This Week In Doom June 4, 2018

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 4, 2018

“Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

 ― Nemesis  

Madness in DC is certainly in evidence, with the Lout-in-Chief hurling tweets like Zeus' thunderbolts, with the primary intention being suspension of the rule of law. Trump further weaponized the pardon power as a political tool, issuing a presidential pardon for confessed felon and right wing ideologue Dinesh D'Souza to the delight of right wingers and the annoyance of those who care about the rule of law. On Monday Morning, Trump tweeted, “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” Melania was still missing after 22 days, prompting speculation as to her whereabouts and safety.  Rumors that she had been renditioned to a black site in Thailand for threatening divorce remain unproven at press time.

Each week seems to have a day bruised by a flurry of Trump rage-tweets. His bouts of fury are well-documented. In Trump's 81 weeks as POTUS, has threatened individuals, institutions, businesses and countries, including the media, the NFL, NATO member countries, allies and enemies with bluster and braggadocio. He’s even promised Joe Biden a physical beat-down for challenging him.

Morris Berman in his blog Dark Ages America, has said it best:

Trump's historical mission is to dismantle the country, and he couldn't be doing a better job. John Kiriakou is worried about the state of the American soul (see his essay…), as though the jury was out on that one. In fact, it can be summarized in a single word: rotten. As he notes, 67% of the American public approves of torture, and Trump's approval rating continues to rise.

It's all over but the shouting.

Two-thirds of Americans support torture. The same number believe in guardian angel who keeps them safe from spiders and muslims. As one raised Roman Catholic who left the church after learning about the Spanish Inquisition, I’m appalled that anyone can think such a thing is even remotely acceptable. And now it is policy, part of the Trump governing ethic of putting a fox in charge of every henhouse. There is a dark terror and viciousness in the American soul, given full expression by the Lout-in-Chief. D.H Lawrence one wrote, "The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” And the magisterial American historian Richard Hofstadter acknowledged that “Americans certainly have reason to inquire whether, when compared with other advanced industrial nations, they are not a people of exceptional violence.” Make that "they" a "we."

Meanwhile, the shouting continues. As Shakespeare once said, “Words, words, words.” 

On Again, On Again

The North Korea Summit Is Back On—But Don’t Expect Miracles

Trump says Kim meeting is back on: ‘We’re getting along’

In a triumph of low expectations, the once-off "summit" with North Korea is back on again. “It went very well,” Trump declaimed, “And now we’re going to deal.”

This did America's greatest showman arrange to receive a letter delivered from the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in a symbolic show of good intentions. The delivery boy, one Kim Yong Chol, a former spymaster still legally sanctioned by the United States and reputedly the second-most powerful man in North Korea, was there to provide the photo op that the Koreans are savvy enough to know that the figurehead and loose cannon needs.

Just the week before, Trump cancelled the first ever summit between American and North Korean leaders in a dramatic letter to Kim, whose government had not been picking up the phone regarding summit preps and terms.

Some speculate that Trump appears to have recognized that diplomacy is more complex, more nuanced, and potentially takes much longer than a business deal. After all, it's not like Trump can make a phone call and get someone to lean on some troub lesome unions working on a high rise. And in diplomacy there are no sub-contractors to stiff.

“We‘ll be meeting on June 12 in Singapore,“ Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House after escorting Chol to his vehicle.

Trump tempered expectations for what the meeting in Singapore will yield, saying nothing would be signed during the summit and that it would simply be the beginning of a process toward denuclearizing North Korea.

“It‘s a process. … We're not going to go in and sign something on June 12 and we never will,“ the president said. “We‘re going to start a process.“

Trump just can't get enough of those chants of, "Nobel! Nobel! Nobel!"

Roseanne and the Art of War

If you're not living on an island, by now you are aware that Roseanne Barr has been fired from ABC and her hit show canceled after making a particularly egregious series of racist tweets. ABC abruptly canceled their top-rated show “Roseanne,” bringing an end to one of Hollywood’s boldest efforts to reach out to red-state viewers in the Trump era.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said in a statement.

Added Disney chief Robert Iger: “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”

In an article that informs the title of this segment, Kevin Tully puts the episode is a larger, useful perspective. The entire soul of Trumpism and thus what passes for Republicanism/ conservatism is bound up in Roseanne's compulsion to tweet and the white nationalist, racist impulses she has been empowered to vent.. She couldn't suppress her bigotry, anger and racism and more than her pole star, The Orange Lout, is able to. Last summer in Charlottesville, we saw the consequences of white nationalist rhetoric. Last week, we saw that although speech is "free" in this country, it does carry commercial consequences.

Republicans talk about taxes, deficits, defense and on and on — but what do they really talk about in a significant way? The Trump phenomenon has absolutely nothing to do with government, just as Roseanne's rant had nothing to do with governing — it was selfish, personal garbage wrapped in political clothing. This is what ninety percent of Republican/conservative rhetoric is. The pretense that the Republican party continues as a political party is ridiculous. It is a cult. It is a cult of destruction — it has traded a rudder for a hammer. Roseanne just used that hammer on the "family" that depended upon her.

Ireland overturns abortion ban

Ireland repealed a constitutional amendment that banned abortion by a two-to-one margin. The vote was to overturn the abortion ban by 66.4% to 33.6%. The referendum held on Friday resulted in a landslide win for the repeal side.

Currently, abortion is only allowed when a woman's life is at risk. The Eighth Amendment, which grants an equal right to life to the mother and unborn, will be replaced.

Some think that  Ireland’s “Yes” Vote on Abortion Changes Everything. The historic vote to enshrine reproductive rights is the result of decades of organizing by Irish women—and its impact will be felt in countries across the globe. This follows another vote signaliing the loosensing of the Roman catholic Church's grip on Irish politics: in 2015 the country voted overwhelmingly to legalise same-sex marriage in a historic referendum.

The decades-long battle to repeal Ireland’s eighth amendment—the 1983 law that gave equal value to the lives of a pregnant woman and a fetus—may be the biggest news to hit Catholic-majority Ireland since the country gained majority independence from England in 1922 (and that battle took 800 years).

The winning “yes” vote comes as welcomed vindication not just for the 170,000 Irish women who have obtained overseas abortions since 1980, but for everyone who supports human rights.

“This is a celebration of women’s equality,” says Susy Freelove, an artist who lives in Ballydehob, County Cork. She says Irish women who have openly shared their experiences of traveling to London to terminate their pregnancies can now finally feel a weight has been lifted.

“It’s a real sea change in Ireland in terms of how we view sexuality,” says Beth Wallace, a therapist who was born in a Dublin home for unwed mothers. “Generations of shame are falling away.”

Media Lies, That's Their Job

News provided by mainstream media properties is delivered on a two-edged sword. On one hand, professional media organizations have resources, reporting assetsand a reach far beyond the solitary scribbler. And they also have editorial staffs devoted to fact checking and source-vetting. Their occasional stumbles are much publicized, but for many stories  they are excellent. The problem comes with the editors and publishers, strategically placed with a thumb close to the scale to soften language, change verbs, reframe or even spike coverage of stories that challenge the current regime's status quo. Such it is with these:

With More Gaza Protests Planned, Don’t Believe the Mainstream Media’s Lies

 The one lobby that may not be flouted in the USA is the Israel lobby. Well funded and interlocked, it provides the political underpinning for a base of American support for any Israeli policy, no matter how inhumane.  

And it in stories about Israel, or Gaza, that the heavy thump, of editorial censorhip and influence cna be most readily seen in the American press. By any measure, the Palestinians in Gaza or horribly oppressed. It is inhumane to expect a massacred population not to resist their own decimation, like the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto.

Since the beginning of the Great March of Return on March 30, Israel has killed over 100 Palestinians and injured over 12,000. Only one Israeli, a soldier, has been injured in the context of the march. 

Most mainstream western media coverage of Gaza’s march has systematically decontextualized the mass civilian protest, brushed off Israel’s weekly massacres as “clashes,” reified the boundary fence between Gaza and Israel a “border,” presented Palestinian protesters as “Hamas pawns” passively “dying for photo ops” and deployed other strategic falsehoods to dehumanize Palestinians fighting for their freedom. The net effect is the demonization of the march and the absolution of Israel of its murderous assault.

Since Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007, it has waged routine invasions that level infrastructure and kill thousands—a policy described by some Israeli analysists and politicians as “mowing the lawn.” According to the UN, Israel’s attacks, coupled with the siege, have rendered Gaza “unlivable.” Over 96 percent of Gaza’s water is unsafe for drinking and 57 percent of households are food insecure.

The Gaza Strip is often called the world’s largest open-air prison. Israel controls the maritime, aerospace and land borders of the coastal enclave.

Israel determines who and what can enter or exit Gaza. They control shipments of fuel, medicine, building supplies, and food—at one point allowing only the minimum calories each person in the strip could consume without starving.

There are details rarely mentioned in America's MSM. There was a time when America attempted to influence and shape Israel's policy. Now the shoe is on the other foot.Veneuuela is often also lied about, in accordance with policy. Newly re-elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

The real Venezuela is not what you think– The U.S. press doesn't tell you what Maduro has done for the poor.

Venezuela also gets the red pencil treatment, in large measure because the avowed socialist economy spends more money on "the people" then the avatars of austerity" think prudent. Never forget that every penny spent on a crust for a poor child comes out of the pocket of a multinational construction company or an international banker.

Daniel Kovalik, who teaches international human rights at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, published the linked article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kovalik recently visited during the recent election. Did you know that Jimmy Carter has called Venezuela’s electoral system “the best in the world?” Me, neither. Prior to the election on May 20,  which included an opposition candidate, Henri Falcon, from the business community, the U.S. government announced that it would not recognize the outcome, no matter who won. It also threatened Mr. Falcon with sanctions if he even ran in the election, and  threatened further economic sanctions on Venezuela if incumbent leftist Nicolas Maduro won. After Maduro's victory, the trump administration wasted no time imposing yet additional sanctions, further immiserating the Venezuelan people. 

How about another chorus of "Home of the Brave?"

First, the true patriots of Venezuela, not surprisingly, resent the United States’ devastating economic sanctions as well its constant call for regime change. Some U.S. officials even talk of military intervention to overthrow Mr. Maduro. In part, the vote for Mr. Maduro was a vote against U.S. meddling in the affairs of Venezuela.

In addition, despite the real hardships in Venezuela — for which the U.S. is largely to blame — most of Venezuela’s poor are better off now than they were before the Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. For example, over the past 7 years, the government has built 2 million units of housing for low-income Venezuelans. In a country of only some 30 million people, these units are now home to a large proportion of the Venezuelan population. The current government also has provided free health care and subsidized food.

Many of us read blogs like these to try to find a voice in the wilderness, in Leonard Cohen's lyric, "a crack where the light gets through." The Venezuela report reminds us that while poor people have been given a voice in Venezuela, their voice remains muzzled in this country, and by a press which passes off pro-intervention and pro-war propaganda as journalism. Little wonder the United States continues to careen into one disastrous military adventure after another.

Immiseration At Home

The U.S. immigration and border complex has never been particularly rational or humane. Yet with the latest iteration of “zero tolerance” border policing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has brought a disgraceful legacy to a new low.

As Debbie Nathan reports, Sessions’s cruel policy of deliberately separating immigrant parents from their children as a deterrent to would-be border crossers has even outraged a federal judge in south Texas.

Time was when It used to be rare to charge migrants seeking asylum with crimes. Those so charged would be put into detention with their children while they pursued their claims. Or they were released with supervision — along with their children. The best interests of the children were considered paramount, and those interests included keeping families together.

No more.

Such asylum-seekers now find themselves charged with “illegal entry,” and now the Trump administration's policy  is breaking up families, sending children to detention centers, often hundreds of miles from their mothers and fathers, or to distant foster homes.

In practice, this means that even parents fleeing violence to protect their young children will be deemed smugglers — that is, criminals. Sessions’s announcement came just two weeks after an official with the Department of Health and Human Services told Congress that the agency had lost track of 1,475 unaccompanied migrant children it had placed with sponsors.

The anguish that parents communicated in Morgan’s courtroom, and the spectacle of dozens of migrants being convicted and sentenced en masse, in proceedings lasting just a few minutes and with only the most perfunctory legal representation, has shocked courthouse employees. …

A young father then said he’d been separated from his 6-year-old and was very worried.

The judge tried to assume his crisp air. But he seemed overwhelmed, with the parents’ worry and with suspicion that the government was misrepresenting to him what was really happening to the children.

“The way it’s supposed to work,” he told the parents, “you’re going to be sent to a camp where your child will be allowed to join you. That’s my understanding of how it’s supposed to work.”

“They told me they were going to take her away,” a mother interjected about her young daughter.

“Well, let’s hope they don’t,” said Morgan. “You and your daughter, you should be joined together.”

And then, for many seconds, he was silent.

This the freedom our young men and women in uniform are fighting and dying to protect? Oh, right, it's about corporate interests.

Short takes:

Same cancer, worse results and twice the cost in the US

No War Like a Trade War– U.S. hits E.U., Canada and Mexico with steel, aluminum tariffs, sparking trade war

"This is not about the American people. We have to believe that at some point their common sense will prevail," said Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau.

Corporations Are Profiting From Immigrant Detainees’ Labor. Some Say It’s Slavery.

At privately run detention centers, immigrants say they're forced to work for $1 a day.

We Made Plastic. We Depend On It. Now We're Drowning In It.

The miracle material has made modern life possible. But more than 40 percent of it is used just once, and it’s choking our waterways.

That's more than enough for one week. Every story here demonstrates that Americans do not understand that the country is addicted to economic growth, and cannot account fo, what is happening as the pyramid scheme is approaching its limits. These are the stories that sadly mark the "days of our lives," as America's final decades consist of an increasingly frenzied no-holds-barred focus on keeping its economy from collapsing.

banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and was active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and is the proud parent of a recent college graduate. He will have failed if not prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.

