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

The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

The Lies at the Heart of Our Dying Order

One should understand why people have lost trust in experts, the media, and politicians.

It is not difficult, it is the same reason people lost faith in Soviet Communism: Promises were made that turned out to be lies, those promises were not kept.

Soviet Communism was supposed to lead to a cornucopia and a withering away of the state. Instead it lead to a police state and a huge drought of consumer goods, and often enough, even food. Communism failed to meet its core promises.

The world order we live in was born in 1979 or 1980, with Thatcher and Reagan. It made a few core promises:

  • If the rich have more money, they will create more jobs.
  • Lower taxes will lead to more prosperity.
  • Increases in housing and stock market prices will increase prosperity for everyone.
  • Trade deals and globalization will make everyone better off.

The above core promises all turned out to be lies. It’s that simple. For the last 40-odd years, most of the population experienced either stagnation or decline.

Understand clearly: By 1979, people had lost faith in the post-WWII order. They were willing to try something new.
That “new” order has now betrayed too many people, and it is falling. It will continue to fail. We are in the twilight of neoliberalism (a longer article on that topic is forthcoming).

This is the reason why people are going for “fake news.” This is why people are willing to listen to demagogues. This is why people don’t trust the press–and why should they? The press has lied to them repeatedly, it is the original fake news. This is why people don’t listen when hundreds of economists say Brexit is bad–why should they? Most economists missed the housing bubble.

Neoliberalism has discredited everyone who bought in to it. Who didn’t buy into it? Well, the hard left and what people are now calling the “alt-right.”

So people are turning in those directions, though more to the right. Because people are ideologically and identity driven, and most are not intellectuals, what they look for are signifiers that someone is not like the people who screwed them, who lied to them for 40 years.

Trump does not talk like those people. Farrage does not talk like those people. On the left, Corbyn does not talk like those people and, to a large extent, neither did Sanders.

And so, people are turning to people who don’t parse like the “typical” elite. Many of those people are also selling them a bill of goods (Trump, to a large extent), or are nasty pieces of work (Trump, Alt-Right). To a lot of people, however, that doesn’t matter: They can’t take the pain any more. They are assured a long decline and they will take a flyer on anyone who might shake things up.

Lying is bad policy. It may get you what you want in the short run, or even the medium run, but it destroys the very basis of your power and legitimacy. Lying is what neoliberal politicians, journalists (yes, yes they are neoliberal), and their experts have done to themselves and they destroyed both their own power and legitimacy and that of the order they supported. No one with sense trusts them: If you trust these people, you have no sense, it is definitional. I always laugh when some idiot says, “But 90 percent of economists think X is bad.”
FAIL. They also missed the housing bubble. They lied or were “mistaken” about trade deals. Their opinion means nothing.

All this screaming about fake news is something I will take seriously when the New York Times, who helped sell the Iraq war based on “fake news,” is listed as fake.
The current order has very little credibility left, and they are losing more and more. Look at all the poll failures: Somehow, the polls almost always get it wrong against insurgents, not for them.
No, neoliberalism is dying, and its defenders are discredited, and both things deserve to be the case. That does not mean its death-throes will be pleasant (they won’t be) or that what replaces it will be better, just that it has run its course.

Those who supported it took their rewards: The top tier got filthy, stinking rich, their courtiers received good jobs and money, even as both disappeared for their victims. They will have to be satisfied with that, because posterity will be absolutely scathing to them, as it is to the generation leading up to World War I.
Lie repeatedly, fail to keep your promises, and things like Trump and Brexit will be the result. It is that simple.

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Trump’s Coming Confrontation with Yellen and the Federal Reserve


Everything Cost Clinton the Election


  1. Peter VE

    The speed that the “news” that Russians were involved in the WikiLeaks info dump, evolved to “Putin knew about it” tells us all we need to know about the media. The yelling coming from the Clinton supporters urging that the CIA be relied on to vet our President would be funny, if it weren’t so scary.
    Meanwhile, people from a long list of countries whom have had the benefit of the CIA’s involvement in the choice of their ruler are all noting that turnabout is fair play.

  2. Escher

    God help us.

  3. realitychecker

    Money is not the root of all evil, lies are. Virtually no great crimes can occur without the help of lies (not an original thought at all, btw).

    Liars will not curb or stop their brazenness until they are forced to suffer some HARD consequences for their lying, but nobody even talks about that. Perjury prosecutions are a rarity, and even they only address a tiny subset of all the insidious lies out there. Does everybody understand what ‘spinning’ means, what ‘puffing’ means? We reward our liars, which is why they thrive and proliferate.

    So, Ian, your analysis is spot on, but I must wonder why you are so gentle about it, i.e., having them settle for keeping what they’ve already acquired through their lies is so harsh, I wish I could take their place in receiving that punishment.

    We need a lot more dead people to change anything, and anyone with a brain should know that.
    Harsh language just amuses them. They are immune to shame.

    Morally, people should understand that the lies are already killing multitudes of people, and have all our lives. And that will continue if allowed to. Defense of others is a valid legal defense to a homicide. Notice the disconnect there. Not to advocate, but just using basic logical analysis here.

    But let’s just keep concentrating on being nice and polite, eventually that will fix everything, I’m sure.

  4. realitychecker

    @ Escher

    God won’t help us. He just told me so. (eye roll)

  5. StewartM

    Fully agreed. “Fake news” really started with “fake experts”, and a good degree of that I trace back to the 1964 tax cut, which gave elites the money to build their own think-tanks to churn out propaganda to oppose the then-current New Deal orthodoxy. My economics textbooks in college told me that the natural rate of unemployment was 3 %, and that poverty and unemployment and the externalization of costs were among the chronic problems of capitalism. Obviously we had to stop teaching young people stuff like that!

