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Everything posted by ScottP

  1. Throughout this DIM narrative, my primary focus has been on the major foreign policy statements or “doctrines” of the presidents, which in my judgment are representative of their mode of foreign policy thinking and essential to their coordinate impact on the history of American foreign relations. This study — if it can be called a “study,” since it is not nearly as penetrating as the research for a book on the subject would be — is limited further in its significance by the fact that it is entirely “longitudinal,” if I may introduce yet another neologism into the thesis. In other words, it is a highly delimited “length-wise” cut through the history of a single aspect of government (foreign policy). It does not propose to analyze the mode of any particular president as such. That kind of broad analysis across the breadth of a particular individual’s coordinates in history (which for a president, as a coordinate actor would include social policy and economic regulation, constitutional stance and relationship to the supreme court, conduct during elections and while in office, cabinet member selection and integration thereof, etc.) would be “latitudinal,” if you get my meaning. I do believe that the mode I’ve uncovered for each of the presidents’ foreign policy doctrines is actually representative of their personal mode, which the exception of the fact that based on everything I know about them, I would guess that the Ms — Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, and Johnson — are probably M and D mixtures (as suggested recently by “Steve D” in the blog comments) though not M-D mixed mode thinkers, as discussed in my last post on the subject. (The concept of a “mixture” is very important, because it indicates the primacy of “D” in the thinker in question. Only a D can “mix,” without integrating. In a sense, this virtually guarantees that all the presidents in question are D1 thinkers overall.) Reagan is the same way. Unlike Nixon and Kissinger and probably Ford (who are the exception up to this point as being strongly D, without significant M admixture) Reagan was a genuinely idealistic and ideological figure that appealed to Americans on that basis, not merely because of his charisma and charm, but because he expressed a version of Americanism that resonated with their own and invited them to implement it in a new way. Reagan appealed to the capitalist or free market element of Americanism with his “Reaganomics,” and to the conservatism of his Republican faction with his “War on Drugs,” and to the Truman-Doctrine M thinkers in foreign policy, with his declaration of the Soviet Union being an “evil empire.” This is probably a mixture of M and D, with D dominating overall. With regard to foreign policy, Reagan is remembered for re-escalating the Cold War. After it was initiated by Truman and set up as an M conflict between “good” and “evil,” it was dis-integrated somewhat by Nixinger, who turned it into a board game and activated China and Latin America as moving pieces. A widely admired feature of this dis-integration was the essentially meaningless arms limitation treaties of the “détente” period, which D appeasement can be linked to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which was met by more (this time M2) appeasement by Carter. By 1980, Americans had had enough of this anti-American conduct. They wanted a president who would proudly stand up for America. Reagan was the best option on offer. Reagan’s re-escalation of the Cold War, called the “Reagan Doctrine,” was designed to provide overt and covert aid to anti-communists world-wide, essentially: to re-misintegrate the Cold War! So here we are moving along the M-D axis of thought. Bush had his “axis of evil.” This one is mine. I know many people view Reagan highly. I do not. Reagan is a strange case, because, in relation to what I discussed last time, his coordinate impact is quite high. Compared to Jimmy Carter, he is a significantly superior president. Thus, relative to the alternatives at the time, he represents a decent “rear guard” president, in defense of Americanism. Despite my positive assessment of him in this sense, I do not rate Reagan highly in absolute terms as a president. What can you do? There isn’t one that I do rate highly in that sense after Lincoln. All one should need to falsify any positive view of Reagan in foreign policy terms is the following picture of ragheads in the most sacred chamber in the history of world governance. Reagan hosts the barbarians, while George Washington looks on in shock. This is sacrilege–if the word has any meaning The Japanese have an interesting notion about “spiritual pollution” that applies to this sort of gathering. If Reagan had understood just how awful what he was doing was, he would have committed seppuku or shaved his head and lived out his days in a Buddhist monastery. In light of the events of 9-11 and the subsequent “war on terror,” and the profound degradation of freedom that has come as a result, the essential roots of which are to be found in the Reagan Oval Office, Reagan comes close to being an unforgivably awful president. (If I was more of a masochist, I would run a “worst picture in American foreign policy” contest. We would line up Kissinger and Mao shaking hands, FDR and the Saudi kind laughing it up, Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam, and a few others…but I don’t think any of them can beat this one.) Reagan’s naivete about the Afghans verges on the non-modal, it is so pitiful. “To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom,” he said. In what universe?! The world of the forms, I can only suppose, where Afghan “freedom fighters” are nominally grouped under the higher logical “form” of “freedom fighters” in general, thus completing an ineluctable Platonic connection of no actual worldly reference. The people seated with Reagan in the Oval Office has no understanding whatsoever of freedom. They viewed America as evil–and Reagan as a “devil.” They only wanted American weapons to murder Soviets. By empowering them, Reagan re-booted the M Cold War, but proactively using a Nixon style “Afghanization,” having “learned” from Vietnam. He thereby significantly contributed to the rise of America’s next great enemy. Because of his D-M mixture (or possibly mixed-mode) he couldn’t see it. “We must not break faith with those who are risking their lives…on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua… to defy Soviet aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth. Support for freedom fighters is self-defense.” This is a classic M1 mis-integration. The basis of Reagan’s support for the Afghans was the common denominator of “anti-communism” and a link to this-worldly “self-defense.” While this might be a valid basis for a alliance (a foreign policy integration) with a country like Britain, it was not with Afghanistan, a hole in the ground if there ever was one, where no fundamental American interest could ever be supposed to exist–especially while the situation with Iran remained unresolved, which as a culturally dominant anti-American neighbor, would exercise great influence over the Afghan outcome. Just a little understanding of the history of Afghanistan should have been sufficient to see this. Dubbed the “highway of conquest” by one historian, Afghanistan has been nothing but a graveyard for aggressive empires for its entire thousands-year-long history. Soviet resources were being drained and their morale significantly undermined by their attempt to control it. In light of this it might have been proper to send the Afghans weapons. But it was never proper to claim that they were “freedom fighters” or that the basis for supplying them with weapons was any commensurability with Americans’ love of freedom. This mis-integration is what has led to American soldiers lives being egregiously wasted there. While Islam and tribalism dominate Afghan culture–which America has now assured will be the case for still longer–Afghanistan will continue to be among the most anti-human wastelands in all the world. Reagan’s coordinate good fortune was to be president when the Soviet Union was collapsing under the weight of its impossible attempt to keep up with the US, and when Gorbachev happened to be in the coordinate role of communist dis-integrator. This luck is not Reagan’s virtue. If anything, Bill Gates deserves the credit. The guns or butter problem became impossible for the Russians, once the computer revolution took hold. Thank you, Bill. To my mind, Reagan is a good example of how Republicans have almost always been more damaging overall to America than Democrats. When M2 or M-D dictatorship comes to America, it will almost certainly be at the hands of the Republicans, or some faction within the Republican M-D axis of thought. [i'll be traveling and sorting out a lot of personal and business challenges over the next couple weeks, with the the start of the new HistoryAtOurHouse school year, and the launch of the inaugural LiteratureAtOurHouse program, joining Music and Science in the LearningAtOurHouse suite of products. So this will be my last post on this theme for a while. I'll be back.] Link to Original
  2. I have received a series of really amazing responses to my most recent post about the possibility of a D-M mode from David Hayes and “Steve D,” which are contained in the comments to the previous post on Carter and Obama. I highly recommend reading what David and Steve have to say. I really appreciate their contribution. Link to Original
  3. In my last post about Carter and Obama, I made the following statement about Leonard Peikoff which, in retrospect, I don’t think is fair: This is the kind of stuff that I think Leonard Peikoff, as the nearest person I can think of to a genius, just cannot look at. I think, literally, he does not know how bad it is, because he can’t bring himself to look. I think a lot of the older Objectivists are like this. They look around and say: oh well, I’ve only got a few years left, myself. I don’t need to worry about. It’s someone else’s problem. I’ll just work on the stuff I like. I do see this kind of thing in some Objectivist seniors, but not Peikoff. What I think would be more correct to say is that Peikoff is so highly selective, so dedicated to his values with an intense focus that you don’t find in other humans, that he may literally not expose himself to certain concretes sufficiently to bring them under the modoscope. (They just are not worthy of his attention.) Peikoff has more passion for this world in his pinky finger than any “Objectivists” who still have fifty years left in them that I’ve encountered. Truly, he is amazing. Here is a recent podcast that he did that proves it. (In it, he discusses how recent events, if factored into his DIM Hypothesis, would probably lead him to *compress* his timeline for an M2 takeover. I agree. Though I think it could be D-M.) PEIKOFF.COM PODCAST: Is it moral for a person to expose secret government programs which violate citizens’ individual rights, even if this may harm strategies which the government states are essential to national security? In other words, what is your estimate of the NSA now?. Link to Original
