Labor Day Thoughts

My discussion question for today: In a world with global and highly-efficient transportation and communications…and billions of people who are accustomed to low wages…is it possible for a country such as the United States to maintain its accustomed high standards of living for the large majority of its people?…and, if so, what are the key policy elements required to do this?

Henry Ford did not establish the five-dollar day out of the sheer goodness of his heart.  He did it because worker turnover had become unacceptably high: people didn’t like assembly-line work, and they had alternatives.  Suppose Ford had then had the option of building the Model T in a low-wage country, say Mexico.  Maybe he wouldn’t have needed to bother with the American $5/day wage and the productivity improvements needed to support it. (Although Ford being Ford, he still might have implemented the manufacturing innovations and process improvements even without strong economic necessity to do so.)

America’s premium wage structure has, I think, been historically enabled by several factors:

 

–Large amounts of excellent land, which made farming an attractive option for may people

–Absence of a thicket of regulations and bureaucratic oversight to inhibit the development of new ways of doing things

–Absence of traditional status hierarchies, prohibiting the full development of human potential

–A stable legal system, allowing for long-term business relationships to be created and maintained

–A patent system which allows innovators to profit from their ideas.

–A highly-literate population

–A large internal market

–Slow and expensive trans-oceanic transportation and communications, inhibiting the undercutting of American wages by low-cost labor abroad.  (Economists will remind me that those same limitations also had a negative effect on American prosperity by inhibiting potential exports and thus limiting our benefits from comparative advantage)

–Tariffs on imports, which for much of American history (up to about 1950) were quite significant and were an important source of Federal government revenue. (Some history here)  Of course, it can be argued that, like the transportation and communications limitations, this factor cuts both ways.

–Relatively low costs for military activities…both financial costs and human costs…compared to many other countries

–Low-cost energy: coal, oil & gas, waterpower, and electrification

–A political structure and a global public image of America which encouraged immigration of those who valued freedom and opportunity. (And, of course, the limitation of transportation & communications tended to imply that immigration would be a permanent decision, or at least a decades-long one)

The United States has enjoyed a beneficent feedback loop between wages and productivity–higher wages tended to encourage/require more mechanization and other forms of productivity improvements, which in turn made possible the payment of still higher wages.  This virtuous circle, combined with the other factors mentioned above, drove substantial increases in the median real (inflation-adjusted) household income. (See chart)  But since the late 1970s, the growth has tended to stall out, especially after about 1999…although there has been some recovery since 2015.

Much of this stalling-out has been due to the growth of China and other formerly-undeveloped countries as export superpowers…but there are also other factors at work, some of which represent the reversal of positive factors that I mentioned earlier.  I’d note particularly:

–The failure of the education system to provide reasonable levels of literacy and numeracy for a big part of the population.

–Increasing bureaucratization, which imposes direct costs as well as its impacts on productivity…and tends to slow everything down, to the point that implementing any large-scale project in the physical world is usually like swimming in glue.

–The tightened environmental restrictions on companies in the US, combined with the much-less-stringent restrictions in many other countries, giving a great economic edge to certain kinds of production in those other countries.

–Increasing credentialism, which both inhibits the use of human potential and imposes direct costs through imposition of often-pointless educational requirements.

–A dismissive and disrespectful attitude toward people who work with their hands, combined with an absence of any kind of trade-related training from most of the school system.

–Public policies which have favored service companies and producers of intangibles over ‘thing’ companies.

–The large-scale theft of intellectual property by other countries, most particularly China

–The exploitive vacuuming-up of wealth by government employees, in their own self-interests, as with the pension plans of some states and municipalities

–Despite all the talk about The Digital Age, and Robots Are Taking All the Jobs, actual productivity improvements have not been all that stellar.

I have often seen it argued that the offshoring of so much economic activity, and the consequent stalling of incomes, is due to the decisions of selfish and short-sighted managements of American companies.  And it is true that many companies have tended to jump at the offshore alternative (sometimes without a proper analysis of costs and benefits) rather than doing all they could to improve their US-based operations. But it is also true that not all companies are US-based.  If all US washing machine manufacturers (let’s say) had nobly and patriotically decided to continue doing all their manufacturing (parts and final assembly) in the US, then you can bet that many European and Asian companies would have been very happy to take advantage of low-wage countries while selling their products into the US market.  How many Americans, in real life, would be willing to pay a premium of more than a few % for a ‘Made in the USA’ product?