    The problem with the current distrust, while understandable, is that many throw out the baby with the bath water. While people are perfectly right in distrusting economic and other lies, they’re also distrusting things like climate change. The “MSNBC left” may wring their hands over birtherism and climate change denial and other obvious denials of simple fact, but they played their parts too by being so easy to corral into the Democratic veal pen and defend Obama’s and Clinton’s indefensibles.

  6. amerikaner

    Our order was created in 1946. Its not just Neo-liberalism but all Liberalism.

    Liberalism claims are being proven to be untrue and unworkable just like communism. Some core ideas are:

    “men and women are the same and are interchangeable”
    “all races are the same and should all live together”
    “a country is an economic area”
    “everything’s based on rationalism and materialism and is purely a calculation of economic self-interest”

    The Altright is winning because it is offering identity and meaning and group belonging to white people, when liberalism only offered confusion, self-negation and lonely individualism

  7. * Men and women are the same and are interchangeable in most contexts.
    * All races are the same and should live together, because race is a social category invented for oppression.
    * A country is an administrative zone.
    * Everything is based on a complex combination of rational decision-making and emotional conditioning.

    But yes, the alt-right is doing well because as the old consensus ends, dominant majorities search for scapegoats. The only long-term solution, considering that these periods are a constant of history, is to continue the work of deconstructing dominant identities…

  8. Tom

    Speaking of the CIA pushing the claim Putin interfered in the election, the FBI is saying the CIA is talking nonsense and the Republicans are splitting along ideological seams over the CIA claims.

    We might very well see a power play intra-Republican Party between the Cold War Warriors such as McCain and the Internationalists who want to bury the hatchet with Russia and focus on China.

    The other power play is between the CIA and FBI, but the FBI in the past has always bitchslapped the CIA down when it got uppity and had far better intelligence inside the USSR than the CIA did and saw its coming collapse.

    Trump’s first 100 days will likely be spent bitchslapping the Cold War Warriors and CIA into towing his line.

  9. Pho Child

    Mandos fails again. Nothing is based on rational decision making. You may think you are rational, but you aren’t. Liberals claim to hold the monopoly on reason. They don’t. Decision making is based on emotion, not reason. If people were rational, they would embrace degrowth. And the people who support degrowth could fit in a small ball park.

  10. Decision making is based on emotion, not reason. If people were rational, they would embrace degrowth. And the people who support degrowth could fit in a small ball park.

    You missed the rest of my sentence obviously. I said that people also have an emotional component to their decision-making. It is of course very easy to decide that the ideas your emotions have led you to (as you claim), others are irrational for not also adopting those ideas.

  11. realitychecker

    If one can’t tell the difference between rational thought and emotional reaction, then it’s no surprise when that one is perceived as being irrational.

  12. Peter

    The AP is reporting that CIA director Brennan has somehow rolled Clapper and Comey into the Putin fixed the election for Trump bandwagon and the claim that Trump was a willing accomplice is stated. This news came from Brennan not Clapper or Comey so it’s unclear what actually was discussed or agreed upon.

    A soft or a hard coup may be coming.

  13. Amerikaner

    Mandos: “everything is the same biology isn’t real”

    lol when liberals don’t believe in evolution

    An illiterate russian serf probably knew more about human nature than you do.

  14. realitychecker

    Mandos thinks that most Americans are too stupid and/or too undisciplined to be able to keep from having their thought process confused by. et al, excessive and unfocused verbiage, manipulations by professional spinners, deliberately dishonest paraphrasing, and celebration of their own internal psychological dysfunctions (which, in fairness, seem to be the only areas of specialization remaining to many, but especially to the left), , then that must be taken as absolute proof that NOBODY has the mental discipline, training, and focus to do an accurate, dispassionate, and , yes, rational analysis of anything.

    Mandos is just projecting his own limitations onto everybody else. Got therapy?

  15. realitychecker

    ON EDIT: Mandos thinks that since most Americans . . .

  16. BeenThere

    You are wrong to say that socialism failed (pls note that we’ve never had communism in any country). The socialist countries – and I speak from personal experience, having lived in more than one – were simply strangled economically (not that there weren’t internal problems, too). It was Truman’s policy to destroy the socialist bloc – and it finally happened in late 1980s. In the meantime, those countries were subject to sanctions, embargoes, endless propaganda, covert funding of the opposition… how can you of all people not be aware of all this? Again, not to say that there weren’t any internal problems… but to keep repeating the silly mantra that socialism failed is just journalistic malpractice. Having lived there and now for many yrs in he west, I can see both sides – and it is just not that simple. Unfortunately, this false black/white view is perpetrated by both the ideological right and opportunistic left in the US.

  17. tsisageya

    It’s funny. I don’t see you talking about the actual lies of our dying order. You say many words but they aren’t true. I’m not sure why I keep coming back.

    I get attached, I guess.

  18. tsisageya

    The reason people lose faith is because the people we are supposed to trust (government) are fucking liars and traitors. Trust? Surely you jest. I can’t get beyond it.

    I guess I’ll try to finish reading. I can’t guarantee it though.

  19. StewartM


    Mandos: “everything is the same biology isn’t real”

    lol when liberals don’t believe in evolution

    I don’t always agree with Mandos, but someone’s ignorance about supposed “race” is showing, and it’s not Mandos’s. Biology is most certainly real, “race” is not.

