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The Secular Stagnation as an Immanent Feature of Post-2008 Neoliberalism

Image courtesy of Koren Shadmi (What’s Behind a Rise in Ethnic Nationalism? Maybe the Economy - The New York Times, Oct 14, 2016)
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Secular stagnation is a term proposed by Keynesian economist Alvin Hansen back in the 1930s to explain the USA dismal economic performance during this period. The period in which sluggish growth and output, and employment levels well below potential, coincide with a problematically low (even negative) real interest rates even in the face of the extraordinarily easy monetary policy. Later a similar phenomenon occurred in Japan. that's why it is often called called Japanification of the economy.  Secular stagnation returned to the USA in full force after the financial crisis of 2008 (so called The Long Recession), so this is the second time the USA society experience the same socio-economic phenomenon. 

Formally it can be defined as any stagnation that lasts substantially longer then the business cycle (and dominates the business cycle induced variations of economic activities), the suppression of economic performance for a long (aka secular) period. It also can be viewed as the crisis of demand, when demand became systemically weak (which under neoliberalism is ensured by redistribution of wealth up).

The global stagnation we are experiencing is the logical result of the dominance of neoliberalism and a sign of its crisis an a ideology. It is somewhat similar to the crisis of Bolshevik's ideology in the USSR in 60th when everybody realized that the existing society cannot fulfill the key promise of higher living standards. And that over centralization of economic life naturally leads to stagnation.  The analogy does not ends here, but this point is the most important.

Neoliberalism replaced over-centralization (with iron fist one party rule) with over-financialization (with iron fist rule of financial oligarchy), with generally the same result as for the economy ( In other words neoliberalism like bolshevism is equal to economic stagnation; extremes meet).  The end of cheap oil did not help iether. In a sense neoliberalism might be viewed as the elite reaction to the end of cheap oil, when it became clear that there are not enough cookies for everyone.

This growth in the financial sector's profits has not been an accident; it is the result of  engineered shift in the elite thinking, which changed government policies. The central question of politics is, in my view, "Who has a right to live and who does not".  In the answer to this question, neoliberal subscribes to Social Darwinism: ordinary citizens should be given much less rather than more social protection. Such  policies would have been impossible in 50th and 60th (A Short History of Neo-liberalism)

In 1945 or 1950, if you had seriously proposed any of the ideas and policies in today's standard neo-liberal toolkit, you would have been laughed off the stage at or sent off to the insane asylum. At least in the Western countries, at that time, everyone was a Keynesian, a social democrat or a social-Christian democrat or some shade of Marxist.

The idea that the market should be allowed to make major social and political decisions; the idea that the State should voluntarily reduce its role in the economy, or that corporations should be given total freedom, that trade unions should be curbed and citizens given much less rather than more social protection--such ideas were utterly foreign to the spirit of the time. Even if someone actually agreed with these ideas, he or she would have hesitated to take such a position in public and would have had a hard time finding an audience.

And this change in government polices was achieved in classic Bolsheviks coup d'état way, when yoiu first create the Party of "professional neoliberal revolutionaries". Who then push for this change and "occupy" strategic places like economics departments at the universities, privately funded think tanks, MSM, and then subvert one or both major parties.  The crisis of "New Deal Capitalism" helped, but without network of think tanks and rich donors, the triumph of neoliberalism in the USA would have been impossible: explanation for this triumph of neo-liberalism and the economic, political, social and ecological disasters that go with it is that neo-liberals have bought and paid for their own vicious and regressive "Great Transformation". They have understood, as progressives have not, that ideas have consequences. Starting from a tiny embryo at the University of Chicago with the philosopher-economist Friedrich von Hayek and his students like Milton Friedman at its nucleus, the neo-liberals and their funders have created a huge international network of foundations, institutes, research centers, publications, scholars, writers and public relations hacks to develop, package and push their ideas and doctrine relentlessly.

Most economists are acutely aware of the increasing role in economic life of financial markets, institutions and operations and the pursuit of prifits via excotic instruments such as derivatives (all this constituted  financialization). This dominant feature of neoliberalism has huge the re-distributional implications, huge effects on the US economy, international dimensions and monetary system, depth and longevity of financial crises and unapt policy responses to them.

They have built this highly efficient ideological cadre because they understand what the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci was talking about when he developed the concept of cultural hegemony. If you can occupy peoples' heads, their hearts and their hands will follow.

I do not have time to give you details here, but believe me, the ideological and promotional work of the right has been absolutely brilliant. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, but the result has been worth every penny to them because they have made neo-liberalism seem as if it were the natural and normal condition of humankind. No matter how many disasters of all kinds the neo-liberal system has visibly created, no matter what financial crises it may engender, no matter how many losers and outcasts it may create, it is still made to seem inevitable, like an act of God, the only possible economic and social order available to us.  

Neoliberalism naturally leads to secular stagnation due to redistribution of wealth up. which undermines purchasing power of the 99%, or more correctly 99.9 of the population. In the USA this topic became hotly debated theme in establishment circles after Summers speech in 2013.  Unfortunately it was suppressed in Presidential campaign of 2016. Please note that Sanders speaks about Wall Street shenanigans, but not about ideology of neoliberalism.  No candidates tried to address this problem of "self-colonization" of the USA, which is probably crucial to "making America great again" instead of continued slide into what is called "banana republic" coined by American writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter 1862–1910). Here is how Wikipedia described the term:

Banana republic or banana state is a pejorative political science term for politically unstable countries in Latin America whose economies are largely dependent on exporting a limited-resource product, e.g. bananas. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy of business, political, and military elites.[1] This politico-economic oligarchy controls the primary-sector productions to exploit the country's economy.[2]

... ... ...

In economics, a banana republic is a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by a collusion between the State and favoured monopolies, in which the profit derived from the private exploitation of public lands is private property, while the debts incurred thereby are a public responsibility.

This topic is of great importance to the US elite because the USA is the citadel of  neoliberalism. It also suggest that the natural way neoliberal economic system based on increasing of the level of inequality (redistribution of wealth up) should behave: after the initial economic boom (like in case of steroids use) caused by  financialization of economy (as well as dissolution of the USSR), helped by off-shoring of manufacturing, the destructive effects of this temporary boost come into foreground. Redistribution of wealth up increases inequality which after a certain delay starts to undercuts domestic demand. It also tilts the demand more toward conspicuous consumption (note the boom of luxury cars sales in the USA).  

But after  inequality reaches certain critical threshold  the economy faces extended period of low growth reflecting persistently weak private demand (purchasing power of lower 90% of population).  People who mostly have low level service economy jobs (aka MC-jobs) can't buy that much.  Earlier giants of American capitalism like Ford understood that, but Wall Street sharks do not and does not want.  They operate under principle "Après nous le déluge" ("After us, the deluge").

An economic cycle enters recession when total spending falls below expected by producers and they realize that production level is too high relative to demand. What we have under neoliberalism is Marx's crisis of overproduction on a new level. At this level it is intrinsically connected with the parasitic nature of complete financialization of the economy. The focus on monetary policy and the failure to enact fiscal policy options is the key structural defect of neoliberalism ideology and can't be changed unless neoliberal ideology is abandoned. Which probably will not happen unless another huge crisis hits the USA. That might not happen soon.  Bolshevism lasted more then 70 years. If we assume that the "age of neoliberalism" started at 1973 with Pinochet coup d'état in Chile, neoliberalism as a social system is just 43 years old (as of 2016). It still has some "time to live"(TTL) in zombies state due to the principle first formulated by Margaret Thatcher as TINA ("There Is No Alternative") -- the main competitor, bolshevism, was discredited by the collapse of the USSR and China leadership adoption of neoliberalism. While Soviet leadership simply abandoned the sinking ship and became Nouveau riche in a neoliberal society that followed, Chinese elite managed to preserved at least outer framework of the Marxist state and the political control of the Communist party (not clear for how long). But there was a neoliberal transformation of Chinese economy, initiated, paradoxically, by the Chinese Communist Party.

Currently, no other ideology, including old "New Deal" ideology can  compete with neoliberal ideology, although things started to change with Sanders campaign in the USA on  the left and Trump campaign on the right. Most of what we see as a negative reaction to neoliberalism in Europe generally falls into the domain of cultural nationalism.    

The 2008 financial crisis, while discrediting neoliberalism as an ideology (in the same way as WWII discredited Bolshevism), was clearly not enough for the abandonment of this ideology. Actually neoliberalism proved to be remarkably resilient after this crisis. Some researchers claim that it entered "zombie state" and became more bloodthirsty and ruthless.

There is also religious overtones of neoliberalism which increase its longevity (similar to Trotskyism, and neoliberalism can be called "Trotskyism for rich"). So, from a small, unpopular sect with virtually no influence, neo-liberalism has become the major world religion with its dogmatic doctrine, its priesthood, its law-giving institutions and perhaps most important of all, its hell for heathen and sinners who dare to contest the revealed truth.  Like in most cults adherents became more fanatical believers after the prophecy did not materialized. The USA elite tried partially alleviate this problem by resorting to military Keynesianism as a supplementary strategy. But while military budget was raised to unprecedented levels, it can't reverse the tendency. Persistent high output gap is now a feature of the US economy, not a transitory state.

But there is another factor in play here: combination of peak (aka "plato" ;-) oil and established correlation of  the speed of economic growth and prices on fossil fuels and first of all on oil. Oil provides more than a third of the energy we use on the planet every day, more than any other energy source (How High Oil Prices Will Permanently Cap Economic Growth - Bloomberg). It is dominant fuel for transport and in this role it is very difficult to replace. 

That means that a substantial increase of price of oil acts as a fundamental limiting factor for economic growth. And "end of cheap oil" simply means that any increase of supply of oil to support growing population on the planet and economic growth now requires higher prices. Which naturally undermine economic growth, unless massive injection of currency are instituted. that probably was the factor that prevented slide of the US economy into the recession in 2009-2012.  Such a Catch-22.

Growth dampening potential of over $100-a-barrel oil is now a well established factor. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true. Drop of oil price to below $50 as happened in late 2014 and first half of 2015 did not increase growth rate of the USA economy. It might simply prevented it from sliding it into another phase of Great Recession. Moreover when  economies activity drops, less oil is needed.  Enter permanent stagnation.

Also there is not much oil left that can be profitably extracted at prices below $80. So the current oil price slump is a temporary phenomenon, whether it was engineered, or is a mixture of factors including temporary overcapacity . Sooner or later oil prices should return to level "above $80", as only at this level of oil price capital expenditures in new production make sense. That des not mean that oil prices can't be suppressed for another year or even two, but as Herbert Stein aptly noted   "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop,"

 The alien spaceship landing

Imagine the alien spaceship landed somewhere in the world. There would be denial, disbelief, fear, and great uncertainty for the future. World leaders would struggle to make sense of the events. The landing would change everything.

The secular stagnation (aka "end of permanent growth") is a very similar event.  This also is the event that has potential to change everything, but it is much more prolonged in time and due to this less visible ("boiling frog effect").  Also this is not a single event, but a long sequence of related events that probably might last several decades (as Japan had shown) or even centuries. The current "Great Recession" might be just a prolog to those events. It is clearly incompatible with capitalism as a mode of production, although capitalism as a social system demonstrated over the years tremendous adaptability and it is too early to write it down completely.  Also no clear alternatives exists. 

A very slow recovery and the secular stagnation is characteristic of economies suffering from a balance-sheet recession (aka crisis of overproduction), as forcefully argued by Nomura’s Richard Koo and other economists. The key point is that private investment is down, not because of “policy uncertainty” or “increased regulation”, but because business-sector expectations about future profitability have become dramatically depressed — and rationally so — in a context characterized by heavy indebtedness (of both households and corporations). As businesses see the demand falls they scale down production which creates negative feedback look and depresses demand further. 

The key point is that private investment is down, not because of “policy uncertainty” or “increased regulation”, but because business-sector expectations about future profitability have become dramatically depressed — and rationally so — in a context characterized by heavy indebtedness (of both households and corporations). As businesses see the demand falls they scale down production which creates negative feedback look and depresses demand further.   

Five  hypothesis about the roots of secular stagnation

There are at least five different hypothesis about the roots of secular stagnation:

Summers’s remarks and articles were followed by an explosion of debate concerning “secular stagnation”—a term commonly associated with Alvin Hansen’s work from the 1930s to ’50s, and frequently employed in Monthly Review to explain developments in the advanced economies from the 1970s to the early 2000s.2 Secular stagnation can be defined as the tendency to long-term (or secular) stagnation in the private accumulation process of the capitalist economy, manifested in rising unemployment and excess capacity and a slowdown in overall economic growth. It is often referred to simply as “stagnation.” There are numerous theories of secular stagnation but most mainstream theories hearken back to Hansen, who was Keynes’s leading early follower in the United States, and who derived the idea from various suggestions in Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936).

Responses to Summers have been all over the map, reflecting both the fact that the capitalist economy has been slowing down, and the role in denying it by many of those seeking to legitimate the system. Stanford economist John B. Taylor contributed a stalwart denial of secular stagnation in the Wall Street Journal. In contrast, Paul Krugman, who is closely aligned with Summers, endorsed secular stagnation on several occasions in the New York Times. Other notable economists such as Brad DeLong and Michael Spence soon weighed in with their own views.3

Three prominent economists have new books directly addressing the phenomena of secular stagnation.4 It has now been formally modelled by Brown University economists Gauti Eggertsson and Neil Mehrotra, while Thomas Piketty’s high-profile book bases its theoretical argument and policy recommendations on stagnation tendencies of capitalism. This explosion of interest in the Summers/Krugman version of stagnation has also resulted in a collection of articles and debate, edited by Coen Teulings and Richard Baldwin, entitled Secular Stagnation: Facts, Causes and Cures.5

Seven years after “The Great Financial Crisis” of 2007–2008, the recovery remains sluggish. It can be argued that the length and depth of the Great Financial Crisis is a rather ordinary cyclical crisis. However, the monetary and fiscal measures to combat it were extraordinary. This has resulted in a widespread sense that there will not be a return to “normal.” Summers/Krugman’s resurrection within the mainstream of Hansen’s concept of secular stagnation is an attempt to explain how extraordinary policy measures following the 2007–2008 crisis merely led to the stabilization of a lethargic, if not comatose, economy.

But what do these economists mean by secular stagnation? If stagnation is a reality, does their conception of it make current policy tools obsolete? And what is the relationship between the Summers/Krugman notion of secular stagnation and the monopoly-finance capital theory?

... ... ...

In “secular stagnation,” the term “secular” is intended to differentiate between the normal business cycle and long-term, chronic stagnation. A long-term slowdown in the economy over decades can be seen as superimposed on the regular business cycle, reflecting the trend rather than the cycle.

In the general language of economics, secular stagnation, or simply stagnation, thus implies that the long-run potential economic growth has fallen, constituting the first pillar of MISS. This has been most forcefully argued for by Robert Gordon, as well as Garry Kasparov and Peter Thiel.6 Their argument is that the cumulative growth effect of current (and future) technological changes will be far weaker than in the past. Moreover, demographic changes place limits on the development of “human capital.” The focus is on technology, which orthodox economics generally sees as a factor external to the economy and on the supply-side (i.e., in relation to cost). Gordon’s position is thus different than that of moderate Keynesians like Summers and Krugman, who focus on demand-side contradictions of the system.

In Gordon’s supply-side, technocratic view, there are forces at work that will limit the growth in productive input and the efficiency of these inputs. This pillar of MISS emphasizes that it is constraints on the aggregate supply-side of the economy that have diminished absolutely the long-run potential growth.

The second pillar of MISS, also a supply-side view, goes back at least to Joseph Schumpeter. To explain the massive slump of 1937, Schumpeter maintained there had emerged a growing anti-business climate. Moreover, he contended that the rise of the modern corporation had displaced the role of the entrepreneur; the anti-business spirit had a repressive effect on entrepreneurs’ confidence and optimism.7 Today, this second pillar of MISS has been resurrected suggestively by John B. Taylor, who argues the poor recovery is best “explained by policy uncertainty” and “increased regulation” that is unfavorable to business. Likewise, Baker, Bloom, and Davis have forcefully argued that political uncertainty can hold back private investment and economic growth.8

Summers and Krugman, as Keynesians, emphasize a third MISS pillar, derived from Keynes’s famous liquidity trap theory, which contends that the “full-employment real interest rate” has declined in recent years. Indeed, both Summers and Krugman demonstrate that real interest rates have declined over recent decades, therefore moving from an exogenous explanation (as in pillars one and two) to a more endogenous explanation of secular stagnation.9 The ultimate problem here is lack of investment demand, such that, in order for net investment to occur at all, interest rates have to be driven to near zero or below. Their strong argument is that there are now times when negative real interest rates are needed to equate saving and investment with full employment.

However, “interest rates are not fully flexible in modern economies”—in other words, market-determined interest rate adjustments chronically fail to achieve full employment. Summers contends there are financial forces that prohibit the real interest rate from becoming negative; hence, full employment cannot be realized.10

Some theorists contend that there has been demographic structural shifts increasing the supply of saving, thus decreasing interest rates. These shifts include an increase in life expectancy, a decrease in retirement age, and a decline in the growth rate of population.

Others, including Summers, point out that stagnation in capital formation (or accumulation) can be attributed to a decrease in the demand for loanable funds for investment. One mainstream explanation offered for this is that today’s new technologies and companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, require far less capital investment. Another hypothesis is that there has been an important decrease in the demand for loanable funds, although they argue this is due to a preference for safe assets. These factors can function together to keep the real interest rate very low. The policy implication of secular low interest rates is that monetary policy is more difficult to implement effectually; during a recession, it is weakened and can even become ineffectual.

Edward Glaeser, focusing on “secular joblessness,” places severe doubt on the first pillar of MISS, but then makes a very important additional argument. Glaeser rejects the notion that there has been a slowdown in technological innovation; innovation is simply “unrelenting.” Likewise, he is far less concerned with secular low real interest rates, which may be far more cyclical. “Therefore,” contends Glaeser, “stagnation is likely to be temporary.”

Nonetheless, Glaeser underscores secular joblessness, and thus the dysfunction of U.S. labor markets constitutes a fourth pillar of MISS: “The dysfunction in the labour market is real and serious, and seems unlikely to be solved by any obvious economic trend.” Somehow, then, the problem is due to a misfit of skills or “human capital” on the side of workers, who thus need retraining. “The massive secular trend in joblessness is a terrible social problem for the US, and one that the country must try to address” with targeted policy.11 Glaeser’s argument for the dysfunction of U.S. labor markets is based on recession-generated shocks to employment, specifically of less-skilled U.S. workers. After 1970, when workers lost their job, the damage to human capital became permanent. In short, when human capital depreciates due to unemployment, overall abilities and “talent” are “lost” permanently. This may be because the skills required in today’s economy need to be constantly practiced to be retained. Thus, there is a ratchet-like effect in joblessness caused by recessions, whereby recession-linked joblessness is not fully reversed during recoveries—and all this is related to skills (the human capital of the workers), and not to capital itself. According to Glaeser, the ratchet-like effect of recession-linked joblessness is further exacerbated by the U.S. social-safety net, which has “made joblessness less painful and increased the incentives to stay out of work.”12

Glaeser contends that, if his secular joblessness argument is correct, the macroeconomic fiscal interventions argued for by Summers and Krugman are off-base.13 Instead, the safety net should be redesigned in order to encourage rather than discourage people from working. Additionally, incentives to work need to be radically improved through targeted investments in education and workforce training.14 Such views within the mainstream debate, emphasizing exogenous factors, are generally promoted by freshwater (conservative) rather than saltwater (liberal) economists. Thus, they tend to emphasize supply-side or cost factors.

The fifth pillar of MISS contends that output and productivity growth are stagnant due to a failure to invest in infrastructure, education, and training. Nearly all versions of MISS subscribe to some version of this, although there are both conservative and liberal variations. Barry Eichengreen underscores this pillar and condemns recent U.S. fiscal developments that have “cut to the bone” federal government spending devoted to infrastructure, education, and training.

The fifth pillar of MISS necessarily reflects an imbalance between public and private investment spending. Many theorists maintain that the imbalance between public and private investment spending, hence secular stagnation, “is not inevitable.” For example, Eichengreen contends if “the US experiences secular stagnation, the condition will be self-inflicted. It will reflect the country’s failure to address its infrastructure, education and training needs. It will reflect its failure to…support aggregate demand in an effort to bring the long-term unemployed back into the labour market.”15

The sixth pillar of MISS argues that the “debt overhang” from the overleveraging of financial firms and households, as well as private and public indebtedness, are a serious drag on the economy. This position has been argued for most forcefully by several colleagues of Summers at Harvard, most notably Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.16 Atif Mian and Amir Sufi also argue that household indebtedness was the primary culprit causing the economic collapse of 2007–2008. Their policy recommendation is that the risk to mortgage borrowers must be reduced to avoid future calamities.17

As noted, the defenders of MISS do not necessarily support a compatibility between the above six pillars: those favored by conservatives are supply-side and exogenous in emphasis, while liberals tend towards demand-side and endogenous ones. Instead, most often these pillars are developed as competing theories to explain the warrant of some aspect of secular stagnation, and/or to defend particular policy positions while criticizing alternative policy positions. However, the concern here is not whether there is the possibility for a synthesis of mainstream views. Rather, the emphasis is on how partial and separate such explanations are, both individually and in combination.

Neoliberal economy actually needs bubbles to function

As Krugman said "We now know that the economic expansion of 2003-2007 was driven by a bubble. You can say the same about the latter part of the 90s expansion; and you can in fact say the same about the later years of the Reagan expansion, which was driven at that point by runaway thrift institutions and a large bubble in commercial real estate." In other words blowing bubbles is the fundamental way neoliberal economy functions, not an anomaly.

As much as the USA population is accustomed to hypocrisy of the ruling elite and is brainwashed by MSM, this news, delivered to them personally by the crisis of 2008 was too much for them not question the fundamentals (A Primer on Neoliberalism):

Of course, the irony that those same institutions would now themselves agree that those “anti-capitalist” regulations are required is of course barely noted. Such options now being considered are not anti-capitalist. However, they could be described as more regulatory or managed rather than completely free or laissez faire capitalism, which critics of regulation have often preferred.

But a regulatory capitalist economy is very different to a state-based command economy, the style of which the Soviet Union was known for. The points is that there are various forms of capitalism, not just the black-and-white capitalism and communism. And at the same time, the most extreme forms of capitalism can also lead to the bigger bubbles and the bigger busts.

In that context, the financial crisis, as severe as it was, led to key architects of the system admitting to flaws in key aspects of the ideology.

At the end of 2008, Alan Greenspan was summoned to the U.S. Congress to testify about the financial crisis. His tenure at the Federal Reserve had been long and lauded, and Congress wanted to know what had gone wrong. Henry Waxman questioned him:

[Greenspan’s flaw] warped his view about how the world was organized, about the sociology of the market. And Greenspan is not alone. Larry Summers, the president’s senior economic advisor, has had to come to terms with a similar error—his view that the market was inherently self-stabilizing has been “dealt a fatal blow.” Hank Paulson, Bush’s treasury secretary, has shrugged his shoulders with similar resignation. Even Jim Cramer from CNBC’s Mad Money admitted defeat: “The only guy who really called this right was Karl Marx.” One after the other, the celebrants of the free market are finding themselves, to use the language of the market, corrected.

Raj Patel, Flaw PDF formatted document, The Value of Nothing, (Picador, 2010), pp.4, 6-7

Now for the second time in history, the challenge is to save capitalism from itself

Now for the second time in history, the challenge is to save capitalism from itself: to recognize the great strengths of open, competitive markets while rejecting the extreme capitalism and unrestrained greed that have perverted so much of the global financial system in recent times. It took such a statesman as Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rebuild American capitalism after the Great Depression. New Deal policies allowed to rebuild postwar domestic demand, to engineer the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and to set in place the Bretton Woods system to govern international economic engagement.

With the abolishment of those policies blowing of one bubble after another, each followed by a financial crisis  became standard chain of the events. Since 1973 we already have a half-dozen bubbles following by economic crisis. It started with  Savings and loan crisis which partially was caused by the deregulation of S&Ls in 1980, by the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act signed by President Jimmy Carter on March 31, 1980, an important step is a series that eliminated regulations initially designed to prevent lending excesses and minimize failures.

To hide this unpleasant fact neoliberals resort to so called the Great Neoliberal Lie:

What is neoliberalism

The fallacious and utterly misleading argument that the global economic crisis (credit crunch) was caused by excessive state spending, rather than by the reckless gambling of the deregulated, neoliberalized financial sector.

Just as with other pseudo-scientific theories and fundamentalist ideologies, the excuse that "we just weren't fundamentalist enough last time" is always there. The neoliberal pushers of the establishment know that pure free-market economies are as much of an absurd fairytale as 100% pure communist economies, however they keep pushing for further privatizations, tax cuts for the rich, wage repression for the ordinary, and reckless financial sector deregulations precisely because they are the direct beneficiaries of these policies. Take the constantly widening wealth gap in the UK throughout three decades of neoliberal policy. The minority of beneficiaries from this ever widening wealth gap are the business classes, financial sector workers, the mainstream media elite and the political classes. It is no wonder at all that these people think neoliberalism is a successful ideology. Within their bubbles of wealth and privilege it has been. To everyone else it has been an absolute disaster.

Returning to a point I raised earlier in the article; one of the main problems with the concept of "neoliberalism" is the nebulousness of the definition. It is like a form of libertarianism, however it completely neglects the fundamental libertarian idea of non-aggression. In fact, it is so closely related to that other (highly aggressive) US born political ideology of Neo-Conservatism that many people get the two concepts muddled up. A true libertarian would never approve of vast taxpayer funded military budgets, the waging of imperialist wars of aggression nor the wanton destruction of the environment in pursuit of profit.

Another concept that is closely related to neoliberalism is the ideology of minarchism (small stateism), however the neoliberal brigade seem perfectly happy to ignore the small-state ideology when it suits their personal interests. Take the vast banker bailouts (the biggest state subsidies in human history) that were needed to save the neoliberalised global financial sector from the consequences of their own reckless gambling, the exponential growth of the parasitic corporate outsourcing sector (corporations that make virtually 100% of their turnover from the state) and the ludicrous housing subsidies (such as "Help to Buy and Housing Benefits) that have fueled the reinflation of yet another property Ponzi bubble.

The Godfather of neoliberalism was Milton Friedman. He made the case that illegal drugs should be legalised in order to create a free-market drug trade, which is one of the very few things I agreed with him about. However this is politically inconvenient (because the illegal drug market is a vital source of financial sector liquidity) so unlike so many of his neoliberal ideas that have consistently failed, yet remain incredibly popular with the wealthy elite, Friedman's libertarian drug legalisation proposals have never even been tried out.

The fact that neoliberals are so often prepared to ignore the fundamental principles of libertarianism (the non-aggression principle, drug legalisation, individual freedoms, the right to peaceful protest ...) and abuse the fundamental principles of small state minarchism (vast taxpayer funded bailouts for their financial sector friends, £billions in taxpayer funded outsourcing contracts, alcohol price fixing schemes) demonstrate that neoliberalism is actually more like Ayn Rand's barmy (greed is the only virtue, all other "virtues" are aberrations) pseudo-philosophical ideology of objectivism  than a set of formal economic theories.

The result of neoliberal economic theories has been proven time and again. Countries that embrace the neoliberal pseudo-economic ideology end up with "crony capitalism", where the poor and ordinary suffer "austerity", wage repression, revocation of labor rights and the right to protest, whilst a tiny cabal of corporate interests and establishment insiders enrich themselves via anti-competitive practices, outright criminality and corruption and vast socialism-for-the-rich schemes.

Neoliberal fanatics in powerful positions have demonstrated time and again that they will willingly ditch their right-wing libertarian and minarchist "principles" if those principles happen to conflict with their own personal self-interest. Neoliberalism is less of a formal set of economic theories than an error strewn obfuscation narrative to promote the economic interests, and  justify the personal greed of the wealthy, self-serving establishment elite.

Bubbles as the neoliberal tool for wealth redistribution

The 1930s, a well researched period of balance-sheet recession, provides some interesting perspective despite large historical distance.  Roosevelt was no socialist, but his New Deal did frighten many businesses, especially large business which BTW attempted a coupe to remove him from is position. Fortunately for Roosevelt CIA did not exist yet.  And New Deal  government projects has been much bigger and bolder, then anything Obama ever tried, because Obama administration was constrained in its action by dominant neoliberal thinking. Like regulatory capture, which is an immanent feature of neoliberalism,  there is also less known and less visible ideological capture of the government. Which also makes neoliberalism more similar to bolshevism as this ideological capture and related inability of the USSR elite to modernize the economy on some "mixed" principles, when over-centralization stopped working. It, along with the collapse of the ideology,  probably was one of the main reasons of the collapse of the USSR.  Chinese leadership managed to do this and introduced "new economic policies"(NEP). 

Uner New deal regime when public investment and hence aggregate demand expanded, the economy started to grow anyway. Roosevelt did have a vision and he did convince the electorate about the way to go. Cheap optimism of Reagan, or even audacity of hope "Obama style" were not enough. After all, as Francis Bacon may remind us: “Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper” (Apophthegms, 1624).

Obama/Bernanke-style attempts to stimulate growth by pure injection of cheap money in this environment not only inflate new bubbles instead of old one, with which the fighting starts. They also lead to massive redistribution of wealth that makes the problem even worse:

Paul Krugman tells us that Larry Summers joined the camp concerned about secular stagnation in his I.M.F. talk last week, something that I had not picked up from prior coverage of the session. This is good news, but I would qualify a few of the points that Krugman makes in his elaboration of Summers' remarks.

First, while the economy may presently need asset bubbles to maintain full employment (a point I made in Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy), it doesn't follow that we should not be concerned about asset bubbles. The problem with bubbles is that their inflation and inevitable deflation lead to massive redistribution of wealth.

Larry Summers was the first establishment economist who conceded that this is the fact (Wikipedia)

... Larry Summers presented his view during November 2013 that secular (long-term) stagnation may be a reason that U.S. growth is insufficient to reach full employment: "Suppose then that the short term real interest rate that was consistent with full employment [i.e., the "natural rate"] had fallen to negative two or negative three percent. Even with artificial stimulus to demand you wouldn't see any excess demand. Even with a resumption in normal credit conditions you would have a lot of difficulty getting back to full employment."[13][14]

Robert J. Gordon wrote in August 2012:

"Even if innovation were to continue into the future at the rate of the two decades before 2007, the U.S. faces six headwinds that are in the process of dragging long-term growth to half or less of the 1.9 percent annual rate experienced between 1860 and 2007. These include demography, education, inequality, globalization, energy/environment, and the overhang of consumer and government debt. A provocative 'exercise in subtraction' suggests that future growth in consumption per capita for the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution could fall below 0.5 percent per year for an extended period of decades".[15]

One hypothesis is that high levels of productivity greater than the economic growth rate are creating economic slack, in which fewer workers are required to meet the demand for goods and services. Firms have less incentive to invest and instead prefer to hold cash. Journalist Marco Nappolini wrote in November 2013:

 "If the expected return on investment over the short term is presumed to be lower than the cost of holding cash then even pushing interest rates to zero will have little effect. That is, if you cannot push real interest rates below the so-called short run natural rate [i.e., the rate of interest required to achieve the growth rate necessary to achieve full employment] you will struggle to bring forward future consumption, blunting the short run effectiveness of monetary policy...Moreover, if you fail to bring it below the long run natural rate there is a strong disincentive to increase fixed capital investment and a consequent preference to hold cash or cash-like instruments in an attempt to mitigate risk. This could cause longer-term hysteresis effects and reduce an economy's potential output."[13] 

Cost of energy as a defining new factor

The cost of energy is probably another reason of secular stagnation along with excessive public and private debt. Rising cost of energy is deadly for capitalism.  Here are some comments that might clarify the situation:


This is the biggest crybaby column Krugman's ever written. He should be ashamed of himself and return his Nobel prize immediately. Has he ever put down Keynes long enough to read a little Marx?  Here's Robert Brenner summing it up in 2009:

 What mainly accounts for the long-term weakening of the real economy is a deep, and lasting, decline of the rate of return on capital investment since the end of the 1960s.

The failure of the rate of profit to recover is all the more remarkable, in view of the huge drop-off in the growth of real wages over the period.

The main cause, though not the only cause, of the decline in the rate of profit has been a persistent tendency to overcapacity in global manufacturing industries."

 There's more, too. Instead of siding with crackpot Summers, Krugman should expand his research and be of some use to us all.


I am not sure that it is correct to think about public debt as internal debt. It's all about energy.

That means that public debt is to a large extent foreign due to unalterable oil consumption (and related trade deficits). And that completely changes the situation unless you are the owner of the world reserve currency.

But even in the latter case (exorbitant privilege as Valéry Giscard d'Estaing called it ) you can expect attacks on the status of the currency as world reserve currency. The growth is still supported via militarization, forced opening of foreign markets (with military force, if necessary) and conversion of the state into national security state. But as Napoleon admitted "You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them"

One positive thing about high public (and to a large extent foreign owned) debt in the USA is that it undermines what Bacevich called "new American militarism" ( Bacevich argues that this is distinct political course adopted by the "defense intellectuals," the evangelicals, and the neocons. And they will never regret their failed efforts such as Iraq invasion.

From Amazon review:

=== Quote ===

Bacevich clearly links our present predicaments both at home and abroad to the ever greater need for natural resources, especially oil from the Persian Gulf. He demolishes all of the reasons for our bellicosity based on ideals and links it directly to our insatiable appetite for oil and economic expansion. Naturally, like thousands of writers before him, he points out the need for a national energy policy based on more effective use of resources and alternative means of production.

=== End of Quote ==

Heinberg's Five Axioms of Sustainability

As Heinberg explained fossil fuels, primarily oil, permeate every aspect of our modern culture - from agriculture to cities and a long-term perspective. In the age of almost 7 billion people demanding more and more of limited resources, the media, politicians and governments tend to only report short-term perspectives and ignore Heinberg's Five Axioms of Sustainability to the extent that these concepts are taboo to be spoken, discussed or thought (Heinberg, Richard (2007) Five Axioms of Sustainability):

1. (Tainter’s Axiom): Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse.

Exception: A society can avoid collapse by finding replacement resources.

Limit to the exception: In a finite world, the number of possible replacements is also finite.


2. (Bartlett’s Axiom): Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.


3. To be sustainable, the use of renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is less than or equal to the rate of natural replenishment.


4. To be sustainable, the use of non-renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is declining, and the rate of decline must be greater than or equal to the rate of depletion.

The rate of depletion is defined as the amount being extracted and used during a specified time interval (usually a year) as a percentage of the amount left to extract.


5. Sustainability requires that substances introduced into the environment from human activities be minimized and rendered harmless to biosphere functions.

In cases where pollution from the extraction and consumption of non-renewable resources that has proceeded at expanding rates for some time threatens the viability of ecosystems, reduction in the rates of extraction and consumption of those resources may need to occur at a rate greater than the rate of depletion. 

Archaeologist Joseph Tainter, in his classic study The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988), demonstrated that collapse is a frequent if not universal fate of complex societies and argued that collapse results from declining returns on efforts to support growing levels of societal complexity using energy harvested from the environment.  Jared Diamond’s popular book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005) similarly  makes the argument that collapse is the common destiny of societies that ignore resourse constraints. This axiom defines sustainability by the consequences of its absence—that is, collapse.

Historical periods of stagnation in the United States

Adapted from Wikipedia

Excluding the current, there were two period of stagnation in the USA history:

Construction of structures, residential, commercial and industrial, fell off dramatically during the depression, but housing was well on its way to recovering by the late 1930s.[17]

The depression years were the period of the highest total factor productivity growth in the United States, primarily to the building of roads and bridges, abandonment of unneeded railroad track and reduction in railroad employment, expansion of electric utilities and improvements wholesale and retail distribution.[17]

The war created pent up demand for many items as factories that once produced automobiles and other machinery converted to production of tanks, guns, military vehicles and supplies. Tires had been rationed due to shortages of natural rubber; however, the U.S. government built synthetic rubber plants. The U.S. government also built synthetic ammonia plants, aluminum smelters, aviation fuel refineries and aircraft engine factories during the war.[17] After the war commercial aviation, plastics and synthetic rubber would become major industries and synthetic ammonia was used for fertilizer. The end of armaments production free up hundreds of thousands of machine tools, which were made available for other industries. They were needed in the rapidly growing aircraft manufacturing industry.[18]

The memory of war created a need for preparedness in the United States. This resulted in constant spending for defense programs, creating what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex.

U.S. birth rates began to recover by the time of World War II, and turned into the baby boom of the postwar decades. A building boom commenced in the years following the war. Suburbs began a rapid expansion and automobile ownership increased.[17]

High-yielding crops and chemical fertilizers dramatically increased crop yields and greatly lowered the cost of food, giving consumers more discretionary income. Railroad locomotives switched from steam to diesel power, with a large increase in fuel efficiency. Most importantly, cheap food essentially eliminated malnutrition in countries like the United States and much of Europe.

Many trends that began before the war continued:

Researchers who contributed to understating secular stagnation

One of the first researchers who clearly attributed secular stagnation problem to neoliberalism was Alan Nasser, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy and Philosophy at The Evergreen State College. In his September 22, 2005 paper  ECONOMIC LAWS, STRUCTURAL TENDENCIES, SECULAR STAGNATION THEORY, AND THE FATE OF NEOLIBERALISM  he pointed out the key features of secular stagnation long before Summers started to understand the problem  and even befor the economic crash of 2008 ;-)

September 22, 2005 |

Alan Nasser Invited presentation, University of Lille,

"We have now grown used to the idea that most ordinary or natural growth processes (the growth of organisms, or popu- lations of organisms or, for example, of cities) is not merely limited, but self-limited, i.e. is slowed down or eventually brought to a standstill as a consequence of the act of growth itself. For one reason or another, but always for some reason, organisms cannot grow indefinitely, just as beyond a certain level of size or density a population defeats its own capacity for further growth."

Sir Peter Medawar, The Revolution of Hope

"A business firm grows and attains great strength, and afterwards perhaps stagnates and decays; and at the turning point there is a balancing or equilibrium of the forces of life and decay. And as we reach to the higher stages of our work, we shall need ever more and more to think of economic forces as those which make a young man grow in strength until he reaches his prime; after which he gradually becomes stiff and inactive, till at last he sinks to make room for other and more vigorous life."

Alfred Marshall, Principals of Economics (1890)

"Though Keynes's 'breakdown theory is quite different from Marx's, it has an important feature in common with the latter: in both theories, the breakdown is motivated by causes inherent to the working of the economic engine, not by the action of factors external to it."

Joseph Schumpeter, Ten Great Economists

In this paper I shall address two major issues. Firstly, I shall discuss the implications for economic theory of a conception of economic laws widely at variance with the empiricist and/or positivist account of what laws are, how they are discovered, and how they are related to theory. At the same time, I will reject one cornerstone of anti-positivist thought, namely the idea that one cannot provide an account of laws that is fundamentally the same for the natural and the social sciences. Thus, I shall argue that an anti-positivist account of laws is entirely compatible with a conception of scientific laws that applies to both the "hard" (natural) and the "soft" (social) sciences. I shall defend this position by showing its application to economics and economic laws. In doing so, I will compare and contrast both natural-scientific (primarily physical) laws and social-scientific (primarily economic) laws. Secondly, I will argue that perhaps the most significant economic law descriptive of mature capitalism is the law of secular stagnation. The latter states that it is the natural tendency of a developed, industrialized capitalist economy to default to a state of chronic excess capacity and underconsumption. And this is itself a result of the tendency in advanced capitalism for the economic surplus (roughly, the difference between the Gross Domectic Product and the cost of producing the GDP) to grow at a rate more rapid than the growth of profitable industrial investment opportunities. In the course of my discussion I will use the United States as a paradigm case, Much as Marx attempted to identify the underlying features of the accumulation process by reference to England during the Industrial Revulution.

This has in fact been the state of global capital since the end of the "Golden Age" and the commencement of the age of globalized Reaganism/Thatcherism, i.e. the Age of Neoliberalism. I date the transition as commencing in 1973, the last year of post-War Keynesian growth rates in the USA. In fact, I will argue, neoliberal economic policy exacerbates capitalism'a tendency to stagnation. Let me begin with an account of economic laws.


On the Humean or radical empiricist (positivist) account of laws, the latter are descriptions of observed regularities. Presumably, the scientist observes a "constant conjunction" of different kinds of happening, and infers from the regularity of the conjunction that the latter could not be merely accidental, and so concludes that the observed pattern of regularities must be nomological or law-like. 'Sodium chloride dissolves in water' and 'Metal expands when heated' would be simple examples of the results of this account of how laws of nature are discovered.

That this empiricist account is flawed becomes evident when we consider full-fledged laws of a genuine natural science, e.g. physics. I emphasize that laws are components of theories, which themselves are constitutive of established scientific disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, and biology. In fact, the two "laws" mentioned at the end of the preceding paragraph are not laws of physics at all. Among the genuine laws of physics is, e.g., 'Falling bodies near the surface of the earth accelerate at a constant rate.' This law is certainly not established by the observation of repeated conjunctions of events. On the contrary, actually observed falling bodies in "open systems", that is, in the circumstances of everyday life, conspicuously fail to conform to this law. Yet this is not taken to refute the law. For the law describes the behavior of bodies in a vacuum, that is to say, in a "closed system", one created by the scientist, typically in a laboratory situation. Philosophers of science have tended to ignore the distinction between regularities observed only in closed systems, and conjunctions observed in everyday life, which, as such, have no value as contributions to scientific knowledge. These philosophers have, accordingly, written as if the regularities in question were features of open systems, of nature. This confusion impedes our understanding of all types of laws, from physical to economic.

This failure –until relatively recently- of philosophers of science to properly attend to the importance of laboratory work in the acquisition of scientific knowledge is due to the fact that these philosophers have focused almost exclusively on science as established theory, i.e. as a way of representing the world. They had ignored how these theories were actually established. That is, they paid little attention to experiment, which is a way of intervening in the world. This inattention to what happens in closed systems created in the laboratory led thinkers to miss the importance of the concept of tendencies or dispositions in grasping the concept of a law of science. Let us dwell on this point and its relation to economic laws.

It is not that our knowledge of natural laws is not based on observed regularities. The point, rather, is that these regularities are not found in nature. They are found in closed systems, elaborately designed experimental circumstances found in laboratories. Yet, we correctly believe that what we learn in experimental situations gives us knowledge that is not confined to these situations. We believe that what we learn from observations of repeated patterns in experiments gives us not only knowledge of the behavior of objects in laboratory circumstances, but also knowledge of these same (kinds of) objects as they behave in nature, in the open systems of everyday life. But scientifically significant repeated patterns are not found in the world of daily life. This raises profound epistemological and ontological questions.

The most significant epistemological question arises from the following consideration: Were it not for the intervention of the experimenter, closed-system regularities would not obtain. Hence, the experimenter is a causal agent of the pattern of regularities observed in the laboratory. It is these contrived conjunctions which we invoke to justify our belief in (usually causal) laws. And while these regularities are the (partial) result of the intervention of the experimenter, we do not believe that the experimenter in any way originates the laws whose existence is attested to by the contrived regularities. The question therefore arises: What justifies our (correct) belief that knowledge obtained in closed laboratory systems designed by an agent applies also in open systems, i.e. in nature, which of course is not designed by scientists and does not evidence the regularities found under designed experimental circumstances?

I want to suggest that this question comes to the same as the following question: What must nature be like, and what must experiment reveal, in order for experimental knowledge to be able to be legitimately extended to the world outside of the laboratory, i.e. to nature? Note that this is a Realist question: it asks what we must presuppose about the constitution of the world in order that our experimentally-based scientific beliefs be justified. This is the precise Realist counterpart to Kant's Idealist question: What must we presoppose our minds –as opposed to nature or the world- to be like in order for scientific knowledge to be possible? I will argue that the answer to our Realist question provides the conceptual resources to elucidate the general nature of economic laws and economic theory, and the nature of the subject matter investigated by economists.

I will argue that since we believe that what we learn by experimental observation justifies our claim to knowledge of the experimental objects as they behave in nature, we must assume that these objects possess natural structures, similar to what Aristotle and the scholastics called "natures" or "essences." A natural structure must be conceived as what Critical Realists call a generative mechanism (hereafter, GM). The latter is a specific mode of material organization. What GMs generate are tendencies or dispositions to behave in characteristic ways. The statement that a physical thing or a social institution or structure tends to generate characteristic regularities is a statement of a law. The natural structure of salt, expressed in chemistry as HCl, is such that when it is mixed with water, whose natural structure or organization is expressed as H2O, it tends to dissolve. Gases tend to expand when heated and falling bodies near the surface of the earth tend to accelerate at a constant rate. These are statements of chemical and physical laws. We shall see that precisely the same kind of analysis can be made of laws in economics.

Tendencies are not the same as trends. The latter are merely observed regularities; there need be no implication that an underlying structural feature of the thing in question generates the regularity. This feature of laws is reflected in ordinary language in non-scientific contexts: we might say "He has a tendency to exaggerate." We mean that a disposition to exaggerate is a natural expression of his underlying character. We do not usually mean that he exaggerates whenever it is possible for him to exaggerate. This is part of the meaning of 'tendency.' Thus, tendencies can exist without being exercised. This happens when, e.g. salt is not mixed with water. Salt's nomological tendency to dissolve in water remains its categorical property even in the absence of circumstances in which its tendency to dissolve can be exercised. In addition, tendencies can be exercised without being realized. This is the case in the natural sciences when we observe, in non-laboratory situations, falling bodies accelerating at different rates. Indeed, no falling body in open systems is observed to accelerate at a constant or the same rate. But of course this is not taken to falsify the law of falling bodies. In nature, GMs continue to act in their characteristic ways without producing the patterned outcomes observable in closed experimental systems. This is so because in nature a multiplicity of GMs combine, interact and collide such as to result in the (scientifically irrelevant) flux of phenomena of the everyday world. The realization of a natural tendency can, in other words, be offset by counteracting forces. Thus, empiricism's mistake is to fail to recognize that GMs operate independent of the effects they generate. That is, GMs endure and go on acting (in the way that experimental closure enables us to identify) in nature, i.e. in open systems, where patterned regularities do not prevail. Statements about tendencies are not equivalent, salva veritate, to statements about their effects. Laws may exist and exercise their tendencies or powers even though no Humean "constant conjunctions" are observed. (This would be the case if it happened that the practice of creating closed experimental conditions had never been engaged in, i.e. in a world without science.)


GMs are not confined to the natural world. Natural structures are not the only structures there are. Plainly, there are humanely constructed structures. Capitalism is one such structure. Structures of this kind, GMs, that are dynamic by nature, i.e. which are characteristically diachronic, be they natural or socially constituted, share the same ontology. This should not be confused with the radical empiricist (positivist) claim that the natural and the social sciences share the same method. Clearly they do not: closed experimental situations exist but are not typical i istic outcomes ceteris paribus, ie. other things being equal, i.e. ceteris absentibus, other things being absent. When we identify the tendency of a thing, we specify what will happen, as a matter of course, if interfering conditions are absent. That is the point of vacuums in the closed systems created in laboratory experiments: they permit exercised tendencies, i.e. tendencies in operation, to be realized. If we want to know what gases tend to do when acted upon by heat, we eliminate all potential counteracting forces by creating a vacuum in the chamber, so that both gas and heat can express their natures unimpeded.

Thus, implicit in both physical- and social-scientific practice is the crucial distinction between the exercise and the realization (or manifestation) of a tendency. This distinction is essential to structural analysis in economics because of the impossibility of creating the social equivalent of a vacuum in the social sciences, which deal with the open systems of everyday life, where a great many forces and tendencies collide. Accordingly, just as the law of the tendency of falling bodies to accelerate at a constant rate is not falsified by the failure of falling bodies to behave accordingly in open systems, so too, e.g., the law of the tendency of the growth of productive capacity to outpace the growth of profitable investment opportunities -the thesis of secular stagnation theory- is not undermined by the remarkable growth rates of the Golden Age. In both cases, the presence of offsetting factors prevents the structurally generated tendency from being realized or manifested. I argue that the same can be said for any putative economic law.

In social science –and this is most conspicuous in economics, the most theoretically developed of the human sciences- we compensate for the absence of experimentally closed systems by constructing their functional equivalent, which we might call, in terms redolent of Weber, an ideal-typical theoretical model. It is an unfortunate habit (perhaps a tendency in the above-elaborated sense…) of mainstream economists to employ these models as if they described the open-system observable facts of economic life. This is, I suspect, a consequence of the economic empiricist's mistake referred to above, namely to think that GMs, if they must be spoken of at all, are to be conceived as reducible to their effects. (Recall Hume's claim, inspired by his reading of Newton, to expunge all notions of "power", "generation" and "production" from his analyses.) But, as noted above, GMs in both the social and the natural sciences employ unrealistic models, i.e. models which do not pretend to offer the equivalent of a photographic representation of the world. In both natural-scientific experiments and social-scientific ideal-type models, an attempt is made to abstract from the nonessential. We seek to place the spotlight of theory on what is necessary to the situation, system or institution under investigation, and to prescind from the arbitrary and accidental. In economics we seek to identify those features of capitalism that make it what it is. This enables us to identify capitalism's distinct and characteristic tendencies, and to describe what will happen as a result of the exercise of these tendencies, ceteris absentibus.

That there are such tendencies seems to me to be uncontroversial. We all know, for example, that cyclical downturns are not mere empirical contingencies of capitalist development, but structurally generated tendencies which follow inexorably from the specific mode of organization (structure) of capitalism. And like all tendencies, their realization can be offset, as we have seen above, by counteracting factors, such as fiscal and monetary policy. Other examples would be what Marx called the tendencies of capital to concentrate and centralize. The tendency, and corresponding law, with which I will be primarily concerned in this paper is constitutive of the theory of secular stagnation, and is far more likely than the immediately foregoing examples to generate controversy. I refer to the tendency of mature capitalism to suffer from a chronic paucity of profitable industrial investment opportunities, relative to the great magnitude of its investable surplus. Let us look more closely at this tendency.


It is worth mentioning that the view that the continuous accumulation of capital is both essential to the normal development of capitalist societies and essentially self-limiting was held by virtually all of the major modern political economists, in the form of one version or another of the doctrine of the falling rate of profit. Adam Smith explained the secular decline of the profit rate by the increasing abundance of capital in a developing capitalist society. Ricardo and Mill believed that the rate of profit would be depressed by the diminishing productivity of the land which would drive up the price of wage goods and therefore of the wages of labor, and so drive down the profits of capital. Marx pointed to the increasing capital-intensity of industry and the paucity of working-class purchasing power relative to the productive capacity of the economy, as the principal threat to the profit rate. And Keynes held that in mature capitalist economies the "marginal efficiency of capital", i.e. the expected rate of return (over cost) on an additional unit of a given capital asset, would tend to decline. All these thinkers had an at least intuitive appreciation of the fact that the growth of capital tends to be terminally self-limiting. (It is worth citing a remark of Joseph Shumpeter at this point:

"Though Keynes's 'breakdown theory is quite different from Marx's, it has an important feature in common with the latter: in both theories, the breakdown is motivated by causes inherent to the working of the economic engine, not by the action of factors external to it.")

In my estimation, no one understood the underlying dynamics of the tendency to stagnation better than the Polish economist Michal Kalecki, who is known to have developed the essentials of Keynes's General Theory before Keynes himself (and to have produced far more elegant mathematical formulations thereof). Perhaps the best way to understand Kalecki's thought is to see him as having argued that certain features of a not-yet-mature industrializing economy persist after the process of industrialization has been accomplished, with the effect that the developed capitalist economy is saddled with a problem of chronic excess capacity. Let me sketch this train of thought.

In the course of their natural growth capitalist economies reach a level of industrial development characterizable as maturity, a point beyond which growth must either cease, or be sustained by exogenous (in a sense to be elucidated below) means. Straight away we are confronted with a rejection of an assumption that is implicit in mainstream neoclassical theory, viz. that both the supply and the demand curves shift, virtually automatically, to the right. On the stagnationist conceptualization of growth or development, the process of development is not everlasting, but rather is at some point accomplished. There is the period, industrialization, during which the economy is developing, and which culminates in a (finally) industrialized or developed infrastructure. At this stage there will have been built up, or "accumulated", a complement of plant and equipment in steel production, machine tools, power stations, transport systems, etc., that is capable of satisfying a level of consumption demand consistent with the moral limits of a reasonably civilized style of life, the constraints imposed by a finite fund of natural resources, and, most importantly for stagnation theory, the limited possibilities of what Marx called "expanded reproduction" imposed by the accumulation process itself.

This account point can be expanded as follows. During any period of industrialization, the growth of the capital goods industry (hereafter, following Marx, Department I, or DI) must outpace the growth of the consumption goods industries (hereafter, again following Marx, Department II, or DII). Indeed, it belongs to the nature of the process of industrialization that the demand for the output of DI cannot be a function of the behavior of consumption demand; during industrialization, investment demand is both rapid and relatively autonomous. For if the principal project is to develop the means of production, then a disproportionate share of national wealth must be devoted to investment/accumulation at the expense of consumption. Strategic capital goods such as transport and communications networks and steel mills cannot be built bit by bit. This is clear with respect to railroads (Recall Keynes's remark that "Two pyramids are better than one, and two masses for the dead better than one; but two railroads from London to York are not necessarily better than one."), but perhaps not as clear with respect to steel facilities.

Suppose 1) that the efficient production of steel requires equipment with the capacity to produce 200,000 tons of steel, and 2) that demand turns out to be for 300,000 tons. The investor has two alternatives, either to forgo an extra market or to take a chance and add another 200.000 tons. On the second alternative, the one virtually assured in a period of (rapid) industrialization, the manufacturer is left with a surplus capacity of 100,000 tons. Here we see, writ small, a crucial source of two basic tendencies of capitalist development, the unrelenting pressure to expand markets, and the tendency to overproduction of a specific kind, namely the overproduction of capital goods, the tendency to overaccumulation. Each of these tendencies is the basis of a corresponding law of economics: Wherever we find a competitive, profit-driven market economy, we must also find a system-driven tendency to expand markets, and: Wherever we find a competitive, profit-driven market economy, we must also find a system-driven tendency for the growth of productive capacity to outpace the growth of effective demand.

As we have seen, all the major classical political economists anticipated the stationary state; they all assumed that the period of development or industrialization would come to an end. Basic industries would be in place, and DI would be capable of meeting all the replacement and expansion demands of DII. Prescinding for the moment from the emergence of new industries, DI would no longer be a source of substantial expansion demand for its own output; most of DI's internal expansion demand would be extinct.

