SYNDICATED COLUMN: Stuck

Why Can’t the U.S. Move Forward?

“Your dearest wish is for our state structure and ideological system never to change, to remain as they are for centuries. But history is not like that. Every system either finds away to develop or else collapses.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote that in 1974, in his famous “Letter to the Soviet Leaders.” But it could just as easily be addressed to President Obama, Congress, members of the media, corporate chiefs, and others who lead and maintain the power structure in the United States.

The United States is as ossified as the USSR was before its collapse.

Shortly after the start of the financial meltdown which began in 2009, polls found American citizens disgusted with the capitalist system. Tens of millions said they would prefer socialism. When the Occupy Wall Street movement took off in 2011, mainstream pundits began using the “R” word, revolution – but only to ask a question with a predetermined answer. Regime change, they said, was neither desirable nor possible.

Too bad.

We used to be a growing country. Not any more. We used to welcome new states into the Union. It’s been 53 years since we added a star to Old Glory; Puerto Rican statehood isn’t a subject of serious consideration. We used to amend the Constitution to suit changing mores. The last major amendment, granting the vote to 18-year-olds, was ratified in 1971. Apparently equal rights for women is too much to ask.

We don’t build anymore. Think about infrastructure. The last major public works project in U.S. history was the Interstate Highway System, built in the 1950s – not coincidentally when the economy was booming.

Our political system is ossified too. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut prompted calls for tighter gun control. But nobody – not even liberals, the traditional enemies of gun rights – argued for getting rid of the Second Amendment which, depending on your interpretation of the prefatory comma, allows us to join a militia or carry guns in our waistbands. “I have no intention of taking away folks’ guns,” President Obama has said.

Well, why not? Personally, I’m against gun control and I’m glad that very little is going to change. Yet I find it disturbing that the Second Amendment is considered sacrosanct, even by the 24% of Americans who want to ban handguns. Pointing out that the country is very different now than it was in 1789 seems reasonable. Maybe we don’t need guns any more. A smart country, one willing to weigh the alternatives when trying to solve a problem, should be able to discuss the possibility of repealing the Second Amendment.

Look at our national political dialogue, which ranges from center-right (Democrat) to right (Republican). Whole strains of ideology – communist, socialist, nationalist, libertarian – are off the table. We pretend most of the ideological spectrum doesn’t exist. Not smart.

Our national unwillingness and/or inability to have a wide-ranging debate reminds me of New York City, where I have lived for many years. There are no public restrooms. Restaurants and other businesses post “Restrooms for Customers Only” signs on their doors. Yet peeing outside is against the law; in fact, it’s public exposure, a sex offense that can land you on a Megan’s Law-style pervert registry. So where are you supposed to go?

A child could tell you this is insane. You know what’s even more insane? That we New Yorkers don’t even talk about it. Like Germans on their way to work in the early 1940s, wondering what that funny smell coming from the camp down the road might be coming from, we pretend that this is all perfectly normal.

As a recent New York Times article by Louis Seidman pointed out, we have foolishly elevated the Constitution to the status of a sacred text, fetishizing a supposedly “living document” that in truth has been dead for years. (Congress, for example, has the sole right to start wars. President Bush ignored the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions concerning POWs at Guantánamo. And so on.) The result, Seidman argues, is endless petty bickering about what the meaning of “is” is – and what that stupid comma was supposed to be for.

The question for any society is not how to figure out how to conform ourselves to rules and assumptions laid down by our forebears, but to come up with the smartest solutions to our problems and the best systems to make things run smoothly now and in the future. If we were revolutionaries, if we were inventing the United States from scratch, would we create the Electoral College? Doubtful.

The people of the United States are changing all the time, but the United States government and power structure are stuck. The political “culture wars” date to the 1960s and 1980s. Our military thinks the Cold War is still going on.

Our economy reflects our national congealing.

