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

Category: Trade Page 1 of 12

The Dollar Is Impregnable & The West Will Always Control International Banking (Honest)

What is geopolitical risk, you ask, and the Saudis answer:

Saudi Arabia warned it could sell off some European debt holdings in retaliation to a move by the G-7 to seize almost $300bn in frozen Russian assets, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The veiled threat was passed along from Saudi Arabia’s finance ministry earlier this year to some G-7 counterparts, as the group weighed seizing Russian assets designed to support Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia specifically signalled out the euro debt issued by France, according to Bloomberg.

Riyadh has been concerned about western efforts to seize the Kremlin’s assets for months. In April, Politico reported that Saudi Arabia, along with China and Indonesia, was privately lobbying the EU against confiscation.

Notice that Indonesia is also involved. China is less surprising, they know that freezing and even confiscation is in the cards for them when things heat up between the West and china.

China has been reducing its risk:

Edit: (Or perhaps they aren’t?)

No one wants to do business with nations that will simply take away their money. Freezing was bad, but normal. Seizure is not. Since no one seized or freezed America’s overseas assets when it invaded, say, Iraq, and no one ever seizes or freezes West European assets, it might be thought that this isn’t about “law” but about “power.” For that matter, why haven’t Israel’s overseas assets been seized?

The level of geopolitical risk from doing business in the dollar or using the Western banking system is just too high. Freezing, seizure and sanctions, plus the US applying its law extra-territorially simply because a transfer happened to go thru an American bank even though the sender and end party were both outside of America.

This abuse is long-standing, you can read accounts from the fifties, but it really picked up in the 90s. Indeed there’s an entire book, Treasury’s War, about the phenomenon.

And this is what all the economists and similar pundits who go on about how the dollar can’t be replaced don’t understand: that they are right that the costs of replacing the dollar are significant; that it’s hard, and that it’s not really worth it.

Except it is worth it, because if the cost of trade and money transfers goes up slightly under a non-dollar regime, and even a slight increase is massive when multiplied by the number and amount of transactions, it’s still worth it because of the massive reduction in geopolitical risk. And nattering on about how the Yuan can’t be used because the Chinese can’t accept the costs of using the Yuan is stupid: that’s not what the BRICS are trying to do: the idea is to create a central, multinational currency, and to simply use local currencies whenever possible, while avoiding the Western banking system entirely.

Everyone knows that the dollar and the Western banking system are guns, and that everyone who uses the dollar and the Western banking system are under those guns and can be hit at any moment if D.C. or Brussels desires it.

When this was hardly ever done, it was a risk worth taking. When China was the main industrial power who you could buy almost everything you wanted from, and the West was the only option for most technological goods, well, you had no choice.

But now nations see a way out from under the guns, and they’re going to take it, even if it costs them, because the potential cost of not doing so is catastrophic.


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Open AI Pulls Out Of China In Another Boneheaded Move

The effect of chip sanctions was to create a Chinese chip industry which now controls the low-end of the chip market, and which is coming on strong. The effect of Huawei sanctions was to make Huawei stronger, end Android support and gut Apple’s market share in China.

Now we have this brilliance from “Open AI”, presumably at US government behest:

Chinese attempts to lure domestic developers away from OpenAI – considered the market leader in generative AI – will now be a lot easier, after OpenAI notified its users in China that they would be blocked from using its tools and services from 9 July.

“We are taking additional steps to block API traffic from regions where we do not support access to OpenAI’s services,” an OpenAI spokesperson told Bloomberg last month.

OpenAI has not elaborated about the reason for its sudden decision. ChatGPT is already blocked in China by the government’s firewall, but until this week developers could use virtual private networks to access OpenAI’s tools in order to fine-tune their own generative AI applications and benchmark their own research. Now the block is coming from the US side.

Generative AI isn’t like lithography machines. It takes vast amounts of data and a bunch of coders and scientists, and China has plenty of both. In fact, it’s limited mostly by access to data: social media, websites, books, art work and so on.

There’s no particular reason to think China can’t catch up and exceed in generative AI.

