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

The complete inability to manage obvious problems: California Drought Edition

California DryingSo, California has about a year’s worth of water supplies, and groundwater is being depleted so fast wells are going dry.

This problem has been coming for years.  There should have been rationing, at the last, last year and probably before, since climate models indicated the strong possibility of the drought continuing.  Moreover farmers should have been forced to move over to less water intensive crops (subsidize the move.)

The total inability to manage obvious problems is one of the hallmarks of our age.  Everyone with any sense knows there’s a problem, everyone with any sense knows at least part of the solution, and we don’t even do the obvious things to fix the obvious problems.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year.  If you value my writing, and want more of it, please consider donating.)

Until a new generation comes of political age or absolute catastrophe wipes out the political class, this will not change.  It’s not quite true that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but few politicians, senior civil servants or corporate executives are capable of acting in ways different from those that brought them to power.  As with science, the graveyard makes the conversions.


What Intellectual Judgment Is


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  1. EmilianoZ

    I can tell you, without even checking, just by logical induction, that the report is false. The Laws of the Market are as natural, immutable and inevitable as the Laws of Gravity or the Laws of Thermodynamics. If water had become scarcer and scarcer, it would have, at the same time, become dearer and dearer. The high price of water would have provided the great state of California with a powerful incentive to find a solution (conservation, desalinization, pipelines from Oregon, and whatnot). Since this has not happened, I can tell you, with the utmostest confidence, that the report is false. The Laws of the Market are as natural, immutable and inevitable as the Laws of Gravity or the Laws of Thermodynamics. California does not have a water problem. Young man, you can safely go West. Leave the old decrepit East behind. Go where the future is being formed. California is where the smartest brains are (Google, Apple, Facebook,…). Can you for a second believe they wouldn’t have figured out the problem? Come on, let’s be serious.

    (I strongly suspect the Archidruid to be behind the hoax. That totally irresponsible man is constantly peddling alarmists ideas to sell his books.)

  2. V. Arnold

    @ EmilianoZ

    Pipelines from Oregon?
    You don’t know Oregonian’s; that’s not going to happen. As far back as I can remember (more than 40 years), California has been trying to get Oregon’s water and its been fiercely resisted.
    It’s akin to the Canadian’s fear of a water grab by America.
    Your assertion that California has no water problem is tacitly absurd, unless yours is irony or sarcasm (which doesn’t often work well on the i-net).

  3. “Until a new generation comes of political age…”

    Are you proposing that a new generation will be prone to recognize and manage problems, or merely that since the present generations is not capable of doing so the only hope is that a new generation might be? I have little hope that the next generation in the pipeline will be one iota better at the task than is the present one.

  4. Bill Hicks

    Until a new generation comes of political age? Sorry, but exactly why would we expect that generation to be any better than the ones preceding it?

    Despite the fact that we Gen-X’ers are on average worse off economically than the Baby Boomers, for example, the first members of our generation to achieve national political notoriety are if anything worse on average than those who preceded them. The steady political trajectory of the U.S. has been downward for the past 35 years (almost two full generations), and I see no evidence whatsoever that a generation RAISED expecting the instant gratification that comes with having a smartphone shall be our salvation.

  5. alyosha

    The high price of water would have provided the great state of California with a powerful incentive to find a solution

    That’s a lot of the problem. Californians have spent years building dams and other buffers, so that the populated areas still have yet to viscerally realize that there’s a problem. Water is still cheap. In Los Angeles, we keep hearing about a drought, and if we travel outside the city we can see the evidence, but back home the lawns are still green and the taps still run, at the same low, low price.

    Last year, I visited the Getty Villa, a recreation of a Roman country home, with a large fountain and reflecting pool that’s central to the complex. It’s the only place in town where I’ve seen large water fixtures turned off and drained due to the drought.

    I live in a middle income condo complex that’s built around fake streams and ponds, with mechanically circulated water, populated with koi and turtles. It’s also habitat to visiting ducks and egrets. As I type this, I’m listening to the pleasant white noise of water rushing over rocks, all circulated by pumps. This is all going on in California semi-desert. Everyone is aware there’s a drought, or so we’re told, but we have yet to see the bill for it.

    There was a recent hand-wringing op-ed in the LA Times, warning us that we have about a year of water left. And so from time to time, the warnings have been sounding.