Once a “land of opportunity,” the U.S. is now anything but. If you’re born into a poor family, your chances of elevating yourself into the middle or upper class are lower in America than in other industrialized countries. “It’s becoming conventional wisdom that the U.S. does not have as much mobility as most other advanced countries,” says economist Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution. “I don’t think you’ll find too many people who will argue with that.” Aside from the unfairness and the instability caused by inequality and lack of social mobility, we’re losing the talents of tens of millions of Americans who will never be able to live up to their potential, share their ideas and contribute to the making of a more perfect union.

We haven’t had a major social or political revolution since the 1960s. It’s been too long. Like the Soviet Union, we must develop – scrapping long-held assumptions and reconsidering everything from scratch – or collapse.

I think we’re headed toward collapse.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

35 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Stuck

  1. @oleg

    Wow. You use terms incorrectly, and when corrected, try to deflect from that with an ever growing mountain of semantic bullshit (instead of just saying “I was wrong”)- and now I find out it’s in the service of a straw man? You really SHOULD be a politician.

    “Human life and technological advancement are not automatically enhanced by each other in every way.”

    And nobody, anywhere, EVER has claimed they have.

    You’re clearly more interested in linguistic trickery than actual discussion, so I think we’re done.

  2. ME: It’s collapse
    YOU: no, its not collapse, its decline.

    later on…

    ME: it’s technology
    YOU: no, it’s “superior systems”
    ME: explain the difference
    YOU: stop playing semantics
    ME: but I…
    YOU: if you keep playing semantics, I’m leaving

    Now that we have set the record of our pathological conversation straight, I will attempt to summarize my “point” for you:

    Human life and technological advancement are not automatically enhanced by each other in every way.

  3. @oleg

    Are you a politician? If not, it is a career you should consider, because outside of politics, I have RARELY seen someone use so many words to say so little.

    Real life has ground my patience for semantic games down to zero recently (Which is a pity, because if I had the time and energy to unravel your mountains of semantic bs, I suspect we’d agree far more than we’d disagree). So I will ask you, very simply, in words of one syllable: What. is. your. point?

    I will do my best to reply to a straight answer. If I get another mountain of sematic digressions, I’ll bid you good day.

  4. Whims,
    People who are interested in sharing an understanding with anyone but themselves employ certain tools. This is necessary because we are not all from the same background or field. One such tool is to posit what the other person means, and reformulate what they are saying so that you can respond to it.

    You define the bounds of the matter cooperatively, otherwise you run the risk of arbitrarily framing the discussion based upon someones personal interpretation. This can be enjoyable.

    If you like, you can reformulate what I am saying so that you don’t have to change your personal idea of what technology is. We could call it innovation. We could also set aside whether innovation might be the same as technology for the purposes of our conversation. This is all assuming we are interested in dialogue and not monologue.

    So it does not matter that the dictionaries and encyclopedias don’t corroborate what you are claiming. If you are going to link your interpretations to that of some source, and you don’t want to synthesize the rationale of that source here, then perhaps consider linking me to your source.

    If you are trying to make an appeal to a common sense, then summarize that common sense here, so that your fellow discusser knows what they are missing out on.

    In short. Live up to your name. You have some insight. Here’s your big chance. Surprise, excite and delight me with something I did not know. Blow me away!

  5. @oleg

    I’m not going to comment on the tortured semantics of the first half of your post except to say that if people are having trouble telling where machines end and orginaztions begin, we are even more fucked than I thought.

    I may owe you an apology for assuming you were subscribing to Alex’s “Let’s turn off the internet” cranky old man positions on technology. This is, of course, impossible. Once a technology has been implemented it is difficult to impossible to go backwards. Which is why the suit you mention will ultimately come to nothing (see p2p filesharing for precedent).

    And for the rest of your post, you are talking about technological implementation, NOT advancement. It is very possible to slow (not stop, but slow) the implementation of a given technology BEFORE it gets widely implemented (like encryption) . It is NOT possible to stop it, technology will win out in the end, but it is certainly possible to slow it down so it will take longer than a single human life which certainly will feel like the technology has been stopped.

    It is not possible to stop technological advancement. Technology, as a whole, in any given field, will ALWAYS continue to be better today than yesterday and even better tomorrow. You can’t do anything about that, nor should you even want to.