Peak History

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Published on The Daily Impact on June 14, 2016

We live in a country whose citizens — make that residents — are increasingly averse to complicated thought, indifferent to veracity, and reductionist in their thinking (every thing and every thought and every person is and must be either one kind of thing, or another kind of thing, no additional choices allowed). In such a country history has few friends.

History is too hard. You have to find out what happened, and then you have to figure out the context of the events — what led up to them and what followed — so you can tease out their significance for your time and place, and even after doing all that it may not be clear. Far easier to decide first what history means, and look up a few facts to “prove” it. Works for Fox News. And what they have made of journalism, we are making of history.

The stories of contemporary history are short and punchy, crafted for an audience suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder; their lessons are simple and obvious, as befits an audience capable of obeying rules, not of evaluating them — you know, nine-year-olds. (Soon we will have a population of adults who will not cross the street without holding a grown-ups hand, because, you know, that’s the rule.)

A recent case in point: the American Civil War. It is now almost universally spoken of as a war that was about only one thing, slavery. Knowing that, as all right-thinking folks do, it follows that everyone who fought for the Confederacy was fighting to maintain slavery. Period. Because they were wrong to do so, a very popular line of “thinking” goes, we should scrub from our history and our world every vestige of their existence, eliminating their flag from our sight, rooting out and destroying their statues from our county seats and capitals (you know, like ISIS is doing in the cradle of civilization) and reducing their biographies to simplistic diatribes.

Now we could see in this an evil hand, an intent to make sure that our children never learn that good people fight in bad wars for good reason,  that bad people support good wars for bad reasons, that causes and outcomes are complicated, and can be both good and bad at the same time. Because if they do learn that, they are far less likely to allow some tinhorn president to fight any damn war he wants to for trumped-up reasons.

But the reality is probably dumber than that. While I was trying to figure out how to express my view of it, Ken Burns did it better, not the first time that has happened. He delivered the commencement speech to this year’s graduates of Stanford University (damn him, he still looks too young to be a graduate, let alone advise them). Most of the news coverage hyperventilated over his blistering condemnation of Donald Trump. But mostly he talked about history and our misuses of it:

… we live in an age of social media where we are constantly assured that we are all independent free agents. But that free agency is essentially unconnected to real community, divorced from civic engagement, duped into believing in our own lonely primacy by a sophisticated media culture that requires you—no—desperately needs you—to live in an all-consuming disposable present, wearing the right blue jeans, driving the right car, carrying the right handbag, eating at all the right places, blissfully unaware of the historical tides that have brought us to this moment, blissfully uninterested in where those tides might take us.

We are, in other words, in the grip of a terminal case of cultural Alzheimer’s Disease, increasingly unaware of the people around us, unable to remember where we came from and who we are, deprived, in other words, of the resources we need to set a rational course, we are reduced again to children who can only follow orders. So we grasp the nearest grown-up’s hand and await instruction.  

Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Worse Than 1860

four candidatesgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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four candidates
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 18, 2016

The lost story-line amid the food-fights and boasting contests that the “debates” have turned into is the destruction being wreaked on the two major parties themselves. I don’t see how either the Republicans or Democrats get out of this thing alive. The primary season now upon us is the event horizon that sucks these two purposeless clubs into the bottomless hole of historical bad memories. Both parties have failed so fundamentally to represent or even apprehend the interests of the nation that they are now merely obstacles to any sort of plausible future, two infernal machines blocking the road, shaking themselves to death.

The Republican Party may be closer to outright blowup since the rank and file will never accept Donald Trump as their legitimate candidate, and Trump has nothing but contempt for the rank and file. If Trump manages to win enough primaries and collect a big mass of delegate votes, the July convention in Cleveland will be the site of a mass political suicide. The party brass, including governors, congressmen, senators and their donor cronies will find some device to deprive Trump of his prize, and the Trump groundlings will revolt against that move, and the whole nomination process will be turned over to the courts, and the result will be a broken organization. The Federal Election Commission may then have to appeal to Capital Hill to postpone the general election. The obvious further result will be a constitutional crisis. Political legitimacy is shattered. Enter, some Pentagon general on a white horse.

Parallel events could rock the Democratic side. I expect Hillary to exit the race one way or another before April. She comes off the shelf like a defective product that never should have made it through quality control. Nobody really likes her. Nobody trusts her. Nobody besides Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Huma Abedin believe that it’s her turn to run the country. Factions at the FBI who have had a good look at her old State Department emails want to see her indicted for using the office to gin up global grift for the Clinton Foundation. These FBI personnel may be setting up another constitutional crisis by forcing Attorney General Loretta Lynch either to begin proceedings against Clinton or resign. Rumors about her health (complications from a concussion suffered in a fall ) won’t go away. And finally, of course, Senator Bernie Sanders is embarrassing her badly at the polls.

The Democrats could feasibly end up having to nominate Bernie on a TKO, but in doing so would instantly render themselves a rump party peddling the “socialist” brand — about the worst product-placement imaginable, given our history and national mythos. In theory, the country might benefit from a partial dose of socialism such as single-payer Medicare-for-all — just to bust up the odious matrix of rackets that medicine has become — but mega-bureaucracy on the grand scale is past its sell-by date for an emergent post-centralized world that needs its regions to get more local and autonomous.

The last time the major political parties disintegrated, back in the 1850s, the nation had to go through a bloody convulsion to reconstitute itself. The festering issue of slavery so dominated politics that nothing else is remembered about the dynamics of the period. Today, the festering issue is corruption and racketeering, but none of the candidates uses those precise terms to describe what has happened to us, though Sanders inveighs against the banker class to some effect. Trump gets at it only obliquely by raging against the “incompetence” of the current leadership, but he expresses himself so poorly in half-finished sentences and quasi-thoughts that he seems to embody that same mental incapacity as the people he rails against. Corruption and racketeering go unobserved and unchallenged. Even the amazing effrontery of Ted Cruz failing to report his Goldman Sachs campaign contributions to the FEC (with his wife employed as a managing director of that company!) hardly made an impression on public opinion last week.

Political uncertainty has never been so dangerously high in this country since the election year of 1860. Even the Watergate years pale against today’s sick scene because for all of Richard Nixon’s turpitudes and evasions in the White House, the institutions of democracy elsewhere were sound and worked impressively well. The senate committee steadfastly and systematically uncovered the crimes of Nixon and his cohorts over two years of hearings, and the House judiciary committee chugged efficiently through the preparatory work of impeachment — and then, old Tricky Dick boarded his helicopter to San Clemente with a ragged smile and a wave.

Nobody knows where the shit show of 2016 is leading. The uncertainty around it is helping to sink what remains of the old economy, and one can easily discern a very dangerous set of feedbacks creeping into place.


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Paradox Inherent in Any Slave Nation Revolution

Off the keyboard of Cognitive Dissonance

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Published on Two ice Floes on February 7, 2015


Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

How exactly do you cook a nutritious meal if all you have are spoiled ingredients? The answer depends upon your definition of nutritious and who is eating the meal……and, of course, your level of hunger and growing desperation. It is telling how much less discerning we become when the hunger pains boom in our belly and our mind becomes ever more focused on the single minded obsession of relieving our pain rather than pursuing our pleasure. Although at some point down the slippery slope relieving our pain is pursuing our pleasure.

If I carefully tend my garden, making certain the soil is thoroughly turned and pulverized, the seeds and seedlings properly planted, the area fertilized, weeded and watered and yet my garden’s yield is poor year after year after year, at what point do I begin to question the basis for my assumptions? And clearly there is an assumption of a better yield if I continue to do the same thing and expect different results.

Perhaps the soil is too acidic or alkaline, the area in shadow too long or the crop selection not suited for the soil or geographic location. The issue might be any or all of the above, or it might be something entirely different. Only a fearless and thorough examination of both the garden and gardener will reveal the systemic faults, and thereby the remedies to be employed.

It is a common belief in the West that revolution, at least when ‘successful’ (which usually means a forced change in leadership) produces reasonably good outcomes for the population at large. I contend this is wishful thinking and a deliberately seeded misnomer designed to obscure and conceal the ugly recognition that most often the new boss is quite similar in method and madness to the old boss. Change via revolution should not be conflated with better, nor should it be assumed better is the inevitable outcome.

The paradox of revolution springs from one central source, albeit a source widely dispersed and with many reverberations. Even if the revolutionaries wear white hats and are genuinely interested in fomenting ‘good’ change, with ‘good’ usually understood to mean ridding the country/region of the parasitic leaches and sociopaths along with the madmen at the top, changing the patsies throughout the governmental power structure doesn’t root out the sociopaths embedded within the country’s elite, essentially the King’s court along with several of the King’s men.

Since the King serves at the pleasure of his court, killing the King does little if anything to root out the source of real power in the country or region. Like tics dug in deep under a dog’s fur and attached directly to the economic blood supply, the established power base must either be thoroughly dislodged, thereby risking utter economic collapse, or a deal made to accommodate their continuing presence in order to enable the newly crowned King time to organize and govern.

Regardless of whether or not damage was done to the infrastructure and overall economy during the revolution, the new leadership often opts to cut a deal with the existing elite in order to quickly consolidate power and demonstrate to the population some sort of progress towards restoration of commerce and an increased standard of living. This very act of questionably necessary compromise and accommodation means the ‘good’ imagined by the revolutionaries has already been sidetrack and subverted, though by how much remains to be seen.

Liberty - CleanLady Liberty – A controlling mind meme

These issues are further compounded since the global elite do not respect national boundaries in the same manner you and I are forced to do. Money’ is fungible and convertible and quickly moved by those who possess both large quantities and international financial contacts. This means the elite can apply significant external pressure using a variety of means to compel the revolutionaries to concede on many business regulations, tax concessions and the selling of national assets if they wish to receive external assistance from the blood sucking tics.

Basically the economic hit-men are sent in and the revolutionaries are read the riot act. Play international ball or we will take your ball (and possibly your country) away. Facing Hobson’s Choice, either they dislodge the elite and become the next Cuba or North Korea, isolated from most of civilization and it’s economic and financial opportunities, or they join the ranks of the corrupt and in the process profit handsomely from their hard labors ‘liberating’ the downtrodden. It is easy to see how this self serving decision can be rationalized away.

This scenario doesn’t even take into consideration that in all likelihood the revolutionaries already hitched their wagon to a group of elites (internal or external, it doesn’t really matter) during the early stages of the uprising in order to gain military and financial assistance. That bill comes due immediately upon demand, thereby assuring the economic hit-men easy access to the top. In most cases the tics are already deeply embedded within the revolution.

This brings us to an important corollary to my theorem. With a global and local population thoroughly conditioned with the slave mentality of respect, or just plain fear, for self declared (elite) authority along with severe generational Stockholm Syndrome, even before the revolution begins to take hold the revolutionaries quickly realize in order to win the population over, or simply to neutralize it, they must employ the exact same herding and bullying techniques as the present, and soon to be previous, status quo leadership uses to control the native population.

Essentially the vast majority of the existing population is already suffering to one degree or another under the present day rule. And they are doing nothing to free themselves from their oppressed condition. Other than the very small minority who will join the rebellion when hope surfaces with the insurgency, the majority will remain either neutral (meaning frozen in fear glued to their propaganda mind control devices) or will rise to defend their shepherd……or at the very least their meal ticket. The ultimate enemy of a revolution is not the oppressive government it is attempting to overthrow, but the general population it is trying to ‘free‘.

This virtually assures if and when the revolution ‘succeeds’ the new boss will appear quite similar to the old boss, since it is nearly impossible to resist using an extremely effective herding technique once the revolution has gained control of the civilian population using the very same techniques. While some of the citizens will welcome the leadership change, for they labor under the mistaken belief good times are just around the corner, for the most part the recently elevated revolutionary King will face a suspicious and even hostile civilian population, especially if the controlling propaganda memes are interrupted by the recent regime change.

All the more reason to ruthlessly quell dissent and consolidate power by making deals with the elite devil(s) while using strong arm tactics on the general population, something the slave mentality will generally applaud as needed and necessary to ‘restore law and order and make the streets safe’. Ultimately a population conditioned to believe only a higher authority can save them from themselves will beg for an authority, any authority, to fill the vacuum left behind when the last figure head authority was deposed.

While over the ages there have been hundreds of slightly different permutations of the above scenario endlessly played out as one after another revolution rises up only to quickly fizzle out, assuring an endless stream of sociopath patsies rotating through the halls of power, the basic blueprint rarely changes regardless of the social, economic or technological ‘progress’ achieved.

Civil War Cannon - CleanThe Blueprint for Slavery – Killing each other to benefit the master.

As disturbing as this concept might be for those minds who consider themselves free, we still live, work and play under a form of slave plantation organization. No – the US is not fundamentally different, though this is most certainly the controlling meme, one of outstanding exceptionalism. What makes the US unique (or at least first) is the rousing success the embedded tics had in developing the next iteration of the slave plantation system, one where the slaves were given limited freedom of choice in exchange for greater participation and productivity. Even now this experiment is coming to a close as the profits dwindle……and with them the slave’s choices. In a sociopath’s world, nothing assures eventual collapse more than unparalleled success.

The biggest difference between the slave toiling away on a 19th century Deep South cotton plantation and the modern ‘educated’ self determining ‘free’ debt addled office, factory or service worker is the degree of mobility, living standard, and belief in our own freedom. Not to mention our rock solid belief in the ‘guarantee’ of our basic ‘human’ (slave) rights. Ever wonder who exactly is making, and supposedly fulfilling, that guarantee?

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”Wolfgang von Goethe

I am fairly certain the prior statements will elicit either violent emotional triggering in rebuttal (denial is often the first line of cognitive defense) or a quiet calm as the slave mind quickly overcomes the sudden rise of cognitive dissonance by differentiating itself from the rest of the herd……as it always does in order to tolerate its captivity. Ironically the latter self subterfuge is the favorite refuge of those of us who consider ourselves awake and aware.

