Monday Message Board

Back again with another Monday Message Board.

Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

56 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Raj Chetty on the economic impacts of COVID-19: Real-time evidence from private sector data

  2. Milestone: wind and solar supplied 10% of the world’s electricity in H1 2020. They were still just short of nuclear’s 10.5%, but since nuclear output is flat and W+S growing strongly (+14% YOY for the same period), parity is being passed as we speak.

    To underline the shift, a report on the expansion plans of a sample of just three Chinese PV manufacturers:
    “Trina Solar said this week that it plans to expand cell production output by 10 GW at its factory in Jiangsu province, while JA Solar revealed plans to ramp up wafer production by 20 GW. ZNshine Solar, meanwhile, is aiming for 10 GW of new PV module capacity.”

    These companies are thinking in terms of 10 GW increments, not 1 GW. That’s roughly equivalent to completing 3 GW of nuclear capacity, every year. The timelines are also much shorter: ZNshine’s expansion will be completed by the end of 2021, 17 months away.

  3. “Ten Australian universities now involved in underpayment scandal” – ABC News

    How many wage and salary underpayment scandals is this now in Australia? I’ve lost count. Here’s a running list just from 2019.

    If we then add in other scandals in business which have required Royal Commissions, we can rapidly add up:

    – Royal Commission into HIH Insurance (2001–2003)
    – Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry (2001–2003)
    – Inquiry into certain Australian companies in relation to the UN Oil-For-Food Programme (2005–2006)
    – Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program (2013–2014)
    – Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (2017–2019)
    – Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (2018–present)

    Corruption is rampant in Australian capitalism and has been intensified by the advent of neoliberal capitalism. Self-regulation has not worked. Privatization has not worked. These have lead to an intensification of exploitation and corruption. System after system, standard after standard, have all declined under neoliberal capitalism until Australia now is just one stinking, collapsing, corrupt mess. The central fact is that capitalism by its very nature fosters and enables greed, exploitation and corruption.

    Under our corrupt neoliberal-intensified capitalist corruption system, workers are robbed, beneficiaries are robbed (robodebt), consumers are robbed and the earth itself and nature are robbed. Buildings are no longer clad properly, no longer built properly (cracking buildings on the rise), we can no longer build dams properly (failed Paradise Dam Bundaberg, we can longer manage schemes without them becoming boondoggles without capitalists rorting them (Murray Darling Scheme), we can no longer run aged care facilities with basic competence and so on.

    The problem is the intentional destruction of the regulating and planning social state by neoliberalism. Capitalism always equals corruption. Capitalism equals eventual inevitable collapse. Capitalism equals selfishness, viciousness, callousness, racism and sexism. Capitalism enables and “thrives” on all these things. However, the “thriving” is specious . It is really catabolic destruction of our social fabric and environment. That is all capitalism really delivers. We are now seeing the denouement of capitalism. Everything falls apart. The center of social society cannot hold because it has been willfully destroyed for private wealth. Anarchy and barbarism will follow unless we re-socialise the nation. Socialism is the only way of the disastrous, doomed clusterf**** disaster of capitalism.

  4. From Alfred w McCoys new book about the decline of the American empire.

    ;-  Beijing’s plan is to build transcontinental infrastructure for the economic integration of Europe ,Asia and Africa ,while mobilising military forces to break Washington’s encirclement to the South. McCoy refers to that territory as ‘the world island’ and says that control of this is the only way to develop a world empire by virtue of its huge area and population .Militarily, America has had this territory under control  with NATO at one end and alliances with Japan ,Philippines, Sth Korea  at the other and a network of hundreds of bases in between to the south and elsewhere. Given world population pressure will grow, competition between rival powers will shift from minerals and markets to energy ,food and water.
    Will there be a soft landing for the US ? Quite possibly not .Empires can unravel quickly : 1 yr for Portugal ,2 for the USSR, 8 for France, 11 for the Ottomans, 17 for Great Britain, and possibly less than 27 for the US measured from the invasion of Iraq in 03. So a pre Covid McCoy thought it would be over by 2030 ,Covid should bring that date forward .Imperial decline has a demoralising effect on a nation usually sparking serious domestic conflict. He says – ‘ The question is not whether the US will lose its unchallenged global power but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be ‘. However there is no single nation as successor to America’s global empire . China only has hard power and no appealing ideology to export .Russia has much less hard power and no appeal .Empires rely on a network of compliant elites in allied nations. Every sustainable modern empire has had some source of universal appeal for its foreign subjects . The demise of the American empire was inevitable because of the rise of so many middle power nations after America was left as the only substantial power standing at the end of WW2. In a way the empire  was an accident of history.  America’s demise has been accelerated by hubris and arrogance so the future for them and the rest of us might be much worse than it had to be.

    5 scenarios for the end of the American century according to A W McCoy .(books last chapter)

    1 ;-  A slow decline in American status within an evolving world order (with the best of international multilateral organisational power remaining intact) . The liberal international order might survive and thrive. Beijing seems to endorse much of this order. In a dystopian version of this future world order a coalition of transnational corporations , multinational military forces ,and a self selected international financial leadership might emerge to usurp nation states – this would be near anarchy. If the international order weakens more than that we might see the rise of mostly disconnected regional hegemons. Washington would only have North America.

    2 ;- Economic decline .Shrinking share of world gross product, decline of American innovation and risk of the knockout punch – loss of the dollars world reserve currency status. As global power ‘ you get to send the nations of the world bundles of brightly colored paper … and they happily hand over goods of actual value ‘. Without rule by economic power the US will no longer be able to have unlimited military spending ,forcing a  choice between domestic welfare and overseas military operations. A standard end of empire conundrum.

    3 ;- Military misadventure. Empires in decline often plunge into ill advised military misadventures . This phenomenon is known as ‘micro-militarism ‘ and seems to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to soothe the sting of retreat by occupying new territory however small ,briefly or catastrophically .These accelerate decline and often formally signal the end .They destroy any remaining good will and confidence.

    4 ;- World War 3 . Beijing is probably decades away from matching the full might of Washington’s global military. However, soon it could, via a combination of cyber war, space warfare and super-computing,  cripple US military communications and win without a shot being fired .Perhaps after an incident in the South China Sea. The US military is big ,but is spread wide and thin, whereas China’s is concentrated. Space ,digital and cyber assets have been their short term priorities.

    5 ;- Climate Change . Main effects due after 2030 but would weaken the grip of any would be world leader and push the locus of power downward toward emerging regional hegemons – Ankara in the Middle East ,New Delhi in South Asia ,Pretoria in southern Africa , Washington in Nth America ,Brasilia  in South America ,Beijing in East Asia ,Moscow in Eastern Europe ,Tehran in central Asia. (Western Europe ?). Beijing could emerge as first among hegemons on a planet in increasing chaos.