At present, there are worker shortages in  almost all fields and geographical areas, which is driving up nominal wages.  Whether it will also drive up inflation-adjusted wages, and whether this will be sustainable, remains to be seen.  There are relevant threats on the horizon, including Biden’s plan to increase the corporate tax rate and also his ‘green’ policies, which would certainly drive up energy costs.  Also the tolerance of crime–almost the encouragement of crime–by important factions of the Democratic Party and their media allies. All of these things have economic impacts which will/would certainly impact the real wages of most Americans.

Your thoughts?

 

 

33 thoughts on “Labor Day Thoughts”

  1. Many intertwined factors, David, as you point out — all linked to the idiocy of our traitorous Political Class.

    Increased bureaucratization & (supposedly environmental) regulation have been very big factors — much more important than wage differentials, I think. Regulation adds expensive overhead, as well as squashing innovation. Allowing tariff-free imports which don’t have to meet the same regulations rubs salt in the wound.

    The decline of manufacturing in the US can be seen as a dramatic demonstration of the “Tragedy of the Commons”. For each individual manufacturer, it made sense to fire her workers, offshore her production, and import the lower-cost products back to the US. However, when all manufacturers do this, the loss of purchasing power by US consumers as a whole from the loss of high-paid manufacturing jobs hurts. The manufacturers end up worse off in the long term — unless they go the way of GM or Volkswagen and effectively become foreign companies, focusing on overseas markets and manufacturing more of their vehicles in China than they produce in their home markets.

  2. Historical parallels abound…

    My favorite is the activities of the Roman elites, who deliberately hollowed out their yeoman class by the means of constant military adventures requiring their service in the legions, followed by buying up those small farms they lived on to create their massive and profitable latifundia, manned by slaves that were created by their military adventures that got the rural yeoman types killed off in the first place. Vicious cycle, perpetrated by the unaware and blind-to-consequence elites of Rome.

    When and if they write our history, they’ll point to a similar process and mentality behind it, writ somewhat larger. We’ve been hollowing out America for quite some time, and are beginning to reap the consequences.

    Watch what happens with Elon Musk and SpaceX; if the bureaucracy and other manage it, they’ll kill that golden-egg laying goose simply because of the entrenched “interests” in the existing so-called “space industry”, and the fear that someone, somewhere, might be doing something actually right.

    The whole thing is a part of the cycle. What’s shocked me more than anything, though, is how quickly it has moved. You could see the signs, back in the day, but you templated those against, say, Rome, and it sure looked like it would take longer, generations at the minimum.

    The rate of change in history is speeding up. How long did it take the British Empire to rise up and then fall? They managed, arguably, around 140 years. We’ve managed maybe seventy-eighty? Look at what happened to Japan, Inc.–They should have lasted a bit longer, don’t you think? Their rise and fall took place in the background, and they only managed what, 20 years of regional primacy? Now, they’ve got China, Korea, and how many others breathing down their necks?

    What is the factor behind this speed-up? Increased communications, maybe? I have no idea, but it is undeniably an observational thing.

    What you do have to remember, however, is that the US has an inborn natural trait that others lack: Self-reinvention. We’re the people who pioneered that entire idea, and you take a look at how many “failures” we’ve had that have gone on to massive later success, mostly because we let them try again, as a society. Other nations don’t do that, and the raw fact is, after the Democrats finally fill the bed with feces, we’re going to be able to pull off another reinvention.

    Ain’t going to look like today, though… That’s for sure. My money is on a reactionary situation wherein all the precious, precious snowflake nutters find out they don’t have a place in society at all, at least not in public. Insanity has an answer, and that? I am afraid that that is the asylum, one way or another. Picture “Lion Country Safari”, but with the homeless and all the rest rounded up and separated, with the normies driving through to wonder at their odd behavior.

    Come to think of it, I may have just described a lot of our major cities. They’ll probably get fenced off and turned into the “safe spaces” these types so obviously need, and the rest of us will get on with our lives absent their drama.