From a practical point of view, while the modern slave enjoys many ‘benefits’ only dreamed of by the slaves of the Deep South, the ‘benefits’ enjoyed by the elite modern slave master which are derived from the exponentially higher productivity of the modern slave far exceeds any concessions the master has made to the slave. Concessions I might add that can, will and are being quickly rescinded.

Even though “We the People” believe our selves already free, and the level of technology salted throughout our modern lives tend to confirm our delusional thinking, this technology also serves as the robust chain that binds us to our plantation. The massive and still growing global surveillance state (not just in the USA but throughout the world both East and West) assures the controlling elite not only the means to track and eavesdrop, but to implant the latest mind controlling memes and narratives directly into our minds. Upgrades and updates are just a finger swipe away. The endless variety of news and information sources available at our fingertips virtually assures each of us will be told exactly what we wish to hear, see and think.

With the mind of the master now firmly implanted in our pocket or purse, the concept of revolution can be quickly derailed or co-opted among the great unwashed masses. While this doesn’t dissuade the truly disaffected from pushing back at the margins, it does severely limit the number of minds willing to be freed from the controlling matrix. A conditioned mind always returns to its core dependency for affirmation and confirmation of the correctness of its debased state.

It can be competently and convincingly argued, at least when dealing with a mind willing and able to see all sides of the issue, that far from being free and independent, the modern wage slave is far more indentured to his or her servitude than at any other time in history. What this means is that any revolution, in addition to all the issues outlined above, has a much steeper hill to climb than ever before if it is to eventually ‘succeed’.

Just as enlightening to recognize is one simple fact. Similar to the situation where unless all the head lice are removed at the same time, the infestation continues, so too if the sociopaths are not removed in mass globally with one fell swoop of civil uprising, the infestation continues. While the controlling sociopaths share the same self survival impulse as we mere mortals, they do not share our propensity to live and let live. Therefore they will quickly and efficiently sacrifice fellow elite sociopaths in order to sate the blood thirsty mobs, thereby assuring (or at a minimum prolonging) their continued control of the slave nation.

Because the general population lives within the fiction of the controlling meme, meaning the mostly false narrative deeply embedded within our minds of what is real and what is not, as long as the changing of the guard produced by revolution remains within the controlling mind meme narrative nothing really changes for the slave population other than in the most superficial manner. Instead of a ration of 20 units of chocolate each day I have been assured a raise to 100 units of chocolate per week. Thus even when the sociopaths lose they still win.

Chocolate - CleanI got my raise. Who wants to barter?

After hundreds, even thousands, of years of failed revolutions and endless rounds of rotating sociopath leaders, maybe it is time to question the very premise of ‘revolution’ and what exactly is happening here. Since you and I cannot force change upon the world with the snap of our fingers, the only path out of this paradox is to break free from the controlling meme and recognize our own participation in, and endorsement of, the slave plantation state.

This is not to say attempting to protect ourselves from the manipulated herd or the layers of well armed muscle surrounding the sociopath leaders is pointless and futile. Nor should we passively let go when the gathering tide is tugging at our feet. But to blindly assume any response from you or me is either doomed to fail (for example assuming you can’t fight city hall) or expected to succeed (such as being armed and awake in the redoubt) and all points in-between, is at this point utter insanity on our part. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is – well, you know – insane.

To assume I and millions of others can unravel thousands of years of social conditioning and manipulation in mere months or even years if only we were to do ‘something’ is the very definition of self delusion, serving only to set myself and others up for eventual failure. The source of my urgent impulse to action, which usually consists of little more than high frequency vibrating in place similar to a deer in the headlights (an extremely unhealthy state of affairs I might add) is an at times irrational fear for my ‘self’ once my eyes have glimpsed first light and begin to recognize the layers of (self) deceit and treachery which encompasses the modern slave state.

When this is combined with an often falsely perceived close proximity to the soon-to-be mad-as-hell hungry hoards when first light is involuntarily thrust upon them, this bitter cocktail goads my mind into believing something must be done right now or all is lost later. With the brain now effectively short circuited and disconnected, and the body operating solely on fear induced adrenaline, hence the high frequency vibration, we become our own personalized sub sect of the mindless masses. And right there my friend is the ultimate source of history’s rhyme, the co-opted revolutionary mind leading the forever blind.

The dirty little secret dear reader is glaringly obvious once accepted; this ‘belief’ that we must fight fire with fire, that lines must be draw – this far and no further, that time is of the essence and the end is so near, is part and parcel of the overall controlling mind meme. To paraphrase the Architect as he spoke with Neo, “You think you are the first, but you are not. There is a long line behind you and an even longer line ahead.”

There is an unbalanced equation inherent (more accurately described as deliberately implanted) in our programming which results in a tragically poor yield to our endless revolutions. It might be the soil or the crops, the light or the gardener. Then again it might not. The only apparent choices available to us are a product of the controlling meme and are patently false unless they are recognized for what they are. Only our acknowledgement and full acceptance that we willing participated in this macabre dance can invalidate the false choices and open new doors. Either we create our own reality or we exist as subjects of theirs.

To deny these basic and self evident truths is to deny us our ultimate freedom, the freedom from self. This is the source of our power and the elite know this, thus the reason they are so desperate to ramp up their subjugation and control. Their power is simply our power brilliantly co-opted, and all we need do to take it back is snap our fingers and they are suddenly naked and exposed. I love the smell of elite desperation in the morning.

This is not false hope, but rather obvious truth. However, unless “We the Individual” can overcome and surpass our thoroughly conditioned and manipulated ‘self’, the game will never change other than at the most local of levels and for the shortest periods of time. There is a reason we rats are always caught in the trap. When we finally ask of our ‘self’ the only pertinent question that matters – why do I continue to play the fool in the slave master’s game – then we can begin to recognize the only path out of this maze is to be found when we finally look within.

Collapsing in Paradise

Off the keyboard of Eddie

Published inside the Diner on September 3, 2013

Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner

I spent the past week in St. John, USVI, camping on the beach in the National Park and snorkeling. I first visited that general area of the world about twenty years ago, and for the last 10 or 12 years I’ve been returning there every year or two. They have some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and bays.

The cottages at Cinnamon Bay campground

Cinnamon Bay and Cinnamon Cay

But St. John is a place with a dark history of human suffering, ecological disaster and economic collapse.

The native Caribs never had any permanent settlements on St. John. It was largely ignored by the Spanish and English who were the main European settlers of the region, because there were lots of better island alternatives for agriculture, which in the late 17th and early 18th centuries meant sugar farming and making rum. St. John was only 20 square miles and all mountains and forests. It was finally claimed by the Danes in 1718. Both the English and the Spanish ordered them to leave, but  never cared enough to back up their rhetoric with cannons and muskets.

The Danes brought slave labor to clear the land and plant sugar. They were either unlucky in their choice of Africans or the harsh life hacking down the jungle and planting and harvesting sugar cane was more than the slaves could bear. (It is said that among the original slave contingent were some proud tribal leaders who never fully took on the yoke.) By 1733 there was a bloody slave revolt. Several of the slaves were caught and subsequently brutally tortured, and the rest took their own lives to escape recapture.

Rams Head, where legend has it the slaves of the 1733 Slave Revolt took their own lives.

By 1800 the sugar boom days were over, but it would take another 120 years for the Danes to give up and go home for good, leaving behind the descendants of their slaves, freed in 1848, but given no property nor any means of making a living. The land continued to pass to the descendants of the planters, finally ending up mostly in the hands of about 12 families.

A semi-feudal peasant culture eventually evolved that allowed informal land use by the ex-slaves, who supported themselves by fishing, farming, and small animal husbandry. More on this later.

The slash and burn agriculture techniques of the white settlers resulted in a 50% deforestation of the island. This caused a fairly immediate, precipitous, permanent drop in the water table. Natural fresh water springs and streams dried up forever.  Today the  former creek beds are called “guts” and only run when it rains heavily on the island. Virtually all the water used on St. John today is from catchment, with the exception of a couple of big resorts that have their own desalination plants.

The beaches of St. John are gorgeous, but the jungle (now mostly park land) is filled with ruins of plantation houses and sugar mills, and the hillsides are dotted with crypts containing the remains of the people who came to build them, many of whom succumbed rapidly to various tropical diseases. The bones of the slaves lie in unmarked graves. Much of the jungle is comprised of invasive species, second growth forest that contains non-native mangoes and tamarinds, and a host of less welcome plants. The old growth Lignum vitae trees were all cut down, with only a few left on the always wild and ragged East End.

Jungle ruins, Reef Bay (I think)

The most interesting part of this story is what happened to the island after the collapse of the sugar industry. Although the last sugar mill closed in 1917 or so, most of the plantations fell into disuse around 1850, and almost all of the white settlers left for greener pastures.

The population stabilized at around a thousand people and hovered around that number for the next hundred years. The black inhabitants managed to buy little scraps of land, enough to build houses (there was also eventually a small homestead provision passed into law), and the land was held in common by families, for the most part. A local gift economy emerged, with men forming “clubs” to assist in large endeavors, like home building, which is a never ending job in a place visited regularly by hurricanes and the occasional earthquake. The old sugar plantations were used by new absentee owners to run cattle, and the “natives” took care of them.

Fishing and subsistence agriculture proved adequate. Nobody got rich, and nobody starved. Christian churches, started by Moravian missionaries, were attended by the ex-slaves and their descendants, Life revolved around family and church and work. For a time there was a balance.

Enter the white men, version 2.0.

Always known for its raw beauty, St. John began to attract vacation visitors of the off-the-beaten-path variety. A couple of hardy souls even started extremely small time resorts, by the 1930’s and ’40’s. By the ’50’s, Caneel Bay was a popular destination for certain American and European 1%’ers.

Lawrence Rockefeller, who was an avid sailor, acting surreptitiously, bought about half the island from the descendants of the original settlers and various newer land owners. What happened next is still debated in some circles. The official version is that Larry R. generously donated almost all his land to form a National Park, which was then approved by Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower. Stories have always persisted among long time VI residents, that tell a slightly different story, one in which Rockefeller owed a lot of taxes to the Treasury that were inconvenient for him to pay when demanded, and that the Park was part of a work-out deal. I don’t really know, but I didn’t start the rumor.

In any case, he managed to hang on to Caneel Bay, which he by then had purchased, and which became (and still is) a playground for the rich and famous. Oppenheimer Beach, a mile or so west of where we camped, is a lasting reminder that the man who supervised the Manhattan Project had a beach house where he spent a lot of time in his declining years.

Robert Oppenheimer as an old man, at home on the beach that now bears his name

Most white islanders and American tourists think of the Park as a win/win. So did the black inhabitants…at least at first. But then they found out that their long time informal claims to the “commons” land ended the day the Park Service took over, and that they couldn’t farm or run a few cattle and goats there anymore. The fragile economic stability of their local economy was broken. Eventually, some of them would find work building the infrastructure of the new St. John. Others, not so lucky, would emigrate to the States (which bought out the Danish government’s stake in 1917, for 25 million dollars).

Today, most of the reef fish can’t be eaten for food, without risking Ciguatera poisoning, a bacterial toxin disease somewhat similar to Botulism. (this is blamed by some on climate change, but I suspect sewage contamination of the bays is a factor too). Native St. Johnians still do fish and garden, but it isn’t enough to live on. They either work for the government, the Park, or live on welfare and food stamps, like all the other poverty victims in the FS of A. Many of the more menial jobs now go to even poorer “down island” blacks who come there for the work. The population is maybe 4500 people (or more by now, my sources are not current). The old work clubs still do function on a lesser level, since no one can afford a mortgage, and most native houses are still self-built.

But the balance has been lost.

I spent my week carefully looking…trying to see…is the ocean level rising? Is the coral dying, or is it hanging in there? Are there more fish, or less than I remember from years past?

Apparently coral is affected by bleaching “events” during which water temperatures rise, perhaps quite subtly, but to a point where “bleaching” occurs very rapidly, within days or weeks. A couple of these events were documented in some of the St. John bays in 2005 and 2006.

Me? I had to admit that I couldn’t tell. To be honest, I don’t think the coral has been doing that fabulous for the last twenty years or so, which is the duration of my informal observation. It certainly has always been less spectacular than the Caribbean reefs I’ve visited in Mexico. But there is  still an abundance of fish.

Last week I saw plenty of big Tarpon.  Sea Turtles, under protection, are making a come-back. Lots of colorful reef fish like Sgt. Majors and Parrotfish.  Big clouds of Silversides by the million being herded around like cattle by Bar Jacks. And I saw lots of Stingrays, more than I remember.  But I’ve never been there quite this late in the summer before. The best thing was the distinct lack of tourists encountered in the last week of August, the middle of hurricane season, which so far this year is a big miss.

A 3 to 4 ft Tarpon feeding in a cloud of Silversides

I wonder what will happen when travel gets really expensive. No more full occupancy at the big resorts…or even my beloved Cinnamon Bay campground, with it’s little cottages, most of which were unoccupied last week. The Park will still be the Park, of course. As long as the tax money is there to pay the higher echelons, which have been and continue to be U.S. trained, and who typically stay there a few years before moving up and moving on, the way bureaucrats do in bureaucracies.

I don’t see the black population returning to subsistence living. Too many skills lost. Too many toxic fish. Not enough non-park land to farm. When the supermarkets close they will be in the same boat with all the other inhabitants of the modern world who live at the mercy of  JIT delivery. And if climate change does destroy the life of the oceans, they will be among the first and most profoundly affected.

I will continue to observe…and wait. But I’m just not sure that I will be able to see the changes. They happen slowly, and in a few more years I’ll be joining Larry R. and Robert O. in the Great Beyond. For me, that’s one of the hardest things to accept..that collapse is happening here and now…and I just lack the right kind of perceptive abilities to see it or feel it.

I suppose that could change someday soon, in a heartbeat. I should just count myself lucky.

And I do.

