your post, I realized that in today's situation there are no simple answers and not really any places to run to. It seems different because of the population numbers and armaments, plus the willingness of people to pretend it's just 'tribal/crooked politics as usual'. Then, I thought about photographs and how a few catapulted us into rapid change last century. Certainly, the haunted faces of the Dust Bowl sparked a move towards reform. Images from the south and the stories of the KKK perhaps Rosa Parks herself helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement. For me, the image of the young lady holding the dead student at Kent State, (her anguish), the burning Monk and young girl coated with napalm coupled with the lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident pushed me into cynicism; so much that I was not surprised about the non-existent WMD of Iraq.

Perhaps it won't be an image, or story that we look back to as a turning point. Maybe it will be a tweet. Maybe it will be the Market collapse or a premptive attack on North Korea that sets everything in motion. I just think we are loaded and tamped down like a pipe bomb ready to blow.

I do not think we will continue to grow in population until 2050. I think it could start to unravel pretty fast and any day. I don't see any step back from war(s) in either the ME, or Korea.

From Wiki: (just one event that pales alongside today's triggers)

Kent State

"Just five days after the shootings, 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C., against the war and the killing of unarmed student protesters. Ray Price, Nixon's chief speechwriter from 1969 to 1974, recalled the Washington demonstrations saying, "The city was an armed camp. The mobs were smashing windows, slashing tires, dragging parked cars into intersections, even throwing bedsprings off overpasses into the traffic down below. This was the quote, student protest. That's not student protest, that's civil war."[10] Not only was Nixon taken to Camp David for two days for his own protection, but Charles Colson (Counsel to President Nixon from 1969 to 1973) stated that the military was called up to protect the administration from the angry students; he recalled that "The 82nd Airborne was in the basement of the executive office building, so I went down just to talk to some of the guys and walk among them, and they're lying on the floor leaning on their packs and their helmets and their cartridge belts and their rifles cocked and you're thinking, 'This can't be the United States of America. This is not the greatest free democracy in the world. This is a nation at war with itself.'"

I apologize if this seems North American centric; and in blinders. I wish to reiterate that our population numbers, plus increasing divide and disparity, proliferation of weapons and intolerance, coupled with environmental degradation and Climate Change, makes this much much worse. It's a gun waiting for a trigger, imho.

Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 11:10 am
Yes, things are pretty bad. But things were bad during the Kent State/Nixon era. Yet we survived.

It has been my experience, following this biosphere destruction for many years now, that people who see and understand the destruction, almost always expect things to fall apart real soon. They never do.

I once spent several months as a stockbroker. One thing I learned during that period was a truth about insider traders. That is traders who trade the stock of the company they work for. They see things happening inside their company and expect it to cause great trouble or great profit. They are almost always right and almost always way too early with their predictions. Things just never seem to happen as fast as they expected.

We, you and I and a few others, are insiders to this problem that I have described in my above post. We know something terrible is going to happen. But most of us expect it to happen way before it actually will happen.

An example is "The Population Bomb" by Paul Ehrlich. I think he was spot on, but things just did not happen as fast as he expected. I hope to avoid his mistake.

Ghung says: 11/29/2017 at 11:34 am
Yep, Ron, and we need to be careful about saying "this time is different". Perhaps we need a list of things that really are different this time.

One that should be obvious to anyone paying attention is that, in the late 60s, US debt to GDP was in the mid 30% range. It is now over 100% according to a number of sources. As Gail T. is wont to say, unserviceable debt will likely be the trigger that results in a cascading failure of financial systems, and everything else is likely to follow. In short, our financial house of cards has grown three-fold in 50 years, as the global reserve currency is tagged to nothing.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/29/2017 at 1:16 pm
Hi Ghung,

I think the debt problem is a little overblown. Now people use debt differently sometimes implying "total debt" and sometimes "public debt" and sometimes "central government debt". Which one are you talking about? I don't read Tverberg's stuff. Looking at your numbers and the link below

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/GFDEGDQ188S

it seems you are talking about total US federal government debt.

Consider Japan

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/QJPGAN770A

They have been over 100% debt to GDP since 1999 and have been around 200% since 2014.

If Japan has collapsed, I missed it. Note that I agree with the idea that when the US economy is doing well (which at present is the case), that paying down debt is a better idea than reducing taxes. I would raise taxes if anything ( a carbon tax would be ideal) and reduce the deficit to less than zero and pay down the debt.

Or just balance the budget and let economic growth reduce the debt to GDP ratio.

Ghung says: 11/29/2017 at 1:28 pm
The figures I posted only include US government (National) debt. Total US debt (public+private) is, of course, much higher.

US National debt currently around $20.5 trillion.
http://www.usdebtclock.org/

US GDP for 2016 per the World Bank was $18,569,100.00
https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD

As for Japan, most of what they owe is to themselves while they own a lot of that US debt, above. Japan also uses the carry trade to stay afloat.

I only posted this as being one of the things that is different about our situation ~50 years ago. People can make of it what they will. I personally think it is significant since the world runs on credit. No credit, no growth.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/29/2017 at 4:49 pm
Hi Ghung,

Hard to imagine no credit. Also in the 1960s there was less borrowing by the government (so less credit) and higher growth rates (at least in the US) than today. In the old days there was concern the government would "crowd out" private debt, as if there was some fixed amount of debt the system could sustain and the system always remained at this maximum debt level.

Instead it seems the system had room for higher levels of debt as government debt as increased, but there is little evidence of "crowding out". There may be some maximum debt level that an economy can sustain and Japan may be there. Also note that 50 years ago debt was at fairly low levels, but in 1946 Debt to GDP was 118% of GDP, rapid economic growth from 1946 to 1974 reduced this debt to GDP to 31%, by 1992 it was at 61%, and in 2016 it was 105%.

Strange that the Republicans want to raise the debt higher by cutting taxes, this made sense when the economy was doing poorly during the Obama years and the aftermath of the GFC.

I agree debt could become a problem and would be worried if central government debt to GDP was 200% (as in Japan).

I also don't buy into the unfunded liabilities argument, laws change and governments don't always fulfill their promises, that is just a fact of life.

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 8:17 am
Personally I believe Tverberg is a person who has discovered a niche she can exploit and is making a living out of it. I had the pleasure of seeing her make her canned presentation at a conference once, where all the presentations were repeated several times over for three days so the entire attending crowd could see them all.

If you ask her a real question, she seizes up like a deer in headlights. She knows some elementary level stuff that is worth some thought, in the case of people who know little or nothing about the overall economy and environment.

Her answer in the case of a real question is the same answer you get from a politician who doesn't WANT to answer. She just pretends you asked a DIFFERENT question, and provides a stock answer to THAT question.

She doesn't have anything to say worth listening to , in terms of the level of understanding of the contributing members of this forum.

Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 10:25 am
Being a Cabbage for Christ and a AGW Denier doesn't exactly lend credibility to her work.
Caelan MacIntyre says: 11/30/2017 at 9:06 pm
She denies AGW?
Nathanael says: 11/29/2017 at 4:22 pm
UK government debt to GDP was well over 400% for decades running; it was never a problem. Don't worry about it. Government debt is not really debt, it's actually money.
Dennis Coyne says: 11/29/2017 at 4:54 pm
Hi Nathanael,

When was that?

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/DEBTTLGBA188A

Oh I see high debt but not 400%

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/PSDOTUKA

It was over 160% from 1925 to 1952, maybe that's what you mean.

Paulo says: 11/29/2017 at 1:39 pm
Good point on the rate. I remember my grade 11 Social Studies teacher talking to me after class in 1972. One of our class texts was The Population Bomb. He expected to see, in his lifetime, a collapse of sorts. When I asked him to expand further he described small scale gardens/farms of no more the 2 acres. The primary machinery used would be walk-behind tractors.

I smiled at the memory when I bought my BCS walk-behind ten years ago. I smile every spring when I till the gardens. I still think he was right, just off on the timing (just like I was when I got out of stocks several years ago and put my money in term deposits.)

The older I get, the less I understand. I take comfort in knowing my Dad wouldn't get it, either.

George Kaplan says: 11/29/2017 at 1:49 pm
I thought Ehrlich's book "The Dominant Animal" was fairly well measured, and generally in line with the post above (I haven't read the population bomb).

[Dec 05, 2017] House Members Tee Up Bipartisan Bill to Kill CFPB Payday Lending Rule

Notable quotes:
"... By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She now spends much of her time in Asia and is currently working on a book about textile artisans. ..."
"... The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives ..."
Dec 05, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on December 4, 2017 by Jerri-Lynn Scofield By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She now spends much of her time in Asia and is currently working on a book about textile artisans.

Three Democrats and three Republicans have co-sponsored a resolution, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to scuttle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's payday lending rule.

CRA's procedures to overturn regulations had been invoked, successfully, only once before Trump became president. Congressional Republicans and Trump have used CRA procedures multiple times to kill regulations (as I've previously discussed (see here , here , here and here ). Not only does CRA provide expedited procedures to overturn regulations, but once it's used to kill a regulation, the agency that promulgated the rule is prevented from revisiting the issue unless and until Congress provides new statutory authority to do so.

Payday Lending

As I wrote in an extended October post, CFPB Issues Payday Lending Rule: Will it Hold, as the Empire Will Strike Back, payday lending is an especially sleazy part of the finance sewer, in which private equity swamp creatures, among others, operate. The industry is huge, according to this New York Times report I quoted in my October post, and it preys on the poorest, most financially-stressed Americans:

The payday-lending industry is vast. There are now more payday loan stores in the United States than there are McDonald's restaurants. The operators of those stores make around $46 billion a year in loans, collecting $7 billion in fees. Some 12 million people, many of whom lack other access to credit, take out the short-term loans each year, researchers estimate.

The CFPB's payday lending rule attempted to shut down this area of lucrative lending– where effective interest rates can spike to hundreds of points per annum, including fees (I refer interested readers to my October post, cited above, which discusses at greater length how sleazy this industry is, and also links to the rule; see also this CFPB fact sheet and press release .)

Tactically, as with the ban on mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer financial contracts– an issue I discussed further in RIP, Mandatory Arbitration Ban , (and in previous posts referenced therein), the CFPB under director Richard Cordray made a major tactical mistake in not completing rule-making sufficiently before the change of power to a new administration- 60 "session days" of Congress, thus making these two rules subject to the CRA.

The House Financial Services Committee press release lauding introduction of CRA resolution to overturn the payday lending rule is a classic of its type, so permit me to quote from it at length:

These short-term, small-dollar loans are already regulated by all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Native American tribes. The CFPB's rule would mark the first time the federal government has gotten involved in the regulation of these loans.

.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a supporter of the bipartisan effort, said the CFPB's rule is an example of how "unelected, unaccountable government bureaucracy hurts working people."

"Once again we see powerful Washington elites using the guise of 'consumer protection' to actually harm consumers and make life harder for lower and moderate income Americans who may need a short-term loan to keep their utilities from being cut off or to keep their car on the road so they can get to work," he said. "Americans should be able to choose the checking account they want, the mortgage they want and the short-term loan they want and no unelected Washington bureaucrat should be able to take that away from them."

[Rep Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican House co-sponsor]. said, "More than 1.2 million Floridians per year rely on Florida's carefully regulated small-dollar lending industry to make ends meet. The CFPB's small dollar lending rule isn't reasonable regulation -- it's a de facto ban on what these Floridians need. I and my colleagues in Congress cannot stand by while an unaccountable federal agency deprives our constituents of a lifeline in times of need, all while usurping state authority. Today, we are taking bipartisan action to stop this harmful bureaucratic overreach dead in its tracks."

As CNBC reports in New House bill would kill consumer watchdog payday loan rule , industry representatives continue to denounce the rule, with a straight face:

"The rule would leave millions of Americans in a real bind at exactly the time need a fast loan to cover an urgent expense," said Daniel Press, a policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a statement after the bill's introduction.

Consumer advocates think otherwise (also from CNBC):

"Payday lenders put cash-strapped Americans in a crippling cycle of 300 percent-interest loan debt," Yana Miles, senior legislative counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, said in a statement.

Prospects Under CRA

When I wrote about this topic in October, much commentary assumed that prospects for CRA overturn were weak. I emphasized instead the tactical error of failing to insulate the rule from CRA, which could have been done if the CFPB had pushed the rule through well before Trump took office:

If the payday rule had been promulgated in a timely manner during the previous administration it would not have been as vulnerable to a CRA challenge as it is now. Even if Republicans had then passed a CRA resolution of disapproval, a presidential veto would have stymied that. Trump is an enthusiastic proponent of deregulation, who has happily embraced the CRA– a procedure only used once before he became president to roll back a rule.

Now, the Equifax hack may have changed the political dynamics here and made it more difficult for Congressional Republicans– and finance-friendly Democratic fellow travellers– to use CRA procedures to overturn the payday lending rule.

The New York Times certainly seems to think prospects for a CRA challenge remote:

The odds of reversal are "very low," said Isaac Boltansky, the director of policy research at Compass Point Research & Trading.

"There is already C.R.A. fatigue on the Hill," Mr. Boltansky said, using an acronymn for the act, "and moderate Republicans are hesitant to be painted as anti-consumer.

I'm not so sure I would take either side of that bet. [Jerri-Lynn here: my subsequent emphasis.]

A more telling element than CRA-fatigue in my assessment of the rule's survival prospects was my judgment that Democrats wouldn't muster to defend the payday lending industry– although that assumption has not fully held, as this recent American Banker account makes clear:

After the payday rule was finalized in October , it was widely expected that Republicans would attempt to overturn it. It's notable, though, that the effort has attracted bipartisan support in the House.

.

Passage in the Senate, however, may be a much heavier lift. The chamber's vote to overturn the arbitration rule in late October came down to the wire, forcing Republicans to call in Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Bottom Line

I continue to think that this rule will survive– as the payday lending industry cannot count on a full court press lobbying effort by financial services interests. Yet as I wrote in October, I still hesitate to take either side of the bet on this issue.

Dpfaef , December 4, 2017 at 10:53 am

I think this whole article is totally disingenuous. There is a serious need for many Americans to have access to small amount, short term loans. While, these lenders may appear predatory, they do serve a large sector of society.

Maybe you need to read: The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives by Lisa Servon . It might be worth the read.

GF , December 4, 2017 at 11:02 am

Where's the Post Office Bank when you need it. This overturning of the rule is just an effort to stop the Post Office Bank from gaining traction as the alternative non-predatory source of small loans to the people. Most pay day lender companies are owned by large financial players.

Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author , December 4, 2017 at 11:11 am

I agree that's a far better approach and indeed, I discussed the Post Office bank in my October post– which is linked to in today's post. Permit me to quote from my earlier post:

The payday lending industry preys on the poorest financial consumers. One factor that has allowed it to flourish is current banking system's inability to provide access to basic financial services to a shocking number of Americans. Approximately 38 million households are un or underbanked– roughly 28% of the population.

Now, a sane and humane political system would long ago have responded with direct measures to address that core problem, such as a Post Office Bank (which Yves previously discussed in this post, Mirabile Dictu! Post Office Bank Concept Gets Big Boost and which have long existed in other countries.)

Regular readers are well aware of who benefits from the current US system, and why the lack of institutions that cater to the basic needs of financial consumers rather than focusing on extracting their pound(s) of flesh is not a bug, but a feature.

So, instead, the United States has a wide-ranging payday lending system. Which charges borrowers up to 400% interest rates for short-term loans, many of which are rolled over so that the borrower becomes a prisoner of the debt incurred.

Wisdom Seeker , December 4, 2017 at 3:23 pm

With phrasing like "unbanked" or "underbanked", I worry that you've bought into the banking-industry framing of this issue, which I'm sure is not your intent.

Ordinary people should not need any bank (not even a government or post office bank) for everyday life, with the possible exception of mortgages. De-financialization of the medium of exchange, and basic payments, is something the public should be fighting for.

lyman alpha blob , December 4, 2017 at 3:30 pm

I would consider myself an ordinary person and I pay in cash when purchasing day to day items the vast majority of the time and yet I'd still prefer to deposit my money in a bank rather than hiding it in my mattress for any number of good reasons.

Banks aren't the problem – their predatory executives are.

Wisdom Seeker , December 4, 2017 at 3:44 pm

But there are, or at least ought to be, safe and secure ways to store money other than by lending it to banks or stuffing it into mattresses. Or carrying wads of cash.

For instance, a debit card (or possibly cell phone) with a secure identity / password can already act as a cashless wallet. The digital cash could be stored directly on the device, and accounted for through something similar to TreasuryDirect, without any intermediaries. But this would require the Federal Government to get serious about having a modern Digital Dollar of some kind (not bitcoin, shudder)

Cary D Berkelhamer , December 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Even better would be State Banks. Every state should have one. I believe the State Bank of North Dakota made money in 2008. While the TBTF Banks came hat in hand to our Reps. Of course OUR Reps handed them a blank check and told them to "Make it go Away". However Post Office Banks would be GREAT!!

diptherio , December 4, 2017 at 11:08 am

This is the boilerplate argument that always gets brought up by payday loan defenders, and there is a good bit of truth to it. However, what you are not mentioning is that there are already far superior options available to pretty much any person who needs a small, short term loan. That solution is your friendly neighborhood Credit Union, most of which offer very low interest lines of overdraft coverage. I don't mind saying that it has saved my heiny on more than one occasion. Pay check a little late in arriving? No problem, transfer $200 from your overdraft account into your checking account on-line and you're good to go. Pay it back at your convenience, also on-line, at 7% APR.

Payday lenders are legal loansharks. The problems with their predatory lending model and the damage it does to low-income people are well documented. Simply pointing out that there is a reason that people end up at payday lenders is not a valid justification for the business practices of those lenders, especially when there are much better alternatives readily available.

Vatch , December 4, 2017 at 11:19 am

Payday lenders are legal loansharks.

Very true! There are several web sites that point out how the fees associated with payday loans raise the effective annual percentage rate into the stratosphere, ranging from 300% to over 600%. Here's one:

http://paydayloansonlineresource.org/average-interest-rates-for-payday-loans/

Off The Street , December 4, 2017 at 12:10 pm

One frustration that I have with legislation in general, and finance legislation in particular, is that it does not tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

In my Panglossian world, I envision a financial services bill that lays out the following:

Define the problem
Unserviced people: X percent( for discussion, say 10% to make the math easy) of people are un-serviced (or under-, or rapaciously-serviced) by conventional financial companies, whether banks, credit unions or other, whatever other is conventionally.
Unserviced and don't want: Y percent of that X percent (say, 50% of 10%, so 5%) doesn't want services.
Unserviced and want: 1-Y percent of that X percent (say, 50% of 10%, so 5%) wants services but can not get them. That could be due to various factors, ranging from bad credit (how defined?, say FICO < 600?) to geographic remoteness (no branches within miles, no internet, precious little slow mail service, whatever).

Within that deemed unserved 5% of the population, what are the costs to serve and what are the alternatives?

What would an honest service provider need to provide service, accounting for credit risks and the like, and still make a profit sufficient to induce investment?

If I knew how to make and add a nice graphic, I'd include a waterfall chart here to show the costs and components of the interest and fees paid in regular and default mode. Sorry, please bear with me as I make up numbers.

Regular costs
Interest at 30%
Less: cost of funds at, say, 10%
Less: personnel, overhead, everything else at, say, 5%
Pre-tax profit: 15%

Default mode costs:
Interest at 275%
Plus: Fees at 25%
Less: cost of funds 20%
Less: personnel, overhead, etc 5%
Less: added default cost not in personnel etc line, say 25%
Pre-tax profit: 250%

In that little example, who couldn't make money at those rates?

Extending the notion of APR and Truth-In-Lending to include payday lenders and anyone else without a brick-and-mortar branch who wants to do business in the US, how about mandating some type of honest waterfall chart as dreamt of above?

Then cross-reference and publicize the voting on finance legislation with the campaign contributions from payday people and their ilk, and layer in the borrower costs and credit scores and other metrics in those Congressional districts and zip+4 codes and census tracts and whatever other level of granularity will help provide any amount of disinfecting sunlight to help see the scattering cockroaches.

a different chris , December 4, 2017 at 12:57 pm

The problem I suspect is that your "friendly neighborhood credit union" is actually rarely anywhere near the neighborhoods where people who need these kind of loans live.

They don't have cars and mass transit is non-existent or so slow they couldn't get to the Credit Union during business hours, and back again, anyway. That's the problem with expecting Private Enterprise to be a solution for people at the bottom. They don't set up shop where those people live, or the ones that do are not exactly do-gooders.

lyle , December 4, 2017 at 7:33 pm

I just checked and a lot of credit unions let you apply for a loan online, (earlier you can set up membership online). So the issue of transport and time is lessened assuming folks have some form of net access.

JTMcPhee , December 4, 2017 at 1:04 pm

One might ask why there are millions of people reduced to having to get ripped off by payday and auto-title lenders, to somehow survive from week to week. Maybe because people can't make a living wage? Can't save any money, however prudent and abstemious they may be? Because inter-citizen cruelty and Calvinism are so very strong a force in this rump of an Empire?

Some of the comments here seem to build on the baseline assumption that's part of the liberal-neoliberal mantra, "You get what's coming to you (or the pittance we can't quite squeeze out of you yet)".

diptherio, I am guessing you may mean that there are models of better alternatives readily available, like paying a living wage, a social safety net for the worst off, a postal bank, national health care, stuff like that. I don't see that there are any alternatives actually available to most real people "on the ground."

Wukchumni , December 4, 2017 at 1:08 pm

There is an alternative to excessive payday loans, but only if you're in the military, where it's capped @ 36%.

Why not 36% for everybody?

diptherio , December 4, 2017 at 1:27 pm

You are, of course, correct in that the underlying problem is that so many people are forced to live on so little that they need payday loans in the first place. Thanks for pointing that out.

My point is simply that in the short-term, as a matter of practicality for those of us who don't always make it until payday before running out of money, a CU overdraft account is a very good option.

mpalomar , December 4, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Agree. The AB article from October deadpans a description of the ins and outs governing the hellishness of the company town we're living in.

lyman alpha blob , December 4, 2017 at 1:32 pm

This is a far superior option and thank you for bringing it up. The only problem is most banks and credit unions will not tell you it exists because they make a lot more money if you just keep bouncing checks.

I only learned about it when I worked for WAMU. We were tasked by management with promoting various new products to customers as a condition of being paid a monthly bonus which was the only thing that made the job pay enough to live on. Funny, they never asked us to promote the overdraft line of credit (aka an ODLOC), ever. I do remember one of my managers tell me that circa 2000 or so, WAMUs operating costs for the entire company for the entire year were offset just by the fees they collected off of bounced checks etc.

The fees or interest you pay for using an ODLOC are a small fraction of what you'd pay for bouncing just one check. IIRC, if I overdrew by $200 or so and paid it back on my next payday, the interest was generally less than $1. My local credit union has since added a $5 fee for accessing the ODLOC on top of the interest, but it's still much less than a bounced check fee or interest on a payday loan. I believe that depending on your credit history, you can get an ODLOC of up to $2500 or so which pretty much negates the need for any payday loans.

sd , December 4, 2017 at 11:14 am

A friend of mine was evicted from her apartment because of a payday loan. She failed to pay it off in full quick enough and it spiraled out of control tripling in a very short time. I really fail to see how usury is beneficial to society.

RepubAnon , December 4, 2017 at 11:55 am

Yes, there's a need for high-interest loans that bankrupt borrowers:

Mom-and-Pop Loan Sharks Being Driven Out by Big Credit Card Companies

Frank Pistone is part of the dying breed known as the American Loan Shark. Not so long ago, the loan shark flourished, offering short-term, high-interest loans to desperate people with nowhere else to turn. Today, however, Pistone and countless others like him are being squeezed out by the major credit-card companies, which can offer money to the down-and-out at lower rates of interest and without the threat of bodily harm

FluffytheObeseCat , December 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm

I read Servon's book. It is not a brief on behalf of the payday loan industry. She worked at a couple of payday lenders and explains how they serve the communities they're in, but a few things need to be noted:

The business she was most sympathetic with was a small, local one with only a couple of storefronts, in an east coast inner city. The owner and his help knew the customer base, often by name. Much of her sympathy came from her respect for the women who were dishing out the loans at the windows, not the owners and not the business model. This local joint operated like the most benign of old time pawnbroker/loansharking operation from the early part of the last century.

Most "Cash America" storefront shops (on shabby, midcentury shopping strips in inner ring scuburbs across the US) aren't this decent. They aren't "part of a community" in any sense. And the rates are usurious any way, for all of them.

Thank you to Ms. Scofield for continuing to cover this and related businesses. The upper, cleaner part of our finance industry derives more filthy lucre from these kinds of loan shops than they ever want you to know (sub-prime lending shops, title loans shops . there are a lot of modalities for fleecing the poor and the near-poor nowadays).

JTMcPhee , December 4, 2017 at 12:35 pm

The NC staff must be pleased that it seems like so many subtle apologists for the looters, predators, "intelligence community," and so forth, appear to be turning up here early in the opening of new site posts. I'm guessing the Elite are not exactly quaking in fear that NC's reporting will catalyze some change that might sweep the political economy in the direction of what the mopery would categorize as "fairness," but still

ger , December 4, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Raised the dollar definition of middle class and declared a 'new middle class' or could it be 'new middle class' is actually referring to the 'new middle poor'. The former middle class is desperately trying to avoid a plunge into the pits of the 'poor poor'. Payday Loan predators are greasing the handrails.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook , December 4, 2017 at 3:15 pm

"Where will the money-changers change money if not in the Holy Temple? Aren't we starving the priests of much-needed revenue? This Jesus guy is totally disingenuous."

John , December 4, 2017 at 9:32 pm

In good neo liberal fashion that Jesus dude got exactly what he deserved. The effrontry of that guy to chase those hard working money lenders out of the temple square. Got exactly what was coming to him.

sd , December 4, 2017 at 11:11 am

H.J.Res.122 – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to "Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans".

December 1, 2017

Sponsor Rep. Ross, Dennis A. [R-FL-15] (Introduced 12/01/2017)
Rep. Hastings, Alcee L. [D-FL-20]
Rep. Graves, Tom [R-GA-14]
Rep. Cuellar, Henry [D-TX-28]
Rep. Stivers, Steve [R-OH-15]
Rep. Peterson, Collin C. [D-MN-7]

perpetualWAR , December 4, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Ahhh ..look at this list. TWO Florida lawbreakers introducing this banker bill. And one from Minnesota. Y'all know that Jacksonville, FL and St. Paul, MN are the two places where the forgeries continue to be provided to the financial crooks? So, it goes to figure that the lawbreakers are attempting to protect the financial crooks committing forgery in their prospective states! How appro.

jawbone , December 4, 2017 at 1:44 pm

If any of these House critters are "representing" you, time for lots of calls to them.

And thanks, SD, for listing them. I always wonder why our vaunted free press so seldom lists the sponsors of legislation when it's reported on . Hhmm .
m .

Mike R. , December 4, 2017 at 1:19 pm

I have mixed feelings about this specific issue.
The larger issue of a grossly skewed economic system is what needs to be fixed.
There will always be people that lack common sense and brains regarding money. There will always be people that will take advantage of that.
I don't know how or why you would try and legislate that away.
We need to move in the direction of solving the biggest problems and not get wrapped up in the little problems.
The numbers above sound horrendous, but 7 billion in profit on 46 billion loaned is 14% return. Credit card companies are worse. 7 billion in profit off of 12 million people is $600 per person. Alot for poor folks I recognize, but not necessarily life shattering for all.

The "system" loves to wrangle around with issues like this (trivial in my mind) so the handful of big ones go unattended.

nonclassical , December 4, 2017 at 1:46 pm

some have apparently not felt it necessary to bail out family members for aggressive, egregious and immediate interest rates and escalations charged by these scammers

but there certainly appears concerted effort by (likely) shills to perpetuate scams (and to discredit Consumer Financial Protection Agency and Liz Warren )

Warren-Sanders 2020

Wisdom Seeker , December 4, 2017 at 3:37 pm

I think there's an error in the original article, where it says:

CRA's procedures to overturn legislation had been invoked, successfully, only once before Trump became president. Congressional Republicans and Trump have used CRA procedures multiple times to kill regulations (emphasis added)

My understanding is that CRA gives Congress the power to overturn executive branch regulations , not legislation (which Congress already can overturn anyway). Is that incorrect?

P.S. It's sad that it might not even matter. Nowadays the public can't tell the difference between regulations (written by unaccountable, unelected officials who take the revolving door back to working at the firms they regulated) and legislation (written by unaccountable, only notionally elected politicians who get paid off in various ways by lobbyists for the same firms)

Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author , December 4, 2017 at 8:07 pm

You're correct– fixed it! Slip of the fingers there that I didn't catch when I proofread the post. As the rest of the paragraph makes clear, CRA procedures are used to overturn regulations.

Thanks for reading my work so carefully and drawing the error to my attention.

John k , December 4, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Finally bipartisan!
Trump loves it
Obomber woulda loved it
She who cannot be named woulda loved it, too.
Time for them all to get over that little spat she did it before trump should appoint her to something useful I bet she'd love secdef

Taras 77 , December 4, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Where is the lovely Debbie Wasserman schultz in all of this? She has not surprisingly been a leading cheerleader for these pay day lender sharks. but hey, what the hey, the lobby money is good!

[Dec 05, 2017] Rise of casino capitalism by Stefan Stern

This was written a decade ago. neoliberalism is a stable social system but nothing changed, although fault lines of the system became more evident.
Notable quotes:
"... "The prototype of the successful man in modern society is not the scientist, the inventor, the scholar. It is the financier, the gambler and those with social pull. The others share [in the winnings] sometimes, it is true, but their share is modest compared with the oligarchs and tycoons; and they don't usually keep their share for long. They are no match for the commercial prowlers." ..."
"... Mr Monks contrasted businesses' healthy profitability with the ruthless way some have treated their staff recently, whether through large-scale redundancies or the constant threat that jobs may be sent off-shore or outsourced. While median wages have stagnated, record executive salaries are legion. ..."
"... he was appalled by the increasingly "shameless", short-termist behaviour of overpaid corporate executives. "More and more they resemble the Bourbons - and they should be aware of what eventually happened to the Bourbons." ..."
"... "All this is too important to be left to the practitioners who have a vested interest in obscuring what they do from the rest of us," he said. And, with bonus season fast approaching, he took one final, sweeping aim at the high rollers of "casino capitalism". Their actions are "dangerous to economic stability, traditional industry and jobs", he said. "I would like to see the City pages of the press more challenging and less respectful on these matters . . . Our future - the world's future - is too important to place in the hands of the new capitalists." ..."
"... Half a century ago, Nye Bevan expressed a similar concern. In In Place of Fear he wrote: "There is a sense of injustice in modern society, and this induces a feeling of instability even in normal circumstances. The rewards are not in keeping with social worth, and the consciousness of this, both among the successful and the unsuccessful, will simmer and bubble, blowing up into geysers of political and social disturbance in times of economic stress." ..."
www.warc.ch

"The prototype of the successful man in modern society is not the scientist, the inventor, the scholar. It is the financier, the gambler and those with social pull. The others share [in the winnings] sometimes, it is true, but their share is modest compared with the oligarchs and tycoons; and they don't usually keep their share for long. They are no match for the commercial prowlers."

A snap-shot of London's Mayfair district, home to the burgeoning hedge-fund phenomenon, in November 2006? Actually, no. The above words were written in 1952 by the Labour politician Aneurin Bevan in his book In Place of Fear. Bevan had a gift - his most passionate supporters would say a genius - for exposing the truth of a situation in language that could be both scintillating and pungent.

Fifty years ago, he criticised the prime minister of the day, Sir Anthony Eden, for his reckless actions during the Suez crisis. "[He] has been pretending that he is now invading Egypt in order to strengthen the United Nations," Bevan said in a famous speech in Trafalgar Square. "Every burglar of course could say the same thing: he could argue that he was entering the house in order to train the police. So, if Sir Anthony Eden is sincere in what he is saying, and he may be . . . then he is too stupid to be a prime minister!" Here was political rhetoric with a touch of prophesy about it.

It was the enduring appeal of speeches such as these that helped draw a good crowd to the fifth annual Bevan memorial lecture in London last week. The lecture was to be given by John Monks, formerly general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress, now the Brussels-based leader of the European trade union confederation.

No one in the audience would have been expecting Bevanite rhetorical fireworks from Mr Monks. That has never been his style. Between 1993 and 2003, he led the British trade union movement with modesty and distinction. He was the moderate's moderate: avoiding confrontation wherever possible and advocating partnership at work between management and employees. Business leaders were happy to do business with him.

They would not have found this lecture so easy to deal with. Confronted by today's turbo-charged capitalism, Mr Monks cast off his former moderation. He even seemed to be on the verge of recanting his commitment to the partnership model. "Partnership with who?" he asked. There has been, he said, a "disintegration of the social nexus between worker and employer - a culture containing broad social rights and obligations. The new capitalism wants none of it."

Mr Monks contrasted businesses' healthy profitability with the ruthless way some have treated their staff recently, whether through large-scale redundancies or the constant threat that jobs may be sent off-shore or outsourced. While median wages have stagnated, record executive salaries are legion.

He admitted that he had possibly been a bit naive in the past. "I did not fully appreciate what was happening on the other side of the table," Mr Monks said. While he sympathised with business leaders for the relentless pressure they find themselves under - "It cannot be easy running a firm . . . when you are up for sale every day and every night of every year" - he was appalled by the increasingly "shameless", short-termist behaviour of overpaid corporate executives. "More and more they resemble the Bourbons - and they should be aware of what eventually happened to the Bourbons."

For someone like me, who has sat through 10 years of reasonableness from John Monks, this speech was remarkable, devastating stuff. Maybe there is something in the Brussels water. Perhaps the ghost of Nye Bevan was speaking through him. Or was it just anxiety over the career choice of his daughter's boyfriend? He is now working for - you guessed it - a hedge fund. Whatever its cause, a challenge was being thrown down.

"All this is too important to be left to the practitioners who have a vested interest in obscuring what they do from the rest of us," he said. And, with bonus season fast approaching, he took one final, sweeping aim at the high rollers of "casino capitalism". Their actions are "dangerous to economic stability, traditional industry and jobs", he said. "I would like to see the City pages of the press more challenging and less respectful on these matters . . . Our future - the world's future - is too important to place in the hands of the new capitalists."

Will corporate leaders - those that have read this far anyway - simply shrug their shoulders and get back to their slashing and burning ways? Is Mr Monks merely offering a wholly predictable, knee-jerk, lefty rant? I do not think so. This general secretary just does not do lefty rants. So business people should take note. When the John Monkses of this world say enough is enough, that the capitalist system itself is sick, you can be sure that elsewhere in the world there is deep-seated, lingering resentment and unhappiness.

Half a century ago, Nye Bevan expressed a similar concern. In In Place of Fear he wrote: "There is a sense of injustice in modern society, and this induces a feeling of instability even in normal circumstances. The rewards are not in keeping with social worth, and the consciousness of this, both among the successful and the unsuccessful, will simmer and bubble, blowing up into geysers of political and social disturbance in times of economic stress."

Reading these words, you can see why so many people were prepared to come out on a dark Tuesday night...

[Dec 05, 2017] Controlling speculation in world financial markets Progressive Christians Uniting by Gordon K Douglass

Highly recommended!
Nov 09, 2002 | www.prospect-magazine.co.uk

Financial markets 101
Early history
The Bretton Woods system
The power of financial actors
Consequences of global financial flows
Policy options
Theological and ethical considerations
A new financial architecture
What Christians can do
Want to know more?
Questions For Discussion


"During my whole career at Goldman Sachs - 1967 to 1991 - I never owned a foreign stock or emerging market bonds. Now I have hundreds of millions of dollars in Russia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, and I worry constantly about the dollar-yen rate. Every night before I go to bed I call in for the dollar-yen quote, and to find out what the Nikkei is doing and what the Hang Seng Index is doing. We have bets in all these markets. Right now Paul [one of my traders] is long [on] the Canadian dollar. We have bets all over the place. I would not have worried about any of these twenty years ago. Now I have to worry about all of them."

Leon Coopermann, hedge fund manager1


Economic globalization is probably the most fundamental transformation of the world's political and economic arrangements since the Industrial Revolution. Decisions made in one part of the world more and more affect people and communities elsewhere in the world. Sometimes the consequences of globalization are positive, liberating inventive and entrepreneurial talents and accelerating the pace of sustainable development. But at other times they are negative, as when many people, especially in less-developed countries, are left behind without a social safety net. Globalization undermines the ability of the nation to tax and to regulate its own economy. This weakens the power of sovereign nations relative to that of large transnational corporations and distorts how social and economic priorities are chosen.

Economic globalization is most often associated with rapid growth in the flow of goods and services across international borders. Indeed, the economic "openness" of a nation is often measured by the value of its exports, imports, or their sum when compared to the size of its economy. Economic globalization also involves large investments from outside each nation, often by transnational corporations. These corporations often combine technology and know-how with their investments that enhance the productive capacity of a nation. Previous position papers of the Mobilization, contained in Speaking of Religion & Politics: The Progressive Church Tackles Hot Topics2, have dealt with globalization primarily in these terms.

But international trade and investment are only part of the openness that has come to be called globalization. Another part, and arguably the most important, is the quickening flow of financial assets internationally. While a small portion of this flow is directly associated with the "real" economy of production and exchange, its vast majority is composed of trades in the "paper" economy of short-term financial markets. This paper economy is enormous: The value of global financial securities greatly exceeds the value of annual world output of goods and services. Moreover, the paper economy often contributes to crises in the real economy. Thus it is important to the well being of humanity and the planet as a whole, yet it is little understood by most people. This essay undertakes to provide a basic understanding of this paper economy, especially as its more speculative features have multiplied during the last two or three decades, so that Christians and others concerned about what is happening in our world can join in an intelligent discussion of how the harmful consequences of financial markets can be controlled.


Financial markets 101

To better understand this paper economy, one first needs to know something about foreign exchange markets, international money markets, and "external" financial markets.

In an open economy, domestic residents often engage in international transactions. American car dealers, for example, buy Japanese Toyotas and Datsuns, while German computer companies sell electronic notebooks to Mexican businessmen. Similarly, Australian mutual funds invest in the shares of companies all over the world, while the treasurer of a Canadian transnational corporation parks idle cash in 90-day Bank of England notes. Most of these transactions require one or more participants to acquire a foreign currency. If an American buys a Toyota and pays the Japanese Toyota dealer in dollars, for example, the latter will have to exchange the dollars for yens in order to have the local currency with which to pay his workers and local suppliers.

The foreign exchange market is the market in which national currencies are traded. As in any market, a price must exist at which trade can occur. An exchange rate is the price of a unit of domestic currency in terms of a foreign currency. Thus, if the exchange rate of the dollar in terms of the Japanese yen increases, we say the dollar has depreciated and the yen has appreciated. Similarly, a decrease in the dollar/yen exchange rate would imply an appreciation of the dollar and a depreciation of the yen.

Foreign exchange markets can be classified as spot markets and forward markets. In spot markets currencies are bought and sold for immediate delivery and payment. In forward markets, currencies are bought or sold for future delivery and payment. A U.S. music company, say, enters into a contract to buy British records for delivery in 30 days. To guard against the possibility of the dollar/pound exchange rate increasing in the meantime, the company buys pounds forward, for delivery in 30 days, at the corresponding forward exchange rate quoted today. This is called hedging.

Of course, there has to be a counterpart to the music company's forward purchase of pounds. Who is the seller of those pounds? The immediate seller would be a commercial bank, as in the spot market. But the bank only acts as an intermediary. The ultimate seller of forward pounds may be another hedger, like the music company, but with a position just its opposite. Suppose, for example, that an American firm or individual has invested in 30-day British securities that it wants to convert back into dollars after the end of 30 days. The investor may decide to sell the pound proceeds forward in order to assure itself of the rate at which the pounds are to be converted back into dollars after 30 days.

Another type of investor may be providing the forward contract bought by the music company. This is the speculator, who attempts to profit from changes in exchange rates. Depending on their expectations, speculators may enter the forward market either as sellers or as buyers of forward exchange. In this particular case, the speculator may have reason to believe that the dollar/pound exchange rate will decrease in the next 30 days, permitting him to obtain the promised pounds at a lower price in the spot market 30 days hence.

The main instruments of foreign exchange transactions include electronic bank deposit transfers and bank drafts, bills of exchange, and a whole array of other short-term instruments expressed in terms of foreign currency. Thus, foreign exchange transactions do not generally involve a physical exchange of currencies across borders. They generally involve only changes in debits and credits at different banks in different countries. Very large banks in the main financial centers such as New York, London, Brussels and Zurich, account for most foreign exchange transactions. Local banks can provide foreign exchange by purchasing it in turn from major banks.

Although the foreign exchange market is dispersed in many cities and countries, it is unified by keen competition among the highly sophisticated market participants. A powerful force keeping exchange rate quotations in different places in line with each other is the search on the part of market participants for foreign exchange arbitrage opportunities. Arbitrage is the simultaneous purchase and sale of a commodity or financial asset in different markets with the purpose of obtaining a profit from the differential between the buying and selling price.

When foreign exchange is acquired in order to engage in international transactions involving the purchase or sale of goods and services, it is said that international trade has taken place in the real economy. When international transactions involve the purchase or sale of financial assets, they are referred to as international financial transactions. They constitute the paper economy.

Financial markets are commonly classified as capital markets or money markets. Capital markets deal in financial claims that reach more than one year into the future. Such claims include shares of stock, bonds, and long-term loans, among others. Money markets, on the other hand, deal in short-term claims, with maturities of less than one year. These include marketable government securities (like Treasury bills), large-denomination certificates of deposit issued by banks, commercial paper (representing short-term corporate debt), money market funds, and many other kinds of short-term, highly liquid (easily transferable) financial instruments. It is these short-term money market securities that account for most of the instability in the global paper economy.

Buying or selling a money market security internationally involves the same kind of foreign exchange risk that plagues buyers or sellers of merchandise internationally. If one wishes to guard against the possibility of an increase or decrease in the foreign exchange rate, one can insure against such fluctuations by "covering" in the forward market. By the same token, the decision about whether to own domestic or foreign money market securities is not simply a comparison of the rates of interest paid on otherwise comparable securities, because one must also take into account the gain (or loss) from purchasing foreign currency spot and selling it forward. Thus, choosing the security with the highest return does not necessarily imply the one with the highest interest rate.

People who trade in international money markets, moreover, need to take into account many other variables, including the costs of gathering and processing information, transaction costs, the possibility of government intervention and regulation, other forms of political risk, and the inability to make direct comparisons of alternative assets. Speculating in international money markets is a risky proposition.

International money markets involve assets denominated in different currencies. External financial markets involve assets denominated in the same currency but issued in different political jurisdictions. Eurodollars, for example, are dollar deposits held outside the United States (offshore), such as dollar deposits in London, Zurich, or even Singapore banks. The deposits may be in banks owned locally or in the offshore banking subsidiaries of U.S. banks. Deutsche mark deposits in London banks or pound sterling deposits in Amsterdam banks also are examples of external deposits. They are referred to as eurocurrency deposits. (The advent of a new common currency in the European Community - the Euro - will require the development of new nomenclature for external financial markets)

External banking activities are a segment of the wholesale international money market. The vast majority of eurocurrency transactions fall in the above $1 million value range, frequently reaching the hundreds of millions (or even billion) dollar value. Accordingly, the customers of eurobanks are almost exclusively large organizations, including multinational corporations, government entities, hedge funds, and international organizations, as well as eurobanks themselves. Like domestic banks, eurobanks that have excess reserves may make loans denominated in eurocurrencies, expanding the supply of eurocurrency deposits. The eurocurrency market funnels funds from lending countries to borrowing countries. Thus, it performs an important function as global financial intermediator.


Early history

The origins of what Karl Polanyi3 called haute finance can be traced to Renaissance Italy, where as early as 1422 there were seventy-two bankers or bill-brokers in or near the Mecato Vecchio of Florence.4 Many combined trade with purely financial business. By the middle of the fifteenth century, the Medici of Florence had opened branches in Bruges, London and Avignon, both as a means of financing international trade and as a way of marketing new kinds of financial assets. Many banking terms and practices still in use today originated in the burgeoning financial centers of Renaissance Europe.

By the early seventeenth century, the Dutch and East India Companies began issuing shares to the public in order to fund imperial enterprises closely linked to Holland and Britain. Their shares were made freely transferable, permitting development of a secondary financial market for claims to future income. Amsterdam opened a stock exchange in 1611, and shortly thereafter, the British government began issuing lottery tickets, an early form of government bonds, to finance colonial expansion, wars and other major areas of state expenditure. A lively secondary market in these financial instruments also emerged.5

Throughout these early years, financial markets were anything but riskless and stable. Consider the famous Dutch tulip mania of 1630, for example. This speculative bubble saw prices of tulip bulbs reach what seemed like absurd levels, yet "the rage among the Dutch to possess them [tulips] was so great that the ordinary industry of the country was neglected." Some investors in Britain and France shared this "irrational exuberance," though it was centered mostly in Holland. Then, not unlike speculative bubbles of more recent vintage, prices crashed6, pushing the economy into a depression and leaving many investors angry and confused.

