THIS COUNTRY DEFAULTED LONG AGO

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Posted on 31st July 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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“There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”Ludwig von Mises

The final collapse of our credit expansion boom approaches. We have a choice over the next week. We could voluntarily abandon further credit expansion by voting for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution or we can raise the debt ceiling, pretend to cut spending far in the future, and allow our currency system to experience a catastrophic final collapse.

We’ll take what’s behind door #2 Johnny. The vested interests in Washington DC and Wall Street only care about power and wealth. They will never abandon credit expansion. It’s their drug. They must have it. They are addicted to it. They will keep injecting it into our system until they overdose America.

The mainstream media acts as if not raising the debt ceiling by next Tuesday will result in America defaulting. This is a crock. America chose to proceed on a path to default decades ago. We are just finally reaching our destination. Below are the choices we made as a people and a country to default on our obligations and eventually destroy our country:

  • The enactment of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913 allowing the government to impose a tax on your income, thereby opening Pandora’s Box to a 60,000 page tax code and allowing politicians to sell their votes to the highest bidder.
  • The signing into law of the Federal Reserve Act by Woodrow Wilson in 1913, transferring control of our currency system to Wall Street banks. The man made inflation created by the Federal Reserve has reduced the purchasing power of the USD by 97% since 1913 and has allowed politicians to promise $100 trillion of benefits to Americans, that can never be delivered.
  • The Social Security Act signed into law by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935, supposedly to help widows and orphans, morphed into a giant ponzi scheme used by politicians to make Americans think it was a retirement plan and the money was in a lockbox. The scam continues, but ponzi schemes always collapse.
  • Fannie Mae was created in 1938 as a government agency and Freddie Mac was created in 1970 as a quasi-government agency. By promoting home ownership and subsidizing loans to people who should have never gotten loans these agencies caused hundreds of billions in mal-investment. As tools of politicians, they were used to push social agendas. The result will be in excess of $300 billion in losses to the American taxpayer.
  • The Korean War set a precedent where the President did not need to seek Congress to declare war as required under the Constitution. This has allowed the President the freedom to fight undeclared wars around the world for decades, while spending trillions, with no approval from Congress.
  • LBJ’s Great Society programs such as Medicare and Medicaid were sold to Americans as cost saving programs that would improve healthcare for all Americans. We now spend 17% of our GDP on healthcare and these two programs have an unfunded liability of almost $100 trillion.

  • Nixon closing the gold window in 1971 removed all restraint on the Federal Reserve, banks and politicians. With a fiat currency backed by nothing but promises, it was only a matter of time before the greed and corruption of bankers and politicians overcame any self imposed fiscal responsibility. The result has been the National Debt going from $400 billion in 1971 to $14.4 trillion today, a 3,600% increase in 40 years. Meanwhile, GDP only increased 1,350% over this same time frame.
  • The embrace of consumer debt by the Baby Boom generation beginning in 1980 created an atmosphere of living for today and not worrying about the future. This attitude has left 50% of all the households in the country with a net worth of $70,000 or below.
  • The repeal of the Glass Steagall Act in 1999 unleashed the hounds of hell upon America, as the soulless blood sucking vampires on Wall Street proceeded to rape and pillage the American economy with their financial derivatives of mass destruction and marketing of debt to the clueless masses. The housing bust and impoverishment of the middle class can be laid at the feet of these evil greedy bastards.
  • Bush’s unpaid for wars of choice, his reckless tax cuts, and his foolish expansion of a bankrupt Medicare program in the midst of two wars turbo charged the country on its path to default.
  • By bailing out Wall Street on the backs of the middle class in 2008/2009, the politicians in this country showed their hand. They will protect their fellow power brokers and contributors and throw the American people under the bus. Wall Street controls Congress.
  • The Keynesian schemes rolled out by Obama and his minions have just added trillions of debt while depressing the economic system and doing nothing to help the average person. The Fed created inflation has inflamed revolution through out the world and further impoverished the middle class who need to eat and fill up their cars.
  • In the midst of a Depression Obama chose to create a brand new healthcare bureaucracy, add 30 million people into the government controlled system, and commit the US taxpayer to trillions of future healthcare costs.

As you can see, next Tuesday means nothing. The debt ceiling means nothing. We chose to default as a nation many years ago. The destination was certain, only the timing was in question. Time to step on the gas.

“Credit expansion is not a nostrum to make people happy. The boom it engenders must inevitably lead to a debacle and unhappiness.”Ludwig von Mises

A FOURTH TURNING PROPHECY

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Posted on 29th July 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Check out this passage from The Fourth Turning and tell me these guys aren’t brilliant.

Recall that a Crisis catalyst involves scenarios distinctly imaginable eight or ten years in advance. Based on recent Unraveling-era trends, the following circa-2005 scenarios might seem plausible:

  • An impasse over the federal budget reaches a stalemate. The president and Congress both refuse to back down, triggering a near-total government shutdown. The president declares emergency powers. Congress rescinds his authority. Dollar and bond prices plummet. The president threatens to stop Social Security checks. Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling. Default looms. Wall Street panics.

The Fourth Turning - Strauss & Howe – Page 273 – Written in 1996

WHO ARE THE EXTREMISTS?

208 comments

Posted on 28th July 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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“Deficits mean future tax increases, pure and simple. Deficit spending should be viewed as a tax on future generations, and politicians who create deficits should be exposed as tax hikers.” – Ron Paul

 

The Debt Ceiling Reality Show approaches its grand finale in the next week. The world breathlessly awaits the shocking conclusion. The debt ceiling will be raised. The world will be saved. Wall Street will rejoice. Americans can focus on the important stuff again, like Casey Anthony’s upcoming book, who will win this week’s Toddlers and Tiaras pageant, and the latest app created for their iPads. Based on my observations over the last few weeks, I’m absolutely sure that 90% of the politicians in Washington DC would lose on Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

Still, the mainstream media and the performing puppet politicians need to create a fearful frenzy among the masses to insure maximum public relations exposure for their lies, misinformation, and mistruths. Wall Street will exert their control over the debate by threatening to crash the market if they don’t get what they want (aka TARP). I generally ignore the talking heads on Fox, MSNBC, CNN, and CNBC, as I could learn more from watching Cash Cab than listening to ideologues spouting their talking points. But, last night I happened to see an hour or so of Fox, CNN and MSNBC. I saw the full spectrum of right wing and left wing rhetoric and fear mongering. These stations should be ashamed to call themselves news organizations. They do not even purport to report the news. They spew talking points generated by the left and right, depending on the station’s bias. Truth is unavailable on the mainstream media.