          I dont really get why he divided the last chapter like that but the overall picture and risks are clear .Every significant trend points to a crippling decline in America’s power by 2030. It is assumed that the American people will continue failing to take steps to prepare because they remain blinded by decades of unparalleled power. Corporate money ensures that endless war ,the bloated national security state , a starved education system, decaying infrastructure ,and climate change etc, etc remain unaddressed .Time is running out for America to shape the future in a way that protects its, and our , interests and bears the imprint of its undeniable best values.

    The big question seems to be how strong will the established formal liberal international order remain ? Presently Trump, Republicans, and their elite backers are weakening multilateral organisations as if ,realising the empire is lost ,they want a world of regional hegemons or one run by a network of oligarchs ,mega companies and multinational armed forces. In 2016 I wanted Trump to win so the empire would end sooner. This time I will barrack for Biden hoping he will strengthen world order before the US finally leaves the stage. Who knows, maybe Biden is a senile automaton and will hand over to Kamala Harris when she will turn out to be the much feared and prophesied  ‘Socialist Trojan horse’ .

  5. The USA will be “finished” like Russia is finished: finished but not finished. USA will become a much-diminished economic and political power albeit one still with a vast array of nuclear weapons. A state like that can never be ignored. China in turn will find out every empire has natural limits. China is particularly contained by geography and by a circle of nations who all would seem to be natural enemies of China. Japan, Sth Korea,Vietnam and India all feel highly threatened by modern China. Russia is very wary of China.

    I would hazard the judgement that China cannot control the world island militarily or demographically. Where does it break out? I will leave that question hanging.

    China’s attempt to dominate the world economically will founder on the global collapse of the environment as the limiting factor. As the supporting environment collapses from unsustainable practices world wide, nation states first will seek to protect themselves from food supply collapses. Food exports will plummet as nation states seek to feed their own people as a priority. Food importing nations will be in dire trouble. China has achieved food self-sufficiency or nearly so. However, this impressive achievement is really quite fragile and temporary with little room for error or production declines. China is way over its sustainable footprint and has the largest bio-capacity deficit on earth and by a vary large margin of −3435.62 (gMha) compared to USA second at −1416.05 (gMha) and India third at -878.05 (gMha). It’s a surprise perhaps to see that China is so badly placed compared to India.

    China’s desperation to break out by and through the South China Sea probably relates to the quest for seafood protein more than anything else.

    The ecological collapse of the oceans will hit China and S.E. Asia very hard. That does not bode well for Australia. The plain fact is that Australia produces only enough food for about 50 million to 75 million people and is already degrading its environment to achieve even that. Being by far the most arid inhabited continent on earth, we cannot significantly help an already vastly overpopulated and collapse-bound Asia.

  6. The Sth China Sea produced a fifth of the worlds maritime harvest in 2010. After tripling its per capita fish consumption to 30 kg over the last two decades , China will likely consume 38% of the worlds fish catch by 2030. They have a fishing fleet of 92000 vessels in that sea .Eurasia has 75% of the worlds population ,75% of known energy reserves and 60% of it s productivity .China is aiming to unify that huge landmass into a single economic zone . from 07 to 2014 china laid 9000 miles of high speed rail within its own border ,more than the rest of the world combined. By 2030 the system will be complete at 16000 miles. They are collaborating with surrounding states to integrate that into a transcontinental grid .Containers will go from Leipzig Germany to Chongqing in 20 days. China is building a rail ,pipe and road link to a joint port in Gwadar Pakiatan only 370 miles from the Persian Gulf .They are also building 10 hr high speed rail from Kunming China to Singapore. Several major Oil and gas line deals have been made. Their progress in AI ,supercomputing ,and innovation around science and digitisation in general is pretty amazing . I am beginning to doubt that they just steal and copy everything, or that being a citizen of the free world really does naturally make you any more creative.

  7. The oceans are dying. Wild fish catches will collapse rapidly from this point on. Human populations dependent on this protein will be in dire trouble as will be other human populations too close to them (e.g. Australia).

    China is aiming to unify Eurasia into a single economic zone. China can aim all it likes. It won’t happen. Climate collapse and food production collapse alone will see to that. The EU is still struggling to properly unify as an economic zone. Britain has already taken its bat and ball and gone home. The USA is barely holding together currently. Maintaining big nations and big economic zones in a collapse era will prove extraordinarily difficult. The costs of maintaining so much complexity are too high.

    I agree that China has done marvelous things, but they will still be just like the leader of a road race who misses the last turn and slams head-on into a brick wall. The brick wall of limits is close. Everyone is going too fast to make the last turn. The leader of the pack hits the brick wall first.

    Rail freight is far more expensive than sea freight. But as I keep saying, collapse collapses all the options anyway. Overall, chaos is the only safe prediction. Individual trajectories in the chaos are completely unpredictable.

  8. They definitely need you JQ + Ein2L + prospect theory. 

    “Do Lawyers Need Economists?

    Cambridge University Press, 2017
    Posted: 3 Aug 2020

    Reuven S. Avi-Yonah
    University of Michigan Law School
    Date Written: 2017

    Katja Langenbucher’s outstanding book seeks to address the question of why and in what ways have lawyers been importing economic theories into a legal environment, and how has this shaped scholarly research, judicial and legislative work? Since the financial crisis, corporate or capital markets law has been the focus of attention by academia and media. Formal modelling has been used to describe how capital markets work and, later, has been criticized for its abstract assumptions. Empirical legal studies and regulatory impact assessments offered different ways forward. This excellent book presents a new approach to the risks and benefits of interdisciplinary policy work. The benefits economic theory brings for reliable and tested lawmaking are contrasted with important challenges including the significant differences of research methodology, leading to misunderstandings and problems of efficient implementation of economic theory’s findings into the legal world. Katja Langenbucher’s innovative research scrutinizes the potential of economic theory to European legislators faced with a lack of democratic accountability. 

    “I would like to address the question whether economic theory and modeling are useful for lawyers by focusing on another field, tax law, where economists have been very influential. Many US law schools now have economists with no law degree teaching tax law, and several of the leading younger tax law professors at top schools have economics PhDs as well as JDs.”

    Keywords: tax law, public finance
    JEL Classification: H2

    Not even 1 review on amazon?
    Katja Langenbucher
    Economic Transplants: On Lawmaking for Corporations and Capital Markets (International Corporate Law and Financial Market Regulation)

  9. James Wimberley says on R <0 " "One is that the search for high yields will become more desperate leading to more manipulation, smoke and fraud. This is likely, but not sustainable for long.". Yes.

    hix any comment. Ikon I can read your mind – 1OneTrust – 48,337% . Coff!

    "Inc. 5000 2020: Introducing the 5,000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America

    "Explore Inc.’s annual ranking of the private companies with the most proven track records.

