• strength and democracy

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 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by tomb at 2007-10-11 07:26 PM
I think 9'11 was a catalyst for a policy change that had already happened many years earlier. There were obvious changes in South America and less obvious elsewhere but it was a slow process. 9/11 spead things up.

The GDP figures can be misleading and maybe better to have gdp per head. I think this still doesn't give a clear picture as there are other criteria. I will try to think about this (a definition of super imperialism) and get back to it but at the minute little time

Also think 9/11 bought terrorism to the U.S. but it seems now it is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2007-10-12 01:39 AM

Bill In your counter argument you have stated that I have presented a


Selective historical account.


That my position doesn't make logical sense.


That I must think that mechanically measuring military strength is more important than political or economic strength.


That I have been involved in terrible exaggeration.


That I distorted your argument.


That I ignored your argument.


That I'm playing word games.


That I'm involved with presenting the sort of pseudo discussion style that we have been complaining about.


That I ignore evidence that you present.


That my argument is not contextual.


That my position is internally contradictory, and that I don't see the relevance of current reality.


In response let me just try and put my argument again. In thinking about the Government of the USA and democracy on the world scene I was struck by the fact that at times the USA has promoted democracy and at other times promoted dictatorships.


The USA entered WW1 after President Wilson made a speech entitled Making the World Safe for Democracy. After WW2 the USA established democracies in Italy, Germany and Japan. Starting in the !990's the USA promoted what can best be described as a world wide Democratic revolution as democracy swept central and eastern Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and parts of Asia.


At other times the USA has promoted dictatorships. I put forward the explanation that this on again off again relationship to democracy could be explained by looking at how the leaders of the USA would have assessed their strength or weakness. I think that there is a general correlation between the USA feeling strong and promoting democracy and on the other hand the USA feeling under threat and promoting dictatorship.


The big period for the USA promoting dictatorship was during the cold war when I don't know if the right word is weak as much as they must have been feeling under threat.


Now as I said this is just a correlation that I have noticed not an iron law and each democracy or dictatorship will have it own peculiarities.


Hopefully we are still in the middle of a worldwide democratic revolution. The areas of the world that have completely missed out are Africa north of the Republic of South Africa and the Middle East. Until 2003  the USA has been able to foster democracy without invading anyone. Now that they have invaded Iraq in the name of democracy we will see what happens. If Iraq emerges as a democracy I will have no hesitation in saying that you were right. Its been 4 years and the jury is still out in my opinion.


PS everywhere that I have used USA it  is just shorthand for those in power in the USA rather than the people or the land mass itself.



 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2007-10-19 01:16 PM

Does anyone want to explain why US imperialism is in steep decline?


If you think that imperialism is the export of Capital and that this is reflected in the direct foreign investment figures, then you will have to explain why we are currently at record levels of direct foreign investment and why the USA is the leader in direct foreign investment.

The current foreign investment surge

If you think that Imperialism is the projection of military might then you must explain the huge disparity in military spending by the USA and almost every other country combined, the impressive expansion of US bases on foreign soil and the complete domination of the high seas by the US navy.

Military expenditure



Just to be helpfull I dont consider comparisons with the year 1946 (US share of total world production) or profitability during the long boom as being useful comparisons and please if the argument rests on the tendency for the rate of profit to fall my eyes will glaze over.

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by kerrb at 2007-10-24 05:13 AM
What I have said and repeated and now repeat again:
I don't think the concept of strong but brittle or an outer shell of strength concealing inner structural weakness ought to be that hard to grasp or apply to the US
Your response is to provide links about US imperialism's high rates of foreign investment, military expenditure and military bases in other countries.

You provide evidence that the US has the appearance of a strong outer shell of strength and seem to imagine that you are refuting my proposition which includes the notion that the US has the appearance of a strong outer shell of strength

When I argue the case that:
What makes US Imperialism "declining" is its post-Vietnam inability to wage a protracted fight against a guerrilla war in a situation of political inability to take its own people into its confidence
you fall silent

Moving onto some issues raised in Friedman's book, The World is Flat

Posted by owenss at 2007-10-08:
Ive just started to read the earth is flat so Ill have to get back to you on that Im a notoriously slow reader
Friedman's writing style can be parodied but his Chapter 7 (The Quiet Crisis) also contains some valid points about the inner structural weakness of the US system. He's talking more about the culture of entitlement, the culture that the US can remain number one without hard work.