What the public doesn’t see is the rooms filled with PR maggots in the bowels of Congress generating talking points and testing them in over night polls of the public. Their sole purpose is to generate a message that will convince the public the fiscal debacle is the fault of the other party. The goal is to gain an advantage in the next elections. The long term future of our country is unimportant to the soulless autobots that get paid to misinform and mislead the masses. Leaving unborn generations with an un-payable debt so we can selfishly cling to benefits promised to us by corrupt politicians who only made the promises so they could be elected, is the ultimate in egocentric myopia.

The deceptive talking points created in smoky backrooms in Washington DC and vetted by Madison Ave maggots are easy to detect. Each side pounds home the exact same phrases on every “news” station:

Republican Talking Points

  • We refuse to increase taxes on all Americans to fix a spending problem.
  • Spending has been out of control since Obama took control of the White House (reference $800 billion stimulus package, home buyer tax credit, and Obamacare).
  • Say that Obama doesn’t have a plan and mention his ten year budget.
  • Tell the American people Republicans are fiscally responsible and the real party of change.
  • The people told them to change Washington with the 2010 election.

Democratic Talking Points

  • The Tea Party EXTREMISTS have hijacked the Republican Party and want to destroy the country by forcing the country to default on its debt.
  • The Bush tax cuts and the Bush wars are to blame for the entire increase in debt and deficits.
  • The Republicans want to protect the richest Americans while cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits for the poor.
  • The Democratic Party will never cut Medicare or Social Security.
  • The Democrats are willing to compromise and act like adults, while the evil Republicans resist all offers to strike a deal.

Depending on your ideology, you will find yourself agreeing with the talking points that strike your fancy. Don’t worry; they’ve all been tested on sample groups of ignorant Americans in order to strike the right nerve. As I listened to that bald headed prick – James Carville – screeching on CNN last night about Bush’s wars and tax cuts causing our economic peril today, I wanted to reach into the TV screen and throttle the weasel faced demagogue. The National Debt on the day Bush took office was $5.7 trillion. On the day he left office the National Debt was $10.6 trillion, a $4.9 trillion increase in eight years. Today, the National Debt stands at $14.4 trillion, a $3.8 trillion increase in two and a half years. That sounds bipartisan to me.

Bush certainly did get the U.S. into two wars of choice and his tax cuts, tax rebate checks and expansion of Medicare have contributed trillions to our deficits. He deserves scorn and contempt. But, I do recall that Democrats supported the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. I do recall that Democrats voted for the tax cuts. I do recall that Democrats were gaga about expansion of the Medicare program. A funny thing didn’t happen when Obama was elected. Defense spending did not go down. He increased spending on our war machine. His war budgets put Bush’s to shame. He doubled the war effort in Afghanistan. He upped the ante from two wars to three wars in Libya. The difference between most Bush and Obama policies has been indecipherable.   

Carville’s shrill diatribe against the Tea Party freshman in Congress was the most humorous piece of misinformation of his entire rant. He inadvertently struck upon the most revealing point of this entire debt ceiling farce. He said:

“These Tea Party congressmen act as if they don’t care if they are re-elected in 2012.”

And there you have it. These people are not doing what is in their own best interest to get re-elected. They have shocked the vested interests in Washington by sticking to their principles and not playing the games that left the country bankrupt. This is an outrage to non-principled shills like Carville and Rove. This behavior is declared EXTREMIST by the liberal pundits and self interested Washington hacks. People acting in the long- term best interests of the country are seen as EXTREME by neo-cons like Charles Krauthammer and moderate RINOs like John “Crash” McCain. The entrenched Washington ruling class is uncomfortable with any change. The establishment would prefer to lie to the American public again and let future generations worry about the $100 trillion unfunded obligations they’ve created.

Only in America would people trying to balance the national budget be branded extremists. Is the average American who spends less than they make an extremist? In the eyes of Washington politicians and mainstream media talking heads, you would be an extremist. Let’s peruse some facts and judge who the extremists are:

  • Federal government spending has risen from $1.9 trillion in 2001 to $3.8 trillion in 2011, a 100% increase. Federal government revenues grew from $2.0 trillion in 2001 to $2.5 trillion in 2008, before collapsing to $2.2 trillion today. GDP over this same time frame has grown 47%.
  • The annual Federal budget deficit in 2007 was $160 billion. Annual deficits between 2002 and 2008 ranged between 1% and 4% of GDP. Since 2009, annual budget deficits have exceeded $1.1 trillion and will continue to exceed $1 trillion as far as the eye can see. Annual deficits now exceed 10% of GDP.
  • The Federal government spends in excess of $1.2 trillion per year on the cost of present and past wars, or 55% of all tax revenues.
  • With a gun to their head from Wall Street banks, Congress handed over $700 billion of taxpayer money to the criminal banks that had just crashed the worldwide economic system with their casino gambling. These banks have been getting free money from the Federal Reserve since 2008 and have rewarded themselves with in excess of $70 billion in bonuses since 2008.
  • Obama handed $800 billion of pork to his constituents across the country in order to create 3.5 million jobs. The $800 billion is gone and we’re still waiting for the jobs.
  • The home buyer tax credit scheme cost Americans $22 billion, or $100,000 per additional home sold, and home prices are now 5% lower than they were before this worthless Keynesian scam. And prices continue to fall.
  • The Cash for Clunkers debacle cost Americans $3 billion, or $24,000 per junked car, as a payoff to Government Owned Motors and Obama’s union backers.
  • The taxpayer bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has cost Americans $160 billion so far, with at least another $150 billion to go.
  • The Federal Reserve tripled their balance sheet to $2.7 trillion and is now leveraged 55 to 1, twice the leverage of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers when they failed. A 2% decline in the value of their assets wipes out their capital.
  • The government and Federal Reserve threatened the FASB into changing the accounting rules so the Too Big To Fail Wall Street banks could fraudulently report the value of the assets on their books, to appear solvent.
  • Obamacare will add 30 million people to the government controlled healthcare system, while adding mountains of new bureaucracy, and trillions of added costs.
  • And last but not least, the country goes $4 billion further into debt every day. Or for further perspective: $166 million per hour; $2.8 million per minute; $46,000 per second.

These are the facts of our current economic situation and the liberal mainstream media and slimy politicians like Chuck “I Love Wall Street” Schumer brand the Tea Party congressmen as EXTREMISTS for demanding an end to this out of control Roman orgy of spending. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so utterly disgusting and sad. The only serious proposal to reverse our course and steer away from the approaching iceberg was made by Tom Coburn a couple weeks ago. It was scorned by the ideologues on both sides of the aisle, as it slashed military spending, closed corporate and individual tax loopholes, ended subsidies, and really addressed Medicare and Social Security rather than changing the CPI index. It was DOA and so is this country.

