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August 12, 2010


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I'm going with the Devolution (3) scenario. However, we did come close to White Horse (1) once before on FDR's watch, and I'm not sure our government has the stuff to resist a putsch like that this time. Of course, the violent possibilities (4,5) are wildcards that would sweep away anything else.

Speaking of China... such a confrontation would surely draw in the rest of the world, and I wonder where the other players would stand after all of our adventuring since the last global conflagration? I'm sure, at a minimum, the Southern Hemisphere is lost...

Devolution could get a boost from the Roberts court if they decree positively on some 10th Amendment issues. But would they? The politics of the GOP base is not necessarily the economic interests of their overlords. But, in turn, that raises a kind of metaphysical question about the sincerity of nihilists. Do they hate "Washington tyranny" so much that they'd voluntarily restrict their own power? I rather doubt it.

Given our current circumstances, you can't go wrong with pessimism. That said, there's a big difference between muddling along and Kunstler's hoped-for unwinding of the American economy. In the latter instance, we're talking about the premature and possibly violent deaths of millions. Likewise, Orlov's post-Soviet unpleasantness would be a sheer catastrophe in our country. Americans may be plucky but Russian stoicism would serve us better.

Tribalism is a recurrent nightmare in a culturally heterogeneous nation. But just how real is this threat here? I probably wouldn't want to be a black person in an America looking for scapegoats. On the other hand, would Baptists take on Mormons? That's much harder to see.

The oligarchy may be blind and self-interested, but their needs are better served by a population anesthetized by lotteries and reality TV. Egging on the mouthbreathers with 2nd Amendment "remedies" doesn't help. At some point, they may want Murdoch to scale back the Crazy enough to calm the rubes down. I'm not sure what game they're playing here but it's quickly getting beyond their ability to control.

Neither secession nor devolution will occur. The fact that "Republican pols and tea partiers keep floating this idea" doesn't change the fact that the federal government would not permit it and those advocating it have neither the organization, the military skills and arms, the will, nor the popular support to carry out the inevitable guerrilla war it would entail, much less to make success remotely plausible against a highly centralized, modern standing army.

Civil wars are fought for serious economic reasons or deep cultural reasons. In the former case, that means real players (i.e., parts of the Establishment with opposing and irreconcileable interests); in the latter, it requires a depth of popular feeling which simply isn't a cultural factor here. We aren't Yugoslavia and we aren't Rwanda. Libertarian political economy won't enflame modern America to the point of revolution.

As for devolution, that would not be in the interests of the economic Establishment to support. They want a stable theater for investment, with relative uniformity, continuity, and predictability. An America on the model of Renaissance Italy is not consistent with modern corporate philosophy.

The value of the "mouthbreathing rubes" to the mainstream Republican Party is as a pressure group waiting in the wings but never appearing on the stage. They make mainstream Republicanism look almost attractive by comparison, and make compromise on terms favorable to Republicans more palatable. If 19th century German marxism can make the Iron Chancellor move well to the left, the constant drumbeat of Tea-Partiers could make feckless Democrats -- especially the "moderates" in the Party -- move to the right. Indeed, we've already seen this in action.

At most, one might see a return to isolated acts of terrorism by the far-right. The militia movement was doing well for awhile, but Timothy MacVeigh turned the public against it decisively. Ineffectual but violent groups and individuals such as these do serve the Establishment by making it possible to increase authoritarian powers without actually threatening the existence of the Establishment. They also serve to take the minds of the public off more fundamental issues, such as the economy.

War with China is completely inconsistent with the existing model of international capitalism by which both China and the West prosper. There is no ideological difference now, and each party needs the other (within the context of this model) to succeed. China is an export economy and cannot afford to cut off its nose to spite its face: the thesis that war is brought about by economic competition for resources is inconsistent with the economic results of such war. If the United States did not go to war to stop the Soviet Union from invading and occupying Hungary and Czechoslovakia in a Cold War where our Western European allies were fearful of Soviet invasion and the opinion of the world was at stake, it will not go to war over the island state of Taiwan, which is also not primary to U.S. economic or resource needs. China, for its part, is not going to commit an act which will surely result in extreme economic sanctions undertaken against it by its primary sales market.

I don't know what "Muslim revenge" constitutes. Presumably Mr. Talton is referring to some act of large-scale nuclear or biological warfare undertaken, not by governments, but by terrorist organizations. While not impossible to conceive of, it's somewhat unrelated to the question of the fundamentally economic issues driving the question, since it could presumably happen even during the most prosperous times.

