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

When You’ll Get a More Equal Society

So, it seems that the salaries of junior bankers are being cut so that senior bankers can have bigger bonuses. At UBS, the average bonus for senior bankers is $2.1 million.


Unless you’re a junior banker. Or a customer.

A given means of production, combined with a resource base, will throw off some amount of surplus. That surplus is divided among the population based entirely on their power. Sometimes that power comes from scarcity, often managed scarcity as in the Medieval Guild system, or un-managed scarcity during the first decades of a technological change (hello, programmers!), but most often it comes out of the barrel of a gun, from the point of a spear, or from the edge of a sword.

In Against the Grain, about the rise of early kingdoms after agriculture, the author points out that in agricultural systems where the farmer produces a single major crop, it is really easy to take away all but the bare minimum for the farmer’s survival; you know how much land, how much rainfall, when the crop is harvested, and where the farmer lives. The farmers mostly can’t run away, and they can’t win a fight against professional warriors, so you can just take their crops. In the Middle Ages, there are accounts of knights fighting peasants who outnumbered the knights a hundred to one and the knights came out not just victorious, but with nothing but minor injuries. The peasants, well, they got massacred.

Our own society is similar. Bankers have, along with various adjacent industries and central banks (somehow given “independence”), a monopoly on creating money (which they create as debt). This monopoly, of course, is enforced by the government, and the government’s enforcement rests on men with guns (and, these days, a few women), plus prisons where they brutalize you. Opening a new bank is very, very hard.

Then, within banks, the seniors take most of the gains, as one would expect.

None of this would work without those men with guns and ugly prisons, though.

There are variations on this, of course. After WWII, when a huge percentage of the male population knew how to fight effectively in groups, why, by coincidence the deal was more even. When those men aged out, why, somehow the deal got worse. (This isn’t the only factor, but it’s a big one.)

Inequality tracks with force being unequal. When a few men are superior to a huge mass of other men, then inequality soars. The feudal knight was genuinely superior to peasants. Greek Hoplites were equal to each other, but ruled over a huge mass of slaves. The same goes for the Roman legionnaires — but notice the Equites (who could afford a horse to bring to the fight) had higher legal status and rights.

Mercenary armies and police, like most armies and police in the world, are wonderful for this. They’re loyal to whomever pays them. Most revolutions happen when there is a financial crisis for a reason.

So, get control of force and use it to control money/means of production, or get control of money/means of production and use it to create force. Obviously it’s really about some of both, but you use whichever one you have more of to get control over the other one. Wall Street bought DC so that it could have control over the police and courts, which is why Obama immunized them from their crimes and bailed them out — including from really raw and obvious crimes like illegally signing a document saying the bank owned someone else’s house. Absolute fraud and straight robbery: That’s what Obama made go away for the financial industry.

Some of those people who had their houses stolen, in a society with less police and military and nasty prisons, might have taken retribution and recompense into their own hands, but in the US, well, no, that’s really not possible. You might get retribution, but then the cops will imprison or kill you, which they didn’t do to the men who stole your house and probably your job, car, and future.

In raw terms, this is the situation in the US and a lot of other countries (certainly in Britain). A small minority has control over force and money, and as they feel more and more secure in their control of those two things, they take more and more of what the society produces.

The 2008/9 Obama and the Fed was a watershed incident. The rich had lost everything. Absolutely everything. It didn’t matter if they had “won” the bet like Goldman Sachs, because if I win a bet with you and you lose all your money, I’m fucked too. The Fed and other central banks bailed them out to the tune of trillions; Obama and other political leaders immunized them from their crimes (and the entire bubble was based on fraud), and our elites then KNEW, without a doubt, that they were in complete control and that they could do anything, and that the violent authorities would bail them out and protect them from their victims.

And that, my friends, is where we are now. There will be no significant downward redistribution until elites either lose control of the violent apparatus, or genuinely think they are about to, or can’t win their side of an oncoming revolution.

Or, of course, until the fact that there is a real economy and environment, and they aren’t just mismanaging it, but effectively burning it down to make money, causes an economic collapse where suddenly money can’t buy the mercenaries’ loyalty any more.

Fun time to be alive.

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The Utility of Fear, Anger, and Hate


Colonization, Conquest, and Our Unconscious Civilization


  1. Willy

    I know a 50-something MBA who’s a regional manager for a brick-and-mortar chain and works 6 days a week and must be on the road half the time away from home. Before corona, they gave him another region to manage with no increase in pay.

    He said his college mate manages a single hospital, whose only travel to his 5 day a week job is the 15 minute commute, and makes six times his salary. Six times for doing a whole lotta less.
    Whenever I tell conservatives that story they always roll their eyes and gruffly tell me that making wise choices is a “major part of personal responsibility”.