The Boehner plan and the Reid plan are absolute jokes. The Boehner plan cuts $900 billion over ten years with, shockingly, a whole 2.5% of the savings in 2012. Why cut today when you can pretend to cut in the future? We are on track to add $10 trillion of debt over the next ten years and Boehner’s plan will only add $9.1 trillion to the national debt. That is cutting in Washington DC speak. Harry Reid’s plan is even funnier. His $2.2 trillion in “cuts” includes $1 trillion for wars that won’t be fought and the $375 billion of interest expense that won’t be expended for the wars that won’t be fought. No smoke and mirrors in that proposal. These revolting excuses for leaders have both proposed new commissions to recommend spending cuts that won’t be implemented. These brilliant ideas never grow tiresome and old.

The chart created by Mike Shedlock after Paul Ryan offered an alternative ten year budget three months ago shows you everything you need to know about who the real extremists in Washington DC are. The Ryan budget included much deeper cuts than anything proposed by Boehner or Reid and would still add $9 trillion to the National Debt by 2021. After examining this chart it is clear the establishment of both parties in Washington DC have no plan to cut anything. The good news is the national debt will never reach $23 trillion because our economic system will implode long before we approach that figure.  

When you see the old time party hacks and the shrill pundits declare that an agreement must be reached on these fake distant theoretical cuts, you know they just want to protect the status quo. These people have gotten rich from keeping the status quo intact. If EXTREMISM is living within your means, spending less than you bring in, addressing unfunded liabilities, and leaving a country where our children have a fair chance to have a decent future, then count me in the extremist camp. The time is approaching when we need to stand up and be counted. What kind of country shall we be? Do you care? 

“The issue boils down to this: do we care about freedom? Do we care about responsibility and accountability? Do we care that our government and media have been bought and paid for? Do we care that average Americans are being looted in order to subsidize the fattest of cats on Wall Street and in government? Do we care? When the chips are down, will we stand up and fight, even if it means standing up against every stripe of fashionable opinion in politics and the media? Times like these have a way of telling us what kind of a people we are, and what kind of country we shall be.” - Ron Paul

FREE STUCK!!!!

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Posted on 28th July 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

With Stuck’s imminent incarceration only one hour away I thought it was appropriate that we start the movement to free him. It will be similar to the movement to free Nelson Mandela. That didn’t take too long. I tried to find some images to support our Free Stuck movement, but only came up with Free Stuff images, so that will have to do.

After minutes of racking my brain, I got creative and found some images to support our movement. I think the images are quite fitting. Ignore the grave stone.

I’m afraid the devious police will use an interrogation  technique which is bound to make Stuck confess and ask to be sent to prison.  

Jail

But once in prison, he will not like playing sports.

We will sneak a little pick axe in a birthday cake into his cell, like Shawshank Redemption. But, with Stuck’s luck, his tunneling efforts are likely to end shitty.

I know everyone will rally around the FREE STUCK movement. I understand even Smokey is mobilizing his mountain lion and buying extra barbed wire.

NAUSEOUS, GASEOUS, IMAGINARY & DELUSIONAL

38 comments

Posted on 27th July 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Mike Shedlock http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/ reveals in sarcastic detail the absolute ridiculousness of both the Boehner and Reid deficit “cutting” plans. Boehner cuts a whole $4 billion from the $1.4 trillion 2012 deficit. Those Republicans sure are fiscally responsible. Reid’s plan is a fucking joke. His theoretical cuts in military spending that weren’t going to occur make up the majority of his “savings”. Then he has the balls to calculate interest savings on his theoretical savings and call that spending cuts. These pieces of shit should be strung up by their balls from the Capitol building.

I bet these corrupt slime balls long for the good old days in the 1970s before the internet. Now their lies and misinformation are revealed within hours and debunked by the critical thinking bloggers. This Debt Ceiling Reality Farce is proceeding as expected. The government and MSM are ratcheting up the fear index by dropping stocks and warning about social security checks not going out to grandma. Oh the horror!!!

It’s nothing but lies. August 2 is a fake deadline created out of thin air, just like the prior three fake deadlines. Bennie can create $150 billion of fiat with the press of a button.

Sell the fucking gold Timmy. I dare you.

Rating the Obama, Reid, and Boehner Deficit Reduction Plans on Mish’s 10-Point Credibility Scale

Many people have asked where they can find details of what the budget cuts proposed by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.

Because the plans have been in a constant state of flux, and because President Obama did not release details of ongoing discussions, it has been difficult to properly analyze the credibility of the recent proposals.

However, on Monday the CBO chimed in on Boehner’s latest phased-in proposal.

Dear Mr. Speaker:

As you requested, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated the impact on the
deficit of the Budget Control Act of 2011, as posted on the Web site of the Committee on Rules on July 25, 2011.

In total, if appropriations in the next 10 years are equal to the caps on discretionary spending and the maximum amount of funding is provided for the program integrity initiatives, CBO estimates that the legislation would reduce budget deficits by about $850 billion between 2012 and 2021 relative to CBO’s March 2011 baseline adjusted for subsequent appropriation action.

As requested, CBO has also calculated the net budgetary impact if discretionary savings are measured relative to its January baseline projections. Relative to that baseline, CBO estimates that the legislation would reduce budget deficits by about $1.1 trillion between 2012 and 2021.

There you have it. Boehner has proposed a $850 billion reduction over 10 years, a minuscule $85 billion a year on a deficit of $1.4 trillion.

Bear in mind it is far worse than it looks because it is heavily back-loaded. The 2012 reduction is only $4 billion.

ZeroHedge Comments As CBO Scores Boehner’s (Laughable) Deficit Cut Plan, Jay Carney Admits Obama Still Does Not Have An Actual Plan

Boehner’s plan is an abysmal joke, with $4 billion in discretionary spending cuts in 2012 growing mysteriously to $111 billion by 2021, and $0 billion in debt service reduction for 2012 and 2013 (growing to $37 billion in 2021), for a combined cumulative deficit impact of $850 billion, which on a NPV basis is more like $50 billion, but at least it is a plan.

In the meantime, here is what is going on on the other side of the spectrum.

From the NRO: After bobbing-and-weaving for nine minutes, Carney [Obama's Press Secretary] finally says what everybody knows: the president won’t put his plan on paper because he doesn’t want it to become “politically charged” before a compromise can be reached. In other words, you’ve got to pass it to find out what’s in it.

$1 Trillion Budget Gimmick

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan writes about Senator Reid’s Trillion-Dollar Gimmick

The $2.7 trillion debt-limit increase proposal offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid contains a $1 trillion gimmick meant to disguise the plan’s shallowness on spending cuts. Supporters of the Reid plan are measuring their savings against a baseline that assumes the continuation of surge-level spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the President has neither requested this funding nor signaled that he might request it. Instead, the President has signaled the opposite: a troop drawdown over the next few years. In other words, the Reid plan is claiming credit for “savings” that were already scheduled to occur, and for “cutting” spending that no one has requested.

