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

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to this week’s posts.


Understanding Absolute Vs. Comparative Advantage & Why It Matters


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 11, 2022


  1. someofparts

    Did anyone else see this? Looks like starvation is being engineered in Western Europe. Apparently Sri Lanka was the test case. Monsters rule us now. The more I learn about their plans for us, the more sickened I get.

  2. someofparts

    Well, somebody finally explained why the PMC have become so hive-minded and intolerant of dissent.

    “Attempts to address the 2020 Hunter Biden laptop story censorship shenanigans will never gain sufficient traction, because the entire liberal political/media class believes any and all actions to hurt Trump’s re-election odds were justified. They would have supported a lot worse.  …

    The Hunter Biden laptop story will therefore never move from a partisan talking point into a nonpartisan discussion about political censorship and journalistic ethics. It is firmly locked in to the former category. They all universally believe that they did the right thing. Where the moral imperative to defeat Trump is viewed as superseding any other possible concern, nobody who does not share that view will have any inroad to talk about those other concerns. They will always be dismissed by those who viewed helping to defeat Trump as a sacred duty. It’s an intractable quasi-religious belief based on their own certainty of the superiority of their worldview.”

  3. bruce wilder

    The reporting on the Twitter Files in liberal media follows a familiar pattern. Vox says we lack crucial context and quibbles over what constitutes “true shadow banning” (using an extreme definition invented for self-serving documentation by Twitter). New York magazine tells us “the Twitter Files are best understood as an egregious example of the very phenomenon it purports to condemn — that of social-media managers leveraging their platforms for partisan ends.”

  4. NL

    According to the federal labor statisticians, the US is now missing 3-5 million workers from the labor market. There is also this long running idea that slavery evolves when labor is scarce. Putting the two together, one may wonder these days what would the labor shortage do to the labor policy in the US. For a bit, it seemed that a labor union revival was in the works. Of course, the railroad union strike legislature signals that there will be no such a thing and that the shareholders have recovered confidence and are ready to apply enforcement to the labor. One way to replenish the missing workforce is to unleash immigration. The foreign born population increased by almost 3million between Jan 2021 and now — the largest growth in the immigrant population in the recent decades. But these people have come mostly from Mexico and are unskilled. Given the visibly declining life quality in the US and visibly rising life quality in some of the ‘traditional’ sources of skilled migration (and the other policies in relation to e.g., ethnic Chinese, who are now may be seen as potential industrial spies) — i.e., China and even India, what happens if we don’t replenish the skilled labor pool (which is admittedly not as depleted as the unskilled labor pool, partly because the technocrats are still allowed to work from home and are less likely to listen to the normalcy-by-denial policies, partly because they are in the kitchen and know how the ‘sausage is made’)?

    Two reasons why relatively able-bodied (those who are still relatively healthy) individuals are out of the work force: one, (early) retirement and two, sufficient savings/income from fewer workers in the family. What would prevent the economic rulers to pass legislature to extend the retirement age and/or to obligate both women and men (and the remaining genders) between the ages 25-retiment (i.e., 65 or whatever the new age it would be) to work? This would be justified in the same way as the railroad strike legislature was justified — i.e., as an economic necessity. My guess is that such a legislature is not happening ‘tomorrow’ — the more traditional levers of control are being pulled right now (i,e., jacking up interest rates to diminish the need for labor and enabling the IRS to go after the small $600 transactions to take more money from the hands of labor). Inflation and taxes will make it so that everyone in the family has to work and the excess of labor will make it so that the workers will accept any remuneration.

    But I am sensing that some in the very very high economic sphere are beginning to realize that the traditional levers of control may not work in the present situation. For one, reducing the need for labor while the ongoing pandemic is reducing the labor supply is the road of shrinking economy that can’t support the growing pool of the lords. Furthermore, some of the lords seem intent on establishing industry in the US via ‘friend-shoring’, i.e., taking it away from the colonies — where would the workers come for that? Fantasies about importing the semiconductor technology together with the workers from Taiwan and Korea are just that fantasies (unless of course we manage to get those workers in bonded servitude). Furthermore, the anti-inflationary policies may send the economy into a deflationary spiral, which was what the money spigot from the FED at the onset of the pandemic was supposed to prevent. A 5% ‘natural’ unemployment rate is something that we could not afford in the future. For the above reasons, the traditional regulation via the cost of capital may be just ineffective and counter-productive and the labor will need to be managed directly through new work rules and requirements.

