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

The Canadian Economy Under US Hegemony and Neoliberalism

Canada’s economy is substantially resource based: minerals, wood, agriculture, and, before the collapse, fish. (The Maritimes were originally colonized largely to harvest trees for masts, which Britain had run out of at home.)

Resource economies are boom and bust economies; resource prices are cyclical, and sometimes resources get replaced. Brazil had a huge rubber plantation industry at one point, before chemists figured out how to make synthetic rubber.

Resource economies tend towards corruption because the profits are so high during good times, and they tend to not develop industry for the same reason, but also because the currency rate tends to be too high to  allow exports of manufactured goods during boom periods — so any industry gets destroyed during the boom.

For about a hundred years, Canada had a simple solution to these problems. We had a manufacturing sector, and during boom resource times, when the Canadian dollar’s strength made manufactured goods too expensive, we just subsidized the manufacturing and slapped on tariffs.

This was a fair deal, because when resource prices went bust and the dollar went low, manufacturing would boom and the taxes from that would be used to support people who worked in resource extraction.

Combined with some simple industrial policy along the lines of “don’t export raw logs or raw fish,” this created a nicely self-balancing economy, and it did so from about 1880 until the 1980s.

Neoliberalism and idiotic trade deals like NAFTA and the WTO put paid to that. It became very difficult to subsidize industries or to insist that processing be done in Canada; we started shipping raw logs and fish to the US, and we stopped subsidizing manufacturing during resource booms, so Canadian manufacturing got gutted.

This was, well, stupid, and a lot of blame is on Canada, Canadians, and the Canadian system, though, to be fair, most Canadians voted for parties opposed to the Free Trade Agreement (which later became NAFTA), but because of vote splitting in a third-party first past the post system, it went through anyway.

But it’s also because the US is, well, powerful. Canada’s economy is a little smaller than California’s, and Canada is a satrapy. Back in the 50s, Canada had a world-leading aviation industry and created the best fighter jet in the world: the Avro Arrow. The US government put on the pressure, and Avro (the company) was put out of business. The prototypes were sunk in a lake.

The threat was that if Canada didn’t give up its aviation industry, the US would take away auto manufacturing, and that was a much larger industry.

If the US wants Canada to do something, Canada generally does it. There have been exceptions, especially under Pierre Trudeau in the 70s, and in the early 2000s Prime Minister Chretien did refuse to invade Iraq, but they are exceptions.

Anyway, Canada’s economy is now much more fragile than it used to be, because it’s much more integrated into the world economy and much less able to adjust cyclically or insist on keeping a significant manufacturing sector.

This isn’t unique, or anything. It’s the shape of the world economy overall, where countries, especially under neoliberalism, mostly aren’t allowed to have an independent economic policy. Canada was never autarchic; we were always a trading state, but we were able to more or less run our own affairs and insist that resources mined, chopped, or fished here be at least primarily processed here.

Nations which do not make what they need are at the mercy of those who do. The US got around this by maintaining control of making, growing, and digging things without keeping them in the US, until they made the mistake of letting China industrialize.

That has lead to the rise of China/US tensions, and a realization that neoliberalism is a two-edged sword.

More on that later. In the meantime, the reason most of the world’s nations are poor and have to do what the US wants when push comes to shove, is exactly because they were not, and are not, allowed separate industrial and economic policies.

Canada, the near neighbour and satrapy, actually still has a pretty good deal, better, in fact, than is given to American peasants.

But all of that will be changing over the next couple decades.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 18, 2021


The Decision to Let Covid Go Chronic


  1. Plague Species

    The wealthy elite are the wealthy elite first before all else. That is their first and most important loyalty. To their fellow wealthy elite, citizenship be damned. The wealthy elite are a confederation of tribes, with each nation being its own distinct tribe. Some of those tribes have more say than others, so when push comes to shove and the majority of tribes agree a certain tribe’s economy must behave a certain way, the wealthy elite’s tribe that is the target must comply and most of the time they do and if they don’t, well, Syria. Or Haiti. And many more examples.

  2. Astrid

    Letting China industrialize wasn’t the mistake. Thinking they could control China was the mistake.

    The US PTB intentionally deindustrialized the US to destroy the US labor movement and depower the US people (who might get in the way of buying off US politicians and getting into foreign wars for no good reason). The outsourcing profits were nice but I think destruction of a resilient left or popularists opposition to the US oligarchy was always the main goal. They also moved work to Mexico, SE Asia, and Eastern Europe, but for a very long time the Chinese were the limitless source of the cheapest, well educated, disciplined workers within a stable political/economic framework.

    It only became a problem to the US PTB in the last 10-15 years, when it was clear that China intended to compete on its own terms in the global merchantile system and wasn’t going to crash and burn on schedule as has been predicted so many times since the late 90s.