    As always they miss the point. As if that MBA could’ve magically known after graduation that the medical-pharma-government complex would become so powerful and lucrative for the executives, and so expensive for the rest of us, with so little in the way of effective checks and balances against.

    As an undersized kid I successfully evaded being serially bullied. Luck or guile? I dunno. But I did observe bullies. I knew that bullies had an outsized power well beyond their physical capacity. Theoretically, any 3 or 4 victims could’ve banded together to plot and train and destroy any bully. The question is: why does this seem a rare event, instead of being such a common check and balance that we wouldn’t hear about bullies much?

  2. Jan Wiklund

    I don’t believe the reason of the postwar equalization lied in many people having been called-up. I believe the reason was the huge labour struggles in those countries who led the equalization – US in the 30s, and Scandinavia in the 20s. And also, perhaps, in the anti-colonial movements in India and China, which did succeed in making the top shots uneasy for a time, wanting to please their own lower classes rather than having to face all their enemies at the same time.

    Thomas Piketty believes one of the reasons was that a lot of property literally had been annihilated. But that seems somewhat too mechanic to me.

  3. Chiron

    “In raw terms, this is the situation in America and a lot of other countries (certainly in Britain). A small minority has control over force and money, and as they feel more and more secure in their control of those two things, they take more and more of what the society produces.”

    How do you see the the Anglosphere holding together in the next decades? I said this before but is like the British Empire never ended and simply morphed into the American Empire which main function is to loot the world and protects its ruling elite from any perceived threat to its dominance (China bad).

  4. Harald K

    Good point, Jan Wiklund. Sometimes, exploiters need to expand the exploiting coalition a little, to avoid losing too much. It’s entirely plausible it was a conscious choice for some, even though they wouldn’t get caught putting it in those terms.

    A very obvious way this happens in the US now, is the proposal of lowering the medicare age by a few years. Healthcare desperation is a threat that can’t be entirely ignored, so the president’s preferred option is to expand the “I’ve got mine” coalition just a little, the coalition of people who are covered and safe in their coverage, and thus are unlikely to make that their deciding issue in elections.

    We need to watch out against rulers doing good things in the optimal way to avoid having to do more good things.

  5. different clue


    The topmost commanding levels of the British Empire elite and the US elite were both anglophone and anglophilic. I am just barely a “history buff” so I don’t know when/how the Post Independence US elite first re-supported the cause of British Empire. I believe that (America’s most evil) President Woodrow Wilson was britophillic and conspired with the British Empire commanders to lie and manipulate America into supporting the wrong side in World War One.
    Through such clever subterfuges as secretly shipping rifles to Britain aboard the passenger ship Lusitania, in order to put it out there as bait for the Germans to sink, thereby generating a massively mediagenic atrocity to campaign for war on.

    He also then rolled out a massive program of culture-racist antigermanitic persecution all over America ( in addition to his enshrinement of Official Jim Crow throughout Washington DC and the Federal workforce.) His successful antigermanitic campaign helped make America firmly and non-correctibly anglophillic in cultural orientation.

    About salary-cutting the junior bankers to bonus-increase the senior bankers. The senior bankers may possibly have picked the wrong people to turn into enemies. I will assume the junior bankers understand the mechanics of shyster-legal stealth-fraud and stealth-screwage.
    If they decide to defect to the classes below them on the ladder, and teach those classes all there is to know about counter-fraud and counter-screwage defenses at whatever levels are actionably relevant, then they may help ” the classes below” gain more power against “the classes above”, and be able to plan and take long-term meaningful revenge.

  6. While reading Ian’s disjointed op-ed, with its blinding moral certainty, understand the historical record shows that the truly important, large-scale efforts to impose societal equality ended up centralizing power into Orwellian nightmares which were often more brutal than the systems which they were presumably intended to replace.

    Peer reviewed research puts the death toll well over 50 million

    Expect lengthy screeds to follow, to increase the scrolling

  7. Hugh

    Yes, Stephen, most people don’t know that the hellish London Dickens described in his novels was totally made up. The Industrial Revolution never abused anyone. Colonialization was a great boon to the world and it is just terribly unfair to say that it killed millions and enslaved tens of millions.

  8. Astrid

    Because any efforts towards equality can only be done by men pseudonym Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao. Couldn’t possibly be achievable through unions, social Democratic parties, ownership and regulation of essential public goods, etc.

    Yes, I am willing to believe a Princeton history professor is that stupid. Congratulations!

  9. dsrcwt

    I don’t think the elite are confident at all. I think they are scared shtless. They realize that they were entirely at the mercy of the state in 2008 and have decided not to let that happen again.

  10. kråke

    Kotkin, yah nob, apes are brutal; human ones, just very good at spreading a savannah/plantation form of human-farming brutality.