Money & Wealth: Part III

Off the keyboard of Monsta666

Discuss this article at the Money Table inside the Diner

Monetary terms

The terms below should help those unfamiliar with financial terms to understand how to read money supply graphs and what the various metrics are used when determining money supply:

Transactional Deposit – Also known as a demand deposit account, checking account (US) or a current account (UK). These accounts are used to deposit and withdraw money easily as well as make payments to various other parties. The money in transaction accounts can be used as a medium of exchange.
Savings Deposit – Are accounts that are used to accrue interest but cannot directly be used as a medium of exchange. To use the money held in a savings account it must first be transferred to a transactional account. Interest generated from savings accounts are subjected to taxes at source before it even enters the holders saving accounts. Tax deductions are income and not capital gain based.[10]  
Time Deposit – Also known as certificate of deposits (US) or bonds (UK). These operate in much the same manner as savings account except that the money is kept for a fixed term until it can be withdrawn. If money is withdrawn before the term has expired then a penalty will be charged. Time deposits are not subject to reserve requirements in the US.
M0 money supply (US) – Notes and coins in circulation.M0 money supply (UK) – Notes and coins in circulation plus the commercial bank deposits in the Bank of England. This metric is referred to as “narrow money”.
M1 money supply (US) – M0 + money held in checking accounts.
M2 money supply (US) – M1 + money held in savings accounts and small time deposits (under $100,000).
M3 money supply (US) – Broadest measure of money supply and is M2 + all time deposits and other large liquid assets. M3/M0 is the multiplier ratio.
M4 money supply (UK) – Equivalent to M3 money supply for US is referred to as “broad money”.  M4/M0 is the multiplier ratio.

Main article

In part two of this series the basic mechanics of how the monetary system works was explained. In part three of this money series we will go into the implications of having a debt-based currency speculating on how it was created as well as discussing the various advantages and disadvantages of using such a system.

Debt-based money

To observant readers who read the second part you will notice that in all instances described money was created by some form of credit expansion. In other words all money that currently exists has been loaned into existence. As we know, all loans made carry an interest component and it is this interest that means that the money supply must always increase at an exponential rate to meet debt repayment obligations. It is this interest bearing component and the exponential rising money supply that acts as a large driver on why the economy must grow and grow at an exponential rate even if this economic growth comes at a detrimental cost such as environmental degradation, rising social inequality, loss of freedoms etc. as repayments must be made.

Another inherent property of the momentary system is that the amount of debt in the system is greater than the total money supply. If you notice with the example provided with the fractional reserve system all money was loaned to new customers what was not highlighted in that instance was the fact those loans carry interest. The same is also true for the quantitative easing; in those instances we can see that the total debt exceeds the money supply because if we include the interest on those loans then we need more money than currently exists. It is this property of the monetary system that means some existing debts (at least if we consider things on a total macro level) must be rolled over with new debts as it would be impossible to repay all the existing debts in their entirety with the current money supply. As a result the existing system can only be sustained if there is continued growth of the money supply and for the money supply to continue growing it requires that the underlying economy must also keep growing.

This need for constant economic growth comes because – as highlighted in the first part of this series – the claims on wealth (money) must roughly equal the amount wealth in the underlying economy. If the number of claims against actual wealth goes out of balance then the value of money diminishes as it no longer offers a reliable means of valuing wealth even on an exchange value basis. Indeed it is this lack of economic growth in the major advanced economies of the world that is the chief cause for the instability in the financial system. While there can be complex debates about the precise nature of why these events transpired and who is to blame it must be recognised that the inherent properties of the system means it can only maintain stable if there is continued growth in the economy. Unfortunately infinite growth is not possible as the amount of wealth (resources) in the planet is finite so at some point this basic reality must be confronted.

This leads us to the question of why such a system came into being in the first place. Why create a system that is so inherently unstable? Now what comes next – at least in terms of how the debt based currency was created – is informed speculation on my part so it must be taken with a pinch of salt. However we can be sure that this is the system that currently exists so we are only speculating about its creation and not its existence. With that in mind I will offer a number of explanations of why this system was established. One of the major reasons is probably as mundane as a basic ignorance of how the monetary system operates. This allows the money makers to create an insidious system with relatively little resistance. Second the desire to make a return on investment is so high that without proper regulation there is always an incentive over time to use any asset be it food, gold a house etc. as collateral for a loan and then gain an income through the interest accrued by those loans. If a person earns enough income through interest then there will be no need to labour (and generate actual wealth) for an income; you just live through the “rents” from the interest and you become part of the rentier class. If enough parties seek a return for their investments then over time money will often naturally evolve to become debt based to service those needs.

Perhaps the biggest driver for a debt based currency however is that debt provides the means to fight wars more effectively. As we know wars are expensive and as time has gone on wars have become increasingly expensive; so much so that merely taxing the populace was not enough to fund a war. As a result many countries eventually had to find other means of securing funds and this came through utilizing debt to increase military spending. After all it is often the side that spends the most becomes the winner. Furthermore it is the winner of the war that gets to dictate the terms of peace and this often involves passing on the debt and most important of all the interest to the losing state. This is what happened at the conclusion of World War I and explains why the loser, Germany, went bankrupt as it was forced into paying all the debts (from itself, Britain and France) accumulated during the war years.

Therefore in light of this it should not come as any surprise that the first ever government bond issued was made by the Bank of England in 1694 to raise funds for a war against France. If all the above is true then we can establish the motive of using this system and why it started but then even this explanation fails to answer the question why this system of bonds (and by extension debt servitude) persisted outside of the wars. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the government simply issued debt free money instead of having to pay interest on money it created? The reason why this system of debt likely persisted outside of war is because in many cases the people who fund wars are either rich domestic citizens or foreign investors both of which are likely to hold significant political clout. This relationship becomes even more telling if these investors are other national states especially if that national state is stronger than the debtor nation (examples of this abound between third world debtor states and first world creditor nations). It is because of those reasons that interest payments must be honoured or the country in question will be cut off from international markets.

Over the centuries these debt obligations have become even stronger. First as most countries moved away from monarchist rule to that of democratic governments this meant that debts accumulated through previous administrations never died. In the past when a king died his debt died with him but under a democratic arrangement all debts become that of the state and so debts never expire. This issue is highlighted in the case when a despotic regime is overthrown but the new government is still under obligation to payback old debts from the old regime; such debt is sometimes recognised as odious debt in international law.

This issue of debt repayments has become even more acute in today’s globalised economy as nations have become dependent on the global economy to provide its basic needs such as food, energy and basic goods. This dependence coupled with the strength of “foreign investors” who own the largest financial and corporate institutions means that states are beholden to their demands and can only function by staying in this globalised system as national states have, for the most part, lost their autonomy as they have lost their means of production for some vital resource and can only obtain them from other markets. This can lack of “production” even extends to money itself as states do not create money themselves as all money is essentially created by private institutions that governments must effectively pay a rent (interest) to use; this dependence in obtaining money (debt actually) means the relationship between state and private financial institutions has – over time – come to resemble more of a parent and child relationship than that where both counterparties wield equal power. This issue of dependence would explain why various EU nations have continued to accept the onerous bailout conditions despite the damage it does to the country’s economy, finances and political legitimacy. This control, through financial dependence, seems to be recognised by various financial elites most notably Mayer Amschel Rothschild who had this to say:

“Give me control of a nation’s money supply, and I care not who makes its laws” – Mayer Amschel Rothschild

In addition, as noted earlier; all money is created into existence through loans and since these loans are created out of “thin air” it does not cost the people who issue the loans anything. Because of this money can act as an instrument of wealth extraction due to the interest bearing component of all debts accumulated this system. This means so long as the person controls the money supply it is possible from them to extract wealth from people with no/limited money (or credit) who must not only labour to repay the principle on the loan but they must work that “bit extra” to pay off the interest on the debt. All that’s really required is that the loans issued are not invested too badly to allow someone to accumulate great wealth over time as effectively they will claim a small percentage of the entire countries production. If even this gain is 1% (it is likely higher than this) then through compound growth large numbers will be generated in a relatively modest timeframe. Thus another inherent property of this system is it acts as a form of wealth redistribution that sieves wealth from the bottom and takes it towards the top. It should come as no surprise then that during a period of large banking (and by extension credit expansion) that the level of inequality in society will rise appreciably. The video below describes the points raised quite well:

Note: While Damon explains the money side of the equation well he largely ignores the wealth side of the debate which concerns limited resources. Because of this oversight his theory of how the world banks will rule the world is likely to be false as the large institutions can only be maintained with abundant sources of energy.

Saying all that there are numerous advantages to this monetary system and these must be acknowledged. First of all as already established since the monetary system expands at an exponential rate this insures that the money supply can match the increase in the economy as both tend to expand at an exponential rate. It is important to recognise that the economy is expanding at an exponential rate and is not increasingly in a linear manner (which tends to be what we think intuitively). If we look at the production and consumption of various resources we can see this exponential growth more clearly:

For most of human history economic growth primarily came from expanding populations but in more recent years, economic expansion came about through increased worker productivity. It is commonly stated that this increase in productivity came through the use of machine but as explained in Energy part 1 this increase in productivity primarily comes from the arbitrage between expensive labour energy and cheap energy that derives from fossil fuels. In fact the difference in use and exchange value as described in part 1 of this series has been a huge source of wealth and is one of the instrumental factors in how the US has maintained hegemony over the global economy by not only being the reserve currency of the world but by directly tying their currency to that of oil thus forming the petro dollar. This issue will be described more fully in part 4 of this series.

In any case an exponentially increasing economy means more wealth enters the human economy (at the expense of the overall ecosystem) so for a money system to remain stable (in the sense of stable prices) then the claims on this wealth must increase in tandem. This balancing act between money supply and the real wealth of an economy is crucial because if this balance is not kept then we will either see inflation (too much money) or deflation (too little money). Therefore an exponentially rising money supply serves as a good platform in the sense it avoids deflation (a fall in prices) which is a perennial problem of capitalism as there is always the issue of overproduction or as it is sometimes described underconsumption or declining aggregate demand (which is the current issue facing economies since the financial crisis). To learn more about this particular matter it is advisable to read the Waste-Based series (here and here) as this is a topic in itself. It should be noted however that deflation also means that it becomes harder to pay debts which is another big reason why central banks strive to avoid deflation. In fact one of their chief objectives is to avoid deflation. Indeed Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve, has made a doctrine about avoiding deflation[7] and had this to say about deflation:

“The sources of deflation are not a mystery. Deflation is in almost all cases a side effect of a collapse of aggregate demand – a drop in spending so severe that producers must cut prices on an on-going basis in order to find buyers. Likewise, the economic effects of a deflationary episode, for the most part, are similar to those of any other sharp decline in aggregate spending—namely, recession, rising unemployment, and financial stress.” – Ben Bernanke, 2002[8]

Another advantage that comes from a debt based monetary system is it reduces the issue of hoarding which is quite problematic in gold based or less developed monetary systems (such as those in Sudan). The dilemma that comes with saving is that money leaves the economy and until this money is spent it is left out of the money supply. If enough people save or hoard money (under the mattress perhaps) then it will mean insufficient amounts of money can be invested which will adversely affect the economy as growth will be severely curtailed. By offering interest to these savers there is an incentive for savers to give their money to the banks who then loan this money out to other users who will invest or spend it in the greater economy. A percentage of the interest gained from those loans is then passed back onto the saver and this is how the saver can accrue interest from their savings account. This method of incentivising savers through interest also has the beneficial effect that less savings must be held by the saver privately to meet on-going expenses thus reducing the cost of providing security in protecting and transporting this hoarded cash.

It is due to these advantages why this monetary system has persisted and can even explain why a fiat based system has even superseded the gold standard as the money supply can increase faster if it is fiat based and does not follow a gold standard. By doing so, this allows the relationship between a growing economy and growing money supply to be maintained for longer. Saying that, this was not the only reason for the departure from the gold standard and a large cause for leaving gold was to prevent the US losing its entire gold reserves which would eventually lead to it defaulting on its debt obligations. On this note of debt repayments it is important to understand and appreciate the mathematics of compounding growth.

Mathematics of compounding growth

We often here that the economy is growing annually by 1% or if we are lucky 2.0% and consider this growth rate rather benign and harmless at least from a resource depletion perspective but if we consider the matter more deeply we will find the basic arithmetic that comes from compound growth means that very large numbers can be generated by a modest number of doublings. Albert Bartlett in the video below describes this phenomenon succinctly:

To understand the significance of compound growth it is best to consider the amount of time it takes for a given quantity to double. The simple method in calculating this would be to apply the rule of 70 which has the advantage of being relatively easy to calculate mentally. In fact if any annual percentage is given (say for the rate of interest) then it is highly recommended you apply this mental calculation in your head to see how quickly it will reach its doubling time. To make a more precise calculation however the following formula should be applied:

Doubling time = In 2/ In (1+R)

r= Interest for example 1%=0.01

For the mathematically inclined the following

 formula came from this equation:

FV = PV*(1+r)t

2 = 1 * (1+r)t

In 2 = In (1+r)t

In 2 / In (1+r) = t

where FV =Future Value , PV = Present Value, r= interest t =time

When using the rule of 70 or the formula shown above we will find that the doubling time is 70 years for 1% compound growth and this will decline to approximately 35 years for 2% compounding growth. What is most significant in this process is that after every double the total number of the new doubling amount will be greater than the sum of all the preceding growth.  This phenomenon can be easily seen in the table below:

Growing quantity Cumulative total


















The significance of this chart is that as demonstrated earlier we live in an exponential world where various resources are consumed at an exponential rate (or needs to meet exponential growth rates) in tandem with economic and money supply growth. However as there are limits to growth due to resources being finite this dynamic of compound growth insures that the end point will be reached surprisingly quickly. In fact as we will find out many of the resources exhibit a bell type curve for its depletion profile and this is most notably the case for oil (see the peak oil article for more information on this). It is likely that when the most critical resource reaches the decline phase of the bell curve we will see issues with the monetary system as well as, on a fundamental level; it will not reflect the amount of wealth that is being extracted. Once this happens it is likely the claims of wealth will go out of sync and we will either experience deflation or hyperinflation as the monetary system can longer reflect reality of the actual wealth in our country.