Paris developed into an early financial center in the eighteenth century, but the Revolution of 1789 dissipated its power. The New York Stock Exchange was formally organized in 1792 and the official London Stock Exchange opened in 1802. The expansion westward of the railroads in the U.S. offered the financial community opportunity to sell railway shares and bonds that quickly became dominant in the financial markets. Indeed, the bond markets of London, Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam were vehicles for collecting massive amounts of European savings and transferring it at higher returns to the emerging markets of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Latin America and Russia in the century preceding World War I.

Forward markets soon developed, especially in the U.S., in order to counter the impact of long distances and unpredictable weather. As capital and money markets expanded, other new financial instruments came into use. Joint stock companies were formed, enabled by legislation that clarified the distinction between the owners and managers of corporations. This, in turn, helped stimulate the growth of the American stock market in the late nineteenth century. To be sure, financial markets did not grow continuously in the nineteenth century. Lending to the emerging markets was interrupted by defaults in the 1820s, 1850s, 1870s and 1890s, but each wave of default was confined to a relatively small number of countries, permitting growth of financial flows to resume.7

In the four decades leading up to World War I, a truly worldwide economy was forged for the first time, extending from the core of Western Europe and the U.S. to latecomers in Eastern Europe and Latin America and even to the countries supplying raw materials on the periphery. Central to this expansion of trade and investment was an expanding system of finance that girded the globe. The amount was enormous: between 1870 and 1914 something like $30 billion,8 the equivalent in 2002 dollars of $550 billion, was transferred to recipient countries, in a world economy perhaps one-twelfth as large as today's.

During this "Gilded Age" of haute finance, the risks of participating in international trade and investment were generously shared with governments and the banking system. The reason is that foreign exchange rates were kept reasonably stable by the commitment of most governments to the "high" gold standard. In this way, businesses and individuals engaging in international transactions were reasonably certain that the value of their contracts was not going to change before they matured. Their exchange risk was shared with government by its willingness to buy or sell gold in order to keep the exchange rate constant. Because of this assurance, financial flows were reasonably free of regulation.

They were not immune from crises, however. When the sources of financial capital temporarily dried up, capital-importing countries occasionally found they could not expand export earnings sufficiently to avoid suspending interest payments on their debts or abandoning gold parity. On two occasions, the United States faced this possibility. The first was in 1893, when it switched in a sharp economic downturn to bimetallism (which caused William Jennings Bryan to denounce the "cross of gold"), and the second was in 1907, which led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System, handing to the government the function of lender of last resort previously carried out by Wall Street banks under the tutelage of J. Pierpont Morgan.

In his magisterial book The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi reflected on the pervasive influence of haute finance on the policies of nations even in this "Gilded Age." The globalising financial markets and the gold standard, according to Polanyi, left very little room for states, especially smaller ones, to adopt monetary and fiscal policies independent of the new international order. "Loans, and the renewal of loans, hinged upon credit, and credit upon good behavior. Since, under constitutional government ..., behavior is reflected in the budget and the external value of the currency cannot be detached from the appreciation of the budget, debtor governments were well advised to watch their exchanges carefully and to avoid policies which might reflect upon the soundness of budget positions." Thus, even one hundred years ago the then-dominant world power, Great Britain, speaking as it did so often through the voice of the City of London, "prevailed by the timely pull of a thread in the international monetary network.9

Following World War I, the United States emerged not merely as a creditor country but as the primary source of new international financial flows. At first, the principal borrowers were the national governments of the stronger countries, but as the boom in security underwriting developed in the U.S, numerous obscure provinces, departments and municipalities found it possible to sell their bonds to American investors.10 Just as domestic construction, land, and equity markets went through speculative rises in the 1920s, so too did the U.S. experience a speculative surge in foreign investment. In the aftermath of successive defaults by foreign debtors in 1932, the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency concluded:

The record of the activities of investment bankers in the flotation of foreign securities is one of the most scandalous chapters in the history of American investment banking. The sale of these foreign issues was characterized by practices and abuses that violated the most elementary principles of business ethics.11

Speculation in the stock markets leading up to 1929 offers still another window on the instability of short-term financial flows. A speculative market can be defined as one in which prices move in response to the balance of opinion regarding the future movement of prices rather than responding normally to changes in the demand for and supply of whatever is priced. Helped by the willingness of Wall Street to allow people to buy stocks on margin, people were only too ready to bet prices would rise as long as others thought so too. Day after day and month after month the price of stocks went up in 1927. The gains by later standards were not large, but they had an aspect of great reliability. Then in 1928, the nature of the boom changed. "The mass escape into make-believe, so much a part of the true speculative orgy, started in earnest.12

Following World War I, the gold standard itself took on new form. Nations were allowed to hold their international reserves in either gold or foreign exchange. This worked for a while in the 1920s, but as speculation mounted and balances of payments disequilibria grew, fears of devaluation led central banks to try to replace their foreign-exchange holdings with specie in a "scramble for gold." The worldwide result of these shifts in central bank portfolios was an overall contraction of the supply of money and credit that sapped aggregate demand and forced prices to fall and output levels to shrink. Thus, it can be argued - persuasively in our view - that the Great Depression of the 1930s was as much, if not more, the result of mismanagement of money and credit as it was the result of protectionist policies. Protectionist policies were more likely the result of slowed growth and stalled trade. Countries that broke with the gold-exchange standard early, such as Britain in 1931, and pursued more expansionary monetary policies fared somewhat better.


The Bretton Woods system

During the darkest days of World War II, a radically new economic architecture was designed for the postwar world at a New Hampshire ski resort called Bretton Woods. With the competitive devaluation and protectionist policies of the 1930s still fresh in their minds, the mostly British and American delegates to the conference wanted most of all to design a system with fixed exchange rates that did not rely on national gold hoards to keep exchange rates stable. They decided to depend instead on strict controls of international financial movements. In this way, they hoped to allow countries to pursue full-employment policies through appropriate monetary (money and credit) and fiscal (tax and spending) policies without some of the anxieties associated with open financial markets. The role of monetary and financial stabilizer was given to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which was provided with modest funds to assist nations to adjust imbalances in their external payments obligations. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, later the World Bank) assumed the task of helping to finance post-war reconstruction.13

The IMF as it emerged from Bretton Woods had inadequate reserves to advance money for the long periods that many countries require for "soft-landings" from big current-account deficits. It would make only short-term loans. To make sure that borrowing nations were constrained, "conditionality" attached to IMF loans became standard practice, even in the early years of the Fund's operation. Policy limitations and "performance targets" tied to credit lines advanced under "standby agreements" began in the middle 1950s and were universal by the 1960s, long before the notions of "stabilization" and "structural adjustment" came into common parlance.

The Bretton Woods agreement also imposed a foreign exchange standard by which exchange rates between major currencies were fixed in terms of the dollar, and the value of the dollar was tied to gold at a U.S. guaranteed price of thirty-five dollars per ounce. By devising a system that controlled financial movements and assisted with the adjustment of countries' balances of payments, the new system succeeded in keeping exchange rates remarkably stable. They were changed only very occasionally, e.g., as when the value of sterling relative to the dollar was reduced in 1949 and again in 1966. This meant that companies doing business abroad did not need to worry constantly about the risk of exchanging one currency for another.

Among the reasons for this remarkable stability was the willingness of the central banks of other countries to hold an increasing proportion of their official reserves in the form of U.S. dollars. It was an essential part of the system that the dollars held by other countries would be seen as IOUs backed by the U.S. offer to exchange them for gold at a fixed pre-war price. But as the balance-of-payments of the U.S. moved more deeply into deficits in the 1960s, there were more and more U.S. dollars held by other countries, and this so-called "dollar overhang" became disturbingly large.15 General de Gaulle called it "the exorbitant privilege," meaning that the Americans were paying their bills - for defense spending to fight the Vietnam War among other things - with IOUs instead of real resources in the form of exports of goods and services.

Strict control over financial movements began to weaken as early as the 1950s, when the first eurodollar (later eurocurrency) deposits were made in London. At first a trickle, limited originally to Europe, these offshore banking operations soon expanded worldwide. The American "Interest Equalization Tax" (IET) instituted in 1963 raised the costs to banks of lending offshore from their domestic branches.16 The higher external rates led dollar depositors such as foreign corporations to switch their funds from onshore U.S. institutions to eurobanks. Thus, the real effect of the IET was to encourage the dollar to follow the foreigners abroad, rather than the other way around. Eurobanks paid higher interest rates on deposits and loaned eurocurrencies at lower rates than U.S. banks could at home. Still another large inflow of eurodeposits occurred in 1973-74 as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) began "recycling" their surplus dollar earnings through eurobanks. Because of their existence, a country such as Brazil could arrange within a reasonably regulation-free environment to obtain multimillion-dollar loans from a consortium of offshore American, German and Japanese banks and thereby finance its oil imports. Net eurocurrency deposit liabilities that amounted to around $10 billion in the mid-1960s, grew to $500 billion by 1980.

These eurocurrency transactions taught the players in financial markets how to shift their deposits, loans, and investments from one currency to another whenever exchange rates or interest rates were thought to be ready to change. Even the ability of central banks to regulate the supply of money and credit was undermined by the readiness of commercial banks to borrow and lend offshore. Hence, the effectiveness of regulatory mechanisms that had been put in place to implement the Bretton Woods agreement - interest rate ceilings, lending limits, portfolio restrictions, reserve and liquidity requirements - gradually eroded as offshore transactions started to balloon.

The world economy developed at unprecedented rates during the roughly twenty-five years immediately following World War II. Growth and employment rates during these years were at historic highs in most countries. Productivity also advanced rapidly in most developing countries as well as in the technological leaders. These facts suggest that the system devised at Bretton Woods worked reasonably well, despite occasional adjustments. To be sure, it helped to sow the seeds of its own destruction by failing to retain operational control of international financial flows. But the twenty-five years of its survival leading up to August 15, 1971, when President Nixon closed the gold window, have nonetheless come to be called by some economic historians the "Golden Years."

Controlling private risk

Fixed exchange rates did not last long after the U.S. stopped exchanging gold for claims on the dollar held by foreign central banks. The pound sterling was allowed to float against the dollar in July, 1972. Japan set the yen free to float in February, 1973, and most European currencies followed suit shortly thereafter. The Bretton Woods gold-dollar system was doomed.

The fact that exchange rates no longer were fixed meant that companies doing business in different countries had to cope with the day-to-day shifts in the dollar's rate of exchange with other currencies. The risks of unexpected changes in the value of international contracts suddenly had shifted from the public to the private sector. Corporate finance officers now had to hedge against possible exchange losses by buying a currency forward and investing the equivalent in the short-term money market, or by investing in the eurocurrency market. The corporations' banks, in turn, tried to match each foreign currency transaction with another contrary transaction in order not to leave each of the banks exposed to foreign exchange risk overnight. Since no single bank was likely to balance its foreign exchange positions exactly, the need arose to swap deposits in different currencies in order to match corporate hedging transactions and to square the bank's books.

The price of this forward cover on inter-bank transactions - that is to say, the premium or discount on a currency's spot value - has tended to accord with the differences between interest-rates offered for eurocurrency deposits in different currencies. This is the connection between the foreign exchange market and the short-term credit markets, between exchange rates and interest rates. Whenever exchange rates move up or down, therefore, their influence is immediately transmitted through the eurocurrency markets to the credit markets.

It is this scramble to avoid private risk that accounted for the dramatic rise in international financial movements following the demise of the Bretton Woods system. By 1973, daily foreign exchange trading around the world varied between $10 and $20 billion per day. This amount was approximately twice the value of world trade at the time. Bank of International Settlements data suggests that the daily average of foreign exchange trading had climbed by 1980 to about $80 billion, and that the ratio between foreign exchange trading and international trade was more nearly ten to one. The data for 1992 was $880 billion and fifty to one, respectively; for 1995, $l,260 billion and seventy to one; and for 2000, almost $1,800 and ninety to one.

There is very little doubt, therefore, that the lion's share of international financial flows is relatively short-run. Indeed, about eighty percent of foreign exchange transactions are reversed in less than seven business days. Only a very small proportion is used to finance international trade and direct foreign investment. The vast majority must be used with the expectation of gain or to avoid losses that may result from changes in the value of financial assets. In general terms, they are speculative, made in hope of capital gain or to hedge against potential capital loss, or to seek the gains of arbitrage based on slight differences in rates of return in different financial centers.


The power of financial actors17

Foreign exchange markets and markets for money and credit seem remote and abstract to most people. This section introduces the real institutions that operate these markets and assesses the nature of their power.

According to recent work by political scientists, the power of these financial actors is based in part on a complicated "process of multiplication" of loans, assets and transactions. Many investors in financial markets buy financial instruments on very thin margins, based on loans obtained by pledging the assets as collateral. This is called "leverage" in the jargon of financial markets. In turn, the borrowed funds are invested in other financial assets, multiplying the demand for credit and financial assets. As demand rises, more sophisticated financial assets are invented, including many forms of financial derivatives. A major portion of the accumulated debt remains serviceable only as long as the prices of most assets will rise or at least remain relatively stable. If prices turn down, they easily can lead to a chain-reaction. If investors respond instinctively like a herd, they will bring a far-reaching collapse that constitutes a crisis.

As the flow of financial assets climbs, some bankers, brokers, and managers of financial institutions become prominent players in the competition for investor dollars. Some become known for picking profitable places to invest and for promoting their selections successfully. This can influence markets if people have confidence in their advice. A notorious example of the influence of prominent players was the attack on British sterling in 1992 by George Soros' Quantum Fund. Believing that sterling was overvalued, the Fund quietly established credit lines that allowed it to borrow $15 billion worth of sterling and sell it for dollars at the then "overvalued" price. Its purpose, of course, was to pay back the loan with cheaper pounds after they had depreciated. Having gone long on dollars and short on sterling, Soros decided to speak up noisily. He publicized his short-selling and made statements in newspapers that the pound would soon be devalued. It wasn't long before sterling was devalued; he made $1 billion in profit.

The point can be made more generally: financial markets are subject to manipulation because they have become socially structured. Market leaders and financial gurus are admired and followed (at least until very recently). The heavyweights thus dominate the business. An obvious consequence of this is that there is a strong tendency in financial markets for further concentration of resources.

Another source of the power of financial actors is their obvious affinity for the rampant free-market philosophy of neo-liberalism. The freedom with which they move financial capital around depends, of course, on the market-friendly policies of the so-called Washington Consensus.19 As long as they are seen as part of the governing coalition, they derive special powers to regulate themselves rather than be controlled by an independent government agency or civil society. Their power also is reinforced by the activities of several collective associations of financial actors,20 which lobby on their behalf.

One more source of power for the financial actors is their knowledge that if they are big enough and sufficiently interlaced with other financial actors, then the "system" will keep them from failing. Consider the case of Long-term Capital Management, a hedge fund partnership started in 1994. It was able to borrow from various banks the equivalent of forty times its capitalization in order to make bets on changes in the relative prices of bonds in the U.S. and abroad. When the Russian government announced a devaluation and debt moratorium in August, 1998, it produced losses that the fund could not sustain. Nor could some of the banks that had loaned large amounts to the fund. Accordingly, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, fearful that the risk to the entire system was too high, orchestrated a private rescue operation by fourteen banks and other financial institutions, which re-capitalized the company for $3.5 billion.

Financial actors also have the power indirectly to influence non-financial actors such as firms or states. By providing economic incentives to gamble and speculate on financial instruments, global financial markets divert funds from long-term productive investments. In all probability, they also encourage banks and financial institutions to maintain a regime of higher real interest rates that reduce the ability of productive enterprises to obtain credit. The volatility of global financial markets, moreover, brings uncertainty and volatility in interest rates and exchange rates that are harmful to various sectors of the real economy, particularly international trade.

The above stories about George Soros and Long-term Capital Management are good illustrations of the consequences for non-financial actors of actions by financial actors. Both episodes are examples of games that are basically zero-sum, at least in the short-run. Nothing new was produced; no new values were created. In the 1992 case about speculating against sterling, the Quantum Fund's profits were at the expense of the British government, especially the Bank of England, and British taxpayers. In 1998, the losses suffered by Long-term Capital Management came out of the pockets of the stockholders of the banks that bailed it out, as the stock-market value of their shares depreciated. Hence, the financial system tends to feed itself by drawing more resources from other sectors of the economy, undermining the vitality of the real economy.


Consequences of global financial flows

The dominant economic ideology of the last twenty-five years has been embodied in the so-called Washington Consensus. It is a "market-friendly" ideology that traces its roots to longstanding policies of the IMF that encourage macroeconomic "stabilization;" to adoption by the World Bank of ideas in vogue in Washington early in the Reagan period concerning deregulation and supply-side economics; to the zeal of the Thatcher government in England for privatizing public enterprises; and perhaps most of all to the neo-liberal tendencies of the business community and the economics profession in the U.S. The implementation of these policies of economic "reform," by first "stabilizing" the macro-economy and then "adjusting" the market so that it can perform more efficiently, are supposed to pay off in the form of faster output growth and rising real incomes

Among these policy prescriptions is financial liberalization in both the developed and the developing countries. Domestically it is achieved by weakening or removing controls on interest and credit and by diluting the differences between banks, insurance and finance companies. International financial liberation, on the other hand, demands removal of controls and regulations on both the inflows and outflows of financial instruments that move through foreign exchange markets. It is the implementation of these reforms that is perhaps the single most important cause of the surge in global financial flows. To be sure, the influence of technological advances has broken the natural barriers of space and time for financial markets as twenty-four hour electronic trading has grown. The fact that throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s the developed countries suffered from over-capacity and overproduction in manufacturing may also have led the owners of financial capital to look for alternative profit opportunities.

It now is time to ask whether the implementation of all these reforms, on balance, has produced good or bad results. The focus of this section will be mostly on the consequences of large and expanding international financial flows. After all, they are the main concern of this essay. But first, we should ask whether or not the policies of growth and rising real incomes promoted by the Washington Consensus have borne fruit.

Growth and income

There is little doubt that the introduction of the Washington Consensus' policy mix expanded the volume of international trade. As a result, trade in goods and services has grown at more than twice the rate of global gross domestic product (GDP), and developing countries' share of trade has risen from 23 to 29 percent. Increasing numbers of firms from developing countries, like their industrial-country counterparts, engage in transnational production and adopt a global perspective in structuring their operations. The flow of foreign direct investments and foreign portfolio investments has multiplied even more rapidly than trade, despite the financial instability experienced in Asia, Brazil, Russia, and elsewhere in recent years.

The effects of liberalization have not been uniformly favorable, however. After at least ten full years of experience with the Washington Consensus, several recent studies have begun to assess the consequences for developing countries of this experiment in more open markets.21 Except for the years of crisis in a number of the countries studied, most developing countries achieved moderate growth rates of gross domestic product in the 1990s - considerably higher than in the l980s in Africa and Latin America during the debt crisis, but remarkably unchanged in most other regions. Moreover, average annual growth in the 1990s was slightly lower than in the twenty-five years preceding the debt crisis when a strategy of substituting domestic production for imports was in fullest use. When population growth rates are taken into consideration, the growth rate of per capita income in the developing countries studied during the 1990s also was somewhat lower than in the 1960s and 1970s. Toward the end of the 1990s, growth tapered off in many countries due to emerging domestic financial crises or external events. There is little evidence in these figures, therefore, to suggest the strategy of liberalization boosted growth rates appreciably.

Nor did the distribution of income improve in most developing countries in the 1990s. On the contrary, virtually without exception the wage differentials between skilled and unskilled workers rose with liberalization. The reasons for this varied widely among countries, but one of the most important reasons was the fact that the number of relatively well-paid jobs in sectors of the economy involved with international trade, though growing, was insufficient to absorb available workers, forcing many workers into more precarious and poorly paid employment in the non-traded, informal trade, and service sectors or where traditional agriculture served as a sponge for the labor market. Between the mid-1960s and the late-1990s, the poorest 20 percent of the world population saw its share of income fall from 2.3 to 1.4 percent. Meanwhile, the share of the wealthiest quintile increased from 70 to 85 percent.22

Risk and reward

While all markets are imperfect and subject to failure, financial markets are more prone than others to fail because they are plagued with three particular shortcomings: asymmetric information, herd behavior and self-fulfilling panics. Asymmetric information is a problem whenever one party to an economic transaction has insufficient information to make rational and consistent decisions. In most financial markets where borrowing and lending take place, borrowers usually have better information about the potential returns and risks associated with the investments to be financed by the loans than do the lenders. This becomes especially true as financial transactions disperse across the globe, often between borrowers and lenders of widely different cultures.

Asymmetric information leads to adverse selection and moral hazard. Adverse selection occurs when, say, lenders have too little information to choose from among potential borrowers those who are most likely to use the loans wisely. The lenders' gullibility, therefore, attracts more unworthy borrowers. Moral hazard occurs when borrowers engage in excessively risky activities that were unanticipated by lenders and lead to significant losses for the lender. Yet another form of moral hazard occurs when lenders indulge in lending indiscriminately because they assume that the government or an international institution will bail them out if the loans go awry.

A good illustration of asymmetric information is the story of bank lending following OPEC's large increase in oil prices following 1973. Awash in cash, the oil exporters deposited large amounts in commercial banks that then perfected the Euro-currency loan for developing countries. Eager to put excess reserves to use, the banks spent little time discriminating among potential borrowers, in part because they believed host governments or international agencies would guarantee the loans. At the same time, developing countries found they could readily borrow not only to import oil, but also to increase other kinds of expenditures. This meant they could use borrowed funds to maintain domestic spending rather than be forced to adjust to the new realities of higher prices for necessary imports. There is considerable evidence that moral hazard also was present in the Mexican crises in 1982 and 1994, and in the Southeast Asian crises in 1997-8.

Yet another illustration of asymmetric information is the tendency of financial firms, especially on Wall Street and in the City of London, to invent ever more complex derivatives to shift risk around the financial system. The market for these products is growing rapidly, both on futures and options exchanges (two of the several places where derivatives are traded). A financial engineer, for example, can take the risk in, say, a bond and break it down into a series of smaller risks, such as that inflation will reduce its real value or that the borrower will default. These smaller risks can then be priced and sold, using derivatives, so that the bondholder keeps only those risks he wishes to bear. But this is not a simple task, particularly when it involves assets with risk exposures far into the future and which are traded so rarely that there is no good market benchmark for setting the price. Enron, for instance, sold a lot of these sorts of derivatives, booking profits on them immediately even though there was a serious doubt about their long-term profitability. Stories of huge losses incurred in derivative trading are legion. The real challenge before central banks and regulatory bodies is to curb speculative behavior and bring discipline in derivative markets.

A second source of risk in financial markets is the tendency of borrowers and lenders alike to engage in herd behavior. John Maynard Keynes, writing in the 1930s, suggested that financial markets are like "beauty contests." His analogy was to a game in the British Sunday newspapers that asked readers to rank pictures of women according to their guess about the average choice by other respondents. The winner, therefore, does not express his own preferences, but rather anticipates "what average opinion expects average opinion to be." Accordingly, Keynes thought that anyone who obtained information or signals that pointed to swings in average opinion and to how it would react to changing events had the basis for substantial gain. Objective information about economic data was not enough. Rather, simple slogans "like public expenditure is bad," "lower unemployment leads to inflation," "larger deficits lead to higher interest rates," were then the more likely sources of changes in public opinion. What mattered was that average opinion believed them to be true, and that advance knowledge of, say, more public spending, lower unemployment, or larger deficits, respectively, offered the speculator a special advantage.

A financial market that operates as a beauty contest is likely to be highly unstable and prone to severe changes. One reason for this is that people trading in financial assets, even today, know very little about them. People who hold stock know little about the companies that issued them. Investors in mutual funds know little about the stocks their funds are invested in. Bondholders know little about the companies or governments that issued the bonds. Even knowledgeable professionals are often more concerned with judging how swings in conventional opinion might change market values rather than with the long-term returns on investments. Indeed, since careful analysis of risks and rewards is costly and time consuming, it often makes sense for fund managers and traders to follow the herd. If they decide rationally not to follow the herd, their competence may be seriously questioned. On the other hand, if fund managers follow the herd and the herd suffers losses, few will question their competence because others too suffered losses. When financial markets are operated like a beauty contest, everyone wants to sell at the same time and nobody wants to buy.

The financial markets behaved as predicted shortly after several industrial countries, including the U.S. and Germany, abolished all restrictions on international capital movements in 1973. The new system proved to be highly volatile, with exchange rates, interest rates, and financial asset-prices subject to large short-term fluctuations. The markets also were susceptible to contagion when financial tremors spread from their epicenter to other countries and markets that seemingly had little connection with the initial problem. In less than five years, it already was clear that both the surpluses and the deficits on the major countries' balance of payments were getting larger, not smaller, despite significant changes in the exchange rates.

In some cases, a financial crisis can be self-fulfilling. A rumor can trigger a self-fulfilling speculative attack, e.g. on a currency, that may be baseless and far removed from the economic fundamentals (unlike the Soros story above). This can cause a sudden shift in the herd's intentions and lead to unanticipated market movements that create severe financial crises. Consider, for example, the succession of major financial crises that have pock-marked the recent history of international financial markets, including Latin America's Southern Cone crisis of 1979-81, the developing-country debt crisis of 1982, the Mexican crisis of 1994-95, the Asian crisis of 1997-98, the Russian crisis of 1998, the Brazilian crisis of 1999, and the Argentine crisis of 2001-02.

Perhaps the Asian crisis of 1997-98 is the most interesting in this regard, for there were relatively few signals beforehand of impending crisis. All the main East Asian economies displayed in 1994-96 low inflation, fiscal surpluses or balanced budgets, limited public debt, high savings and investment rates, substantial foreign exchange reserves and no signs of deterioration before the crisis. This background has led many analysts to suppose that the crisis was a mere product of the global financial system. But what could have triggered the herd to stampede out of Asian currencies? No doubt several factors were at work. Before the crisis that started in the summer of 1997, there was a rise in short-term lending to Asians by Western and Japanese banks with little or no premiums, a fact that the Bank for International Settlement raised questions about. Alert investors, especially hedge funds, also noticed that substantial portions of East and Southeast Asian borrowings were going into non-productive assets and real estate that often were linked to political connections. In fact, some of the funds pouring into non-productive assets were coming out of the productive sector, mortgaging the longer-term viability of some real economies. Information about the structure and policies of financial sectors was opaque. Thus, opinions began to change among key lenders about the regulation of financial sectors in several Asian countries and their destabilizing lack of transparency. Suddenly, several important hedge funds reduced their exposure by shorting currency futures, followed quickly by Western mutual funds. The calling of loans led quickly to deep depression in several Asian countries. It has been estimated that the Asian crisis and its global repercussions cut global output by $2 trillion in 1998-2000.

Loss of government autonomy

Both economic theory and the experience of managing the external financial affairs of nations tell us that it is virtually impossible to maintain (1) full financial mobility, (2) a fixed exchange rate, and (3) freedom to seek macro-economic balance (full employment with little inflation) with appropriate monetary and fiscal policies. Only two of these policy objectives can be consistently maintained. If the authorities try to pursue all three, they will sooner or later be punished by destabilizing financial flows, as in the run up to the Great Depression around 1930 and in the months before sterling's collapse 1992. If a government tries to stimulate its economy with lax monetary policy, for example, and players with significant market power like George Soros sense that at a fixed exchange rate, foreigners will be unwilling to lend enough to finance the country's current account deficit, they will begin to flee the home currency in order to avoid the capital losses they will suffer if and when there is a devaluation. If reserve losses accelerate and more players follow suit, crisis ensues. The authorities are forced to devalue, interest rates soar, and the successful attackers sit back to count their profits.

For nations wishing to retain reasonably independent monetary and fiscal authority in order to cater to domestic needs, the solution is to allow the exchange rate to move up or down as conditions in the foreign exchange markets dictate, or to establish some sort of control over the movement of financial instruments in and out of the country, or to devise some combination of these two adjustment mechanisms. The debate over whether fixed or flexible exchange rates is the wiser policy continues to rage in academic quarters and in finance ministries all over the world. For the most part, the international business community prefers reasonably fixed exchange rates in order to minimize their costs of hedging foreign currency positions. Thus instituting some form of control over speculative financial movements may be an appropriate solution to the "trilemma."

The capacity of a nation to levy enough taxes to finance needed public expenditures is another important reason to retain independent authority. A central function of government has been to insulate domestic groups from excessive market risks, particularly those originating in international transactions. This is the way governments have maintained domestic political support for liberalizing trade and finance throughout the postwar period. Yet many governments are less able today to help citizens that are injured by freer markets with unemployment compensation, severance payments, and adjustment assistance because the slightest hint of raising taxes to pay for these vital public services leads to capital flight in a world of heightened financial mobility.

This is a dilemma. Increased integration into the world economy has raised the need of governments to redistribute tax revenues or implement generous social programs in order to protect the vast majority of the population that remains internationally immobile. At the same time, governments find themselves less able to maintain the safety nets needed to preserve social stability. It seems reasonable to suppose, therefore, that doing things that will bolster the ability of governments to levy sufficient taxes - curbing tax avoidance by transnational corporations, controlling offshore tax havens, regulating capital flight - would help make globalization slightly more democratic.

Winners and losers

The people who benefit from speculative financial movements are, for the most part, better educated and wealthier than the vast majority of fellow citizens. They are the elites, whatever the country. As noted above, they have fewer connections to the real economy of production and exchange than most people. And their purpose in trading financial assets, again for the most part, is to make a profit quickly rather than wait for an investment project to mature.

People who do not participate directly in the buying and selling of short-term financial instruments are nonetheless influenced indirectly by the macroeconomic instability and contagion that often accompany interruptions in financial market flows. This is true for people both in developed and developing countries. In developed countries, the voracious appetite of financial markets for more and more resources saps the vitality of the real economy - the economy that most people depend upon for their livelihood. It has been shown that real interest rates rise as a result of the expansion of speculative financial markets. This rise in real interest rates, in turn, dampens real investment and economic growth while serving to concentrate wealth and political power within a growing worldwide rentier class (people who depend for their income on interest, dividends, and rents).23 Rather, the long-term health of the economy depends upon directing investable funds into productive investments rather than into speculation.

In developing countries, attracting global investors' attention is a mixed blessing. Capital market inflows provide important support for building infrastructure and harnessing natural and human resources. At the same time, surges in money market inflows may distort relative prices, exacerbate weakness in a nation's financial sector, and feed bubbles. As the 1997 Asian crisis attests, financial capital may just as easily flow out of as into a country. Unstable financial flows often lead to one of three kinds of crises:

Although these three types of crises sometimes appear singly, they more often arrive in combination because external shocks or changed market expectations are likely to occur simultaneously in the market for government bonds, the foreign exchange market, and the markets for bank assets. Approximately sixty developing countries have experienced extreme financial crises in the past decade.24

The vast majority of people in the developing world suffer from these convulsive changes. They are tired of adjusting to changes over which they exercise absolutely no control. Most people in these countries view Western capitalism as a private club, a discriminatory system that benefits only the West and the elites who live inside "the bell jars" of poor countries. Even as they consume the consumer goods of the West, they are quite aware that they still linger at the periphery of the capitalist game. They have no stake in it, and they believe that they suffer its consequences. As Hernando deSoto puts it, "Globalization should not be just about interconnecting the bell jars of the privileged few."25

Social solidarity

Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation sought to explain how the "liberal creed" contributed to the catastrophes of war and depression associated with the first half of the twentieth century. Polanyi's central argument, which in fact can be traced back to Adam Smith, is that markets do indeed promote efficiency and change, but that they achieve this through undermining social coherence and solidarity. Markets must therefore be embedded within social institutions that mitigate their negative consequences.

The evidence of more recent times suggests that the global spread of free-market policies has been accompanied by the decline of countervailing institutions of social solidarity. Indeed, a main feature of the introduction of market-friendly policies has been to weaken local institutions of social solidarity. Consider, for example, the top-down policy prescriptions of the IMF and World Bank during the developing world's debt crisis in the 1980s. These policies evolved into an intricate web of expected behaviors by developing countries. In order for developing countries to expect private businesses and financial interests to invest funds within their borders and to boost the growth potential of domestic economies, they needed to drop the "outdated and inefficient" policies that dominated development strategies for most of the postwar period and adopt in their place policies that are designed to encourage foreign trade and freer financial markets. Without significant adjustments in the ways economies were managed, it was suggested, nations soon would be left behind.

The list of Washington Consensus requirements was long and daunting:

In a provocative article, Ute Pieper and Lance Taylor point out that market outcomes often conflict with other valuable social institutions. In addition, they emphasize that markets function effectively only when they are "embedded" in society. The authors then look carefully at the experience of a number of developing countries as they struggled to comply with the policy prescriptions of the IMF and the Fund. In almost every case, they demonstrate conclusively that the impact of these efforts was to make society an "adjunct to the market."26

An appropriate balance is not being struck between the economic and non-economic aspirations of human beings and their communities. Indeed, the evidence is mounting that globalization's trajectory can easily lead to social disintegration - to the splitting apart of nations along lines of economic status, mobility, region, or social norms. Globalization not only highlights and exacerbates tensions among groups; it also reduces the willingness of internationally mobile groups to cooperate with others in resolving disagreements and conflicts.


Policy options

History confirms that free-markets are inherently volatile institutions, prone to speculative booms and busts. Overshooting, especially in financial markets, is their normal condition. To work well, free markets need not only regulation, but active management. During the first half of the post-war era, world markets were kept reasonably stable by national governments and by a regime of international cooperation. Only lately has a much earlier idea been revived and made an orthodoxy - the idea adopted by the Washington Consensus that, provided there are clear and well-enforced rules-of-the-game, free markets can be self-regulating because they embody the rational expectations that participants form about the future.

On the contrary, since markets are themselves shaped by human expectations, their behavior cannot be rationally predicted. The forces that drive markets are not mechanical processes of cause and effect, as assumed in most of economic theory. They are what George Soros has termed "reflexive interactions."27 Because markets are governed by highly combustible interactions among beliefs, they cannot be self-regulating.

The question before us then, is what could be done to better regulate financial markets and to bring active management back into the task of "embedding" markets in society, rather than the other way around? Monetary authorities such as the Federal Reserve System in the U.S. and the central banks of other countries were formed long ago in order to dampen the inherent instabilities of financial market in their home countries. But the evolution of an international regulatory framework has not kept pace with the globalization of financial markets. The International Monetary Fund was not designed to cope with the volume and instability of recent financial trends.

Capital controls

Given the problems outlined above about short-term speculative financial transactions, one might wonder why national policy-makers have not insulated their financial markets by imposing some sort of control over financial capital. The answer, of course, is that some have continued trying to do so despite discouragement from the IMF. For example, some have put limitations on the quantity, conditions, or destinations of financial flows. Others have tried to impose a tax on short-term borrowing by national firms from foreign banks. This is said to be "market-based" because it operates by altering the cost of foreign funds. If such transactions were absolutely prohibited, they would be called "non-market" interventions.

A more extreme form of financial capital controls, one that controls movement of foreign exchange across international borders, also has been tried in a number of countries. This form of control requires that some if not all foreign currency inflows be surrendered to the central bank or a government agency, often at a fixed price that differs from that which would be set in free market. The receiving agency then determines the uses of foreign exchange. The absence of exchange controls means that currencies are "convertible."

The neo-liberal argument opposing financial capital controls asserts that their removal will enhance economic efficiency and reduce corruption. It is based on two basic propositions in economic theory that depend for their proof on perfectly competitive markets in the real economy and perfectly efficient gatherers and transmitters of information in financial markets. Neither assumption is realistic in today's world. Indeed, a number of empirical studies have reported the effectiveness of capital controls in controlling capital flight, curbing volatile capital flows and protecting the domestic economy from negative external developments.

Developing countries have only recently abandoned, or still maintain, a variety of control regimes. Latin American countries traditionally have used market-based controls, putting taxes and surcharges on selected financial capital movements or tying them up in escrow accounts. Non-market based restrictions were more common in Asia until the early 1990s. Many commentators believe that their sudden removal in the early 1990s was a contributing cause to the Asian financial crises in 1997-8. The experience of two countries, Malaysia and Chile, with capital controls is especially instructive.

Malaysia, unlike its Asian neighbors, was reluctant to remove its restrictions on external borrowing by national firms unless they could show how they could earn enough foreign exchange to service their debts. Then when the Asian crises hit, its government imposed exchange controls, in effect making its local currency that was held outside the country inconvertible into foreign exchange. After the ringget was devalued, exporters were required to surrender foreign currency earnings to the central bank in exchange for local currency at the new pegged rate. The government also limited the amount of cash nationals could take abroad, and it prohibited the repatriation of earnings on foreign investments that had been held for less than one year. Thus, Malaysia's capital controls were focused mostly on controlling the outflow of short-term financial transactions. Happily, the authorities were able to stabilize the currency and reduce interest rates, leading to a degree of domestic recovery.28

Chile, on the other hand, tried to limit the inflow of short-term financial transactions. It did so by imposing a costly reserve requirement on foreign-owned capital held in the country for less than one year. Despite attempts to stimulate foreign direct investment of the funds, most of the reserve deposits were absorbed in the form of increased reserves at the central bank. In turn, this created a potential for expanding the money supply, which the government feared would lead to inflation. Rather than allow this to happen, the government "sterilized" the inflows by selling government bonds from its portfolio. But this pushed down the prices of bonds and pushed up the interest rates on them, discouraging business investment. Finally, when prices of copper (Chile's primary export) fell sharply in 1998, the control regime was scrapped.29

The tobin tax

A global tax on international currency movements was first proposed by James Tobin, a Yale University economist, in 1972.30 He suggested that a tax of one-quarter to one percent be levied on the value of all currency transactions that cross national borders. He reasoned that such a tax on all spot transactions would fall most heavily on transactions that involve very short round-trips across borders. In other words, it would be speculators with very short time-horizons that the tax would deter, rather than longer-term investors who can amortize the costs of the tax over many years. For example, the yearly cost of a 0.2 percent round trip tax would amount to 48 percent of the value of the traded amount if the round trip were daily, 10 percent if weekly and 2.4 percent if monthly. Since at least eighty percent of spot transactions in the foreign exchange markets are reversed in seven business days or less, the tax could have a profound effect on the costs of short-term speculators.

Of course, for those who believe in the efficiency of markets and the rationality of expectations, a transactions tax would only hinder market efficiency. They argue that speculative sales and purchases of foreign exchange are mostly the result of "wrong" national monetary and fiscal policies. While we readily admit that national policies sometimes do not accord with desired objectives, they nonetheless have little relevance for speculators focused on the next few seconds, minutes or hours.

Tobin did not intend for his proposal to involve a supranational taxation authority. Rather, governments would levy the tax nationally. In order to make the tax rate uniform across countries, however, an international agreement would have to be entered into by at least the principal financial centers. The revenue obtained from the tax could be designated for each country's foreign exchange reserve for use during periods of instability, or it could be directed into a common global fund for uses like aid to the poorest nations. In the latter case, the feasibility of the tax also would depend on an international political agreement. The revenue potential is sizeable, and could run as high as $500 billion annually.

There are two other advantages often cited by proponents of the Tobin tax. Tobin's original rationale for a foreign exchange transactions tax was to enhance policy autonomy in a world of high financial capital mobility. He argued that currency fluctuations often have very significant economic and political costs, especially for producers and consumers of traded goods. A Tobin tax, by breaking the condition that domestic interest rates may differ from foreign interest rates only to the extent that the exchange rate is expected to change (see p. 10), would allow authorities to pursue different policies than those prevailing abroad without exposing them to large exchange rate movements. More recent research suggests that this is only a very modest advantage.31

An additional advantage of the tax is that it could facilitate the monitoring of international financial flows. The world needs a centralized data-base on all kinds of financial flows. Neither the Bank for International Settlements nor the IMF has succeeded in providing enough information to monitor them all. This information should be regularly shared among countries and international institutions in order to collectively respond to emerging issues.

The feasibility issues raised by the Tobin tax are more political than technical. One of the issues is about the likelihood of evasion. All taxes suffer some evasion, but that has rarely been a reason for avoiding them. Ideally all jurisdictions should be a party to any agreement about a common transactions tax, since the temptation to trade through non-participating jurisdictions would be high. Failing that, one could levy a penalty on transactions with "Tobin tax havens" of, say, double the normal tax rate. Moreover, one could limit the problem of substituting untaxed assets for taxed assets by applying the tax to forwards, swaps and possibly other contracts.

Tobin and many others have assumed that the task of managing the tax should be assigned to the IMF. Others argue that the design of the tax is incompatible with the structure of the IMF and that the tax should be managed by a new supranational body. Which view will prevail depends upon the resolution of other outstanding issues. The Tobin tax is an idea that deserves careful consideration. It should not be dismissed as too idealistic or too impractical. It addresses with precision the problems of excessive instability in the foreign exchange markets, and it yields the additional advantage of providing a means to assist those in greater need.

Reforming the IMF

The IMF was established in 1944 to provide temporary financing for member governments to help them maintain pegged exchange rates during a period of internal adjustment. With the collapse of the pegged exchange rate regime in 1971, that responsibility has been eclipsed by its role as central arbiter of financial crises in developing countries. As noted above (p. 20), these crises may be of three different kinds: fiscal crises, foreign exchange crises, and banking crises.

Under current institutional arrangements, a nation suffering a serious fiscal crisis that could easily lead to default must seek temporary relief from its debts from three different (but interrelated) institutions: the IMF, which is sometimes willing to renegotiate loans in return for promises to adopt more stringent policies (see above); the so-called Paris Club that sometimes grants relief on bilateral (country to country) credits; and the London Club that sometimes gives relief on bank credits. This is an extremely cumbersome process that fails to provide debtor countries with standstill protection from creditors, with adequate working capital while debts are being renegotiated, or with ways to ensure an expeditious overall settlement. The existing process often takes several years to complete.

There is a growing consensus that this problem is best resolved with creation of a new international legal framework that provides for de facto sovereign bankruptcy. This could take the form of an International Bankruptcy Code with an international bankruptcy court, or it could involve a less formal functional equivalent to its mechanisms: automatic standstills, priority lending, and comprehensive reorganization plans supported by rules that do not require unanimous consent. Jeffrey Sachs recommends, for example, that the IMF issue a clear statement of operating principles covering all stages of a debtor's progression through "bankruptcy" to solvency. A new system of emergency priority lending from private capital markets could be developed, he suggests, under IMF supervision. He also feels that the IMF and member governments should develop model covenants for inclusion in future sovereign lending instruments that allow for priority lending and speedy renegotiation of debt claims.32

At the Joint Meeting of the IMF and the World Bank in September, 2002, the policy committee directed the IMF staff to develop by April, 2003, a "concrete proposal" for establishing an internationally recognized legal process for restructuring the debts of governments in default. It also endorsed efforts to include "collective action" clauses in future government bond issues to prevent one or two holdout creditors from blocking a debt-restructuring plan approved by a majority of creditors. The objective of both proposals is to resolve future debt crises quickly and before they threaten to destabilize large regions, as happened in Southeast Asia in 1997-98.

Member countries rarely receive support from the IMF any longer to maintain a particular nominal exchange rate. Because financial capital is so mobile now, pegged exchange rates probably are unsupportable. But there are special times when the IMF still might give such support during a foreign exchange crisis. International lending to support a given exchange rate is legitimate if the government is trying to establish confidence in a new national currency, or if its currency is recovering from a severe bout of hyperinflation. Ordinarily the foreign exchange should be provided from an international stabilization fund supervised by the IMF.

National central banks usually supervise and regulate the domestic banking sector. Thus, banking crises normally are handled by domestic institutions. This may not be possible, however, if the nation's banks hold large short-term liabilities denominated in foreign currencies. If the nation's central bank has insufficient reserves of foreign currencies to fund a large outflow of foreign currencies, there may be circumstances when the IMF or other lenders may wish to act as lenders-of-last-resort to a central bank under siege. Nations like Argentina that have engaged in "dollarization" are learning about the downside risks of holding large liabilities denominated in foreign currencies. The best way to avoid this problem is for governments and central banks to restrict the use of foreign currency deposits or other kinds of short-term foreign liabilities at domestic banks.

Overall, what is most needed is the availability of more capital in developing countries and much quicker responses, amply funded, to emerging financial crises.. George Soros has argued powerfully that the IMF needs to establish a better balance between crisis prevention and intervention.33 The IMF has made some progress in prevention by introducing Contingency Credit Lines (CCLs). The CCL rewards countries that follow sound policies by giving them access to IMF credit lines before rather than after a crisis erupts. But CCL terms were set too high and there have been no takers. Soros also has recommended the issuance of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) that developed-countries would donate for the purpose of providing international assistance. Its proceeds would be used to finance "the provision of public goods on a global scale as well as to foster economic, social, and political progress in individual countries."34

A growing number of civil society institutions, however, oppose giving more money to the IMF unless it is basically reformed. They point out that it is a committed part of the Washington Consensus, the application of whose policies have made societies adjuncts of the market. They see the IMF as an instrument of the U.S. government and its corporate allies. The conditions it attaches to loans for troubled countries often do more to protect the interests of first world investors than to promote the long-term health of the developing countries. The needed chastening of speculative investors does not occur under these circumstances. There is evidence that in several major crises, IMF requirements for assisting nations have in fact worsened the situation and protracted the crises. The IMF opposed the policies that enabled Malaysia to weather the crisis in Southeast Asia, for example, while it urged the failed policies of other Southeast Asian nations. The vast literature cited by Pieper and Taylor (p. 22) is a convincing chronicle of earlier missteps. For such reasons as these, some civil society institutions argue that, unless IMF policies are changed, giving the institution more money will do more harm than good.