    RankCompany/ GrowthIndustry / StateCity
    1OneTrust – 48,337% – SoftwareGeorgiaAtlanta
    2 – Create Music Group – 46,800% – MediaCaliforniaLos Angeles
    3 – Lovell Government Services – 40,899% – HealthFloridaPensacola
    4 -,Avalon Healthcare Solutions – 26,010% – HealthFloridaTampa
    5 – ZULIE VENTURE INC – 25,358% -Telecommunications TexasStafford
    6 – Hunt A Killer,- 20,484% – Consumer Products & ServicesMarylandBaltimore
    7 – Case Energy Partners – 17,921% – EnergyTexasDallas
    8 – Nationwide Mortgage Bankers – 16,395% – Financial ServicesNew YorkMelville
    9 – Paxon Energy – 15,072% – EnergyCaliforniaPleasanton
    10 – Inspire – 1113,876%

    Full list here…

  10. EV -113yr historical uodate;

    Great refs, data, pics & graphs;

    Speculation & Innovation
    By Jamie Catherwood
    August 9, 2020

    Visualizing History 
    The Electric Vehicle Company Stock Price: 1899 – 1907

    “The Electric Vehicle Co. was founded in 1897 and as other electric vehicle manufacturers went bankrupt, it took over their factories. The company took control of the Motor Vehicle Co. of Elizabeth, NJ, the Pope Manufacturing Co., the Columbia Automobile Co. and the Columbia Electric Vehicle Co. of Hartford, NJ, but went into receivership on December 10, 1907. The company issued over $10 million in common stock, over $8 million in preferred and paid 8% in dividends on the common and preferred in 1899, but as profits failed to materialize, the stock price collapsed.”

    “The electric vehicle is nothing new. It will come as a surprise to many readers, butthe electric car was invented almost 200 years ago, in 1832. In fact, the first electric vehicle was built 50 years before the first internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV).

    “During the 1890s, EVs outnumbered other vehicles 10-to-1, and by 1912 there were 38,842 electric vehicles on the road. (I)”

    Source: Global Financial Data 

    From the Archives
    Illustrated Description of All Motorcars Sold in USA (1907)

    Gasoline Cars
    Steam Powered Cars
    Electric Cars

  11. They definitely need you JQ + Ein2L + prospect theory. 

    “Do Lawyers Need Economists?
    Cambridge University Press, 2017
    Posted: 3 Aug 2020

    Reuven S. Avi-Yonah
    University of Michigan Law School
    Date Written: 2017

    Katja Langenbucher’s outstanding book seeks to address the question of why and in what ways have lawyers been importing economic theories into a legal environment, and how has this shaped scholarly research, judicial and legislative work? Since the financial crisis, corporate or capital markets law has been the focus of attention by academia and media. Formal modelling has been used to describe how capital markets work and, later, has been criticized for its abstract assumptions. Empirical legal studies and regulatory impact assessments offered different ways forward. This excellent book presents a new approach to the risks and benefits of interdisciplinary policy work. The benefits economic theory brings for reliable and tested lawmaking are contrasted with important challenges including the significant differences of research methodology, leading to misunderstandings and problems of efficient implementation of economic theory’s findings into the legal world. Katja Langenbucher’s innovative research scrutinizes the potential of economic theory to European legislators faced with a lack of democratic accountability. 

    “I would like to address the question whether economic theory and modeling are useful for lawyers by focusing on another field, tax law, where economists have been very influential. Many US law schools now have economists with no law degree teaching tax law, and several of the leading younger tax law professors at top schools have economics PhDs as well as JDs.”

    Keywords: tax law, public finance
    JEL Classification: H2

    Another associated book, not even 1 review on amazon? So ymmv.

    “Katja Langenbucher
    “Economic Transplants: On Lawmaking for Corporations and Capital Markets (International Corporate Law and Financial Market Regulation)

  12. I have been denounced as a Zionist on a Facebook thread.

    How do you feel about that, and why?

  13. That other R seems to be a lot above 1 almost everywhere in Europe and the basline is not exactly low. There are still huge differences among nations. Italy is a curious case, doing outstanding good, also compared to other nations that had a similar history with a big initial outbreak that might have taught a lesson.Crazy Sweden is not good, but for from the worst at the moment (so their R seems to be below 1 at the moment) and some eastern Europeans that got away in the initial stage now also got ugly numbers.
    Summer holiday travel seems to be an issue. The core problem appears to be less the traveling or the higher baseline numbers at the holiday spots than the behaviour at the holiday locations. Italy now imposed mandatory return tests for Croatia and Malta. The Milan region which imposed a local test mandate earlier reports that they got more positive returns from Malta and Croatia than from Spain. They hint the positive returners often looked like party tourist groups. Most of the people who got infected while traveling should be among age and health cohorts that are at least unlikely to die, but they will or already have infected people in worse health. Either way, not enough restrictions for my taste and too many people who get more and more careless just because they got tired of being carefull even so the risk is now a lot higher than 2 month ago.

  14. Zionist can be a pretty broad term with only half the liberal application common in internet discourse. Think about it, one could be an antisemite and a zionist at the same time, that would´not even be a contradiction.

  15. Paul Norton, that’s the problem – a fb thread. Don’t feed the trolls. 

    Tou may do worse than quote Bob Marley back.

    I denounce ‘ist’s.

    Zion Train lyrics & video link.
    …” Which man can save his brother’s soul? (save your brother’s soul)
    Oh man, it’s just self control. (oo-hoo-oo!)
    Don’t gain the world and lose your soul (just don’t lose your soul)
    Wisdom is better than silver and gold –
    To the bridge (ooh-ooh!)

    …Two thousand years of history (Black history)
    Could not be wiped so easily (could not be wiped so easily). “…

  16. Nick, really appreciated. I have a friend – ‘still’ a racing driver too old to win now, and produces a podcast of all things automotive. I’ll pass this on and post when done.

    His Ferrari is in Germany and can’t get over there. Sigh.

  17. J-D, the person who thus denounced me also denounced me as a panderer to the Zionist lobby in Australia, a witch-hunter who could be gainfully employed by the right wing of UK Labour, a Liberal, an authoritarian, and a supporter of the Netanyahu government. All told I think it says more about him than it does about me.

  18. I don’t use twitter or farcebook because I already write more than enough stupid, thoughtless and vituperative things on blogs (where I am supposed to be thinking a bit more about what I write). I judge myself too volatile and emotionally labile to use twitter or farcebook. It’s a pity that more do not make that sort of self-assessment. Trump is a prime example of course. I imagine the person who slandered Paul Norton also needs to self-regulate himself (I am guessing at gender) off anti-social media. It won’t happen though, I imagine.

  19. sunshine & Iconoclast,

    depending what one counts, the “west”, spearheaded by imperialist GB and/or the US, has attempted to gain Halford Mackinders’ “Heartland” of the “World Island” some 7 or more times during the last 100 years. All attempts failed. The USSR (Russia) held the entire “Heartland” for a time behind the “Iron Curtain” but being otherwise constrained in fending off ongoing “western” attempts to grab the “Heartland” and by having other ideas of “Heartland” usefulness and other ideas for global power including disputation with China failed to fully make use of the “Heartland” as Mackinder conceived and in the end lost near all of it. Russia maybe has a natural affinity with the “west” greater than that with China, but the “west’s” attempts to gain the “Heartland” in the last 30 years have driven Russia away and closer to China. Clearly China realised the potential of Mackinder’s “World Island” power conception including the importance of its “Heartland” and acted accordingly. China did so well prior to the “west” catching on and belatedly, clumsily, attempting its pivot. If Russia comes to an appropriate accommodation with China it is all but certain that together they may attain effective control of the “Heartland”, and thereby the “World Island” and the world, and live long and prosper.