Ryan’s article included a humorous flashback to a March 12, 2009 article at Washington Post, Paved With Magnificent Intentions.

Writing on the credibility of Obama’s budget assumptions in 2009, George Will concludes …

Although only a small fraction of the supposedly countercyclical stimulus will be spent by the end of the year, the budget assumes that by then the economy will have perked up, and that it will grow robustly — 3.2 percent, 4 percent and 4.6 percent — in the next three years. Growth supposedly will cut the deficit in half — growth and the $1.6 trillion “saved” by first assuming, and then “canceling,” a 10-year continuation of the surge in Iraq.

Why, one wonders, not “save” $5 trillion by proposing to spend that amount to cover the moon with yogurt and then canceling the proposal?

Obama’s Growth Estimates

  • 3.2% 2009
  • 4.0% 2010
  • 4.6% 2011

How credible was that?

Veto Credibility

The president has vowed to veto deficit cutting legislation if it contains a balanced budget amendment or if it does not go past the 2012 elections.

How credible is that threat? The correct answer is not at all. The veto threat is nothing but hot air because Reid will see to it that such bills will never make it out of the Senate.

Whatever does make it out of the House and Senate, Obama will sign. Thus, a veto is an imaginary threat.

With that backdrop, it’s time to rate the Obama, Reid, and Boehner Deficit reduction plans on a credibility scale.

10-Point Credibility Scale

  1. Golden
  2. Rock Solid
  3. Fudge
  4. Jello
  5. Marshmallow
  6. Cream Puff
  7. Nauseous
  8. Gaseous
  9. Imaginary
  10. Delusional

Scoring the Proposals

  • Given a $1.4 trillion deficit, the latest plan from Boehner to cut a minuscule $85 billion a year (and back-loaded at that) is somewhere between nauseous and gaseous. It’s no wonder that various Tea-Party members will not vote for it.
  • Obama’s plan is imaginary or delusional depending on whether or not the President actually believes he has a plan, when he doesn’t.
  • Parts of Senator Reid’s plan are gaseous and the rest is clearly imaginary.
  • In contrast, the gang-of-six $4 trillion deficit cutting plan has something of the consistency of Jello, fudge, or marshmallow depending on details that were never disclosed.

$4 trillion sounds like a lot but it is only $400 billion a year, while the deficit is $1.4 trillion. Thus it’s tough to give that plan a rating higher than Jello, and impossible to give it a rating higher than fudge.

At this late juncture, the best one can reasonably hope for is a nauseous resolution. Unfortunately, the odds now favor something between gaseous and imaginary with delusional a distinct possibility.

The higher the score, the lower the credibility, and the better for gold.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
 http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

GEORGE CARLIN ON PEACOCK SYNDROME

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Posted on 27th July 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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DHS THINKS WE’RE ALL TERRORISTS

43 comments

Posted on 27th July 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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It was only last April when DHS issued a report that classifies most of the people on this site as potential terrorists. That was the first glimpse of what the Federal Government is preparing for. Now they are running military exercises across the country. For what? Are we worried that Canada is going to invade and steal our iPads? The first 3 links I clicked to access the actual report no longer worked. Very interesting. But I eventually tracked down a link to the actual report. If you want to be disgusted, read it.

Our economic situation is much worse than the public knows. Look at the bags under Geithner’s eyes when he is interviewed. If he was connected to a lie detector during these interviews the machine would be smoking. Those in power know that collapse is coming. They are panicked and are preparing to put down any resistence when the time comes.

This Norway incident now gives those in power the storyline to use when conducting these military exercises. They are doing it to keep us safe. Don’t believe it. If you do not own a firearm today, I would recommend that you purchase one in the near future. It is better to be safe than sorry.

http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/rightwing.pdf

STREET FIGHTING MAN

4 comments

Posted on 27th July 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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I’ve posted this March 2009 article by Doug Casey a number of times in the past. With the recent info about military exercises in our communities, I was reminded of his article. The sections about Civil Unrest and particularly how sociopaths are drawn into the police and armed forces at times like these. His points about the Germans being a highly educated society with centuries of creating art, literature, and architecture needs to be understood. If it happened in Germany, it can happen here.

Street Fighting Man

From Doug Casey
Chairman, Casey Research
Published Jul 29, 2009

For decades, Doug Casey, legendary contrarian investor and financial best-seller author, has been foretelling the advent of a “Greater Depression.” Recently, as we are drawing closer to feeling its full impact, Doug has been elaborating on the economic ifs, hows, and whats of the imminent crisis. In this article, he focuses his, as usual, politically not-so-correct musings on how it will change the face of American society.

Longtime readers know my standard response to questions about the severity of the Greater Depression: It’s going to be worse than even I think it’s going to be. “Coming Collapse” books will undoubtedly accumulate into an entire genre in the next few years, as they did a generation ago. This time it’s not just fear mongering, although things won’t get as bad as in James Kunstler’s book The Long Emergency and certainly not as rough as in the movies Road Warrior or I Am Legend. But it’s a good bet that a lot more is going to change than just some features of the financial system. Let’s engage in a little speculation as to the shape of things to come.

I’ve long believed that this depression would not only be much different but much worse than the unpleasantness of the ’30s and ’40s. In those days, only a few people were involved in the financial markets; now almost anyone with any assets at all is a player. In those days, there were no credit cards, consumer debts, or student loans; now those things are ubiquitous. It’s true that nobody will lose any money because of bank failures this time around; instead, everybody is going to suffer a loss from a collapse of the U.S. dollar, which is much worse.

In the ’30s and ’40s, the U.S. population was still largely rural in character, including people living in the cities. The average American was just off the farm and had a lot of practical skills as well as traditional values. Now he has skills mainly at paper shuffling or in highly specialized technologies, and it doesn’t seem to me that the values of hard work, self-reliance, honesty, prudence, and the rest of the Boy Scout virtues are as common as they once were. In those days, the U.S. was a creditor to the world and the world’s factories to boot; now there are perhaps 8 trillion dollars outside the U.S. waiting to pour back in, and the country is all about consuming, not producing. Even with what the New Deal brought in, there was vastly less regulation and litigation, leaving the economy with much greater flexibility to adjust and innovate; today, few people do anything without consulting counsel.

Of course things are immensely better today than 80 years ago in at least one important way: technology. I love technology, but unfortunately, improvements in that area do nothing to prevent an economic depression or many of the ancillary problems that will likely accompany this one. In fact, it can be a hindrance in some ways.

So, accepting the premise of a depression, let’s examine some of its likely consequences.