Fortunately, the IMF's policies are beginning to change, partly as a result of criticisms by civil society institutions, but more through recognition of the seriousness of the problems with the present system. In the wake of recent financial crises, leaders in the IMF as well as the World Bank are looking for ways to reform the international financial architecture. Arguably, their emphasis is shifting away from slavish devotion to the prescriptions of the Washington Consensus and toward more state intervention in financial markets. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Laureate who has been particularly critical of the IMF, nonetheless acknowledges that its policy stances are improving.35

The IMF has begun to recognize the importance of at least functional public interventions in markets and the need to provide more supporting revenues. It has realized that controls on external financial movements and prudent regulation can help contain financial crises. It has abandoned the doctrine, long the backbone of structural adjustment policies, that raising the local interest rate will stimulate saving and thereby growth. Both the IMF and the World Bank have rolled over or forgiven the bulk of official debt owed by the poorest economies.

Whether these and other promising changes in IMF thinking and policy formation are sufficient to assure that its future responses to crises will be benign still is not clear. While celebrating what they view as belated improvements, many critics of the IMF among civil society institutions are not convinced that they are sufficiently basic. Even if the IMF avoids repeating some of its more egregious mistakes, some believe that it is likely to continue to function chiefly for the benefit of the international financial community rather than the masses of people. Rather, they believe that, at least in the long term, it would be much better for control over international finance to reside in new institutions under a restructured United Nations. They favor the U.N. because it has a broader mandate, is more open and democratic, and, in its practice, has given much greater weight to human, social, and environmental priorities.

Many civil society institutions want the primary focus of reform to be on taming speculation, restoring the control of their economies to nations, and embedding economies in the wider society. They believe that if these policies are adopted there will be less need for large funding to deal with financial crises. There remains, however, the fact that such crises are occurring and will continue to occur for some time. The IMF is the only institution positioned to respond to these crises. Hence, even for those who sympathize with the goals of the civil society institutions, there is a strong argument for more financing for the IMF.

A world financial authority

A variety of public and private citizens and institutions have recently proposed the establishment of a World Financial Authority (WFA) to perform in the domain of world financial markets what national regulators do in domestic markets. Some believe it should be built upon the foundation of global financial surveillance and regulation that have already been laid by the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. Others regard it as a natural extension of the activities of the IMF. Still others are less interested in the precise institutional form it would take than in the clear delineation of the tasks that need to be done by someone.

Its first task probably should be to provide sufficient and timely financial assistance during crises to avert contagion and defaults. This requires a lender-of-last-resort with sufficient resources and authority to disperse rescue money quickly. Perhaps the best example to date is the bailout loan to Mexico by the U.S. Treasury and the IMF at the end of 1994. It supplied sufficient liquidity for Mexico to make the transition back to stability and to pay back the loans ahead of time. The management of the Asian crises in 1997-8, on the other hand, was badly handled. The bailout packages offered by the IMF were not only significantly smaller than in the Mexico case; they also were constrained with so many conditions that a year later only twenty percent of the funds had been disbursed. This slow response to the crisis probably worsened the contagion. Surprisingly, the error was repeated in the Russian crisis in 1998 and the Brazilian crisis in 1999.

A World Financial Authority also should provide the necessary regulatory framework within which the IMF or a successor institution can develop as a lender-of-last-resort. As long as domestic regulatory procedures function properly, there will be no need for a world authority to be involved, any more than to certify that domestic regulatory procedures are effective. In countries where domestic financial regulation is unsatisfactory, the WFA would assist with regulatory reform. In this way, the WFA could aid financial reconstruction, reduce the likelihood of moral hazard, and give confidence to backers of the operation.

There is little appetite today, especially in Washington, to create a new international bureaucracy. This fact gives support to the idea of building the WFA from the existing infrastructure of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). The BIS is a meeting place for national central bankers who have constructed an increasingly complicated set of norms, rules and decision-making procedures for handling and preventing future crises. Its committees and cooperative cross-border regulatory framework enjoy the confidence of governments and of the financial community. It may well be the best place to govern an international regulatory authority at the present time.


Theological and ethical considerations

While Christian theology cannot provide us with detailed recommendations on how to correct the adverse consequences of speculative financial movements, it can provide us with an empowering perspective or worldview. Our theological expressions of the faith describe the source of our spiritual energy and hope. They betray our ultimate values and the source of our ethical norms. They shape how we perceive and judge the "signs of the times."

God's world and human responsibilities

Nothing in creation is independent of God. "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and all those who live in it." (Ps. 24:1 NRSV) Thus, no part of the creation - whether human beings, other species, the elements of soil and water, even human-made things - is our property to use as we wish. All is to be treated in accord with the values and ground rules of a loving God, their ultimate owner, who is concerned for the good of the whole creation. All of God's creation therefore deserves to be treated with appropriate care and concern, no matter how remote from one's daily consciousness or existence.

The doctrine of creation reminds us that our ultimate allegiance is not to the nationalistic and human-centered values of our culture, but rather to the values of the loving Maker of heaven and earth. When we seek plenty obsessively, consume goods excessively, compete against others compulsively, or commit ourselves to Economic Fate, we are worshiping false gods. Modern idolatries are often encountered in economic forms, just as in the New Testament's warnings about the spiritual perils of prosperity in the parables of the rich, hoarding fool (Luke 12:15-21) and the rich youth (Matt. 19:16-24 and Luke 18:18-25).

The fact that so much of financial speculation is divorced from the real economy of production and exchange suggests that its paper transactions are more like bets in a casino than an essential component of God's real economy, which seeks the good of all creation. It is wrong to subject people to the effects of wholesale gambling. The fact that the practice of financial speculation is secretive, compulsively competitive, and frequented by lone rangers, moreover, hints at a cult of false idols. Its practitioners, including especially day-traders, seem interested only in exceedingly short-term personal financial advantage, unconcerned about the long-term consequences of their actions or their impact on others. This also indicates a degree of idolatry that contradicts the doctrine of creation.

Image of God

The conviction that human beings have a God-given dignity and worth (Gen. 1:26-28) unites humanity in a universal covenant of rights and responsibilities - the family of God. All humans are entitled to the essential conditions for expressing their human dignity and for participation in defining and shaping the common good. These rights include satisfaction of basic biophysical needs, environmental safety, full participation in political and economic life, and the assurance of fair treatment and equal protection of the laws. These rights define our responsibilities in justice to one another, locally, nationally and - because they are human rights - internationally.

Financial speculation often leads to unmanageable floods of funds into and out of host societies, creating unwanted bubbles and panics. Financial speculators normally ignore the human consequences of their activities on the rights of people in host societies, where economic adjustments are shared widely and painfully. Their primary interest is short-term personal financial gain. The absence of a sense of covenantal unity with their brothers and sisters of the developing world is a sad commentary on the governing ethic of speculators in the capital markets. Their arrogance calls for some form of control over foreign exchange and financial capital markets.

Justice in covenant

The rights and responsibilities associated with the image of God are inextricably tied to the stress on justice in Scripture and tradition. We render to others their due because of our loving respect for their God-given dignity and value. The God portrayed in Scripture is the "lover of justice" (Ps. 99:4, 33:5, 37:28, 11:7; Isa. 30:18, 61:8; Jer. 9:24). Justice is at the ethical core of the biblical message. Faithfulness to covenant relationships, moreover, demands a justice that recognizes special obligations, "a preferential option" to widows, orphans, the poor, and aliens, which is to say the economically vulnerable and politically oppressed. Hence, the idea of the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25) was meant to prevent unjust concentrations of power and poverty. Jesus' ministry embodies concern for the rights and needs of the poor; He befriended and defended the dispossessed and the outcasts.

The fact that the liberalization of trade and finance has failed to improve the distribution of incomes, indeed, that it has widened the gap between rich and poor in virtually every country, is not a sign of distributive justice but of its opposite. The standard of living for the least skilled, least mobile, and poorest citizens of many developing countries has declined absolutely. This, too, is an unjust result of a broken system. The fact that governments that wish to assist the vulnerable and weak of their societies are less able to do so, in part because they no longer can levy sufficient taxes on foreign interests, is a violation of justice in community.

Sin and judgment

Sin is a declaration of autonomy from God, a rebellion against the sovereign source of our being. It makes the self and its values the center of one's existence, in defiance of God's care for all. Sin tempts us to value things over people, measuring our worth by the size of our wealth and the quantity of goods we consume, rather than by the quality of our relationships with God and with others. Sin involves injustice because its self-centeredness defies God's covenant of justice, grasping more than one's due and depriving others of their due.

Sin is manifested not only in individuals, but also in social institutions and cultural patterns. These structural injustices are culturally acceptable ways of giving some individuals and groups of people advantage over others. Because they are pervasive and generally invisible, they compel our participation. They benefit some and harm many others. Whether or not we deserve blame as individuals and churches for these social sins depends in part on whether we defend or resist them, tolerate or reject them.

The fact that the freeing of financial markets has permitted financial speculators to engage in high-risk gambles without regard to the consequences for others is abundant evidence of both individual and institutional sin. The policies of the Washington Consensus frequently lead to adverse consequences for the poor and the environment, even as its proponents gain advantages from the implementation of such policies. They are another serious expression of social sin in our time. These policies inevitably increase the concentration of economic power in fewer hands. The fact that the global spread of free-market policies has led to the decline of countervailing institutions of

social solidarity means that it is easier for the centers of economic power to corrupt governments, control markets, alienate neighbors, manipulate public opinion, and contribute to a sense of political impotency in the public.

The Church's mission and hope

The church is called to be an effective expression of the Reign of God, which Jesus embodied and proclaimed. This ultimate hope is a judgment on our deficiencies

and a challenge to faithful service. God's goal of a just and reconciled world is not simply our final destiny but an agenda for our earthly responsibilities. We are called to be a sign of the Reign of God, on earth as it is in heaven, to reflect the coming consummation of God's new covenant of shalom to the fullest extent possible.


A new financial architecture

In her path-breaking book, Casino Capitalism,36 Susan Strange likens the Western financial system to a vast casino. As in a casino,

"the world of high finance today offers the players a choice of games. Instead of roulette, blackjack, or poker, there is dealing to be done - the foreign-exchange market and all its variations; or in bonds, government securities or shares. In all these markets you may place bets on the future by dealing forward and by buying or selling options and all sorts of other recondite financial inventions. Some of the players - banks especially - play with very large stakes. There are also many quite small operators. There are tipsters, too, selling advice, and peddlers of systems to the gullible. And the croupiers in this global finance casino are the big bankers and brokers. They play, as it were, "for the house.' It is they, in the long run, who make the best living."

She goes on to observe that the big difference between ordinary kinds of gambling and speculation in financial markets is that one can choose not to gamble at roulette or poker, whereas everyone is affected by "casino capitalism." What goes on in the back offices of banks and hedge funds "is apt to have sudden, unpredictable and unavoidable consequences for individual lives."

It is this volatility, this instability in financial markets that has given rise to recurring financial crises. They must be tamed. In the wake of recent financial crises, people are beginning to look for ways to reform the international financial architecture. Although it is difficult to move from general theological convictions to specific proposals, we offer the following suggestions for consideration by Christians and other persons of good will.

Of these recommendations, perhaps the most controversial is that more funds be given to the IMF. We noted above that much of the criticism of the IMF is justified. We also acknowledged that the IMF is improving its policies. We hope that these improvements will continue. Meanwhile, there is no other viable candidate to serve as lender-of-last-resort - an absolutely essential feature of any new financial architecture.

The major reason some civil society institutions resist funding the IMF further is its history of misguided structural adjustment policies, policies that are now widely recognized to have caused widespread suffering. We hope that recent changes will improve this situation as well and enable the IMF to perform the important role we recommend for it.

Along with the World Bank, it is beginning to contextualize its performance criteria and conditionalities, taking much more seriously the unique circumstances of particular economies. It is listening more and nitpicking less. To be sure, the IMF is not likely to abandon its policy of making its loans conditional on the adoption by borrowing countries of mutually agreed economic policies. Even so, there is considerable evidence that when it has had more resources on hand, conditionality has been correspondingly wiser and less draconian.

The IMF now recognizes that it can leave more decisions to developing countries partly because these have better informed and more sophisticated employees than was once the case. Certainly in Latin America and Asia and increasingly in Africa, country economic teams are better qualified technically than the lower rung Ph.D.s from American and European universities to whom the IMF and World Bank entrust their missions. Local economists can do financial programming and standard macroeconomic modeling as well as or better than the people from Washington can; they also know how to do investment project analysis. To be sure, decisions about financial and project plans must include input from many other elements of a society.

We can encourage the IMF (and World Bank) to reverse the typical procedure in setting conditions for multilateral loans. Instead of waiting for it to specify the policies that must be followed to justify additional financing, country economic teams, in consultation with other agencies of their government, should be allowed to propose economic programs to the IMF. Disagreements between Washington staff assessments and the local teams could be resolved directly or by third-party arbitration. The scope of economic conditionality could also be restricted, for example, just to a balance-of-payments target, while the country could pursue its own agenda regarding inflation, income distribution, and growth.


What Christians can do

A primary part of the "principalities and powers" referred to in the Bible is composed of the political-economic institutions and processes that govern how people relate economically to each other and to God's whole creation. The church has a stake in their design. Yet many church members feel powerless to change basic political-economic reality. They think either that the economic conditions of society result "naturally" from the forces of markets that are only marginally within the power of human control, or that economic conditions result from powerful interests that are beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. Thus, there's nothing that can be done about it, or there's nothing we can do about it.

On the contrary, Mobilization for the Human Family believes that the political economy is shaped by deliberate social policy decisions; that conditions at any given time are the result of those decisions; that conditions can be changed by human decisions; and that the will of a nation's and the world's citizens about what the commitments and purposes of the nation and the world should be can be expressed in the political economy through the framework of democratic process provided in our national and transnational polity. Accordingly, we offer below some suggestions for action that may be taken by individual Christians and by our churches and their denominations to correct some correctable flaws of financial globalization.

Actions by individual Christian

Actions by churches and denominations


Want to know more?

Globalization is a vast topic. For a general introduction, see Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh, Field Guide to the Global Economy (New York: New Press, 2000) and Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999). A classic introduction to the financial side of globalization is Susan Strange, Casino Capitalism, (New York: Mnchester University Press, 1986). See also Kavaljit Singh, The Globalisation of Finance: A Citizen's Guide (London: Zed Books, 1999) and John Eatwell and Lance Taylor, Global Finance at Risk: The Case for International Regulation (New York: The New Press, 2000). The best introduction to the Tobin Tax is Mahbub ul Haq et al (eds), The Tobin Tax: Coping with Financial Volatility (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). For how church people might react, see Pamela Brubaker, Globalization at What Price? (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2001).


Questions For Discussion

  1. How have the linkages and interconnections of international finance impacted your life? On balance, do you regard them as advantages or disadvantages for a healthy Christian life?
  2. The frequency and severity of recent financial crises have fueled calls for a radical redesign of the rules of global finance. If you were the advisor to an international commission asked to design "A New International Financial Architecture," what would you recommend?
  3. Do you favor allowing sovereign nations to declare bankruptcy? What Christian traditions might be invoked to support or deny such an action?
  4. A growing number of civil society institutions oppose giving more money to the IMF. They point out that it is part of the Washington Consensus, the application of whose policies have made societies adjuncts of the market. Yet this paper suggests that the IMF needs more money. As a committed Christian, which view do you favor?
  5. Is it too late to expect justice in a globalizing world? Since much of the direction the global economy has taken is irreversible, how can a balance between market and society be negotiated? How might Christians play a role in those negotiations?

[Dec 05, 2017] Reviews Cowardly capitalism by Daniel Ben-Ami Prospect Magazine December 1998 issue 36

Susan Strange, who died just after the publication of her latest book, was one of the most compelling academic advocates of the view that the global casino is out of control.
Notable quotes:
"... Susan Strange, who died just after the publication of her latest book, was one of the most compelling academic advocates of the view that the global casino is out of control. Although she is not a household name, she played an important role in developing the intellectual framework to support the casino thesis. Her Casino Capitalism (1986) is a Keynesian account of the damage inflicted on the world as a result of financial deregulation which was taken up by many better known writers such as William Greider in the US and Will Hutton in Britain. ..."
"... Mad Money, the sequel to Casino Capitalism, takes into account the impact of information technology and the rise of financial crime. It also places new emphasis on the role of international institutions. For example, she backs George Soros's plan for an international credit insurance corporation as a complement to the IMF. ..."
Dec 01, 1998 | Prospect Magazine

The dominant image of the financial markets is that of a giant casino. Brash young men in red braces, driven by insatiable greed, gamble with huge sums every day. When the bets go wrong the innocent suffer. Reckless financial markets pose an immediate threat to the future prosperity of humanity.

Susan Strange, who died just after the publication of her latest book, was one of the most compelling academic advocates of the view that the global casino is out of control. Although she is not a household name, she played an important role in developing the intellectual framework to support the casino thesis. Her Casino Capitalism (1986) is a Keynesian account of the damage inflicted on the world as a result of financial deregulation which was taken up by many better known writers such as William Greider in the US and Will Hutton in Britain.

With the onset of the Asian financial crisis Strange's account of financial markets has become almost mainstream. Her ideas inform many of the discussions about a "new international financial architecture." Economists who would once have scorned her views now agree with her that deregulation has gone too far and that new forms of regulation are needed. The British government has floated the idea of a world financial authority to regulate global finance.

The IMF, once a bastion of free market economics, has conceded that capital controls may be necessary under some circumstances.

Mad Money, the sequel to Casino Capitalism, takes into account the impact of information technology and the rise of financial crime. It also places new emphasis on the role of international institutions. For example, she backs George Soros's plan for an international credit insurance corporation as a complement to the IMF.

... ... ...

[Dec 05, 2017] Inside Casino Capitalism by Max Holland

Notable quotes:
"... Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco ..."
"... The Wall Street Journal ..."
"... The triumph of gossip over substance is manifest in many other ways. Wall Street's deft manipulation of the business press is barely touched upon, and the laissez-faire ..."
"... Fulminations about the socially corrosive effects of greed aside, the buyout phenomenon may represent one of the biggest changes in the way American business is conducted since the rise of the public corporation, nothing less than a transformation of managerial into financial capitalism. The ferocious market for corporate control that emerged during the 1980s has few parallels in business history, but there are two: the trusts that formed early in this century and the conglomerate mania that swept corporate America during the 1960s. Both waves resulted in large social and economic costs, and there is little assurance that the corporate infatuation with debt will not exact a similarly heavy toll. ..."
"... the high levels of debt associated with buyouts and other forms of corporate restructuring create fragility in business structures and vulnerability to economic cycles ..."
"... Germany and Japan incur higher levels of debt for expansion and investment, whereas equivalent American indebtedness is linked to the recent market for corporate control. That creates a brittle structure, one that threatens to turn the U.S. government into something of an ultimate guarantor if and when things do fall about. It is too easy to construct a scenario in which corporate indebtedness forces the federal government into the business of business. The savings-and-loan bailout is a painfully obvious harbinger of such a development. ..."
"... The many ramifications of the buyout mania deserve thoughtful treatment. Basic issues of corporate governance and accountability ought to be openly debated and resolved if the American economy is to deliver the maximum benefit to society and not just unconscionable rewards to a handful of bankers, all out of proportion to their social productivity. It is disappointing, but a sign of the times, that the best book about the deal of deals fails to educate as well as it entertains. ..."
Washington DeCoded

Inside Casino Capitalism Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
By Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
Harper & Row. 528 pp. $22.95

In 1898, Adolphus Green, chairman of the National Biscuit Company, found himself faced with the task of choosing a trademark for his newly formed baking concern. Green was a progressive businessman. He refused to employ child labor, even though it was then a common practice, and he offered his bakery employees the option to buy stock at a discount. Green therefore thought that his trademark should symbolize Nabisco's fundamental business values, "not merely to make dividends for the stockholders of his company, but to enhance the general prosperity and the moral sentiment of the United States." Eventually he decided that a cross with two bars and an oval – a medieval symbol representing the triumph of the moral and spiritual over the base and material – should grace the package of every Nabisco product.

If they had wracked their brains for months, Bryan Burrough and John Helyar could not have come up with a more ironic metaphor for their book. The fall of Nabisco, and its corporate partner R.J. Reynolds, is nothing less than the exact opposite of Green's business credo, a compelling tale of corporate and Wall Street greed featuring RJR Nabisco officers who first steal shareholders blind and then justify their epic displays of avarice by claiming to maximize shareholder value.

The event which made the RJR Nabisco story worth telling was the 1988 leveraged buyout (LBO) of the mammoth tobacco and food conglomerate, then the 19th-largest industrial corporation in America. Battles for corporate control were common during the loosely regulated 1980s, and the LBO was just one method for capturing the equity of a corporation. (In a typical LBO, a small group of top management and investment bankers put 10 percent down and finance the rest of their purchase through high-interest loans or bonds. If the leveraged, privately-owned corporation survives, the investors, which they can re-sell public shares, reach the so-called "pot of gold"; but if the corporation cannot service its debt, everything is at risk, because the collateral is the corporation itself.

The sheer size of RJR Nabisco and the furious bidding war that erupted guaranteed unusual public scrutiny of this particular piece of financial engineering. F. Ross Johnson, the conglomerate's flamboyant, free-spending CEO (RJR had its own corporate airline), put his own company into play with a $75-a-share bid in October. Experienced buyout artists on Wall Street, however, immediately realized that Johnson was trying to play two incompatible games. LBOs typically put corporations such as RJR Nabisco through a ringer in order to pay the mammoth debt incurred after a buyout. But Johnson, desiring to keep corporate perquisites intact, "low-balled" his offer. Other buyout investors stepped forward with competing bids, and after a six-week-long auction the buyout boutique of Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Company (KKR) emerged on top with a $109-a-share bid. The $25-billion buyout took its place as one of the defining business events of the 1980s

Burrough and Helyar, who covered the story for The Wall Street Journal, supply a breezy, colorful, blow-by-blow account of the "deal from hell" (as one businessman characterized a leveraged buyout). The language of Wall Street, full of incongruous "Rambo" jargon from the Vietnam War, is itself arresting. Buyout artists, who presumably never came within 10,000 miles of wartime Saigon, talk about "napalming" corporate perquisites or liken their strategy to "charging through the rice paddies, not stopping for anything and taking no prisoners."

At the time, F. Ross Johnson was widely pilloried in the press as the embodiment of excess; his conflict of interest was obvious. Yet Burrough and Helyar show that Johnson, for all his free-spending ways, was way over his head in the major leagues of greed, otherwise known as Wall Street in the 1980s. What, after all, is more rapacious: the roughly $100 million Johnson stood to gain if his deal worked out over five years, or the $45 million in expenses KKR demanded for waiting 60 minutes while Ross Johnson prepared a final competing bid?

Barbarians is, in the parlance of the publishing world, a good read. At the same time, unfortunately, a disclaimer issued by the authors proves only too true. Anyone looking for a definitive judgment of LBOs will be disappointed. Burrough and Helyar do at least ask the pertinent question: What does all this activity have to do with building and sustaining a business? But authors should not only pose questions; they should answer them, or at least try.

Admittedly, the single most important answer to the RJR puzzle could not be provided by Burrough and Helyar because it is not yet known. The major test of any financial engineering is its effect on the long-term vitality of the leveraged corporation, as measured by such key indicators as market share (and not just whether the corporation survives its debt, as the authors imply). However, a highly-leveraged RJR Nabisco is already selling off numerous profitable parts of its business because they are no longer a "strategic fit": Wall Street code signifying a need for cash in order to service debts and avoid bankruptcy.

If the authors were unable to predict the ultimate outcome, they still had a rare opportunity to explain how and why an LBO is engineered. Unfortunately, their fixation on re-creating events and dialogue – which admittedly produces a fast-moving book – forced them to accept the issues as defined by the participants themselves. There is no other way to explain the book's uncritical stance. When, for example, the RJR Nabisco board of directors tried to decide which bid to accept, Burrough and Helyar report that several directors sided with KKR's offer because the LBO boutique "knew the value of keeping [employees] happy." It is impossible to tell from the book whether the directors knew this to be true or took KKR's word. Even a cursory investigation would have revealed that KKR is notorious for showing no concern for employees below senior management after a leveraged buyout.

The triumph of gossip over substance is manifest in many other ways. Wall Street's deft manipulation of the business press is barely touched upon, and the laissez-faire environment procured by buyout artists via their political contributions is scarcely mentioned, crucial though it is. Nowhere are the authors' priorities more obvious than in the number of words devoted to Henry Kravis's conspicuous consumption compared to those devoted to the details of the RJR deal. In testimony before Congress last year, no less an authority than Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady – himself an old Wall Street hand – noted that the substitution of tax-deductible debt for taxable income is "the mill in which the grist of takeover premiums is ground."

In the case of RJR Nabisco, 81 percent of the $9.9 billion premium paid to shareholders was derived from tax breaks achievable after the buyout. This singularly important fact cannot be found in the book, however; nor will a reader learn that after the buyout the U.S. Treasury was obligated to refund RJR as much as $1 billion because of its post-buyout debt burden. In Barbarians, more time is spent describing Kravis's ostentatious gifts to his fashion-designer wife than to the tax considerations that make or break these deals.

Fulminations about the socially corrosive effects of greed aside, the buyout phenomenon may represent one of the biggest changes in the way American business is conducted since the rise of the public corporation, nothing less than a transformation of managerial into financial capitalism. The ferocious market for corporate control that emerged during the 1980s has few parallels in business history, but there are two: the trusts that formed early in this century and the conglomerate mania that swept corporate America during the 1960s. Both waves resulted in large social and economic costs, and there is little assurance that the corporate infatuation with debt will not exact a similarly heavy toll.

As the economist Henry Kaufman has written, the high levels of debt associated with buyouts and other forms of corporate restructuring create fragility in business structures and vulnerability to economic cycles. Inexorably, the shift away from equity invites the close, even intrusive involvement of institutional investors (banks, pension funds, and insurance companies) that provide the financing. Superficially, this moves America closer to the system that prevails in Germany and Japan, where historically the relationship between the suppliers and users of capital is close. But Germany and Japan incur higher levels of debt for expansion and investment, whereas equivalent American indebtedness is linked to the recent market for corporate control. That creates a brittle structure, one that threatens to turn the U.S. government into something of an ultimate guarantor if and when things do fall about. It is too easy to construct a scenario in which corporate indebtedness forces the federal government into the business of business. The savings-and-loan bailout is a painfully obvious harbinger of such a development.

The many ramifications of the buyout mania deserve thoughtful treatment. Basic issues of corporate governance and accountability ought to be openly debated and resolved if the American economy is to deliver the maximum benefit to society and not just unconscionable rewards to a handful of bankers, all out of proportion to their social productivity. It is disappointing, but a sign of the times, that the best book about the deal of deals fails to educate as well as it entertains.

[Dec 04, 2017] The Phillips Curve, Again

Dec 04, 2017 | everydayecon.wordpress.com

The Phillips Curve is back. In saying so, I do not mean to imply that being "back" refers to a sudden reappearance of a stable empirical relationship between unemployment (or the output gap) and inflation. The Phillips Curve is back in the same way that conspiracy theories about the assassination of JFK are back after the recent release of government documents. In other words, the Phillips Curve is something that people desperately want to believe in, despite the lack of evidence.

The Phillips Curve is all the rage among central bankers. Since the Federal Reserve embarked on quantitative easing, they have been ensuring the public that QE would not be inflationary because of the slack in the economy. Until labor market conditions tighten, there would be little threat of inflation. Then, as the labor market tightened, the Federal Reserve warned that they might have to start raising interest rates to prevent these tightening conditions from creating inflation.

What is remarkable about this period is that the Federal Reserve has undershot its target rate of inflation throughout this entire period -- and continues to do so today. So what does this tell us about the Phillips Curve and what can we learn about monetary policy?

If one looks at the data on unemployment and inflation (or even the output gap and inflation), you could more easily draw Orion the Hunter as you could a stable Phillips Curve. Fear not, sophisticated advocates of the Phillips Curve will say. This is simply the Lucas Critique at play here. If a Phillips Curve exists, and if the central bank tries to exploit it, then it will not be evident in the data. In fact, if you take a really basic 3-equation-version of the New Keynesian model, there is a New Keynesian Phillips Curve in the model. However, when you solve for the equilibrium conditions, you find that inflation is a function of demand shocks, technology shocks, and unexpected changes in interest rates. The output gap doesn't appear in the solution. But fear not, this simply means that monetary policy is working properly. The Phillips Curve is apparently like the observer effect in quantum mechanics in that when we try to observe the Phillips Curve, we change the actual result (this is a joke, please do not leave comments about why I've misunderstood the observer effect).

... ... ...

What all of this means is that even given the fact that the New Keynesian model features an equation that resembles the Phillips curve, this does not imply that there is some predictive power that comes from thinking about this equation in isolation. In addition, it certainly does not imply that changes in the output gap cause changes in the rate of inflation. There is no direction of causation implied by this one equilibrium condition.

[Dec 04, 2017] The neoliberal framework in antitrust is based on pecifically its pegging competition to consumer welfare, defined as short-term price effects and as such s unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy

Notable quotes:
"... This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust-specifically its pegging competition to "consumer welfare," defined as short-term price effects-is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon's dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. ..."
"... This Note maps out facets of Amazon's dominance. Doing so enables us to make sense of its business strategy, illuminates anticompetitive aspects of Amazon's structure and conduct, and underscores deficiencies in current doctrine. The Note closes by considering two potential regimes for addressing Amazon's power: restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles or applying common carrier obligations and duties. ..."
Feb 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : February 11, 2017 at 11:43 AM , 2017 at 11:43 AM
http://www.yalelawjournal.org/article/amazons-antitrust-paradox

January, 2017

Amazon's Antitrust Paradox
By Lina M. Khan

Abstract

Amazon is the titan of twenty-first century commerce. In addition to being a retailer, it is now a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a producer of television and films, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space. Although Amazon has clocked staggering growth, it generates meager profits, choosing to price below-cost and expand widely instead. Through this strategy, the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it. Elements of the firm's structure and conduct pose anticompetitive concerns -- yet it has escaped antitrust scrutiny.

This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust-specifically its pegging competition to "consumer welfare," defined as short-term price effects-is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon's dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output.

Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational-even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

This Note maps out facets of Amazon's dominance. Doing so enables us to make sense of its business strategy, illuminates anticompetitive aspects of Amazon's structure and conduct, and underscores deficiencies in current doctrine. The Note closes by considering two potential regimes for addressing Amazon's power: restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles or applying common carrier obligations and duties.

[Dec 03, 2017] Carrying Capacity, Overshoot and Species Extinction by Ron Patterson

Notable quotes:
"... Carrying Capacity : Carrying capacity is a well-known ecological term that has an obvious and fairly intuitive meaning: "the maximum population size of a species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment". Unfortunately, that definition becomes more nebulous the closer you look at it – especially when we start talking about the planetary carrying capacity for humans. Ecologists claim that our numbers have already surpassed the carrying capacity of the planet, while others (notably economists and politicians ) claim we are nowhere near it yet! ..."
"... Overshoot : When a population surpasses its carrying capacity it enters a condition known as overshoot. Because carrying capacity is defined as the maximum population that an environment can maintain indefinitely, overshoot must by definition be temporary. Populations ..."
"... to (or below) the carrying capacity. How long they stay in overshoot depends on how many stored resources there are to support their inflated numbers. Resources may be food, but they may also be any resource that helps maintain their numbers. For ..."
"... one of the primary resources is energy, whether it is tapped as flows (sunlight, wind, biomass) or stocks (coal, oil, gas, uranium etc.). A species usually enters overshoot when it taps a particularly rich but exhaustible stock of a resource. Like oil, for instance ..."
"... The zoomass of wild vertebrates is now vanishingly small compared to the biomass of domestic animals. In 1900 there were some 1.6 billion large domesticated animals, including about 450 million head of cattle and water buffalo (HYDE 2011); a century later the count of large domestic animals had surpassed 4.3 billion, including 1.65 billion head of cattle and water buffalo and 900 million pigs (FAO 2011). Calculations using these head counts and average body weights (they have increased everywhere since 1900, but the differences between larger body masses in North America and Europe and lower weights elsewhere persist) yield estimates of at least 35 Mt C of domesticated zoomass in 1900 (more than three times the total of all wild land mammals) and at least 120 Mt C in the year 2000, a 3.5-fold increase in 100 years (and 25 times the total of wild mammalian zoomass). And cattle zoomass alone is now at least 250 times greater than the zoomass of all surviving African elephants, which in turn is less than 2 percent of the zoomass of Africa's nearly 300 million bovines (Table 2). ..."
"... Carrying Capacity, Overshoot and Species Extinction ..."
"... let go/ get out ..."
"... until which time as I say otherwise ..."
"... until which time as I or you opt out ..."
Dec 03, 2017 | peakoilbarrel.com

11/29/2017 Notice: Please limit your comments below to the subject matter of this post only. There is a petroleum post above this one for all petroleum and natural gas posts and a non-petroleum post below this one for comments on all other matters.

First, let us define carrying capacity and overshoot. And none has done that better than Paul Chefurka .

Carrying Capacity : Carrying capacity is a well-known ecological term that has an obvious and fairly intuitive meaning: "the maximum population size of a species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment". Unfortunately, that definition becomes more nebulous the closer you look at it – especially when we start talking about the planetary carrying capacity for humans. Ecologists claim that our numbers have already surpassed the carrying capacity of the planet, while others (notably economists and politicians ) claim we are nowhere near it yet!

Overshoot : When a population surpasses its carrying capacity it enters a condition known as overshoot. Because carrying capacity is defined as the maximum population that an environment can maintain indefinitely, overshoot must by definition be temporary. Populations always decline to (or below) the carrying capacity. How long they stay in overshoot depends on how many stored resources there are to support their inflated numbers. Resources may be food, but they may also be any resource that helps maintain their numbers. For humans one of the primary resources is energy, whether it is tapped as flows (sunlight, wind, biomass) or stocks (coal, oil, gas, uranium etc.). A species usually enters overshoot when it taps a particularly rich but exhaustible stock of a resource. Like oil, for instance

When we talk about carrying capacity we need to define exactly who or what we are carrying. Are we talking about humans, all animals or what? Well, let's just talk about terrestrial vertebrate biomass.

Okay, Vaclav Smil and Paul Chefurka (and the estimates of most earth biologists) are correct, the long-term carrying capacity of terrestrial vertebrate biomass is a little over 200,000,000 tons. But how do we know that amount is correct? Easily, because that is what it was for millions of years before the advent of agriculture and other things brought about by modern day Homo sapiens.

Plant and animal species all struggle to survive. In doing so they have evolved to fill every available niche on earth. If a plant can grow in an area, any area, it will do so. If an animal can find a habitat in any area on earth, it will do so. At least since the mid-Triassic, about 225 million years ago, plants and animals have occupied every available niche on earth. If any animal overshot its habitat, dieoff would soon correct that situation. So for many millions of years, the terrestrial vertebrate biomass remained at about two hundred million tons, give or take. I say that because climate change, sea levels rising and falling, continental drift would cause the long-term carrying capacity to wax or wane. Also, the estimate is just that, an estimate. It could be slightly higher or lower. But the long-term carrying capacity of the earth always remained at one hundred percent of what it was possible to carry.

Then about 10,000 years ago man invented agriculture. At first, this only enabled a slight increase in population. Soon only plants that produced the most grain, fruit or tuber per plant, or per area of ground, was selected for replanting. Genetic engineering goes back thousands of years.

Then they discovered fertilizer. Animal and human waste could greatly increase plant production. Animals were domesticated and the plow was invented. More food per area of ground could be produced. Then chemical fertilizers were invented and the population floodgates were opened. At first phosphates from bird guano dramatically increased agricultural production but around the middle of the last century nitrate fertilizers from the Haber Bosch process enabled the green revolution and enabled the population to expand three fold.

It's mostly cows, then humans, then pigs then chickens then Interesting that the biomass of chickens is ovwe three times that of all the wild animals combined. If this chart does not shock you then you are totally unable to be shocked by anything concerning the earth's biosphere.

The world population is still expanding at an alarming rate. By 1989 the population was expanding by about 88 million people per year. Then by the year 2000 population growth had slowed to about 77 million per year. Then the slowdown stopped and started to increase again. it stands at about 79 million per year according to the US Census Bureau.

Now they are saying it will start to slow. But that slowdown has not yet started. True, the fertility rate has been dropping but that has been offset by the increase in population. The fertility rate is dropping but on more and more people.

Notice the U.S. Census Bureau starts the slowdown at almost the exact date this chart was drawn, August 2017. If they had drawn this chart in 1995, then no doubt they would have started their prediction of constant decline in 1995.

But I have no doubt that the population will start to decline. It must, it must because we are destroying the ability of the planet to feed all its people.

Paul Chefurka created the above graph in May 2011. I think he was a little off. He has the world population hitting almost 8 billion then starting to drop around 2030.

I am more inclined to agree with the U.S. Census Bureau who thinks the world population will hit 9.4 billion around 2050. Then I believe the population will start to fall. The rate of population decline and how far it will fall is hard to predict. That will depend on many things but primarily on if and when globalization collapses. The collapse of globalization will bring about civil strife, border wars, and famine around the world.

I want to call your attention to the green, wild animal, portion of the second graph at the top of this post. Notice the wild animal portion of the terrestrial vertebrate biomass, by 1900, had dropped to about 20% of its historical value. Then by 2000, it had dropped to half that amount. Then by 2050, we expect that 2000 value to be cut in half again.

By 2100, it will very likely all be gone. Well, almost all gone. There will still be plenty of rats and mice and perhaps a few other small vertebrates will still survive, but all the large megafauna, except humans, will be gone. Gone forever or at least for the next million years or so. It will take that long for new megafauna to evolve after the human population has been greatly reduced to a billion or even a few million people.

But the far distant future is of little concern to us now. The sad fact of the matter is your descendants will live in a world completely free of wild megafauna. There is no way to avoid that fact now, it is already too late to stop the destruction.

WHY?

Yes, why? Why are we destroying the earth's ecosystem? Why are we driving most all wild animals into extinction? Why have we dramatically overpopulated the planet with human beings? Why did all this happen? However, when you ask why, you are implying that all this had a cause, that someone or some group of people are to blame for this damn mess we have gotten ourselves into.

Was it the early farmers who invented agriculture. Or was it the early industrialists like James Watt or Thomas Edison? Or was it Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, are they the villains that got us into such a damn mess? No, it was none of these people. It was no one person or no group of people. It was not even any revolution like the industrial revolution, the medical revolution or the green revolution. There is no one to blame and there is nothing to blame.

Agriculture enabled the very small early population to expand. The industrial revolution and later the green revolution enabled more people to be fed. The medical revolution enabled more babies to survive and people to live much longer. Our population has exploded simply because it could. We have always lived to the limit of our existence and we always will. It was just human nature pure and simple.

Now many will say that we are now controlling our population, that we have learned how to limit our fertility rate. Well, yes and no. Reference the below chart and table that were produced by the Population Reference Bureau in 2012.

In the developed world, where most of the world's energy is consumed, we almost have zero population growth. But in the less developed world, the population is still growing.

Here is the perfect example of what is happening, what is still happening , in much of the world. Notice the difference in the infant mortality rate and the annual infant deaths. Most of the world's people are still living at the very limit of their existence.

<sarc>But not to worry. The death rate is rising, babies are dying, the population will soon start to fall in the undeveloped world. </sarc>

Note: The Paul Chefurka graphs in this post were created, primarily, with data from the research of Vaclav Smil and is published in this 24 page PDF file: Harvesting the Biosphere: The Human Impact . The file includes over 2 pages of notes and 4 pages of references where Smil sources and documents every stat he quotes. Below are a table and some text from the paper.

The zoomass of wild vertebrates is now vanishingly small compared to the biomass of domestic animals. In 1900 there were some 1.6 billion large domesticated animals, including about 450 million head of cattle and water buffalo (HYDE 2011); a century later the count of large domestic animals had surpassed 4.3 billion, including 1.65 billion head of cattle and water buffalo and 900 million pigs (FAO 2011). Calculations using these head counts and average body weights (they have increased everywhere since 1900, but the differences between larger body masses in North America and Europe and lower weights elsewhere persist) yield estimates of at least 35 Mt C of domesticated zoomass in 1900 (more than three times the total of all wild land mammals) and at least 120 Mt C in the year 2000, a 3.5-fold increase in 100 years (and 25 times the total of wild mammalian zoomass). And cattle zoomass alone is now at least 250 times greater than the zoomass of all surviving African elephants, which in turn is less than 2 percent of the zoomass of Africa's nearly 300 million bovines (Table 2).

Please comment below but only on the subject matter of this post.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Megafauna Extinction , Overpopulation , Overshoot , Peak Oil , Population Explosion , Species Extinction . Bookmark the permalink .

295 Responses to Carrying Capacity, Overshoot and Species Extinction

George Kaplan says: 11/29/2017 at 8:23 am

Great summary. Mainly so I don't have to think about all the depressing aspects: do you not think if humans disappeared but even a few of our larger domesticated animals survived that evolution could go bonkers and we'd have new familes and species springing up all over in far less than a million years. After all homo sapiens are only a few hundred thousand years, and dogs (admittedly still technically wolves) only a few thousand. It would depend a bit whether we left much of the planet that was actually habitable of course – i.e. there'd need to be plenty of evolution pressure, but not too much. I guess your point would be we'd get new species but not the mega fauna, but I think there's evidence that isolated small islands can lead to either pygmy species or giants depending on the exact environment.
Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 9:28 am
George, I would have to start by saying that humans are not going to disappear. Other than extinction via natural disaster, like a giant meteorite hitting the earth, species are driven into extinction. That is they are outcompeted for territory and resources. Humans are the drivers of extinction, no species will drive us into extinction. We occupy every habitable niche on earth and will likely continue to do so even after our numbers have been dramatically reduced.

If we have a collapse of globalization, and I believe that is inevitable and will happen within the next one hundred years, then the human population will be devastated by civil strife, border wars, and famine. Seven to nine billion hungry people will be a disaster for all other animal life, domestic as well as wild. So I do not believe there will be enough domestic animal life to kick-start evolution of new wild species of megafauna. As I have said before, we will eat the songbirds out of the trees. So there sure as hell will not be any cows left.

Okay, so perhaps it will not take a million years for other large megafauna to evolve. Perhaps it will only be in the hundreds of thousands of years.

The Cunning Linguist says: 11/29/2017 at 10:18 am
So, after we eat the songbirds from the trees, what the hell will we eat then?

Is it not possible that the human species will drive itself to extinction because we are so successful at destroying the natural environment which we depend upon for our survival?

After industrial civilization collapses, the great human die-off will rapidly reduce human numbers by more than 90%. Life for the remaining humans will be extraordinarily hard. If the overall stress level is high enough, it will be very difficult for humans to raise enough offspring to reproductive age to maintain the species over time. Biologists call this pre-extinction phase die out. Once a species numbers fall below replacement level, they go extinct.

And what the hell do you mean: "If we have a collapse of globalization, and I believe that is inevitable and will happen within the next one hundred years "? Within the next 100 years? You are dreaming! We are in the early stages of apocalypse right now! Rapid die-off will begin within the next few years. 100 years from now, there will be no one alive who will remember it.

Ghung says: 11/29/2017 at 10:44 am
Cunning said; "After industrial civilization collapses, the great human die-off will rapidly reduce human numbers by more than 90%." ..

..while what is left of nature will rapidly move into the niches vacated by species humans have wiped out. If (big if, maybe) there are remaining reproductively viable human populations, they will exploit those recovering niches at rates which will be far below the astounding rates of exploitation during the industrial age. Where humans have abandoned their schemes of destroying the natural world for their own purposes, nature, in some form, recovers quite quickly.

On the other hand, if global warming goes off the scale (ala Guy McPherson, et al), all bets are off. Everything larger than a shrew will be toast.

Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 10:59 am
Once a species numbers fall below replacement level, they go extinct.

The replacement level for animals in the wild and the replacement level for domestic animals are two different things entirely. For animals in the wild, the replacement level may be several hundred to several thousand. Animals in the wild have to find each other in order to reproduce. For domestic animals, the replacement level is two.

In this regard, we Homo sapiens are far more like domestic animals than wild animals. An example would be the Polynesians who migrated to distant islands in sailing outrigger canoes. Their numbers, in those canoes, likely numbered only a dozen or so. Yet huge numbers eventually sprang from tiny numbers.

Yes, stress during periods of great strife and famine will be great. Stress will likely take a great toll. But there will always be survivors. Everyone is not equally affected by stress. Some can overcome, some cannot. It is a little like a plague or disease. There are always some who are immune or otherwise escape the problem.