  4. Has there ever been a president less well equipped to deal with reality than Jimmy Carter, and thus a president more damaging in his role as president of the United States relative to the full context in which he occupied that office? I have my doubts. Many pro-freedom Americans would say that Obama is the worst president in American history, and that may be true in absolute terms. But when I judge a president historically, I judge him in relation to the reasonable alternatives available at the time and relative to the social and geo-political context in which he acted. Thus when I look at Obama, I ask myself, “How bad is he–relative to the alternatives that were available? How much of a difference will it have made to have Obama in office? In my judgment, John McCain would have outwardly been quite different, but like Bush before him, he would have strongly expanded the power of the state as well, probably along different lines, but with regard to fiscal & monetary issues there would have been no essential difference, and with regard to the expansion of the financial-espionage complex, he would have been no better (probably worse) than Obama too. Maybe healthcare nationalization would be slower. Maybe Iran would have been confronted (which would definitely be one good thing), but overall, the outcome of a McCain presidency would not have been that different overall, and it certainly would not have forced the Republicans into some soul-searching about what they stand for (not that it matters) . And then there’s Mitt Romneycare. He would have been just as bad as Obama, if not worse, especially because everything he would have done would have been labeled “capitalism.” Judging how damaging a president has been to America involves weighing the alternatives that were possible, leads me back to two of my top candidates for “worst president in American history:” Teddy Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter. Relative to Teddy Roosevelt, as a crucial example, how would William Jennings Bryan (the Democratic presidential nominee in 1900) have performed? To my mind, America was still in a kind of cultural ferment at the time, creating a context in which a president was in a position to be more of a leader and steerer of the culture, and where presidential doctrines in foreign policy, especially, could well have been decisive for generations, and thus hugely impactful on the trajectory of America through history. In light of this, the fact that Bryan was an anti-imperialist is very significant. It’s quite possible that as president he would have contributed to a series of impactful precedents in American conduct that would have radically altered the cultural path dependency of America at the time of World War I. There is no way to *know,* but at the turn of the last century, American culture was in flux, and smallish differences in conduct with regards to the Philippines, Cuba, Panama might have had a magnified significance in relation to America’s response to the a fundamentally *European* war, within a span of time during which hugely significant events were transpiring, causing massive long-term differences. Call it the William Jennings Bryan Butterfly effect. And then there is 1976. However problematic a Ford/Dole administration (the Republican alternative at the time) would have been I am pretty confident that such an administration would have acted much more approximately correctly in response to the Iranian Revolution, and that the whole course of America’s Islamist Entanglement would have been radically different–for the better. Again, even a relatively minor difference would have yielded a magnified effect in the long run, given the circumstances. The essence of this point is not the relative merits of the presidents. It is merely an “invitation to treat” the issue of what I call the “coordinate” impact of a president (and by extension, any person, institution, nation, etc.) given his identity relative to the reasonably viable alternatives. (Not–one must stress–relative to George Washington! There’s no point in torturing oneself too much with the whole “What would the other George do?” question. He ain’t around. Get used to it.) Given the historical “coordinates” of the presidents, how much did differences in their attributes–which conditioned their choices and actions (you know, the whole “entities act according to their identity thing”)–alter the timeline given the full historical context? It is a highly abstract causal question, and given that history is dead, and thus there is no science of coordinate abstractions, let alone any modeling systems relating to such, like an Asimov-type “psychohistory,” I don’t have anything other than an educated guess. Still, in am convinced that one major factor that doomed America to the seemingly impenetrable complexity of the Islamist Entanglement was Jimmy Carter’s woefully inefficacious otherworldly mode. By contrast, a D1 mode, such as Ford/Dole administration with the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in the administration might well have led to a powerful response to the Iranian situation, possibly even an abortion of the institutional rise of Islamism there. What was Carter’s mode? Here is an elegant illustration, from an excerpt from the Playboy interview with Carter, from 1976: “Because I’m just human and I’m tempted and Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Christ said, I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery. I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times….” This by itself is pure “idealism,” in the true metaphysical sense of the term. For Carter, abstractions are real things. For him, to cheat in one’s “heart” is to cheat in a reality that is just as real–actually *more* real–than this one we live in. How could such a sinner cast the first stone against Iran? Obviously, he couldn’t, and didn’t. I don’t have the stomach to recount the events of 1979 here. If you don’t know them, you better frickin’ get busy living–or get busy dying, as Andy Dufresne said in the Shawshank Redemption. You certainly will be doing one or the other based on your choice in the mater. What I want to focus on with a modoscope is the so-called “Carter Doctrine,” enunciated in January of 1980, which for all the clouding verbiage surrounding it amounts to the following passage: The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two-thirds of the world’s exportable oil… This situation demands careful thought, steady nerves, and resolute action, not only for this year but for many years to come. It demands collective efforts to meet this new threat to security in the Persian Gulf and in Southwest Asia. It demands the participation of all those who rely on oil from the Middle East and who are concerned with global peace and stability. And it demands consultation and close cooperation with countries in the area which might be threatened. Meeting this challenge will take national will, diplomatic and political wisdom, economic sacrifice, and, of course, military capability. We must call on the best that is in us to preserve the security of this crucial region. Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force. This is a modally inconclusive series of statements in and of itself, with some reference to vital American interests (pretend I), but it ultimately tilts to M2 abstractions: economic sacrifice, collective efforts, and global peace (as an abstraction, obviously, not a real possibility). Even with regard to “America’s vital interests,” we see M2 peeking out from behind the curtain. Carter seems to be taking a stand. But considered in full context, it is appeasement because the reality behind the words “by any means necessary” is that Carter considers appeasement to be one–indeed the primary–means. Carter, as a true M2, tried to stop the Soviets by telling them that they can have Afghanistan for the price of the US not sending its team to the Olympics, as long as they don’t cause more trouble. Pretty please. (Appeasement in foreign policy, as in personal life, isn’t necessarily modal. It can just be religious in nature, if the person enacting it doesn’t have any philosophical mode. But when it is modal–and with presidents, it is–it is fundamentally M2 driven, because it is based on non-rational moral ideals, especially a conceptual commitment to the notion that the bad guys will not be bad guys, because turning the other cheek is miraculously superior to justice.) Being quite confident in advanced that Carter was M2, it wasn’t hard for me to find M2 in his “doctrine,” so I asked myself whether or not I wasn’t just suffering from a little confirmation bias, and I decided to try to disprove my view. For the sake of a thought experiment, I did my best to see if I could read the Carter Doctrine as a D1 document, to see it as the mind of a “knowing skeptic” contending with the world by carving it up into a variety of ones in the many. It didn’t work, but it led me to an interesting problem. One thing that set off alarm bells was the D-looking “let me be clear” phraseology (for which Obama is notorious). When used by presidents over the past 40 years of D government, this catchphrase in all its variations, such as “make no mistake about it,” typically signals an oncoming soundbite that is meant to stand alone as a self-contained (and typically non-integratable) assertion to represent the nominal connotation of a presidential “discourse.” It is what the journalists are supposed to quote. Here is a classic Obama-ism of that sort: “Let me be clear: The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.” That anyone can hear this and take it seriously is staggering to me. As if the Palestinians have ever demonstrated any basis for being remotely conceived of as being capable of participating in such a scheme. Abstract pronouncements like these by Obama are designed to provide the appearance of idealism while the speaker knows damn well that no such outcome can ever happen. This is the kind of stuff that makes so many people sure that Obama is just a liar. It just seems like he cavalierly says things that aren’t true. While I don’t doubt that he is a liar, in that he consciously deceives the people that he cannot but look down upon as infantile mentalities for having elected him, I also think that Obama’s ability to make statements disconnected from all possible rational meaning is actually more of a psycho-epistemological psychosis. I think that Barack