    A lot of it is the fact that, even in the best of times, water is a complex issue in the west, with complex agreements, decades of legal precedents, and competing political entities to deal with – a real Gordian knot.

    The public will swing around as rationing or market-pricing is finally instituted to deal with the problem. For now, it’s only the growers, and the small towns in the Central Valley who are feeling the pain, and that’s just not enough to overcome the political inertia to deal with a difficult problem.

    I’ve been telling others, that I fully expect a Republican politician, with roots in a conservative stronghold, the Central Valley, who come forward and champion desalinization. As much as I enjoy living in a blue state, where GOP craziness is relatively marginalized, the hour is coming for this kind of upset to occur.

  6. alyosha

    One more thought. A friend was telling me about the town of Oxnard, CA, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. It’s largely an agricultural town, near the ocean.

    What’s amazing about it, is that two or three decades ago, the town got serious about capturing and reusing rain water run off. The entire town was re-plumbed, so that 1) this water was captured from storm sewers, and 2) pumped back to individual homes. Each house has two incoming water lines, for 1) conventional clean water, and 2) a gray water lines, fed by run-off, each billed at a different rate.

    I was also told that Oxnard has a gigantic recycling facility, where all trash pickup is sorted and recycled.

    In Santa Barbara, they’re dusting off and getting ready to start up a local desalinization plant that was mothballed some years ago, which had its origins in the last drought.

    And we’re seeing foresight and response from local communities, where the problem is not so vastly complex and overwhelming to deal with.

  7. @alyosha, you obviously do not live in San Diego. In the last five years my water bill, with zero outdoor use since I live in a condo, has gone from $30 per month to $110+ per month. The association’s water bill, despite removing much of our turf and planting drought tolerant plants, has gone from $1300 per month to over $5000 per month.

    San Diego was late to the rationing, but does have rationing now. I will confess the rationing is less restrictive that I think it should be, but the campaign by the city to restrict water use is very noisy.

  8. A Passing Duncan

    California’s water politics is spectacularly corrupt. The below is thorough, but The Exiled, so their somewhat hyperbolic style.

  9. Tony Wikrent

    Regarding the question of whether or not the next generation of leaders will be any better. Well, we can guarantee that they won’t be better if we don’t make sure the ideas for better solutions are around.

    Milton Friedman and the neo-liberal operatives were very much correct: when a crisis hits, you can only prevail if you already have in place your ideas for the solution. Much to our horror, we have seen that this neo-liberal “shock doctrine” does, in fact, work.

    Which is why Ian’s attempts to reformulate a moral, humanistic philosophy for political economy is so important.

    My approach, of course, has been different: point to the founders of the American republic and emphasize those aspects of their philosophy for political economy we no longer follow, and, indeed, barely even tolerate today. For example, it was generally accepted through most of the first century of USA’s national existence that gross inequality of wealth and income was a danger to the experiment in self-government.

    One reason I favor my approach is that, in the end, who you have to convince, above all, are the military and the police: a revolution only succeeds when the people in charge of suppressing dissent begin to refuse to do so. And I simply do not believe that you are going to convince American police and military that Marx or Mao or whoever is the answer. On the other hand, they just might be convinced that the original ideas of the American experiment in self-government have been trampled on and subverted by TPTB – including most especially the “vast right wing conspiracy” which has been funded and built up by the wealthy since their opposition to FDR and the New Deal.

    A second reason I favor my approach is that the historical record is very clear that socialism, Marxism, communism, and so on DO NOT WORK. It pains and troubles me greatly to see, in reaction to Obama’s failure to deal with Wall Street since the crash of 2007-2008, a resurgence on the left of these failed ideologies. My guru here is Lawrence Goodwyn, the author of what is far and away the best history of the populist movement. What makes it the best? Goodwyn fully understood the Greenbacker critique of the U.S. financial and monetary systems that powered the extraordinary political success of the populists in the 1880s through 1910s. In a speech Goodwyn gave in December 1989, at a special event in St. Louis on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the populist People’s Party “Sub-Treasury Plan” for financial reform, Democratic Money: A Populist Perspective, after dissecting how TPTB have left no room for serious discussion of a truly democratic system of money, credit and exchange, Goodwyn observed:

    There is another society in our time — what we call “the East,” what we sometimes call “actually existing socialism.” For about 40 years, since Stalin imposed this system on whole populations, an idea floated around in people’s heads over there, in “the East.” The idea was, “We will try to create some space where we can talk to each other and affect the world we live in. To do that, we’re going to have to combat the leading role of the Party. We’re going to have to find some way to get around the fact that all the social space in society is occupied by the Party.”