    The Altright is winning because it is offering identity and meaning and group belonging to white people, when liberalism only offered confusion, self-negation and lonely individualism

    Oh, I’d say that many of those same white people supposedly aching for “identity” would gladly exchange the economic shit sandwiches they are getting now for New Deal liberalism and its “confusion, self-negation, and lonely individualism”. After all, they actually voted for it, repeatedly, back then.

  20. Ian, I recently came across your blog while brooding about the Trump win and the unfolding collapse of my country. Good stuff, and a welcome perspective to consider in the dark days ahead.

    As 77,000 voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania made abundantly clear last month, life is not going well for millions of angry fellow citizens, despite our government’s warmed-over official stats touting an “economic recovery” that’s every bit as fake as the news Trump supporters have been passing around on Facebook. Unfortunately, the Democrats are complicit in this—NAFTA, the attempted TPP, almost no anti-trust enforcement, banking laws repealed and then the big banks bailed out when they misbehaved, with no prosecution of the white-collar criminals running them. (And of course a big expansion of the Orwellian surveillance state under Obama, the very same Constitutional law professor who criticized his predecessor’s tiptoeing into warrantless wiretapping.)

    Meanwhile, the invisible hand of the free market, despite 16 years of Democrats occupying the white house out of the past 24, has been squeezing ever harder around the throat of the average citizen. As Thomas Frank sums things up in his outstanding book Listen Liberal, “Today we live in a world of predatory bankers, predatory educators, even predatory health care providers, all of them out for themselves.”

    The problem is that there are no ready solutions to the predicament so many of our countrymen find themselves in. And when that happens, so long as people have a vote and even more so after they finally acquiesce in giving it up, the likely outcomes are grim.

    —Adapted from my essay this week, “Requiem for the Republic”:

  21. different clue

    @Ed Suominen,

    Are you writing in from the U P ?

  22. bruce wilder

    Politics is always a struggle over the distribution of income and power. In a hierarchical society and political economy, a big part of the struggle occurs across the top-bottom axis. The main practical advantages of an egalitarian democracy and constitutional republic are the checks it imposes elite authority and the requirements for deliberation and argument.

    Given the wholesale transfer of income, wealth and power upward, every political issue now turns on the inability to provide that check on the experts and the bosses or require sensible argument and deliberation in the public space. The most prominent journalists and pundits and economists have hired themselves out as useful idiots, useful to the plutocracy, useless to the rest of us.

    The neoliberal Democrats abandoned the defense of the interests of the poor and the working classes in the early 1980s. I wouldn’t say that the neoliberal agenda never delivered to the broad public. Taking apart institutions and liberalizing trade released resources; even if this was eating the seed corn, taking income today by failing to invest in the future, it did pay off for a time.

    We’ve come past the end of the road embarked on circa 1979. Some say, Trump may get some blood from one last squeeze of the tax cut turnip. I doubt it.

    Climate change and resource depletion are barrelling down upon us.

    There is a ready reservoir of gains for the working and middle classes, though. A lot of manufactured goods and services, thanks to the digital revolution, are actually very cheap on a unit basis, requiring little capital and less labor to produce, and a lot of debt and debt disguised as services is pointless except as a deadweight upward transfer of income. A lot of goods and services in daily life could be much cheaper. Most of us could work much less for The Man. Usury laws would help a lot of people currently on the edge. Restructuring the financial sector or the health care sector or the media sector could pay off tangibly in an easier life.

    In short, we can eat the rich. And, should. It would be good public policy.

    The alternative is that the rich will try to throw us out of the sinking ship, SS Neoliberalism, 3 or 4% at a time, to lighten the load and keep the thing afloat a while longer. Relieves the pressure on global resources and makes it easier to go on being a rich cosmopolitan jetting about the planet, while it is still habitable.

  23. BlizzardOfOz


    If race isn’t real, then how can 23 & Me tell me my race given a drop of my saliva? Amerikaner is right – it takes a lot of education to make a man more ignorant than an illiterate peasant.

    You want to believe that while the western elite is corrupt, dishonest, incompetent, and rotten to its very core, that it is still correct in its worldview, even where that differs from the consensus of our received wisdom; that while it is “not even wrong” in every technical discipline where it’s been tested, that it might still be basically correct, honest, and accomplished beyond measure in others.

  24. V. Arnold

    December 16, 2016

    An illiterate russian serf probably knew more about human nature than you do.

    I think that is correct.
    IMO, our forced education, social pathologies, despotic governance, and model of society have lead to a net loss of a fundamental intelligence. I don’t know what term to use to describe that intelligence, but it’s the innate intelligence of indigenous peoples, pre-Columbian.
    As long as we continue to exceed Dunbar’s Number, that loss will continue until we don’t…

  25. Hugh

    Too much has happened. The rich and elites have stolen too much, lied too much, betrayed us too much, too deeply, too often. The toothpaste can not be put back in the tube. People are beginning to realize that it is either them or us. We either put them down or they will put us down. It is that simple.

  26. V. Arnold

    Oh, and I forgot our cruelty, towards each other and life in general; unsurpassed in the animal kingdom.

  27. StewartM


    If race isn’t real, then how can 23 & Me tell me my race given a drop of my saliva?

    They can tell from your DNA your skin color, or nose width/length, or things like that, and tell you that you’re (for instance) “white”. That does *NOT* mean there is such thing biologically speaking, as a “white race”.

