Dangers of National Dependency

I recently read a history of the French Air Force–The Rise and Fall of the French Air Force, Greg Baughen–which includes much analysis of aircraft design and construction.  One historical fact I thought was interesting: in 1939, the French licensed the design of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine (the engine that powered the Spitfire and Hurricane, among other airplane) and contracted with the Ford Motor Company to manufacture these engines.

But when war was declared on September 3 of that year,  Henry Ford–who had strong neutrality and ‘antiwar’ beliefs–pulled the Ford equipment and people.  No Merlins for you, Mr Frenchman!

Closer to our own time, during the Iraq War, the Swiss company Swatch Group refused to supply contracted components for the JDAM missile.  In this case, there was a US company that could provide the items, and the Swiss refusal was ultimately overcome by diplomatic pressure.

In this retro-reading post, I cited an old copy of Mechanical Engineering magazine, which discussed the shortage of certain chemicals for which the US was largely dependent on Germany:

America did not make much progress (with aniline dyes) owing to certain complications and the lack of consolidated action.  What was produced here was in most cases equal to the imported product, but owing to the greater facilities for producing the color, the greater attention given to research, substantial government financial aid, and, primarily, the exceedingly low labor cost abroad, competition was out of the question.  Hence up to 1914 we had practically no dye industry and depended on Germany not only for dyes but also for many valuable pharmaceutical preparations as well as for phenol, the basis for many of our explosives.  

This problem was solved by intensive efforts during the First World War.

Prior to 1914, most people, including government people, probably thought (if they thought about it at all), “Well, dye for fabrics isn’t exactly a strategic resource…sure, we like wearing & seeing attractively-colored clothes, but it’s not really a matter of life and death”…but missed the connection to the pharmaceuticals and the explosives.

If we do wind up in a military conflict with another major power, the time constants are likely to be relatively short–more comparable to the time pressures the French faced in 1940 than to our situation in 1914, separated by oceans from any immediate threat to the country.

And today, we have a report on US companies investing significantly in Chinese semiconductor companies and related software providers.

51 thoughts on “Dangers of National Dependency”

  1. Aniline (I met a chemist that named her daughter Aniline once.) was one of the first octane boosters, predating tetraethyl lead by several years. I don’t know if it was used for that as early as WWI. Iso-octane, the basis of high octane aviation gas was a particular bottle neck for the Germans during WWII. We caught up.

    The Germans had some merchant submarines that smuggled things like dye and other high value items through the blockade to America before we entered the war.

    Dye stuffs started as coal-tar derivatives as were the rest of the German chemicals. They were the early wonder materials.

  2. David F: “If we do wind up in a military conflict with another major power …”

    First issue in any military conflict with another major power (say, Russia over issues in Ukraine, or China over Taiwan) would be interruptions to trade. Since the US is now dependent on imports for so many manufactured goods, and since the Great Lock Down Run On Toilet Paper (sorry about that!) showed our propensity to respond to threatened shortages with panic buying, the very rapid consequence would be a disastrous situation on the home front. Russia and China know this, and are probably counting on it. It will really crimp the ability of any US Administration to go kinetic.

    Second issue will be how to contain the conflict and stop it going nuclear. Say, China sinks a US carrier off its coast. 5,000 sailors dead. The only viable responses from the US would be to go nuclear (with devastating consequences) or to give up and go home. It is fairly clear which way Brandon’s Boys would go.

    There are many things to worry about in this world, but a military conflict with a major power is not high on the list. The dependence of the US on imports which can only be paid for with freshly-printed Bidenbucks should be much higher.

  3. I did not know that about the French licensing. Very interesting. The Merlin has to rank as one of the best piston engines of the war and was probably used in more airframes: the famous fighters, including the American P-51, but also the Mosquito and the Lancaster.

    In 1939 the UK and France set up the Anglo-French Purchasing Commission, to coordinate the massive orders they placed with US firms all over the country. A lot of industry was developed on the basis of those contracts; when France fell, the Brits took over the contracts. As in 1914-17, the huge American economy was the final guarantor of Allied survival and eventual success.

    IIRC, the most interdependent economies in the world in 1914 were the German and French.

    One thing the Germans lacked was birdshit in quantity, for making ammunition. Fritz Haber solved that problem.

    Herwig, in his study of Germany and Austria in WWI, comments that production of foodstuffs was less a problem than transport–rural areas in the heimat often had more than they needed, while the cities tightened their belts. Lessons there.

    A serious military clash between the US and China (CA’s sunk, thousands dead) is by no means impossible, but it is incalculable. Too much depends on the Why of the confrontation, the Who of alliances, etc.

  4. “If we do wind up in a military conflict with another major power …”

    I dunno, much denial. A war with Russia, quite possible at the moment, would result in every NATO command centre in Europe, every satellite that might be a threat and any assets close to the Russian border, being eliminated in the first 10 minutes.

    In the seas near China any threatening carrier group will simply be nuked. I dunno what you think is going to happen, but its nothing like the reality.

  5. I’ll ignore Russia as that bear is toothless to the point of near starvation with a population in terminal decline. If it weren’t for an increasingly questionable nuclear capability, it would be irrelevant.

    A salient question about China is; just how close they are to economic collapse? Churchill among others was of the opinion that Germany started WWI and probably WWII as way of forestalling a collapse from unsustainable military expansion. Essentially, use it or lose it.

    China is defensively formidable. Unfortunately their defensive umbrella extends far enough past Taiwan to make our carriers impotent. Taiwan is far from defenseless and an invasion is sure to be costly and far from a sure thing. At the same time, even a successful invasion would eliminate most if not all of any useful loot.

    China has essentially zero capability to project and sustain power at any relevant distance for now and for some time into the future.

    If I was living in the Russian Far East, I would be trying to learn Chinese. This area possesses many resources that China covets and is mostly at the end of a long, single railroad line from the west. It is also within walking distance of the Chinese frontier and sparsely defended. It’s hard to see any Western power making more than token protest.

    Personally, I would rate the economic collapse of China as a bigger danger to the West than anything they are likely to do overtly. You’re going to have a lot of trouble getting iPhones or anything else out, if China is undergoing another of it’s periodic convulsions. We’re getting a small taste of the pain that might cause.

    In an actual war with China, I doubt that any weapons on either side not already produced would be relevant. We are not going to be storming ashore on the Chinese coast and then grinding slowly toward Beijing for months. Whatever happens will be over in days if not hours.

  6. Even in a military conflict with some other power–Iran, for example–China could intervene effectively by cutting off critical supplies to the US. And short of military conflict, increasing Chinese influence will have an effect on American internal politics and discussion. There is already plenty of submission to Chinese government pressure or possible pressure going on:

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/57018.html

    Along the same lines, in 2012, Obama wanted to ‘persuade’ media to drop coverage that might offend jihadis. or potential jihadis. And Winston Churchill observed something similar in the late 1930s regarding Britain’s attitudes toward Nazi Germany. Churchill spoke of the “unendurable..sense of our country falling into the power, into the orbit and influence of Nazi Germany, and of our existence becoming dependent upon their good will or pleasure…In a very few years, perhaps in a very few months, we shall be confronted with demands” which “may affect the surrender of territory or the surrender of liberty.” A “policy of submission” would entail “restrictions” upon freedom of speech and the press. “Indeed, I hear it said sometimes now that we cannot allow the Nazi system of dictatorship to be criticized by ordinary, common English politicians.”