    Like the archly conservative Catholics and Calvinists who turned the Americas, most of Africa, India and Indonesia into centralized exploitation regimes.

    Without any belief in human improvement or equality.

  11. js

    “Peer reviewed research” has to be the most strange string of words to describe ideology ever.

    I mean you can’t use the jargon of science to describe ideological interpretations of what historical deaths count and which are not counted (deaths in imperialists wars how about?), what movements and histories and countries are included and what aren’t.

  12. wootini

    Stephen Kotkin, did your mommy not change your diapers? You little child, capitalism has killed far more than communism ever has. Neoliberals always LEAVE out the death toll of capitalist atrocities and ALWAYS inflate communist atrocities like Kotkin did here. There is no “peer reviewed” death toll of communist regimes either, that is completely made up.

  13. Plague Species

    I’m thinking of writing a book.

    Armageddon Averted: The American Collapse, 1964-2020.

  14. kråke

    What can you expect from a doughy, bowtied Stanford Hoover man safely ensconced these last thirty years in a Princeton sinecure, really?

  15. different clue

    I clicked on the ” Stephen Kotkin” link and I got Princeton University. But I didn’t see any overt mention of a ” Stephen Kotkin ” . Is this ” Stephen Kotkin ” supposed to have something to do with Princeton University?

    ( By the way, wasn’t the White Power racist KKKlan-loving Woodrow Wilson a President of Princeton University before he went on to become America’s most evil President)?

  16. Plague Species

    Kotkin does a nice job describing how Stalin blundered his way to victory in WWII — albeit a pyrrhic victory. Stalin dulled the German war machine with the blood and guts of millions of Soviets. It certainly made the Allies job a lot easier.

  17. js

    I suspect this “Stephen Kotkin” is a fake. I have to admit I genuinely like academics.

    But still, if academics, or fake academics, are going to indulge in arguments with all the sophistication of a Rush Limbaugh, one can only mock their arguments too.

  18. Q Jackson

    You’ve gotta put a wrench in the gears. Grind this baby to a halt and demand some f’in equality man. I’m out.

  19. Zachary Smith

    Dr. Kotkin seems to be an academic specializing on the old USSR, and has written a lot about Stalin. His perception Mr. Welsh is advocating a replay of the Stalin Communist system seems to be a bit misguided, at least to me.

    A couple paragraphs of explanation, or a few links to relevant materials would be useful to the rest of us here.

  20. different clue

    @Zachary Smith,

    If you are correct, then this ” Pro-FEH-ssor Kotkin” is probably invincibly ignorant and certainly deeply stupid.

    Pray he never again darkens Ian Welsh’s doorstep.

  21. Willy

    Why Stephen Kotkin, why?

    I bet you hear that all the time. Maybe you hear it so much it makes you want to kick out a window at the Firestone. So this time around, I’ll try to be a little more pointed. What are the dynamics behind this “truly important, large-scale efforts to impose societal equality” which cause them all to fail so horrifically?

    There’s an Iron Law of Oligarchy. Could there be an Iron Law of Power where all unchecked power will always ultimately disregard the original intent of whatever the original purpose was, in favor of, well, the selfishness of the authoritarian?

  22. bruce wilder

    I don’t think the number of trained soldiers was an important factor in the post-WWII trend toward a more egalitarian polity in the U.S., at least as an implied threat of violence toward elites. There were deeper foundations.

    A key aspect overlooked in Ian’s narrative is that the strength or capability of an hierarchical society is related to the possibly enlightened competence of its elite and the bargain they strike with or permit with the lower orders. If the elite is selected for psychopathology, that is obviously a bad thing in itself, but it can also be unfavorable for the productive capability of the polity.

    Capitalism, for better and worse, introduced the possibility that the bosses might by technical competence and benign leadership might not just extract value but increase productivity and total value. It becomes a potentially complex tradeoff. Humans being psycho may well produce and sustain leadership that chooses to immiserate everyone below them in order to enhance the relative power of the top over the bottom or the middle, even at the expense of being the more powerful elite of a healthier, more powerful society.

    Feudal Europe, after the advent of the motte and bailey castle, which enabled a few armed thugs both to dominate an agricultural society and to defend a locality from potential rivals invading the neighborhood from afar, was an extreme example of an extractive polity. English-speaking England was ruled by a smallish French-speaking elite for 300 years and that elite focused most of their energy on war in France or crusades. Only the extreme of the Black Death on the heels of famine broke the system and re-introduced enhancing the capability of the whole society as a strategic possibility: Enterprising monarchs saw value in patronizing merchants and artisans, lawyers and explorers, nurturing a bit of nationalism and making economic power a goal of policy alongside mere loot.

    The First World War exposed the malign incompetence of aristocratic elites running extractive Empires and the Great Depression reinforced the lesson.