It’s interesting, though, that China’s government was already blocking Chat-GPT. Clear protectionism meant to help the internal market. China’s decoupling as much as America is.

My guess is that in five to ten years the most advanced generative AI will be in China. Just as Tesla was once the world leader in electric-vehicles, then Chinese companies ate its lunch (you can get a decent EV for 14K$ in China and at each price point the quality is better than Tesla), Chinese AI companies will out-perform Open AI.

It’s China’s world now. We just live in it.

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If You Believe Either Biden Or Trump Will Halt Decline You’re A Fool

There are those, even some smart people whom I otherwise respect, who think that Trump is a way to halt and reverse American decline.

This is delusional.

 

As for Biden, his claims to success are based on statistics that only a toddler or an economist would believe reflect reality, leaving aside the fact that he’s overseeing the loss of the US dollar as the primary trade currency, which will hurt the US worse than an Israeli shoving a red hot metal rod up a Palestinian civilian’s ass.

I’m on team tariff. I think they’re often a good thing. But tariffs alone cannot fix the US economy. America has too many economic pathologies. Without crushing the rich, dropping housing prices, making Private Equity illegal, forbidding share buybacks, ending stock options for executives, massive anti-trust enforcement and huge number of other policies, the US cannot take advantage of being hidden behind tariffs, especially when China is now producing more scientific and engineering advances than America.

People want hope. They need it. And they will find it, or what passes for it. We saw that with Obama, the ultimate neoliberal wannabe, who immunized bankers from their crimes and helped them steal millions of houses with fraudulent documents, then expanded fracking and bragged about, not just giving up the last chance to slow or stop climate change, but actually lighting gas on fire to speed it up.

Then Obama bragged about how much he had increased oil and gas production. Bragged.

No one is coming to save you if you are American, or, indeed Western. LePen will me a garbage fire. Starmer is one of the most mendacious neoliberal politicians of the past 50 years, an impressive feat.

If you want to do politics, you have to stop pretending that you can fix the major parties, and go third party. Yes, it’s a long shot, but it’s your only shot.

More realistically, national politics isn’t going to save your ass. You’re going to have to do it yourself, ideally with the help of other citizens. Perhaps thru a church, perhaps through a neighbourhood association, perhaps through a maker group: whatever, find a way to get like minded non-idiots together and support each other and start making the necessary changes so that you, your family and your friends have a better chance of getting thru the bad times.

It’s up to you. Climate change will not be stopped. My bet is that it is now into self-reinforcing growth. If it isn’t yet, it will be. The West’s hegemony is collapsing. As I have written repeatedly, Europe is going back to what it was for most of its history: a peripheral shithole on the edge of the Asian continent. The US is losing its empire and when it no longer had dollar privilege or a military that other countries are in terror of, Americans will find out the cost of sending their industrial base to China because if you can’t make it, other countries are going to demand a pound of flesh to send it to you.

Hell is coming and both Biden and Trump lead there, just by slightly different routes.

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Using Comparative & Absolute Advantage To Explain China’s Rise

Economists spend a lot of time talking about comparative advantage: France has just the right climate and land to make great wine, for example. In the Industrial Revolution England had good quality coal in just the right place. Germany has a lot of good industrial workers and craftsmen.

Most comparative advantage, however, is cost advantage. If it’s cheaper and you can produce it for less, it’s hard to compete against you.

Absolute advantage is different. Absolute advantage is when you are the only one who sells something other people want or need. For most of the 20th century if you wanted commercial airplanes you could only get them from the US or Europe or Canada (until Canada’s aviation industry was mostly destroyed in the 50s under threat from the President of the US.) Cars were available from the West and the USSR, then from Japan and Korea. Most advanced medicines were made only by the West, though India came on strong for a lot of generics towards the end of the century.

Absolute advantage is far superior to comparative advantage: you can charge much more.

This is the second article on the West’s situation via China. If you haven, read the first “You can’t run industrial policy or a war economy under neoliberalism.”

Absolute advantage can be created. The rise of England didn’t start with the Industrial Revolution, it started when England banned exports of wool to the Netherlands. Be clear, English weavers sucked in comparison, but it didn’t matter. England produced most of the wool, and if you wanted woolens, you had no choice but to buy them England, inferior thought they were at the start, or do without.