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/47097.html

  7. David,
    The NBA couldn’t have said it better.

    Any Chinese curtailment of trade would cause major dislocation in the Chinese economy as well as ours. All of those factories suddenly bankrupted and the millions of workers thrown out of work would not produce domestic tranquility. It’s hard to think of any action matching Chinese rhetoric that wouldn’t materially accelerate the collapse that may already be underway. A war would at least be distracting for a time.

    When the Merlin and later Griffon engines were produced successfully in the U.S., it was Packard that did it. This was only after a number of issues were worked out. The most troublesome was that the British and American inches were different. We eventually had to adopt what was known as the Industrial Inch. Apparently the discrepancy hadn’t been a problem during WWI.

  8. But when war was declared on September 3 of that year, Henry Ford–who had strong neutrality and ‘antiwar’ beliefs–pulled the Ford equipment and people. No Merlins for you, Mr Frenchman!

    No Great Nation is dependent upon overseas manufacture for its arms.

  9. I can’t cite it now, but in several history of spying books I read that in WW2 Germany and Great Britain arranged for mutually beneficial trades of military-grade items through neutral parties in Switzerland.

  10. MDS: “A salient question about China is; just how close they are to economic collapse?”

    One of the repeated lessons of history is — Don’t Underestimate Your Opponent!

    China has lots of problems, for sure. Perhaps China will collapse economically, causing immense damage to a US deprived of Chinese imports. But they do not have cities like Los Angeles defunding the police in order to give selected constituents a guaranteed unearned income. The same Los Angeles that was the heart of military aircraft production in WWII — but that was then, and this is now.

    The USA of today is — very unfortunately — not the USA of the 1940s. Then, the US was the Workshop of the World. Now, the US is the Importer of the World. China is now the place with manufacturing capabilities and a trained experienced workforce. If we ever get into a shooting war, that is going to count for a lot.

    But we still have to expect that any serious conflict with Russia or China would end up in a general nuclear conflagration. Faced with the choice between defeat or firing the missiles, my guess is that the losing side would push the button. Don’t Underestimate Your Enemy!

  11. MCS…”Any Chinese curtailment of trade would cause major dislocation in the Chinese economy as well as ours. All of those factories suddenly bankrupted and the millions of workers thrown out of work would not produce domestic tranquility.”

    They don’t have to curtain trade in general, just certain strategic items. If the US were in a long-term war with characteristics similar to Iraq or Afghanistan…and China favored our opponent…they could do what Swatch did (cut off the crystals for the JDAMs, but certainly did not cut off watch exports!), but on a much larger scale.

  12. If you look, Los Angeles and the surrounding area is still an internationally important center for aerospace manufacturing as well as other precision parts and assemblies. To me, it defies good sense, but synergy and proximity still apparently trump all the pathologies inflicted on the region.

    Considering Russia and China, the amazing thing is that the 21st century seems to have pushed both beyond the point of no return. This after they survived decades of government caused mass death, dislocations and the two most destructive wars in history. Considering the conditions in the rest of the developed world are not that much better, a person might be tempted to speculate on the unluckiness of odd number millennia.

    Both Russia and China are still capable of doing considerable damage in the interim but neither will count for much past the next ten years. The real question is; will Western Europe be in any better position? Will the U.S. have any advantage beyond having started our decline from a slightly higher level and, maybe, at a slightly lower rate?

    The West “owns” all the technology in use by virtue of invention. But ideas are infinitely fungible once they’re exploited, and have no value otherwise. I wonder if the concept of IP, owning an idea, will come to be seen as a peculiar 20th century fad on the level of animal magnetism. I have no doubt that if China can hang together long enough, it will master all of Western technology and add their own. They will have to first overcome some deep seated cultural issues. The most important is that failure needs to seen as an inevitable precursor to success rather than a shameful moral lapse demanding punishment. Otherwise the personal cost of true innovation is simply too high. While the West is far from a utopia in this respect, the number of Chinese expats associated with innovation here is an indication that the potential exists when there is a little breathing room. Somehow, Xi doesn’t seem like the kind of boss that forgets or forgives much.

    “I, Pencil” by Leonard Reed lays out what we’d now call the supply chain of a pencil. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It covers dozens of different enterprises and several continents just to produce a simple pencil. One more thing that’s nearly not made here. The challenge would be to find any object in any room without that long tail. Even the vase, given to you by your eccentric sister-in-law that she made from clay she dug herself, likely has a glaze that uses ingredients from obscure places. The real question is whether supply chain risk is something that can be managed or something that simply has to be endured? Is it a fire or an asteroid strike?

    You have to wonder why so many businesses choose to base their supply chain in a country that has probably set some sort of record for disastrous governance. I trust that they didn’t cast it in quite those terms at the time but the reality prevails. Will it all come to an end as a result of some deliberate act of the Chinese government or from the accumulation of their failures? Remember that the power disruptions in China are largely because they decided that they would teach Australia a lesson by stopping coal imports. If anything, they seem to be doubling down in the disastrous governance game. The competition is fierce but they may prevail.

  13. Thanks, [Other] Kirk. Brain fart. CVN’s of course.

    The Swiss were convenient, and expert at brokering deals between belligerents. Through most of WWII their economy was almost entirely dependent on the good will of the Germans, and they had that good will only because they were useful to them.

    Same-same with the Brits and WSC. He didn’t badmouth the Swiss before or after, as far as I know, and even praised them.

    The Swiss were the primary producers of jeweled microbearings with military and industrial applications, and deals were made that allowed all sides to benefit from their export.

    But trading with the enemy isn’t new. In 1809 IIRC the French had a better harvest than the Brits and some of the French crop was sold across the Channel by mutual agreement. There were other instances that escape memory at the moment.

    The Siberian option does seem like the best play for the Chinese if they can last long enough.

    And while any future great power war is likely to be brief, the afterwars will be doozies.

  14. MCS…”But ideas are infinitely fungible once they’re exploited, and have no value otherwise. I wonder if the concept of IP, owning an idea, will come to be seen as a peculiar 20th century fad on the level of animal magnetism.”

    The concept of an ‘enforceable patent’ may turn out to be specific to a nation-state, or to a particular cluster of nation-states. (Of course, the US got its start in the textile industry partly by stealing the IP for the machinery from Britain)

    In many cases, it will turn out that the ‘tacit knowledge’ involved in making something is more protectable than the design knowledge of how the product works, or even the formal part of the process knowledge of how to make it. Chinese problems in making jet engines and high-end chips are examples.

  15. In WWI, Vickers paid royalties on shell fuses to Krupp. Not until after the war was over but the original contract was enforced. They settled on a formula based on the number of German causalities since no one could count the number of fuses produced. The term blood money comes to mind.

  16. The saying is; “I taught you everything you know, not everything I know.” Then there’s Mark Twain’s quote about the value of “good ideas”.

    A patent is supposed to be the physical embodiment of an idea. Originally you had to supply a working model. Its validity rests on it being a full disclosure of all that’s necessary to reproduce it by a mechanic skilled in the art. In order for it to be valuable, there has to be some crucial element disclosed that makes bypassing it unprofitable. History is full of patents that were simply bypassed. Trade secrets only last as long as it takes someone to reverse engineer them. The salient question in pursuing a patent is whether it will be valuable enough to be worth defending. Since the Patent Office has become more interested in collecting fees than actually examining applications, challenging patents has become much easier.

    Coke is the great example of “protection” by trade secret. I can’t tell Coke from Pepsi by taste and doubt that the perennial #2 status of Pepsi comes down to some infinitesimal proportion or secret ingredient.