    The exterior attributes that were used to classify people as “Caucasian”, “Negroid”, “Mongoloid”, or any number of false categories don’t track with equally inheritable traits that you can’t see, like blood type or the ability to taste PTC, or others. If we could see these traits like we see skin hue, hair kink and color, and nose length, we’d classify the Scots and West Africans and Australian aborigines together (hey, they have similar prevalence of the same blood type), or say that the Chinese and Japanese can’t be of the same race (vastly different concentrations of PTC-tasters). Especially there can’t be any “black” or “Negroid” race as Africans show more genetic variation than everyone else; people in nearby villages can show greater genetic differences than a Chinese has versus a German versus an Amazonian Indian. Genetic diseases like sickle-cell anemia also don’t respect the old racial boundaries; it also can be found in populations in the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, India, and parts of South America.

    What you see in the exterior attributes that were used to construct the traditional “races” are examples of convergent evolution. People of different pedigrees from different population groups who moved to the same environment were affected by natural selection to develop the same adaptations, like skin hue (caveat: only if they made the transition to agriculture) or nose length and width. So they ended up looking like each other, on the outside. The fact that they ended up looking alike because they shared the same environment does not mean that they are biologically related, any more than a marsupial wolf is biologically related to the placental wolf because they look alike due to the same convergent evolution. The fact that they can test your DNA and say “you have white skin” doesn’t mean that you are genetically similar to other people that have white skin, or that these form a biologically valid group that share the same pedigree or originated from any common ancestor.

  28. V. Arnold

    @ StewartM

    If what you say is true (and my gut feeling is, it is true); that is the clearest description I have read yet, thanks.
    Just one more deeply ingrained prejudice to unlearn.
    Thus my comment above re: forced education. I’ve spent the last 50+ years unlearning most of what I was taught.

  29. Barry

    I’ve asked this elsewhere, but can anyone name any institution that people still trust? Ian mentions experts, media, politicians, communism, socialism, and capitalism — what about banks? police? the education system? business leaders? economists? churches? science? the courts? the constitution? the rule of law?

    I think a lot of the erosion of the credibility of institutions comes from the rise of neoliberalism, but right now I’m more worried about whether we can continue to function in a post-institutional world — where there is no locus for societal trust.

    Social systems work because people believe in them and therefore work with them and within them. We invest in them. What do we do to stem the loss of faith in all institutions?

  30. @StewartM
    OF COURSE we throw out the baby with the bath water. How can we not? When we are lied to we can no longer believe ANYTHING the liars say. That is the big evil that the liars commit, not just that they line their pockets at our expense, but that TRUTH CAN NEVER BE HEARD.

  31. Ian Welsh

    I tend to agree with Mandos that gender shouldn’t be important for most jobs and that race is largely a social construct which should mean nothing: skin color should be as important as eye color or hair color. Of course people are mostly emotional, with some rationality.

    Which just goes to show that one can have many of the same basic assumptions about the world and still disagree vehemently. 🙂

  32. Ian Welsh

    In the US, Barry, there is only one major institution people still trust, and who it is should worry you deeply.


    The military.

  33. Some Guy

    This is correct, but incomplete. Bruce adds one key piece – resource constraints – although I’m not sure I share his optimism with respect to how much of ‘the bezzle’ could be redistributed to the middle class.

    The other piece is communications. The end of the TV era and the rise of the internet / social media is a big part of this.

    The 1% understands this of course, hence the flurry of activity on this front (the war on ‘fake news’) but can they really do anything about it? I’m not sure, so far it’s not looking good for them, but I’m sure they have more tricks up their sleeve.

  34. amerikaner

    “The fact that they can test your DNA and say “you have white skin” doesn’t mean that you are genetically similar to other people that have white skin, or that these form a biologically valid group that share the same pedigree or originated from any common ancestor.”

    Haha that is exactly what the studies show. This is amazing sophistry bravo

    Liberals would do better to just accept the true race science and work to destroy human difference honestly.

  35. Kim Kaufman

    Further to Ian’s comment about the military – and the erosion of the credibility of institutions (and lying):

    Trump’s looming showdown with the ‘secret government’

    the above is an update from this article:

    Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.
    The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon

  36. V. Arnold

    @ Kim Kaufman
    Wow, it goes back to 1860, interesting.

    From The Boston Globe article;

    IDEAS: Where does the term “double government” come from?

    Glennon: It comes from Walter Bagehot’s famous theory, unveiled in the 1860s. Bagehot was the scholar who presided over the birth of the Economist magazine—they still have a column named after him. Bagehot tried to explain in his book “The English Constitution” how the British government worked. He suggested that there are two sets of institutions. There are the “dignified institutions,” the monarchy and the House of Lords, which people erroneously believed ran the government. But he suggested that there was in reality a second set of institutions, which he referred to as the “efficient institutions,” that actually set governmental policy. And those were the House of Commons, the prime minister, and the British cabinet.

    Anyhoo, thanks for the link.

  37. Tom W Harris


    Gimme a break.

  38. Hugh

    StewartM gives a very good description. From a genetics point of view, race is nonsense. It is true that certain genetic markers show up more often in certain populations, and these can be used to give you some idea of where you come from. They do not tell you who you are.

    I remember learning a very long time ago that whale hemoglobin was very different from human hemoglobin in all the non-essential bits. But in those dealing with oxygen transport they were pretty much the same. The reason being that if you or a whale can’t transport oxygen, you’re both dead. And that’s the crux of the story here. If it’s important, it’s conserved and shows little variation. If it’s not, the opposite is true. If there is some marginal advantage like darker skin color in sunnier climates, then this adaptation can show up, and does, even in geographically isolated populations. But the takehome lesson is that genetically we are far, far more similar to each other than we are different, to the extent that individually we can be genetically more similar to someone from a different population than the one we happen to find ourselves in.

