The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Are Our Elites Starting to Get It?

Back in May, in Sri Lanka:

Recently, they also burned down the President’s home.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government:

The tax will apply to new cars and aircraft with a retail sales price over $100,000 and to vessels over $250,000. It will be calculated at the lesser of 20 percent of the value above a set threshold ($100,000 for cars and personal aircraft, and $250,000 for vessels) and ten percent of the full value of the item subjected to tax.

And the US Senate’s Climate bill, which Manchin approved:

The bill includes $60 billion to boost domestic clean energy manufacturing, including $30 billion in production tax credits for solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and critical mineral processing. It also offers lower- and middle-income motorists a $7,500 tax credit for clean vehicles, while states and electric utilities would see $30 billion in grants and loans to expand clean energy. The bill also includes $60 billion for environmental justice communities and a fee on methane emissions that will rise to $1,500 a ton by 2026.

All of these are what I would class as “good news,” though insufficient. Adam Smith once quipped that “there is a lot of ruin in a nation,” but a country like Sri Lanka has less ruin than many others. England’s decline could be considered to have begun in 1914, and it’s only this decade that they’re likely to lose Scotland — and it’ll be a while yet before Brits start burning down toff mansions wholesale.

The problem with Sri Lanka is that almost all of the debt which is crippling it is to Western institutions, not to China (which is at about ten percent), but China is the country which will wind up bailing it out after the initial IMF stopgap, because China needs a stable country to have a naval base in. If India was smart, they’d step in instead, to deny the Chinese the base. As for the West, they don’t care and just want their money. China is likely delaying in part because they’d rather not send a ton of money to the West by paying for Sri Lanka’s debt.

Elites finally seem to be starting to understanding that climate change is serious, and that the rich are out of control. I think that the rich will come to regret the Russian oligarch sanctions hunt, because it taught everyone how easy it actually is to take everything from rich people, a lesson of the post-war era which has been forgotten because most who remember it are old or dead.

This is all very slim “good news.” With respect to climate change, I am of the opinion that we will not hold it at two degrees C, though some climate scientists disagree. I have found that the more “pessimistic” forecasts have consistently been more reliable, and I believe that self-reinforcing cycles, such as methane release from permafrost and swamps, and the destruction of most of the world’s remaining great forests, have been triggered. We can and should mitigate climate change by reducing emissions, but we have left it too late to contain catastrophic climate change. (I also expect a couple of marine inundations this century (colloquially, great floods) — and earlier than most people think likely.)

As for the rich, they’re still in control, but that control is unlikely to remain as firm as they expect. They were warned of this many times; that they couldn’t allow rampant inequality, poverty, catastrophe, and gouge on necessities like water, food, fuel, and life-saving medicines and expect to escape unscathed.

They key variable to watch is food, or rather, hunger. When people can’t eat (or drink), social controls break down. The Chinese understand that; every dynasty has known that if they didn’t feed the people, they were in great danger, and the Communist dynasty (that’s what it is, and it’s still essentially “rule by bureaucrats”) understands it as well. The Indian government, on the other hand, obsessed with fucking over non-Hindus and cleansing the country, seems to have forgotten.

The West, as a whole, has a great deal of agricultural surplus, and it will take some time for hunger to really hit, unless neoliberal ideology blinds politicians to the danger of continuing to allow rampant food inflation. If people can’t afford to eat, it’s the same as there not being enough food for them, and hunger leads to people with little to lose.

Interesting times, etc. Might as well enjoy the show as best we can, because we’re going to suffer through it as well.




Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 31, 2022


Spring Of A Down, By Stirling Newberry, Chapters XIII-XV


  1. Willy

    You’ll know things are starting to turn in neoliberal nations when mass shooters begin targeting the rich.

  2. NR

    As for the rich, they’re still in control, but that control is unlikely to remain as firm as they expect. They were warned of this many times: that they couldn’t allow rampant inequality, poverty, catastrophe and gouge on necessities like water, food, fuel and life-saving medicines and expect to escape unscathed.