    Something like the reliability and life of a jet engine depends on thousands of little details. Many are actually available in the open literature, especially with the Internet. But not in any one place. My personal record for following a thread is to around 1880. Even when you’re dealing with something like ball bearings that date from that time and have become as rigidly standardized as anything I can think of, there’s still the problem of meeting the standard consistently and profitably. Then there’s the problem of things being done a certain way for reasons that have become obscure or, even worse, were arrived at by chance. I suppose this is a long winded way of agreeing with you. There’s always the chance, even a probability, that better solutions will be apparent to new eyes. If there’s time.

  17. Lenin: The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.

    Xi: The West has loaned us the money and given us the technology to build the Chinese factory in which we are making the rope we will sell to them and then use to hang them.

    Western citizen: I used to work in a rope factory. Now I don’t have a job.

  18. It has all changed since 1940, and the current set of advantageous “things” that make China successful are entirely capable of changing such that they have a huge disadvantage.

    One of the big issues I have with these monolithic “big government” systems like the Chinese have going is precisely that–It’s “big government”, and whenever something of that size comes into existence, run by one set of people, the collapse is inevitable. Why? Because they try to control it, and control simply isn’t possible in this chaotic universe of ours. The more you reach for, the less you actually have.

    You cannot substitute the inherent superiority of decentralized decision-making authority that’s out where the rubber meets the road with the slow-moving sclerosis of centralized authority. It won’t work, not least because the methodology is flawed; without the intimate knowledge of the situation, you can’t mandate from above what the little guys ought to be doing.

    Soviet central planning damn near drove the whales into extinction, and the sad thing is, the Soviets didn’t actually use the resources they expended–It was all done to “the Plan”, and never mind the fact that nobody in Soviet-land ate the meat or needed the whale oil: It was easy to catch them, so never mind whether or not the meat sold or the oil was dumped; it was all just an entry in the account books for the central planners, and so long as the whaling industry could show they were meeting or exceeding the plan, they were happy.

    This is the inherent flaw in “planning” an economy; the economy is chaos and you can’t plan that. You can dance with it, but you can’t tell someone in Taos, New Mexico when they need to put the sheep out to pasture this next spring; that’s a local decision that has to be made locally, optimized for the then-current conditions.

    I’ve been cynical as hell about the benefits of “planned” anything since about the time the Army went in for their micro-managed training schedules back during the late 1980s. We went from a situation where it was all decentralized and the responsibility of the lowest level leaders to one where ever 15-minute block of every day had to be accounted for and planned six weeks out. You could watch the decay in quality of training set in, because the inflexible strait jacket that attitude put us into a situation where instead of going out to check and see whether or not quality training was going on, they went out to check and see if you were adhering to the almighty schedule–Which often didn’t make much bloody sense. If you were laid on to be using the call-for-fire center, doing artillery fire support training, then it was “By God, you’d better be down at the training site… Never mind that the computers are broken down and the system is shut down–The Division staff may come down to look at us, make sure you’re there, and pull something out of your ass to look busy…”. Ten years before that, you’d have called over to confirm the training center was available, found out it was down, and then gone to do something else productive like work on your tools or do battle drills. Once they brought in the computerized centrally planned training schedule, it all went to shit–You were expected to be good little Soviets and be doing what the schedule said, whether or not it made sense.

    I think my favorite story from the early days of this BS was the time I was told to take my vehicle and driver out, and practice laying a row minefield in the middle of a lake. That went over wonderfully well with the new Deputy Division Commander, when he found us. He had a long chat with my company commander, then the Sergeant Major whose last-minute tasking pulled all the troops out of my squad for a detail, instead of doing the training we were scheduled for. As well, there were questions about the middle-of-the-lake thing, because someone had screwed the pooch on the grid coordinates for the training event, nobody had checked it, and there I was with a truckload of training mines and a driver sitting on the lakeshore. Best thing I could think of to do was to go over how we’d do the recording of the minefield with him, and what his role would be as driver.

    Whole thing was nuts, but that’s what “planning” does to you. There are times and places where “planning” is both appropriate and necessary, but there are other endeavors where it is positively deranged. An actual full-scale economy is one of them…

    Here is the thing, though… You look at that “Army training anecdote”, and you don’t see the relevance, if you’re about 90% of the “educated” public. Reality is, it’s a microcosm of how these ideas work out, in the real world–Complexity is not amenable to planning; variables will not actually vary as you foresee, and the second- plus third-order effects will accrue to the point where the whole thing just spins apart into even more chaos than you’d have had if you never set out to plan things in the first place.

    The conceit that you can “plan” is one of man’s biggest delusions; you can plan some things, but once you get past a certain point, the whole thing becomes more of a burden than its worth. I really can’t even begin to fathom what attracts people to these ideas, in the first damn place–Who the hell wants to spend their life working out how many bra straps the state of Alabama is going to need in Fiscal Year 2022? Why the hell bother? If you just leave it alone, the chaos of the market will work out the answer for you, and it’ll be a butt-ton less effort.

    I presume that most of these types are simply in it for the warm fuzzies they get from dictating things to other people, and the frisson of pleasure they get from the control of it all. Totally inexplicable, to me–I’d gladly pay someone to leave me out of that whole experience.

  19. Kirk…part of it is certainly that some people like to dictate..but also, centralized planning is very seductive to people who haven’t thought about the subject deeply or studied (or personally experienced) some of its downsides.

    For anyone who hasn’t already read it, I strongly suggest Francis Spufford’s book ‘Red Plenty’, which describes the Soviet central planning system from the standpoint of those on the front lines of that system–factory managers, economic planners, mathematicians, computer scientists, and “fixers.” I reviewed it in 2019.

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/60918.html

    Also highly recommended is ‘Bitter Waters’ by a guy who served as deputy manager of a Stalin-era Soviet factory. His contrast of ‘planned’ lumbering with pre-Revolutionary ‘unplanned’ lumbering is a classic. Review:

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/6966.html

  20. I think the allure of central planning is a vice of the intellectuals who’ve never actually ever, y’know… Done anything.

    I know a lot of Very Smart People (TM) were involved in the travesty that was the New Army Way of planning training. It didn’t work, because most of them were not actually people who’d ever done training. Or, ran much of anything.

    It’s a part and parcel with the whole question of how we’ve taken up the computer and networking; it’s enabled the higher-ups to take control and micro-manage things they never should have tried to assert authority over. People wonder where all the “vanished productivity” went with the advent of the computer, which should have vastly increased said productivity, but I can tell them–It went up in a “Phffft!!!” of TPS reports, unnecessary information requests, and idiotic attempts at micro-control.

    I read somewhere that Allende had meant to put in place some incredibly foresightful cybernetic controls for the Chilean economy, and that it was such a pity that he’d been removed by Pinochet, or we’d have seen the wonders of this computer-managed Chilean economy… Me? I’m pretty damn sure that Pinochet probably saved Chile from starvation and utter destruction by killing the idiot who thought that up. On that basis alone, I think the Pinochet regime was justified in what it did, because that wunnerful, wunnerful “cybernetically-controlled” Chilean economy would have spun into the ground so damn fast and thoroughly that we’d probably still be dealing with the humanitarian outcome from that stupidity.

    Anyone who tries to tell you that they can (and, more importantly, should…) take over an inherently complex and chaotic process like an economy, dictating whatever goes on within it…? They’re either con-artists looking to loot the place, or they’re incredibly arrogant and ignorant of their limitations. And, maybe all three, at once.

    Chaos is a system all its own; you attempt to wrest control away from the intrinsic nature of it all, you’re pretty much doomed to failure when it inevitably collapses. Which is what’s done in China, every ‘effing time–They have this national vice, in that they think that things are amenable to control by the central authorities, and that those authorities are both necessary and infallible. History has shown that they’re neither, every time they attain sufficient power.