    This idea would float around kitchen tables on the Baltic coast in the 1950s and 1960s. And workers in shipyards would say to each other, “We have got to create a trade union independent of the Party.” Now that is an unsanctioned idea. And they knew it was frightening even to say it out loud; you’d only say it around the kitchen table, around carefully selected brethren and sistren. And the idea would go away, because it was unsanctioned. But then there would be another horrible accident in the shipyard, another insane adjustment of work routines, and the idea’d come back, simply because it was the only idea that made any sense. “Work organized by the Party is insane, Poland is insane, our social life is insane. We’ve got to have a union free of the Party.”

    Over 35 years of self-activity the world has not known about — any more than the world knew very much about how the Farmers’ Alliance organized Populism — they found out how to do it. And in 1980 they did it. There’s a certain logic in history every now and then. The single most experienced organizer in the shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, who spent 12 years organizing and brooding about a union free of the Party, who had gone to jail scores of times in the decade — learning each time a little bit more about how power worked in his society — the one single most credentialed worker with other workers based on his own activity, is Lech Walesa. There is every now and then a certain justification in history.

    Because that movement existed, even though it was repressed by the government after 15 months, it sent a wave of hope across Eastern Europe. What Solidarnosc combatted, by its simple existence, was mass resignation. This resignation was the dominant political reality in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Poland until the shipyard workers of Gdansk became the nucleus of a mass movement, one of those rare moments in human history when people get back in touch with their own subjectivity. That is to say, they don’t lie in public. They say what they mean. And they try hard to say it clearly. They’re not trying to make a speech, they’re not trying to be an orator. They’re trying to be clear, like two people in a marriage struggling not to be political with each other but to be honest. One of those rare democratic moments when reality is projected.

    Because Solidarity stayed alive during the years of martial law, and because a man named Brezhnev who put down Solidarity passed off the stage of history and another man named Gorbachev who would not put down Solidarity came on the stage of history, the leading role of the Party this very week is going into the dustbin of history all over Eastern Europe.

    You especially need to read the speech if you are wondering what the Greenbacker critique is, the truly “American” response to concentrated economic and financial power. But the important thing for me is that after Goodwyn gave us an incredible educational tool in his history of USA populism, he then turned his attention to the Communist bloc of Central and Eastern Europe, and showed us that the same problems arose in both settings, and the same populist solutions prevailed, in Breaking the Barrier: The Rise of Solidarity in Poland.

    Well, to be accurate, let’s modify that to “almost prevailed.” In the USA, the populist insurgency actually elected to office dozens of populists to the Congress, including a handful of Senators, and hundreds of state legislatures, and a few governors as well. Out of that we got the first regulations on railroads, on food production, on pharmaceuticals, the only state bank in USA (North Dakota), state and federal crop insurance, and other things. Even the Federal Reserve system was made possible by the populist insurgency, though it was not really their design. They wanted something very different, but it was the populist insurgency which generated the general clamor for reform of the financial and monetary systems after the panics of 1901 and 1907.

    Instead of what they wanted, the populists got the monstrous Federal Reserve – even further removed from democratic control under the rubric of preserving the independence of the central bankers – because the populists’ core Greenbacker critique had been fatally devastated by their 1896 compromise with William Jennings Bryan’s position on silver coinage. This destruction of the populist movement during the 1896 campaign, by the way, is one of the most important case studies we should learn, and Goodwyn’s is really the only good history of it I know of.

    The last great surge of populist success was the Non-Partisan League in North Dakota in the years just before World War One. Then, the ideologically weakened populist movement was pretty much eradicated by the anti-German hysteria deliberately whipped up during the war. Chris Hedges provides the history in the opening chapters of his book, Death of the Liberal Class.

    It is highly pertinent to ask here: why weren’t the socialists and the communists wiped out along with the populists during the war? There are, I believe, three reasons. First is not really a reason: the fact is, the socialists and the communists also were attacked. Especially targeted, I believe, were the networks that had been established by the European revolutionaries who had fled to America after the failures of 1848.