    That’s why the billionaires like Peter Thiel and others are pushing so hard for fascism. They realize that it’s their only way of escaping the consequences of their actions. Expect a big push for Trump or DeSantis or whoever the Republican nominee is in 2024; if they can establish a fascist regime in America, the rest of the West will be much easier to control.

  3. Mark Level

    Willy is correct, but of course Kiss Up, Kick Down has been so thoroughly inculcated in the US hoi polloi that I’m not holding my breath for that any time soon. I would like to believe what Ian is sharing & he does support his claims with some evidence . . . however, Naked Capitalism water cooler today has a nice piece on Krugman’s denial that “we are in a recession!!” His ilk aren’t bothered by high gas prices or debt, so it’s not real. As one commenter (not me) pointed out, even the (G)Liberal elites like PK have internalized Karl Rove’s solipsistic “we create our own reality”, & the plebs just have to live with the $hit raining down on them mentality. I agree with NR on one possible Thiel end game scenario for now (tho’ his own private, guarded island or spaceship will be the alternative), but in truth I think that if the Strongman fascism the Right wants comes in, whether led by declining Drumpf or slightly smarter DeSantis, they will just be busy beating, jailing and killing so many perceived “deviants”/ enemies, teh Gays, women, non-“Christians”, non-whites who aren’t R-branded or gun carriers that in the long run they won’t be able to continue it on very long. And even in the unlikely event they could jail, kill & persecute the USA back into the 15th century morals level they believe in, they certainly won’t be able to keep their Empire, the Europeans and the rest in check. I suppose if fascism does fully come in in 2024, in 20 to 30 years the country will look like Albania did under Ceauscescu, which I suppose is poetic justice of a sort!!

  4. different clue

    @Mark Level,

    A minor quibble . . . . it was Hoxha that Albania was under. Romania is what was under Ceauscescu.

  5. Mark Level

    Quick correction– Ceauscescu & wife were executed by the local populace after ruining Romania, not Albania– E. European geography not among my strongest suits!! But the most committed of the Maga CHUDs would like a country similar in backwardness, isolation and ignorance to Romania in decline– with the caveat that I’m sure the Romanians never allowed private gun ownership, a central ne plus ultra of the Western Frontier fascism that the furthest Right ‘Muricans would cherish.

  6. Trinity

    To me, this is “normal” in the sense of “what goes up, must come down”, or Newton’s “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. The universe seeks balance because the universal constant is change.

    Somebody is always doing something, so somebody (or something) else always reacts. Keep allowing CO2 into the atmosphere and you can no longer predict the weather, but worse for us is that the Earth’s weather systems will continue to try and rebalance temperatures. That’s exactly what we are experiencing almost every day. It’s only going to get worse before/if it ever stabilizes again.

    Socially, it’s a never ending war because somebody always does something, and somebody else has to (or wants to) react, usually to “rebalance” things (but in their own favor), which just creates yet another imbalance that some other nation reacts to, and on and on and on it goes.

    And yes, they may pivot to fascism (they pretty much already have, from a big picture perspective) but even that will also elicit re-actions in a never-ending shoving contest to gain “power over”, where “power over” is the very definition of creating imbalance. All they do is create imbalances. One could argue that the history of Western Civ is one of ensuring imbalance.

    Everything the elites are doing creates imbalances in nature, society, across scales from the individual to the nation to the globe. They’ve demolished any semblance of balance in our lives. They have failed miserably at creating anything that is sustainable (which is sort of a “good news” thing in the sense that nothing they are doing is sustainable). Nothing can be sustained over the long term unless it also maintains the balance of things. If you take, you have to give. All they do is take.

  7. bruce wilder

    Ceauscescu was Romania, but it does raise a good point: maybe elites (some of them) “get it” — it cannot be many — but what conclusions do they draw about what to do?

    The U.S. has a truly impressive propaganda machine in place, well-staffed by the privileged scions of the upper middle-class. The outcry over Julian Assange and the stenographic coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine has shown what to expect from that corner. The only “good news” is that the vast majority of Americans pay no attention to the respectable purveyors of “fake news”.