He discusses three "dirty little secrets" and provides quite a few statistics as well as some corny aphorisms and perhaps some biases arising from his desire to Save America and his friendship with Bill Gates. But then Bill Gates is some sort of authority on the factors which contribute to economic decline and its opposite. If Bill Gates thinks America is in decline then would you take notice then?

1. The numbers gap.

Following Sputnik (1957) the US did create a new generation of scientists and engineers. They are now reaching retirement age but the numbers of young Americans completing Science and Engineering courses is in decline. This numbers gap is being filled by foreign born S&E graduates who migrate to the US. However due to globalisation (flattening) the actual work is now being done "back home", offshore of the US. For similar reasons,  foreign applications to american graduate schools is now in decline. It's a brain drain.

2. The ambition gap

The culture of other countries is hungrier, more ambitious:
"Young Chinese, Indians and Poles are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top. They do not want to work for us; they don't even want to be us. They want to dominate us ..." (265)
3. The education gap

Inspired leadership in science and engineering is missing in the United States. The education system does not stimulate sufficient numbers to want to continue with science, maths and engineering. National Science Funding has been cut. American patents are in decline and Asian patents are on the rise. Asian countries are setting the pace in these areas

So, I've provided some evidence for you of the inner weakness that is masked by the outer strength.

Hopefully, you will read The World is Flat and respond to some of this content, rather than a quick search for a link pasted in with barely a cursory comment illustrating once again that the US has the appearance of a strong outer shell of strength
Bill Kerr

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2007-10-25 04:37 PM

Bill I agree with you that US imperialism has a hollow force structure.


But is it hollow brittle or hollow strong?


The force structure of empire is always hollow.


The British ruled India not with English boots on the ground but with Indian boots on the ground. And yes this hollow force structure looked brittle during the so called Indian Mutiny but the force structure held and the British went on to enjoy another 100 years of rule over India.


I have provided evidence that US imperialism is strong. Record levels of Capital penetration of foreign economies, naval domination of  blue water, military spending that dwarfs any other power and construction of military bases across the globe.


You as you point out, you keep repeating that you think that US Imperialism is hollow well you can stop repeating yourself. I agree the force structure is hollow. 


You also argue that the US cant fight a protracted war against guerrillas while being honest with the US public. My point is that they are doing exactly this in Afghanistan.


My other point is that they never could run a protracted war where they tricked the public into supporting the war by lying about it. Their lies about Vietnam were very costly as are their lies about Iraq.

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2007-10-26 01:34 PM

Bill I wont comment directly about Freidmans ideas as Im only partly through his book. He is an interesting guy someone who was an unabashed booster for the war in Iraq who now is calling for the US administration to set a definite withdrawl date. He should have held his nerve as the namesake of "Freidman time" (the idea that the next 6 months is the crucial period. He invoked these 6 month periods so often that six months in Iraq is refered to as "Freidman time") Just when the US military makes some real headway he calls for withdrawl.


The observation that I would like to make again is that we have heard it all before. This time its China overtaking the USA. Last time it was Japan. I entered academic study in 1987, did a course in political economy and there was a fair bit of futurology about competing economies. In those days my lecturers and alot of popular commentary was full of "Japan will outstrip the USA because of work ethic, because of savings levels, because of planning, because of innovation"


At the time I argued that I didnt think that the trend of Japan surpassing America would hold up but was hampered by lack of counter evidence. This time I have the example of Japans failure to argue that its to early to write off the good old US of A.  

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2007-10-26 04:04 PM

Lupin3 I take your point about demographic warfare and admit that population constraints hamper the US A's war fighting ability and that there is no solution to this problem, the population of the USA is capped at 300 million and there's no getting around that.