    As for “race science,” that’s pretty much a white suprematist tell, and an oxymoron.

  39. All understanding is only theory. Any theory can be wrong. It may be held to be true until someone disproves it. Newton’s laws were disproved by Einstein. But maybe Einstein’s laws will one day be disproved by someone else (who can explain the Twin’s Paradox for example). That’s why listening to people you don’t agree with and peer review are so important.

  40. V. Arnold

    @ John Poynton

    Newton’s laws were disproved by Einstein.

    Unfortunately, you completely leave out context, which would clarify what Newton couldn’t have known.
    And that’s just the beginning, but I leave that for you to deal with.

  41. brian

    I tend to agree with Mandos that gender shouldn’t be important for most jobs and that race is largely a social construct which should mean nothing: skin color should be as important as eye color or hair color. – Ian

    I wish people would see beyond race. It’s so obviously not race, it’s culture. People aren’t biased against ‘African-American’ race they are biased against ghetto culture. Black isn’t even a race. Kenyans and Nigerians are worlds apart. You can’t even say American Black without thinking of *culture*. If whites were replaced with blacks but had the same ghetto, violence rules, anti-intellectual, fat loving culture then you better believe the majority culture would still discriminate against that culture.

    Why don’t people realize while people of race are pretty much indistinguishable race is just a window dressing to identify the culture and all cultures are NOT interchangeable.

    Black people that ACT white are the most praised people. Of course white culture you do not need to be white, it’s just culture. It just happened that way because of low mobility among groups in evolution led to uniformity of genes.

  42. Ché Pasa

    Re: Trust in the military…

    I’m not sure Americans really trust the military so much as they have become dependent an image of the military that they believe they need: “Protectors”. Goes back to the Indian Wars and beyond.

    This is one reason why, if Trump is denied the presidency (unlikely, but there has been a whole lot of unlikely in this year’s electoral pageant) there would almost have to be an interim government fronted by a “respected” (possibly retired) military figure. Who would that be?

    I can’t think of one off-hand, but I can think of plenty of war criminals and worse who have betrayed their oaths and duties and thus ought to be disqualified.

    The other thing is that Trump has his own stable of generals who no doubt seek to gain from his ascension, and they would no doubt fret that their own advantage was thwarted if Trump is denied the presidency. What would they do? If they issued a call to arms, would anyone respond? If so, who?

    This is what could trigger a civil war. Not that the people would rise up on their own to fight one another over who sits on the throne, if anyone, but that one faction of the military would fight another for their own advantage — and of course both the contending factions would refer to it as “preserving, protecting, and defending the constitution.” Because of course they would.

    On the other hand, I doubt there’s all that much personal loyalty toward Trump among his stable of generals, and if the right one emerges from the scrum to serve as the face of an interim government, then Trump and his gang can be sidelined.

    Chaos would ensue just the same, but it would likely be over pretty quickly.

    As for the lies underpinning the dying order? Absolutely.

    Anything taking the place of the current decadent order, however, would be just as filled with lies, wouldn’t it?

  43. BlizzardOfOz


    Race is a pretty simple concept. It means a population that has interbred over a period of many generations. This happens due to geographic (mountains, oceans), political (nations) or cultural isolation of populations. Clearly this does not imply that every given trait is shared by every member of a race, or that certain traits aren’t shared across races. It does mean that members of a race are more related to each other, and share clusters of physical and behavioral traits.

    They can tell from your DNA your skin color, or nose width/length, or things like that, and tell you that you’re (for instance) “white”. That does *NOT* mean there is such thing biologically speaking, as a “white race”.

    So, you have a racial ancestry that can be identified accurately by looking at your genes. You can identify a man’s race by sight (“Caucasian” => white, “Negroid” => African, “Mongoloid” => Asian), with high accuracy, and your categorization will agree with the old 19th Century skull measurements, as well as with the newer genetic cluster analysis. But race doesn’t “exist” “biologically”. Should we then call it “ancestry” and say it’s “empirically significant”?

  44. Ancestry is a biological concept, but race is not. Race is how we choose to behave in relation to surface differences. Race would still be a social construct even if Irish people and Japanese were separate species that couldn’t produce children together. By “social construct”, I mean it in this sense: if any voluntary choices exist at all, then how we behave with regard to visible markers of likely different biological ancestry is one of those choices. There are obviously people — I mean, we have them arguing right here — for whom this is very emotional distinction, that they then retroactively attempt to justify by data-mining phenotypically superficial changes over time. I think that emotionalization of ancestral difference — aka racism — is very much a social construct, a tempting one for some, and a tendency we have no choice but to purge.

    Much more interesting than the content of the “race” concept is the reason for the emotional tendency towards racist thinking exhibited by some of the participants here. I suspect it may have to do with different conceptualizations of love. If your underlying paradigm of love is openness, the breaking of boundaries, the sacrifice of comfortable barriers, etc, etc, then racism is an anti-love horror. If your underlying paradigm of love is one of encirclement, enfolding, comfort, immersion, then you’ll have a tendency to look for things to “encircle”, of which superficial visual differences, retroactively justifiable through “race science”, are a very easy category indeed.

  45. realitychecker

    I never saw a white dog refuse to play with a black dog.

    Dogs are smarter than we are.

  46. V. Arnold

    @ BlizzardOfOz

    You can identify a man’s race by sight (“Caucasian” => white

    Wrong. Indians (India) are classified as Caucasian, last I checked. Oh, but wait, their also Asian.
    Damn, confusing no?