Obama in true Kantian fashion, quite literally does not know how to connect (high-level) concepts to reality, because he does not believe it is even possible. I know it is hard to fathom, and I can understand anyone who refuses to cut Obama any slack, but I honestly think that he has such a profoundly irrational mode that he not only uses M-based mis-integrations (such as “self-determination” as a foreign policy absolute) as his primary mental file folders, but then he dis-integrates those! This is something Leonard Peikoff never mentions in the DIM Hypothesis! A mixed mode involving both M and D! To me this makes complete sense as a coordinate phenomenon in light of the trajectory of American foreign policy. When Leonard Peikoff talks about mixed modes, he explains in his own words that modes are coordinate phenomena. To use more conventional lingo: modes evolve within a historical context. So, for example, you don’t get D1, until you have Newtonian I, and it is penetrated by Kantian D. D1 doesn’t exist as some kind of reified abstraction or Platonic essence. It is an emergent historical entity, which we identify by a process of abstraction. So why doesn’t Peikoff discuss M penetrated by D? It seems obvious to me. It was an objective coordinate judgment on his part! In other words, it just doesn’t seem to exist with sufficient cultural weight to matter. Or doesn’t it? In fact, might this not be a very possible cultural outcome for America, and — I hate to say it — the worst possible one! If we are in a D – M culture war, isn’t a D – M mixed mode cultural outcome possible? Are there D – M syncretists out there now? I actually think that that is what Obama is (and McCain and Romney too)! The abstract content of Obama’s thinking reeks M2 — thus he appears to be an idealist — but he is primarily a D intellectual. So the result is dis-integrated mis-integrations–an almost unfathomably awful outcome to a rational mind. Now, when you have a mixed mode, there is inevitably a hierarchy established between the two in the mind of the thinker. One mode sets up a kind of metaphysical terms of reference, and the other mode dominates the epistemological coping strategy. So, for instance, Enlightenment I says that this world is real, and Kantian D says, “Yes, but of course, we don’t really know anything about it, because we are conscious, so we have to keep our abstractions humble.” In the same manner, which is what I see with Obama (and Jimmy Carter to a lesser extent) is that M2 sets up the metaphysical reference frame. Abstractions for them both are otherworldly. And then, because those abstractions bear no connection to reality, like presidential demi-urges, they must stuff them into this-worldly compartments according to the D mode. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan? Oh, then, we won’t send our team to the Olympics! I mean, truly, this is a classic! Worthy of Obama. Notice that this is not M1. Eisenhower was M1. Nasser wants the Suez Canal? Oh. Here’s how we have to think of that: the Soviets are dangerous and we have to contain them. So we need to apply Truman’s M2 to a very real this-worldly security situation. Eisenhower didn’t say to Egypt: You want to take over the canal? Well, we’re going ban publication of travel guides featuring the pyramids! He definitely mis-integrated, but his screw-up had an I component, so it wasn’t a complete disaster. By contrast, when an M-D mind encounters a cognitively challenging this-worldly situation, it just completely malfunctions. Justice Roberts, is Obamacare unconstitutional? No, it’s a “tax”. Wait. What?! I mean, did you see that one coming? That’s D-M. It’s so messed up, you could not have imagined that kind of cognitive contortion. Hey History Channel, what is history? Pawn stars and UFO hunters. Wait. What?! You get that history is about the past. Right? I mean, if you just dis-integrated it, by showing us disconnected episodes about the past like you used to, it would be boring, but it would at least be history. But UFO hunters? Are you out of your mind?! (Yes.) This is the kind of stuff that I think Leonard Peikoff, as the nearest person I can think of to a genius, just cannot look at. I think, literally, he does not know how bad it is, because he can’t bring himself to look. I think a lot of the older Objectivists are like this. They look around and say: oh well, I’ve only got a few years left, myself. I don’t need to worry about. It’s someone else’s problem. I’ll just work on the stuff I like. And who can blame them? Our modern culture is shit. (I just chuckle to myself when I think of the image of Leonard Peikoff watching Wolverine.) Anyways, to bring this unpleasantness to a close for now, I now have a standing order to be on the lookout for D-M. I am not certain that there is a coordinate basis for the “Other-worldly Compartmentalists” category to be added to DIM? And if there is, I don’t look forward to it on two fronts. One. If there is a hole in DIM, and I insist upon it, I’m sure I won’t win any friends. (Not that anyone cares about whether DIM is “open ended” or not. Ain’t nobody going to be yelling at me for being some kind of small “d” dim-wit instead of a big “D” DIM-wit.) And two. Who on Earth would care to rank the prospects of a D2, M2, or a D-M mixed-mode dictatorship? You’re helically wrapped around an axis on an inclined plane either way. Link to Original
  5. There is a fundamental affinity between M and I. I think this is why many Objectivists feel a certain kinship with presidents like Truman–apart from the well-documented fact that many admirers of Ayn Rand unbeknownst to themselves practice an M mode (rationalism). There is a certain grandeur to M2, which strives for monistic integration. The D mode, on the other hand, is so profoundly anti-Aristotelian in essence that anyone with an I mode and a keen modoscope must instantly feel revulsion, even a sense of hatred welling up inside, when encountering a D thinker. Hatred is the emotion reserved for enemies, and D is the enemy. D is the destroyer of the mind. In studying foreign policy closely with a modoscope, it has been my experience that while I disagree with M practitioners all, I respect them to a certain extent, especially the M2s, who are more committed to a fundamental approach, even though it’s wrong. The D thinkers, such as Theodore Roosevelt, the Bushes, Barack Obama, and Nixon and Kissinger, on the other hand, make me sick to my stomach. The D history by Robert Dallek “Nixon and Kissinger” and the D account of Chinese history and Chinese-American relations by Kissinger himself entitled “On China” are torture for the integrating mind. The tellers revel in analysis without integration. The principles of their narrative revel in the failure of grand ideals and the rejection of principles, and even outwardly enjoy evasion, secrecy, and criminality as instruments of state policy. Let us thus dispense with Nixon and Kissinger — Nixinger, for short — as quickly as possible. The foreign policy challenges of this era, stemming from the prior M tilt of the past four administrations, were considerable. Vietnam was an unmitigated disaster. Israel was locked in an existential conflict with its Arab neighbors. The Soviets had been emboldened by America inefficacy. And Latin America was turning to communism, influenced by Cuba’s revolution. Nixinger decided to address each of these situations with characteristic refusal to integrate, indeed with a deliberate intention to break apart the whole international system into regional puzzles to be handled by intensive secretive diplomacy, including, most notably the despicable empowerment of communist China by a supposedly staunchly anti-communist administration. The most pressing problem for Nixinger was Vietnam. Americans were dying there on a hopeless M2 crusade. They needed to be withdrawn. An I president would have recognized that Vietnam would inevitably fall to Communism if America refused to wipe out the northern Communists, and simply, bravely withdrawn, allowing Vietnam to consume itself, as it deserved to do. Instead, in his November 3, 1969 address, the “silent majority” speech, containing the “Nixon Doctrine,” he explained that his conduct would be driven by the need to secure a certain perception of America’s greatness. He trumpeted the false hope of “Vietnamization” — the mis-integrating thesis of self-determination — which he knew to be futile, and had Kissinger waste his time in a dingy Paris apartment talking to North Vietnamese communists for hours about how they should make concessions to America while promising them everything they could possibly want, if they just were a little more patient. Instead of withdrawing precipitously, Kissinger insisted on a retreat “with honor,” by dishonorably expanding the futile war effort into Cambodia, and then lying about it to the world. This apparently was what he meant by winning “an American peace.” “It’s not my fault,” he later complained, like the James Taggart that he was, when nothing he had done worked. I imagine this was his thought also when CIA operatives killed one of the only moral leaders in all of South America, the constitutionalist defender of Chile, general Rene Schneider, in a botched kidnapping attempt that was supposed to incriminate communists in Chile to allow America to orchestrate a military coup against the democratically elected Salvador Allende. The Chile debacle, to me, is the ultimate symbol of the Nixinger disintegration. Kill the good guys while trying to blame it on the bad guys, in a place that doesn’t even matter. (Kissinger had bluntly told the Chilean ambassador previously, “what happens in the south is of no importance.” And yet he and Nixon were happy to throw out every moral tenet of American foreign policy–to assassinate the very character of America–to prevent Chile from what would have been a brief flirtation with Marxism. Disgusting.) Do you really want more? Unfortunately there is more, and history requires that we look at it. The good news is that Israel would not put up with Nixon’s muddled thinking. Golda Meir dealt with Nixon’s Middle East policy like a school marm chiding the class idiot. Letting Nixon posture, Meir and Israel’s military establishment gradually moved ahead with their nuclear power and armament program. At least now, the world can rest easy that if Muslims are crazy enough to try to destroy Israel, the outcome will be “mutually assured destruction.” Thank you, Israel, for refusing to be disintegrated. Let us end with Communism. To deal with this threat, Nixon employed the standard tactic of the philosophically adrift: the balance of power — not as a tactic however, as a “strategy of tactics.” To be sure, calculations of military capabilities are a necessary and important aspect of foreign policy, but in the D mind they become foreign policy itself. According to