But this is not th hread of classical (and perhaps neoclassical) theory contains the assurance that the capitalist economy provides a mechanism that in the long run counteracts the tendency of the demand for the products of DI to peter out. As one might expect, this is the price mechanism, which brings about, in the circumstances described above, a falling rate of profit (or interest) and thereby a simultaneous check on accumulation and spur to consumption. The causal chain is simple: the fall of the profit rate would lower capital's share of national income, i.e. it would transfer income from capital to labor. Thus, the demand gap created by the sharp waning of DI's expansion demand would be made up by the increase in consumption demand, which would of course mean an expansion in the demand for the output of DII. Moreover, an immediate expansion of DII at the expense of DI in order to assure a rapid transition out of the stationary state would be entirely feasible given the adaptability of certain key industries in DI to new market conditions resulting from the newly-expanded purchasing power of the working class. The construction of new factories could, for example, yield to the construction of new homes.

The theoretical elegance of this scenario is impressive -almost inspirational- but, alas for illusions, the price mechanism does not work this way. For the above-mentioned transfer in national income from capital to labor is supposed to happen when industrialization comes to an end by virtue of its having been accomplished. But from the capitalists' perspective, it is as if nothing counts as industrialization coming to an end. New industries, for example, can create a situation functionally equivalent to industrialization. "Accumulate, accumulate, that is Moses and the prophets."

We have at this point arrived at a picture of a developed capitalist economy which is in a state of permanent industrialization. Excess capacity prevails and working-class income is stagnant or declining. Interestingly, this has in fact been the state of both the U.S. and the global economy since 1973. According to the foregoing analysis, this reflects the fact that the U.S. and global economies are now instances not merely of the exercise of the law of the tendency of mature capitalism to stagnate, but of its realization. To put it differently: these economies are now in their natural state.

But important questions immediately arise. Why are these economies in their natural state now? And if there is a structurally generated tendency for capitalist economies to stagnate, how shall we account for the historically unprecedented growth rates of the Golden Age? I have barely sketched an outline of a response to these challenges above: if there is indeed a tendency for capitalism to stagnate, then there must have been in operation during the Golden Age what I called "counteracting forces and tendencies" which had spent themselves by the mid-1970s. In the absence of new offsetting forces, the tendency to stagnate has, as we should expect, re-asserted itself. These claims require further elaboration, and it is to this task that I now turn.


In order to account for the actual pattern of capitalist growth in the context of stagnation theory, we must reflect on the kind of growth required by capitalist economic arrangements. Mainstream theory does not distinguish between kinds of growth if and when it addresses the specific requirements of capitalist growth at all. This is, I believe, a serious error. I will begin by introducing the notion of transformational growth, which transforms the entire way of life of society and absorbs exceptionally large amounts of the investible surplus. My point shall be that a capitalist economy cannot sustain growth merely by producing more and more different types of widgets, in the absence of pervasive structural change. Growth sustained in the latter manner is transformational growth.

We are forced to introduce the concept of transformational growth for reasons related to my earlier discussion of the structural features of mature capitalism which generates a chronic tendency to stagnation. I will now embellish this analysis. It should be clear that capitalism cannot grow in the way in which a balloon grows: its growth cannot leave its proportions intact, i.e. such that there are no new products and no new processes of production. This is to say that a capitalist economy either undergoes transformational growth or it stagnates. The argument is as follows.

Investment expands productive capacity, which in turn requires that demand increase at the same rate as potential production. Without the required rate of demand growth, underutilization/excess capacity will discourage further investment or capital accumulation and the result will of course be stagnation. Let us not address this issue in the manner of the neoclassical economist, who seems to assume that both supply and demand curves can be counted on to perennially shift to the right (absent, of course, undue government interference). But this quaint assumption is belied by the enormous literature on the development and indispensability to capitalism of the marketing and advertising industries, which we might view as massive efforts to counteract Keynes's declining marginal propensity to consume by deliberately creating among the consuming masses a full panoply of "manufactured" consumption desires. These considerations point to the need constantly to exogenously stimulate consumption demand in order to narrow the demand gap generated by the tendency to overaccumulation. But they do not yet establish the need to generate a broad, nation-wide pattern of demand required by structural change and transformational growth.

What is needed at this point are concrete examples of the generators of transformational growth, and of exactly how these generators accomplish one of the fundamental features of transformational growth, the mobilization and coordination of the economic resources of the entire country into a grand national project which stimulates demand not merely for this and that consumption good, but for crucial commodities and institutions such as oil, steel rubber, and other primary products, and communication and transportation facilities. What this requires are what Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy termed, in their influential Monopoly Capital (Monthly Review Press, 1966), "epoch-making innovations". Edward Nell and Robert Heilbroner have characterized these same innovations as "transformative innovations". Let me approach transformative innovations by looking at the tendency to stagnation from yet another perspective, one which focuses on the role of competition as a major force behind the growth of both investment and consumption.

Competition reduces the need for investment by tending to increase both productivity and savings. Let us see how this happens. As a result of competition business is under continuous pressure to cut costs and produce more efficiently. To the extent that business succeeds in these respects, productive potential is increased. At the same time, competition also requires business to hold down wages and salaries and to pay out dividend and profit income relatively sparingly. Together, these pressures hold back both worker and capitalist consumption. The result is a tendency for productive capacity to expand faster than consumption. This means that there is no reason for investment to grow, for capital to achieve the required rate of accumulation, unless there are major pressures transforming the way people live. In the absence of such pressures, we may expect stagnation.

There are two dimensions of transformative innovations which are in fact two aspects of the same phenomenon. One dimension is solely technological, and the other points to changes in a population's entire way of life. Neither of these is part of a process of steady, balloon-like growth, nor is either automatically, or normally, generated by the fundamental capitalist dynamics identified by the mainstream textbooks. For this reason I have called the stimulus imparted by these innovations 'exogenous'. Let us look first at the technological dimension of transformative innovation.

This can be identified, after the owl of Minerva has spread its wings, by reflecting on some of the requirements of ideal-typical capitalism. Neoliberals correctly remind us that the bottom line is of course "freedom", primarily the freedom of capital to roam the world seeking markets, sources of cheap labor and investment opportunities. Microecenomic textbooks in fact tend to assume the perfect mobility of both capital and labor.

Let us focus on sources of power, which became especially important after the industrial revolution. Technological development resulted in the virtually total replacement of human and animal muscle power by inanimate sources of power, mainly water and steam. But reliance on water as a source of power places extreme limits on the mobility of capital, and hence on the possibilities of capitalist growth. Water power is site-specific, and the number of rivers and streams is limited. Moreover, the water had to be fast-running and productive facilities had to be located as far downstream as possible. And of course water power is only seasonally available. These restraints alone place an intolerable obstacle to the free and ongoing accumulation of capital. Here we find an overwhelming incentive to switch from water to steam power. This constitutes a huge stimulus to the accumulation of capital on a national scale.

Capitalism requires sources of power that are independent of nature and can be applied constantly wherever they are needed. And these are precisely what steam power made possible. It was now possible to set up productive facilities virtually anywhere; a major fetter to the accumulation of capital was removed. The universal mobility required by capital was now much more fully realized. At this point I want to emphasize that this technological /economic transformation was necessarily accompanied by profound social and cultural changes. For the steam engine's reduction of the seasonality of water power made possible a feature of work that is increasingly common on a global scale: the emergence of modern year-round work habits. With this change comes a dramatic transformation of our notions (and practices) of work and leisure, with all the consequences these have for the felt experience of everyday life. That is an instance of the second dimension of transformative innovation, i.e. its introduction of dramatic cultural changes, changes in the way populations live.

Much the same can be said for the subsequent shift to electrical power, which makes possible trolley cars, refrigerators (as opposed to what used to be called, in the U.S., "ice boxes"), ranges, toasters, radios, washing machines, fans, et al.

The railroad too is a transformative innovation par excellence. Consider the spectacular effects of railroad expansion: internal transport costs are sharply reduced; both new products and new geographical areas are brought into commercial markets; it is now possible to deliver exports to port with unprecedented efficiency, thereby encouraging the extensive development of the export sector; and impetus is provided to the development of the coal, iron and engineering industries. As with the steam engine, these technological and economic benefits wee necessarily accompanied by profound social and cultural changes. The railroads changed the way of life of the people by binding them as never before. The possibility now existed for mass production, mass consumption and indeed mass culture.

And of course the establishment of a national rail network absorbed massive amounts of investible capital, thereby spurring sustainable growth and offsetting the realization of the economic law that capitalist economies tend to stagnate. Apropos: in the latter third of the nineteenth century, railroad investment in the U.S. amounted to more than all investment in manufacturing industries.

And who can doubt that the transformative effects of the introduction of the automobile were epoch-making? The expansion of the automobile industry was the single most important force in the economic expansion of the 1920s. Car production increased threefold during this decade. (The automobile industry produced 12.7% of all manufactured output, employed 7.1% of all manufacturing workers, and paid 8.7% of all industrial wages.) Immediately after World War II the auto industry continued what was to be its breakneck expansion, and the possibilities created thereby constituted what was perhaps the most extensive transformation of the country's way of life in its history.

Consider the stimulus to capital accumulation and employment constituted by the following, each and all a consequence of the increasing automobilization of American society and culture: the migration of the population from the central city to the suburbs and exurbs (first made possible by the streetcar, before the major streetcar operations were bough and then quickly dismantled by the auto companies); the need for surfaced roads, road construction and maintenance, highway construction and maintenance (which had already accounted for 2% of GDP in 1929); the suburbanization of America, with the attendant construction of housing, schools, hospitals, workplaces, and more; the growth of shopping malls; the expansion of the credit industry; the spread of hotels and motels; and of course the growth of the tourism/travel industry. Never before had any population's way of living been transformed so profoundly in so short a period of time. And of course no one has failed to recognize that Americans' main symbol of their most precious possession, their personal freedom/liberty, is their ability to drive, solo, cars that have increasingly come to resemble tanks. Americans' liberty, embodied in the automobile, has become, literally, a commodity.

The long-term growth of the U.S. economy cannot be adequately explained or described without reference to these transformative innovations. None of these are required by the models of capital accumulation found in neoclassical, Keynesian or Marxian growth theory. After the civil war, growth in the last third of the nineteenth century was spurred primarily by the railroads. This stimulus fizzled, as railroad expansion began to slow down, around 1907, when, in spite of extensive electrification of urban (and even some rural) areas, the U.S. economy began a stretch of slow growth, which lasted until the outbreak of World War I. After the end of the War, the economy experienced a brief slump, which was followed by a period of fairly sustained expansion in the 1920s. The latter, as we have seen, was spurred mainly by the growth of the automobile industry. But the rate of growth of the automobile industry slowed down after 1926, and with it the rate of growth of almost all other manufacturing industries. And wages and employment had not risen as rapidly as production, productivity or profits.

In fact, the economic situation in the U.S. at the end of the 1920s bore a remarkable resemblance to the current economic situation in America. After 1926 overcapacity emerged in many key industries, the most significant of these being automobiles, textiles, and residential construction. Contractionary forces are cumulative: excess capacity caused business confidence to decline, with resulting cutbacks in spending on productive capacity in the consumer durables and capital goods industries. The economy was intensely unsound at the end of the 1920s, and the indications at the time were clear. Consumer demand was held down by a steadily growing inequality of income. Thus, an increasing percentage of total purchases were financed by credit in order to foster purchases of consumer durables. About seventy-five percent of all cars were sold on credit. Accordingly, both home mortgages and installment debt grew rapidly. This was the extension of a trend that had begun as early as 1922, when total personal debt began rising faster than disposable income. Thus, underconsumption and traces of excess capacity, key indicators of stagnationist forces, were in effect from the very beginning of the "roaring '20s". These tendencies became increasingly foregrounded over the course of the decade.

Excess capacity in key manufacturing industries was displacing workers from capital-intensive, technologically advanced sectors to industries relatively devoid of technological advance, i.e. service industries such as trade, finance and government. With capital unable to find sufficiently profitable investment opportunities in high-productivity industries, rampant speculative activity ensued, fostered by the growing concentration of income and therefore savings during the decade. More than two thirds of all personal savings was held by slightly over two percent of all families. The wanton optimism of the 1920s led those with substantial savings to want to get richer quickly, and with little effort. The stock market bubble that materialized at the end of the decade seemed to justify the expectations that fortunes could be made overnight in real estate and the stock market. When investors acted on these expectations, the existing bubble became bigger and hence more fragile. To those familiar with the current state of the U.S. economy, the present situation presents itself as history repeating itself -contra Marx- yet again as farce.


The mounting instabilities of the economy of the 1920s led to a Depression that was unresponsive to the Roosevelt administration's elevenfold increase in government spending. When U.S. entry into World War II finally brought about a resumption of growth, there was nonetheless an abiding fear among economists that once War spending ceased, the forces and tendencies that had generated the Depression might reassert themselves and exceptionally slow growth could resume. Instead, much to the surprise of many economists, American capitalism began the most sustained period of expansion in its entire history. The period from 1947 to 1973 has come to be called "The Golden Age", and appears, on the face of it, to be a fatal anomaly with respect to secular stagnation theory. After all, if the causes of the Great Depression were structural, and the exogenous stimulus provided by the War was what produced a resumption of growth, how was it possible that the economy, in the absence of powerful exogenous stimulus, exhibited an historically unprecedented period of long-term growth?

I have suggested that sustained national (as opposed to intra-national regional) growth has been engendered by the emergence of transformative innovations, and it is this kind of consideration that I believe offers the most plausible explanation both of Golden-Age expansion and of the petering out of this growth period and the resumption of (global) stagnation. Five stimuli to long-term growth were set in motion after the War, and these were for the most part exogenous in the sense indicated, and essentially limited. I will construe these stimuli as forces counteracting the tendency to stagnation. Once most of these stimuli had spent their potential, stagnationist tendencies re-asserted themselves, and overinvestment became evident once again. With profitable industrial investment opportunities in short supply, the economic surplus was invested instead in what became a vast proliferation of financial instruments. When the bubble created by this process finally burst, it was replaced with a housing bubble. Indeed a variety of bubbles, in financial assets, in housing, in credit, and a substantially overvalued dollar now threaten an historically unparalleled reassertion of the tendency to stagnation. But let us look first at the counteracting forces.

After the War, and as a result of wartime rationing, Americans had accumulated a very large fund of savings, and the time had come when these could finally be spent. This accounted for an immediate surge of consumption spending which temporarily averted the onset of recession. But the effectiveness of this source of spending was soon spent. What truly impelled the sustained growth of the Golden Age was 1) the resumption of a vast expansion of the automobile industry, and with it the stimulation of the broad range of investment and employment opportunities discussed above in connection with automobilization; 2) large-scale economic aid to Europe, which stimulated export demand; 3) a nationwide process of suburbanization, which, in tandem with the expansion of auto production, expanded significantly the demand for the output of every other major industry; 4) the emergence of what president Eisenhower christened the "military-industrial" complex, which provided additional stimulus to the industries most vulnerable to economic instability, the industries of DI, the capital goods sector; and finally 5) the steady and growing expansion of business and especially consumer credit, which in recent years has assumed elephantine proportions.

Three of these factors bear the two most important features of epoch-making innovations. The expansion of the auto industry, suburbanization, and the ever-increasing expansion and extension of credit all absorb massive amounts of investible surplus, and transform the mode of life of the entire population. In so doing they impart a massive push to the macro-growth process. The first two of these have their initial direct effect on investment. The third factor, the growing importance of credit, affects both investment and consumption, but the long-term trend of the credit industry in the U.S., evident now in hindsight, is much more significant in relation to consumption. There is now in the States a credit bubble of menacing proportions, with consumers now in debt to the tune of about107% of disposable income. The Marshall Plan (number 2 above) affected mainly and directly investment and employment, with boosts to consumption following thereupon. By the mid- to late-1970s, the employment-generating capacity of the military had declined. Washington determined, in the light of the defeat in Vietnam, that hi-tech warfare, which is of course technology- rather than labor-intensive, must replace traditional forms of subversion and aggression, in order to render less likely a repeat of the "Vietnam Syndrome."

It is worth mentioning that the military-industrial complex and the vast extension of consumer credit were what constituted what Joan Robinson called "bastard Keynesianism" in the United States. Recall that Keynes had insisted that fiscal and monetary policy were necessary but not sufficient conditions for avoiding stagnation. The tendency to stagnation could be offset for the long run only if some key industries were nationalized, and income redistributed. Nationalization would allow the State to offset lagging demand by providing cheap inputs to the private sector, thereby enabling lower prices. And redistributing income would transfer liquidity from those who had more than they could either consume or invest to those whose consumption demand was severely constrained.

American policymakers saw it as their challenge to reap the effects of nationalization and redistribution without actually nationalizing industries or redistributing income. The solution was ingenious: the military-industrial complex would be the functional equivalent of state-owned industries, and would, as noted above, stimulate the demand for the output of those very firms that produced capital goods. And the extension of consumer credit would allow working people to mortgage future years' incomes and spend more without a corresponding increase in either their private or their social wage.

As mentioned earlier, these forces counteracting the tendency to stagnation were all inherently limited and temporary. By the late 1960s, the automobile industry had achieved maturity, suburbanization had been accomplished, and aid to Europe had not only long ended, but had apparently created for America the economic equivalent of Frankenstein's monster. Europe and Japan were now formidable threats to U.S. economic hegemony. (Germany, for example, has overtaken the U.S. as an exporter of capital goods.) These three colossal absorbers of surplus were now no longer in operation. In the mid-1960s social spending had overtaken military spending as the larger share of government spending. And credit had begun to function as a supplement to declining real income, rather than a further addition to growing income.

These combined developments rendered the post-War counters to the realization of the tendency to stagnation obsolete. The result was the onset of stagnation not only in the U.S. but also worldwide. In America there has been overcapacity in autos, steel, shipbuilding and petrochemicals since the mid- to late-1970s.

This general picture is widely reflected in the business press. Business Week noted that " outpaces demand everywhere, sending prices lower, eroding corporate profits and increasing layoffs" (Jan. 25, 1999, p. 118). The former chairman of General Electric claimed that "..there is excess capacity in almost every industry" (The New York Times, Nov. 16, 1997, p. 3). The Wall Street Journal noted that "..from cashmere to blue jeans, silver jewelry to aluminum cans, the world is in oversupply" (Nov. 30, 1998, p. A17). And The Economist fretted that " the gap between sales and capacity is "at its widest since the 1930s" (Feb. 20, 1999, p. 15). At this time excess capacity in steel is exceeding twenty percent, in autos it has fluctuated around 30%. And these figures look good in comparison to unused capacity numbers in the "industries of the future" of the "New Economy", semiconductors and telecommunications. Not long ago, ninety-seven percent of fibre optic capacity was idle.


Let us begin with the indisputable fact that the regime of neoliberalism has brought with it a substantial decline in economic growth. The most widely cited study on this issue, produced for the IECD by Angus Maddison, shows that the annual rate of growth of real global GDP fell from 4.9% in 1950-1973 to 3 % in 1973-1998, a drop of 39 %. Theoretical commitments can guide perception: neoliberal economists either denied or ignored the decline in global growth because of their reliance on Say's Law, that it is not possible for total demand to fall below full-capacity supply over the long run. In my earlier remarks I offered an explanation of sluggish growth rates since 1973. Many orthodox economics have done something similar: they have offered explanations of the initial rise in excess capacity. But what has not been explained is why global supply did not eventually adjust itself to the slower rate of demand growth, with the result that in the mid-1970s the global economy would enter a period of sluggish expansion. And it is worth mentioning that even Keynesian macro-theory is inadequate in this regard. It assumes that slow growth in aggregate demand will result in a proportionate decline in the growth of aggregate supply through its effect upon investment and therefore productivity.

An adequate explanation of the sustained character of excess capacity can be constructed from insights from Schumpeter, Marx and the contemporary economist James Crotty. The analysis that follows should be understood within the framework of the version of secular stagnation theory sketched above.

Before the shift to neoliberal policies by Jimmy Carter, Reagan and Thatcher, the global economy was already subject to downward pressures on demand growth resulting from two oil price shocks and the restrictive macro policy imposed in response to oil-price induced inflation. These impediments to demand growth were exacerbated by neoliberal policies. In combination, these forces led to a sharp rise in excess capacity in globally competing industries. At the same time competitive pressures were further intensified by the reduction of the market power of national oligopolies caused by the removal of protectionist barriers to the free movement of goods and money across national boundaries. Accordingly, competitive pressures between nations rose dramatically. In this context, normal stagnationist tendencies operated to further constrain global demand growth and further reproduce industrial capacity faster than either neoclassical or Keynesian theory could comprehend.

The Achilles Heel of neoclassical theory with respect to its inability to account for the persistence of overcapacity during the neoliberal period is its account of competition. So-called "perfect competition" is alleged to lead to maximum efficiency and the elimination of excess capacity. This claim appears inconsistent with the history of real-world, pre- and post-oligopolistic competition. Textbook-like competition has led to periodic market gluts or overproduction crises, price wars, plummeting profits, unbearable debt burdens and violent labor relations. Neoclassical theory banishes these demons with the aid of two assumptions which appear designed explicitly to make them impossible. The first assumption claims that production cost per unit rises rapidly as output increases, and the second that exit from low-profit industries is free or costless. If these assumptions were indeed true, then pure competition could not be shown to have stagnation- or depression-inducing effects. But these assumptions are, I shall suggest, false.

I will begin with the least plausible of these two assumptions. It states that there is free or costless exit from low-profit industries. But productive assets are typically immobile or irreversible, i.e., they are not liquid, and this forces a sizeable loss in the value of a firm's capital should it choose to leave an unprofitable industry. Whether they are sold on a second-hand market or reallocated to a different industry, productive assets will lose substantial value. Capital flowing out of the aerospace industry has been found to sell for one third of its replacement cost. Insolvent telecom firms in the U.S. have sold their assets for 20 cents on the dollar. And isn't this what one would expect? For it is usually poor profit prospects and/or great excess capacity that heighten a firm's incentive to leave an industry. But it is precisely those circumstances which deeply depress the price of industry-specific assets on the second-hand market, since the supply of these assets grows even as the demand for them has collapsed.

Before I turn to the slightly more plausible (yet still false) assumption -that unit production cost rises dramatically as output increases- I will outline the corollary of neoclassical theory itself which neoclassical economists seek to evade by introducing this assumption. The theory tells us that pure competition will force price down until it covers marginal cost. Now if unit production cost remained constant irrespective of the output level, then marginal production cost and average production cost per unit would be equal. When perfect competition forces price to equal marginal cost, total revenue will be equal to total production cost. But in this case there will be no revenue left over either to pay the "fixed" cost of maintaining capital stock in the face of depreciation or obsolescence, or to pay interest and/or dividends to investors. Thus, perfect competition is seen to cause the representative firm to suffer, in each production period, a loss that is equal to fixed costs. Keeping in mind that most important global industries have huge fixed costs, no industry could long survive the consequences of intense competition.

We seem to have found a tendency to stagnation or complete system breakdown where we would least expect to find it - in neoclassical theory itself. But the theory claims to have a response to this embarrassment. It simply denies the claim that appears to entail the undesired consequence, namely the claim that unit production cost remains constant no matter what the output level. Armed now with the (false) assumption that unit production cost rises rapidly as production increases, the conclusion is drawn that marginal cost and price are greater than average unit production cost. Thus, in equilibrium, the gap between price and average production cost is sufficiently large to cover all fixed costs. Let competition be as fierce as you wish, the typical firm will not lose money. Voila!

I have claimed that each of the rescuing assumptions discussed above is false. What would realistic assumptions about marginal cost and the reversibility of invested capital look like? To answer this question we must recognize the distinctive character of the dominant industries of global trade and investment. These industries include steel, autos, aircraft, shipbuilding, petrochemicals, consumer durables, electronics, semiconductors and banking. Studies of this type of industry suggest that marginal cost does not typically rise with output, with the rare exception of cases when the industry is producing near full capacity output. Marginal cost behaves as we would expect in cases of economies of scale: it remains constant or declines as capacity utilization rises. It follows that if free competition forces price to equal marginal cost in these industries, we should count on an ensuing wave of bankruptcies. Here again we see that neoclassical theory, corrected for unrealistic assumptions, seems to commit us to conceptualize mature capitalism as subject to the law of an inherent tendency to stagnation or worse.

The issue I am focusing on here turns on the dynamics of unrestricted competition among oligopolies in the context of economies of scale. The importance of economies of scale underscores the crucial similarity of all the dominant industries, including the new information-technology and telecommunications (ITC) industries. I stress this point because influential neoclassical economists have wanted to claim a significant difference, with respect to overcapacity problems, between the ITC industries and the other dominant industries. For purposes of explaining the persistence of excess capacity under neoliberalism, we want to remember that as scale economies grow, marginal costs fall as fixed costs per unit rise. Thus, the greater the economies of scale, the more destructive becomes the marginal cost pricing required by intense competition. With this in mind, we can more easily see that 1) these dynamics in especially conspicuous operation in the ITC industries, and 2) that such differences as there are between ITC and the other dominant oligopolies are insignificant for the analysis of secular stagnation theory, and of capitalist growth in general.

The key issue right now, recall, is the highly destructive consequences of the tendency of free competition among dominant industries to force price to equal marginal cost. That this is the case is easier to see in the ITC sector than in the other dominant industries. This is because in ITC marginal cost is often close to zero. Producing another copy of software or adding another customer to eBay is virtually costless. This has led many mainstream economists to argue that ITC industries are exempt from the laws of the neoclassical theory of perfect competition. Since ITC firms have marginal costs much lower than their large fixed costs, the argument goes, the possession of at least temporary monopoly power is the only guarantee of an incentive to produce anything at all. Without monopoly pricing power prices will be competed down to marginal cost and fixed costs will be unable to be covered. Thus, the motor of the "new economy" is said to be the constant pursuit of monopoly power. But, contrary to the neoclassical claim, none of this distinguishes significantly between ITC and other key industries. The drive to monopoly power is characteristic of all large corporations in the present age.

As Paul Sweezy argued in his Marshall Lectures, the typical firm in an oligopolized industry strives to be a monopolist. Each firm does this individually, and they all do it collectively. Individual firms seek monopoly status through the sales effort, where the firm's product is put forth as the best in the industry and as different from all the others. Firms within the same industry seek to approach monopoly status by collusion with respect to pricing policy, especially by agreeing to refrain from cutthroat price competition. For reasons developed at length above, therefore, all dominant firms, whether old- or new-economy operations, will tend to achieve monopoly status and to be chronically saddled with excess capacity.


We are in the midst of another unparalleled period of historical capitalism. Since the onset of stagnation, the median wage in the States has not changed at all for the vast majority of wage workers. Over the past six quarters the gowth of wage income has been negative. A brief sketch of the state of the U.S. economy toward the end of last year highlights features whose most plausible explanation may lie in the fact of secular stagnation. If stagnation theory is accurate, what follows is precisely what we would expect to find. The current state of the U.S. and the global economy is best understood, I believe, against the background too briefly elaborated above. Here is a picture of the U.S. economy today. The key to a healthy economy is job- and income-creating investment in capital goods, which in turn generates a virtuous cycle of further growth in investment, jobs and income. Ominously, the investment, growth, employment and income pictures are unprecedentedly dismal.

Compared to cyclical recoveries between 1949 and 1973, recoveries during the neoliberal period have been weak. Indeed, one or two of the post-1973 upturns has been weaker than some downturns during the Golden Age. Since the stock market collapse of four years ago, the situation has worsened. Growth rates since 2000 have been half their previous average. Even this weak performance required historically unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus: 13 rate cuts, three tax cuts, massive government deficits and record growth in money and credit.

Official figures mask the economy's most serious problems. Growth figures are annualized by U.S. statisticians. Thus, the much-touted 7.1% growth rate in the third quarter of 2003 was the one that would emerge after twelve months if the current trend were to continue. The same growth rate would have been reported in the eurozone as 1.8%. This is an uncommonly weak performance.

Investment data are equally misleading. Since the mid-1990s the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has adjusted upward actual business dollar outlays on computers and related equipment to take into account quality improvements (faster processors, bigger hard drives, more memory). BEA calls this "hedonic adjustment." Accordingly, the BEA estimates that business high-tech investment quadrupled between 1996 and 2002, from $70.9 to $283.7. But in actual dollars spent, the increase was only from $70.9 billion to $74.2 billion, very low by historic standards. The high-tech boom was both greatly exaggerated and misleading. After all, neither profits nor wages are taken in "hedonically adjusted" dollars.

The difference between real and hedonic outlays explains what would otherwise be a paradoxical feature of the years 2000-2003: government was reporting big increases in high-tech investment, while manufacturers were bemoaning declining sales.

Hedonic pricing has accounted for a steadily rising percentage of all reported capital investment. But if we look at actual dollars spent, we find that since 1998 the growth rate of business fixed investment has actually been declining. Real capital investment has in fact not been this weak since the Great Depression.

The fudging of investment figures also obscures the sorry state of the jobs market. The Commerce Department's figures on nonresidential investment for the third and fourth quarters of 2003 reported increases of, respectively, 12.8 and 9.6%. A closer look reveals that the "adjusted" hi-tech sector is the only bright spot, with production and capacity rising, respectively, 24.6% and 11.1% over the past year. But hi-tech is not where significant jobs increases are found. Employment in hi-tech has declined steadily through the so-called "recovery" since its 2001 peak.

In non-hi-tech manufacturing, where investment figures are not adjusted, production from January 2003 to January 2004 rose only 0.9%, while capacity actually declined -0.2%. This represents a record nineteen-straight-month decline in mainline manufacturing capacity. Since it is mainline manufacturing which employs almost 95% of all manufacturing workers, it comes as no surprise that for the first time since the Great Depression the economy has gone more than three years without creating any jobs.

The jobs crisis is even worse than it appears. Here again statistical sleight-of-hand, this time by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), obscures economic reality. Based on data gathered employing the "net birth/death adjustment," BLS announced in April, 2004, that the long-awaited jobs recovery had finally arrived. Nonfarm payrolls had allegedly surged by a whopping 308,000 in March, 2004. The birth/death model uses business deaths to "impute" employment from business births. Thus, as more businesses fail, more new jobs are imputed to have materialized through business births. This improbable statistical artefact accounts for about half of the reported 308,000 March, 2004 payroll increase.

The birth/death model is based on statistics covering 1998-2002. This was a period of explosive telecom and startups, quite unlike today's flat economic landscape. Thus, two thirds of the 947,000 new jobs BLS "imputed" for March-May, 2004, were never actually counted by BLS and never reported by any firm.

BlS's household and establishment surveys tell a more sobering story. March employment by private industry actually fell by 175,000, and the number of self-employed workers declined by 288,000. Without the simultaneous increase of 439,000 government jobs, the March job announcement would have been a calamity. And both average weekly hours and total hours worked declined markedly, even as (according to the dubious birth/death findings) the work force increased. This is the first time in U.S. history that net job growth has been negative 26 months into a recovery.

The wage and salary picture has also set grim records. During the current recovery, wage and salary growth has actually been negative, at -0.6%, in contrast to the average increase of 7.2% characteristic of this point into each of the other eight post-War recoveries. In fact, median family income in the post-War period exhibits an ominous trend. From 1947 to 1967, real median family income rose by 75%. But since 1967, it has grown by only 30%.

Labor's losses have been capital's gain: since the peak of the last recovery, in the first quarter of 2001, corporate profits have risen 62.2%, compared to the average of 13.9% at the same point in the last eight recoveries. Never in American history has any recorded recovery had such a lopsided balance in the distribution of income gains between labor and capital.

Given the dismal investment, wage/salary and employment pictures, how has it been possible for consumption to have risen to 71% of GDP in the early nineties, from its prior post-War average of 66%? The answer is a growth rate of consumer debt never seen before in America. For the first time ever, in March 2001, overall debt levels (mortgage debt plus consumer debt, mainly credit card debt and car loans) rose above annual disposable income. And from 2001 to 2004 consumer debt rose from 101% to 116% of disposable income. In the first half of 2004, consumer borrowing has been at its highest ever. It has declined slightly in the meantime. So has consumer spending. Should Americans decide to significantly increase their saving and service debts, while lowering correspondingly their consumption expenditures, the global economy could experience a major disruption.

Up until very recently, consumers had stepped up their borrowing to compensate for slowing income growth. Thus, such growth as the U.S. has experienced in recent years has been almost entirely consumption- and debt-driven. More fundamentally, it has been bubble-driven, fueled principally by bubbles in home values and credit.

Since the collapse of stock market/hi-tech bubbles in 2001, the illusory "wealth effect" has been sustained, and consumer spending thereby encouraged, by another bubble, the enormous inflation of house prices. The biggest increase in household debt came from home mortgage debt, especially home mortgage refinancing. With mortgage rates low and home prices rising, households' home equity ballooned. Bloated home equity then provided rising collateral to underwrite still more borrowing.

What makes this especially problematic is that over the last ten years, the average family has suffered under large increases in health premiums, housing costs, tuition fees and child care costs. As a result, households' and individuals' margin of protection against insolvency has dramatically declined. Filings for personal bankruptcy are approaching a record high.

There are indications that these weaknesses and imbalances in the economy are reaching a critical mass. The mortgage refi boom has fizzled, and consumer spending is beginning to decline. Two years ago the Fed's quarterly Beige Book reported a disturbing shift in the composition of credit spending: more and more families are using their credit cards to finance spending on essentials, such as food and energy.

It is no exaggeration to say that both the U.S. economy and the global economy are hugely dependent on the American consumer's increasing willingness to spend more than (s)he makes. (Imported goods have been a rising proportion of all goods purchased here.) Thus, a decline in U.S. consumer spending portends further declines in investment, jobs and income. From January to July of 2004, consumer spending rose at an annual rate of 2.8%, down from 3.3% in 2003 and 3.1 % in 2002. For perspective, during the boom years 1999-2000, growth rates were 5.1% and 4.7%.

Spending on consumer durables is the most significant indicator of healthy growth, and the drastically lower spending in this area is cause for alarm: spending for consumer durables was down to $23.5 billion in the first seven months of this year, in contrast to $71 billion on 2003 and $58 billion in 2002.

Should consumer spending continue to decline, the economy faces the genuine likelihood of a severe recession. Of course not a single American politician addresses this issue.

What is required is a shift from bubble-, debt-, and consumption-driven growth to investment- and income-driven growth. This in turn necessitates a decline in Americas principal export, jobs. Domestic job growth, a higher minimum wage, tax cuts aimed predominantly at low- and middle-income families, a sharp reduction in defense spending and a redirection of these funds to long-neglected and pressing social needs such as health care reform, the provision of universal pre-school, and across-the-board repair and upgrading of America's deteriorated infrastructure of roads, highways,tunnels and bridges, all these should be at the forefront of a Democratic administration's agenda. The restoration of infrastructure is especially labor intensive, and would generate an enormous number of productive jobs. And as a national project spearheaded by government initiative, government would emerge as a major employer.

All this si entirely incompatible with the overwhelming neoliberal bent of even the most "liberal" political leaders. It was after all Bill Clinton who urinated on the grave of Franklin Roosevelt when he proclaimed "the end of welfare as we know it".

As unfashionable as it is to suggest such a thing at a conference of economists, the only hope for the world's majority seems to be the revival of the kinds of mass movements witnessed here in May of 1968, and throughout the world during the 1960s. And time may be short.


Alan Nasser is Professor emeritus of Political Economy and Philosophy at The Evergreen State College. His book, The “New Normal”: Persistent Austerity, Declining Democracy and the Globalization of Resistance will be published by Pluto Press in 2013. If you would like to be notified when the book is released, please send a request to

Thomas Palley » Blog Archive » Explaining Stagnation Why it Matters

John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff clearly identify stagnation in their 2009 book The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (HERE). They conclude with a section titled “Back to the real economy: the stagnation problem” and they write:

“It was the reality of economic stagnation beginning in the 1970s, as heterodox economists Ricardo Belliofiore and Joseph Halevi have recently emphasized, that led to the emergence of “the new financialized capitalist regime,” a kind of “paradoxical financial Keynesianiasm” whereby demand in the economy was stimulated primarily “thanks to asset-bubbles” (Foster and Magdoff, p.129).”

My own 2009 New America Foundation report, “America’s Exhausted Paradigm: Macroeconomic Causes of the Financial Crisis and Great Recession”, concluded (HERE):

“The bottom line is macroeconomic failure rooted in America’s flawed economic paradigm is the ultimate cause of the financial crisis and Great Recession…. Now, there is a grave danger that policymakers only focus on financial market reform and ignore reform of America’s flawed economic paradigm. In that event, though the economy may stabilize, it will likely be unable to escape the pull of economic stagnation. That is because stagnation is the logical next stage of the existing paradigm.”

That report became a core chapter in my 2012 book, From Financial Crisis to Stagnation, the blurb for which reads (HERE):

“The U.S. economy today is confronted with the prospect of extended stagnation. This book explores why…. Financial deregulation and the house price bubble kept the economy going by making ever more credit available. As the economy cannibalized itself by undercutting income distribution and accumulating debt, it needed larger speculative bubbles to grow. That process ended when the housing bubble burst. The earlier post–World War II economic model based on rising middle-class incomes has been dismantled, while the new neoliberal model has imploded. Absent a change of policy paradigm, the logical next step is stagnation. The political challenge we face now is how to achieve paradigm change.”

The big analytical difference between Foster and Magdoff and myself is that they see stagnation as inherent to capitalism whereas I see it as the product of neoliberal economic policy. Foster and Magdoff partake of the Baran-Sweezy tradition that recommends deeper socialist transformation. I use a structural Keynesian framework that recommends reconstructing the income and demand generation mechanism via policies that include rebuilding worker bargaining power, reforming globalization, and reining in corporations and financial markets.

Larry Summers’ story of serial bubbles delaying stagnation has substantial similarities with both accounts but he avoids blaming either capitalism or neoliberalism. That is hardly surprising as Summers has been a chief architect of the neoliberal system and remains committed to it, though he now wants to soften its impact. Instead, he appeals to the black box of “secular stagnation” as ultimate cause and suggests fiscal policies that would ameliorate the demand shortage problem. However, those policies would not remedy the root cause of stagnation as they leave the economic architecture unchanged.

Though Summers and Krugman are relative late-comers to the stagnation hypothesis, they have still done a great public service by drawing attention to it. Now that stagnation has been identified, the real debate can begin.

The questions are what caused stagnation and what must be done to restore shared prosperity? There is no guarantee we will answer those questions correctly (my prior is mainstream economists will continue their track record of getting it wrong). But it is absolutely certain we will not get the right answer if we do not ask the right question. So thank you Larry Summers and Paul Krugman for putting stagnation on the table. Let the debate begin.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 24th, 2014 at 12:53 pm and is filed under Economics, U.S. Policy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Summers makes the idea of secular stagnation mainstream

Larry Summers (“Why Stagnation May Prove To Be The New Normal,” The Financial Times, December 15, 2013)  suggested the current "lack of demand" is not anomaly but a feature of the current sociao-economic system.  He suggested that we have been in the throes of stagnation for a long while, but that has been obscured by years of serial asset price bubbles. His article produced great public debate and marked the point when the idea became mainstream. The debate began with Summers’ speech to the IMF’s Fourteenth Annual Research Conference in Honor of Stanley Fisher. Summers noted that the panic of 2008 was “an event that in the fall of 2008 and winter of 2009 … appeared, by most of the statistics—GDP, industrial production, employment, world trade, the stock market—worse than the fall of 1929 and the winter of 1930. …”

Tha means the major defeat for “stabilization policies” that were supposed to smooth the capitalist industrial cycle and abolish panics. And the problem preceeds the 2008 panic itself.

The highly misleading unemployment rate calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor notwithstanding, there has been a massive growth in long-term unemployment in the U.S. in the wake of the crisis, as shown by the declining percentage of the U.S. population actually working.

The current situation also refute the key tenet of neoclassical economy (which is pseudo-religious doctrine, so that only increase fanatic devotion of its well-paid adherents). Neoclassical economists insisted that since a “free market economy” naturally tends toward an equilibrium with full employment of both workers and machines, the economy should should quickly return to “full employment” after a recession. This is not the case. See also Secular Stagnation Lawrence H. Summers

There were several uncessful attempts to explaint his situation from neoclassical positions. In Secular Stagnation, Coalmines, Bubbles, and Larry Summers - Paul Krugman  emphasized the liquidity trap – zero lower bound to interest rates which supposedly prevents spending from reaching a level sufficient for full employment.

Larry’s formulation of our current economic situation is the same as my own. Although he doesn’t use the words “liquidity trap”, he works from the understanding that we are an economy in which monetary policy is de facto constrained by the zero lower bound (even if you think central banks could be doing more), and that this corresponds to a situation in which the “natural” rate of interest – the rate at which desired savings and desired investment would be equal at full employment – is negative.

And as he also notes, in this situation the normal rules of economic policy don’t apply. As I like to put it, virtue becomes vice and prudence becomes folly. Saving hurts the economy – it even hurts investment, thanks to the paradox of thrift. Fixating on debt and deficits deepens the depression. And so on down the line.

This is the kind of environment in which Keynes’s hypothetical policy of burying currency in coalmines and letting the private sector dig it up – or my version, which involves faking a threat from nonexistent space aliens – becomes a good thing; spending is good, and while productive spending is best, unproductive spending is still better than nothing.

Larry also indirectly states an important corollary: this isn’t just true of public spending. Private spending that is wholly or partially wasteful is also a good thing, unless it somehow stores up trouble for the future. That last bit is an important qualification. But suppose that U.S. corporations, which are currently sitting on a huge hoard of cash, were somehow to become convinced that it would be a great idea to fit out all their employees as cyborgs, with Google Glass and smart wristwatches everywhere. And suppose that three years later they realized that there wasn’t really much payoff to all that spending. Nonetheless, the resulting investment boom would have given us several years of much higher employment, with no real waste, since the resources employed would otherwise have been idle.

OK, this is still mostly standard, although a lot of people hate, just hate, this kind of logic – they want economics to be a morality play, and they don’t care how many people have to suffer in the process.

But now comes the radical part of Larry’s presentation: his suggestion that this may not be a temporary state of affairs.

2. An economy that needs bubbles?

We now know that the economic expansion of 2003-2007 was driven by a bubble. You can say the same about the latter part of the 90s expansion; and you can in fact say the same about the later years of the Reagan expansion, which was driven at that point by runaway thrift institutions and a large bubble in commercial real estate.

So you might be tempted to say that monetary policy has consistently been too loose. After all, haven’t low interest rates been encouraging repeated bubbles?

But as Larry emphasizes, there’s a big problem with the claim that monetary policy has been too loose: where’s the inflation? Where has the overheated economy been visible?

So how can you reconcile repeated bubbles with an economy showing no sign of inflationary pressures? Summers’s answer is that we may be an economy that needs bubbles just to achieve something near full employment – that in the absence of bubbles the economy has a negative natural rate of interest. And this hasn’t just been true since the 2008 financial crisis; it has arguably been true, although perhaps with increasing severity, since the 1980s.

One way to quantify this is, I think, to look at household debt. Here’s the ratio of household debt to GDP since the 50s:

There was a sharp increase in the ratio after World War II, but from a low base, as families moved to the suburbs and all that. Then there were about 25 years of rough stability, from 1960 to around 1985. After that, however, household debt rose rapidly and inexorably, until the crisis struck.

So with all that household borrowing, you might have expected the period 1985-2007 to be one of strong inflationary pressure, high interest rates, or both. In fact, you see neither – this was the era of the Great Moderation, a time of low inflation and generally low interest rates. Without all that increase in household debt, interest rates would presumably have to have been considerably lower – maybe negative. In other words, you can argue that our economy has been trying to get into the liquidity trap for a number of years, and that it only avoided the trap for a while thanks to successive bubbles.

And if that’s how you see things, when looking forward you have to regard the liquidity trap not as an exceptional state of affairs but as the new normal.

3. Secular stagnation?

How did this happen? Larry explicitly invokes the notion of secular stagnation, associated in particular with Alvin Hansen (pdf).  He doesn’t say why this might be happening to us now, but it’s not hard to think of possible reasons.

Back in the day, Hansen stressed demographic factors: he thought slowing population growth would mean low investment demand. Then came the baby boom. But this time around the slowdown is here, and looks real.

Think of it this way: during the period 1960-85, when the U.S. economy seemed able to achieve full employment without bubbles, our labor force grew an average 2.1 percent annually. In part this reflected the maturing of the baby boomers, in part the move of women into the labor force.

This growth made sustaining investment fairly easy: the business of providing Americans with new houses, new offices, and so on easily absorbed a fairly high fraction of GDP.

Now look forward. The Census projects that the population aged 18 to 64 will grow at an annual rate of only 0.2 percent between 2015 and 2025. Unless labor force participation not only stops declining but starts rising rapidly again, this means a slower-growth economy, and thanks to the accelerator effect, lower investment demand.

By the way, in a Samuelson consumption-loan model, the natural rate of interest equals the rate of population growth. Reality is a lot more complicated than that, but I don’t think it’s foolish to guess that the decline in population growth has reduced the natural real rate of interest by something like an equal amount (and to note that Japan’s shrinking working-age population is probably a major factor in its secular stagnation.)

There may be other factors – a Bob Gordonesque decline in innovation, etc.. The point is that it’s not hard to think of reasons why the liquidity trap could be a lot more persistent than anyone currently wants to admit.

4. Destructive virtue

If you take a secular stagnation view seriously, it has some radical implications – and Larry goes there.

Currently, even policymakers who are willing to concede that the liquidity trap makes nonsense of conventional notions of policy prudence are busy preparing for the time when normality returns. This means that they are preoccupied with the idea that they must act now to head off future crises. Yet this crisis isn’t over – and as Larry says, “Most of what would be done under the aegis of preventing a future crisis would be counterproductive.”

He goes on to say that the officially respectable policy agenda involves “doing less with monetary policy than was done before and doing less with fiscal policy than was done before,” even though the economy remains deeply depressed. And he says, a bit fuzzily but bravely all the same, that even improved financial regulation is not necessarily a good thing – that it may discourage irresponsible lending and borrowing at a time when more spending of any kind is good for the economy.

Amazing stuff – and if we really are looking at secular stagnation, he’s right.

Of course, the underlying problem in all of this is simply that real interest rates are too high. But, you say, they’re negative – zero nominal rates minus at least some expected inflation. To which the answer is, so? If the market wants a strongly negative real interest rate, we’ll have persistent problems until we find a way to deliver such a rate.

One way to get there would be to reconstruct our whole monetary system – say, eliminate paper money and pay negative interest rates on deposits. Another way would be to take advantage of the next boom – whether it’s a bubble or driven by expansionary fiscal policy – to push inflation substantially higher, and keep it there. Or maybe, possibly, we could go the Krugman 1998/Abe 2013 route of pushing up inflation through the sheer power of self-fulfilling expectations.

Any such suggestions are, of course, met with outrage. How dare anyone suggest that virtuous individuals, people who are prudent and save for the future, face expropriation? How can you suggest steadily eroding their savings either through inflation or through negative interest rates? It’s tyranny!

But in a liquidity trap saving may be a personal virtue, but it’s a social vice. And in an economy facing secular stagnation, this isn’t just a temporary state of affairs, it’s the norm. Assuring people that they can get a positive rate of return on safe assets means promising them something the market doesn’t want to deliver – it’s like farm price supports, except for rentiers.

Oh, and one last point. If we’re going to have persistently negative real interest rates along with at least somewhat positive overall economic growth, the panic over public debt looks even more foolish than people like me have been saying: servicing the debt in the sense of stabilizing the ratio of debt to GDP has no cost, in fact negative cost.

I could go on, but by now I hope you’ve gotten the point. What Larry did at the IMF wasn’t just give an interesting speech. He laid down what amounts to a very radical manifesto. And I very much fear that he may be right.

Supplement 1: Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit (reprint)

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit - The Baffler

David Graeber

A secret question hovers over us, a sense of disappointment, a broken promise we were given as children about what our adult world was supposed to be like. I am referring not to the standard false promises that children are always given (about how the world is fair, or how those who work hard shall be rewarded), but to a particular generational promise—given to those who were children in the fifties, sixties, seventies, or eighties—one that was never quite articulated as a promise but rather as a set of assumptions about what our adult world would be like. And since it was never quite promised, now that it has failed to come true, we’re left confused: indignant, but at the same time, embarrassed at our own indignation, ashamed we were ever so silly to believe our elders to begin with.

Where, in short, are the flying cars? Where are the force fields, tractor beams, teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, tricorders, immortality drugs, colonies on Mars, and all the other technological wonders any child growing up in the mid-to-late twentieth century assumed would exist by now? Even those inventions that seemed ready to emerge—like cloning or cryogenics—ended up betraying their lofty promises. What happened to them?

We are well informed of the wonders of computers, as if this is some sort of unanticipated compensation, but, in fact, we haven’t moved even computing to the point of progress that people in the fifties expected we’d have reached by now. We don’t have computers we can have an interesting conversation with, or robots that can walk our dogs or take our clothes to the Laundromat.

As someone who was eight years old at the time of the Apollo moon landing, I remember calculating that I would be thirty-nine in the magic year 2000 and wondering what the world would be like. Did I expect I would be living in such a world of wonders? Of course. Everyone did. Do I feel cheated now? It seemed unlikely that I’d live to see all the things I was reading about in science fiction, but it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t see any of them.

At the turn of the millennium, I was expecting an outpouring of reflections on why we had gotten the future of technology so wrong. Instead, just about all the authoritative voices—both Left and Right—began their reflections from the assumption that we do live in an unprecedented new technological utopia of one sort or another.

The common way of dealing with the uneasy sense that this might not be so is to brush it aside, to insist all the progress that could have happened has happened and to treat anything more as silly. “Oh, you mean all that Jetsons stuff?” I’m asked—as if to say, but that was just for children! Surely, as grown-ups, we understand The Jetsons offered as accurate a view of the future as The Flintstones offered of the Stone Age.

Surely, as grown-ups, we understand The Jetsons offered as accurate a view of the future as The Flintstones did of the Stone Age.

Even in the seventies and eighties, in fact, sober sources such as National Geographic and the Smithsonian were informing children of imminent space stations and expeditions to Mars. Creators of science fiction movies used to come up with concrete dates, often no more than a generation in the future, in which to place their futuristic fantasies. In 1968, Stanley Kubrick felt that a moviegoing audience would find it perfectly natural to assume that only thirty-three years later, in 2001, we would have commercial moon flights, city-like space stations, and computers with human personalities maintaining astronauts in suspended animation while traveling to Jupiter. Video telephony is just about the only new technology from that particular movie that has appeared—and it was technically possible when the movie was showing. 2001 can be seen as a curio, but what about Star Trek? The Star Trek mythos was set in the sixties, too, but the show kept getting revived, leaving audiences for Star Trek Voyager in, say, 2005, to try to figure out what to make of the fact that according to the logic of the program, the world was supposed to be recovering from fighting off the rule of genetically engineered supermen in the Eugenics Wars of the nineties.

By 1989, when the creators of Back to the Future II were dutifully placing flying cars and anti-gravity hoverboards in the hands of ordinary teenagers in the year 2015, it wasn’t clear if this was meant as a prediction or a joke.

The usual move in science fiction is to remain vague about the dates, so as to render “the future” a zone of pure fantasy, no different than Middle Earth or Narnia, or like Star Wars, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” As a result, our science fiction future is, most often, not a future at all, but more like an alternative dimension, a dream-time, a technological Elsewhere, existing in days to come in the same sense that elves and dragon-slayers existed in the past—another screen for the displacement of moral dramas and mythic fantasies into the dead ends of consumer pleasure.


Might the cultural sensibility that came to be referred to as postmodernism best be seen as a prolonged meditation on all the technological changes that never happened? The question struck me as I watched one of the recent Star Wars movies. The movie was terrible, but I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the quality of the special effects. Recalling the clumsy special effects typical of fifties sci-fi films, I kept thinking how impressed a fifties audience would have been if they’d known what we could do by now—only to realize, “Actually, no. They wouldn’t be impressed at all, would they? They thought we’d be doing this kind of thing by now. Not just figuring out more sophisticated ways to simulate it.”

That last word—simulate—is key. The technologies that have advanced since the seventies are mainly either medical technologies or information technologies—largely, technologies of simulation. They are technologies of what Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco called the “hyper-real,” the ability to make imitations that are more realistic than originals. The postmodern sensibility, the feeling that we had somehow broken into an unprecedented new historical period in which we understood that there is nothing new; that grand historical narratives of progress and liberation were meaningless; that everything now was simulation, ironic repetition, fragmentation, and pastiche—all this makes sense in a technological environment in which the only breakthroughs were those that made it easier to create, transfer, and rearrange virtual projections of things that either already existed, or, we came to realize, never would. Surely, if we were vacationing in geodesic domes on Mars or toting about pocket-size nuclear fusion plants or telekinetic mind-reading devices no one would ever have been talking like this. The postmodern moment was a desperate way to take what could otherwise only be felt as a bitter disappointment and to dress it up as something epochal, exciting, and new.

In the earliest formulations, which largely came out of the Marxist tradition, a lot of this technological background was acknowledged. Fredric Jameson’s “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” proposed the term “postmodernism” to refer to the cultural logic appropriate to a new, technological phase of capitalism, one that had been heralded by Marxist economist Ernest Mandel as early as 1972. Mandel had argued that humanity stood at the verge of a “third technological revolution,” as profound as the Agricultural or Industrial Revolution, in which computers, robots, new energy sources, and new information technologies would replace industrial labor—the “end of work” as it soon came to be called—reducing us all to designers and computer technicians coming up with crazy visions that cybernetic factories would produce.

End of work arguments were popular in the late seventies and early eighties as social thinkers pondered what would happen to the traditional working-class-led popular struggle once the working class no longer existed. (The answer: it would turn into identity politics.) Jameson thought of himself as exploring the forms of consciousness and historical sensibilities likely to emerge from this new age.

What happened, instead, is that the spread of information technologies and new ways of organizing transport—the containerization of shipping, for example—allowed those same industrial jobs to be outsourced to East Asia, Latin America, and other countries where the availability of cheap labor allowed manufacturers to employ much less technologically sophisticated production-line techniques than they would have been obliged to employ at home.

From the perspective of those living in Europe, North America, and Japan, the results did seem to be much as predicted. Smokestack industries did disappear; jobs came to be divided between a lower stratum of service workers and an upper stratum sitting in antiseptic bubbles playing with computers. But below it all lay an uneasy awareness that the postwork civilization was a giant fraud. Our carefully engineered high-tech sneakers were not being produced by intelligent cyborgs or self-replicating molecular nanotechnology; they were being made on the equivalent of old-fashioned Singer sewing machines, by the daughters of Mexican and Indonesian farmers who, as the result of WTO or NAFTA–sponsored trade deals, had been ousted from their ancestral lands. It was a guilty awareness that lay beneath the postmodern sensibility and its celebration of the endless play of images and surfaces.