    Some strive for sharp definition of slavery. But there is really no darkness or light, there are really only infinite shades of gray. Right now, we have at will employment, which means among other things that workers can quit any time. (The new legislature would bar workers from quitting and obligate them to work.

  5. NL

    “When did it become an inalienable human right to have a shower every day? …
    So here’s a thought. Why don’t we simply shower every other day? Firstly, it gives you eight valuable minutes back… Secondly, think of the cut in carbon emissions… And is all this showering even necessary? Almost certainly not… As well as saving gas or electricity… All we have to do is drop our relatively recently adopted daily fixation with a shower… We need to break this pointless and wasteful aqueous obsession… Think of the money. That, my friends, is what the sweet smell of success is all about.”

    This is not from The Onion. Guess where this is from. Chimes well with my thesis above that the West will hardly be the attraction for work and life as it has used to be. @Astrid is of course correct that the life quality has been on the decline, and it will continue to decline.

  6. StewartM

    Interesting article on Quora on youth delinquency and “hooliganism” in Ireland, the result of “but are just aimless disaffected kids living in a world in which they have no stake…”

  7. StewartM


    The “Hunter Biden laptop story” is deservedly thrown into the news trash dump, because anyone who has actually looked into it (and I have) realizes there is no there there. At the very most, the three waterlogged Apple Macbooks supposedly turned in by a “Hunter Biden” at a small computer repair store in Delaware (who apparently flew the length of the US to do this, as the real Hunter Biden lives in LA) are just a cover story for stolen emails, probably hacked from his online email accounts (which is a crime, mind you). The genuine emails are most likely mixed with a heapin’ of hokum fake stuff to give the hokum plausibility. Moreover, even these (stored as pdf files) have dates showing that the files were created months AFTER the laptops were supposedly dropped off at the store.

    It doesn’t take much critical thinking or healthy skepticism to conclude that this is a computer equivalent of a James O’Keefe -type “story”.

    And what the hell any of this has to do with the plight of the global south (the topic of the post) is beyond me. Sure, the fake laptop story doesn’t have the traction of Benghazi or Monica, two other news stories the author compares it too, but to me that’s a good thing, because those two stories shouldn’t gotten the news traction they got either. Can’t we agree that bogus BS stories that have little basis in reality, that only serve to distract from the looting of both the global south but now of all the non-elites in the global developed world as well, shouldn’t get news air time? Isn’t that a small victory of sorts?

  8. mugu

    Nihilism quickens
    service slackens
    social fabric ripped
    nobody gives a damn
    or consciously notices
    reaction is all we’ve got
    dualism is doubt
    endlessly playing
    soon it will be Christmas Day

  9. bruce wilder

    @ StewartM


    you do have a vivid imagination filling the vacuum left behind by disinformation

    also a deeply corrupt, increasingly senile President and a proxy war against a nuclear power, but I am sure there’s nothing to see here

  10. someofparts

    Stewart M – Interesting points. Could you throw up some links to your sources? If they effectively debunk the Biden laptop story as you describe, I may want to follow their work.

    And if you wondered what the title of Johnstone’s post had to do with the quote I posted, why didn’t you just click on the link I provided to find out?

    I’ve watched the whole right-wing media propaganda system arise since Reagan cleared the way for them, and I understand exactly what a peddler of lies O’Keefe is.

    The point Johnstone was making is that liberals are using Trump as an excuse to censor and manipulate public information as badly as the Republicans have for so long. Was Russia’s attack on Ukraine unprovoked? Did Russian hackers cost Hillary the election? By way of personal opinion, I would suggest that Democrats insisting on their sacred anti-Trump duty to lie as expansively as Republicans is the best way I can think of to achieve a DeSantis presidency.