As for rapid die-off coming within a few years, yes that may happen but I doubt it. Humans societies are far more resilient than you might expect. For instance, look at Somalia, or Venezuela. Somalia, a failed state, has been in turmoil for decades yet no massive die-off has occurred. Venezuela is in a state of almost total anarchy, yet no massive die-off as of yet.

I believe the die-off will start within the next hundred years. Next week is within the next hundred years. But I doubt it will happen by then, or even within the next few years or so. In my opinion, it will take several decades for things to really fall apart.

The Cunning Linguist says: 11/29/2017 at 12:01 pm
Ron,

You said:
"But I doubt it will happen by then, or even within the next few years or so. In my opinion, it will take several decades for things to really fall apart."

What about Limits to Growth? That study forecast that real problems would begin in the first or second decade of the 21st century, in other words, now. Why is Limits to Growth wrong? How do we avoid sudden, catastrophic collapse once world economic growth comes to an end?

What about the fragile, debt ridden financial/credit/monetary system? Have you read the Korowicz paper? How will industrial civilization gradually unwind over many decades when the world economy freezes very suddenly and food stops arriving at the grocery stores? That should lead to a very rapid die-off as every city suddenly becomes uninhabitable.

Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 12:27 pm
What about Limits to Growth? That study forecast that real problems would begin in the first or second decade of the 21st century, in other words, now. Why is Limits to Growth wrong?

Hey, I have a copy of Limits to Growth right here in my hand. On what page do they predict catastrophic collapse before 2050. Help me out here but I just can't seem to find it.

As to real problems, hell yes, we are having real problems right now. We have been having real problems in Venezuela and a lot of other places. But there is a tremendous difference between real problems and catastrophic collapse.

And what about all the other terrible things you are say are happening right now. Hell yes, they are happening and they are terrible. But they have not yet led to catastrophic collapse. But it is very likely they will lead to collapse in three or four decades from now.

Ghung says: 11/29/2017 at 12:37 pm
The LTG graphs appear to show economic and industrial peaks @2025-2030, if not sooner, dropping off quickly.

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2014/9/1/1409550981593/cc68cfc8-072c-4e53-a741-b28c3d6bcea3-573×1020.jpeg?w=620&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=1ec7d319d599211c6d4adb5d287cced8

Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 12:59 pm
Ghung, what page is this on?
Ghung says: 11/29/2017 at 1:17 pm
It's actually from a Guardian article, taken from Bardi's "The Limits to Growth Revisited". I don't know what page the original graph was on, but I have a copy of the original 1972 graph which shows the same curves, without the more recent data curves.

Guardian article "Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse" :

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse

George Kaplan says: 11/29/2017 at 1:17 pm
Ron – that graph is from the Graham Turner LtG update: http://sustainable.unimelb.edu.au/sites/default/files/docs/MSSI-ResearchPaper-4_Turner_2014.pdf
Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 1:32 pm
Shit? Is this real? I had no idea that we might be this close to collapse.

Nevertheless, I just can't believe we are that close. I think it will be at least 20 to 30 years from now.

George Kaplan says: 11/29/2017 at 1:43 pm
It depends on what you call collapse. The UK and USA are both following the curve such that life expectancy is starting to decline. I think industrial productivity might be going the same way in UK, and definitely our health and old age care systems (which is one of the measures he uses for "services") are in decline (though the government always finds a way to massage the numbers so far). One of the authors of LtG has said that once one of the main curves is definitely through an extrema then the models probably don't work any more – which I took to mean possible accelerating chaos, but might mean something else.
Hightrekker says: 11/29/2017 at 7:37 pm
Shit? Is this real? I had no idea that we might be this close to collapse.

Yep -- -
Population overshoot, ecocide, environmental destruction, deforestation, ocean acidification, mass loss of pollinators–
I could go on --

It doesn't take a weather man to tell which way the wind blows.

Alice Friedemann says: 11/29/2017 at 8:02 pm
This a unique, one-time only collapse because we never relied on fossil fuels in the past, and we certainly won't in the future. If you look at energyskeptic/3) Fast Crash, you'll see the many reasons I think collapse will unfold quickly. Turchin, who has looked at the patterns of collapse in civilizations going back to Mesopotamia, says it takes about 20 years on average. That is in line with Hook's estimate of a 6% exponential decline, which is the rate at which the 500 giant oil fields decline on average after peaking (something like 270 of them last I checked), all others (offshore, shale, smaller, and so on) decline much faster, hence Hooks estimate of an exponential increase of .0015 a year as non-giants increasingly contribute to what's left of production (giants are now 60% of world oil production). If Hook (2009) is right, that means we'll be down to 10% of what we produce after global peak production in 16 years. At that point, even if governments are rationing oil wisely to grow and distribute food, you're reaching the breaking point. Oil makes all other resources possible, so although many resources reaching their limits, the decline of oil will be the true beginning of the end. No more pumping water from the Ogallala 1,000 feet down, going 10,000 miles on factory farm fishing boats, and so on. Oil is masking how incredibly far we are over overshoot. Above all, 99% of the supply chain transport – trucks, rail, ships – depends on oil. 80% of communities in the U.S. depend entirely on oil, by far the least efficient mode of transportation of the three. Well, it is too big a topic to cover in a comment. I have a lot more to say in my book "When Trucks Stop Running".

Oh, and when I heard Dennis Meadows speak at the 2006 Pisa Italy ASPO conference, he said that if anything Limits to growth was head of schedule, with collapse starting as early as 2020. We'll see, too many factors. Also in the past, nations avoided collapse way past their carrying capacity by trading or conquering other nations, like the Roman Empire, which had to import food from Carthage and Egypt, no way to grow enough food in Italy.

Hook, M., Hirsch, R., Aleklett, K. June 2009. Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production. Energy Policy 37(6): 2262-2272
https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:225443/FULLTEXT01.pdf

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 7:14 am
Hi Alice,

I'm hoping to see more comments from you in the future, and not just in this one thread, lol.

It's very common for experts in any given field to presume there are none in other fields that are capable of solving the problems they see as civilization killers.

There are no guarantees of success, but success is possible when it comes to finding and implementing solutions to problems such as the eventual depletion of oil.

Once the shit starts hitting the fan pretty hard and fast in terms of declining oil supplies, both good and bad things will happen on a scale that will take the breath away.

The bad will unquestionably include economic collapse across large swathes of some and maybe most societies.

The good will come in the form of action on the part of awakened LEVIATHAN, the nation state. Those of us who cannot see that once LEVIATHAN stirs and focuses on such problems as we FORCED to deal with soon have little understanding of history , human nature, and technology.

Now WHETHER , or NOT, Leviathan, Uncle Sam, John BULL, the Russian BEAR, et al, can do enough to keep the wheels on and turning, instead of falling off, is an open question.

I believe they can, depending on how far gone things are once they begin to come to grips with the various troubles that will threaten their existence.

People CAN AND DO come together, and work together, sometimes. Consider the case of the USA. We were mostly all isolationists the day before Pearl Harbor, but within a couple of days after, we were all ready to to go flat out to murder our enemies on the grand scale, and DID.

Neither I nor anybody else can prove either way whether we WILL work together well enough to prevent outright collapse meaning we die hard deaths by the tens of millions even here in a country such as the USA.

There's no question that we CAN work together, once we realize we must. Whether we get started soon enough is probably going to determine just how bad things will get in economic terms.

But between what scientists and engineers can do for us, by way of providing us with better tools, and what we can collectively do for ourselves by way of collective action, there's a real possibility that some countries will pull thru ok, no longer sleek and lazy and fat and wasteful, but at least still functional, and with most of their populations still alive and leading a reasonably dignified life style.

I will have more to say about what Leviathan awakened, scared and enraged can do later on, way down thread someplace within the next few days, by relating some historical examples.

Survivalist says: 12/02/2017 at 8:22 pm
I too feel that one day the trucks will stop running. It will be a very interesting transition to observe. I imagine it will have a progression that goes something like this:
-trucks running will increase in cost as will the things that they are running about with inside them.
– trucks will run to less and less places.
-trucks will run to less and less places less frequently.
-trucks will run only very rarely and only for high priority reasons.
-trucks will stop running altogether.

As this process takes place I imagine there will be measures taken to fill some of the void, where and when it is possible to do so.

George Kaplan says: 11/29/2017 at 12:57 pm
Ron – do you think humans will still be around in a million years or even a hundred thousand? If they are I think it will only be because they have made themselves irrelevant to the environment (i.e. small in numbers and having found a way to live sustainably) and other species will be evolving without too much human involvement.
Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 1:59 pm
Yes, George, I think humans will be around in a million years. Not nearly as many as are around today however. If I had to guess, and I do have to guess, then I would guess around 10 to 15 million humans would be around a million years from now. That would be one person alive then for every 500 alive today.

Of course, all fossil fuel would be gone and everyone would live off the land.

But if you doubt human survival, then just what do you think will wipe everyone out? What will bring the human population to zero?

George Kaplan says: 11/29/2017 at 2:26 pm
That sounds as good a guess as any. Part of my point was that they could only survive if they were not intrusive, and therefore would not be an impediment to evolution of other mega fauna. I think average species life time is estimated at around 1 to 2 million years, homo is a family rather than a species so the sapiens could go and something else come along, like we took out the Neanderthals. On the other hand if the bottlenecks get small enough in different locations we could just be whittled away by different causes.
Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 2:52 pm
I think average species life time is estimated at around 1 to 2 million years,

The point is George, Homo sapiens is not an average species. If we were an average species we would still be competing with other species for food and territory, losing some of those battles and winning others. But our numbers would be kept in check by our success and failure of that struggle, just like every other average species.

Our dominance has overwhelmed all other species. Like a plague, we are killing them all off. There is nothing average about us as a species.

George Kaplan says: 11/29/2017 at 2:59 pm
Ok, but our numbers were kept in check and we were competing like that for almost all of our history, until the Holocene interglacial came along and we decided agriculture was a good idea, or maybe we had a go before and it never took in a less stable climate. But before that there is evidence of some pretty tight bottlenecks when we were almost gone either locally (e.g. in India) or globally. And things like the Roman empire collapse suggest we can forget any kind of technological advantages in a couple of generations.
Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 3:11 pm
You lost me. I don't understand your point.

But since our brains to a degree where we could create stone tools and use fire, our population has been on a slow increase, bottlenecks notwithstanding.

What has made us not average is our brains, our mental ability. That is the one thing that has given us a huge advantage over all other species.

We are smart enough to wrestle all the world from every other species that stood in our way. If another species had something that we wanted, including even their flesh, we got it. We are smart enough to dominate the world, but not smart enough to see that we are destroying it.

George Kaplan says: 11/30/2017 at 11:23 am
My point is that unless we find a niche in which we can exist sustainably despite our intelligence and ability to get whatever we want and dominate the world, then we won't survive very long, and may not even then.
Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 12:31 pm
Hi Ron,

I think some (you for example) are smart enough to see that we are destroying our World.

It may not be a majority view, though I think the numbers are increasing.

I would agree that we so far have not demonstrated that we are smart enough to change what we are doing (reduce the rate that we destroy the planet as rapidly as possible to zero (or negative, by which I mean restore the planet closer to a natural or sustainable state).

This may never be accomplished, but we cam move in that direction while reducing our numbers and our impact.

Des Carne says: 11/30/2017 at 1:02 pm
What it is about our brains that makes us not average is our capacity to deny reality. The mind over reality transition (Varki &Brower) is arguably what gave "sapiens" the advantage, successful but apparently impossible risk taking, to do away with neanderthalensis. In small scale hunter bands surrounded by magafaunal predators, denial of reality is a decided advantage, but in mass societies with the capacity to produce mass belief in non-realityy, it is the disadvantage that could do us in. Although not experimentally demonstrable, the idea that this mind over reality transition was an evolutionary event in the hominid genus 100-200 thousand years ago is a plausible explanation for sapiens' dramatic cortical development and the development or consolidation of female sexual selection, not present in our forebears or current great apes.

In a future world scratching a living as we did for most of our history as hunter-gatherer bands, but from a depleted world absent of any predators, we might evolve the ability to believe reality, without sacrificing cortical development. The first inhabitants of my country (Australia) managed to get by fot 60,000 years by killing off the megafauna. They were helped by climate change which dessicated the continent, but hung in there making it an extremely attractive aquisition by my ancestors when they came along.

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 7:26 am
Hi Ron,

In broad terms, I agree with what you are saying here.

"Our dominance has overwhelmed all other species. Like a plague, we are killing them all off. There is nothing average about us as a species."

But we aren't doing any better than rats or fire ants, lol.

You're dead on about humanity not being an average species. We will be around at least until some other species capable of wiping us out evolves, and it's unlikely that we will ALLOW such a species to exist, unless it's a microbe and we can't wipe it out.

If chimps were to evolve just a little further along the lines of using tools and being able to communicate and work together, and started attacking humans, numerous humans armed only with primitive weapons such as fire and bows and arrows would kill every last chimp, and they wouldn't lose any time in doing so.

This brings up an interesting question. We know chimps use stone tools as hammers to break nuts, etc, , and that they fight ORGANIZED fights to the death sometimes.

Is there any evidence they are using stones as weapons . YET?

Ron Patterson says: 11/30/2017 at 7:38 am
No, chimps do not use stones as weapons but they do use sticks to flail another chimp with.

Chimps will not evolve much further if any. Their numbers are dropping like a rock. They will all be gone in 20 or 30 years.

Survivalist says: 12/02/2017 at 8:27 pm
I once heard an interesting story about chimps. Might have been in one of Pinker's books, I can't recall.

If you hang a bunch of bananas from the ceiling that a chimp cannot reach and you leave an A-frame ladder laying on the ground the chimp will set the ladder upright and get the bananas.
If you do the same thing with 2 chimps and a ladder so heavy that one chimp alone cannot set it upright, but 2 chimps working together could set it upright, they'll never get on the same page, so to speak, and cooperate in setting up the ladder. They will both try individually and fail. The bananas will never be reached.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 12:46 pm
Hi Ron,

The charts in your post suggest about 1 billion might work, I would say 500 million would be my guess, not sure where you come up with 10 to 15 million.

Note that 500 million is roughly the World population in 1550 CE.

Just a different guess as I think a sustainable society could be reached by 2300 at these lower population levels, though perhaps fertility levels will remain below replacement over the long term so population will continually decline eventually some optimum will be determined and fewer than two children will not be encouraged.

Fred Magyar says: 11/29/2017 at 3:47 pm
Humans, that is Homo Sapiens per se, maybe not. Don't forget Cro-Magnons probably caused the extinction of Homo Neandertalis in about 40,000 years or so ago. Some other future species of the Genus Homo, very likely will be around for another million or so years. This is what I think they might look like. Maybe they will be called Homo technoligicus implantabilis, feel free to call them whatever you want. In any case resistance will be futile and you will be assimilated. 😉
Cheers!
.

robert wilson says: 12/01/2017 at 12:23 am
http://www.eindtijdinbeeld.nl/EiB-Bibliotheek/Boeken/The_Next_Million_Years__how_to_kill_off_excess_population___1953_.pdf
Nathanael says: 11/29/2017 at 4:18 pm
First of all, Ron, a species which destroys its own food supply or its own habitat *does* go extinct. They're currently referred to as "superpredators" -- it's happened repeatedly throughout history.

Second, regarding population growth, my primary charity for 20 years has promoted sex ed, access to contraceptions, and education of women worldwide. We know how to halt and reverse population growth in the "underdeveloped world". It's not difficult except for the religious groups which oppose contraception and oppose women's liberation.

Often the same religious groups who promote burning of fossil fuels. And deforestation.

Basically, whether humans survive depends on whether we defeat those groups, IMO.

Countries like Cuba which are very underdeveloped but essentially *lack* those religious groups (thank you Godless Communism!) they're doing OK on population stabilization.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/29/2017 at 5:15 pm
Hi Nathaneal,

There are countries that are religious such as Iran that have seen rapid demographic transition (15 years for TFR to go from over 5 to under 2). Also non-communist nations such as South Korea saw rapid transitions.

I agree education and gender equality as well as access to modern contraception are helpful.

Electrification will also help.

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 7:46 am
Thank you Dennis,

Religion has it's points, as Twain used to put it, both good and bad. Preachers and priests have a way of figuring out what is in their own best interests, short term, medium term, and long term.

There are some religions or cultures, which are not necessarily one and the same thing , that do encourage or more or less actually force women to bear lots of children.

I come from a culture that is very often ridiculed here in this forum, which doesn't bother me at all personally. It's ridiculed on such a broad scale that it's hard to find a public forum peopled with technically well educated people where ridicule isn't the NORM.

As religion goes, my own personal extended family is about as religious as they come in the USA. My nieces and nephews and third cousins, the children of my FIRST cousins, are having kids at less than the necessary 2.1 rate needed to maintain our blood lines, lol. My informal seat of the pants estimate is that the extended family birth rate is down to somewhere around one point five.

It's well known that the birth rate in some countries that are supposedly Catholic has fallen like a rock over the last couple of decades.

And while I can't prove it, it's my firm opinion that once the priesthood in any country comes to understand that it's own long term interests are best served by encouraging small families, small families WILL BE ENCOURAGED. That may not happen for another generation or so, and it may not happen at all in some countries, if there is no top down control of the culture and religion.

Priests and preachers don't exist to serve GOD, or any combinations of gods, etc. They exist because they have found a way to provide a secure and relatively easy way of living largely off the work of their followers.

This is not to say their followers don't get back as much or more as they contribute. Every society has to have leaders, and priests and preachers can be and have often been very effective leaders. Some of them are effective leaders today.

Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 5:41 pm
First of all, Ron, a species which destroys its own food supply or its own habitat *does* go extinct. They're currently referred to as "superpredators" -- it's happened repeatedly throughout history.

Really, I have never heard of that. The only superpredator I ever heard of are human beings. But if you can give an example of a species destroying its own food supply and habitat, please enlighten me.

Survivalist says: 12/02/2017 at 8:31 pm
Humans on Easter island is the only thing that comes to my mind when thinking of such an example. I'm no expert on Easter island, however I understand people there did not go extinct, and that there was a small group living there when the island was found by Europeans. Again, not terribly well informed about that particular bit of history.
Kathy C says: 12/02/2017 at 5:20 am
When things begin to collapse the grid infrastructure will collapse. Coal factories in China and elsewhere will shut down and dimming will end. James Hansen estimated that warming may be held back by 50% by dimming, so we can expect warming to shoot up. http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130329_FaustianBargain.pdf

When the grid collapses the nuclear power plants will no longer be able to be cooled. We know what happens then. This article addresses that happening from solar flares or emp attack but of course the failure of the grid from civilization collapse would do the same thing http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/7301-400-chernobyls-solar-flares-electromagnetic-pulses-and-nuclear-armageddon

With collapses of civilization their will be no remediation of forest fires. Chemical and Nuclear Dumps will burn as well as the nuclear power plants that have gone Fukushima.

A very underappreciated study is that of decaying leaves around Chernobyl While horses and other wildlife might now roam around Chernobyl the implications of leaves not decaying is enormous. "However, there are even more fundamental issues going on in the environment. According to a new study published in Oecologia, decomposers -- organisms such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects that drive the process of decay -- have also suffered from the contamination. These creatures are responsible for an essential component of any ecosystem: recycling organic matter back into the soil. Issues with such a basic-level process, the authors of the study think, could have compounding effects for the entire ecosystem."
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/forests-around-chernobyl-arent-decaying-properly-180950075/

To just state that humans wouldn't disappear is nothing more than an assertion, as is stating that they would certainly disappear. However what faces humans is much more daunting than just the chaos of civilization collapse. Those who survive everything else will have a hard time reproducing with all that radiation around https://chernobylguide.com/chernobyl_mutations/

Of course long before civilization collapses the countries of the world may well play out the scenario that Richard Heinberg describes – Last Man Standing. Sound like politics today?

Survivalist says: 12/02/2017 at 8:34 pm
I suspect someone will bulldoze the nuclear power plants into the ocean before they let them melt down on land. Just a WAG.
Fred Magyar says: 11/29/2017 at 9:13 am
I posted this as a reply to a comment by GF a few threads back.

I highly recommend the following three ASU Origins Project debates and panel discussions to get a good feel for the big picture. It might take up a good four hours or so of your time. This isn't something suitable for sound bites. It involves a lot of in depth cross disciplinary knowledge.

https://origins.asu.edu/events/great-debate-transcending-our-origins-violence-humanity-and-future
Great Debate: Transcending Our Origins – Violence, Humanity, and the Future

https://origins.asu.edu/events/great-debate-extinctions-tragedy-opportunity
Great Debate: Extinctions – Tragedy to Opportunity

https://origins.asu.edu/events/conversation-inconvenient-truths-love-extinctions
Conversation: Inconvenient Truths – From Love to Extinctions

Maybe we are all royally fucked already but I also recommend E.O. Wilson's book 'Half Earth'.

Cheers!

Tom Welsh says: 11/29/2017 at 9:38 am
"Why did all this happen? However, when you ask why, you are implying that all this had a cause, that someone or some group of people are to blame for this damn mess we have gotten ourselves into".

I would like to suggest, respectfully, that this wording is the wrong way around. The essence of the problem is that no one has been in charge, no one has taken responsibility – and that is hardly changing at all.

The world is teeming with governments, corporations, NGOs, and "leaders" of all kinds. But what are all those leaders, and their estimable organizations, really trying to do? Some are aiming to earn as much money as possible. Others are trying amass as much power as possible. Most of their programmes have a lot to do with gaining more money and power – which become interchangeable at a certain point (as can be seen from a study of the US Congress, for example).

An intelligent alien visitor to our planet would reasonably conclude that, although individual humans are intelligent to various degrees, the human species as a whole is profoundly unintelligent. It has ample means of diagnosing what has happened, is happening, and will happen. Yet, because it has never developed any organ comparable to the individual's conscious brain, it does nothing about the obvious threats it faces.

Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 10:34 am
Tom, I think my wording was correct, you just did not quote all of my explanation. You wrote:

The essence of the problem is that no one has been in charge, no one has taken responsibility

No one can take responsibility because no one is in charge of the human race. And as far as being "profoundly unintelligent", I think that is an unfair charge. Having a blind spot in our DNA does not imply that we are unintelligent. The human race has never been faced with such a dilemma before. Our brains evolved to its present state during our hunter-gatherer days. We are molded by evolution to do everything possible to survive and reproduce. There is nothing in our DNA that tells us to protect the biosphere because the lives of our grandchildren depend upon it. So we don't.

What is happening is just human nature. That's all.

Joe Clarkson says: 11/29/2017 at 1:20 pm
What is happening is just human nature.

Evolution has resulted in all species, including humans, having a biotic potential that is greater than the carrying capacity of the niches in which they live. Populations are limited by resource limits and predation, not by self restraint or mutual agreement.

It would have been very unusual, perhaps unique in evolutionary history, for humans to have deliberately limited our population, even though it might have been theoretically possible due to our 'intelligent' ability to foresee our probable future. Despite Malthus, Limits to Growth and many other warnings, no realistic attempt has been made to remain below carrying capacity.

As you note, a massive die-off is inevitable, the only real question is when. Like The Cunning Linguist, I personally think it will be whenever people lose confidence in the global monetary system, as in Korowicz's "Trade Off: Financial system supply-chain cross contagion – a study in global systemic collapse". Once money stops flowing so does the food supply.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/29/2017 at 5:10 pm
Hi Joe,

What would cause this rejection of the monetary system? I don't follow the argument. Everyone decides at once that money is no longer a reasonable medium of exchange. Didn't happen during any financial crisis so far, people couldn't access their money at Banks after the 1929 crash, but this was less of a problem in OECD nations during the GFC.

The ETP nonsense is just that, anyone who knows their thermodynamics knows that theory is full of holes.

Joe Clarkson says: 11/29/2017 at 9:29 pm
Didn't happen during any financial crisis so far

No, but we did come close in 2008. All sorts of debt instruments including commercial paper, CDOs (the root of the problem), many derivatives and letters of credit all froze up. Without prompt dramatic action by the central banks and the US Treasury, the financial system could have collapsed. Nobody knew who was solvent or insolvent, so the central banks had to backstop every financial institution. All this over some mortgage securities based on the US housing market.

Now imagine that growth has turned to continuous worldwide economic recession, the inevitable fate of the global market economy in the face of energy and resource depletion ( it will happen despite the stupidity of the Hill's Group). Unemployment increases year after year and tax revenues continuously fall. Every kind of debt instrument, from sovereign debt to mortgages, to municipal and corporate bonds is more and more likely never to be repaid. Defaults are increasing with greater and greater frequency. The equities of every company become suspect as more and more companies go under.

Sooner or later, a critical mass of people are going to realize that most debts can never be repaid and are therefore worthless as assets. Since almost all money is created from debt, almost all money becomes worthless.

The only thing that makes money work is confidence in its value. When confidence in money (debt repayment) fails, the monetary system fails and without a monetary system, the global market fails.

Billions of lives are dependent on that market functioning smoothly every day. When it fails to function, people will die. I fully expect to lose every financial asset I own at some point, that's why I am preparing to live without money. Unfortunately, most people in the developed world can't do that, though they should be trying to do so with utmost urgency.

I admit that if there were a concerted international effort to declare a debt jubilee and start all over with a new world currency, some form of monetary system might continue after the present one collapses, but I really doubt that creditor countries and debtor countries are going to cooperate with the rapidity and solidarity needed to manage such a transition.

And even though all the productive assets in the world would still continue to exist after a financial collapse, without a market to mediate their interconnected function, everything would grind to a halt. I don't see an international command economy taking over either. That would be harder than creating a whole new monetary system.

The global market economy is very complicated and very fragile. I certainly wouldn't trust my family's life to something that could collapse virtually overnight and neither should you.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 12:07 pm
Hi Joe,

There are a lot of if's in your scenario, any of which if broken makes the conclusion invalid.

I suppose it is possible that all of those things could happen, just as it is possible that a large asteroid will strike the planet.

I choose not to concern myself with very low probability events.

Pretty sure neither of us will convince the other. If you are convinced buy some good farm land and maybe gold, guns, lead, and gun powder.

Probably even better, find a nice community somewhere.

Note that as long as governments are willing to intervene in the economy when necessary, the system is much more resilient than you believe.

The biggest risk to the Global financial system would be free market fundamentalism where government intervention is never invoked.

I cannot imagine a continuous world wide economic recession, this is a fundamental flaw in your argument.

This assumes what you are trying to prove.

Joe Clarkson says: 11/30/2017 at 6:32 pm
I cannot imagine a continuous world wide economic recession, this is a fundamental flaw in your argument.

Well, I can't imagine how the global market economy and industrial civilization are going to have a steady state economy forever at present levels of production and affluence. Overshoot means eventual retrenchment and die-off.

Up-thread you estimated the carrying capacity of the earth at around 500 million people. You obviously expect to gracefully reach that level (in 2300!) through birth control while still maintaining current standards of living.

I expect that we will reach that population, or fewer, due to complications from resource-depletion-caused economic failure (famine, war, pandemic). There simply isn't enough energy available to make the transition you desire without also destroying the climate, even if there were the political will to do so, which there isn't.

I suggest looking at the history of the last 100 years to decide which future is more probable. Humanity has had the ability to create a high technology, steady-state civilization with sustainable population levels for over a century, but has failed to do so. There is still no evidence that we are serious about making the attempt now. I wonder why you can believe that such a thing will happen at a time when the resources to make it happen will be declining rapidly. Continuous world-wide recession is a certainty and unless you are very old, you will live to see it.

And as far as your suggestions for prepping go, my family has already got it's lifeboat ready in a rural tropical community. I've got the productive land, the community and the guns. I don't expect to rely on gold at all. To my mind, the best durable trade items are ammo, fishing equipment and livestock.

If raising my own food and living without money is necessary, I can do it. If your eco-modernist utopia magically appears, I won't be disappointed, or regret one iota of the 'unnecessary' preparations I will have made, but I prefer to err on the side of prudence.

Dennis Coyne says: 12/02/2017 at 1:14 pm
Hi Joe,

I don't expect to live forever and as I said don't plan ahead for scenarios I believe have a very low probability of occurring. As fossil fuel resources become scarce they will become more expensive and we will use them more carefully (or efficiently). There has been no need to do so for the past 100 years as they have been relatively cheap and abundant. There will be enough energy from Wind, solar, hydro, and perhaps nuclear to make the transition, as fossil fuel becomes expensive these will be produced as they will become cheaper alternatives. Much of freight traffic can be moved to rail, which can be electrified, moving goods from rail to factory or store can be done on overhead wires on main roads with EV used for the last few miles.

Also keep in mind that fossil fuels by nature are quite inefficient in producing electricity with about 60% of the energy wasted, for heating systems compared to heat pumps there is also higher energy use. The transition to non-fossil fuels will result in about one third the energy use for the same exergy (or work and useful heat) provided.

I make no assumptions about living standards being maintained, perhaps the transition will be very difficult and living standards in the OECD will decrease while living standards in less developed nations increase. Note that declining population will reduce resource pressure and realization of resource limits (as will be clear from fossil fuel scarcity) by the majority of citizens may lead to changes in social behavior.

Also note that we have only been aware of the climate problem for about 38 years (using Charney report in 1979 as the starting point).

If fossil fuels are very limited (say 1200 Pg C emissions from 1800-2100) then climate change might be less of a problem, but this will still be adequate for a transition to non-fossil fuels. Even 1000 Pg of total carbon emissions from all anthropogenic sources (including fossil fuel, cement and land use change) may be adequate for an energy transition, though it will need to begin in earnest in the next 5 to 10 years, the sooner we begin the easier it will be to accomplish.

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 7:51 am
"What is happening is just human nature. That's all."

EXACTLY.

I posted a long rant down thread trying to get this across to people who somehow think we are DEFECTIVE because we don't collectively behave more rationally, hoping to get it across in terms that are intelligible to those of us who have HEARD of evolution, but never actually studied it for more than an hour or two at the most.

alimbiquated says: 12/01/2017 at 6:07 pm
Nonsense, this is just Libertarian propaganda, which is actually a fake religion invented by real estate investors in the fifties in a political catfight to avoid rent control legislation. It has now widen to some kind of pseudo-Darwinistic hocus pocus, but it ignores the obvious fact that we became the world's dominant species be collaboration and long term thinking.

We're doomed if we don't get along with each other, and lots of propaganda is pushing you to believe we never have or could, and never can or will. But that doesn't make it true.

Hickory says: 12/02/2017 at 12:02 am
aren't all religions fake (fabrications)?
Survivalist says: 12/02/2017 at 8:42 pm
That's a pretty narrow view of libertarianism.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism
What you say is perhaps relevant to contemporary versions of libertarianism in USA, however it goes back a bit further than the 50's.
It's worth noting there are left wing libertarian models also.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-libertarianism
Phil Stevens says: 12/02/2017 at 2:56 pm
I'd like to question the assertion that no one is in charge of the human race. In "Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States" (Yale, 2017), James C. Scott demonstrates fairly convincingly that humans actively avoided adopting grain-based agriculture because the labor:reward tradeoff was far less satisfactory than what could be obtained through hunting and gathering. The accumulation of surplus, and presumably the insurance a surplus would provide against yearly fluctuations in food supply, in other words, was an insufficient motivation for humans to give up hunting and gathering. As Scott documents quite clearly, this refusal to adopt agriculture as the basis of the human economy persisted for more than 5,000 years in Mesopotamia, and much longer elsewhere.

So what caused the shift? Alas, Scott fails to explore this in any detail. (Just one of the many weaknesses of the book, which nevertheless manages to make its central argument very well.)

I will speculate that what caused the change was the coming-together of a sufficiently large number (five? a dozen? who knows?) of individuals who lacked the ability to feel remorse, shame, or compassion, and who were motivated purely by a desire to enrich and empower themselves. Modern psychology calls these types psychopaths. I suggest that it was these individuals who, likely with help from others with the related disorder of sadism (see recent research on "the dark tetrad"), were first able to subjugate (Scott uses the very apposite term "domesticate") human communities and force them to labor on the land to produce a surplus, which of course then could be appropriated by the psychopaths and their henchmen.

I am not aware of anyone else who has advanced the notion that civilization was founded by psychopaths and sadists. But recent psychological research (popularized in books such as Babiak and Hare, "Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work") suggest that psychopaths are four times more commonly represented in upper management than in the population as a whole, so it seems plausible to me, at least, that the project of civilization and its attendant destruction of the ecosphere has been, from its inception, forced upon humanity by a small minority.

Ron Patterson says: 12/02/2017 at 5:00 pm
Phil, thanks for a great post. I have no doubt that psychopaths have had a great influence on civilization. Many great leaders were no doubt psychopaths. Hitler and Stalin come to mind. However, not all of them were psychopaths. Rosevelt, Washington, Jefferson, and many other U.S. presidents were not psychopaths. Neither was Churchill or Gandhi.

However, your original sentence was: I'd like to question the assertion that no one is in charge of the human race. So I kept reading, waiting for you to tell us just who was in charge of the human race. Of course you did not do that.

Phil Stevens says: 12/03/2017 at 4:56 pm
Fair enough, Ron.

My short answer to your question would be to ask "Cui bono?" Doubtless not everyone who reaps the most benefit from the biocidal trajectory of late capitalism is dominated by one or more of the traits of the Dark Tetrad, of course. Some of us might even be able to argue plausibly that we were unaware of the consequences of our actions. But even though late capitalist society is sufficiently robust that it continues to work out its internal logic without a lot of direct guidance by the dark few, I doubt it would last long without their presence among the wealthy and powerful classes. If their interventions on behalf of the killing machine could be eliminated, my guess is that dismantling the machine would be a much easier project.

Ultimately, it's the ones in positions of power who manifest the traits of the Dark Tetrad whose interventions are critical to maintaining the status quo. If anyone can be said to rule the earth, it's them.

Fred Magyar says: 11/29/2017 at 12:24 pm
An intelligent alien visitor to our planet would reasonably conclude that, although individual humans are intelligent to various degrees, the human species as a whole is profoundly unintelligent. It has ample means of diagnosing what has happened, is happening, and will happen. Yet, because it has never developed any organ comparable to the individual's conscious brain, it does nothing about the obvious threats it faces.

That is my view as well! Though some like E.O. Wilson argue that we have evolved into an eusocial species and can at least in theory function as a hive or termite mound. Where the collective intelligence emerges and even though the individual ants or bees are stupid the anthill is an entity unto itself is smart and knows how to defend itself. See also Douglas Hofstader and Daniel Dennett's book, 'The Mind's I', Chapter 11 titled Prelude Ant Fugue.
http://themindi.blogspot.com/2007/02/chapter-11-prelude-ant-fugue.html

Also check out Curtis Marean's talk at the end of Inconvenient Truths – From Love to Extinctions from the link I provided above from the ASU origins debates. He specifically makes that analogy about aliens, in his talk.

Marean is a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the associate director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University. He is interested in the relation between climate and environmental change and human evolution, both for its significance as a force driving past human evolution, and as a challenge to be faced in the near future. Curtis has focused his career on developing field and laboratory teams and methods that tap the synergy between the disciplines to bring new insights to old scientific problems. He has spent over 20 years doing fieldwork in Africa, and conducting laboratory work on the field-collected materials, with the goal of illuminating the final stages of human evolution – how modern humans became modern.

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 8:04 am
" Yet, because it has never developed any organ comparable to the individual's conscious brain, it does nothing about the obvious threats it faces."

Such an organ would be very costly, in terms of depriving humanity of the energy and resources devoted to it, depriving us of the use of these resources for other purposes.

Evolution doesn't create organs that will be useful in dealing with new circumstances, by plan, ahead of time, except by accident. It's just a "lucky accident" FOR US TODAY that our own ancestors evolved hands capable of grasping things such as branches .. which set the stage for us to be able later on to grasp a stone and use it as a hammer or weapon.

No planning is involved. NONE. Various deists who accept the reality of evolution but still believe in higher powers disagree of course.

I can't prove they are wrong. I don't believe anybody else can. All we can do is demonstrate that they have no evidence that such higher powers exist.

An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, lol.

George Kaplan says: 11/29/2017 at 1:04 pm
I doubt if "intelligent" aliens are any different than we are – and therefore probably have a very short life expectancy should they ever get to an industrial age – evolution can only work from one generation to the next and is therefore incompatible with longer term planning for species longevity.
Steve says: 11/29/2017 at 2:25 pm
"It has often been said that, if the human species fails to make a go of it here on the Earth, some other species will take over the running. In the sense of developing intelligence this is not correct. We have or soon will have, exhausted the necessary physical prerequisites so far as this planet is concerned. With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however competent can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology. This is a one-shot affair. If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned. The same will be true of other planetary systems. On each of them there will be one chance, and one chance only." – Sir Fred Hoyle
Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 3:19 pm
Thanks for posting this Hoyle quote Steve. I have read it before, many times. And the truth of it is so obvious. All the things that have enabled this wonderful abundant life will soon be gone. Then what?
Dennis Coyne says: 11/29/2017 at 5:02 pm
Hi Ron,

We recycle what we can, we use less of scarce resources as prices rise and we try to find substitutes for resources as they become scarce. Also population will fall as TFR falls (with a time lag due to population momentum) putting less pressure on resources.

None of this will be easy, and perhaps not possible, hard to predict the future.

Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 5:58 pm
Dennis, Hoyle here, is talking about long-term. Recycle or not, we will run out of all fossil fuels and eventually all metals. However, recyclig will help, in the short term anyway.

No, we cannot really predict the future. All we can do is look at what is happening right now and say: "If this continues ." And Dennis, it will continue. Human nature may be changed by evolution. But that will take many generations and tremendous evolutionary pressure. So right now, human nature being what it is, we can predict that collapse is just down the road. Just how far down the road is what we are trying to figure out right now.

Caelan MacIntyre says: 11/29/2017 at 6:27 pm
Ron, if we look at the apparent numbers, say of many species, collapse appears already here, just that the shockwave hasn't hit yet. Remember, if you see an explosion in the distance, it takes awhile to hit.
Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 11:51 am
Hi Ron,

Yes some things will continue and others will not.

For example fossil fuel output has grown pretty steadily in absolute terms (about 163 million tonnes of oil equivalent per year from 1981 to 2016) and I expect that will change (it will not continue).

The total fertility ratio has decreased at about 1.38% per year from 1965 to 2015, but I expect this will continue until the World TFR approaches the high income nation average of about 1.75 (which would be reached in 2040 if the 1965-2015 rate of decrease continues).

There may be more fossil fuels available than either of us think, but if my medium scenarios are correct there may be enough fossil fuel to enable a transition to non-fossil fuel, then we just need to deal with other depleting resources.

Note that the fact that fossil fuels have peaked and declined (which should be apparent by 2035 at the latest), may enable people to realize that this will be true for every scarce resource and perhaps we will plan ahead and recycle, and use resources more efficiently.

Much of this is a matter of education.

Perhaps the meaning of soon we use differently.

When you say "will soon be gone." Can you define soon in years.

The sun will eventually destroy all life on Earth, but not "soon", as I define it. 🙂

Ron Patterson says: 11/30/2017 at 12:10 pm
Well, perhaps I should not have said "gone". There will always be trace amounts of everything left. And nothing will suddenly disappear. There will be a decline curve for everything. But let's deal with the one with the least future abundance, oil. I believe we are at peak oil right, or very near it anyway. The bumpy plateau may last from 5 to 10 years. Then the decline curve will be much steeper than the ascent.

That's about the best answer I can ive you.

Dennis Coyne says: 12/02/2017 at 1:26 pm
Hi Ron,

Let's assume for the moment you are correct and the peak is either now or next month and we remain on plateau for a year or two.

What happens to the price of oil?

Let's assume that you agree that unless there is a severe World recession in the next year or two that oil prices are likely to rise.

What happens it oil output if oil prices rise to say $100/b or more?

Eventually I expect output will reach a peak no matter how high oil prices rise, I just disagree it will be at the current level of output.

Can you define your limits for the "bumpy plateau" (high and low 12 month average output level)?

If the limits were 80 to 85 Mb/d, then we would agree and I would say we may be on a bumpy plateau between 80 and 85 Mb/d for 10 years or so.

I suspect you may expect output to remain below 81 or 82 Mb/d (World 12 month average C+C output).

Ron Patterson says: 12/02/2017 at 3:01 pm
Dennis, you must be familiar with the phrase "You cannot get blood from a turnip". High prices will not create more oil in the ground. We will most definitely have higher prices but they will be high because we have reached the peak. So, $100 oil will not create a higher peak.

Just my guess but I believe the plateau will average less than 82 million bpd.

Dennis Coyne says: 12/03/2017 at 10:37 am
Hi Ron,

So could you define your "bumpy plateau"?

Is it a trailing 12 month average of between 80 and 82 Mb/d?

I imagine we will break above 82 Mb/d in 2018 if oil prices are over $65/b (Brent in 2016$) for the annual average in 2016.

For the most recent 12 months (EIA data) ending August 2017 we are at 80.93 Mb/d.

In the low price environment since 2015 the trend in World output is an annual increase of 280 kb/d. This rate of increase is likely to double (at minimum) with oil prices over $80/b, which would bring us to 82 Mb/d by 2019 or 2020, perhaps this will be as high a output rises, but my guess is that there is a 50% probability that output will continue to rise above this and perhaps a 25% probability it may reach 85 Mb/d around 2025.

Ron Patterson says: 12/03/2017 at 2:49 pm
I thought I did that Dennis. I the bumpy plateau will average about 82 million barrels per day or less. There could be spikes and dips and it will last from 2 to as much as 10 years. But when it heads down, it will do so with a vengeance.
alimbiquated says: 12/01/2017 at 6:11 pm
Blah, nobody needs coal or oil in the long run, and metal is never "gone" unless you shoot into space or a fission reactor.

For every obvious problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

-H. L- Mencken

Hightrekker says: 11/29/2017 at 7:44 pm
Ehrlich underestimated the Green Revolution and Haber/Bosch factor that was really upping food production at the time.
Ultimately, he will be proven right.
OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 8:39 am
I met Ehrlich personally when he visited Va Tech sometime around 1972. Visiting scholars often have smaller seminar meetings after making their presentation to the larger U community, which he did. Not many people attended the particular seminar I participated in , probably less than a couple of dozen. I was taking some ag courses there at the time, and enjoyed a long conversation with him.

You're dead on. He badly underestimated what we farmers could do, and are still doing, given the necessary industrial support system that keeps industrial level agriculture humming.

Sooner or later . We are going to have to deal with the Population Bomb. The resources we are devoting to industrial ag aren't going to last forever. Neither are nature's one time gifts of soil and water so long as we are in overshoot.

I was head over heels in love with a milk and corn fed girl from Ohio and we were about ready to join the Peace Corp or something along that line, and go someplace and save the people in some backwards community by teaching them how to farm the American way all day and enjoy each other all night of course.

But one of my crusty and profane old professors took me aside and asked me if I really wanted to go to XXXXX and teach starving people how to produce twice as much food so that twice as many of them would starve a generation down the road.

HE was right about the increase in production just resulting in more mouths to feed . back then. Since then, things have changed dramatically . in SOME countries.

There are good reasons to believe that birth rates may fall dramatically within the next decade or two in at least some of the countries that still have exploding populations. Maybe a few of them will manage to avoid starvation on the grand scale long enough for their populations to stabilize and decline.

It's too late for falling birth rates to prevent famine on the grand scale in a hell of a lot of places.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 10:54 am
Hi Old Farmer Mac,

Let's assume Ron's prediction of 2050 for a peak in World population at around 9 Billion is correct (this seems a very reasonable guess to me).

Also assume for the moment the grain is freely traded throughout the World with few barriers to trade (tariffs and outright bans).

Are you suggesting that it is likely that World food output will not be adequate to feed the World under this scenario?

Typically famine results from war and food supply not being able to be safely transported to those in need, at least in the past 50 years or so.

Do you expect this to change before 2070?

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 2:51 pm
Hi Dennis,

I'm going to answer twice, lol.

First off, do I think it's technically possible that we can feed a population that peaks around nine billion a few decades down the road?

This answer depends on how well energy supplies and the overall world economy holds up, with some wild cards thrown in relating to climate, depletion of certain critical resources such as fresh water and minerals such as easily mined phosphate rock, etc.

New technology and the reactions of the people to it will also play a big role.The role played by governments local to national to international will be critical, and huge, because only governments will have power enough to FORCE some changes that may and probably will be necessary.

Here are a few examples.

It may be necessary to force well to do people aka the middle classes, to give up eating red meat for the most part, so that grain ordinarily fed to cattle and hogs can be diverted to human consumption.

(I expect rich people will still be able to get a ribeye or pork chop any time by buying up ration tickets, or buying on the black market, or paying an exorbitant consumption tax, or any combination of these strategies.)

Fuels, especially motor fuels, may be tightly rationed, so that enough will be available to run farms and food processing and distribution industries.

Large numbers of people may be paid or coerced into going to work on farms or in community gardens or greenhouses.

A substantial fraction of the resources currently devoted to other needs or wants may have to be diverted to building sewage treatment infrastructure designed to capture and recycle the nutrients in human sewage.

I could go on all day.