  47. V. Arnold

    Oops; they’re

  48. Peter

    Trump has moved away from the Jokers, Penguins and Riddlers surrounding his Gotham Tower to the more friendly territory surrounding his Mar-A-Lago redoubt in Florida. He is continuing his victory tour thanking his supporters and a large group of vets there and in Alabama. The large crowds are still chanting ‘Lock Her Up’ which is a good sign people know where the lines are drawn in this conflict.

    His spokesman answered questions about the demand that he submit to depositions for the troublemakers who are suing because they were roughed up at his campaign rally’s, he answered with this statement.

    Trump Will Not Be Deposed!!!

  49. markfromireland

    It is really effing hilarious how you people allow yourselves to get diverted like this. I swear goldfish would be embarassed. Then people like you wonder how your political enemies run rings around them. Over there – see it?!?

  50. Mike Stevens

    The other big promise that I think you are missing is that focusing monetary policy entirely on inflation will lead to greater prosperity. This shift occurred at the end of the 1980s. It obviously failed but it’s great for lenders!

  51. Synoia

    “Understand clearly, by 79 people had lost faith in the post-WWII order. They were willing to try something new.”

    Thatcher’s first act in government, 1979 I believe, was to raise VAT from 8% to 17%.

    She had campaigned on lower taxes. The writing was on the wall then.

    I do not recall anyone saying or believing that they wanted to try something new in 1979. Whilst it is true I was younger and did not know as much as I do now, I do dispute you assertion.

    The issues with Labor, strikes and their struggle, were and are firmly rooted in the management attitudes which breed the labor anger and discontent.

    As summarized by the refrain in “The Red Flag:”

    The working class can kiss my ass
    I’ve got the foreman’s job at last!

  52. Ian Welsh


    and some people get upset that I write articles that cover the same point more than once…

  53. Ian Welsh


    I’ve covered NAIRU other times, and extensively, but you’re right I should have included it in this list.

  54. BlizzardOfOz

    It’s too easy to fall into well-worn paths … the phrase “the lies at the heart of our dying order” was just too tempting.

  55. BlizzardOfOz

    V. Arnold,

    Yes, it’s complicated – very. But again, when an average person can categorize humans, according to broad racial groups, with high accuracy, then we’re talking about something as real as anything in nature. A good analogy from plant biology is monocots versus dicots. An attentive observer can tell the difference — which science has confirmed, but also uncovered all sorts of complexity, edge cases, exceptions due to convergent evolution, etc.

    I don’t know much about Indians – obviously they were part of a common ancient stem with Europeans, as suggested also by Sanskrit belonging to the Indo-European language/culture.

  56. GrimJim

    The concept of race has existed since time immemorial, ever since the day when humans gathered in bands, then into clans, thence into tribes, and finally into nations. A more polite and less politically charged term is “ethnicity.”

    Whatever you call it, it is a quick and dirty way of saying “these people are the same as we are” and “they are not us, but someone else.”

    Also since time immemorial, each race has thought itself to be the best on Earth, most blessed by the gods/God, superior to all other races, and thus destined to rule over other races, with the other, inferior races, not being the most blessed, not having much say in the matter… and in some cases, being destined for extermination.

    Historically, we see it everywhere. You are probably most familiar with the idea from the Old Testament of the Bible, where the Hebrews first declared themselves the “Chosen People” of the “One God,” and then proceeded to exterminate every Canaanite they could get their hands on…

    Similarly, the various empires of the day were racial empires, with the ruler surrounded mostly by his own people, and even in the more enlightened states, the rulers of the same race being left in place as satraps.

    Of course, as time proves, every race that has ever believed itself the “best race” is proven quite wrong. Most such peoples have a golden age, when they are able to take advantage of whatever resources nature granted them, or technological advantages their ancestors developed, to rule over other races for a time, and then as is the way of the world, they decline, and others rise.

    The “Germanic” peoples had they heyday in the days of the collapse of the “Mediterranean” empire; their advantage was that they were barbarians at a time when it was quite advantageous to be barbaric. They peaked at the time of Charlemagne, went into decline, and had a second Golden Age with the Age of Discover/Exploration/Colonization. But the rest of the world has slowly caught up with them, and they are on the decline.

    What we are seeing from the Alt-Right (“The Monsters,” as I simply call them) is the final paroxysm of death, in which the dying thing tries to take out everything else around it. It is an especially potent paroxysm, as the racial theories of the defunct German Reich combined with the sad, pathetic remnants of American White Exceptionalism to form a most potent and toxic witch’s brew of beliefs and ideals.

    And of course, it all has come to a head at the absolutely worst time, when these Monsters are now poised to gain power of the last, sad, declining, but still immensely powerful Superpower State the world will ever see…

    The ironic thing is, of course, that these Monsters believe themselves to be the purest of all human races, which is of course drivel. The purest humans (Homo sapiens) of course, are Africans. Europeans are all mixed with Homo neandertalensis, making them in fact a mongrel race; those who are descended from the northernmost groups are also the most mixed, with the highest percent of Neanderthal genes.

    So really, this is the last hurrah of the Neanderthals… which is why, I suppose, it is so easy to compare the Monsters with cavemen… because really, they are the closest thing we have today that was related to the archetypal cavemen…

  57. ks

    While this is a good piece, I think it’s leaving something out. Sure, the lies/failure/death throes of neoliberalism may the the over arching theme as to why people have lost trust in experts, the media, politicians etc. but, I think you have to consider the fact that there’s been a concurrent, and wildly successful, rightwing propaganda campaign for the last 30-40 years which, was created by folks like Ailes/Attwater/Norquist et al. designed to do just that – make people lose trust in experts, the media, politicians etc. .