We have a debt based currency system where the vast majority of all money creation comes from commercial banks and not the central banks. As a result it is primarily the commercially banks that will dictate what happens with the money supply. While the central banks can add reserves to these commercial banks this does not create new money for the general economy unless these banks decide to actually loan this money out. If that can happen then there would be an expansion of the money supply. Therefore much of the growth or possible destruction of money will come from the side of commercial banks and it is their activities we must monitor if we wish to determine how the monetary system will unfold.

Since all money is created out of interest bearing debt then it means our money supply increases at an exponential rate and can only survive by continued growth. This continued growth while clearly unsustainable has worked well however as the growth in the money supply has matched economic growth that also increases exponentially. However due to maths of compound growth it will become increasingly untenable for this dynamic to continue particularly if energy resources pass their peak in global production. When looking at the depletion profile of critical resources such as oil we find it follows a bell shaped curve:


If we observe the graph carefully we will notice that the first half of the bell shaped curve resembles the profile of an exponential curve and it is this property why the money supply could match increasing rates of consumption quite well for most of the 20th century and the early part of the 21th century. It is after this point of peak however where we will see a mismatch between our money supply and our overall economy. Since money is a claim on wealth if the monetary continues expanding despite a reduction in our economy then we would get high inflation to possible hyperinflation. If on the other hand money is destroyed (via bank defaults or excessive hoarding) caused by a contracting economy then we may get deflation but only if money is destroyed at a faster rate than a reduction in the overall economy.

In part four of this series we will explore the possibilities of this hyperinflation/deflation debate.


[1] = My life and work (pg. 179)
[2] = ‘Money: Whence it came, where it went’ (pg. 5)
[3] = Economics 12th Edition by Lipsey, R. G. and Chrystal, K. A. (2011) (Oxford University Press. pg. 455)
[4] = Banking Regulation of Uk and Us Financial Markets (pg. 83)
[5] =The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report: Official US government edition (pdf document: enter page 76 on pdf file is page 48 on actual report.)
[6] = Amounts outstanding of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives by risk category and instrument (Bank of International Settlements – pdf file)
[7] = GDP ranking (World Bank – pdf file)
[8] = Remarks by Governor Ben S. Bernanke (Federal Reserve Board)
[9] = National Economic Accounts (Bureau of Economic Analysis)
[10] = Tax on bank and building society accounts (HM Revenue & Customs)

Money & Wealth I: A Bot Blogger Perspective

Off the keyboard of Bot Blogger

Published  at the Economics Table inside the Diner on March 26, 2013

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

Note from RE:  Monsta666’s recent Money & Wealth: Part I article has received spirited debate at the Econ Table. Diner Bot Blogger chipped in a very well articulated post,  which I will share with Diner Blog readers here.  For more, visit with the Diners hashing this out at the Economics Table inside the Diner.

From Bot Blogger:

I wish Ashvin would get more up to date in his lawyer’in for the lord. Actually I thought that was what he was trying to do by bringing Leviticus in as a guide to the handling of the perps. Oh well Ash, you tried. The bible is a open and shut case. It’s over. Besides defending crimes that may or may not have been perpetuated 6000 to 2000 years ago is easy work. You just have to go through all the apologizing and equivocating that centuries of lawyers for the lord have done before you.

If you’re going to get excited about slavery, get excited about wage slavery. Get excited about prisoners for profit (see the latest Chris Hedges article).

Genocide? How about Rwanda or Bosnia. There is lots to talk about. Much more difficult to get around those awkward feelings and emotions. I JUST, can’t get excited, about what happened to some Mennonites in the Middle East, 6000 years ago. LOL.

Systems are in place that that sustain themselves. Bureaucracies exist for their own sake. Our society is based on the continuation of negative outcomes because the services being provided are solutions that have become problems and addictions themselves… We are a supply and demand society. The supply creates the demand. We have doctors so we create a disease-care profession. Not health care. That’s why 9 out of 10 doctors recommend Lucky Strikes: it’s good business.

We have dentists so we have cavities. If there were a way to clean your teeth simply and thoroughly NO dentist would approve it because it would put her out of work. Energy. The film Garbage Warrior taught me that the utilities do NOT want you to be off the grid, for the simple reason that you will no longer be sending them a cheque every month. Cops NEED crime. No crime, no budget increases. They are fine with a drug addicted society as long as they can still throw people in jail for being high on illegal drugs.

Military needs war. Need I say more.

Secret Service needs terrorists. So it will create them. Believe it.

News needs negativity. It celebrates serial killers. Luka Magnota ‘News-maker of the year’ by the Canadian Press. It provides road-kill for the viewing pleasure of audiences every night. Rubber necking an accident, that could have been you, on the highway is a natural tenancy, if you’ve never driven before I can assure you that’s why it slows on the side opposite to the accident. Is this what we asked for?

Your independence is not something any system wants. Your compliant participation is. So, solution number one ‘regulate’; shut the fuck up and learn to buck up:

Or solution number two ‘medicate’; take a minus IQ pill (most people are already on this):

But these systems we create and maintain. Can we not create and maintain better systems? Well maybe if we are better people. And there-in lies the rub. How? Most people get a real sense of belonging from whatever system they are a part of. The system we are all participating in is materialism. A lot of people self-identify as consumers. When the news anchor says: “Consumer confidence is up!”, they get a little boost, and decide to go buy something at the dollar store (IKEA). Love that shit. LOL. But in the end it’s a game of winner take all and looser gets a cardboard box on the sidewalk. There are lots of people who have sold their souls for cash and they only talk in money terms. And most conversations we have are at the core about money. If you eliminated the need for money our conversations could be so much better. And that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be WORK left to do.

As Ken Wilber says, we live in flat land. Where there are no interior experiences only external measurements of value. And that’s how we know our worth. The interior world has no value because it can’t be measured (or we just haven’t tried).

And how do we measure? In units of US dollars, Gold, real estate, number of friends on Facebook, the length of our cock, the size of our tits, the number of cars we drive, the net return on our art collecting. (A way for rich people to imagine they are striving for something higher when in fact they are simply wallowing in the ‘value’ of something they don’t understand and will never touch from the inside. Van Gogh didn’t paint for money. He couldn’t NOT paint.)

We want to belong so we buy our belongings and the longing goes on longing.

As Bob says: Science is not a system of knowledge but a methodology. This method is not knowledge itself. Knowledge requires a ‘knower’ – one who is in the know. If this methodology could be applied to these experiences it could be the greatest gift we have. It could bring us to an experience of our connectedness, to one another, to history, to meaning and purpose, to life. If it’s not simply applied to things. Creating and manipulating and calculating and streamlining and dividing THINGS, in this dollar store economy.

But the interior world doesn’t have the same multiplicity of scales. It’s got unity not division. The interior world is about where we join with everything directly, where our longing finds a home. Where our fear of monsters, real and imagined give way to a steady state of already having everything we need including fearlessness.

So what is the experiment? The Diner has a very divergent yet cogent group, it’s already running an experiment (or it’s running us) we just haven’t put it to words. Maybe we don’t need to…

As GO says: Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.

Slavery & Survival of the Little Fish

Off the keyboard of RE

Published on Reverse Engineering in February 2012

Discuss this article at the Frostbite Falls Daily Rant inside the Diner 

Note from RE:  These were my last couple of Rants on Reverse Engineering before we launched the Diner.

Febuary 17, 2012 Rant

I was reading another one of the gazillion Greek Tragedy threads on ZH where a bunch of the Piglets got into discussing Slavery and the economic cause of the Civil War. Unsurprisingly, not a few of them think Slavery wasn’t so bad as an economic system and of course clearly ALSO figure since they got Gold in their basement safes, they will be Masters not Slaves in the world to come.

It makes you want to PUKE really, but in my case not because I think we will return to Slavery but because these folks just don’t seem to grasp that Slavery won’t WORK as an economic model.

The problem is, as it was really back in the Old South that the COST of feeding, clothing and housing the slaves is greater than the income you can derive from their labor. In fact same problem has hit at the Industrial level now.  By burning up a lot of Oil we were able to support a population of 7B slaves; in the absence of Oil we cannot do that.

Let’s say for argument’s purposes you Own Free and Clear 10,000 Acres of Prime Bottom land on the Mighty Mississippi and when TSHTF, you offer starving Chicago residents the opportunity to become your Slave. In return, you will feed, house and clothe say 1000 of them on your land.  How much Surplus Food will say 1000 Slaves be producing on your land after you feed them and the Oxen JUST enough to do a day’s work?  How much will it cost you to provide shacks or trailers to live in squalor in so they don’t die on you from exposure?  How much does it cost to buy all of them 1000 Parkas to wear in the winter so they don’t freeze to death in the unheated shacks?  You really think anybody running slaves is going to be taking home a huge Profit here?  Of the excess food you MIGHT produce for a while, what exactly are you going to take in payment for that food?  Gold Coins?  Why?  What will the Gold Coins buy you?

That is just the economic problem.  What about CONTROLLING 1000 slaves on your 10,000 Acre Doomstead? You’ll need at least 100 Overseers to do that.  You better start Prepping Up with Overseers right now and doing classes in Slave management.

Explicit Slavery is not that much different from the Debt Servitude system, both require an extreme SURPLUS in the environment to function.  In times of deprivation, slave systems fail just like everything else does.  Look at the quote from Revelation I have on the Homepage again:

“Revelation 18:11-13 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: 12The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, 13And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.”

That is how it WENT DOWN in Babylon! In a Civilization Crash, it ALL goes worthless, even the Souls of Men!  Why does Pharaoh Let Moses and his People Go?  Because Pharaoh can’t AFFORD to keep them fed and clothed and housed, that’s why!

I’m not saying here people will not be enslaved or sell themselves into slavery just for 3 hots and a cot, as long as those things ARE available, many people will do that. In fact, probably 50% of Global Population ALREADY does that on the economic level.  If you value Living more than Freedom, Slavery is Preferable to Death. However, when the Masters can no longer AFFORD to enslave you, you got only two CHOICES left.  You either buy your ticket to the Great Beyond right there and then, or you follow Moses out into the Desert in search of the Promised Land.

I do not think Slavery is the long term Outcome here.  It’s not economically viable and sustainable in a world of limited resources, only in a world of surplus.  In the world of limited resources and population overshoot, the long term outcomes are only 2. DEATH or FREEDOM. To find FREEDOM, you will have to walk FAR into the Desert and find a way to survive on the Cactus and the Scorpions and Snakes.  You will never find Freedom in the Belly of the Beast, in the Big Shities.  There you will only find the Horseman of Death.

If you want to LIVE, prepare yourself best you can for the Journey into the Desert with the Bushmen of the Kalahari, or the Inuit of Nunavut if you prefer a cold climate.  those environments will be EVERYWHERE.  Slavery is not an Option.  The Signpost Ahead in this Greatest Depression doesn’t read “Jobless Men Move on, we cannot take care of our Own”, it reads “SLAVES move on, we cannot feed you or clothe you or house you”  You are on your OWN now, the Masters are fresh OUT of resources they will sprinkle down on you to keep you warm and fed.

At the very least here, try to GTFO of Dodge just as soon as you can, or Prep Up a good Bugout Plan for when TSHTF.  You have a DEATH SENTENCE in the Big Shities.  GTFO of Dodge before the Window Closes. With as many preps as you can carry with you and plenty of Ammo also.


 February 14, 2012 Rant

While Athens Burns, Obama-sama delivered unto Congress another utterly ludicrous
“Budget” full of false assumptions on future revenue, all based on even faltier
statistics conjured up out of thin air to justify said budget. It’s not meant to
reflect any reality, just to set up yet another Kabuki Theatre “battle” in the
election year.

Anyone with half a brain at this point can see all “Budgets” produced by
Goobermints is complete nonsense. Goobermints with the ability to print their
own money are doing so and distributing out that money in the places the
Lobbyists want them to distribute it to. How much money is or is not collected
in Taxes each year has become close to irrelevant here. The Greeks cannot
collect enough in Taxes to pay their bills and are in the process of being
completely CUT OFF from credit by the Money Masters. The FSofA isn’t yet being
cut off from Credit as a Corporation, but its constituent citizens are being so
cut off.

Denninger posted yet another graph showing the exponential Increase in Debt
since 1980, with the tacit idea embedded in that we could have avoided all these
problems with “fiscal responsibility” had it been undertaken then rather than
blowing more financial bubbles and so wildly increasing debt levels. No, sorry
Karl, that isn’t true.

Had this great Debt Expansion not been undertaken back then, we simply would
have begun the tailspin downward earlier. The economy based on Oil was already
shrinking in real terms and only the expansion of credit resuscitated it for a
while. Perhaps we might have avoided some of the more extreme consequences we
will get now of the credit collapse, but we still would have faced down a
shrinking economy with ever lower standards of living and faced increasingly
costly energy problems that much sooner.

1980 Amerikans were not prepared to go back to the land any more than 2012
Amerikans are. Through Advertising and Education, Amerikans were all inculcated
into the idea we could have ever increasing Prosperity through Technological
Innovation. The advent of the Personal Computer and the Internet made this idea
a Virtual Reality and Credit Ballooned offering every Geek with a Computer the
opportunity to Strike it Rich in the Dot Com era. Exactly what having the
Internet ever really PRODUCED other than addicts like myself is not real clear
here. It built this huge artifice of Information available at the click of a
mouse button, but just having more information doesn’t make more food available
or put any Oil back into the ground. Energy is constantly being consumed at a
rapid pace to keep all those computers running and routers functioning. Its
burning itself up as we speak/keyboard here of course.

So, we lived a Virtual Reality FANTASY here for around 30 years which kept the
Credit flowing and made a few folks extraordinarily wealthy while just about
everyone else sank ever deeper into debt to buy all the new toys the Geeks put
up on the shelves at Best Buy every year. The Debt problem and the
unsustainability of the paradigm goes WAY further back than 1980 though, and
this is where Karl just does not seem to Get It.