    I fear those privileged PMC, like the ones running the legacy mainstream media organizations as an arm of state propaganda. Even without the hoi polloi, they are ready and willing to implement an authoritarian state and staff it from their number. This is a group that has become an hereditary aristocracy in the last twenty years as social mobility has been buried under credentialism and student debt.

    We may look for the hoi polloi to follow Trump in blaming the gays or the immigrants to erect a fascism, but what if the purveyors of “anti-racism(tm)” and “trans-rights” and “vaccine mandates” beat them to the punch? The bureaucratic state, new technology edition, would suit the PMC just fine: surveil all, shun and sanction the others du jour.

  8. VietnamVet

    It is not just the protestors out to get the elite oligarchy, but the Russians too.

    Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife, Raisa, who were killed by Russian shelling, headed a Ukraine grain production and export business. It “was not an accident, but a well-thought-out and organized premeditated murder. Vadatursky was one of the largest farmers in the country, a key person in the region and a major employer. That the exact hit of a rocket was not just in a house, but in a specific wing, the bedroom, leaves no doubt about aiming and adjusting the strike.”

    Clearly, the gerontocracy has not grasped the risks. Nancy Pelosi, second in line to succeed the President Joe Biden, after the Vice President, Kamala Harris, is apparently still heading to Taiwan to provoke Chinese President, Xi Jinping. If the riots don’t dispose of the despots, Russian artillery shells within 50 miles will, as will H-bombs fired from the other side of the world.

    A US Supreme Court Justice gloats that they have imposed Catholic Christian beliefs on the American people, negating the Constitutional separation of church and state. Western oligarchs have no idea of the chaos that they and the world will reap from their exploitation of humans and the earth.

  9. Good post! One nitpick: It was Adam Smith, not Keynes, who said there is a lot of ruin in a nation.

  10. Anon

    Americans will eat each other before the lay a hand on the rich. Anyone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t understand America.

  11. marku52

    “The U.S. has a truly impressive propaganda machine in place, well-staffed by the privileged scions of the upper middle-class. ”

    Pravda and Izvestia had nothing on the US state media apparatus in the form of NYT, WaPo, CNN.

    “The bureaucratic state, new technology edition, would suit the PMC just fine: surveil all, shun and sanction the others du jour.”

    Censorship of covid treatments and vaccine injury has likewise been suitable for any authoritarian state. The suppression of Hunter’s laptop to influence the election, the hoax Steele dossier which led to fake investigations, loudly talked up for years in that same media. All of a piece of nothing but a propaganda organ for the Deep State, the Blob, neoliberals, whatever name you want to give it…..

    No wonder there is no trust in it. You only read it to see what they want us to think. Not because it has any relation to reality.

    Looking at the state media and the gerontocratic leadership, one can’t help feeling like the last days of the USSR

  12. marku52

    Ukraine lobs antipersonnel mines all over the civilian area of Donetsk city. An obvious war crime. Most likely with the permission of the US.
    Reported in the US media?. Of course not.

  13. Carborundum

    Elites understand that populist signalling works and most luxury vehicles are leased.

  14. someofparts

    The rabbit hole goes deeper than we realized. Events in Sri Lanka are not what our alleged press would have us believe.

    and more

    and Myanmar too

    I will be watching all the videos at New Atlas.

    Meanwhile, on a related note, here is a podcast by Chris Hedges talking about Moby Dick. Turns out that even that far back in our history, Melville saw the expansively destructive character of US leadership. The videos at New Atlas catalog the true extent of the evil this nation does everywhere. Melville shows us why our leaders are like this. The conversation Hedges and his guest have about the book is well worth a listen.

  15. someofparts

    These New Atlas podcasts are blowing my mind. Learning so much so fast and with every step things become clearer and clearer.

    The mania and incoherence of our evil, evil rulers is because they are out of time. They hoped to weaken Russia and China before those nations became powerful enough to stop them and they are realizing that the window has closed and they missed their chance. That’s great news for all of us and bad news for the people who must be stopped.