    Other than creating an alternative reality echo chamber, a big part of the think tanks, publications, talk radio, TV stations, etc. process was to de-legitimize the current “establishment” mostly to gain power and make money. As I said, it’s been a wildly successful campaign. So much so that it’s almost 2017 and folks are still going on about stuff like the “liberal media” and even a lot of progressives have accepted their overall framing of the issues. Also they were aided greatly by the accelerant of the internet and now everybody is an expert in everything and can argue with doctors, accountants, lawyers, economists, rocket scientists etc. as “equals”.

  58. wendy davis

    @Mandos: thank you for all you’ve written here about ‘race’ as a social construct. spencer wells in his ‘journey of man’ books and videos (on youtube now, i think) for national geographic, traced the first human as a san bushman in the kalahari desert by following the ‘relatively unchanged’ Y chromosome markers. he called it a ‘non-racial story, but a ‘cultural story’, not a ‘biological’ one as he traced the various journeys of early man (not sexist, but referring to the Y chromosome) as having adapted to different climates, light intensities, and so on. in the photos of the oldest san busman he could find, i swear you could see every human cultural/ethnic feature on his beaming face; glorious!

    @ Stewart M: thank you, a well.

    ‘racialism’ is almost always wrong-thinking, too, as in: ascribing traits to a ‘race’ or ethnicity as monolithic.

    @ BeenThere: thank you. stir in the modern coups in VZ, and the ngo/cia soft-power coups in the remaining bolivarian nations, including the degraded socialism in brazil, and the hideous bombing and strafing campaign that mexico gave the zapatistas (with the help of the IDF). clearly, the bidness of the empire is to quash any socialistic tendencies. thomas mountain writes that eritrea is one of three remaining socialistic nations (he doesn’t name the other two), and the hegemon and human rights (cough) agencies, and NGOs like the accursed avaaz, are fomenting for some military r2p continually.

  59. Hugh

    Mike, Carter appointed Volcker to head the Fed in 1979. He did most of his rate raising under Reagan in 1980-1981. Concurrent with this was the repeal of anti-usury laws in the 1980 Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act which continue to haunt us in the form of payday lenders and credit card interest charges. Volcker’s rate hikes to combat high inflation ushered in the era of the Fed’s war on workers’ wages where any increase in them, real or imagined, is a signal for the Fed to increase rates –all this while Yellen makes vague statements about wanting to increase inflation somewhere in the dim, dark future to 2% and while the Fed has pumped trillions into super-dangerous bubbles.

    Race science is fake science. It is what Hannah Arendt called “scientificality”. It fits into the present conversation because it is an example of dressing up lies and endowing them with the aura of science, objectivity, and fact. Our elites have been excellent at this in draping themselves in their credentialism and their learned GIGO defenses of their privileges and looting. Economics is another stellar example of this kind of self-serving propagandistic scientificality. While scientificality pretty much permeates the “soft” sciences like economics, political science, education, psychology, and even much of jurisprudence, it has also made major inroads into the hard sciences due to career pressures and how funding is done, and who does the funding. The results of a significant number of studies are not reproducible. Publish or perish, and worse lose funding, are important drivers of fake or exaggerated results. And, of course, there is the dubious relationship between drug manufacturers as funders of studies and the results of those studies.

    Put simply we are awash in a sea of lies. And now we have the spectacle of social media going to some of the biggest purveyors of fake news in the MSM to adjudicate what is and is not fake.

    I would agree with ks that the right wing had two or three decades in which their tribalist propaganda, like talk radio or FoxNews was disseminated without challenge, but when it was, it was met by tribalist Democratic news, like MSNBC and NPR, not by reality based reporting. I would disagree that all the internet did was make everyone a fake expert. It simply extended the need to be sceptical about all reporting into a new medium. A major contribution of the internet is that it democratized access to a lot of information. I was not an economist before I came to the internet, but the internet gave me direct access to the data so that I could actually analyze them for myself and judge the claims made on them by others.

    I would say that the internet does not make everyone an expert, but it gives you the tools to become one. And in an era where lies are king, that is something.

  60. Some Guy

    The title is “The Lies At The Heart Of Our Dying Order”.

    But nobody wants to talk about that, better to have yet one more endless round of arguments over identity politics. Very fitting.

  61. Some Guy

    Oops, now I see that that smug SOB MFI already made this same point earlier, and I hate to back him up. Oh well, if you’re right, you’re right.

  62. Lisa

    It was always BS, smart working class people (highly self educated and smart) knew that. I knew that. I was jumping up and down against Bill Clinton, Bill Hawke, Keating, Langey …and of course Bliar when they sold out ..let alone Thatcher and Reagan…

    How can you have capitalism when no one can buy any products?

    Even the ‘China’ model was BS, it damaged badly China’s natural development, turned it away from developing manufacturing and a scientific/technical base to meet its own needs into a ‘cheap workshop of the worlds elites’ with all the environmental and resource issues it now faces.

    Apple was, and is, the worst of the worst. Steve Jobs creating an anti-wage coalition to drive down US technical workers and moved all its manufacturing into China…for the tax advantages of course.

    So we ‘squared the circle’ with debt, letting banks (etc) create unlimited… that worked so well.

  63. jackiebass

    It may be dying, but it will experience a parade of glory under Trump. Instead of draining the swamp he has clogged up the drain with his lies so the swamp is getting deeper. It’s pretty scary that the cronies Trump appoints will be running the country for at least four years. They will have a field day plundering the country for themselves and their friends.Trump will be the figure head that pacifies and keeps the public happy. It will be a new version of Ronald Reagan presidency. The vast number of people that voted for Trump are clueless about the transition process taking place. His Thank You Tour was done to take the spot light off of how he is forming his administration. Unfortunately his supporters still think Make America Great Again is meant for them. They are in for a rude awaking when they discover it means they will get screwed again. I associate with these people every day so I know what is happing in the real world of Trump voters.