Civil Unrest

I’ve puzzled over who will go into the streets as the depression deepens and when they’ll do it. Nikolai Kondratieff, of Long Wave fame, was of the opinion that the natives tend to get restless at economic peaks (like the late 1960s, when riots broke out all over the world) and at economic troughs (like the 1930s, when the same thing happened). His reasoning is not dissimilar from that of Strauss and Howe, authors of The Fourth Turning. At peaks, people are just feeling their oats, which can evidence itself domestically in riots inspired by rising expectations, and internationally in optional sport wars, like that in Viet Nam. Such peak-time disturbances are troublesome but don’t really threaten society. That’s largely because when times are good, people feel they have a lot to lose and they believe things can get even better. In prosperous times, people don’t usually feel like overthrowing the government or transforming the basis of society.

Not so at economic troughs. People believe they have little to lose, they’re eager to hang those they believe responsible for their problems, and they’ll listen to radical or violent proposals. We’re now just entering what will likely be the worst economic trough since the Industrial Revolution.

But why do humans tend to riot when the going gets rough? How can they think that solves anything? Do they believe it’s going to make their jobs or money reappear? Perhaps I ask that question only because I can’t see myself rioting. You and I might discount the thought of Americans going wild, because we wouldn’t likely join them. But we’re not, I suspect, the average American. People, throughout history, have always been prone to violence when times get tough. Is there any reason that should change now?

Recently, there have been — really for the first time in this downturn — reports of large, angry demonstrations all over the world. The UK, France, Eastern Europe, now China. If a place like Iceland, as placid and homogeneous as any in the world, can blow up, then any place can. And probably will.

A rioter is typically an angry person looking for vengeance because he blames someone else for his problem. So far, rioters seem to be directing their attention at governments. Correct target, of course, but they don’t have the rationale quite right. They’re not angry because governments inflated the currency, promoted fractional reserve banking, and nurtured all the cockamamie socialist programs that caused this crisis. Not at all; they rather liked all that. They’re angry only because their governments haven’t adequately protected them from the consequences of what they did. So as conditions worsen, we can expect governments worldwide to pull out absolutely all the stops to show they’re “doing something.” And round up scapegoats to satisfy the mob and divert anger from themselves.

I fully expect civil unrest to spread everywhere, simply because the depression will spread everywhere. It will be worst in places that have been most overextended, most debt leveraged, most urban, and have the largest numbers of unemployed workers — the U.S., Europe, and China.

In the last couple of generations, most rioters in the U.S. have been students who basically just raise some hell on their campuses and inner-city blacks who burn down their own neighborhoods. Maybe the students who’ve wasted a huge amount of time and money in gender studies and sociology will get angry as they figure out they’re not going to have jobs when they graduate — forget about making $100,000 plus as an investment banker. Maybe blacks, who have apparently been hurt the worst by subprime lending and still may be the last hired and first fired, will take to the streets. Maybe. But I think it’s more likely the turn of the Mexicans and other Latinos. They’re the ones raided by la migra and stopped at checkpoints, whether they’re legal or not. They’re the ones who may be implicated in the wave of violence flowing up from northern Mexico. There is a real strain of revanchist nationalism throughout their community that hopes for the reconquista of lands the Anglos stole in the 19th century. And they have all the other problems you might expect with an ethnic underclass.

But will ordinary middle-class Americans riot? I don’t expect it until later in the game. Union members will be treated well by the Obama regime. And most whites live in the suburbs; it’s tough to get people who live in detached houses out into the streets. Ozzie and Harriet just don’t seem likely to burn down their house, even if the bank owns it. Besides, a lot of the parents are on Prozac and their kids on Ritalin. Of course, on the other hand, most of the people who perpetrated mass murders over the last 25 years were on some type of psychiatric drug.

Is there a catalyst that could turn your neighbors into a mob? Two possibilities are gun control and higher taxes, discussed below. But my guess is that riots will be headed off by the police, who are far more numerous, militarized, and better equipped than ever before, and by the military itself. You may think the cops and the military (and today most cops are exmilitary) would never turn on their fellow citizens, but you’d be wrong. Cops and soldiers are far more loyal to their colleagues and their organizations than they are to either some constitution or, absolutely, the mob that’s throwing bricks and bottles at them. They are also among the forces pumping for gun control.

Gun Control

This issue is potentially explosive. Although, sadly, gun culture in the U.S. isn’t nearly what it was even a generation or two ago, it’s still pretty strong in some regions. Most states make the open or concealed carrying of handguns a simple matter, and there’s evidence lots of people are taking advantage of it. Personally, I find it hard to fathom the psychology of people who want to disarm society. From a strictly practical point of view, the idea of having to engage in hand-to-hand combat, half naked, with an intruder in the middle of the night is most unappealing. Especially since the odds of that happening are going way up in the near future. Everyone should have a gun in his nightstand, at a minimum.

But that’s only a fraction of what gun ownership is really about. A free person should have the right to possess whatever he desires. End of story. And only slaves, or those with a slave mentality, comply with no thought of resistance when they’re told what they can or cannot own, especially if compliance means disarming themselves.

I’ve often wondered what would have happened in Germany after Kristallnacht if every Jew had been armed. None were, of course, because strict gun control had been imposed shortly after Hitler came to power, and like good little lambs, the population complied with the law. But my guess is that few would have defended themselves against the Gestapo anyway. Partly because they would have figured they were certain to get into serious trouble if they resisted, and partly because they couldn’t imagine the fate that actually awaited them. It wasn’t until the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1944, very late in the game, that people could finally read the writing on the wall and summoned the courage to fight.

If you follow these things, you’ll note that there’s been a lot of buzz about severe firearms regulation since Obama’s inauguration. Bills are being discussed about things like a national firearms registry, reinstituting the so-called “assault weapons” ban, requiring secure locks on all weapons, prohibiting the import of ammunition, and levying a substantial tax on ammunition, among other things. No outright prohibition, because they know that would catalyze gun owners. But they keep dialing up the pressure, moving toward a de facto ban.

I’ll guess there are at least two to three million Americans who adhere to a couple of succinct mottos: 1. You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers, and 2. It’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six. This is a group that could catch fire at some point. But I don’t think it’s imminent, simply because the chances of outright prohibition of gun ownership are slim. The analogy of the frog in a gradually heating pot is apt. The taxpayer must also feel like a frog.

Tax Revolt

State and municipal governments all over the country are operating with rising outlays and radically declining incomes and so are running large deficits that add to their already massive debt. Since they can’t print dollars, they’ll raise taxes further, as New York and California have recently done. Most people don’t have any philosophical objection to taxes; they accept them, considering them part of the human condition, like disease or death. That’s unfortunate, of course, in that taxation is neither moral nor necessary. But such fine points of philosophy absolutely never enter the public debate.