Accessing the Thermodynamic Energy of Oil on the mass scale allowed populations
to grow large and essentially prevent a Malthusian collapse of the Ag Economy
which was having sustainability problems itself going back to the 1600s. Why do
you think there were always so many Wars going on in Europe all through those
years? Finding the New World gave some Breathing Room to this economy for a
while, but finding ways to utilize fossil fuel energy gave a whole lot MORE
breathing room. That Exponential Growth Karl tracks in the Debt was preceded
by exponential growth in World Population which really took off in the 1800s.
The whole problem was Baked in the Cake back then.

The folks who gained control over the issuance of Credit long ago fully
understand the problems of exponential growth. However, the Monetary system
they run DEPENDS on it, and so they have always fostered this sort of growth.
This is how you become exponentially more Wealthy of course. A Slave owner with
just 100 Slaves is only moderately Rich; a slave owner who controls the
production of Millions of Peoples is far richer of course. The contraction of
the system as a whole results in a contraction of the overall wealth, which
cannot be stopped. What can happen and is happening is that any reamining
Wealth in the hands of J6P can be transferred to the Illuminati, but only until
J6P is completely BK. Then further contraction requires Illuminati to be pit
against Illuminati, with smaller Pigmen being Cannibalized by Bigger Ones, until
only the very Biggest of the Fish remain swimming in the pond. Finally, those
very BIG Tuna themselves end up starving, because there just ain’t any little
fish left to eat anymore.

The very TINIEST fish can still survive though, too small to see for Big Tuna.
They survive by swimming into a Coral Reef, where they are relatively free of
bigger predators since the Big Tuna ate all of them up. They live by consuming
the Phytoplankton and Algae.

You too can survive as a Tiny Fish in this maelstrom. The Big fish at the top
of the food chain are going the way of the Dinosaur here, you just have to find
your Coral Reef and Hide out until they all finish each other off. The Meek
Shall Inherit the Earth.


Economics & Moral Philosophy

Off the keyboard of Brian Davey

Published on FEASTA on September 10,2012

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

Cafe Economique Talk

Presented in Nottingham, UK on 30th August 2012 The talk is presented below with its accompanying slides. Click on each slide to see a larger version. Please note that the notes that go with the power point were written up after the talk had been given and thus differ slightly from the audio version. The arguments in the written version are slightly more detailed and the written version includes references and sources whereas this is not fully the case in the audio presentation.

Audio file of talk (free registration required) Powerpoint slides

In the late 1960s and early 1970s major university economics departments in the USA and major economics journals decided to take the history of economic thought out of the economic syllabus and stop accepting articles on the subject.Thus it is that many economists are pretty ignorant about the history of their own subject. They probably think that Adam Smith, in the 18th century, was the first economist.
In fact writing, thinking and study about economics goes back to the ancient Greeks. It was taught in universities in Europe from 1250. This early scholastic economic was a part of the moral philosophy. Its leading thinkers, St Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, drew upon the writings of Aristotle and sought to unify his ideas with that of Christian theology.
But why was it a part of moral philosophy? The answer is that economics was considered to be all about the use of means to attain ends. Nowadays economics is a topic that I would describe as studying the use of intermediate means to provide for intermediate ends. However, it typically neglects the integration of the economy in the physical and natural world on the one hand while at the same time ignoring the study of what structures and determines our intermediate ends , namely the study of our ultimate ends. What are these ultimate ends?

To Aristotle you could not even consider this question without having a view of what is particular to human beings. For him the end of all human activity is sometimes translated as “happiness” but this can be misleading to a modern understanding of that word – because what Aristotle meant by happiness was a very specific idea of living a virtuous life in accordance with reason. The virtues included personal characteristics like integrity, honour, loyalty, courage and forthrightness. Ideally life meant developing oneself and flourished in and through ones dealings and particularly through participation in the community.

This did involve some need for provisions, and if fortune was on your side your women and your slaves could take of your needs in this respect, but Aristotle did not think that happiness involved accumulating lots of possessions.

To Aristotle the amount of property needed for a good life was limited. Taking this standpoint he saw there being two kinds of exchange and trade: exchange in order to satisfy a genuine need; and exchange in order to make money and accumulate possessions. The latter Aristotle thought of as unnatural, as he did usury, because it involved money growing without limits which violated the laws of nature – since everything in nature has limits.

Well, fast forward to Augustine and Aquinas. No doubt they too turned a blind eye to the power structures of the feudal society in which they lived but, as monks who had taken vows of poverty, they thought the reason for living was firstly, as it says in the Ten Commandments, to love God and also to love your neighbour. Life involved transcending yourself. Well, of course, this is very different from calculating your individual interest as assumed by modern economists. Instead it was assumed that you gave to and provided for the people that you loved and that you exchanged with strangers – in order, at the next stage, to have the things needed for the people that you love and for oneself.

To Augustine every person has a choice – to provide his or her goods for himself or to provide them for other people. This depends on the love people feel for themselves compared to the love they feel for other people. Thus distribution at the local and personal level, as economists describe it, involves a moral choice. With Aristotle there was also an idea that you shared wealth with a wider community, which in his case was the polis, the political community (of men and non-slaves).

Even when we exchange with people we do not love we had ethical obligations. For Aquinas exchange involved a just price – the price that emerged through haggling that cleared the market – but, and this is crucial, a just price is not imposed or experienced by some parties under conditions of duress. To charge someone high prices because there was a famine was most definitely not charging the just price.

So the context prevailing in the market is an issue too – indeed we can extend this idea to include monopoly control of the market and other conditions. Later in this talk I’ll argue that if you take away from people their means of support, like access to the commons, this is also putting them under duress.

The early medieval period was characterised by power structures somewhat akin to protection rackets where militarised hierarchical gangs effectively imposed themselves on the people and extracted labour and products, claiming that they had their authority and rights from God, but in effect having their power from their ability and preparedness to act as ruthless gangsters operating out of heavily fortified castles.

The church was no doubt complicit in all of this but it also acted as a form of social welfare agency in difficult times when the aged, sick and poor could turn to the monasteries. In addition, in England, the ordinary people had certain rights to use the forests, the wastes and commons lands for their own maintenance that were protected in the Charter of the Forests (the companion statement of rights adopted at the same time as the Magna Charter).

The rise of the merchant class and of commercial society in towns, and along trade routes outside the power of the military elite, changed all of this over a number of centuries. With the Reformation in England Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and sold them to his courtiers dismantling welfare provision for ordinary people.

Economic theory changed with the times. According to Aquinas merchants did fulfil a useful function of bringing goods from where they were abundant to where they were scarce. However, that’s not all that they did. For example they helped create economic conditions where it paid the elite to take the commons land from the commoners to enrich themselves (with sheep for the wool trade). And trade could be in slaves or the goods from slave plantations – or from products extracted by taxes in colonies. In other words under conditions of duress.

Increasingly economics reflected the technical issues of the time, rather than being a theorisation of the morality of the market.

Over several centuries the commons land was enclosed and the people using it lost their rights to sustenance. These processes meant they had to work for the emerging capitalist class as wage labourers or pay rent to the landowners on onerous terms. The price of labour and the price of land was the result of an institutionalised form of duress in that the ordinary people had no other options but to work on terms set by employers and landowners.

Elite theorisation of economics turned a blind eye to these processes, including in the ideas of Adam Smith in the 18the century. Smith was a professor of moral philosophy and was no doubt aware of scholastic economics. However for several centuries economic thinking had been changing from the ethical reflections of monks into more hard bitten ideas about how merchants and the aristocracy made money and accumulated wealth.

Thus Smith did not mention the Atlantic slave trade and plantations which created the wealth that flowed into places like Glasgow. Nor did he consider pillaging of India by the East India company. This international trade involved economic arrangements nothing like his cosy picture which he wrote about, although he must have been aware of it as the source of the riches of people in his own world.

Smith’s inquiry into the Wealth of Nations was not concerned with ethical issues about distribution and looking after the poor. He regarded himself as living in a different kind of age, an age of improvement – the commercial society had changed the game as far as economics was concerned. So Smith wrote about how more primitive societies might be more equalitarian – but, in his own society the labouring classes had their needs met and the more important thing was that the division of labour, specialisation, was making possible a continuous improvement in production . Thus everyone was much better off, even if unequally so.

Not for the first time or the last Smith was another economist who ignored less uplifting aspects of reality and chose to describe the further development of specialisation and of the market as the future for commercial society.

Note that in this respect the monkish idea of progress as moral progress had slipped into an idea of improvement as technical progress which produced more wealth. Scarcity was the chief problem facing humanity and overcoming scarcity was the chief task. This meant resources were to be used as efficiently as possible and technological progress would allow for more to be produced.
If you like scarcity became the original sin of the new economic religion and efficiency and technological progress became the new means of salvation – with economists functioning rather like a new priesthood, a role that they still enjoy. Indeed, for the contemporaries of Smith in this period the production and use of this greater wealth, would bring about better people directly and indirectly – because the commercial society had its own virtues and rewarded hard work, discipline, thrift, delayed gratification etc.

Of course, people still realised that human and social relationships were not always just, and that the ends that people pursued were less than perfect. However, it was increasingly assumed that these problems too required economic and technological progress. It would be when people were all much better off that they would be able to get to grips with these problems.

The slide on the right quotes philosopher David Hume, a contemporary of Smith. This idea is still with us today and has been shared by many subsequent thinkers. Karl Marx thought that the highest phases of communism would be prepared by the ability of capitalism to create an economy of abundance. In this context all sorts of problems between people would “wither away”. Without believing in the need for revolution Keynes also believed that in the distant future humanity would overcome its scarcity problem and thus its psychology of self interestedness. (See his essay, “The Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” published in Essays in Persuasion). The problems for humanity were no longer problems between people and God (or between people and Nature) nor between people – they were problems of inadequately developed technology.

Even more important was Smith’s abandonment of the ideas of Augustine and Aquinas, about an obligation in economic activity, towards loving your neighbour. For him a properly working market delivered socially beneficial results even though people were pursuing their self interests – or perhaps I should say, because people were pursuing their own self interests.

The famous quote from Adam Smith on the slide illustrates this idea.

Having abandoned considerations of distribution which were rooted in ethical considerations of love for one’s neighbour and ones obligations to a wider community, the new economics asserted that by pursuing one’s private advantages – and self love – the market would in any case organise a social outcome in the interests of everyone.

In this theory people got what they wanted through the “invisible hand” of the market because if they decided they wanted more beer and less bread they would seek to buy more beer and less bread, the price of bread would fall and that of beer would rise. Some bakers would switch to brewing and some farmers would switch from wheat for flour to hops and barley for brewing…Prices would act as signals that resources needed to be re-directed. As long as there were no restraints to resources flowing from one use to another there was no need for the state to intervene.

This was not a revolutionary new idea in his day – these kind of ideas that the market activities motivated by self interest, delivered what people wanted, can be found over a hundred years before Adam Smith. Moreover we should try to understand it as contemporaries would have understood it. Humanity had fallen – we’re sinners. And yet God had a providential plan for the world and he realised his plan through the self love of people operating through the “laws of the market”, that Smith described. At the time of Smith it was big thing that Newton had showed that things did not happen because of continual interventions by God. So instead people now thought that God set up the basic design of the universe and then it ran itself. In a similar way, the market and the “social physics” of economics worked through the predictable self interested behaviour of people giving rise to economic laws. As the poet Pope put it: “Thus God and Nature formed the general frame, And bad self-love and social be the same”.

Later economists assumed that the famous invisible hand of the market meant the operation of the price system and competition so that, without any central plan, the market self-organised the allocation of resources. If there were too much bread and not enough beer the bread would remain unsold and its price would fall whereas the price of beer would be bid up. So then resources would switch from bread production to beer production quite spontaneously, as long as markets were competitive and the beer producers could not prevent others from brewing to keep beer prices up.

It’s a nice parable but what economists are well aware of is that prices and the allocation of resources depends on the prior allocation of rights to the different factors of production. What was being ignored and relegated to the small print was what Aquinas had been aware of – the issue of duress. Smith was an apostle of the market and commercial society at a time when labour and land were being forced into becoming market commodities by land enclosure and when the state, by attacking the poor law for the support of destitute people, was ensuring that the poor worked on terms that can be dictated by their employers.

Neither land nor labour are originally “produced” with the explicit purpose of becoming commodities. Land is part of the living natural system and labour is people who have been forced to work on terms dictated by the owners of the means of production.

In this context the market does indeed produce according to the wishes of those with purchasing power – but how purchasing power is distributed, reflecting the economic and property system, was the deeper question.

As is usual the new economic priesthood avoided these questions and, as the 19th century progressed, devoted themselves instead to a deeper study of how people, motivated by self love and self interest, behaved. What determined their choices? This they did by using another framework from philosophical ethics, namely the utilitarian philosophy developed by Jeremy Bentham and then by John Stuart Mill. (The picture is of the corpse of Jeremy Bentham, with his head at his feet in a glass box at the London School of Economics).
Let me briefly compare Bentham and Mill’s moral philosophy to other schools of moral philosophy. Whereas Aristotle had an ethics based on developing ones virtues as a person, and the church an ethics based on explicit and written codes and principles and duties, the utilitarians had an ethics based on consequences. This consequentialist view was grounded in the idea that what mattered was whether actions gave rise to subjective states of pleasure or pain (utility or disutility).
The idea of utility was to be found in scholastic and early economics but to this school the utility of an object meant its fitness for its intended purpose. Now utility was given a different meaning – it was the ability of an object or service to give rise to a sense of subjective happiness, satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The criteria for an optimal decision then became the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. But how did you measure this subjective state?

Economists came up with a solution – there were no absolute measures of utility but this did not matter because in choosing between options people demonstrated in practice what their comparative utilities were between different goods. They demonstrate their relative preferences by what they are prepared to pay as they allocate their limited purchasing power between different purchasing options for goods and services. What people are prepared to pay is a proxy measure of their utility for the last unit of a good that they purchase.