    Some time ago I linked Phillip Adams 2016 talk with Al McCoy…

    Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1997 book…
    (a bird in the hand worth a bubba in two bushes, and, o’bomber, what happened? Trumped again and again!)

    For contrast…

  20. Mackinder’s heartland theory, first delivered in 1904, is both dated and geostrategically flawed. Let’s start with the easiest bit.


    (1) 1904 navies were nothing like 2020 navies. 1904 navies consisted of coal burners and oil burners with steam turbines. These were powerful and impressive engine units at the time. However, 2020 navies have advanced propulsion including nuclear power, gas turbines, diesels and some steam turbines. The modern naval power of superpowers includes large air wings on aircraft carriers, missile and cruise missile batteries on mutiple ship platforms, submarines and nuclear submarines carrying nuclear weapons. Modern superpower navies can reach anywhere they want in terms of stand-off strike power. No remote heartland is secure.

    (2) Air-forces, Missiles.

    None of these were around in 1901 of course. All of these change the strategic pitcure. Of course
    A2/AD – Anti-Access/Area Denial “rimland” or littoral systems change the balance again, at least for surface ships.

    (3) Modern trade is heavily based on modern cargo transport by sea and air and the global economy, including large nation economies are more dependent than ever on (interdictable) sea and air routes. Heartland land routes are also interdictable by long range missiles.

    (4) Nuclear weapons. These render superpower hot wars unfightable due to mutually assured destruction from nuclear escalation. ICBMs can reach anywhere.

    (5) The new domains of space, cyber and grey war change many things too. Won’t go into detail here.

    Geostrategic flaws.

    (1) Drastically fails to understand the demographic importance of seaboards and mountains. The “classic” heartland (of the 1904, 1920 and 1940 theses IIRC) is quite honestly a geostrategic joke. The heartland does not and apparently cannot contain or give birth to the demographic weight to control anything much more than itself. The Rimlands, aided by the “Rim” mountains and plateaus, the rich coastal plains based on silt and loess from the mountains and mountain river plains, plus the oceans (for seafood protein), is the extensive zone where the demographic mass is developed. China, India and West Europe are the exemplars there. Smaller seaboard nations, large Islands and archipelagoes are also far more important than Mackinder apparently understands. S.E. Asia is testament to that with a population four times larger than Russia’s.

    (2) The Americas are strategically more powerful than the Heartland or Rimland. They possess two immensely long seaboards. They cut the world north-south thus cutting the natural air and sea routes. of the world which they can then dominate from both seaboards. Only the USA, Canada and Mexico have full access to this potential power by being nations with an eastern and western seaboard. They have their own heartlands (north and south) and are not broken up and stretched as much as the Rimland which is stretched in a non-useful crescent in overall global geostrategic terms: except that it encircles the heartland. Imagine being encircled by multiple powers with 20 times to 30 times your demographic mass and much better access to the rest of the world’s resources while you wait for the Arctic to melt!

    (3) Only China could hope to conquer and control the heartland and then break out that way. That means China conquering Russia or taking a long line through Kazakhstan etc. to the Ukraine while Russia did nothing. Russia has nukes and provoked enough would use them in the tactical theater of Central Asia if not in China itself.

    China is trying to break its encirclement by taking the South China Sea, Hong Kong and (they hope eventually) Taiwan. The “Silk Road” is a logistical strategy element against maritime interdiction of its trade but not a preparation for an offensive hot land war.

    (4) The USA still has enormous geostrategic and alliance advantages but is doing its best to piss them all away with its current idiocy. It may succeed in doing so. I am sure the Chinese are thinking, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

    (5) If the USA does collapse itself, then China (a Rimland seaboard power take note) takes over Asian hegemony maybe sans India or possibly achieves world hegemony with the right allies.

  21. Mackinder’s general ideas as pertinent now as ever… One great power acts in accord proposing, another attempts opposition, another unsure but partaking just the same, and secondary and minor powers lining up, signing up…

    As for your points above…

    (1) No surface navy, including or especially those carrier groups is now secure, and anyways the heartland/world island can be entirely internally connected by land/air.

    The importance of blue water navies is much reduced, the impact of blockades may be diminished to zero. Any air/space based attack on the interior would be in Sir Humphrey’s terms “brave” indeed.

    (2) “Air-forces, Missiles… change the balance again, at least for surface ships.” – Exactly.

    (3) Land transport within the world island has the easy advantage of speed, measured in days instead of weeks/months for eg Shanghai to Lisbon, or Shanghai to Kérouané in Guinea. And it is more amenable to renewable power than shipping! Include bulk pipelines. Interdiction at sea can be kept more or less a sensible affordable stakes game, whereas your long range missiles directed at the heartland end all playing of games, and run the silly risk of more than equal rapid reprisal.

    (4) Nuclear armed ICBMs cannot be part of this game. That is another game altogether. – Obomber and Trumps ‘small’ tactical battlefield nukes included.

    (5) Poses the same risks equally.

    ‘Geostrategic flaws’

    (1) Few would sell Mackinder’s general idea so cheaply – certainly not Brzezinski nor McCoy they have a far better grasp on current presentations than say Spykman/Dulles rimland/containment.

    (2) “The Americas are strategically more powerful than the Heartland or Rimland.” – were.
    Iconoclast, there you go again with sea routes and rimlands… The world island has within it the majority of world population and resources.

    (3) China is doing BRI. it has numerous ‘lines’ of connection as did the Silk Road. Don’t worry about Russia, worry more about the ‘Lucky Country’s’ iron ore which has maybe 5 years of significant value remaining – if remaining lucky. China seems to have done a full Sun Tzu on you as it has on the yanks&co! China and Russia can cooperate to the benefit of each. It is the only way the world island can be completed in full. Both prosper, as do many others, and your outer insular island opposers are indeed to be left all at sea. China seeks to prosper long and well, not wage stupid agressive land wars in which all would become losers.

    (4) Yes. The US can ‘whistle dixie’ while it burns.

    (5) Brzezinski was no peacenik yet notably argued for considered US strategy leading ultimately to a shared peacefully cooperative equitable global power structure. The specifics now may be a little changed, but the general idea is sound – and maybe as in his day the only one likely survivable. If the USA&Co rules itself out of being a part of that as it seems intent on doing then that of course is on them.

  22. No one is going to prosper long no matter what startegies they follow. China the US Russia Eu the global south all doomed by 2050 at the latest. The 2020s may even be the last decade before civilization collapses, and nation states with it.
    Humanity needs a miracle. But why should a group of people who collectively speaking not be able to come up with anything more than cognitive dissonounce be granted a miracle?