    I’d rather be a part of a self-renewing chaotic process, than some illusory static thing of mass and predictability. That’s been the path to inevitable destruction, every time a human society has tried it.

    I shudder to think about what the eventual death-toll is going to be, when China collapses the next time around. They try and try, wanting to avoid it, but the sad fact is that the tools they engage in order to attempt it just doom them to inevitable collapse and failure. You can’t control things in that detail, at that scale, and plan much of anything that will actually happen–Or, more importantly, have the effect you’re looking for. I can’t wait to see what comes out of the vaunted “social credit” scheme they have going–I think it’s likely to devolve into either the biggest pile of corruption in history, or it will goad an awful lot of Chinese who find themselves on the outside looking in to kick the whole sorry edifice down into destruction. With entirely unknowable side-effects…

  21. 1 — the solution to the issue here, regarding various chemicals, materials, etc., which may be interrupted by warfare is to estimate how long it would take to ramp up production in a wartime scenario (assuming other demands on men and materials, mind you) and then stockpile the resources. This, in fact, is what happens with steel and so forth — there are national stockpiles of such at any given time. Stockpiles of fuel are what gets drawn on when price shocks threaten the economy, for example… by releasing part of the stockpile, you ease the upward price pressure.

    2 — “Hence up to 1914 we had practically no dye industry and depended on Germany not only for dyes but also for many valuable pharmaceutical preparations as well as for phenol, the basis for many of our explosives. ”
    Interestingly enough, this was true for Germany, too. When WWI started, it cut off important supplies for nitrates, which are critical to making explosives, as well as fertilizer. They began a search for alternatives which, interestingly, led to their development of a precursor to Nylon… which they had no immediate use for, so they patented it and then ignored it, until DuPont rediscovered it some 20y later and invented artificial fabrics when they created Rayon (known as “Mother-in-Law silk”… it was known to catch fire quite easily, hence a way to get rid of your MiL, “ar ar ar”.). Nylon is an, among other things, less flammable artificial fabric.

    There was a similar issue with rubber during WWII, with both sides having issues, as Germany’s U-boats preyed on transports with rubber, while Germany was cut off from rubber-supply locations. Chemists on both sides sought “unnatural” replacements.

  22. Kirk: “I shudder to think about what the eventual death-toll is going to be, when China collapses the next time around.”

    Let’s hope we are still here to see it. Planning can create real problems — no doubt about that.

    Look at the US energy plan under President Depends — shut down oil pipelines; cancel oil & gas leasing on Federal land; make life as difficult as possible for coal miners; export the oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; impose requirements to make utilities shut down reliable gas-fueled plants and invest in unreliable imported Chinese bird-whackers and solar panels.

    Compare that with the Chinese Communist Party energy plan — a new coal plant every week, and a high intensity building program for nuclear power plants. Plus paying for it by selling the aforementioned bird-whackers and solar panels to the foolish West.

    The message seems to be that when planning is done, it is very important who does the planning. Today, Chinese Communist planners are doing a more sensible job than our woke Ivy League planners.

  23. }}}} I dunno what you think is going to happen, but its nothing like the reality.

    Confession through projection.

    Yup.

    First off, going nuclear is something the world has avoided for a very good reason. Everyone In Power on both sides knows it massively threatens their own power and wealth, far more so than it does the Average Joe, who can lose his own life and not much more.

    Not saying it can’t happen, but a one-time use by a terrorist group (or some whackjobs like Iran looking for 72 virgins) is the only likely scenario for nukes. Any other usage would threaten to escalate into a full-on nuke war, and no one wants that, esp. not those whose choice it is to actually use nukes in the first place. This does not mean “impossible”. But it does mean “very improbable, requiring a very very serious sequence of bad choices… ones which make those causing WWI look like a ‘little whoopsie'”

  24. }}} Then, the US was the Workshop of the World. Now, the US is the Importer of the World. China is now the place with manufacturing capabilities and a trained experienced workforce. If we ever get into a shooting war, that is going to count for a lot.

    Less than would seem. America can make, or refit, factories far quicker than you’d think. The general estimate is that, about 2y after you decide to do it, you should be able to get production going, with full ramp-up within another year or so. As I note above, there is a reason we have what are called “strategic stockpiles” of key items, such as steel and fuel. You don’t hear much about them, but they exist.

    Further, those factories will be state of the art, with robots doing a lot, thus requiring far less manpower than you might expect.

    }}} But we still have to expect that any serious conflict with Russia or China would end up in a general nuclear conflagration. Faced with the choice between defeat or firing the missiles, my guess is that the losing side would push the button. Don’t Underestimate Your Enemy!

    No, we don’t. You don’t want to back either of them into a corner, no, but you can make defeat sufficiently inevitable that they will sue for terms. In general, as I observed above, there is a reason there has not been a nuke fired off in a war for over **SEVENTY FIVE YEARS**.

    This is — seriously — unprecedented in human history. *un* *preci* *dented*.

    Humans don’t invent something, then never use it again, particularly in war.

    So, what is so special about THIS weapon?

    Harlan Ellison, on Nightline, back on August 6, 1990, pointed the above out, along with the observation that Nukes, rather than being “immoral for being so indiscriminate”, were moral precisely because they were so indiscriminate. For the first time since kings rode into battle at the head of their armies, those whose choice it was to go to war suffered as many of the consequences of the war as those who had to prosecute it.

    That is, the Rich Bastards who made the choice were as threatened by the results as the average Joe. If anything, they were MORE threatened, as they had so much more wealth and power to lose.

  25. Yet, *someone* has to do planning, at some level…to follow Kirk’s analogy, someone, or some set of people, has to plan how many bra straps must be shipped to Alabama, or made internally to that state, so that Alabama-based bra manufacturers (assuming there are any left) can sew them into complete bras, or…(the consequences are too terrible to think about!)

    The way this happens in a market system, of course, is that individual manufacturers guess how many bras they are going to sell and when, calculate the common components across styles/sizes/colors…either manually or using a computer system..and place the orders with the suppliers. The advantages of this approach over a centralized, national planning system such as Bernie Sanders would probably like to see lie in two key points…knowledge…being closer to the customer…and incentives…making money instead of going broke.

  26. }}} I wonder if the concept of IP, owning an idea, will come to be seen as a peculiar 20th century fad on the level of animal magnetism.

    OK, so you don’t know the actual history of the notion, apparently.

    It actually started with the US Constitution.

    Yes. We invented it. And it’s not about ownership, it’s about rewards for creation and dissemination.

    Article I
    Section 8
    Clause 8
    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

    The “right” being conferred here was control over it solely to obtain reward for those writings and discoveries.

    In a digital age, the older means for maintaining that control have been eroded to the point of uselessness, hence a new order for producing and providing rewards needs to be worked out, probably by an international body, likely by the WIPO, but needs more greed-control and more sense of what and why, which does not exist within WIPO, after they pushed for the abortion called the DMCA. You need to tie rewards to the utility of the invention, limit those rewards to a responsible time frame, and, finally, allow “free” usage of them — i.e., you need to be able to use them for free to create and release things, then any rewards you get are portioned out in a certain measure to the creators whose ideas you built on.

    We live in an IP and Services Economy. Wealth is created by offering either or both. The free flow of information is by and large the engine of that economy, just as goods were in the Industrial Economy, and Food was in the Ag economy. In all three, something that just sat in one place did no good at all. So putting up roadblocks (such as 100 years of protection for copyrighted works) is anathema to the building of that economy.