  3. Willy

    The current Chinese PTB are a goal directed and nationalistic bunch who are competent problem solvers at reaching their nationalistic goals. They learned much about what works, for them, from the USA New Deal anti-Soviet era. Maybe their cultural heritage will allow this to continue. Maybe it wont. I don’t think it will because personal experience has taught me to believe in the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

    Meanwhile in the increasingly dysfunctional oligarchic USA, the profiting off of treatments for symptoms shall continue, until producing a cure becomes more lucrative.

    It’s a shame Canada can’t be more independently self-directed.

  4. Feral Finster

    Forgive the question, but what exactly will be changing over the next decades? Canada’s satrapy status or the deal that Canadian peasants get?

  5. Synoptocon

    It’s worth considering what has happened with the relative productivity of manufacturing – per capita GDP from manufacturing has gone up significantly while primary industry excluding oil & gas (which, I think will be pretty volatile) has been pretty flat.

    Re. the Arrow, I think you must be thinking of the scale aerodynamic models launched into Lake Ontario on Nike boosters. The cut up airframe chunks were supposedly sold to a Hamilton scrapper, other than the cockpit section of 206 (and whatever might have ended up in garages) obvs.

  6. Astrid


    Look south or to Ole Blighty. You’re future is posted and a tracking number has been issued, it’ll be on your front door within X time.

  7. different clue

    I don’t know if this will make the peasant-majority in Canada feel any better, but the American majority is also peasants. And the American majority kept voting for the party which sold itself as against Forcey Free-Trade, which was the Democratic Party. The Democratic-House-Member voting majority ( and the voters for Clinton) did not expect the Clinton Double-Cross on supporting Forcey Free-Trade.

    When Clinton successfully brought America under IFTC ( International Free Trade Conspiracy) rule, he destroyed the Democratic Majority in the House, and turned the House into a Majority Republican place. Which was just fine with Clinton, because in return for that, he ( and the Hillarrhoid) received at least a hundred million dollars and counting in gratitude money from the IFTC-beneficiary class.

    One would need an overtly Protectionist party for people to be able to vote for Protectionism. Whether such a party could survive and conquer on just that one issue alone in unknowable to me.

    I think the American upper classes got what they wanted from the bringing of China into the IFTC system. They got the extermination of industry in America in order to exterminate the unions, which was a major goal. They also made, and make, personal social-class money by working the differential-costs-arbitrage-rackets between America and China/Mexico/Bangladesh/etc. as they ride America all the way down to becoming One Big Haiti.

    The next target is EUrope. The plan is to turn EUrope into One Big Haiti #2. The EUropean rulers who plan to do this imagine they personally will get to live in some of the privileged Petionvilles which will survive in EUrope.

    The next target after that would be China. As even lower-standards/ lower-prices areas are opened up, the goal would be to move industry from China to the even-cheaper places and work the arbitrage rackets all the way down till China becomes re-de-industrialized. The money would flow away from the peasants of all nations to the tycoons and oligarchs of all nations.

    Will the ChinaGov play along? No. The ChinaGov has introduced a Nationalist Deviationism into the anti-national One World Corporate Globalonial Plantation Free-Trade order. The ChinaGov plans to be the World Metropole and plans to make all of non-China into the World Hinterland. Other world rulers may not like it, but they will accept it as the price of maintaining the One World Corporate Globalonial Plantation. They prefer to have China ruling the One World than to have a Free World of militant belligerent National Protectionist countries and Autarkic Republics wherever possible. And of course EUrope will do better under the Chinese Plantation Masters than America will. China plans to turn EUrope into a Cultural Petting Zoo for Chinese tourists. China plans to turn America into One Big Strip Mine. Which would be better to live in, if that IS the forced choice?

    I dream of a future where America rescues itself as a National Protectionist Republic and a United States of Autarkamerica. And we will round up and physically exterminate every single Free Trade supporter within our borders so that we will never come under the rule of the International Free Trade Conspiracy ever again.

    Never. Ever.

    ” America has stood up!”

  8. Hugh

    Free as in free trade is a word that means someone will pay, just no one important. It is much like the IBG YBG (I”ll be gone. You’ll be gone) philosophy of the financial community before the 2008 great financial collapse.

    Global warming has made globalism, free trade, and neoliberalism dead ends. Canada, the US, countries that can should find some grownups and come up with a plan for what comes next. They should have done this years ago. So I am not optimistic.

  9. different clue


    If Scotland and Wales can defect from the United Kingdom, declare Independence, get recognized by just enough countries to matter, and join the EU; then Scotland and Wales may escape the asset stripping in store for Britain. Perhaps that asset-stripping can be limited to just strictly England. And Northern Ireland, unless Northern Ireland defects from the U K and either becomes The National Republic of Orangustan, or becomes part of the Irish Republic and hence beyond the reach of the All England asset strippers.

  10. someofparts

    diff clue – That is an encouraging idea. I hope it happens.

  11. Astrid

    Anyone paying attention to the travails of Craig Murray knows that the Scots are possibly even further down the road of woke authoritarian neoliberalism than the English. Plus the Brent North Sea crude is mostly tapped out. Seems like a future as a naval base for somebody plus a Baltic States style neoliberalism government. Anyone under 50 who can get out will.