What will be debated is the level of taxation. The last time we had widespread agitation on taxes was during the last serious recession, in the late ’70s. The result was things like Prop 13 (which capped property taxes in California for some homeowners) and the Reagan tax reforms.

I expect there will be serious whining about taxes this time around as well, but little will come of it. To start with, like every other organism on the planet, government puts its own interests first; society comes in a distant second. Actually a distant third, after powerful individuals who are wired to politicians and bureaucrats, and groups that hire the right lobbyists. Every level of government is more desperate for money than ever. Your taxes are going through the roof, and you’re going to see lots of new ones. Don’t expect any support from Boobus americanus. About half don’t earn enough to pay income tax. Most are net tax beneficiaries. And low taxes have somehow become associated with the late disastrous crackup boom and the corrupt Bush regime. So a popular tax revolt looks like a real long shot.

At the same time, a portion of the productive people in the country feel genuinely resentful at having to subsidize the losers and ne’er-do-wells. What are they going to do? I think they have only two alternatives. Tax evasion, which is both hard and increasingly risky, since the IRS will be hiring plenty of freshly unemployed financial workers. And expatriation. My guess is that scores of thousands of Americans are going to make “the Chicken Run” (as Rhodesians called it) in the next few years.

But the biggest danger to your personal freedom and your wealth, as well as to the U.S. as a whole, is likely to be war.

War

It always impressed me as odd that while Obama ran on a platform of ending the pointless and counterproductive adventure in Iraq, he wanted to ramp up the war in Afghanistan. What possible reason could anyone have for wanting to fight an optional war in what may be the most backward and xenophobic place on the planet? Even if every Afghan made a personal pledge of Death to America (which they eventually will, thanks to the occupation), who cares? Who cares if the Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest or the Yànomamö of the Amazon join them? It’s strange that no one ever questioned Obama on this nonsensical and contradictory policy.

Now it seems he’s very slow in leaving Iraq. I expect the reason is that the U.S. has built elaborate bases the size of small cities that they’re loathe to leave, partly on general principles and partly because they might be needed to attack Iran or Pakistan. The Obama regime is literally asking for trouble in both places. And partly because he knows that the collaborators set up to run the Iraqi government will promptly be deposed, and probably executed, by whoever might win the civil war that would ensue if the U.S. really left. The USG is apparently set on having a stooge in charge of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The National Security State has a life of its own. Renditions haven’t been stopped. Guantanamo still operates, as do other overseas prisons holding thousands. Military spending not only won’t be cut, it will likely rise.

Wars start for all kinds of reasons. But tough economic times probably rank number one as a cause. The 1930s were a natural overture for the ’40s. Politicians like to find a foreign enemy to blame problems on. Theft of foreign resources can seem like a good idea. And part of the economic mythology fabricated by the malevolent and repeated by the ignorant is that WWII cured the last depression.

Will there be another 9/11? It’s a good bet, but there’s no way it will involve airplanes; the 50,000 zombies employed by TSA serve absolutely no purpose except to accustom Americans to being treated like prisoners. One possibility is the surreptitious placement of one or more nuclear devices in U.S. cities. As Pakistan disintegrates, their nuclear arsenal may fall into quite irresponsible hands. Or, perhaps, devices could be procured in a number of ways from Russia, India, Israel, or North Korea. Another, much more likely scenario is a repetition of what happened in Mumbai recently. A small force of dedicated and well-armed operatives could create unbelievable havoc in a U.S. city or in several at once. And probably will. Americans just don’t appreciate how little people in the Islamic world like having aggressive, blue-eyed teenagers kick their doors down in the middle of the night, among other pranks.

You may be thinking that, with the American military the most powerful in the world, it’s not about to lose a war. I question that. The bloated military is a major factor in bankrupting the U.S., and a bankrupt country can’t win a war. Its $6 billion carriers, $1 billion B-2s and $400 million F-22s are all built to fight a kind of enemy that no longer exists. They’re sitting ducks for massive numbers of cheap missiles and jihadists that can swarm them where they’re parked. The military wanted to fight WWI with cavalry and WWII with battleships. They’re seemingly doomed to a repeat performance in the next major conflict.

In short, everything on this horizon looks very grim for a long time to come. Incidentally, the U.S. military is by far the world’s largest single consumer of oil.

Peak Oil

There hasn’t been much discussion of this since oil has come down from its July 2008 peak near $150 to its recent low of close to $30. Longtime readers know I’m philosophically quite reluctant to give credence to any theory that would seem to imply we can run out of anything. I come down firmly on the side of Julian Simon. Which is to say resources are essentially infinite, and technology and capital can solve almost any problem in the material world. That said, there are problems that need to be solved. One is presented by the geological theory of M. King Hubbert, who predicted in the 1950s that the production of light sweet crude in the continental U.S. would go into irreversible decline by the early ’70s. He was correct. He also predicted that the same would happen on a worldwide basis in the first decade of this century. It now appears production has maxed out at about 80 million barrels a day and is headed down.

This isn’t the time or place for a detailed discussion of why and how this is true. It’s certainly not the end of the world, as some appear to believe. Just a major inconvenience. Practically infinite power is available from a wide variety of sources, starting with nuclear. The problem is that oil is a particularly concentrated, convenient, and (in the past) cheap source, so the entire world’s economy has been built around it. It will take a decade or so to adjust to the much, much higher prices that will be needed to bring consumption into balance with production. And absolutely everything that relies on oil is going to become much more expensive — especially transportation (for obvious reasons) and food. Food is interesting in that mass production is highly mechanized and oil intensive, as well as fertilizer and pesticide intensive — which again rely on hydrocarbons. The oilfood problem is aggravated by so much of what we eat being shipped very long distances.

Anything is possible, of course, but I think the most likely scenario is simply a large reorientation in patterns of production and consumption as a result of $200 oil. This would be tough enough by itself. But it’s going to put tremendous extra strain on the average American at exactly the time he’s already under maximum strain from a shrinking economy.

Right now things aren’t so bad, because energy prices are low. The depression has cut oil consumption and, conveniently, prices as well. That’s taken a lot of pressure off the average American’s pocket book and at a felicitous moment. And prices may stay low for a year or so as people the world over economize. But oil consumption doesn’t need to rise to put pressure on the price; from here, the main pressure is likely to come from falling supply, not rising demand. So oil prices are likely to start heading up, for strictly geological reasons, even as the depression grows deeper. That will prove most uncomfortable. And will have significant consequences for two mainstays of U.S. culture: cars and suburbia.