    In the U.S. the great compression of incomes was initiated at the end of the Great Depression/beginning of the war as part of the deal to make the U.S. war machine run well enough to win the war. Leaders and professional managers of the military and great business enterprise were chosen for their abilities to get the job done right which entailed a decent respect for those in the lower ranks and a culture that promoted cooperation and integrity. It helped that the rich and banksters in the U.S. had been discredited by blame for the Great Depression. The architects of the war machine at home were savvy New Dealers — in many ways repulsion at the war profiteering and industrial and logistical incompetence of American efforts in the first war were taken to heart in planning and managing industrial mobilization in the second.

    People today have little expectation of competent and responsible leadership, in politics or big business let alone banking or finance. It is what is most needed and most wanted, but as examples recede into forgotten history, it becomes increasingly inconceivable. Of course, the first mistake in trying to conjure the possibility is to imagine that it is a matter of personal moral character or the spirit of the age or some such nonsense and to forget that this lack implicates not persons, but systems. It is system that elevates the manipulative psychopath in place of the wise and kind. It is system that centralizes power and disables representative democracy. And, it is ideology that rationalizes faulty design of system. In this, neoliberalism has much to answer for, though it should be remembered that it is only a rationalization, a coordinating device of intellects, while the driving impulse comes from base motives and the failure to counter, oppose or remedy these base instincts that are always with us, from baser motives still.*

    (*This last consideration is my answer to Hugh; I think our political disease is down not to greed alone. Greed is to be expected in every time and place. I do not argue with any constant force of nature. Our failure to oppose greed effectively has been the cause of our self-destruction.)

  23. Trinity

    I believe SK is referring to Czar Nicholas II and his murder after announcing he was going to free the peasants, thereby disrupting pretty much everything, for everyone (especially the ones who “matter”). But I’m not a historian, so check my facts.

    My forecast is more along the lines of Rome, given that our culture is based on them, and so what our oligarchs fear most is (the equivalent of) Caesar’s legions parked just outside the center of power, making everybody nervous, In this scenario, pretty much everyone loses, except Caesar, at least for awhile.

    In our case, it’s less about war fighting skills and more about who controls the money flow, methinks.

  24. different clue


    Are there any links to any accounts or anything to the effect that Czar Nicholas II announced he was going to free the peasants long after he had already abdicated the throne and the Bolsheviks had taken over from the Kerensky Provisional Government? I have never heard of any such thing.

  25. bruce wilder


    Is that like anti-bacterial?

  26. Ché Pasa

    The point of course is that the Overclass is still very much in charge, sustained there by misguided and destructive policies enacted during the Bush II and Obama regimes (not to mention the rest of the neolib cabal in the Anglosphere).

    The only way to unseat them is to do so, physically, take their wealth away, force them into exile or prison. This always gives rise to the specter of Pol Pot and the rest of the Red Boogeymen and the certain deaths of millions, skulls stacked in the public squares, etc. etc.

    I believe our Overclass is… nervous. They probably have a better idea who stormed the Capitol than most, and they even have a clue to why. It wasn’t for the love of Trump. Well, not entirely.

    Storming the Capitol showed how vulnerable Power really is in this country. One more spark may be all it will take. And don’t fool yourself, the enforcers can see where this is going. They are by no means unified in support of the Overclass.

    It’s a very tense situation that is not sustainable.

  27. Jill

    Pyotr Kropotkin is preferable to Stephen Kotkin.

  28. S Brennan

    Excellent Post Brother Ian…while we disagree on mechanisms for change…this post is excellent..more later but, this is an over the top insight as to why the US draft, [with the FULL & COMPLETE encouragement/acquiescence of the “liberals”/”lefties”/”regressives” was rescinded]. The social contract of FDR was rescinded; not by “Orange Hitler”, not by the R’s but by the then “left”. And Nixon saw an opportunity to bifurcate the FDRist with the help of “liberals”/”lefties”/”regressives”…and he took it.

    “After WWII, when a huge percentage of the male population knew how to fight effectively in groups, why, by coincidence the deal was more even. When those men aged out, why, somehow the deal got worse. (This isn’t the only factor, but it’s a big one.)” – Ian Welsh – 10 Mar 2021

    Right on Ian!

  29. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    Is antigermanitic like anti-bacterial?

    No. It is using the word-form ” antisemitic” and applying it to a different group of persecutees.
    Antigermanitic is to Germans as antisemitic is to Jews. It is applying the ” itic” suffix to any word designating a group of persecutees or collectively-grouped objects-of-hate. Worker-haters are antiworkeritic, union-haters are antiunionitic, farmer-haters are antifarmeritic, etc.