    And on a completely different topic, the reason I came back here was to suggest that while I’m glad Taibbi got picked to handle part of the Twitter scoop, if Musk really wanted to hand the rest of the story to a right-wing reporter for balance, I wish he had picked an honest conservative like Saagar Engetti instead of a hack like Bari Weiss. I am sorry to see that getting this scoop from Musk has revived her career, which had been headed toward a much-deserved visit to the dumpster.

  11. Trinity

    SOP, I share your pain and disgust. In case anyone missed it, Michael Hudson continues to thankfully produce: he says “it can’t be done”, at least over the long term. It’s what’s being lost that concerns me, and no doubt that is exactly what concerns them, too. They want to trash bin important knowledge.

    “Looking at the turn of the 20th century, you see the different roads that could have been taken, and you realize that there were many alternatives and that there’s nothing natural in the way that today’s economy is structured.

    Economists say this is the result of Darwinian struggle for existence, and that’s what the free market is, and there is no alternative as Thatcher said. But there were plenty of alternatives back in the 1890s, when the world seemed to be moving towards socialism of one form or another, especially the Marxian socialism dominated by the wage-earning class which was going to be democratic socialism.

    Instead we have oligarchic socialism in the U.S. and oligarchic state capitalism really isn’t state capitalism. Think of America’s policy as state neo-feudalism, because the purpose of the state is to protect the rents of finance, real-estate, oil, mining, and natural resources. The idea of the Biden Administration — really of both the Republican and Democratic Parties — is that since America has moved its industry and manufacturing to Asia in order to lower the wages here, how can Americans continue to get high-living standards, if it doesn’t produce raw materials or manufacturers? How can it be a post-industrial society, getting rich on economic rents and interest on and profits paid by foreign countries? How can America get rich by being a parasite? That was a problem that the Roman Empire had, and we know what happened to the Roman Empire. It was a problem that the British Empire had, and we know what happened to that: it can’t be done.”

  12. NL

    While a majority of the American public has been transfixed by something called the Biden lap-dance or laptop – who cares – story, the world geopolitics and the internal political economy of the US are progressing at a mind-blowing speed. Some time ago, I posed that China, Iran and North Korea will fight the US and the West to the last Russian. This has come to pass to a large extent — most visibly Iran is providing Russia with military drones and ballistic missiles — less visibly China is managing economic and in particular oil and gas sanctions toward ensuring a zero effect on the Russian economy. Behind the scenes activity is intense and now involves most of the world. But there is a new member in the fight-to-the-last-Russian group and that is Germany… well it is not quite to-the-last-Russia — it is more like to-the-last-American.

    Everyone’s — I am exaggerating here — most in our commenter class still believe in Santa Claus, tooth fairy and the two-party system, etc — took a note of the Angela Merkel’s comment that Minsk II was just a Western ruse to buy time to arm Ukraine. Putin said in response that he was hurt by the new revelation, the Serbian president said he will never trust the West. Question then is why did Merkel make the comment and why was it made now? Answer — the comment was made right after the US made an opening negotiation concession — i.e., Crimea is Russia (see the Blinken comment ” to take back territory that’s been seized from it since February 24th”) and to forestall any possibility of the negotiated resolution of the war in Ukraine! The implication of the Merkle comment is that any negotiated ceasefire will be used by the West to arm Ukraine even more. Why would Merkle want this? Well, what if she is contemplating a kind of modified triangulation strategy to the one in WWII? In WWII, the Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and in the process destroyed Germany and Europe and opened the door to the rise of America as the sole hegemon (a simplified summary). The Merkel play may be to provoke further hostilities between the US and the Russia bloc (Iran, China, North Korea and &) in which the US is destroyed and the Russia bloc is weakened and thus open the space for German and European ascent..

    Which is not good for us. Without Russian gas and oil, Germany and Europe can hardly maintain any industry, much less sustain military production to arm Ukraine. So, as a military factor, Germany and Europe is out, it is already suffering and it may be worth to suffer some more if in the end the prize is a space to escape American dependence. Adverse events are also taking place elsewhere — do you know that our client party in Taiwan suffered huge losses in the recent regional election? — So, much for scaring the Taiwanese into voting for our stogies by poking China (see Pelosi Taiwan visit). We will see if this continues in two years. But the recent revelations that we plan to ‘evacuate’ the Taiwanese semiconductor industry together with the ethnic Chinese engineers, so China would not get it does not help us. Taiwanese may not be willing to die as the Ukrainians. After the assassination of Abe and the attack on the secret church/cult that he was a member and that has controlled the Japanese politics, Japan is all of a sudden not as anti-Chinese.