    Somewhere out there are some people who have some really really good ideas for making some IP which involves Mickey Mouse which people will find entertaining and amusing. Right now, they can’t do jack shit with those ideas, because they can’t past all the legal flacks that Disney imposes in the way. Clear that out, and let them create whatever they want, then, after the fact, make sure Disney Gets Its Cut from the rewards, and you will see plenty of new content based on older Disney material, just as Disney based so much of ITS content for its first 50y on historical stories and ideas.

    I have called attention to this before, but, even now, 27 years later, it’s still accurate.

    https://www.wired.com/1994/03/economy-ideas/

  27. }}} Coke is the great example of “protection” by trade secret. I can’t tell Coke from Pepsi by taste and doubt that the perennial #2 status of Pepsi comes down to some infinitesimal proportion or secret ingredient.

    Heh. I can’t speak for how many have that ability, but I certainly can. I know this is a fact, because 30y ago some friends did not believe I could do it, so they prepared a blind taste test of Coke, Pepsi, RC, Publix-brand Cola and Winn-Dixie-brand cola (“Chex”) [note: Publix is a major supermarket chain in the southeast, generally upscale and decent quality].

    I knocked it out of the park, correctly identifying all of them by recognizing three and using sense on the last two… I correctly id’d the coke, pepsi, and RC, and guessed the Publix-v-WD brand because WD tasted “the worst” of the two.

    This leads to another interesting discovery I’ve noted.

    Answer a question, mentally, before you proceed:
    Which tastes sweeter, Pepsi or Coke?

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .
    OK, the interesting point here is that, to me, Coke tastes sweeter. I therefore found it real interesting when I met someone else who said, to them, that they liked Coke because Pepsi tasted “too sweet”.

    Since then, I’ve done a very informal survey, and asked that question, “which tastes sweeter, Pepsi or Coke?”, and found that there is a moderately strong correlation, in that the one which “tastes sweeter” is in opposition to the one you like. Not a guarantee, but it does fit the common model, I’d guess by 80-20 (i.e., 80% agree with it, 20% are exceptions).

    I’m guessing there is some generally common difference in “taste chemistry” which is tied to the difference in “sweetness”, and which causes the preference.

    I thus assert that there is actually more to the preference for one over the other than simple advertising and market inertia. There is some subtle difference in formulation which at least some portion of the population recognizes and has an induced preference for.

  28. OBH,
    I was paraphrasing the language that first implemented that that portion of the Constitution. In England and most other places, patents had been granted as a Royal Indulgence that was subject to all the abuses, politics and favoritism that is implied by “indulgence”. That was the revolutionary difference; that protection was not dependent on buying the influence of some royal favorite. The point I was making was that it requires full disclosure. You’d also better file any patent you want protected in China before someone else does.

    If the taste difference between Coke and Pepsi remains discernible to you, it may be because Pepsi has chosen to be second in a very large market rather than chase the small segment that can tell the difference and try to convince them they’re just as good. I assure you that the manufacturers of gas and liquid chromatographs are chasing the flavor profiling market with sensitivities of nanogram per gram. I’m pretty sure they could figure it out if they wanted to.

    I agree that the perpetual copyright and the further extension to songs and plots that are vaguely similar to copyrighted material is a perversion of the original intent.

  29. There is some subtle difference in formulation which at least some portion of the population recognizes and has an induced preference for.

    I taste a cherry flavor in Pepsi. I don’t like Coke except Diet Coke.

  30. I could probably tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke easily enough. Neither taste good to me, but in different ways.

    In my career, I wasted eons of time worrying about copyright. But only because my profession was all-too-predictably tying itself in knots about the concept.

    Any panel of three experts would have four opinions, and by the time any discussion was done nobody was any clearer about anything. Like so much in the original compact, the idea was good and seemed clear at the time, but now it has grown and warped and morphed and become encrusted . . .

    Every once in a while a Roman or Byzantine emperor would order that the law codes be ‘digested’ or ‘rescripted’ for just that reason. The simplifications usually helped, at least for a while, until they too grew and warped and became encrusted with glosses and exceptions.

    Marx wasn’t always right but he was right about the propensity of technology to outstrip any legal framework over time.

  31. Copyright seemed simple enough when it was preventing printers from simply running off their own editions of whatever they thought they could sell. This was the normal state of affairs in most of the world through most of the 19th century. Twain and Dickens were both widely victimized. Now that anyone can produce unlimited copies of about anything with no cost or effort things are a little more complicated. The computers that make digital rights management possible generally break it quickly as well.

    The same is happening to physical objects. The furor over printed guns was pure media hysteria when they had to be made from very low strength plastic. That state of art is not going to last for long. Of course, anyone with a power drill and a few hand tools has been able to build a much better, albeit crude, gun forever.

  32. }}} The same is happening to physical objects. The furor over printed guns was pure media hysteria when they had to be made from very low strength plastic. That state of art is not going to last for long. Of course, anyone with a power drill and a few hand tools has been able to build a much better, albeit crude, gun forever.

    My own point on this is that you could make a very respectable — even by modern terms, gun ca. 1880 using then-available machine tools. You could make a perfectly respectable semi-automatic by 1911.

    How do you figure you can stop people from making the same things with 2020 machine tools?

    Even more so when it comes to CAM tools…

  33. @OhBloodyHell,

    “Somewhere out there are some people who have some really really good ideas for making some IP which involves Mickey Mouse which people will find entertaining and amusing.”

    That may well be so. And, while I agree with you totally about the absurdity of the copyright laws, there’s also the question of how to prevent people from polluting the commons with things like Mickey-on-Minnie scat porn… Which is what I suspect a lot of those “really good ideas” would probably come down to. I don’t disagree with the idea that people have the right to do things like Mickey-on-Minnie scat porn, but I do think there’s a diametrically opposed right to have things left the hell alone, so that you can safely let your kids access the essentially harmless material you remember from your youth.

    There’s something a little sick at the heart of a lot of “creatives”, when you get down to it–Look at much of the reinterpretations done in the comic book world, for examples. Stirring tales of heroism are now routinely recast as “darker and edgier” fantasies of sick depravity, with the formerly uplifting reinterpreted by the mentally ill as destructive tales of nihilism and gore.

    I think there needs to be some lines drawn, in terms of what you can do with an “intellectual property” after the copyright runs out. You want to do Mickey-on-Minnie scat porn? Fine; just don’t use that set of characters or their character design; make up your own. I think most people who need that sort of thing will pick up the cultural references you’re trying to make.

    I don’t think that the storyteller is necessarily a neutral, harmless actor in all of this. People run on stories; they are behavioral mimics: It’s what we do. You replace the uplifting with the polluted, and the rest of popular culture will inevitably follow you right down into the pit. You tell stories, you have a responsibility.

    I used to make fun of people who Bowdlerized things, that went around taking the “nasty” bits out. Then, after I had time to observe just how many times I was seeing the crap out of movies spun out in real life before me, I realized something: People model their behavior on what they see, mimicking scenes from their earlier lives, and when they run into a situation where they are encountering something they’ve never witnessed before, personally…? They tend to fall back on the things they’ve seen in movies, or heard in stories, looking for a good script to act out, dealing with that situation.

    You only have to watch a young, inexperienced NCO in the military acting out, all unconscious of what they’re doing, a scene from some movie. You can even hear echoes of the words, in the things they say.

    This is good, sometimes. More often, it’s a really bad thing, because you hardly ever see good behavior for a leader modelled in most modern military movies–They’re full of depravity and destructive behaviors. Of course, the stuff you used to get in the various Hollywood productions, back when they were “clean and virtuous” weren’t much better–I don’t know how many idiots got themselves killed trying to “John Wayne” their way through some situation, but I think it must have been significant.