    And both of these are tangential to the topic of “technological displacement” which is what I thought you WANTED to talk about.

  6. just popped in to clarify that bit about the integers and “maths”. I was referring to attempts to legislate a back door into strong encryption.

    But it occurs to me you we probably just doing an impression of another, rather unimaginative ger.

  7. whimsy,

    I started by imagining there was a machine, a system which may or may not include a technician to run it. This machine, say, Watson version 2million point 0, uses encyclopedic, exhaustive routines to arrive at decisions based on given inputs. It can make large and important decisions, and the organization could agree to be bound to the decisions it makes, so long as they do not by some accident go against the organizational charter.

    Then I realized I could not tell where the machine ended and the rest of the organization began. I realized, the charter, which has protocols, routines and contingencies, is logically indistinguishable from Watson, except, perhaps, by scale. Then, it was not that far of a leap to see that charter, systems of governance, economic models and virtually ANY system can be considered to be technology.

    so what about technological advance, which is assumed to be unstoppable? I found that it is not unstoppable. The law is used to stop it routinely. right now there is legislation being proposed to make the transmission of certain integers illegal. That’s right. Certain maths are illegal to use. Or take say most closed source material. It is almost always based on previously open source work, enabled by the public sector. Powerful firms then appropriate it, and make sure they are not disrupted by it. Take say, mpeg technology. People don’t realize that all their web video formats are going to be illegal next year if Steve Jobs’ patent pool has its way, and DCMA notices are going to go out to their hosting services threatening legal action. Even the thought to be untouchable. Mpeg, webm, even ogg video format is threatened. The instrument being used to limit the wide utility of these technologies and limit the disruptive capacity upon the “losers” (ie. the powerful minority who want all content on the internet to be for-pay) at the expense of the winners (ie. the weak majority who ultimately paid for the development of these technologies) is patent law (yet another technology.)

    Follow me? Not exactly earth shattering. Perhaps you thought I meant something else.

  8. Olegna-

    No, sorry, as the one MAKING the ridiculous assumptuion (Its blindingly obvious that SYSTEMS are not technologies) it’s squarely on you to prove your case.

    Though if you’re going to make the absurd claim that an integral part of the defition of technology -i.e.- what maeterials comprise it- is “useless” you might as well give up now and admit you’re only interested in playing with sematics instead of having a discussion.

    You want to have an actual discussion about technological displacement, I’m all ears. You want to play semantic games in an effort to avoid the point, I’m gonna pass.

  9. > to the current two party, winner take all arrangement that we currently have- these systems are not, in fact, technologies

    Yes they are. This in by no means a novel idea, so I’m afraid the burden to prove otherwise is on the challenger. You might find that when you try to endow your ex cathedra statement with any backing, you will only be able to come up with useless distinctions relating to such things as the materials comprising a technology.

    I would like to see you try.

  10. Olegna-

    Cherry pick much? While I agree that superior systems exist- to the current two party, winner take all arrangement that we currently have- these systems are not, in fact, technologies. And thus, the non-implementation of said systems CANNOT be used to make a case that we can resist technological displacement.

    Nice try, but no.

  11. Not to beat a dead horse, but do we really believe that when AI can do the job of lawmakers, CEOs and supreme court justices that they are just going to find another job? To answer this we need look no further than the fact that a superior technology already exists to established models of governance. Several, in fact. Yet they are not implemented. Take say two party, winner take all electoral systems. They are out-dated, inefficient and useless by any metric you want to pick. Numerous upgrades and overhauls have been around since at least the beginning of recorded history. I mean, our constitution was designed to stifle progress for the very fact that it is disruptive. So enough of this assumption that you can’t stop progress.

    Technological displacement is yet another force that the weak are expected to yield to, and the powerful are expected to resist.

    This could use some more development…

  12. @Alex

    Oh, I got your point (the robot analogy just amused me), but I disagree with you 1000% on the cause.

    It’s the psychopathic “maximum-profits-all-the-time” attitude of businesses these days that is responsible for the loss of three million jobs, NOT the technology that has enabled workers to cope with the psychopathic demands of managment while still maintining some sembalance of a life.