    As for the Irish… Maybe if Sinn Fenn gets into power and has an actual clue. Otherwise, I really don’t see them doing much better than the English. I was going to say the lack of upper caste Indians in their political establishment may be a plus, but Leo Varadkar was half Indian so there might be a deep infestation already.

  12. Mark Pontin

    different clue wrote: “If Scotland and Wales can defect from the United Kingdom, declare Independence … and join the EU; then Scotland and Wales may escape the asset stripping in store for Britain.”

    Amusing. The reality is that there’s no more neoliberal institution on the planet today than the EU.

    Back in the days of its formation, when it was the European Coal and Steel community and then the EEC, it was explicitly designed on the German end of its French-German axis by members of Hayek’s Mont Pelerin Society — including Wilhelm Röpke, Adenauer’s Minister of Economics, and Ludwig Erhard, Adenauer’s successor from 1963-66 — to be that.

    Similarly, the EU’s currency, the Euro, was explicitly designed by Robert Mundell, the “father” of supply-side Reaganomics, to further restrict the economic policy space available to democratic governments, and subordinate employment and social protection to the usual neoliberal goals of “low inflation, debt reduction, and increased competitiveness.”

    And so on. Recall that when the Troika was doing its assault and battery on Greece back in 2015, even the IMF and World Bank backed off somewhat from the violence. Not the European Commission. Here’s a link to a LANCET study of the mortality rates resulting from EU-imposed austerity in Greece —

    ‘The burden of disease in Greece, health loss, risk factors, and health financing, 2000–16: an analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016’

    To precis it very roughly, 50,000 or so Greeks died because of the EU’s imposition of its austerity policies on Greece. In other words, they died because Merkel in Germany and Hollande in France were unwilling to tell their electorates they had to bail out German and French banks, and so the bailout to those banks was carried out through the backdoor of Greece with 92-93 percent of those funds going straight to commercial financial institutions in Northern Europe and never touching the Greek economy.

    Moreover, this was done at the same time that Mario Draghi at the ECB was initiating his policy of doing “whatever it takes” in terms of quantitative easing. The entire Greek debt would turn out to be less than a couple months of ECB money printing.

  13. Mark Pontin

    Astrid wrote: “… the lack of upper caste Indians in their political establishment may be a plus, but Leo Varadkar was half Indian so there might be a deep infestation already.”

    Huh. I’m curious, not censorious. Would you care to articulate your beef against ” upper caste Indians”?

  14. Mark Level

    How nice to see that Hugh recognizes that “globalism, free trade, & neoliberalism [are] dead ends.” Sad that he nonetheless continues to so strongly support and cheerlead Empire in the service of Globalism, “free” trade (for the 0.1%) and Neoliberalism, under the US Hegemony that Ian’s headline recognizes . . . I know, I know, those Chinese are “different” than us, they are evil underneath somehow, whereas our current monstrous oligarchy is so out in the open. And no, I am not “starry-eyed” about Xi Jinping, nor Vlad Putin, I just work under the basic assumption (which Malcolm X, among others shared) that the hegemon with their foot on my neck (metaphorically speaking) is the immediate danger to me who I should be opposing. And I trust and respect that the peoples of China and Russia can, when conditions become so onerous for them, rise up and oppose their own oppressors. Knowing history well, let’s just take the cases of what the US did in Chile, Iran or Vietnam, e.g. (and there are dozens of other cases I could cite), I know that the US Empire is only interested in power. The folks we “help” in Chile or wherever are “free” to be tortured, raped, robbed etc. by the wonderful right wing forces we support everywhere in the world. As William Burroughs once observed, “Control seeks control”, it cannot do otherwise . . . I’m not sure if pro-imperialists like Hugh know about the post-Napoleonic order in Europe, and the role of Metternich in Austria in having secret police throughout Europe to support royalism, the rich, rising bourgeoisie and the oppressive Christian fascistic (anti-Enlightenment) order that they hoped would last forever. Metternich had to step down and go into exile following the partial, then aborted revolutions across Europe in 1848. Returning to Ian’s main post, let’s hope for the sake of the people of Canada and the entire world that the US Hegemon is soon sidelined by its sclerotic and out-of-touch sociopathic ruling class. Certainly all the signs of decline that were present for the Soviet Union by, say, 1985 are clearly present– and add in the quickening devastation of global warming. . . . In any case, of course new Hegemons will try to arise, and dominate their regions. But those who aren’t Trump-style white nationalist fascists in this country could and hopefully will at some point try to re-establish something that resembles a “free” and human society, one would hope. (Okay, not very realistic, I admit, but we all need to nourish hope to go on– & invoking the word doesn’t mean that I would accept such concepts when marketed by cynical SOBs like the thankfully departed Barfsack OBomber.)