    To a degree, I think things need to be walled off from the “adult subversive” impulse a lot of the mentally ill creative types have. I look at Disney, and I kinda get the idea that what they’re doing, in terms of crass commercialism, might not actually have a positive effect. I’d like to see some sort of cultural lock-off, one that said “Look, we get that these stories/images are ones you want to reimagine and recast, subverting the things they say, but… Leave these alone and come up with your own way of doing that…”.

    It’s like the impulse to turn James Bond into a chick; sure, I’ll happily acknowledge that there should be some female espionage character up there on the silver screen, but for the love of God, why do you have to turn the Bond thing over into a palimpsest? Write your own; God knows that there are dozens of successful female WWII espionage figures you could model one of your own on. Hell, make her the diametric opposite of Bond; a response to his crass depravity with women in general, if you like.

    The impulse to reconstruct these things is what disturbs me; you want a black hero? Tell a black story; don’t overwrite some white story with your own, in the name of equity. Same-same with the rest of the ethnicities; all of them have their stories, their folklore: Use those to write new things, don’t rewrite other stories and just change the color palette.

  34. @OBloodyHell, spelled correctly this time:

    “My own point on this is that you could make a very respectable — even by modern terms, gun ca. 1880 using then-available machine tools. You could make a perfectly respectable semi-automatic by 1911.

    How do you figure you can stop people from making the same things with 2020 machine tools?

    Even more so when it comes to CAM tools…”

    The root of the problem here is the childlike inability that all too many of these control-freak and their accompanying please-control-me-I-can’t-control-myself counterparts have in discerning the difference between tool and the agent using said tool.

    That group of the afflicted all think that the gun is the dangerous bit, not the man holding it. It’s magical thinking, really–Because, they don’t want to confront the idea that there are dangerous people, people who might hurt others. They think that removing the tool removes the danger, instead of merely displacing it.

    The nuttiness of it all is that by removing the tool, they’re actually making it easier for the strong to dominate and destroy the weak, which may actually be what a lot of them want, acting out the dominance/submission games that play out in their heads, here in the real world.

    End of the day, though? There are no such things as dangerous weapons, only dangerous men with dangerous minds. Guns and other weapons are only expressions; the real signifier is inside the head of the man using them.

    All the workplace shootings we’ve ever had? Imagine a world without guns… Would that help, removing them?

    Not really. I want to get back at the people who fired me, made my miserable in my worklife (imaginary though that might be…), how hard would it be for me to show up one day, block the exits, and set fire to the place…? How many die, then? How about if I steal the forklift, and run rampant through the warehouse with it? Knock over a bunch of storage racks? Set fire to the chemical storage areas?

    Hell, to be honest, you’d probably be better off hoping I come into work with a gun, rather than decide to remove the entire facility in an “improvised industrial accident”. The real problem, as always, exists in the space between the ears of the violent person; you can’t prevent them from doing destructive things–All you can do is try to identify them beforehand, and prevent them from doing the things they can do, even without guns.

    The childlike impulse to check violence through reducing access to tools is incredibly wrong-headed; look at the UK and Australia for the varied “knife laws” they’ve got in place, thinking to prevent violence. I understand that you can’t have knives out at some of the Australian mining sites, even–Which makes me wonder just what the hell they’re going to do about all those rocks and other blunt instruments they’ve no doubt got laying around the place.

    You can’t fix “violence” by controlling access to things. There are too many options out there… You have to work at reducing the preparatory phase of it all, which is the impulse to do violence in the first place. If your workplace is such that it drives people bonkers enough to come in to work and “go Postal” on their fellow employees and supervisors, maaaaaaybe you ought to be looking at the surrounding work environment you’ve created, rather than trying to solve the problem by making it slightly harder for them to do violence in the first place…?

    Just sayin’…

  35. And today, we have a report on US companies investing significantly in Chinese semiconductor companies and related software providers.

    In other words, it’s a day ending in y.

    The problem is that there is no such thing as “US” companies anymore. They’re all globalist to the core, and care no more about the interests of the United States then they do about Burkina Fuso or Bangladesh. In fact I bet the very idea of favoring the US over other countries would fill the management with revulsion- and likely they’d fire anyone who suggested they should do such.

    Should the United States by some mischance end up in a major war, I expect a large fraction of the people running these corporations would simply leave the country, either retiring to their foreign estates or just returning to the country of their birth.

    Even worse, these sort of folks have de facto control of the US government. And any American politician who objects to the relentless globalism can expect to have the entire apparatus of regime turned against them, lately even including the FBI.

    Unless and until that problem is solved, I see no special reason to worry about the foreign dependence of the country for this-or-that, because in a certain sense the United States does not actually exist. We are effectively ruled by foreigners and domestic expats in the same manner India was ruled, circa 1850, by the English.

    The United States has no chance of winning a major war, period. Not only is country utterly dependent upon imports- as often noted by everyone- but also the American public is in no mood to undertake yet another bloody and expensive adventure on behalf of our foreign overlords and their American puppets.

    I’m thinking of you, Taiwan. Get nukes and defend yourselves- or don’t. Good luck, but your fate isn’t our problem.

  36. @Xennady,

    No doubt you are right, in some respects–The dimwits certainly think that they’re members of some transnational globalist “elite”, but the reality is…? Somewhat different. Right now, the conditions are set such that Pepsi can have an anti-American Indian national running the company, and get away with it. Nobody cares, ‘cos the pressure isn’t there.

    Let that set of conditions change, however? Our entirely hypothetical “transnational elite” are going to find themselves in a far different, far unfriendlier world, one where they really, really need to have someone with a nation-state and an integral territory on their side. We’ve seen this same sort of idiocy before, with the ancien regime aristos in Europe and elsewhere. When the push comes to shove, they’re all vulnerable and they’re all equally screwed. The lessons learned by the transnational elite of the 18th and 19th Centuries will be re-learnt, yet again, and likely with similar results. Once upon a time, it was possible for them to ignore the petty disagreements of nation-states, or to co-opt them for their own needs. Once things like the French Revolution came over it all, that went away, and what resulted for their hypotheticals…?

    End of the day, you need a secure nation-state to work from, when times get bad. Tearing down borders, and going for the chaos resulting therefrom? That bodes very poorly for most of these types, who will find themselves victimized by those they try to shelter among.

    It’s like the dimwit types who used to assure me that Communism was the wave of the future, and that they’d gladly help usher it in. My inquiry to them was the question of what they thought would happen afterwards, what the track record was for those who aided and abetted the subversion of their own countries… The majority had never looked into those historical facts, nor had they ever considered the question of just how they’d be looked at, by the incoming regime. Like most of the short-sighted, they thought they’d be automatically elevated as visionaries, not sent off to the camps as potentially disloyal traitors.

    I got to hook one of these geniuses up, once upon a time, with a guy I knew who was former VC, and who’d gotten the full “re-education” treatment in the post-1975 South Vietnam. It was an interesting thing to witness, as enlightenment occurred.

  37. “And today, we have a report on US companies investing significantly in Chinese semiconductor companies …”

    Intel reportedly wants to build a wafer facility in Chengdu.

    From Intel’s perspective, the big advantage of building the plant in China is that it could be operational in 2022 — just over a year’s time.

    Hell! If Intel tried to build the facility in the US, in a year’s time bureaucrats in the EPA will still be checking the punctuation on the first preliminary Draft for Comment of the Environmental Impact Statement, and other government agencies will be swarming over the site looking for snail darters. Then the contractor list for construction will have to be reviewed by yet more expensive bureaucrats for adequate representation of women-owned businesses — but only if they have policies discriminating in favor of hiring transgenders. And hovering in the background, NGOs and their high-priced lawyers will be waiting for the most destructive moment to file a lawsuit and bring the whole process to a halt.