This sort of policy used to be fairly standard. When I was young Canada would not export raw logs or raw salmon, for example, but by the 80s we had begun to do so. African nations have recently started insisting on doing primary processing in country: refine the ore or hydrocarbons, tin the fish, and so on. It’s not the same as advanced manufacturing, but it captures more of the value. If you have a resource there is more demand than supply for, you can insist. Perhaps tinning or smoking fish in the US or Mexico saved ten cents a can, but so what, before fish farming there was never enough salmon.

The problem with absolute advantage, though, is it makes you lazy. When you’re competing on comparative advantage, you have to drive down costs or increase quality, or ideally both. People don’t have to buy your goods, so they have to be better or cheaper.

Now the problem is that for about two centuries the West has had absolute advantage. For most intents and purposes everything we made had absolute advantage outside the West. We had better weapons, machines, clothes, medicines, transport. Everything.

Japan was the first non-Western nation to catch up, but an island nation without significant resources, it couldn’t compete and was conquered and made into a satrapy. South Korea was given the same treatment, and allowed to industrialize, as was Taiwan.

I was a young adult when Japan roared in the 80s, but Japan was never a serious threat, simply because it didn’t have enough population. It was never going to unseat the US or Europe, only claim its place in the (still) Western system.

China is a different matter. The reason China is eating the West’s lunch is that it has overcome most of our absolute advantage and is now competing with us on comparative advantage: Chinese goods are cheaper and in some cases, like EVs, Chinese goods are better. This often isn’t a small difference: you can buy an EV in China for 14K, and it’s a decent car.

Further, China has a massive domestic market. Oh, incomes are still not as high in the West, but the population makes up for it, and Chinese industries mostly aren’t oligopolies or monopolies. In 2019 there were over 500 EV companies. As of 2023 there were still about a hundred. The competition was fierce. There is nothing like it in the west, where car companies are essentially an oligopoly, and don’t truly compete on either price or quality.

China moved up the technological chain. They actually practice competitive market capitalism much more than we do: their markets are closer to “free” than any western country’s. They have effective subsidies due to the exchange rate and direct government intervention, of course, but that’s not the key issue any more (though it was for a long time), it’s that they are genuinely better at manufacturing than we are, and more responsive to what buyers actually want.

Many nations in the West used to have competitive internal markets, with a myriad of companies competing, but under neoliberalism, and to be fair to a certain extent under Bretton Woods liberalism, they were replaced by oligopolies. The problem with real competition is that you might lose. Fake competition is far safer, and offers far better returns for the ownership and executive classes.

Until, of course, you run into companies which are used to real competition, and they eat your lunch and you scream to the government for tariffs and trade war.

Mind you tariffs aren’t a bad idea, but if they are to work, Western companies must actually become competitive again and they don’t want to do that, it’s too much like work. Nor, as I’ve noted before, is it easy for them to do. Internal rent in the West is very high, and thus so is the cost of living. If they’re involved in a trade war, they have to sell to their own citizens, but the only way they know to reduce prices is to crush wages and if they do that, well, the internal market isn’t what it needs to be. (This is what FDR and Keynes realized, which is why New Deal and post-war capitalism emphasized having wages rising faster than inflation. It created a robust market.)

Offshoring anything another country doesn’t already know how to make is stupid, because when you offshore the locals learn how to make what you offshore and eventually they make it themselves for themselves and compete with you. “Friendshoring” can’t work, it can only crate new competitors with lower costs.

The days of the West’s absolute advantage are over. We threw it away for a few decades of high profits funneled to elites, and now we must learn to compete on comparative advantage again, something we mostly don’t have and aren’t used to being necessary.

It’s the bed we made and we have to lie in.

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You Can’t Run Industrial Policy OR A War Economy Under Neoliberalism

Washington spent 7.5 billion dollars on charging stations. The result?

Seven stations.

China has subsidized charging station as well. I can’t find reliable figures, though one source says around 10 billion dollars. How many charging stations does China have? Over seven million, 2.2 million of which are public units. The US has 186,200.