such an outlook, since Russia was a problem, it was a valid move to court China as a temporary ally. China for its part was so consumed by paranoia that the Chinese actually believed that America was secretly a partner of the Soviet Union against China. I pity the fly on the wall listening to Mao and Nixon talking past each other about their own national leadership neuroses. In the end China did not help the US with its Vietnam problem — a major hope of Nixon’s. The China-Taiwan situation went unmoved. All that happened was that China’s “middle kingdom” mindset received a major boost, allowing its vicious rulers to think themselves legitimate partners of the greatest nation in the world, and continue down the same path there were already on. If Nixon had never gone to China, there is a good chance in my mind that China would already be a democratic country. Instead, America’s dialog of appeasement and flattery with China’s evil leaders gave them a new legitimacy, and kept them in power. It provided the impetus for the economic opening of China, which, despite permitting a new level of wealth to a vast number of Chinese, has perpetuated single-party rule, rampant corruption, and retarted true political progress there. Enough! What came next is fascinating from the perspective of modal progressions. Ford is almost irrelevant. As far as I am concerned, he can be seen as a continuation of Nixon. I suspect that American culture was predominantly a mix of M1 and M2 at this time, because Nixon’s premature D never really resonated with it. My sense is that the New York Times, with which Nixon clashed so much, was an M2 institution at the time — though it has since gone D, to be sure — and their modal incompatibility was part of the reason for their antagonism. Academia was M2 to be sure, until the fall of the Soviet Union, though with a growing D subcomponent. The M2-M1-M2-M1 progression in foreign policy from Truman to Eisenhower to JFK to LBJ is further evidence. So it’s no surprise to me that America returned to M2 one last time, with Jimmy Carter. Basically what I see in the history of American foreign policy after WWII is a culture war between M and D well underway, with a baseline but momentarily transient American M losing a rear-guard action with a philosophically more powerful adversary. Carter is the last stand of M2, if I’m right, assuming Reagan was a transitional D1, whereas Nixinger represents the Cold War advent of god-awful D2, and D2 has dominated since. Onward, to full disintegration and beyond! Link to Original
  6. There were two major mis-integrating theses at the heart of America’s mis-conduct during the Cold War. The first was an M2 thesis: America must be the grand champion of “world peace,” everywhere supporting “self-determination.” The second was an M1 thesis: America must protect world peace, yes, but this means containing in a practical way, i.e. by the use of force, the this-worldly evil of communism. At no point in the history of the Cold War did any American president advocate an I policy of rational self-defense. Since America was congenitally incapable of a completely altruistic foreign policy, there was a continual overlap between the mis-integrations of its presidents’ foreign policy and what would look to a rational observer as a policy of self-defense. A stopped clock seems to indicate the right time twice a day, and a mis-integrating doctrine will at times approximate the functioning of a proper foreign policy. In his daily conduct, a mis-integrating president will regularly be forced to enact the business of government in ways that are not consistent with his abstract convictions, even if he is an idealist like Truman or JFK. Reality just refuses to go away; even the philosopher king must eat, sleep, and defecate, no matter how much he resents being a lowly animal creature caged in a lower dimension. The M2s gave the fundamental impulse and set the tone to the Cold War. The M1s made the practical adjustments, without changing the ultimate trajectory. And the Ds stepped in to make things all the messier for everyone else, treating foreign policy like some kind of chess game played on six overlapping boards at varying angles with nine sets of pieces, and patting themselves on the back for being so smart to see how reality is so complex. (I’m intently reading about a team of two neurotic Ds right now. What torture! More on that in Part 6.) Lyndon Johnson was the second M1 to inherit a mess created by an M2 predecessor. JFK had almost blown up the world, and then, as part of his penance no doubt, surreptitiously sent more and more Americans to Vietnam to die for others. With Vietnam getting messy, M1 Johnson positioned himself to be the necessary integrator of the campaign. Not wanting to fight an I war — because no one in their right mind could justify sending American troops to Vietnam from a perspective of rational self-defense — Johnson would have to dispense with the constitutional mechanisms that were set by I thinkers to try to impose and I mode of conduct on future generations. By the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964, Johnson was able to bypass Congress, and take control of the war he intended to fight against communist barbarism, like a modern-day Marcus Aurelius confronting the Parthians and Germans at the far reaches of his overextended empire. The most telling quote from Johnson about Vietnam, was his apocalyptic expectation: “If we allow Vietnam to fall, tomorrow we’ll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week in San Francisco.“ Is it possible or necessary to read a mode into this? I think it’s not only possible, but instructive. The whole point of taking a DIM view of the world is to see if you can detect how someone’s mode conditions their conclusions, choices and actions. Why did Johnson believe that America would be surrounded by commies and under siege in no time, if the hole in ground called Vietnam would succumb to the insanity of Leninism with Vietnamese characteristics? M1s, like M2s, believe in a higher dimension and a lower dimension. This world, the lower one, is the world that Plato’s demiurge could not make right. It is flawed. It is the domain of evil. Ms all accept what Ayn Rand called the “malevolent universe premise” in some form or another. It’s a metaphysical baseline for them. This is this premise that fueled the paranoia of a communist takeover of the world, even though the prospect of such a takeover and the danger it represented would have been laughable, especially if had America had a policy of rational self-interest. I sometimes wonder how history could have gone differently. What if America had allowed the Russians to move on the Middle East, for instance Iran, while explaining to the world: “America has standards. We are not a foreign policy slut. We don’t save just anyone. You wanna have your Islamic way of life? Fine. We won’t stop you. But we ain’t lifting a finger for you either. Oh, you want to try Marxism, Latin America? Go ahead! We are benevolent enough to say: you need to learn that lesson for yourself. Just know this: if you so much as twitch the wrong way, Salvador Allende, we won’t waste our time with the CIA, we’ll bomb you into the Stone Age. The Americas are the most imminent sphere of our rights-protecting mandate of, by, and for Americans. We don’t like to lose sleep about our criminal neighbors. Got that? And just so you understand, watch this…,” a massive continual bombardment of the communist government in Cuba into rubble, followed the imposition of a republican constitution on Cuba, because commies 50 miles from Miami is simply not acceptable. When I think about Communism and Islamism locked in a massive clash of “civilizations,” with a rational America watching from afar, I weep to think of how wrongly things have gone. Life could be so much better. Most people can’t see it. They just see what’s in front of them and what history has fed them, but when you have a modoscopic lense attached to a historiscope, you can see the world as it could and ought to have been. Anyways, to dispense with what actually happened…Here are Johnson’s final, modally revealing, thoughts about Vietnam, as mis-integrated into the sum of his world view: “I knew from the start that I was bound to be crucified either way I moved. If I left the woman I really loved–the Great Society–in order to get involved in that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs…. But if I left that war and let the Communists take over South Vietnam, then I would be seen as a coward and my nation would be seen as an appeaser and we would both find it impossible to accomplish anything for anybody anywhere on the entire globe.” Never has there been a more eloquent statement of the tortured M1 soul caught between two worlds. So M had its day. From 1945 to 69, continually. It would resurface again here and there, but its bankruptcy was revealed by Vietnam — a debacle that proved to be a trigger for a modal coup by D. Perhaps coup is not the right concept. The truth is D had been lying in wait ever since Teddy Roosevelt. One thing that interests me is the idea that I fell to M, but it fell BECAUSE of D. Once we’re done with the story of foreign policy from Truman to the present, we’ll go back to the story of the fall of I and see how that went. I don’t yet have an HD picture of it in my mind, other than I am sure that Teddy is the most evil son of a bitch in the history of the American presidency–yes, even more evil than the one you’re thinking of. Evil — because like Kant himself, the anti-Aristotle, he seduced unsuspecting, modally ill-equipped, philosophically light-weight Is to the dark side by complexifying the entire conceptual manifold of foreign affairs to the point where only an Ayn Rand-like president will ever really be able to clean up the mess he made. I don’t think that will ever happen. I am on record as saying that M2 will almost certainly win, and that either you or your children will live in a totalitarian America, or you will have had the foresight to get out. Probably Epicurus masquerading as Ayn Rand will keep you where you are. Plus, the normalcy bias is a powerful force limiting those who can’t take ownership of history for themselves. On the other hand, maybe a pat down by a TSA VIPR team as you get off the subway tomorrow on the way to work will convince to start making objective preparations for the future. Actually, I’m thinking of designing a course on the theme of “objective preparation,” but before you get all excited about that prospect, keep in mind that the hierarchical foundations of such a course, and thus your ability to take full advantage of it will depend on whether or not you have integrated what is presented in “History is Dead. Long Live History!” (Have you registered yet?) In the mean time, on with the story… Link to Original