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  16. Astrid


    A bit of exposure to a few upper crust Indians from my school days (very nice to me, but aloof), bits and bobs from tech firm workers, and seeing their handiwork in the present UK government. Plus bingeing Netflix’s Indian Matchmaker and reading Arundhati Roy and Amitav Ghosh rather closely back in the day.

    Also that Hinduvta thing in India.

    Class and upper class contempt for the masses is pretty universal in my experience, but the Indian caste system does seem to go above and beyond most of its modern contemporaries.

    So what I have is enough for a prejudice, not enough for a thesis.

  17. different clue

    @Mark Pontin,

    Ouch, and yes. I tried to forget about the neoliberal nature of the EU. But if it is not yet as ripe for asset stripping as UK/ little england itself, then perhaps defecting from GB to EU might be a case of out of the fire and into the frying pan. Degrees of not-as-worseness, and time to plot a way ahead.

    Or maybe not.

  18. different clue

    @Mark Level,

    You will have to be the “free” and human you wish to see in the world. Or looking closer . . . in the country. As will we all.

    It may have to be under-the-radar development of neighborhood size-and-scale islets of “freeness” and human-ness. And cautiously stealth-scaling up and spreading out from there. Ran Prieur refers to it as “growing grass in the cracks in the pavement”.

    Perhaps think of developing little Free UnMarket CounterEconomies as refuges and bunkers against the Forced Market MoneyConomy. And society.

  19. different clue

    I see that somebody decided Ian Welsh’s blog has enough reach and audience that it might be worth sneaking a stealth ad onto it for . . . ” Get More Info”.

    That’s one link I won’t be clicking.

  20. Mark Pontin

    @ Astrid

    Ah. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity.

    Interestingly, regarding the current Tory sub-continental frontline, Patel and Sunak’s families aren’t from India, but part of the contingent of Indian refugees who fled from East Africa to the UK in the 1970s — from Idi Amin’s Uganda in the case of Patel’s bunch, and Kenya in the case of Sunak’s.

    Sajid Javid, conversely, is Pakistani and the son of a bus driver or such. Nevertheless, Javid is the one that’s the most worrisome, with the dirtiest history in banking and dedication to neoliberal ‘principles.’

    Patel is a horror, but my sense is she’s gone as far as she’s going. Sunak, on the other hand, actually has a shot at being PM. As is often pointed out, the Tories are the most long-lived, successful party in Western history and that’s because they’re ruthlessly pragmatic, as when Thatcher became problematic and they immediately flushed her down the toilet. Similarly, at some point in the future, the fool Boris will likely become more of an encumbrance than an asset, and then it’s either Sunak or Gove. It’s unlikely to be Gove. So: Sunak.

    Sunak seems more amiable — but then most of what he’s been required to do so far is give out financial support. We will see.

  21. Astrid


    Thanks for filling me in on the details. As I say, what I have is more of a prejudice than a well established animosity or well supported theory.

    Sunak is married to Infosys heiress Murthy, which is several kinds of bad in my book. Then again, maybe being a plutocrat makes him less likely to sell out to plutocrats? Wasn’t that a key argument for voting Trump? But the Murthy billions are real and not just branding…

    Yes, Sunak seems the most appealing and sensible of a bad lot. I see that his father was a GP and mother was a pharmacist, so hopefully that makes him a little less eager to immediately burn the NHS to the ground for salvage value.

  22. bruce wilder

    A really marvellous feature of neoliberalism is that it allows fairly numerous and dispersed elites to coordinate effectively, while never giving away by plain language the real goals of policy — there is always a mystifying rationale ready to be articulated about why this policy is going to make things more efficient and better for everyone, even though the effect will be to rip off most people to benefit a few.

    It is such an effective coordinating device that many of the professionals can literally not imagine an alternative or any way out.

  23. Hugh

    Mark Level, thank you for illustrating once again why progressives should not be taken seriously on foreign affairs. Disliking US foreign policy is hardly bright or original. At most, it is a starting point. What are you going to replace it with, and how? Do you even understand that a hegemony requires huge outlays by the hegemon? That it is a system, albeit in the US case currently a not very well run one, and with climate change it will fail. But first there are no candidates in the wings to replace it. China isn’t hegemonic. It is imperialist. It is still looking to profit from the US hegemony, its Belt and Road, for example, not make the vast expenditures to create its own hegemony.

    And you seem to blithely hope the US hegemony will just go away and the world will just automatically be a better, more peaceful place. The problem is that the alternative to the coming failure of US hegemony is more likely to be chaos. The death toll in that chaos is going to be in the billions. So enjoy your cheap gloating while you can. But as progressives, the difference between us and say the Trump denialists is that we are supposed to care about and fight for those doomed billions. What I see instead is zero analysis, zero options, and whole chunks of humanity written off without a second thought. I guess progressives should prefer not to be taken seriously rather than face up to their moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

  24. different clue

    Here is a reddit thread replied to by Canadian respondents, I think, titled: ” Is the Canadian Dream Dead”? Canadian readers here can perhaps say whether this thread called up a uniquely gloomy sub-slice of Canadian citizens or not.

