09 08 10 - 21:07We know that in Europe, bankruptcy is ripping the heart out of their social welfare system, which is additionally taxed by a swelling population.
And now in the USA, bankruptcy is hitting. We're hearing a lot about how some shady group must have stolen our economy away.
I have a different hypothesis: it was a phantom economy all along.
Now, finally, 65 years later, we're seeing the wind-down of the WWII boom. After the war, there was a baby boom, which produced many new consumers and carried us on a wealth curve through the 1980s. When that dropped off, we had an internet boom in the 1990s. Now people are hoping for an "immigrant boom," or that we can import a lot of workers, pay them little, and inject that cash back into the economy while simultaneously making them good consumers like the baby boomers.
But cracks are showing:
And when you read about America in European newspapers, what you are likely to find is a tone bordering on pity. The U.S. is depicted as a fraying empire of obesity, ignorance, debt, gridlock, stagnation, and mindless war. Sure, the iPad is cool, but it is evidence of what America was, not what it will be again. The stories are not angry, accusatory, or even ideological. Itâs worse: they are condescendingly elegiac.
America is no longer admired, imitated, or feared. We remainâfor nowâa safe haven for dollars (of which there are too many in the world). But we increasingly are seen less as a model or as an empire than as a cautionary tale of national neglect and decline.
Writing in the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash sees a Third World shabbiness when he visits the United States. âEvery time I come back to the United States,â the Oxford don writes, âthe airports, the roads, the public spaces look more tattered, battered, old-fashioned. Modernity is no longer self-evidently here.â - Newsweek
The value of a nation is based on the faith others have in its future ability to produce wealth. Wealth is loosely defined as "anything more useful to people than it is difficult to produce."
You can have a big pile of money, but all it's "worth" is the weight value of its materials if there's no faith in the nation backing it. The USA, which has come to regard its dollars as gold, and Europe which has come to regard its future as carved in stone, are beginning to see that their decline has consequences in this order:
This decay has been going on for some time, but has really peaked since the start of the 20th century.
Tell me seriously: The Beatles and Lady Gaga, they're high art like Beethoven -- just of a different form, which is equally as valid, because complexity and grace are arbitrary since not all of us agree on them -- right?
You must be joking.
Our movies now, they're hidden masterpieces! Our paintings of four different-colored squares and a lump of feces on canvas, they're equal to the grand masters! Our obese, subliterate, surly and criminal populations, they're equal to the pioneers!
Yes, we must be equal to the past... otherwise we're in decline.
Among other reasons, this is why the absolute equality of all people -- in power, in abilities, in wealth and in social standing -- is the defining mythos of the modern time. It is what makes the modern time an odd mix of utilitarian, consumerist, egalitarian, socialist, capitalist and individualism. Pander to the individual, band them together, and gain power through the Crowd.
But after a dozen centuries of that, and secular liberal values replacing traditional ones, we're now finally seeing the cracks in the system. In particular, we're seeing that without inventing some new "boom" every dozen years, we're going broke -- mainly because in our zeal for equality, we've spread our income too thin, and now instead of going into core industries it goes into consumer industries. This means that we all go to jobs and work at selling each other stuff, like a closed-circuit loop. That doesn't produce wealth; it spreads it around, and takes a little off the top for the greediest among us.
This self-defeating outlook was fortunately interrupted by a series of profitable wars (WWI/WWII) and then a sequence of booms that made it easy for us to keep preying on ourselves. After all, it was a Ponzi pyramid. Breed more people. When they get destroyed by following the consumer lifestyle and imitating rock stars, then import more people to pay for them. Keep someone investing time, money and themselves into the system at the bottom, and we all get to be on top for our historical 15 minutes. True equality!
Except of course that it's slow cannibalism of a civilization.
The haves are retirees who were once state or municipal workers. Their seemingly guaranteed and ever-escalating monthly pension benefits are breaking budgets nationwide.
The have-nots are taxpayers who donât have generous pensions. Their 401(k)s or individual retirement accounts have taken a real beating in recent years and are not guaranteed. And soon, many of those people will be paying higher taxes or getting fewer state services as their states put more money aside to cover those pension checks. - NYT
The problem with spreading money around is that you devalue that money, and soon increase your obligations past what you can pay -- unless, of course, you're in some kind of insane delusional boom where people pay a half-billion dollars for myspace.com and think they've got a great deal, even if the site isn't selling a product, just giving away one and hoping to sell enough ads to consumers to make up the difference. But those consumers, they're different than 1950s consumers. They're not buying white picket fence houses and stocks; they're paying rent in apartments and buying entertainment. Crap, basically. So they're fickle and steal anything they can, and so the "service industry" model fails. They'll always go for the cheaper option. Which means that over time your fancy restaurants slowly become McDonald's, your educated newspapermen become hucksters firing out a dozen half-proofread articles a day (did I describe "bloggers"? oh noes) and your politicians go from being leaders to being advertisers. Hope, change!