  23. I was reading the latest RBA News Sentiment Index
    [Useless? Too noisy? I’m not sure yet]

    …” the NSI has the potential to identify turning points in economic activity before other partial indicators, such as survey-based sentiment measures that are available on a monthly basis.”…

    And then this came up. Maybe a ref in JQ’s forthcoming?

    “Bulletin – June 2020  
    Global Economy

    Economic Effects of the Spanish Flu

    18 June 2020
    James Bishop[*]

    ..” Epidemiologists continue to debate the reasons why some regions had multiple waves of infections, although the imposition and removal of social distancing measures is a leading explanation.[3]”…

    “Footnote 3.
    The beginning of both epidemic waves in Sydney followed a lifting of social distancing measures, which has led some epidemiologists to conclude that those measures played an important role in the dynamics of infection (Caley, Philp and McCracken 2008). Similar conclusions have been drawn using data for US cities, with studies finding that social distancing measures during the Spanish flu flattened the curve in the sense of reducing peak mortality rates (Bootsma and Ferguson 2007; Hatchett, Mecher and Lipsitch 2007; Markel et al 2007; Barro 2020). There are other possible explanations for the two epidemic waves in Sydney, such as seasonal changes in virus transmissibility and multiple circulating viruses (see Caley et al (2008) for a discussion).”

  24. Like a plauge returning in 33yrs and the grasshoppers have turned into locusts. Swat the swarm.

    Under cover of covid. I signed.

    “NSW upper house recommends lifting bans on nuclear energy

    Michael Mazengarb
    4 March 2020

    …”The media has reported that NSW Cabinet members have bowed to pressure from One Nation Leader Mark Latham and Nationals Leader John Barilaro to overturn a 33-year-old ban on uranium exploration and mining.”…

  25. Curt Kastens says:
    AUGUST 22, 2020 AT 3:54 AM
    Is cognative disounance a sign that thinking is being done by a real human being? Or is it a sign that the thinking is being done by a machine posing as a human being?

  26. Is it time for Australia to consider acquiring nuclear weapons? The only way for a small to mid-size power to deter a superpower is to have nuclear weapons. Superpowers know only one language. To them, might is right: their might. The only thing they fear from smaller nations is nuclear weapons.

    However, the concern would be that if Australia went ahead to acquire nuclear weapons that would spark a nuclear arms race in S.E. Asia. Indonesia and Japan would almost certainly develop nuclear weapons. Perhaps it is too early yet but if the USA ceases to be a viable ally then our hand would be forced.

  27. Here we go again: COVID-19 outbreak again in Queensland and we head back to lock-down. Our lock-downs and ancillary policies have not been tough enough. That’s the bottom line. We have to get much tougher, lock down much harder and go for total eradication. We need to construct state run quarantine stations for rigorous quarantine and shut non-essential international travel down to zero. We will need these quarantine stations indefinitely into the future as we battle successive waves of zoonotic diseases. They will not be wasted assets like hotels, aircraft and cruise ships.

    Trump has mocked NZ for having a new outbreak. That’s a good sign that NZ really has done the right things. The criticism of a fool as crazy as Trump is praise indeed. One hundred virus free days saved lives and let the NZ economy run fully open for nearly 100 days. That’s far better then the ongoing horrendous mess in the USA. The USA has had 540 deaths per million. NZ has had 4 deaths per million. By my math that’s 134 times better or 13,300 % better. And NZ’s official unemployment rate is far lower than the USA’s. All official unemployment rates gild the lily of course but relative rates still tell the basic story.

    We can pretty much guess that NZ’s outbreak was due to criminality. I would guess an illegal entry into NZ, probably from Australia or the Pacific Islands. There’s no evidence yet of cold storage transmission, nor of a failure of their quarantine system. Overall, criminality and privatized criminal incompetence are putting us at the highest risk of further outbreaks. Criminal evaders of Covid-19 restrictions deserve harsh penalties. Honest mistakes are another matter. It appears already that the person “outed” by the media as an implied index case for the latest outbreak in Queensland was not showing any symptoms initially for several days and probably caught it at the center in question anyway: i.e. was not the index case at that site.

    Lock-down to eradication is still the correct policy. It has to be backed by tougher border quarantine and even tougher controls on criminal actions spreading the disease. The right to live is greater than the right to sneak into another state for a holiday or some other frivolous purpose. There are real problems for border communities. One cannot deny that and our democratic and pluralistic authorities are still trying to work out those issues. Getting lock-down fatigue and giving up is the gateway to the widespread misery of deaths, illness and chronic sequelae condtions.

  28. Ernestine, how has the pandemic affected the Cuban monetary budget? Rum and cigar export sales up and tourism down, I suppose. I suppose too, that if tourism is down their real resource budget looks even better. Are they perhaps also developing a covid19 vaccine to market?

  29. Ernestine Gross,
    That was a good link.
    I see it so early in the morning because there is a big party going on behind my house tonight. The revelers are making a lot of noise and I can not sleep. They seem to be roasting a piglet, a lamb and a kid. I really did not mention it because I can not sleep. I mention it because this one party helps build in me the impression that huge numbers Germans do not care about the coronavirus any more, They want to return to a life as normal as they can as soon as they can.
    The Corona virus no longer provides a sufficient reason to stay home socially hibermate to help achieve to goal of economic hibernation.
    Based upon second hand reports that I have heard comming out of the US i suspect that the same is true there as well.

  30. Ikonoclast – I expect that Mutually Assured Destruction based on nuclear retaliatory capability can work well as deterrence… right up until it doesn’t. It is what happens when it doesn’t that is most alarming. Deep bunkers that insulate the button pressers from direct consequences probably add to the risks. Extreme nationalism, extreme ideology and extreme religion adds to the risks – and I don’t see any shortage of those. Lack of good governance and absence of independent rule of law adds to the risks. Less cooperation and undermining of international agreements adds to the risks.

    I’m not sure MAD can prevent conflicts or many of the harms that arise, even if it appears to be a strong disincentive to direct military attacks.

    Didn’t nuke energy spruiker Michael Shellenberger recently try to make the case for smaller nations taking up nuclear weapons? Made me think of Christopher Monckton suggesting to the UK government that they should use (illegal) biological warfare techniques – contamination of water supplies in captured towns with gastro bugs – during the Falkland Islands conflict; what could possibly go wrong?

  31. Iconoclast, what Australia needs is a complex economy once more. Base it on energy sourced from the big nuke in the sky and leave the dead-end nukes to somewhere like Pakistan, but at least try to rise just a few places in the rankings above them in the depth and complexity of the economy while Australia maybe still has time – if the pandemic hasn’t now cruelled that chance.

  32. At the risk of annoying some generalists, I’d like to say a few words about ‘profit maximisation’ and ‘cost minimisation’.