    I’m coming around to the theory that the main thing we need to worry about is this interregnum between eras of common sense dragging itself out, unnaturally. The longer the idiot class has at the reins of power, the more damage they’re going to do.

  3. It is an axiom that a welfare state and open borders cannot coexist. The 2008 collapse showed that open borders can work both ways. The coming economic collapse will have interesting effects on the new immigrants who think they have the right to welfare.

  4. “What you do have to remember, however, is that the US has an inborn natural trait that others lack: Self-reinvention.”

    What incredible hubris. Which is a major reason the system you have built is collapsing. You believe your own propaganda.

    Labour Day sales are great. Got Dexter Gordon’s Go and Bill Frisell’s Valentine for my record player, at 20% off. ;) Sweet vinyl is so nice. ;)

  5. One thing that David’s analysis gets wrong is that there have always been extrinsic restraints on American wages.

    In Colonial times, British mercantilism enforced a sort of agrarian serfdom on us by deliberately discouraging American industry while monopolizing the markets for our agricultural products. Slavery played an important part and a general antipathy and legal restrictions to slavery were already well established in the North by the Revolution. Lack of internal communication allowed this to continue in the South clear up to the Civil War. This is what made the Union Blockade so devastating to the Confederacy.

    At the same time, a flood of foriegn immigrants kept wages low. This continued from Colonial times clear until the 1920’s. The native antipathy to the Irish surge wasn’t because of their brogue. As mass immigration was ending, the migration from the South took off. This included both poor Blacks and whites. All of these groups were willing to work for wages the incumbents considered predatory.

    You’re right that it was the revolution in transportation and communication since around 1960 that made it possible to export jobs instead of importing workers. I think that is ending. There has been a lot of back and forth here in relation to Apple’s complete dependence on China to manufacture their products, to name just one example. I think it’s becoming clear to even their somewhat dim management just what a bargain with the devil they’ve made. Simply; they are now hostage to the political whim of a government that is committed, over time, to eliminating or controlling them, and the time is now. The same applies to any other business unwise enough to have put themselves in the same position.

    What those “visionary” enough to be scrambling to diversify or move entirely out from under the descending foot of the CCP to other “developing” countries are now finding is that they are trading one set of problems for another. They will be in thrall to capricious and even more corrupt governments. They will be dependent on poor infrastructure and nearly nonexistent chains of supply. In most cases, they won’t even be able to communicate with their own workers except through possibly unreliable intermediaries. Inevitably, presently attractive wages are headed only one way; up.

  6. According to a press report, when some Chinese Minister was ripping Biden*’s bag boy Lurch Kerry-Heinz a new one for his impertinent request that China cut its CO2 emissions, he commented that about 70,000 US companies manufacture in China.

    Presumably., most of that 70,000 has happened over the last quarter century — 2,800 companies offshoring their production each year That is about 8 companies going offshore each & every day, 365 days a year, for 25 years.

    If we assume the average company offshored 500 jobs (direct & indirect), those 70,000 companies translate to about 35 Million jobs which no longer exist in the US.

    The “Free Traders” point to the “savings” to US consumers from cheaper imports. On the other hand, those consumers who still have jobs have to pay higher direct & indirect taxes to support those Millions who are now earning less in service jobs & paying less taxes or who are out of the labor force and on some kind of dole. It would be interesting to learn what the “net savings” are from imports … but for some reason that topic does not seem to get much attention from the “Free Traders”.

    Where we are is economically unsustainable. When the Chinese Communist Party decides it is in their best interests, they will collapse the US Dollar exchange rate and the import-deprived US will descend into chaos — and probably break up. As Kirk says, we can re-invent ourselves — and probably will. The lesson from Germany & Japan post-WWII is that countries can recover from the destruction of their industrial base — but it will likely take at least two generations. Elon Musk won’t wait — he will move SpaceX to China.