    I first came up with using “itic” as a detachable suffix able to be repurposed here and there several decades ago. Charles Walters Junion, the founder-publisher-editor of Acres USA had written about the meaning of “psychosemantics” and the usefulness of that concept in understanding the targetting of politically useful hate directed toward any designated group-to-be-hated. I see that psychosemantic is still a pre-official not-quite-yet-recognized word.

    And he went on to give an example. He stated that the American government and culture leaders use ” the farmer” as a negative organizing principle in the way that the rise-to-power Nazis used ” the Jew”. And he wrote that ” we need a word for that”. So I wrote in suggesting the word-cluster . . . antifarmerism, antifarmerite, antifarmeritic. And my letter was published in the next issue’s Letters To The Editor section. ( I also suggested we needed a word for the kind of agronomy being described and promoted by Acres USA. I suggested ” fryerganic” in honor of Lee Fryer. Lee Fryer –> )

  30. different clue

    I have read somewhere that the Armed Services themselves, especially the U S Army, wanted an end to the draft because they ( and the Army especially) were beginning to perceive the large number of drafted-in unhappy campers as an emerging hazard ” on the inside”; what with all the fraggings and a slow and spreading ” silent mutiny” and so forth.

    Of course that could come together with and re-inforce the power of other groups with other motives for wanting the same thing.

  31. Ian Welsh

    Draft armies aren’t very good at fighting unpopular wars like Vietnam. Yup.

  32. S Brennan

    “Draft armies aren’t very good at fighting unpopular wars like Vietnam”

    But in my fathers time, they kicked the living shit outta the best trained Armies/Navies/Air forces in the world…go figure..I mean..what’s up with that?

    Want any semblance of freedom? No professional standing armies [see Switzerland].

    The US “left” took Nixon’s Faustian bargain [see Biden draft dodging] and then the “left” took Friedman’s Faustian bargain [see Biden gilded-age(sans-mercantilism)] and now we are forced to listen to them whine about the results [see Ché (et al) defending neocolonialism/gilded-age(sans-mercantilism)]. Disgusting.

    I have been an FDRist throughout my life and never had to support left/right garbage. One issue at a time. When Obama made a deal with Iran that wasn’t insane, I backed it, when Trump hired the only guy in the Obama administration who thought Libya, Ukraine and Syria insane I backed it.

    Having had skin in the game sharpens the mind and without a draft, young men will talk all sorts of shit…they don’t have to pay the bill.

  33. VietnamVet

    I agree with this post. The Silent Revolt in the Vietnam War and Boomer nuclear armed ballistic missile submarines ended the need for western mass armies. Million-man invasions of WWI and WWII are impossible. The US military has devolved into a mercenary Praetorian Guard keeping themselves, the Empire, and the top class in the money. The problem is that today peasants have AK-47s and M-16s sold to them by arm dealers. NATO occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are untenable in the long run. But withdrawal is unacceptable, winning is impossible, and one mistake ignites a nuclear war. Last week Russian ballistic missiles blew up US stolen Syrian oil loading facilities.

    The USA could withdraw within its borders, establish a militia system to guard itself on the Swiss model, maintain a nuclear deterrence, and have a secure long-term future. But this against the neoliberal mob mentality of “grab the money now” that governs the US right now. If Texas can’t winterize its natural gas power plants that failed in the deep freeze of this year and before in 2011 then planning for the future is now impossible in the USA. The United States and Brazil are on the verge of becoming sick Pariah States — unable to provide basic governmental public health services to keep its citizens safe and alive. Collapse is inevitable.

  34. Mark Pontin

    VietnamVet wrote: ‘The problem is that today peasants have AK-47s and M-16s sold to them by arm dealers.’

    More than that. Missile technology has been democratized on every level during the last couple of decades — ironically, the U.S. with its short-term thinking kicked this process off by giving RPGs etc. to the Mujahideen and proto-al Qaida back in the Soviet.-Afghan conflict even before the USSR’s collapse. Now, all those big platform weapons systems like aircraft carriers are pretty much in the role of French knights awaiting their Agincourt. In the words of one far-sighted Pentagon consultant who saw where this was going twenty years ago: “Your mass is grass.”

    Israel is in a particularly sticky position —

  35. Mark Pontin

    Bruce Wilder wrote: “I don’t think the number of trained soldiers was an important factor in the post-WWII trend toward a more egalitarian polity in the U.S.”

    I suspect, though, the RAF mutinies in the Far East in 1946 were a factor in getting the National Health Service in the UK.

    Essentially, those who ran the empire realized that India was at risk and intended to maintain WWII RAF deployments in the Far East after VP (Victory in the Pacific) Day so they could send them out over India to repress Indian tendencies towards independence.

    Till fifty thousand RAF personnel went “on strike.”

    Or go look up some videos of the London poll tax riots in 1990, following which Thatcher was history.