  7. “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Let the nations of the world know that America’s pure idealism is back. Let the world know that America is committed once again to a war of abstractions, for abstractions, and on abstractions: “a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” With his inaugural address of 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the return of M2 — at least for three years. Kennedy’s inaugural address, sometimes referred to as the “Kennedy Doctrine,” begins with a religious interpretation of America’s founding — generally a good clue with regard to mode. America’s legacy, he says, is “the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” The purpose of this intepretation for Kennedy goes beyond the merely religious. It is modal. Kennedy wishes to elevate the concept of individual rights to a “higher” status. He wishes to characterize the fights for rights as akin to carrying a torch, and making a commitment to all the peoples of the world. This ideal encompasses every person in every country. Allies, newly “free” countries, destitute hut dwellers — and enemies. Altruism, though potentially derived from any non-I mode of thought, has the most idealistic fervor in M2. “…we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT. DO THE RIGHT THING. BE MORAL. SERVE MANKIND…especially the poor. As a foreign policy? For a charismatic M2 president, yes. This is something to note. JFK was spellbinding man. He captured people’s hearts (first) and minds. Such leaders inspire people to sacrifice themselves. They allow the people to feel a sense of hope that their society embodies values, and that life is not just about the “bottom line.” The M2 mode is crucial to this appeal. The M2 thinker uses ideas as disembodied forms — higher ideals. The kinds of ideals that the housewife and hoover salesman know they don’t understand, but feel — with the help of years of religious education — are true and good. The M2 mode can make a president into a high priest. A high priest within the new institutionalized international relations equivalent of the Catholic church: the United Nations, which Kennedy calls “our last best hope.” That the League of Nations, its predecessor was completely ineffectual, does not for a moment factor in his thinking. To modern M2 observers, likewise, the complete inefficacy of the UN in any setting whatsoever to do anything meaningful to stop wars and genocide doesn’t phase them either. The UN is hope. Why? Because it is the very embodiment of M2 internationalism. Hope is not a worldly induction to the M2 thinker. It doesn’t derive from a study of history, in particular the story of man’s progress. It is a dream. An ethereal form to which the soul ascends, transcending the mire of “real life.” Internationalism is by its nature M2. It has been hijacked and mauled by D in recent times. But the essence of internationalism is the belief that “open covenants, openly arrived at” can somehow transcend the realities of history and culture. An internationalist looks at a communist dictatorship and says: “they love their children too.” Can’t we all just talk? If we can just talk, we can sort it out! Because in the end, we are all on the same “quest for peace.” History does not support such a view. Communists do not want peace. In fact, one of the metaphysical foundations of their ideology, common to Lycurgus of Sparta, Karl Marx, and Chairman Mao, is that life is war. Not should be, or sometimes is, or unfortunately involves…but IS. Life is war. Conflict is the essence of human existence. This was why the Spartans were a permanently militaristic society. This is why Mao was so taken by Leninism as an anti-imperial antidote to China’s subordination by the West. The belief that all people want peace is idealism of the “highest” order. Only such an idealism could lead a president to appeal to the Soviets, the petty dictators, and academic Marxists everywhere, “ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” What was such an idealist to do about Cuba, and the danger of the spread of Communism to other parts of Latin America? As an internationalist, his first recourse, was to call for an “alliance for progress.” “Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas.” Eisenhower, however, had set in motion an M1 plan to remove Fidel Castro in Cuba. The CIA — an essentially M1 apparatus required to do the dirty work in the this-worldly mess created by Truman’s otherworldly Doctrine — had devised a plan to overthrow Castro. M2 idealism was nicely embedded in the plan, virtually insuring its failure. The goal was to achieve the overthrow with a minimum of violence, permitting the Cuban people themselves to take over the reigns of their government. Self-determination was the aim. Kennedy liked the various features of the Bay of Pigs plan. The invasion would be discrete, deniable, and, if successful, a coup for idealism that would catapult America into the role of big sister tutoring Cuba and the rest of Latin America to keep them from accepting communism. The debacle that followed is fascinating to watch through a modoscope. It includes the appropriate penance of the idealist for having been seduced by M1. “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan … Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I’m the responsible officer of the Government …” And it includes the anger of an M2 idealist directed towards his M1 minions for the failure to realize ideals. Kennedy declared that we wanted to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” The military, he declared, should never be trusted. The modal paroxysm that followed almost destroyed the world. The Soviets, emboldened by the perceived weakness of a Kennedy-led America, began staging the deployment of nuclear armaments in Cuba. They didn’t want peace; they wanted mutually assured destruction. They wanted Americans to live in fear, like they did. And they were willing to push the world to the brink of war. Accounts of the Cuban Missile Crisis have lionized Kennedy. The movie “Thirteen Days” portrays the great idealist fighting his own military establishment to save the world, and presents his removal of American missiles from various sites in Europe as a triumph of appeasement. That a communist dictatorship became unshakably entrenched in Cuba, and that all of Latin America then had to be subjected to military dictatorships in order to contain communism there, is something that non-integrators would prefer to ignore. Truman’s M2 idealism set America’s Cold War trajectory. Unlike a policy of rational self-defense, it commanded a kind of idealistic crusade to push the confrontation with the Soviet Union in such a way that its leaders felt cornered. After the lull of Eisenhower’s M1, Kennedy’s M2 idealism almost brought about the logical outcome of Truman’s crusade: nuclear Armageddon. M2 was rightly banished from foreign policy as a result. Until Jimmy Carter, of course. But that M2 disaster only came after Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. Enough of the damage caused by M2 was mitigated during the intervening period to mitigate the impact of the disastrous character of Carter’s foreign policy. But the intervening period also contained a destroyer. A man who, along with Theodore Roosevelt (and probably FDR — I’m not sure yet) is most responsible for turning America’s foreign policy to D. Who was the destroyer? I’ll give you a clue. He wasn’t a president. Link to Original
  8. So how do you apply an otherworldly foreign policy in this world? How do you take the great ideal of “world peace” and bring it down to earth? Easy: worldly supernaturalism, or what Leonard Peikoff calls “M1.” Once you have a mis-integrating umbrella concept that purports to apply everywhere at all times, and you try to apply it, its true contextual applicability becomes your great challenge. You inevitably find yourself trying to act in reality according to concepts that weren’t derived from reality, and you eventually come to a conceptual juncture: either dismiss reality, and become a cynic, or work to modify the abstractions in some measure to make them more useful. Now, countries and cultures can maintain their allegiance to a mis-integrating thesis for a long time. As Leonard Peikoff discusses in the DIM Hypothesis, modes are resilient mental frameworks. They don’t have built in self-destruct buttons. Quite the contrary. They have sophisticated defense mechanisms within them to insulate them from negative outcomes by explaining them away, evading them, or metaphysically downgrading them. Modes are “anti-fragile.” A good example of this is the calamity of the Crusades, a medieval M2 endeavor. (In my view, the Dark Ages were primarily non-modal, or what I call “U”–un-integrated. The people of this time were little more than brutes. But by the time 1095 rolled around the M2 mode had a significant hold on European culture, as illustrated by the modally laden conflict between popes and “holy Roman emperors,” which grew — as phenomena guided by human integration do — to encompass the relationship between popes and French kings, and popes and English kings…the church and the state in general.) Whether the Crusades went well or badly, the premise “God Wills It!” did not crack. If Christians won, He willed it. If Christians lost, He willed that too! There was certainly enough sin for the Church to point to, to shame people into maintaining modal compliance. The scale of a calamity, as long as it isn’t apocalyptic, does not upset an anti-fragile system. A calamity is only a trigger for modal change, when there are powerful advocates of a new mode ready to take advantage of it. In Europe, I think that only came about with the French Revolution, but — amazingly — in the DIM Hypothesis, Peikoff doesn’t have anything to say about this arguably most important event in human history! (Yes, the American Revolution is more important, as a positive step, but the French Revolution is much more influential on world culture. Was the Revolution D before its time? It certainly resulted in the dis-integration of many heads from their bodies! In my mind, it’s possible it was still M2. That’s one I really need to dig into. I suspect it was mixed, M1 — I don’t have an immediate answer to the question: Was Jean-Jacques Rousseau M2, M1, or D before Kant!? Anybody?) Regardless, my point is that M2 is built to last. Which is part of what fascinates me about the fact that Truman Doctrine M2 immediately became Eisenhower Doctrine M1 in American foreign policy. Just like that. A snap of the fingers! M2 out. M1 in. The significance of the switch is something we’ll have to pursue at another juncture. Let me for the moment simply illustrate why Eisenhower was an M1 thinker… The text I’m using to base this judgment is found here: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=11007&st=&st1= The