  7. Here’s a post arguing that the Chinese government is now so intrusive as to make that country *uninvestable* for the rational investor:

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4453000-the-china-narrative-is-broken-china-is-uninvestable-for-now

    …another post quoting an executive who calls China “another overhyped and destructive management fad” and who goes on to state that Trump’s Chinese tariffs turned out to be a welcome catalyst for many businesses to finally start disengaging from China…also, another guy who talked about his many problems doing business in China, and when asked (by the writer of the post) why he didn’t just find other sourcing, he “said that China is ground zero of global manufacturing, that the infrastructure and supply chains are all there, and that all his competitors were all sourcing from China, so he had to do so too. In other words, “We must follow the management fad and source from China because everyone else is.””

    I’d assert, though, that keeping your manufacturing there because the supply chain for the components in your product is there is *not* the same thing as just being in China because everyone else is and you want to keep up with the Kool Kidz. I’m sure there was initially a perceived coolness factor in offshoring to China, but at some point, as more and more of the supply chain is there or relatively nearby, it becomes more like the Hotel California.

    http://ace.mu.nu/archives/395367.php

    Also, I think a lot of offshoring of manufacturing is driven by marketing considerations: countries that won’t buy your product unless you do substantial manufacturing there. Pretty sure this is a big part of the reason why Apple does so much in China, and also some of Boeing’ weirder sourcing decisions for airframe components.

  8. Western Civilization used to have better incentives. For example, I recall reading long ago that land ownership encouraged long term development of the land, as opposed to being a shorter term grant of usage by the ruler, which encouraged ruthless exploitation.

    I note that today many American companies spend vast sums on stock buybacks, presumably because executives are incentivized to increase the stock price, regardless of what happens to the long term viability of the enterprise. Intel reportedly spent $94 billion on buybacks, while failing miserably to maintain the technology lead that company once had. GE spent somewhere around $50 billion, nearly bankrupting the company while leaving an “intractable” pension liability of nearly that amount untouched. And post-bankruptcy GM spent $13 billion, while taking such idiotic actions as removing third-row seat access from one side of their Traverse SUV.

    I’ve read that stock buybacks were illegal- but then somehow some bureaucrat certainly not Congress ruled that they were OK in the early 1980s, and here we are.

    This is what incompetence looks like. There may be a lot of ruin in a nation, but only so much.

  9. From Prof. Sloan’s article: “My preferred commitment to China is zero.”

    So that means — no cell phone, no laptop computer, no electric vehicle, no solar panel, no wind generator … and no stock in any business anywhere else in the world that depends on China for components such as batteries, electric motors, steel, plastics, nuts & bolts.

    Prof. Sloan’s article is sound, but all he is really saying is that the Chinese government is looking out for China interests — really, the Trump Doctrine. Sadly, we can’t say the same thing about the US government. Both countries are now effectively Fascist, with an unholy merger of political & business leaders. The difference is that US politicians do what business leaders (and foreign contributors) tell them to do; whereas in China, politicians tell business leaders what to do.

  10. At the same time, a flood of foriegn immigrants kept wages low. This continued from Colonial times clear until the 1920’s

    I’d like to see some evidence of this. I have read that US wages in the in the 19th century were far higher than Britain. Mass production, which began here, was one consequence,

  11. It’s beyond me why no one told Trump in January 2020 that whatever was going on in Wuhan, whether it was big or small, was a perfect excuse for hammering airtight border controls, and decoupling from China. Both just complete slam dunks.
    Very high on the list of reasons why Trump shouldn’t run again is that if he does, the covid “debate” immediately becomes about what he did wrong in those early months, rather than about how it’s all China’s fault…(he’s going to run again, of course).

  12. Mike K,
    It’s hard to imagine a steady stream of millions of immigrants having any other effect. I have no doubt that that the relative difference in wages between the Old and New World was a prime driver of immigration, the difference was even more stark in relation to Asia. I don’t see a contradiction between a transoceanic differential at the same time that immigration was exerting downward pressure on domestic wages. At the same time, the South with its river centered transportation made Europe as close as the industrializing North and the European market for Southern agriculture was much larger than the American market, especially at the beginning.

    Something else that increased the pool of labor was a large increase in agricultural efficiency both from mechanization and just from the fact that Western lands were naturally more productive. When 80% of the population is engaged in farming, even small improvements will produce large demographic changes. The westward migration absorbed some labor, but it required capital that the immigrants usually lacked on arrival.