Of the options listed by Mr. Talton, that leaves the Man on the White Horse. That, however, presumes a state of affairs which we have, as yet, no reason to suppose will come to pass.

Another possibility -- perhaps more logical in the consolidation of power, and certainly more along the lines that the Establishment prefers -- is so-called "friendly fascism" (a term coined by Bertram Gross):


It was published just before the Reagan revolution in a completely different era, and predicts stagflation (which we may yet see) as a tool with which to consolidate power; it's cranky in a number of ways, but also contains a great deal of insight and realpolitik.

In the absence of a strong progressive political movement and leadership, crises are in fact a method by which oligarchy consolidates both wealth and power. Crises erode the ownership share of the middle class but that ownership does not evaporate: it goes to those who foreclose, those who buy low during crisis to sell high later, those who own what society will always need (land, housing, medical services, jobs, etc.) and who are thereby able to pressure ordinary citizens to accept their terms or go without those things.

Want a job badly enough? How cheaply are you willing to work? Ready to forgo those benefits yet?

Also note that crises encourage large-scale solutions and expanded government powers, and an increased blending of the private and public sectors; and when the government is controlled by oligarchs, that means increasing their own influence.

Hail Emil,

"As for devolution, that would not be in the interests of the economic Establishment to support. They want a stable theater for investment, with relative uniformity, continuity, and predictability. An America on the model of Renaissance Italy is not consistent with modern corporate philosophy."

I could be wrong here, of course, but I think you're missing the main argument for devolution. The point being that the "Establishment" will at some critical point find that it will be more economically feasible to fortify their gates than to attend to the affairs of disparate communities.

The "useless eaters" will perhaps at that point be left alone to, I don't know, uselessly eat.

And brew fine beer. ;)

Petro, one of the best beers I ever had was the house stout at a San Antonio microbrewery called Blue Star. It was incredibly rich, malty and chocolatey without being bitter; apparently there was nothing in it but classic beer ingredients, but the selection, blending, and balance of ingredients, the roasting method and the brewing technique all combined to naturally produce that result.

They also had a "chocolate stout" that had some synthetic flavoring added, which ironically didn't taste at all like chocolate but more like cough medicine.

They sold it by the pint glass but patrons could also bring a gallon jug (or some variety of large container) and have it filled.

This was years ago so I don't know if it's still as good.

Heh. Emil, since I moved to Portland I am paralyzed by the selection of local micro-brews.

And with that, I shall not hijack the thread of Jon's rather dark post with all of this merry talk of beer.


Ken Silverstein, the Harper's editor and author of What's the Matter With Arizona? (July 2010) was the guest on KJZZ program Here and Now today.


Ya, what Emil said.

Considering what's afoot, we're mulling over a plan to revamp our living arrangements and split time between Oregon and Mexico. Period! There are plusses and minuses, to be sure, but we see little merit in hoping for an Arizona transformation.

I think everyone is missing the big picture.

The US is going to have HOLODOMOR. Look that up and see what it means.

George Bush came into office with a single real objective: transferring all the wealth to the upper 2%.

The policy of the United States government remains the same -- to wipe out the middle class, crush wages in the United States, to outsource as much labor as possible, and to replace American workers with immigrant labor.

Millions of Americans are going to starve to death. The government is determined to make it so. The rich, the plutocrats, the corporations, the CEOs, the globalists, and the multinational corporations and bankers demand it.

We will have holodomor in the United States. It is already beginning.

I'm a clinical pharmacist, and I'm stuck working part-time because there are no jobs. No one is hiring -- not even pharmacists.

If anyone knows where pharmacists can get a job, I'd appreciate it.

The globalist plan is to elect Jeb Bush in 2012. Bush, who is a fanatical globalist, will grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. He will wipe out the border between the US and Mexico.

American workers will be replaced with immigrants, by the millions. Millions of Americans will starve. It will be holodomor.

Bush will push the US to join the European Union, so that a global government can be created. The earth will become one big plantation, with most of the population falling into the slave class.

It'll go sideways; meandering frenetically.

"If anyone knows where pharmacists can get a job, I'd appreciate it." - Mick

You haven't been watching enough TV. See a few episodes of "Breaking Bad". No résumé required.

Haha, Rate Crimes, well done.

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