first indication comes early: “There are worldwide hopes which we can reasonably entertain, and there are worldwide responsibilities which we must carry to make certain that freedom–including our own–may be secure.” Worldwide hopes — abstractions. Worldwide responsibilities — the application of abstractions to this world. Another clue: “There is…a special situation in the Middle East which I feel I should, even now, lay before you.” Broad mis-integrating ideals are not much use by themselves. As a this-worldly user of ideas, Eisenhower found it helpful to reduce the scope of their application. Truman went from the particulars to the abstract. Eisenhower announces that we will be coming back down to Earth. Of course, M1 respects M2, so Eisenhower bows to Truman’s ideals. “Before doing so it is well to remind ourselves that our basic national objective in international affairs remains peace–a world peace based on justice. Such a peace must include all areas, all peoples of the world if it is to be enduring. There is no nation, great or small, with which we would refuse to negotiate, in mutual good faith, with patience and in the determination to secure a better understanding between us.” But M1 does not cowtow. It is its own mode. “…until a degree of success crowns our efforts that will assure to all nations peaceful existence, we must, in the interests of peace itself, remain vigilant, alert and strong.” This world matters too. You need to carry a big stick! Aiming to the support of the self-determination of Middle East nations (the ideal) AND to the containment of Soviet aggression (the harsh reality) how should America proceed? “Our thoughts naturally turn to the United Nations as a protector of small nations.” The ideal again. “The United Nations can always be helpful, but it cannot be a wholly dependable protector of freedom when the ambitions of the Soviet Union are involved.” Reality again. “…The action which I propose would have the following features…. It would, first of all, authorize the United States to cooperate with and assist any nation or group of nations in the general area of the Middle East in the development of economic strength dedicated to the maintenance of national independence. It would, in the second place, authorize the Executive to undertake in the same region programs of military assistance and cooperation with any nation or group of nations which desires such aid. It would, in the third place, authorize such assistance and cooperation to include the employment of the armed forces of the United States to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations, requesting such aid, against overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by International Communism. These measures would have to be consonant with the treaty obligations of the United States, including the Charter of the United Nations and with any action or recommendations of the United Nations. They would also, if armed attack occurs, be subject to the overriding authority of the United Nations Security Council in accordance with the Charter.” The worldly supernaturalist Eisenhower contending with an M2 foreign policy handed down to him could do only what a worldly supernaturalist was by nature inclined to do. He began working out how the lofty abstractions of his predecessor could be applied to reality, alternating between more idealistic statements and pragmatic considerations, tilting one way and the other, as per his own M1 formula. The Mossadegh crisis of 1953 and the Suez Canal crisis of 1956 demonstrate this M1 mode in action quite clearly. When Mossadegh threatened Western oil access, Eisenhower calculated that the threat of communism trumped the ideal of Iranian self-determination. Mossadegh was neutralized by the CIA. However, when France, Britain, and Israel threatened to “destabilize” the Middle East by taking over the Suez Canal, Eisenhower could see a way to be a supernaturalist and a realist at the same time. If Egypt was allowed to control its own destiny with Nasser at the helm, then Egypt would be appeased into staying out of the Soviet sphere. Eisenhower came down hard on his own allies, alienating them quiet significantly, but (arguably) achieving his regional aim. The situation in Asia is also amenable to modal analysis. What should one do about China? Self-determination would required a “hands off” policy. The rise of Mao, a radical intervention. China’s sheer mass carried the day. But Korea was not going to be handed over. Self-determining South Koreans were going to get American help, if they didn’t want to become communist. Of course, not to the point of actually saving all of Korea. The harsh reality of Chinese and Soviet interest there would have to lead to a compromise between ideals and circumstances at the 38th parallel. M1 was adaptable to both cases, and a modal understanding of Eisenhower is highly instructive in interpreting what to many people have been inconsistencies in his conduct. He was, in fact, not inconsistent. He was true to his mode in word and in deed. Thus in rapid succession Truman committed America to M2, and, in light of the challenging realities inherent in the foreign policy sphere, Eisenhower tilted America’s mission to M1. What came next is quite interesting. Any guesses? Link to Original
  9. So we begin our DIM history of foreign policy with the Truman Doctrine. Not the latest statement of foreign policy to be sure, but close enough to the present to still be highly relevant. And a clear exemplar of a DIM mode. Of course, the question is: which one? “The United States has received from the Greek Government an urgent appeal for financial and economic assistance,” which assistance is imperative for the survival of Greece as a free nation, Truman says, beginning his famous appeal. A fact is thereby submitted for consideration in American foreign policy thinking. What does one do with such facts? Does one begin to integrate a particular case into a framework of national security, in order to understand its implications in relation to American self-interest? That certainly would be an “I” approach. However, after elaborating upon the details of the case, Truman turns to HIS thesis, which asserts another standard: the lofty abstraction of “self-determination.” “Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.” Why must the US provide that assistance? Because others cannot, says Truman. Yes, but why does Greece’s situation demand American action? Does the fact that others cannot act constitute an obligation for America? Isn’t the question one of how the problem relates to American national security or to crucial related values, such as the need to support a genuine ally? Is Greece even such an ally? Sensing that such a mode of thinking might assert itself in a polemical response to his message, Truman works to redirect his audience to a different approach. The Greek government is imperfect, he acknowledges, but imperfection is not a practical problem; it is a moral problem reflecting our human predicament in the material world; it must be met by tolerance. Looking for clear answers with regard to people and nations is a failure to accept the truth of our flawed earthly existence. Not wanting to linger too long at this uncomfortable juncture, Truman quickly switches to Turkey, whose case he intends to ally to the Greek case, as a neighboring country whose “independent and economically sound state is clearly no less important to the freedom-loving peoples of the world than the future of Greece.” Important to whom? To the “freedom loving peoples of the world,” says Truman, Does that even really include the Turks? Important for what? Isn’t the real issue the containment of the Soviets by preventing them from having easy access to the Mediterranean? The significance of Turkey to the world certainly could not be considered self-evident–unless one treats abstractions like “self-determination” as disconnected from reality–possessing a clarity akin to self-evidency qua abstractions, which one can embrace with a logical purity that is only possible with abstractions unfettered by practical considerations. Evidently, Truman thinks this way. No justification of abstractions is needed. Abstractions are his justification. Based on the abstract standard of “self-determination,” he may simply assert: “Turkey now needs our support.” To anyone not accustomed to such a mode of thinking, Truman must, however, explain how the two cases of Greece & Turkey are united under one abstract heading. To anyone uninitiated in the ways of an otherworldly mode of thinking, Greece & Turkey likely still appear as two separate existents–not units under a concept. Truman’s first stage of elucidation consists of asserting that Turkey “is essential to the preservation of order in the Middle East.” Now grounded minds can begin to climb towards the light. The justification for aid to a single country is not to be understood as merely a compartmentalized single case. It is an instance of broader policy, which is the stabilization of a region. So the less abstract goal of Turkish stability is integrated to the more abstract goal of regional stability. “I am fully aware of the broad implications involved if the United States extends assistance to Greece and Turkey, and I shall discuss these implications with you at this time.” “Broad implications,” of course, signify the wider meaning of a particular case — its connection to a context, into which the mind expects it to be integrated. “One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion…” So the abstract framework of a Greece and Turkey policy is not merely regional stability, but the even more abstract aim of “self-determination” for all. If one can climb from the particulars up through the hierarchy of abstractions to this higher truth, one can see why helping others is the right thing to do, thinks Truman. Of course, ideals do not realize themselves. In this world, we must be “willing to help free peoples” determine their own fate. Supporting the formation of the United Nations is one way, he believes, but that kind of idealism cannot always produce practical results in the resistant framework that is the this-worldly international system. Greece and Turkey need down-to-earth, gritty, material help. Why should we help them? Because we support self-determination. Why do we do that? Because aggressors who harm self-determination thereby undermine “international peace,” which is the broadest, most abstract objective. And that hurts the security of the United States too. Does it? To conduct a careful analysis of this assertion would prove quite challenging. For instance, the aggression of France against Mexico in the 1860s, which was neighboring the United States, did not really threaten American national security–even when the US was in the middle of its own Civil War! The