Bottom line, I think that barring bad luck, it is technically possible that we can feed that many people that long, and for a while afterwards, as the population hopefully starts trending down.

As a practical matter, I don't think there WILL BE food enough for nine billion.

It's more likely in my opinion that some countries are going to come up desperately short of food, and be unable to beg, buy or steal it from other countries. Some people, and some countries, are likely to resort to taking food, and other resources of course by force from weaker neighbors .. maybe even "neighbors" on the far side of oceans.

I may be too pessimistic, but I'm one of the regulars here who think that climate change for the worse, much worse, is in the cards, and I spend a few hours every week reading history. Humans have always been ready to go to war, even without good reasons. A lot of people in desperate situations are going to see war as their best option, in my opinion, over the next half century.

Maybe my fellow Yankees will be willing to give up their burgers for beans so that kids in some far off country can eat. I'm not so sure we are compassionate enough to do so on the grand scale.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 11:25 am
Hi Hightrekker,

If total fertility ratios continue to fall (for the World they fell from 5 in 1965 to 2.5 in 2015) about a 1.38% per year, there may be no catastrophic collapse.

If that average rate should continue for 16 years then World TFR would be at 2 (below replacement level) by 2031. If the rate of decrease in TFR experienced from 1965 to 2015 continues for 35 years (to 2050), the TFR for the World would be 1.54 in 2050.

Based on UN data from 2015, 65% of the World's population had a weighted average TFR (weighted by population) of 2.05, but a more sophisticated calculation using estimates of the population of Women of child bearing age I have not done, I simply used total population to weight the TFR from each nation which implicitly assumes the age structure of each nation is identical which is clearly false.

Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 1:01 pm
Dennis- We are adding 83 million per year to a already population in drastic overshoot.
The barn door is already open, and the horses are gone.
Ron Patterson says: 11/30/2017 at 1:17 pm
Exactly! That's been my point from the very beginning. It is already way too late to fix things. We have a predicament that must be dealt with, not a problem that can be solved.
alimbiquated says: 11/29/2017 at 3:09 pm
Yeah, they shot white people. Can't have that. Nowadays the cops shoot three people on average every day in America. Nobody cares, life is cheap in America. Gun deaths are the price of freedom. Native Americans run about three times the risk of white folks, and black folks run about twice the risk.
GoneFishing says: 11/29/2017 at 11:03 am
It is obvious that humans are the major drivers of extinction on the planet. We are in the Sixth Extinction event and we cause it directly and indirectly through our actions. the why is quite obvious, all species live to propagate and expand to their limits, our limits are global at this point and so are our effects. I don't see energy as much of a problem as there is plenty of it in various forms and we can obtain it if we want it. That however means continuing the high tech industrial form of civilization which we have embarked upon. Can that be made sustainable and much less harmful, even helpful? Of course it can, it's all about wise choices and thinking before we act instead of just going for profit.

The loss of vertebrates is just horrible but the loss of invertebrates will be the undoing of our farming and food production and much of the other life that depends upon them. The loss of insect life due to global human generated poisoning of the environment, especially food production areas, will unwind much of the food production.
As collapse starts, the chaos of riots and crime will rise sharply. All those mentally ill and drug addicted people will no longer have their chemicals, causing a trigger point of violence and chaotic actions.
However the major fast cause of loss of human life will be disease. People forget how it was just a few generations ago before antibiotics. Diseases will spread rapidly among the weak and starving, public sanitation will fail causing more disease to spread. Clean water supplies will become absent, compromised or even purposely wrecked. Hospitals will fail because of both being overrun and the power will fail plus supplies will fail. Disease will grow and spread among both people and their animals. It could take less than a generation to drastically reduce the population of the species, with the resulting loss of knowledge, technical ability and industrial ability the cascade will go further.
In the bad case scenarios much of the infrastructure will burn putting up a cloud of aerosols and GHG's as well as causing a large toxic pulse to the environment.

But on the other side humans are very inventive and determined to continue the system that supports a huge population. So we may expand this time forward for quite a while, but only through smart choices and changing how we do things such as agriculture, industry and technology. Smart choices, not choices just for profit.

Just one example of our innovative and creative ability.
From sand to soil in 7 hours
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stc5MUIloP0

SRSrocco says: 11/29/2017 at 11:17 am
NOT TO WORRY .

Humans need not worry about the Falling EROI, the Falling Carrying Capacity or the degradation of the environment. Those no longer matter now that BITCOIN is now trading over $11,000.

Technology will solve all our problems and Bitcoin will make us all wealthy once again.

steve

Doug Leighton says: 11/29/2017 at 11:21 am
Ron -- The full text of this paper in SCIENCE will cost you 15 bucks but in my opinion, is well worth it; below is the Abstract. Commenters are welcome to talk about educating women, etc. but its too late for Africa for the balance of this century. I have personally observed the situation in Central Africa where you can see a school each containing about 1,000 kids located at roughly one-kilometer intervals along all significant roads -- a lot of kids. Virtually all schools in Africa are run by churches (of all types), and you can guess what these guys are teaching about birth control: I've asked, and the answer is NOTHING. AFRICANS LOVE KIDS. And, health care has improved greatly over the past few decades meaning general health has been upgraded and infant mortality has been reduced greatly. In fact, I would say the bulk of the UN's efforts in Africa are directed towards improving general health at which they have been successful.

Sorry for the inarticulate ramble but this is a rather personal interest of mine partly because our family is supporting a young girl in Uganda who will soon become a medical doctor. I had promised to stop commenting on the Blog but the African over population crisis issue is one dear to my heart.

WORLD POPULATION STABILIZATION UNLIKELY THIS CENTURY

"The United Nations recently released population projections based on data until 2012 and a Bayesian probabilistic methodology. Analysis of these data reveals that, contrary to previous literature, the world population is unlikely to stop growing this century. There is an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion people, will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion in 2100. This uncertainty is much smaller than the range from the traditional UN high and low variants. Much of the increase is expected to happen in Africa, in part due to higher fertility rates and a recent slowdown in the pace of fertility decline. Also, the ratio of working-age people to older people is likely to decline substantially in all countries, even those that currently have young populations."

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/346/6206/234

Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 11:39 am
There is an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion people, will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion in 2100.

I think you are about 237,500,000 too low with your estimate of world population. Well, that was as of a few minutes ago. It was 7,437,500,000 last time I checked.
World Population Clock

However, I think the UN is way off on their population projection. I believe that world population will reach 9 billion by 2050, just about a billion and a half above where it is now. However, I doubt it will ever go much above that. The UN, of course, is predicting no catastrophes. After all, that's not their job.

alimbiquated says: 11/29/2017 at 3:11 pm
The UN systematically underestimates the fall in birth rate associated with better education for women and their access to health care and contraceptives.
GoneFishing says: 11/29/2017 at 11:43 am
Here is the free pdf version of the paper"World population stabilization unlikely this century". https://www.stat.berkeley.edu/~aldous/157/Papers/gerland.pdf
Dennis Coyne says: 11/29/2017 at 12:49 pm
Hi Doug and Gonefishing,

The article inked below is also of interest (chart from the PDF).

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378014001095?via%3Dihub

David Archibald says: 11/30/2017 at 2:06 am
My work suggests that the world runs out of more land that can be put under grain by 2035. This is mainly Brazil and Russia. Just about every country in Africa is importing grain now. Therefore most of their population growth has to be fed on imported grain. Most of the costs in producing grain are in energy so a rising oil price will have a leveraged effect on food prices.
Dennis Coyne says: 11/29/2017 at 12:31 pm
Hi Doug,

Glad you decided to comment. Yes Africa is indeed a problem as far as population growth. With education and improved access to health care and internet access on smart phones, African women may become empowered and decide to control their fertility using modern birth control. The transition to lower fertility can happen in a generation.

As an anecdotal example, my family and my wife's averaged a Total fertility ratio (TFR) of 5.5 for the two families (close to the average sub-Saharan TFR), the next generation of 11 children in total had a total of 6 children for a TFR of about 1.1.

Unscientific and likely too optimistic, but not that different from what occurred in the upper middle income nations of the World (population about 2.4 billion in 2015) where TFR decreased from 4.93 in 1975 to 1.93 in 2000 a period of 25 years.

It is the low income nations that have lagged in reducing TFR, economic development is a key ingredient to getting population under control. Easier to say than to accomplish.

The article below is hopeful https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/26/the-race-to-solar-power-africa

I saw something similar on PBS https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/in-remote-kenyan-villages-solar-startups-bring-light

George Kaplan says: 11/29/2017 at 1:10 pm
Dennis – I guess this site is rightfully energy-centric but what's your view on the other limits that are showing up like potable water, top soil, phosphorus?
Dennis Coyne says: 11/29/2017 at 1:40 pm
Hi George,

I think recycling human waste might help with top soil and phosphorus, though a Farmer would know more than me. I think recycling water from sewers can also be done and eventually the expansion of solar power may allow desalination of sea water.

In short, I think there are solutions to these issues, especially as we move to more sustainability (less beef production would help) and a peak in population as education levels improve would also help.

Some nations such as Iran have made amazing progress on their TFR, from 1990 to 2005 (15 years) the TFR fell from 5.62 to 1.97 and by 2015 it had fallen to 1.75.

African nations should find out what happened in Iran over that period and import some of the lessons learned.

Note that there are many examples of a rapid demographic transition, another is South Korea where total fertility ratio (TFR) decreased from 5.63 to 1.60 from 1965 to 1990 and in 2015 had fallen to 1.26.

Ghung says: 11/29/2017 at 5:44 pm
Using South Korea as an example of increased sustainability (the point here?) is not helping your case much Dennis. As their TFR decreased, their consumption grew exponentially. Just since 1991:

https://i0.wp.com/www.eurasiareview.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/petroleum_consumption.png

Seems their per-capita energy use has skyrocketed in the last 60 years or so, and they now import most of their energy sources. They became 9th in CO2 emissions as of 2005. Looks like increased standards-of-living and declining birth rates are not much of a solution for reducing planetary impacts.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 10:40 am
Hi Ghung,

I agree. The point was that population growth can be reduced.

We need two things to happen, reduced use of fossil fuels (which peak fossil fuels will take care of by 2030) and reduced population (which peak population in 2050 to 2070 will take care of).

https://www.demographic-research.org/volumes/vol28/39/28-39.pdf

Figure below is from page 1153 of the article linked above.

Note that in 2015 the TFR for South Korea was 1.26, if average life expectancy does not rise above 90 years and World TFR falls to 1.25 by 2100, then World Population falls from 8 billion to 2 billion in about 100 years. This reduces the use of resources and the pressure on other species.

Transition to wind and solar with pumped hydro, wind gas, and thermal storage backup can reduce carbon emissions and reforestation as population falls will help to absorb some of the carbon in the atmosphere. Carbon capture and storage of burned biofuels and cement that absorbs CO2 would be other options for reducing atmospheric CO2.

As fossil fuel peaks prices will rise and the transition to non-fossil fuel will speed up.

The process will be messy, but we are likely to muddle through as there is not much alternative (or not a better one as I see it.)

Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 10:41 am
Forgot chart sorry

George Kaplan says: 11/30/2017 at 3:54 am
I think a common factor in all countries seeing large falls in birth rates is that they are preceded by large falls in death rates. This typically takes a couple of generations, which is one of the biggest causes of population overshoot. In Iran it was maybe a bit faster but not much – from above 20 per 1000 in the 50s and 12 in the eighties to around 4 now.
yvesT says: 11/30/2017 at 8:39 am
Regarding fertilizers, when you realize that there was a "human bones" market in the 19th century, and that for instance England "emptied" the catacombs in Sicily for that, or took back the soldiers bones from Waterloo, you get a sense of the urgency for fertilizer without phosphorus or natural gas based ones.
See for instance below :
"England is robbing all other countries of their fertility. Already in her eagerness for bones, she has turned up the battlefields of Leipsic, and Waterloo, and of Crimea; already from the catacombs of Sicily she has carried away skeletons of many successive generations. Annually she removes from the shores of other countries to her own the manorial equivalent of three million and a half of men Like a vampire she hangs from the neck of Europe."
https://livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe40s/crops_04.html
Or below :
https://medium.com/study-of-history/the-bones-of-waterloo-a3beb35254a3

I had a better link regarding the bones from Sicily catacombs (many due to the plague epidemia I think), but cannot find it back.

yvesT says: 11/30/2017 at 10:21 am
Note : the above quotation is in fact from Justus Von Liebig (German chemist/agronomist), it also appears in below books :
https://books.google.fr/books?id=bnXXES5-LRcC&pg=PA175&lpg=PA175&dq=fertilizer+sicily+catacombs&source=bl&ots=uWrEC04pcf&sig=zf_RNhU0HfM_aetTy6AkyHSpp3Q&hl=fr&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi7m_v-uebXAhXF0aQKHR1ABOkQ6AEIXjAK#v=onepage&q=fertilizer%20sicily%20catacombs&f=false
or :
https://books.google.fr/books?id=VugoemP2th0C&pg=PA178&lpg=PA178&dq=justus+von+liebig+bones+sicily&source=bl&ots=M808Tc41C4&sig=D-NkZ4zpKOekifQQs-eJt4P7LsI&hl=fr&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwia1eiczObXAhUJF-wKHRITBM0Q6AEIRTAI#v=onepage&q=justus%20von%20liebig%20bones%20sicily&f=false

And this page above (from "Justus Von Liebig : the chemical gatekeeper" p 178) is also interesting on other aspects, suggesting Liebig would today address energy ..

Nathanael says: 11/29/2017 at 4:24 pm
The churches which promote childbearing must be destroyed. They are basically the enemies of humanity. Since they're losing in North America, Europe, South America, and most of Asia, they are targeting Africa.

(And *targeting* is the correct word -- they are deliberately sending missionaries to spread their sick, twisted doctrines and spending lots of money to do so.)

islandboy says: 11/29/2017 at 5:00 pm
If you read my story below, Food for the Poor is a religious group. In Jamaica I believe it is affiliated with Missionaries for the Poor , an international Catholic organisation. So while they are doing yeoman service in providing shelter for poor folks, they are doing diddly squat to encourage poor folks to stop creating more mouths to feed and bodies to clothe and shelter. Isn't that just dandy?

Incidentally here's a recent newspaper article from my neck of the woods:

Crime strangling growth – Youth unemployment in Caribbean highest in world, fuelling criminality

Youth unemployment in the Caribbean is said to be the highest in the world, and crime, partly fuelled by this high rate of joblessness, is a major obstacle to economic growth in the region, according to Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF boss, who addressed the sixth High Level Caribbean Forum, held yesterday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston, said that crime imposed several economic costs such as public spending on security and the criminal justice system, as well as private spending on security. She also highlighted social costs arising from the loss of income owing to victimisation and incarceration.

Can anybody spot my comment? Hint: I used a pseudonym that should be familiar with everybody here.

Hightrekker says: 11/29/2017 at 7:49 pm
Can we be so unpolitical correct to call for "A Pope onA Rope?"
Someone must draw a line in the sand- or should we all be under a religious spell?
Or do we want to break that spell?
Survivalist says: 11/30/2017 at 10:57 pm
"would you like to see the pope on the end of a rope do you think he's a fool"

https://youtu.be/OOCbrUTpukM

GoneFishing says: 11/29/2017 at 7:54 pm
This was discussed just this morning on NYC NPR, concerning homelessness and the housing provided for low income people. The gist of it was that although there were programs to help the people with food and housing, very little was really being done to solve the problems.
Fred Magyar says: 12/02/2017 at 8:20 pm
"This uncertainty is much smaller than the range from the traditional UN high and low variants. Much of the increase is expected to happen in Africa, in part due to higher fertility rates and a recent slowdown in the pace of fertility decline. Also, the ratio of working-age people to older people is likely to decline substantially in all countries, even those that currently have young populations."

I have the impression that many of us myself included have an outdated and still colonialist view of African societies. I think changes happening in many parts of Africa will surprise us and technologically leapfrog over much of the built infrastructure of the OECD countries. I have seen it happen first hand in previously underprivileged parts of Brazil.

https://www.ted.com/talks/keller_rinaudo_how_we_re_using_drones_to_deliver_blood_and_save_lives#t-518345

How we're using drones to deliver blood and save lives

Keller Rinaudo wants everyone on earth to have access to basic health care, no matter how hard it is to reach them. With his start-up Zipline, he has created the world's first drone delivery system to operate at national scale, transporting blood and plasma to remote clinics in East Africa with a fleet of electric autonomous aircraft. Find out how Rinaudo and his team are working to transform health care logistics throughout the world -- and inspiring the next generation of engineers along the way.

BTW, I have a serious question! Does this kind of technology make the population crisis in Africa better or worse? Would like to hear some thoughts on the matter.

islandboy says: 11/29/2017 at 1:49 pm
It is uncanny how this lead post has come about just when I have been thinking about this subject recently. I am currently very depressed, to the point I suspect it may be clouding my better judgment with respect to various matters. This depression is partly caused by my views of the future of my little island in particular and the world in general. Let me try and illustrate how my thoughts have been brought into focus recently.

I travel around the city I live in, passing through all the different types of communities from time to time. We have pockets of extreme wealth as evidenced by palatial homes with swimming pools, tennis courts and all the creature comforts you would expect in the home of a wealthy first world resident. Leaving these pockets of extreme wealth, one doesn't have to drive for more than five minutes to reach pockets of extreme poverty, people who are so poor, they cannot pay rent and cannot envision ever buying a plot of land or a house, so they build structures on any piece of land that they can get away with. This type of activity extends across the island and there is no area that does not experience informal settlement (aka squatting). There is a political aspect to this, in that in an effort to garner the votes of the large voting block that poor people make up succesive governments have not discouraged squatting, to the point of encouraging it. See yesterday's cartoon in one of the local rags for a satirical perspective of the situation but, I digress.

I try to avoid too much contact with people outside my socioeconomic and educational class because it inevitably leads me to being depressed but, sometimes I end up in that exact situation. This past Monday night was one such case and it was my observations from Monday night that got me thinking about Peak Oil and carrying capacity and overshoot. I was invited to visit a gathering and told to bring drinks and that they were going to cook so, I decided not to eat a meal before leaving the city. It was a forty five minute drive, including a drive through late evening heavy traffic heading westward out of the city, past a big highway construction project being carried out by a Chinese (honest to God, from China) construction firm that has been active in the island for a number of years. On arriving at my destination I was told by my host that the gathering was at another house less than half a mile away.

This particular house was one of 39 houses made possible by the efforts of a couple from Grand Junction, Colorado (with pics) along with the local branch of Food For The Poor . I estimate that, these "houses" measure about 13ft. by 15 ft. inside and are supposed to include a kitchen, a bathroom and two bedrooms. The sister of my host was the recipient of this house, being qualified for the charity as a result of being unemployed with four children, one of whom was either newborn or yet to be born at the time the house was handed over to her. She was not yet thirty years old when her last child was born. Does anybody see where I am going with this yet?

Back to the gathering. On arriving at the house my host informed that no food had been cooked. By this time I was hungry and asked where was the nearest cook-shop where I could purchase a meal. I traveled with my host to Old Harbour, the nearest town apart from Spanish Town. I can only describe Spanish Town as an overpopulated, crime infested, thug controlled mess, that becomes a ghost town by midnight even though it is surprisingly busy by day. I asked my host if I should buy a meal for them also and they declined but, by the time we got back to the house, they declared that they were hungry and needed to get something to cook to go with the rice they had. So off we went to try and find a local shop that had what they wanted and was still open. First one was a 24 hour joint, built using an old cargo truck body but it didn't have all they wanted so it was off to another one that we managed to catch just as they were closing. We came away with a small packet of "veggie chunks" and some cooking oil. The little propane stove had been fired up and the rice was almost done so in less than fifteen minutes a meal of rice and veggie chunks was being served to four or five adults, one of whom had an infant, less than a year old, sharing the meal with her.

So let me weave together how all of this ties in with the subject of the lead post. First the "house" was only possible through the generosity of citizens of a first world, developed country. The materials that made the house (lumber corrugated, galvanized steel) are the products of extractive industries that rely heavily of FF, petroleum in particular. The soft drinks and alcohol that I brought to the gathering were manufactured, distributed and retailed in a system, heavily dependent on external energy. My vehicle runs of diesel. The rice for the meal I ate and the one at the house was imported from outside the island, again produced and delivered with lots of help from petroleum. The chicken I ate was locally produced with imported grain, a product of industrial scale agriculture, probably in the USA. Thankfully many of the chicken farmers are involved in a project that started with 15 kW systems at about 40 chicken farms and seems to be expanding. The veggie chunks are a meat substitute protein made from soy meal, again a product of industrial scale agriculture.

The cooking oil was probably one of soy, palm, canola, corn or coconut oil, produced at an industrial scale and imported to the island. Jamaica was once an exporter of coconut oil before the industry was decimated by a disease called lethal yellowing back in the early 70s. Virtually the entire population of coconut palms on the island was wiped out by this disease and even though efforts have been made to resuscitate the industry using disease resistant varieties, more than forty years on, the manufacture of coconut oil in Jamaica is a tiny cottage industry.

So here we have five or adults, two males and three females, one of which had four children with the other two having one each. There were other people at the gathering but as far as I am aware only two had jobs, the brother of my host who left before the meal and the woman with the infant who has a part time job selling lotto tickets. All of these people are living on the edge, heavily dependent on a system that is in danger of collapse for their very survival and they are far from alone. there are thousands of them if not hundreds of thousands on this island alone.

If for whatever reason industrial scale agriculture fails, the songbirds are going to be eaten out of the trees. I used to dissect rats in my sixth form (12 and 13th grade) biology classes and there ain't much meat on them but, if we get hungry enough maybe we'll turn on the rats. Without affordable propane, every tree and shrub will end up as firewood. This is the reason why I have an almost obsessive focus on renewable energy, solar in particular. It is my hope that the deployment of renewable energy can stay ahead of FF depletion long enough for global civilization to transition away from FF. It is my hope that our civilization, seeing itself on a real time, renewable energy budget, will begin to recognize the fragility of our situation. I have to ask Ron and others to forgive me as I continue to bring attention to the hopeful stories. It is the only way I can keep myself from sliding into depression and despair. It is the only way I can cope.

alimbiquated says: 11/29/2017 at 4:07 pm
The Green Revolution in the 60s was supposed to solve all our problems, and it solved a lot of them, especially in Europe and Asia. It works well when you have a lot of water and farm intensively, but is destructive in semi-arid conditions and when used in extensive agriculture, like the American Midwest.

After the Green Revolution, Asia boomed and Africa fell behind, prompting racist theories. Geography and climate are more likely explanations. In India, for example, the more arid north did less well than the wetter south. The Chinese were the first to realize the problem, and started a new generation of re-greening projects to boost agricultural production.

Meanwhile bad farming practices continues to rapidly degrade wide stretches of North America and South America. I was reading recently about a county in SD that lost 19 inches (not feet!) of topsoil between 1960 and 2014. Many places in America simply abandoned farming, like New England and Appalachia. People blame red dirt and the crick risin' in Appalachia and glacial rocks in New England, but that wasn't a problem before soil degradation set in.

The Green Revolution focused on genetics and chemistry, which makes sense if applied correctly. Development economists were puzzled that Kenyan farmers were uninterested in high yield seeds, but the explanation as simple: They need a regular water supply, not better seeds. A lot of places in the world get 3-4 weeks of rain a years, and good seeds don't solve this problem. Pumping the water out of the aquifier isn't the solution either, just ask anyone in Antelope Valley CA, a former grassland turned desert by the alfalfa farmers.

My mother warned my to watch out for flash floods when camping in the desert. It took me decades to understand why flash floods are a particular problem in the desert: More or less by definition, deserts are places where there are flash floods. The flash floods are both cause and symptom of soil degradation. Deserts aren't places where there isn't enough water -- they are places where rainwater runs off the surface instead of seeping into the soil. Degraded soil can't absorb water fast enough, surface runoff degrades soil.

The problem with industrial agriculture is that it treats the great outdoors like a hydroponic farm -- it ignores soil ecology and just assumes the hydrology will work itself out.

A more modern approach starts with water and soil. It's spreading rapidly in Africa, for example with the sand dams in Kenya, the terracing in Ethiopia and Kenya, and the various planting pit (like zai and demi-lunes) in the Sahel and agroforestry (planting trees in fields, or crops in orchards) in a lot of arid places.

It's true that mankind is pushing the limits of what the current ecosystem can carry, but it's also true that the ecosystem could be much bigger than it currently is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtOBSmIBx1A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkq540gsq2M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nKc5wEjWrY

Ron Patterson says: 11/29/2017 at 4:22 pm
Meanwhile bad farming practices continues to rapidly degrade wide stretches of North America and South America. I was reading recently about a county in SD that lost 19 feet of topsoil between 1960 and 2014.

There is a serious problem with that statement. No place on earth has 19 feet of topsoil, not even 19 inches over an entire county.

Topsoil Wikipedia
Topsoil is the upper, outermost layer of soil, usually the top 2 inches (5.1 cm) to 8 inches (20 cm). It has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms and is where most of the Earth's biological soil activity occurs.

alimbiquated says: 11/29/2017 at 4:30 pm
Inches I mean, not feet obviously.

EDIT: Here's a shot from Kalkriese, Germany where they are digging out a Roman-German battlefield. The artifacts are all found at or just below the border between the black topsoil and the red dirt underneath it -- that was 7 BC

https://www.landkreis-osnabrueck.de/sites/default/files/bildergalerie/k1600_grabung1016_1.jpg

http://www.kalkriese-varusschlacht.de/fileadmin/_processed_/csm_2015-02-16-Archaeologie_Schnitt_68a0493043.jpg

The archaeologists there told me the topsoil is about 1.5-2m deep, and was formed after the Romans left by later farming practices.

Ulenspiegel says: 11/30/2017 at 5:07 am
In the Kalkriese area, the farmers used sod planting ("Plaggendüngung"), i.e. they removed the top soil on large areas to improve the soil on their fields.

Therefore, Kalkriese is an example how NOT to do it.

alimbiquated says: 11/30/2017 at 5:35 am
I think the thickness of the topsoil in the area speaks for itself.

My point is that as Ron points out, there is a limited carrying capacity for the planet, but I don't really think we are there yet, because there are relatively simple methods available to make huge areas of the Earth's surface. Of course, even if it's possible, it isn't clear it will happen.

Ron Patterson says: 11/30/2017 at 11:57 am
there are relatively simple methods available to make huge areas of the Earth's surface.

That seems to be an incomplete sentence. Make huge areas of the Earth's surface what ? Desert? We sure can do that. We are doing more of that every year. Scrubland? We are doing that also by cutting down the forest and trying to make farmland out of it. After a few years the land will row nothing of value. That's happening in the Amazon right now.

There is nothing we can do to increase human habitual area without reducing the wild habitual area. That is what my post is all about. We are destroying every wild thing by destroying their habitat, by taking their habitat for ourselves.

alimbiquated says: 11/30/2017 at 12:50 pm
productive.

Your last paragraph is not correct. Much of the world is desert, and that desert could be much more productive than it is, given the right agriculture methods.

Whether that will actually happen is another question of course.

alimbiquated says: 11/29/2017 at 4:22 pm
Just a line of rocks on contour works too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCSYqUiI41w

The chinese are a lot farther down ths road.

http://www.topguilintravel.com/images/longsheng-travel-bg.jpg

But the Ehtiopians are doing their best to imitate the chinese

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CVSiR0mWsAAxhqi.jpg

The Kenyns too.

http://c8.alamy.com/comp/B7P41Y/africa-kenya-matiliku-ukambani-makueni-district-fertile-farming-country-B7P41Y.jpg

This would be great in East Tennessee, but they get their corn in a jar, as the old song goes.

GoneFishing says: 11/29/2017 at 4:11 pm
That very same first world country that donated the materials has plenty of homeless and large amounts of poor. It also has large amounts of empty buildings and huge amounts of food waste, yet they do not take care of their own. That is even a sadder situation as people freeze to death, starve, and die of simple preventable health problems in one of the richest countries in the world. Basic needs are not met and the governing bodies are constantly fighting to reduce the paltry benefits that are given. It's a country full of hate for their own people and hate back at the haters.
TonyMax says: 11/29/2017 at 4:42 pm
There's no inherent evolutionary advantage to caring for people you have no relation to. That's the real reason why all of these 'safety net' programs you describe are hated in the general sense and under attack as time marches on.
GoneFishing says: 11/29/2017 at 9:06 pm
Now Tony, we all know the public programs are under attack because of the greed and selfishness of people who already have too much money and stuff.
We all know it is the greed and the overconsumption that is causing the destruction of our environment and possibly the whole human race. That is a huge evolutionary disadvantage.
Helping, sharing and cooperating is the advantage. The selfish and greedy are like ticks sucking the world dry for their own personal benefit.
Fred Magyar says: 11/30/2017 at 2:51 pm
There's no inherent evolutionary advantage to caring for people you have no relation to.

That is absolute Bullshit!

http://www.sarahmathew.net/

Dr. Sarah Mathew

I study the evolution of human ultra-sociality and the role of culture in enabling it. I am especially interested in how humans evolved the capacity to cooperate with millions of genetically unrelated individuals, and how this links to the origins of moral sentiments, prosocial behavior, norms, and large-scale warfare. To address these issues, I combine formal modeling of the evolution of cooperation with fieldwork among the Turkana. The Turkana are an egalitarian pastoral society in East Africa who cooperate, including in costly inter-ethnic raids, with hundreds of other Turkana who are not kin nor close friends. Through systematic empirical studies in this unique ethnographic context, my research project here aims to provide a detailed understanding of the mechanisms underpinning cooperation and moral origins.

Survivalist says: 11/30/2017 at 10:53 pm
evolutionary advantage of caring for others
About 232,000,000 results (0.58 seconds)
https://tinyurl.com/y7wv5sez

This information is not exactly carved in a stone tablet and hidden on the dark side of the moon.

Caelan MacIntyre says: 11/29/2017 at 5:20 pm
Hi Ron,

I haven't read your good article just yet (although it is doubtful any of it will surprise me or add to what is already more or less understood), but just to mention that I recently listened to a podcast from Chris Martenson's site, Peak Prosperity, featuring William Rees from the University of BC

Two things about the podcast that stood out was that William was in fine form (articulate, clear, concise, passionate, 'deathly' serious, etc.); and the second was his mention of possibly fundamentally changing the natural system of Atlantic cod (fisheries), so that they may never recover. Not everything can simply reverse, and quickly enough, if they can, such as, say, with the depletion of the ozone layer, and when it involves all kinds of living systems– much, and the intricacies/complex interconnections, of which we are blissfully unaware of, despite some of our arrogant pretensions to the contrary (such as with regard to the avocation of most if not all forms of geoengineering)– it is very serious.

What concerns me also is how some people, such as on this site, can ostensibly claim a required greenwashed BAU from out of one side of their mouths, while on the other side, express grave concerns for the ecosystem. We cannot have it both ways.

To me, much greenwashed BAU is just swapping out different forms of rampant resource extraction, pollution and inequability for other forms.

The system, along with its 'power-politics', is still intact.

IOW, there is no real change.

Loren, assuming that's you, I am certain that radical decline, if not outright collapse, is already well underway, despite the obstinate mindlessness of some people. Just because some don't see something or want to see something doesn't mean it is not there.

My simple recommendation, especially for certain people WRT this deathwish-for-a-culture is to let go/ get out (and in the process, learn things like permaculture and local community resilience, and how our ancestors did some of it). Your comforts are much of an illusion (and predicated, for example, on natural draw-down).

islandboy says: 11/29/2017 at 6:46 pm
I knew you'd show up sooner or later and since you've always been critical of my support for renewables and EVs, let's bite.

"To me, much greenwashed BAU is just swapping out different forms of rampant resource extraction, pollution and inequability for other forms.

The system, along with its 'power-politics', is still intact.

IOW, there is no real change."

Are you saying that "there is no real change" going from corporate owned, centrally located, large scale, FF fired generators to small scale, individually or community owned, distributed renewable generators? If so, that's not what the FF and corporate generator class in Australia thinks. They have captured the Australian federal government and are fighting renewables as hard as they can.

Are you saying "there is no real change" going from ICE powered vehicles to EVs that, are perfectly happy to suck electrons from any source including renewable sources individually owned or owned by a co-op of which the vehicle owner is invested? That's not an opinion shared by the Koch brothers who are spending millions of dollars to try and paint EVs in a bad light in the eyes of the public.

Surely you realize that an individual with solar on their roof and an EV is giving a big middle finger to the status quo, including FF corporations and utilities who will no longer be able to feed at that individual's trough. In case you don't realize it, that is a very big disruption of "system, along with its 'power-politics'" and no, in case you haven't been listening, "The system, along with its 'power-politics'", will not be "still intact."

Now if you read my fairly long narrative further up, I hope the point I am trying to make does not escape you. That point is that there are millions, no lets make that billions of poor poorly educated folks who depend on things like industrial agriculture and the current status quo for the basic necessities of life, food, clothing and shelter. If the status quo collapses they are dead, let me say that again, dead! I'm all for dismantling the status quo and replacing it with something that is much kinder to all life on this pale blue dot we call home but, I shudder at the thought of millions or billions of human beings starving to death, just as I shudder at what we are doing to the biosphere. Can you see why I'm depressed right now?

Caelan MacIntyre says: 11/29/2017 at 7:59 pm
Alan,
This is my cameo appearance. LOL

There is no real change if we are still relying on the monstrosity that is the crony-capitalist plutarchy/government-big-biz symbiosis, such as for solar panels, etc. and/or what some misleadingly refer to as 'renewable'.

If you are in the biz– and I think you wrote hereon that you indeed are– then some might suggest, maybe even me, that you are, say, 'soft-shilling' and/or rationalizing for your product using POB as your platform, and maybe problematically skewing the narrative a little more towards a dystopic system that we should be getting the hell out of, while making preparations to do so, like learning how to do the basics in a local, resilient context so that we do not need industrial agro. The longer we rely on industrial anything– and as if it's somehow morally/ethically neutral– the harder/faster we will likely fall, maybe along something of a seneca curve.

We cannot eat solar panels and electricity is not a necessity, except to for the brainwashed and the brainwashers.
Attempting to play on people's heartstrings, such as about poor people in so-called undeveloped locales to sell a product they don't need and that would risk locking them– and others– into a certain ('Western') lifestyle, in some contexts, approaches contemptible, by the way.

You should already know how sociogeopoliticultural ideologies like Westernisation is foisted upon the global masses through physical, cultural, mental and intellectual colonialism, with the result often being wars and deaths to people and traditional ways of life. Just consider the Middle East right now. In the name of what? Oil and oligarchy?
You've said it yourself hereon that you have some kind of slavery in your family, yes? Well, many people are still slaves anyway, if with coats of white paint. Libya was in the news recently about that– slavery– incidentally.

If we want to do solar panels etc. the right, ethical ways, we need sea changes, such as that avoid slavery and privilege-by-gun, but I highly doubt we will manage them in time, and suspect that we are already long past that time.

That said, how do you feel now?

islandboy says: 11/29/2017 at 10:31 pm
I am not yet in the business of doing anything with solar PV so, as of right now I have no product that I am shilling for, soft or hard. I am in a business connected to entertainment if you must know. The entertainment business can by no means be classified as non-discretionary and recent technology has allowed far more people to compete with me so it will be necessary to get out of that at some point. How about viewing this as something I see as as worthwhile pursuit for the future of mankind, given my skill set and thus my advocating it as a worthwhile area for me to pursue a vocation in? I am not only advocating for solar PV because it's a field I can participate in but, because I think it can contribute a great deal to reductions in carbon emissions among other noble aspirations.

Are you going to start suggesting that I want to get into the business of manufacturing and selling EVs just because I am suggesting that large scale EV adoption would be a good thing? I ain't no Elon Musk if that's what your thinking. Now, if the shit hits the fan and motor fuels became really unobtainium, I might take a stab at an EV conversion business, a la Jack Rickard but, right now even Jack seems disillusioned with that pursuit, having posted only one new video since the middle of August and only two new blog posts since the last week of July. At any rate the necessary preconditions for such a business to be successful in an age of factory made EVs, do not exist.

I am with OFM on the point that some of your ideas for agriculture cannot adequately serve the needs of a rapidly growing population of 7.5 billion people. My dad who was a descendant of rebel runaway slaves, known in Jamaica as Maroons , was into agriculture and left me and my surviving sister a six acre homestead when he died. I can tell you agriculture ain't a walk in the park. It's damned hard work and carries all sorts of risks not faced by other pursuits (droughts, thieves, diseases pests etc.) . You seem to have some romantic view of agriculture that I do not share.

As for locking people in to a western lifestyle, that doesn't apply to Jamaica. The western lifestyle came with colonization and slavery. Do you think that people outside of the developed word should forgo electricity, computers, cell phones, the internet and other modern conveniences?

Despite all of that, the Caribbean has been bucking western culture for centuries. Trinidad and Tobago has their carnival and it's music and Jamaica has had as big an impact on western culture with our music (reggae and ska) as western culture has had on us. Even this past weekend, a dark skinned Jamaican woman sporting a huge afro, placed third in the Miss Universe pageant. The girl that won was from South Africa and could pass for Caucasian whether she is or not and I didn't see any other black women in the contest sporting an afro hairstyle (not that I watched it).

When it comes to some things, that train has already left the station. No point in romanticizing about what could have been. I'd rather focus on what small steps we can take to improve things in the here and now, while moving us to a more sustainable future. I will probably remain depressed until the new year. Probably more to with not having any immediate family around for "the festive season" than anything else. Maybe the new year will bring some good news on the renewable/sustainability front! That would cheer me up!

Hightrekker says: 11/29/2017 at 10:40 pm
Islandboy–
After being in Central America for quite a while, and that heavy Catholic noose around everyones neck, it was so liberating to get out to the islands.
Lets Party Mon!
islandboy says: 11/30/2017 at 3:17 am
Now you're talking! We in the Caribbean know how to party! I wouldn't be surprised if we woke up the morning after the collapse and said, "Collapse? What collapse? We were too busy partying to notice" 😉

Having said that, Trinidad is heavily influenced by catholicism, their carnival being associated with the catholic observance of Lent. I don't see any evidence of the Trinis (as they are known in the islands) taking the admonitions of their various religious leaders too seriously. Hell! I've never been to Trinidad carnival but, I hear it's one wild party!

On the other hand, Trinidad should have some long term concerns about what they are going to do after Oil and Gas production fall below consumption and they have to start importing hydrocarbons. What if either prices are too high or supplies are limited? What if prices collapse due to lack of demand as Seba suggests will happen after EVS and solar begin to dominate transport and electricity generation?

GoneFishing says: 11/30/2017 at 8:22 am
So how is that wind farm coming along?

https://www.ustda.gov/news/press-releases/2017/ustda-advances-wind-power-generation-jamaica-through-us-solutions

islandboy says: 11/30/2017 at 9:04 am
Way too early to say. The article dated October 4, 2017 says this:

"The feasibility study will evaluate the viability of installing the wind farm, which would represent one of the first offshore wind installations in Jamaica and the greater Caribbean region."

I expect the feasibility study is going to take months and I would expect them to do some detailed analysis of the offshore wind resource in the process. It is good that this study is being done so soon after two devastating hurricanes have hit the region. Should keep hurricanes very much in the picture.

Dated

GoneFishing says: 11/30/2017 at 11:01 am
Looking at some Caribbean buoy data it looks like wind would be a good source of power for the islands.
Beside the wind, the island has about 54 billion kwh/day of sunlight falling on it. That is more than ten times the total energy production per year for the island. Energy is not a problem, how the energy is generated is the problem.
Cover less than 0.1 percent of the island with solar panels and make up the difference with wind power.
islandboy says: 11/30/2017 at 4:26 pm
I have done some numbers in terms of what it would take to power the island entirely with renewables, mostly solar. Not impossible but the technocrats, one of whom is a college classmate of mine, cannot wrap their head around 100% renewable electricity!

Incidentally, I came across a video presentation on Youtube (with a really annoying backing track) that at about 3 minutes in contains the following text:

"Seba's forecasts are predicated on the assumption that the cost of generating and storing electricity will continue to fall – to the point where just about all generation will be solar by 2030. But electricity production would only have to increase by 18 percent in the US to cope with a complete switch to EVs, he said"

That 18% figure squares quite nicely with some back of the envelope calculations I have done.

GoneFishing says: 11/30/2017 at 4:36 pm
The choice is to transistion or fail.
OFM says: 12/01/2017 at 12:14 pm
I've made good friends with a couple of guys from Jamaica who have friends and family here that have managed to get their permanent paperwork taken care of.

Unfortunately it doesn't look as if they will ever be able to get permanent resident status. They're older guys, and about as mellow and fun people to be around as I have ever met. They come up for an extended family visit every fall, which just HAPPENS to be the time of year local farmers need a lot of extra help, lol.

As soon as I'm finished with family duties, I'm going down to spend a month with them. 😉

Will be spending some money on food and utilities and a few new nice things for them of course, because while they're friends, they're not well off.

Hightrekker says: 11/29/2017 at 10:31 pm
Bottom line:
It is really hard to face the extinction of your species, no matter what reality presents to you.
GoneFishing says: 11/30/2017 at 8:31 am
What has been highly disturbing is watching the natural world be run over and steadily destroyed.
Fred Magyar says: 11/30/2017 at 9:52 am
We cannot eat solar panels and electricity is not a necessity, except to for the brainwashed and the brainwashers.

Than do the world a favor and unplug yourself from all sources of electricity! At least we here won't have to read your fantasies!

BTW there are plenty of people who understand that the current capitalist system is not the answer, read Kate Raeworth's, Donut Economics for starters.

Modern humans could no more live without electricity in the 21st century than they could live without food and water. Try living without refrigeration in any city in the world. You would cause massive starvation in a few days. Try providing medical care to an urban population without electricity.

You have to be completely delusional to suggest that electricity is not a necessity!

Caelan MacIntyre says: 11/30/2017 at 9:48 pm
That's all irrelevant to my point which still stands– especially when the system is destroying our planet. We have lived with electricity for a relative split second of our existence as a species on this planet.
Besides, if we're not treating the planet properly, do we even deserve electricity and its conveniences? I think not.

And then there are assorted uses for electricity, some being more questionable as priorities than others.

Electric car versus fridge?

FWIW, I have personally lived without refrigeration for months in a major city, at least at home after shopping at the grocery store LOL, but also in the country– more hard-core.

If your local community especially is growing and processing its own food, then it's easy.

There's pickling, drying, fermenting, spicing/salting, alcohol, etc., and natural cool-storage, such as root cellars and simple cooling-by-evaporation systems.

There's also 'eating as you go'. Other animals do that, and I've never heard of an animal that needs a fridge or electricity, have you? Maybe your cat at home, but even Meow Mix can last outside the fridge, yes?

But some of us have to actually help make the changes, such as to the narrative, and limit the cling to some kinds of BAU narratives and fantasies.

Do it for Mother Earth, Fred. Or me. Or Harvey Weinstein or whoever/whatever motivates you. Coral.

Obviously, we can't just turn off the lights and fridges overnight, but there are plenty of ways to manage, maintain and consume food that don't require a fridge. So if we can't just turn off the lights and fridges overnight, maybe we should start talking more about how to live without them and/or with greater resilience.

But even if the juice stays on forevermore, some juiceless skills and knowledge are great to learn, have and apply.

BTW, I just watched this documentary on rare earths– the apparently highly-polluting stuff that's supposed to help power, until they run out, all these new and relatively-useless electrical gadgets now and in the future to get off of those other pollutants.

Hightrekker says: 11/29/2017 at 7:53 pm
but just to mention that I recently listened to a podcast from Chris Martenson's site, Peak Prosperity, featuring William Rees from the University of BC

Highly recommended.
And I'm not a fan of some of Martenson's guests.

Caelan MacIntyre says: 11/29/2017 at 8:09 pm
I came across the podcast indirectly via another site, but do sometimes run into Chris' material. He seems good at interviewing and is easy to follow in videos.
OFM says: 11/29/2017 at 7:59 pm
This post is going to be a gold mine for me, because it relates directly to so much of what I'm working on for publication in book form if I ever manage to finish it to my satisfaction. Here's hoping it attracts over a thousand comments, lol! I'm especially interested in comments that dispute my own, because those are the ones enable me to understand my own blind spots. 😉

Now so far, nobody has said anything about what I will refer to as the SECOND key fact that one must understand to understand evolution. Hoyle missed the first one altogether, making a total fool of himself, although he was a brilliant scientist, one of the top men in HIS field, his mistake being that he failed to understand that evolution BUILDS on it's PAST " accomplishments".

The second key fact I am hereby pointing out is that while evolution creates new life forms that reproduce to fill any and all available niches, there's no GUIDANCE involved, no overall PLAN, no GOD in charge, if you wish to put it that way.