    Think of profit maximisation as a production consisting of a list of input commodities and a list output commodities which results in non-negative profits (may be positive). The prices, which enter the profit calculation, are relative prices. This notion of profit maximisation is considered socially acceptable (except in some circumstances, including but not limited to rent seeking; monopolies are not necessarily the biggest problem).

    For quite some time – 20 years or longer – cost minimisation in production was taken to be desirable in the sense of being in consumers’ interest. (Those who read or study the regulatory framework may expand on this without having to research much.)

    On the theoretical level, the relationship between profit maximisation and cost minimisation as an objective has been studied. Only under very special and stringent condition (‘assumptions’ on the production technology) does cost minimisation entail profit maximisation.

    I might be wrong or I might generalise too much, but as far as I can tell, in practice this theoretical condition is not checked. Business people speak of ‘competitive pressure’ – if A minimises costs then the others have to do it too. Some merely survive and others pay dividends, take over other companies, pay CEO bonuses, etc. Studies which examine share price movements in response to lay-offs belong to this problem category, too.

    The coronavirus pandemic shows up yet another example of the mantra ‘cost minimisation is good because it is in consumers’ interest’ is not well thought through. The problem shows up very clearly in the food processing industry in the USA, Germany, the UK, to name those cases I am familiar with. Low wage food production workers work in factory conditions, one close to the next, and live in poor quality and often crammed housing. The virus thrives; it seems to thrive even better under cool conditions such as in slaughter houses. The cost? Huge. Not necessarily for the food processing business but for many other sectors in the economy and of course for the infected workers and their families or other social links.

    So, what is the problem? For the purpose of analysing some specific problems, it does make sense to define ‘consumers’ as an analytical category and ‘producers’ as another one. (Micro-economic undergraduate texts hardly ever go beyond these categories and, as indicated above, a lot of applied work adheres to this categorisation as its theoretical framework.) However, this categorisation is not suitable if one wishes to formulate policies for an entire economy.

    An individual may be a ‘consumer’, ‘a worker’, a ‘producer’, an ‘investor’, a ‘saver’, a ‘borrower’ at the same time or at least in the course of his/her life. As a minimal characterisation, a society consists of many such individuals.

    So, how would a worker who loses his/her job because of a cost minimisation action benefit as ‘a consumer’ ? No brownie marks for getting this answer.

    How would a cluster of people infected with the virus due to one contact with an infected food processing worker benefit as ‘consumers’ ? etc, etc.

    The food processing problem is related to animal welfare (factory production techniques) or rather lack thereof, which in turn is related to environmental degradation and all of which is related to income inequality.

    In Germany and in the UK the argument that food prices are too low is gaining currency. Well yes. This is part of the problem. The other one is how to increase wages such that higher food prices can be paid for by the workers = consumers?

    The German government is considering (or has decided by now) to ban ‘workplace contracts’ and sub-contracting in the meat processing industry and possibly beyond. The idea is that the industrialist will be forced to comply with their responsibilities as employers (no hiding behind labour hire companies). At least one CDU (traditionally thought of as ‘conservative’) politician has argued for years to achieve such a change in industrial relations.

    It is going to be a challenge to unscramble the egg.

  33. Companies are completly capable to threat workers like shit and still demand high prices, takeing the difference as profits, or spend the money on more feal good adverticing, or fancier shops. I´m no fan of that food needs to be more expensive rethoric in Germany. Usually that just boilds down to an identity/class based dislike of discount stores, which is glossed over with a pretense to even be a better human for it. The tell is that the same people always apply the same logic to cloth retail, where it is obvious that there is pretty much zero positive correlation between higher costumer retail prices and working conditions in production.
    Then we get all that blameing Aldi whenever they dare to lower food prices rethoric, by both environmentalists and agriculture lobbyists, sometimes also the competition. As if the other stores would purchase more expensive or require higher quality. Curiously, people complain a lot less about the lack of a workers council or about them fireing everybody who isn´t 1000% healthy.

  34. “It is going to be a challenge to unscramble the egg.” – Ernestine Gross.

    I am pleased Ernestine used this analogy, It has great applicability to the case. Back in the day, (really just the 1990s or early 2000s), an Australia LNP politician said with great pride and finality, “You can’t unscramble the omelette.” He was referring to the progress of privatization and the concomitant reductions of government departments and regulation. Neoliberal privatization was to be the omelette which we could not unscramble. It was to be an “irreversible process”. [1]

    Analysis at the time [2] pointed out that the London School of Economics “Omega Project” [3] (from which Thatcher took advice and guidance) intended to effect a permanent restructure of the economy and the state such that it would be “permanently re-ordered” or words to that effect. It would no longer be possible to even envisage or imagine a call on the state to provide welfare. That was the final goal. We can see that this final goal has never been achieved to date. People can still envisage a call on the state to provide welfare. This call is still acted on strongly in a state like Australia when a crisis hits. Jobseeker and Jobkeeper are the empirical evidence of the continued existence and effectiveness of this call. Europe and its members also have their state programs to attempt to meet the challenges of COVID-19. I am not knowledgeable about these programs in detail.

    In the USA, the calls to meet COVID-19 medically, economically and socially are much weaker and they are not acted on, at anywhere near the scale required, when it comes to federal governance. Some states, or even quite a few, appear to be acting somewhat at their level. The USA represents the greatest “progress” into a neoliberal conformation where crude market fundamentalism plus oligarchic kleptocracy rule federal policy making and actual programs. The only really significant welfare has been for the rich elites. Follow the money!

    The invocation of the scrambled egg or omelette analogy is apposite. It will take time and energy to rebuild destroyed structures. A society is not egg matter, obviously. It does not undergo an irreversible change by the application of the “heat” of neoliberal ideology. A progress back towards a complexity greater than mere market fundamentalism is possible. An integrated system of extensive markets and extensive regulations is more complex and it carries higher up front costs. However, lack of regulation also carries costs. A system of “Rafferty’s rules” (a situation in which there are no rules, especially when referring to competition) sooner or later entails higher costs. We could pull down all the traffic lights tomorrow and declare that driving on a regulated side of the road infringes our “right” to drive wherever we like. We can imagine the chaos that would follow. Costs would rapidly escalate beyond the money, material, energetic and time costs of a regulated traffic system.

    It appears that a lot of human brains are rather like egg matter. That is to say when they are “solidified” into a given mode of thinking, by theology or ideology, it is very difficult for new dis-confirming data to be received and very difficult for new thoughts and new theories to be entertained. Speaking in evolutionary terms, it is probably necessary for a middling-intelligent species, like homo sapiens [4], to be mortal and to turn over generations reasonably fast (every 20 to 25 years). Only in this manner can those brains solidified by theology or ideology be replaced by the malleable brains of the young who still demonstrate adequate neuroplasticity.

    The real question is this. Do we have sufficient time and the energy left to re-build the required complexity in a new way? The neoliberal era arguably has been catabolic to a consiberable extent. “Catabolism is the breaking-down aspect of metabolism, whereas anabolism is the building-up aspect.” [5] We have both broken down environments (sixth mass extinction, comples habitat loss, climate change) and broken down social systems outside markets to ensure growth of a particular kind: essentially the growth in wealth of the rich and the middle classes in countries like China. Although th middle class is already in decline in the West.