    I suspect, similarly, that a big part of why we’re seeing as much as we’re seeing from the Biden administration right now is that the BLM protests and everything else that went on on the streets of the US last summer– as well as 1/6 — concentrated a few of minds among TPTB.

  36. Plague Species

    What you talkin’ ’bout, Kotkin? This is how those large-scale efforts to impose societal equality ended up. The Soviet Union and Communist China are teaming up to build a moon base while America freezes amidst an ocean of natural gas.

    China and Russia want to build a shared moon base.

    The two countries agreed to the plans on Tuesday (March 9), saying the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) would be “open to all interested countries and international partners.”

  37. Jill

    Building a moon base – whatever human genus does it – is just another example of the plague species in action.

    Um, honey, there’s some things here in the yard that need fixing.

    Fuck you bitch. I’m going to the moon.

  38. Ché Pasa

    Quote from Mark Pontin:

    I suspect, similarly, that a big part of why we’re seeing as much as we’re seeing from the Biden administration right now is that the BLM protests and everything else that went on on the streets of the US last summer– as well as 1/6 — concentrated a few of minds among TPTB.

    Ummm. Could be.

    And if there is more unrest, there may be more goodies for the rabble… Sometimes concentrating the minds of the Overclass produces results.

  39. S Brennan

    “Building a moon base…is just another example of…honey, there’s some things here in the yard that need fixing…Fuck you bitch. I’m going to the moon”

    Dear Jill,

    If hubby’s not fixing stuff in the yard you might want to stop blaming NASA and start blaming a far more likely culprit, sports teams. Sports teams, whose yearly “reported revenues” dwarfs NASA’s budget.

    And it if your scratching around for Shekels, with a yearly budget ~45 times* that of NASA, DoD might be a good place to look. Hell, just under the Bush/Obama Administration [singular intended], foreign military adventures came to a cost of over 3 Trillion [in 2016 dollars], while the entire moon program cost 124 Billion [in 2009 dollars]. And I ask, have the wars of the Bush/Obama years, with bills still to be paid, been of 24 times greater value than the advance of technology coerced through government spending on the challenge of going to the moon?

    Just on more note; up until recently** the national budget dedicated to NASA was around 0.5%, when polled most people believed the percentage to be between 15-35%…talk about punching above your weight. I’ve worked on NASA projects, I am sure there is waste but I never saw it, I saw people who could be making far more, making due with far less for themselves and their family in pursuit of JFK’s admonition, “we do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.

    PS All the scientists, engineers, machinists, welders, seamstresses & other fabricators I knew working NASA projects all had nice looking yards…I think your hubby needs to find another excuse.

    S Brennan

    *Normally this ratio is much worse but under “Orange Hitler”, **NASA saw it’s first real increase in over forty years.

  40. Willy

    By now we may have to declare Stephen Kotkin a fake. No credible historian of ”centralizing power into Orwellian nightmares” would’ve made a comment declaring subsequent debate (which most of us do for the sake of problem-solving) irrelevant.

    As a kid I assumed that we’d be mining asteroids for rare metals and whatnot. And then maglev launchers would send the resource packet back to earth orbit processing stations and then something like space elevators would handle the rest. And if we didn’t do all that then the commies would. A byproduct of all that was inspiration. It gave hope and inspiration to people talented at problem-solving that their problem-solving talents had a future and that mankind had a future.

    Today we can’t even fix messes in Texas. People don’t read Popular Science, they read Popular Politics. Inspired problem solving has given way to ideological nonsense for the sake of centralized power and Orwellian nightmares.

  41. S Brennan

    Willey, Can you do more than just wallow in bathos and whimper in some muddled, incoherent locution of self-pity? C’mon, give it a try and see if doesn’t get better results. Best Wishes, – S Brennan

  42. Jill

    S Brennan,

    You missed the point entirely. I don’t think my being any more or less literal will be sufficiently illustrative for you to understand.

    I wish you the best. Please take care of yourself.


  43. Willy

    The Brennan shark lays in wait for its prey. Today it hunts Willy fish.

    The Brennan shark hides behind a rock which it has very carefully chosen so as to not be seen.
    So quietly, so stealthy, so patient. An ambush is about to happen.

    The Willy fish swims along carefree. It’s just another day like any other day. The Willy fish sees the rock. The Willy fish also sees the entire back half of the Brennan shark sticking out from behind the rock. Stupid Brennan shark. The Willy fish intentionally swims towards the rock, pretending to be oblivious to the shark. What are you doing Willy fish? Look out Willy fish!

    Well, the Willy fish knows that the Brennan shark is all of fat, drunk and stupid. And we all know that‘s no way to go through life. But he also knows that the Brennan shark is completely toothless as well. And the Willy fish rather likes the way that the Brennan sharks’ gums feels on his body. It’s a bit like a shiatsu massage actually.