But hang on just a minute if G.W. Bush does what the greatest American president did and offers illegals amnesty the US population would leap by about 10 million hard working souls. I guess they are already defacto US population so your right the population is capped at 310 million.


But hang on if all those illegals were allowed to sponsor family members the I guess we could easily add another 100 million. If you combined fast tract citizenship to military service (I know they do this already) then you could solve the demographic problem.


Ive come across The Weekly Standard guys before as they are regular guests on "The Beltway boys" and panel discussions on Fox News. My impression is that they uphold the line that abhors the Regan amnesty and agitate for Bush to build the fence rather than encourage migration. This may account for why the Weekly Standard overlooked solutions to the demographic problem. 

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2007-12-11 04:56 PM

Bill it appears to me that Freidman is a scared person. He's full on for modernisation and that's good but he goes on about the people of India, China and the old USSR being more motivated than the complacent Americans.


This is not new thinking but old thinking dressed up in globalisation garb.


Yes people from poorer circumstances do know the value of a dollar and will work their butts off to extract themselves from poverty. People at the next affluence level have always worried that this catch up trend would just continue and that the poor people would pass them in the affluence race.


Early anti drug campaigns in the USA were boosted by the idea that the Chinese used opium to overcome fatigue and therefor work harder.


In Australia who of our generation cant remember the animosity towards Italians, Greeks and later Vietnamese who would arrive with nothing work their butts off leaving the Aussies wondering if they would be left behind as a lazy underclass.


Fortunately the offspring of the hard workers tend to repudiate the work ethic of their parents and why not they haven't had their parents experience of want.


I knew a second generation Chinese guy who laughed that his father would question whether my friend was Chinese at all as he had no work ethic.


There was a Malaysian Billionaire who when asked why he was hard working and frugal while his sons were lazy. He said its simple they have a Billionaire father and I don't.


So my point is don't worry about those hard working highly motivated people. Its a great thing that they are dragging their families out of poverty. Just don't expect their children to uphold their parents ideas. Relax turn the TV back on it will all be fine.

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2008-01-01 11:52 PM

OK Bill you say that you have provided evidence that US imperialism is in decline.


Your evidence is in 3 parts


Part 1 The numbers gap

Part 2 The ambition gap

Part 3 The Education gap


These gaps having been identified by the journalist Freidman


I think that the numbers gap is a bit superficial as Freidman is comparing now with the height of the cold war. Surprise surprise the USA churned out more scientists after the USSR grabbed the lead in the space race than it does today. Look if China leaps ahead of the USA in the current space race then I fully expect Bush to urge Americans to study rather than spend.


As to the ambition gap, apart from ambition not being a constant but a variable the Indians and Chinese have several decades to maintain this variable at is current level before they overtake our slothful friends from the USA.


I'm prepared to cede Freidmans points about education because he obviously knows more about their system than I do plus a lot of what he wrote only confirmed what I already thought.


What I think is missing from Freidmans analysis is an assessment of anti progress forces that exist in societies such as India and China. India is a democracy with a majority of voters being poor peasants. How long can it be before sections of a society that have been bypassed by modernity make their voice heard. Listen carefully, Congress (I) embraced the free market and was voted out. The BJP then embraced the free market and was voted out  to be replaced by the free market Congress (I).


China is a dictatorship again with a majority of people being poor peasants. For China and India to keep progressing they will have to deal with the expectations of people who may well be suffering from the effects of free trade.


Lastly China and India will have to deal with the expectations of people who are currently benefiting from free trade. About a year ago I was playing Google Earth War. During a bit of a lull I got talking to a guy in China, obviously someone doing well enough to waste his time playing war games and conversing in English. The interesting thing he said was what he admired about Australia was its social welfare system. This is something Freidman completely misses when hes says that these people are racing us to the top. They are also racing us (or will want to race us) to a generous welfare programme.


OK my point in a nutshell is that Freidmans analysis is a bit one dimensional but you would expect this, balanced accounts don't sell books.