    Something that anyone doing business in China has to think about is that it will become more and more difficult to insure that they are complying with human rights laws. The big players like Apple and Amazon know that the Chinese government is actively working to poison the labor pool to make it impossible to source from China and comply with U.S. and European laws. Thus their recent attempts to head off those laws here.

  13. It’s hard to imagine a steady stream of millions of immigrants having any other effect. I have no doubt that that the relative difference in wages between the Old and New World was a prime driver of immigration,

    I suppose you could call it that but starvation was more an issue for Irish immigrants. Military service was more for Germans but the economics of the Industrial Revolution were not a big factor until 1890 or so. Certainly, the Union had more industrial capacity but wages, I believe, were still higher than England until quite late in the 19th century, The volunteers for the Boer War were 40% rejected physically because of malnutrition.

  14. There isn’t a much more stark divide than between starvation and the abundance of the free lunch and jobs for anyone willing to work. I’ve read that England didn’t really make progress against widespread malnutrition until the rationing of WWII forced them to address it.

    Cotton gins, steam boats, textile mills and railroads were all well established before 1850. Steel production was one of the decisive advantages of the Union in the Civil War. Then there’s McCormick and Deere and the mechanization of agriculture. It didn’t really take off until prime movers besides horses became available in the late 19th century but reapers and steel plows were making a big difference as early as 1850 or so.

    All of these areas would have been starved and stunted for lack of labor without the immigrants. At the same time, the competition for labor kept rates attractive relative to Europe for those willing and adventurous enough to make the move.

  15. The people of the USA (with some obvious exceptions) have been the richest per capita overall in the world since the colonial era. Still in the top few, depending on how you count. Without looking at the stats, I’d be surprised if there was any extended period from say 1750 to 1920 when this wasn’t true (and recognizing that per capita can mislead).

    The American economy of the 19th century was dynamic enough that it absorbed labor by paying well overall while expanding across a resource-rich continent.

    The most recent comments bring it full circle. To understand the American lead in automotive tech I’d recommend the chapter about Detroit in Peter Hall’s Cities in Civilization. He points out how many factors converged at that place and time to create a Black Swan (my label) that practically defines the 20th Century.

  16. Interesting that the article starts with Ford and then brings up patents as one of the good things. I am quite certain that Henry Ford felt different about the Selden Patent and ALAM.

  17. I’ve become a bit of a renegade vis-a-vis the benefits of patents: It’s like anything–The dose makes the poison. No patents=No incentives towards innovation and revealing what you’ve invented, to the detriment of all. Too much patent=Too much incentive to restrain trade and innovation.

    And, with typical human nature, we overdo everything, sooooo… Yeah. Too much patent is where we’re at.

    Part of the nuttiness is that there’s a disconnect between “Originate idea” and “Bring to market”. The idea that you could patent something, and then never actually produce it, restraining trade based on that patent? Ludicrous. That’s an aspect that badly needs reform.

    I think the whole model is flawed at a fundamental level. What we need to do is figure out a system that rewards inventors and innovators, yet also rewards the guys who actually bring the damn product out to market. And, that doesn’t prevent the producers from producing a product due to patent issues, or enable monopolies during the term of the patent.

    I think one of the major problems with Western Civ is this attitude that “We’ll do this once, and once only…” for all of what we legislate and enact. Someone needs to force the legislatures to actually state what each law and regulation is meant to accomplish, establish metrics for success, and then go back and look at the whole thing and see whether or not the damn things work–Then, if it doesn’t? You quit doing it and try something else.

    There really ought to be a fourth branch of government, one that audits the other three, and which has the power to go through the work product of the other three and say “Yeah, that’s not working; try again, ‘cos you ain’t doing this stupidity any more…”.

    Every piece of legislation ought to include a “statement of purpose”, a set of metrics, and an end-date for either sunset or an evaluation of whether or not it “works”. Baseline things like “no murdering” would not be included, but when it comes to social issue BS like dealing with “homelessness”, I think we really need to have something like this enacted. Along with a proviso that if you come to the people and say something like “homelessness is a tragic problem, and I can solve it… Give me 500 million and I’ll fix it in five years…”, then when we look at the problem at the five-year mark, and it still exists or it got worse…? You’re banned from any involvement in the issue, ever again.