    Even if technology hadn’t advanced a nanometer in the last 40 years, you’dve still had businesses telling their employees “Do the work of two people for one persons salary, or we’ll find someone who will.” They’d just need to find something else to scapegoat (Lord knows they’d never admit to the cause being their own greed).

    “Lower wages means lower taxes. Lower taxes means fewer services. Fewer services means it’s no longer a first-world country. How many “frills” do we need to lose before it becomes unavoidable? When all the libraries close? The museums? The firehouses?”

    And going backwards technologically won’t change any of the above one iota. Technology is not the problem. Attitude is. As long as you don’t change the prevailing attitude, we can go backwards technologically all you like and the problem will remain EXACTLY the same.

    @aaron

    “The only answer is going to have to be some kind of government intervention to either create make-work jobs, or even better yet, provide a guaranteed basic income that is not tied to work.”

    I’m all for that. Problem is, as long as you have people scapegoating technology, and suggesting the problem can be solved merely by going backwards, we’re never going to get an actual solution like that to go anywhere.

  13. Whimsical,

    Aaron put it better than I did, but it was the point I was going for. All this new tech is NOT creating a net increase in employment. If it were, we would not be seeing unemployment rates like we have currently. It’s like clear-cutting the forests. You can go into a 100 acre forest with hand-axes and take down five or ten acres, and it’s not a big deal (that’s the old model, where technology rendered certain skills obsolete, but slowly and specifically enough for people to adapt).

    Or, you can bring in some diesel-powered heavy equipment and strip away 90 acres in a few months. The entire ecosystem collapses then. That’s the new model. The tech is increasing exponentially. We humans can no longer keep up.Higher unemployment means lower wages. That’s axiomatic. Lower wages means lower taxes. Lower taxes means fewer services. Fewer services means it’s no longer a first-world country. How many “frills” do we need to lose before it becomes unavoidable? When all the libraries close? The museums? The firehouses?

  14. @Whimsical. I think you miss the point about the threat from technology. Don’t assume such a literal focus on “robots”. I think, (if I may, Alex), that Alex is being poetic. Sure, actual robots are a part of it, but it’s much broader than that. It’s “automation” in general, “streamlining”, “mechanization”. All of these things that have been going on since the late 1700’s.

    Facts is facts. And the facts is: there are 3 million less jobs now, then there were when our current crisis began. And yet, there is no shortage of goods and services. Our economy is making everything that it needs to make, but using 3 million less people to do it. That is the point. It is a real and ongoing concern. The only answer is going to have to be some kind of government intervention to either create make-work jobs, or even better yet, provide a guaranteed basic income that is not tied to work.

  15. @ Alex

    “We’re all running at full-speed, gasping for breath as sleek, strong, inexhaustible robots that can think faster and work cheaper pursue us.”

    Really? Seriously? Of all the ACTUAL threats to the middle-class, this is what you’re worried about? Robots?

    Even if technology is this great destroyer that you believe it is (which it isn’t, but that’s another discussion), any CEO today that shelled out 20 million for a machine rather than $20,000 for a worker would be pilloried in the business community for the hit to their bottom line. That’s the whole problem with business today- no one thinks beyond the short term anymore.

    And that’s even assuming that a robot could do the same job as a human for less money- technology is not at that point yet.

    @aaron:

    “Here’s what collapse looks like: financial crisis (the atm’s stop working, credit cards stop working, the economy stops), chaos, military coup, fascist theocracy, reintroduction of war of conquest and empire. I wish we could do it deliberately and democratically, but, we won’t.”

    Yes, thank you- that is EXACTLY what will happen in a collapse, and exactly what those in favor of collapse are rooting for. You can play with semantics all you like, but until what you describe above has happened, we are in the process of collapsing, we have NOT collapsed.

    The only place I disagree with you is the first part of your last sentence. It is VERY possible to halt collapse and fix this nation deliberately and democratically. Sadly, you have it right on the money with the last part of that sentence- we won’t.