    A digression here. These networks on 48ers were integral to the electoral successes of Lincoln and the Republican Party. They also were integral to the success of the Union on the fields of battle. And there is a new book out, The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the Civil War, by Don H. Doyle, which details how crucial was the role of the European revolutionaries who remained in Europe in saving the Union during the Civil War. Queen Victoria detested the American experiment in self-government, and after some hesitation and misgivings, British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston finally decided, in September 1862, to dispatch a British army and fleet to Canada. This would create the northern half of a pincers to choke the American republic; the southern half of the pincers were the French and Spanish forces which had already landed in Mexico and the Caribbean, with British assistance, in December 1861 through January 1862.

    At this crucial point, just when the British oligarchs thought they could finally get away with crushing the obnoxious experiment in self-government, the Union Army won at Antietam, and when the news arrived in Europe massive pro-Union demonstrations erupted. These were led by supporters of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s fight for Italian unification and independence, the most militant manifestation of the general anti-monarchical sentiments of European progressives at the time. On October 5, 1862, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, many garbed like Garibaldi’s red shirts, filled Hyde Park, London, and elsewhere in England. Palmerston quietly abandoned his preparations to militarily assist the Confederacy.

    To return to the crushing of American socialism and communism, and what I believe was the second reason I believe it was not as thorough as the annihilation of the populists. It was not until after the Bolsheviks seized Russia that socialists and communists in America could be restyled as “the Bolshevist menace.” The crackdown of socialists and communists thus became particularly severe near the end of World War One, and after. Lasting of course through the 1920s and 1930s, right up to today.

    But for me, the most important is the third reason. The socialists and communists who survived in USA, I believe, allowed to survive, because they were funded and controlled by what used to be called The Eastern Liberal Establishment. This is a point that many on the left get hysterical about. But the facts are detailed in Caroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. And if you don’t want to take the time to wade through that massive tome, just take a look at Corliss Lamont, the major funder of American socialism in the 1960s, note who his father was, and don’t shy from doing the math of putting two and two together.

    What about the European revolutions which overthrew the socialist states in the 1980s? The great promise and hope there was crushed by the adoption of Western neo-liberal capitalism. Which, not surprisingly, since it is funded and promoted by a bunch of rich pricks, ended up, when applied to Russia, Hungary, Romania, etc., creating a new oligarchy of rich pricks. And this should be an abject lesson for the left of the point I am making: when a crisis hits, you can only prevail if you already have in place your ideas for the solution. The crisis hit in Central and Eastern Europe, and the only ideas ready for use were those of Milton Friedman and the other amoral pigs of the Chicago School. There should be no wonder or shock at the results.

    OK, socialism and communism may not be any better than capitalism in preventing the rise of a repressive, authoritarian political regime. But what about the “tool kit” of Marxist class analysis. Isn’t that valid, and even useful? Well, since you ask, I’ll answer: No. And I’ll even explain why.

    Marx believed that classes were defined by income and ownership. While he engaged in some sociological speculation about how people change as incomes rise, he was mainly concerned with how the rich exploit the poor. The problem is, the really important class division in society is between producers and predators – the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen termed it – and there are a lot of producers that end up being included and condemned in Marx’s capitalist or owner class.

    The implications are pretty damn important. Lenin’s and Stalin’s determination to annihilate the krulaks in Russia was one result. But the krulaks were the backbone of agricultural production: they were the producers. Oppressing and dispossessing the agricultural producers resulted inevitably in a catastrophic collapse of agricultural production. So you get the famines of the 1920s and 1930s, which, it should be noted, only made it easier for Western elites to portray the the Bolsheviks in the worst possible ways.

    Marxist class analysis also is not much help when it comes to climate change, because all of Marx’s classes use energy. Just look at the sources of carbon in rich versus poor countries. What spews more carbon per economic activity: heating a home and cooking meals in a rich, Western country using electricity or even natural gas from the grid. or cutting down trees and burning them in a poor country?

    We need $100 trillion in investments over the next two decades to entirely replace fossil fuels. Of what use is Marxist analysis in getting that done? But Veblen’s producer / predator analysis, that the major struggle in modern economies is the one between industry and business, is immensely valuable. Capitalists who want to build the 1.7 billion home solar power systems we need? Good – even if they are still capitalists. But, capitalists who want to stymie the move to renewables, like the Koch brothers, in order to continue profiting from fossil fuels? Or capitalists who want to identify and buy up emerging companies in renewables and add them to their already immense corporate empires, such as General Electric, and cartelize the industry? Bad.