Why did the projected explosion of technological growth everyone was expecting—the moon bases, the robot factories—fail to happen? There are two possibilities. Either our expectations about the pace of technological change were unrealistic (in which case, we need to know why so many intelligent people believed they were not) or our expectations were not unrealistic (in which case, we need to know what happened to derail so many credible ideas and prospects).

Most social analysts choose the first explanation and trace the problem to the Cold War space race. Why, these analysts wonder, did both the United States and the Soviet Union become so obsessed with the idea of manned space travel? It was never an efficient way to engage in scientific research. And it encouraged unrealistic ideas of what the human future would be like.

Could the answer be that both the United States and the Soviet Union had been, in the century before, societies of pioneers, one expanding across the Western frontier, the other across Siberia? Didn’t they share a commitment to the myth of a limitless, expansive future, of human colonization of vast empty spaces, that helped convince the leaders of both superpowers they had entered into a “space age” in which they were battling over control of the future itself? All sorts of myths were at play here, no doubt, but that proves nothing about the feasibility of the project.

Some of those science fiction fantasies (at this point we can’t know which ones) could have been brought into being. For earlier generations, many science fiction fantasies had been brought into being. Those who grew up at the turn of the century reading Jules Verne or H.G. Wells imagined the world of, say, 1960 with flying machines, rocket ships, submarines, radio, and television—and that was pretty much what they got. If it wasn’t unrealistic in 1900 to dream of men traveling to the moon, then why was it unrealistic in the sixties to dream of jet-packs and robot laundry-maids?

In fact, even as those dreams were being outlined, the material base for their achievement was beginning to be whittled away. There is reason to believe that even by the fifties and sixties, the pace of technological innovation was slowing down from the heady pace of the first half of the century. There was a last spate in the fifties when microwave ovens (1954), the Pill (1957), and lasers (1958) all appeared in rapid succession. But since then, technological advances have taken the form of clever new ways of combining existing technologies (as in the space race) and new ways of putting existing technologies to consumer use (the most famous example is television, invented in 1926, but mass produced only after the war.) Yet, in part because the space race gave everyone the impression that remarkable advances were happening, the popular impression during the sixties was that the pace of technological change was speeding up in terrifying, uncontrollable ways.

Alvin Toffler’s 1970 best seller Future Shock argued that almost all the social problems of the sixties could be traced back to the increasing pace of technological change. The endless outpouring of scientific breakthroughs transformed the grounds of daily existence, and left Americans without any clear idea of what normal life was. Just consider the family, where not just the Pill, but also the prospect of in vitro fertilization, test tube babies, and sperm and egg donation were about to make the idea of motherhood obsolete.

Humans were not psychologically prepared for the pace of change, Toffler wrote. He coined a term for the phenomenon: “accelerative thrust.” It had begun with the Industrial Revolution, but by roughly 1850, the effect had become unmistakable. Not only was everything around us changing, but most of it—human knowledge, the size of the population, industrial growth, energy use—was changing exponentially. The only solution, Toffler argued, was to begin some kind of control over the process, to create institutions that would assess emerging technologies and their likely effects, to ban technologies likely to be too socially disruptive, and to guide development in the direction of social harmony.

While many of the historical trends Toffler describes are accurate, the book appeared when most of these exponential trends halted. It was right around 1970 when the increase in the number of scientific papers published in the world—a figure that had doubled every fifteen years since, roughly, 1685—began leveling off. The same was true of books and patents.

Toffler’s use of acceleration was particularly unfortunate. For most of human history, the top speed at which human beings could travel had been around 25 miles per hour. By 1900 it had increased to 100 miles per hour, and for the next seventy years it did seem to be increasing exponentially. By the time Toffler was writing, in 1970, the record for the fastest speed at which any human had traveled stood at roughly 25,000 mph, achieved by the crew of Apollo 10 in 1969, just one year before. At such an exponential rate, it must have seemed reasonable to assume that within a matter of decades, humanity would be exploring other solar systems.

Since 1970, no further increase has occurred. The record for the fastest a human has ever traveled remains with the crew of Apollo 10. True, the commercial airliner Concorde, which first flew in 1969, reached a maximum speed of 1,400 mph. And the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144, which flew first, reached an even faster speed of 1,553 mph. But those speeds not only have failed to increase; they have decreased since the Tupolev Tu-144 was cancelled and the Concorde was abandoned.

None of this stopped Toffler’s own career. He kept retooling his analysis to come up with new spectacular pronouncements. In 1980, he produced The Third Wave, its argument lifted from Ernest Mandel’s “third technological revolution”—except that while Mandel thought these changes would spell the end of capitalism, Toffler assumed capitalism was eternal. By 1990, Toffler was the personal intellectual guru to Republican congressman Newt Gingrich, who claimed that his 1994 “Contract With America” was inspired, in part, by the understanding that the United States needed to move from an antiquated, materialist, industrial mind-set to a new, free-market, information age, Third Wave civilization.

There are all sorts of ironies in this connection. One of Toffler’s greatest achievements was inspiring the government to create an Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). One of Gingrich’s first acts on winning control of the House of Representatives in 1995 was defunding the OTA as an example of useless government extravagance. Still, there’s no contradiction here. By this time, Toffler had long since given up on influencing policy by appealing to the general public; he was making a living largely by giving seminars to CEOs and corporate think tanks. His insights had been privatized.

Gingrich liked to call himself a “conservative futurologist.” This, too, might seem oxymoronic; but, in fact, Toffler’s own conception of futurology was never progressive. Progress was always presented as a problem that needed to be solved.

Toffler might best be seen as a lightweight version of the nineteenth-century social theorist Auguste Comte, who believed that he was standing on the brink of a new age—in his case, the Industrial Age—driven by the inexorable progress of technology, and that the social cataclysms of his times were caused by the social system not adjusting. The older feudal order had developed Catholic theology, a way of thinking about man’s place in the cosmos perfectly suited to the social system of the time, as well as an institutional structure, the Church, that conveyed and enforced such ideas in a way that could give everyone a sense of meaning and belonging. The Industrial Age had developed its own system of ideas—science—but scientists had not succeeded in creating anything like the Catholic Church. Comte concluded that we needed to develop a new science, which he dubbed “sociology,” and said that sociologists should play the role of priests in a new Religion of Society that would inspire everyone with a love of order, community, work discipline, and family values. Toffler was less ambitious; his futurologists were not supposed to play the role of priests.

Gingrich had a second guru, a libertarian theologian named George Gilder, and Gilder, like Toffler, was obsessed with technology and social change. In an odd way, Gilder was more optimistic. Embracing a radical version of Mandel’s Third Wave argument, he insisted that what we were seeing with the rise of computers was an “overthrow of matter.” The old, materialist Industrial Society, where value came from physical labor, was giving way to an Information Age where value emerges directly from the minds of entrepreneurs, just as the world had originally appeared ex nihilo from the mind of God, just as money, in a proper supply-side economy, emerged ex nihilo from the Federal Reserve and into the hands of value-creating capitalists. Supply-side economic policies, Gilder concluded, would ensure that investment would continue to steer away from old government boondoggles like the space program and toward more productive information and medical technologies.

But if there was a conscious, or semi-conscious, move away from investment in research that might lead to better rockets and robots, and toward research that would lead to such things as laser printers and CAT scans, it had begun well before Toffler’s Future Shock (1970) and Gilder’s Wealth and Poverty (1981). What their success shows is that the issues they raised—that existing patterns of technological development would lead to social upheaval, and that we needed to guide technological development in directions that did not challenge existing structures of authority—echoed in the corridors of power. Statesmen and captains of industry had been thinking about such questions for some time.


Industrial capitalism has fostered an extremely rapid rate of scientific advance and technological innovation—one with no parallel in previous human history. Even capitalism’s greatest detractors, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, celebrated its unleashing of the “productive forces.” Marx and Engels also believed that capitalism’s continual need to revolutionize the means of industrial production would be its undoing. Marx argued that, for certain technical reasons, value—and therefore profits—can be extracted only from human labor. Competition forces factory owners to mechanize production, to reduce labor costs, but while this is to the short-term advantage of the firm, mechanization’s effect is to drive down the general rate of profit.

For 150 years, economists have debated whether all this is true. But if it is true, then the decision by industrialists not to pour research funds into the invention of the robot factories that everyone was anticipating in the sixties, and instead to relocate their factories to labor-intensive, low-tech facilities in China or the Global South makes a great deal of sense.

As I’ve noted, there’s reason to believe the pace of technological innovation in productive processes—the factories themselves—began to slow in the fifties and sixties, but the side effects of America’s rivalry with the Soviet Union made innovation appear to accelerate. There was the awesome space race, alongside frenetic efforts by U.S. industrial planners to apply existing technologies to consumer purposes, to create an optimistic sense of burgeoning prosperity and guaranteed progress that would undercut the appeal of working-class politics.

These moves were reactions to initiatives from the Soviet Union. But this part of the history is difficult for Americans to remember, because at the end of the Cold War, the popular image of the Soviet Union switched from terrifyingly bold rival to pathetic basket case—the exemplar of a society that could not work. Back in the fifties, in fact, many United States planners suspected the Soviet system worked better. Certainly, they recalled the fact that in the thirties, while the United States had been mired in depression, the Soviet Union had maintained almost unprecedented economic growth rates of 10 percent to 12 percent a year—an achievement quickly followed by the production of tank armies that defeated Nazi Germany, then by the launching of Sputnik in 1957, then by the first manned spacecraft, the Vostok, in 1961.

It’s often said the Apollo moon landing was the greatest historical achievement of Soviet communism. Surely, the United States would never have contemplated such a feat had it not been for the cosmic ambitions of the Soviet Politburo. We are used to thinking of the Politburo as a group of unimaginative gray bureaucrats, but they were bureaucrats who dared to dream astounding dreams. The dream of world revolution was only the first. It’s also true that most of them—changing the course of mighty rivers, this sort of thing—either turned out to be ecologically and socially disastrous, or, like Joseph Stalin’s one-hundred-story Palace of the Soviets or a twenty-story statue of Vladimir Lenin, never got off the ground.

After the initial successes of the Soviet space program, few of these schemes were realized, but the leadership never ceased coming up with new ones. Even in the eighties, when the United States was attempting its own last, grandiose scheme, Star Wars, the Soviets were planning to transform the world through creative uses of technology. Few outside of Russia remember most of these projects, but great resources were devoted to them. It’s also worth noting that unlike the Star Wars project, which was designed to sink the Soviet Union, most were not military in nature: as, for instance, the attempt to solve the world hunger problem by harvesting lakes and oceans with an edible bacteria called spirulina, or to solve the world energy problem by launching hundreds of gigantic solar-power platforms into orbit and beaming the electricity back to earth.

The American victory in the space race meant that, after 1968, U.S. planners no longer took the competition seriously. As a result, the mythology of the final frontier was maintained, even as the direction of research and development shifted away from anything that might lead to the creation of Mars bases and robot factories.

The standard line is that all this was a result of the triumph of the market. The Apollo program was a Big Government project, Soviet-inspired in the sense that it required a national effort coordinated by government bureaucracies. As soon as the Soviet threat drew safely out of the picture, though, capitalism was free to revert to lines of technological development more in accord with its normal, decentralized, free-market imperatives—such as privately funded research into marketable products like personal computers. This is the line that men like Toffler and Gilder took in the late seventies and early eighties.

In fact, the United States never did abandon gigantic, government-controlled schemes of technological development. Mainly, they just shifted to military research—and not just to Soviet-scale schemes like Star Wars, but to weapons projects, research in communications and surveillance technologies, and similar security-related concerns. To some degree this had always been true: the billions poured into missile research had always dwarfed the sums allocated to the space program. Yet by the seventies, even basic research came to be conducted following military priorities. One reason we don’t have robot factories is because roughly 95 percent of robotics research funding has been channeled through the Pentagon, which is more interested in developing unmanned drones than in automating paper mills.

A case could be made that even the shift to research and development on information technologies and medicine was not so much a reorientation toward market-driven consumer imperatives, but part of an all-out effort to follow the technological humbling of the Soviet Union with total victory in the global class war—seen simultaneously as the imposition of absolute U.S. military dominance overseas, and, at home, the utter rout of social movements.

For the technologies that did emerge proved most conducive to surveillance, work discipline, and social control. Computers have opened up certain spaces of freedom, as we’re constantly reminded, but instead of leading to the workless utopia Abbie Hoffman imagined, they have been employed in such a way as to produce the opposite effect. They have enabled a financialization of capital that has driven workers desperately into debt, and, at the same time, provided the means by which employers have created “flexible” work regimes that have both destroyed traditional job security and increased working hours for almost everyone. Along with the export of factory jobs, the new work regime has routed the union movement and destroyed any possibility of effective working-class politics.

Meanwhile, despite unprecedented investment in research on medicine and life sciences, we await cures for cancer and the common cold, and the most dramatic medical breakthroughs we have seen have taken the form of drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, or Ritalin—tailor-made to ensure that the new work demands don’t drive us completely, dysfunctionally crazy.

With results like these, what will the epitaph for neoliberalism look like? I think historians will conclude it was a form of capitalism that systematically prioritized political imperatives over economic ones. Given a choice between a course of action that would make capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and one that would transform capitalism into a viable, long-term economic system, neoliberalism chooses the former every time. There is every reason to believe that destroying job security while increasing working hours does not create a more productive (let alone more innovative or loyal) workforce. Probably, in economic terms, the result is negative—an impression confirmed by lower growth rates in just about all parts of the world in the eighties and nineties.

But the neoliberal choice has been effective in depoliticizing labor and overdetermining the future. Economically, the growth of armies, police, and private security services amounts to dead weight. It’s possible, in fact, that the very dead weight of the apparatus created to ensure the ideological victory of capitalism will sink it. But it’s also easy to see how choking off any sense of an inevitable, redemptive future that could be different from our world is a crucial part of the neoliberal project.

At this point all the pieces would seem to be falling neatly into place. By the sixties, conservative political forces were growing skittish about the socially disruptive effects of technological progress, and employers were beginning to worry about the economic impact of mechanization. The fading Soviet threat allowed for a reallocation of resources in directions seen as less challenging to social and economic arrangements, or indeed directions that could support a campaign of reversing the gains of progressive social movements and achieving a decisive victory in what U.S. elites saw as a global class war. The change of priorities was introduced as a withdrawal of big-government projects and a return to the market, but in fact the change shifted government-directed research away from programs like NASA or alternative energy sources and toward military, information, and medical technologies.

Of course this doesn’t explain everything. Above all, it does not explain why, even in those areas that have become the focus of well-funded research projects, we have not seen anything like the kind of advances anticipated fifty years ago. If 95 percent of robotics research has been funded by the military, then where are the Klaatu-style killer robots shooting death rays from their eyes?

Obviously, there have been advances in military technology in recent decades. One of the reasons we all survived the Cold War is that while nuclear bombs might have worked as advertised, their delivery systems did not; intercontinental ballistic missiles weren’t capable of striking cities, let alone specific targets inside cities, and this fact meant there was little point in launching a nuclear first strike unless you intended to destroy the world.

Contemporary cruise missiles are accurate by comparison. Still, precision weapons never do seem capable of assassinating specific individuals (Saddam, Osama, Qaddafi), even when hundreds are dropped. And ray guns have not materialized—surely not for lack of trying. We can assume the Pentagon has spent billions on death ray research, but the closest they’ve come so far are lasers that might, if aimed correctly, blind an enemy gunner looking directly at the beam. Aside from being unsporting, this is pathetic: lasers are a fifties technology. Phasers that can be set to stun do not appear to be on the drawing boards; and when it comes to infantry combat, the preferred weapon almost everywhere remains the AK-47, a Soviet design named for the year it was introduced: 1947.


The Internet is a remarkable innovation, but all we are talking about is a super-fast and globally accessible combination of library, post office, and mail-order catalogue. Had the Internet been described to a science fiction aficionado in the fifties and sixties and touted as the most dramatic technological achievement since his time, his reaction would have been disappointment. Fifty years and this is the best our scientists managed to come up with? We expected computers that would think!

Overall, levels of research funding have increased dramatically since the seventies. Admittedly, the proportion of that funding that comes from the corporate sector has increased most dramatically, to the point that private enterprise is now funding twice as much research as the government, but the increase is so large that the total amount of government research funding, in real-dollar terms, is much higher than it was in the sixties. “Basic,” “curiosity-driven,” or “blue skies” research—the kind that is not driven by the prospect of any immediate practical application, and that is most likely to lead to unexpected breakthroughs—occupies an ever smaller proportion of the total, though so much money is being thrown around nowadays that overall levels of basic research funding have increased.

Yet most observers agree that the results have been paltry. Certainly we no longer see anything like the continual stream of conceptual revolutions—genetic inheritance, relativity, psychoanalysis, quantum mechanics—that people had grown used to, and even expected, a hundred years before. Why?

Part of the answer has to do with the concentration of resources on a handful of gigantic projects: “big science,” as it has come to be called. The Human Genome Project is often held out as an example. After spending almost three billion dollars and employing thousands of scientists and staff in five different countries, it has mainly served to establish that there isn’t very much to be learned from sequencing genes that’s of much use to anyone else. Even more, the hype and political investment surrounding such projects demonstrate the degree to which even basic research now seems to be driven by political, administrative, and marketing imperatives that make it unlikely anything revolutionary will happen.

Here, our fascination with the mythic origins of Silicon Valley and the Internet has blinded us to what’s really going on. It has allowed us to imagine that research and development is now driven, primarily, by small teams of plucky entrepreneurs, or the sort of decentralized cooperation that creates open-source software. This is not so, even though such research teams are most likely to produce results. Research and development is still driven by giant bureaucratic projects.

What has changed is the bureaucratic culture. The increasing interpenetration of government, university, and private firms has led everyone to adopt the language, sensibilities, and organizational forms that originated in the corporate world. Although this might have helped in creating marketable products, since that is what corporate bureaucracies are designed to do, in terms of fostering original research, the results have been catastrophic.

My own knowledge comes from universities, both in the United States and Britain. In both countries, the last thirty years have seen a veritable explosion of the proportion of working hours spent on administrative tasks at the expense of pretty much everything else. In my own university, for instance, we have more administrators than faculty members, and the faculty members, too, are expected to spend at least as much time on administration as on teaching and research combined. The same is true, more or less, at universities worldwide.

The growth of administrative work has directly resulted from introducing corporate management techniques. Invariably, these are justified as ways of increasing efficiency and introducing competition at every level. What they end up meaning in practice is that everyone winds up spending most of their time trying to sell things: grant proposals; book proposals; assessments of students’ jobs and grant applications; assessments of our colleagues; prospectuses for new interdisciplinary majors; institutes; conference workshops; universities themselves (which have now become brands to be marketed to prospective students or contributors); and so on.

As marketing overwhelms university life, it generates documents about fostering imagination and creativity that might just as well have been designed to strangle imagination and creativity in the cradle. No major new works of social theory have emerged in the United States in the last thirty years. We have been reduced to the equivalent of medieval scholastics, writing endless annotations of French theory from the seventies, despite the guilty awareness that if new incarnations of Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, or Pierre Bourdieu were to appear in the academy today, we would deny them tenure.

There was a time when academia was society’s refuge for the eccentric, brilliant, and impractical. No longer. It is now the domain of professional self-marketers. As a result, in one of the most bizarre fits of social self-destructiveness in history, we seem to have decided we have no place for our eccentric, brilliant, and impractical citizens. Most languish in their mothers’ basements, at best making the occasional, acute intervention on the Internet.


If all this is true in the social sciences, where research is still carried out with minimal overhead largely by individuals, one can imagine how much worse it is for astrophysicists. And, indeed, one astrophysicist, Jonathan Katz, has recently warned students pondering a career in the sciences. Even if you do emerge from the usual decade-long period languishing as someone else’s flunky, he says, you can expect your best ideas to be stymied at every point:

You will spend your time writing proposals rather than doing research. Worse, because your proposals are judged by your competitors, you cannot follow your curiosity, but must spend your effort and talents on anticipating and deflecting criticism rather than on solving the important scientific problems. . . . It is proverbial that original ideas are the kiss of death for a proposal, because they have not yet been proved to work.

That pretty much answers the question of why we don’t have teleportation devices or antigravity shoes. Common sense suggests that if you want to maximize scientific creativity, you find some bright people, give them the resources they need to pursue whatever idea comes into their heads, and then leave them alone. Most will turn up nothing, but one or two may well discover something. But if you want to minimize the possibility of unexpected breakthroughs, tell those same people they will receive no resources at all unless they spend the bulk of their time competing against each other to convince you they know in advance what they are going to discover.

In the natural sciences, to the tyranny of managerialism we can add the privatization of research results. As the British economist David Harvie has reminded us, “open source” research is not new. Scholarly research has always been open source, in the sense that scholars share materials and results. There is competition, certainly, but it is “convivial.” This is no longer true of scientists working in the corporate sector, where findings are jealously guarded, but the spread of the corporate ethos within the academy and research institutes themselves has caused even publicly funded scholars to treat their findings as personal property. Academic publishers ensure that findings that are published are increasingly difficult to access, further enclosing the intellectual commons. As a result, convivial, open-source competition turns into something much more like classic market competition.

There are many forms of privatization, up to and including the simple buying up and suppression of inconvenient discoveries by large corporations fearful of their economic effects. (We cannot know how many synthetic fuel formulae have been bought up and placed in the vaults of oil companies, but it’s hard to imagine nothing like this happens.) More subtle is the way the managerial ethos discourages everything adventurous or quirky, especially if there is no prospect of immediate results. Oddly, the Internet can be part of the problem here. As Neal Stephenson put it:

Most people who work in corporations or academia have witnessed something like the following: A number of engineers are sitting together in a room, bouncing ideas off each other. Out of the discussion emerges a new concept that seems promising. Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this “new” idea is, in fact, an old one; it—or at least something vaguely similar—has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded. If it failed, then no manager who wants to keep his or her job will approve spending money trying to revive it. If it succeeded, then it’s patented and entry to the market is presumed to be unattainable, since the first people who thought of it will have “first-mover advantage” and will have created “barriers to entry.” The number of seemingly promising ideas that have been crushed in this way must number in the millions.

And so a timid, bureaucratic spirit suffuses every aspect of cultural life. It comes festooned in a language of creativity, initiative, and entrepreneurialism. But the language is meaningless. Those thinkers most likely to make a conceptual breakthrough are the least likely to receive funding, and, if breakthroughs occur, they are not likely to find anyone willing to follow up on their most daring implications.

Giovanni Arrighi has noted that after the South Sea Bubble, British capitalism largely abandoned the corporate form. By the time of the Industrial Revolution, Britain had instead come to rely on a combination of high finance and small family firms—a pattern that held throughout the next century, the period of maximum scientific and technological innovation. (Britain at that time was also notorious for being just as generous to its oddballs and eccentrics as contemporary America is intolerant. A common expedient was to allow them to become rural vicars, who, predictably, became one of the main sources for amateur scientific discoveries.)

Contemporary, bureaucratic corporate capitalism was a creation not of Britain, but of the United States and Germany, the two rival powers that spent the first half of the twentieth century fighting two bloody wars over who would replace Britain as a dominant world power—wars that culminated, appropriately enough, in government-sponsored scientific programs to see who would be the first to discover the atom bomb. It is significant, then, that our current technological stagnation seems to have begun after 1945, when the United States replaced Britain as organizer of the world economy.

Americans do not like to think of themselves as a nation of bureaucrats—quite the opposite—but the moment we stop imagining bureaucracy as a phenomenon limited to government offices, it becomes obvious that this is precisely what we have become. The final victory over the Soviet Union did not lead to the domination of the market, but, in fact, cemented the dominance of conservative managerial elites, corporate bureaucrats who use the pretext of short-term, competitive, bottom-line thinking to squelch anything likely to have revolutionary implications of any kind.


If we do not notice that we live in a bureaucratic society, that is because bureaucratic norms and practices have become so all-pervasive that we cannot see them, or, worse, cannot imagine doing things any other way.

Computers have played a crucial role in this narrowing of our social imaginations. Just as the invention of new forms of industrial automation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had the paradoxical effect of turning more and more of the world’s population into full-time industrial workers, so has all the software designed to save us from administrative responsibilities turned us into part- or full-time administrators. In the same way that university professors seem to feel it is inevitable they will spend more of their time managing grants, so affluent housewives simply accept that they will spend weeks every year filling out forty-page online forms to get their children into grade schools. We all spend increasing amounts of time punching passwords into our phones to manage bank and credit accounts and learning how to perform jobs once performed by travel agents, brokers, and accountants.

Someone once figured out that the average American will spend a cumulative six months of life waiting for traffic lights to change. I don’t know if similar figures are available for how long it takes to fill out forms, but it must be at least as long. No population in the history of the world has spent nearly so much time engaged in paperwork.

In this final, stultifying stage of capitalism, we are moving from poetic technologies to bureaucratic technologies. By poetic technologies I refer to the use of rational and technical means to bring wild fantasies to reality. Poetic technologies, so understood, are as old as civilization. Lewis Mumford noted that the first complex machines were made of people. Egyptian pharaohs were able to build the pyramids only because of their mastery of administrative procedures, which allowed them to develop production-line techniques, dividing up complex tasks into dozens of simple operations and assigning each to one team of workmen—even though they lacked mechanical technology more complex than the inclined plane and lever. Administrative oversight turned armies of peasant farmers into the cogs of a vast machine. Much later, after cogs had been invented, the design of complex machinery elaborated principles originally developed to organize people.

Yet we have seen those machines—whether their moving parts are arms and torsos or pistons, wheels, and springs—being put to work to realize impossible fantasies: cathedrals, moon shots, transcontinental railways. Certainly, poetic technologies had something terrible about them; the poetry is likely to be as much of dark satanic mills as of grace or liberation. But the rational, administrative techniques were always in service to some fantastic end.

From this perspective, all those mad Soviet plans—even if never realized—marked the climax of poetic technologies. What we have now is the reverse. It’s not that vision, creativity, and mad fantasies are no longer encouraged, but that most remain free-floating; there’s no longer even the pretense that they could ever take form or flesh. The greatest and most powerful nation that has ever existed has spent the last decades telling its citizens they can no longer contemplate fantastic collective enterprises, even if—as the environmental crisis demands— the fate of the earth depends on it.

What are the political implications of all this? First of all, we need to rethink some of our most basic assumptions about the nature of capitalism. One is that capitalism is identical with the market, and that both therefore are inimical to bureaucracy, which is supposed to be a creature of the state.

The second assumption is that capitalism is in its nature technologically progressive. It would seem that Marx and Engels, in their giddy enthusiasm for the industrial revolutions of their day, were wrong about this. Or, to be more precise: they were right to insist that the mechanization of industrial production would destroy capitalism; they were wrong to predict that market competition would compel factory owners to mechanize anyway. If it didn’t happen, that is because market competition is not, in fact, as essential to the nature of capitalism as they had assumed. If nothing else, the current form of capitalism, where much of the competition seems to take the form of internal marketing within the bureaucratic structures of large semi-monopolistic enterprises, would come as a complete surprise to them.

Defenders of capitalism make three broad historical claims: first, that it has fostered rapid scientific and technological growth; second, that however much it may throw enormous wealth to a small minority, it does so in such a way as to increase overall prosperity; third, that in doing so, it creates a more secure and democratic world for everyone. It is clear that capitalism is not doing any of these things any longer. In fact, many of its defenders are retreating from claiming that it is a good system and instead falling back on the claim that it is the only possible system—or, at least, the only possible system for a complex, technologically sophisticated society such as our own.

But how could anyone argue that current economic arrangements are also the only ones that will ever be viable under any possible future technological society? The argument is absurd. How could anyone know?

Granted, there are people who take that position—on both ends of the political spectrum. As an anthropologist and anarchist, I encounter anticivilizational types who insist not only that current industrial technology leads only to capitalist-style oppression, but that this must necessarily be true of any future technology as well, and therefore that human liberation can be achieved only by returning to the Stone Age. Most of us are not technological determinists.

But claims for the inevitability of capitalism have to be based on a kind of technological determinism. And for that very reason, if the aim of neoliberal capitalism is to create a world in which no one believes any other economic system could work, then it needs to suppress not just any idea of an inevitable redemptive future, but any radically different technological future. Yet there’s a contradiction. Defenders of capitalism cannot mean to convince us that technological change has ended—since that would mean capitalism is not progressive. No, they mean to convince us that technological progress is indeed continuing, that we do live in a world of wonders, but that those wonders take the form of modest improvements (the latest iPhone!), rumors of inventions about to happen (“I hear they are going to have flying cars pretty soon”), complex ways of juggling information and imagery, and still more complex platforms for filling out of forms.

I do not mean to suggest that neoliberal capitalism—or any other system—can be successful in this regard. First, there’s the problem of trying to convince the world you are leading the way in technological progress when you are holding it back. The United States, with its decaying infrastructure, paralysis in the face of global warming, and symbolically devastating abandonment of its manned space program just as China accelerates its own, is doing a particularly bad public relations job. Second, the pace of change can’t be held back forever. Breakthroughs will happen; inconvenient discoveries cannot be permanently suppressed. Other, less bureaucratized parts of the world—or at least, parts of the world with bureaucracies that are not so hostile to creative thinking—will slowly but inevitably attain the resources required to pick up where the United States and its allies have left off. The Internet does provide opportunities for collaboration and dissemination that may help break us through the wall as well. Where will the breakthrough come? We can’t know. Maybe 3D printing will do what the robot factories were supposed to. Or maybe it will be something else. But it will happen.

About one conclusion we can feel especially confident: it will not happen within the framework of contemporary corporate capitalism—or any form of capitalism. To begin setting up domes on Mars, let alone to develop the means to figure out if there are alien civilizations to contact, we’re going to have to figure out a different economic system. Must the new system take the form of some massive new bureaucracy? Why do we assume it must? Only by breaking up existing bureaucratic structures can we begin. And if we’re going to invent robots that will do our laundry and tidy up the kitchen, then we’re going to have to make sure that whatever replaces capitalism is based on a far more egalitarian distribution of wealth and power—one that no longer contains either the super-rich or the desperately poor willing to do their housework. Only then will technology begin to be marshaled toward human needs. And this is the best reason to break free of the dead hand of the hedge fund managers and the CEOs—to free our fantasies from the screens in which such men have imprisoned them, to let our imaginations once again become a material force in human history.

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[Jul 18, 2018] Major oil producers agreed Friday to a nominal increase in crude production of about 1 million barrels per day by Keith Johnson

Jun 22, 2018 |

Major oil producers agreed Friday to a nominal increase in crude production of about 1 million barrels per day, a bid to put a damper on high oil prices. But in practice, major oil exporters will likely only be able to add about half that total to global markets, because many countries are already producing at capacity or face severe threats of supply disruption.

Oil markets weren't calmed by the agreement announced Friday by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries after a contentious week of meetings. Crude prices in New York rose more than 3 percent to almost $68 a barrel and rose about 2 percent in London to more than $74 a barrel.

OPEC didn't agree to increase production as such. Rather the group, with the addition of nonmember Russia, agreed to respect its existing program of restricting supplies. But since the group had gone well overboard and trimmed output by almost 2 million barrels a day, due in large part to a steep falloff in Venezuelan oil production, respecting the original target will translate into more oil for the global market -- on paper, at least.

In practice, only Saudi Arabia and Russia have the capacity to add significant amounts of crude in the next few months. That means Friday's agreement will end up adding about 600,000 barrels of oil a day to the global market.

The contentious meeting took place under the shadow of vituperation from U.S. President Donald Trump, who worried that high oil and gasoline prices would be politically painful ahead of midterm elections later this year. Even after the group's decision had been announced, Trump was still tweeting hopefully about OPEC increasing production.

[Jul 18, 2018] The West is actually engaged in killing its own ideals

Jul 18, 2018 |

karlof1 , Jul 17, 2018 6:32:31 PM | 138

stonebird @126--

There's a longstanding joke in the USA regarding military intelligence in that it's always lacking in said intelligence. What happens is raw intel gets politicized and thus what was once neutral becomes dumb or false as one prefers.

What dooms the Outlaw US Empire and its vassals is its Zerosumism and related neoliberal/neocon policies that are driven by same philosophy. Zerosumism precludes any sort of equal dealing with others, even one's own citizenry--all is to go to the .01% as in Feudalism. To jump ship to the If you can't beat 'em join 'em path, a wholesale rejection of Zerosumism must occur and WinWinism must be embraced wholeheartedly in its place. Indeed, if Trump really wants to accomplish his MAGA project, he only has one choice: He must dump Zerosumism, which is destroying the USA and its allies, and embrace WinWinism. But to accomplish that, Trump would need far more support from US citizenry and institutions than he has at present. And unfortunately, his actions to date show he's still an acolyte of Zerosumism as it benefits him and his class.

As with the supposedly ideologically driven Cold War1 (the Anti-Communist Crusade was used as cover for neocolonialism), there is certainly an ideological divide driving Cold War2: The West's Zerosumism versus Eurasia's WinWinism. The former is anti-people and planet while the latter seeks to boost people while tackling a multiplicity of problems of which Climate Change and its Ocean Acidification is but one. Corruption thrives in the former while its anathema in the latter and subject to the death penalty in China--I'd also call that an ideological divide as the latter embraces the Rule of Law while the former ignores or tramples it (democracy versus totalitarianism).

What's really crazy is Zerosumism works against the tenets the West spelled out for itself and the world in 1945's UN Charter--the West is actually engaged in killing its own ideals! The Twitter link I posted @72 illustrates quite well the delusion of Zerosumism and the ideological divide that's quickly becoming a chasm. What the Twitteridioti don't realize is just how far their minds have been warped by Big Lie Media along with their lack of initiative to determine the facts--particularly in 2016 when this all began. Even if Assange or Murray were to name those who generated the DNC leak , I don't think that would stop the massive recrimination and ongoing Big Lies--as Murray tells us, the FBI has yet to ask him anything despite his very public admission that he knows the leakers!!!!! Launching Cold War2 is more important than discovering the truth of the matter can be the only logical conclusion.

[Jul 16, 2018] US total (oil + products) inventories made a new low (from the high February 2017)

Notable quotes:
"... "Conclusion. No matter what clever US energy independence calculations are out there, the fact remains that the US is physically dependent on around 8 mb/d of crude oil imports, 4.3 mb/d out of which come from countries where oil production has already peaked and/or where there are socio-economic or geopolitical problems. As of April 2018 US net crude imports were about 6 mb/d, far from oil independence." ..."
"... I note also that about 45% of USA imports come from Canada, as well depicted in in your Fig 1. Thus we are 'captives' of Canada (to use the terminology of trump), but don't seem to have much appreciation or respect for their position. ..."
Jul 16, 2018 |

Energy News, 07/11/2018 at 1:14 pm

US total (oil + products) inventories made a new low (from the high February 2017)

US ending stocks July 6th
Crude oil down -12.6 million barrels
Oil products down -0.7
Overall total, down -13.3 (shown on chart)
Natural Gas: Propane & NGPLs up +6.1 (not included in chart)

Weekly change in US total (oil + products) inventories

Mushalik , 07/11/2018 at 3:45 pm
US crude oil imports and exports update April 2018 data
Hickory , 07/12/2018 at 11:12 am
Yes indeed, excellent article as always Matt.

"Conclusion. No matter what clever US energy independence calculations are out there, the fact remains that the US is physically dependent on around 8 mb/d of crude oil imports, 4.3 mb/d out of which come from countries where oil production has already peaked and/or where there are socio-economic or geopolitical problems. As of April 2018 US net crude imports were about 6 mb/d, far from oil independence."

I note also that about 45% of USA imports come from Canada, as well depicted in in your Fig 1. Thus we are 'captives' of Canada (to use the terminology of trump), but don't seem to have much appreciation or respect for their position.

[Jul 16, 2018] What Will Kill Neoliberalism

Does neoliberalism in crisis has a tendency to slide into neofascism?
Notable quotes:
"... Massive global inequality underlies our era of economic and political unrest. The rise of nationalist, populist movements, and the faltering influence of the Davos class of free-trade advocates, have rendered neoliberalism an ideology without committed ideologues. So what will bring about the end of neoliberalism -- the left? the right? the incompetence of the professional political class? -- and, when it's gone, what will replace it? We asked five of our favorite minds for their views on the direction we urgently need to go next. ..."
"... Take the State ..."
"... Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future ..."
"... The Crisis of Care ..."
"... A Revolution of Managers ..."
"... Who Needs the Negro? ..."
"... Universal Base Income ..."
"... The Guardian ..."
"... The Nation ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don't Pay Enough ..."
"... All economic problems, in the neoliberal view, are attributable to sluggish growth, which is in turn the result of insufficient competition. The neoliberal agenda seeks to stimulate competition, suggesting that if countries are allowed to run deficits, the people's work ethic will suffer as a result. ..."
"... Given the neoliberal experiment we've been engaged in since the seventies, we see economic growth is still sluggish and further, global economic inequality continues to increase. Yet if I consider what's likely to prove to be the undoing of moral universe theory, it's the reality that it's very sloppy theology. ..."
"... he doesn't recognize that it is the Oligarchy that is in control and has a stranglehold on both the RNC and DNC to maintain its power. ..."
"... The Right is desperate for change but has really no place to go. Our society has been pulled so far right that there is little to nothing for them to grasp on to display possibilities of improvement for the populous. ..."
"... The Left are the ones who are poised to "Kill Neoliberalism." Joelle Gamble hides the fact that the establishment DNC is almost totally controlled by the Oligarchy and that there are already multiple organizations that are aggressively challenging them. ..."
"... The Progressive Left will be the ones to take down Neoliberalism, what comes next is the real question. Will the Oligarchy be able to implement a fascist regime to maintain its control or will they be cut off at the knees by a socialist government? ..."
Jul 06, 2018 |
Massive global inequality underlies our era of economic and political unrest. The rise of nationalist, populist movements, and the faltering influence of the Davos class of free-trade advocates, have rendered neoliberalism an ideology without committed ideologues. So what will bring about the end of neoliberalism -- the left? the right? the incompetence of the professional political class? -- and, when it's gone, what will replace it? We asked five of our favorite minds for their views on the direction we urgently need to go next.;

Joelle Gamble

The dramatic effects of deindustrialization, automation, globalization, and the growing disparities of wealth and income -- including by race and region -- are undermining political norms in much of the West. 4

Activists and academics alike have linked these trends to the neoliberal ideology that has guided policy-making over the past several decades. This ideology has resulted in pushing the widespread deregulation of key industries, attempting to solve most social and economic problems through market competition, and privatizing public functions like the operation of prisons and institutions of higher education. Neoliberal ideas were considered such common sense during the 1980s and '90s that they were simply never acknowledged as an ideology. Now, even economists at the International Monetary Fund are willing to poke holes in the ideology of neoliberalism. Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Davide Furceri wrote in 2016: "The costs in terms of increased inequality are prominent. Such costs epitomize the trade-off between the growth and equity effects of some aspects of the neoliberal agenda." 5

We know that neoliberalism has now provoked populist responses on the left and the right. But are either of them sufficient to end its rule? 6

The left needs to stop playing defense. This means enacting policies like universal health care, free college, and ending the private-prison industry.

Left populism, if organized, could end the neoliberal order: As espoused by leaders like Pramila Jayapal and Keith Ellison, left populism demands public control as well as redistribution; it is pro-regulation, pro-state, and anti-privatization. These values are inherently at odds with the small-government, anti-regulatory tenets of neoliberalism. If an aggressive left-populist agenda is successfully implemented, neoliberalism would be defeated. The barrier to implementation is the left's inability to be consistent and organized. 7

Populism on both the left and right has proved difficult to organize and suffers from a lack of leadership. On the left, the struggle for organization has been playing out in the Democratic Party's leadership fights. Politicians and activists are attempting to close the ideological gap between the party's base and its leaders. Without enough trust to allow leaders to set and execute a well-resourced strategy -- to say nothing of the resources themselves -- the left faces huge obstacles to actually implementing an agenda that spells the end of neoliberal dominance, despite having an ideology that could usher in a post-neoliberal world. 8

Jimmy Tobias

Left populism can technically end neoliberalism. But can right-wing populism? 9

One should hope that right-wing populism doesn't become organized enough to end the neoliberal order. Public control is not a cogent ideology on the right. That leaves room for privatization -- a main pillar of neoliberalism -- to continue to grow. Only if right-wing nationalism turns into radical authoritarian nationalism (read: fascism) will its relationship with corporate power turn into an end to the neoliberal order. In the United States, this would mean: 1) the delegitimization of Congress and the judicial branch, 2) the increased criminalization of activists and political opponents, and 3) the nationalization of major industries. 10

Right-wing nationalism seems to be crafted to win electoral victories at the intersection of protectionist and xenophobic sentiments. Its current manifestation, designed to win over rural nativist voters, appears to be at odds with the pro-free-trade policies of neoliberalism. However, the lines between far-right nationalism and the mainstream right are blurring, especially when it comes to privatization and the role of government. In the United States, Trump's agenda looks more like crony capitalism than a consistent turn from neoliberal norms. His administration seems either unwilling or incapable of taking a heavy-handed approach to industry. 11

As with many of his business ventures, we've already seen Trump-style nationalism fail in his nascent administration. The White House caved to elite Republican interests with the attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and with Trump's decision to stack high-level economic-policy roles with members of the financial elite. Trump's proclaimed nationalist ideology seems to be a rhetorical device rather than a consistent governing principle. It's possible that the same might be true for other right-wing nationalists. France's Marine Le Pen has cozied up, though admittedly inconsistently, to business interests; she has also toned down her rhetoric, especially on immigration, over the years in order to win centrist voters. Meanwhile, Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders notably lost to a more mainstream candidate in March's general elections. Yet the radical right is more organized in Europe than in the United States. We may not see the same level of compromise and incompetence as in the Trump administration. Moves toward moderation may only be anomalous and strategic rather than a sign of a failing movement. 12

So what does all of this mean for the future of neoliberalism, particularly in the American context? I believe there are two futures in which neoliberalism's end is possible. In the first, the left decides to stop playing defense and organizes with the resources needed to build sustained power, breaking down the policies that perpetuate American neoliberalism. This means enacting policies like universal health care and free college, and ousting the private-prison industry from the justice system. In the second future, a set of political leaders who have been emboldened by Trump's campaign strategy gain office through mostly republican means. They could concentrate power in the executive in an organized manner, nationalize industries, and criminalize communities who don't support their jingoistic vision. We should hope for the first future, as unlikely as it seems in this political moment. We've already seen the second in 20th-century Europe and Latin America. We cannot live that context again. 13

Paul Mason

Take the State 14

I wrote in Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future that if we didn't ditch neoliberalism, globalization would fall apart -- but I had no idea that it would happen so quickly. In hindsight, the problem is that you can put an economy on life support, but not an ideology. 15

After the 2008 financial crisis, quantitative easing and state support for banks kept the patient alive. As the Bank of England governor Mark Carney said last year at the G20 summit in Shanghai, central banks have even more ammunition to draw on should they need it -- for example, the extreme option of "helicopter money," in which they credit every bank account with, say, $20,000. So they can stave off complete stagnation for a long time. But patchwork measures cannot kick-start a new era of dynamism for capitalism, much less faith in its goodness. 16

The human brain demands coherence -- and a certain amount of optimism. The neoliberal story became incoherent the moment the state had to take dramatic steps to support a failing financial market. The form of recovery stimulated by quantitative easing boosted the asset wealth of the rich but not the income of the average worker -- and rising costs for health care, education, and pension provision across the developed world meant that many people experienced the "recovery" as a household recession. 17

The one big cause that needs to animate us in the future is a systemic project of transition beyond capitalism.

So they began looking for answers, and the right had an easy one: Ditch globalization, free trade, and relatively free migration rules, as well as acceptance of the undocumented migrants who keep the economy working. That's how we get to Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Viktor Orbán, the Law and Justice party in Poland, and UKIP in Britain. Each of them has promised to make their country "great again" -- by diverting growth toward it and migrants and refugees away. 18

For 30 years, neoliberalism taught national elites that they were better off collaborating in the creation of a positive-sum game: Everybody wins, ultimately, even if your factory moves to China. That was the rationale. 19

Economic nationalism is logical if you believe that stagnation will last a long time, creating a zero-sum or even a negative-sum game. But the projects of economic nationalism will fail. This is not because economic nationalism has always been a losing strategy: Adolf Hitler practically abolished German unemployment within five years, and Franklin Roosevelt triggered a spectacular recovery and reindustrialization with the New Deal. But these were programs of another era, in which business models were primarily national and monopolies operated in the sphere of one big nation and its colonies; where the state was heavily enmeshed in the national economy; and where global trade was puny and economic migration low compared to now. 20

To try a repeat of autarky in the 21st century will trigger dislocation on a large scale. Some countries will win: It's even feasible that, although led by an imbecile, the United States could win. However, "winning" in this context means bankrupting other countries. Given the complexity and fragility of the globalized system, the cities of the losing nations would resemble New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. 21

In the long term, for the left, the transition to a system beyond capitalism must be based on the possibility of a low-work, high-abundance society. This is the essence of the postcapitalism project that I proposed: automate work, replace wages with a basic income and heavy state provision of services, and enforce competition among the rent-seeking monopolies in order to force the price of their goods so low that people can survive scarce and precarious work. 22

As Manuel Castells's research group in Barcelona has found, as the market staggers, more and more people actually begin to adopt nonmarket survival tactics, mechanisms, and institutions like informal lending, co-ops, time banks, and alternative currencies. And that's the basis for an economic counterpower to big capital and high finance. 23

But in the short term, a whole generation of the left that reveled in aimlessness and horizontality needs to split the difference between that and effective, organized politics. Call it "diagonality," if you want: Without ceasing to care about the 100 small causes that have animated us in the past, the one big cause that needs to animate us in the future is a systemic project of transition beyond capitalism. For now, that project has to be pursued at the level of big cities, regions, states, and alliances of states -- that is, at scale. 24

The hardest thing for the old left to accept will be that this means using the existing, oppressive, imperfect state while simultaneously trying to democratize it. Street protests, mass resistance, strikes, and the occupation of squares are great ways to assemble the forces. But the arc of the story from 2011 to 2015 -- Occupy, the Indignados, and the Arab Spring -- shows that we have to do more than simply create a counterpower: We need to take power and diffuse it at the same time. 25

Bryce Covert

The Crisis of Care 26

American parents are being crushed between trying to care for their families and working enough hours to survive financially. This problem plagues parents of both genders, up and down the income scale, and it is upending the way Americans view the capitalist system. This crisis of care is fostering solidarity among the millions of Americans who share this challenge, as well as support for solutions that will end the reign of neoliberalism. 27

Among low-income Americans, especially people of color, both parents have often worked outside the home to make ends meet. Nonetheless, the ideal has been, until very recently, a stay-at-home mother and a father working for pay outside the home. World War II undermined this idyll, pushing women into factories as men went to fight abroad. The gauzy 1950s dream of single-earner families masked the reality that women continued to pour into the workforce. 28

Today, women make up about half of the paid labor force in the United States, including more than 70 percent of women with children. This means that in about half of married heterosexual couples, both the husband and wife work. This has given women far more access to the public sphere and, with it, greater status and equality both inside and outside the home. 29

But it's also meant a crunch for families. There is no longer a designated parent to stay home with the kids or care for aging relatives, and the workplace isn't designed to help with that predicament. Instead, work is devouring people's lives. 30

You can see this problem in the rising number of Americans who worry about their work/life balance. About half of parents of both genders say they struggle to reconcile these competing demands. Fathers are particularly freaked out: More than 45 percent feel they don't spend enough time with their children, compared with less than a quarter of mothers (probably because more women reduce their paid work to care for children). As the baby-boomer generation ages, a growing elderly population threatens to trap even more working people in the predicament of caring for aging parents, raising young kids, and trying to make a living. 31

The result has been that more and more people are being forced to reckon with the fact that capitalism's unquenchable thirst for labor makes a balanced life impossible. This, in turn, is fostering a greater sense of solidarity among them as workers struggling against the demands of corporate bosses. This growing crisis has already led to some policy-making. The expansion of overtime coverage by the Obama administration means that workers will either be better compensated for putting in long hours or have their schedules pared back to a more humane 40-hour work week (though it remains to be seen what will happen to the overtime expansion under President Trump). Legislation guaranteeing paid time off has swept city and state governments. These are policies that challenge the idea that we should give everything of ourselves to our jobs. 32

The crisis of care has also revived the notion that the public should deal with these shared problems collectively. While other developed countries have spent money to create government-funded solutions for child care over the past half-century, Americans have insisted child care remain a private crisis that each family has to solve alone. The United States provides all children age 6 to 18 with a public education, but for children under the age of 6, it offers basically nothing. Head Start is available to some low-income parents, and a smattering of places have started experimenting with universal preschool for children ages 3 and 4. Outside of that, parents are left to a pitiful private system that often doesn't even offer them enough slots, let alone quality affordable care. 33

Americans have increasingly come to recognize that this situation is ridiculous and are throwing their support behind a government solution. Huge majorities support spending more money on early-childhood programs. American parents haven't yet gone on strike against capitalism's endless demands on their time or the government's failure to provide public support. But the crisis is reaching a boiling point, and it's transforming our relationship to America's neoliberal system. 34

William Darity Jr.

A Revolution of Managers 35

Marx's classic law of motion for bourgeois society -- the tendency of the rate of profit to fall -- was the foundation for his prediction that capitalism would die under the stress of its own contradictions. But even Marx's left-wing sympathizers, who see the dominant presence of corporate capital in all aspects of their lives, have argued that Marx's prediction was wrong. It has become virtually a reflex to assert that modern societies all fall under the sway of "global capitalism," and that a binary operates with two great social classes standing in fundamental opposition to each other: capital and labor. 36

Suppose, however, that Marx was correct in his expectation that capitalism, like other social modes of production before it, will wind down gradually, but wrong in his expectation that it would be succeeded by a "dictatorship of the proletariat," a civilization without class stratification. Suppose, indeed, that the age of capitalism is actually reaching its conclusion -- but one that doesn't involve the ascension of the working class. Suppose, instead, that we consider the existence of a third great social class vying with the other two for social dominance: what was seen in the work of such disparate thinkers as James Burnham, Alvin Gouldner, Barbara Ehrenreich, and John Ehrenreich as the managerial class. 37

Suppose, indeed, that the age of capitalism is reaching its conclusion -- but one that doesn't involve the ascension of the working class.

The managerial class comprises the intelligentsia and intellectuals, artists and artisans, as well as state bureaucrats -- a credentialed or portfolio-rich cultural aristocracy. While the human agents of global capital are the corporate magnates, and the working class is the productive labor -- labor that is directly utilized to generate profit -- the managerial class engages comprehensively in a social-management function. The rise of the managerial class is the rise to dominance of unproductive labor -- labor that can be socially valuable but is not a direct source of profit. 38

A surplus population under capitalism has a purpose: It exists as a reserve army of the unemployed, which can be mobilized rapidly in periods of economic expansion and as a source of downward pressure on the demands for compensation and safe work conditions made by the employed. Therefore, capital has little incentive to eliminate this surplus population. In contrast, the managerial class will view those identified as surplus people as truly superfluous. The social managers consider population generally as an object of control, reduction, and demographic administration, and whoever is assigned to the "surplus" category bears the weight of the arbitrary. 39

To the extent that identification of the surplus population is racialized, particular groups will be targets for social warehousing and extermination. The disproportionate overincarceration of black people in the United States -- a form of social warehousing -- is a direct expression of the managerial class's preferences regarding who should be deemed of low necessity. The exterminative impulse is evident in the comparative devaluation of black lives that prompted resistance efforts like the Black Lives Matter movement. The potential for black superfluity in the managerial age is evident in prescient works like Sidney Willhelm's Who Needs the Negro? (1970) and Samuel Yette's The Choice (1971), both published almost 50 years ago. 40

The assault on "big" and invasive government constitutes an attack on the managerial class by both capital and the working class. Despite endorsing military spending, receiving lucrative government contracts, and enjoying the benefits of publicly provided infrastructure like roads, highways, and railways, corporate capital calls for small government. This is a strategic route to slashing social-welfare expenditures, with the goal of reducing the wage standard and eliminating all regulations on corporate predations. Despite benefiting from social-welfare expenditures, the working class gravitates to a new brand of populism that blends anticorporatism with anti-elitism (and anti-intellectualism), xenophobia, and a demand for a smaller and less intrusive state. Since "big" government constitutes the avenue for independent action on the part of the managerial class, an offensive of this type directly undermines the "new" class's base of power. 41

Calls for smaller government are a strategic route to slashing social-welfare expenditures, wage standards, and regulations on corporate predation.