    We face the coming “Anthropocalypse” of the Anthropocene unless we take drastic action. I will write about that shortly.


    Note 1: “In science, a process that is not reversible is called irreversible. This concept arises frequently in thermodynamics. In thermodynamics, a change in the thermodynamic state of a system and all of its surroundings cannot be precisely restored to its initial state by infinitesimal changes in some property of the system without expenditure of energy.” – Wikipedia.

    Note 2: I am still struggling to find my autodidact notes from that time. The analysis may have come from Quiggin, Easton, Pierson or Hogan. I cannot be more specific than that unless I find my old typed notes.

    Note 3: The London School of Economics “Omega Project” was real. It’s not a conspiracy theory though it has a classic name for a conspiracy theory.

    Note 4: Again, another reference I cannot find at short order. Some scientists have theorized that human-level intelligence will eventually (soon?) prove maladaptive and that better adaptivity occurs at lower or zero intelligence (witness SARS-CoV2) and possibly at higher than human intelligence. Distant aliens anyone? Unfortunately humans are in the anti-Goldilocks zone with just enough intelligence to get themselves into a lot of terrible trouble.

    Note 5: See Wikpedia entry “Catabolism”

  35. ‘real interest rate’ revisited.

    The money version: As mentioned in my first post, the macro-economic notion of real interest rate refers to a calculated value, namely the nominal interest rate (observable) adjusted by price level expectation. If the estimated price level expectation is positive we speak of inflation and when negative we call it deflation.

    The real resource version: With reference to my post of 22 August, 9:33 AM, which deals with the monetary vs real resource budgets, an alternative notion of ‘real interest rate’ is conceivable.
    The basic notion of borrowing is: give up X in the future in exchange for getting Y now. Micro-economics and Finance interprets this idea from the perspective of an individual. (Only general equilibrium theory has the real resource constraint in its definition of ‘an equilibrium’.)

    Suppose we interpret the basic notion of borrowing from the perspective of human society, characterised by overlapping generations of people. Then the data provided in the link in my post is alarming for future generations because the basis of their existence is dwindling. Why? Because the current and a few past generations have borrowed from future generations real resources. It seems to me the real resource interest rate is significantly negative for much longer than the monetary interest rate.

    The data on the human society’s resource usage can be broken down into country or region specific sub-categories – who is a net lender?

  36. Covid numbers are quite bad across Europe now, and my homeregion is no exception. Still there seems no sign that anybody would take things more serious again. More and more lets go back to normal just because its been so long and we want to behaviour. The political side is pretty much in do nothing mode, some more tests and measures like the ones in March seem political unthinkable for no obvious reason.

  37. Ernestine Gross,

    Your above post is correct, IMHO, and as far as I understand it. To me, the key question is this. What good is the understanding if it can effect no works? As citizens we may validly and empirically understand certain matters, albeit in our idiosyncratic ways. But if we can effect no works, no positive changes in our society, our political economy, what good is the understanding?

    Your ideas and questions, above, essentially represent a call for real accounting rather than (or imposed on) mere nominal money accounting. That is how I read your ideas from my perspective. This is not the same as me saying that I read them as a call for the abolition of money and markets. I certainly don’t read them in that way. But I do read them as an implicit call for a quite radical overhaul of money, finances, institutions and markets and how they are used to direct (or auto-pilot) our real system interactions (real people, real economy, real biosphere interactions). We need to move beyond technical controversies and into genuine political economy prescriptions which are logical and rational according to our (hopefully) empirically-based theories. What comes below is not an argument for MMT per se. It uses MMT as an example of a heterodox critique which implies certain key points.

    I have no broad problem with academic MMT (as opposed to bowdlerized MTT). MMT, Keynesian counter-cyclical financing and the functional finance thinking of Abba P. Lerner are all useful ways to look at government financing and money theory. Reform of the formal and notional and its uses is a good start. When a road-sign (or a sign system) points the wrong way, it must be repaired and set up to point the right way. However the road itself is real and if it has potholes and washouts then the road itself must be repaired. MMT acolytes, for example, should not imagine that repairing the sign or the operations of the complex sign system and its operations (finance), which utilizes various identities, equations and algorithms, will alone repair the entire real system or socioeconomic system. To assume this would be to assume the same automaticity of translation of the formal into the real which bedevils neoliberal, monetarist and fundamentalist market theory.

    In the final analysis we still have to deal with real problems. Money and finance operations are inadequate on their own to deal with real problems. By real problems I mean the real economy, real people and real environment. Real things (as opposed to notional things) may be and indeed must be measured in the real scientific dimensions of the SI table. This applies in economics and political economy as well.

    Money does not measure anything real. That is my consistent claim these days. The belief that it does has to be discarded. The belief that money measures value (any kind of value from any quantity of a scientific dimension (like the mass of something) to a moral philosophy value (like just reward for effort) has to be discarded. Money does not measure anything real, hence it cannot model anything real. The idea that market “values” or macroeconomic quantities measured in the numéraire measure anything real is not supportable. The money-finance system is not descriptive, it is prescriptive.

    MMT states openly that we can prescribe different amounts of money creation for the system and different targets for the created money. It also states openly that we should then see how the formal systems and the real systems respond to said prescriptions and adjust the prescriptions accordingly: this being the empirical feed-back mechanism absent from neoliberal market fundamentalism. The only feed-back mechanisms or elements that neoliberal market fundamentalism (NMF) takes seriously are formal ones (like the inflation rate and money returns to capital). NMF has really not the least interest in most of the real systems of persons, societies and ecologies, outside elite wealth and the security apparatus that support it (police, courts, prisons, military and the fisc or treasury as a means to support that strangely bloated “minarchist” state. NMF has no care for people, communities or ecologies. These are uncounted and disregarded negative eternalities (or even non-existences) to NMF.

    That money does not measure any real value or any ethical value is clear. (I’ve made these arguments previously and extensively on this blog). Money is not descriptive in any way. It is prescriptive only. Money is used to prescribe production. As an example, a low or zero tax rate on super-profits prescribes a higher production of super yachts and a lower production of dental health clinics and dental health in the general population. Or it prescribes a higher production of gated mansions and a lower production of measures to fight epidemic and pandemic diseases like COVID-19. These are examples of course.

    The necessary other aspect of demand side thinking is that we need to get into the business of measuring real things better and doing things sustainably. This implies the funding of more impact science to supplement production science. What we produce matters but what also matters is the impact of this production on people and environment. I advocate that we need a statist approach to all this. I would prescribe three scientific departments in the form of a Department of Production, a Department of Environmental Impacts and a Department of Human Impacts. These departments would be well funded and equally funded. Thus the total funding of impact study would be double the funding of production study. Production study is relatively simple. Systems of technological and industrial production are simpler than the system of humans, societies and environments.