    Now, there are a lot of people on the left who try to avoid the opprobrium of an open embrace of socialism or communism, most often by arguing that the American republic was intended, from its very beginning, to be anti-democratic and tilted in favor of the owners of property. This, of course, is the analysis of Charles Beard in his Economic Interpretation of the Constitution. Since I’m already jabbing at many leftist sacred cows, I might as well jab at this one.

    I wonder if these people have actually read Beard. In Beard’s Interpretation, there were two basic interest groups: “…the merchants, money lenders, security holders, manufacturers, shippers, capitalists, and financiers and their professional associates” comprised one group. The other was “… the non-slave-holding farmers and the debtors.” This grouping commits the very same error Marx does: not distinguishing adequately, as Veblen does, between producers and predators. It is simply too crippling a mistake to lump money lenders, security holders, and financiers in with manufacturers. I will also note here that Beard’s analysis of Alexander Hamilton is completely at odds with the way these people portray Hamilton.

    And I’m absolutely certain those people who champion Beard’s analysis have never read Beard’s later work, The Economic Basis of Politics, which Beard himself considered more important because it addressed the great misconceptions that had arisen concerning his Economic Interpretation of the Constitution. To quote from the introduction to a 2002 republication of The Economic Basis of Politics, by Clyde Barrow:

    …Beard (1945, 62) concludes that “modern equalitarian democracy, which reckons all heads as equal and alike, cuts sharply athwart the philosophy and practice of the past centuries.” These themes are
    woven together in Beard’s claim that the central problem of contemporary political theory, as well as the motor of contemporary political development, is the contradiction between the ideals and institutions of political democracy and the reality of economic inequality (i.e., classes)…. The fact that neither capitalism nor communism had solved the problem of class conflict led Beard to the “grand conclusion” that it was Madison’s economic interpretation of history rather than Marx’s, that had withstood the greatest test of modern political history. Madison was correct to the extent that he identifies the problem of regulating class struggle, rather than eliminating it, as the central problem of political statesmanship and constitutional development, regardless of the mode of production or any particular distribution of wealth. There is no end to class struggle and, therefore, no end of history (or politics)….

    Screw you, Francis Fukuyama, and your neo-liberal sugar-daddies.

    As I argued a few days ago, the only power we have is the power of ideas. If you want the next generation to be better, give them better ideas.

  10. guest

    If you manage things incrementally like that, it is possible that success might lead to reform that the powers that be can’t control. Better to let things go to full crisis so that they can impose reforms to their own liking at a time when people might be willing to accept (or unable to prevent) something radical (i.e. privatizing water utilities).
    For example, when we had TARP rammed thru during the financial crisis, and not only did they get it rammed thru, they got the so call liberals to do all the dirty work and take all the blame for bailing out the too big to fail institutions at public expense, and ballooning the deficit (which Obama gets blamed for as if he was president, but he was actually a major arm twister in the Senate at the time, so it’s not as if his hands are clean, but somehow even Bush gets a revisionist skate on that rap).

  11. cripes

    If Sao Paulo is any indication, then things are looking bleak for California, short of stealing all the water west of the Mississippi and north of Seattle.

    Sao Paulo has average 57 inches annual rainfall, compared to LA’s 12 inches. But human activity, like deforestation and failure to ration or generally plan for such things, has put them in a crisis ripe for Mad-Max style post-apocalypism.

    When I was a Lower East Side squatter, I quickly learned that water was more important than electricity or even heat.

    In Sao Paulo, thirsty citizens are wildcatting water wells. Open cisterns (think metal barrels) are breeding Dengue fever. People stink. Hydroelectricity is down because, no water. People are fighting over public tap water and bathing in the rain.

  12. “Screw you, Fr…” What you? Some kind of Democrat?

  13. nihil obstet

    California will request a series of federal disaster declarations for the state. My guess is that they’ll get them. This will mean that the federal government will provide lots of money. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out politically, with Republicans who claim to be small government advocates having to sign on during a presidential election year.

    To Tony Wikrent’s interesting, somewhat provocative comment, I would somewhat modify one sentence — I’d change “the historical record is very clear that socialism, Marxism, communism, and so on DO NOT WORK” to “the historical record is very clear that socialism, Marxism, communism, and capitalism DO NOT WORK.” Economic philosophy matters, but I’ve concluded that democracy matters more. However inefficient and benighted voters can act, they don’t vote to starve themselves or have themselves killed or enslaved. So if the Irish had had the vote, they would not have continued to export food for profit while massive numbers of people starved, despite the fact that it was very good capitalism. No need to rehash the issue of needless American deaths because our medical industry is capitalistic rather than that awful European socialism. Capitalism wins the intellectual battle only when it is regarded as a flexible system while other economic philosophies are regarded as the scriptural truth handed down by dead prophets. It’s like saying physics does not work because you can show that Isaac Newton was wrong on quantum mechanics.