    Your NASA budget stats are mostly bullshit, BTW.

    Under Clinton and Obama NASA saw increases, modest though they be, greater even than your glorious orange Hitlers.

  44. Willy

    Correction, Reagan oversaw an increase late in his tenure, which Clinton continued, until balancing the budget became more important than continuing a star wars program for a now defunct USSR.

    Working with other countries so they’d share the cost load on the ISS seemed a good thing at the time, and so far it has been. Clinton’s free trade stuff obviously not so much. Sadly, the GOP (pro or never Trump) is still big on free trade.

  45. S Brennan

    “Under Clinton and Obama NASA saw increases, modest though they be…” – Willey

    Yes Willey, so modest they didn’t keep up with inflation/national budget…and the graph you cite stops at 2017 so I filled in the years you needed to omit in you effort to dissemble.

    Here’s a graph that shows NASA as a % of national budget which gives lie to Willey’s nonsense.

    Here’s the years Willey sought to hide in his deceitful remarks.

    NASA’s budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021 is $23.3 billion vs 25 billion requested
    NASA’s budget in fiscal year (FY) 2020 is $22.629 billion
    NASA’s budget in fiscal year (FY) 2019 is $21.5 billion
    NASA’s budget in fiscal year (FY) 2018 is $20.7 billion
    NASA’s budget in fiscal year (FY) 2017 is 19.6 billion*
    NASA’s budget in fiscal year (FY) 2016 is 19.3 billion**
    NASA’s budget in fiscal year (FY) 2016 is 17.5 billion
    NASA’s budget in fiscal year (FY) 2015 is 17.5 billion
    NASA’s budget in fiscal year (FY) 2014 is 17.6 billion
    NASA’s budget in fiscal year (FY) 2013*** is 17.7*** billion

    *$600 million more than requested by the Obama administration

    **$786 million more than requested by the Obama administration

    ***White House’s 2013 budget request, $17.7 billion — $59 million less than the space agency got for 2012. NASA’s planetary science efforts would suffer a 20 percent cut.

  46. Hugh

    Serfdom in Russia was ended in Russia by Tsar Alexander II in 1861. While the former serfs were allowed to buy land from landowners, they were poor and the result was either landless peasants or a form of sharecropping. It showed the dangers of half-_ssed solutions since it increased social and revolutionary pressures.

  47. Willy

    Just on more note; up until recently** the national budget dedicated to NASA was around 0.5%, when polled most people believed the percentage to be between 15-35%…talk about punching above your weight…. **NASA saw it’s first real increase in over forty years.
    -S Brennan

    Percentage of Federal Budget
    1966 (NASA peak) 4.41%
    1969 (Nixon begins) 2.31%
    1977 (Ford finished for Nixon) 0.98%
    1977 (Carter begins) 0.98%
    1981 (Carter ends, Reagan begins) 0.82%
    1989 (Reagan ends, Bush begins) 0.96%
    1993: (Bush ends, Clinton begins) 1.01%
    2001: (Clinton ends, W begins) 0.76%
    2009: (W ends, Obama begins) 0.57%
    2017: (Obama ends, Orange Hitler begins) 0.47%
    2021: (Orange Hitler ends, Biden begins) 0.48%, Budget under Biden still unresolved?

    After lunar landing development costs peaked, NASA saw a continual decline in its share of the Federal budget to (IMO) a pittance, with the exception of a small bump during Reagan-Bush and Obama. In 2010 NASAs budget as a percent share of total federal spending decreased, but the $21.953 billion for NASA is more than anything seen under the Orange Hitler administration when the 2010 total amount is adjusted for inflation. The 2010 percent (0.52) is a result of the increase in overall spending (which of course led to the astroturfed Tea Party movement).

    All of this information was taken from the chart I posted.

    Sorry, but NASA did not see its first real increase in over forty years under President Orangutan Nutjob. That increase was a token one at best, hardly different from Obama in his first term (second term owned by Tea Party R).

    In our next episode we’ll be examining the percent which the US military takes out of the overall federal budget.

  48. mago

    Boys boys you’re showing your minds. And it’s a mess.
    And if you lose your mind . . . great god don’t lose your mind . . .

  49. Willy

    Indeed. Who’s the more foolish, the Libertarian or the fool who tries to debate with one?

    But mago, I really couldn’t care less what you think. Unless you have something of value to help us get to a more equal society of course.

  50. S Brennan

    Willey, my poor boy, put a direct link next to your BS [not some general link that you know people won’t scroll through only to find…you’re a lazy dissembler].

    Again, here’s mine:

    And it shows you are full of shit.