Evolution is characterized in large part by parsimony, by being conservative in the use of resources. Animals that don't have use for claws don't have claws like tigers, lol, and animals that don't eat grass out in the fields don't have digestive systems like COWS. Evolution creates organisms that are "good at" taking advantage of whatever resources are available, WITHOUT REGARD ANY FUTURE CONSEQUENCES because there is NO LONG TERM PLAN. Behavioral BRAKES that aren't needed don't evolve, lol, and countless things that would be extremely useful, like eyes in the back of our heads, which would keep us from being attacked from the rear, don't often evolve either, because .. well because of more factors than I have any inclination to cover at this minute. Half of the SHORT answer is that eyes in the back of our heads would cost us more in terms of sacrificing something else than they would gain for us. The other half of the SHORT answer is that since pure chance plays such a big role . the odds are astronomically high against it happening anyway.

This a comment/ rant, not a BOOK. The BOOK is in the works, and will be available free to member of this forum who may want to read it and point out shortcomings in it before I publish it, most likely for free on the net. I'm not so arrogant as to think anybody will PAY for it, lol.

Dead ends, blind alleys, and death, at the individual level, and or at the species level, means absolutely NOTHING to "Mother Nature" because she is not sentient, she's not moral, she's not even ALIVE in the usual sense. She's just an artifact, a tool, that we naked apes have invented in our efforts to understand reality.

What I'm getting at, since She IS parsimonious, is that She does not provide brakes where none are needed.
Sometimes things do evolve that prove to be useful under new circumstances, but when this happens, it's just a lucky accident for the creature involved. If for instance a creature evolves a forelimb capable of grasping a branch, so that it can climb better, lol, later on the ability to GRASP something MAY come in very handy, because it sets the stage for that creature being able to grasp a stone which can be used as a tool or weapon. This does NOT mean the creature WILL eventually discover the use of tools and weapons. It DOES mean the probability of such evolution is vastly enhanced. There's NO PLANNING INVOLVED . except in the minds of deists who accept the reality of evolution while also retaining the concept of a God or gods or some guiding force of some sort.

IF the need arises for BRAKES, well then, die off, or even extinction, takes care of the problem. If a given species eats only a given plant, and that plant goes extinct, Mother Nature does not grieve for either the plant, nor the species that feeds exclusively upon it,which very likely also goes extinct. She doesn't even consciously keep score, as indifferently as a hired bookkeeper keeps books for a client he has never met and will never meet. She does however inadvertently create a RECORD of historical "scores" , which we can read. It's the fossil record.

It's rather amusing that professional biologists go around talking about human stupidity as if there is something inherently WRONG with people, as if we are collectively DEFECTIVE. We are what we are because we are final product ( up until today ) of our own evolutionary history. We're as " good " or "well designed "as we are evolved to be, like all other living creatures.

Engineers build in safety margins, and add features that may be useful, under certain circumstances, when they design things, because they DO work with and from PRECONCEIVED PLANS. Mother Nature doesn't make plans, she just deals and redeals the cards, over and over, and will continue to do so until all life on this planet perishes which won't be until the sun expands sufficiently to destroy the last vestiges of life on it.

We are NOT something different from the rest of biological creation, we do NOT operate under different rules, we aren't on some sort of fucking pedestal, separate from the rest of the biosphere. THAT whole crock of shit sort of thinking is one of the cornerstones of kinds of the thinking that some of the regulars here like to make fun of, such as religion, nationalism, racism, etc.

A biologist who talks about humanity as if humanity SHOULD BE EXPECTED to display a hive like consciousness has his head up his ass. NO. NO. No.

We have succeeded,basically for no other reason that accident in the last analysis, to the point we compete mostly with each other, rather than other species.

The evolved PROGRAMS hard wired into our brains that drive our behavior DO NOT include much in the way of built in brakes, because BRAKES HAVE COSTS. If we over populate, if we use up critical resources on which we depend for our survival, and perish, there's NOBODY who gives a shit.. other than some of us who are aware of the fact that we ARE in overshoot. Mother Nature is INCAPABLE of giving a shit.

The whole fucking idea that we are SOMETHING SPECIAL was probably originated by the first priests and their allies. It's an idea that has little to do with any discussion based on real SCIENCE within the context of understanding our own overshoot .

Now none of this rant should be interpreted as indicating I don't know and understand that humans are tribal creatures, that we are social creatures, and that we survive and thrive because we DO live and work cooperatively. The thing is , we survive and thrive as COMPETING communities, tribes, and nations, rather than as a SINGLE global community. Wolf packs compete. Prides of lions compete. Bands of chimps compete. We humans compete with each other. Talking as if we are DEFECTIVE because we behave this way is a waste of time.

When the shit hits the fan hard enough and fast enough, we do sometimes cooperate with our former enemies, at least temporarily.Old enemies can be new allies.

It's at least THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE that we can cooperate as a SPECIES, at the global level, in order to solve some or maybe even most of the problems associated with our own overshoot. We have cooperated before at levels up to and including the global level. In WWII, most of the developed countries of the world were involved as partisans on one or the other side. We cooperate to some extent at the global level now, in economic terms, and in terms of our physical security, as for instance in arms control agreements.

But just because it's theoretically possible that we can cooperate at the species level globally doesn't mean it's going to happen. I don't think there's any real likelihood of it happening, although alliances consisting of the various major economic and military powers do exist and will continue to exist and some of these alliances will prove to be critically important in determining the course of future history.

GoneFishing says: 11/29/2017 at 9:17 pm
"A biologist who talks about humanity as if humanity SHOULD BE EXPECTED to display a hive like consciousness has his head up his ass. NO. NO. No." Do you mean E. O. Wilson has his head up his ass?
Fred Magyar says: 11/30/2017 at 6:17 am
Do you mean E. O. Wilson has his head up his ass?

Edward O. Wilson's New Take on Human Nature

The eminent biologist argues in a controversial new book that our Stone Age emotions are still at war with our high-tech sophistication

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/edward-o-wilsons-new-take-on-human-nature-

In his newly published The Social Conquest of the Earth -- the 27th book from this two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize -- Wilson argues the nest is central to understanding the ecological dominance not only of ants, but of human beings, too. Ants rule the microhabitats they occupy, consigning other insects and small animals to life at the margins; humans own the macroworld, Wilson says, which we have transformed so radically and rapidly that we now qualify as a kind of geological force. How did we and the ants gain our superpowers? By being super-cooperators, groupies of the group, willing to set aside our small, selfish desires and I-minded drive to join forces and seize opportunity as a self-sacrificing, hive-minded tribe. There are plenty of social animals in the world, animals that benefit by living in groups of greater or lesser cohesiveness. Very few species, however, have made the leap from merely social to eusocial, "eu-" meaning true. To qualify as eusocial, in Wilson's definition, animals must live in multigenerational communities, practice division of labor and behave altruistically, ready to sacrifice "at least some of their personal interests to that of the group." It's tough to be a eusocialist. Wouldn't you rather just grab, gulp and go? Yet the payoffs of sustained cooperation can be huge. Eusociality, Wilson writes, "was one of the major innovations in the history of life," comparable to the conquest of land by aquatic animals, or the invention of wings or flowers. Eusociality, he argues, "created super­organisms, the next level of biological complexity above that of organisms." The spur to that exalted state, he says, was always a patch of prized real estate, a focal point luring group members back each day and pulling them closer together until finally they called it home. "All animal species that have achieved eusociality, without exception, at first built nests that they defended from enemies," Wilson writes. An anthill. A beehive. A crackling campfire around which the cave kids could play, the cave elders stay and the buffalo strips blacken all day. Trespassers, of course, would be stoned on sight.

As is evident by some of the comments on this thread, while the hive may be able to display collective intelligence, the individual ants can still be pretty dumb! Do check out the link I posted to 'The Mind's I' chapter 11 Prelude to Ant Fugue.

GoneFishing says: 11/30/2017 at 8:16 am
If we can't cooperate globally then the idea of Half-Earth is a farce.
Fred Magyar says: 11/30/2017 at 9:18 am
The idea is still sound! If humans have not yet evolved to the point that they are able to include the whole globe as a part of their hive Well, that's a separate issue and may indeed mean that we are collectively fucked! Because not enough of us have reached that particular point in our evolution.

As George Carlin once said: "The Planet is fine, it's the people that are fucked"

GoneFishing says: 11/30/2017 at 12:18 pm
An idea is sound only if it can be implemented, otherwise it is just a bunch of sugars turned to heat and in this case trees turned to wastepaper.

My point was not that E.O. Wilson is wrong, but that he would not have presented such a point if he did not think it possible or even probable. It was OFM that was the one saying it was not possible, which is a rather narrow view of humanity. Humanity cooperates on large scale right now.

Looking at the update of Limits to Growth I get the feeling that the flattening out of some of the parameters (energy, industrial output) may be misinterpreted. The same thing would happen if an energy and industrial transistion were occurring.
The key question is what does a transistion look like initially?

A field to a forest transistion looks a lot like field, then some bushes with a few small trees, then eventually almost all trees. Originally the trees are hardly there at all and don't seem to be having much effect as their leaves smoother a lot of plant life around them and they take up more and more of the solar energy that used to reach the ground. It starts small then spreads to complete takeover.

An energy and industrial transistion goes hand in hand with a social/governmental transistion. It looks small and scattered at first but steadily fills in even despite the resistance of the legacy systems. Key to the fast takeover is the weakening of the previous growth and it's demise leaving easy space for the takeover.

For example, I have a kitchen ceiling light fixture. It has three bulb positions. I had replaced the three 60 watt incandescent bulbs years ago with a 100 watt CFL (running actual 25 watts).
Last night the CFL started flickering so I pulled it and it had burn marks on the base of the bulb. The CFL bulb has now been replaced by two 60 watt equivalent LED bulbs which together use only 16 watts and provide more light than the CFL.
Also the LED bulbs may never have to be replaced in my lifetime. 180 watts to 16 watts and no more replacement, that is high ground transistion! Now $4 replaces over $500 on the user end and eliminates large amounts of pollution.

The power cost and economics have overshadowed the legacy instrument in an inexorable way. The death of an individual instrument allowed the replacement by a superior one.
I think that effect has been happening all across the world in many areas of energy use and industrial process for decades. This effect may have been interpreted as a reduction in energy and industrial output while it is really mostly a transistion in process.

So how do we get a fast takeover? Strand and remove the old legacy assets and systems plus do not replace dead systems with the same system. The action is harsh, but that is how it is done.

I will know we are on the right course when I see those large glass buildings being stripped of their components, their glass re-used, their steel reused and recycled, their wiring removed as they are removed. Why and how do we put up R2 buildings that soak up huge amounts of energy for heating and cooling? They need to go now. Passenger vehicles that get less than 150 pMPG need to go now and no passenger vehicle that gets below 400 pMPG should be built ever again. There are many inefficient, harmful and problematical systems that could be removed and changed.

Trash the old ways now and insert better ways, ones that work longer with less harm. Make new systems that heal soil and nature in general. The collapse is occurring now, take advantage of it by putting in superior systems that allow E.O. Wilson's Half-Earth idea to flourish, not finish.

Personally, until a lot of the old stupid harmful systems are put aside we can't see clearly if a fast collapse is at hand or not. Maybe if we just stop following bad and stupid we can ease off our consumption of the planet and reverse some of the major problems we face. There may be no real need to go through a grand scale collapse and huge loss of species.

Fred Magyar says: 11/30/2017 at 2:40 pm
Yeah, I have to agree with most of what you said.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

― R. Buckminster Fuller

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 6:20 pm
""It was OFM that was the one saying it was not possible, which is a rather narrow view of humanity. "

BULLSHIT.

Here's what I actually said in a comment upthread. It was posted a day previous to your comment, lol.

"It's at least THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE that we can cooperate as a SPECIES, at the global level, in order to solve some or maybe even most of the problems associated with our own overshoot. We have cooperated before at levels up to and including the global level. In WWII, most of the developed countries of the world were involved as partisans on one or the other side. We cooperate to some extent at the global level now, in economic terms, and in terms of our physical security, as for instance in arms control agreements. "

Perhaps I ought to lecture you a little on the meaning of the word EXPECT within the context I used it, which I think is obvious enough to anybody who WANTS to understand. In this context, expect means (or not ) that cooperation will happen spontaneously, or with only moderate incentives.

I don't think global level cooperation will happen, IF it happens, until the incentives to cooperate are OBVIOUS and overwhelming, when it comes to really changing the way we do things. I don't think any competent biologist will argue with this position, speaking in the broadest terms, painting with the so called broad brush.

We do after all have a few thousand years of known history that indicates that we are as apt to fight as cooperate, lol.

When the shit hits the fan hard enough, id it also hits slowly enough for us wake up , I EXPECT ( PREDICT ) that WE WILL COOPERATE on the grand scale, at least up to the nation state level, in most nations, and frequently at the international level, and MAYBE even at the global level.

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 3:40 pm
Hi GF,

I must admit I'm a little behind in reading E O Wilson, who is as capable a scientist as any in his field, and head and shoulders above almost all the rest, in my opinion. He's also one of the best writers ever in his field, probably THE best writer in biology in my personal opinion.

But so far as a I know, and I have read all of his older books, unless I'm mistaken, he would basically agree with me, because I am, as I interpret his work, AGREEING WITH HIM.

There's a HELL OF DIFFERENCE between EXPECTING people to cooperate on the grand scale, and believing they are capable of doing so.I believe we are capable of cooperating on the grand scale, given sufficient motivation to do so, and have said so already in this thread. I don't EXPECT us to cooperate with people we see as outsiders and enemies, but given new circumstances, new conditions, new problems, new fears, we can and sometimes do find new common ground, and make friends with former enemies.

I'm ready to bet the farm that I'm WITH E O WILSON, rather than AGAINST HIM.

Nuance matters.

To me at least, lol.

A couple of days back in another thread, you lectured me, telling me to THINK GLOBALLY, as if to imply I 'm unaware that most of the people in the world are still desperately poor. I have never said that most of humanity is well off. I have never IMPLIED that most of humanity is well off.

What I DID say, is that FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH, quoting myself, that there is a sound case to be made for the trickle down effect, and that a substantial number of even very poor people humanity HAVE ALREADY benefited greatly from economic and technological progress.

Hundreds of millions of desperately poor people are benefiting today from progress made in fields ranging from public health to industrial agriculture to renewable energy , etc. Hundreds of millions of very poor people are making relatively fast economic progress by some measures, for instance in the rate at which they are able to make use of at least some electricity, even if it's only a single light powered by a battery recharged by a small solar panel.

The less you have, the greater the marginal value of anything new you are able to get.

Just one rechargeable light is worth a LOT to a person who has no other option than perhaps a candle or kerosene lamp or a home made torch.

Incidentally I can remember being told by my grand parents that back when they were kids, it wasn't at all usual to literally light a ( corn ) shuck to provide some light so as to make a quick run to the outdoor privy or take care of some other after dark chore. They had kerosene, but it was considered wasteful to use it unnecessarily.

Things can and do get better sometimes, even on the global scale, lol.

GoneFishing says: 11/30/2017 at 4:51 pm
E.O. Wilson would not have written the book Half Earth if he did not think that people could and would cooperate on a grand scale. I don't think he was just blowing wind. Your statement was a direct affront to him and many others.

I have not read his latest book yet " The Social Conquest of Earth" which relates to this subject.

See mine and Fred's comments above.

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 6:57 pm
" Your statement was a direct affront to him and many others."

Bullshit again. You're deliberately twisting my words into something I didn't say.

You brought up his name, and you have put words in his mouth, as well as mine, in a manner of speaking.

I will say it again. There's a DIFFERENCE between EXPECTING or PREDICTING cooperation between large and diverse groups of people EXCEPT when circumstances leave the various groups little or no choice, and they have COME TO UNDERSTAND that the only real option they have IS to cooperate.

ONCE various competing groups or societies come to understand that they have little or nothing in the way of viable choice other than cooperation, well then I PREDICT OR EXPECT them to cooperate.

I believe my position is entirely consistent with E O Wilson's thinking and beliefs, speaking in general terms.

If you want to play word games,I'm ready, because it's TRAINING as well as entertainment for me. I need all the practice I can get when it comes to making my arguments clear before I go out on my own with my own book and web site .. EVENTUALLY.

The audience here is sophisticated enough to understand nuance, lol.

Well, MOST of the audience here , anyway.

GoneFishing says: 11/30/2017 at 7:11 pm
You ask for opposing opinions then you get nasty and personal and show no sign of wanting to learn or discuss anything, just shove your ideas. Since you apparently are not capable of dealing with opinions or thoughts other than your own, I will cease interacting with you. Plus you are always yelling in your comments, very rude.

Here is what you actually said ""A biologist who talks about humanity as if humanity SHOULD BE EXPECTED to display a hive like consciousness has his head up his ass. NO. NO. No."

OFM says: 12/01/2017 at 11:06 am
I want opposing opinions , and I'm always on the lookout for new facts. I do NOT want my words twisted into pretzels so that they appear to mean something diametrically opposite to what I actually said, by taking them out of context.

I think you are more interested in finding personal fault with me than you are in actually discussing facts, possibilities, and ideas.

I use a lot of caps, but seldom more than five or six words at a time, because caps are a lot quicker for me than taking time to use italics or bold.

I'm not presenting a paper for publication here, lol. I'm just participating in a conversation. If you want to take offense, feel free, it's still somewhat of a free country.

I

OFM says: 11/30/2017 at 7:00 pm
" Your statement was a direct affront to him and many others."

Bullshit again. You're deliberately twisting my words into something I didn't say.

You brought up Wilson , and you have put words in his mouth, as well as mine, in a manner of speaking.

I will say it again.

There's a DIFFERENCE between EXPECTING or PREDICTING cooperation between large and diverse groups of people under ordinary circumstances versus under new and compelling circumstances.

IF AND WHEN circumstances leave various groups little or no choice other than cooperation, , and they have COME TO UNDERSTAND that the only real option they have IS cooperation , well then .

I expect or predict that such groups WILL cooperate, sometimes, maybe even almost every time.

I believe my position is entirely consistent with E O Wilson's thinking and beliefs, speaking in general terms.

The audience here is sophisticated enough to understand nuance, lol.

Well, MOST of the audience here , anyway.

Understanding is tough for those who prefer NOT to understand.

alimbiquated says: 12/01/2017 at 4:15 pm
This is pretty much nonsense. People are very different than other animals because they get ideas in their head and follow them. That's the secret to our success -- we change our game plan all the time instead of being stuck in a single niche like most species. It's always hard to guess which ideas are going to work out, but societies choose -- so to speak -- whether to destroy themselves or not.

America has been choosing self destruction for several decades, and the eschatology our wacky creed planted in our minds seems very attractive, especially to old farts -- the alternative is to try something different.

Many societies have shown themselves to be resilient an sustainable. America has a colonial mentality that doesn't support that, even when it's obvious. My grandmother was born in Kansas and when she talked about the Dust Bowl she would shake her head and say, "I always told them not to cut down those cottonwoods -- they were the only thing keeping the farm from being blown away". Now they're depleting the aquifier in Kansas by planting maize for diesel. So the desert will continue to spread.

But the Japanese aren't like that at all. They've been planting trees for centuries. They don't have much choice, because the hills aren't very stable there. They'll get through.

And the Sahel Zone, the world's worst and poorest place, is changing as well. They've started replanting. A lot of them will survive.

Crazy hippies like this may do better than you think. Civilizations come and go, the species won't die for a while.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FHMNke5ppE

Root hog or die, as my father used to say. You can't imagine a world without Walmart, but it isn't the end of the world.

Another thought -- The Tasmanians. They were probably the wolrd's most primitive culture. They were cut off from the very old Australian mainland after the Ice Ages, and seems to have even forgotten fishhooks one of mankind's oldest technologies. But they had their ways, and they survived.

Hightrekker says: 11/29/2017 at 10:29 pm
A panda who was "really, really, ridiculously good at sex" brought the species back from the brink of extinction, but things are still weird

https://boingboing.net/2017/11/29/panda-bangers.html

Hickory says: 11/29/2017 at 11:32 pm
thank you Ron for this posting. I am in complete agreement with you on this.
nothing more important. it is a bizarre and tragic spectacle to behold, and to participate in.
what a poor use of such an incredible biosphere.
Gene Orleans says: 11/29/2017 at 11:55 pm
Many people from the looks of it here try to deal with the crises we face as a species and civilization the same way as myself. I spend much time here in front of modern electronic gadgetry. It's useful in distracting the mind from a diseased dying world along with a way to pass the time while waiting on my Lord and Savior to return to cleanse all the wickedness Satan has saturated humans with. Yes this is truly a sick sad world we live in now. Matthew 13:38-40.
Ron Patterson says: 11/30/2017 at 7:51 am
It's useful in distracting the mind from a diseased dying world along with a way to pass the time while waiting on my Lord and Savior to return to cleanse all the wickedness Satan has saturated humans with.

You are likely to be waiting a very long time. Religious stupidity makes the problem worse, never better.

Watcher says: 11/29/2017 at 11:55 pm
Didn't know this was here.

1. Any quotes of someone's book on collapse and how collapse happens based on history . . . all worthless. There is no history.

2) There is no history because there has never been 7 billion before. There has never been collapse with nuclear weapons involved before. There has never been collapse with the maggot and fly total in the atmosphere from 6.5 billion corpses before.

3) Chinese oil consumption lags US per capita and they are striving mightily to correct that, as they should. When per capita consumption growth becomes difficult, they HAVE to take oil from someone else. That someone else's population starts to starve for lack of food production or transport. They object to the theft of "their" oil. War. They must. War or starve.

4) Consider Japan. Consider the relations between China and Japan. Japan cries out . . . you're taking this oil to improve your country's standard of living and you are starving our country to death to do this. How can you find morality in this? China will have no trouble whatsoever contriving morality in this.

5) Simply that. When there isn't enough to go around, no one will quietly accept inadequate amounts. Nor should they. All other stuff about global warming and debt and sacrificing lifestyle for someone else is just so much bizarre delusion. You got too little to live, you kill whoever took it.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 9:57 am
Hi Watcher,

If you were correct there would be constant World War, most humans realize that conflict does not always lead to a positive outcome.

In an anarchic world things might play out as you imagine, we don't live in such a World.

Most people will do all they can to prevent anarchy.

Watcher says: 11/30/2017 at 11:18 am
Ahh so only evil people resort to war.

Haven't you noticed only good guys win?

Survivalist says: 12/01/2017 at 8:33 am
'Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning' by Timothy Snyder is quite good. If you're not into the minutia of east European history circa WW2 then just cut to the conclusion. 'Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin' is good too.

Here's an interview with Timothy Snyder if you want to get a taste.
Will this be the catalyst for the next Holocaust?
http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/12/09/what-will-cause-the-next-holocaust/

Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 11:35 am
Almost anyone, I suppose, can call himself or herself an anarchist, if he or she believed that the society could be managed without the state. And by the state -- I don't mean the absence of any institutions, the absence of any form of social organisation -- the state really refers to a professional apparatus of people who are set aside to manage society, to preëmpt the control of society from the people. So that would include the military, judges, politicians, representatives who are paid for the express purpose of legislating, and then an executive body that is also set aside from society. So anarchists generally believe that, whether as groups or individuals, people should directly run society.
-Murray Bookchin

Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.
-Edward Abbey

Dennis Coyne says: 12/02/2017 at 2:09 pm
Hi Hightrekker,

I define anarchy as without government.

Let's assume for a moment a World without any governments at all.

Let's also assume there at 7.4 billion people in the World.

I just don't see how that works. The World is not a perfect place, but it is far from clear that a World without any government(s) would be an improvement.

When some one comes up with a plan that is appealing to the majority of citizens in some nation, perhaps such a form of non-government will be instituted.

Caelan MacIntyre says: 12/02/2017 at 8:50 pm
Collapse Dynamics: Initial Conditions, Media Manipulation and The Short-Circuiting of Consensuality

Hi Dennis,

I see anarchy, if it is understood correctly, as potentially having government if it is optional/consensual/legitimate.

For example, if I want you to represent me until which time as I say otherwise , then you can if you wish .

I also see anarchy as potentially 'hierarchical', or at least pseudohierarchical, if it is chosen freely.

So, for example, if I want you to tie me to a bed and have your way with me as your 'slave' if you wish , until which time as I or you opt out , then that is still ok. (fans face with hand)

It is about consensuality and a large part of the whole idea behind media manipulation of the masses is to 'short-circuit' consensuality– IOW, to make the masses consent to what they might not have normally consented to.

At the moment, I do not consent, for example, to what we call 'government' to take my money, or 'skim my labor', such as in the form of taxation. It is an 'initial condition' (think the butterfly effect) that can cascade, and seems to have cascaded, over time into dangerous, 'hurricane', territory. I mention this angle also to hopefully appeal to your apparent understanding and appreciation of physics and physical dynamics over time.

Right now, there is software available, ostensibly to support government governing consensually, called Loomio . There are likely others as well.

Dennis Coyne says: 12/03/2017 at 10:48 am
Hi Caelan,

See free rider problem. If taxes are not required, then very little is collected. So essentially, not taxes is roughly equal to no government.

How do legal agreements work in this no coercion society?

When there are disagreements how are they settled?

Come up with a system which works in a World with 7.5 billion and maybe someone will pay attention.

Caelan MacIntyre says: 12/03/2017 at 10:42 pm
Hi Dennis,

Your assertion does not necessarily stand to reason and is just an assertion without support. I could flip/modify it this way:

If taxes were consensual, then people would likely feel a greater sense of belonging to their locales and how they are shaped and so give them freely and as they see fit.
Consensual tax collection could be viewed as part of the modus operandi of actual government, rather than as a kind of large-scale centralized armed coercive mob, such that it appears.

See also here . I'll paraphrase some of it for you (again)

" if economics is to become an instrument of freedom and prosperity instead of an instrument of statism, then there are certain fundamental fallacies that must be continually challenged and discredited. Chief among these is the persistent non sequitur from externality to coercion -- that is, the bogus conclusion that coercion is a proper means to solve problems involving economic externalities.

One of the most blatant examples of this non sequitur occurs in discussions of the 'free rider problem' and the alleged solution of government provision of so-called 'public goods'. This is a particularly insidious economic theory that bears a great deal of the responsibility of derailing economics into the ditch of statism." ~ Ben O'Neill

A system that works for many more people, rather than a handful of elites, would appear to be a system that truly echoes what the people actually want, rather than what they are forced to.

islandboy says: 11/30/2017 at 5:08 am
On the matter of carrying capacity, I have a minor quibble with some of the ideas presented here. Let me start by outlining my understanding of what is being said about carrying capacity.

"So for many millions of years, the terrestrial vertebrate biomass remained at about two hundred million tons, give or take"

So that lays a base line for carrying capacity but, unnatural selection, the selection of higher output varieties of crops or genetic engineering of crops would have raised the carrying capacity and I suggest, that increased carrying capacity would be sustainable indefinitely. The use of fertilizer, primarily organic types, if done in a sustainable way and by that I mean, returning animal and human waste streams to the soil, would also result in a more or less permanent increase in carrying capacity. So far, I've outlined two methods that humans could have used to positively influence carrying capacity more or less permanently.

The big change in carrying capacity comes with the FF age and the industrial revolution, first with the advent of mechanization and then with the Haber-Bosch process. A quick Internet search to refresh my memory of what the Haber-Bosch process entails, reveals that it is the chemical synthesis of ammonia (NH3) from nitrogen and hydrogen. Herein lies the basis for the connection between the petroleum industry and fertilizer industries and by extension carrying capacity. However, if we have enough excess energy we can easily get nitrogen from the atmosphere and hydrogen from water though I'm not sure how well that would work at a industrial scale at a global level.

So between the manufacture of fertilizers and the use of diesel powered machinery in farming, we have seen a huge increase in the ability to produce food. Ostensibly this ability can only last as long as the NG used to obtain hydrogen at an industrial scale and the petroleum to fuel the farm machines. However, the University of Minnesota has a Wind to Nitrogen Fertilizer project that aims to use excess wind power to manufacture ammonia so, it may well be that, if sufficient amounts of renewable energy can be harnessed, the manufacture of nitrogen fertilizers could be extended way beyond the end of the petroleum age.

That is the basis for my minor quibble. Obviously, fossil hydrocarbons have allowed us to increase the carrying capacity of the planet in a way that can only last as long as the finite hydrocarbon reserves do. Might it not be the case that, a transition to renewable energy on a massive scale would allow a more or less sustainable increase in the carrying capacity of the planet above and beyond the 200 million tons of terrestrial vertebrate biomass that existed 10,000 years ago? I would argue that, from the standpoint of energy, renewable energy has the potential to yield a far more sustainable increase in carrying capacity than fossil energy has. What the level of that carrying capacity is would require a fair amount of academic research.

I fully concede that there are all sorts of other resource limits that will negatively affect carrying capacity. Maybe I'm just bargaining.

Ron Patterson says: 11/30/2017 at 7:59 am
Islandboy, there is no doubt that the carrying capacity of human beings can be increased somewhat by the use of organic fertilizers. But it is chemical fertilizers that have very dramatically and very temporally increased our carrying capacity.

Of course when the carrying capacity of humans is increased the carrying capacity of wild species, especially megafauna is decreased.

That is one thing that just drives me up the wall. Everyone is concerned about the welfare of human beings. No one seems to give a rats ass about the welfare of all other species.

HuntingtonBeach says: 12/01/2017 at 2:58 am
Hi Ron, I hope your doing well. Thank you for a great post. It sure explains why Costco was so F'n busy last weekend.

"No one seems to give a rats ass about the welfare of all other species"

That's just not all true. I'm pretty sure GoneFishing cares about his dog a lot more than myself.

"the selection of higher output varieties of crops or genetic engineering of crops would have raised the carrying capacity and I suggest, that increased carrying capacity would be sustainable indefinitely"

I think you could include the knowledge of harvesting water and controlled irrigation also increasing sustainable capacity

James says: 11/30/2017 at 8:47 am
Humans evolved to become the equivalent of RNA in cells. We use tools and information, primarily in technological cells and use them with ATP equivalent fossil fuels to do work. Like organisms or cells in the ecosystem, human organizations seek to grow, profit and take market share – to further their existence.

The human brain is primarily a reward seeking organ as is most neural tissue in the ecosystem. Since humans are dissipative structures, not seeking rewards is the greatest threat they face. Most other threats, short of being chased by a pack of wild dogs, can be watered down and ignored since the brain must concentrate on getting resources and energy. Even though a human can think about things, it does not substitute for being greedy and gathering as much wealth as possible and reproducing prolifically. We're selected for doing that.

The natural greed which evolved because of natural scarcity in the ecosystem, did not wane as we evolved into a technological setting. There is no limit on our desires to be "rich" because we perceive associated advantages in survival and reproduction. Civilization is an explosive cancer that emerged from the ecosystem to consume and destroy the ecological body. Humans are the RNA that can't stop reproducing and stimulate the growth of new cells and distribution systems until the entire consumable earth is covered and the ecosystem dies or at least becomes much less complex.

Dennis Coyne says: 11/30/2017 at 10:06 am
Hi James,

In many wealthy nations total fertility has fallen below the replacement level, in fact for about half the World's population TFR is below replacement (dividing things up by nation state). Generally it is higher income nations where this is the case and correlation between education level and total fertility is very strong.

These facts and the trend in Global education levels for women don't square very well with your theory.

As Ron has suggested, homo sapiens sapiens is not your average species.

James says: 11/30/2017 at 11:29 am
Even the education occurs in schools, the cellular equivalent of the nucleolus. Instead of pursuing the rewards of children, women are pursuing "wealth" created by the technological system. I'm not sure which one is most damaging.
Fred Magyar says: 11/30/2017 at 10:30 am
The natural greed which evolved because of natural scarcity in the ecosystem, did not wane as we evolved into a technological setting. There is no limit on our desires to be "rich" because we perceive associated advantages in survival and reproduction.

And out of which orifice did you pull all that BS out of?! Let me guess, you are of the Neo-Liberal Economist school of though, right? Try cracking a few tomes on human evolution and anthropology instead of failed 20th century memes about the nature of man and rationality of markets.

Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 10:49 am
Speaking of the rationality of markets:

Whitefish is halting Puerto Rico power repairs, claiming it's owed $83 million

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/20/us/puerto-rico-power-whitefish-halts-work/index.html

James says: 11/30/2017 at 11:34 am
You don't see any greed? None in the ecosystem? Why is everyone trying to accumulate more wealth? Why do all organisms struggle to eat and reproduce to the maximum? Look in the cell, it's all happened before, but mostly with sunshine at the base.

Why do we worship the likes of Warren Buffett?

Cooperation exists, but only to enhance competition against a similarly cooperating group.

Cats@Home says: 11/30/2017 at 1:25 pm
Warren Buffett seems like a good man but Jeff Bezos is the businessman I admire most right now.
Survivalist says: 11/30/2017 at 11:07 pm
The Creepy Religion That Explains All Of Trump's Actions.
"The Prosperity Gospel is quintessentially American. One journalist described it as the "religion of winning," so we have to assume Charlie Sheen is onboard too."
http://www.cracked.com/blog/trumps-bizarre-religion-weirder-than-scientology/
Hightrekker says: 12/01/2017 at 3:22 pm
Blowing Up the Territory
Trump's biggest break came from the Democratic party. Booking Hillary Clinton as the good guy in this match was a colossal error, especially when the most improbable thing in all of politics was waiting in the wings: a legit babyface.

Bernie Sanders came off like Paddington Bear next to Hillary Clinton. Bernie was a nice old Jewish man from Vermont who legitimately meant well, and he got a real pop from his fans. He drew like crazy. Hell, even I sent him money, the first time I have ever contributed to a political campaign -- every time he got on TV and started shooting about marijuana smokers going to jail while Wall Street hoodlums were walking, I Paypaled him five bucks. I had waited my whole life to hear a politician cut a promo like that -- I think he eventually ended up with a Jackson from me, straight from my personal pot budget.

As a face, Clinton just had too much baggage, a lot of it achingly familiar: A partner known for predatory sexual behavior, wicked family ties to big business, an entitled daughter, a family charity fund loaded with foreign money, lies, flip flops. . . . What was good for the goose might have been tolerable for the gander, but all she really got was a cheap pop, and if she had any moral high ground at all, she lost it when former Democratic operative Donna Brazile, while working for CNN, leaked potential questions to the Clinton campaign before a debate with Sanders. That was cheating, behavior clearly unbecoming to a babyface. But more important was that she failed to deliver on the only thing that matters: she didn't draw. For a while it looked like there might be a "Dusty finish," a gimmick ending (named for Dusty Rhodes, the legendary wrestler and booker who invented it) in which one wrestler is declared the winner, only to have the decision reversed on a technicality -- for instance, interference from Russian hackers. This was a finish guaranteed to drive crowds insane, but Hillary couldn't put it over.

So who's the best worker? If we are using the Hulk Hogan index, it is indisputably Donald Trump. He won the election. He's the president.

But when it all comes tumbling down, be ready for a fresh wave of Trump-brand kayfabe -- transparently flawed in both conception and execution, except that he actually believes it. He'll ride off in his helicopter claiming that Washington was too dirty to clean up, that he tried but he couldn't drain the swamp, that they wouldn't accept the One Honest Man. He'll blame obstructionist Democrats for staging a witch hunt, and the Republicans for not having the guts to back him. In wrestling parlance this is called "blowing up the territory."

Pundits will argue: How much of it was real, how much reality show? How much was a put-on, how much of it was a guy legit skating at the edges of madness and dementia? Was it a work, a shoot, or a worked shoot? The only thing we can be sure of is that the secular writers will get it wrong. And, existentially, at least, Trump will still wear spandex when he mows the lawn. He can't help himself, that's just the kind of jerk he is.

https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-art-of-the-heel-edison

Survivalist says: 11/30/2017 at 10:40 pm
Organisms evolved a bias to maximize fitness by maximizing power. With greater power, there is greater opportunity to allocate energy to reproduction and survival, and therefore, an organism that captures and utilizes more energy than another organism in a population will have a fitness advantage.
Individual organisms cooperate to form social groups and generate more power. Differential power generation and accumulation result in a hierarchical group structure.
"Politics" is power used by social organisms to control others. Not only are human groups never alone, they cannot control their neighbors' behavior. Each group must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will grow its numbers and attempt to take resources from them. Therefore, the best political tactic for groups to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off and take resources from others[5].
The inevitable "overshoot" eventually leads to decreasing power attainable for the group with lower-ranking members suffering first. Low-rank members will form subgroups and coalitions to demand a greater share of power from higher-ranking individuals who will resist by forming their own coalitions to maintain it. Meanwhile, social conflict will intensify as available power continues to fall.
Eventually, members of the weakest group (high or low rank) are forced to "disperse."[6] Those members of the weak group who do not disperse are killed,[7] enslaved, or in modern times imprisoned. By most estimates, 10 to 20 percent of all the people who lived in Stone-Age societies died at the hands of other humans.[8] The process of overshoot, followed by forced dispersal, may be seen as a sort of repetitive pumping action -- a collective behavioral loop -- that drove humans into every inhabitable niche of our planet.
Here is a synopsis of the behavioral loop described above:
Step 1. Individuals and groups evolved a bias to maximize fitness by maximizing power, which requires over-reproduction and/or over-consumption of natural resources (overshoot), whenever systemic constraints allow it. Differential power generation and accumulation result in a hierarchical group structure.
Step 2. Energy is always limited, and overshoot eventually leads to decreasing power available to some members of the group, with lower-ranking members suffering first.
Step 3. Diminishing power availability creates divisive subgroups within the original group. Low-rank members will form subgroups and coalitions to demand a greater share of power from higher-ranking individuals, who will resist by forming their own coalitions to maintain power.
Step 4. Violent social strife eventually occurs among subgroups who demand a greater share of the remaining power.
Step 5. The weakest subgroups (high or low rank) are either forced to disperse to a new territory, are killed, enslaved, or imprisoned.
Step 6. Go back to step 1.
The above loop was repeated countless thousands of times during the millions of years that we were evolving[9]. This behavior is inherent in the architecture of our minds -- is entrained in our biological material -- and will be repeated until we go extinct. Carrying capacity will decline[10] with each future iteration of the overshoot loop, and this will cause human numbers to decline until they reach levels not seen since the Pleistocene.
http://www.dieoff.org
Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 10:50 pm
will cause human numbers to decline until they reach levels not seen since the Pleistocene.

Such a optimist!

Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 10:38 am
Megacancer?
Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 10:28 am
"There's no indication that we're going to do anything philosophically different," said Jim Blackburn, an environmental law professor at Rice University. "With a few modifications, it's business as usual."

As Houston rebuilds from the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history, local officials plan to dredge waterways, build new reservoirs and a coastal barrier to protect against storms that experts say are growing in intensity due to a warming climate. They have asked Washington for $61 billion to pay for it all.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-storm-harvey-floods/hurricane-harvey-makes-houston-reassess-growth-friendly-policies-idUSKBN1DU1KP?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews

Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 10:37 am
"Half the inhabitants of Melbourne have probably never seen something like this," Mr Williams said.

"This is a vast, intense, high impact event for this state."

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/melbourne-weather-record-rainfall-and-flash-flooding-to-kick-off-summer-20171129-gzvk4s.html

George Kaplan says: 11/30/2017 at 11:40 am
Apart from our own actions there may be random events that can take us out. There's a report in the Times today of research into super-eruptions. The Toba explosion, 75,000 years ago, almost took out Homo sapiens. The latest research indicates such events (maybe not quite as bad) happen on average every 17,000 years instead of every few hundred thousand as previously thought, and we are currently in an unusually long hiatus from these.

The biggest explosion since "civilization" started was probably Krakatoa in the 6th century, which has been proposed as the beggining of the dark ages in Europe and the end of a couple of other civilizations, though there's a bit of controversy about that theory, but it was much milder than an explosion from one of the major calderas would be.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/why-volcanic-doom-is-closer-than-we-think-90c8d56gr

(paywall – but there might be some free articles per month available and the research is to be published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters)

Sorry – probably the wrong thread.

Doug Leighton says: 11/30/2017 at 12:57 pm
Continuing from above (this mirrors my own experience in Central Africa where families currently seem to be averaging about four kids each):

POPULATION GROWTH IN AFRICA: GRASPING THE SCALE OF THE CHALLENGE

"In the past year (2016) the population of the African continent grew by 30 million. By the year 2050, annual increases will exceed 42 million people per year and total population will have doubled to 2.4 billion, according to the UN. This comes to 3.5 million more people per month, or 80 additional people per minute since the early 1990s, family planning programmes in Africa have not had the same attention (as Asia and Latin America), RESULTING IN SLOW, SOMETIMES NEGLIGIBLE, FERTILITY DECLINES. IN A HANDFUL OF COUNTRIES, PREVIOUS DECLINES HAVE STALLED ALTOGETHER AND ARE REVERSING."

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/jan/11/population-growth-in-africa-grasping-the-scale-of-the-challenge

Also,

WHY HAVE FOUR CHILDREN WHEN YOU COULD HAVE SEVEN? FAMILY PLANNING IN NIGER

" but Hamani is unusual in that three babies are enough for her. Despite having the highest fertility rate in the world, women and men alike in Niger say they want more children than they actually have – women want an average of nine, while men say they want 11."

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/mar/15/why-have-four-children-when-you-could-have-seven-contraception-niger

GoneFishing says: 11/30/2017 at 5:08 pm
Sounds like an explosion that will lead to implosion and migration. Families used to be fairly large in the European and American regions not long ago. Some still are.
There are 27.7 million people in Uganda. But by 2025 the population will almost double to 56 million, close to that of Britain, which has a similar land mass. In 44 years its population will have grown by nearly as much as China's.
"You look at these numbers and think 'that's impossible'," said Carl Haub, senior demographer at the US-based Population Reference Bureau, whose latest global projections show Uganda as the fastest-growing country in the world. Midway through the 21st century, if current birthrates persist, Uganda will be the world's 12th most populous country with 130 million people – more than Russia or Japan.

https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2006/sep/01/guardianweekly.guardianweekly1
Doug Leighton says: 11/30/2017 at 6:02 pm
"There are 27.7 million people in Uganda."

That sounds about right and from personal observation almost all 27.7 million of them are school kids who (currently) are quite well nourished and with decent health care. A big problem, as I see it, is that virtually all schools in Uganda are run by "Western" churches who seen determined to increase the size of their flock by NOT teaching their students about contraception and the benefits thereof: sound familiar?

Survivalist says: 11/30/2017 at 10:36 pm
"In 2015, the median age of the population in Uganda was 15.8 years."
https://www.statista.com/statistics/447643/average-age-of-the-population-in-uganda/
George Kaplan says: 12/01/2017 at 1:48 am
Doug – like you I have some sponsorship in Africa – a general women's group rather than an individual. From their letters what they want is education (both formal for the children and also just tips on farming and running a business), enough money (very little) to start a business so they can feed their children, a way to manage HIV if they are infected (many still are) and peace and quiet. What they don't want is more children, forced marriage through kidnap, the return of their husbands to beat them up, interference from the elders (all men) in their business. Often they only realise these options are even possible after they have had contact with the groups set up by the charity.
Doug Leighton says: 12/01/2017 at 9:35 am
George – My African experiences are mainly restricted to Uganda (the pearl of Africa) where my family visit annually and have done so for almost 20 years; we love the country, the people, the wildlife. Its been a joy watching the girl we assisted progress from kindergarten to medical school; to meet and relate to her extended family who've become our close friends. The country (Uganda) and the people are currently doing well, very well indeed (unless you happen to be gay). Wildlife parks flourish and are well managed. My concerns relate to the future. There are too many kids. In my opinion, without reigning in population growth the country will face immense over-population problems in the future. I hope I'm wrong. Having said that, I agree with your comments -- all of them. And its true, woman's business groups are in many respects the future of Africa.

Cheers,

Rob Mielcarski says: 11/30/2017 at 4:00 pm
For anyone seeking a plausible scientific explanation for why:
– one species has a uniquely powerful brain
– why the brain of that species is capable of visiting the moon but incapable of understanding or acting on it's own overshoot
– why one small group of hominids exploded about 100,000 to take over the planet
– why religion emerged simultaneous with the behaviorally modern mind about 100,000 years ago
– and more big questions: https://un-denial.com/2017/06/25/why-my-interest-in-denial/

I find this theory by Ajit Varki and Danny Brower very satisfying.

https://un-denial.com/denial-2/theory-video/

George Kaplan says: 11/30/2017 at 4:08 pm
That's a smart site you have there. I read that book some time ago, it's interesting but I thought a bit of a just-so story, but that's maybe becasue the ideas woud be so hard to prove one way or the other. It's a pity Brower died before his ideas got out to more discussion.
Rob Mielcarski says: 12/01/2017 at 1:13 am
Your initial reaction to the theory is perfectly reasonable and common.

If you dig deeper and start connecting dots I think you may find it is the best available explanation for many big unanswered questions. The theory may not be correct but there are no known facts that slay it, nor any other equally elegant theories that fit the data better.

Varki acknowledges the difficulty of testing the theory, but does point to some promising avenues of research. Unfortunately Varki's speciality and day job is in a different domain so his theory is likely to sit on the shelf until some young scientist with a defective denial gene picks up the baton.

George Kaplan says: 12/01/2017 at 2:08 am
I did find it neat and convincing as you say, but that's the point of just-so stories, plus it's difficult to know where to go if it is correct, but I'm going to be visiting your site without question.
Doug Leighton says: 11/30/2017 at 7:39 pm
I suppose this 2014 piece is apropos,

WILL OVERPOPULATION LEAD TO PUBLIC HEALTH CATASTROPHE?