But the managerial class also possesses another attribute that is both a strength and a weakness. Unlike capital and labor, whose agendas are driven to a large degree by the struggle over the character of a society structured for the pursuit of profit, the managerial class has no anchor for its ideological stance. In fact, it's a social class that is wholly fluid ideologically. Some of its members align fully with the corporate establishment; indeed, the corporate magnates -- especially investment bankers -- look much the same as members of the managerial class in terms of educational credentials, cultural interests, and style. Other social managers take a more centrist posture harking back to their origins in the "middle class," while still others position themselves as allies of the working class. And there are many variations on these themes. 42

Depending on where the ideological weight centers most heavily, the managerial class can take many directions. During the wars in southern Africa against Portuguese rule, Amílcar Cabral once observed that for the anticolonial revolution to succeed, "the petty bourgeoisie" would need to commit suicide as a social class, ceasing their efforts to pursue their particular interests and positioning themselves fully at the service of the working class. One might anticipate that the global managerial class will one day be confronted with the choice of committing suicide, in Cabral's sense, as a class. But the question is: If such a step is taken, will they place themselves fully at the service of labor or capital? 43

Peter Barnes

Universal Base Income 44

There is no single solution to economic inequality and insecurity in America, but there's one that could go further than any other. It's a universal base income, as distinct from a universal basic income. 45

A universal base income of a few hundred dollars a month is not the same as a universal basic income of, say, $1,000 a month. The latter, at least in some places, is enough to survive on; the former decidedly is not. And while the latter is the dream of many, it is far too expensive -- and threatening to America's work ethic -- to be enacted anytime soon. If a universal basic income ever happens here, it will be because it was preceded for many years by a universal base income, gradually nudged upward like Social Security and the minimum wage. So let's take a look at that. 46

A universal base income is both a springboard and a cushion for every participant in our fast-changing market economy -- like giving everyone $200 for passing "Go" in a game of Monopoly. It supplements, but does not replace, labor income (which for the last 30 years has stagnated or declined), and it does so without judgment or stigma. It is grounded on the principle that, in a prosperous albeit volatile and increasingly unequal economy, everyone has a right to some cash flow they can count on. 47

In practical terms, a universal base income would be simple to administer. Eligible recipients (anyone with a valid Social Security number, which can include legal immigrants) would receive an equal amount of money every month, wired to their bank accounts or debit cards. The system would look and feel like Social Security, or a monthly version of the dividends that all Alaskans receive. People who don't need the extra income would be enabled by a check-off option to donate it to any IRS-approved charity. 48

A universal base income, I should note, has nothing to do with automation, robots, or artificial intelligence. It has a lot to do with enhancing every American's security, reducing their stress, and giving our poor and middle classes a leg to stand on -- the very opposite of what our economy does now. 49

A universal base income would have other benefits as well. It is an answer -- perhaps the answer -- to long-term economic stagnation, a trickle-up form of Keynesianism that would stimulate our economy through increased household spending. Moreover, if funded by fees on unproductive activities like pollution and speculation, it would help solve two other deep problems of 21st-century capitalism: climate change and financial instability. And it wouldn't need to replace or reduce spending on current programs that benefit the poor, a regressive trade-off that conservatives favor but most progressives oppose. 50

There are six large demographic groups (with some overlap) that could form the core of a movement for a universal base income: millennials (the first generation of Americans destined to earn less than their parents), low-wage and on-demand work­ers (the so-called precariat), women (who still earn less than men and aren't paid at all for much of the work they do), African Americans (who suffer from past and present injustices), retired and near-retired workers (who can't live on Social Security alone), and poor people of all colors. Environmentalists might also link arms with the cause if one of the revenue sources is a tax on pollution. It will, of course, be no simple feat to persuade these diverse groups that what they can't achieve separately they may be able to achieve together. But it has happened before, and, in the post-Sanders era, it could happen again. 51

In the political realm, a universal base income would bring our nation together by affirming that we are all in the same economic boat. It would unite our desperate poor and our anxious middle class, young and old, women and men, white people and people of color. It would make millions of Americans less stressed, healthier, and perhaps even happier. And it could make many of us proud to be American. 52

Ready to Fight Back? Sign Up For Take Action Now

Fourscore and two years ago, Franklin Roosevelt's Committee on Economic Security produced the classic report that led to passage of the first Social Security Act. The report itself went beyond security for the aged. It proclaimed: "The one almost all-embracing measure of security is an assured income. A program of economic security, as we vision it, must have as its primary aim the assurance of an adequate income to each human being in childhood, youth, middle age, or old age -- in sickness or in health." 53

The committee added that, for reasons of political expediency, it was proposing only an assured income for the elderly, but it hoped that the rest of its vision would be implemented in the not-too-distant future. Much of it has been, but not all. A lifelong base income, along with health insurance for all, are the next pieces. 54

See also

Steven Gurlen says: May 11, 2017 at 9:15 am

All good articles. Darity in particular on "managerial class" who I would say are oligarch wannabees not recognizing their true allegiance. Credit and leases allow this group to live the lifestyle, sold and pushed upon them 401Ks, and stock ownership completes the charade.

Walter Pewen says: May 6, 2017 at 3:22 pm

I appreciate Bryce Cover's analysis. What is happening, in the United States, is life at home is ceasing to exist. In large part due to the dual income requirement. Also a BIG issue on the coasts at least, is people building families (and everyone) simply cannot afford housing. How long can this go on? Here in California capitalism is working people to death on all levels. We used to have enviable lifestyles for the middle and working class both. Not now. It's truly evil.

Wesley Decker says: May 5, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Neoliberalism is Weber's Protestant Work Ethic dressed up by Milton Friedman to do battle with seventies Limits to Growth science. It argues that we inhabit a moral universe where rich and poor deserve what they have and don't have. The challenge posed by Limits to Growth, which has it that outcomes exhibit sensitive dependence to initial conditions, is a seen as a direct affront to such moral ordering.

All economic problems, in the neoliberal view, are attributable to sluggish growth, which is in turn the result of insufficient competition. The neoliberal agenda seeks to stimulate competition, suggesting that if countries are allowed to run deficits, the people's work ethic will suffer as a result.

The science instead considers what's necessary for populations of living organisms to survive and grow. It recognizes that shortages of necessary resources the result of excessive competition. In this view unconstrained competition is naturally at odds with a finite supply of resources, resulting in the economic problems we see.

Given the neoliberal experiment we've been engaged in since the seventies, we see economic growth is still sluggish and further, global economic inequality continues to increase. Yet if I consider what's likely to prove to be the undoing of moral universe theory, it's the reality that it's very sloppy theology.

Doug Barr says: May 4, 2017 at 9:57 pm

Razing our vertical economy will kill all the isms that are killing us.

Robert Andrews says: May 4, 2017 at 12:17 pm

I can see Joelle Gamble's assessment with either the left or the right taking over Neoliberalism. But he doesn't recognize that it is the Oligarchy that is in control and has a stranglehold on both the RNC and DNC to maintain its power.

The Right is desperate for change but has really no place to go. Our society has been pulled so far right that there is little to nothing for them to grasp on to display possibilities of improvement for the populous.

The Left are the ones who are poised to "Kill Neoliberalism." Joelle Gamble hides the fact that the establishment DNC is almost totally controlled by the Oligarchy and that there are already multiple organizations that are aggressively challenging them.

He also doesn't say a word about the most popular leader in country by far, Senator Sanders. Bernie Sanders' presidential primary election has provided a laser for the populous to see who the DNC really serves, by forcing them to reveal its ugly face behind their mask to maintain their power. Sanders has also provided the platform for issues that the populous has been rallying behind and has shown how the establishment squelches their needs with platitudes and deflection.

The Progressive Left will be the ones to take down Neoliberalism, what comes next is the real question. Will the Oligarchy be able to implement a fascist regime to maintain its control or will they be cut off at the knees by a socialist government?

[Jul 15, 2018] If history is any precedent, empires without economic foundations, sooner or later crumble, especially when rising regional powers are capable of replacing them.

Notable quotes:
"... No doubt that the globalized elite want Friedman's "World is Flat" concept – profit maximizing world markets, world production, stateless corporations, free movement of labour and capital (without troublesome national identities) represented by an exclusive and vastly wealthy rootless elite ruling over a global worker hive. The "Empire" is only the military/enforcement side of this, with sanctions/wars against dissidents. ..."
"... Trump is in the strange situation of having been elected to fight the Empire while needing elite Imperial support to stay in his job. ..."
Jul 15, 2018 |

Miro23 , Next New Comment

July 14, 2018 at 1:04 pm GMT

If history is any precedent, empires without economic foundations, sooner or later crumble, especially when rising regional powers are capable of replacing them.

This is worth repeating. Empire and wars are expensive. For example the British world trade network was doing fine until the "Imperial" idea came along with wars and economic failure. The US is doing even worse in trying to fight its Imperial wars on credit.

The result is that Trump faces the real prospects of a decline in exports and popular electoral support – especially from those adversely affected by declining markets and deep cuts in health, education and the environment.

He may well be blindsided by a candidate who actually implements Trump's own election platform 1) no more wars 2) domestic infrastructure spending 3) stopping mass immigration 4) draining the swamp. Trumps electoral weakness is that didn't follow through on his promises.

The electoral oligarchy and the mass media will force him to retreat from the trade wars and surrender to the globalizing elites.

No doubt that the globalized elite want Friedman's "World is Flat" concept – profit maximizing world markets, world production, stateless corporations, free movement of labour and capital (without troublesome national identities) represented by an exclusive and vastly wealthy rootless elite ruling over a global worker hive. The "Empire" is only the military/enforcement side of this, with sanctions/wars against dissidents.

Trump is in the strange situation of having been elected to fight the Empire while needing elite Imperial support to stay in his job.

[Jul 14, 2018] McMaken The Military Is A Jobs Program... For Immigrants Many Others

Jul 14, 2018 |

by Tyler Durden Fri, 07/13/2018 - 18:45 12 SHARES Authored Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

On the matter of immigration, even many commentators who support ease of migration also oppose the extension of government benefits to immigrants.

The idea, of course, is that free movement of labor is fine, but taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize it. As a matter of policy, many also find it prudent that immigrants ought to be economically self sufficient before being offered citizenship. Switzerland, for instance, makes it harder to pursue citizenship while receiving social benefits.

This discussion often centers around officially recognized "welfare" and social-benefits programs such as TANF and Medicaid. But it is also recognized that taxpayer-funded benefits exist in the form of public schooling, free clinics, and other in-kind benefits.

But there is another taxpayer-supporter program that subsidizes immigration as well: the US military.

Government Employment for Immigrants

Last week, the AP began reporting that " the US Army is quietly discharging Immigrant recruits ."

Translation: the US government has begun laying off immigrants from taxpayer-funded government jobs.

It's unclear how many of these jobs have been employed, but according to the Department of Homeland security, "[s]ince Oct. 1, 2002, USCIS has naturalized 102,266 members of the military ."

The Military as a Jobs Program

Immigrants, of course, aren't the only people who benefit from government jobs funded through military programs.

The military has long served as a jobs programs helpful in mopping up excess labor and padding employment numbers. As Robert Reich noted in 2011 , as the US was still coming out of the 2009 recession:

And without our military jobs program personal incomes would be dropping faster. The Commerce Department reported Monday the only major metro areas where both net earnings and personal incomes rose last year were San Antonio, Texas, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. -- because all three have high concentrations of military and federal jobs.

He's right. While the private sector must cut back and re-arrange labor and capital to deal with the new economic realities post-recession, government jobs rarely go away.

Because of this, Reich concludes "America's biggest -- and only major -- jobs program is the U.S. military."

Reich doesn't think this is a bad thing. He only highlights the military's role as a de facto jobs program in order to call for more de jure jobs programs supported by federal funding.

Given the political popularity of the military, however, it's always easy to protect funding for the military jobs programs than for any other potential jobs programs. All the Pentagon has to do is assure Congress that every single military job is absolutely essential, and Congress will force taxpayers to cough up the funding.

Back during the debate over sequestration, for example, the Pentagon routinely warned Congress that any cutbacks in military funding would lead to major jobs losses, bringing devastation to the economy.

In other words, even the Pentagon treats the military like a jobs program when it's politically useful.

Benefits for enlisted people go well beyond what can be seen in the raw numbers of total employed. As Kelley Vlahos points out at The American Conservative , military personnel receive extra hazard pay "even though they are far from any fighting or real danger." And then there is the "Combat Zone Tax Exclusion (CZTE) program which exempts enlisted and officers from paying federal taxes in these 45 designated countries. Again, they get the tax break -- which accounted for about $3.6 billion in tax savings for personnel in 2009 (the combat pay cost taxpayers $790 million in 2009)– whether they are really in danger or not."

There's also evidence that military personnel receive higher pay in the military than do their private-sector counterparts with similar levels of education and training.

Nor do the benefits of military spending go only to enlisted people. The Pentagon has long pointed to its spending on civilian jobs in many communities, including manufacturing jobs and white-collar technical jobs.

This, of course, has long been politically useful for the Pentagon as well, since as political scientist Rebecca Thorpe has shown in her book The American Warfare State , communities that rely heavily on Pentagon-funded employment are sure to send Congressmen to Washington who will make sure the taxpayer dollars keep flowing to Pentagon programs.

Whether you're talking to Robert Reich or some Pentagon lobbyist on Capitol Hill, the conclusion is clear: the military is both a jobs program and a stimulus program. Cut military spending at your peril!

Military Spending Destroys Private Sector Jobs

The rub, however, is that military spending doesn't actually improve the economy. And much the money spent on military employment would be best spent on the private, voluntary economy.

This has long been recognized by political scientist Seymour Melman who has discussed the need for "economic conversion," or converting military spending into other forms of spending. Melman observes :

Since we know that matter and energy located in Place A cannot be simultaneously located in Place B, we must understand that the resources used up on military account thereby represent a preemption of resources from civilian needs of every conceivable kind.

Here, Melman is simply describing in his own way what Murray Rothbard explained in Man, Economy, and State . Namely, government spending distorts the economy as badly as taxation -- driving up prices for the private sector, and withdrawing resources from private sector use.

Ellen Brown further explains :

The military actually destroys jobs in the civilian economy. The higher profits from cost-plus military manufacturing cause manufacturers to abandon more competitive civilian endeavors; and the permanent war economy takes engineers, capital and resources away from civilian production.

But, as a classic case of "the seen" vs. "the unseen," it's easy to point to jobs created by military spending. How many jobs were lost as a result of that same spending? That remains unseen, and thus politically irrelevant.

Military fan boys will of course assure us that every single military job and every single dollar spent on the military is absolutely essential. It's all the service of "fighting for freedom." For instance, Mitchell Blatt writes , in the context of immigrant recruits, "I'm not worried about the country or origin of those who are fighting to defend us. What matters is that our military is as strong as it can be." The idea at work here is that the US military is a lean machine, doing only what is necessary to get the job done, and as cost effectively as possible. Thus, hiring the "best" labor, from whatever source is absolutely essential.

This, however, rather strains the bounds of credibility. The US military is more expensive than the next eight largest militaries combined . The US's navy is ten times larger than the next largest navy. The US's air force is the largest in the world, and the second largest air force belongs, not to a foreign country, but to the US Navy.

Yet, we're supposed to believe that any cuts will imperil the "readiness" of the US military.

Cut Spending for Citizens and Non-Citizens Alike

My intent here is not to pick on immigrants specifically. The case of military layoffs for immigrants simply helps to illustrate a couple of important points: government jobs with the military constitute of form of taxpayer-funded subsidy for immigrants. And secondly, the US military acts as a job program, not just for immigrants but for many native-born Americans.

In truth, layoffs in the military sector ought to be far more widespread, and hardly limited to immigrants. The Trump Administration is wrong when it suggests that the positions now held by immigrant recruits ought to be filled by American-born recruits. Those positions should be left unfilled. Permanently.

cougar_w Fri, 07/13/2018 - 18:53 Permalink

No you retarded fuck, the military is a taxpayer-funed merc army supporting the overseas hegemonic goals of American-style Corporatism . That the military is full of the sons and daughters of poor people is only because rich whites won't send their trustfund babies to kill brown people for oil.

Smedley Butler, 1935: " War is a Racket "

How anyone still gets this wrong is symptomatic of too much inbreeding.

Expendable Container -> cougar_w Fri, 07/13/2018 - 18:58 Permalink

The military is a taxpayer-funded merc army supporting Isra hell's goals none of which benefit the US.

cougar_w -> Expendable Container Fri, 07/13/2018 - 19:12 Permalink

No, asshole. It's about money. About cash and gold. Profit. Markets. Growth. About cheap or free resources. Access to labor. New customers.

War makes companies rich, it might be the ONLY way they can get rich. War is waged when GM wants to sell trucks to the Pentagon. When Boeing wants to sell jets. When MIT wants money for arms research. When NATO wants a reason to exist. The dogs of war are loosed when oil gets tight. When countries won't "accept our cultural freedoms". When trade agreements aren't enough to open up new markets.

Isreal has fleeting nothing to do with it, except maybe when war aligns with their perceived need for hegemony in their own sphere. But by loading all this on Isreal you encourage others to miss the real fox in the henhouse. You could wipe Isreal off the Earth tomorrow and still have wars for profit for a thousand years to come.

This nation was born in war. It has practiced war since that day and will be at war with the rest of the world until humans are killed to the last and the last ounce of profit from war is had.

TeethVillage88s -> cougar_w Fri, 07/13/2018 - 19:08 Permalink

or from systematic corruption of all US Institutions and the politicization of all US Institutions... you need a job, you want to work here, you say this, and you do this, ... tow the line, no politics, no whistleblowing,... and we won't blackball your ass from the industry... got it... u got debts, keep ur nose clean!

Idiocracy's Not Sure Fri, 07/13/2018 - 18:56 Permalink

the US military has slacking pay.

Quantify -> Idiocracy's Not Sure Fri, 07/13/2018 - 18:58 Permalink

Yes the pay sucks but you get more done before 8am than most people do in a week. But seriously its a pretty good gig in the long run. Medical care a decent retirement system, travel a chance to meet and integrate with different cultures and kill them...its pretty cool.

AudiDoug Fri, 07/13/2018 - 19:17 Permalink

Excluding a small percentage, the military is much like the DMV. We have a cartoon vision of all enlisted being GI Joe, ready to grab a gun and fight evil. This in not the case at all. Most positions are very simple, repetitive bureaucratic positions. Really is a giant Jobs program to keep people busy.

Debt Slave Fri, 07/13/2018 - 19:22 Permalink

"The idea at work here is that the US military is a lean machine, doing only what is necessary to get the job done, and as cost effectively as possible."

Then why are we still in Afghanistan?

No need to answer, the question is rhetorical.

DingleBarryObummer Fri, 07/13/2018 - 18:59 Permalink

Support our B̶a̶n̶k̶s̶t̶e̶r̶s̶ Troops!

[Jul 14, 2018] The only true measurement of market balance for oil going forward is global inventory level. Everything else is perhaps manipulation or guesses.

Jul 14, 2018 |

kolbeinh x Ignored says: 07/11/2018 at 6:11 pm

I managed to erase my own comment on this. And my comment was simple, the only true measurement of market balance for oil going forward is global inventory level. Everything else is perhaps manipulation or guesses.
Guym x Ignored says: 07/11/2018 at 7:31 pm
I agree, with all the intentional and unintentional confusion it stays confused. I stay confused trying to figure out what is confused. Inventory levels will be the only clear measure of what is happening. US inventories should not be dropping fast, as we are about the only country with increased production, but we dropped over 30 million last month. That's really not small potatoes, as commercial stocks are just a little over 400 million. Though, I think the US will be one of the last that would hit the danger zone.
Tita x Ignored says: 07/12/2018 at 3:57 pm
Good point. My intention was not to give more confusion. These are forecasts from eia and, I always like to remind this, they forecasted Brent averaging 105$ for 2015 in the STEO of October 2014. They never forecast big surplus or deficit.

I messed with the numbers of the STEO from 2018 to guess when the are reliable. Inventory levels are accurate for the US from the monthly report, which is 3 months old (april for July STEO). Other inventory levels are less accurate, but stock changes are reliable from 4-5 month data.

Global inventories increased in April (0.74 Mb/d) and May (1.14 Mb/d). This would be quite a change, as April would be a record inventory build since January 2017, and it would be followed by another record. This have to be confirmed later.

So, now I know what I will look for in these STEO.

Guym x Ignored says: 07/12/2018 at 4:35 pm
You gave data that I did not use before, and understand better, now. You did not confuse.
Eulenspiegel x Ignored says: 07/13/2018 at 3:55 am
How does this fit with production and consumption?

I thought we have still increasing consumption of about 1.5 mb/year, and production in April/May didn't jumped thad much – Opec flat and Permian already near it's pipeline bottleneck.

As much as I know, many storages are unknown, especially Opec / China. There are these satellite measurements, but there are additional deep storages.

Gathering all comsumption / raffinery input / production data would give an additional picture. Still not easy.

With 1mb/day surplus we should go soon into the next oil price crash to 30-40.

Permian price is then at 0-10$.

AdamB x Ignored says: 07/11/2018 at 11:14 am
Even if we haven't hit peak yet, the fact that production is likely to be going up by a snail's pace the next 3 years is a problem. If consumption just goes up 0.75% a year we need 600K extra a year. That seems like a big challenge to a layman like myself.
Timthetiny x Ignored says: 07/11/2018 at 12:57 pm
Well what will happen is that the price of oil will hit $150-$200 a barrel to ration demand.

Which will cause much pain and ruction and gnashing of teeth among the voters, but Europe has had those oil equivalent prices owing to taxation for quite some time and they manage high living standards. $200/bbl probably destroys 10 million a day in superfluous 'Becky driving by herself to the mall in a 3 ton SUV for no reason' kind of demand and incentivizes quite a bit of production.

The transition period will be moody for sure, but at $200/bbl, the amount of economic EOR targets in the US is somewhere in excess of 70 BBO from old conventional fields from the industry reports I have seen – its just not economic to do since there isn't enough CO2 available to flood them, so you need to use more expensive techniques which require very high prices (ethane flooding might be useful????). Worldwide its hundreds of billions. High prices that encourage us to use the resource wisely and not waste the goddamn stuff liberally would be a godsend, if we could quit wasting gigatons of plastic bullshit and 40% of our food – i.e. if everything made from oil was more expensive as well.

It would be painful economically, but Mad Max isn't coming our way. After 5 years of pain, we might actually finally get our shit together and research some goddamn alternatives.

Fernando Leanme x Ignored says: 07/11/2018 at 1:51 pm
I believe sugar cane ethanol is very competitive at $120 per barrel. This allows converting grass cattle grazing ground to cane. I believe soy and palm will also become very attractive crops. And I suspect countries like Haiti and Nicaragua will continue having riots.
kolbeinh x Ignored says: 07/11/2018 at 4:32 pm
Yes, I believe you are right. The future energy picture is complex, but authors writing books about this say sugar cane ethanol could have EROEI (energy return on energy invested) of up to 4. Even based on mechanised agriculture. And the big advantage of this crop is that it is not very nitrogen intensive, the biggest fertilizer, currently energy intensive when it comes to natural gas usage. Even when it comes to preindustrial crop rotation, the nitrogen intensive main food crops were often rotated with legume crops which were not nitrogen intesive in the hope to rebuild nitrogen content in the earth. So very long term, sugar cane ethanol is a superb type of renewable energy. (that is what I read, no expert).

Brazil has the biggest potential out there when it comes to size, and it is not inconceivable that they can cover much of domestic fuel demand with this outside aviation and possibly shipping (no need for diesel and gasoline ;-)). It would be in competition with food crops and concerns about deforestation, but still; a big potential there. Brazil is well off in a more renewable future btw, having loads of hydro power, wind power, in addition to biomass power (sugar cane the most promising).

[Jul 14, 2018] "Exxon has been pledg ing to pro duce more oil and gas for years, but its out put of about four mil lion bar rels a day is no higher to day than it was af ter its merger with Mobil Corp. in 1999

Jul 14, 2018 |

Boomer II x Ignored says: 07/13/2018 at 6:11 pm

From the WSJ Exxon story.

"[Exxon's] approach is a gam­ble in a new era of en­ergy break­throughs such as frack­ing and elec­tric ve­hi­cles. Many of Exxon's com­peti-tors are trans­form­ing their busi­nesses to move away from oil ex­plo­ration, and have be­gun to spend care­fully and di­ver­sify into re­new­able energy ."

"'Most in­vestors like Exxon, but they like other com­pa­nies bet­ter,' said Mark Stoeckle, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Adams Funds, which owns about $100 mil­lion in Exxon shares. 'The mar­ket is not will­ing to re­ward Exxon for spend­ing to­day in hopes that it will bring good re­turns to­mor­row.'

"Exxon has been pledg­ing to pro­duce more oil and gas for years, but its out­put of about four mil­lion bar­rels a day is no higher to­day than it was af­ter its merger with Mo­bil Corp. in 1999. Even if Exxon suc­ceeds in dou­bling last year's earn­ings of $15 bil­lion (ex­clud­ing im­pair­ments and tax re­form im­pacts) by 2025, as Mr. Woods vowed in his eight-year spend­ing plan, it would still be mak­ing far less than in 2008, when it set what was then a record for an­nual prof­its by an Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tion, at $45 bil­lion .

"Exxon's frack­ing prospects in the Per­mian basin in West Texas and New Mex­ico, de­vel­oped by its XTO unit, re­main among its most prof­itable op­por­tu­ni­ties, the com­pany says. Still, its U.S. drilling busi­ness has lost money in 11 of the last 15 quar­ters."

Boomer II x Ignored says: 07/13/2018 at 3:46 pm
The Wall Street Journal has a big article on Exxon. I won't bother with a link because you won't be able to see it if you aren't a subscriber.

Basically it says we've seen peak Exxon.

[Jul 14, 2018] Beyond Money

Notable quotes:
"... Kevin Shipp, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, intelligence and counter terrorism expert, held several high-level positions in the CIA. His assignments included protective agent for the Director of the CIA, counterintelligence investigator searching for moles inside the CIA, overseas counter terrorism operations officer, internal security investigator, assistant team leader for the antiterrorism tactical assault team, chief of training for the CIA federal police force and polygraph examiner. Mr. Shipp was the senior program manager for the Department of State, Diplomatic Security, Anti-Terrorism Assistance global police training program. He is the recipient of two CIA Meritorious Unit Citations, three Exceptional Performance Awards and a Medallion for high risk overseas operations. Website/book: ..."
Jul 14, 2018 |

Fake News, Fake Money, How to Tell the Difference Posted on February 21, 2018 | Leave a comment Why is it so hard these days to tell fact from fiction? Who can be trusted to tell us what's really going on? Can the New York Times and Washington Post still be believed? And what about money? Can we still trust the dollar, the euro, the pound sterling? What supports national currencies, anyway? Is this Bitcoin thing real or fake money, and should I buy some?

Here's a compelling presentation by Andreas Antonopoulos, that addresses all of these questions. Antonopoulos is a technologist and entrepreneur and probably the most knowledgeable and insightful expert on bitcoin, blockchain technology and the profound changes that lie just ahead.


Here's the YouTube link:

Now take a deep dive into the political realities of our time by watching this presentation by CIA officer Kevin Shipp, in which he exposes the Shadow Government and the Deep State. If you question his credibility here is a brief bio from Information Clearing House:

Kevin Shipp, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, intelligence and counter terrorism expert, held several high-level positions in the CIA. His assignments included protective agent for the Director of the CIA, counterintelligence investigator searching for moles inside the CIA, overseas counter terrorism operations officer, internal security investigator, assistant team leader for the antiterrorism tactical assault team, chief of training for the CIA federal police force and polygraph examiner. Mr. Shipp was the senior program manager for the Department of State, Diplomatic Security, Anti-Terrorism Assistance global police training program. He is the recipient of two CIA Meritorious Unit Citations, three Exceptional Performance Awards and a Medallion for high risk overseas operations. Website/book:

Here's the YouTube link:

[Jul 14, 2018] The energy cliff approaches: World Oil Gas Discoveries Continue To Decline

Jul 14, 2018 |

shortonoil -> SRSrocco Sun, 07/08/2018 - 16:00 Permalink

Hi Steve, this is exactly what we have been talking about for the last 8 years. To make matters worse there seems to be a completely irrational belief that Shale will save the day. Outside of the fact that shale is not processable without heavier crude, and it is at best energy neutral, and probably negative, it is also long term unaffordable. There are 1.7 million Shale wells in the US. Over the next 5 years 1.4 million of those wells will have to be replaced to just keep production even. That will be $6.2 trillion even if done on the cheap. $6.2 trillion is equal to the total cost of all the finished product that will be consumed by the US for the next 12.8 years (@ $75/barrel). Expending 12.8 years of sales revenue to produce 5 years of oil is just not going to happen!

There seems to be a black out on this terrible situation. Some of that may be just plain ignorance, but I suspect that the main reason is that it is politically unspeakable. For that reason nothing is being spoken. As I have been saying for some time no one should expect big oil, big government, or big anything to come riding to the rescue. The individual is now completely on their own. Chose your options with discretion.


SRSrocco -> shortonoil Sun, 07/08/2018 - 16:55 Permalink


Agreed. The U.S. Shale Oil Ponzi Scheme will likely begin to disintegrate within the next 1-3 years. Already, the Permian oil productivity per well has peaked.

Then when the next Shale Oil ENRON event takes place... watch as the dominos fall.


Zen Xenu -> SRSrocco Sun, 07/08/2018 - 19:48 Permalink

@SRSrocco, U.S. Tight Oil depends on cheap credit. Regardless of oil prices.

Once cheap credit dries up and the previous debts are unable to be paid by drilling new wells, the entire scheme falls apart.

Oil prices do not drive U.S. Tight Oil as much as cheap credit from easy loans.

Eventually, U S. Tight Oil using new credit cards to pay debts on old credit cards will catch up with a vengence. Rising interest rates will be the catalyst. Rising oil prices only prolong the increasing debt.

MrNoItAll -> SRSrocco Sun, 07/08/2018 - 21:21 Permalink

Didn't the EIA publish something not long ago stating their concerns that we could see oil shortages by 2020? And around the same time, I recall that the Saudi Oil Minister came out and stated that without more investment, we would likely see oil shortages by 2020. And then at the recent OPEC meeting, I believe it was the Oil Minister from UAE who stated that we need to find a new North Seas equivalent oil field EVERY YEAR to meet projected demand, which of course is not going to happen. It has been a long slow grind since 2008 to get to this point, but from here on out I anticipate that things will start unraveling at an ever faster pace. Big changes on the way. But one thing that will NEVER happen is that the POTUS or some other world leader comes out and says we are running short on energy. Instead it will be Trade Wars, the damned Russians or some other lame propaganda -- anything but the truth.

Cloud9.5 -> Anonymous_Bene Mon, 07/09/2018 - 07:23 Permalink

This is a synopsis of the German Army study produced in 2010.

If you want the English translation of the study in its entirety, it can be found here:

The mitigation section of the study was most telling. It simply stated that local sustainable economies would replace the modern era. These economies included local food production and energy production. As this process unfolds, I simply do not see how a high rise is going to remain habitable.

EddieLomax -> JamcaicanMeAfraid Mon, 07/09/2018 - 04:33 Permalink

Zero hedge put a news story a while ago where (I think 2016) the US oil industry lost more in that it earned in the previous 7 years (mining in general), so more investment wouldn't have been coming in the US anyway - the price wasn't high enough to justify it.

Worldwide we are going to see some almightly crunch, whether it will arrive after 2020 will be seen. Ironically it might save Trump anyway if the world is seen to be beset by a oil supply crunch since its hard to blame that on him.

Chief Joesph Sun, 07/08/2018 - 13:02 Permalink

The U.S. needs to get off its dead ass and start developing better batteries, solar power, and other alternative energy sources. This was talked about in 1973, during the Oil Embargo days, and its just astonishing the U.S. has done little since to ween itself off of oil. And now we now have a tariff against Chinese made solar panels. DUH!!! How dumb can you get?

El Vaquero -> Chief Joesph Sun, 07/08/2018 - 13:31 Permalink

Look at the energy density of those power sources. You'll never run an industrial civilization off of them. Electric cars may be great for zipping a couple of people around town from day to day, but you're never going to run the large mining and shipping equipment needed for our society. If you want to do that, you're going to have to develop viable breeder reactors and the technology to manufacture liquid fuels with that energy - and this is doable.

bshirley1968 -> El Vaquero Sun, 07/08/2018 - 14:10 Permalink

Right. There is nothing.....NOTHING....that can replace oil and gas as it is used and utilized by the modern industrial society. Nothing......

What needs to happen right now is a steady rise in prices that will condition our population to start learning to do with less cheap, easy energy. We have got to curb usage to give society a chance to begin to learn another way.

The major obstacle to doing this responsible, rational action? The egregious, criminal banking system that has gotten the world awash in debt to feed their greed. Any cut back in the use of energy will destroy the economy and their gravy train.

[Jul 13, 2018] America the Loser by J. Bradford DeLong

Notable quotes:
"... The Washington Post's ..."
"... Obama was a Manchurian Candidate for the globalist banks and corporations and their war-mongering Deep State that would like to rule the world in perpetuity. Brad, the Democratic Party committed suicide with the Clintons. Obama was a rerun of Bush Jr. Trump is actually trying to put the Deep State down, and you should be supporting that. How many Stupid Wars till you see the light? How many more countries do you want to bomb in the name of Democracy? Syria has been stabilized, Brad. Hillary would not have done that. ..."
"... Perhaps the date should mark the end of neo-classical economics. You have widespread poverty and a populace who want change. Hardly the result of success. ..."
Jul 13, 2018 |

America the Loser Jul 4, 2018 J. Bradford DeLong Donald Trump's unhinged recent attacks on the iconic motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson distill his larger assault on American democracy. Even if Democrats do manage to retake one or both houses of Congress this November, the damage that Trump and Republican leaders have done to the country's global standing cannot be repaired.

BERKELEY – The Washington Post's Catherine Rampell recently recalled that when US President Donald Trump held a session for Harley-Davidson executives and union representatives at the White House in February 2017, he thanked them "for building things in America." Trump went on to predict that the iconic American motorcycle company would expand under his watch. "I know your business is now doing very well," he observed, "and there's a lot of spirit right now in the country that you weren't having so much in the last number of months that you have right now."

What a difference a year makes. Harley-Davidson recently announced that it would move some of its operations to jurisdictions not subject to the European Union's retaliatory measures adopted in response to Trump's tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Trump then took to Twitter to say that he was, "Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag." He then made a promise that he cannot keep: " ultimately they will not pay tariffs selling into the EU."

Then, in a later tweet, Trump falsely stated that, "Early this year Harley-Davidson said they would move much of their plant operations in Kansas City to Thailand," and that "they were just using Tariffs/Trade War as an excuse." In fact, when the company announced the closure of its plant in Kansas City, Missouri, it said that it would move those operations to York, Pennsylvania. At any rate, Trump's point is nonsensical. If companies are acting in anticipation of his own announcement that he is launching a trade war, then his trade war is not just an excuse.

In yet another tweet, Trump turned to threats, warning that, "Harley must know that they won't be able to sell back into U.S. without paying a big tax!" But, again, this is nonsensical: the entire point of Harley-Davidson shifting some of its production to countries not subject to EU tariffs is to sell tariff-free motorcycles to Europeans.

In a final tweet, Trump decreed that, "A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country – never!" He then went on to promise the destruction of the company, and thus the jobs of its workers: "If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end – they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!" 1

Needless to say, none of this is normal. Trump's statements are dripping with contempt for the rule of law. And none of them rises to the level of anything that could be called trade policy, let alone governance. It is as if we have returned to the days of Henry VIII, an impulsive, deranged monarch who was surrounded by a gaggle of plutocrats, lickspittles, and flatterers, all trying to advance their careers while keeping the ship of state afloat.

Trump is clearly incapable of executing the duties of his office in good faith. The US House of Representatives and Senate should have impeached him and removed him from office already – for violations of the US Constitution's emoluments clause , if nothing else. Barring that, Vice President Mike Pence should have long ago invoked the 25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of a president whom a majority of the cabinet has deemed "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

And yet, neither Speaker of the House Paul Ryan nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell nor Pence has dared to do anything about Trump's assault on American democracy. Republicans are paralyzed by the fear that if they turn on Trump, who is now supported by roughly 90% of their party's base, they will all suffer at the polls in the midterm congressional election this November.

It is nice to think that the election will fix everything. But, at a minimum, the Democratic Party needs a six-percentage-point edge to retake the House of Representatives, owing to Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts. Democrats also have to overcome a gerrymandering effect in the Senate. Right now, the 49 senators who caucus with the Democrats represent 181 million people, whereas the 51 who caucus with the Republicans represent just 142 million people. 3

Moreover, the US is notorious for its low voter turnout during midterm elections, which tends to hurt Democratic candidates' prospects. And Trump and congressional Republicans have been presiding over a relatively strong economy, which they inherited from former President Barack Obama, but are happy to claim as their own.

Finally, one must not discount the fear factor. Countless Americans routinely fall victim to social- and cable-media advertising campaigns that play to their worst instincts. You can rest assured that in this election cycle, as in the past, elderly white voters will be fed a steady diet of bombast about the threat posed by immigrants, people of color, Muslims, and other Trump-voter bugaboos (that is, when they aren't being sold fake diabetes cures and overpriced gold funds).

Regardless of what happens this November, it is already clear that the American century ended on November 8, 2016. On that day, the United States ceased to be the world's leading superpower – the flawed but ultimately well-meaning guarantor of peace, prosperity, and human rights around the world. America's days of Kindlebergian hegemony are now behind it. The credibility that has been lost to the Trumpists – abetted by Russia and the US Electoral College – can never be regained. See also

J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America's transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

[Jul 10, 2018] MoA - BREXIT - Still Not Gonna Happen

The trend is definitely against EU. But Britain may be crushed, like Brazil and Argentina into accepting neoliberal world order for longer.
Notable quotes:
"... Maybe Johnson the Brexiter can now launch an inner party coup and push Theresa May out. According to a YouGov poll she lost significant support within her conservative party. Besides the Brexit row she botched a snap election, lost her party's majority in parliament and seems to have no clear concept for anything. It would not be a loss for mankind to see her go. ..."
"... Boris the clown, who wins within his party on 'likability' and 'shares my political outlook', would then run the UK. A quite amusing thought. Johnson is a man of no principles. While he is currently pretending to hold a pro-Brexit position he would probably run the same plan that May seems to execute: Delay as long as possible, then panic the people into a re-vote, then stay within the EU. ..."
"... There is an excellent piece in the Boston Review on the EU- ..."
"... Iy makes the point that "The European Union offers the fullest realization of the neoliberal political vision. Its incomplete integration -- with its confusing mix of powers -- is precisely the goal." ..."
"... It traces the neo-liberal project, designed to prevent democracy from controlling economic policy, back to von Mises and Hayek. Nothing is more mistaken for critics of imperialism than to buy the line that the EU represents internationalism in any sense. The fact that some racists oppose the EU-just as others support it as a 'white" bastion -- is no reason to give an institution which is profoundly and purposefully undemocratic the benefit of the doubt. ..."
"... It is a wondrous sight to see Western [neo]Liberal Democracy crumbling before our eyes. Have a look at the very founders and protectors of "freedom" corrupt to the very marrow of their bones. ..."
"... Anything bad that can happen to the UK is well-deserved. The home, the womb of Russophobia, lies and illegal wars, as well as the hub of spying against American citizens, is exposed as thoroughly bankrupt politically. ..."
"... EU is bound to collapse but Britain might be tempted to wait it out, and maybe it is the game in London: not to be the first. The most dynamic destructive work in progress is the Euro that benefit to none of its 18 members (the euro-zones) but Geramny and Nederland. Italy has understood it but is using the refugees crisis to enlarge the contestation to non-euro zone countries (Visegrad group and more). ..."
"... As Nato is the real and only cement in this enlarged un-united Europe, in an epoch of accelerating change (collapse maybe) the famous Wait and see of the Brits has just muted in a slow fox-trot. ..."
"... But the puffed up Brits do not even see this danger and would blithely fall into the arms of the mafiosi from across the pond. ..."
"... Brexit is rebellion against the US imposed world order. London money has gone along and profited from the US imposed order, but the ordinary Brits may not have. They may not know where they are going, but they do know where they do not want to be. ..."
"... ditto... status of colony... isn't that what the globalists, corporations, neo liberals and etc want? get rid of any national identity as it gets in the way of corporations having the freedom to rape and pillage as needed.. ..."
"... Trump has reversed some 70 years of US strategy to gain nothing. It is quite remarkable. Strategic vandalism is a good description. ..."
"... The thing about UK and the EU is the UK is basically the US 51st state and the US is a defacto commonwealth nation. The colonization of Europe by the US was never meant to encompass the UK and the City. As they are basically one and the same. ..."
"... EU could not possibly have been a US/CIA idea as it actually works. Yes it is undemocratic, usurps national aspirations, perverts local economies, coddles oligarchs, and all that. But that does not mean it is a US idea. ..."
"... Single union political aspirations have been around for centuries and in many countries. Dare I suggest that it is actually based on the Soviet Union of peoples and most likely a Leninist or Trotskyist plot!! :)))) ..."
"... What do the City of London, the Vatican and Washington DC have in common? Actually, Jerusalem shares many of the same traits. Bonus points for the most creative euphemism for "usurious bank." ..."
"... From my perspective, Nation-States have not been the loci of power for some time (if they ever really were). The US, with its awesome military might and (former) industrial capabilities has served as the enforcement arm of that usurious supra-national cabal throughout "the American Century." ..."
"... Obtainimg strong mandate Cameron went to Brussels to supposedly negotiate better deal with EU ESPECIALLY for security while in fact he went there trying to bully the shape future EU integration especially in political realm and even more in realm of banking Union and integration and coordination of banking rules, laws and unified controlling authorities, via threatening Brexit which would be a deadly blow to EU propaganda glue that holds together this melting pot of divided as never before nations and never since medieval times united national elites integrated in EU ruling bureaucracy. ..."
"... First it was devastating impact of further EU integration on UK banking as London has become legal under U.K. law illegal in EU, money laundering capital of the world and criminal income is huge part of the revenue of the City , US is second. ..."
"... At the passage of Brexit I believed the purpose to be to allow the City of London (the bankers) unlimited financial freedom, perhaps especially in their entering into agreements with the Chinese. This could not be the case under the original EU rules. It will be interesting to see how this works out. ..."
"... The reality of the brexit which the Tory government is determined to raiload through has been designed by elites to better oppress the hoi polloi and to sell it to the masses it has been marketed as a means of restoring 'white power'. ..."
"... That is really saying something because the current version of the UK is one of the sickest, greed is good and devil take the hindmost societies I have ever experienced -- up there with contemporary israel and the US, 1980's South Africa and by the sound of it (didn't experience it firsthand like the other examples, all down to not existing at the time) 1940's Germany. ..."
"... Brexit is nether the problem or the solution, it was just another distraction to keep the mass occupied, whilst they assist stripped the uk and a large part of the world! ..."
"... Every brexiteer I've asked why they voted for out, begins by saying "For once they had to listen to us" and that's usually followed by "there's too many people here" or "it's the E.Europeans". (My response to the europhiles is that you knew the EU was finished a dozen years ago, when all the Big Issue sellers turned into Romanian women.) UK cities are thick with destitute E.Europeans. ..."
Jul 10, 2018 |
...Hours before Boris Johnson quit his position, Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned from Prime Minister May's cabinet.

On July 6 the British government held a cabinet meeting at Chequers, the private seat of the prime minister. Following the meeting it published a paper (pdf) that took a weird position towards exiting the European Union. If it would be followed, Britain would practically end up with staying in the EU, accepting nearly all its regulations and court decisions, but without any say over what the EU decides. The paper was clearly written by the 'Remain' side. The two top Brexiters in May's cabinet felt cheated and resigned. More are likely to follow.

The majority of the British people who voted to leave the EU must feel duped.

My hunch is that Prime Minister Theresa May was tasked with 'running out the clock' in negotiations with the EU. Then, shortly before the March 2019 date of a 'hard Brexit' would arrive without any agreement with the EU, the powers that be would launch a panic campaign to push the population into a new vote. That vote would end with a victory for the 'Remain' side. The UK would continue to be a member of the European Union.

Shortly before the original Brexit vote in June 2016 MoA headlined: BREXIT - Not Gonna Happen

No matter how the Brexit vote will go, the powers that are will not allow Britain to exit the European Union.
Is that claim still justified?

Maybe Johnson the Brexiter can now launch an inner party coup and push Theresa May out. According to a YouGov poll she lost significant support within her conservative party. Besides the Brexit row she botched a snap election, lost her party's majority in parliament and seems to have no clear concept for anything. It would not be a loss for mankind to see her go.

Boris the clown, who wins within his party on 'likability' and 'shares my political outlook', would then run the UK. A quite amusing thought. Johnson is a man of no principles. While he is currently pretending to hold a pro-Brexit position he would probably run the same plan that May seems to execute: Delay as long as possible, then panic the people into a re-vote, then stay within the EU.

Then again - Boris may do the unexpected.

How do the British people feel about this?

Posted by b on July 9, 2018 at 11:43 AM | Permalink

Mark2 , Jul 9, 2018 12:07:09 PM | 2

Did you notice how quickly th E U sided with the U K over Salisbury ? That was the deal.
Remain in EU and we're back you!
Then again could have been we'l create a false flag you back us and we'll stay , a suttle nuonce.
bevin , Jul 9, 2018 12:21:17 PM | 3
The likelihood is that the blairite faction in the Parliamentary Labour Party-which has no real political differences with the Tories and is fanatically pro EU, as all neo-liberals are- will prop up the May government. Or a Tory government headed by another Remainer, with Blairites in the Cabinet.
This will prevent the General Election which Tories of all parties fear.

There is an excellent piece in the Boston Review on the EU-

Iy makes the point that "The European Union offers the fullest realization of the neoliberal political vision. Its incomplete integration -- with its confusing mix of powers -- is precisely the goal."

It traces the neo-liberal project, designed to prevent democracy from controlling economic policy, back to von Mises and Hayek. Nothing is more mistaken for critics of imperialism than to buy the line that the EU represents internationalism in any sense. The fact that some racists oppose the EU-just as others support it as a 'white" bastion -- is no reason to give an institution which is profoundly and purposefully undemocratic the benefit of the doubt.

John Zelnicker , Jul 9, 2018 12:23:35 PM | 4
@Jeff - #1 - You are correct. There will not be another referendum.

I would add that there is some chance, however small, that on March 29th the British government will tell the EU that they just have no way to meet the requirements of Article 50 and would the EU please allow them to continue as a member of the EU and forget about all the shenanigans of the past 2 years. The EU has said previously that they will accept such a result and allow the UK to continue as a member. The Brexiteers will have a total meltdown, and May will most likely be thrown out of office, but most businesses and many individuals will be quite happy for this whole thing to just go away.

For those interested see which has been following the Brexit chaos since the beginning.

Babyl-on , Jul 9, 2018 12:24:52 PM | 5
Britain - PATHETIC

It is a wondrous sight to see Western [neo]Liberal Democracy crumbling before our eyes. Have a look at the very founders and protectors of "freedom" corrupt to the very marrow of their bones.

In the US Trump, in the UK the Torys the democracies are now openly imperial and openly corrupt. Rule of law - ask the Skripals. Brexit, Russia, Skripals, Russia, junkies and poisons Russians - minority government - ministers resigning right and left deadlines looming no solutions in sight.

Western civilization is based on the Enlightenment and the Enlightenment and all its ideas of "democracy" are failing. Democracy is not a religion, it is not the end of history, it is not sacred and immutable - checks and balances have failed utterly. This sweetly written little essay says it all.

erik , Jul 9, 2018 12:58:47 PM | 13
Look for countries to unilaterally bail from the EU with little or no advance notice. They will simply abrogate and that will trigger an avalanche of others joining in. There are various good economic reasons why they would do that, but I think the groundswell of populism fueled by anger over the open borders cataclysm will be the prime driver.
Red Ryder , Jul 9, 2018 1:12:35 PM | 14
Anything bad that can happen to the UK is well-deserved. The home, the womb of Russophobia, lies and illegal wars, as well as the hub of spying against American citizens, is exposed as thoroughly bankrupt politically.

The current path to chaos is well-trod. Now, we can expect national attention is on the team in Russia in the semi-finals, while the government crumbles and tumbles. But afterward, especially if Kane fails to bring the Cup home? Oh, the chaos. Of course, it will all be Putin and Russia's fault.

UK. Despicable. How long it has taken for folks to realize Theresa May always has been a stalking horse. Highly Likely the UK will stew in its own piss. Put that in their White Hall dossiers, and stamp it "Kremlin Plot".

Al-Pol , Jul 9, 2018 1:19:11 PM | 15
Britain won't be staying in the EU and nor will the EU be accepting May's fantasy ideas for a future relationship giving the UK free trade on everything it needs. There's a remote possibility that a new UK government could begin working on re-joining the EU (Article 49), but there are plenty in Europe who would not let the UK re-join, at least not in the near future.

Friday the 13th is coming soon, scary stuff ?

The "Don't take No for an answer" is rather misleading. Made to vote again ..only after changes to the Treaty. France's vote against the EU Constitution was accepted and when the Dutch also rejected it, it didn't happen.

Charles Michael , Jul 9, 2018 1:41:25 PM | 16
EU is bound to collapse but Britain might be tempted to wait it out, and maybe it is the game in London: not to be the first. The most dynamic destructive work in progress is the Euro that benefit to none of its 18 members (the euro-zones) but Geramny and Nederland. Italy has understood it but is using the refugees crisis to enlarge the contestation to non-euro zone countries (Visegrad group and more).

Now we have this Nato meeting coming and the abomination of Donald meeting Vlad that scares the whole neo-lberals, borgists, russian haters, warmongers.

As Nato is the real and only cement in this enlarged un-united Europe, in an epoch of accelerating change (collapse maybe) the famous Wait and see of the Brits has just muted in a slow fox-trot.

Daniel Good , Jul 9, 2018 1:45:23 PM | 18
Brits, especially the Leave voters, have no real idea what the consequences of leaving the EU are, nor do they care that much. What is uppermost in their minds is they do not want is to be in a union with "losers". Every single country on the Continent is a loser and thus the object of contempt. The only country in Europe that is not a loser (meaning they have never lost a war) is the United Kingdom of Roast Beef and God Save The Queen.

This British loser-phobia also explains the island nation's guttural hatred of Russia, which has bailed out Europe, and so by definition the Brits as well, twice, thereby taking away some of the British luster. (OK the last time around they got a bit of help from their old colonies, the Yanks, but its all the same. Yanks and Brits are the same stock.) As far as EU goes the Brits can leave, no problem. Except that what the Continent would then be faced with was an American armed camp a few miles off shore, not an appealing prospect to say the least. But the puffed up Brits do not even see this danger and would blithely fall into the arms of the mafiosi from across the pond.

b , Jul 9, 2018 2:08:45 PM | 19
Boris Johnson's resignation letter. Well written. Makes the same argument over the Checkers paper that I made above. If Johnson gets 48 back benchers on his side he could launch a vote on no-confidence against May and possibly become PM. The Conservatives in Parliament seem quite upset over all of this.
Peter AU 1 , Jul 9, 2018 2:10:07 PM | 20

Brexit is rebellion against the US imposed world order. London money has gone along and profited from the US imposed order, but the ordinary Brits may not have. They may not know where they are going, but they do know where they do not want to be.

dh , Jul 9, 2018 2:44:44 PM | 22
@20 Not sure who qualifies as an 'ordinary Brit' these days. They come in all shapes and colours. I think the ones who moved to Spain are fairly happy with the EU status quo.
psychohistorian , Jul 9, 2018 2:48:42 PM | 23
Thanks for the posting b

I liked the "We are headed for the status of a colony" comment in the Johnson resignation letter

Getting the puppets to talk about the machinations of empire is a good thing for us but probably not good long term for empire.

No one ever said that evolving to a multi-polar world would be easy. All the ugly that kept the unipolar world together must be exposed as it dies.

ninel , Jul 9, 2018 3:11:03 PM | 29
Allow me to enlighten.

Dominic Raab is the new UK Brexit point-man. The previous guy, Davies, just resigned. But Raab's appointment, I think, points to what Brexit has been about all along -- namely, labour market reform beyond the rest of Europe, and to do this the UK must be free of the European Human Rights council and other protections it provides for workers in the member states.

Here is Raab's 2011 paper on employment standards and Brexit. Have a look.

james , Jul 9, 2018 3:12:22 PM | 30
@23 psychohistorian... ditto... status of colony... isn't that what the globalists, corporations, neo liberals and etc want? get rid of any national identity as it gets in the way of corporations having the freedom to rape and pillage as needed..

it was interesting reading near the end of bjs comments "Over the last few months they have shown how many friends this country has around the world, as 28 governments expelled Russian spies in an unprecedented protest at the attempted assassination of the Skripals." Guilty first - we will prove it later... maybe he really ought to consider rule from Brussels or where ever, if he can't fathom the concept of innocent until proven guilty...

NotBob , Jul 9, 2018 3:42:22 PM | 35
Al-Pol @ 15

The French populace rejected the EU Constitution in 2005 during the Chirac years, and you are correct that after some changes it was accepted under the Sarkozy government.But that happened because it was the Assembly (the parliament, i.e., the political class) that voted on it, not the people. Can't have those deplorable citizens deciding important matters like that, now can we?

Pft , Jul 9, 2018 5:48:32 PM | 51
According to this the EU was a US/CIA creation. Lol?
james , Jul 9, 2018 5:59:35 PM | 52
@51 pft... in so far as the cia work for the financial complex - yeah, probably.. how to create a currency - the eu - that no one has any real control over, to compete with the us$ and yen... makes sense on that level..
Piotr Berman , Jul 9, 2018 6:37:17 PM | 53
@Babyl-on | Jul 9, 2018 12:24:52 PM | 5

Western civilization is based on the Enlightenment and the Enlightenment and all its ideas ...

When we discuss ALL ideas of the Enlightenment, we must remember this:

Wikipedia: "Enlightened absolutism is the theme of an essay by Frederick the Great, who ruled Prussia from 1740 to 1786, defending this system of government.[1]

When the prominent French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire fell out of favor in France, he eagerly accepted Frederick's invitation to live at his palace. He believed that an enlightened monarchy was the only real way for society to advance.

Frederick the Great was an enthusiast of French ideas. Frederick explained: "My principal occupation is to combat ignorance and prejudice ..."

In relatively short time, the List of enlightened despots included almost all absolute monarchs in Europe.

Piotr Berman , Jul 9, 2018 6:37:17 PM | 53 somebody , Jul 9, 2018 6:38:22 PM | 54
51 Much better summary on the CIA and the EU here .

From 2016

The awful truth for the Leave campaign is that the governing establishment of the entire Western world views Brexit as strategic vandalism. Whether fair or not, Brexiteers must answer this reproach. A few such as Lord Owen grasp the scale of the problem. Most seemed blithely unaware until Mr Obama blew into town last week.

And then came Trump - pro Brexit

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has come out in support of Brexit, saying the UK would be "better off" outside of the European Union and lamenting the consequences of migration in the continent.

The billionaire, who secured the backing of Republican voters on a staunchly anti-immigration platform, said that his support for the UK leaving the EU was a personal belief and not a "recommendation".

"I think the migration has been a horrible thing for Europe," Trump told Fox News late on Thursday. "A lot of that was pushed by the EU. I would say that they're better off without it, personally, but I'm not making that as a recommendation. Just my feeling."

And very anti-Merkel

Donald Trump accuses Angela Merkel of making 'catastrophic mistake' on refugees. President-elect tells The Times and Bild that EU has become 'a vehicle for Germany'.

US President-elect Donald Trump said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made a "catastrophic mistake" with a policy that let a wave of more than one million migrants into her country.

In a joint interview with The Times and the German newspaper Bild, Trump also said the European Union had become "a vehicle for Germany" and predicted that more EU member states would vote to leave the bloc as Britain did last June.

"I think she made one very catastrophic mistake, and that was taking all of these illegals," Trump said of Merkel, who in August 2015 decided to keep Germany's borders open for refugees, mostly Muslims, fleeing war zones in the Middle East.

Trump has reversed some 70 years of US strategy to gain nothing. It is quite remarkable. Strategic vandalism is a good description.