This idea of willingness to pay (or willingness to accept in payment) is then used by economists as a proxy measure for how much people value things that do not normally appear on markets. It is thought to be a convenient idea too because the same situation can involve losers as well as winners, and here is an idea here that this can be solved by cash compensation payments. If an action involves increased welfare for one person and decreased welfare for someone else then it still might involve a greater happiness overall and one can tell that is so if the gainer can compensate the loser and still be better off. (This is the so called Kaldor Hicks principle. Note that winner does not actually have to compensate the loser, they merely have to be able to in theory).

What people are prepared to pay thus measures how much things matter to them – their ethical values were reflected in their monetary values. Economists are enthused with this idea as it appears to them to give a common measuring rod that can be used for all sorts of situations, including policy decisions about issues that do not normally appear in an ordinary market at all – for example, environmental decision making.

Thus the importance of protecting a species threatened with extinction is measured by what people are prepared to pay to protect it – or prepared to accept in compensation if it goes extinct.

This is actually nonsense because it assumes informed preferences and most people do not have preferences about such natural things as they live separated from the species anyway. What’s more it leads to a beauty contest where pandas and popular animals would score highly but the creepy crawlies or snakes that are crucial parts of eco-systems get no offers to pay at all. If people are then informed about the species and the ecological issues the obvious point to make is that value is created by being informed about the things, highlighting a need for education, not by spontaneous preferences.

So this point of view is highly challengeable and it has been claimed that economists are involved in corruption – see right.

This leads me on to what it is economists actually do – and why these things matter. And the answer is that economists are actually there as advocates for a particular kind of value system. They are not unlike priests whose job it is to argue for their belief system.

This is a quote from economist Robert Nelson who describes what it was like to work as an economist in the US Department of the Interior which was and is responsible for the upkeep of national parks and landscapes in the USA:

“If economists had any influence—which they sometimes did, if rarely decisive—it was seldom as literal ‘problem solvers.’ Rather, the greatest influence of economists came through their defence of a set of values. Much of my own and other efforts of Interior (Ministry) economists were really to persuade others in the department to act in accordance with the economic value system, as compared with other competing priorities and sets of values also represented within the ranks of the department.” Robert Nelson Economics as Religion Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001 p xiv

What is involved here is actually an implicit theory of how human beings are, what makes them tick. Using this approach it seems reasonable to economists to theorise human beings as if they act in a predictable way – calculating their individual self interest to maximise their utility and then acting accordingly. This makes possible a deterministic view of human action that allows economists to model markets. Of course, markets are places where there are lots of actors but the assumption is made that to get a collective picture of what happens you add up the actions of all the separate individuals as if they do not influence each other. There are no group dynamics in this situation. This is called methodological individualism and diverges a lot from the assumption of the scholastics – that people are providing for others too, including those that they love.Then you make a whole load of other assumptions, the effect of which is to make market behaviour completely predictable in a way that can be modelled in mathematics and diagrams. Such assumptions include the idea that people have all the information that they need about now and the future, do not change their preferences, act only out of self interest and yet act honestly, act in competitive markets, that there are no transaction costs…Most of these premises were nonsensical. Not only were markets not competitive, but people do influence each other when it came to market actions – which accounts for the collective irrationality of market bubbles, for example, when people look to each other for the way the market is evolving and their collective optimism becomes self reinforcing.In fact the market is always shot through with a lack of information and/or information asymmetry. People make mistakes, operate without enough knowledge and so on. This is not to mention that fact that if people really are only motivated by individualistically calculated self interest it is difficult to know why they should not resort to various types of crime. There’s often an implicit assumption of honesty in these models but in real life markets are prone to fraud and opportunism, to secrecy and misleading accounts of product quality. All of these things mean market outcomes are often far from the ideal pictured in the theory.

So how do economists actually do this?In fact economists mostly create models from assumptions that are assumed to be self evidently true…or claimed to be true enough for practical purposes.. and then analyse the logical consequences with mathematic symbols and diagrams. With enough simplified assumptions it then seems possible to show that competitive markets deliver efficient outcomes defined in the way economists want.
Of course, if you assume away the real world in your models then, surprise surprise, these models deliver ideal allocation outcomes – or they do on the blackboard and in the lecture theatre in the groves of academe, if not in real life. But what has happened is that conclusions are manufactured based on premises initially assumed. This may happen in very sophisticated mathematics so that mere muggles don’t understand it but that’s what the wizards are doing. (Today’s leading economic textbook writer, Greg Mankiw, has described non-economists as ‘muggles’, the ordinary people without magical powers, described in the Harry Potter novels. His implication is that economists are like wizards.)
As I have said the key to all of this is based on an idea of what people are like. There is an implicit modelling of human beings here. Certain types of behaviour (the type that allows economists to model people and markets predictably) is called “rational”.

You may think that this description of how people are and how they behave is meant by economists to be applicable only to economic and market activities. But if people are calculating their individual self interest in their economic dealings why should one assume that they do not do the same thing in their political, their social and their interpersonal dealings? Should we not also assume that government officials are calculating their interests too? At the very least, why should contact between business and government not lead to a cosy relationship, particularly if people can leave government posts and get lucrative jobs with industry? What about bribes and kick-backs from business for special favours?

When I studied economics at the end of the 1960s the textbooks, for example by Paul A Samuelson, pictured a world where the state was essentially benevolent and independent from business. A democratic process determined the policies the state would adopt and economists were just technical advisers about the options. They could regulate markets without being contaminated by the self interest motivations of markets. The idea that the state could be captured by business interests and the majority of the people were effectively excluded from real influence was not there.

This began to be replaced by another view of the relationship between business and the state spearheaded by the Chicago School.

The idea that the state could be captured by interest groups led to a kind of market fundamentalism by the Chicago school. The ideal was to go all the way and for the state to be driven out of market activity altogether if at all possible.To the Chicago economists the rational calculating individual was a description that could be applied to the understanding of all human behaviour, not just that in the market place.
So, what framework do you use to explain racial discrimination? To Gary Becker at Chicago, racism is a preference choice of who you want to live near and employ. Note, he does not endorse or condemn Becker merely sees himself explaining and drawing out the consequences.
The model of rational economic behaviour is then used by Becker and another theorist, Richard Posner, to explain “love” , marriage and prostitution in a utilitarian framework. Marriage is a relationship involving reciprocal service provision which saves on transaction costs like pricing each service that a couple provide for each other, or keeping accounts for these services. In this framework prostitution is a “spot” sexual transaction where it is “more efficient” to pay for the service in money.
It is used to explain crime too. Most people don’t steal because it would not be profitable but in the life circumstances of criminals the rational maximisation of costs and benefits of crime does make it pay according to Becker. This is another form of the redistribution of income in the same broad category as government welfare programmes.

The trouble with this view is that it is at best tautologically true in a sense that is banal – people do things because they want and thus they must get satisfaction or utility from doing and deciding what they do. However this banality makes little sense of the many actions and people who do things where they are conflicted – where they act in ways that involve self sacrifice for moral reasons, where there is genuine anguish about their difficult decisions, where they do things because they think they ought to, not because it gives them any satisfaction at all.

At the same time this way of analysing things has important aspects of being a toxic self fulfilling prophecy and contributes to the ethical degradation of society.

In fact psychologists have looked at what motivates people all around the world in different cultures and have come up with a picture of the varieties of motivations. This picture includes the ideas of the economists in values in the bottom left hand quadrant but makes no sense of the many other motivations that people have demonstrated in this diagram by Common Cause.

Many of these are not simply different self interested “preferences” in a utilitarian sense. For example many of the spiritual and community and environmental motivations involve serving a higher purpose which involves transcending or going beyond the self. These are intrinsic motivations which can involve a different “life game” in the sense meant by the critic of psychiatry, Thomas Tzsas; purposes to give meaning and direction in life.

If the assumptions of what “rational economic man” are like do not accurately describe many people, they probably do accurate describe many economists and those trained by them. There is a saying in the Talmud, “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are” and this probably does describe how many economists actually think and decide.

There are important respects in which the economic viewpoint functions as a belief system which is now shaping how things are in the form of a self reinforcing or self fulfilling prophecy. The point is that the economist’s view of the world actually serves to create the very mindset that it describes.

For example, a study of economic and non economics students in 1993 by Frank, Gilovich and Regan found that most people learn to be more co-operative as they get older – but that learning economics slows this process of social maturity. While students in other disciplines learn to be cooperative over college years, students majoring in economics learn the same fact much more slowly.” It seems that micro-economics teaching over as little as 4 months can have a noticeable effect:

“They picked three classes at Cornell University. Two of these were introduction to microeconomics. The third was introduction to astronomy. In the first microeconomics class (class A), the professor was a game theorist with interests in mainstream economics, and he focused on prisoner’s dilemma and how cooperation might hinder survival. In the second microeconomics class (class B), the professor’s interests were in development economics and he was a specialist in Maoist China.

To the students in all these introductory classes, the authors posed simple ethical dilemmas, including questions such as “If you found an envelope with $100 with the owner’s address written on it, would you return it?” The questions were asked twice, first in September, in the beginning of the fall semester and once again during the final week of classes in December, not even a full four months apart.

Comparing results against the astronomy control group, students in economics class A became much more cynical and gave less ethical responses at the end of the semester. Students in class B grew to be more unethical, yet not by so much compared to students in class A. The results clearly show that no matter what their initial ethical tendencies were, students who were exposed to a mere four-months of “rational” reasoning became less cooperative.”

In important respects there is evidence that departments of economics have become departments for the promotion of anti-social behaviour.

An early Chicago economist called Frank Knight made the observation that one requirement for markets to work efficiently is that people are honest. If they are not honest then things get more complicated – the transaction costs start to rise. You need to spend time checking out your suppliers or customers, you need to work longer on creating water tight contracts. You need to take court action more often with huge costs involved. In the small town world of Adam Smith if the butcher, the baker and the brewer ripped each other off the dishonesty would soon get noticed and eventually they would be likely to lose out from their dishonesty. Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan and the de-regulators of the 1990s and the early 21st century clearly did not see the world they lived in like that.

Yes, Adam Smith’s market self organised the supply of the goods that people want. But markets can self organise criminal activity and anti social behaviour too.

And this can be on a massive scale. When the American banks created financial instruments out of loans to people with no income and no assets, got them judged to be AAA quality they then sold these toxic fraudulent instruments victims all over the world. The financial victims that purchased them had no easy way of checking if they were safe investments and assumed that if rating agencies said that they were AAA then they were. All told there were probably up to a half a million criminal felonies that took place in this period.
So economics has come a long way. The ideas of the scholastics were compatible with what could be found in the Bible in the First Epistle to Timothy in the New Testament, that “The love of money is the root of all evil”. In the 17th and 18th century the idea was that God worked through individual self interest to create a society delivering in the interests of everyone. This has now morphed into economics becoming a virtual religion in its own right with theology for rich people who love money.

Related posts:

  1. Economics is not a social science
  2. Economics Unmasked : Review
  3. The Economics of the Great Hunger rules the Eurozone!
  4. Frank Rotering: An Economics for Humanity
  5. The launch of FEASTA, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability

Understanding the Slave Mentality

Published originally on Alt-Market on Monday, 02 April 2012 07:48  by Brandon Smith

In the initial stages of nearly every recorded tyranny, the saucer eyed dumbstruck masses exhibit astonishing and masterful skill when denying reality.  The facts behind their dire circumstances and of their antagonistic government become a source of cynical psychological gameplay rather than a source of legitimate concern.  Their desperate need to maintain their normalcy bias creates a memory and observation vacuum in which all that runs counter to their false assumptions and preconceptions disappears forever.  It is as if they truly cannot see the color of the sky, or the boot on their face.  The concrete world of truth becomes a dream, an illusion that can be heeded or completely ignored depending on one’s mood.  For them, life is a constant struggle of dissociation, where the tangible is NOT welcome…

This is the problem that we in the Liberty Movement deal with most often in our writings and films.  Our confrontation with willful ignorance has been epic, even by far reaching historical standards.  The gains in social awareness have been substantial, and yet the obstacles are incredible.  Unprecedented.  As an activist trend, we have an almost obsessive drive to draw back the curtain so that the public has at least the opportunity to see what is on the other side.  Unfortunately, there is another danger that must be taken into account…

It is one thing to bear witness to the rejection of truth in our time and the oblivious attitudes of many towards the growth of totalitarianism.  Eventually, though, a second phase in the development of oligarchy arises.  I am speaking of the point at which tyranny becomes so blatant that the skeptics have to acknowledge its existence, but after doing so, they choose to rationalize it as necessary.  Yes, there are many in this world that will laugh at the prospect of the Orwellian nightmare only to happily embrace it when it arrives in full color.      

I was recently looking into the divisive issue of U.S. Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, whose position has come under threat due to his criticisms of Barack Obama and his founding of the ‘Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook Page’.  What I discovered was a large number of Americans in support of Stein’s right to speak as a citizen (even under Marine regulations) against the unconstitutional actions of any president or presidential candidate.  I also discovered a considerable number who wanted to see the soldier dishonorably discharged, or even set upon a noose as punishment. 

Now, we all know that the Department of Defense monitors web news and social networking activity, and they have been caught red handed in the past posing as regular citizens with strangely militant pro-authoritarian views (look into their organized propaganda attacks on websites dealing with the levee failures during Katrina, for instance).  It is by no means a stretch to suggest that they would also troll the comments sections of mainstream news articles in an attempt to engineer a fraudulent consensus that Sgt. Stein’s actions have been negatively received by the majority of Americans.  But that aside, the underlings at the DOD are still Americans, and the views they espouse are still expressions of a subsection of this country (a small elitist one).  Also, sadly, there are plenty of non-government-paid people out there who believe exactly as they do.