  25. Astrid

    I’m so glad that Hugh always shows up, right on time, to illustrate the exact point that some insightful commenter or other was making. He’s the wizard of cluelessly sanctimonious US PMCer.

    200+ years of bloody awful failures and continual moral bankruptcy, but there is no alternative!

  26. Hugh

    Astrid, you can rant as much as you want, but you’re just another dead end. There is no explanatory value, no insight in anything you have to say. All you have are your tiresome China fantasies.

    Progressives need to come to grips with the world as it is, accept its complexity. Instead they indulge in the same simplifications, conspiracies, and delusions that you can find among any group of Trumpers. It degenerates into the same tribalism, the same non-think. Progressives need to do better, and they’re not. They’re not even trying. That is what I don’t get: this self-willed irrelevance. No one needs to argue with progressives. Just wait five minutes and they will dissolve into a puddle of vacuous throwaway lines, double standards, and ad hominems. And of course large servings of, Oh yeah, and you too times ten. What is to be gained by any of these antics? Nothing, but that does not stop them or even slow them down.

  27. Mark Pontin

    Hugh: “Disliking US foreign policy is hardly bright or original.”

    The belief that eating people is wrong is hardly bright or original, either, Hugh. That doesn’t mean that eating people is not in fact evil.

    So, too, with the American Empire. It’s created chaos and killed many millions at this point, and installed Pinochets and Somozas to facilitate its looting. What has it built for the world in return? The internet, I guess. (The Marshall plan being seventy-five years ago.)

    At this point, the U.S. can either dial things down like the Brits or go down in blood and burning.

  28. Mark Pontin

    Bruce W. wrote: “A really marvellous feature of neoliberalism is that it allows fairly numerous and dispersed elites to coordinate effectively, while never giving away by plain language the real goals of policy.”

    It really is quite a striking, strange belief-system once you start digging into it.

    I’m currently reading Philip Mirowski’s NEVER LET A GOOD CRISIS GO TO WASTE: HOW NEOLIBERALISM SURVIVED THE FINANCIAL MELTDOWN (2013), which is pretty exhaustive — and exhausting — in terms of scoping through the many levels and layers of what Mirowski calls the Neoliberal Thought Collective.

    A couple of very basic impressions. Firstly, neoliberalism — the belief in the market as supreme information processor — has all the tautological aspects of a religion, a Theory of Everything. Secondly, some fairly counter-intuitive (to normies) neoliberal precepts emerge once you get a little ways into it: like, for instance, many neoliberals believe it’s _better_ for the vast mass of people to be ignorant because that way they won’t be tempted to imagine they can surpass or equal the supreme wisdom of the market. (How a market can be a Supreme Information Processor when it emerges from the choices of supremely ignorant human components beats me, but there we are).

    Anyway, Mirowski is worth a read if you’ve got the patience.

  29. Astrid

    I’ve long thought that neoliberal thinking bears a resemblance to Asimov’s psychohistory. Not the first two books where you see it is working as science-y magic, but the later books where you see there’s a second foundation (amongst other things) hard at work to ensure that there are no alternatives. What’s supposed to be pyschohistorical inevitability is actually just a lot of mental manipulation to arrive at a predetermined result.

    The difference with neoliberalism is that it never actually delivers anything for the 99%. So its survival depends on manipulating the Overton Window to ensure its precepts are stated as laws of nature and never questioned. Older ideas like classical economics, socialism, Marxism, and nationalism are drowned out by wokeness exercises of escalating ridiculousness, aided by noise made by right-wing Zaphod Beeblebroxes and social demolitions by right-wing Vogons, while the activities of Neoliberal Vogons go unremarked by MSM. (HHGTG is arguably an even better describer of our overall predicament, but it feels too subtle a narrative instrument to use on something as brutish as neoliberalism).

    We are made to forget that the vast majority of human civilizations were organized on a multitude of very different lines than our current predicament because slavery or footbinding or no voting. We are told that contemporary Russia and China cannot be considered alternatives because they’re totalitarian monsters (yet oddly, with extremely low body counts outside of their borders and highly supportive populace within their borders. Hugh would insult their pragmatic peoples with accusations of brainwashing and social control, yet these peoples have lived through some rather traumatic regime changes within living memory and each had 2 full scale regime toppings within the last 110 years).

  30. someofparts

    I don’t see how anyone could believe in markets at all after reading Galbraith. I read New Industrial State when I was a kid in the 70s. Even in my dim way I got the point that a large industrial economy is not possible without massive state intervention in markets.

    I’m currently reading One Market Under God from Thomas Frank. It focuses on the neoliberal worship of markets. From what I’ve read so far he seems to be doing a good job of showing how market worship explains a web of related perspectives. He made particular mention of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Fear of Falling as the impetus for some of his thinking. I think her book is an especially good examination of the insecurities of the contemporary middle class.