    Government statistical offices need to be much more heavily funded. If we don’t measure real stuff (for example dental caries in the population and studied across multiple statistical categories) then we have no idea what is happening to real people, real communities and real ecologies. All of this follows logically. If we are going to prescribe money as fiat currency (really prescribe the allocation of resources) to people and real needs then we need the diagnostic instruments to permit us to identify and target real needs. The notion that money measures anything objectively must be totally and radically discarded, IMHO.

    As I have said elsewhere, money is not valuational (not objectively and not ethically). It is a kind of prescriptive logistical counter. It is prescriptively allocative. And it allocates differentially, not absolutely or accurately. If we allocate x more dollars to dental health and x less dollars to tourism subsidies, we cannot quantify in advance precisely how much more dental health (as less dental caries for example) and how much less tourist activity (counted in say accommodation nights) we will get. We can only predict the likely changes in each case based on current pricing. The allocative changes themselves will enter into the system and generate price changes over time. All we can reasonably predict is we will get differnetially more dental health and less tourist activity and even this prediction would need to be measured against empirical outcomes.

    To sum up this somewhat rambling post. How can our understanding(s) effect changes in our system? In particular, how are our prescriptive operations and allocations of finance to be changed to achieve sustainability? That is to say how are we to avoid allocations which rob future generations of real resources? In the current system does this imply a significant change to the social discount rate? (Referring to the Stern/Nordhaus Controversy). Further, does it imply we need to radically question the assumption that money measures value (any kind of value) at all?

  38. I’ve translated the article by using Google Translate. E.G. might comment on how good the translation is or isn’t

    “Populism in the Pandemic: The deadly consequences of denial of reality.

    Naive belief in miracles and social Darwinist market radicalism: authoritarian populists are expanding their power in the pandemic. A guest post. Norma Tiedemann Nikolai Huke

    Nikolai Huke is a social scientist at the University of Tübingen, where he researches social movements, migration and crises in democracy. Norma Tiedemann is a research fellow at the Political Theory Department at the University of Kassel and is doing her doctorate on authoritarian statehood. Together with Carina Book and Olaf Tietje, they published: Authoritarian Populism, Westfälisches Dampfboot, Münster 2020, 189 pages, 22 euros

    Whether in the USA, Brazil or Great Britain: authoritarian populist governments often paint a chaotic picture in the corona pandemic. Heads of government such as Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson played down the dangers associated with the virus, did not react or reacted much too late and advertised drugs that have no confirmed medical benefit. The result is hundreds of thousands of deaths, many of which could have been avoided through early and consistent containment strategies such as social distancing or mandatory face-to-face masks.

    The corona crisis shows particularly clearly that the hostility to science and the public is a characteristic feature of authoritarian populism. Felt truths, fake news and conspiracy-based mistrust of all those positions that do not agree with one’s own opinion replace a conflict negotiation based on rational criteria.

    Science skepticism and naive belief in miracles are often close together: While Trump’s adviser stated that the advice of Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases of the USA, should be treated with “skepticism and caution”, Trump praised the malaria drug, which is considered unsuitable for Corona Hydroxychloroquine euphorically as a supposed prevention against the virus. Subjective experiences, opinions, prejudices and half-truths that make up the common sense appear in authoritarian populism as absolute, unquestionable general truths.

    Heading: The economy must be sustained at all costs.

    This is particularly clear in protests against restrictions in everyday life through preventive measures to contain the corona virus, whether in the USA by Trump sympathizers or in Berlin by Attila Hildmann. Corona denial can be socially linked to anti-enlightenment patterns of attitudes, which are also visible among vaccination opponents or homeopathy supporters.

    However, the reaction of the authoritarian populists to Corona is not only characterized by a noticeable tendency to be unreasonable, but also by strategic calculation. According to the message from Trump or Bolsonaro, the real danger is not the corona virus, but an economic crisis triggered by lockdown measures. The economy must therefore be sustained at all costs. In order for the production and circulation of goods to continue, labor must be exploited. As the events in German slaughterhouses show, the coronavirus spreads not least in the workplace. So it is not the protection of life that motivates the relaxation of measures, but the attempt to keep a global economy that has been stumbling for several years, profitable for some.

    The trade union initiative “Solidarisch gegen Corona”, which deals with the consequences of the pandemic in the world of work, characterizes the conditions in many companies in a discussion contribution as “Corona parties of capital”: “A gathering of many people from different households, body tight close together, touches. You breathe the same stale air: that sounds pretty dangerous in the current situation, and it is. These are the corona parties of capital, ghostly festivals to which the guests only appear extremely shy and reluctant. It is the mute compulsion of circumstances that drives them into these sources of infection every day. Because many wage earners now have to choose between health and income. ”

    Heading: Neoliberal market radicalism as a core element of authoritarian populists

    It is no coincidence that authoritarian populists vehemently defend this very situation, but rather shows their political priorities. The private wealth accumulation of business elites is defended regardless of even deadly consequences. Socio-economically deprived groups who are forced to work under miserable conditions – think of the slaughterhouses – suffer from the consequences. Neoliberal market radicalism is proving to be a core political element of authoritarian-populist strategies.

    Corresponding positions not only coincide with the interests of employers’ associations, but are also compatible with those parts of the workforce for whom, in the course of the erosion of union power in the past decades, solidarity-based attitudes have been displaced by social Darwinian egocentrism. Whether someone is too old, too poor or too sick to survive an illness is considered an individual problem; social responsibility is largely negated.

    In the shadow of the Corona measures, authoritarian populists also pursued another agenda. Sensible measures of contact restriction are openly merged with the consolidation of power of the ruling parties. Examples of this can be seen in Europe in authoritarian-populist government representatives like Viktor Orbán in Hungary or heads of state like the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. With the recent first “Corona elections” in Europe, the latter turned the EU candidate country into a shadow of liberal democracy – large sections of the opposition boycotted the election, while Vucic further stabilized his one-party rule.

    Heading: Risk to democracies as a whole.

    In the US, the Trump administration responded in parallel to protests against racism with paramilitary means. In the course of the ethnicized, hands-on rhetoric in the pandemic (in the USA against the “Chinese virus”, in Poland against a constructed palette of internal and external enemies), populism that has been tried and tested in terms of identity politics can build on already fabricated us-them dichotomies. Developments in Hungary, Poland, Brazil, Serbia, the USA and Turkey show that these declarations of enemies pose a fundamental threat not only to those directly affected, but also to democracy as a whole.

    Authoritarian populism, as these developments show, is quite compatible in parts of society, despite the fact that the corona pandemic is being dealt with in a sometimes obviously life-threatening manner. The extent to which it is possible to implement a solidarity-based approach to the crisis that uses all available options to protect human life depends not only on medical education – as is primarily associated with Christian Drosten in Germany – but also on whether trade unions and civil society initiatives can successfully implement social solutions for everyone instead of radical market strategies at the expense of marginalized groups in times of crisis.” – Norma Tiedemann and Nikolai Huke.

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