truth is that France was overextended, and Mexico was inwardly focused. The war between Britain and Napoleon in 1812, by contrast, did involve threats to the rights of Americans. That would be a good counterexample. What about the British aggression against Afghanistan in 1839-42, or the parallel aggression of Britain against China in the First Opium War. These do not seem to have hurt America any. Don’t we need to look at the broader context to make a determination about whether or not American interests are indeed involved in any particular act of aggression, where the context would include who the aggressor is, against whom they are acting, and why? A distant perturbation of the international order is not by itself a threat to America. The Founders for their part were inclined to use a straightforward geographical line of demarcation in thinking about these things. They said that the Americas were our key security sphere. But even that was a generality, to be applied contextually. Did anyone in America lose sleep over the Brazil-Paraguay War? One might concede the possibility of a distant conflict having a national security implication for America, but one certainly could not assume it, just because “international peace” is disturbed. Of course, this kind of analysis — a welding of facts in their context, within a framework of thought dictated by a true national security standard — was not on Truman’s mind. The truth is Truman merely mentioned national security, because he had to. Not that he was against America, unlike a certain president one can think of. He just didn’t view it as an abstract primary. Of course, you can’t make a foreign policy statement on this Earth without some token statement of self-interest. But with the brief mention of America’s self-interest disposed of, Truman moves to his true purpose. “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.” Self-determination again. Truman’s true guiding star. The issue of Greece’s self-determination connects to the issue of Turkey’s self-determination, connects to the challenge of “disorder… throughout the Middle East”–and the demoralizing effect such problems would yield in Europe as well! Ever the integrator, Truman seeks to show how his vision subsumes as wide a sphere of impact as possible. “Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East.” As Truman concludes: “The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world — and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation.” Applying a modoscope to this restatement, we see the precise form of integration Truman proposes. The particular case must be understood by reference to an abstraction: self-determination, which itself is but a component abstraction of the broader, purer ideal of “the peace of the world” from which sublime height of consideration we descend to observe even America’s own welfare subsumed and given new meaning. Not merely a welfare defined by a crass “selfish” calculation. A welfare that derives from a high ideal of “world peace,” as the glowing “form of the good” illuminating the welfare of all, commanding the enlightened sacrifice of Americans to the needs of others. The Truman Doctrine. An American M2 foreign policy. Not the first, mind you. And, if Leonard Peikoff is right, not the last. Link to Original
  10. In his book, The DIM Hypothesis, philosopher-historian Leonard Peikoff states that America has essentially embodied two modes in its cultural history. America started as an “I” (Integrated) culture, as embodied by the Aristotelian-Newtonian outlook of the Founding Fathers. Then, over some period not explicitly defined by Peikoff, in a development he did not deem it necessary to elaborate upon, it gradually shifted from its “I” mode into the “D” (Dis-integrated) mode unleashed by Immanual Kant upon the world, and embodied in the thinking of American philosophers John Dewey and William James, among others. From a DIM Perspective, Peikoff seems to be saying, the key is thus the “big picture” that shows that America was “I” and then switched to “D.” And, drawing upon his analysis of modal transitions and the evolving state of American culture, he now anticipates a shift to M2–the crucial aspect of which will be religious totalitarianism in politics. Although my own professional studies of history corroborate Peikoff’s overall analysis, and I thus do anticipate the daunting outcome of religious fascism in America, I have been drawn into a more intensive analysis of cultural modes, in American history in particular, in order to map with a greater precision what modes have been active in American culture over time, how they have interacted, and what the consequences are for us here and now, as our “culture war” unfolds, and those of us who are willing and able try to defend and promote the “I” mode. As I undertook my analysis, it became evident that modes exist in a continual interrelated flux. That is to say: every available mode is always accepted and promoted by some group in society at all times. Since the rise of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy, that has meant that every Western culture has been an admixture of “I” (Aristotelian), “M2″ (Platonic or Marxist), “M1″ (Cartesian), “D2″ (Kantian) and “D1″ (Utilitarian) modes of thought, with each mode at times ascendant in certain areas, dominating particular institutions, with its practitioners attempting to reclaim overall primacy. Among the many questions this raises in my mind is: How does the advocacy of a mode in a particular area by a certain proponent interact with its complex modal milieu in “parallel” (as it impacts other institutions), and in “series” as it shapes the trajectory of that particular domain, and in the aggregate in shaping the overall modal trajectory of a culture? This personally matters to me a great deal, as an “I” advocate in history and education. One thing I would like to know is: how much of an impact can I have? And how? And what obstacles will I face? How does one mode penetrate and defeat another in any specific domain, such as mine? As I watch advocates of reason try to defend “I” positions in a variety of areas, such as freedom of choice in medicine, fair taxation, deregulation, and the return to a gold standard, I am struck by how generally ineffective “I” advocates seem to be at present. Something is missing. A pro-I modal revolution is certainly not as simple as making more copies of Atlas Shrugged available, nor even training more philosophy students for academia. And I am highly skeptical of the overall value of the efforts of most “I” activists operating in separate cultural compartments. I want to know what the formula for a modal takeover is, and I want to help “I” win by finding out how to apply the formula and providing that insight as a transfusion to fellow “I” intellectuals and activists. It’s a huge quest, to be sure. But I am also sure that if “I” intellectuals like me don’t take DIM seriously, we will lose. So where to begin? I am inclined to begin with what I know best, and to branch out from there. Having just completed a “History of American Government” with my very advanced high school students, I decided that that seemed like the best place. (The course, by the way, is the best course I have ever given, and it is available in both MP3 audio and MP4 video screencast formats as podcast recordings. If you’re interested in understanding the trajectory of American Government, I honestly believe there is no better analysis available.) Turning my attention there, I decided to apply my “modoscope” to the foreign policy of American presidents, to see if I could detect the modes involved. I was ecstatic to see that not only were the modes visible, they were glaringly obvious! They leaped out of the text! Thus I decided this would indeed be a productive avenue for exploring DIM. In the first segment of the series, I am going to begin with the Truman Doctrine. It is an easy one! Here is a link to the exact speech Harry Truman gave. I invite you to read it and see if you can detect the mode. My analysis should follow in a matter of days, so stay tuned! I hope you’ll enjoy this series as much as I’m enjoying producing it. Link to Original
  11. Everyone knows Detroit has long been the “sick man” of American cities. What you don’t want to do with the story of Detroit’s bankruptcy, however, is dismiss it, just because you don’t live there. A couple years ago financial analyst Meredith Whitney made waves in a 60 minutes interview where she predicted hundreds of municipal bond defaults. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hI-rIGyLri4) Whitney fell into a classic trap, which I myself have fallen into, of failing to appreciate just how corrupt government has become, and just how sophisticated the financial system is at accounting fraud, especially when governments need to keep the truth from the public, and she spoke too soon, which has allowed a lot of people to dismiss her views. When you fall into the trap of thinking that the world is a rational place, and that investors will somehow aggressively force markets to “mark to market” the reality of any particular situation, you just are not factoring in the deeply rooted corruption in the alliance of government and the financial system. Eisenhower warned us of the military-industrial complex. He didn’t see the much more insidious financial-espionage complex coming, but that’s the real story. The municipal bond market has yet to blow up, but this is not good news. It just means that the financial system, which is married to government, is masking the truth. They are, as many commentators like to say “kicking the can down the road.” It has become the essence of the profession, and they are really good at it. But eventually, the truth will out. To understand what this means for you, as the Greater Depression picks up steam, you need to look at your local government. Now. Detroit is front page news, and it’s going to be messy. Watch that from afar. But if you are in California, go visit Stockton. If your in Pennsylvania, dig into the Harrisburg story. Get a sense for what this picture looks like. It will be widespread before long. It will be a bumpy ride. And to be sure, there will be many efforts to have states bail out municipalities, and to have the federal government bail out everyone else. But the process won’t be smooth, and you don’t want to be in any of the hot spots, no matter what. Whitney is sticking with her call, and says it will be “one of the biggest issues over the next five years.” ( ) Of course, I disagree with her that education shouldn’t get cut. Public education should be abolished. THAT would actually spur America’s recovery. What I agree with Whitney about in particular is that some places in the US will actually do well– possibly, I anticipate, through the entire Greater Depression. Texas is one state-sized possibility. If you are in a position to move, you should be proactive about it. California is a fiscal wasteland. Taxes there will rise and rise and rise, not to mention the calamity which will be Obamacare. Get out while you can, especially with housing prices levitating again. Illinois, of course, is a mess too. One of the phenomena that will characterize the Greater Depression is huge internal migrations within the United States, which will at once severely exacerbate the fiscal position of states like California, if not lead to their outright collapse, while at the same time benefiting states like Texas. One what end of that equation do you want to be? There is sometimes a huge advantage to being an “early adopter” in a trend. In this case, there definitely is. Keep this in mind, as a personal strategy for coping with the changes coming to America. It could make the difference for you and your family. Link to Original