In what might be the funniest misspelling in North Carolina, a road crew misspelled 'SCHOOL' near a high school in Guilford County. - Third World USA
We live in a nation of incompetents and idiots because they're the perfect consumers -- in the short term. You don't want Mom and Pop nerd who are going to spend 20 hours researching their car purchase, and get the fewest options possible. You want Joe Idiot who walks into the showroom, sees something glitzy, and spends twice what he can afford. You don't want a discerning consumer who wants to know their toaster will work still in five years. You want Suzy Dufus who's going to waddle into Target, pick out the one that matches her drapes, and haul it home and forget about it until three years later when it breaks, and she buys another one. Best of all, Suzy won't be able to do the math to notice that the cheapo version that lasts three years and costs two-thirds as much is a ripoff, since you have to buy two of them for the same time duration a good one would last and so you pay an additional 50%.
Rank the toasters:
|Cost||Duration (in years)||Total Cost of Ownership (10 years)|
If your consumer understands the math above, they suck ass as a consumer.
You want Joe Dummy to wander in and buy crap, and buy lots of it. You don't want him to think -- if you're lucky, he'll be biological unable to -- you want him to buy. You want him to keep buying, to be in debt his whole life, and to pass that debt on when he dies so the government can nationalize it and absorb it. You don't even care how high your taxes are at that point, because you're making money hand over fist from these idiots.
The problem is however that these idiots never do invest in products where quality matters, so soon you lose the ability to distinguish yourself on quality. Instead, it's a race to the bottom on price. They make them in China? We're going to train lemurs to make them. They use robots? We'll use retards. Whatever it takes to make the product as cheaply as possible, and it's not your fault if it gets even more shoddily made and so you can sell more of them in that ten-year period.
The ultimate genius extension of this is the iPod. It's an entertainment product, 100% non-essential. It's backed by a mountain of hype. It also has a soldered-on battery, a flaky hard drive and lots of delicate electronic connections. It's a high ticket item easily stolen. It's easily broken. It's not waterproof. In fact, there are a billion ways for your consumer to destroy it so they can buy another one. And that's what they do. It's trendy; must buy. It's lost; must replace. When v4.0 comes out, buy again. Buy and buy. And since it's non-essential as a product, the only means with which it competes is trendiness (so easy to use, an idiot can do it -- which is who it's designed for) and low price. They can never look at it and say, it failed me. It's always in a nebulous state of being unnecessary, yet being desired, so it gets bought before steaks or oil changes. Brilliant, and parasitic.
As the empire winds down, business wants a way to make products cheaper, so they import people from third-world countries. These countries got to be third-world countries because their average intelligence is low; consequently, they export dumber populations who are also unable to notice why they should have first world levels of order, law, cleanliness, etc. So they sew chaos through the new population, and expand it. That's part of the plan, too, since they're now a new generation of consumers. But just like the native born, they get worn down by consumerism and start buying junk.
The burgeoning Chinese migrants in Tibet, including many with criminal records, has left native Tibetan people with no livelihood prospects, their cultural values and social stability in jeopardy, a report received by the Central Tibetan Administration says.
The rapid increase in Chinese immigration picked up pace with the onset of railway connectivity in Tibet in 2006 and due to numerous 'development project' initiated by the Chinese government throughout Tibet.
According to the survey, Chinese migrants own 249 shops and 52 restaurants in comparison to 5 shops and 30 restaurants run by Tibetans. There are currently 5 brothels owned by Chinese, around 11 gambling dens run by both Chinese and Tibetans, and 3 night clubs owned by Tibetans. The growing surge in prostitution and gambling in particular, pose grave threats of epidemic diseases and rising unemployment among youngster. It also adversely affects Tibetan cultural values and family relationships. - Tibet News Service
So the cycle starts anew until at some point, one brave person stands up and points out that the Emperor has no new clothes -- he's naked, and what we see in that nakedness is that there's no value in that nation anymore. It doesn't produce anything. They're really good at selling each other crap, but really bad at making new stuff. They may come up with an iPod or two, but they're not inventing any new technologies, just shuffling those around. They're living off the past, like Europe and the USA are. And that's why the world turns away, as they should, from the populations so stupid that they destroyed their ability to produce wealth so that they could shuffle the wealth around equally and all feel good about each other.