    In many cases, companies are not going offshore to get the benefits of cheap labor — they are going to avoid the immense overhead expenditures of dealing with excessive regulation and litigation in the US. It is simply practical for those companies to offshore strategically-important industry to places where there are fewer obstacles and things can get done quickly — especially since the same FedGov that puts so many regulations on a US factory does not put any restrictions or tariffs on importing products from a place without such regulations.

    Excessive regulation allied to lack of equalizing tariffs is another of those existential issues for the US which is completely ignored by our Political Class. We are already paying the price for this.

  38. “Excessive regulation allied to lack of equalizing tariffs is another of those existential issues for the US which is completely ignored by our Political Class. We are already paying the price for this.”

    You really need to decide if you want less regulation or more. All the rules about tariffs sure look like regulation to me. Take the one that puts a 25% tariff on light trucks. That gave us Toyotas and Hondas built here, which isn’t all bad. They can use it to jack the price of a pickup truck up by about $15,000 as well as Ford or Chevy can. But it also gave us rear seats in Ford Transit Vans that are removed at the dealers and shipped back to Turkey so the next batch of Passenger Vehicles can come in duty free. Actually at the much lower Passenger Vehicle rate but you get the idea.

    It’s all still the same game of the government choosing winners and losers. The domestic auto producers have decided to get completely out of the passenger sedan business, probably because they can’t hide behind a high tariff. If you’re having trouble finding cranberries this Thanksgiving, part of the credit goes to aluminum producers that convinced Trump that foreign producers were being mean and dumping here. Great if you’re one of the ever smaller number of Americans that make aluminum less great if you need cans for your product.

    When Biden decided to curtail domestic oil production as much as possible in favor of oil imported from the Middle East, what principle did he violate that all the above don’t?

  39. The problem with all of the tariff and “free trade” ideals is that nobody really knows all the various impacts of what they do with either one of them. The nuttiness of the whole thing is that you are presupposing the omniscience of God in both cases, to know whether or not you’re doing the “right thing”, the beneficial one to everyone who’s a stakeholder.

    My take is that you have to maintain a balance between it all, but the more complex you make the overall system, the more “adjustments” you pile on, the harder that gets. When it’s a simple equation, you can work out the causes for all the effects, but when you’ve got seventy-seven different things going into one single commodity price structure, good ‘effing luck.

    Not an overall fan of complexity–The worse it gets, the harder it is to figure out what’s going on, and the more catastrophic the effect when it all leads to collapse.

    If anything, I’d suggest that this stuff is one reason why you don’t want total idiots who’re also ideologues running the system. I would guess that whoever was advising Trump, probably US aluminum producers, didn’t take into account the facts about what all was necessary with the markets.

    Ain’t none of this stuff a zero-sum game; you protect your domestic industry, and you’re also setting conditions such that it’s likely to become less competitive. On the other hand, you don’t protect your domestic industries, you’re not going to have them, or the jobs they represent when they finally get wiped out by subsidized overseas production that’s operated by slave labor.

    I’m just grateful I’m not the guy who has to figure all of it out, because it’s a thankless, never-ending nightmare.

  40. The Chinese Communist Party seems to have found a solution to the issue Kirk raises — “Build It In China”. Companies which want to sell in China have to put factories in China. Of course, it helps that China avoids excessive regulation and facilitates construction of industry in China. We don’t have to like the CCP to recognize that they are doing some smart things.

    Tariffs are a crude tool — and they are a tax, same as income tax. On the other hand, it is self-delusion to pretend it is “Free Trade” when a US manufacturer has to comply with very expensive regulations while trying to compete with an importer who can use slave labor & dump waste products in the river. If people as competent as the CCP were in charge here, we would insist that imports have to prove they meet all the same regulations imposed on a US manufacturer, or we would impose tariffs to equalize the importer’s avoided costs.

    However, as Kirk points out, tariffs designed by US lobbyists & lawyers often fail to achieve their aim. It is almost like the wealthy lawyers who wrote them deliberately put in ways to avoid them. Who were they working for?

  41. “It’s all still the same game of the government choosing winners and losers. ”
    I would like the US government to choose US-based companies to win, and foreign companies, especially those in totalitarian enemy regimes, to lose. Is that really a controversial position? In DC, it of course is complete heresy, no matter the political party or ideology. Not in the electorate, it’s not, I don’t believe.

    “The problem with all of the tariff and “free trade” ideals is that nobody really knows all the various impacts of what they do with either one of them”
    Well, let’s not be hand wavy–go to any small town USA and you’ll see what the real problem is–they completely obliterated American communities. That’s the problem with them. Not that they are hard to figure out. You can see the effects anywhere you want to look.

  42. It is true that tariffs are often politically-influenced and that they frequently help one industry while harming others. But free trade, even when under the umbrella of a treaty providing no tariffs on either side, generally leaves the door open for foreign government influence in favor of their own producers, via non-tariff barriers, subsidies, etc.

    David Ricardo’s work on comparative advantage is quite elegant, but doesn’t really consider the impact of things like institutional learning & knowledge development over time. Maybe at one stage it makes sense for Portugal to concentrate on wine production and buy any steam engines it needs from Britain…but what happens as mechanical technology becomes more and more important and Portugal hasn’t developed the requisite skills?

    It should be noted that the US had pretty significant tariffs in place during much of its rapid-growth period.

    A couple of decades ago, Warren Buffett suggested an approach which would be less-amenable to political manipulation: exporters are issued certificates reflecting the value of their exports, imports need to have certificates equal to the value of their imports; certificates are tradable…voila, trade imbalance is self-liquidating! Not sure whether WB still favors that approach; he seems to have aligned himself increasingly closely with the Dems over time.

  43. }}} from polluting the commons with things like Mickey-on-Minnie scat porn…

    Oh, I’m sorry, did you really really think this kind of stuff does not exist already? I haven’t really gone looking for it, but there is, in particular, a lot of Simpsons porn out there, a lot of it incest-related. Also some Incredibles porn. I haven’t looked for either of THOSE, either, but they stick out. A lot of the porn comics these days tend to be “futanari”. Also not my style, but you find it on any site with porn comics of any kind, and it’s so common as to be hard to avoid (very few aggregate sites allow you to block stuff with keywords, unfortunately, or I’d block the gay stuff and the futa stuff myself). And yes, I do frequent such sites, as some of the stuff amuses me. There is Star Wars Porn, Anime porn (including actually Hentai variants), League of Legends porn, pretty much porn taking advantage of all this kind of stuff.

    I personally suggest that there is nothing wrong with such — if people want it then that is what they want. Why shouldn’t both the creator and Disney make money from it?

    The solution to the dilution problem, I’d suggest, is to create a term of some kind which is reserved for the creator and only the creator to license for use… say, “Official”: “Official Disney Merchandise“… which means they not only get money from it, but sanction the usage. This allows them to segregate what they feel fits their vision of the product. And put severe penalties on any illegitimate misuse of it, PLUS work to create a publicly held ethos which backs that…

    This is one thing which the current scenario discourages — the people think of copyright owners as being “the enemy” and there is zero issue with copying anything they want.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is an issue with copying in some circumstances — the basic thing is, you have to approach it in a manner which is intellectually honest — would you pay for access to this, if you have the money to do so? And if so, “how much?” — in that case, you should pay what you think it is worth to you.