Bottom line Chinese EVs sell for about eleven to twelve thousand dollars, though when sent to the West the companies charge multiples of that and take the profits, so if you want a cheap EV you’ll have to figure out how to buy in China and import it yourself, which most Western countries make very difficult.

What’s amusing is that the US is planning on a 100% tariff on Chinese EVs—but even so, they’d still be cheaper and sell at a profit for Chinese EV makers. (As a practical matter, it’s very hard to get Chinese EVs in America.)

A western journalist specializing in EVs went to China recently and drove their cars. The article is long and worth reading, but the summary is that they’re better cars on top of being far cheaper. And this is an American journalist who went in expecting otherwise.

So, let’s fish and cut bait: as the title said, you can’t run industrial policy or a war economy under neoliberalism. It’s impossible. Russia easily and massively increased its production of weapons and ammunition during the Ukrainian war. The West? Hardly at all.

Washington spends 7.5 billion for 7 charging stations. This isn’t just incompetence, this is corruption. Yes, China and Russia have corruption. Lots of it. It is nothing compared to American and European corruption, not even on the same scale. In China, especially, most corruption is “honest corruption” — you can take a slice, but you have to actually deliver. If X number of homes or charging stations are to be produced, you’ve got to produce them.

This is a feature of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is about unearned profits. This is seen most clearly in the stock market and in real estate. During the post-war period the stock market traded sideways. The indices basically didn’t go up at all. Under neoliberalism they went up inexorably. What is odd about this is that during the post-war period GDP growth was higher, so stock prices haven’t been rising since 1980 because of better economic performance, but rather because it’s government policy run mostly thru the Federal Reserve.

But this isn’t just true of housing and stock prices, it’s true of almost everything. Profit margins have soared during the neoliberal era. Our companies don’t compete on price or quality, they try to create oligpolies or monopolies so that they can charge more without having to provide significantly more value. The way they took advantage of Covid to raise prices far faster than their costs were rising is instructive.

Simply put, neoliberalism is about unearned money: about capital gains; PE plays where you buy a company with debt, load it with the debt and then dump it; monopolies and oligopolies and getting government to juice asset prices or pay you far more than you deserve for shoddy goods (see mil-industrial complex.)

There are, of course, partial exceptions, but even in those tend to be partial. Apple produced some real new products, but they also seek to receive monopoly prices for them. Almost all of the internet, built as a commons, has been turned into walled gardens and the small producers marginalized even as their product was stolen. AI is little more than an IP theft machine against small producers—writers and artists.

But let’s move back to “can’t run industrial policy.” Neoliberalism was very explicitly against tariffs and for free capital flows. Money flowed to the highest returns, no matter from which country. Capital goods and expertise were exported. China until very recently was a low-cost producer, so the West engaged in labor arbitrage and sent the manufacturing floor there. Take Apple, for example. They designed the iPhones and iPads and so on, but they were almost entirely produced in China, because it was cheaper.

Problems is that the best way for engineers to learn is on the manufacturing floor. So as the West sent most of its manufacturing to China, the Chinese learned. After all, they were the ones actually making the goods.

And now Huawei’s phones are out-competing Apple and Samsung. They’ve created their own OS. Their chips aren’t quite as good yet, but they’re moving fast.

As I’ve said repeatedly, wherever the world’s manufacturing floor is, is where innovation will inevitably move. There is a delay. It was about forty years when America overtook the UK. In the China/US case it seems to have been about twenty years. Which is to say, it’s already happened.

Now it’s important to note that this is no longer just about the manufacturing floor. The West’s costs are genuinely higher than China’s even now that China is no longer a low-cost labor market.  This is a feature of neoliberalism: we deliberately produced high housing and rent costs. In America, high health care costs are a deliberate matter of government policy. High living and real-estate costs mean American firms couldn’t compete with Chinese even if they wanted to and still had the capability, not even with subsidies, of which there are far more than people believe.

For about six years, I’ve heard constant complaints from Chinese that it was no longer possible to buy a home. Their housing market, like ours, was being bought up by investors, pricing out young people.