  51. Willy

    Sad, you do realize that in your response to Jill that I was agreeing with you. No? Apparently, you’re so bored that you’d rather argue with yourself (via a “Willey” proxy). Half a percent, give or take a tenth of a percent, is chump change in the progressive world and ridiculously petty to argue about. Especially with yourself or anybody elso who mostly agreed with you, except for your complete bullshit that Trumps was the only administration to significantly increase the NASA budget.

    I already provided a link to the Wikipedia page, which claims the data source to be the OMB but there’s a moderator quibble about citation-links and NASA’s Pocket Statistics.

    And I looked up your “ResearchGate”. It’s a European commercial social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. Yeah, they’re just the experts we need for USA OMB and NASA budget statistics.

    Do you have anything worthwhile to say about getting a more equal society?

  52. Trinity

    Thanks, Hugh, for fixing my errors. History was always, always my worst subject.

    Lots of interesting and relevant information here, in both the post and the comments. In talking to random people, most seem to think the worst is behind us. Not sure I agree with that, but it’s so complex it’s hard to explain as succinctly as Che does it.

  53. Jessica

    @Different clue
    Wilson’s pro-British moves during WW1 reflect strong ties between US and UK financial elites. AFAIK, real tensions between US and UK eased after the UK decided to not intervene on the side of the slave owners’ rebellion in the 1860s. Much of the capitalist development of the US from 1865 onward was funded by UK capital.

  54. Jessica

    I am not aware that returning veterans after WW2 thought much about using their military experience. (Well, OK except for the Hell’s Angels) The good treatment they received, the opposite of WW1 veterans, was a powerful force creating a mass consumer society. Much more Leave It to Beaver than Mad Max.
    Also, the Cold War was a major factor keeping the elites disciplined. Even support for Civil Rights was partly about competition in the emergent Third World with the Soviets.
    And those pointing to the role of the labor movement are correct.

    Another counter-example: In the Appalachian region of the US, most of the population has always been quite well armed, yet elites, to a fair degree outside elites, have exercised more ruthless control than in other regions.

    In the end, military force and the distribution of control over it is only a determining factor at the margin and during times of breakdown.

    I think that what you are pointing at Ian is how easy it is to control access to key resources. Military force can be one of those resources under certain conditions. It at least used to be a commonplace of anthropology that irrigation societies tend to be more tyrannical than societies that farm without irrigation. More broadly, if there is a key resource the access to which can be controlled, tyranny is more likely. Thus, native societies in the Pacific Northwest that centered on salmon fishing had slavery. The arrival of horses (another key resource comparatively easy to control) gave rise to slave societies on the Great Plains, such as the Commancheria. Europeans began to dominate non-European areas even before they had a significant advantage in weaponry, for example early contact with sub-Saharan Africa, because they controlled the key resource of distant transportation. Tibet briefly became an empire because it controlled the Silk Road.

    In the early US, a fair proportion of the free male population could get by without very little brought in from farther than the nearest town. In those days, someone who worked their entire life for someone else was considered a “wage slave”. They meant that literally.

    Nowadays, the production system that produces the goodies is so (excessively) complex that ordinary folks can’t get a handle on it. I have long thought that the revolution would happen when people could grow iPhones in their backyard garden as easily as carrots.

    BTW Ian, I know that Mao said that power grows out of the barrel of a gun but he spent most of his life controlling the narrative so that those barrels would be pointed in the direction he wanted.

  55. Menachem Mendel Schneerson

    BTW Ian, I know that Mao said that power grows out of the barrel of a gun but he spent most of his life controlling the narrative so that those barrels would be pointed in the direction he wanted.

    The most powerful narrative ever created is the one that portrays a given group to be perpetual victims while their elite faction operates cunningly from inside of whatever larger entity they’re a part of.

    Control the narrative, and be victim and oppressor at the same time. Hiding in plain sight. A Transparent Cabal.

  56. anon y'mouse

    the re-absorption of the U.S. into the fold of the British Empire, aka US adoption of nearly all of the military responsibility of maintenance:
    look to the end of the Victorian/beginning of the Edwardian period—
    robber barons worth more than any humans alive deliberately (and almost collectively)sent their unwilling daughters to marry into Brit aristocracy. these women could have had and done anything in the world, but were sold to “bail out” some lords with crumbling estates.

  57. Jack

    Much of the capitalist development of the US from 1865 onward was funded by UK capital.

    And “UK capital” leads to specific names such as Warburg, Kuhn, Loeb, Goldman, Sachs, Schiff and Rothschild, among others.

  58. someofparts

    I think class was a big difference between WWII and Vietnam. Check out a movie about returning WWII vets, The Best Years of Our Lives. Men of every socio-economic class served beside each other as equals. Now check out Platoon or Deer Hunter. What is missing in each of those movies is young men from the wealthy classes. Beginning with Vietnam combat became something only the poor signed on for.

  59. Jerry Brown

    This is a great essay Ian.

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