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by kerrb at 2008-01-07 05:14 AM
hi steve,

Some more evidence of the US decline from The Thornburg Centre blog entry, Crossroads:

The most recent report on the topic comes from the National Academy of Science (Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth? by Norm Augustine. Download the report at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12021.html)

This report, coming on the heels of the Gathering Storm document also produced by the NAS, paints a very sobering image:

  • The US share of the world’s leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing capacity dropped from 36% to 11% in the past 7 years.
  • Chemical companies closed 70 facilities in the United States in 2004 and were in the process of closing 40 more the following year. Of the 120 new plants costing over $1 billion each that were under construction at that time, 50 were in China and one was in the United States.
  • IBM recently sold its once-promising PC business to a Chinese company.
  • In Business Week’s ranking of the world’s information-technology companies, only one of the top 10 is based in the United States.
  • Nearly 60% of the patents filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office in the field of information technology now originate in Asia.
  • Last year Toyota brought to an end the notion of the US Big Three automakers when it sold more vehicles in the United States than Chrysler. This year, rapidly expanding Toyota ended General Motors’s 75-year reign as the world’s largest auto manufacturer.
  • In 2000, the number of foreign students studying physical sciences and engineering in US graduate schools surpassed, for the first time, the number of US students.
  • The United States is falling relative to its economic competitors in broadband Internet access. As recently as 2000 it was in first place; now it ranks 16th in the fraction of citizens having broadband connections and 61st in the use of mobile telephony per capita. South Korea has nearly twice the broadband penetration (subscribers per capita) of the United States.
  • The United States ranks 17th among nations in high-school graduation rate and 14th in college graduation rate.
  • China has supplanted the United States as the world’s number 1 high-technology exporter.
  • Of the new R&D sites planned for construction in the next 3 years by the 177 companies queried in one recent survey, 77% are to be built in China or India, often using US corporate financing.

Bill Kerr

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2008-01-07 06:21 PM

Bill OK US share of semi conductor manufacturing has dropped over the last 7 years, but what does this mean? Are you saying that if non US economies had remained undeveloped then the USA would be better off?

The whole point of wold wide development is that it is worldwide, if chemical plants move to other countries its only bad for America if America is going backwards and America is only going "backwards" in relative terms. Mature economies will almost always loose the race in relative terms to those economies that arnt mature but are experiencing real development.


The car industry stuff (so last century) can be better seen by a simplified analogy of the shipbuilding industry. The UK was once the leading shipbuilding nation and it was a great source of national pride but it was low tech and it moved to Japan where it was a great source of national pride but it was low tech and it moved to South Korea where I'm sure that its a great source of national pride.

So 60% of patents originate from Asia wow that's great but I guess you see something wrong. Anyway I still think that its great.


Yeah the US education system. Well I'm never going to argue against the idea that its got lots of problems, much like their health system great at the top and very very ordinary at the bottom.


So China it now the number one high tech exporter. I hadn't realised this but again I greet the news as evidence that the world is making real progress on the development front. I bet that their biggest export market is the USA which re enforces my position that world development is about integrating the economies of the world rather than being bogged down with economic nationalism.


Just as an aside I was playing Internet poker with some American guys and they were bitching that every time they picked up a car part it said made in X rather than made in the USA. I told them that here in Adelaide Chevrolet's are made and exported to the US. I suggested that we could print Made in Detroit on them if it would make them feel better. 



 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by kerrb at 2008-05-05 03:15 AM
This Newsweek article argues that the american government is not embracing economic globablisation

The Rise of the Rest

The "rest" are rising; america is failing to take the decisions to rise along with them

ie. america is still capable of being number one but lacks the political will to maintain that spot (similar to Friedman's warning about the entitlement mentality)

From this pro capitalist perspective, the overall trend is positive, not gloomy:
The underlying reality across the globe is of enormous vitality.... The rise of China and India is really just the most obvious manifestation of a rising world. In dozens of big countries, one can see the same set of forces at work—a growing economy, a resurgent society, a vibrant culture, and a rising sense of national pride.... This is one of the most thrilling stories in history. Billions of people are escaping from abject poverty....
Posting this as an interesting contribution to the discussion of "america in decline" (not endorsing)
Bill Kerr

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2008-05-07 06:19 AM

Bill it would seem that America is doomed. During the Great Depression many people thought that America was doomed but it wasn't. After WW2 many Communist economists thought that America was doomed to slide back into economic depression but it wasn't. During the sixties many people thought that America was doomed to suffer revolution, but it wasn't. In the 1980's Raymond Lotta wrote a book that you promoted arguing that America was in decline, but it wasn't. Some people argued that America couldn't compete with Japan but they were wrong.