Ninel , Jul 9, 2018 6:47:54 PM | 55
Even when the 'light' (read truth about Brexit) is revealed, many here choose to ignore it out of sheer ignorance. For a good description of the MOA comment section, one should consult Plato's Allegory of the Cave. And the 'left' blames external elements for its inaptitude and demise when many it has only itself to blame.
Pft , Jul 9, 2018 7:27:36 PM | 56

Good link, thanks

The thing about UK and the EU is the UK is basically the US 51st state and the US is a defacto commonwealth nation. The colonization of Europe by the US was never meant to encompass the UK and the City. As they are basically one and the same. Its presence in the EU was never really a problem though and was useful in terms of providing a guiding hand, so long as it remained free of the Eurozone. So I am not really sure its a change in strategy. Just another fork in the road.

It remains to be seen how it all works out. Perhaps the UK Brexit is meant to send a message to the other EU states as to the consequences of leaving. One benefit to the US neoliberals might be that UK scraps or at least scales back its NHS due to the economic consequences of a hard Brexit. The 0.1% will be fine at the end of the day and they are the only group that matters . The rest are just pawns on the board.

As for Germany. Immigration in the EU was all about divide and rule and leaving fewer Euros for social programs. All part of the neoliberal blueprint. Divide and rule is an age old tactic perfected by the British to rule the colonies. The EU and Germany being controlled by the Anglo-American ruling elite , and basically occipied by US controlled NATO opened the doors. Reversing this immigration can provide a plausible reason for more terrorism in Europe to empower the EU to become more of a security-police state like US and UK.

On a side note its interesting the head of the ECB and BOE are both former Goldman Sachs employees.

Another related link suggesting the EU also serves a purpose of isolating Russia economically.

uncle tungsten , Jul 9, 2018 7:48:18 PM | 57
@Pft 51

EU could not possibly have been a US/CIA idea as it actually works. Yes it is undemocratic, usurps national aspirations, perverts local economies, coddles oligarchs, and all that. But that does not mean it is a US idea.

Zero Hedge is polishing turds now it seems.

Single union political aspirations have been around for centuries and in many countries. Dare I suggest that it is actually based on the Soviet Union of peoples and most likely a Leninist or Trotskyist plot!! :))))

Peter AU 1 , Jul 9, 2018 7:57:17 PM | 59
The Marshal Plan Copy and past from the linked page.

"The Marshall Plan also established the creation of the Organization for European economic cooperation. It did this in a number of ways:

  • promote co-operation between participating countries and their national production programmes for the reconstruction of Europe,
  • develop intra-European trade by reducing tariffs and other barriers to the expansion of trade,
  • study the feasibility of creating a customs union or free trade area,
  • study multi-lateralisation of payments, and
  • Achieve conditions for better utilisation of labour.

It was arguably through this persistent interlinking of many European countries economic affairs that to not cooperate would simply be too risky.

This provided the basis for European cooperation and this was favoured by many people because cooperation was seen as a fundamental building block in the establishment of long term European Peace."

bevin , Jul 9, 2018 9:25:30 PM | 61

@Piotr Berman@53

"In relatively short time, the List of enlightened despots included almost all absolute monarchs in Europe."

You are right, and that included Catherine the Great for whom Samuel Bentham worked for some years. His brother Jeremy spent some time with him there and was a great admirer of Catherine and Potemkin. He was a key figure in the development of liberal ideology and political economy.

'The Enlightenment' is an historical concept which obscures more than it explains. To suggest that representative democracy's origins lie in this nebulous thing is completely misleading -- the truth is that democracy is as old as community. If anything 'The Enlightenment' movements are the beginning of the current system whereby the trappings of popular government are hung on the reality of a kleptocrats' oligarchy.

Daniel , Jul 9, 2018 9:33:58 PM | 62
Re. Australia: Have you read JOHN PILGER ON A HIDDEN HISTORY OF WOMEN WHO ROSE UP "?" I love that guy even more now.
Daniel , Jul 9, 2018 9:37:25 PM | 63
Just in time for Emperor Trump's arrival in Britain! I do not understand Great Britain's "democracy," (the very concept of an aristocratic House of Lords Peerage makes my head explode... and what's this about the Monarch having the authority to appoint a Prime Minister if he/she doesn't like the one selected?). But doesn't the party with the majority get to anoint the Prime Minister? Wouldn't that be Labour right now if Missy May is shown the door?
Bevin Kacon , Jul 9, 2018 9:45:25 PM | 64
Furthermore, the assertion that the UK will stay in the EU is entirely plausible. I heard, early in the days after the vote, that the govt had not expected it to go the way it did. Plans were made for a show of Brexit but that 'the idea is that everything stays the same' , i.e., no change. Sadly for the UK, the EU will not allow that to happen. In all probability, another vote will indeed be called. Otherwise, it's going to be a disaster for an already divided UK for many, many years to come!

The main problem with Brexit is that it is so complex that neither the officials who were set the task of drafting it knew little more than the Ministers themselves! NOBODY knew what the fuck to do! And they still don't!

There is every chance a Vote of No Confidence is going to be called on May's government and she will finally fall, as she must as she is the most inept PM there has probably ever been!

Bevin Kacon , Jul 9, 2018 9:48:27 PM | 65
@63 Daniel

No, the Tories will still stay in power. A General Election would have to be called and I cannot see May's successor being that brave. Or stupid!

Daniel , Jul 9, 2018 9:54:28 PM | 66
What do the City of London, the Vatican and Washington DC have in common? Actually, Jerusalem shares many of the same traits. Bonus points for the most creative euphemism for "usurious bank."

Are terms such as "The Five Eyes" and "The AZ Empire" 'trumped' by all this nationalistic furor?

From my perspective, Nation-States have not been the loci of power for some time (if they ever really were). The US, with its awesome military might and (former) industrial capabilities has served as the enforcement arm of that usurious supra-national cabal throughout "the American Century."

But really, does anyone here really believe that a New York City conman or the latest British "mophead" is more powerful than the dynastic power of the Rothschilds, Warburgs or Morgans... or even the nouveau riche like the Rockefellers or Carnegies?

These are dynasties so wealthy and powerful that they don't even appear on Forbes lists of "The Richest" and no one dare mention their names when plotting the next global conflagration.

Daniel , Jul 9, 2018 10:20:56 PM | 67
Since David Cameron used Jimmy Cliff's " You Can Get It If You Really Want " for his campaign, Afshin Rattansi's interview with that truly revolutionary artist is not so off topic. And it's well worth 12 minutes to enter a worldview we Westerners rarely live.

I and I say "Ja Mon!"

OK. I can't post Jimmy without " The Harder They Come, " especially as that seems to be the root of most of the comments here.

imo , Jul 9, 2018 10:28:10 PM | 68
@33 -- "...and Western Australia were separate British colonies that all began as penal settlement."

Not entirely correct. Western Australia started as a capitalist investment venture (c. 1828) but suffered chronic labor shortages as slavery was closed down (c. 1833). The colony then resorted to convict imports for a time. Much of the myth about 'criminal' can be re-framed as political prisoners such as the Welsh Chartists (see Chartism in Wales).

Kalen , Jul 9, 2018 11:49:40 PM | 69
One can only be confused if one ignores public and secret reasons while Cameron threatened Brexit vote already in 2015 and went through it in 2016. Officially it was about antiterrorism, security and hence controlling immigration flagship of Tory political campaign that brought them overwhelming electoral win as well as some noises that EU rules and laws stifle economic development and the British lose more in EU payments than they gain.

Obtainimg strong mandate Cameron went to Brussels to supposedly negotiate better deal with EU ESPECIALLY for security while in fact he went there trying to bully the shape future EU integration especially in political realm and even more in realm of banking Union and integration and coordination of banking rules, laws and unified controlling authorities, via threatening Brexit which would be a deadly blow to EU propaganda glue that holds together this melting pot of divided as never before nations and never since medieval times united national elites integrated in EU ruling bureaucracy.

What Cameron was scared of as far as direction of future of EU?

First it was devastating impact of further EU integration on UK banking as London has become legal under U.K. law illegal in EU, money laundering capital of the world and criminal income is huge part of the revenue of the City , US is second.

And second point is future of British monarchy which further integration of EU into superstate would require to be abandoned in UK as elsewhere as states were to loose all even symbolic sovereignty and turn into regions and provinces as in Roman Empire . Needles to say that UK still powerful landed aristocracy want nothing of that sort.

Hence Cameron went to Brussels make special deal for UK and was essentially, with some meaningless cosmetic changes, rebuked into binary decision in EU or out of it no special deal and hence he escalated with calling Brexit vote as a negotiating tool only to increase political pressure to rig elections toward remain if deal reached . In fact as latest scandal revealed results of exit polls were released to stock market betting hedge funds just minutes before polls were closed concluding guess what, that remain campaign won while electoral data in hours showed Brexiters wining simply because to the last moment before closing polls they expected EU to cave in, they did not so they continued pressure by closing openly pro Brexit win.

The pressure continues now while Cameron had to pay political price as he openly advocated staying in EU under phony deal even Tory did not buy, and hence this seeming chaos now fooling people that there is other way but hard Brexit to keep monarchy sovereignty and profits from global money laundering or surrender and humiliation degradation U.K. into EU colony as BJ just said.

Of course which way it goes ordinary Brits will pay but also big crack will widen in EU as national movements will have impact of shattering dreams of quit ascending to EU superstate.

Penelope , Jul 10, 2018 12:35:31 AM | 70
At the passage of Brexit I believed the purpose to be to allow the City of London (the bankers) unlimited financial freedom, perhaps especially in their entering into agreements with the Chinese. This could not be the case under the original EU rules. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

The Chinese, as they are intended to be the regional governor of Asia under the evolving global governance are key to the entire tyrannical plan. The AGW hoax, paid for by Western oligarchs, is the public relations for the UN's Agenda 21, currently being enforced at the local level in many parts of the US.

The Chinese oligarchs are so delighted with its tyrannical land-use provisions that they are actually calling their projects "China's Agenda 21". You may search for it. Exc introductory summary.

Corbett Report interview of Rosa Koire

ben , Jul 10, 2018 1:02:19 AM | 71
@ 62: Thanks for the Pilger article, a good read. There are many today, who would return us all to those days.
Herman J Kweeblefezer , Jul 10, 2018 1:05:09 AM | 72
The reality of the brexit which the Tory government is determined to raiload through has been designed by elites to better oppress the hoi polloi and to sell it to the masses it has been marketed as a means of restoring 'white power'. Bevin & co can whine on about the injustices of the eu for as long as their theoretical view of the world sustains them, but the brexit which will be delivered is based on 'pragmatic realism' developed by a really nasty gang of avaricious lying c**tfaces and will create a society far more unjust, divided and impoverished than the one that currently exists.

That is really saying something because the current version of the UK is one of the sickest, greed is good and devil take the hindmost societies I have ever experienced -- up there with contemporary israel and the US, 1980's South Africa and by the sound of it (didn't experience it firsthand like the other examples, all down to not existing at the time) 1940's Germany.

Jezza was great in the house last night but he didn't call for an immediate general election which would be pretty much SOP for any opposition facing as tattered a government (Seven cabinet 'resignations') as bereft of ideas as the Maybot machine.

The reason he didn't - couldn't in fact, is that the UK left is as divided and dug into their positions as that tory bunch of bastards. Far too many opposition politicians insist that a 'deal' on brexit comes first ahead of sorting out poverty and homelessness, woeful education outcomes (unless you believe wildly juked stats) and the horror show that has been created by three decades of relentless attacks on the health service.

We see it here from the brexiters so convinced of the rightness of their cause they ignore the institutionalised racism that will certainly follow a tory brexit. Or the remoaners who also ignore the unsavory aspects of eu policy to try and render the labour left impotent. Those latter types simply don't give a damn about anything which flows from this debate and division other than killing momentum, they consider even losing the next 5 elections to tories an agreeable sacrifice for ridding the party of Corbyn and co.

Corbyn has recognized the destructive divisiveness of Brexit and tries to ignore it because he holds with fixing the mess so many people are in as being much more important than theoretical arguments which will change nothing for the better regardless of impassioned exhortations by ninnies on both sides of the argument.

The thing which really pisses me off about the lefty brexiters, is that they behave as if it is a now or never situation, when it is anything but. There is nothing to prevent a more united Labour Party who have got their mandate by actually delivering a better life for people rather than irrelevant concepts, returning to sorting out the UK's position in the EU at a later date, ideally at a time when the EU's intransigent support for corporate welfare has run bang smack into a leftist UK Labour government's determination to restore public ownership of natural monopolies (rail, water, power, mail delivery etc).

The lefty brexiters claim the lefty remainers won't allow it, while the lefty remainers claim it is the lefty brexiters clogging the works. In fact it is both gangs of selfish egotistical assholes.

Al-Pol , Jul 10, 2018 1:54:09 AM | 73
NotBob @ 35.
The EU Constitution never happened. The Lisbon Treaty came along a couple of years later and this time round the Irish people voted against it. It got amended and the Irish people accepted it. The French and Dutch (and every other EU) country chose not to "ask the people" and left the decision to the peoples' chosen represtentatives.

The Irish Constitution has a bit in it making it necessary to ask the people before any changes can be made to that Constitution, so every time the EU adds some bits to the EU Treaty that require the Irish to change their own Constitution there's trouble, as those 3 million or so Irish people have the power to scupper anything and everything for the other 500 million EU citizens. Holding a national referendum to make decisions affecting the entire Union doesn't seem to be either fair or democratic. A single EU-wide referendum could be held when there's a major change to the Treaties.

Peter AU 1 , Jul 10, 2018 3:31:38 AM | 75
imo 68

Political correctness is a social disease very similar to syphilis - it fucks with the brain. You really should take precautions if socializing in those circles. Precautionary measures are available at all chemists and most public toilets.

Peter AU 1 , Jul 10, 2018 4:24:50 AM | 76
Correction to my post @75
Should have read - Political/ideological correctness is....
Peter AU 1 , Jul 10, 2018 4:50:46 AM | 77
I click on MoA now and see a pic of Boris the clown hanging from a rope. If the Brits were smart, they would connect that rope to a weather balloon and allow Boris to ascend to the stratosphere and cruise the jet stream.
paul , Jul 10, 2018 4:55:55 AM | 79
The EU is first and foremost a massive attack on democracy. At the same time it attempts to establish technocracy as the mode of government of the future. But right only racists and overly idealistic assholes oppose the EU...
somebody , Jul 10, 2018 5:24:13 AM | 80
Posted by: paul | Jul 10, 2018 4:55:55 AM | 79

"Democracy" only being possible locally? Numbers I posted on another thread:

Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation - population of 3 Billion+

You think EU countries have got a competitive chance if on their own? Or - democracy in Switzerland enables them to decide on their relations with the outside world? Like not being part of the "single market" - they are -including free movement of people - yes you can live and work in Switzerland if you are a EU citizen.

But right only racists and overly idealistic assholes oppose the EU

Maybe because it is a stupid idea?

Mark2 , Jul 10, 2018 5:32:30 AM | 81
Brexit is nether the problem or the solution, it was just another distraction to keep the mass occupied, whilst they assist stripped the uk and a large part of the world! The people we are scared to mention are the true people killing and oppressing us. I thank Daniel@66 for naming them ! Rothchild family ect ect I would add the Rothermere family and Murdoch ! Politics are debated, but history is made on the streets. We need to regain our sense of moral outrage (where did that go ?) there are 70 million displaced people in the world ! It could be. You or I next !
ADKC , Jul 10, 2018 5:33:44 AM | 82
Peter AU 1 @75

I don't read imo@68 as politically/ideologically correct but as a statement of fact. As far as I can see, imo didn't deserve your response.

Peter AU 1 , Jul 10, 2018 5:37:18 AM | 83
Well that's tough shit isn't it.
ADKC , Jul 10, 2018 5:46:23 AM | 84
Peter AU 1 @83

Ignoring imo's 'feelings' what is wrong/objectionable about his posting @68?

Jen , Jul 10, 2018 5:56:25 AM | 85
Peter AU 1 @ 83: I agree with ADKC and IMO. There were convicts transported to the Australian colonies whose crimes can be considered political crimes. The Tolpuddle Martyrs who came to the Sydney colony in the 1830s are one example: they were transported for the crime of demanding an extension of voting rights to all men, among other demands. Such convicts were a small minority though.
Alan , Jul 10, 2018 6:37:23 AM | 88

Boris Johnson is no clown. You should look beyond the (carefully crafted) popular image and see the dangerous fascist lurking in plain sight.

somebody , Jul 10, 2018 6:41:49 AM | 89
Posted by: Pft | Jul 9, 2018 7:27:36 PM | 56

As for Germany. Immigration in the EU was all about divide and rule and leaving fewer Euros for social programs.

"The demonization of Muslim immigration to the EU ...." - fixed it for you.

The stuff about leaving fewer euros for social programmes is propaganda. Social programmes are designed to force people to work - they are pegged below the minimum wage.

In the case of Germany costs for refugees were accounted to the 0.7 percent of GDP Germany is supposed to spend for development aid by the UN, thereby effectively developing Germany instead.

Mark2 , Jul 10, 2018 7:23:05 AM | 90
Alan @ 88
I am in total agreement with you on your comment regarding Boris Johnson ! His childish buffoonery, is a commen system / tactic of a psychopath . It hides a callous disregard for human life , wins gullible friends which the psychopath manipulates to exploit there power and influence! They are very good at scheming there own self interested plan. But (and here's the crunch ) are totally useless at for seeing the consequences of there actions . And no regard for the victim of there actions!!! Do we want that in charge of the nuclear button ?
Mark2 , Jul 10, 2018 7:49:20 AM | 92
Google ---Boris Johnson grenfail tower
ADKC , Jul 10, 2018 8:19:01 AM | 97
Somebody @65

There is nothing wrong/inconsistent with the idea of an interconnected world of sovereign (independent) states. The idea that a treaty or a trade agreement means that a state is no-longer independent is ridiculous. As ridiculous as believing that an individual who purchases a pack of polo mints is no longer free because of the need of a local shop and a manufacturer.

You are basically pushing the idea that there should be no nation states, no borders and all trade free and therefore no need for treaties. From this comes no regulation, a poisoned environment, uncontrolled and rapacious capitalism, no rights for people, no benefits, no protection, just work til' you die and polished off sharpish if you are no longer productive.

I don't object to an EU as a grouping of independent states acting collectively. I do object to an EU that erodes and undermines the nation state, that seeks to remove state leaders and interfere in state elections/policies. The EU that we have is the latter and there is no practical way to reform it to the former.

Stubbs , Jul 10, 2018 8:22:30 AM | 98
@ B. You have too high an opinion of the competence of the main political figures in the UK Governing Party.

Boris Johnson has never been a serious contender for PM. He's good at giving a rousing speech to the Party faithful but that's it. The blue rinses enjoy the titillation of his infidelities but they don't want someone so amoral coming anywhere near their daughters, or representing their principles.

You knew Theresa May had no judgment the first day of her premiership, when she made BoJo her Foreign Secretary. A selection that could kindly be described as risible. He indicated no suitability for the role before his appointment nor has since. Quite the opposite. It was at that decision you knew all was hopeless. Brexit was going to be hopeless. Everything she was going to be involved in was hopeless.

And so it has proved.

The vox pop that I encounter ..... the Remainers are reconciled to Brexit and just want to get on with it. The Brexiteers are sick to death with hearing about it but not seeing anything done. Everyone had made their minds up before the election in 2015. The Referendum campaign was a few weeks of premium entertainment watching the most reviled political figures in the land trying to tear each others' throats out.

Every brexiteer I've asked why they voted for out, begins by saying "For once they had to listen to us" and that's usually followed by "there's too many people here" or "it's the E.Europeans". (My response to the europhiles is that you knew the EU was finished a dozen years ago, when all the Big Issue sellers turned into Romanian women.) UK cities are thick with destitute E.Europeans.

There's a huge disconnect between Parliament (+ media) and the people. A further example of this is the official narrative on the Salisbury poisonings. Ask people in the street and they say "yeah, it was Vlad with the doorknob" and then they crease up laughing. The Govt has no credibility with its "only plausible explanation".

My prediction, since the day BoJo was appointed minister for the exterior, is that the situation is so catastrophic the EU will have to lead us by the hand through the process of brexit. The EU's priority will be the stability of the Euro. They won't want us beggared on their doorstep and as they export 15% of their stuff to us they'll want to keep on doing that. We'll have to have what we're given and be grateful.

The political situation in the UK is so far beyond surreal that a man dragging a piano with a dead horse on it would appear mundane.

Willy2 , Jul 10, 2018 8:28:30 AM | 99
- It doesn't matter who the prime minister is. The UK has already adopted A LOT OF EU regulations/laws and that will make it nearly impossible to perform a "Hard Brexit". The UK still exports A LOT OF stuff to the Eurozone and then it simply has to follow EU regulations, no matter what the opinion of the government is. In that regard, the current EU regulation simply provides a good framework, even for the UK. No matter what one Mrs. May or Mr. Johnson.

- As time goes by the UK can change parts of the EU regulations to what the UK thinks those regulations should be.

- And do I think that Mrs. May and her ministers have drawn that same conclusion.

[Jul 09, 2018] THE ENERGY CLIFF APPROACHES World Oil Gas Discoveries Continue To Decline Zero Hedge Zero Hedge

Jul 09, 2018 |

THE ENERGY CLIFF APPROACHES: World Oil & Gas Discoveries Continue To Decline

by SRSrocco Sun, 07/08/2018 - 11:25 17 SHARES

By the SRSrocco Report ,

As the world continues to burn energy like there is no tomorrow, global oil and gas discoveries fell to another low in 2017. And to make matters worse, world oil investment has dropped 45% from its peak in 2014. If the world oil industry doesn't increase its capital expenditures significantly, we are going to hit the Energy Cliff much sooner than later.

According to Rystad Energy, total global conventional oil and gas discoveries fell to a low of 6.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent (Boe). To arrive at a Boe, Rystad Energy converts natural gas to a barrel of oil equivalent. In 2012, the world discovered 30 billion Boe of oil and gas versus the 6.7 billion Boe last year:

In the article, All-time low for discovered resources in 2017, Rystad reports , it stated the following:

"We haven't seen anything like this since the 1940s," says Sonia Mladá Passos, senior analyst at Rystad Energy. "The discovered volumes averaged at ~550 MMboe per month. The most worrisome is the fact that the reserve replacement ratio in the current year reached only 11% (for oil and gas combined) - compared to over 50% in 2012." According to Rystad's analysis, 2006 was the last year when reserve replacement ratio reached 100%.

The critical information in the quote above is that the world only replaced 11% of its oil and gas consumption last year compared to 50% in 2012. However, the article goes on to say that the last time global oil and gas discoveries were 100% of consumption was back in 2006. So, even at high $100+ oil prices in 2013 and 2014, oil and gas discoveries were only 25% of global consumption.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, global oil capital investment has fallen right at the very time we need it the most. In the EIA's International Energy Outlook 2017, world oil capital investment fell 45% to $316 billion in 2016 versus $578 billion in 2014:

In just ten years (2007-2016), the world oil industry spent $4.1 trillion to maintain and grow production. However, as shown in the first chart, global conventional oil and gas discoveries fell to a new low of 6.7 billion Boe in 2017. So, even though more money is being spent, the world isn't finding much more new oil.

I believe we are going to start running into serious trouble, first in the U.S. Shale Energy Industry, and then globally, within the next 1-3 years. The major global oil companies have been forced to cut capital expenditures to remain profitable and to provide free cash flow. Unfortunately, this will impact oil production in the coming years.

Thus, the world will be facing the Energy Cliff much sooner than later.

Check back for new articles and updates at the SRSrocco Report . Tags Business Finance Environment

Comments Vote up! 6 Vote down! 0

He-He That Tickles Sun, 07/08/2018 - 12:44 Permalink

Guess they better sell what's left really, really expensively.

GoinFawr -> He-He That Tickles Sun, 07/08/2018 - 13:17 Permalink

Yeah tHis article is ridiculous, resident ZH self-purported Mensa members like Tmos' have proven beyond any doubt that 'abiotic oil' replenishes the world's supply of easily accessed hydrocarbons every fifteen minutes or so, regardless of increasing consumption rates; indeed regardless of any veritable facts whatsoever.

ThorAss -> GoinFawr Sun, 07/08/2018 - 15:11 Permalink

Worked by whole life in the oil business. Depletion is real. Abiotic oil replenishment is Magic unicorns dancing on rainbows. Oil won't run out ever, but the energy required to extract the oil will make remaining oil reserves uneconomic at some point.

Zen Xenu -> ThorAss Sun, 07/08/2018 - 19:35 Permalink

Well said. Agreed.

DanDaley -> ThorAss Mon, 07/09/2018 - 06:17 Permalink

Hence Colin Campbell's book The End of Cheap Oil .

ZIRPdiggler -> ThorAss Mon, 07/09/2018 - 06:27 Permalink

It went from the cost of one barrel to extract 100 back in the 19th century, to present day 5 barrels.

Sid Davis -> GoinFawr Sun, 07/08/2018 - 16:12 Permalink

So I guess in your experience, oil wells don't go dry, ever.

But I wonder, why do you think the Saudis pump water into oil wells or the Mexicans pump in Nitrogen?

GoinFawr -> Sid Davis Sun, 07/08/2018 - 18:03 Permalink

"So I guess in your experience, oil wells don't go dry, ever."

indeed, regardless of any veritable facts whatsoever...

Thanks for comin' out!

Shemp 4 Victory -> GoinFawr Sun, 07/08/2018 - 20:33 Permalink

Good sarcasm is an underappreciated art form.

Victor999 -> GoinFawr Mon, 07/09/2018 - 01:21 Permalink

Strange that the oil industry does not agree with you. And it's strange that reserves all over the world are not stable but decreasing. Your Mensa idol is full of shit.

Adahy -> Victor999 Mon, 07/09/2018 - 02:47 Permalink

*whoosh* Right over the head.
I know /s is more difficult to detect with only text but damn, he was pretty obvious in his sarcasm.

ebear -> Adahy Mon, 07/09/2018 - 08:16 Permalink

"...he was pretty obvious in his sarcasm."

Plain as day.

Slomotrainwreck -> GoinFawr Mon, 07/09/2018 - 06:41 Permalink

I was unaware of abiotic oil. Looked it up. Seems like a reverse shale oil scam to me. Not much profit motive to either explore or drill.

I'm out.

[Jul 09, 2018] The crisis of neoliberalism morphed into deep crisis of the US society

Jul 09, 2018 |

The fact that the US is facing a profound crisis, possibly the worst one in its history, is accepted by most observers, except maybe the most delusional ones. Most Americans definitely know that. In fact, if there is one thing upon which both those who supported Trump and those who hate him with a passion can agree on, it would be that his election is a clear proof of a profound crisis (I would argue that the election of Obama before also had, as one of its main causes, the very same systemic crisis). When speaking of this crisis, most people will mention the deindustrialization, the drop in real income, the lack of well-paid jobs, healthcare, crime, immigration, pollution, education, and a myriad of other contributing factors. But of all the aspects of the "American dream", the single most resilient one has been the myth of the US military as "the finest fighting force in history".

anonymous [270] Disclaimer , July 5, 2018 at 12:11 pm GMT

For Americans warfare is killing the other guy in his own country, preferably from afar or above, while making a ton of money in the process.

This is why I don't think there'll be any head-on clash between the US and Russia. It would violate the above principle. American wars are ones of predation, attacking weaker countries when the opportunity presents itself. It's a form of banditry, roving the world in search of the next victim. Parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America are all weak and subject to US whims. That there's a huge mythology attached to US military prowess is just part of the brainwashing that goes on. It's been a winning formula for the US which has avoided the massive casualty rates suffered by other countries. There's always the risk of miscalculation of course but US politics is mostly show biz so it's hard to assess what part of it's warhawk talk is real and what's showboating.

[Jul 06, 2018] A field is creamed by massive infill drilling with horizontal wells that skim the very top of the reservoir. The decline rate is the[n] drastically reduced while the depletion rate is drastically increased.

Jul 06, 2018 |

Michael B. x Ignored says: 07/04/2018 at 7:18 am

A field is creamed by massive infill drilling with horizontal wells that skim the very top of the reservoir. The decline rate is the[n] drastically reduced while the depletion rate is drastically increased. Things will go just great until the water hits those horizontal wells at the top of the reservoir. Then production will drop like a rock.

I assume this is the money quote. These methods comprise the "game changer" that scuttled peak oil predictions circa 2005.

By demurring a prediction as to when the stone might–will!–drop, you're acknowledging the deplorable state of the data. This should give us pause. We might call this the New Peak Oil Reticence.

Let's grant that what you say is true (I'm certainly not qualified to refute it). If you know it (that is, that the rock will drop), then "they" know it, and by "they" I mean those who are in the business of developing these "creaming" methods. They must know it.

So what the fuck are they thinking?

eduard flopinescu x Ignored says: 07/04/2018 at 9:51 am
I think only the big fields offer a cushion, in a way or the other, in the end it all depends a lot on Ghawar. Matt Simmons was right about that.

As I see it in a pyramid scheme if a big player suddenly wants to get out their money it's over.

George Kaplan x Ignored says: 07/04/2018 at 9:59 am
In IOCs they are mostly thinking how can I satisfy my boss and/or the stockholders enough in the next quarterly report to keep my job.

[Jul 06, 2018] The possibility of Seneca cliff in oil production

Jul 06, 2018 |

Ron Patterson x Ignored says: 07/04/2018 at 8:18 pm

No one producing country is looking at the global problem. They are only concerned with their own country and the problems at home. Most are old men who realize that they will be long dead if there is ever a catastrophe. And most, like the contributors to this blog, believe that there will never be a catastrophe. They believe that renewables, or fusion energy, or God, human ingenuity, or something else will save us from any type of collapse.

But the point is, the oil barons of each individual country, are not even remotely concerned with the collapse of civilization as we know it. They believe God, or Allah, or human ingenuity, will simply not allow that to happen.

Michael B x Ignored says: 07/05/2018 at 5:10 am
"And most, like the contributors to this blog, believe that there will never be a catastrophe. They believe that renewables, or fusion energy, or God, human ingenuity, or something else will save us from any type of collapse."

But doesn't that require, like, planning? Plenty of planning?

Ron Patterson x Ignored says: 07/05/2018 at 7:22 am
Of course not. If someone else, or something else, is going to save you, you just sit back and let it happen. You do not need to do anything.
Guym x Ignored says: 07/04/2018 at 8:10 am
I think Dr. Minqi Li put together an exceptionally well researched paper. The only one I have a faintest glimmer of knowledge in is oil. 2021. Give or take a couple of years is a good estimate of when peak oil occurs, based on current findings and technology. Improvements in either would probably only affect the tail of the decline rate. Which, based on the immense overstatement of EIA, and the creaming you mentioned, the tail should have much more of a decline than depicted. I am tending towards 2022 to 2023 as the final peak, due to the little over a year hiatus on the Permian final push due to pipeline and other constraints. We all know 2042 is a bad projection for the US, it will get there as soon as it can. It will get there as soon as it can, because the oil price will be high enough to beg, borrow, or steal to get there. For that reason, all other sources will be staining to get there at the same time. We are in the final stage, I do think.
Ron Patterson x Ignored says: 07/04/2018 at 8:47 am
Yes, I agree with you on Dr. Minqi Li's paper. I am not sure, however, that the Permian will show enough yearly increase to hold off the peak until 2023.

[Jul 06, 2018] Ming Li paper

Notable quotes:
"... I believe due to OPEC massively inflating their URR, and the inaccuracy of the Hubbert method due to the creaming of all giant fields, the expected peak dates here are highly inaccurate. ..."
Jul 06, 2018 |

In the table below I have converted the data Dr. Minqi Li presented in metric tons per year to million barrels per day. Again, this is C+C plus natural gas liquids.

2017 At Peak Year Peak BPD Increase
us 11.47 15.08 2042 3.61
Saudi 11.29 12.17 2030 0.88
Russia 11.13 12.01 2033 0.88
Canada 4.74 7.85 2049 3.11
Iran 4.70 5.40 2039 0.70
Iraq 4.44 6.51 2042 2.07
China 3.S6 4.32 2015
UAE 3.53 4.38 2037 0.84
Kuwait 2.93 3.35 2040 0.42
Brazil 2.87 3.03 2025 0.16
Rest of W 27.13 33.22 2004
Total World 88.10 90.95 2021 2.85

The source for this chart is the same as the table above. I believe due to OPEC massively inflating their URR, and the inaccuracy of the Hubbert method due to the creaming of all giant fields, the expected peak dates here are highly inaccurate.

Well, all except three. The rest of the world did peak in 2004, China did peak in 2015, and the world will peak by 2021 or before. Congratulations to Dr. Minqi Li, the most accurate future peak there is the one that he calculated. Guym x Ignored says: 07/04/2018 at 8:10 am

I think Dr. Minqi Li put together an exceptionally well researched paper. The only one I have a faintest glimmer of knowledge in is oil. 2021. Give or take a couple of years is a good estimate of when peak oil occurs, based on current findings and technology. Improvements in either would probably only affect the tail of the decline rate. Which, based on the immense overstatement of EIA, and the creaming you mentioned, the tail should have much more of a decline than depicted. I am tending towards 2022 to 2023 as the final peak, due to the little over a year hiatus on the Permian final push due to pipeline and other constraints. We all know 2042 is a bad projection for the US, it will get there as soon as it can. It will get there as soon as it can, because the oil price will be high enough to beg, borrow, or steal to get there. For that reason, all other sources will be staining to get there at the same time. We are in the final stage, I do think.

Minqi Li x Ignored says: 07/04/2018 at 9:17 pm

Ron, many thanks for your very informative post about world oil (as always) and your comments on my post.

However, like much of the peak oil community, having missed some of the previous peak oil predictions, now I may err on the conservative side. Many have criticized the EIA projections and OPEC reserves. But again, even with those projections/reserves, the world oil production is still projected to peak in 2021. This suggests that world oil production may indeed peak in the near future. As I promised, I will follow up with part 2 on this.

Regarding China, China's oil consumption growth has re-accelerated as its oil production is in decline. This development may have some major impact on global economy/geopolitics in the coming years. On top of that, China is (or will soon become) the world's largest natural gas importer.

[Jul 04, 2018] World Energy 2018-2050 World Energy Annual Report (Part 1) " Peak Oil Barrel

Jul 04, 2018 |

World cumulative oil production up to 2017 was 192 billion metric tons. The world's remaining recoverable oil resources are estimated to be 276 billion metric tons and ultimately recoverable oil resources are estimated to be 468 billion metric tons. By comparison, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy reports that the world oil reserves at the end of 2017 were 239 billion metric tons.

World oil production is projected to peak at 4,529 million metric tons in 2021.

2017 Production and Peak Production are in million metric tons; Cumulative Production, RRR (remaining recoverable resources or reserves), and URR (ultimately recoverable resources) are in billion metric tons. For Peak Production and Peak Year, regular characters indicate historical peak production and year and italicized blue characters indicate theoretical peak production and year projected by statistical models. Cumulative production up to 2007 is from BGR (2009, Table A 3-2), extended to 2017 using annual production data from BP (2018).

[Jul 04, 2018] Dollar Hegemony

Jul 04, 2018 |
Dollar Hegemony

Henry C K Liu

(Originally published as [US Dollar Hegemony has to go] in AToL on April 11. 2002)

There is an economics-textbook myth that foreign-exchange rates are determined by supply and demand based on market fundamentals. Economics tends to dismiss socio-political factors that shape market fundamentals that affect supply and demand.

The current international finance architecture is based on the US dollar as the dominant reserve currency, which now accounts for 68 percent of global currency reserves, up from 51 percent a decade ago. Yet in 2000, the US share of global exports (US$781.1 billon out of a world total of $6.2 trillion) was only 12.3 percent and its share of global imports ($1.257 trillion out of a world total of $6.65 trillion) was 18.9 percent. World merchandise exports per capita amounted to $1,094 in 2000, while 30 percent of the world's population lived on less than $1 a day, about one-third of per capita export value.

Ever since 1971, when US president Richard Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard (at $35 per ounce) that had been agreed to at the Bretton Woods Conference at the end of World War II, the dollar has been a global monetary instrument that the United States, and only the United States, can produce by fiat. The dollar, now a fiat currency, is at a 16-year trade-weighted high despite record US current-account deficits and the status of the US as the leading debtor nation. The US national debt as of April 4 was $6.021 trillion against a gross domestic product (GDP) of $9 trillion.

World trade is now a game in which the US produces dollars and the rest of the world produces things that dollars can buy. The world's interlinked economies no longer trade to capture a comparative advantage; they compete in exports to capture needed dollars to service dollar-denominated foreign debts and to accumulate dollar reserves to sustain the exchange value of their domestic currencies. To prevent speculative and manipulative attacks on their currencies, the world's central banks must acquire and hold dollar reserves in corresponding amounts to their currencies in circulation. The higher the market pressure to devalue a particular currency, the more dollar reserves its central bank must hold. This creates a built-in support for a strong dollar that in turn forces the world's central banks to acquire and hold more dollar reserves, making it stronger. This phenomenon is known as dollar hegemony, which is created by the geopolitically constructed peculiarity that critical commodities, most notably oil, are denominated in dollars. Everyone accepts dollars because dollars can buy oil. The recycling of petro-dollars is the price the US has extracted from oil-producing countries for US tolerance of the oil-exporting cartel since 1973.

By definition, dollar reserves must be invested in US assets, creating a capital-accounts surplus for the US economy. Even after a year of sharp correction, US stock valuation is still at a 25-year high and trading at a 56 percent premium compared with emerging markets.

The Quantity Theory of Money is clearly at work. US assets are not growing at a pace on par with the growth of the quantity of dollars. US companies still respresent 56 percent of global market capitalization despite recent retrenchment in which entire sectors suffered some 80 percent a fall in value. The cumulative return of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) from 1990 through 2001 was 281 percent, while the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) developed-country index posted a return of only 12.4 percent even without counting Japan. The MSCI emerging-market index posted a mere 7.7 percent return. The US capital-account surplus in turn finances the US trade deficit. Moreover, any asset, regardless of location, that is denominated in dollars is a US asset in essence. When oil is denominated in dollars through US state action and the dollar is a fiat currency, the US essentially owns the world's oil for free. And the more the US prints greenbacks, the higher the price of US assets will rise. Thus a strong-dollar policy gives the US a double win.

Historically, the processes of globalization has always been the result of state action, as opposed to the mere surrender of state sovereignty to market forces. Currency monopoly of course is the most fundamental trade restraint by one single government. Adam Smith published Wealth of Nations in 1776, the year of US independence. By the time the constitution was framed 11 years later, the US founding fathers were deeply influenced by Smith's ideas, which constituted a reasoned abhorrence of trade monopoly and government policy in restricting trade. What Smith abhorred most was a policy known as mercantilism, which was practiced by all the major powers of the time. It is necessary to bear in mind that Smith's notion of the limitation of government action was exclusively related to mercantilist issues of trade restraint. Smith never advocated government tolerance of trade restraint, whether by big business monopolies or by other governments.

A central aim of mercantilism was to ensure that a nation's exports remained higher in value than its imports, the surplus in that era being paid only in specie money (gold-backed as opposed to fiat money). This trade surplus in gold permitted the surplus country, such as England, to invest in more factories to manufacture more for export, thus bringing home more gold. The importing regions, such as the American colonies, not only found the gold reserves backing their currency depleted, causing free-fall devaluation (not unlike that faced today by many emerging-economy currencies), but also wanting in surplus capital for building factories to produce for export. So despite plentiful iron ore in America, only pig iron was exported to England in return for English finished iron goods.

In 1795, when the Americans began finally to wake up to their disadvantaged trade relationship and began to raise European (mostly French and Dutch) capital to start a manufacturing industry, England decreed the Iron Act, forbidding the manufacture of iron goods in America, which caused great dissatisfaction among the prospering colonials. Smith favored an opposite government policy toward promoting domestic economic production and free foreign trade, a policy that came to be known as "laissez faire" (because the English, having nothing to do with such heretical ideas, refuse to give it an English name). Laissez faire, notwithstanding its literal meaning of "leave alone", meant nothing of the sort. It meant an activist government policy to counteract mercantilism. Neo-liberal free-market economists are just bad historians, among their other defective characteristics, when they propagandize "laissez faire" as no government interference in trade affairs.

A strong-dollar policy is in the US national interest because it keeps US inflation low through low-cost imports and it makes US assets expensive for foreign investors. This arrangement, which Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan proudly calls US financial hegemony in congressional testimony, has kept the US economy booming in the face of recurrent financial crises in the rest of the world. It has distorted globalization into a "race to the bottom" process of exploiting the lowest labor costs and the highest environmental abuse worldwide to produce items and produce for export to US markets in a quest for the almighty dollar, which has not been backed by gold since 1971, nor by economic fundamentals for more than a decade. The adverse effect of this type of globalization on the developing economies are obvious. It robs them of the meager fruits of their exports and keeps their domestic economies starved for capital, as all surplus dollars must be reinvested in US treasuries to prevent the collapse of their own domestic currencies.

The adverse effect of this type of globalization on the US economy is also becoming clear. In order to act as consumer of last resort for the whole world, the US economy has been pushed into a debt bubble that thrives on conspicuous consumption and fraudulent accounting. The unsustainable and irrational rise of US equity prices, unsupported by revenue or profit, had merely been a devaluation of the dollar. Ironically, the current fall in US equity prices reflects a trend to an even stronger dollar, as it can buy more deflated shares.

The world economy, through technological progress and non-regulated markets, has entered a stage of overcapacity in which the management of aggregate demand is the obvious solution. Yet we have a situation in which the people producing the goods cannot afford to buy them and the people receiving the profit from goods production cannot consume more of these goods. The size of the US market, large as it is, is insufficient to absorb the continuous growth of the world's new productive power. For the world economy to grow, the whole population of the world needs to be allowed to participate with its fair share of consumption. Yet economic and monetary policy makers continue to view full employment and rising fair wages as the direct cause of inflation, which is deemed a threat to sound money.

The Keynesian starting point is that full employment is the basis of good economics. It is through full employment at fair wages that all other economic inefficiencies can best be handled, through an accommodating monetary policy. Say's Law (supply creates its own demand) turns this principle upside down with its bias toward supply/production. Monetarists in support of Say's Law thus develop a phobia against inflation, claiming unemployment to be a necessary tool for fighting inflation and that in the long run, sound money produces the highest possible employment level. They call that level a "natural" rate of unemployment, the technical term being NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment).

It is hard to see how sound money can ever lead to full employment when unemployment is necessary to maintain sound money. Within limits and within reason, unemployment hurts people and inflation hurts money. And if money exists to serve people, then the choice becomes obvious. Without global full employment, the theory of comparative advantage in world trade is merely Say's Law internationalized.

No single economy can profit for long at the expense of the rest of an interdependent world. There is an urgent need to restructure the global finance architecture to return to exchange rates based on purchasing-power parity, and to reorient the world trading system toward true comparative advantage based on global full employment with rising wages and living standards. The key starting point is to focus on the hegemony of the dollar.

To save the world from the path of impending disaster, we must:

# promote an awareness among policy makers globally that excessive dependence on exports merely to service dollar debt is self-destructive to any economy;

# promote a new global finance architecture away from a dollar hegemony that forces the world to export not only goods but also dollar earnings from trade to the US;

# promote the application of the State Theory of Money (which asserts that the value of money is ultimately backed by a government's authority to levy taxes) to provide needed domestic credit for sound economic development and to free developing economies from the tyranny of dependence on foreign capital;

# restructure international economic relations toward aggregate demand management away from the current overemphasis on predatory supply expansion through redundant competition; and restructure world trade toward true comparative advantage in the context of global full employment and global wage and environmental standards.

This is easier done than imagained. The starting point is for the major exporting nations each to unilaterally require that all its exports be payable only in its currency, so that the global finance architecture will turn into a multi-currency regime overnight. There would be no need for reserve currencies and exchange rates would reflect market fundamentals of world trade.

As for aggregate demand management, Asia leads the world in both overcapacity and underconsumption. It is high time for Asia to realize the potential of its market power. If the people of Asia are to be compensated fairly for their labor, the global economy will see its fastest growth ever.

[Jul 03, 2018] The squealing and consternation coming from the UK indicates that the empire changed course as for neoliberal globalization, and the UK is left out

The USA elite might now want abandoning of GATT and even WTO as it does not like the results. That single fraud on the west has had catastrophically perverse consequences for the coterie of killer's future and all because the designers of GATT had never thought outside the square of economics and failed utterly to grasp the gift of scientific and manufacturing politics.
Notable quotes:
"... The US still depends heavily on oil importation -- it is not "independent" in any manner whatsoever. Here's the most current data while this chart shows importation history since 1980. ..."
"... the only time a biological or economic entity can become energy independent is upon its death when it no longer requires energy for its existence. ..."
"... A big part of the US move into the middle east post WWII was that they needed a strategic reserve for time of war and also they could see US consumption growing far larger than US production. ..."
"... The USA of WAR may have oil independence, but it is temporary. The race is on for release from oil dependency and China intends to win in my view. It is setting ambitious targets to move to electric vehicles and mass transit. That will give it a technology dominance, and perhaps a resource dominance in the EV sphere. We are in the decade of major corporate struggles and defensive maneuverings around China investments in key EV sectors. ..."
"... In ten to twenty years' time the energy story could well be significantly different. The USA and its coterie of killers are still fighting yesterday's war, yesterday's hatred of all things Russian, yesterday's energy monopoly. ..."
"... I don't believe that the USA of WAR has changed or even intends to change the way they play their 'game'. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade set the trajectory for technology transfer, fabrication skills transfer, growth of academic and scientific achievement in 'other' countries (China, Russia etc). Their thoughts in the GATT deal were trade = economics = oligarchy = good. ..."
"... That single fraud on the west has had catastrophically perverse consequences for the coterie of killer's future and all because the designers of GATT had never thought outside the square of economics and failed utterly to grasp the gift of scientific and manufacturing politics. ..."
"... Canada and the gulf monarchies are the only countries with large reserves that are not hostile as yet to the US. As the US no longer is totally reliant on imports to meet its consumption, Saudi's, Bahrain and co are now expendable assets. ..."
Jul 03, 2018 |

karlof1 | Jun 29, 2018 5:51:08 PM | 32

Peter AU 1 @28--

The US still depends heavily on oil importation -- it is not "independent" in any manner whatsoever. Here's the most current data while this chart shows importation history since 1980.

As I've said before, the only time a biological or economic entity can become energy independent is upon its death when it no longer requires energy for its existence.

Peter AU 1 , Jun 29, 2018 6:11:54 PM | 33

karlof1 32

What I am looking at are strategic reserves, not how much oil is currently produced. With shale it now has those reserves and shale oil I think is now at the point where production could quickly ramp up to full self sufficiency if required. Even if the US were producing as much oil as they consumed, they would still be importing crude and exporting refined products.

A big part of the US move into the middle east post WWII was that they needed a strategic reserve for time of war and also they could see US consumption growing far larger than US production.

uncle tungsten , Jun 29, 2018 9:25:02 PM | 41
@Peter AU 1 #28 Thank you for that stimulating post. I just have to respond. And thanks to b and all the commenters here, it is my daily goto post.

The USA of WAR may have oil independence, but it is temporary. The race is on for release from oil dependency and China intends to win in my view. It is setting ambitious targets to move to electric vehicles and mass transit. That will give it a technology dominance, and perhaps a resource dominance in the EV sphere. We are in the decade of major corporate struggles and defensive maneuverings around China investments in key EV sectors.

In ten to twenty years' time the energy story could well be significantly different. The USA and its coterie of killers are still fighting yesterday's war, yesterday's hatred of all things Russian, yesterday's energy monopoly.

I don't believe that the USA of WAR has changed or even intends to change the way they play their 'game'. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade set the trajectory for technology transfer, fabrication skills transfer, growth of academic and scientific achievement in 'other' countries (China, Russia etc). Their thoughts in the GATT deal were trade = economics = oligarchy = good.

That single fraud on the west has had catastrophically perverse consequences for the coterie of killer's future and all because the designers of GATT had never thought outside the square of economics and failed utterly to grasp the gift of scientific and manufacturing politics.

By gross ignorance and foolish under-investment, the USA of WAR and its coterie of killers have eaten their future at their people's expense.

Peter AU 1 , Jun 29, 2018 9:25:04 PM | 42
karlof1 32

This is the chart for US exports of crude and petroleum products.

Peter AU 1 , Jun 30, 2018 4:07:22 AM | 65

Light sweet vs heavy sour. Light means it contains a lot of diesel/petrol. Sweet means low sulphur. Many oils are heavy sour. Canada sand. the stuff they get from that is thick bitumen with high sulpher. The sulpher needs to be removed and the bitumen broken down into light fuels like diesel and petrol.

Canada and the gulf monarchies are the only countries with large reserves that are not hostile as yet to the US. As the US no longer is totally reliant on imports to meet its consumption, Saudi's, Bahrain and co are now expendable assets.

The great game for the US now is control or denial. Access to oil as a strategically critical resource is no longer a factor for the US.

Peter AU 1 , Jun 30, 2018 4:30:22 AM | 67
"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." Karl Rove.

The squealing and consternation coming from the UK indicates that the empire has changed course and the UK is left sitting on its own shit pile.

[Jun 28, 2018] Driving a bit less is maybe a good thing, pensioners and children freezing to death and industry shut down with rolling blackouts is maybe less negotiable.

Jun 28, 2018 |


x Ignored says: 06/25/2018 at 6:18 pm

Fun to look at this analysis, and plug in a one million shortage from North America. Obviously, there would not be a one million drop in Iran, as it would be sold somewhere.

George Kaplan x Ignored says: 06/26/2018 at 12:41 am
We might be seeing similar articles about gas over the next couple of years. Driving a bit less is maybe a good thing, pensioners and children freezing to death and industry shut down with rolling blackouts is maybe less negotiable.
Watcher x Ignored says: 06/26/2018 at 12:58 am
Suppose there is too little oil and the price doesn't change. Producing countries will be sure their own countries have a sufficient amount so regardless of price, that oil isn't leaving the country. It stays right there for consumption. External price is meaningless to that country, as it should be.

There are countries that produce about what they consume. Mexico is one. Argentina. Their oil isn't going anywhere. A higher price elsewhere tries to get it exported? Clearly the govt will stop anything like that. Just as the US did with its export ban in the 70s. Price doesn't matter if bans are in place.

Oh, and another annoying thing in that article. Something like . . . if supply shrinks, only "demand destruction" can avoid some sort of catastrophe. This is absurd. Demand is not destroyed. The desire for oil will grow with population. The population demands oil. It is consumption that is destroyed by lack of supply. Can't consume what doesn't exist.

Besides which, if some level of "grim" is approached, then some decision is going to be made to liberate that Orinoco heavy from the horrible popularly elected government that controls it. As I noted before, there is a large ethnic Russian population in Venezuela. The 1917 revolution sent many people there, fleeing confiscation. Liberation may not go smoothly.

George Kaplan x Ignored says: 06/26/2018 at 2:28 am
Mexico doesn't use what it produces, it doesn't have the refining capacity – it exports crude and imports products.
Invading Venezuela wouldn't necessarily stop the decline in production – their equipment and wells are falling apart, to get back to where they were a couple of years ago would require a five year occupation, probably with forced labour (or really high wages), and the investment money all coming from the invading country, with no net returns for longer than that.
Demand is usually defined with some relation to price, not assuming a commodity is free.
Eulenspiegel x Ignored says: 06/26/2018 at 3:47 am
If you would pay a tenth of the wage of an oil redneck in Texas, there would be long queues before the recruiting offices.

Forced labour is no good idea – especially when handling expensive equipment. Pay a good local! wage, and you'll have enough people.

You'll have to import foreign workforce, too, to rebuild this mess to modern standard. So billions will be needed before the oil starts flowing again.

[Jun 27, 2018] Are we close to plato oil situation, when all efforts to raise production fail?

Notable quotes:
"... tier plays that have been a bust. With the seismic and visualisation technology improvements the E&Ps should know better where and where not to drill. They seem to be more selective with falling wildcat numbers (and that is not much of a function of price that I can see as it has been happening since 2010) and yet the commercial discovery rates are staying fairly low. I can only interpret that as indicating that there just isn't that much left. With Rystad indicating 6 to 8% decline rates in mature fields, and rising, and few new prospects how can there not be a peak? ..."
"... Saudi ministers spout out any thing that comes to mind to support flip-flop policies and their feud with Iran seems to be bubbling in the background of a lot that's going on; every year Iran and/or Iraq say they have a new plan and target for higher production, which is 100% guaranteed not to be met even remotely. ..."
Jun 27, 2018 |

George Kaplan x Ignored says: 06/27/2018 at 12:19 am

I think if the world economy starts to drop, which is overdue and looking increasingly likely every time Trump opens his mouth, and keeps the oil price down then it's likely we'll be in a slow but accelerating decline. That might be a good thing – the further the peak is pushed out the steeper the decline when it comes.

What has surprised my most recently has been the fall in discoveries for oil and, maybe more so, gas, and with that the number of new fron tier plays that have been a bust. With the seismic and visualisation technology improvements the E&Ps should know better where and where not to drill. They seem to be more selective with falling wildcat numbers (and that is not much of a function of price that I can see as it has been happening since 2010) and yet the commercial discovery rates are staying fairly low. I can only interpret that as indicating that there just isn't that much left. With Rystad indicating 6 to 8% decline rates in mature fields, and rising, and few new prospects how can there not be a peak?

The oil drop might have been more expected than the gas, and was predicted by some when peak oil was first mentioned, I think gas less so, but perhaps the price has had a bigger effect there. Whatever the cause many countries have been banking on ever rising supplies, either by pipeline or LNG, that might not be forthcoming.

Having said that simple economic arguments rarely seem to work as predicted, oil supplies would have peaked well before now without, mostly non-proftable, LTO; Venezuela production should be rising not a basket case; Saudi ministers spout out any thing that comes to mind to support flip-flop policies and their feud with Iran seems to be bubbling in the background of a lot that's going on; every year Iran and/or Iraq say they have a new plan and target for higher production, which is 100% guaranteed not to be met even remotely.

At the moment the traders don't seem certain which way to turn – falling/rising supplies, short/long term demand rise/fall – you can see why they tend to fixate on US crude stocks, everything else is too complicated. The next few Wednesday/Thursday trading patterns will be interesting.

(ps if anything highlights the state of the oil industry at the moment it's that Fram, a two well, eight year life-cycle, gas condensate tie-back with about 10 mmboe reserves, has been the main headline news on at least four of the trade magazines this week.)

[Jun 27, 2018] GoM First Quarter 2018, Production Summary " Peak Oil Barrel

Jun 27, 2018 |

Guym x Ignored says: 06/27/2018 at 7:49 am

A little short by over 2 million a day. Perry has to know the Permian is on a hiatus for at least a year. That's probably over a million. Iran push is for another million. Yeah, that's a little short. Idiocy reigns. Russia just called for tariffs against the US. Any assistance from Russia ain't gonna happen.