    On the subject of Indian culture at the dawn of the 20th century, a ghastly deep dive is to be had from the book Mother India by Katherine Mayo. Compared to what I read in that book, the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia seems downright civilized.

  31. Astrid

    As religion, neoliberalism seems to be the Catholic Church in the 15th century. Some troublesome Lollards and lack of gruntle by a plague devasted populace, who wonders if sale of indulgences and improperly appointed clergy might have caused God to send the plagues and damned their eternal souls.

  32. Plague Species

    Neoliberalism is one of many systems of Growth. Growth is the culprit. Neoliberalism is just one means, a rather pernicious means at that, to that end. Opposing it without opposing Growth overall is a quarter measure at best.

  33. Plague Species

    I.e., China is not neoliberal nor is Russia, but their economies are predicated on Growth. Providing apologia and cover for that while opposing the West’s neoliberalism is shortsighted at best and deceitfully disingenuous at worst.

  34. Hugh

    Thank you, Mark Pontin, for your platitudinous response. We live in a complex imperfect world where we are confronted not by simplistic choices between good and evil but spectrums that run from various bads to various not so goods.

    It is not hard to make a list of the costs and casualties of American hegemony. I have problems with the denialism of world history, that if somehow American hegemony could be suddenly erased, the world would be more peaceful and less deadly. For me, that is just another instance of American exceptionalism, that the desire of large numbers of people to massacre each other as exemplified by world history long before the US ever existed would disappear, except for the US. All I can say is, “Grow up.”

  35. Astrid

    China is energy consuming and growth oriented, but currently at a much lower per capita level than USA. That consumption also includes manufacturing for exports and infrastructure build up, which will presumably let up at some point. China is also not interested in getting into wars with other countries so far, and wars are extremely costly from an energy and human suffering perspective.

    China also shows, even at much lower than US per capita GDP levels, willingness to innovate and try out new technology and strategies. For example, China built a lot of questionable infrastructure early on (the maglev to Pudong Airport makes no sense as anything other than a novelty for tourists) simply because they wanted to try things out and see what sticks. China also has one of the lowest mandatory retirement ages in the world (it used to be 55/50 for most men/women, it’s getting raised as demographics changes) to even out labor market demand. This sort of market levering would be unthinkable for any US government of the last 50 years. When the Chinese government say smart growth or balanced growth, it’s at least possible that it’s not just marketing fluff like Green New Deal.

    One of the things that give me the most confidence in the Chinese is that they made a lot of mistakes and then course corrected. Their early handling of COVID was terrible and roundly criticized within China, but they took it seriously, at potentially huge cost to their competitiveness and domestic confidence if they were wrong, and actually brought it down to essentially zero domestic transmission.

    None of this past performance is guarantee of ethical or smart behavior going forward. I’ve days time and again that what humanity faces ahead are physically hard, possibly impossible to solve, problemd. However, this ability to course correct and try to do the right thing, is encouraging and worth praising. It’s better than what we Americans have had for at least 40 years.

  36. Astrid

    Wow, I have no words…next level white man’s burden you got there.

    Ladies and gentlemen…Hugh the Wizard!!!!!!!

  37. Plague Species

    There is no such thing as smart growth. All growth is dumb at this point.

    Culture Clash my ass. It’s the Chinese playing capitalist and they do it quite well. On American soil no less. With the blessing of America’s leadership and the lauding of the Chamber of Commerce.

    Per that documentary sponsored by the Obamas no less, the Chinese company in Ohio used American capitalist resources and strategies to prevent unionization. How’s that for communism? Too funny. Tragic ironic humor. Capitalists and communists love them some slave labor. In fact, for them both, slave labor is redundant. Labor is slavery and vice versa. One and the same.

    Astrid, do we really want to take a deep dive into China’s abandoned elderly? Really? Will you whitewash that too like you do with the Uyghur issue?

  38. Astrid

    Plague Species,

    You linked to an Obama produced hit piece on China, so it really no more valuable than MSM coverage on China. Even if all the conditions in that factory is exactly as described, it’s one small piece of a very large picture and you don’t understand enough to put it in context. China is a very big place and one that’s constantly evolving. A snapshot in time is never as damning as Westerners think it is. Individual capitalists are not virtuous, their looking out for themselves. But the Chinese state appear capable of correcting some of the excesses of those capitalists and making sure that the capitalists don’t end up controlling the shop of state, as they do in the US.

    On growth. If you are saying that humans climbing out of trees was a mistake, I’m frankly incline to agree with you. When I say that I’m not sure I’d bother living if my death wouldn’t bum out people close to me, I mean it. And materially, I have a pretty amazing life. Even spiritually and intellectually I’m doing pretty well, but I’m still not sure about the tradeoffs.

    But since you procreated into this extremely resource intensive society, I assume you don’t have a problem with personally using earth’s resources, just that you don’t think anyone else deserves more portion of carbon derived material benefits. That seems a much more problematic position, where your drawing a line in the sand at a point that’s advantageous to you and then say nobody else deserves more or should have the ability to improve their lot materially. There are ways to use carbon and earth resources to create a lot more joy than is currently the case, it’s not at all difficult to imagine a better world than the neoliberalism hell scape we are currently trapped in.