  16. If our reason to exist (ie. our model’s ability to more efficiently allocate power and resources than old European models) has proven false by any human-centric model you want to choose, then it does not matter what we call it. That the empire will follow a historically recognizable series of specific and measurable convulsions which will signal discrete phases of collapse is besides the point.

    We need to be able to think accurately about what is happening so that our actions are appropriate.

    > financial crisis (the atm’s stop working, credit cards stop working, the economy stops), chaos, military coup, fascist theocracy, reintroduction of war of conquest and empire.

    Once we get to whatever your idea of that point is, I can just say:

    “No. It’s insulting to the people of [insert worse-off country here] to say we are a chaotic, post-coup, fascist theocracy involved in global wars of conquest.”

  17. It’s a great column. Thanks, Ted.

    Some good comments here too.

    I have to agree with Rikster that mean and personalized attacks bring the whole forum down. I would rather we just keep it fact and/or opinion centered, and leave it at that.

    I’ll add a couple of points regarding America’s and more broadly The West’s ongoing decline and coming collapse.

    1. There is no more “free” land. The discovery of the new world in 1492 set this whole western ball in motion. It was the centuries of conquering, colonizing and exploiting this new found, resource rich continent that underwrote the creation of the middle class and got us into the habit of expecting an ever expanding economy. Just think of it, there was old growth timber to be cut, rich rich soils to be planted, good cattle-land, fish, oysters, shrimp, and gold laying around loose in the streams… It was a bonanza, and we went nuts, and we got rich. Sure, some folks and classes did better than others, but we, all of us, as westerners benefited from this massive windfall. This was the underlying economic driver for 500 years or so, and now it is completely over. There is no more free land. No more gold laying around to be picked up. Everything is owned. Everything is fenced off. We haven’t added any more states lately because we ran out of land. Meanwhile, our psychology and our economics hasn’t caught up to this fact. We still think we can and should have 5% growth every year for ever and eternity. Of course we can’t. We are going back into the middle ages. Everything owned by a few super wealthy families, the rest of us starving at their gates.

    2. No More War of Conquest. We conquered the new world. That is to say, first, we militarily defeated and/or politically outmaneuvered the prior inhabitants, then, we occupied, annexed and developed their lands. This was a money-making endeavor. We used our military for gain, as the Romans and others had done, and it worked spectacularly. But, after WWII, we stopped doing this. We started believing our “good guy” hype. We continued to use our military, certainly, and right up to this day, but we have stopped broadly profiting from it. Sure, some select contractors, etc, still profit, but we are no longer in the empire for profit game. This was and is our great mistake. We idiotically have borrowed money to fund a world-wide empire-style military, and have given it away. For instance, our Navy and Coast Guard have maintained the freedom and safety of the seas since WWII. The US taxpayer provided this service, which underwrote world trade in general, and certainly the economies of Japan, South Korea, China and Germany, and we charged them nothing for it. We gave it away. We have troops in South Korea, Japan, and Germany, and we do not charge them for this protection. They kick back and build their welfare states, while ours is stripped.

    Another important point about war for conquest and empire, is that it provides an external enemy that brings us together. In a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-everything state such as ours, this external stimulus is, I believe, critical. Without it, we fall to war amongst ourselves.

    So, let’s go kick somebody’s butt and take their stuff.

    Incidentally, I think that this is what will eventually happen anyway. Here’s what collapse looks like: financial crisis (the atm’s stop working, credit cards stop working, the economy stops), chaos, military coup, fascist theocracy, reintroduction of war of conquest and empire. I wish we could do it deliberately and democratically, but, we won’t.

  18. Ted,

    Capitalism is no longer the appropriate term. Capitalism is a hybrid political/economic system that describes the system we are transitioning out of. The new Capitalism is what I’ll call Terminalism (in honor of “The Terminator” movies in which our own creations destroy us). I’m sure someone else must have coined a better term.

    We cannot have our current system of government on the Terminalism framework because that model leads to a permanent reduction of jobs and a permanent reduction of income for the majority of jobs that remain. What’s left simply won’t be enough to keep everything going.