    Now, all heads are turning to us, the US. And – my dear office dwellers — if you read wsj or bloomberg or anything recently — we have a problem with military supplies — we don’t produce enough of it to arm Ukraine, forget Taiwan and the rest. There is a discussion about transitioning to a ‘military economy’. Do you know what that means? That means that your make-believe job in data analysis, compliance, HR, marketing, RE, etc, etc is be terminated and you may be asked to roll up your sleeves and start producing some tanks, artillery, etc. This may also take place in the context of coercive employment and higher taxes and lower pay…

  13. Trinity

    SOP, I’m sorry but Monbiot shares a different side than the article in The Gray Zone. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but closer to Monbiot, imho.

    There is a nitrogen crisis in Northern Europe, it appears. They ignored it far too long.

  14. Willy

    Even if Biden has grown contrite and morally pure in his mellowing senility, he now gets to operate under the massive shadow of Trump’s own corruption. “Uhhh… Yes I know but at least I’m not Trump. Heh.” Nixon should’ve had it so good. Maybe there’s a term for “the degree to which elites can get away with shit which the rabble cannot”.

    Even better, there’d also be a quasi-objective “scale of corruption” used to determine the degree. I use the PCL-R in my own life to determine who it is I want to associate with. I’m no pathology expert but it sure does help me in my own personal quest to play it safer and not get screwed yet again by somebody hard-wired to screw.

    Speaking of terms the layman can use, I think “rent-seeking” kinda sucks. It could be a bit more descriptive and easier for common folk to understand.

  15. Chuck Mire

    Socialism, which you have been told to fear all your life, is responsible for all this…

    How many of these examples would you be willing to give up?

    75 Ways Socialism Has Improved America:

  16. someofparts

    Trinity – Thanks for that link. Monbiot does great work.

    Sounds like the problem with nitrogen in fertilizers is a hot mess. If we keep using it we escalate pollution to dangerous levels. If we don’t use it, massive numbers of people will starve.

  17. Astrid


    I do recommend following some of this excellent series from Aaron Good and Ben Norton (formerly of The Gray Zone).

    “They” were always out to control, rob, starve, and if necessary torture us to death, to maintain their control. And not in an adhoc manner but through systematic and calculated cruelty. To understand that is helping me feel more empowered. The left and the global South didn’t fail on its own, calculated and extraordinary evil forces were unleashed to murder hope. If hope still persists, again and again, then perhaps a better worked is possible once the Anglo imperialists are swept away.

    I admit that I’ve become weary of Max Blumenthal’s antics in the past year. He has gone from documenting bipartisan and democrat crimes to amplifying MAGA half truths. It’s particularly difficult for me to forgive him for minimizing the continued harm of COVID (it’s one thing to compared the harm of lockdown and government surveillance to harm of COVID, another to call it just the flu when it’s definitely something different and more dangerous). TGZ USA (Kit Klarenberg of the UK branch seems much better) still a valuable source outside of the Western imperialist bubble, but I’m really not sure what Blumenthal and Jimmy Dore are up to these days. Maybe they have Biden derangement syndrome.

  18. Willy

    @Chuck Mire, a good list.

    I’ll focus on #65. The Department of Energy and the National Ignition Facility and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where they’re saying that yet another corner in the fusion origami puzzle has been folded, turned, or whatever after 60 long years.

    A libertarian might argue that a privatized Elon, with his merry band of paranoid handlers, would’ve gotten here long ago provided they’d gotten the right amount of subsidies (shhh about that last part).

    I’m hoping that after success, the gubmint would keep the technologies they invented and build power plants and challenge private industry to compete better. I’m curious how the oil oligarchs would handle a completed fusion origami project. Will they lobby to capture access to the technologies and then Xfinity/Comcast the billing hell out of it, adding commercials and dropping channels as they go? Will they astroturf a scandal where “mystery radiation makes people woke and Bidens laptop sentient in an antifa sorta way”?

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