What was the Chinese response? They crashed their housing market and the government has stepped in. (From the Economist. Since it’s behind a paywall, I’m using a tweet with a screenshot):

We can’t compete with this. It’s impossible. Not because it’s impossible in theory, but because we don’t believe in doing such things and to pursue such policies we would have to hurt rich people, a lot, and they own Congress and the Presidency and our politicians in other countries.

China has repeatedly shown that if a policy is good for the majority, but hurts the rich, they’ll do it anyway. We’ve repeatedly shown the opposite.

And you can’t run industrial policy or a war economy if you want fake profits based on not actually producing good new goods at cheap prices. It can’t be done. If an entire society is based around “give me money for the least possible effort”, you’re cooked

China’s government, while not without serious flaws, works, and ours doesn’t, and that’s because China has refused to let private interests take over the government.

China is a capitalist country, there is no question about it. But the sort of capitalism they practice is the type we practiced in the 50s and 60s. You can get rich, but you have to actually produce and incomes are expected to rise faster than the cost of goods. Ordinary people’s lives are expected to get better. So much so that one Chinese I know said that many of the problems of China were essentially those of a paperclip optimizer which was intended to reduce poverty.

The West is toast. We can’t compete. It’s that simple. To compete we will have to change significantly, and while putting up tariffs isn’t actually a bad idea, it’s not enough alone. Without changing our fundamental governing and economic policies and ideology so that to get rich and stay rich you have to actually make good cheap new products in a way that improves the majority’s lives, we will never be able to compete.

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America Flails, Resorting To Ineffective Sanctions Over and Over

This has been a theme, but let’s keep nailing it shut.

My favorite recent news was this beauty:

Russia would struggle to sustain its assault on Ukraine without China’s support, Blinken said. “If China does not address this problem, we will,” he added, in a possible reference to sanctions against Chinese businesses involved in the trade with Russia.

China wants Russia to win, or at least not lose the war and needs Russia as a secure ally so that it can’t be encircled or blockaded. Russia has the food, minerals and fuel that China needs, and naval power can’t embargo supplies.

As for the effect of sanctions, well, what’s the line? “Don’t threaten me with a good time?” The effect of sanctions on China has been to make China stronger in almost every way.

Back in 2015 Xi decided on a ten year plan “made in China 2025.” The US hated it and sanctioned large chunks.

The results?

the analysis confirms that more than 86 per cent of these goals have been achieved, with some others likely to be completed later this year or next. Meanwhile some of the targets, such as electric vehicles (EV) and renewable energy production, have been well surpassed.

We all know that the Huawei and anti-chip sanctions have backfired completely. China now owns the legacy chip market and is making rapid progress in advanced chips. It created its own OS, bypassing Google, and has put out phones as advanced as those made by US and South Korean companies. The iPhone market share in China, one of its most important markets, is cratering.

Chinese EVs are crushing: they cost far less than Western ones (though when sold in Europe, they are marked up hundreds of percent) and the car market in China is now dominated by Chinese vehicles, where in 2015 foreign autos were preferred.

As for Blinken’s threats, the Chinese ignored them, and the US did, indeed, sanction.

Boo hoo.

Meanwhile, China has been selling Treasuries at a record clip.

China has decreased its Treasuries holdings from $849 billion to $775 billion between the beginning of Q2 2023 and Q2 2024, reaching its lowest holdings since 2009.

Can you say “reduction of exposure?” Sure you can.

At the same time, a number of African countries have removed their gold stockpiles from America. It seems that stealing Russia’s reserves for geopolitical reasons has consequences.

The largest economies in Africa and the Middle East are withdrawing their gold reserves from the United States.
Starting in 2024, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Algeria and Saudi Arabia have decided to withdraw their gold reserves from the United States.
It should be noted that South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria are the largest economies in Africa.

Huh.

Let’s circle back to the “sanction China for trading with Russia” imbroglio. Russian foreign minister Lavrov had something to say about that:

“Russian-Chinese trade and economic cooperation are actively developing, despite the persistent attempts of the states of the collective West to put a spoke in the wheels,” Lavrov said. “There has been an almost complete de-dollarization of bilateral economic relations. Today, more than 90% of mutual payments have been transferred to national currency,” he added.