Now we are faced by doomsayers who say that America is incapable of dealing with a globalised world.


Economies that will prosper in a globalized world are economies that implement information technology changes. Its interesting that our friend Friedman cites Walmart and UPS as companies that implement IT changes par excellence. Pity they are American companies sort of undercuts the its all doomed in America argument.


Oh well another criteria for dealing with Globalisation is a flexible labour market. Here again America comes up trumps. Can there be a society alive that has less regard for workers rights. The dead hand of social democracy never saw the light of day in the good old US of A


Another criteria is a countries embrace of the free market. Again if you have noticed America has been writing free trade deals with every country that can put pen to paper.


People keep comparing the growth rates of China with that of America but its apples and oranges. Figures will probably get worse as America slides into recession and the protectionist leaning Democrats take the White house. (god save us all then)


As to the news week article what can I say there's a whole industry of journalists in advanced countries whose job it is to scare people with impending doom (sort of a Baden Powell lets knock the slovenly English youth into military readiness before we are over run in the colonies sort of crowd)


Is America doomed? Well everythings doomed if you give it enough time. Is America doomed this time? Well the smart money follows form and on form Id bet no.

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by dalek at 2008-05-07 11:57 PM


If the US has demonstrated one thing,  it is that it is incapable of competing in a globalised economic system. The only US industries that "compete" are the ones that enjoy massive protection and subsidy; food production and Arms production. Oh and oil.

The condition of the people worsens daily; out of 300 million people 47 million have no health insurance (increased by 9 million since Bush took over) and must pay up front for medical treatment. 10% of the US population own 70% of all assets.

The US spends just over 50% 0f its discretionary budget on "defence" not including the Iraq, and Afghanistan wars or the nuclear program. If indeed it was the "beacon of democracy" that some would have us believe it is hard to see why it needs to spend so much on war and coercion.

China and India together are growing less and less dependent on external markets as they ratchet up their productive capacity. They are rapidly  developing their IT capability, in fact if India closed Bangalore tomorrow the entire global IT industry would probably collapse.  I don't understand what you mean by "apples and oranges". Information technology is part of the superstructure, the real economic gains are made in more prosaic ways such as manufacturing cheaper and better cooking pots, motor cars and computers and TVs.  

The US people have a Manichean obsession with their "manifest destiny" this has lead them into their insane obsession with changing the world into a thing in their own image. In the meantime the ultimate pragmatists in China are destroying them by outproducing them and owning them.







 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2008-05-08 04:56 AM

Dalek my comment about apples and oranges is an attempt to argue that its nonsensical to compare the growth rates of a mature economy with an economy that's emerging from a low base.


You also talk about the condition of the American people. The argument is about the well being of American Capitalism not the condition of its people.


The question we are addressing is, American Imperialism in steep decline or still doing well. I'm not endorsing American Imperialism I'm just arguing that it's long awaited death is not at hand despite what the real left might say.



 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by dalek at 2008-05-11 11:16 PM


This is a graph of China GDP vs US GDP in 2050

"According to a recent projection from Goldman Sachs, China will have overtaken the United States in GNP by 2050".

Apples and oranges? You need to look at what is to come not at what has been.

I would have to say that US Imperialismis in it's death throes - unless it nukes China back into the stone age. No doubt to the enthusistic cheers from the usual supporters of US Imperial conquest.


 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2008-05-12 06:07 AM

Dalek I love those projections I use them for toilet paper.