Collapse of Suburbia and the Car Culture

Suburbs are creatures of the automobile. I’ve been a car buff my entire life. I love cars for their technology. I love them because they’re fun. But most of all, I love them because even more than the ship, the train, and the airplane, they liberate the average person to — cheaply and quickly – go anywhere he wants, whenever he wants. They’ve made it possible for people to break the mold of the medieval serf tied to the community he was born into. I don’t think cars are going to disappear, but the internal combustion engine is, as a result of Peak Oil, on its way out. I suspect battery power will start rapidly replacing gasoline and diesel. The problem lies in the transition, which is going to be expensive, considering the huge sunk investment in the current technology. There’s going to be an interim period, when people can’t afford to drive their pickups, SUVs, or practically anything else hundreds of miles a week to distant work places and kids’ soccer games or on promiscuous shopping trips. But neither will they be able to afford a new electric car.

American culture revolves around the car. The car facilitated the growth of suburbs and exurbs, shopping malls and big boxes, most of which will become completely uneconomical with the rapid decline of the car. That’s entirely apart from the suburbs and exurbs being exactly where people already can’t make their mortgage payments. And can’t afford to shop. They can’t get by even at current bargain oil prices in the $40 to $50 range. It’s going to be much tougher when gas is $8 a gallon; if they can get a job, they’re going to have to live within a few miles of it.

Entirely apart from that, people aren’t going to be buying much stuff to store in the houses they can’t afford. As George Carlin pointed out in his famous routine about “Stuff” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac), that’s what houses are for — storing stuff. And people are going to be liquidating what they have, not buying more, when they won’t even have a proper place to store it. I’d hate to be in the furniture business over the next decade. Even if unemployment weren’t going much higher.

Unemployment

The official numbers say unemployment is 7.6%. But just as the definition of inflation keeps evolving to accommodate a number that looks better than the reality, the same is true for unemployment figures. John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics (www.shadowstats.com) computes the figures the way the government used to — mainly by adding back in parttime workers and those considered “discouraged.” They show 17.5% as the historically comparable unemployment figure.

Society has been living above its means for well over a generation, long enough to ingrain unsustainable patterns of production and consumption in the economy. Did everybody need/have a personal trainer 20 years ago? Was “shopping” a major recreational activity in the days before everyone had a pocketful of credit cards? Do all kitchens really need granite counter tops? I think not. As people cut down to the bare basics to enable themselves to rebuild capital, millions and millions more workers are going to have to find other things to do. And, while they’re figuring out what, cut back their consumption drastically as well.

I suspect the readjustment will push unemployment to at least the levels of the Great Depression, which would mean going past 25%. But some will argue: “Yes, but we now have a safety net to catch the fallen. That will make it less serious.” No, it will make it more serious and more prolonged as well. The so-called safety net consumes capital that could have been used productively. It decreases the urgency for each person to find a solution to his own problems. And it has given people a false sense of security, leaving them to save less for a rainy day. The looming collapse of things like Social Security and Medicare will be a bigger disaster than all the banks failing. The Social Security “trust fund,” which has been a swindle, a Ponzi scheme in slow motion, and a moral wrecking ball almost from its beginning, is going to go much deeper into the red. Before they collapse, Medicare, Medicaid, and their cousins will be expanded by some form of free care for the legions of the newly unemployed. Will doctors and nurses be made indentured servants (such as through mandatory voluntary community service) to provide care for everyone who may need it? Perhaps not as long as taxes can be raised further on the middle class.

Sorry this has all been so gloomy so far. Now that the mood is set for recounting all the problems that are going to beset us, some of you are probably saying to yourselves: “Yes, and that’s on top of global warming.”

Global Smarming

This is on just about everybody’s list of Big Problems. Except mine. I’m not a professional climatologist, or even an amateur, so I lack any technical qualifications for commenting on the subject – like almost everybody else who does, prominently including Al Gore. But my guess is that in the next decade, the global warming hysteria (and that’s exactly what I believe it is) will be viewed, with embarrassment, as one of the great episodes in the history of the delusions of the crowd.

Have you noticed that “global warming” is gradually being supplanted by “climate change”? The fact is that the earth’s climate has been changing constantly for at least 500 million years and has generally gotten much cooler over that time. It has certainly warmed since the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago, and was much warmer than now at the height of the Roman Empire. It cooled during what became known as the Dark Ages, warmed again during medieval times (when grapes grew in Greenland and northern England), and cooled again during the Little Ice Age (which ended about 200 years ago). During the ’70s, as you may recall, some magazines ran cover stories featuring glaciers intruding into New York City. And for the last ten years, it appears the Earth has been cooling, although that’s not widely reported. Change is a constant when it comes to the climate, and warmer is generally better.

Is the science “settled” on the subject? The very concept strikes me as ridiculous, in that science is rarely “settled” on anything short of it being proclaimed a law of nature. And, contrary to popular opinion, it seems most scientists with credentials in the field are either agnostic on the question or debunk the proposition of anthropogenic global warming. But the intellectual climate is such that most scientists are afraid to question out loud the reality of warming. Since almost all funding today comes from politically correct sources, namely the government and foundations, the money goes to those who are known to be looking for the “right” answers. Science has been corrupted.

Of course man can change the environment. But our power to do so is trivial next to the sun, volcanism, cosmic rays, and the churning ocean. None of those forces gets any mention in the popular press, which fixates on carbon, which has replaced plutonium as public enemy #1. Carbon may be the basis of life on earth, but it’s supposed to be our new enemy nonetheless. The masses, who don’t even know carbon is a “natural” element and think the periodic table is a piece of antique furniture now feel guilty about breathing, because exhaled breath is a source of CO2.

Interestingly, a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels doesn’t precede but follows, by several hundred years, phases of global warming. Everything you hear about saving the planet through carbon credits is as ridiculous and counterproductive as recent disastrous programs to turn corn into ethanol. In any event, carbon dioxide’s effects as a greenhouse gas are completely overwhelmed by those of water vapor. God forbid anyone warns the public of the numerous dangers posed by compounds like dihydrogen monoxide (also known as hydroxic acid).

As a lifelong science buff, I find the whole subject quite interesting and am tempted to do an article on it. The reason I mention it here, however, is that the global warming hysteria, as opposed to possible cyclical global warming itself, has serious economic consequences. The chances are excellent that governments will direct scores of billions of dollars into further research, devising computer projections of catastrophe to come, and fighting the presumed warming.

Much more serious are laws they’ll pass in the war against carbon (and methane, which amounts to a war against cattle and sheep), which could retard the economy by hundreds of billions of dollars. Most serious, in the long run, is likely to be a discrediting of science itself in the eyes of the common man once anthropogenic warming is exposed as a giant false alarm.

The Political Future

We can be quite confident the economic future is going to be grim. The military future, ugly and busy. The social future, turbulent. So is it reasonable to expect politics as usual? That would be rather anomalous. Especially since the trend towards much more State power, centered strongly on the executive, has been in motion, and accelerating, for at least four generations in the U.S., even during the best of times. No surprises there. That is pretty much what observers of history from at least Plato on would expect.