“Interaction in the energy sector is steadily advancing. The supply of our agricultural products to the Chinese market is growing. Joint projects are being implemented in the investment and industrial areas. The mutual benefit from such cooperation is clearly felt on both sides of the Russian-Chinese border,” Lavrov concluded.

Are sanctions working outside of China/Russia? Not in the near region. Lavrov again:

Despite the threats that our partners have received from the US and the European Union not to cooperate with the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus under pain of so-called secondary sanctions and other penalties, trade flows across the CIS are growing. [Trade] edged up by more than six percent last year, amounting to over $100 billion.”

Now let’s talk more generally. Every sanction is an imposition of geopolitical risk. Everyone in the world understand this: cross the US or Europe, in any way, and they will sanction you. If you use the US/European financial system, these sanctions can hurt. The way out is to move away from that system—to create another one, where transfers never touch the US or Europe.

So every sanction increase the incentives to create that system and move to it. Parts are already created, more will be and in the end there will be two major financial networks: one Western, one for the rest of the world. The effect on Western prosperity will be significant, though there will be advantages to Westerners not in the elite, as it will crush rent extraction by financial elites. (Though no doubt they’ll simple double down on domestic rent extraction.)

We are living thru the end of the Euro-American era. The end of centuries of dominance. It’s fascinating, but the consequences will be vast. Understand that it’s happening.

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How To Know When The US Deficit Is Actually A Problem

There’s been a lot of hysteria over the ballooning US deficit lately. Is it worth worrying about? Let’s learn how you can tell for yourself, rather than relying on others to tell you.

This is the sort of chart which is going around:

Scary, eh?

So, here’s the debt long term, as a percentage of GDP:

Still pretty scary. US debt it is running higher than WWII debt.

In the short run, most of this is caused by interest payments:

So, what changed? Prime.

If you take a look at these charts you’ll see the rise in rate of increase is mostly due to interest.

Now, when governments who can print money default, it is because people don’t want their money, or the money can’t buy what what they need. US debt is entirely in US dollars. Treasury can mint as many bonds as it likes, and the Federal Reserve can buy them. It is impossible for the US federal government to run out of money, per se.

Rule: Debt is a problem for a government with the power of the printing press when money can’t buy what is needed.

Regular readers will know I am fond of Keynes maxim: “Anything we can do, we can afford.”

The corollary is “Anything we can’t do, we can’t afford.”

It doesn’t matter how much money you have. You can’t build a nuclear bomb in 1900. You can’t build a nuclear bomb if you are Nicaragua. For ages no one but the US and Europe could, effectively, build commercial airliners. You can’t buy what you can’t produce.

In 1945 the US debt did not matter. The US was half the world’s economy, and everything it needed to produce, including oil, it produced itself. It also had the power of taxation: the top marginal rate was 94%.

Rule 2: Money can’t buy what you need when you can’t produce it and those who can produce it won’t sell it to you.

Right now the US cannot produce much of what it needs. It does have a food surplus and can survive on its own domestic food production and it has a surplus of petrochemicals BUT much of the goods it genuinely needs, like basic electronics and production equipment are no longer made in America.

Let’s look at three charts. First the trade deficit in goods and services:

Now, let’s look at the trade balance in services:

So, the US has a trade surplus in services. Crap like intellectual property and management consulting. Stuff people can do without if they must or can ignore if they choose.

Now, trade balance in goods:

The trade balance in goods is what the US doesn’t make itself that it wants or needs. Some of it is crap: you don’t need summer vegetables in the winter. Nice to have, but not needed. But a lot of it is important: those basic electronic and mechanical goods, including production goods which the US no longer makes and in many cases no longer knows how to make.

The overall trade balance doesn’t look so bad, but it is made to look way better than it is by the US trade surplus in services, which are far less important than goods.

When the US can’t make or buy what it needs using US dollars the deficit matters.

That means the key point is when other countries stop taking US dollars as default. When the dollar is no longer the medium of trade. Right now almost everything can be bought in dollars, which the US can print. If and when that changes, the US is up shit creek without a paddle.