    I also think that if you sponsor legislation, you ought to be personally responsible for the effect it has; you say you want your program to save money? Fine; your program turns out to be a net loss, and costs billions more? Kiss goodbye to everything you own, ‘cos guess who is paying the bills?

    Personally, I think that a major problem we have is that there’s no skin in the game for legislators or bureaucrats: Hold them personally responsible, and watch the changes they suddenly start making. If you risked everything you owned and whatever your family has by writing some bullshit laws to benefit your husband’s company…? And the auditors find out? LOL… Nancy Malignancy Pelosi would be living under a bridge, not eating designer ice cream out of a ten-thousand dollar fridge.

    The mere fact that government officials of any stripe can leave office as millionaires ought to be considered a sign that we’ve institutionalized corruption without consequence or accountability. I would love to give a crew of forensic accountants free rein to run through the books for all of our major “political figures” and have them try to explain where all the money came from…

    I know, I know… Mad fantasy, that.

  18. Kirk, the problem is that there is no legislation anymore. The budget is gone into a “continuing resolution.” Anything that is written into a bill is contingent on administrative review and revision. Hence we get 2000 page bills that no one has read except the lobbyists that wrote it.

  19. }}} What incredible hubris. Which is a major reason the system you have built is collapsing. You believe your own propaganda.

    Despite being endlessly shredded here, on virtually every topic, being the blog punching bag, you continue to think your opinions are worthy of expression.

    Be funny if you ever won a point, but you never do.

    What incredible hubris. Your ego is absurd.

  20. }}} Hence we get 2000 page bills that no one has read except the lobbyists that wrote it

    LOLZ, you give them too much credit. Apes typing is more accurate. :-P

  21. The mere fact that government officials of any stripe can leave office as millionaires ought to be considered a sign that we’ve institutionalized corruption without consequence or accountability.

    It is considered a sign that we’ve institutionalized corruption. That’s what gave Donald Trump his opportunity. I have been hearing complaints about this since literally the last century and I think dissatisfaction with that corrupt status quo has been driving people out of the demonrat party since at least then.

    I would love to give a crew of forensic accountants free rein to run through the books for all of our major “political figures” and have them try to explain where all the money came from…

    I think the fear of that possibility is one big honking reason why the establishment hates Trump so much- they can’t explain their wealth legally or honorably, and they’ve been in mortal terror that he might have by some mischance appointed officials who would have looked into all that.

    I certainly think the GOP establishment’s politically disastrous and weirdly futile efforts against Trump indicate that they have something quite thoroughly untoward they don’t want uncovered.

  22. Xennady, your thinking echoes my own. There’s a reason the GOPe acted as though they’d lost the House and Senate in 2016, and that boils down to the fact that they’re not just complicit, but fully participant in the various shakedowns and fiddles that Congress has going.

    Look at the Burisma board members–They’re from both parties. Were I a wagering man, I’d lay you long odds that if you go looking into Afghanistan, you’d find as many Republican as Democrat hands in the till.

    At this point, I’m pretty sure the situation is essentially unsalvageable. I’m still going to try, but I don’t think my vote matters any more than anyone else’s. We need to be prepared to build back in such a way as to stave off this same sort of BS happening again, and learn the lessons to be learned.

    First thought? No professional politicians. You should only get X number of years at public service, and that’s it. Same with bureaucrats–Nobody should make a career of “government”. Draft the cops, draft the bureaucracy. Audit going in, audit coming out, and if you made a thin red dime more than you were paid, or somehow enriched yourself or family members…? Back it goes, into the treasury.

    Another possible path? Just institutionalize the corruption. Let law go to the highest bidder, who has to pay the treasury. Political figures get rated on how much money they bring in, and get a cut of it all, out in the open. Transparent.

    I mean, why not? It’s not like we can’t guess what’s going on, right now. I’d rather know that Pelosi and Feinstein are on the Chinese payroll up front, and that the money they’re getting personally is merely a cut off of what goes into the Treasury…

    Hell, do it right? I bet we could pay off the National Debt in a generation. It’s all a question of harnessing their evil for the power of good…

  23. First thought? No professional politicians. You should only get X number of years at public service, and that’s it. Same with bureaucrats–Nobody should make a career of “government”.