    We’re all running at full-speed, gasping for breath as sleek, strong, inexhaustible robots that can think faster and work cheaper pursue us. And the people in charge of the whole shooting match think that this is all fine and dandy, that, somehow, they’ll survive the apocalypse that will come when the middle class falls off the cliff. They either don’t get it or don’t want to get it: starving people don’t just chuckle to themselves as they put their heads in the oven. Some of them get very mad. Some of them will go crazy.

  19. Is it just the nature of the beast? You get people on this blog that get completely focused on one thing or they focus on another blogger and start attacking them ad trolliem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Whim or Ex ever found out they were neighbors and just simply killed each other – completely forgetting whatever got them into this sad pathetic competitiion of comments. WAKE UP! WAKE UP GUYS! The fact that there are a small group of people who will take the time to try to express what they feel here on Ted’s Blog should be a rallying call, not a call to begin shooting each other down verbally. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time to spend on a lot of other blogs or Internet places to express what I think – I have to work to live, and I picked Ted’s place here on the Internet because I liked his comics and attitude. I don’t think it is appropriate to use it as a place to attack and villify other people. Most of the people here try to express themselves well and not attack – because we are looking for answers and opinions to understand what is happening around us.

  20. Ted,

    Great column, couple of comments. First, it’s not just the US that’s collapsing, it’s the whole Western capitalist world. A big reason, which several commenters have sort of picked up on, is the collapse of the Soviet Union. When the USSR was around, western capital, even in the US, had to give in some to the demands of the workers. With the USSR out of the picture, no more, hence capital has done what historically it has always done, which is suck up everything and damn the consequences. Take a look at the 19th century, there were constant booms and massive busts, chronic widespread desperate poverty, no services to speak of.
    As far as the Constitution goes, it’s been dead for at least 170 years, going back to Andrew Jackson. Really it was Jefferson who killed it with the Louisiana Purchase, clearly way beyond his powers as president.
    Oh, and Solzhenitsyn, really? Couldn’t you come up with a quote from someone who wasn’t a Tsarist pseudo fascist anti semite?

  21. Well, I more than agree that we have been in decline for a really long time – our infrustructure and loss of freedoms shows it – but I don’t think the military thinks it’s still in a cold war – it has instead continued to evolve into a more and more bloated organization that continually finds ways to self-perpetuate itself and instead of a cold war, it is a fairly hot war with hot spots all over the world now – and our military leaders and politicians think we have to control everything everywhere to maintain somewhat of a status quo for the slowly dying “empire”. How much more moral and economic decay is needed before the people of the USA wake up? Maybe the shock of this sequester thing? Nope, the people of the USA are more likely to turn on each other first, like a riot where we burn our own homes and cars….

  22. Ted, what does this collapse look like? Are you envisioning a Roman empire or soviet union type collapse where the US fractures into separate states that start speaking different languages? A British empire collapse where all out colonies leave (all one of them that just voted for statehood). Or are we looking at a just just the USA no longer dominating world politics to the extent we have been. Maybe our leaders are forced to give up Asia to the Chinese and split the middle east with them. Lr do you envision some king of apocalyptic scenario like mad max. Sort of an American version of the dark ages in Europe? Personally I think its inevitable that the USA will share world dominance with the Chinese. The other scenarios sound extremely far fetched to me!

  23. Silly, silly plant. Incoherent and incorrect as always.

    Find the courage or brainpower to answer Alex yet, plant?

    No, didn’t think so. But that’s fine- I do enjoy watching you squirm.

    @olgena

    You’re still describing a process, and I’m still describing an event. You want to say we’re collapsing instead of in decline. Fine- I’m always up for semantics.

    We may be collapsing, but we haven’t collapsed – yet. And there’s still time – albeit not much – to reverse the process- the first step is to stop listening to frauds like the plant.

  24. @whims: a hundred thousand of us will die from a problem called free market healthcare simply because that lobby has more of a presence than you or I or even most non-insurance industry businesses.