  14. Tony Wikrent

    I did not write “capitalism does not work” because I do not think it an entirely true statement. Though – mea culpa – neither is “socialism does not work” an entirely true statement.

    What do I mean by “not entirely true”? Let me answer that by asking another question: “What type or form of capitalism are you referring to?”

    I alluded to Veblen’s distinction between industry and business. I think the essence of this difference, and how crucial it is, is best captured by Jon Larson’s discussion of Industrial vs Finance Capitalism. I think industrial capitalism works great. But it’s not what we have in the USA right now, or almost any other country of the world. We have financial capitalism. And I think a good argument can be made that it isn’t really capitalism at all, because the relevant statistics show that the USA over the past half century has not only been deindustrialized and financialized, but decapitalized as well.

    Or, are you referring to British imperial capitalism, as expounded by the paid lackeys of the British East India Co. such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo, or the capitalism that a century ago was referred to as The American System? I had thought of modifying my first comment by adding a something, where I write, “The crisis hit in Central and Eastern Europe, and the only ideas ready for use were those of Milton Friedman and the other amoral pigs of the Chicago School.” So, I’ll add it here.

    I am certain that the outcome in Central and Eastern Europe would have been entirely different if, instead of only Friedman’s ideas of neo-liberalism to choose from, there had also been the ideas of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Carey, Friedrich List, and E. Peshine Smith. These four are the most important proponents of The American System. Yet, pick up an major economics text book today, and look for their names in the index. They have effectively been written out of history. Yet, it is their ideas which were the intellectual foundation for the industrialization of USA, Germany, Japan, Korea, and the Asian tigers. It sure as hell wasn’t the ideas of Adam Smith.

    And here is an important fact which no one considers. When the American republic was established, there was no such thing as “capitalism.” The word itself did not come into general usage until nearly a century later. Marx was not the first to use it, but its usage spread rapidly after Kapital was published. So, the conservative / libertarian myth that USA was established as a capitalist economy is obviously false. Go and find online texts of the Constitution and The Federalist Papers that are searchable, and see if you can find the words “capitalist” or “capitalism” in them.

    At the same time, it is also not entirely true to write that socialism never works. The actual world is full of examples of socialist programs which work quite well. Germany’s pension system, national health care in Britain, France, Canada and most other countries besides USA, Social Security in the USA, and so on. One of the grand achievements of really great statesmen is to figure out what parts of a society’s economy are best organized along socialist lines and which along capitalist lines, and steer their nation’s economic development accordingly. Any number of honest observers have remarked that the best economies include a mix of socialism and capitalism.

    Neo-liberal capitalism has obviously failed. Yesterday I posted a comment on Naked Capitalism I think it useful to share here.

    If I may, I think it is more useful to think of it this way: liberalism was a revolt on behalf of a rising middle class against the power and privileges of European ruling oligarchs and monarchs, who used their connections and influence at royal courts to gain economic monopolies and other privileges. The intent was to sweep away the power of these oligarchical and monarchical states to make room for greater economic freedoms and property rights for the rising middle class.

    The culmination of liberalism was the creation of the American republic. However, it is crucial to note that under the Constitution of the new American republic, economic freedoms and property rights were subject to the Constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare. Modern sovereign nation-states all seek to promote the general welfare by imposing environmental, workplace, and consumer regulations on economic activity.

    Neo-liberalism is a revolt, by a newly arisen class of corporatist oligarchs and plutocrats, against modern sovereign nation-state and their attempts to promote the general welfare by imposing environmental, workplace, and consumer regulations.

    But the discussion point I entered on was whether the next generation of leaders would be better than the crop of ideologues and criminals we have now. And my argument is that if you want a better generation of leaders, you have to give them better ideas. Veblen is better than Marx. And the American System is better than the economics of British oligarchs like Adam Smith.