Surely, we can debate over the details of Marine regulations until our ears bleed, and I could point out several facts that the mainstream media did not cover in their hit pieces on Stein (like the fact that he went to his superiors and asked them to advise him in the handling of his political position long before the present charges against him were ever formulated, and the fact that he followed many of their suggestions…), but ultimately, the regulations of the Marines or the Federal Government are irrelevant.  Such laws are transitory, and are usually written so broadly that the authorities of the day can execute them however they wish to fit their needs at the moment.  The real question here is one of principle, moral compass, and Constitutionality (a document which is a reflection of eternal natural law).  We have to set aside the pointless legalese of defense standards in the case of Sgt. Stein and ask ourselves an important question; do U.S. troops have a right to free speech? 

If you believe so, then their rights are not limited or exclusive.  They are free to say whatever any other American has a right to say.  If you believe they do not, then you have relegated the troops to the position of second class citizens, or even property of the state.  There is NO in-between.  Discipline and military coherence be damned.  Either these men and women have First Amendment protections and are full citizens or they are mechanisms of the government whose civil liberties have been erased.

Even though I understand the psychology behind it, I am still shaken with raw electrical astonishment when confronted by those who support the latter notion that American soldiers are indeed property of the state, that their actions must be dictated by the president and not the Constitution, and that this is required for the military to function.

Very few of these absurd multitudes ever ask what “function” such a military, populated by ethical robots who are blindly subservient to the dictates of a single man, would actually serve?

What good is an unprincipled military?  An unprincipled government?  An unprincipled society?  What reason is there for these constructs to exist?  The Nuremberg Trials solidified the reality that soldiers will be held accountable for following criminal orders, and still, there are some who claim that our troops must adopt a shoot first pay later methodology. 

I bring up the circumstances of Sgt. Stein to illustrate the situation our nation is currently facing; we are on the threshold of total despotism, where the naysayers who shrugged off the threat of rogue government yesterday suddenly embrace it and support it today.  When Stewart Rhodes first formed the Oath Keepers organization, the same talking point was consistently used in an attempt to derail it; “The orders you would refuse to obey could never occur in this country…”  And yet, many of the warnings of Oath Keepers have come to pass, including the unlawful disarming of peaceful U.S. citizens during the disaster in New Orleans, the institution of government directed assassination programs of U.S. citizens under Bush and Obama, the passing of NDAA legislation which includes provisions for indefinite detainment of Americans without trial, warrantless wiretapping, surveillance, and even home invasion by authorities is becoming common, and the Obama Administration has put into place several executive orders (including the The National Defense Resources Preparedness EO) which pave the way for Martial Law to be declared.

The cold hard reality is, the Oath Keepers were right, and Sgt. Stein is right.

And, now that this is becoming undeniable, the opponents of their tenets are switching gears to fight for the implementation of unconstitutional laws which they used to deny were even possible.  Can this situation be any more insane?  Oh yes…

There are no limits to the surrealist hell that can be unleashed when dealing with what I like to call the “Slave Mentality”.  The slave mentality takes many shapes.  It is pervasive in times of social distress, and, it can be infectious.  The psychologist Carl Jung wrote in his book ‘The Undiscovered Self’ that the cruel sociopathy seen in the populations of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia is actually latent in many of us.  All it needs is the right set of sociopolitical circumstances and a weak enough will, and the shadows in the hearts of lesser men are given license to come out and play.  This is just as true in America, where people now operate on assumptions that the state is an absolute provider in the event of national calamity.      

But what are the signs of this unconscious desire for collectivism and control?  What makes a slave do what he does?  Here are just a handful of explanations to consider…

The True Slave: The true slave is not a person who has been shackled, beaten, tortured, and made to comply under threat of death.  As long as that poor soul has the spirit of rebellion and is ever seeking freedom, they are not imprisoned fully.  The true slave is a person who enjoys their subservience, who is weighted with fear by the very idea of independence from the system, and who would actually fight and die to maintain the establishment which enslaves them.  The true slave is not able to imagine living any other life beyond his micro-managed existence.

The Facts Lose Value: The worst flaw of the slave is not necessarily his ability to overlook the truth, but his ability to see it, comprehend it, and then shrug it off anyway because it is contrary to his mission to fulfill his private delusions.  For the slave, the truth exists, but is no longer useful.  Lies make his universe turn, and facts are a tool to be used or cast aside at his leisure.

The Obsession With The Law:
The slave mentality, though illogical and psychotic, still requires a certain foundation to hold it together.  The laws of governments tend to suffice.  These laws may go completely against the force of inherent conscience, but because the slave has already abandoned listening to his inner voice of reason, this does not bother him much.  If you have ever wondered why modern tyrannies always feel the need to put their horrific enforcements in writing first, THIS is why.  Oligarchs understand that the law provides the slave with a means to rationalize his participation in the crimes of the state.  After all, if some gut-bloated bloodthirsty elitists in government etch their mad inbred ramblings into law, then we have no choice but to follow them, right?

The Need To Be Accepted: A slave seeks harmony not within, but without, even when that “harmony” is with a system that is designed to destroy him.  The viciousness of collectivism lay in its ability to comfort converts with atrocity.  As long as the slave feels as though he is a part of the machine, and accepted by the group, he cares not what the machine does to others.  Common arguments include; “We all have to live together, and so we must sacrifice our selfish individualism for the greater good…” or “Governments are here to protect us and we should do everything we can to make their job easier…”  Rarely if ever do they question if the system is legitimately helpful or harmful.  The system just “is”, it fulfills their need to be coddled, and that is good enough for them.  For all their talk of “unity” and the “greater good”, collectivists are for the most part deeply selfish.  They do not support or participate in the collective for the sake of others.  They do it to satiate their personal desires.

The Need For Control:
I suppose it’s ironic, but the average slave loves tyranny because it affords him a perceived seat at the table of power, perhaps for the first time in his entire life.  Collectivist slaves are often people who have felt weak and inadequate since childhood.  While honorable human beings fight this personal uncertainty by strengthening themselves physically and mentally, and improving upon their own character, the slave takes the easy route by joining with bureaucracy and living vicariously through its conquests.  Through the state, the hollow, cowardly, and stupid, have the ability to “show the world who’s boss”, and get revenge for a life filled with meaninglessness. 

The Need For Structure:
An individual takes responsibility for himself, learning over time to provide his own structure which works at his pace and serves his unique needs.  A slave does not have the energy or the drive to do that, and so, he asks the establishment to tell him how he should live.  He will hold at face value the word of nearly anyone in a position of petty authority.  When confronted with those who go their own way, or who rebel against the cookie-cutter template for social participation, the slave sneers in disgust.  Independent rebellion is abhorrent to him, because the system provides him with his very identity.  To insult the fabric of the system is to insult who he is.  It’s pathetic, but common…

The Need For Vindication: Sometimes it is not enough for certain people to have their own world view.  The slave seeks approval for his world view at every turn, even if that world view is twisted by bleary eyed logic, and will go so far as to force others to agree with it so that they can feel safer in their beliefs.  It is natural for people to seek out others with similar views and ideals, but, it is not natural or healthy for those same people to use the government apparatus as a weapon to frighten the rest of us into submission just so they can become more confident in their ludicrous slapdash philosophies.  Slaves want a world without contradiction.  Laughably, everything they do is a contradiction.                        

What I have seen in a number of the reactions to the honest activism of Sgt. Gary Stein is a knee-jerk bias that reeks of the slave mentality, but it offers us a window in gauging the leanings of the general public.  Now that the once theoretical dangers of federal fascism are breaking the surface of the water and circling the American sinking ship, the great test is to watch closely where the masses place their priorities.  Will they take the path of the individual, admit to the laboratory mutation that our government has become, and try to make things right again?  Or, will they take the path of the slave, forget their past follies and empty arguments, and jump on the totalitarian bandwagon?  Certainly, it is not as if the cheerleaders of the state usually get out of the tumult with all their limbs intact.  In most cases, they are lucky to get out alive once the smoke clears.  One might think that the lessons of history would be guide enough, but then again, the average slave has taken every conceivable measure to ensure that his particular fantasy land is magical enough to withstand substantial examination.  The system is their drug, and the upheaval that free thought brings is such a buzz-kill…

Point-Counterpoint: Student Debt

Jane, you Ignorant SLUT!

Sorry about not posting up a Feature yesterday, but I have been having a fabulous debate with Ashvin Pandurangi on The Automatic Earth, and it absorbed any time I had to edit up an article here on DD.  What I will do here though is drop on the last 3 of the ripostes in the debate from TAE, which so far is very entertaining 🙂  Read the whole thread on TAE.

(All Ashvin’s comments are in Italics)

Tell that to their spouses/children/beneficiaries who are not only left in the world without them, but have to fork over their potential inheritance to a fascist government or a ruthless debt collector.

Well Ash, I don’t think people should be allowed to inherit anything at all.  Inheritance is part of what creates the classes of Haves and Have Nots.  In any event, Debt collectors may try to go after assets held by those remaining alive, except the assets aren’t worth anything.  Their labor is not worth anything.  There is nothing to collect, and there never will be.  So the debt is irredeemable. It CANNOT EVER be repaid.  You are down a Rabbit Hole here which you just don’t seem to get, or perhaps are just willfully ignoring because it doesn’t fit your narrative of debt slavery.
Anyhow, by no means am I making the case that people are escaping from problems that come from debt repudiation.  There will be many.  Just not really likely to be the sort of problems you paint a picture of.  At least not IMHO.

Well Ash, I don’t think people should be allowed to inherit anything at all.

I can agree with you that, theoretically, it would be nice to have systems of socioeconomic organization without private property, and, therefore, without inheritance of said property. OTOH, I recognize that many people have structured their lives around a completely different system, and it will be extremely painful for them when those sand castles are washed back into the sea. Not to mention the injustice of their property becoming the property of someone else in the 1%, rather than returning to aid any common good.

In any event, Debt collectors may try to go after assets held by those remaining alive, except the assets aren’t worth anything.  Their labor is not worth anything.  There is nothing to collect, and there never will be.  So the debt is irredeemable. It CANNOT EVER be repaid.

Care to explain those blanket statements? I find it very unlikely that productive assets and resources, human labor being one of many, will be worth nothing, to anyone. Or maybe I just forgot how energy is harnessed, food grown, water cleaned, shelters built, etc. If we are talking about “assets” such as money/cash flow/investments/etc., then they will most certainly be worth something until the monetary system completely collapses, never to return.

You are down a Rabbit Hole here which you just don’t seem to get, or perhaps are just willfully ignoring because it doesn’t fit your narrative of debt slavery.

I brought up debt slavery as one possible scenario that people may find themselves in (and many around the world already do). You, however, have constructed a narrative in which there is only one outcome that will arrive with certainty, and it involves a mass die-off within relatively short order. Oh yeah, and, those who have the luck/skill to survive will be free to “start over”, because the cost of using any productive assets they possess, including their own labor, will be too much for anyone to handle.

ashvin wrote:

Care to explain those blanket statements? I find it very unlikely that productive assets and resources, human labor being one of many, will be worth nothing, to anyone. Or maybe I just forgot how energy is harnessed, food grown, water cleaned, shelters built, etc. If we are talking about “assets” such as money/cash flow/investments/etc., then they will most certainly be worth something until the monetary system completely collapses, never to return.


On the asset side here, first off more than 50% of the population has no more than 2 months worth of bills in savings, no pension, no investments. If they are living in a McMansion, they are likely underwater, its not an asset.

Of the remaining population the main 2 assets any of them have is their House and their Car. If both are paid off, these probably are not people with student loans.

Even if both are paid off, as gas becomes unavailable, neither the car nor the McMansion are worth anything at all. The suburban ring road model doesn’t work without the automobile, so suburbia essentially ends up a Ghost Town. The car is just worth its scrap metal value.

Insofar as the worth of Human Labor goes, in an overshoot situation all people are liabilities, not assets. It costs more to feed and clothe them than you can get return in value added labor. Like a Car that has no value because the Gas is too expensive to feed it, a Human Being in Overshoot has no value if the food is too expensive to feed it. Dead People hold more value than slaves do, because dead people don’t eat.

Far as this being the only possible outcome, no I do not make that case; I just make the case I think it is the most likely outcome. I also cannot fix an absolute timeline to this. As I have said before, I think we will be going through a period of extreme Fascism here that could last quite some time, 20 years maybe even more though I doubt it. During this period in order to survive you probably have to make yourself useful to the Fascist state in some manner, probably as Soldiers which of course under Conscription is a form of Slavery itself.

Will there be Chain Gangs of Debtors in this scenario? Perhaps, but I don’t think its all the irredeemable debt of the past that matters, many people even non-debtors who did not take out Student Loans will also be so impoverished that their only options will be to serve the State in some sort of low paid job which just provides enough for subsistence living.

The debt system is so oversaturated with debt at all levels here that once Da Fed stops supporting the TBTF, they are not going to be able to replace that money through taxation or slave labor of debtors, its simply too great a debt in Energy terms, not monetary terms. If Da Fed perpetually prints new Debt to keep the TBTF solvent, then the money to roll over all the old debt is not coming from the labor of J6P, its just being conjured up out of thin air on a perpetual basis, further running up the numbers. So under neither paradigm does J6P ever actually pay off this debt, because as I said in Energy terms it cannot be repaid. The stuff is just well and truly gone here, at least the High EROEI stuff.

Its all in how you look at it Ash. I take a fairly long view of things, I’m generally looking 50-100 years down the line here, but I think much of this will become evident inside the next 20 years. I don’t see any way a significant Die Off will be avoided, and by significant I mean on the order of 50% or more of current world population. Under such a situation, I do not see how anything resembling our current monetary system will be perpetuated, so maost of the debt, Sovereign, Corporate and Public will simply be incinerated. The FSofA is never going to pay back its Trillions in unfunded liabilities, McMansion Debtors are not going to repay their mortgages, and Student Borrowers are not going to pay their Student Loans. The system has reached the end of the line, or at least it is very close to it. We will get Political Upheaval, Nation States as they exist now will disintegrate, they will be no more. Property Titles and Deeds issued under these Sovereign States will not be honored, any more than Confederate Dollars were honored after the Civil War.

Is this going to happen tomorrow or the next decade? Probably not, but its the writing on the wall that I read and I think it is the most likely outcome.


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