    The Chinese treatment of elderly are not perfect, but they are almost always far better than the US. I know very few elderly with children, who are abandoned to die alone. The municipalities typically make a point of visiting and doing wellness checks on elderly, especially those without family. Of all the things you can do comparisons between US and China on, care for the elderly is really one place where the Chinese are pretty universally recognized as doing rather well on.

  39. someofparts

    Speaking as an elder American, the old poor people I know can’t even think of seeing a doctor, even with Medicare. If you can’t afford an extra couple of hundred a month of private supplemental insurance you can’t afford healthcare. Others I know are just isolated. Can’t drive for health reasons and stuck out in the middle of nowhere alone. Others are losing teeth because dentists cost a fortune. Still, it’s good to know Obama got rich making sure things stay this way.

  40. Astrid

    The Uighur issue isn’t whitewashed. If you have evidence of actual bad things happening and not just randomly soundless 1 minute videos from an ETIM associate or debunked Adrian Zenz produced reports (or derivative BBC or Amnesty International reports), dhow it. Otherwise, you’ve seen enough US lies on Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc as justification for sanctions and invasions. Why would you believe Uighur genocide, something that vast majority of Muslim countries believe to be untrue, is really happening?

  41. different clue

    As America weakens and de-laminates, continued hegemonic actions will be the convulsive twitches of a desperate nostalgia for the good old American Greatness days.

    And . . . . hey lookie! Look who wants to keep America stuck on hegemonostalgiac stupid . . . the RussiaGov and the ChinaGov! Here’s an article from Naked Capitalism.

    And here is the money-quote which smacked my face.

    “Since its foundation 20 years ago, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a bloc founded by Russia and China, has faced questions over its purpose.
    But the recent clashes by the Afghan government and the Taliban – which have escalated since the United States made what Moscow and Beijing described as the “irresponsible” decision to withdraw all troops this year – could prove to be a defining moment for the bloc.”

    Did you get that? “United States made what Moscow and Beijing described as the “irresponsible” decision to withdraw all troops this year” . . . ? What cynical bastards. What sleazy scum. Of COURSE they would want to keep America engaged in Afghanistan.

    Well fuck that, and fuck them. Let Russia and China own Afghanistan. Let them show how their precious SCC can bring peace to the world. In particular, let China occupy Afghanistan and civilize it and give it the Uighur treatment. That should keep the vile Taliban filth under control.

  42. Plague Species

    This will only get worse as hundreds of millions of Chinese retire in the next thirty years. Leaving the elderly to their families will no longer be sustainable. It’s already happening. I have to laugh at the Chinese leadership saying the market will resolve it. What kind of communists are these people? The market? Too funny.

    The point is, someofparts, China is not too different than America and the West in general. In fact, the Netflix documentary showed they are in fact the premiere uber capitalists.

    Eight months after the privately run Jianwai centre opened, just four people had moved in, leaving 32 beds empty. “We have a lot of inquiries but not enough real business,” said Zhang Jing, an official at Long Zhen Senior Care Co, owner of the nursing home.

    The Jianwai care home vacancy rate is not unusual. A census conducted by Peking University in 2017 of 460 nursing homes in Beijing found that two-thirds of privately managed respondents were running at a loss and that half of their beds were empty.

    Financial Times research shows that an average private nursing home in Beijing costs at least a fifth more than what a retired person receives in pension or other earnings.

    “The top leadership thinks market force can solve any problem and nursing homes can run a business like shoe factories,” said a Beijing-based scholar who advises on China’s social welfare policy and asked not to be identified. “But elderly care cannot be commoditised because it is part of the social safety net everyone should have access to.”

  43. Plague Species

    I predict the Chinese will find a way to liquidate their elderly population all things considered. I suppose it’s better than letting them suffer and ie in the streets. As Astrid informs us, they’re, the Chinese leadership, flexible and willing to adjust and try anything that sticks. Convincing the elderly to sacrifice themselves for the greater good is certainly within their purview.

  44. different clue

    @Plague Species,

    I used to read that the ChinaGov Regime used to foster the widespread and extensive smoking of its government-monopoly-produced cigarettes. I suspected at the time that one of the carefully unstated motives was the hope that enough quick cancer and quick lung failure could be time-delay downtrack-induced that enough Chinese would die from cigarettes at or shortly after they reached retirement age so as to put less pressure on the retirement system.

    Remember, we are not talking about the Confucianism-based filialy-pious Chinese PEOple here. We are talking about the ChinaGov Communazi Regime, and ITS policy and motives.

  45. Astrid

    On that SCMP article…Because Russia and China could tell US where to move its troops? They don’t have a choice but to react to US failure on Afghanistan because otherwise the Saudi funded and Turkey trained East Turkistan terrorists will target China, Pakistan, Iran, and the more secular -stans. I didn’t realize that cooperating to ensure your neighborhood doesn’t fall apart was sinister. Is that like how China is very sinister for financing African railroads at very good terms in cooperation with the local governments, but the US is totally cool and innocent having 800 military bases around the world?