The slow motion train wreck in progress. No one knows why the driver of the Lower for Longer Train has picked up speed down the curving stretch .

Kolbeinh x Ignored says: 06/27/2018 at 8:51 am
Let us have fun now, because I am not sure the chaos at the station coming further down the stretch somewhere is equally funny.
Guym x Ignored says: 06/27/2018 at 9:17 am
Ok, I'll forgo the train wreck series. Yeah, it's serious. So was the ridiculous pricing we've had for the past four years, and no one but the people who relied on oil income complained. There was not enough for capex to get new oil. The trainweck happened already.

[Jun 27, 2018] Bloomberg cheerleading: U.S. oil production is booming at record levels, and U.S. oil exports have also reached new highs -- 3 million barrels a day in the last week. OK, but the US exported 3 million barrels per day and imported 8.4 million barrels per day

Jun 27, 2018 |

Ron Patterson x Ignored says: 06/27/2018 at 3:44 pm

US oil exports boom to record level, surpassing most OPEC nations

U.S. oil production is booming at record levels, and U.S. oil exports have also reached new highs -- 3 million barrels a day in the last week, according to government data.
Those exports are more than most OPEC countries can produce each day and only lag two OPEC countries, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, in terms of exports.

And if you read far enough down in that article they do mention imports, as if they hardly matter.

As U.S. production has grown, U.S. imports have decreased. The U.S. imported a relatively high 8.4 million barrels per day last week.

Okay, the US exported 3 million barrels per day and imported 8.4 million barrels per day. Yet the headline says the US exported more oil than most OPEC countries. Is this Orwellian Newspeak?

Guym x Ignored says: 06/27/2018 at 4:31 pm
We all agree that 2+ 2 = 5, but what we don't know is which one belongs to the thought police. I agree the Permian will produce 1.3 million this year, just take the rat cage off my head.
Hickory x Ignored says: 06/27/2018 at 4:35 pm
"the US exported 3 million barrels per day and imported 8.4 million barrels per day. Yet the headline says the US exported more oil than most OPEC countries. Is this Orwellian Newspeak?"

I think we can call it 'trump math'

[Jun 26, 2018] There will be no increase in the amount of oil produced by OPEC this year

Jun 26, 2018 |

karlof1 | Jun 26, 2018 4:25:16 PM | 11

CarlD @9 Et al--

At the just concluded OPEC meeting, Iran, Iraq and Venezuela were against any increase in extraction, while the Saudis wanted an increase. What resulted is detailed in this article . Moneygraph:

"... OPEC does not need to change its output deal since the group had already cut supply by much more than it had agreed. What Zanganeh offered was for OPEC and Russia to pump back up to decrease the current cuts to the initial 1.176 million barrels per day (bpd).

"Output in May 2018 was actually down by 1.9 million, somehow 62 percent or 724,000 bpd more than what was agreed upon in 2016."

The upshot is an increase will occur but no increase will occur--understand? The extraction amount agreed to in 2016 remains the amount OPEC will extract. There will be no increase in that amount this year.

[Jun 26, 2018] Neoliberal elites now are morally culturally bankrupt and serve outmoded gods whose future is annihilation- similar situation that had befallen pompous deluded aristocrats in the 18th-19th

Jun 26, 2018 |

Bardon Kaldian , June 25, 2018 at 7:05 pm GMT


If Israel and Jewish Power killed JFK it matters very much. If by a magic wand I could make people believe that Israel and Jewish Power were behind JFK assassination it would be much easier to stop and undo all those things that you have listed:

This is simply wrong. Basically, it's the Joo (or any other) conspiracy, according to this world-view.

The crucial mistake virtually all conspiracy- theories minded people make is that they try to pin-point a clearly defined group (mostly religious, ethnic, racial,..) as the source of major socio-cultural changes, and frequently it's Jews (sometimes masons or something similar).

And this is a major misfire, because no such group exists. There is no causal connection between any ethnicity/race/ & great upheavals in the West (and in the US) in past 3-4 decades, especially re immigration debates, influx of culturally & racially foreign and inimical masses, disintegration of family & denigration of national loyalties etc. To think that a group (or groups), which is relatively easy to identify, can be the source of such monumental upheavals bespeaks of historical illiteracy.

There was no ethnic nor ideological group of people behind such shattering revolutions & world-view changes like transition from Roman republic to Imperial Rome, Protestant Reformation, Crusades, formation of national monarchies, Enlightenment, collapse of "divine rights" of kings, imperialist expansion of European powers, national awakening in the 19th C, WW1 and WW2, Not Jews, not masons, not Illuminati, not Rosicrucians, not some occult brotherhood residing in the Himalayas.

Simply, Western civilization has come to a dead end -as it was the continuity of the 18th C Enlightenment- and we are witnessing the processes of further decay, encapsulated in famous hypothetical question ascribed to Lenin: " Are the forces which propel us to greatness the same that will, transformed by mutations of History, eventually lead to our collapse ?"

A man who, despite his shortcomings & delusions about the role of technology, various national cultures and their dominant currents, understood this better than most was Oswald Spengler. The Western civilizational matrix is old and tired. And this is the root of the Western decline. That what plagues the West & the US the most (race replacement, PC "liberal" ideological muzzle, hedonist emptiness & biological collapse manifested in infertility, pathological altruism, lunatic ideological fashions like n-th wave of feminism, media aggression promoting "diversity" & homosexualism- as different from homosexuality, self-hatred of European & Western culture .)-this is as present, although a bit modified, in Italy, Spain, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, Switzerland,.. as in the US. And in these countries Jewish presence in the media & the overall life is negligible or non-existent.

Although ruling elites differ in these countries, they are a mixture of hereditary aristocracy, established bourgeois families & plutocratic oligarchs. These groups have, historically, served their countries. Now, they are morally & culturally bankrupt and serve outmoded gods whose future is annihilation- similar situation that had befallen pompous & deluded aristocrats in the 18th-19th C or imperialist jingoists in the 20th.

The failure of nerve that comes with exhausted & geriatric social-cultural matrix is to blame, not some group conspiracy.

But, the societal-cultural matrix is exhausted, not the people.
Our flaw is linear extrapolation of current events which leads to paralyzing pessimist fatalism. We should know from history this is a fatal mistake. Just compare Europe in 1930 (cars, planes, fascism, communism, cubism, quantum mechanics, relativity, psychoanalysis, radio, tanks, films, ..) and during 1900 (technologically, scientifically, ideologically and artistically more or less the same as 1880).

So, we should not give up hope, and some of us who are obsessed with Jews, should give up this tired old chestnut. If all of US Jewish ethno-nationalists were booted to Israel, life would be somewhat easier for Euro-Americans in some respects, but not essentially different. Blacks would remain blacks, PC muzzle would remain PC muzzle, dopeheads would remain dopeheads, Pentagon would remain Pentagon,

[Jun 22, 2018] Mexico Readies for Revolt Against Neoliberalism

Notable quotes:
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
"... Michael J. Ard is a former deputy national intelligence officer for the Western Hemisphere and the author of ..."
"... ." He teaches international relations at Rice University's Master of Global Affairs program. ..."
Jun 22, 2018 |

Like a Dos Equis ad, Mexico is "keeping it interesante ." On July 1, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the veteran left-wing politician known as AMLO, will likely win Mexico's presidential election , to the horror of policy analysts, U.S. government officials, and the Mexican business community. As head of the upstart National Regeneration Movement (MORENA, the Spanish acronym, also means "dark skin"), AMLO pledges to make Mexico self-sufficient on food, halt foreign investment in the oil industry, and grant amnesty to drug traffickers. AMLO hates the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) -- although he's promised to stay in it for now -- and "the Wall" even more.

Washington's days of having a predictable and compliant partner in Mexico may be over.

This election is likely to radically transform Mexican politics. MORENA is surging in the polls and may give AMLO a strong legislative bloc. Nationalist-minded legislators from other parties could also defect to his agenda. That would cause a major Mexican political realignment, under which for the next six years it could be governed by a self-described "revolutionary nationalist" ruling coalition. It makes sense: Mexico's neoliberal era had to end sooner or later. AMLO's longtime critique of an unfair economy and a complacent and unresponsive political system has finally resonated.

What accounts for this sudden turnaround? Several factors have aligned in AMLO's favor. Start with AMLO's opponents, who, in a time of change, represent continuity, splitting the neoliberal vote in Mexico's "winner-take-all" system. The conservative National Action Party (PAN), his strongest competitor, diluted its solid brand by running in coalition with two leftist parties. The ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) selected a well-qualified former finance minister who is out of his depth as a campaigner. That's left the once-powerful PRI mailing this campaign in, and AMLO siphoning up its traditional voters.

A Destitute Mexico: Is That What We Want? Why We Want Immigrants Who Add Value

Insecurity and corruption, according to polls , are the top issues for Mexican voters, and on these AMLO scores well. Especially on managing corruption and crime, Mexico's political elite have appeared notoriously inept. The former head of the state oil company PEMEX, a close ally of President Enrique Peña Nieto, has been credibly accused of taking up to $10 million in bribes to approve contracts from the corrupt Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. Several governors have been indicted for racketeering and graft; one even went on the lam and was arrested in Guatemala. Recently, Mexico's 12-year campaign to corral drug trafficking organizations fell apart, and violence skyrocketed. Twenty-eight thousand Mexicans were murdered last year, and political candidates are being physically attacked. Meanwhile, drug trafficking gangs ("cartels") are placing parts of the country off limits.

Then there's President Trump, who has treated Mexico as a problem and not as a partner by insisting that it fund his humiliating border wall. When asked in 2015 by Wall Street Journal editors if he thought the U.S. should promote stability and economic growth in Mexico, he replied, "I don't care about Mexico honestly. I really don't care about Mexico." Trump has bolstered AMLO's long-held view that Mexico has relied on the United States for too long. On the campaign trail, AMLO has vowed to put Trump "in his place."

Still, these more immediate causes don't entirely explain AMLO's impending success. At a deeper level, AMLO seems to be Mexico's answer to Samuel Huntington's key "who are we?" question on national identity. AMLO's MORENA explicitly seeks to revive the abandoned ideals of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920): anti-imperialism, defense of national resources, equality, and the protection of peasant rights. Tellingly, AMLO cites as his heroes two successful presidents who propelled Mexico forward: Benito Juarez, the black-clad Zapotec Indian who defeated the French-backed 19th-century "empire," and Lazaro Cardenas, the former revolutionary general who nationalized the oil industry and built the modern Mexican state.

Despite his populism, AMLO hasn't always been an outsider. He started his political career during the 1980s, when the PRI was still was Mexico's governing party. But he soon saw the changes happening in his rural native state of Tabasco, when the oil boom pushed out the farming and fishing industry. AMLO dissented from the PRI's decision to liberalize the economy and joined the opposition in 1988.

Led by Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who was president from 1988 to 1994, the country embarked on a strict neoliberal development path and internationalist agenda, reversing its program of statist economics and authoritarian governance. Its ruling politicians sold state industries, embraced market reforms, let the peso float, and joined the North American Free Trade Agreement. Over the last several years, Mexico City has even permitted greater American involvement in its war against drug traffickers. Under Peña Nieto, Mexico finally allowed its oil industry to permit foreign investment.

In truth, these reforms worked well enough: Mexico democratized and developed into a solidly middle-income country with steady economic growth. Net immigration into the United States has come to a halt. Security issues were messy, but unlikely to destabilize the country.

These reforms represented a big win for Washington. If American intervention was needed for the occasional peso crisis or drug trafficker menace, we were happy to oblige. Mexico made a difficult partner at times, but on the policy side, it was where Washington wanted it to be.

But the cost of these changes may have been Mexico's identity, its sense of self. Returning to Huntington, his "The Clash of Civilizations?" article described Mexico as a state "torn" between its economic future and political and cultural past. After a top advisor to President Salinas described the sweeping changes the government was making, Huntington remarked, "It seems to me that basically you want to change Mexico from a Latin American country into a North American country." Salinas looked at him with surprise and exclaimed: "Exactly! That's precisely what we are trying to do, but of course we could never say so publicly."

AMLO and his followers have brooded about these radical changes for years. To this day, he refers to the arch-neoliberal Salinas simply as El Innombrable -- he that cannot be named. Neoliberalism launched AMLO not just on a political career but on a personal crusade to bring the country back to its former ideals.

When AMLO won the Mexico City mayorship in 2000, he built up a national political base and became a burr in the saddle of President Vicente Fox, who had embraced the liberal reforms of the formerly ruling PRI. AMLO criticized Fox relentlessly, and in retaliation, Fox attempted to have him legally prohibited from running for president in 2006.

This clumsy effort failed, giving AMLO a boost. But he narrowly lost the contest to the PAN's Felipe Calderon, whose campaign linked AMLO with Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez. Embittered in defeat, AMLO immediately claimed the voting was rigged against him. AMLO and his raucous followers held protests for months and even formed a parallel government. He may have lost in 2006, but he solidified his position as the leader of Mexico's alternative left.

AMLO's anti-system stance has given weight to the claim that he'd be another Chavez. The comparison seems invidious, as the late comandante of Venezuela, an avowed Marxist and coup plotter, crushed democratic institutions, set up a socialist economy, and in general drove what had been a prosperous South American country into the ground. AMLO, an authentic democrat, appears less megalomaniacal and more rules-focused, more the romantic reactionary than the revolutionary radical.

Still, many of the same forces that propelled Chavez are driving AMLO now. Like Chavez, AMLO is coming to power after a period of neoliberal reform and perceived intractable corruption. Like Chavez, AMLO enjoys an almost mystical bond with his nation's poorer classes. And very much like Chavez, AMLO is instinctively, but probably not irreversibly, anti-American in outlook.

How these characteristics will play out with AMLO in power is hard to predict. The two main parties won't be behind him, but many of their followers might. All of those alienated by neoliberalism, the perceived kowtowing to Washington, the surrender of economic resources to foreign companies and the free market, will flock to his banner. It is remarkable how some former members of the right-of-center National Action Party and the PRI have backed his campaign.

Some of AMLO's policy proposals seem less the stuff of hard leftism than nostalgic nationalism. He focuses heavily on national development for industry and agriculture aimed at self-reliance and reducing imports. He proposes holding referendums on the enacted legislation, a move to broaden democracy, which would require constitutional reform. He seeks to raise the minimum wage, but refreshingly pledges "no new taxes."

AMLO loves to wax nostalgic about Mexico's strong state traditions and will almost certainly attempt to restore the waning power of the Mexican presidency as an anti-corruption pulpit. In the tradition of newly inaugurated Mexican presidents, he'll probably look to prosecute a node of corruption in Mexican society: a prominent businessman or politician, rather than a labor union like his predecessors.

Much of the progress the United States has made with Mexico on security cooperation will probably be jeopardized. It's hard to believe that AMLO will endorse the close relations that the DEA, the Pentagon, and the intelligence community have forged with their Mexican counterparts in the war on drugs. The extradition of the notorious drug kingpin Joaquin el Chapo Guzman to the U.S. in 2017 will probably be the high watermark in the relationship. It is doubtful that AMLO will permit more high-profile extraditions. President Trump's disdain for a close relationship that has taken us decades to build may come back to haunt us.

But a poor relationship between Washington and Mexico City doesn't have to be inevitable. Despite the rhetoric, the flamboyant American billionaire has much in common with the austere Mexican populist. Both countries have too many common interests to go down separate paths. The question is: does AMLO have to build the bomb to get Trump to care about Mexico?

Michael J. Ard is a former deputy national intelligence officer for the Western Hemisphere and the author of "An Eternal Struggle: The Role of the National Action Party in Mexico's Democratic Transition ." He teaches international relations at Rice University's Master of Global Affairs program.

Youknowho June 21, 2018 at 7:30 am

Another diplomatic triumph of Trump

And just because they are similar do not expect that they might agree. Expect them to antagonize each other to play to their bases.

Carlos , says: June 21, 2018 at 10:52 am
That's just the thing, AMLO isn't "an authentic democrat." He founded MORENA so he could keep his presidential aspirations going; he's indistinguishable from the party. After losing in 2006, he notoriously said "to hell with institutions." His followers won't admit this, but his platform is as diluted as the rest: he's taken in suspects of corruption and has allied himself with both a very "conservative" party (the small, evangelical PES) and Mexico's hard leftists.
Hibernian , says: June 21, 2018 at 9:20 pm
"Washington's days of having a predictable and compliant partner in Mexico may be over."

What about Mexico's days of having a predictable and compliant partner in Washington?

[Jun 21, 2018] To be more precise, after some reflection, what I fear is more stagflation. A rare historic incidence which combines inflation with negative economic growth.

Jun 15, 2018 |

George Kaplan , 06/15/2018 at 5:49 am

Maybe the world economy will be so far in the tank by 2020 we'll be seeing general deflation amid low demand for fossil fuels.
Kolbeinh , 06/15/2018 at 6:06 am
There sure seems to be a lot of factors pointing to a rather hard landing for this long business cycle (10 years is a really long boom period). The central banks have a tendency to print money when things go wrong; or use the low interest weapon if they have it. Where all this will end up is difficult to predict just because of how complex it is.
Kolbeinh , 06/16/2018 at 11:21 am
To be more precise, after some reflection, what I fear is more stagflation. A rare historic incidence which combines inflation with negative economic growth. That is what happens when pouring money into an economy with scarce resources where oil is one of them. What is coming is typically not like 2008-09 just because black swans are everywhere, and higher inflation is the surprise coming forward in my opinion. Prices for fossil fuels will stay pretty high in such a scenario, e.g. with the decline rates for oil overall rising steadily. Which I think is a good thing due to the energy transition that has to happen. I think it is realistic that we can come up with a halfway of a solution for our energy problems and that it is good enough to secure a decent standard of living (or maybe halfway decent or okish ;-)) long into the future. But not an affluent one and it will be highly country specific. Unless some kind of technology breakthrough is coming, but that is certainly a long time project.
DrTSkoul , 06/15/2018 at 10:00 am
At the same time, a lot of shipers are investing in two fuel engines (nat gas and fuel oil) to comply with sulfur rules

[Jun 21, 2018] There is a narrative that oil demand will soon begin dropping due to widespread use of EV.

Jun 21, 2018 |

shallow sand x Ignored says: 06/18/2018 at 2:36 pm

There is a narrative that oil demand will soon begin dropping due to widespread use of EV.

1 million EV just replaces 14,000 BOPD of demand. Conservatively assuming those one million EV require $40K per unit of CAPEX, just to replace 14,000 BOPD of demand took $40 billion of CAPEX.

Likewise, to replace 1.4 million BOPD of demand via EV would take $4 trillion of CAPEX.

Worldwide demand has been growing somewhere between 1.2-2.0 million BOPD annually, depending on who one believes.

See where I am going with this? How do the EV disruption proponents explain away the massive CAPEX required just to cause oil demand to flatten, let alone render it near obsolete?

I'd like to see some explanation with numbers.

GoneFishing x Ignored says: 06/18/2018 at 3:28 pm
The average US car gets 25 mpg and travels 12,500 miles per year for 500 gallons of gasoline per year.

Refineries in the US produce 20 gallons of gasoline per barrel of oil.

That gives 69,000 BOPD per day reduction per million EV cars in the US and 110,000 BOPD oil equivalent energy due to the multiple energies put into gasoline and distillate production.

At current rates of EV sales growth the US will reach 50 million EV cars by 2031. That should put he US to being mostly independent of external oil for gasoline by mid 2030's and

It's tough to predict a complete transition in the US since cars as a service could greatly reduce the numbers of cars needed, especially in dense population areas. That would mean a much earlier transition.

If US ICE cars trend upward in mpg during that time, the demand for oil could be quite low by the early 2030's.
All depends on continuation of trends, for which the auto manufacturers seem to be on board. Just have to get the public charging infrastructure out ahead of the trend.

Here is an interesting article, from a couple of years ago, showing the trend and sales at that time.

Dennis Coyne x Ignored says: 06/18/2018 at 6:04 pm
Shallow sand,

Cars get replaced all the time and the cost of new EVs will fall over time to the same price as ICEV, so it's simply a matter of replacing the ICEV currently sold with EVs over time, in addition cars can get better gas mileage (50 MPG in a Prius vs 35 MPG in a Toyota Corolla or 25 MPG in a Camry.) There's also plug in hybrids like the Honda Clarity (47 miles batttery range) or Prius Prime(25 mile range on battery) these have an ICE for when the battery is used up.

If oil prices rise in the short term to over $100/b (probably around 2022 to 2030), there will be demand for other types of transport besides a pure ICEV.

EVs and plugin hybrids will become cheaper as manufacturing is scaled up due to economies of scale.

[Jun 21, 2018] Strange consumption growth in Eastern Europe

Jun 21, 2018 |

Watcher, 06/17/2018 at 11:37 pm

Got time to go thru the bible more carefully.

Surprising stuff. Huge oil consumption growth rates in Eastern Europe. 8+% growth %s in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Something weird going on because Romania and Slovenia didn't show the same thing.

Western Africa grew consumption of oil 13% last year. I'll add a !!!!. East Africa about 6%. Both are over 600K bpd, so that growth rate is not on tiny burn.

World oil consumption growth 1.8%.

(population in africa . . . . . .)

Ktoś, 06/18/2018 at 8:44 am

Poland's official oil consumption growth is caused by better fighting with illegal, and unregistered fuel imports since mid 2016. When taxes are 50% of fuel price, there is big incentive for illegal activities. Real oil consumption probably didn't increase much.
Strummer, 06/18/2018 at 2:00 pm
Poland, Czech and Slovakia are going through a huge economic boom now (I live in Slovakia and party in Czech Republic). It's visible everywhere, there wasn't this much spending and employment ever in the last 28 years
Watcher, 06/19/2018 at 12:04 am
South Africa grew at 0.6%.

Middle Africa is listed as growing at 0.4%. North Africa is divided up Egypt, Morocco and "Other North Africa". Other was +4.7% consumption growth.

It's gotta be Nigeria west and Angola east.

Watcher, 06/18/2018 at 2:43 pm

Oil consumption 2017 increased 1.8% from 2016.

Oil price 2016 about $41/b. Oil price 2017 about $55/b.


Dennis Coyne, 06/19/2018 at 6:41 am
Oil demand is mostly determined by GDP growth, oil price has a minor influence on short term demand. World GDP grew by about 5% from 2016 to 2017 according to the IMF, so oil demand increased by 1.8% possibly less than one would expect. Real GDP (at market exchange rates) grew by about 3% in 2017.

[Jun 21, 2018] The idea behind peak demand fallacy is simply that oil supply may at some point become relatively abundant relative to demand in the future (date unknown).

Jun 21, 2018 |

Dennis Coyne x Ignored says: 06/18/2018 at 5:54 pm

Hi George,

The idea behind peak demand is simply that oil supply may at some point become relatively abundant relative to demand in the future (date unknown). When and if that occurs, OPEC may become worried that their oil resources will never be used and will begin to fight for market share by increasing production and driving down the price of oil to try to spur demand. That is the theory, I think we are probably 20 to 40 years from reaching that point for conventional oil.

Oil still contributes quite a bit to carbon emissions and while I agree coal use needs to be reduced (as carbon emissions per unit of exergy is higher for coal than oil), I would think it may be possible to work on reducing both coal and oil use at the same time. Using electric rail combined with electric trucks, cars and busses could reduce quite a bit of carbon emissions from land transport, ships and air transport may be more difficult.

Eulenspiegel x Ignored says: 06/19/2018 at 3:56 am
Why making a fire sale?

It's better to sell half of your ressources for 90$ / barrel than all at 30$ / barrel.

The gulf states will always have cheap production costs at their side, they will earn more at each price of oil. Why not make big money, especially when at lower production speed the production costs are much lower (less expensive infrastructure).

And in the first case you can sell chemical feedstock for a few 100 years ongoing for a good coin. Theocracies and Kingdoms plan sometimes for a long time. When you bail out everything at sale prices, you end with nothing ( and even no profit).

Dennis Coyne x Ignored says: 06/20/2018 at 8:00 am

You assume half the resource can be sold at $90/b, at some point in the future oil supply may be greater than demand at a price of $90/b, so at $90/b no oil is sold and revenue is zero.

In a situation of over supply there will be competition for customers and the supply will fall to the point where supply and demand are matched. Under those conditions OPEC may decide to drive higher cost producers out of business and take market share, oil price will fall to the cost of the most expensive (marginal) barrel that satisfies World demand.

I don't think we are close to reaching this point, but perhaps by 2035 or 2040 alternative transport may have ramped to the point where World demand for oil falls below World Supply of oil at $90/b and the oil price will gradually drop to a level where supply and demand match.

[Jun 21, 2018] Older wells are declining at about 8% per year

Jun 21, 2018 |

Fernando Leanme , 06/19/2018 at 2:17 pm

Older wells are declining at about 8% per year. A 25 BOPD well with a 10 BOPD economic limit should have 70,000 barrels of oil left to produce in about 12 years.
Dennis Coyne , 06/20/2018 at 7:53 am
Hi Fernando,

Is it safe to assume that newer wells will behave the same as older wells?

Some petroleum engineers that have commented at (Enno Peters wonderful resource) that the high level of extraction from newer wells will likely lead to a thinner tail.

Chart below from

illustrates this, notice how the 2014 and 2015 wells fall below the 2010 well profile after 24 months, the same is likely to occur for 2016 and later wells. Also note that the 2010 well profile is representative (close to the mean) for 2009 to 2012 average well profiles.

Fernando Leanme , 06/20/2018 at 9:08 am
Dennis, i would say the decline rate (8%) is very safe to use for all LTO wells, i would definitely apply it after the 6th year of well life, because by then what counts is rock quality and fluid type. This is only good for a bulk projection.

By the way I tweaked my price model when I was preparing my CO2 pathway. I took into account the Venezuela crash, the difficulties the Canadians have moving their crude, etc. The price projection is $88 per barrel Brent for evaluating projects which start spending in 2019. I also prepared a different look for very long term projects which start spending in 2023: $110 per barrel.

Don't forget these aren't prices predicted for those particular years. They are prices one can use to evaluate long term projects such as exploring in the Kara Sea, offshore West Africa deep water, the African rifts, Venezuela heavy oil developments, etc. These prices are plugged in and escalated with inflation for the 20-30 year project period. Real prices should oscillate back and forth around these values.

[Jun 21, 2018] Norwegian production is down

Jun 21, 2018 |

Energy News, 06/19/2018 at 3:47 am 2018-06-19

Norwegian crude oil & condensate production (without NGLs) at 1,321 kb/day in May, down -223 m/m, down -297 from 2017 average or -18%. The main reasons that production in May was below forecast is maintenance work and technical problems on some fields.
Almost down to the Sept 2012 low at 1,310 kb/day

George Kaplan , 06/19/2018 at 4:01 am

Big unplanned outages coming on the gas side for June numbers as well.
Kolbeinh , 06/19/2018 at 4:26 am
This is what happens when there are no sizeable new fields coming online for 1/2 year and as G.Kaplan has mentioned not enough allocation for supply disruptions are included in the forecast.
A brutal decline, even if this month is an anomaly as NPD say.
George Kaplan, 06/19/2018 at 4:39 am
Looking at the field numbers (only through April) it looks like Troll Oil is in decline a bit earlier and a bit steeper than expected. It's the biggest oil producer still bu has dropped fairly consistently and slightly accelerating from 161 kbpd in October to 121 in April. It's all horizontal wells and requires continuous drilling to maintain production, it's close to exhaustion with only 10% remaining at the end of 2017 (about R/P of 3 years) and had been holding a good plateau around 150 for a few years. The gas is due to be developed starting in 2021 so the oil rim would need to be depleted by then, but maybe dropping a bit sooner than expected – is a reservoir not behaving as modelled a "technical problem"?

[Jun 21, 2018] Personally I think all the conventional oil in the ground will eventually be used, it's just too useful. It's just a matter of how long it takes. It would be better if it was used for chemicals and something else used for fuel

Jun 21, 2018 |

dclonghorn, 06/17/2018 at 10:57 pm

Here's a link to an interesting oil market assessment from 9 point energy.

They come up with a projection of 100 oil by 2020 using some conservative assumptions.

George Kaplan , 06/18/2018 at 1:35 am
I don't know about the price as it depends on the demand side and the global economy looks to me increasingly rocky, but the supply side analysis looks pretty good, except as you say a bit conservative. One thing missing was consideration of increasing decline rates on mature fields, especially offshore, partly a result of accelerating production in the high price years and partly because of an increasing ratio for deep and ultra deep water. Additionally I think the lack of increase in non-US drilling rigs as the price has risen is relevant and partly represents a shortage of in-fill prospects and short cycle appraisals.

If they are relying on GoM to add the 300 kbpb (or more into 2020) that EIA are predicting then I think they are going to be short by 400 to 500 kbpd for a 2020 exit rate.

(I don't follow the chart showing new OPEC developments, the numbers can't be number of projects, probably kbpd added, or maybe mmbbls reserves, and I'm betting they've mixed in gas with the oil.)

As in all these investment type analyses they don't look too far ahead and there's a kind of tacit assumption that everything will be sorted out with more investment later on, but five years of low discoveries and accelerated development of the good ones means there's actually not that much new to invest in, and if there is then ExxonMobil will be looking to buy it.

Guym , 06/18/2018 at 8:55 am
Yeah, demand is always a big question. Hard to measure, even in the rear view mirror. However, their constant increase of 1.2 million barrels in the US over a three year period, should offset any question of demand. While 1.2 in 2020 is something I can't predict, 1.2 million for 2018 and 2019 is impossible without increased pipelines long before the second half of 2019. So, I think it is way conservative.
George Kaplan , 06/18/2018 at 4:47 am
They say "We believe we are 6-9 months ahead of consensus with our oil forecast. Why is no one else seeing what we see?." Obviously they haven't been reading POB for the last two years.
Energy News , 06/18/2018 at 5:40 am
SLB seems to agree with Simmons, that outside of OPEC & the USA overall World oil production is going to continue falling

2018-06-12 Schlumberger Investor Presentations – Wells Fargo West Coast Energy Conference
aggregate base decline, which increased from approx 5% in 2015 to around 7% in 2017. Given this acceleration, it is probably not realistic to expect the new projects slated to come online during the next few years to be enough to reverse production decline outside of the US and Middle East.
Some slides on Twitter
Simmons charts

Guym , 06/18/2018 at 9:06 am
POB made it possible to piece together in my own way, otherwise I would be like most. Staying confused with constant conflicting info. Predicting price is virtually impossible, as is demand to a large extent. But, when supply is ready to fall off a cliff, then being exact is not required.
Dennis Coyne , 06/18/2018 at 11:19 am

A simple way to think about C+C demand is to assume over the long run that supply and demand will be roughly equal (though of course there will be short term imbalances which changes in the oil price over the short term will try to correct). From 1982 to 2017 C+C output grew at an average annual rate of about 800 kb/d. It is probably safe to assume that oil demand will continue to grow at roughly that pace in the absence of a severe global recession and those are pretty rare. I define a "severe global recession" as one where real World GDP (constant prices) based on market exchange rates decreases over an annual cycle for one or more years. Since 1900 there have been two cases where this occurred, the Great Depression and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008/2009. These have been on roughly a 60 to 70 year cycle (a previous crisis occurred in 1870, but this might have only been a US crisis and possibly not a global one.)

In any case, my guess is that a Global economic crisis may result a the World tries to adjust to declining (or stagnant) World Oil output after 2025, probably hitting around 2030 to 2035. If economists re-read Keynes General Theory and respond to the crisis with appropriate policy recommendations, the economic crisis may be short lived. On the other hand a World response similar to the European response to the GFC, where fiscal austerity is considered the appropriate response to a lack of aggregate demand (this was also Herbert Hoover's response to the 1929 Stock Crash), then a prolonged deep depression will be the result.

Hopefully the former course will be chosen.

[Jun 21, 2018] BP's Proven Reserves tab, historical says some interesting things

Jun 21, 2018 |

Watcher x Ignored says: 06/19/2018 at 12:15 am

BP's Proven Reserves tab, historical says some interesting things:

US reserves did not grow or shrink last year 50B.

Canada reserves shrank about 1%. Weird.

Brazil reserves grew 1% but are down a lot from 2014.

KSA flat. Venezuela Orinoco reserves slight uptick 0.4%.

The somewhat vast majority of countries say their reserves are flat in 2017 vs 2016. They pumped billions of barrels, but no change to reserves for . . . lemme count . . . 36 countries (of which the US was one).

World as a whole reserves total declined 0.03%.

BP's flow report is "all liquids". Dunno if that is consumption, too. And if reserves . . . reserves are in a footnote. Crude, Condensate AND NGLs. Probably excludes algae.

[Jun 21, 2018] What? Me worry? Rystadt says US has 79 more years of oil still available.

Jun 21, 2018 |


x Ignored says: 06/19/2018 at 11:46 am

What? Me worry? Rystadt says US has 79 more years of oil still available. Of course, that is the imaginary oil. They admit that commercially recoverable oil in the world only has 13 years left. Where did we pick up another 50 billion of imaginary oil in the US this year?

[Jun 20, 2018] Consumption of oil continues to grow in 2018

Jun 20, 2018 |

Watcher, 06/13/2018 at 12:54 pm

The bible is out. A few surprises.

India's oil consumption growth was only 2.9%. Derives from their monetary debacle early in the year. We should see signs of whether or not that corrects back to their much higher norm before next year.

China consumption growth 4%. Higher than India. Clearly an aberration.

KSA consumption actually declined fractionally, which allows Japan to still be ahead of them in consumption.

US consumption growth 1%. So much for EV silliness.

[Jun 20, 2018] Excellent write-up on peak oil supply

Images removes
Jun 20, 2018 |

Peak oil in Asia Pacific (part 1)

This post uses data released by the BP Statistical Review in June 2018

Oil production seems to have left its bumpy 6 year long (2010-2015) plateau of 8.4 mb/d and is now back to 2004 levels of 7.9 mb/d, a decline of 6% over 2 years.

Base production is the sum of the minimum production levels in each country during the period under consideration. Incremental production is the production above that base production. In this way we clearly see that the peak was shaped by China, sitting on a declining wedge of all other Asian countries together. Note that growing production in Thailand and India could not stop that decline. Now let's look at the other side of the coin, consumption:

There has been a relentless increase in consumption since the mid 80s. The growth rate after the financial crisis in 2008 was an average of 3% pa.

Chinese annual oil consumption growth rates have been quite variable between 2% and a whopping 16% in 2004 which contributed to high oil prices. Fig 4 also shows there is little correlation between GDP growth and oil consumption growth (statistical problems?). There is nothing in this graph that could tell us that the Chinese economy has a consistent trend to become less dependent on oil. In the years since 2011, oil consumption growth was around 60% of GDP growth.

Let's compare China with the US. China's oil consumption is catching up fast with US consumption.

On current trends, China's oil consumption would reach US consumption levels of 20 mb/d in just 14 years.

Contrary to misinformation by the media, the US is still a net importer of oil. Even blind Freddy can see that there will be intense competition for oil on global markets.

All governments who plan for perpetual growth in Asia (new freeways, road tunnels, airports etc) should fill in the above graph. Hint: We can see that Asia has diversified its sources of oil imports but is still utterly dependent on Middle East oil

"Other Middle East" is Iran and Oman (as Syria and Yemen no longer export oil)

China is preparing for the future by building bases to secure oil supply routes:

Proven reserves have not changed much in the last years meaning that P2 and P3 reserves have been proved up commensurate with production. The reserve to production ratio is 16.7 years equivalent to an annual depletion rate of 6%, a little bit higher than a reasonable rate of 5% (R/P of 20 years).

The depletion rates vary considerably and may only be approximate as oil reserves will have been estimated by using differing methodology and accuracy. Indonesia's depletion rate is very high. Not shown in Fig 14 is Thailand where the depletion rate is off the charts (almost 50%) suggesting reserves are too low.

In part 2 we look at the oil balance in each country. Tags: BP Statistical Review , China oil demand , china peak oil , Middle East , South China Sea , South East Asia

[Jun 20, 2018] it seems the physical market is getting tighter again and that the export flood may have something to do with the meeting. Or it could be that reduced exports from Iran, Venezuela and Libya are starting to impact the market.

Jun 20, 2018 |

Kolbeinh, 06/18/2018 at 6:21 am

There are some rumors that KSA has increased exports starting in May (about 0.5 m b/d more than prior months) by drawing even more from storage. If we are to believe OPEC production numbers from May which are steady, that must be the case. OPEC has essentially flooded the market with exports before the meeting on Friday. The nearest month Brent future changed to contango compared to closest month some weeks ago, but it has now all changed again to backwardation. Point being, it seems the physical market is getting tighter again and that the export flood may have something to do with the meeting. Or it could be that reduced exports from Iran, Venezuela and Libya are starting to impact the market.

If the market balance overall is to change from a a deficit to near balanced, production within OPEC has to be increased with almost maximum of whatever spare capacity available in my opinion. The assumption is that spare capacity in reality is smaller than stated by the agencies.

[Jun 17, 2018] The Necessity of a Trump-Putin Summit by Stephen F. Cohen

Highly recommended!
Decimation of anti-war forces and flourishing of Russophobia are two immanent features of the US neoliberalism. As long as the maintinace fo the US global neoliberal empire depends of weakening and, possibly, dismembering Russia it is naive to expect any change. Russian version of soft "national neoliberalism" is not that different, in principle form Trump version of hard "netional neoliberalism" so those leaders might have something to talk about. In other words as soon as the USA denounce neoliberal globalization that might be some openings.
Notable quotes:
"... The New York Times ..."
Jun 06, 2018 |

Ten ways the new US-Russian Cold War is increasingly becoming more dangerous than the one we survived.

  1. The political epicenter of the new Cold War is not in far-away Berlin, as it was from the late 1940s on, but directly on Russia's borders, from the Baltic states and Ukraine to the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Each of these new Cold War fronts is, or has recently been, fraught with the possibly of hot war. US-Russian military relations are especially tense today in the Baltic region, where a large-scale NATO buildup is under way, and in Ukraine, where a US-Russian proxy war is intensifying. The "Soviet Bloc" that once served as a buffer between NATO and Russia no longer exists. And many imaginable incidents on the West's new Eastern Front, intentional or unintentional, could easily trigger actual war between the United States and Russia. What brought about this unprecedented situation on Russia's borders -- at least since the Nazi German invasion in 1941 -- was, of course, the exceedingly unwise decision, in the late 1990s, to expand NATO eastward. Done in the name of "security," it has made all the states involved only more insecure.

  2. Proxy wars were a feature of the old Cold War, but usually small ones in what was called the "Third World" -- in Africa, for example -- and they rarely involved many, if any, Soviet or American personnel, mostly only money and weapons. Today's US-Russian proxy wars are different, located in the center of geopolitics and accompanied by too many American and Russian trainers, minders, and possibly fighters. Two have already erupted: in Georgia in 2008, where Russian forces fought a Georgian army financed, trained, and minded by American funds and personnel; and in Syria, where in February scores of Russians were killed by US-backed anti-Assad forces . Moscow did not retaliate, but it has pledged to do so if there is "a next time," as there very well may be. If so, this would in effect be war directly between Russia and America. Meanwhile, the risk of such a direct conflict continues to grow in Ukraine, where the country's US-backed but politically failing President Petro Poroshenko seems increasingly tempted to launch another all-out military assault on rebel-controlled Donbass, backed by Moscow. If he does so, and the assault does not quickly fail as previous ones have, Russia will certainly intervene in eastern Ukraine with a truly tangible "invasion." Washington will then have to make a fateful war-or-peace decision. Having already reneged on its commitments to the Minsk Accords, which are the best hope for ending the four-year Ukrainian crisis peacefully, Kiev seems to have an unrelenting impulse to be a tail wagging the dog of war. Certainly, its capacity for provocations and disinformation are second to none, as evidenced again last week by the faked "assassination and resurrection" of the journalist Arkady Babchenko.

  3. The Western, but especially American, years-long demonization of the Kremlin leader, Putin, is also unprecedented. Too obvious to reiterate here, no Soviet leader, at least since Stalin, was ever subjected to such prolonged, baseless, crudely derogatory personal vilification. Whereas Soviet leaders were generally regarded as acceptable negotiating partners for American presidents, including at major summits, Putin has been made to seem to be an illegitimate national leader -- at best "a KGB thug," at worst a murderous "mafia boss."

  4. Still more, demonizing Putin has generated a widespread Russophobic vilification of Russia itself , or what The New York Times and other mainstream-media outlets have taken to calling " Vladimir Putin's Russia ." Yesterday's enemy was Soviet Communism. Today it is increasingly Russia, thereby also delegitimizing Russia as a great power with legitimate national interests. "The Parity Principle," as Cohen termed it during the preceding Cold War -- the principle that both sides had legitimate interests at home and abroad, which was the basis for diplomacy and negotiations, and symbolized by leadership summits -- no longer exists, at least on the American side. Nor does the acknowledgment that both sides were to blame, at least to some extent, for that Cold War. Among influential American observers who at least recognize the reality of the new Cold War , "Putin's Russia" alone is to blame. When there is no recognized parity and shared responsibility, there is little space for diplomacy -- only for increasingly militarized relations, as we are witnessing today.
  5. Meanwhile, most of the Cold War safeguards -- cooperative mechanisms and mutually observed rules of conduct that evolved over decades in order to prevent superpower hot war -- have been vaporized or badly frayed since the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, as the UN General Secretary António Guterres, almost alone, has recognized : "The Cold War is back -- with a vengeance but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present." Trump's recent missile strike on Syria carefully avoided killing any Russians there, but here too Moscow has vowed to retaliate against US launchers or other forces involved if there is a "next time," as, again, there may be. Even the decades-long process of arms control may, we are told by an expert , be coming to an "end." If so, it will mean an unfettered new nuclear-arms race but also the termination of an ongoing diplomatic process that buffered US-Soviet relations during very bad political times. In short, if there are any new Cold War rules of conduct, they are yet to be formulated and mutually accepted. Nor does this semi-anarchy take into account the new warfare technology of cyber-attacks. What are its implications for the secure functioning of existential Russian and American nuclear command-and-control and early-warning systems that guard against an accidental launching of missiles still on high alert?

  6. Russiagate allegations that the American president has been compromised by -- or is even an agent of -- the Kremlin are also without precedent. These allegations have had profoundly dangerous consequences, among them the nonsensical but mantra-like warfare declaration that "Russia attacked America" during the 2016 presidential election; crippling assaults on President Trump every time he speaks with Putin in person or by phone; and making both Trump and Putin so toxic that even most politicians, journalists, and professors who understand the present-day dangers are reluctant to speak out against US contributions to the new Cold War.

  7. Mainstream-media outlets have, of course, played a woeful role in all of this. Unlike in the past, when pro-détente advocates had roughly equal access to mainstream media, today's new Cold War media enforce their orthodox narrative that Russia is solely to blame. They practice not diversity of opinion and reporting but "confirmation bias." Alternative voices (with, yes, alternative or opposing facts) rarely appear any longer in the most influential mainstream newspapers or on television or radio broadcasts. One alarming result is that "disinformation" generated by or pleasing to Washington and its allies has consequences before it can be corrected. The fake Babchenko assassination (allegedly ordered by Putin, of course) was quickly exposed, but not the alleged Skripal assassination attempt in the UK, which led to the largest US expulsion of Russian diplomats in history before London's official version of the story began to fall apart. This too is unprecedented: Cold War without debate, which in turn precludes the frequent rethinking and revising of US policy that characterized the preceding 40-year Cold War -- in effect, an enforced dogmatization of US policy that is both exceedingly dangerous and undemocratic.

  8. Equally unsurprising, and also very much unlike during the 40-year Cold War, there is virtually no significant opposition in the American mainstream to the US role in the new Cold War -- not in the media, not in Congress, not in the two major political parties, not in the universities, not at grassroots levels. This too is unprecedented, dangerous, and contrary to real democracy. Consider only the thunderous silence of scores of large US corporations that have been doing profitable business in post-Soviet Russia for years, from fast-food chains and automobile manufacturers to pharmaceutical and energy giants. And contrast their behavior to that of CEOs of PepsiCo, Control Data, IBM, and other major American corporations seeking entry to the Soviet market in the 1970s and 1980s, when they publicly supported and even funded pro-détente organizations and politicians. How to explain the silence of their counterparts today, who are usually so profit-motivated? Are they too fearful of being labeled "pro-Putin" or possibly "pro-Trump"? If so, will this Cold War continue to unfold with only very rare profiles of courage in any high places? 9. And then there is the widespread escalatory myth that today's Russia, unlike the Soviet Union, is too weak -- its economy too small and fragile, its leader too "isolated in international affairs" -- to wage a sustained Cold War, and that eventually Putin, who is "punching above his weight," as the cliché has it, will capitulate. This too is a dangerous delusion. As Cohen has shown previously , "Putin's Russia" is hardly isolated in world affairs, and is becoming even less so, even in Europe, where at least five governments are tilting away from Washington and Brussels and perhaps from their economic sanctions on Russia. Indeed, despite the sanctions, Russia's energy industry and agricultural exports are flourishing. Geopolitically, Moscow has many military and related advantages in regions where the new Cold War has unfolded. And no state with Russia's modern nuclear and other weapons is "punching above its weight." Above all, the great majority of Russian people have rallied behind Putin because t hey believe their country is under attack by the US-led West . Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Russia's history understands it is highly unlikely to capitulate under any circumstances.

  9. Finally (at least as of now), there is the growing war-like "hysteria" often commented on in both Washington and Moscow. It is driven by various factors, but television talk/"news" broadcasts, which are as common in Russia as in the United States, play a major role. Perhaps only an extensive quantitative study could discern which plays a more lamentable role in promoting this frenzy -- MSNBC and CNN or their Russian counterparts. For Cohen, the Russian dark witticism seems apt: "Both are worst" ( Oba khuzhe ). Again, some of this American broadcast extremism existed during the preceding Cold War, but almost always balanced, even offset, by truly informed, wiser opinions, which are now largely excluded.

Is this analysis of the dangers inherent in the new Cold War itself extremist or alarmist? Even SOME usually reticent specialists would seem to agree with Cohen's general assessment. Experts gathered by a centrist Washington think tank thought that on a scale of 1 to 10, there is a 5 to 7 chance of actual war with Russia. A former head of British M16 is reported as saying that "for the first time in living memory, there's a realistic chance of a superpower conflict." And a respected retired Russian general tells the same think tank that any military confrontation "will end up with the use of nuclear weapons between the United States and Russia."

In today's dire circumstances, one Trump-Putin summit cannot eliminate the new Cold War dangers. But US-Soviet summits traditionally served three corollary purposes. They created a kind of security partnership -- not a conspiracy -- that involved each leader's limited political capital at home, which the other should recognize and not heedlessly jeopardize. They sent a clear message to the two leaders' respective national-security bureaucracies, which often did not favor détente-like cooperation, that the "boss" was determined and that they must end their foot-dragging, even sabotage. And summits, with their exalted rituals and intense coverage, usually improved the media-political environment needed to enhance cooperation amid Cold War conflicts. If a Trump-Putin summit achieves even some of those purposes, it might result in a turning away from the precipice that now looms

[Jun 13, 2018] Sanction Trump not Bourbon

Highly recommended!
The term "national neoliberalism" should probably be adopted as the most succinct term for Trump economic policy
Notable quotes:
"... To paraphrase Ralph Nader, the U.S. corporate state is a two-headed beast. Sure, President Trump and the Republican Party are currently handing over public lands to oil and gas companies, eliminating net neutrality, introducing pro-corporate tax legislation, kowtowing to the military industrial complex, defunding the welfare state, and attempting to privatize education and deregulate finance. ..."
"... But let's not forget our recent Democratic presidents, for example, who are also guilty of empowering and enriching big business and disempowering and impoverishing ordinary Americans. ..."
"... In war the moral is to the material as 3 is to one, said Bonaparte. The neoliberal world order according the Bretton Woods and Washington cannot raise and apply enough material [bombings, drones, aircraft carrier intimidation THAAD in Korea are the ante] without destroying itself and in its throes the world. ..."
"... The U.S. trade deficit in goods, without services, was $810 billion. The United States exported $1.551 trillion in goods. It imported $2.361 trillion. The USA imports more than they export to: China, Japan, Canada, Germany and Mexico. USA top 5 Trade deficits: China $375 billion, Mexico $71, Japan $69, Germany $65, and Canada 18 billion. ..."
Jun 10, 2018 |
likbez, June 10, 2018 2:26 am

Trump behavior at Canadian G7 meeting was boorish, but it is logical and is consistent which his previous stance on globalization: he rejects neoliberal globalization.

Sasha Breger Bush proposed the term "national neoliberalism" to depict the transition from "classic neoliberalism" which has been started with the election of Trump.

I think the term really catches the essence of the election of Trump. and should probably be adopted as a succinct description of Trump economic policy.

The nationalism, xenophobia, isolationism, and paranoia of Donald Trump are about to replace the significantly more cosmopolitan outlook of his post-WWII predecessors. While Trump is decidedly pro-business and pro-market, he most certainly does not see himself as a global citizen.

Nor does he intend to maintain the United States' extensive global footprint or its relatively open trading network. In other words, while neoliberalism is not dead, it is being transformed into a geographically more fragmented and localized system (this is not only about the US election, but also about rising levels of global protectionism and Brexit, among other anti-globalization trends around the world).

I expect that the geographic extent of the US economy in the coming years will coincide with the new landscape of U.S. allies and enemies, as defined by Donald Trump and his administration.


He elaborated on this in his more recent article ( )

But if we take seriously the idea that Trump is a consequence of the disintegration of American democracy rather than the cause of it, this "blame game" becomes especially problematic.

Partisan bickering, with one party constantly pointing to the other as responsible for the country's ills, covers up the fact that Democrats and Republicans alike have presided over the consolidation of corporate power in the United States.

To paraphrase Ralph Nader, the U.S. corporate state is a two-headed beast. Sure, President Trump and the Republican Party are currently handing over public lands to oil and gas companies, eliminating net neutrality, introducing pro-corporate tax legislation, kowtowing to the military industrial complex, defunding the welfare state, and attempting to privatize education and deregulate finance.

But let's not forget our recent Democratic presidents, for example, who are also guilty of empowering and enriching big business and disempowering and impoverishing ordinary Americans.

JackD, June 10, 2018 9:58 am

@Likbez: "Sure, President Trump, etc" is your important sentence. It is the immediate need. First things, first.

ilsm, June 10, 2018 3:12 pm

In war the moral is to the material as 3 is to one, said Bonaparte. The neoliberal world order according the Bretton Woods and Washington cannot raise and apply enough material [bombings, drones, aircraft carrier intimidation THAAD in Korea are the ante] without destroying itself and in its throes the world.

Trump is not tearing apart NATO anyone not earning money is a PNAC think tanks knows NATO has become an aggression against Russia with similar intent as Hitler.

Grabbing Sevastopol and aiding Russians in territory occupied by Kyiv are [bold] defensive moves. The threat of Chinese islands in the South China Sea is the US Navy super carriers intimidations has no career raiding Hainan.

rps, June 10, 2018 7:42 pm

I was curious if Yglesias is a Canadian since his editorial sided with the G7 leaders stance against Trump's fair-trade often labelled as 'protectionism' of USA industries. He's a New Yorker as I pondered what's his stake in this political tirade against Trump's pro-America versus anti-globalist policies?

It appears that the media has glided over the fact Trump had suggested to the other G7 leaders that all trade barriers, including tariffs and subsidies, be eliminated, ""You go tariff-free, you go barrier-free, you go subsidy free." Protectionist Canadian PM Trudeau howled at a press conference after Trump had left on his way to Singapore. Why? Is it because Trudeau is committed to the welfare of Canadians and their industries? How dare the president of the USA- in turn, advocate for citizenry and country as does his G7 counterparts for their countries.

The U.S. trade deficit in goods, without services, was $810 billion. The United States exported $1.551 trillion in goods. It imported $2.361 trillion. The USA imports more than they export to: China, Japan, Canada, Germany and Mexico. USA top 5 Trade deficits: China $375 billion, Mexico $71, Japan $69, Germany $65, and Canada 18 billion.

More fun & facts:

US citizens and their jobs were swindled with cheaper foreign goods flooding American businesses and stores as good manufacturing jobs headed overseas. Jobs that created the middle class and all their earned benefits and standard of living decreased/disappeared quickly with NAFTA and the WTO.

Concisely, trade deficits destroyed the middle class, the working class, blue collar, and in turn, increased poverty and homelessness. Destroyed small town anywhere in the USA with manufacturing and jobs fleeing overseas in search of cheap labor. Go travel across the USA and see the boarded up towns, walk the streets of Flint Michigan, Detroit, Martinsville Virginia, Gary Indiana, Freeport Il, etc. Throw a dart at a USA map and you'll hit a town devastated by 'free' to lose your job trade. In 2014, 2.3 million job losses due to trade with China. Job losses in the millions have been slowly replaced with 'service' jobs and/or $8.00 an hour part-time no benefits workers as the new norm.

Remember when Walmart's original slogan was "Buy American"? Sam Walton before he died, was big on "Buy American," and it appeared in signs in the stores and on TV ads. His heirs quickly changed it to "Buy Chinese" destroying the american dream and small town USA.

Yet Yglesias' preference is all for the unbalanced trade with our G7 frenemies and punishing a president who chooses fair trade practices to ensure US jobs for American citizens. Makes me wonder who or what Yglesias truly advocates for, the NWO or the country of origin on his passport?

"What we must do is this: revise our tariff on the basis of a reciprocal exchange of goods, allowing other Nations to buy and to pay for our goods by sending us such of their goods as will not seriously throw any of our industries out of balance Such objectives as these three, restoring farmers' buying power, relief to the small banks and home-owners and a reconstructed tariff policy, are only a part of ten or a dozen vital factors. But they seem to be beyond the concern of a national administration which can think in terms only of the top of the social and economic structure. It has sought temporary relief from the top down rather than permanent relief from the bottom up. It has totally failed to plan ahead in a comprehensive way. It has waited until something has cracked and then at the last moment has sought to prevent total collapse.

It is high time to get back to fundamentals. It is high time to admit with courage that we are in the midst of an emergency at least equal to that of war. Let us mobilize to meet it." "The Forgotten Man" speech, 1937. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Since Clinton signed NAFTA in 1994 and the WTO, American jobs and industry left our shores seeking the lowest common denominator- cheap slave labor. To paraphrase FDR into the late 20th and early 21st century, "Clinton and his successors concern of their national administrations thought in terms only of the top of the social and economic structure. It has sought temporary relief from the top down rather than permanent relief from the bottom up.It has totally failed to plan ahead in a comprehensive way."