    I would agree but this turns the government over to the staff, as if they don’t run it now. A lot of this came from McCain/Finegold which banned contributions over a small amount in the age of TV. The politicians, especially the House members, spend all their time raising money while the staff writes the bills. McCain had a hissey fit (one of many) when he got caught up in the Keating scandal. This was bad legislation that sounded virtuous. This is where a lot of Nancy Pelosi’s power comes from. She has the spigot of Silicon Valley’s money.

    I agree about the threat Trump posed to the GOPe.

  24. You missed the next point I made… No professional bureaucrats, either. Everybody does a few years in government service of some kind, chosen by lottery or expertise. The only professionals I’d allow would be people in purely advisory positions, like lawyers. Who would, by way of common sense, be exempt/banned from anything other than advising on matters of law.

    TBH, I am coming around to the idea that the anarchists may have it right: Man is inherently corrupt, so the only way to avoid corrupt institutions of governance is… Not to have any. If there’s no power to grub, then the grubbers will have to make their own way in life.

    Very few people can be trusted with power. Probably, none of us, really. The trick is to have just enough organization to make civilization happen, yet not enough to attract the sociopaths like Pelosi & Company.

    To a degree, you could make any sort of system work, for a short period, provided the participants were all more-or-less virtuous. Even Communism would work, under limited circumstances, and so long as the participants remained virtuous. The problem is, the virtue falls off as time goes on, and eventually, even the Stakhonovites are fiddling the system to get over and get fat at the expense of others, ‘cos they’ve observed that they’re getting screwed if they don’t. The trick is, you have to minimize the potential for the actual “wreckers” coming to the fore and taking over positions of power. Even a system manned by saints and designed by God will come to a disastrous end-state in a few generations, as the saintliness wears off and conditions change.

  25. The persistent claim that term limits are bad because it would put staffers in charge isn’t an argument against term limits, it’s an argument to completely blow up the system.
    The whole point of elections is we get to vote on the decisions makers, and that they will be motivated to make “good” choices by that accountability. If that’s not the way it works anymore, then everything needs to be swept aside to start over.
    (Yes, I am aware that We are not a democracy, and that the real genius of the founders wasn’t in elections, but in separation of powers, and that the system they built has long since been destroyed, but that really just reinforces my point that everything needs to be reset.)

  26. There are lots of good ideas about how to create a more sustainable system of government which would be resistant to the kind of takeover by an evil clique such as we are seeing today. Limiting the franchise is one. Reviving the Ancient Greek practices for auditing elected officials after their one year in office is another. Separating the power to tax from the authority to spend those tax revenues is critical — as is preventing deficit spending.

    But none of those ideas will be implemented through the now-perverted ballot box. Our only hope lies in the inevitability of government financial collapse from their incompetent rule. What happens then will be in the lap of the gods. If we are lucky, a relatively low-level military officer will lead a national revival to turn the DC Swamp into a museum — a cross between a Colonel Ghaddafi and a George Washington. If we get what we deserve, Thoroughly Modern Milley will make himself President for Life.

  27. Naah…. My read on Milley is that he’s a thoroughgoing opportunistic sycophant with no real talent, probably suborned back during the Obama era for some peccadillo we’ll likely never know about. Same with Mattis.

    Carter Ham’s fate should have told us what was going on, inside the Obama-era Pentagon. They could have reacted to Benghazi in a timely manner, but they did not, as a deliberate act. Ham was relieved and stood down so quickly that it isn’t even funny, and the inside-baseball rumors that I heard were that the apparatchiks who stabbed him in the back were well-rewarded with post-military “career opportunities”.