"Our new projections are probabilistic, and we find that there will probably be between 9.6 and 12.3 billion people in 2100," Prof. Raftery told Medical News Today. "This projection is based on a statistical model that uses all available past data on fertility and mortality from all countries in a systematic way, unlike previous projections that were based on expert assumptions."

"A key finding of the study is that the fertility rate in Africa is declining much more slowly than has been previously estimated, which Prof. Raftery tells us "has major long-term implications for population."

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/284619.php?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Medical_News_Today_TrendMD_1

Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 7:50 pm
Spain's water crisis deepens as Rio Tajo dries up

https://www.euroweeklynews.com/3.0.15/news/on-euro-weekly-news/spain-news-in-english/146617-spain-s-water-crisis-deepens

(haven't had a wing pawn global cooling update for a while)

http://www.theportugalnews.com/news/sahara-moving-north/43959

Hightrekker says: 11/30/2017 at 9:30 pm
Declining uncertainty in transient climate response as CO2 forcing dominates future climate change

https://www.nature.com/articles/ngeo2371

( Nature Geoscience , not Watt Is My Head Doing Up My Ass?

Fred Magyar says: 12/01/2017 at 5:09 am
No discussion about human evolution or even biological evolution across all species can be considered complete without at least a basic understanding of the biochemical and molecular biological basis of CRIPR-Cas9 gene editing technology and gene drives.

Sam Harris' latest podcast has a discussion of this technology with Jennifer Doudna.

https://www.samharris.org/podcast

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Jennifer Doudna about the gene-editing technology CRISPR/Cas9. They talk about the biology of gene editing, how specific tissues in the body can be targeted, the ethical implications of changing the human genome, the importance of curiosity-driven science, and other topics.

Ron Patterson says: 12/01/2017 at 8:56 am
E.O. Wilson
I have always been a great admirer of E.O Wilson. I have followed his work for years. I especially liked "Sociobiology" and "Consilience". I have followed his feud with Stephen J. Gould, Steven Rose, R.C. Lewontin, and Leon Kamin, (as reported by Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins). (I always came down on the side of Wilson et al.) And I am very proud to say he is a fellow Alabamian.

That being said, there are areas where I must disagree with him. For instance:

From Kirkus Reviews of "Half Earth":
In this final volume of his trilogy, Wilson (The Meaning of Human Existence, 2014, etc.) opens with a compelling proposal on how to slow current species extinction rates: set aside half of the planet (noncontiguously) as wilderness preserves free from human encroachment, a measure that the author claims would stabilize more than 80 percent of species.

Fred Magyar, above, quotes from Edward O. Wilson's New Take on Human Nature:
Wilson argues the nest is central to understanding the ecological dominance not only of ants, but of human beings, too ..

By being super-cooperators, groupies of the group, willing to set aside our small, selfish desires and I-minded drive to join forces and seize opportunity as a self-sacrificing, hive-minded tribe ..

To qualify as eusocial, in Wilson's definition, animals must live in multigenerational communities, practice division of labor and behave altruistically, ready to sacrifice "at least some of their personal interests to that of the group." It's tough to be a eusocialist.

First, the idea that we would or could set aside half the earth for wildlife is preposterous. Which parts of the U.S. would we set aside, parts that make half the land area? Could we convince every African nation to do the same? Or Russia? Or China, South Korea or Japan?

Second, as much as I admire Wilson, I think he is just flat wrong on his new take on human nature. And I think Pinker and Dawkins would agree with that opinion. If you had read Pinker's " The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature ," and I have, you would know exactly what I mean. Our minds are not blank slates to be molded by society, to be made to behave like ants in a colony, like a self-sacrificing, hive-minded tribe. All those traits that Wilson says we must give up are in our genes, human nature.

I will not deny that humans can be ruled. An Iron Fist could compel us to behave in such a matter. But all such Iron Fists carry within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's just human nature.

OFM says: 12/01/2017 at 10:49 am
Hi Ron,

After reading your eight fifty six am, I'm telling ya straight .. Between your ears, where you live intellectually, you are a TRUE conservative.

The people who we refer to today as conservatives, meaning those who inhabit the right wing politically, are not REAL conservatives, not according to my definition.

Don't forget that I am a follower of the Humpty Dumpty School of Linguistics. Words mean exactly what I intend them to mean, when I use them, rotfl.

To my way of thinking, the first and single most important qualification of a TRUE conservative is that he must have a sound grasp of human nature. You have it. You understand that we cooperate with friends, family, known community, and compete with outsiders .. and that when circumstances compel us to do so, we make friends or at least ally ourselves with former enemies or strangers, and work together .. but mostly only when we have little or no choice but to do so.

I'm just teasing you a little, not making fun of you. 😉

Decent people, left or right wing, want the same things, when you get down to the basics. Peace, dignified life, freedom from unnecessary worries, etc.

I haven't yet read Wilson's latest books. Hoping to get around to it, this winter.

We need to keep it in mind that just because somebody presents a grand plan in a book, and writes as if it might be possible to implement it, he does not necessarily believe there's a snowball's chance on a red hot stove that his plan will ever actually be implemented.

Such books are sometimes intended as sources of inspiration for a new generation of people following along in his footsteps .. and such a plan MIGHT be implemented . a few centuries down the road, lol. Stranger things have happened, historically.

Such a book can be the result of an old man's dreams being put in libraries so as to achieve a sort of immortality . Wilson had that already of course.

I reckon you're even older than I am, and here's wishing you the best at the personal level.

Ron Patterson says: 12/01/2017 at 11:09 am
To my way of thinking, the first and single most important qualification of a TRUE conservative is that he must have a sound grasp of human nature. You have it. You understand that we cooperate with friends, family, known community, and compete with outsiders .. and that when circumstances compel us to do so, we make friends or at least ally ourselves with former enemies or strangers, and work together .. but mostly only when we have little or no choice but to do so.

Sorry Mac, but I just don't get the connection. The definition you pen here could just as well be the definition of a True Liberal.

I am a conservative when it comes to conserving the environment, saving animal habitat and saving species from extinction. But those are qualities held by most liberals and not held by so-called conservatives. Right-wing Republicans call themselves conservatives.

So I just have to accept the lexicon as it exist today. I am a liberal, not a conservative.

OFM says: 12/01/2017 at 11:01 pm
"Sorry Mac, but I just don't get the connection. The definition you pen here could just as well be the definition of a True Liberal."

You DO GET IT, Ron, except you haven't yet quite got around to thinking of labels as jokes or weapons . Labels are for partisans. Labels are clubs we use to pound each other into submission.

People with real working brains generally come to the same basic conclusions, regardless of the way they're labeled by themselves or others. There's usually more than one route by which we can travel and arrive at the truth.

You're a man willing to tell it like it is, as for instance when you have pointed out the realities of the way things work in some countries where you worked yourself. A partisan D just won't repeat that sort of stuff, true or not.

When you say you're a liberal, you're just labeling yourself. What you ARE is something else. You're a man with a working brain, a man who understands reality, a man who tells it like it is, as you perceive it to be.

Ron Patterson says: 12/01/2017 at 11:12 pm
You're a man with a working brain, a man who understands reality, a man who tells it like it is, as you perceive it to be.

You are a goddamn right man, and that means I am a liberal. 😉

OFM says: 12/02/2017 at 2:40 pm
Ah yes, but liberal is still just a label.

It is however true that the so called liberals are more often right by a substantial margin than the so called conservatives in terms of having objective facts on their side when considering issues such as the environment, public health, and many others.

But they're not always right. Sometimes the liberal camp seems to have it's head as far up its backside as the conservative camp.

The leaders of both camps seem to be more interested in having plenty of foot soldiers to serve as cannon fodder than they are in the actual welfare of the country.

I can provide as good arguments for any sort of truly sound public policy from a conservative pov as you can from a liberal pov.

To me this proves we both have working brains, and are capable of looking the truth in the eye, and publicly agreeing on what IS true, and what is not.

If we could free ourselves of goddamned infernal partisan politics and identity politics , based on our community cultures, we could make things happen politically.

If for instance we could put the question of subsidizing wind and solar power to a referendum, I could easily convince most of the so called conservatives I know that voting in favor of subsidies would be a GREAT BARGAIN for them, long term. Well, the ones with brains enough that they know a little about the business world anyway. That's at least half of them, and more than enough.

They won't ordinarily support subsidizing renewable energy as part of a package deal because they perceive the PACKAGE to be weighted in favor of their political and cultural enemies. Supporting renewable energy subsidies would mean voting for D's and they don't like the overall D agenda.

OFM says: 12/03/2017 at 5:49 pm
Back to you one more time Ron,

I'm not sure WHERE this comment will appear, but hopefully it will be below my two forty pm.

Allow me to approach this liberal/ conservative label thing from a different direction.

Suppose you meet a new person, and get to talking about oh let us say water pollution, and fishing, and having to spend your local tax money on a sophisticated water treatment plant, because there's too much of this or that and the other as well in the river that passes your town to drink the water, without spending a lot of money. .

If you NEVER MENTION anything that LABELS you as a liberal or conservative, you can talk meaningfully to just about anybody about this issue.

Identify yourself as a liberal, or a conservative, you more or less automatically blow your opportunity to say anything to your new POTENTIAL friend who thinks of himself as your opposite and enemy, politically, other than something he already knows and believes, even if what that something is factually incorrect.

Label yourself as a liberal, and the typical serious Christian voter in the state of Alabama automatically thinks of you as a murderer of yet to be born children. Forget labeling yourself, avoid it to the extent you can, and you have an EXCELLENT shot at talking to that voter about supporting only candidates who have a decent record of being respectful to women, immigrants, minorities, etc.

If I label myself as a conservative, I've automatically blown my chance to have a serious conversation with a liberal about the possibility of having some real choice in education . meaning breaking the teacher's unions and government's de facto monopoly control of our educational system.

You may not like this idea, but think about this how much better are your options NOW, given that we have email, fax, UPS, Fed Ex , etc, when it comes to getting a letter or package where it needs to go FOR SURE and RIGHT AWAY?

I have heard lots of liberals say that allowing any real choice in the schools would mean the end of any real opportunity for poor kids, inner city kids, etc, to get a decent education. Sometimes, in the same breath almost, I hear those same liberals admit that the public schools in lots of communities large and small are literal disaster areas, where hardly any of the kids learn anything. I used to know quite a few of this sort , back in my younger days, when I was living in the Fan and hanging out with the older ( grad students mostly ) kids at VCU having a good time, taking a course or two per semester to keep my grad student ID up to date. I spent about ten years there off and on.

Ya know WHAT? EVERY LAST COUPLE I knew among them moved out of town when their OWN kids got old enough to go to school.

Quite a few of them spent their careers as teachers, lol. And my guess is that not more than one out of ten of those couples ever moved to a place where the schools were the sort of hell holes we read about so often these days .. and that tenth couple of course had NO KIDS, lol.

Yet they almost universally believe in the de facto teacher / government educational monopoly as it exists today, as it totally ruins the prospects of millions of kids denying them, or more accurately, their parents, any real choice in the schools their kids attend. If liberal versus conservative comes into the conversation, it's OVER. The liberals aren't going to listen, any more than conservatives listen.

How many members of this forum think Roy Moore ought to be tarred and feathered ? How many have ever had the intellectual integrity to say the same thing about Bill Clinton?

Liberals are liberals, and conservatives are conservatives, and the gulf between can be as vast as the gulf between East and West. Communication is tough to impossible.

But if we avoid the labels . communication can happen.

Incidentally this rant does NOT mean I am a supporter of the Trump administration in general, or the Trump education department in particular. Nothing I know of concerning the Trump administration seems to be about the good of the COUNTRY or of the majority of the people of this country.

Hightrekker says: 12/01/2017 at 11:04 am
First, the idea that we would or could set aside half the earth for wildlife is preposterous.

Even stopping the rape and scrape accelerating is highly unlikely.

This is total fantasy.
At best, the survivors (if any) on the other side of the wall we are about to crash into, will have enough wisdom and intelligence to embrace the condition they are in.

Fred Magyar says: 12/01/2017 at 11:19 am
First, the idea that we would or could set aside half the earth for wildlife is preposterous.

That isn't what he proposes even though it is the title of his book. May I suggest you read it! What he is really arguing for is more along the lines of a network of ecological corridors that might connect already existing nature preserves, parks and private property and therefore allow isolated pockets of natural ecosystems to be connected with others.

To be very clear, E.O. Wilson is not in any way naive about our predicament and says so.
That's not to say he has thrown in the towel, especially given that he is now in the later portion of his 80's. He apparently doesn't want to go down without a fight.

I have read his book twice already and have the Kindle version on my laptop. To be honest I'm not what anyone might call overly optimistic about the prospects of his proposals coming to pass. Having said that, I do admire his deep knowledge base about the natural world and have the greatest admiration for the man! More power to him for trying!

Cheers!

GoneFishing says: 12/01/2017 at 12:01 pm
Fred, I read Half Earth and have to agree with E.O. Wilson. I think my personal bias is toward nature, but that aside, humans can do what is needed. All the gadgetry in the world cannot replace a functioning ecosystem. Those functions are mandatory for the preservation of life on earth. We need to preserve, expand and enhance (if we get smart enough) natural ecosystems around the world.
Why not build armies? Armies called the United Conservation and Environmental Protection Corp, whose job is to protect and expand natural areas around the world. It would increase employment and be funded by monies that otherwise go to military purposes. This and other organizations could be doing things that make the people proud to be human, rather than just wheels and cogs in basically destructive system.

This is not naïve, this is just choices. Humans make choices, that is one of our inherent abilities. Our current state and appearance is due to a set of previous choices that have not quite worked out. We get stuck in old choices, time to make new ones.

Ron Patterson says: 12/01/2017 at 12:24 pm
I think my personal bias is toward nature, but that aside, humans can do what is needed.

Really now? If humans can do what is needed then why the hell are they not doing it. Species are going extinct at a rate as fast as the last great extinction 65 million years ago. And the extinction rate is accelerating. If humans can do what is needed it is goddamn time they got started.

Our current state and appearance is due to a set of previous choices that have not quite worked out. We get stuck in old choices, time to make new ones.

Those choices were made, and are being made, by 7 billion people. And yes, it is time those 7 billion people changed the way they are behaving, it is time they made different choices. But don't hold your breath.

I am sorry Fishing, but I just don't share your optimism.

Doug Leighton says: 12/01/2017 at 12:38 pm
Yup, reminds me of China, driving to a restaurant half way across Beijing with a car full of Chinese because they knew about a hot spot where some endangered species or other was on the menu: get it before you're too late. Life in the real world!

"Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural "background" rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we're now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century."

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

GoneFishing says: 12/01/2017 at 2:06 pm
"If humans can do what is needed then why the hell are they not doing it. "
"I am sorry Fishing, but I just don't share your optimism."

By destroying the environment we destroy ourselves. I think that will soon become quite apparent and then those who are already on track can leverage that.

Ron Patterson says: 12/01/2017 at 3:21 pm
As Charlie Brown would say: Good Grief!
Fred Magyar says: 12/01/2017 at 8:44 pm
Really now? If humans can do what is needed then why the hell are they not doing it. Species are going extinct at a rate as fast as the last great extinction 65 million years ago. And the extinction rate is accelerating. If humans can do what is needed it is goddamn time they got started.

Ok, let's assume for a moment using round numbers that there are currently 7.5 billion humans living on this tiny planet as I type these words. How many of those humans do you suppose are actually aware of the fact that we are probably in the midst of the sixth mass extinction? I'm going to go way out on a limb here and guess about a couple hundred thousand.

Now most of those couple hundred thousand are in shock and denial of reality. So there are maybe 100,000 humans who are aware and are actually starting to do something.

While that may sound like a minuscule amount I can cite data and research that shows that may be enough to really start to change the current paradigm in a big way.

Ron Patterson says: 12/01/2017 at 11:06 pm
As I quoted Charlie Brown above: Good Grief!
Fred Magyar says: 12/02/2017 at 7:15 am
LOL!
.

Hightrekker says: 12/01/2017 at 12:22 pm
Yea, the feud between Gould/Lewontin/Rose VS Wilson/Dawkins/Dennett has been interesting.
Being somewhat Marxist in my orientation, I was kinda presupposed to the Gould camp, but the Wilson/Dawkins have proven to ring much truer.
The Blank Slate puts the nails in the coffin for Marxist view of human nature, as Marx viewed it as totally a function of environment. Pinker buried that view.
Orr was always Gould and Lewontin's go to guy with media, as he had power in the NYT's and Boston Globe, and could often control reviews and and coverage.
It has been interesting.
Fred Magyar says: 12/01/2017 at 8:59 pm
http://www.planetary.org/explore/space-topics/earth/pale-blue-dot.html

I'm sure most here are familiar with what Carl Sagan said about our Pale Blue Dot

This excerpt from Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot was inspired by an image taken, at Sagan's suggestion, by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. As the spacecraft left our planetary neighborhood for the fringes of the solar system, engineers turned it around for one last look at its home planet. Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away, and approximately 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane, when it captured this portrait of our world. Caught in the center of scattered light rays (a result of taking the picture so close to the Sun), Earth appears as a tiny point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size.

Now guess what?!

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/12/after-37-years-voyager-has-fired-up-its-trajectory-thrusters/

At present, the Voyager 1 spacecraft is 21 billion kilometers from Earth, or about 141 times the distance between the Earth and Sun. It has, in fact, moved beyond our Solar System into interstellar space. However, we can still communicate with Voyager across that distance.

This week, the scientists and engineers on the Voyager team did something very special. They commanded the spacecraft to fire a set of four trajectory thrusters for the first time in 37 years to determine their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses.

FURTHER READING
The Voyagers have reached an anniversary worth celebrating
After sending the commands on Tuesday, it took 19 hours and 35 minutes for the signal to reach Voyager. Then, the Earth-bound spacecraft team had to wait another 19 hours and 35 minutes to see if the spacecraft responded. It did. After nearly four decades of dormancy, the Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactured thrusters fired perfectly.

"The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test. The mood was one of relief, joy, and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all," said Todd Barber, a propulsion engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Humans can do some pretty incredible things!

Cheers!

GoneFishing says: 12/01/2017 at 10:03 pm
Yes, they can even teach their young to love the life of the planet and help keep it safe.
HuntingtonBeach says: 12/01/2017 at 10:59 pm
Not if your born in the South and damaged by religion
Fred Magyar says: 12/02/2017 at 7:14 am
Well, E.O. Wilson was born in Alabama into an evangelical family. 😉
Ron Patterson says: 12/02/2017 at 11:14 am
So was I. Well, sort of. My dad was a Deacon in the Primitive Baptist Church but he was not a crusading evangelical.

I have told this story before but I will do it again here.

I was about 17 or so when I sidled up to my dad who was sitting in his easy chair. I asked: "Dad, how did them kangaroos get from Australia to over there where Noah's Ark was? And how did they get back?" Dad jumped up from his chair, stuck his finger right in my face and yelled: "Son, that is the word of God and that is not for you to question."

I never questioned my Dad again about religion.

HuntingtonBeach says: 12/02/2017 at 6:01 pm
It takes character and courage not act like sheep. My hat goes off to you. Ron, I'm sure you understood exactly what I meant by my earlier comment.
Hickory says: 12/02/2017 at 12:15 am
When countries begin to hit the wall economically ( as happened in Germany in the 1930's for example), the populace will often out of desperation (and ignorance of course) enable a dictator to come to power. This is with the false hope that grandiose promises of prosperity will be fulfilled.

This explains why Trump was elected, even though the American has yet to be tested by disruption, much.

As the world hits the wall of growth limits, the risk is for more and more leadership failures, the rise of warlords, the failure of functioning democracies.

Violent choices and dysfunctional government will serve to be a mechanism of population decline, ugly population decline. Current events can be seen through this lens as time unfolds.

Hard to watch.
May be better to have no TV.
The de-evolution will be televised, will be televised, will be televised

George Kaplan says: 12/02/2017 at 2:59 am
The general population in Germany did not really enable Hitler to come to power. He was appointed as a compomise by the two leading parties in an election who had split the main vote. They both thought he would make such a mess of it that they would sweep the board at the next election. As soon as he was appointed he started killing or imprisoning these smart opposition leaders, and there wasn't another clean election. It was more like an extended coupe, admittedly with a large number of supporters, often ex WW-I soldier thugs, in the general population.
OFM says: 12/02/2017 at 2:23 pm
George is in the bullseye about how Hitler came to power, considering he was painting fast with a broad brush in such a short comment. I have devoted many a long evening to reading the history of war in the twentieth century, so as to better understand the history of my time.

Wars are usually the result of politicians either wanting them, or being boxed into situations where they either can't avoid them or consider them the best of an assortment of bad options.

Hickory says: 12/03/2017 at 1:17 am
Point taken George. Despite that the general notion that as crunch time develops, there will be a trend towards extremist and totalitarian regimes throughout the world. Along with pockets of failed states, anarchy and warlords. 'Have nots' will take big risks.
GoneFishing says: 12/02/2017 at 8:25 am
No devolution involved. Just human nature.
The loose knit groups with similar hates, anger and dislikes were temporarily brought together. It was an inverse election that utilized the negative and more volatile side of human nature. it only hangs together with constant stirring and occasional negative results (pound the enemy). Finger pointing and passing the buck is not enough, the groups start fracturing.
Hightrekker says: 12/02/2017 at 9:43 am
Lose the Tee Vee -- -
The more you watch, the less you know.
HuntingtonBeach says: 12/02/2017 at 8:18 pm
The difference between the "Tee Vee" and the Internet is exposing your ignorance to the world
Ron Patterson says: 12/02/2017 at 1:36 pm
A question for Dennis Coyne, or any other cornucopian who believes renewable energy will save the world from economic collapse, at least for the next 200 years or so.

Dennis, I understand your very optimistic outlook for the welfare of future human populations. I don't agree with it but I understand your argument. But as I understand it, and please correct me if I am wrong, your entire argument deals with the human population of the earth. I don't remember reading your predicted outlook for the rest of the animal kingdom? Perhaps you did make one and I just missed it.

That being said, you have read my outlook many times. And it was all repeated in my post above. Do you agree or disagree? Just where do you see the large wild animal population in the year 2100? Please elaborate.

Edit: Dennis, I know you do not consider yourself a cornucopian, however, I was just comparing your outlook for the future of civilization to mine. And using that comparison?

islandboy says: 12/02/2017 at 2:36 pm
Nice! I was just thinking about a response to a comment following one of mine further up and this pops up, which dovetails nicely into what I've been thinking. In my comment I mention using wind power to make ammonia as a foundation for chemical nitrogen fertilizer and you (Ron) in you reply stated that, " But it is chemical fertilizers that have very dramatically and very temporally increased our carrying capacity." I don't know if you realized this but, that sort of was my point in that, the manufacture of ammonia and the resulting chemical fertilizer using excess wind (and/or solar) power might well result in a much extended (permanent) increase in carrying capacity by allowing us to continue the manufacture of chemical nitrogen fertilizer (ammonium nitrate if memory serves me right) in the absence of oil and NG.

This can be viewed as a downside to the ongoing exponential increasing capacity of renewable electricity generation. If renewables grow big enough fast enough, there will be incentives to use any excess to do things like manufacture fertilizer allowing mankind's expansion into wild habitats to continue. I think it is important that the existing population of the planet continues to have more or less adequate food supplies in order to avoid the sort of situation that exist in Haiti but, the real problem as I see it, is to get poor people in less developed countries to believe that they would be better off not having as many children. Based on utterances I have heard in my neck of the woods, as recently as last night, many of these people do not see any problem with having lots of kids. There seems to be an attitude abroad that there is a great big world out there, just ready for the taking. No limits. I wonder whatever gives people that idea?

I wanted to post some pictures of garbage, sitting in open storm water channels, just waiting for the next big shower of rain to be washed out of existence. At least that must be what the people who dump this stuff into the drains think. I have to wonder if they ever bother to think about where it's going to end up but, it seems to be a simple case of out of sight, out of mind. I guess some readers will have figured out that if you visit any area of the Jamaican coastline that does not have a regular, structured clean up crew, you will see where the trash ends up. I have seen it and it is depressing.

Ron Patterson says: 12/02/2017 at 3:18 pm
I don't know if you realized this but, that sort of was my point in that, the manufacture of ammonia and the resulting chemical fertilizer using excess wind (and/or solar) power might well result in a much extended (permanent) increase in carrying capacity by allowing us to continue the manufacture of chemical nitrogen fertilizer (ammonium nitrate if memory serves me right) in the absence of oil and NG.

Errr . I don't know if you realize it but you cannot make nitrogen fertilizer without natural gas . or some other source of hydrogen. Of course, you might get the hydrogen from water via electrolysis but that would be super expensive.

Fertilizer Made with Natural Gas Is Lifting Our World
Referred to by some as the most important technological advance of the 20th century .Between 3 and 5 percent of the world's annual natural gas production – roughly 1 to 2 percent of the world's annual energy supply – is converted using the process to produce more than 500 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer, which is believed to sustain about 40 percent of the world's 7 billion people. Approximately half of the protein in today's humans originated with nitrogen fixed through the Haber-Bosch process.

islandboy says: 12/02/2017 at 3:45 pm
"Of course, you might get the hydrogen from water via electrolysis but that would be super expensive."

Not if you are experiencing negative electricity prices as has happened when there's lots of wind and no demand or transmission capacity for the electricity being generated. I think OFM has alluded to this a few times in his ramblings, suggesting that hydrogen production via electrolysis or desalination might be useful ways of avoiding otherwise wasted electricity when the resource is available but, there is limited demand or transmission capacity.

If we ever get to the point where wind and solar generators are ubiquitous and abundant this could be a distinct possibility. In case you missed it in my earlier post here's The University of Minnesota's Wind to Nitrogen Fertilizer project :

We are pursuing a Grand Challenge – the challenge to feed the world while sustaining the environment. In the spirit of this grand challenge, a team of researchers across the University are pursuing an elegant concept in which wind energy, water, and air are used to produce nitrogen fertilizer.

WCROC energy from the windEnergy generated from the wind is used to separate hydrogen from water. Nitrogen is pulled from air. The hydrogen and nitrogen are then combined to form nitrogen fertilizer that nourishes the plants surrounding the farmer.

Next to water, nitrogen fertilizer is the most limiting nutrient for food production. Minnesota farmers import over $400 million of nitrogen fertilizer each year and are subjected to volatile price swings. Furthermore, nitrogen fertilizer is currently produced using fossil energy which contributes significantly to the carbon footprint of agricultural commodities.

and from https://www.siemens.co.uk/en/insights/potential-of-green-ammonia-as-fertiliser-and-electricity-storage.htm

"Green" ammonia demonstration programme:

Siemens is participating in an all electric ammonia synthesis and energy storage system demonstration programme at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, near Oxford. The demonstrator, which will run until December 2017, is supported by Innovate UK. Collaborators include the University of Oxford, Cardiff University and the Science & Technology Facilities Council.

Dennis Coyne says: 12/02/2017 at 2:59 pm
Hi Ron,

I do not know much about the subject so I should probably not offer an opinion, but because you asked

I agree that humans are the problem and believe that fewer humans (as in reduced population) will improve the situation. Will humans choose to protect some of the mega fauna, until population falls to a more sustainable level? I have no idea.

Is it possible? I would say yes.
High probability? My guess would be no (less than a 66% probability).

So I do not have a prediction for the Earth's megafauna in 2100, except to say I doubt your prediction that we will be reduced to rats and mice, etc. is correct. This is no doubt because I believe there will be a gradual transition to a more sustainable society. I believe some of the mega fauna might be preserved until human population falls to 1 billion or so (by 2150 to 2200). Most likely in North America, Scandanavia, and Siberia, and perhaps in the Himalaya and parts of South America. The rapid expansion of population in Africa makes it less likely the megafauna will survive there.

I am using the 40 kg cutoff for megafauna, though there are many definitions.

Note that some would consider cornucopian an insult.

Certainly I do not think fossil fuels are as abundant as those who believe scenarios such as the RCP8.5 scenario (with about 5000 Pg of carbon emissions) are plausible.

I also do not believe resources are unlimited or infinitely substitutable, which tends to be the cornucopian viewpoint. There is great need to utilize resources more efficiently and to recycle as much as possible (cradle to grave manufacturing should be required by law).

Now if you define cornucopian as someone who is less pessimistic than you, then I am by that definition a cornucopian. 🙂

I am certainly more optimistic than you, but if we all agreed there would be little to discuss.

Clearly the future is unclear.

The outlook for the wild megafauna is tragic and we should do what we can to preserve species diversity. Getting human population to peak and decline would improve the situation of other species, but I share your pessimism that this will be enough, I am just less pessimistic than you.

Ron Patterson says: 12/02/2017 at 3:53 pm
I believe some of the mega fauna might be preserved until human population falls to 1 billion or so (by 2150 to 2200).

Okay, let's do the math. It looks like the world will reach 9 billion people by 2050. Then if it were to fall to 1 billion by 2150, that would be a decline of 80,000,000 per year or 219,178 per day. That is deaths above births. That would be a catastrophic collapse by any stretch of the imagination. And of course, most of those deaths would be by starvation. And for sure, as I said before, we would eat the songbirds out of the trees.

Hell, if that scenario takes place, there will likely be no rats left. No, no, no, Dennis, please forgive me. You are definitely not a cornucopian. Oh God, how could I have been so wrong?

GoneFishing says: 12/02/2017 at 4:19 pm
The most rapid population decreases have been from disease. A few bouts of virulent diseases in a world with little medical help and control could dramatically reduce population.

Population Collapse in Mexico (Down to about 5% in a century)

Dennis Coyne says: 12/02/2017 at 5:14 pm
Hi Ron,

See chart below. If total fertility ratio (TFR) falls to 1.5 by 2050 then population can fall from 9 billion to 4.5 billion by 2125 and to 2.25 billion by 2200 and to 1 billion by 2300, a fall in TFR to 1.25 (South Korea is about 1.26) would result in more rapid population decline. It is not clear how low TFR can go for the World, it was cut in half in 40 years, whether that can continue so that 1.27 is reached in 2055 is unknown. This scenario assumes life expectancy rises to no higher than 90 for the World.

Deaths would be natural rather than from starvation, this is just a matter of people choosing to have fewer children as is the case today in many East Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan and in many European nations as well.

Education for women and access to birth control and electrification (watch tv, instead of other forms of entertainment leading to increased family size), and empowerment of women in general will reduce population growth. Higher income also helps.

Chart from paper linked below

http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/10438/1/28-39.pdf

Doug Leighton says: 12/02/2017 at 6:27 pm
Keeping things in perspective, why not go with the experts until they're proven wrong?

WORLD POPULATION LIKELY TO SURPASS 11 BILLION IN 2100

"American Statistical Association. "World population likely to surpass 11 billion in 2100: US population projected to grow by 40 percent over next 85 years."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150810110634.htm

Doug Leighton says: 12/02/2017 at 6:36 pm
THERE'S A STRONG CHANCE THAT ONE-THIRD OF ALL PEOPLE WILL BE AFRICAN BY 2100

The combination of declining mortality and relatively high fertility is the driver of rapid population growth in Africa. Even if fertility would continue to decline, as assumed by the UN medium scenario, it will not bring down the growth rate in the near future, let alone halt population growth. This is because of "demographic inertia". And this is because Africa has a high proportion of young adults of reproductive age. Even if each one had very few children, the number of births would remain high.

http://theconversation.com/theres-a-strong-chance-that-one-third-of-all-people-will-be-african-by-2100-84576

Hightrekker says: 12/02/2017 at 7:52 pm
We are all African– it's just some of us have been gone for a while.
(well if you are east of the Wallace Line, you are part Denisovan, and west, part Neanderthal and a species we haven't discovered yet)
Synapsid says: 12/03/2017 at 12:24 pm
Hightrekker,

The Neanderthals and Denisovans are of African descent too, so African we are.

It's turtles all the way down.

Doug Leighton says: 12/03/2017 at 12:47 pm
"It's turtles all the way down." LOL Exactly!
GoneFishing says: 12/02/2017 at 9:22 pm
Here is how the year 2000 looked like to the people of 1900.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-boston-globe-of-1900-imagines-the-year-2000-97021464/

Ron Patterson says: 12/02/2017 at 6:32 pm
Dennis, you are assuming that the population will alter their fertility rates to a lower value. Yes, that has already happened in developed countries. The fertility rates in undeveloped countries are still controlled by what their economy and environment will bear.

The vast majority of the human population lives in undeveloped countries. They will continue to push, push, push against the very limits of their existence. And that will still be the case 50 years from now, and 100 years from now, and 150 years from now.

There are reasons the fertility rate is dropping in developed countries. Female empowerment, contraception, and so on. There are entirely different reasons the fertility rate is dropping in undeveloped countries. Poor nutrition, almost no prenatal care and so on. Also, much higher infant death rate helps keep the population in check. Please check my chart above from the Population Reference Bureau.

I think that if you could just live just one year in Bangladesh, or the Congo, or Zimbabwe, or . you would have an entirely different outlook. You would be forced to take off those rose-colored glasses.

Again, check the Population Reference Bureau chart above.

Doug Leighton says: 12/02/2017 at 6:38 pm
" if you could just live just one year in Bangladesh, or the Congo, or Zimbabwe, or . you would have an entirely different outlook. You would be forced to take off those rose-colored glasses."

Wouldn't take a year, one week would do it: even keeping the rose-colored glasses on. 🙂

Survivalist says: 12/02/2017 at 9:07 pm
I spent a bit of time on leave in "Liberated Burma"/Karen State shortly after the fall of Manerplaw. A week would do it, however I was there for about 3 months. I haven't had a bad day since.
Hightrekker says: 12/02/2017 at 10:03 pm
Got chased out of Myanmar by someone with a AK, lucky I wasn't a captive. Walked across from Masi.
It wasn't the best idea I've ever had.
Survivalist says: 12/02/2017 at 10:44 pm
I linked up with some folks in Mae Sot on the Thai side. It was well planned before hand. There's was a lot of back and forth across the border in those days. Did some long range mobile medical patrols in Karen and Karenni State. Got chased around by Tatmadaw/SLORC a bit. When I was 25 that was my idea of a good time. Yeah, kinda fucked I know.
Hightrekker says: 12/02/2017 at 10:58 pm
Yea --
I was the only Farang around in Masi, and everyone else was going back and forth.
Very interesting place.
That was a long time ago, in a land far, far away.
It would be impossible in the homogeneous police state we are currently inhabiting.
Dennis Coyne says: 12/03/2017 at 11:09 am
Hi Doug and Ron,

I spent about 5 months hitchhiking through North and West Africa in 1981-2. Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Zaire (as it was known in 1982).

The TFR of half the World's population as of 2015 is less than 2. The World TFR decreased from 5.02 in 1965 to 2.51 in 2015.

Different experts have different opinions

https://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2014/11/population-paradigm-wolfgang-lutz-education-effect/

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Lutz

http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/research/researchPrograms/WorldPopulation/News/170109-GSDR.html

GoneFishing says: 12/03/2017 at 2:32 pm
The problem I see with fertility rates is the same problem I see with planting trees. Even though I support a foundation to plant trees I realize that future changes could allow people to wipe out those and other trees very quickly, thus rendering the effort useless. I also realize the preserved areas of nature and wilderness could quickly disappear or be irreparably harmed by government decree, war and material/food pressures.
The same goes with lower fertility rates. Since they are only based on decisions and not biological, the lower rates could reverse quite quickly. Just stress the population and see how fast it will change.
Once people realize that technological progress is an empty dead system that moves us to an empty dead world, birth rates will climb quickly.

Rather than adding to our knowledge, Tompkins argues computers and smartphones represent "deskilling devices; they make us dumber. We're immersed in a system that now requires the use of a cell phone just to get around, just to function and so the logic of that cell phone has been imposed on us.

"The computer is a mechanism for acceleration, it accelerates economic activity and this is eating up the world. It's eating up resources, it's processing, it's manufacturing, it's distributing, it's consuming. That's what the computer's real work does and it does that 24/7, 365 days a year, non-stop just to satisfy our own narrow needs."

Tompkins foresees a dark future dominated as he puts it by more ugliness, damaged landscapes, extinct species, extreme poverty, and lack of equity and says humanity faces a stark choice; either to transition now to a different system or face a painful collapse.

"The extinction crisis is the mother of all crises. There will be no society, there will be no economy, there will be no art and culture on a dead planet basically. We've stopped evolution."

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/technology-stopped-evolution-destroying-world

Fred Magyar says: 12/03/2017 at 2:51 pm
Rather than adding to our knowledge, Tompkins argues computers and smartphones represent "deskilling devices; they make us dumber. We're immersed in a system that now requires the use of a cell phone just to get around, just to function and so the logic of that cell phone has been imposed on us.

So put the damn cell phones to better use. They can also make us smarter They can be used to track illegal logging in endangered rain forests. The fact that I have a device in my pocket that gives me access to all of human knowledge and access to GPS does not make me dumber.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=5Fju_wOaV3Y

When a tree calls for help | Topher White | TEDxCERN

GoneFishing says: 12/03/2017 at 3:35 pm
Really? You have cell service in the rain forests? I barely have cell service where I live and it disappears totally between the mountains near me. I don't need electronic mapping and GPS to get around so no problem for me.
Let the rest feel nervous as they get out of touch. For many it's a disaster if they lose their phones, fully dependent.
Fred Magyar says: 12/03/2017 at 5:26 pm
I don't need electronic mapping and GPS to get around so no problem for me.

I actually learned how to use a sextant and a compass but GPS is available so I admit that I do use it upon occasion.

In any case my point was that it is possible to use technology for purposes other than tweeting or posting selfies of oneself to Facebook every ten minutes.

GoneFishing says: 12/03/2017 at 8:44 pm
Fred, they are highly capable machines but just machines. How they are used is determined by the machine and the operator interface.
I could go on for hours how they have had very bad effects on personal time and personal interactions. For many people life is a series of texts and phone calls with real time life being the background now. Interruptions are the norm now. Sacrilege is when they have to turn them off.
Fred Magyar says: 12/03/2017 at 8:57 pm
You won't fix stupid no matter how hard you try

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cznepJAbyg

Texting and walking fails compilation

notanoilman says: 12/03/2017 at 9:56 pm
@Fred
I come close to nailing a textwalker or walkytalky nearly every time I am out on my bike. SOP, watch out for the buggers. It amazes me that people are unable to move about (foot, moto, car, bus, truck) without a phone in their hand.

NAOM

Fred Magyar says: 12/02/2017 at 3:13 pm
A question for Dennis Coyne, or any other cornucopian who believes renewable energy will save the world from economic collapse, at least for the next 200 years or so.

Ok, I'll take a nibble!

First of all, why do we have to accept the current definition of what the economy has to be? All of nature has existed on renewable energy since the beginning of life on this planet 3.8 billion years ago, so obviously the problem isn't renewable energy. If it were, life wouldn't even exist. The extractive, linear growth based neo liberal idea of the economy that we have come to accept as normal, is a relatively recent construct that was created by a small group of people at the beginning of the 20th century and it certainly is an aberration! Personally I don't think it is worth saving.

That economy will certainly collapse and no energy source can ever make it sustainable. Therefore it will by definition collapse. However there is nothing that says we need to continue on that path. There are indeed choices that people and societies can make. Even to the point of something that is considered radical and taboo like limiting population growth. (that is a separate dissertation from my point here)

With regards alternative economic thinking maybe start with Kate Raeworth. Not everyone in the world who has ideas that are out of the box are automatically naive cornucopians.

How to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. 45:00 minutes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR1Wy7ZAgY0

What is the goal of economics? Does GDP really tell us all we need to know about a country's wealth and well-being? Our guest in this show argues that our economic system should be designed to meet everyone's needs, while living within the means of the planet.

Kate Raworth is the author of the acclaimed book 'Doughnut Economics', and she will join us in the studio for an exploration of a new 21st century economic model and why she believes so many economists have got it wrong for so long.

The implications of her Doughnut Economics are profound and and can be read and embraced as a roadmap for change not just by experts or economists, but by everyone! This is a chance to challenge her with your questions and critiques.

If you want to think a bit more about how ideas like E.O. Wilson's Half Earth might look here's a TED talk that touches on it.

Nature is everywhere -- we just need to learn to see it 16:00 minutes

https://www.ted.com/talks/emma_marris_nature_is_everywhere_we_just_need_to_learn_to_see_it#t-779393

How do you define "nature?" If we define it as that which is untouched by humans, then we won't have any left, says environmental writer Emma Marris. She urges us to consider a new definition of nature -- one that includes not only pristine wilderness but also the untended patches of plants growing in urban spaces -- and encourages us to bring our children out to touch and tinker with it, so that one day they might love and protect it.

Emma Marris is a writer focusing on environmental science, policy and culture, with an approach that she paints as being "more interested in finding and describing solutions than delineating problems, and more interested in joy than despair."

I agree with Gone Fishing, we do have choices! There are people all over the world who are making them.

david higham says: 12/03/2017 at 7:28 pm
Regarding the first paragraph of your reply. Conflating the functioning of ecosystems
using the renewable energy from the sun with the 'Renewable Energy' required by industrial civilisation is a common mistake. The energy from the sun is renewable.
The infrastructure required to collect and store that energy requires the mining of the
requisite minerals,transportation,smelting,manufacturing,installation. The energy
required for all of that is supplied by fossil fuels. All of that infrastructure,and all of the
rest of the human-constructed industrial world,has to be rebuilt. Solar panels last
about 25-30 years. Wind Turbines about 50 years. Our industrial constructed world
has an immense amount of embedded fossil fuel energy. The mineral density of many ores are declining now,which means that the energy required to extract a given amount of mineral is increasing. I haven't done much reading on this site. No doubt someone has posted this link before. It gives a good idea of the scale of the construction required.
Natural ecosystems are quite different. The energy collection occurs using biodegradable
and recyclable materials,without the energy input of fossil fuels.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubic_mile_of_oil
notanoilman says: 12/03/2017 at 8:49 pm
You don't seem to have come across the concept of recycling.

NAOM

GoneFishing says: 12/03/2017 at 9:20 pm
This is just the typical FF anti-renewable blurb slightly rewritten. It has more holes in than Swiss cheese.
david higham says: 12/03/2017 at 9:50 pm
Have a read of the numbers in the link. All recycling requires energy. I don't know if anyone has done an analysis of the amount of energy
required,but it would be very large. It is also worth remembering that some of the minerals in that infrastructure are difficult to separate and
recycle.
notanoilman says: 12/03/2017 at 11:03 pm
Plenty of people have investigated recycling and are doing it. You obviously haven't. Even the Giga-Factory is building a recycling facility.

On the personal level, I have just replaced my washing machine and stove as the old ones were falling apart – literally. The stove is ready to go to the local recycler where it will be separated and then sent to be melted back to new steel. The washer will be checked over by a refurbisher who will decide if he can use it or it's parts and what is left will go to the recycler. Simple. All my waste metal goes to the recycler but, unfortunately, we have no glass recycling so that just has to go to land fill.

NAOM

Hightrekker says: 12/02/2017 at 11:04 pm
Diet pills?
Kinda makes sense.

Elton John blares so loudly on Donald Trump's campaign plane that staffers can't hear themselves think. Press secretary Hope Hicks uses a steamer to press Trump's pants -- while he is still wearing them. Trump screams at his top aides, who are subjected to expletive-filled tirades in which they get their "face ripped off."

And Trump's appetite seems to know no bounds when it comes to McDonald's, with a dinner order consisting of "two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted."
[ ]

In another episode, Lewandowski describes how staffer Sam Nunberg was purposely left behind at a McDonald's because Nunberg's special-order burger was taking too long. "Leave him," Trump said. "Let's go." And they did.

Trump's fast-food diet is a theme. "On Trump Force One there were four major food groups: McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Diet Coke," the authors write.

The plane's cupboards were stacked with Vienna Fingers, potato chips, pretzels and many packages of Oreos because Trump, a renowned germaphobe, would not eat from a previously opened package.

The book notes that "the orchestrating and timing of Mr. Trump's meals was as important as any other aspect of his march to the presidency," and describes the elaborate efforts that Lewandowski and other top aides went through to carefully time their delivery of hot fast food to Trump's plane as he was departing his rallies.

https://digbysblog.blogspot.de/2017/12/hes-got-to-be-on-diet-pills.html

Hillary says: 12/03/2017 at 12:44 am
"two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted."

Oh let there be a god

GoneFishing says: 12/03/2017 at 11:01 am
One of the biggest problems we face as population and industry grows is obtaining enough fresh water. Sure there is a lot of water on the planet, but it is mostly salty.

Marcia Barbosa talks about the many anomalies of water and how exploiting them with nano-tubes could help address the problem of freshwater shortages.