Bruce Webb, June 10, 2018 9:16 pm

Nothing personally Rps, but you do not get Triffin Dilemma and global reserve currency. Please no more NAFTA obsession when no jobs left with that deal and exports excelerated. The global reserve currency and booming financial markets create a surplus in services over goods. It also creates the need for a goods deficit to stabilize the financial system. You cannot wave a wand and cure something that cannot be cured. You need a major depression to rebalance and drive capital from america.

Bruce Webb, June 10, 2018 9:19 pm

Likbez, Neoliberalism IS American. Trump is pro-East Asia

[Jun 13, 2018] NEO - Jacksonian Trump and the Root of Global Evil by Gordon Duff

Notable quotes:
"... Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He's a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today , especially for the online magazine " New Eastern Outlook ." ..."
June 6, 2018 |

The Trump phenomenon, to paraphrase Lincoln, who may not have said this at all, "you can fool some of the people all of the time," deeply parallels the elections of 1824 and 1828. This is when consummate "outsider," a tough-as-nails backwoods "westerner" and war hero, Andrew Jackson, spouting conspiracy theories about corruption and "elites" rose to the presidency.

Trump advisor Steve Bannon actually studied Jackson and his rise to prominence, followed by a checkered presidency of broken treaties and violent retribution against his personal enemies.

Both Trump and Jackson brought first ladies to the White House with "deeply singed" reputations.

This is where the comparison ends. Jackson typically settled his personal grudges with a pistol or sword, not his mouth or lawyers. He warred on the Rothschilds' agents and their national bank set up by Federalist Alexander Hamilton.

Above all, Jackson was the "real deal," opposing elites who were then as they are today, utterly corrupt. Trump is certainly not the "real deal," not with a cabinet of the "worst of the worst" of corrupt elites and policies and appointments intended to stifle democratic institutions.

The Central Banks

The Fed

Trump's court appointments , rushed through congress, most unvetted and unqualified, dark histories of personal bias and corruption, many young enough to serve for decades, are intended to protect and serve the corrupt elites from public scrutiny and any legal process.

At the root of it all, in America as with America's NATO allies, are the central banks that date back centuries.

Jackson, in 1833, shut down the bank run by Nicholas Biddle and backed by powerful "bought and paid for" Senator Henry Clay. Jackson did so defending the constitution which clearly prohibited a central bank which the founding fathers recognized as the root cause of Europe's continual wars.

A year later, in 1834, congress censured Jackson for abusing presidential power. His congress was "owned" by Biddle and his European masters.

Today, we have a "dime store" Jackson, someone with the swagger and none of the real muscle. Perhaps Trump saw another example of an American who stood against the central bank, that being John Kennedy and his fate and that of his brother Robert.

Were one to follow this vein, as to who owns and controls the central banks, and how the restoration of the central bank in 1913 re-empowered America's European masters under the Federal Reserve Act, a fuller backdrop for understanding America's crippled political scene would entail. Our focus is elsewhere, and America's own debt slavery is an important component for certain.

American Terrorism

How does the world see the US?

Increasingly , the world is terrified of America. A single nation drowning in 21 trillion dollars of bankruptcy is blackmailing the world.

America clearly can't manage its own affairs at home, a nation with a third of its citizens living in or near absolute poverty, a nation ruled by functional illiterates or faithless warmongers, yet America continues its military crusade for what it calls "justice and freedom" that its own citizens seldom see.

Sanctions, trade wars and military bullying focused on rebuilding world divides, restoring world tensions and finding adversaries where partners or friends may well have been, is the watchword of American policy. Why?

America is breaking the rules. There was always "wiggle room" in the hodge-podge of international law, room for "justified war" and a door opened for the "victor's justice" we saw at the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals after World War II.

Even that is gone today, and America's domestic political meltdown is largely responsible.

Were one to look to the roots, even before Machiavelli, one might turn to Sun Tzu. In his Art of War, Sun Tzu advised a combatant to always build a golden bridge for a retreating enemy. In the world of nuclear brinksmanship, this might be more aptly be expressed as a lesson most learned as children on the school playing fields.

Never humiliate a potential adversary.


Unrest in US

At one time , Americans themselves were politically astute, at least an activist core, including up to 40 million union members when they held sway over politics.

At one time, the primary concern of Americans was economics, the day to day issues of job security, rising prices and economic survival for the family.

Demagogues would drum beat about the dangers of communism or the threat of drugs. Hollywood would depict, almost continually, a Soviet occupation of America, films like Red Dawn or even, jokingly, The Russians are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. No sane person took it seriously

However, as most recognize, sanity isn't now nor may ever have been the strong suit for many Americans.

Why Things Are Different

Depiction of Andrew Jackson at Battle of New Orleans

America was always strife with racial, religious and class differences. What few recognize is the regionalism that was initially expressed in the political aspirations of Andrew Jackson, America's first populist "outsider."

From the Atlantic, November 2016:

"Newt Gingrich has compared Trump to Jackson for some time. Rudolph Giuliani declared on election night that it was 'like Andrew Jackson's victory. This is the people beating the establishment.' That may seem a comforting comparison, since it locates Donald Trump in the American experience and makes his election seem less of a departure.

Is Trump's victory really like Jackson's? On the surface, yes: In 1828, an 'outsider' candidate appealed directly to the people against elites he called corrupt. A deeper look at Jackson's victory complicates the comparison, but still says much about America then and now.

Jackson's road to victory began with a defeat. He was a Tennessee politician and plantation owner turned soldier, a man who, unlike Trump, had deep experience in government. As a general, he became the greatest hero of the War of 1812, and capitalized on his fame by running for president in 1824. But the electoral votes were split between four candidates. The presidency was decided by the House of Representatives, which chose John Quincy Adams, the highly qualified secretary of state.

1833 Democratic cartoon shows Jackson destroying the "Devil's Bank" (Photo credit, Wikipedia)

Jackson politely congratulated the winner but was seething. He soon declared the system was rigged. The Jacksonians' phrase was 'bargain and corruption' -- they said the House speaker, Henry Clay, had thrown the vote in exchange for being named secretary of state.

This conspiracy theory added an element of rage to Jackson's basic argument that he was simply owed the presidency. Although the House had voted in accordance with the Constitution, Jackson insisted that he should have automatically won because 'the majority' of the people supported him. (He'd actually won a plurality of the popular vote, 40 percent, which was politically significant but had no legal bearing.)

With an eye to the next election, he set out to upend the political system, which had been running predictably for a generation. A party founded by Thomas Jefferson had installed four consecutive presidents. Most elections were not even close. Relatively few people voted, and many lacked voting rights. But the franchise was expanding to include all white men, and boisterous new political forces were sweeping the growing nation.

Jackson and his allies spent four years building a popular movement in favor of majority rule. They worked to delegitimize President Adams, promoting the "corrupt bargain" conspiracy theory and blocking his programs in Congress. In their 1828 rematch, Jackson defeated Adams in a landslide. His 1829 inauguration was recorded as a triumph of the people, who mobbed the White House in such numbers that they trashed it. It's this moment to which Giuliani referred on election night 2016."

Defining the Problem

War is a racket and a habit. (Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1887)

In using "Jacksonesque" methods without Jackson, the man, with his own experiences and moral center as a balance, Bannon and Trump, now Trump with Bolton and Giuliani, personify not just corruption. The world is seeing a darkness unleashed, an America wielded as a sword for globalist forces.

What is different today is that forces that reined in the "globalist cabal," for lack of another term acceptable for publication, no longer exist.

The formula used to take America to war time and time again, 1898 with Spain or the two wars with Germany, jingoism, black propaganda, false flag terrorism, seen again on 9/11, has its limitations. When the US went to full scale war in Vietnam, justified by the Tonkin Gulf incident, reputedly a false flag attack on the US Navy by imaginary North Vietnamese patrol boats, the public eventually rose in relative "unison," to stop the war.

Most of these real men are now lost to the ages, prematurely dead from war toxin spray. How we miss their race.

Eventually, under the Clinton presidency, America had not only largely demilitarized, but had also entered into a series of treaties limiting strategic nuclear capabilities. The end result was a pay down on the national debt and an impeachment attempt against Clinton.

The false flag event that drove the fragile, drugged American psyche over the cliff

This was followed by the rigged election of 2000, then 9/11, then abrogated treaties, ten trillion in new debt, police state legislation, near total military rule and a permanent war footing.

What was different, what separated America of 1965-1970 and America of 2000?

The unions were gone and with them the political leaders who answered to the working class that fought the wars and paid the bills.

Campaign finance legislation was erased by a biased Supreme Court under Citizens United v. US in 2005.

Corporate control of media was complete.

Ragtag extremist billionaires, the Koch's, Adelson, Scaife, DeVos, Coors and a series of offshore "oligarchs" bought congress, as had been done during the Jackson presidency nearly two centuries before.

Then there is the internet. Where Jackson's electoral environment included limited suffrage, men only, property owners only, voting only by the few, the larger electorate of the 21st century were subject to advanced manipulation and thought control, real not imaginary, through social media.

In fact, two realities had been created, perhaps even more, separate worlds for each recognized and identified "type," based on psychological triggers. Think tanks and major military and intelligence contracting firms received and continue to receive billions to study and tune capabilities, not just altering opinions but further, altering the ability to perceive and judge.

Thus, when Jackson stood against congress, he had the support of the people, the frontiersmen, the farmers, the working classes, people now "chasing their own tails" at the behest of "fake everything."


What we are left with is an America capable of targeting any nation, capable of capriciousness unimagined by those who see it, who suffer it, those who assume rationality exists though not evidenced.

It was Baudelaire (1864, Le Joueur Genereaux):

"la plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu'il n'existe pas!" (the most beautiful trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist!)

Again we return to the issue of the unasked question of "why?" We know who, we know what, but as the question of "why" is never asked, then we are then faced with another question, more basic, more telling. Why are we afraid to ask a question? Why do we choose to turn away from what we know to be the presence of pervasive evil itself as a prime motivator?

Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He's a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today , especially for the online magazine " New Eastern Outlook ."

SOURCE New Eastern Outlook, Moscow

[Jun 10, 2018] The Battle for Money Has Begun naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... If Money=Debt, the battle over money can only be won by individuals wisely choosing whom they become indebted too. As the wise Michael Hudson points out, "Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid." ..."
"... Money is the creation of the elite to control the rest of the masses. It screws the rest of the masses by constraining what they can get their hands on while the elite can get their hands on anything they want. ..."
"... IMO the point of the article was to hint that objections (or refusal to engage with) MMT is largely political in nature. ..."
"... Skippy said it above: these are likely bad faith actors who disguise their classism and political desires with talk of "positive money" and the like. Debate clubs won't win this one. ..."
"... As I understand it, MMT is simply a more honest way of explaining the current reality, the problem being that the 1% would like to keep that a secret so that money is only created for the things that they can profit from, like war. ..."
"... MMT necessarily requires the exorbitant privilege of having the US dollar accounting for 60% of world trade & financial transactions with the US economy representing only 20% of world GDP. ..."
"... The Entrepreneurial State ..."
"... money and credit are used almost entirely for speculation, usury, and rent extraction ..."
"... In a normal economy, government spending is financed by taxes and borrowing, meaning that no new spending power has been created, as IS the case with new bank loans. ..."
"... You can fool part of the people all of the time, and all of the people part of the time. ..."
"... handing all credit creation to the central banks is not only technically impossible in a modern economy, it's a dangerous folly ..."
"... Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, 2nd edition. ..."
"... The Order of Time ..."
"... "The debts are owed to government banks. A government can do what the U.S. can't do. The government can forgive debts, at least those that are owed to itself, without creating a political backlash. If a viable corporation has run up too much debt, the government can forgive it. This is better than letting the debt close down a factory or force it be sold to a predatory asset management firm as occurs in the United States. That is the advantage of having public credit and why credit should be public. That's how it was in Babylonia. Rulers were able to cancel debts all the time in the 3rd millennium and 2nd millennium BC, because most debts were owed to the palace or the temples. Rulers were cancelling debts owed to themselves. ..."
"... China can cancel business debt owed to itself. It can proclaim a clean slate. It can minimize debt service to whatever it chooses. But imagine if Chase Manhattan and Goldman Sachs are let in. It would be much harder for the government to raise real estate taxes leading to defaults on the banks. It could save the occupants by making new loans to those who default – based on lower land prices. ..."
"... Well, you can imagine the international furor that would erupt. Trump would threaten to atom bomb Peking and Shanghai to save his constituency. His constituency and that of the Democrats are the same: Wall Street and the One Percent. So China may lose its ability to write down debts if it lets in foreign banks." ..."
"... that this is a Chicago School / Friedmanesque monetary policy is made clear by Positive Money ..."
"... It seems there are greater similarities between China and the US than may be visible at first glance. China builds real estate for a shrinking population, invests for an over-indebted client (the US, which even insists on a drastic reduction of the bilateral trade deficit) and finances all this with money it does not have ..."
Jun 10, 2018 |

Disturbed Voter , June 8, 2018 at 6:30 am

Perhaps the cost of the 2008/2009 bailout was too high? And I don't mean quantitively. It seems modern man has no sense of the qualitative.

Odysseus , June 8, 2018 at 5:22 pm

The same money that went into TARP would have bought a whole lot of nonperforming mortgages. You wouldn't have needed a large bailout if the money actually made it's way to main street.

PlutoniumKun , June 8, 2018 at 6:32 am

Slightly off-topic, but if its true that this is a right wing proposal using naïve left/Green supporters to give a progressive fig leaf, it wouldn't be the first time this has happened. You can see the same phenomenon with Brexit, where many supposed left wingers have often bought unthinkingly into many right/libertarian memes about 'freedom' from the EU. The core reason they could do this is the effective abandonment by the left of arguments about money and capital to the conservative and libertarian right from the 1980's onward.

One of the many reasons I love NC so much is that it has tried to fill the gap left by so much of the mainstream left and much of the Greens in analysing economics issues in forensic technical detail. Articles like this are absolutely invaluable in building up a proper intellectual program in understanding the central importance of macroeconomics in building a fairer society.

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 8:08 am

God, country, apple pie, balanced budget, freedom, democracy, pay-as-you-go, ingredients in the hash of right/libertarian memes, all supposedly 'common sense' but actually nonsense, spread thick, intended to distract us while our ruling class steals everything not tied down.

I think the left saw its audience washed away by a tidal wave of this clever, well-funded nonsense, so they stopped arguing about money and capital because they found it embarrassing to be caught talking to themselves.

Of course back in the 1970s, much of the working-class had was doing well enough that they thought the argument about money had been settled, and in their favor. Little did they know that their 'betters' were planning on clawing-back every penny of wealth that they'd managed to accumulate in the post-war years.

So here we are, the working class that was formerly convinced that anyone could live well if they just worked hard, are finding that you can tug on your boot-straps with all your might, and get no where.

Morty , June 9, 2018 at 12:18 pm

I think you're right in that the wrong narrative is now dominant.

I don't think this was done intentionally – I think the people pulling the strings don't know for sure what will happen, either.

The 'common sense' you mention is the best explanation most people have available. They look at macroeconomics through the lens of their own household budget. Of course a balanced budget responsible application of money makes sense Most people don't have a money printer in their basement.

Norb , June 8, 2018 at 7:27 am

The battle is for the soul of humanity. A leadership that is working toward reducing inequality and injustice in the world will adopt policies reflecting a more positive outlook on the human condition. Those implementing austerity revile the masses of humanity, wether stated or not. The masses are to be controlled, not enlightened or cared for.

The West has gained supremacy in the world by using the strategy of Divide and Conquer. This thought process is so engrained in the psyche, that it heavily influences every form of problem solving by using outright war and financial oppression as primary tools to achieve these ends.

There would need to be a fundamental shift in thinking from Western leadership in order to bring about a change that would focus on wellbeing over profit, which does not seem forthcoming.

If Money=Debt, the battle over money can only be won by individuals wisely choosing whom they become indebted too. As the wise Michael Hudson points out, "Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid."

The main problem I see is the definition of what "Winning" would be. The definition determines the policy.

Summer , June 8, 2018 at 1:54 pm

"There would need to be a fundamental shift in thinking from Western leadership in order to bring about a change that would focus on wellbeing over profit, which does not seem forthcoming."

Akin to a religious conversion.

DHG , June 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Money is the creation of the elite to control the rest of the masses. It screws the rest of the masses by constraining what they can get their hands on while the elite can get their hands on anything they want. The tipping point will be when there are sufficient numbers who understand money isnt necessary to live and have nice things, it actually exists to deprive them of such.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 7:58 pm

What is your alternative?

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 7:34 am

We've been fighting this same 'war' for a very long time.

Everybody now just has to make up their mind. Is money money or isn't money money. Everybody who earns it and spends it every day in order to live knows that money is money, anybody who votes it to be gathered in as taxes knows money is not money. That is what makes everybody go crazy. -Gertrude Stein – All About Money

As far as I can tell, about 1% of us believe that money is not money, and the rest of us believe that money is money.

Most of us believe that money is money because as Gertrude Stein said: Everybody who earns it and spends it every day in order to live knows that money is money

So here's the problem: the 1% of the people, the ones who believe that money is not money, are in charge of everything.

It's not natural that so few people should be in charge of so much, and that they should be in charge of 'everything' is truly crazy. (Please excuse the slight digression)

The people who are in charge of everything believe that it's right, proper, indeed 'natural' that they be in charge of everything because they believe that no one could do as good a job of being in charge of everything because they think they are smarter than everybody else.

The reason that the 1% of people believe they are smarter than everybody else is rooted largely in what they believe is their self-evident, superior understanding of money; that is to say, the understanding that money is not money.

The trouble is, the difference between the 1%'s understanding of money, and the common man's understanding of money is not evidence of the 1%'s superior intellect, so much as of their lack of a moral compass and their ability to rationalize the depraved indifference they show to their fellow man.

Read more;

Watt4Bob FDL June 2014

perpetualWAR , June 8, 2018 at 10:32 am

I don't believe money is money. Pretty certain I am in the 99%. "Money" or currency says right on the face that it is a debt instrument.

Samuel Conner , June 8, 2018 at 7:54 am

Maybe this thought is callous, but perhaps it would be useful to have a real-world demonstration that this is a bad idea. How systemically important is the Swiss economy? US abandoned its monetarist "quantity of reserves" experiment after a relatively short time. Again, it sounds callous, but perhaps a year or two of distress in a small test environment

(that is starting from a pretty good place and has a good social safety net


would be helpful to the world at large in terms of deprecating a bad idea. Perhaps MMT will be the last approach standing?

Could it be that Wolf's "we need experiments" rhetoric is actually opposed to "positive money", but he recognizes that the idea won't go away until it is badly spanked? Even if not, maybe there is something to the idea that experimentation could be used to distinguish bad ideas from less bad (the good ideas won't be tested, I reckon, until all the various flavors of "bad" have been tried and rejected).

TroyMcClure , June 8, 2018 at 8:11 am

IMO the point of the article was to hint that objections (or refusal to engage with) MMT is largely political in nature. See Marriner Eccles and his observation regarding the political enemies of full employment.

Skippy said it above: these are likely bad faith actors who disguise their classism and political desires with talk of "positive money" and the like. Debate clubs won't win this one.

If the Swiss go through with it and it inevitably fails there will always be an excuse. They didn't do positive money "hard enough" or whatever.

liam , June 8, 2018 at 10:22 am

What I'd like to know is if the Swiss go through with it and it fails, is there anything other than central bank independence that needs to be changed? Fundamentally it's still fiat, operating within a democracy. Does it not come down to who decides how much and for what purpose?

Maybe I'm missing something, but it strikes me as the elites getting their revenge in first. There go my people and all that. Maybe I am missing it.

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 8:18 am

the good ideas won't be tested, I reckon, until all the various flavors of "bad" have been tried and rejected.

So, you don't think current conditions are convincing enough?

As for me, I'm more than convinced, that left to themselves, our elites have an endless bag of bad ideas, and every one of them results in their further enrichment at our expense.

Samuel Conner , June 8, 2018 at 9:57 am

I'm convinced; have been persuaded that MMT is the right way to think about "money" since shortly after I encountered it almost a decade ago.

As I understand it, this is a referendum. If the people don't like the outcome, they presumably would have power to reverse it. Throw the bastards out and replace with new bastards who will try something different.

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 1:19 pm

As I understand it, MMT is simply a more honest way of explaining the current reality, the problem being that the 1% would like to keep that a secret so that money is only created for the things that they can profit from, like war.

So the issue is that since enough money can be created for the needs of the rest of us, why is that not happening?

It would appear to me that almost any efforts by the 1% to create a 'new' plan is in reality, an effort to make sure that the 99% never reap any advantage even if we were to unanimously come to understand the MMT is really the most realistic perspective.

It's almost as if the 1% has decided to change the rules because the rest of us are starting to understand that there is no technical reason we can't finance a more equitable economy.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 2:03 pm

It's good to explain the current reality more honestly.

Even more honestly would be to explain that reality, which is a man-made system, doesn't have to be that way, unlike scientific explanations, for example, one for how gravity works. That particular physics explanation comes with the understanding that we can't change how gravity works.

The word 'theory' in the sense most people with more than 10 years of education associate with it is that

1. You will fail to advance to the next grade, or the next class if you don't understand it.
2. If you don't understand it, you are under pressure to show you agree with the theory, lest you fail the exam.
3. The reality described by the theory is unalterable, which is often the case with natural science theories, but not really the case with social/economic/political theories, unless they deal with human nature, which is hard to change.

If I say there is a theory to explain that on Mars, you drive on the right side of the road on odd-numbered days, and on the left side on even-numbered days, you would say, I appreciate the clear explanation of your wonderful theory, but I don't like it, I don't like how that system is designed. And I want to change it!!!!!!!!!!!!

bruce wilder , June 8, 2018 at 7:03 pm

Yesterday, I watched one of many Mark Blyth videos on YouTube where he was talking about why people hold on to stupid economic ideas. He offered a variety of interesting hypotheses, most of which were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Even a theory that fails basic tests of correspondence with reality -- neoclassical economics being the prime example -- may prove to be a reliable means of coordinating behavior on a huge scale. That we indoctrinate people in colleges and business schools in neoclassical economics has been the foundation for neoliberal politics; even if the theory is largely rubbish by any scientific standard, the rhetorical engine is easy to operate once you have a few basic concepts down. And, immunity to evidence or critical reason may actually be politically advantageous.

Econ 101 is taught as a dogma. The student is under pressure to learn the answers for the exam, as you say. All the rhetorical tropes -- not just deficit hysteria, but regulatory burdens, tax incentives, "free markets" (you see many actual markets? no, I didn't think so) and on and on -- are as easy to recite mindlessly as it is to ride a bicycle.

We have an ideology that prevents thinking or even seeing, collectively.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:34 pm

Well, your wish has been answered – about 160 years ago. Lincoln's issuance of Greenback's allowed the Union Army to exist. No borrowing, no MMT debt incurred.

Alejandro , June 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Why were they accepted as payment?

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 9:43 pm

"MMT debt" is a non-sequitur..

MMT experts point out regularly that the Federal government spends out of nothing. Issuing bonds is a political holdover from the Gold Standard era, but separately, those bonds do have some use because a lot of investors like holding a risk free asset.

The government spends by the Fed debiting the Treasury's account. That's it.

We don't go around worrying about issuing bonds to pay for the next bombing run in the Middle East. The US has all sort of official off budget activity as well as unofficial (why do you think the DoD is not able to account for $21 trillion of spending over time? No one points out this $21 trillion mystery is proof the USG actually runs on MMT principles).

Older & Wiser , June 9, 2018 at 10:58 pm

MMT necessarily requires the exorbitant privilege of having the US dollar accounting for 60% of world trade & financial transactions with the US economy representing only 20% of world GDP.

Such impunity is changing as we speak so for that reason only (there are others) MMT should soon find itself non-viable.

Yves Smith Post author , June 10, 2018 at 1:08 am

That is not correct. Any government that issues its own currency is a sovereign currency issuer and operates on MMT principles. Canada, Japan, England, Australia, New Zealand .the constraint on their ability to run deficits is inflation. They will never go bankrupt in their own currencies. They can create too much inflation.

Adam1 , June 8, 2018 at 8:17 am

I have the same reaction to Positive Money ideas as I do to someone who talks about "parallel currencies". They don't understand money, banking and central banking.

While I agree whole heartedly with Clive that establishing the mini-bot currency is subject to the law of un-intended consequences and would no doubtedly have a bumpy start and might not even survive; but it's just another currency. Yes it would likely be subject to a discount versus the Euro, but so what. From a banking perspective there is nothing magical about state money or central bank money. These are the dominate means of clearing and settling payments today, but that's because it's currently cheaper, easier and less risky. But banking predates central banks by at least one or two hundred years (if not more). Thinking that if you put an iron fist on the usage of state/central bank money is going to stop banking only shows you don't understand banking. Most economies already have dual currencies – state money and bank money – but nobody thinks of them that way because they trade one for one. But locking the banking system out of using state money to clear and settle payments created by lending only forces the banking system to find a new means of acquiring liabilities (I'd suspect they get called something other than "deposits" of course) and clearing and settling payments. It wouldn't happen overnight but it most certainly would happen – there's too much "money" to be made.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:36 pm

"Most economies already have dual currencies – state money and bank money" Give me the ratio please. Other than feeding the parking meter or doing your laundry what else do you use state money for?

Alejando , June 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm

Paying taxes. Unpaid parking tickets are debts, no borrowing involved.

voteforno6 , June 8, 2018 at 8:40 am

It's not exactly the gold standard, but it would have the same impact, I think. You have to give them credit, though – they keep finding new ways to dress up this very old idea.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Hard to get to a new answer if you don't even start with the right question.
Wolf asserts his obvious and unquestionable truth: "Money is debt".


J. P. Morgan didn't think so. When he was asked:

"But the basis of banking is credit, is it not?" , Morgan replied:
"Not always. That is an evidence of banking, but it is not the money itself. Money is gold, and nothing else" .

Ah yes, the shiny rare metal that served mankind as money for millennia.
I have a gold coin in my hand. I can exchange it for goods and services. But I can't for the life of me figure out whose debt it is.

And no less than The Maestro (Alan Greenspan) opined the following last month:

"The gold standard was operating at its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period of extraordinary global prosperity, characterised by firming productivity growth and very little inflation.

But today, there is a widespread view that the 19th century gold standard didn't work. I think that's like wearing the wrong size shoes and saying the shoes are uncomfortable! It wasn't the gold standard that failed; it was politics. World War I disabled the fixed exchange rate parities and no country wanted to be exposed to the humiliation of having a lesser exchange rate against the US dollar than it enjoyed in 1913.

Britain, for example, chose to return to the gold standard in 1925 at the same exchange rate it had in 1913 relative to the US dollar (US$4.86 per pound sterling). That was a monumental error by Winston Churchill, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. It induced a severe deflation for Britain in the late 1920s, and the Bank of England had to default in 1931. It wasn't the gold standard that wasn't functioning; it was these pre-war parities that didn't work.

Today, going back on to the gold standard would be perceived as an act of desperation. But if the gold standard were in place today we would not have reached the situation in which we now find ourselves. We would never have reached this position of extreme indebtedness were we on the gold standard, because the gold standard is a way of ensuring that fiscal policy never gets out of line."

So let's start with a simpler definition of money: "Money stores labor so it can be transported across space and time" .

I grew some wheat, and want to store my wheat-labor so I can use it later, or spend it somewhere that is nowhere near my wheat pile.

But this points out why money that took no labor to produce cannot reliably store labor. Our system materializes money from thin air. Which is precisely the point of gold: it takes alot of labor to produce, so it has reliably stored labor for centuries. In A.D. 250 if I wanted a good-quality men's costume (toga, sash, sandals) the cost was one ounce of gold. Today one ounce of gold is +/-$1300, probably enough for a pretty good suit and pair of shoes. That fact is incredible: every other currency, money, government, and country have come and gone in the interim but gold reliably stored labor across the ages.

Cue the haters: "But gold money allows deadly deflation!!!". Yes, that scourge, when people benefit from rising productivity (lower costs of goods and services) in what used to be termed "Progress". Instead we're supposed to love being on a debt treadmill where everything costs more every year, on purpose .

Free your mind.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 7:21 pm

Just to be clear, I'm not arguing that credit should somehow be abolished. Credit is critical, and hence so is banking. But separating money and credit would mean that every banking crisis (extending too much credit) is not automatically also a monetary crisis, affecting everyone, including people who had nothing to do with extending or accepting too much debt.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:39 pm

Yes, you are correct. No one in the monetary reform movement wants to abolish credit – an agreement between two entities – but to have that "credit" backed by the US government as real money – what a racket!

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 3:02 am

Sigh no such thingy as "real" money, same issue with using terms like "natural" as a quantifier.

This also applies to say pods above statement about "freeing the mind", especially when referencing or other AET affiliates.

The Rev Kev , June 8, 2018 at 8:48 pm

Of course it should be noted that if you dig up a gold coin from two thousand years ago or even older, it still has value just for its metal content alone. It still holds value. This is never true of fiat currencies. In fact, it had never occurred to me before, but when you think about it – the history of money over the past century has been to get actual gold, gold coins, gold certificates, silver coins, etc. out of the hands of the average people and to give them pieces of paper and now plastic as substitutes. Even the coins in circulation today are only cheap remnants of coins of earlier eras that held value in itself. I would call that a remarkable achievement.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 3:13 am

Uh .

I think you should avail yourself wrt the history of gold and how humans viewed it over time, then again you could look at say South America from an anthro observation and the social changes that occurred between Jade and Gold eras.

As far as value goes that is determined at the moment of price taking which can get blurry over time and space.

Gold was used as religious iconography for a reason imo.

Just from the stand point that gold was in one anthropological observation – a flec of gold to equal weight of wheat means the gold got its "value" from the wheat and had nothing to do with some concept of gold having intrinsic value.

The Rev Kev , June 9, 2018 at 10:51 pm

Not particularly in love with gold nor am I a gold bug. My own particular prejudice is that any money system needs an anchor that will set some sort of boundaries to its growth. Something that will not blow through the physical laws of natural growth and will acknowledge that resources can and will be exhausted by limitless credit and growth. Personally I don't care if it is gold or Electrum or Latinum or even Tribbles so long as it is something.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 11:56 pm

Yet MMT clearly states that growth is restricted to resources full stop. So I don't understand your issues with anchor points, its right there in black and white.

Look I think there is a huge difference between informal credit [Greaber] and formal credit [institutional] and the risk factors that they present. This is also complicated by not all economies are the same e.g. steady state. In facilitating up lift [social cohesion with benefits of currant knowlage] vs putting some arbitrary limit on credit because it suits the perspective of those already with claims on wealth.

skippy , June 10, 2018 at 12:43 am

In addition I would proffer that MMT is not supply side dependent, just the opposite. Economics would be much more regional in reference to resources and how that relates to its populations needs, especially considering the democratic governance of those finite resources without making money the linchpin to how distribution is afforded.

Older & Wiser , June 8, 2018 at 9:03 pm

How dare you submit such irreverent goldbuggery ?
Your line of thought is not politically correct Sir.
Something for nothing is easier to sell and to live by, don´t you know ? as long as it lasts.
Problem is ( as HAL would say ? ) the 50 years are almost through, so it just can´t last much longer no matter how much we pussyfoot around reality.

Plenue , June 10, 2018 at 1:04 am

It has nothing to do with being 'politically incorrect'. It has to do with goldbuggery being completely ignorant of actual history and facts. It ascribes to gold attributes which it never truly had even in the West, much less globally.

Some examples from objective reality:

When the Conquistadors arrived in the 'New World', they discovered an entire continent filled with easily accessible gold and silver, and yet neither was treated by the natives as money. They were shiny trinkets. Money was cocoa beans and pieces of linen.

When the Vikings reached the Eastern Mediterranean, the Byzantines had a hard time getting them to accept gold as payment. Before that, the only 'precious' metal they had any interest in was silver.

Going eastward, in feudal Japan currency was based on rice, not precious metals. Gold and silver were used as representative tokens of large values of rice. The source of value wasn't felt to be the metal, it was what the metal represented.

If civilization were to end today, the most well off survivors aren't going to be the ones who stockpiled gold. It's going to be the ones who stockpiled food and water (and/or the weapons to protect/seize such stockpiles). Gold has exactly zero inherent value. It's a luxury item at best, in the same way fine art is. No one in the post-apocalyptic wasteland is going to be impressed by your lumps of heavy, soft metal.

There's plenty of information available from historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists (but emphatically not from mainstream economists) on the history of money. If you want to 'free your mind', you'd best start with one of these fields. Not some libertarian cesspit, where the 'intellectuals' are even more delusional than mainstream neoclassicals.

skippy , June 10, 2018 at 1:39 am


Pespi , June 9, 2018 at 3:19 am

That all sounds very neat but is not true. Money is not a labor token, it is not a token of anything but an act of accounting.

templar99 , June 8, 2018 at 9:12 am

' Everybody needs money, that's why they call it money ' David Mamet ' Heist '

The Rev Kev , June 8, 2018 at 9:52 am

I'll probably get slammed here for this but to tell you the truth, I see no justification for the shape and character of the present money system in use around the world. In fact, I absolutely refuse to believe that There Is No Alternative. The present system is one that has evolved over the centuries and for the greater part was designed by those with wealth to either solidify or expand their wealth.
Yesterday, in a comment, I made the point that for an economic and financial system to work it has to be sustainable. Call that General Order Number One. But a survey of the present system shows a system that by its very nature is seeking to transfer the bulk majority of wealth to about 1% of the population while pushing about 90% of the population into a neo-feudal poverty. This is nothing short of self-destructive and is certainly not sustainable.
We tend to think of money as something permanent but the different currencies in existence today make up only a fraction of the currencies that have ever existed. All the rest have gone extinct. I am given to understand that when the US Federal Reserve meets, it is in a room whose walls are adorned with examples of these extinct currencies. In fact, I even own a few German Reichsmarks from the hyperinflation era of the early 1920s for an occaisional bit of perspective.
OK, maybe the Swiss referendum is being used, misused and abused but it is a sign of an arising discontent. It certainly surprises me that it was the Swiss as when I visited that country, they were the most conservative people that I have ever met as far as money was concerned. In any case, perhaps it is time that we all sat down and designed a money system from the ground up. Throw away the rule book and just take a pragmatic approach. Forget theories and justifications, just look for stuff that works.

JEHR , June 8, 2018 at 11:44 am

There is no need to "experiment" with other systems of money use: we just need to regulate the system we have but, unfortunately at present, we are in the midst of de-regulating everything–finance, environmental protections, healthcare, education, etc., and getting rid of other groups such as unions. The undermining of many (public) institutions is well on its way and I do not see it ending well. I think the rich have won this round just as they planned in the 1970's.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 12:14 pm

We have to consider, think or experiment with other systems. The comment below by Anarcissie is a good start.

Anarcissie , June 8, 2018 at 11:53 am

I imagine you would want to start from value (a mental state of persons) and labor, things persons do to achieve stuff which they value. It would be convenient to have tokens which represented social agreement about value, valued stuff, and labor. The social agreement could be brought about by cooperative voluntary institutions ('credit unions') which would oversee and guarantee the issuance of tokens (debts) by members (persons). We already do this on a modest scale by writing checks, so it's not unheard-of.

If you want a system which doesn't just feed the elites, you have to create one which doesn't rely on institutions dominated by or entirely controlled by the elites, such as the government, the major corporations, large banks, and so on. You want something egalitarian, democratic, and cooperative. It's not impossible.

bruce wilder , June 8, 2018 at 6:46 pm

Indeed it is possible and has been done in the recent past.

A key insight behind credit unions, mutual insurance and savings and loans back in the day was that these institutions were loaning people their own money savings and should be run without assigning hotshot managers the dubious incentive of a profit-motive or talking up "innovation".

One of the things I object to in Richard Murphy's rhetoric and that of more careless MMT'ers is that they implicitly concede the premise that Money is usefully thought of as a quantitative thing, a pile of tokena circulating at some velocity. Financial intermediaries (and yes, Richard, they are intermediaries) do create "money" in the form of credit by matching ledger entries. For a savings and loan, which gives a mortgage to a depositor or just a checking account to a saver, this can be a key idea supporting mutual assistance in cooperative finance.

But, if you insist that the bank is "creating" a quantity of money that is then set loose to drive up house prices or some similar narrative scenario, I do not see that your storytelling is doing anyone any good.

Credit from institutions of cooperative finance -- shorn as they must be of the incentive toward usury and rent extraction -- is actually a very useful application of money, enabling people to take reasonable risks over their lifetimes. For example, to enable a young couple to form a household and buy a house and gradually build up equity in home ownership against later days. This is sensible and prosaic, a standard use of money to insure by letting a bank or similar institution help individuals or small businesses to transform the maturities of their assets and prospects, while certifying their credit. If your understanding of money does not encompass such prosaic ideas as leverage and portfolios or their application to improving the general welfare, then the "left" is up a creek without a paddle.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:44 pm

"Financial intermediaries (and yes, Richard, they are intermediaries) do create "money" in the form of credit by matching ledger entries. "
That is NOT what is meant by the term,"intermediaries" here. The common belief is that banks merely take in a depositor's money and, as an intermediary, lend that money out. An intermediary, by definition, does not create anything. That is the accepted meaning of the term when discussing banking. You are free to use your own definition but it will lead to confusion.

bruce wilder , June 9, 2018 at 12:47 am

What is the accepted meaning of the term, "intermediary", when discussing banking?

I am unclear what definition you are referencing.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 10:08 pm

You are incorrect as to how banking works, and you have also jalbroken moderation, which is grounds for banning, as is clearly stated in our Site Policies, which you did not bother to read.

Per your comments on banking, you are also engaging in agnotology, another violation of site Policies.

Banks do not intermediate. They do not lend out of existing savings. Their loans create new deposits. Not only has MMT demonstrated, and this has been confirmed empirically, but the Bank of England has endorsed this explanation as correct.

You are presenting the loanable funds fallacy, a pet idea of monetarists. It was first debunked by Keynes and later by Kaldor.

Your idea of "accepted meaning" is further confirmation you are way out of your depth here and are a textbook case of Dunning Kruger syndrome.

Anthony K Wikrent , June 8, 2018 at 9:59 am

The matter of who or what controls money is actually secondary to the matter of what money is used for. Positive Money correctly identifies the fact that under our present arrangements in the USA, UK, and most of the West, money and credit are used almost entirely for speculation, usury, and rent extraction (though they do not, so far as I know, use the terms). If "the people" somehow were able to gain control of money and credit, and money and credit continued to be used almost entirely for speculation, usury, and rent extraction, society and the people would see no net advance economically.

That's the simple overview. Allow me to lay out a couple scenarios to show why just solving the problem of who controls money and credit does not really address our most urgent problems.

For the first scenario, assume that it is right wing populists who have triumphed in the fight to seize control of money and credit. Recall that in the first and second iterations of the bank bailout proposals in USA, Congress was deluged by overwhelming public opposition to the bailout. But in the second iteration, the Democrats mostly folded, while on the Republican side, the closer you got to the Tea Party extreme, the stauncher the opposition to the bailout you found. So, under right-wing populist control, we would probably see prosecutions and imprisonment of banksters, which would likely have the intended effect of lessening rent extraction. But we would probably also see that right-wing populists are not much concerned about speculation and usury, so those would continue relatively unscathed.

More importantly, we could expect right-wing populist control to result in severe cutbacks to both government and private funding of scientific research, most especially on climate change. We would be hurried forward on our course toward climate disaster, not turned away from it.

For the second scenario, let us assume it is a left-wing populist surge that achieves control over money and credit. In this scenario, speculation and usury would be suppressed as well as rent extraction. On science, there would no doubt be a surge in funding for climate research. But I would greatly fear what left-wing populists might do to funding of space exploration and hard sciences such as the large Hadron collider at CERN. And what would happen to funding for military research programs like DARPA?

Can you imagine the implications of cutting those kinds of science programs? Try to think of doing without all the spinoffs from the NASA Apollo moon landing program and the original ARPAnet, which includes much of the capability of the miniaturized electronics in the computer, servers, modems, and routers you are now using.

The point is, that without restoring an understanding of republican (NOT capital R "R"epublican Party) statecraft, its focus on promoting the general welfare, and the understanding that promoting the general welfare ALWAYS involves identifying and promoting the leading edges of science and technology, any success in seizing control of money and credit away from bankers (whether private or central) does not necessarily result in victory. For an extended discussion of science and republicanism, see my The Higgs boson and the purpose of a republic .

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 10:17 am

There will always be right-wingers, left-wingers, progressives, imperialists, etc.

One or more of them will seize control.

It would seem, then, the first thing to do, is to work on human nature, and not discovering new devices for them (or us, ourselves), because we can not guarantee no harm to Nature will come from colliding high energy particles.

Lord Koos , June 8, 2018 at 2:17 pm

I don't really see the left as being anti-science, it seems to me that it's the right that wants to deny scientific findings such as climate change, etc. There are exceptions of course, such as new-age/anti-vaxers, chem-trail theorists, etc but they are a small minority, and I find it hard to envision a scenario where a leftist government would cut science funding. As it is now, many if not most scientific and technical advances have originated from what was originally military funding, including the internet we are using at this moment.

This is a model that needs to change IMHO, there is no reason that cutting-edge science has to be tied to the military, science could just as easily be funded for its own sake, without the pentagon getting the money first and then having the tech trickle down to the rest of us.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 3:43 pm

I am trying to come up with some examples where technological advances were not induced or misused by warriors and/or libido, from the dawn of humanity till now.

Stone tools – misused for war.

Bronze/iron tools – the same.

The wheel – war chariots.

Writing – to lord over the illiterate

The steam engine – how the west was won with buffaloes going extinct.

Gun powder – war, and above.

The internet – surveillance and libido.

The smart phone – above.

Aspirin – that's all good .maybe the example I am looking for except I'm allergic to it.

Anthony K Wikrent , June 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm

The technology of smart phones originated almost entirely with DARPA -- see Mariana Mazzucato's The Entrepreneurial State

bruce wilder , June 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm

money and credit are used almost entirely for speculation, usury, and rent extraction

Certainly on the leading edge, that is what money and credit are used for, but "entirely"??? In the main, money remains the great lever of coordination in an economy of vastly distributed decision-making.

The forces of predation and fraud are seriously out-of-control and they use money for anti-social ends, protected by neoliberal ideology and the cluelessness of what passes for the political left. Like any normal bank robber, the banksters want the system of money to continue to work and it does continue to work, in the main, even as they play Jenga with the towering structures of finance.

Anthony K Wikrent , June 8, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Well, I did qualify it with "almost" : ). Still, in the late 1990s I found that there was around $60 (sixty dollars) of trading in financial markets (including futures and forex) for every one dollar of GDP. That compares to 1.5 to 1 in 1960. The ratio probably dropped in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 crashes, but I's be surprised if it has not surpassed 60 to 1 by now. Have mercy on me: I haven't looked at a BIS report for a few years now.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:47 pm

Your first scenario is already in existence today, my friend. As far as the second scenario – what exactly is it that you have against democracy?

Ignacio , June 8, 2018 at 10:09 am

It is just intuitive that giving central bankers the monopoly for money creation is not a good idea

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:49 pm

So your solution is to keep it in the hands of the elite?! Please note that the "central bank" under the Vollgeld initiative is completely redefined, not a central bank at all but a government institution controlled by a democratic process.

Martin , June 9, 2018 at 12:38 am

Many banks around the world started out as state-owned and have been privatised.
I admit it is simplistic, but having a state-run not-for-profit bank being this "government institution controlled by a democratic process" has a lot of merit to me.
It would have lending guidelines to aid investment in productive endeavours, limit the risk, and have no part in the insane fringe financial transactions that brought about the GFC, and who know how many other things that have gone under the radar.
This brings all currency creation into a single place, so it needs transparency and a (proper) democratic governance.
There would probably be fewer jobs I admit, but many of these would be the top levels enjoying fat bonuses based on winning zero-sum games.
And as a final comment – should GDP include the transactions within the financial sector at all? Given the zEro-sum games involved, and the creation of losers as part of that, does it actually "produce" anything at aLL?

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 2:00 am

I hate to be a nay-sayer, but the reason there were once many state banks in the US and there is now only one is that they became cesspools of corruption. And having arm-wrestled with CalPERS for over four years, which is more transparent than a lot of places, good luck with getting transparency and good governance.

Jamie Walton , June 9, 2018 at 7:39 am

Good point Yves. My research revealed the same re. previous state banks.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 8:24 am

Mind you, that does not mean they might not be worth trying, but the assumption that they can just be set up and will work just fine "because democracy" needs to be taken with a fistful of salt. There needs to be a ton of careful thought re governance and lots of checks (an inspector general with teeth at a minimum, we can see from CalPERS that boards are very easily captured).

Jamie Walton , June 9, 2018 at 9:52 am

Agreed. Could a public banking option run through the U.S. Post Office be a better approach (they have branches and staff everywhere already)?

Watt4Bob , June 9, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Bank of North Dakota has a fascinating history, being founded during the Progressive Era, when ND had a governor who was a member of the Nonpartisan League, a populist political party, and intended to save North Dakota's farmers and laborers from the predations of the big banks in Minneapolis and Chicago.

It remains the only state-owned bank in the country.

The populist
Nonpartisan League
remains the most successful third party in history, and had remarkable impact on politics in North Dakota and Minnesota. It merged with the Democratic Party in the 50s.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 9:47 pm

Ahem, I acknowledged that. What you miss is that pretty much every other state had a state bank and they were shuttered because they became embarrassingly corrupt. The fact that past "state bank" experiments almost universally failed makes me leery of the naive view that they'll be hunky dory. They could be but the sort of cavalier attitude that they'll be inherently virtuous is the road to abuse and misconduct.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 11:30 pm

And what did ND do as far WRT usury in being a CC tool.

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 10:11 am

I was talking with my wife about DeBeers and the man-made diamonds they're selling @ 1/10th of the price of the genuine article

what if some neo-alchemist did the same thing with gold?

It would in an instant, render all of it worth $130 an ounce, on it's way to $13 an ounce.

And more importantly, take away the only real alternative to digitally produced ducats.

SubjectivObject , June 9, 2018 at 1:11 pm

you need need natural allotropes

Jim Haygood , June 8, 2018 at 10:30 am

" Money is debt. It is only created by government spending and bank lending. " -- Richard Murphy

We've jumped through the looking glass. The former money, gold, is NOT debt. Debt-based money is ersatz, a ghastly fraud on humanity.

In a normal economy, government spending is financed by taxes and borrowing, meaning that no new spending power has been created, as IS the case with new bank loans.

Daniel Nevins' book Economics for Independent Thinkers discusses how modern economists got misled into believing the money supply governs everything, whereas earlier 19th century economists understood that bank lending is what drives expansions.

Poor Murphy, starting out with a wonky premise, only succeeds in careering into a briar patch and wrecking his bike. He should post his pratfall on YouTube.

False Solace , June 8, 2018 at 11:57 am

Fiat money can also be created without debt. That's the whole point of MMT, but it makes Haygood's head explode so he never acknowledges it (without muttering about hyperinflation, which never actually happens outside of disasters on the scale of a major war).

When the federal government spends money into existence -- which can be on the basis of a democratic agenda, in countries that have actual democracies -- there's no need for a corresponding issuance of government debt. Hence, spending power is indeed created. If the government does create debt, the bond is an asset on the ledger of whoever buys it, and the government spends the interest into existence. Which creates additional spending power for the private sector. The government can choose to, or not, collect a portion of this as taxes, which extinguishes the money. If the government collected as taxes everything it ever spent there would be no money in circulation.

> In a normal economy, government spending is financed by taxes and borrowing, meaning that no new spending power has been created, as IS the case with new bank loans.

Er, new bank loans also represent borrowing that has to be paid back. The spending power that gets created is extinguished by paying back the bank loan.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 12:07 pm

the federal government spends money into existence


That's a choice made by the designers of the current system.

But not the only choice.

The people, for example, can be empowered (or perhaps inherit that power, on the basis of the Constitution amendment clause* that any power not given explicitly to the federal government is reserved for the people), to spend money into existence.

*The Tenth Amendment declares, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Susan the other , June 8, 2018 at 11:59 am

So do you gold bugs want to dispense with double entry bookkeeping or keep it and adapt it to gold (would that entail both counterfeit money and counterfeit debt?) – gold as both credit and debt, or just what exactly? With the gold side weighing down the ledger it's gonna get wobbly. Maybe have to start a war to fix it? The fog of positive money. Really, JH, you've been the best voice against war. How do you reconcile all the social imbalance that would follow with "positive" money?

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Nobody's going to willingly go back to a gold standard, it would have to come about because money via digital deceit has failed in entirety.

Jim Haygood , June 8, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Fiat money is war finance, made permanent. Even during the gold standard, governments would suspend gold convertibility during wars. Lincoln's greenbacks and the UK's suspension during WW I are noteworthy examples.

So the gold standard won't stop governments declaring national security exceptions -- they've always done so. But permanent war finance is what sustains the value-subtraction US military empire, a gross social imbalance that already plagues us by starving the US economy of investment.

Double entry bookkeeping doesn't require that every asset have an offsetting liability. A balance sheet with no liabilities is all equity on the right-hand side. It's what a bank would look like if it sold off its loan portfolio and paid off its depositors -- cash on the left side, equity on the right. If the bank then bought some gold, it would be exchanging one asset (cash) for another (gold), with no effect on the liability/equity side.

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 12:30 pm

It is worth noting that the Federal government struck well over 10 million ounces of gold in coin form for use in circulation from 1861 to 1865

And the CSA?

Not one grain worth

Anthony K Wikrent , June 8, 2018 at 6:40 pm

I've gathered and read much on the greenbacks, but don't recall that very interesting data about minted gold. Any sources you might recommend?

Wukchumni , June 9, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Just look up the mintage figures, here's $20 gold coins that contain just under 1 troy oz of pure gold in content, from 1861 to 1865. You can follow links to other denominations.

There were over 8 million ounces alone in $20 gold coins struck during the Civil War, by the Union.

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 12:42 pm


We were never on a pure gold standard, nowhere close actually.

The most common money in the land until the Federal Reserve came along, FRN's not being backed by gold?

Why, that would've been National Banknotes, which was the currency of the land from 1863 to 1935. There were over 10,000 different banks in the country that all issued their own currency with the same design, but with different names of banking institutions, etc.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Specifically, in this case:

Assets = Equity (+ zero liabilities)

The accounting identity is still good.

Susan the other , June 9, 2018 at 10:06 am

Very hard to argue with you, but I'm tripping over this: "If the bank then bought some gold, it would be exchanging one asset (cash) for another (gold) with no effect o the liability equity side." Because in my mind cash isn't an asset – it's just money – a medium of exchange and a unit of account. Where we get all messed up is when the unit of account starts to slip (due to mismanagement) and people start to demand that money become a store of value. When the value is society itself. And blablablah.

JTFaraday , June 9, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Sure, the value is society itself, I agree with this. But OTOH, it is for example much better to be a woman, black person, fill in the blank, even "working class" person with a lot of money than not in a sexist, racist, etc society.

I can't necessarily compel the forces of sexism, racism, old farts who don't agree with me, etc through the "political process," thereby bringing my will to bear on society. But I can move things with my dollars, This is how money gets its magic power. If people played nice with each other, we wouldn't need money.

Older & Wiser , June 8, 2018 at 1:03 pm

What about paper bugs Susan ?
Has paper buggery helped any ever ?
Why do fiat currencies always self-implode (in average) every 50 years ?
" You can fool part of the people all of the time, and all of the people part of the time. .."

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 7:42 pm

8 white men control > 50% of the world's wealth. Let's just keep going in that direction, to where it's down to one white guy, and with debt-based money everyone else owes him all the "money" in the world. Then we can just strangle him in the bathtub and usher in an era of peace and prosperity.

Older & Wiser , June 8, 2018 at 6:40 pm

Richard Murphy says that " handing all credit creation to the central banks is not only technically impossible in a modern economy, it's a dangerous folly "

What is QE then, Sir ?
Our "modern" economies don´t have business cycles any more, just distorting credit cycles.
There are no "markets" as such today, nor prices only interventions.
Even interest rates (the price of supposed "money" remember ?) are not priced by markets any more .

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 7:47 pm

Ask any economist or banker what they think about fixing the price of goods and services and see how they answer.

Watch their heads explode when you then ask if it's a clever idea to fix the most important price in the global economy.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 9:53 pm

Help me. Gold is not money. And it does not have and never had immutable value. Even in the days of the gold standard, countries regularly devalued their currencies in gold terms. It was the money that was used for commerce, not the gold. When the US government devalued the $ in gold terms by 5%, bread at the store didn't cost more the next day, which is what your "gold is money" amounts to. It's not correct and you need to drop it.

Synoia , June 9, 2018 at 10:49 pm

I visited a gold mine for a tour onec. At the end of the tour was the gold refinery, and on the floor two ingots of gold.

They made the offer, "if you could life one with one hand, you could keep it."

I tried.

And discobered that the ingit, was

a) Pyramidal in shape so ones fingers slid off it
b) F .. heavy. 140 lb.

When you see gold "bars" being tossed around in the movies, it's complete bs. Arnold at his best coud not toss them around.

So we went an had a beer instead. Wiser, but not sadder.

Plenue , June 10, 2018 at 1:13 am

"The former money, gold, is NOT debt. Debt-based money is ersatz, a ghastly fraud on humanity."

You've been on NC for years. You have to know by now that this literally, objectively, isn't true. It just simply isn't. History and anthropology do not at all support your version of events. People like Hudson and Graeber have extensively documented where money came from. Debt and credit came first, then money as a token to measure them. We have warehouses full of the freaking Sumerian transactions tablets that show it! Money is debt, always has been.

Actually, I say you have to know this by now, but given how conspicuously absent you seem to be in the comments of Michael Hudson articles about the history of debt hosted here, maybe you just aren't reading them. Or you are and don't like what they say and how it clashes with your pre-established worldview, so you just ignore them. Though even if the latter, it's still telling how you don't even attempt to refute them. Perhaps because you can't.

steven , June 8, 2018 at 10:52 am

It's not about money; its about creating and distributing wealth. That a trivial thing like a double-entry bookkeeping operation should stand in the way of creating the wealth the world and its people need to survive is, of course, insane. But it is also insane to expect different results from turning over control of the process of money creation to a wholly owned subsidiary of governments like those of the United States and Great Britain, bent as they are on global hegemony ("full spectrum dominance") – at ANY cost.

Whether or not China and other developing nations realize it, genuine wealth creation – not money as debt creation ('finance capitalism') – is THE source of national power. It is more than a little amusing to watch the neoconservatives fret about the rise of China after having joined with their neoliberal brothers in off-shoring US and Western wealth creation potential (in what they must have thought was an oh so clever attack on Western living standards by forcing 'their' people to compete with the world's most desperate workers in a global race to the bottom so their 1% patrons would have an excuse to create more money as debt).