    So understand that when you see the evil rulers of the White world act silly and make clownish mistakes. They have lost and they know it.

    Things for us domestically can and will get much, much worse – but we have that in common with the rest of the world – because their is no horror our evil, evil rulers will not commit against the defenseless, and you are still fooling yourself if you don’t think they will do that to us.

    So in the last podcast, an Asian guest said something that still has me reeling. He said if you want to know who loves Ukraine, it’s Russia. If you want to know who loves Taiwan, it’s China. Because they are family. Because they are a nation.

    The person who pretends to protect you from a non-existent threat and then dominates and diminishes you is a gangster, and they don’t love you. They don’t even consider you human.

    And by extension I realize that the people who love us are our fellow citizens – our neighbors, our families. And the people who tell us that the ones who really love us are our enemies are the real enemies.

    Starting with Reagan our evil rulers have waged economic war on us to end the middle class and take the country back from the people and give it to the evil rich. They are absolutely going to push us into greater and greater poverty and desperation because that is how they will push us to keep thinking we must hate and fight each other.

    Turns out the arc of the universe does bend toward justice after all, but this may be one of the last corners of the world to emerge into the light.

  16. Astrid


    One thing stuck out for me in Gonzolo Lire’s panel yesterday, when Yves Smith said that MSM reports Chinese and Russian actions as “behaviours”, as though they were instinctual and animalistic, not driven by thoughts and multifaceted motivations.

    It occurred to me that the MSM describes the bulk of the Western citizenry, even those they’re ostensibly aligned with, in the same way. As if we’re cattle that can’t think for ourselves.

    As has been frequently commented upon about the West, I do wonder if there’s some serious projection going on. My “close friends” largely belong to this “petit-elite” layer (mid-senior level managers and policy type people in DC) and sometimes I’m amazed by how brainless the words coming out of their mouth can be. The reflective genuflection of the Russian SMO as irredeemably evil and Taiwan as a sovereign country and China as authoritarian is unquestioned and instinctual and unvarying. These people know I semi-regularly travel to China and have close contacts there, but they’re not the least bit curious about my thoughts on the topic.

    I get more thoughtfulness and curiosity from my coworkers and distant family members, who are typically a couple rungs down on the greasy careerist ladder.

    I largely keep my geopolitical opinions to myself and I’ve known these people for decades. So I think they’re showing their honest opinions to me.
    Perhaps I have smarter friends do know better, but like me have chosen to keep their mouths shut. But it’s notable that the loudmouths tend to be most successful career-wise.

  17. someofparts

    Astrid – Yes. Everything you say lines right up with what I am seeing.

    As someone who is too poor to risk leaving this country, the best I can figure to do is start trying to learn as much Spanish as I can. There are Spanish language stations on my television, so that seems like a great opportunity to fill my household with the language to encourage me to start picking it up. I suspect I will find a lot more kindred minds in the Latin community than in the Anglo one, so I hope that will motivate me to push past my own laziness and start learning the language of my escape route.

  18. Hart Liss

    “Elites finally seem to be starting to understanding that climate change is serious and that the rich are out of control.”
    I beg to differ with that characterization. The dominant elite — those who are corrupting elected officials and, for their money, dictating what the elected officials do or not — are the out of control wealthy.
    Any part of the elite who are concerned with extraction, exploitation and destroying the world will end up being a problem is not the part of the elite doing anything about it.
    The sociopaths are in charge. Of course, that’s in part made possible because democracy contains the means of its own destruction.

  19. different clue


    Basically yes, though I would offer this little quibble. The elite economic policy war against us started under Carter with his initial attempts at Free Trade Agreements and his appointing Alfred Kahn to force the de-regulation of various industries, especially trucking and commercial air flight.

    It picked up speed under Reagan.

    One could go further and note that whoever ordered the Kennedy, X, King and Kennedy assassinations plus hundreds of other less famous assassinations and etc. had already launched the political war preparation for the economic policy war to come.