    The ethos here is that we have to recognize that we want to reward creators for creating and taking the time it takes to make their creations “publicly accessible and useful”. That is the key element, it must be enough reward that they want to create more… not necessarily as much as they want. If you can’t afford to pay anything, or don’t consider it worth your while, then they have lost nothing. This is why I’ll pirate music, then, if I find I like the artist, I’ll buy an actual copy — and yes, a new copy, not a used one — and add it to my collection.

    Alternately, for movies for example, my local Friends of the Library has a sale twice a year. They have DVDs/BRs for 1-5 bucks each (usually 5 bucks for a season of a TV show, 1 or 2 for a movie). I spend a lot of money every time at this, buying movies — because a buck seems reasonable even for a mediocre movie (yes, the studios don’t directly get anything for that, but they could easily get in on the action by offering a nonDR’d download for a buck — and they’d make up in volume what they currently get… because, as Dollar Tree has shown, no one thinks a buck is that much, any more).

    That’s one thing the studios Don’t Seem To Get — if you get a buck from everyone who watches your movie — just one time — you’re going to be making a lot of money. Hell, who wants to bet that a couple billion people have seen Avengers: Endgame?

  44. }}} There’s something a little sick at the heart of a lot of “creatives”, when you get down to it–Look at much of the reinterpretations done in the comic book world, for examples. Stirring tales of heroism are now routinely recast as “darker and edgier” fantasies of sick depravity, with the formerly uplifting reinterpreted by the mentally ill as destructive tales of nihilism and gore.

    A lot of this is the impetus of the modern era, however. The Left — which includes a lot of the creative types — are fed a steady diet of nihilism — so they think only in terms of nihilistic stuff. And this feeds the nihilistic element of society, too.

    It’s all part of the self-destructive agenda of PostModernism. PostModern Liberalism, as I have asserted before, is a social cancer. Literally, not just figuratively.

    “Injustice” is the worst example of it (though Captain America, “Nazi” is a close second). Injustice starts with The Joker killing Superman’s wife, Lois Lane, and their unborn child, and doing so by tricking Superman into triggering the nuclear bomb in Metropolis which they are in proximity to.

    Superman decides to go totalitarian, take over the world, and eliminate the criminal element.

    This is reasonable, for a man, but the entire point of Superman is that he is pure and incorruptible — he is the Savior for the Jewish Siegel and Schuster — so even this act by the Joker should not be able to corrupt him… But we now have Superman-as-man, not as Incorruptible.

    The problem here is that, if Superman were a man, he would long before have been corrupted by the world… per Lord Acton. He was not, so clearly, he is more. He is an ideal, not a man.

    So killing Superman, or making him corruptible, is just wrong.

  45. It’s almost funny how your first post is argued against in your second…

    I’m fully aware of the whole Rule 34 realm; what I object to is that instead of people actually creating their own stuff, they feel the need to desecrate the work of others when they do it. You want hot mouse-on-mouse scat action? Draw your own mice, buddy… I’d really rather not have to worry about the various and sundry nieces and nephews finding your “works of art” while looking for Disney cartoons.

    I’ll be the first to admit that the saccharine quality of a lot of the old-school public “culture” was cloying and felt false, but at the same time, I’d like to point out that what replaced it was a thousand times nastier, and a lot more destructive to the public psyche. Sure, all those Horatio Alger “just so” tales were knee-jerk annoying, but were we really worse off when those were the au courant thing for the young to read?

    The point of what I’m getting at is that the stories are all getting so much more depraved and nihilistic; the general public’s distrust of the world around it grows out of that stuff. How many times do you see presentations of staunchly upright cops where they’re portrayed as men who would die before doing unworthy things? You never do, any more–All you see is police and other authority figures modeled as the essence of corruption, depraved men acting in their own distasteful interest.

    So, you wonder why good men don’t go into police work, or politics…? A considerable chunk of the answer lies in the nihilistic stories we insist on telling ourselves about these things, creating self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Narrative and story are powerful things. If all you ever see are negative things, then is it so surprising that the negative dominates public life?

    I’m not saying that the saccharine should take things back over, but I would suggest that we’ve gone way overboard with the nihilistic realism, and it’s probably well past the point where we need to return to a more positive and idealistic narrative for our entertainment.

    I think it’s an indicator, the sort of stories you tell in your culture. Think about the classic Arabian Nights stories, for example–Aladdin and the Lamp. Consider all the unspoken assumptions, and the framing–Aladdin isn’t framed as a bad guy, but what does he do? He finds a victim of enslavement, and instead of freeing him, he exploits that enslavement, and takes advantage of it to enrich himself, which he then uses to fraudulently woo a pretty girl under false pretenses… And, he’s cast as the hero of the story!

    You can almost feel the Arab-Islamic sensibility welling up like a sewage leak from that story, can’t you? Slaves are meant to be slaves, in eternal servitude to whoever finds them. Is it any wonder that slavery still exists within a lot of Islamic cultures?

    Tell me what stories are being told and enjoyed as entertainment in a culture, and I’ll be able to tell you a lot about that culture’s values and mores. I don’t think that what is currently popular in our culture says much that’s very nice about ours.

  46. On the dangers of national dependencies — there is a long article by Qin Hui, a Chinese intellectual (one who seems to ride the ragged edge with respect to his own government), which may be worth pondering. It seems hard to argue with some of the guy’s assessment:

    https://www.readingthechinadream.com/qin-hui-dilemmas.html

    An extract from David Ownby’s introduction:

    “The source of the inequalities affecting developed economies, according to Qin, is China, which has taken advantage of the forces of globalization to erode the basis of post-war Western prosperity.

    The argument is simple: when China joined the world economy in the reform and opening era, capital flocked to China to take advantage of low-wage labor and what Qin calls China’s “low human rights advantage,” i.e., the state’s commitment to development at any cost (land-confiscation, suppression of workers’ rights, exploitation of migrant workers, etc.). Over time, China became the “world’s factory,” producing quality goods at low prices, at the expense of jobs and tax revenues in the developed world previously inhabited by the capital that had now fled to China.

    Despite a surplus of capital and increasingly frequent labor shortages, the naked power of the Chinese state keeps the machine running, lending the profits back to the developed economies so that the “exchange” can continue. Such debts only intensify the crisis of the developed world, as governments are already attempting to supply more “welfare” to increasing numbers of unemployed despite a fall in tax revenues.”

  47. }}} It’s like the impulse to turn James Bond into a chick; sure, I’ll happily acknowledge that there should be some female espionage character up there on the silver screen, but for the love of God, why do you have to turn the Bond thing over into a palimpsest? Write your own;

    Oh, I tend to agree with this, on many levels. We have certain archetypes in our culture — that’s why I bitch above about the Superman and Captain America things. The same with James Bond — he is the quintessential alpha-male. By having “him” be a woman, you’re basically attempting to destroy the archetype, not make a statement about feminine equality, etc.

    First off, Bond has already met a number of females, going back into the 60s, even, who were his equals — Pussy Galore is an obvious example, but also the Barbara Bach character in The Spy Who Loved Me, Grace Jones in A View To A Kill, Carey Lowell in License to Kill and Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies. None of them were shrinking violets, and neither Jones nor Yeoh would up in his bed, as I recall. Not sure if there are any other exceptions. And, as I recall, Sophie Marcell, as the “bad girl” was a remarkably tough cookie, as was Rosamund Pike.

  48. “Confession through projection.”

    Confessing to what. ;)

    A carrier group is almost the perfect target for nukes. It will only be nuked if it attacks anything, but nuking it is a very good way to deal with it.

    : ‘We smoked your carrier group. Want to trade nukes on each other’s cities?’

Leave a Comment