So long as the West remains focused on 'the price of everything and the value of nothing' (like the human potential of their own people, for example), the developing world is soon likely to have a monopoly that will put OPEC and its Middle Eastern dictators to shame. In summary this is about FAR more than just about how a few 'post-industrial' democracies create their money. The definitive work on this topic remains Soddy's Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, 2nd edition.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:57 pm

Soddy doesn't object to democratizing the money supply and turning over its creation the democratically elected government.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 6:18 am

Soddys drama is making money a physical object when its a contract with time and space qualities,

blennylips , June 9, 2018 at 7:28 am

Just as a few days ago Carlos Rovelli, author of " The Order of Time ", has useful insights of the political significance of LSD, he has advice for this too in the same book:

The entire evolution of science would suggest that the best grammar for thinking about the world is that of change, not of permanence. Not of being, but of becoming.
We can think of the world as made up of things. Of substances. Of entities. Of something that is. Or we can think of it as made up of events. Of happenings. Of processes. Of something that occurs. Something that does not last, and that undergoes continual transformation, that is not permanent in time. The destruction of the notion of time in fundamental physics is the crumbling of the first of these two perspectives, not of the second. It is the realization of the ubiquity of impermanence, not of stasis in a motionless time.

In other (his) words:

"The world is made up of networks of kisses, not of stones."

Not bad for a physicist!

blennylips , June 9, 2018 at 8:02 am

As long as I am feting physicists, this just came over the transom from Sabine Hossenfelder of fame. She's written a book, " Lost in Math " and was informed that a video trailer is customary in this situation. As the first comment there says:

"Hey, that is a GREAT statement! (And it applies to SO MUCH in life, not just physics!)

djrichard , June 8, 2018 at 10:54 am

We've all been focusing on the demand side of the Fed Reserve's liquidity pump: be it for sound business needs. Or not (pirates).

But what happens when demand for that pump disappears because everyone is over-extended? Because this is where Bernanke and Japan and the ECB have done "whatever it takes" to keep that pump from going in reverse. Because in an empire created on naked shorts (currency creation today is essentially a naked shorting process), the last thing you want is that pump to go in reverse. That's not just creative destruction. That's house-on-fire destruction.

So Bernanke et. al. have figured out how to keep that pump from going in reverse. Simply prop up asset prices, e.g. by reducing the asset float in treasuries, MBSs, etc. And it worked. Yay! Right? If you're an asset holder, you're aces. If you're not an asset holder, well you're not doing so well. In particular, if you're in that part of the economy which depends on the velocity of money. Because velocity is at a stand still. As another blogger I used to follow would say, price sans volume is not the right price. So from my perspective, Bernanke (and Japan) had to destroy their economies by replacing them with zombie economies to rescue certain players. Not just players, but playahs – the pirates that pushed us to this end-game. So the pirates are rescued. And the average joe inherits the after effects. But hey, those with 401Ks got rescued too, so it's not all bad. And since the 401Kers are competitive, they generally found safe harbor in the job market too. Yay for them.

If we were not on a debt-based monetary pump, we would not end up with a zombie economy. One which the Fed Reserve can't figure out how to solve except for creating even more demand at the debt pump, even more over extension to mask the issue only to fall back within the same trap again. From what I can tell, we are truly in a doom loop and at present I don't see any creativity in getting us out of this doom loop.

So the vollgeld initiative would ostensibly be a way to extricate an economy from that doom loop. I suspect the Swiss don't really need it as much as other nations. But why get in the way of that type of creativity?

And I would just add that supplanting the federal reserve note with a Lincoln greenback type of approach would work just as well. Even better since it gives the monetary powers to the fiscal side of the Fed Gov.

I posted a version of this last night in the previous thread. But suspect nobody is going to go to that thread anymore. So apologies for a repeat of sort. Not trying to spam.

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 11:06 am

The idea of a real estate pumped perpetual notion machine, combined with essentially an interest free savings plan for the proles, persuaded them to come through and help rise all boats, and who could have figured on vacation rentals helping out housing bubble deux, the sequel.

Looking @ the real estate listings here in a vacation rental hotspot is indicative, in that there are only a few $250k-$300k homes for sale now, whereas there used to be a dozen, always.

Now, on the other hand, we're swimming in $500k to $1m homes that don't make the rental cut.

That says a lot.

Jim Haygood , June 8, 2018 at 12:36 pm

You probably read the Bernank's naive confession yesterday that fiscal stimulus "is going to hit the economy in a big way this year and next year, and then in 2020 Wile E. Coyote is going to go off the cliff."

Three hundred shocked staffers in the Eccles Building cocked their heads to the side and gasped, "He said WHAT?" So I wrote this song Technodammerung for rogue banker Ben:

He was just a Harvard hand
Workin' the QE he planned to try
The years went by

Every night when the sun goes down
Just another lonely quant in town
And rates out runnin' 'round

It's another tequila sunset
Fed's old scam still looks the same
Another frame

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 12:46 pm

{imagines Bernanke working tables @ South Of The Border, and typical waiter spiel going something along these lines }

"Bienvenidos amigos, me llamo Benito, may I start you with an endless supply of chips?"

Alejandro , June 9, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Pardners in chime
proseytizing in real time
Preaching, if you can touch a dime
Why wont paper rhyme
But in their zeal and haste
And self-righteous aversion to waste
Recruit disciples in bling bling
Preaching money is a thing thing
While finger wagging the bloat
Preaching fix the rate, dont let it float
But beyond the noise
Preaching with poise
Its all about them
Their stuff, jewels and gem

Thornton Parker , June 8, 2018 at 10:58 am

Might the actions of a bank be restrained more easily by requiring all payments and stock issuances to the executives and directors be put directly into escrow accounts to be metered out in small amounts if the bank stays healthy over time? If the bank suffers major losses, the escrow accounts would be the first source of funds to make up for them. No Federal Deposit Insurance or other government payments would be made to the bank until the escrow accounts have been reduced to zero.

John , June 8, 2018 at 11:45 am

Randall Wray could be made Sec Treasury, Stephanie Melton Fed Chairman and if the plutocrats still run the rest of the political show that sets priorities, we would still be screwed. The full employment guaranteed jobs could just as easily be strip mining coal from national parks and forests as installing a national solar grid. It could be done with forced low paid labor camps that maximize rent for the plutocrats. MMT seems morally neutral on how the money is spent. For a good portion of the plutocrats, helping the poor is morally suspect .if they consider it at all. That is the larger problem than acceptance of MMT.

economicator , June 8, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Right on.

I didn't see any comment here going in depth with ideas on the binding money creation decisions with socially useful goals (saving TBTF I dont consider such a goal, except for emergency purposes), by what type of process and stakeholders – to avoid driving us toward becoming a 3rd world oligarchy.

The rest is just mechanics – but the most important thing is what is the social control and social purpose of money creation. I am sure we could do just fine even with the present system (of course since it is a MMT system), if there were some limits on speculation with asset prices, less military spending, more democratic control of enterprises, including banks, severe constraints on the FIRE sector, etc, etc.

In the end the problem of managing money well is a political problem. And not much is changing there for the better, despite a growing awareness that "we have a problem" as a society. Where are the politicians that will connect the dots and take on the responsibility to fix the travesty that we have?

More questions than answers, I know. But what we need a change in politics – then banking will follow.

Pespi , June 9, 2018 at 3:34 am

This is a common fallacy, that MMT is bad because it isn't about communal barter tokens or some other thing. MMT exists to empirically describe how money works in the existing economy today. You can be any sort of ideology and embrace it, anyone can use it, just like anyone can use science, it's not inherently biased toward any ideology unlike neoclassical economics and its baked in neoliberalism. That doesn't make it bad, that just shows that it is what it purports to be, an empirical description of money in our existing economy.

You want a brand new type of currency in a whole new economy, well, start organizing your revolutionary army, because that's what that will take.

bruce wilder , June 8, 2018 at 12:42 pm

The Battle for Money -- that much, it seems to me, is true. Neoliberalism is going down, brought down by its own (unfortunate in my view) success and hubris, and one consequence, on-going, is the urgent political need to re-invent the institutions of money.

The institutional systems of monetary/payment/finance systems are always under a lot of strategic pressure: they tend to develop and evolve quickly and they do not usually last all that long -- maybe, the span of three or four human generations -- except in the collective memory of their artifacts and debris.

There's a natural human wish that it could all be made safely automatic -- taken out of corruptible hands and fixed with some technical governor. Whether you are a fan of democracy or loyal to oligarchy really doesn't take anyone very far toward devising or understanding a workable system of money.

As I said in a comment on the earlier Richard Murphy post, money is a language in which we write (hopefully) "true" fictions to paper over uncertainty. Much of what passes for a theory of money is just meta-fiction, akin to literary criticism of a particular genre or era. That is certainly true of Quantity Theory (1.0 re: gold and 2.0 Friedman). It is true of related fables, like Krugman's favorite, loanable funds.

When Murphy rejects the quantity theory of money and then turns around and talks about the need to create "enough" money, I pretty much write him off. When he embraces the Truth of MMT, I know he is hopeless.

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Ideally in a battle of money

a squadron of F-35's would be pitted against a fleet of Zumwalt Class destroyers

Summer , June 8, 2018 at 2:13 pm

It's been discussed on NC before, but despite all the theories and figures, it's really a battle of values. I'm not pushing religion, just saying it has all the makings of a holy war.
(come to think of it, isn't religion a big part of the history of monetary theory?)

Mercury , June 8, 2018 at 3:46 pm

China has yet to fall under the thumb of private banks the way the west has. State still holds the reins of regulation tight and the government bank maintains a robust public sector. Michael Hudson just came back from China and has this to say:

"The debts are owed to government banks. A government can do what the U.S. can't do. The government can forgive debts, at least those that are owed to itself, without creating a political backlash. If a viable corporation has run up too much debt, the government can forgive it. This is better than letting the debt close down a factory or force it be sold to a predatory asset management firm as occurs in the United States. That is the advantage of having public credit and why credit should be public. That's how it was in Babylonia. Rulers were able to cancel debts all the time in the 3rd millennium and 2nd millennium BC, because most debts were owed to the palace or the temples. Rulers were cancelling debts owed to themselves.

China can cancel business debt owed to itself. It can proclaim a clean slate. It can minimize debt service to whatever it chooses. But imagine if Chase Manhattan and Goldman Sachs are let in. It would be much harder for the government to raise real estate taxes leading to defaults on the banks. It could save the occupants by making new loans to those who default – based on lower land prices.

Well, you can imagine the international furor that would erupt. Trump would threaten to atom bomb Peking and Shanghai to save his constituency. His constituency and that of the Democrats are the same: Wall Street and the One Percent. So China may lose its ability to write down debts if it lets in foreign banks."

There are advantages to restoring financial management to the nation-state, as former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Frank Newman has pointed out in books and lectures. The private banks have exhausted QE to the tune of $30 trillion, none of which was invested in the industrial economy. Why blame the Swiss for wanting to be like China?

Grebo , June 8, 2018 at 5:23 pm

that this is a Chicago School / Friedmanesque monetary policy is made clear by Positive Money

The Chicago Plan of the 1930s and the unrelated Friedman suggestion of 1948 were both predicated on the false fractional reserve theory of banking. Given that individual banks create credit unrestrained by reserves those plans would not have had the desired result.

Positive Money knows this, though they do sometimes carelessly use the term 'fractional reserve banking'. They think their plan is different and, to the extent that it would actually prevent banks creating credit, it is.

It is silly to suggest that Positive Money is some Neoliberal front. Neutering the banks is the last thing Neoliberals want, and when they want something they don't bother with democratic methods like public pressure groups, they use think-tanks and lobbying.

Murphy's main complaint is about handing the 'quantity' decision to the Bank. I don't think Positive Money is wedded to that idea, it is just an attempt to defuse the 'profligate politicians' argument.

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 5:29 pm

I'm sort of disappointed in this thread.

Being that NC is the place I discovered MMT, and it's been explained and debated so for so long here, I would have expected NC readers to more broadly understand that what we have currently would work for everyone if only our masters would allow it.

IOW, it is not necessary to reinvent our system so much as insist that it be used to finance material benefits for all, as opposed to endless war, political repression and bail-outs for our criminal finance sector.

How can it be that we can we finance $trillions for war at the drop of a hat, but cannot afford to 'fix' SS, or provide universal healthcare?

It seems to me that it's a political issue, not a technical problem, or am I missing something here?

Korual , June 8, 2018 at 6:54 pm

It's the difference between nationalization and centralization. We can change policy direction or we can double down, as the Swiss are considering.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 8:11 pm

Cui bono?
The current mission of the custodians of our "money" is to keep banks afloat. It's not to provide general benefit, or to even preserve the buying power of the scrip they issue, despite what you might hear about the supposed "dual mandate" (which is now a "triple mandate": prices, employment, and the stock market).

"Financing material benefits for all" could be a bank that extends credit to a small business. Take a look at commercial credit creation to see how well that's been going. Take a look at velocity.

The Fed gifted Citi $174 billion on a day when they could have purchased 100% of the Citi Class A common stock for $4B. This is the difference Michael Hudson points about about China: their instant ability to swap debt for equity because all banks are state-owned and because they're Communists and nobody would blink an eye .

Most interesting in The Middle Kingdom are the moves to protect the state-owned banks. They started about 18 months ago, when people were told they could only have one Tier 1 bank-linked e-commerce account. As a result 7.5 billion (with a B) accounts were closed. Next they said all payments systems (including WeChat and Alipay) must clear through a new central bank clearinghouse. Two weeks ago they said not only will everything clear through these but the actual funds will need to be transferred to the new CB account .

Ant Financial announced that in the future they would be concentrating on services to finance and e-commerce companies, and away from providing those services themselves. They even anticipate a name change, from Ant Financial to Ant Lifestyle. All this makes perfect sense: President Xi will see every financial transaction in the country, and presumably apply a Social Score filter on whether he allows it to go through. 11 million people have already been denied the right to purchase train tickets or buy a house because they spat on a sidewalk, jaywalked, or made the wrong comments on social media.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 7:21 pm

Wow! We are clearly past the "First they ignore you.." stage and just on the other side of " then they ridicule you.." phase. What a basket of slurs, gross omissions of fact and outright falsehoods is this current blog post.
Anytime Milton Friedman is invoked to slur a concept developed before he was even born, should be an indicator that there is no substance to the argument against the democratization of money creation.

Thanks to the internet however, one can easily visit the Positive Money site, the American Monetary Institute and International Movement for Monetary Reform sites to see those fake progressives in action. While you're at it, go to the Vollgeld site yourself and read what those wolves in sheep's clothing are really saying instead of the creative writing displayed in the blog.

How can anyone who claims to be concerned over the excesses of capitalism prostrate themselves in front of the current banking system, the driver of capitalism as it rides off the rails.

I can't bring myself to respond to the stream of unsubstantiated assertions presented but need to remind people that banks, MUST create money first for the most creditworthy. I won't insult the readers any further by naming who that class represents. A child can see that this, by definition, must lead to the accelerating inequality we see today.

As a challenge, I ask the author to show specifically in the US code where it permits the Federal Government to spend before its accounts at the Fed are replenished either by borrowing or taxing. Stay tuned to these pages for the evidence .

Clint Ballinger , June 8, 2018 at 7:29 pm

PM just wants OMF (Overt Monetary Financing) with ZIRP and a very small horizontal money system. MMT analysis suggests OMF with ZIRP and a much more regulated horizontal system is needed. There is actually very little difference in their policy prescriptions. They just arrived at them from opposite sides of the track

steven , June 8, 2018 at 8:43 pm

I'm sort of disappointed in this thread.

I'll second that but for different reasons. Buried not far beneath the surface of this issue (money's creation, how and how much) are hugely important issues. But the discussion never seems to get beyond everyone's favorite system for creating money. The assumption seems to run along the lines of: if we can just come up with some scheme for government or gold backed money, those who possess or produce the real wealth for that money to buy will forever be content to exchange it for the money we will forever create to pay for it. There seems to be a belief countries like China or Russia can never escape the 'dollar trap' – or if they try we can threaten and intimidate them back in line with our "full spectrum dominance" military. Money IS debt – and sooner or later those who hold it are going to want to call that debt in.

Both Positive Money and MMT appear to me to just be attempts to continue 'business as usual', operating without a real definition of wealth and trusting / hoping 'the market' will sort it out.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 9:23 pm

Please explain your comment "Money IS debt". Money may represent a debt but is not debt in and of itself.

steven , June 9, 2018 at 1:24 am

Money is debt, both functionally and conceptually. This is true for most of the money used in the Main Street economy. It is created as debt – yours to a bank when you use your credit card or borrow money; the bank's to you when you deposit money with one. In its role as a medium of exchange money serves as a claim on society's goods and services, its real wealth. You don't exchange real wealth for fiat or bank-created money without the expectation you will at some future time be able to again exchange that money for real wealth at least equivalent to what you had to give up in exchange for the money originally.

Jamie Walton , June 9, 2018 at 7:48 am

Rather than a claim on wealth, money could be viewed as a representation of value. Value exchange is more like a giving/sharing economy, rather than debt-swapping. I think this psychological improvement will lead to many physical/social/environmental improvements.

Of course, in any case, people need to be willing sellers/exchangers – it's not automatic or universal; we need some freedom to choose, and the better the conditions are generally, the better the freedom we will have.

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 10:24 am

OK but the term, "money is debt" is used too loosely and can be very misleading. Money does not have to be issued as debt as claimed by MMT. In fact, money can first appear as equity on the government's balance sheet with no counterbalancing debt. So this concept is grossly misused to imply money must be issued as debt when, in fact, once issued it may represent a claim on the wealth of society. Proponents of MMT first make the claim that money is debt, and that the notion that money can be issued debt-free is therefore false on its face. Pretty clever. They slyly blur the distinction between the creation of money by a government and the role of that money once in the economy.

WobblyTelomeres , June 9, 2018 at 10:28 am

SOME proponents of MMT first make the claim that money is debt.


tegnost , June 9, 2018 at 10:33 am

How can money first appear as equity? Isn't the other side of that the deficit? Granted I am naive on these points but I thought money was a bond of zero duration.See skippy re time and space

steven , June 9, 2018 at 11:17 am

I don't believe you are

"naive on these points"

. A question for Paul: Unless it is 'privatized' is there even such a thing as 'government equity'? The way the West's financial system works nothing that can't be sold appears to have any value. What's missing from that system – and the discipline of economics (see below) – is a definition of wealth.

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm

steven –
I believe we know what wealth is – but I don't understand your claim that money needs to be privatized to be considered equity. The government declares by fiat that the money it creates can be used to purchase goods and services in the economy.

steven , June 9, 2018 at 5:11 pm

I believe we know what wealth is

I don't believe this is anywhere nearly correct. From all over the political spectrum commentators lament the lost of trillions of dollars (or euros or whatever) of wealth. At least until the effects of a financial crisis start to take hold, no physical or intellectual capital is lost. The only thing that is lost are a few zeros on some financial ledgers.

As for money as equity, you may be technically correct, i.e. the rules of accounting may permit governments to count the stacks of paper currency they print (in any case, small change in terms of the total money supply) as 'equity'. But for most of us the only thing governments possess that we would count as equity are asset classes like public infrastructure. And until the services they provide (or the assets themselves) are sold, that infrastructure would, from a business accounting standpoint, technically be 'worthless'. (that last is a question?)

tegnost , June 9, 2018 at 11:24 am

I'll add watt4bob has stated what I feel is true, which is that we have MMT right now, and it's more commonly known as socialism for the rich

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 1:04 pm

tegnost – There is nothing in the accounting standards that prevents the inclusion of equity on a balance sheet. If we were under the gold standard and you happened to find a nugget of gold in your back yard, are you telling me that you would have to imagine some kind of "debt" to balance your household balance sheet? When Lincoln issued the Greenbacks in the 1860's there was no bond or debt associated with it. It paid soldiers wages and goods and services during he civil war.
Just as MMT states the government isn't a household, it also isn't a commercial bank either. It has the constitutional power to coin money as needed, no debt involved.

tegnost , June 9, 2018 at 2:42 pm

presumably you bought the nugget of gold when you purchased the property and it's land use rights so it's not a virgin birth, the debt is what you purchased the land for. Maybe one of those diamonds in the outback that hardy souls find, but those may have some territorial claim as well.

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 3:37 pm

tegnost – If you have to go there to make your point I let others judge.

tegnost , June 9, 2018 at 5:18 pm

ok how bout I come into your yard and look for some gold?

Plenue , June 10, 2018 at 1:33 am

The gold nugget has no inherent value. It's just a lump of cold metal. It will only become valuable when you go to someone else with it and try to exchange it for something, whether it be a currency or some kind of good. And only if the other person agrees with you that it's valuable. This is fundamentally what money is: a token of social interaction. The gold becomes valuable when you go to exchange it for something else. In other words when a debt comes into play. Money is debt. Or rather, it's a measurement of debt and credit. 'Store of value' and all that econ 101 rot is so much gibberish.

Once you realize that, then a question arises: "Well, why bother with rare metals or pressed coins? If it's just a token, you could literally just take a stick and carve marks into it and it would be the same thing". Yes, exactly. Which is precisely the sort of thing we see lots of in history.

RBHoughton , June 8, 2018 at 9:15 pm

Murphy sounds like one of those indecisive chaps who dispute with everyone but have no ideas of their own. I shall ignore him. Good luck to Switzerland. They have the courage and political system to try the experiment and we will all know the result in early course.

Oregoncharles , June 8, 2018 at 11:50 pm

What am I missing? As far as I can tell, the proposal is just Modern Money with the central bank substituted for the Treasury. Yes, that makes it less democratic.

MMT is inflation-limited, too. That's how you know you've overshot your resources. In fact, MMT poses a technical problem: how do you know when you've reached resource limits, EXCEPT by observing inflation? Because without that, you have a ratchet. Of course, that's just what we have, usually, so maybe that's evidence for the theory.

"First, this puts inflation at the core of economic policy." – is a false claim. As quoted, it treats inflation as a limitation. The core is promoting adequate economic activity.

Finally, he treats "money is debt" as doctrine. he doesn't justify it and it makes little sense, ESPECIALLY in MMT. How can you pay a debt with a debt? Someone's getting cheated. MMT actually proposes free money, to a point. I've seen elaborations of the idea, but they use a very extended sense of "debt." And I don't see how it's even relevant to his overall thesis.

The Swiss are pretty conservative, so I doubt they'll pass it.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 1:45 am

No, Positive Money is not remotely MMT. Wash your mouth out.

The Positive Money types want to limit the extension of credit and put it under the control of what Lambert called "a magic board," a regular gimmick from his days back in debate where someone needed to be in charge but no one wanted to think hard about who or how. In practice, a central bank would be in charge. So how democratic is that?

MMT does not fetishize money the way the Positive Money does. MMT despite having Monetary in the name is about the role of government spending in a fiat currency system. MMT argues that (as Kalekci did) that businesses have strong incentive (not wanting workers to get uppity) to keep the economy at less than full employment. So the government can and should spend to mobilize resources. And it can because its role as the currency issuer means it can never go bankrupt, it can only create too much inflation. Taxes are what contain inflation in MMT.

By contrast, the Positive Money types want to do it by limiting credit creation. And thus Murphy is correct. That means their priority is to preserve the value of financial assets, not achieve full employment.

steven , June 9, 2018 at 11:03 am

I don't believe it is accurate to say that Positive Money "fetishizes money". Irving Fisher acknowledged his debt to Frederick Soddy for the concept of "100% Money", the intellectual foundation for the Positive Money movement. Soddy's intent in limiting the creation of money to the stock of wealth available for it to purchase was to retain independence from the state in obtaining the means of subsistence. He compared the use of monetary policy to goose the economy to a merchant putting his or her finger on the scale, making it difficult to impossible for money to fulfill two of its primary functions: serving as a medium of exchange and a store of value.

So long as there was wealth available for it to purchase, he – and presumably Fisher's Positive Money crowd – would have no objection to creating as much money as needed to keep the economy running. What he and every other respectable economist have been trying to bring under control is the excess money creation fueling speculation and the seemingly inevitable boom-bust cycle accompanying the private creation of money.

Rather than curbing that excess, however, the 'solution' that seems to have been adopted is for the US and other Western governments to absorb the excess credit (money as debt) creation by taking it on their (governments') own books. Government debt is I believe called 'near money' in the financial markets. But neither the governments nor the bankers of countries that no longer create real wealth have any logical right to create the money to buy it. Just retaining the right to 'print' more money or 'near money' doesn't change that, except perhaps in an absurdly narrow legal sense.

There are, of course, some issues like globalization intimately connected with the construction of a logical and fair monetary system. But underlying them all, including for countries other than the US, is a logical definition of 'wealth':

a logical definition of wealth is absolutely needed for the basis of economics if it is to be a science."

Frederick Soddy, WEALTH, VIRTUAL WEALTH AND DEBT, 2nd edition, p. 102
(Soddy might have added "if government is to be a science".)

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 8:12 pm

Here in lies the rub economics will never be a Science.

Firstly the medium used by most economics – philosophy – does not even have a functioning model of time and space and is prone to fads. Magnified by scale WRT elite tastes or self dealing. Wealth or Capital is also a bit complicated by say the Cambridge Controversy et al. So until some very fundamental flaws are sorted, that have nothing to do with – money – the concept of "Science of Money" is going to be a non starter.

Worst is those that use such syntax and dialectal style are going to be called into question – over it.

I mean we had political theory, then some bolted on science to it, and called it economic science. Which then begat a whole time line of dominance front running the political process regardless of political incumbents.

I think Scientists that dabble in monetary theory fall victim to the same dilemma that say religious based views do – their optics are ground before looking.

steven , June 9, 2018 at 9:55 pm


Probably best to start with the first part of Soddy's (actually John Ruskin's) observation, "a logical definition of wealth is absolutely needed ". "Most economics" may indeed disguise its prostitution with a veneer of philosophy or mathematics. But I don't think you can say that about Soddy's:

A definition of wealth must be based upon the nature of physical or material wealth, in the sense of the physical requisites which empower and enable human life-that is, which supply human beings with the means to live, and, as an after consequence of living, to love, think and pursue goodness, beauty and truth.p. 108

(All citations are from Soddy's Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, 2nd edition- WVWD)
For that matter, according to Michael Hudson, you can not accuse the classical economists of just dabbling in philosophy. They were ALL about freeing society from free-lunch economic rent seekers, freeing up the resources so they could be devoted as completely as possible to the development of "the physical requisites which empower and enable human life".

What we have to do to develop those physical requisites – and increasingly the limitations imposed by the requirements of sustainability – is pretty well known. Whether a science of money can be devised to help accomplish that goal or some other mechanism for distributing the wealth made possible by advances in science and technology is required is increasingly open to question.

Take a look at Soddy's –THE THREE INGREDIENTS OF WEALTH (DISCOVERY, NATURAL ENERGY AND DILIGENCE). p. 61 The first two are firmly embedded in time and space.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 11:21 pm

I have read Soddy, more so I have talked with PM sorts for a long time, hence I'm not ignorant of the camps views or actions during said time.


"a logical definition of wealth is absolutely needed ".

I did reference the Cambridge Controversy, are you informed WRT this aspect.

"A definition of wealth must be based upon the nature of physical or material wealth, in the sense of the physical requisites which empower and enable human life-that is, which supply human beings with the means to live, and, as an after consequence of living, to love, think and pursue goodness, beauty and truth.p. 108"

Sorry but . "consequence of living, to love, think and pursue goodness, beauty and truth" has nothing scientific about it.

I reiterate – Metaphilosophy has no scientific underpinnings and attempts to "brand" it otherwise in only to burnish its credentials without any empirical satisfaction is just rhetorical gaming.

"you can not accuse the classical economists of just dabbling in philosophy."

Hay I respect Hudson, that does not mean I worship him, hes been invaluable to the discovery process, but, that does not mean everything he has to say is the word of dawg, nor would I surrender my cognitive processes just because someone uses the term classical.

If I have to go that space I would favor say Veblen or Lars P. Syll where if your to own a thing one must accept the responsibility from a social aspect and not one of atomistic individualism.

But hay I regress . because I'm still waiting for someone to show me a few decades of a labour market in "action".

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 11:22 pm

BTW it would be incumbent of you to redress my concerns above without forging a new path which excludes them.

steven , June 10, 2018 at 1:40 am
"BTW it would be incumbent of you to redress my concerns above without forging a new path which excludes them." – Sorry if I did that. It was not my intent. Wikipedia is my only exposure to the Cambridge Controversy . As I understand it, science is supposed to be all about observing the real world and then drawing conclusions from those observations. It looks to me like the participants in the debate were looking at their models and maybe the logic they used to construct them, not the world they were supposed to be modeling.
"Most of the debate is mathematical, while some major elements can be explained as part of the aggregation problem. The critique of neoclassical capital theory might be summed up as saying that the theory suffers from the fallacy of composition;"
This kind of cant is a far cry from something like:

"Though it was not understood a century ago, and though as yet the applications of the knowledge to the economics of life are not generally realised, life in its physical aspect is fundamentally a struggle for energy , in which discovery after discovery brings life into new relations with the original source. Evolutionary development has been parasitic, higher and higher organisms arising and obtaining the requisite supplies of energy by feeding upon the lower. But with man and the development of conscious reason, that process as regards energy is being reversed. "

(emphasis added)

Sister Gloria , June 9, 2018 at 8:46 am

Sorry, but where does Positive Money , in any of the publications and articles, propose any limitations on 'credit' ?
I never saw that.
Or AMI or any of these public money types for that matter?
Thank you.

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 9:45 am

You are completely correct, they don't. This is all made up propaganda against the democratization of the money supply. What PM proposes is sound credit creation.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 8:23 pm

PM wants to establish a non democratic administration of government issuance and then allow a return to the free banking period of the 1800s. All based on notions of EMH and QTM contra to all the historical data from that period. So on one had PM wants to lay claim to scientific methodology WRT money yet still cling to scientifically refuted EMH.

As far as I can discern PM proponents advance the belief that this would compel banks to become investment entities for "productive" activities. Don't know how that would work out considering how corporatism views society.

Sound of the Suburbs , June 9, 2018 at 4:13 pm

MMT has looked at publicly created money.

The positive money people have come at it from the other angle. People like Richard Werner have been studying the problems with privately created money since the Japanese economy blew up in the 1980s .

They have seen all the problems with privately created money and the positive money people were very pleased when the BoE confirmed their beliefs in 2014.

The positive money people have come to the wrong conclusion through not understanding publicly created money.

The MMT people can learn a lot about the problems of privately created money from the positive money people.

The two camps should merge to get the big picture.

I started looking into all the problems of privately created money after 2008 and was a latecomer to MMT.

The two merge nicely when you think about it and realise the why the positive money people came to the conclusion they did. They just didn't understand the way publicly created money works now.

djrichard , June 9, 2018 at 4:19 pm

In the case of Japan, unless I'm misunderstanding things there, presumably they've embraced MMT out the wazoo, in that they're willing to leverage federal gov debt out the wazoo. And yet I think the consensus still seems to be that their economy is still zombified (still not really recovered from the debt overhang from their go go years). In which case, why is that?

Has Japan been hamstringing their use of MMT, so it's less effective than it could be? Do they need to up the ante, employ MMT-on-steroids to overcome the trap that they're in, say like the US needed WWII to get out of its trap?

Withstanding MMT-on-steroids, should it be QE-on-steroids instead that get the animal spirits rekindled? I don't have a strong sense of whether the US central bank has done more in that department compared to the central bank of Japan. Or if indeed, the US central bank has been more successful on that front. It's clear that animal spirits are certainly rekindled in the US – the usual playahs are back at it. Though whether that's unzombified our economy, I'm not so sure – I don't think it has.

If these hurdles are so difficult, seems to me we should have a monetary system that doesn't result in a zombified economy to begin with, per the comment I was making further above.

Synoia , June 9, 2018 at 10:41 pm

And yet I think the consensus still seems to be that their economy is still zombified (still not really recovered from the debt overhang from their go go years). In which case, why is that?

Debt Peonage. For it to work there has to be a debt jubilee (a forgiveness of peoples debt).

Older & Wiser , June 9, 2018 at 8:21 pm

China´s Battle for Money

" It seems there are greater similarities between China and the US than may be visible at first glance. China builds real estate for a shrinking population, invests for an over-indebted client (the US, which even insists on a drastic reduction of the bilateral trade deficit) and finances all this with money it does not have ."

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 9:39 pm

I know the answer to this dilemma – Praxeology – !!!!!

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 8:29 pm

MMT has always stated to whom the debt is owed is the crux of the matter and in what form denoted.

I have trouble understanding the dramas with bank issued credit when squared with say equities, why all the focus on one and not to be inclusive of a wide assortment of other mediums of exchange and how they are created and why.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 9:27 pm

Sorry comment was directed at djrichard above.

So tell me why J – bonds are called the death trade e.g. shorters nightmare – albeit they will tell you their shorts are being thwarted by ev'bal forces.

The Rev Kev , June 9, 2018 at 10:26 pm

Couldn't resist this. That title has me intrigued so, with apologies to Winston Churchill-

" What (neoliberals have) called the Battle of (Credit) is over the Battle of (Money) is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of (world) civilisation. Upon it depends our own (western) life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our (civilization). The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. (Neoliberals) knows that (they) will have to break us in this (idea) or lose the war. If we can stand up to (them), all (the world) may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the (United Nations) and its (Countries) last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour." "

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 10:50 pm

Yet then some say AET and Neoclassical economics just needs to implement PM and all will be well.

I've yet to see any PM advocate or proponent criticize an executive or corporatism, only banksters and some politicians. On the other hand I've seen many PM sorts back crypto based on the argument of decentralization. So which is it, counterfeiting of national money with a side of corruption or a case of counterfeiting ex nihilo via some arbitrary computational source with a predominate side of corruption.

I am completely at a loss to understand how the debate about money proceeds things like Marginalism, supply and demand as a monolith, rational agent models, theoclassical opinions elevated to truisms [economic laws] and a reduction of human experience as a binary condition set in stone.

I also have issues with PM advocates and their UBI agenda, due to its original proponents views on the need to water down democracy more to keep the unwashed from just voting themselves more money. It is in my opinion logically incoherent, that is just what has occurred during the neoliberal period and corporatists via the democracy of money through lobbyists – every dollar is a vote – et al.

In light of that I can only surmise that PM is actually pro elitist, not that I have issues with some being elite, that is another story altogether, but money itself is not the bar.

[Jun 10, 2018] Hiding the Real Number of Unemployed by Pete Dolack

Notable quotes:
"... The Globe and Mail ..."
"... The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China ..."
Jun 08, 2018 |

... ... ...

Nonetheless, you might have noticed that happy days aren't exactly here again. The real U.S. unemployment figure -- all who are counted as unemployed in the "official" rate, plus discouraged workers, the total of those employed part-time but not able to secure full-time work and all persons marginally attached to the labor force (those who wish to work but have given up) -- is 7.6 percent . (This is the "U-6" rate.) That total, too, is less than half of its 2010 peak and is the lowest in several years. But this still doesn't mean the number of people actually working is increasing.

Fewer people at work and they are making less

A better indication of how many people have found work is the "civilian labor force participation rate." By this measure, which includes all people age 16 or older who are not in prison or a mental institution, only 62.7 percent of the potential U.S. workforce was actually in the workforce in May, and that was slightly lower than the previous month. This is just about equal to the lowest this statistic has been since the breakdown of Keynesianism in the 1970s, and down significantly from the peak of 67.3 percent in May 2000. You have to go back to the mid-1970s to find a time when U.S. labor participation was lower. This number was consistently lower in the 1950s and 1960s, but in those days one income was sufficient to support a family. Now everybody works and still can't make ends meet.

And that brings us to the topic of wages. After reaching a peak of 52 percent in 1969, the percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product going to wages has fallen to 43 percent , according to research by the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve. The amount of GDP going to wages during the past five years has been the lowest it has been since 1929 , according to a New York Times report. And within the inequality of wages that don't keep up with inflation or productivity gains, the worse-off are doing worse.

The Economic Policy Institute noted , "From 2000 to 2017, wage growth was strongest for the highest-wage workers, continuing the trend in rising wage inequality over the last four decades." The strongest wage growth was for those in the top 10 percent of earnings, which skewed the results sufficiently that the median wage increase for 2017 was a paltry 0.2 percent, the EPI reports. Inflation may have been low, but it wasn't as low as that -- the typical U.S. worker thus suffered a de facto wage decrease last year.

What this sobering news tells us is that good-paying jobs are hard to come by. An EPI researcher, Elise Gould, wrote :

"Slow wage growth tells us that employers continue to hold the cards, and don't have to offer higher wages to attract workers. In other words, workers have very little leverage to bid up their wages. Slow wage growth is evidence that employers and workers both know there are still workers waiting in the wings ready to take a job, even if they aren't actively looking for one."

The true unemployment rates in Canada and Europe

We find similar patterns elsewhere. In Canada, the official unemployment rate held at 5.8 percent in April , the lowest it has been since 1976, although there was a slight decrease in the number of people working in March, mainly due to job losses in wholesale and retail trade and construction. What is the actual unemployment rate? According to Statistics Canada's R8 figure , it is 8.6 percent. The R8 counts count people in part-time work, including those wanting full-time work, as "full-time equivalents," thus underestimating the number of under-employed.

At the end of 2012, the R8 figure was 9.4 percent , but an analysis published by The Globe and Mail analyzing unemployment estimated the true unemployment rate for that year to be 14.2 percent. If the current statistical miscalculation is proportionate, then the true Canadian unemployment rate currently must be north of 13 percent. "[T]he narrow scope of the Canadian measure significantly understates labour underutilization," the Globe and Mail analysis conclude.

Similar to its southern neighbor, Canada's labor force participation rate has steadily declined, falling to 65.4 percent in April 2018 from a high of 67.7 percent in 2003.

The most recent official unemployment figure in Britain 4.2 percent. The true figure is rather higher. How much higher is difficult to determine, but a September 2012 report by Sheffield Hallam University found that the total number of unemployed in Britain was more than 3.4 million in April of that year although the Labour Force Survey, from which official unemployment statistics are derived, reported only 2.5 million. So if we assume a similar ratio, then the true rate of unemployment across the United Kingdom is about 5.7 percent.

The European Union reported an official unemployment rate of 7.1 percent (with Greece having the highest total at 20.8 percent). The EU's Eurostat service doesn't provide an equivalent of a U.S. U-6 or a Canadian R8, but does separately provide totals for under-employed part-time workers and "potential additional labour force"; adding these two would effectively double the true EU rate of unemployed and so the actual figure must be about 14 percent.

Australia's official seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.6 percent , according to the country's Bureau of Statistics. The statistic that would provide a more realistic measure, the "extended labour force under-utilisation" figure, seems to be well hidden. The most recent figure that could be found was for February 2017, when the rate was given as 15.4 percent. As the "official" unemployment rate at the time was 5.8 percent, it is reasonable to conclude that the real Australian unemployment rate is currently above 15 percent.

Mirroring the pattern in North America, global employment is on the decline. The International Labour Organization estimated the world labor force participation rate as 61.9 percent for 2017, a steady decline from the 65.7 percent estimated for 1990.

Stagnant wages despite productivity growth around the world

Concomitant with the high numbers of people worldwide who don't have proper employment is the stagnation of wages. Across North America and Europe, productivity is rising much faster than wages. A 2017 study found that across those regions median real wage growth since the mid-1980s has not kept pace with labor productivity growth.

Not surprisingly, the United States had the largest gap between wages and productivity. Germany was second in this category, perhaps not surprising, either, because German workers have suffered a long period of wage cuts (adjusted for inflation) since the Social Democratic Party codified austerity by instituting Gerhard Schröder's "Agenda 2010" legislation. Despite this disparity, the U.S. Federal Reserve issued a report in 2015 declaring the problem of economic weakness is due to wages not falling enough . Yes, the Fed believes your wages are too high.

The lag of wages as compared to rising productivity is an ongoing global phenomenon. A separate statistical analysis from earlier this decade also demonstrated this pattern for working people in Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Workers in both Canada and the United States take home hundreds of dollars less per week than they would if wages had kept up with productivity gains.

In an era of runaway corporate globalization, there is ever more precarity. On a global scale, having regular employment is actually unusual. Using International Labour Organization figures as a starting point, John Bellamy Foster and Robert McChesney calculate that the "global reserve army of labor" -- workers who are underemployed, unemployed or "vulnerably employed" (including informal workers) -- totals 2.4 billion. In contrast, the world's wage workers total 1.4 billion. Writing in their book The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China , they write:

"It is the existence of a reserve army that in its maximum extent is more than 70 percent larger than the active labor army that serves to restrain wages globally, and particularly in poorer countries. Indeed, most of this reserve army is located in the underdeveloped countries of the world, though its growth can be seen today in the rich countries as well." [page 145]

Having conquered virtually every corner of the globe and with nowhere left to expand into nor new markets to take, capitalists will continue to cut costs -- in the first place, wages and benefits -- in their ceaseless scrambles to sustain their accustomed profits. There is no reform that can permanently alter this relentless internal logic of capitalism. Although she was premature, Rosa Luxemburg's forecast of socialism or barbarism draws nearer.

Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog and has been an activist with several groups. His book, It's Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment , is available from Zero Books.

[Jun 10, 2018] Trump At G-7 Closing Remarks We're The Piggy Bank That Everybody's Robbing

Looks like Trump adopted Victoria Nuland "Fuck the EU" attitude ;-). There might be nasty surprises down the road as this is uncharted territory: destruction of neoliberal globalization.
Trump proved to be a really bad negotiator. he reduced the USA to a schoolyard bully who beats up his gang members because their former victims have grown too big.
As the owner of world reserve currency the USA is able to tax US denominated transactions both via conversion fees and inflation. As long as the USA has dollar as a reserve currency the USA has so called "exorbitant priviledge" : "In the Bretton Woods system put in place in 1944, US dollars were convertible to gold. In France, it was called "America's exorbitant privilege"[219] as it resulted in an "asymmetric financial system" where foreigners "see themselves supporting American living standards and subsidizing American multinationals"."... "De Gaulle openly criticised the United States intervention in Vietnam and the "exorbitant privilege" of the United States dollar. In his later years, his support for the slogan "Vive le Québec libre" and his two vetoes of Britain's entry into the European Economic Community generated considerable controversy." Charles de Gaulle - Wikipedia
Notable quotes:
"... Errrr, that so-called "piggy bank' just happens to; ..."
"... have the world's reserve currency ..."
"... dominates the entire planet militarily since the end of the Cold War ..."
"... dictates "regime change" around the world ..."
"... manipulates and controls the world's entire financial system, from the price of a barrel to every financial transaction in the SWIFT system. ..."
"... And Trump has the ignorance, the arrogance and the audacity to be pleading 'poverty?' ..."
Jun 10, 2018 |

On trade:

"We had productive discussion on having fair and reciprocal" trade and market access.

"We're linked in the great effort to create a more just and prosperous world. And from the standpoint of trade and creating more prosperous countries, I think they are starting to be committed to more fair trade. We as a nation lost $870 billion on trade...I blame our leaders and I congratulate leaders of other countries for taking advantage of our leaders."

"If they retaliate they're making a tremendous mistake because you see we have a tremendous trade imbalance...the numbers are so much against them, we win that war 1000 times out of a 1000."

"We're negotiating very hard, tariffs and barriers...the European Union is brutal to the United States....the gig is up...there's nothing they can say."

"We're like the piggy bank that everybody's robbing."

"I would say the level of relationship is a ten - Angela, Emmanuel and Justin - we have a very good relationship. I won't blame these people, unless they don't smarten up and make the trades fair."

Trump is now making the 20-hour flight to Singapore, where he will attend a historic summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. We'll now keep our eye out for the finalized communique from the group. The US is typically a leader in the crafting of the statement. But this time, it's unclear if the US had any input at all into the statement, as only the leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan as well as the presidents of the European Commission and European Council remain at the meeting. But regardless of who writes it, the statement will probably be of little consequence, as UBS points out:

Several heads of state will be heading off on a taxpayer-financed "mini-break" in Canada today. In all of its incarnations (over the past four years, we've gone from G-8 to G-6+1) the group hasn't really accomplished much since an initial burst of enthusiasm with the Plaza Accords and Louvre Accords in the 1980s.

And this meeting likely won't be any different.

Simplifiedfrisbee -> ravolla Sat, 06/09/2018 - 11:31 Permalink

Unprepared son of a bitch.

Sack of filth.

Klassenfeind -> Dickweed Wang Sat, 06/09/2018 - 11:43 Permalink

"We're the piggy bank that everybody is robbing." Excuse me?!

Errrr, that so-called "piggy bank' just happens to;

  1. have the world's reserve currency
  2. dominates the entire planet militarily since the end of the Cold War
  3. dictates "regime change" around the world
  4. manipulates and controls the world's entire financial system, from the price of a barrel to every financial transaction in the SWIFT system.

And Trump has the ignorance, the arrogance and the audacity to be pleading 'poverty?'

Who THE FUCK is robbing who here?!?

Escrava Isaura -> helltothenah Sat, 06/09/2018 - 14:51 Permalink

By the way, Trump is right on the tariffs in my view, Europeans should lower their tariffs and not having the US raising it.

Trump: "We're The Piggy Bank That Everybody's Robbing"

Isn't Trump great in catch phrases? Trump's base will now regurgitate it to death.

Now reconcile Trump's remarks with reality:

Professor Werner: Germany is for instance not even allowed to receive delivery of US Treasuries that it may have purchased as a result of the dollars earned through its current account surplus: these Treasuries have to be held in custody by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a privately owned bank: A promise on a promise. At the same time, German influence over the pyramid structure of such promises has been declining rapidly since the abolition of the German currency and introduction of the euro, controlled by an unaccountable supranational international agency that cannot be influenced by any democratic assembly in the eurozone. As a result, this structure of one-sided outflows of real goods and services from Germany is likely to persist in the short and medium-term.

To add insult to injury:

Euro-federalists financed by US spy chiefs

The documents show that ACUE financed the European Movement, the most important federalist organisation in the post-war years. In 1958, for example, it provided 53.5 per cent of the movement's funds.

bshirley1968 -> Escrava Isaura Sat, 06/09/2018 - 15:00 Permalink

Okay, everyone set your "team" aside for a few minutes and let's look at the facts and reality.

Do you really believe the rest of the world has trade advantages over the US? Well, let's consider major industries.

Agriculture.....maybe, but only sightly. Our farmers are the richest in the far.

Manufacturers.....probably so....because we gave it away to countries with slave labor. Manufacturers jobs were jobs where people could earn a decent living...and that had to go..can't be cutting into corporate profits with all that high cost labor.

Defense.....need I go here? We spend more than the next 11 countries combined! We sell more as well.

Energy.....we rule thus space because we buy it with worthless printed fiat debt...whenever we want to....and nd if you deny us, we will bomb the hell out of you and take it.

Technology. ....Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Google, Amazon, Oracle, Dell, Cisco.....who can touch that line up....not to mention all the on-line outfits like Facebook and Twitter.

Finance.....the best for last. We control the printing press that prints the dollar the rest of the world needs. We control energy and foreign policy. Don't do what we like and we will cut you off from SWIFT and devalue the hell out of your currency...and then move in for the "regime" change to some one who plays ball the way we like it. 85% of all international trade takes place in dollars everyday. We have the biggest banks, Wall Street, and infest the world with our virus called the dollar so that we can Jeri their chain at will.

Now I ask you....just where the hell is the "trade imbalances"? Sure there are some companies or job sectors that get a raw deal because our politicians give some foreigners unfair trade advantages here and there, but as a whole, we dominate trade by far. The poor in our country lives like kings compared to 5.5 billion of the world's population. Trump knows this.....or he is stupid. He is pandering to his sheeple voting base that are easily duped into believing someone is getting what is their's.

Hey, I am thankful to be an American and enjoy the advantages we have. But I am not going to stick my head up Trump's ass and agree with this bullshit. It is misdirection (corporate America and politicians are the problem here, not foreign countries) and a major distraction. Because all the trade in the world isn't going to pull us out of this debt catastrophe that's coming.

waspwench -> bshirley1968 Sat, 06/09/2018 - 16:47 Permalink

But, if we cut through all the verbiage, we will arrive at the elephant in the room.

American manufacturing jobs have been off-shored to low wage countries and the jobs which have replaced them are, for the most part, minium wage service jobs. A man cannot buy a house, marry and raise a family on a humburger-flippers wage. Even those minimum wage jobs are often unavailable to Americans because millions of illegal aliens have been allowed into the country and they are undercutting wages in the service sector. At the same time, the better paid positions are being given to H-1B visa holders who undercut the American worker (who is not infrequently forced to train his own replacement in order to access his unemployment benefits.)

As the above paragraph demonstrates the oligarchs are being permitted to force down American wages and the fact that we no longer make, but instead import, the things we need, thus exporting our wealth and damaging our own workers is all the same to them. They grow richer and they do not care about our country or our people. If they can make us all into slaves it will suit them perfectly.

We need tariffs to enable our workers to compete against third world wages in countries where the cost-of-living is less. (American wages may be stagnating or declining but our cost-of-living is not declining.) We need to deport illegal aliens and to stop the flow of them over our borders. (Build the wall.) We need to severely limit the H-1B visa programme which is putting qualified Americans out of work. (When I came to the US in 1967 I was permitted entry on the basis that I was coming to do a job for which there were not enough American workers available. Why was that rule ever changed?)

bshirley1968 -> waspwench Sat, 06/09/2018 - 18:45 Permalink

You are making my point. China didn't "off shore" our jobs....our politicians and corporations did. You can't fix that by going after other countries. You fix that by penalizing companies for using slave labor workers from other countries. Tariffs are not going to fix this. They will just raise prices on everyone.

I can't believe you Trumptards can't see this! Once again we will focus on a symptom and ignore the real problem. Boy, Trump and his buddies from NYC and DC have really suffered because of unfair trade practices, right? Why can't you people see that "government is the problem" and misdirection your attention to China, Canada, Germany, Mexico, or whomever is just that....misdirection.

I would tax the shit out of companies like Apple that make everything overseas with slave labor and then ship it in here to sell to Americans at ridiculous prices.

Plenty of down votes but no one has proven that I am wrong on one point.

mkkby -> helltothenah Sat, 06/09/2018 - 17:52 Permalink

The EU countries have free college, health care, day care and just about everything else. All paid for because they have no military spending.

It's all on the backs of the US tax payer. Or the fed, if you prefer.

Trump is working both angles. Forcing them to pay for their own defense. Forcing them to allow US products with no trade disadvantages. Go MAGA and fuck the EU.

[Jun 10, 2018] Trump and National Neoliberalism, Revisited by Sasha Breger Bush

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... But if we take seriously the idea that Trump is a consequence of the disintegration of American democracy rather than the cause of it, this "blame game" becomes especially problematic. Partisan bickering, with one party constantly pointing to the other as responsible for the country's ills, covers up the fact that Democrats and Republicans alike have presided over the consolidation of corporate power in the United States. To paraphrase Ralph Nader, the U.S. corporate state is a two-headed beast. Sure, President Trump and the Republican Party are currently handing over public lands to oil and gas companies, eliminating net neutrality, introducing pro-corporate tax legislation, kowtowing to the military industrial complex, defunding the welfare state, and attempting to privatize education and deregulate finance. But let's not forget our recent Democratic presidents, for example, who are also guilty of empowering and enriching big business and disempowering and impoverishing ordinary Americans. ..."
"... All of this is to say that I'm considerably less excited about 2018 and 2020 than many others -- on what counts as the U.S. left -- appear to be. Democratic Party victories at the ballot box would certainly reduce some of the pressures on a variety of marginalized groups who are suffering mightily under President Trump. This is, of course, a good thing. But, Democratic victories will not "fix" the structural problems that underpin our current political crisis nor will they ensure a freer and more just future. ..."
Jun 10, 2018 |

This article is from Dollars & Sense : Real World Economics, available at

Last winter, in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, I wrote an article for Dollars & Sense in which I argued that Trump's election represented a transition toward "national neoliberalism" in the United States ("Trump and National Neoliberalism: Trump's ascendance means the end of globalism -- but not of neoliberalism," January/February 2017).

I argued that this emergent state of affairs would be marked by a completion of the takeover of the U.S. government by corporate interests. I saw the election of Trump -- a top one-percenter and real estate tycoon firmly rooted in the culture and logic of big business, who has somehow convinced many Americans that he is an anti-establishment "outsider" -- as an "unmasking" of the corporate state, a revelation of the ongoing merger between state and market that has arguably been ongoing since the 1970s. In short, I envisioned a movement away from "global neoliberalism," a state of affairs characterized by the increasing preeminence of transnational corporate capital in a relatively open global political-economic system, and towards "national neoliberalism," a state of affairs in which transnational corporate dominance is cemented in the context of an ever more fragmented and dangerous global system.

About ten years ago, political theorist Sheldon Wolin published Democracy Incorporated , diagnosing American democracy with a potentially fatal corporate disease. Referring to the specter of "inverted totalitarianism," Wolin writes in his preface:

Primarily it represents the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry. Unlike the classic forms of totalitarianism [e.g. Germany, Italy], which openly boasted of their intentions to force their societies into preconceived totality, inverted totalitarianism is not expressly conceptualized as an ideology or objectified in public policy. Typically it is furthered by power-holders and citizens who often seem unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions or inactions. There is a certain heedlessness, an inability to take seriously the extent to which a pattern of consequences may take shape without having been preconceived. Wolin paints a picture of a gradual process of change in which many different actors, some wealthy and powerful and others not, unwittingly push the country's politics, bit by bit in piecemeal fashion, towards an undemocratic, corporate-controlled end. Many of these actors may have good intentions. Many of them may see themselves as champions of the people. Many of them may actually speak out against the very interests that they in other ways empower.

This framework for thinking about the plight of the United States, which has for me been legitimated over and over again during Trump's first year in office, conditions how I think about President Trump and the Republican Party, and how I think about our opportunities for nonviolent social transformation, freedom, and social justice. It's hard not to point to President Trump and blame him for our problems. He is a bigot who has struck out at immigrants, Muslims, Arabs, African-Americans, Mexicans, women, LGBT people, and disabled people. He lacks the basic knowledge of politics and foreign policy that are a necessary condition for competent leadership. He picked up a congratulatory call from the President of Taiwan in December 2016, disrupting relations with China, and called North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un "short" and "fat." He is a paranoid and narcissistic demagogue who has scorned and marginalized journalists, and made the terms "fake news" and "alternative facts" household words. He is a corrupt businessman who is using the levers of power that he controls to enrich Big Business, as well as his cronies, his friends, and hims