    My read on the near-term future is that there are two tracks: One, where the Dimbulb Democrat/Republican Uniparty blows things up so thoroughly that they can’t pull off another 2020 election to save themselves, and wind up just quietly fading into the background the way the Communists did when the Soviet Union fell. The rank incompetency of it all is what I think militates for this–If they were really a decently-competent cabal of conspiracists, they’d have ensured we would never see the hand up Joe Biden’s ass at all. The way he’s talking about not being allowed to take questions and all the rest? It’s making it increasingly clear that he’s not the one running the show, and with Jill fading into the shadows, I don’t think she is, either. The Biden Crime Crew is a put-up job, and we have yet to see who is actually in charge. Valery Jarrett? Obama? Who the f**k knows? No matter who it is, the fact is that it’s rapidly becoming undeniable that they’re running a sham administration, and we are going to have a moment where that becomes undeniable, and then where it goes? No idea. I fully expect Joe to melt down at one of these press conferences, and then it’s gonna be a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    The other option, as I’ve said before, is that we’re going to wind up with a Cromwell come up out of the system, somewhere. Doesn’t even have to be military, TBH–So long as they present as a figure of unquestionable moral rectitude and stability, they’re gonna serve as the “Man on a Horse” for that moment when it all goes to shit. What comes after that? No ideas, there, either.

    Course we’re on is unsustainable. This looks more and more like the end stages of a Mafia bust-out operation, and I think it’s about time we admit that to ourselves, ugly as that is. Where you go from here? Well, the first thing is to admit you’ve got a damn problem, as well as its nature. Then, figuring out a course of action, after figuring out what we want the end-state to look like. I personally like the US Constitution as a framework for a Federal state, much like Switzerland, but the problem with the current structure is that there’s way too much poorly-controlled power built into the system. It badly needs some tune-ups, because the Founders did not and could not foresee all the changes we have experienced over the last 200-odd years.

  28. Kirk: “The other option, as I’ve said before, is that we’re going to wind up with a Cromwell come up out of the system, somewhere.”

    I don’t see that as another option — rather as the possible second stage of the first option, which is collapse of the current governmental structure. That collapse is now unavoidable. I used to think the likely cause would be when FedGov could no longer service its ballooning debt or pay its exorbitant pensions (both things which are certainly coming). But now I lean more towards the external push of a collapse in the international purchasing power of the dollar — when big exporters like the Chinese (or maybe even the Germans) decide they will no longer accept freshly-printed BidenBucks in exchange for their Real Goods. Either way, financial collapse leads to political collapse, because our Political Class has already lost the confidence of a large part of the population, and will not be able to lead us out of the difficult times that they themselves created.

    The routes then diverge post-collapse. We could have chaos for decades, or chaos followed by foreign intervention, or chaos followed by Cromwell, or chaos followed by George Washington (or Cincinnatus, if you prefer). Whatever happens, it will be hell to live through — but make exciting reading in future history books.

  29. We’ve already seen nullification issues with “blue” states and the INS, who’s to say there won’t be something similar with the IRS, FBI, etc., and “red” states soon, and that rather than China rejecting BidenBucks we won’t see TX, etc., turn them away?

  30. At this point, I’m pretty sure the situation is essentially unsalvageable.

    I agree, and at some point historians are be arguing about exactly when it became unsalvageable. But you don’t write books with titles like The Impending Crisis before the crisis really becomes a Crisis.

    The rank incompetency of it all is what I think militates for this–If they were really a decently-competent cabal of conspiracists, they’d have ensured we would never see the hand up Joe Biden’s ass at all.

    I think they’re so incompetent that they literally do not realize how incompetent they are, because they think they’re the smartest people in the room, always. I recall the summit that happened a while ago, where the Biden official got up to the podium to explain that America was back- and then was berated for 20 minutes by a Chinese counterpart, after asserting a 5-minute limits to remarks. And, you know, that Afghanistan thing.

    Now I’ve written here that I think treason is involved, including what has to be a traitorous conspiracy- but for Pete’s sake, you don’t need to screw up this badly for your treason to be successful, nor do you have to say stupid things at a conference and then get figuratively micturated upon by a foreign official for 20 minutes.

    In other words, even if my crazy assertion is correct, and the US is essentially ruled by a traitorous cabal- they’re still too stupid to avoid tripping over their own feet, infuriating the rubes and endangering their end-goals.

    This looks more and more like the end stages of a Mafia bust-out operation…

    I agree, I just don’t think the people running it are the figureheads we might see on CNN, making fools of themselves.

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