  64. BlizzardOfOz


    I’m curious as to your definition of real versus fake science. I suspect that your beloved science of global warming would not compare favorably to race science. Now of course race (like global warming) being a politically charged subject, it has attracted charlatans and propagandists. But that doesn’t mean that race itself doesn’t exist in nature, or can’t be studied. Race is something that’s evident to all humans, at least until you subject them to a lifetime of indoctrination that actually colors don’t exist, bigot, they’re just different frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s also something that has been studied with more success and predictive power (as 23 & Me demonstrates) than global warming studies.

    It’s ironic that you would cite Hannah Arendt, a Jewish non-scientist, on this subject. Jewish intellectuals have spearheaded the race-doesn’t-exist movement, while themselves being members of the most fanatical racial-purity cult in world history. Does Arendt mention the existence of her own race, preserved in diaspora for 2000 years through the most extraordinary measures, and which developed a measurably higher intelligence due to eugenic practice? Or does she gloss over it? At least you didn’t cite her co-ethnic Stephen Jay Gould, whose study that purportedly exposed the fraud of racial classification using skull measurements, was itself later discovered to be a fraud — the progenitor of today’s fake-news media denouncing the scourge of fake news.

  65. The biggest lie that that has gone on for centuries is that somehow the acquisition of crap, plastic crap that ends up in a landfill a few months after purchase, or a shiny new SUV, or fancy degree, or banal McMansion, or marrying the prince or princess of you childhood dreams, or the closet full of expensive clothes, or the bulging checking account, or the coke, or the cruise to the Bahamas, or another kid is going to get people the ever-elusive happiness they will never find in this capitalist-materialist-planet-eating shit hole called America.

  66. Blissex

    «It made a few core promises: [ … ] These core promises all turned out to be lies. It’s that simple.»

    They have not been lies: the core premises happened for a large minority of the population, affluent middle class property/business owners, retired or close to retirement, and for an overwhelming majority of campaign donors.

    Neoliberal policies have been quite popular. The congressional majorities and presidents who have enacted and implemented welfare “reform”, non-enforcement of immigration law, TARP, debt bubbles, PATRIOT, Iraq war, non-enforcement of securities law, offshoring, government run murder squads, much lower taxes for the rich, they have all been re-elected

    «For most of the population, the last 40-odd years were either an experience of stagnation, or an experience of decline.»

    That has also happened, but for *elections* the experience of  «most of the population» is largely irrelevant: what matters is the experience of a plurality of *voters*, who get to shape congressional or parliamentary majorities, and of *donors*, who get to shape who is nominated as candidate.

    Democracy works only for people who vote and donate to campaigns. In a democracy the majority of voters (and donors) win, the others lose.

  67. Brian Elwin Pomeroy

    Show me the money. Follow the money. I can’t do it all.

  68. Blissex

    «The neoliberal Democrats abandoned the defense of the interests of the poor and the working classes in the early 1980s.»

    That was when the historic base of the democratic party, the irish/jewish/italian working class, turned into property owning middle classes.

    «The most prominent journalists and pundits and economists have hired themselves out as useful idiots, useful to the plutocracy, useless to the rest of us.»

    Some of them have started to realize that they made a mistake:
    «journalists/columnists of a certain age (meaning ones not much older than me and younger) are coming around to the realization that the economy is screwing them, too.
    There was a moment when a lot of them (we’re talking ones at elite outlets, not your random small town paper) thought they’d done everything right, would become celebrities, and get Tom Friedman’s speaking fees. The economy sure was working for them, and screw everybody else.

  69. Hugh

    Blissex, we don’t have a democracy, and elections do not equate to democracy. There were elections in the Soviet Union and in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. We have elections here and nothing changes. I see a pattern.

    BlizzardofOz, showing your anti-semitism, much? How long before we start hearing about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

  70. Tom W Harris

    Does Arendt mention the existence of her own race, preserved in diaspora for 2000 years through the most extraordinary measures, and which developed a measurably higher intelligence due to eugenic practice?

    Let me explain something to you, Blizzzzzy babybee. The “eugenic practice” here was applied by the outside world through its relentless and often murderous opposition. Under those conditions, dumb Jews died, and the average IQ rose.

    This has been another in the series Simple Answers to Really Easy Questions.

  71. BlizzardOfOz

    @Tom W Harris,

    “the average IQ rose” – so you admit that race is real. I’ll take it.

  72. Blissex

    «we don’t have a democracy, and elections do not equate to democracy.»

    It surely isn’t an athenian-style democracy…

    Still it is an imperfect limited-sovereignty representative democracy, and the elections “work”: they allow the voters and campaign donors to veto the faction of the elites that they object to most. In the recent USA election it turns out that the voters objected most to H Clinton, and the donors objected most to B Sanders.

  73. Tom W Harris

    Cracka, please.

    What I admittedexplained is that race is a social construct. Take that.

  74. different clue


    Jews are a “racial purity cult”? I have seen blond-haired blue-eyed EuroJews, Afro-looking Ethiopian Jews, pretty-dark-themselves Arab Jews, etc. Oh, and . . . some dark eyed dark haired EuroJews who are darker skinned than some white-looking Arab Jews that I have seen.

    So where is the “racial purity” in this “cult”?

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