    And the original anti-New Deal conspiracyr rich people began shaping the battlespace with the removal of Henry Wallace as FDR’s VP running mate and his replacement with Truman. And then the passage of things like Taft-Hartley and the various HUAC and McCarthy-type hearings.

    And the Overclass has finally pushed their rule to the point where we can’t pretend anymore that we don’t feel it.

  20. anon y'mouse

    Reagan didn’t start all of that. he simply took credit (loudly) for it.

    and he didn’t finish it either. Billybob Clinton did that.

    you’ll have to go a lot farther back and cast a wider net to find the miscreants of those plans. plans in which even Saint Jimmy Carter is implicated thoroughly as yet another henchman.

  21. different clue

    @anon y’mouse,

    I have read that there is a phrase in Intelligence Community circles called ” walking back the cat”. It means to try reconstructing events from the most recent to the very first in a chain of events to understand how that chain of events got started and how it proceeded from there to where we are at right now.

    I found a derivative latter-day redefinition of “walking back the cat” on line. This site defines it as actually trying to reverse events one by one back to the pre-event ground zero state. Here is the link.

    If we want the best possible understanding of where we are at right now, in all its dimensions, we will have to walk back all the cats, one by one, and in bunches, to understand who, how and why put us on these paths.

    If we understand who and how and why in every detail, we might be able to find the pain pressure points and the unstable nucleus points where we can intervene to undo and tear down parts or all of the world we are surrounded by, even if we can’t neatly un-make it. Perhaps if we can tear it down totally and comprehensively enough, and if we can steer the falling wreckage so it falls on the people who engineered it instead of on us, or at least only us; we might be able to reconstruct a less-bad world from re-purposable parts of the wreckage.

    I now offer a quibble for Ian Welsh and our other foreign friends. We live in a funhouse carnival fishbowl. We can do our best to understand life inside our own fishbowl. Our foreign friends will get a distorted view of us inside Fishbowl America through the distorting glass that contains us. They can’t help it, they do the best they can.

    So here is an example of that sort of quibble. Ian Welsh has written that America clearly voted for George Dubya Bush against John Kerry in the Bush v Kerry election.
    But we who live inside the fishbowl either know, or are able to know, what Greg Palast has written about illegal outlaw Republican initiatives to pre-strike from the registered voter rolls several millions voters who would likely have voted against Dubya. And there is no reason to believe to believe that Kerry “lost” Ohio. There is every reason to believe that Bush’s Rove ( and his electoral engineers) faked and stole their way to a Dubya “victory” in Ohio. John Edwards certainly believed that, and had bunches of lawyers all lined up and ready to go to contest the Ohio “results”. Kerry overruled Edwards and immediately conceded. There are some embittered people who suspect that it was Kerry’s secret mission to deliberately throw the election to Bush on purpose, and this was his way of doing it. Kerry and Bush were both members of the elite Skull and Bones Club at Harvard, and those people all conspire together to advance their shared social class power advantages. There is no reason that fellow Bonesmen Bush and Kerry did any less.

    If Ian Welsh decided to accept that, he would have to set aside his belief that America voted for Bush against Kerry and that America therefore deserves to get what it voted for. I don’t think we can expect Ian Welsh or any of our other foreign friends to accept that. But we who live here will have to accept that and understand it if we wish to have a better hope of destroying the class enemies who live in the fishbowl with us. Same as with the Kennedy, King, X, Kennedy, etc. assassinations.
    We have to understand those things if we wish to have a hope of destroying the people who authorised those things and tearing down and destroying the society that those people have directed us to build for them to their advantage.

  22. Jorge

    I suspect that certain younger billionaires have decided that they do not want to spend their golden years in paranoid bunkers, surrounded by armed guards who they cannot trust.

    They have realized that it is not possible to “green build” our way out of Global Baking- that their only option is to slow down the world economy.

    Younger billionaires, or those with families who they actually care about, do have a stake in the world’s future. Of course, their interests do not completely “align” with the interests of the rest of us.

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