    On elderly, we’ll see. Why do you assume that just because the US is now cruel to everyone outside of the 1%, it’s like that everywhere? China is very far from perfect, but it can aspire to be more like Japan or Italy in how it treats its elderly, keeping them in society and mixed society, rather than locked away from for profit care homes. The Chinese are well aware of the problem of a millennial couple with 2 kids and 4 elderly parents to look after.

    They don’t have a perfect solution, but they are thinking very hard about it. Shanghai may be exceptionally generous in this respect. Retirement pensions are often only slightly lower than wages and quite comfortable for anyone who owns their home outright. They can easily afford a varied diet, clothing, subsidies for the kid and grandchildren, medical care, adult enrichment activities like those dancing troops of retirees, and maybe even a vacation or two to other provinces or SEAsian. Yeah, that’s why a Shanghai Hukou is harder to get than a US green card.

    Nobody is being set on icebergs yet even though the urban Boomer generation has all retired ages ago and their children are already a much smaller demographic for to the one kid cap and very few urban kids born between 1966 and 1978. It’s possible that once this population reaches senility, they’re going to run into bigger problems, but again, they could look to Japan for possible coping strategies.

    Also, where are the unvarnished truth in Uighurs again? And if I link your provided info to ETIM, I think I’m well within my right to call you a terrorist supporter, with much more credibility than is currently mustered for calling my a genocide whitewasher.

  46. different clue

    Here is an account of an inspired little action someone took when he was subjected to some needless rudeness. I like the attitude and the creativity. Is there a way for millions of people to cultivate this attitude and this creativity and express it in different details . . . . designed to frictionize and slow the steady flow of work and wealth to the Overclass and its 10 per centers . . . . and to cause them diffuse, steady irksome pain which never quite gets actionable but never lets up? Passive obstruction, uncivil obedience, etc.

  47. Astrid

    I see the lesson he’s trying to teach her but I don’t think that young woman is going to learn to be more patient queuing in the future or respectful to others in public. She’ll probably tell that story to her friends and they’ll all agree that Boomers are even greater dicks than young people already thought them to be. While horn honking in retaliation for waiting longer than expected is bad manners, Boomers ordering extra fast food they didn’t want just to make her waste more time comes across as needlessly vindictive and manipulative.

  48. different clue

    Needlessly vindictive and manipulative? Possibly so, in that particular context. But consider the brilliance of it. Now transfer that brilliance and that attitude to our interactions with the OverClass and its Market Servants. Consider the erosive impact of a hundred million Unhappy Campers treating various exposed aspects of the System that way.

    The System has a thousand kneecaps. It can’t protect them all. There are a thousand tire irons laying around free for the picking-up, all around the Field of Economic Combat. There is a tire iron for every kneecap, and a kneecap for every tire iron.

    We just have to approach the problem with the creative spirit shown by that clever old person, whose attitude I like and admire and wish to repurpose and redirect and weaponise and viralize for widespread dissemination.

  49. different clue

    And back to the clever old person in the narrowest sense, if he saves “that young lady’s food” which he himself paid for, and eats it later at his next mealtime, then the food will have not gone to waste.

  50. Astrid

    You think this is clever? Paying full price for stale fast food that he didn’t want in the first place, to piss off someone who is almost certain to take it the wrong way, and a fact scenario that present a decent case of tortious interference (wrongful misrepresentation to disrupt the normal course of business between the restaurant and its customers), is clever?

    The more reasonable action is just to calmly say “how would you feel if somebody honked at you every time you needed a minute” or ” I can’t finish my order when someone is honking at me”. Or just take a picture and shame her on social media. The chance of changing her behavior is still minimal but at least he wouldn’t be out of pocket for stale, unhealthy food that he didn’t even want and a situation where he is actually substantially in the wrong, just to cost her a couple minutes more of waiting.

  51. Astrid

    I understand the impulse to inflict pain to enforce better conduct in others, but with a low trust society such as the US and where avg people need to conserve their resources for the hard days ahead, a sensible person really need to be careful with where to expend their resources.

    The safe basic strategy is to keep a low profile, be on as good terms with friends/family/neighbors/colleagues/bosses/authority as possible, and conserve your resources. You should be on as good terms with everyone as possible, but also notice who is helpful and reasonable, who isn’t in one or more ways, and who is a disaster area that you need to carefully maneuver around. Be careful with sunk cost fallacy with your own identity, your relationship with others, and things that you’ve invested aspects of your life into. But at the same time, realize that what you have built in your life this far has value and shouldn’t be ditched lightly

    In some ways, navigating Ian’s comment section is a low stakes way to learn about interpersonal interactions. I definitely wouldn’t say what I’m doing is best practices, but I’d like to think I’m learning about myself.

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