But there is another set of issues: domestic ability to pay.

Specifically, when you can’t pay the enforcer class. Cops and military and judges and prosecutors and prison guards and all that security crap.

America is a vastly unequal society, seething with latent unrest. If the people who protect the status quo won’t fire, then the government and the peace is at great risk. We say this during the January 6th insurrection: most of the capital cops were not willing to fire. This was an ideological issue: they were sympathetic to right wing protesters, just as cops tend to protect Nazis and beat down socialists and blacks.

But it can also become a financial issue. You can print as much as you want, but if people can’t buy what they need with it, it’s worthless. See Weimar Germany hyper-inflation. Or you can refuse to pay, because part of the ruling coalition wants too much of the money and won’t give it to others. Most of the policing in the country is local: it is financed by states and municipalities which do not have the power of the printing press and which do not have a great deal of effective taxation ability: people and business can leave the state or the municipality, in addition to the normal elite capture rule.

When the Bolsheviks took over Russia, most of the enforcer class was not being paid, or couldn’t buy what they needed with the money they were being paid. So when push came to shove, they didn’t fight for the government, and many (especially the navy), switched sides.

Likewise, as Lenin observed, ordinary people are genuinely willing to violently revolt when the risk of doing so is less than the risk of not doing so.

The key question, then, is inflation. Unfortunately, in the US and the West in general, actual inflation is impossible to tell thru official stats. You have to judge buy your own grocery bill; your own fuel bill and your own expenses, and those of people you know. Do you and others have excess money to spend?

Inflation spikes when there isn’t enough to go around. It’s that simple. If a country can’t produce what it needs or wants, and others start raising their prices or refusing to sell, inflation becomes a problem.

Even without inflation, decreasing surplus income is a problem. This is why inequality matters: if a large chunk of the population can’t buy what they need, well, Lenin’s maxim comes into play.

China is at risk of deflation (not significant risk, yet, but that’s their danger.) The US and Europe and the Anglosphere are at risk of inflation.

That inflation will happen when others won’t or can’t sell us what we need and we can’t make it or grow it or mine it.

It is at that point where the US deficit will matter.

If you want to know when the US deficit will matter, it’s simple: when China and other countries stop using dollars as the default trade currency. That process is early yet, but underway. It used to be unthinkable to sell oil in anything but dollars: did not happen. Now it does. China and Russia, China and India, and Iran and everyone now trade without dollars. African countries are in the midst of throwing out French and American military bases and do the majority of their trade with China, not America or Europe. They are increasingly trading with Russia, as well, and relying on it for military aid.

Everything those countries need except for some medicine they can get from Russia and China: food, goods, and fuel. China gives them better debt terms and doesn’t interfere in most countries internal politics nearly as much as America does.

This is the actual threat: the West not being able produce what it needs and other countries no longer willing to accept dollars. Track this by watching actual inflation, and observing the process of global de-dollarization.

The deficit and the debt don’t matter much, yet.

But they will.

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Why China Is Wise Not To Sanction The West

The West has sanctioned China repeatedly, most notably in chip production technologies, but not just in those.

It has backfired, with China quickly building its own chip manufacturing capacity, though they still have a ways to go to entirely catch up. Huawei has also created their own phone OS, cutting the Google/Apple duopoly, and Apple sales are crashing, while the government is telling all government departments not to use Intel or AMD chips.

But China has largely not replied with its own sanctions. The reason is obvious: as long as they don’t, the US remains dependent on China for a vast swathe of goods. The reason chips were sanctioned is that it was one of the only areas where the West was ahead of China (the others are biotech and arguably aviation, though given Boeing’s problems, that’s an arguably.)

If China sanctioned the West, the West would have to re-shore a vast swathe of manufacturing: if not back to Europe and the US, at least to reliable allies. It would become stronger, as Russia did under sanctions.

It would also be in a far better position to wage war. Right now, in a US/China war, the US would be swiftly be crippled by its need for manufactured goods it can only get from China.

To put it simply, the US is far more dependent on China than vice-versa, and China wants to keep it that way.

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