    This, like countless similar cycles, is a self-reinforcing feedback loop. The more of us who die, the more powerful the industry gets, the more they make a real healthcare system impossible to attain. This combines with similar loops in finance, media, education, defense and any area you care to look at to form an easily provable thesis of collapse.

    The beast has been killed. That the vultures and worms have formed an economy of dead flesh gnawing on its carcass is really of no concern to the beast now. That we are all forced to take a knee and gnaw on the rotting flesh ourselves, and just be thankful that there is still more than just bones does not make the condition of the beast reversible.

  25. I’m very happy that Ted has articulated what has been in my mind since the late 1990s….even when the economy was supposedly ‘booming.’ Without the Soviet Union as a counterpoint, we are listless. The US has been collapsing since the 70s. We could pretend it wasn’t happening for awhile because we were entrenched in the cold war and could externalize all costs. The US has not extracated itself from the cold war model of economic stability, it has simply experienced a few economic bubbles that we pretend are accomplishing something. The next two (the bailout bubble and the student loan bubble) are about to pop, and frankly all the tools we have to address economic instability are ineffective.

    I really don’t know where all this is going to end up, and I don’t think anyone else does either. However, not knowing the outcome is no excuse for denial. Our government is operating on a constant war, constant crisis model…something is going to implode at some point. Just remember, folks, that what starts an event, and what causes an event, are two distinctly different things.

  26. The Idiot Whimsical, right on time.

    Shorter version of The Idiot Whimsical: “Vote for all Democrats and just wait. Change will just happen”.

    As noted, The Idiot Whimsical is great for entertainment value. Like a Die Hard movie, you totally know what to expect, sit and watch/laugh, then immediately forget everything it was about. Substance free is substance free, no matter the domain.

  27. @olegna

    That’s decline, not collapse. We’ve been a nation in decline since the early 70’s or so, no question about that (And hey, the left in this country lost its way in the early 70’s..Hmm..I wonder if that’s coincidence.)

    We have a ways to go before collapse (though collapse is the ultimate end goal of the right), and you’ll know it when it gets here- breakdown of government, rioting, military in the streets stuff like that.

    And once the collapse happens, the right will use it to complete their endgame- the transformation of America into a fascist theocracy. Which is why rooting for it (especially now, while we still have time- albeit not much- to prevent it) is so wrong.

  28. @whims: It became collapse when the US slipped in every metric from above the old world we were supposedly an improvement on. Socialism long replaced any semblance of a market we pretended we ever had, and it’s only for constituents, not mere plebiscite participants and spectators like you and me.

    It was once said in another collapsing empire that if the nanny state did not reach you, you weren’t fit to live.

  29. “the financial meltdown which began in 2009” ???

    Most start the financial crisis in 2007, but I start it in ’99 when Clinton signed the law abolishing Glass-Steagall that made it all perfectly legal.

    ***

    “the Interstate Highway System, built in the 1950s – not coincidentally when the economy was booming.”

    Some of us see a causal effect here, not fully captured by the conjunction ‘not coincidentally’. The Interstate System was justified as essential to better mobilise the US armed forces by a president who was also a retired general who had seen the difficulties of mobilising in WWI and WWII, and it primed the pump of the economy: as those Interstate builders spent their paychecks, lots more people got jobs producing and selling to them (and then more got jobs producing and selling to those guys, etc.). But there’s absolutely no support for anything like that in today’s Congress, only money for more drones, which, Mr Rall admits, are incredibly popular with US voters.

    ***

    Sadly, the predictions of its imminent collapse came near the zenith of the Roman Empire. As it actually collapsed, there weren’t too many people around writing and preserving those writings. So predictions of its imminent collapse probably foretell the coming collapse of the American neo-Empire in three or four hundred years. Lots of time for more drone strikes, tactical nukes, and other military actions against defenceless civilians necessary to ‘keep Americans safe’.

  30. You HOPE we’re headed towards collapse. But that’s only because you don’t have the patience necessary to get your philosophy in charge of the development process.

    Given that there’s ZERO chance of what comes after collapse being better, I’m still going to pass.

    Other than that, this is a really excellent column. The first one in a while.

Leave a Reply