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

You Can’t Buy Anything That Matters When It Matters (Covid Vaccine Edition)

… unless you have control over the production facilities.

I think this map is a little inaccurate, but it makes the point. Money matters, yes, but having control over vaccine manufacturers and R&D matters more.

This is true of everything. Oil is not a global market if there are ever shortages decision makers care about. FOOD is not a global market if there’s ever a worldwide shortage, and countries which net import will find that out. (The Irish famine, where Ireland, then an imperial colony, continued to export food even as its people starved, underlines the word control.)

Global markets are OK for things that don’t matter. For anything that does matter you want manufacture, R&D and supply lines concentrated in your own country or that of true close allies. In those cases, you want mutual vulnerability. If country A has it all and is a close ally, that won’t work when they’re desperate, you have to have part of the dependencies.

Even this doesn’t work completely. It was very popular before WWI to state that a big European war couldn’t happen because of how interdependent the economies were.



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Industrial policy means that if you can, you make it at home, and if it costs a little extra, too bad, slap on a tariff. If you control natural resources, you NEVER sell them raw if you have any choice. The history of England’s economic development leading to the Industrial revolution starts with a ban on selling English wool to mainland Europe, allowing them to build their own textiles industry. Of course, those textiles were worse than what Flemish weavers would have made, and less efficient to start, with higher prices. The English, correctly, did not care. They had the wool, and there wasn’t a huge surplus of wool. Buy the clothes from us or no one.

Food, water and essential goods: if it is at all possible you want to be self sufficient in all three. In sensible countries a great deal of geopolitics is driven by this when a country can’t do it all internally. China knows, for example, that the US can shut down the Strait of Malacca any time it wants, crushing their oil supply and that is a major reason why they are creating a huge land route all the way across the Asian continent, and getting snuggly with the Russians (who can supply oil by land.)

Chinese economic policy, letting Westerners get super rich by producing goods in China, was also driven by this. The Americans aren’t wrong, the Chinese were super-aggressive about technology transfer. The deal was often that in order to get access, you had to give them the tech. If you wouldn’t, they would try and steal it (Americans stole a ton of British IP back in the day, don’t get all pious, everyone does it.) There was also technology-arm breaking creep. Sure, you gave us a tech a few years ago, but what have you given us recently, and why should we allow you to stay in our market today?

Foolish nations, like Canada and the US, let key industries go overseas, or sell raw materials without processing. Wise countries don’t, unless they’re getting something very worth it in return. Getting a bunch of new rich people who made their money by selling your country out isn’t “worth it” to anyone but the rich people and the politicians they bribed.

Money doesn’t cut it. Per capita Canada bought more Covid vaccines than anyone else, but notice that Canadians won’t be in the first wave to get mass vaccination. This is a “white, 1st world” country, and it can’t buy its way in. (The case is a bit more complicated than that, because the government are incompetent, but we’ll leave it there for now.)

If it isn’t on your territory, where your people with guns and your bureaucrats have power, you don’t control it and when it matters, you can’t buy it.



Disney Setting A Precedent For Not Paying Writers


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 13, 2020


  1. Joan

    Economic relocalization does seem to be the only sensible response to everything that is going on right now. Of course the globalists that got rich by outsourcing everything will try to stop it, and that is why I think people need to do it at a neighborhood level instead of trying to convince the overly centralized legal system to give permission first.

  2. Eric Anderson

    Kind of another way of saying, and please, everyone repeat after me:
    Socialize the necessities, privatize the luxuries.

  3. Hugh

    Globalization is based on the lie that economic integration is followed by political integration (think the EU) –or at least stabilization and closer ties, one big happy market of capitalists buying and selling to each other. Yet here we are on the eve of a no deal Brexit with an EU barely able to get a Covid aid deal past the increasingly dictatorial regimes in Hungary and Poland meanwhile both the US and China are bent on a new Cold War, and climate change hangs over everyone and everything.

    It’s like Titanics as far as the eye can see, and no matter how many sink and at what cost to us, our rulers, our powers that be, only want to build and sink more of them, and more of us.

  4. Eric Anderson

    Here’s a succinct explanation as to why the peaceful capitalist consensus fell apart:

    Insanity is living in a finite world that insists upon infinite growth.
    But, “if something can’t go on forever, it will stop.”
    We’ll burn it all to the ground before we admit we need to live within our means.

  5. John Emerson

    Also, super-efficient just-in-time inventory control can be relied onto siege up in crisis.

  6. Stirling S Newberry

    It is supposed to – there is a shortage of vaccine. Trach warfare in reverse.

  7. anon y'mouse

    aside from the obvious wisdom inherent in the post, which our Masters have been reversing in their fantasies of “frictionless” movement, my own realization went something like this:

    as long as we can move everything elsewhere and deal only with abstractions of real events and processes, we never have to personally face the ill-effects that these things create–on people, on places, or on the environment in general. therefore “we” can pretend they do not exist, because for all intents and purposes, they are only abstractions and not lived, and therefore don’t hold much meaning for us.

    our ability to abstract can be harnessed for good or for evil. the Globalist fantasy obviously falls into the latter.
    if the Owning (investment) classes had to be faced with the destruction they create, they would never allow it to occur or it would be much harder to justify.

    keep breaking those bubbles, Ian.

  8. Duncan Kinder

    You arbitrarily assume that production within a country constitutes self-sufficiency whereas production abroad constitutes dependence.

    Why does it make sense for – say – someone in Cleveland – to erect barriers against trade with Toronto but none against Dallas? Just yesterday a Texas politician said he wanted to secede. (Yes, Northerners also have their faults; that is not the point. The point is that intra-national dependencies also exist.)

    Ultimately, we all wind up with Thoreau at Walden.

  9. Trinity

    A lot of wisdom here, in the post, in the comments.

    I’m past trying to fix this mess, because it’s unfortunately fixing itself, not in a good way.

    What concerns me more is we do not learn, and we simply repeat the same mistakes, over and over again, century after century. We repeatedly fail to deal with the underlying problems: misunderstanding the effects of greed, mishandling psychopaths (and even worse, worshiping them), and the choice of placing ideology over hard won empirical wisdom.

    These are all problems inherent in humans, easily recognized by a child, and yet here we are.

  10. Hugh

    Duncan, are you being serious? First, NAFTA and NAFTA 2 basically did away with many of the trade barriers between the US and Canada. Second, the people of Toronto aren’t US citizens. From a healthcare perspective alone, I doubt that any of them want to become US citizens. The people of Dallas are US citizens and like the rest of us are covered by the US Constitution and its Commerce clause (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3).

    “The Congress shall have Power . . . To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

    Texas would be one of those several states whereas Canada is a foreign nation. They are not the same thing.

  11. anon y'mouse

    if dependencies are inevitable, then let them be relative to some actual distance and shared interests. if energy is the currency (for the environment’s sake), ones’ dependency on other areas should be relative to how much energy it takes to overcome distance. in other words, the more vital something is (we are going nowhere as organisms without food and water), the more local it must be. you can “order away” for something you only need one of every 20 years. most of our current dependencies don’t seem to take any of these matters into consideration.

    or, i guess one should say–the only dependency you can really manage is one which is mutual.

    humans are ingenious at coming up with alternative ways of doing something as well. if it needs to come from that far away, how much do you really need it? perhaps limiting all of this mass everything shipped halfway around the world would be even more creative and productive than the alternative we appear to be aiming for now. too bad that won’t involve mass corporations selling one to everyone on earth, but we shouldn’t care about them anyway.

  12. You're soaking in it

    The Freak Brothers said it best: “Dope will get you through times of no money, better than money will get you through times of no dope!”

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