I first studied political economy at an academic level in 1987. Projections then were that Japan would overtake America but it didn't. (I have a toe nail that is growing at a faster rate than the US economy hang on and Ill give you the projection for when it will overtake America)


Then Japan was the worlds biggest creditor nation and America was the worlds biggest debtor. Japan went on to stagnation and America to boom. (go figure)


Now from memory Bill Kerr at this time was promoting the ideas of Raymond Lotta who was arguing that America was in decline. I guess Bill has dumped Lotta's ideas in favour of the idea that America is in steep decline based on the ideas of Friedman. I remember correct me if I'm wrong that Bill you used to argue that high unemployment would always be with us based on your reading of Barry Jones's "Sleepers Wake" The argument that capitalism lacked the X factor was an argument that I always thought was a bit thin.

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by dalek at 2008-05-12 04:32 PM

Owenss, so you have told us (twice) that you once studied " political economy at an academic level " shame that you should have forgotten most of it.

Your glib response to the post from Kerrb (Some more evidence of the US decline from The Thornburg Centre blog entry, Crossroads:) betrayed your supine acceptance of the thousand year Reich theory of US Imperial might. Your only response was a few flip comments about automobiles.

So far all imperial powers have exhibited a pattern of decline and fall, usually precipitated by war. The Ottoman empire and the British empire being just two recent examples.

The US has entered a period where it must depend upon military conquest to survive. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are wars of strategic imperial necessity. Iraq to maintain control of the Middle East and its critical resource and Afghanistan as part of a strategy to "contain" China. The fantasy about the introduction of "democracy" is just to confuse the more feeble minded retards in the population of intellectuals.

In short, the US can no longer compete in the global marketplace that it has created.

Now the US wars of Imperial plunder are going pear shaped big time, its debt to the world and China in particular has reached all time high. Not only this but China is in the process of taking Africa (and South America?) from the West. Expect an announcement from the US about US military bases in Aftrica shortly - then you can all sign up to a new "bring democracy" to Africa invasion - if only the US would come to its senses and re-introduce the draft eh? India is stirring and Asia is rising.

Sorry guys but the era of global domination by old fat white males is basically over - get used to it.


 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by owenss at 2008-05-12 06:35 PM

Dalek So your argument is that imperialism has a history of rise and fall, the fall often being associated with war and you have a linear projection to show that China will surpass the USA.


Well you may be right. What I see is that the world is going through a rapid period of development that I thoroughly welcome. Maybe China will surpass the USA but there are many hurdles yet for it to jump for example how solid is their banking system? How will they handle labor when it starts to organise? What will be its response to US $ devaluation? How will it handle a US recession?


Somehow you need to explain how world development is bad for America, how massively expanded markets equates with Americas steep decline.


Ive tried to point out that linear projections are notoriously problematic and how comparing developed economies with emerging ones is all but useless.


Even people like Peter Brain who predicted the Asian economic meltdown got it wrong with his prediction for the Australian economy.


My point, when people predict things like Americas steep decline  look at other predictions or assertions that they have made to get a little perspective.


America will not fall just because you want it to. America will fall when its ready. Is it ready yet? I'm still to be convinced luckily we are surrounded by people who are convinced by their own position you just happen to be one.

 • Re: strength and democracy

Posted by dalek at 2008-05-13 04:38 PM

I suppose that the change in the US economic position since 1960 does not matter in the Friedmanite universe. The figures in the table are not projections BTW.

The US has come from a position of huge economic strength to one of huge debt in 40 years. Now that's really good management. It is also a classic symptom of decline.

At the most fundamental level the US boosters are not really supporting a Nation that leads the way in Capitalist development, they are supporting just another militaristic state that can only advance and maintain its position by ruthless wars of foreign conquest, seizure of foreign assets and all the atavistic and  brutal accoutrement's of Imperial might; all cloaked by the rubric "Pax Americana".

Is it not about time that LS repudiated its supine support for the myth of American exceptionalism? The myth that the US is different, that it is the bringer of the light of democracy to the downtrodden masses of the world. Tell it like it is; the US is just another in a long line of Imperial rapists going all the way back to the dawn of "civilisation".

Like all the Imperiums before it the US is destined to decline and fall, it won't take 400 years to do so as did the Roman empire. It took the British empire about 40 years to become an irrelevancy - how long for the US?