Marcia Barbosa has a PhD in physics from Brazil's Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, where she is now the director of its Physics Institute. She studies the complex structure of the water molecule, and has developed a series of models of its properties which may contribute to our understanding of how earthquakes occur, how proteins fold, and could play an important role in generating cleaner energy and treating diseases. She is actively involved in promoting Women in Physics and was named the 2013 L'Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Awards Laureate for Latin America.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OLFwkfPxCg

Fred Magyar says: 12/03/2017 at 11:36 am
Tks, GF!
LOL! I'm head over heels in love with her!
I kept imagining her giving her talk to this sound track 😉
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wunq6YlcSX0
Can you see all the dancers dressed as raindrops on a Samba Float in a Carnival Parade?
Doug Leighton says: 12/03/2017 at 4:36 pm
Fred – As you know my bag is astrophysics, with climate change denial being merely irritating BUT when I see science news headlines like the following then I really get pissed off, or feel sick. Who gives a shit if Earth can "carry" 7 or 9 or 11 billion people when dolphins & elephants are relegated to "bush meat" and when species are disappearing at increasingly alarming rates. You're probably the only one here qualified to assess this issue so please give us your thoughts.

CURRENT EXTINCTION RATE 10 TIMES WORSE THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT

"Life on earth is remarkably diverse. Globally, it is estimated that there are 8.7 million species living on our planet, excluding bacteria. Unfortunately, human activities are wiping out many species and it's been known for some time that we are increasing the rate of species extinction. But just how dire is the situation? According to a new study, it's 10 times worse than scientists previously thought with current extinction rates 1,000 times higher than natural background rates."

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/current-extinction-rate-10-times-worse-previously-thought/

Fred Magyar says: 12/03/2017 at 5:37 pm
Doug, if you get a chance, watch the ASU Origins project debates to which I have posted links recently addressing the topic of extinction. This is a very serious cross disciplinary discussion and can't really be done justice in a quick response here. It probably necessitates a full post of similar length to Ron's.

Here is a very short teaser.

Origins Project Highlight: Elizabeth Kolbert on Climate Change & Mars
https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLusJDXY5SZhWUbALfqiDpk9NGmIoT4n48&v=zTXHcNNiPk4

Link to ASU Origins Project home page:
https://origins.asu.edu/

GoneFishing says: 12/03/2017 at 7:53 pm
I look on space habitats as being trapped inside a giant iron lung. Exploration is one thing, but actually thinking of Mars as a possible home for humans is just sad.
Fred Magyar says: 12/03/2017 at 8:19 pm
Couldn't agree more! And that's from someone who lived and worked in a hyperbaric chamber as a saturation diver on oil rigs. I'd say that is pretty close to living in an iron lung as well 😉

The part about going to Mars that has always bothered me is the radiation exposure.

GoneFishing says: 12/03/2017 at 9:17 pm
Plenty of dangerous and exciting exploring, work and research to do right here on Earth.

[Dec 03, 2017] Brood of Vipers

May 07, 2015 | jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com
"The power and influence of the financial sector threatens a continuation of the regulatory capture that contributed to the financial crisis. Financial firms, too often, have significant say in the appointment of high regulatory officials.

The tendency of some former government officials to obtain highly lucrative positions in the financial sector after leaving government may well act as an inducement to those remaining in government to serve the interest of the financial sector rather than those of the public."

Brooksley Born, Finance & Society Conference, May 5, 2015


The Western Banks are all over these markets, from commodities to equities. They are creating huge amounts of money debt, and providing it to the financial industry as top down stimulus. What results is little aggregate or 'organic' growth and a series of paper asset bubbles. They should be ashamed but they are too busy plundering to feel any twinge of conscience. They are like a herd of swine, racing for the abyss.

I had to chuckle when the pampered princesses and giggling jackals were talking about the jobs report tomorrow, and said that the ideal situation would be 'a strong jobs number with no wage growth,' a true 'goldilocks' scenario.

I have given up any expectation of reform from within. There will have to be some eye-opening incidents to shake the complacency of the fortunate few.

Non-Farm Payrolls tomorrow.

Have a pleasant evening.

[Dec 03, 2017] Business Has Killed IT With Overspecialization by Charlie Schluting

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... What happened to the old "sysadmin" of just a few years ago? We've split what used to be the sysadmin into application teams, server teams, storage teams, and network teams. There were often at least a few people, the holders of knowledge, who knew how everything worked, and I mean everything. ..."
"... Now look at what we've done. Knowledge is so decentralized we must invent new roles to act as liaisons between all the IT groups. Architects now hold much of the high-level "how it works" knowledge, but without knowing how any one piece actually does work. In organizations with more than a few hundred IT staff and developers, it becomes nearly impossible for one person to do and know everything. This movement toward specializing in individual areas seems almost natural. That, however, does not provide a free ticket for people to turn a blind eye. ..."
"... Does your IT department function as a unit? Even 20-person IT shops have turf wars, so the answer is very likely, "no." As teams are split into more and more distinct operating units, grouping occurs. One IT budget gets split between all these groups. Often each group will have a manager who pitches his needs to upper management in hopes they will realize how important the team is. ..."
"... The "us vs. them" mentality manifests itself at all levels, and it's reinforced by management having to define each team's worth in the form of a budget. One strategy is to illustrate a doomsday scenario. If you paint a bleak enough picture, you may get more funding. Only if you are careful enough to illustrate the failings are due to lack of capital resources, not management or people. A manager of another group may explain that they are not receiving the correct level of service, so they need to duplicate the efforts of another group and just implement something themselves. On and on, the arguments continue. ..."
Apr 07, 2010 | Enterprise Networking Planet

What happened to the old "sysadmin" of just a few years ago? We've split what used to be the sysadmin into application teams, server teams, storage teams, and network teams. There were often at least a few people, the holders of knowledge, who knew how everything worked, and I mean everything. Every application, every piece of network gear, and how every server was configured -- these people could save a business in times of disaster.

Now look at what we've done. Knowledge is so decentralized we must invent new roles to act as liaisons between all the IT groups. Architects now hold much of the high-level "how it works" knowledge, but without knowing how any one piece actually does work. In organizations with more than a few hundred IT staff and developers, it becomes nearly impossible for one person to do and know everything. This movement toward specializing in individual areas seems almost natural. That, however, does not provide a free ticket for people to turn a blind eye.

Specialization

You know the story: Company installs new application, nobody understands it yet, so an expert is hired. Often, the person with a certification in using the new application only really knows how to run that application. Perhaps they aren't interested in learning anything else, because their skill is in high demand right now. And besides, everything else in the infrastructure is run by people who specialize in those elements. Everything is taken care of.

Except, how do these teams communicate when changes need to take place? Are the storage administrators teaching the Windows administrators about storage multipathing; or worse logging in and setting it up because it's faster for the storage gurus to do it themselves? A fundamental level of knowledge is often lacking, which makes it very difficult for teams to brainstorm about new ways evolve IT services. The business environment has made it OK for IT staffers to specialize and only learn one thing.

If you hire someone certified in the application, operating system, or network vendor you use, that is precisely what you get. Certifications may be a nice filter to quickly identify who has direct knowledge in the area you're hiring for, but often they indicate specialization or compensation for lack of experience.

Resource Competition

Does your IT department function as a unit? Even 20-person IT shops have turf wars, so the answer is very likely, "no." As teams are split into more and more distinct operating units, grouping occurs. One IT budget gets split between all these groups. Often each group will have a manager who pitches his needs to upper management in hopes they will realize how important the team is.

The "us vs. them" mentality manifests itself at all levels, and it's reinforced by management having to define each team's worth in the form of a budget. One strategy is to illustrate a doomsday scenario. If you paint a bleak enough picture, you may get more funding. Only if you are careful enough to illustrate the failings are due to lack of capital resources, not management or people. A manager of another group may explain that they are not receiving the correct level of service, so they need to duplicate the efforts of another group and just implement something themselves. On and on, the arguments continue.

Most often, I've seen competition between server groups result in horribly inefficient uses of hardware. For example, what happens in your organization when one team needs more server hardware? Assume that another team has five unused servers sitting in a blade chassis. Does the answer change? No, it does not. Even in test environments, sharing doesn't often happen between IT groups.

With virtualization, some aspects of resource competition get better and some remain the same. When first implemented, most groups will be running their own type of virtualization for their platform. The next step, I've most often seen, is for test servers to get virtualized. If a new group is formed to manage the virtualization infrastructure, virtual machines can be allocated to various application and server teams from a central pool and everyone is now sharing. Or, they begin sharing and then demand their own physical hardware to be isolated from others' resource hungry utilization. This is nonetheless a step in the right direction. Auto migration and guaranteed resource policies can go a long way toward making shared infrastructure, even between competing groups, a viable option.

Blamestorming

The most damaging side effect of splitting into too many distinct IT groups is the reinforcement of an "us versus them" mentality. Aside from the notion that specialization creates a lack of knowledge, blamestorming is what this article is really about. When a project is delayed, it is all too easy to blame another group. The SAN people didn't allocate storage on time, so another team was delayed. That is the timeline of the project, so all work halted until that hiccup was restored. Having someone else to blame when things get delayed makes it all too easy to simply stop working for a while.

More related to the initial points at the beginning of this article, perhaps, is the blamestorm that happens after a system outage.

Say an ERP system becomes unresponsive a few times throughout the day. The application team says it's just slowing down, and they don't know why. The network team says everything is fine. The server team says the application is "blocking on IO," which means it's a SAN issue. The SAN team say there is nothing wrong, and other applications on the same devices are fine. You've ran through nearly every team, but without an answer still. The SAN people don't have access to the application servers to help diagnose the problem. The server team doesn't even know how the application runs.

See the problem? Specialized teams are distinct and by nature adversarial. Specialized staffers often relegate themselves into a niche knowing that as long as they continue working at large enough companies, "someone else" will take care of all the other pieces.

I unfortunately don't have an answer to this problem. Maybe rotating employees between departments will help. They gain knowledge and also get to know other people, which should lessen the propensity to view them as outsiders

[Dec 03, 2017] The zero-sum game details of the tax bill

Notable quotes:
"... On a net basis, in fact, fully 97% of the $1.412 trillion revenue loss in the Senate Committee bill over the next decade is attributable to the $1.369 trillion cost of cutting the corporate rate from 35% to 20% (and repeal of the related AMT). All the rest of the massive bill is just a monumental zero-sum pot stirring operation ..."
"... Whereas if the US spent the same 1 to 2 percent on defense (meaning its own territory) that normal countries do, individual tax cuts could be cut back to the Reagan-era maximum of 28 percent, permanently. Alternately, individual taxation could remain the same and everyone could have health care and maybe free college too. ..."
"... These choices are unavailable because the unauditable Defense Dept and spook agencies have made themselves politically untouchable. This is the real scandal of the tax bill. ..."
Dec 03, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , December 2, 2017 at 1:40 pm

On a net basis, in fact, fully 97% of the $1.412 trillion revenue loss in the Senate Committee bill over the next decade is attributable to the $1.369 trillion cost of cutting the corporate rate from 35% to 20% (and repeal of the related AMT). All the rest of the massive bill is just a monumental zero-sum pot stirring operation

The zero-sum game details:

1. eliminating state and local deductions
2. higher personal deductions
3. doubling child tax credit
4. tax credit for private education
5. new income brackets and rates

And the huge 35%-to-20% (or whatever) corporate tax reduction.

According to MMT, this perversion of that theory (and pervert MMT will always be practiced) should put money into the system. The 'government can spend as much as it wants, deficits don't matter,' is 1) not sufficient to ensure a desirable outcome and 2) can be abused to lead to many undesirable results. As for the zero-sum game, it's zero-sum, so some of us 99% will benefit and the rest will suffer. Some may enjoy higher personal deductions, child tax credit or a lower rate in a new tax bracket.

Jim Haygood , December 2, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Whereas if the US spent the same 1 to 2 percent on defense (meaning its own territory) that normal countries do, individual tax cuts could be cut back to the Reagan-era maximum of 28 percent, permanently. Alternately, individual taxation could remain the same and everyone could have health care and maybe free college too.

These choices are unavailable because the unauditable Defense Dept and spook agencies have made themselves politically untouchable. This is the real scandal of the tax bill.

A Republican party unable to deliver individual tax cuts after harping relentlessly on the theme for a decade is revealed as a fraud, a laughingstock and a failure on its own terms.

[Dec 03, 2017] Taxing corporations by Robert Waldmann

Notable quotes:
"... If the goal is to prevent excessive compensation of top layers of executives, it is probably non-constructive to treat tax issues in isolation from the general problem of neoliberalism with its powerful mechanisms of redistribution of the wealth up. ..."
Dec 03, 2017 | angrybearblog.com

I will ease the pain from this early morning (when GOP senate slashed corporate taxes) by escaping into fantasy, I mean theory, but I repeat myself.

A key theoretical argument about taxing profits (due to Diamond and Mirrlees I think) is that the tax can be very very high if firms maximize profits, because maximizing 0.5X is just the same problem as maximizing X. This is a tax on pure profits (profits minus capital times the cost of capital) .

The practical implication is that we should figure out what corporations maximize and apply a high flat tax rate on it, because maximizing 0.1X is the same problem as maximizing X.

Theory then goes crazy and assume that firms maximize shareholder value equal to the present discounted stream of dividends. If so, we should tax dividends. This is roughly similar to the new law in which investment is treated as an expense, so profits minus investment is taxed.

There are lots of problems (aside from the fact that only in shareholders' dreams do manager maximize shareholder value). We would have to tax stock buybacks too (just another way to get money to shareholders). Taxing dividends but not interest paid encourages high leverage (for example through leveraged buyouts). Here again a tax on buying and retiring shares would be useful (not politically possible but useful). A really heavy tax on dividends would make initial public offerings unattractive -- I think a subsidy for new share issue would be nice (reallly politically impossible).
But the idea is just tax money going to shareholders and it is based on the assumption that getting money to shareholders is the whole point and maximizing 0.01X is the same problem as maximizing X.

The assumption is crazy.

I think top management of corporations maximizes compensation of top management subject to a limit that, if they go too far, it will be very profitable to take over the coporation and fire them. This means that, if the aim is to generate compensation for top management, we should tax compensation of top management. Highly. I am quite sure that if the tax were 99% it would raise a lot of money (provided all compensation could be detected). They *will* pay themselves no matter how much it costs the shareholders.

Now this strikes me as a pretty good idea. I think top management has to be defined as those with the top total compensation not any title (otherwise the CEO will call himself his secretaries secretary). Now this does encourage taking corporations private. But really, CEO compensation is obscene and is just begging to be taxed.

likbez , December 3, 2017 1:03 am

If the goal is to prevent excessive compensation of top layers of executives, it is probably non-constructive to treat tax issues in isolation from the general problem of neoliberalism with its powerful mechanisms of redistribution of the wealth up.

My impression is that due to the complexity of the USA laws and the army of well paid corporate lawyers (including tax lawyers) it is just a matter of time when any new tax system will be perverted.

For example, when there is a high tax on executive compensation, nothing prevents a corporation to donate money to charity, and then this charity can hire corporate officers (or their relatives) to the board. Various form of "trusts" or "loans" also can be played with.

You need some general mechanism of suppression of the power of the financial oligarchy. An institutional framework, like the New Deal capitalism, has been. Tax laws are an important part of such a framework, but by themselves, they are not enough.

[Dec 03, 2017] The GOP tax bill is of the lobbies, by the PACs and for the money.

Dec 03, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Jim Haygood , December 2, 2017 at 8:29 am

Renegade ( ex-? ) Republican David Stockman NAILS IT TO THE WALL:

To be sure, some element of political calculus always lies behind legislation. For instance, the Dems didn't pass the Wagner Act in 1935, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or the Affordable Care Act of 2010 as exercises in pure civic virtue -- these measures targeted huge constituencies with tens of millions of votes at stake.

Still, threadbare theories and untoward effects are just that; they can't be redeemed by the risible claim that this legislative Rube Goldberg contraption being jammed through sight unseen ( in ACA redux fashion ) is for the benefit of the rank and file Republican voters, and most especially not for the dispossessed independents and Dems of Flyover America who voted for Trump out of protest against the failing status quo.

To the contrary. The GOP tax bill is of the lobbies, by the PACs and for the money. Period.

There is no higher purpose or even nugget of conservative economic principle to it. The battle cry of "pro-growth tax cuts" is just a warmed over 35-year-old mantra from the Reagan era that does not remotely reflect the actual content of the bill or disguise what it really is: namely, a cowardly infliction of more than $2 trillion of debt on future American taxpayers in order to fund tax relief today for the GOP's K Street and Wall Street paymasters.

On a net basis, in fact, fully 97% of the $1.412 trillion revenue loss in the Senate Committee bill over the next decade is attributable to the $1.369 trillion cost of cutting the corporate rate from 35% to 20% (and repeal of the related AMT). All the rest of the massive bill is just a monumental zero-sum pot stirring operation.

https://tinyurl.com/yal6ls89

Stockman, who knows federal budgeting better than most of us know the contents of our own homes, goes on to shred the tax bill item by item, leaving a smoking, scorched-earth moonscape in his deadly rhetorical wake. And he's not done yet.

But Lordy, how he scourges the last hurrah of the know-nothing R party, just before it gets pounded senseless at the polls next year. Bubble III is the last hope of the retrograde Republican Congressional rabble. But it's a 50/50 proposition at best that our beloved bubble lasts through next November. :-(

tegnost , December 2, 2017 at 8:56 am

thanks Jim, yes, this looks like it will knock the legs out of the "main st" economy, but over at versailles on the potomac they'll be listening to/playing the fiddle and watching the country burn while guzzling 300 dollar scotch and and admiring their campfire.

ambrit , December 2, 2017 at 9:19 am

Right next to "Versailles on the Potomac" is the site of the former Bonus Army camp, Anacostia Flats. The burning of the Bonus Army camp at Anacostia Flats could be seen, as a red glow, from the White House. Historians charitable to Herbert Hoover suggest that Gen. Douglass MacArthur 'conned' Hoover into letting the Army 'disperse' the Bonus Army. The resulting spectacle can be said to be one of the prime reasons why the American public rejected Hoover when he ran for re-election against Franklin Roosevelt.
I don't know if Hoover played the fiddle, but MacArthur was known to be able to play politicians like one.
The lesson here, if there is one, is that the present occupant of the White House had better be very circumspect about taking advice from Generals.

nonclassical , December 2, 2017 at 2:14 pm

"anacostia flats" bonus army raided by Wall Street General MacArthur which is reason in previous iteration of Wall Street power grab by "American Liberty League", ("The Plot To Seize the White House"-Jules Archer) Marine General Smedley Butler felt forced play whistle-blower, providing FDR leverage he needed to prosecute banksters.


Big River Bandido December 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm

The gist of the commenter's statement was true - Democrats are totally complicit in the end result of Republican economic and foreign policy. Until now, Republicans could only deliver on their promises when Democrats helped them out. The Democrats' enabling strategy eventually alienated their own core supporters. With this tax cut, the Republicans have shown, for the first time, the ability to enact and sign their own legislation.

The Democrats basically accommodated the Republicans long enough to ensure their own irrelevance. They will not rise again until their "mixed stances" and those who encourage them are purged.

[Dec 03, 2017] Another Democratic party betrayal of their former voters. but what you can expect from the party of Bill Clinton?

Highly recommended!
Dec 03, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

SpringTexan , December 2, 2017 at 12:08 pm

And I feel like the Democrats get so distracted. They have been talking about sexual harassment and stuff instead of the TAX BILL. It is so damn easy to get them to take their eyes off the ball! and get played again and again. . . and TRAGIC given the consequences . . .

Big River Bandido , December 2, 2017 at 3:10 pm

It's the perfect "distraction". Allows them to engage in virtue-signaling and "fighting for average Americans". It's all phony, they always "lose" in the end getting exactly what they wanted in the first place, while not actually having to cast a vote for it.

Kabuki theater in every respect.

jrs , December 2, 2017 at 3:18 pm

It's all related, less safety net and more inequality means more desperation to take a job, *ANY* job, means more women putting up with sexual harassment (and workplace bullying and horrible and illegal workplace conditions etc.) as the price of a paycheck.

Allegorio , December 2, 2017 at 11:07 pm

Horrible Toomey's re-election was a parallel to the Clinton/Trump fiasco. The Democrats put up a corporate shill, Katie McGinty that no-one trusted.

"Former lobbyist Katie McGinty has spent three decades in politics getting rich off the companies she regulated and subsidized. Now this master of the revolving-door wants Pennsylvania voters to give her another perch in government: U.S. Senator." Washington Examiner.

She was a Clintonite through and through, that everyone, much like $Hillary, could see through.

Expat , December 2, 2017 at 8:01 am

To paraphrase the Beatles, you say you want a revolution but you don't really mean it. You want more of the same because it makes you feel good to keep voting for your Senator or your Congressman. The others are corrupt and evil, but your guys are good. If only the others were like your guys. News flash: they are all your guys.

America is doomed. And so much the better. Despite all America has done for the world, it has also been a brutal despot. America created consumerism, super-sizing and the Kardashians. These are all unforgivable sins. America is probably the most persistently violent country in the world both domestically and internationally. No other country has invaded or occupied so much of the world, unless you count the known world in which case Macedonia wins.

This tax plan is what Americans want because they are pretty ignorant and stupid. They are incapable of understanding basic math so they can't work out the details. They believe that any tax cut is inherently good and all government is bad so that is also all that matters. They honestly think they or their kids will one day be rich so they don't want to hurt rich people. They also believe that millionaires got their money honestly and through hard work because that is what they learned from their parents.

Just send a blank check to Goldman Sachs. Keep a bit to buy a gun which you can use to either shoot up a McDonalds or blow your own brains out.

And some people still ask me why I left and don't want to come back. LOL

tony , December 2, 2017 at 9:30 am

Macedonia of today is not the same are that conquered the world. They stole the name from Greeks.

That being said, the US is ripe for a change. Every policy the current rulers enact seems to make things better. However, I suspect a revolution would kill majority of the population since it would disrupt the all important supply chains, so it does not seem viable.

However, a military takeover could be viable. If they are willing to wipe out the most predatory portions of the ruling class, they could fix the healthcare system, install a high-employment policy and take out the banks and even the military contractors. Which could make them very popular.

False Solace , December 2, 2017 at 5:18 pm

> a military takeover could be viable

Yeah, right. Have you seen our generals? They're just more of the same leeches we have everywhere else in the 0.01%. Have you seen any of the other military dictatorships around the world, like actually existing ones? They're all brilliantly corrupt and total failures when it comes to running any sort of economy. Not to mention the total loss of civil rights. Americans have this idiotic love of their military thanks to decades of effective propaganda and think the rule of pampered generals would somehow be better than the right to vote. Bleh.

Allegorio , December 2, 2017 at 11:20 pm

This is a military dictatorship. The fourth and sixth amendments have been de facto repealed. Trump cared about one thing and one thing only, namely to repeal the estate tax. He is the ultimate con man and this was his biggest con. It is truly amazing how he accomplished this. He has saved his family a billion $$$. He will now turn over governing to the generals and Goldman Sachs. He may even retire. Truly amazing. One has to admire the sheer perversity of it all. When will the American electorate get tired of being conned? The fact is they have nothing but admiration for Trump. We live in a criminal culture, winner take all. America loves its winners.

John Wright , December 2, 2017 at 10:45 am

There is an old 2003 David Brooks column in which he mentions that

"The Democrats couldn't even persuade people to oppose the repeal of the estate tax, which is explicitly for the mega-upper class. Al Gore, who ran a populist campaign, couldn't even win the votes of white males who didn't go to college, whose incomes have stagnated over the past decades and who were the explicit targets of his campaign. Why don't more Americans want to distribute more wealth down to people like themselves?"

Then Brooks goes on to explain

"The most telling polling result from the 2000 election was from a Time magazine survey that asked people if they are in the top 1 percent of earners. Nineteen percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1 percent and a further 20 percent expect to be someday. So right away you have 39 percent of Americans who thought that when Mr. Gore savaged a plan that favored the top 1 percent, he was taking a direct shot at them."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/12/opinion/the-triumph-of-hope-over-self-interest.html

The Republicans have conditioned people to believe government services (except for defense/military) are run poorly and need to be "run like a business" for a profit.

The problem is that not all government services CAN be profitable (homeless care, mental health care for the poor, EPA enforcement, OSHA enforcement). And when attempts are made to privatize some government operations such as incarceration, the result is that the private company tries to maximize profits by pushing for laws to incarcerate ever more people.

The history of the USA as viewed by outsiders, maybe 50 years hence, will be that of a resource consuming nation that spent a vast fortune on military hardware and military adventures when it had little to fear due to geography, a nation that touted an independent press that was anything but, a nation that created a large media/entertainment industry which helped to keep citizens in line, a nation that fostered an overly large (by 2 or 3 times per Paul Whooley) parasitical financial industry that did not perform its prime capital allocation task competently as it veered from bubble to bubble and a nation that managed to spend great sums on medical care without covering all citizens.

But the USA does have a lot of guns and a lot of frustrated people.

Maybe Kevlar vests will be the fashion of the future?

Steve , December 2, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Thanks for the great link on how sadly uninformed average Americans are! I've been looking for it for a while and great comment!

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , December 2, 2017 at 4:08 pm

The provision to do away with the estate tax, if not immediately, in the current versions (House and Senate) is great news for the 1%, and bad for the rest of us.

And if more people are not against that (thanks for quoting the NYTImes article), it's the failure of the rest of the media for not focusing more on it, but wasting time and energy on fashion, sports, entertainment, etc.

Vatch , December 2, 2017 at 7:24 pm

he provision to do away with the estate tax . . . is great news for the 1%

I think it's even a little more extreme than that. The data is a few years old, but it is only the top 0.6% who are affected by estate taxes in the United States. See the data at these web sites:

https://www.irs.gov/statistics/soi-tax-stats-historical-table-17

https://www.irs.gov/statistics/soi-tax-stats-estate-tax-statistics-year-of-death-table-1

Sydney Conner , December 2, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Thanks for the succinct, accurate eloquent description of our nightmare reality.

DHG , December 2, 2017 at 8:13 pm

https://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/the-dark-rigidity-of-fundamentalist-rural-america-a-view-from-the-inside/

JTMcPhee , December 2, 2017 at 10:34 pm

The military adventures were largely in support of what Smedley Butler so accurately called the Great "Racket" of Monroe Doctrine colonialism and rapacious extractive "capitalism" aka "looting."

For those who haven't encountered Maj. Gen. Butler's take on his 33 years of serving the Oligokleptocracy, here's a link: https://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

A smart and honest fellow, who even declined as a "war hero" to serve as the oligarchs' figurehead in an earlier and clumsier plot to get rid of the trappings and regulation of "democracy:" The Business Plot, https://jtoddring.wordpress.com/2008/01/19/smedley-butler-and-the-business-plot/

It took longer and costed the rich a bit more to buy up all the bits of government, but the way they've done will likely be more compendious and lasting. Barring some "intervening event(s)".

Jonathan Holland Becnel , December 2, 2017 at 11:51 am

Doomed?

Project Much?

While Republicans show their true colors, im out there seeing a resurgence of civil society. And im starting to reach Hard core Tea Party types. Jobs, Manufacturing, Actual Policy.

IOW The Revolution Is Nigh.

2018 will be a Fn watershed.

[Dec 01, 2017] Elite needs a kill switch for their front men and women

Notable quotes:
"... Today when we consider the major countries of the world we see that in many cases the official leaders are also the leaders in actuality: Vladimir Putin calls the shots in Russia, Xi Jinping and his top Politburo colleagues do the same in China, and so forth. However, in America and in some other Western countries, this seems to be less and less the case, with top national figures merely being attractive front-men selected for their popular appeal and their political malleability, a development that may eventually have dire consequences for the nations they lead. As an extreme example, a drunken Boris Yeltsin freely allowed the looting of Russia's entire national wealth by the handful of oligarchs who pulled his strings, and the result was the total impoverishment of the Russian people and a demographic collapse almost unprecedented in modern peacetime history. ..."
"... An obvious problem with installing puppet rulers is the risk that they will attempt to cut their strings, much like Putin soon outmaneuvered and exiled his oligarch patron Boris Berezovsky. ..."
"... One means of minimizing such risk is to select puppets who are so deeply compromised that they can never break free, knowing that the political self-destruct charges buried deep within their pasts could easily be triggered if they sought independence. I have sometimes joked with my friends that perhaps the best career move for an ambitious young politician would be to secretly commit some monstrous crime and then make sure that the hard evidence of his guilt ended up in the hands of certain powerful people, thereby assuring his rapid political rise. ..."
"... The gist is that elite need a kill switch on their front men (and women). ..."
"... McCain's father connected with the infamous Board of Inquiry which cleared Israel in that state's attack on USS LIBERTY during Israel's seizure of the Golan Heights. ..."
"... Another stunning article in which the author makes reference to his recent acquisition of what he considers to be a reliably authentic audio file of POW McCain's broadcasts from captivity. Dynamite stuff. ..."
"... Also remarkable; fantastic. It's hard to believe, and a testament to the boldness of Washington dog-and-pony shows, because this must have been well-known in insider circles in Washington – anything so damning which was not ruthlessly and professionally suppressed and simply never allowed to become part of a national discussion would surely have been stumbled upon before now. Land of the Cover-Up. ..."
marknesop.wordpress.com
Patient Observer, July 23, 2016 at 7:07 pm
An interesting article on John McCain. I disagree with the contention that McCain hid knowledge that many American POWs were left behind (undoubtedly some voluntarily choose to remain behind but not hundreds ). However, the article touched on some ideas that rang true:

Today when we consider the major countries of the world we see that in many cases the official leaders are also the leaders in actuality: Vladimir Putin calls the shots in Russia, Xi Jinping and his top Politburo colleagues do the same in China, and so forth. However, in America and in some other Western countries, this seems to be less and less the case, with top national figures merely being attractive front-men selected for their popular appeal and their political malleability, a development that may eventually have dire consequences for the nations they lead. As an extreme example, a drunken Boris Yeltsin freely allowed the looting of Russia's entire national wealth by the handful of oligarchs who pulled his strings, and the result was the total impoverishment of the Russian people and a demographic collapse almost unprecedented in modern peacetime history.

An obvious problem with installing puppet rulers is the risk that they will attempt to cut their strings, much like Putin soon outmaneuvered and exiled his oligarch patron Boris Berezovsky.

One means of minimizing such risk is to select puppets who are so deeply compromised that they can never break free, knowing that the political self-destruct charges buried deep within their pasts could easily be triggered if they sought independence. I have sometimes joked with my friends that perhaps the best career move for an ambitious young politician would be to secretly commit some monstrous crime and then make sure that the hard evidence of his guilt ended up in the hands of certain powerful people, thereby assuring his rapid political rise.

The gist is that elite need a kill switch on their front men (and women).

http://www.unz.com/runz/american-pravda-when-tokyo-rose-ran-for-president/

Cortes , July 24, 2016 at 11:16 am

Seems to be a series of pieces dealing with Vietnam POWs: the following linked item was interesting and provided a plausible explanation: that the US failed to pay up agreed on reparations

http://www.unz.com/runz/american-pravda-relying-upon-maoist-professors-of-cultural-studies/

marknesop , July 24, 2016 at 12:29 pm
Remarkable and shocking. Wheels within wheels – this is the first time I have ever seen McCain's father connected with the infamous Board of Inquiry which cleared Israel in that state's attack on USS LIBERTY during Israel's seizure of the Golan Heights.
Cortes , July 25, 2016 at 9:08 am
Another stunning article in which the author makes reference to his recent acquisition of what he considers to be a reliably authentic audio file of POW McCain's broadcasts from captivity. Dynamite stuff. The conclusion regarding aspiring untenured historians is quite downbeat:

http://www.unz.com/runz/american-pravda-will-there-be-a-spotlight-sequel-to-the-killing-fields/

marknesop , July 25, 2016 at 10:40 am
Also remarkable; fantastic. It's hard to believe, and a testament to the boldness of Washington dog-and-pony shows, because this must have been well-known in insider circles in Washington – anything so damning which was not ruthlessly and professionally suppressed and simply never allowed to become part of a national discussion would surely have been stumbled upon before now. Land of the Cover-Up.

yalensis , July 25, 2016 at 3:40 pm

So, McCain was Hanoi Jack broadcasting from the Hanoi Hilton?

[Dec 01, 2017] JFK The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy by L. Fletcher Prouty, Oliver Stone, Jesse Ventura

Highly recommended!
The most important part of power elite in neoliberal society might not be financial oligarchy, but intelligence agencies elite. If you look at the role of Brennan in "Purple color revolution" against Trump that became clear that heads of the agencies are powerful political players with resources at hand, that are not available to other politicians.
Notable quotes:
"... Men in positions of great power have been forced to realize that their aspirations and responsibilities have exceeded the horizons of their own experience, knowledge, and capability. Yet, because they are in chargeof this high-technology society, they are compelled to do something. This overpowering necessity to do something -- although our leaders do not know precisely what to do or how to do it -- creates in the power elite an overbearing fear of the people. It is the fear not of you and me as individuals but of the smoldering threat of vast populations and of potential uprisings of the masses. ..."
"... This power elite is not easy to define; but the fact that it exists makes itself known from time to time. Concerning the power elite, R. Buckminster Fuller wrote of the "vastly ambitious individuals who [have] become so effectively powerful because of their ability to remain invisible while operating behind the national scenery." Fuller noted also, "Always their victories [are] in the name of some powerful sovereign-ruled country. The real power structures [are] always the invisible ones behind the visible sovereign powers." ..."
"... This report, as presented in the novel, avers that war is necessary to sustain society, the nation, and national sovereignty, a view that has existed for millennia. Through the ages, totally uncontrolled warfare -- the only kind of "real" war -- got bigger and "better" as time and technology churned on, finally culminating in World War II with the introduction of atomic bombs. ..."
"... This is why, even before the end of World War II, the newly structured bipolar confrontation between the world of Communism and the West resulted in the employment of enormous intelligence agencies that had the power, invisibly, to wage underground warfare, economic and well as military, anywhere -- including methods of warfare never before imagined. These conflicts had to be tactically designed to remain short of the utilization of the H-bomb by either side. There can never be victories in such wars, but tremendous loss of life could occur, and there is the much-desired consumption and attrition of trillions of dollars', and rubles', worth of war equipment. ..."
"... Since WWII, there has been an epidemic of murders at the highest level in many countries. Without question the most dynamic of these assassinations was the murder of President John F. Kennedy, but JFK was just one of many in a long list that includes bankers, corporate leaders, newsmen, rising political spokesmen, and religious leaders. ..."
"... The ever-present threat of assassination seriously limits the number of men who would normally attempt to strive for positions of leadership, if for no other reason than that they could be singled out for murder at any time. This is not a new tactic, but it is one that has become increasingly utilized in pressure spots around the world. ..."
"... Under totalitarian or highly centralized nondemocratic regimes, the intelligence organization is a political, secret service with police powers. It is designed primarily to provide personal security to those who control the authority of the state against all political opponents, foreign and domestic. These leaders are forced to depend upon these secret elite forces to remain alive and in power. Such an organization operates in deep secrecy and has the responsibility for carrying out espionage, counterespionage, and pseudoterrorism. This methodology is as true of Israel, Chile, or Jordan as it has been of the Soviet Union. ..."
"... The second category of intelligence organization is one whose agents are limited to the gathering and reporting of intelligence and who have no police functions or the power to arrest at home or abroad. This type of organization is what the CIA was created to be; however, it does not exist. ..."
"... Over the decades since the CIA was created, it has acquired more sinister functions. All intelligence agencies, in time, tend to develop along similar lines. The CIA today is a far cry hum the agency that was created in 1947 by the National Security Act. As President Harry S. Truman confided to close friends, the greatest mistake of his administration took place when he signed that National Security Act of 1947 into law. It was that act which, among other things it did, created the Central Intelligence Agency.3 ..."
Oct 08, 2017 | www.amazon.com

True existence of these multimegaton hydrogen bombs has so drastically changed the Grand Strategy of world powers that, today and for the future, that strategy is being carried out by the invisible forces of the CIA, what remains of the KGB, and their lesser counterparts around the world.

Men in positions of great power have been forced to realize that their aspirations and responsibilities have exceeded the horizons of their own experience, knowledge, and capability. Yet, because they are in chargeof this high-technology society, they are compelled to do something. This overpowering necessity to do something -- although our leaders do not know precisely what to do or how to do it -- creates in the power elite an overbearing fear of the people. It is the fear not of you and me as individuals but of the smoldering threat of vast populations and of potential uprisings of the masses.

This power elite is not easy to define; but the fact that it exists makes itself known from time to time. Concerning the power elite, R. Buckminster Fuller wrote of the "vastly ambitious individuals who [have] become so effectively powerful because of their ability to remain invisible while operating behind the national scenery." Fuller noted also, "Always their victories [are] in the name of some powerful sovereign-ruled country. The real power structures [are] always the invisible ones behind the visible sovereign powers."

The power elite is not a group from one nation or even of one alliance of nations. It operates throughout the world and no doubt has done so for many, many centuries.

... ... ...

From this point ot view, warfare, and the preparation tor war, is an absolute necessity for the welfare of the state and for control of population masses, as has been so ably documented in that remarkable novel by Leonard Lewin Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace and attributed by Lewin to "the Special Study Group in 1966," an organization whose existence was so highly classified that there is no record, to this day, of who the men in the group were or with what sectors of the government or private life they were connected.

This report, as presented in the novel, avers that war is necessary to sustain society, the nation, and national sovereignty, a view that has existed for millennia. Through the ages, totally uncontrolled warfare -- the only kind of "real" war -- got bigger and "better" as time and technology churned on, finally culminating in World War II with the introduction of atomic bombs.

Not long after that great war, the world leaders were faced suddenly with the reality of a great dilemma. At the root of this dilemma was the new fission-fusion-fission H-bomb. Is it some uncontrollable Manichean device, or is it truly a weapon of war?

... ... ...

Such knowledge is sufficient. The dilemma is now fact. There can no longer be a classic or traditional war, at least not the all-out, go-for-broke-type warfare there has been down through the ages, a war that leads to a meaningful victory for one side and abject defeat for the other.

Witness what has been called warfare in Korea, and Vietnam, and the later, more limited experiment with new weaponry called the Gulf War in Iraq.

... ... ...

This is why, even before the end of World War II, the newly structured bipolar confrontation between the world of Communism and the West resulted in the employment of enormous intelligence agencies that had the power, invisibly, to wage underground warfare, economic and well as military, anywhere -- including methods of warfare never before imagined. These conflicts had to be tactically designed to remain short of the utilization of the H-bomb by either side. There can never be victories in such wars, but tremendous loss of life could occur, and there is the much-desired consumption and attrition of trillions of dollars', and rubles', worth of war equipment.

One objective of this book is to discuss these new forces. It will present an insider's view of the CIA story and provide comparisons with the intelligence organizations -- those invisible forces -- of other countries. To be more realistic with the priorities of these agencies themselves, more will be said about operational matters than about actual intelligence gathering as a profession.

This subject cannot be explored fully without a discussion of assassination. Since WWII, there has been an epidemic of murders at the highest level in many countries. Without question the most dynamic of these assassinations was the murder of President John F. Kennedy, but JFK was just one of many in a long list that includes bankers, corporate leaders, newsmen, rising political spokesmen, and religious leaders.

The ever-present threat of assassination seriously limits the number of men who would normally attempt to strive for positions of leadership, if for no other reason than that they could be singled out for murder at any time. This is not a new tactic, but it is one that has become increasingly utilized in pressure spots around the world.

It is essential to note that there are two principal categories of intelligence organizations and that their functions are determined generally by the characteristics of the type of government they serve -- not by the citizens of the government, but by its leaders.

Under totalitarian or highly centralized nondemocratic regimes, the intelligence organization is a political, secret service with police powers. It is designed primarily to provide personal security to those who control the authority of the state against all political opponents, foreign and domestic. These leaders are forced to depend upon these secret elite forces to remain alive and in power. Such an organization operates in deep secrecy and has the responsibility for carrying out espionage, counterespionage, and pseudoterrorism. This methodology is as true of Israel, Chile, or Jordan as it has been of the Soviet Union.

The second category of intelligence organization is one whose agents are limited to the gathering and reporting of intelligence and who have no police functions or the power to arrest at home or abroad. This type of organization is what the CIA was created to be; however, it does not exist.

Over the decades since the CIA was created, it has acquired more sinister functions. All intelligence agencies, in time, tend to develop along similar lines. The CIA today is a far cry hum the agency that was created in 1947 by the National Security Act. As President Harry S. Truman confided to close friends, the greatest mistake of his administration took place when he signed that National Security Act of 1947 into law. It was that act which, among other things it did, created the Central Intelligence Agency.3

[Dec 01, 2017] The ECB Comes Clean On Rising Rates and the Coming Systemic Reset by Phoenix Capital...

This is Zero hedge, but the logic pf the article is interesting.
Nov 30, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Well, that was a gigantic lie. The truth is that every major policy employed by Central Banks since 2008 have been about one thing

Maintaining the bond bubble.

Governments around the world have used the bubble in bonds to finance their bloated budgets. If interest rates were anywhere NEAR normal levels, most countries would lurch towards default in a matter of weeks.

If you think this is conspiracy theory, consider that the European Central Bank openly admitted this in its semi-annual Financial Stability Review this week:

Even so, [the ECB] said that "higher interest rates may trigger concerns about sovereigns' debt-servicing capacity," and noted that "distrust in mainstream political parties continues to rise, leading to fragmentation of the political landscape away from the established consensus."

Source: Bloomberg.

In plain speak, the ECB is admitting here that if rates were to rise, the financial world would quickly realize that most countries couldn't finance their debt payments. Indeed, the five largest economies in the world are all near or above Debt to GDP levels of 100%

As I explained in my bestseller, The Everything Bubble: the Endgame For Central Bank Policy , the bubble in bonds is what finances this entire mess. It's what lets the political class continue to spend money the government doesn't have. And it's why the entire financial system is now in a bubble.

Remember, sovereign bonds are the bedrock for the current fiat-based financial system, so when they go into a bubble, EVERYTHING goes into a bubble, as all risk assets adjust to ridiculously cheap interest rates.

This is why I coined the term The Everything Bubble in 2014 It's also why I wrote a book on this issue as well as what's coming down the pike: because when this bubble bursts (as all bubbles do) the policies Central Banks employ will make those from 2008-2015 look like a cakewalk.

We are putting together an Executive Summary outlining all of these issues as well as what's to come when The Everything Bubble bursts.

It will be available exclusively to our clients. If you'd like to have a copy delivered to your inbox when it's completed, you can join the wait-list here:

https://phoenixcapitalmarketing.com/TEB.html

Best Regards Graham Summers

Chief Market Strategist

Phoenix Capital Research

[Dec 01, 2017] The ECB Comes Clean On Rising Rates and the Coming Systemic Reset by Phoenix Capital...

This is Zero hedge, but the logic pf the article is interesting.
Nov 30, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Well, that was a gigantic lie. The truth is that every major policy employed by Central Banks since 2008 have been about one thing

Maintaining the bond bubble.

Governments around the world have used the bubble in bonds to finance their bloated budgets. If interest rates were anywhere NEAR normal levels, most countries would lurch towards default in a matter of weeks.

If you think this is conspiracy theory, consider that the European Central Bank openly admitted this in its semi-annual Financial Stability Review this week:

Even so, [the ECB] said that "higher interest rates may trigger concerns about sovereigns' debt-servicing capacity," and noted that "distrust in mainstream political parties continues to rise, leading to fragmentation of the political landscape away from the established consensus."

Source: Bloomberg.

In plain speak, the ECB is admitting here that if rates were to rise, the financial world would quickly realize that most countries couldn't finance their debt payments. Indeed, the five largest economies in the world are all near or above Debt to GDP levels of 100%

As I explained in my bestseller, The Everything Bubble: the Endgame For Central Bank Policy , the bubble in bonds is what finances this entire mess. It's what lets the political class continue to spend money the government doesn't have. And it's why the entire financial system is now in a bubble.

Remember, sovereign bonds are the bedrock for the current fiat-based financial system, so when they go into a bubble, EVERYTHING goes into a bubble, as all risk assets adjust to ridiculously cheap interest rates.

This is why I coined the term The Everything Bubble in 2014 It's also why I wrote a book on this issue as well as what's coming down the pike: because when this bubble bursts (as all bubbles do) the policies Central Banks employ will make those from 2008-2015 look like a cakewalk.

We are putting together an Executive Summary outlining all of these issues as well as what's to come when The Everything Bubble bursts.

It will be available exclusively to our clients. If you'd like to have a copy delivered to your inbox when it's completed, you can join the wait-list here:

https://phoenixcapitalmarketing.com/TEB.html

Best Regards Graham Summers

Chief Market Strategist

Phoenix Capital Research

[Nov 30, 2017] A. Gary Shilling Trump Deserves Some Credit For The Surge In Stocks Zero Hedge

Nov 30, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by A. Gary Shilling via Bloomberg.com,

Less regulation is one campaign promise made by the president that is coming true...

Reducing government regulation is tough. It's resisted by all those who benefit, including government employees who administer the many programs. Every president since Jimmy Carter has attempted to lower the cost of regulation. At best, any cuts have been tiny and mostly centered on trimming paperwork. But less regulation is one campaign promise made by Donald Trump that is coming true. With tax and health-care reform problematic and given the president's protectionist leanings, deregulation is probably a major driver of the stock market rally.

BullyBearish -> Callz d Ballz ,