  15. X

    From the linked article, 94% of Californians believe the drought is serious. I’m guessing, but I suspect that what a lot of people are feeling right now is stunned, and maybe hopeless. I think this is part of the problem. Some people don’t care, but that is always true, and given the environmental changes taking place on our planet, that pose is becoming increasingly insane and even uncool. There comes a point, inevitably, when the disconnect between, “everything is fine” and “we have to do something to survive”, becomes too much to handle. And then big changes (good ones, if we want) can happen. (X)

  16. “The Laws of the Market are as natural, immutable and inevitable as the Laws of Gravity or the Laws of Thermodynamics.

    Someone is under the delusion that the social sciences and the physical sciences are equally consistent in cause and effect outcomes.

  17. I took the first comment to be sarcastic. Didn’t everyone see it?

  18. V. Arnold

    March 16, 2015
    I took the first comment to be sarcastic. Didn’t everyone see it?

    Yes and no, as noted in my reply.

  19. nihil obstet

    @Tony, I think we’re more in agreement than not. The point of the last two sentences in my comment above is that in general discussions, “capitalism” gets applied to a wide range of very different situations while “socialism” is applied to killing kulaks by the thousands. I think the use of this language acts to support the neoliberal propaganda point that “there is no alternative”.

    What type or form of capitalism am I referring to? I don’t know the Linnaean taxonomy of capitalisms. I just use the term to refer to systems in which the state insures that power and privilege adheres to ownership of property rather than alternatives such as hereditary title or service to the state or people, and where accumulation of more property is a legitimate and privileged goal — i.e., profits over people, privatization of the commons, and the like.

    In these terms, I see the failure to respond to the California drought situation as a problem of capitalism — which private property owners should give up their expectations of profit for the common good? How much should those who will benefit only indirectly from restrictions on business (agriculture, real estate, and the like) be required to provide subsidies so that government can insure that the property of the current well-to-do retains its value?

  20. EmilianoZ

    Oregonians are just useless selfish water hoarders. The Laws of the Market, which are as natural, immutable and inevitable as the Laws of Gravity or the Laws of Thermodynamics, are gonna punish them by making their liquid hoard as worthless as sand in the desert.

    The greatness the Market is signaled by the fact that its functioning does not depend on a handful of good leaders. Robustness is the hallmark of the Market, whose laws are as natural, immutable and inevitable as the Laws of Gravity or the Laws of Thermodynamics. All of us, individuals trying to minimize our water bills, shall be part of the solution by virtue of the impenetrable workings of the Market.

    Desalinization is the best option. Apparently, western Antarctica is about to dump huge amounts of water unto the ocean, threatening vast coastal cities all around the world. Desalinization shall remove this excess of water. The Laws of the Market, which are as natural, immutable and inevitable as the Laws of Gravity or the Laws of Thermodynamics, are forever working towards restoring everything to its original pristine equilibrium. The Laws of the Market are the reason why we are living in a stable universe.

  21. Tony Wikrent

    nihil obstet – indeed. We agree to agree!

  22. joe marchal

    Who’s responsibility is it to manage the water. Relying on the market is absurd. The market is the artificial element attempting to model realty not the opposite. One cannot buy a dodo bird. For too many the drought will be serious or even real when no water comes from the tap and not before. People have a tendency to believe what serves them until it doesn’t. The situation here is the beginning of many more like it. Our values have to be seriously addressed ultimately as a species the hard way or the easy way. National borders become irrelevant in the face of global critical resources. Water i think is the major limiting factor on our numbers.

  23. V. Arnold

    It seems apparent to me that we’ve (and not recently) entered the Age of Resources.
    Ukraine, Syria, S.E. Asia, Africa, and Russia itself, represent both resources and distractions from resource grabs.
    Politics and political ideologies are mere distractions to divert attention from resource grabs. Either make outrageous trade treaties with us, or we’ll just take what “you” have; period. Looking back a decade and it’s obvious what all the shooting is about. It’s the Kansas City Shuffle: You look there and I go here; and there is always a body(s).
    The U.S., Canada, England, and the EU couldn’t care less about their citizens; citizens are a useless expense and a total waste of resources. So, take away healthcare, pensions, rights, any form of social insurance and be done with them. Just make sure the citizen is highly taxed as well; the rest takes care of itself. Oh yes; and shoot pesky non-whites with impunity.

  24. Paul

    I think we can easily predict what will happen. Look to the management of the Atlantic fishery:

    Agriculture in CA is going to collapse. The effects and echo effects will be quite painful.

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