In that America is recently deceased and only the United States survives, I see no reason that the trend won’t continue accelerating, to be supercharged by the next Black Swan that might land. After the next real, fabricated, or imagined 9/11-style incident occurs or major war begins, it will be surprising if a state of emergency isn’t declared. Perhaps martial law in the U.S. will, perversely, provide the impetus needed to “bring the troops home,” in that they’ll be needed more in the U.S. than in Fuhgedabouditstan or wherever.

I leave the practical implications of that entirely to your imagination. But to maintain what little will be left of domestic tranquility at that point, the authorities will almost certainly feel compelled to round up dissidents, potential troublemakers, tents, libertarians, and the usual suspects generally. It seems inevitable to me, and I’d prefer to be somewhere else when it happens. I’m loathe to make outlandish political predictions, if only because the inevitable isn’t necessarily the imminent. But if the U.S. survives the current crisis in its present form, I’ll be surprised.

As always, there’s a bright side. Obama will be a one-term president. And, as middle- and upper-middle-class Americans come to see the government less as a cornucopia — that’s inevitable, because the cupboard is empty — they’ll start to see it ever more as a predator. The government will become increasingly delegitimized in the eyes of what’s left of the middle class. But what will they do? If they still have a home in the suburbs or a condo in the city, they’re not going to burn it down like the poor. I’m not even sure they’ll riot. But they will see the discontent. New affinity groups will coalesce. And they’ll wait until something really catalyzes them. Is another revolution possible? Why not? The U.S. is just another country at this point.

I’m convinced that the nationstate, which is to say countries with governments based on geography, is on its way out fairly soon. And good riddance. Perhaps the U.S. will be among the first. What form of social organization will replace it? [Note: That will be the subject of an article soon to come in The Casey Report.]

In the near future, though, there will be a struggle between the best features of what little is left of America and the worst elements of humanity, whom we have in some abundance.

Emigrants and Sociopaths

Americans no longer appear to be a special breed. Of course absolutely every nation likes to think it’s a special, better breed – the Chinese, the Japanese, the British, the French, the Germans, absolutely everybody. It’s a stupid but universal conceit, like the one putting God (presumably Yahweh) on their side during a war.

I used to fancy Americans actually could be a cut above simply because they’re all the progeny of emigrants, and there are at least three reasons emigrants tend to be the “best” kind of people — at least from the point of view of someone who values freedom. First, emigrants tend to be more enterprising than their neighbors at home, willing to leave everything they have to pursue opportunity. Second, they tend to be harder working, since they know they’ll get nothing they don’t earn from strangers in a new land. Third, they tend to be anti-political, since political elites and conditions are usually what caused them to emigrate in the first place. Whether these things are because of a genetic predisposition or whether it’s simply a cultural artifact within some families and groups, or both, I think it’s a fact.

From the founding of the country, America has always had a strong emigrant ethos, and that’s one of the things that has made it different and better. But all things degrade and revert to the mean with the passage of time. The country is now a fugitive from entropy.

Another reason for taking a pessimistic view is that — notwithstanding the point I made above — there’s no reason not to believe there’s a fairly uniform distribution of sociopaths across time and space, including in America today. All countries, in all eras, have them — but in good times, they stay under their rocks. Who would have guessed that the Germans of the last century, who had much more than their share of writers, composers, philosophers, scientists, plain middle-class shopkeepers, and a well-educated, orderly population would have bred the Nazis? The Turks in the ’20s, the Russians in the ’20s and ’30s, the Chinese in the ’50s and ’60s, the Serbs in the ’90s, the Rwandans It would be easy to recount dozens of recent examples of perfectly ordinary countries that have gone bonkers. The fact is that your neighbor or your mailman, who pets his dog, hugs his kids, and plays softball on the weekends, might exhibit a much less appealing, indeed an appalling, side when social conditions change.

You’ve, of course, heard of the Milgram experiment, wherein researchers asked members of the public to torture subjects with electric shocks, all the way up to what they believed were lethal levels. Most of them did it, after being assured that it was “alright” and “necessary” by men in authority.

The problem arises when a society becomes highly politicized. In normal times, a sociopath stays under the radar. Perhaps he’ll commit a common crime when he thinks he can get away with it, but social mores keep him reined in. However, once the government changes its emphasis from protecting citizens from force to initiating it with laws and taxes, those social mores break down. Peer pressure and moral opprobrium, the forces that keep a healthy society orderly and together, are replaced by regulation enforced by cops funded by taxes. And sociopaths start coming out of the woodwork and are drawn to the State, where they can get licensed and paid to do what they’ve always wanted to do. It’s very simple, really. There are two ways people can relate to each other: voluntarily or coercively. The government is pure coercion, and sociopaths are drawn to its power and force.

After a certain point, a critical mass is reached. The sociopaths who are naturally drawn to government start to dominate it. They reset the social mores of the country they control. And it’s game over. I suspect we’re approaching that point.

A Happy Note

There’s no telling how bad things will actually get. The worst thing that could happen is a major war. But, barring that, what’s happened in Zimbabwe, surprisingly, actually offers cause for some optimism. I was last there a couple of years ago, when, although it was a disaster, it hadn’t descended into the absolute catastrophe that’s going on now. Still, with draconian taxes, regulations, and hyperinflation, life goes on.

Plumbers, electricians, and mechanics still repair things. Farmers still grow things — albeit on a much smaller scale. Stores still stock merchandise, even if there’s not much of it. And I just heard yesterday from an ex-Zimbabwean that some of his friends there still play polo. And Zim is about as bad as it gets. But maybe it’s also reason for pessimism. Why, out of the whole damned country, wasn’t there at least one man with the courage to shoot Mugabe?

Look at Eastern Europe. After a horrible depression that lasted from about 1930 to 1990, the whole region blossomed in the space of a decade. It went from the grimmest dystopia, a veritable hologram of Mordor itself, to being almost indistinguishable from Western Europe. It shows how quickly things can improve, as long as there isn’t a backdrop of purposeful stupidity. Try as governments may to destroy it, there’s an immense amount of capital that the world has built up over the past few centuries. Individuals and small groups will continue building their capital everywhere, notwithstanding any kind of State action. The pace of technology should continue, if not accelerate.

As someone who always looks at the bright side, the final bit of good news I can offer you in this extraordinarily troubled milieu is that things are likely to be very interesting, even quite exciting, over the years to come. Notwithstanding the well-known Chinese curse, I’m not completely averse to interesting times. And remember, you don’t have to be adversely affected by them; they set up opportunities for greater profits than even the wildest bull market.