  12. American freedom is dying. The defenders of freedom are losing. It is hard not to take a dim view of the world. However, that is exactly what we must do; but not a “dim” view—a DIM view. In The DIM Hypothesis philosopher-historian Leonard Peikoff has provided an inestimably valuable guide to cultural history as a guide to life in America today, including a daunting prediction about the near term prospects for America. “Religious totalitarianism in America—that is my prediction,” writes Peikoff. Twenty years ago almost no one could have taken such a thesis seriously. America had overcome the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The “free world” was victorious! The exciting potential of the nascent computing industry to unleash a new era of productivity was becoming apparent. We seemed to be entering into an era of peace and prosperity. Any doomsayer then, no matter how erudite, would have been laughed at or ignored. Today there is little to laugh about, and we can’t afford to ignore Peikoff’s warning. We don’t have peace. The unfinished Gulf War and America’s refusal to confront the true state sponsors of terrorism led to 9-11 and the “War on Terror,” which spawned the Patriot Act, TSA groping and NSA snooping. And we don’t have prosperity. The Dot-com bubble was followed by the housing bubble, which spawned the financial crisis, the so-called “jobless recovery” and the long emergency of the world’s central banks flooding the world with digital fiat, and governments everywhere implementing austerity measures, “bail-outs” and “bail-ins.” You don’t have to be one of nearly fifty million Americans on food stamps to pierce the fog of modern journalism and sense that the Greater Depression is just getting started. When someone predicts “doom” today, we can’t dismiss them. Instead, we find ourselves asking: how much worse can it get?! Religious totalitarianism, says Peikoff. Is it true? Those who have undertaken to study Peikoff’s book know that, despite every effort by the author to render the thesis accessible through the most painstaking essentialization, the end result is so vast an integration that it is almost impossible to follow. The prediction is clear enough, but the basis for that prediction is so elaborate that when one tries to trace its logic, one becomes hopelessly entangled in a plethora of historical abstraction. Peikoff himself anticipates this difficulty. He warns that The DIM Hypothesis covers five different “modes” in four different cultural areas during six different Western periods, using a method based on Objectivism, and especially Objectivist epistemology. To truly grasp the thesis thus means that the reader must be capable of shuttling back and forth between and interconnecting in his mind the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and Immanuel Kant, along with the lesser thinkers who intermixed their approaches—the literary, scientific, educational, and political products of the cultural creators of the various eras whose work reflected the “modes” of thought the philosophers taught—through the various phases of Western history which succeed each other from ancient Greece through to modern America, while applying as a psycho-epistemological “given” the method of Ayn Rand’s thought. Nobody—except Leonard Peikoff himself, I suspect—can actually do that! As a professional historian and student of Objectivism for some twenty years, I can’t quite do it. The difference, I suspect, between me and other DIM readers, is that I know with a high degree of precision where the exact bounds of my understanding are and what to do about it. DIM does not make me feel like Socrates–thinking that I know only that I know nothing!–but more like we’ve all felt when reading Ayn Rand’s fiction. It inspires me to reach for the mountaintop that has become so much more clearly visible to me now. I do know history inside out, so that’s a start. I can shuttle back and forth between the Peloponnesian War and the “War on Terror.” I can talk about Themistocles and Teddy Roosevelt (and Barack Obama, if I have to) in the same sentence. (Teddy started the “D” mode in foreign policy, by the way. More on that in a follow-up series available on this blog.) I do know, with equal ease, what was going on in 776 BC and 1776 AD. (So when Leonard Peikoff encounters a serious challenge in type-casting the Renaissance in a DIM framework, I actually know why. In fact, possibly better than he does! The problem lies in an as of yet unknown sub-domain of applied epistemology called “abstract particulars,” of which the specific problem of historical periodization is but one instance. The “Renaissance” as a cultural period, is not equivalent to any of the other periods Peikoff would have us survey, which is basically why it does not exhibit a consistent “mode.” “The Renaissance,” proposed in a preliminary way as a hopeful interpretation of cultural history by modern historians, is in fact an exceptionally abstract integration that I designate, borrowing from a formulation of Ayn Rand’s, as a “periodization from periodizations.” Importantly, this does not invalidate The DIM Hypothesis, in my mind. But it does mean that it still needs work, by someone.) I has been a torturous process to reach this level of historical literacy. Along the way, it has become one of my professional aims to try to understand why history in general has been so inaccessible to modern students, and to correct the problem. I believe I have solved the puzzle of history’s disintegration, and I will try to help readers understand it in further blog posts by means of a DIM history of history. But, more importantly, in my forthcoming book “History is Dead. Long Live History!”—the first chapter of which is now available as a PDF and podcast at: http://www.powellhistory.com/historyisdead — I believe I have provided the first dose of an antidote that can be applied on a cultural scale. If history can be made accessible and deployable, then The DIM Hypothesis can become a weapon of mass creation, and there is a chance that the course of modern cultural history can be reversed. In teaching the History At Our House program have seen how powerful an effect the proper study of history can have on the minds of young children. I also know how it has affected me. I still wonder just how much it could enhance the abilities of all of the advocates of reason and rights out there, if I could just help them wrap their minds around it. And I dream of the possibility of an America where millions of students are actually taught history properly. Perhaps, with this very blog post, a new and significant cultural process will have begun. Starting with History is Dead, a new generation of historically literate and historically-minded activists will arise, much more powerful than those of previous generations. Within the short span of this particular article, and in subsequent articles on history, education, and DIM theory, it is my hope to indicate, in some small way, what is at stake, and how pressing the problem is. We are running out of time. Freedom is waning at a frightening pace. It may not be long before the monitoring of every communication by every American becomes the modification of any communication. Why could an NSA, using a hive supercomputer not do that? Imagine the methods of digital disinformation that the government could conjure. Imagine the possibilities for digital entrapment. Leonard Peikoff has long warned that freedom of speech is the key issue in protecting a free society. Once we cannot communicate freely, the game is up. Since the Internet is near to being transformed from a mechanism of freedom into the ultimate weapon for control, a turn-key totalitarian state is almost available. Barack Obama may not intend to do it. Tracing the “ominous parallels” between America and Weimar Germany, I would say that he is more of a Gustav Stresemann than a Hitler. But Stresemann and Hitler were but a few short chancellorships (presidencies) apart, America. It’s not enough to think of America’s political tragjectory as a rear-guard action from presidential election to election. We don’t have the luxury of thinking in such a limited manner. We need to start thinking about our cultural path in a more integrated way, using history as a guide. For one, American nationalism, as German nationalism once was, is on the rise. American socialism is on the rise as well. The merger of the two has a historical name that should fill us with terror. How long will it be before Americans ask the government to relieve them of the “burden” of their freedom? How many already have already begged for that release? How many already would embrace the transformation of America into a selfless army, perhaps to rid the world of Islam? So what did you do today to stop the collapse of America? I’m not talking about the modern concept of community service. I’m not asking about “what you can do for your country.” I’m asking about what the other George did and would do. When George Washington dreamed of freedom, he didn’t retire to his country home in frustration because it was so hard to secure. As he retreated into Pennsylvania late in 1776, Washington wrote to his brother: “I think the game is pretty near up…You can form no idea of the perplexity of my situation. No man, I believe, ever had a greater choice of difficulties and less means to extricate himself from them.” And yet, extricate himself, he did. At this very moment, ours is an intellectual Battle of Trenton, and we can win it too. We must “cross the Delaware” and then we can go on to win the war for the hearts and minds of Americans, if we have the daring and the perseverance of a Washington. In upcoming posts in this blog, I will be undertaking to facilitate such a campaign. I hope you will enjoy and be empowered by these writings. I hope you will take full personal advantage of the possibilities they promise, or at least sponsor my work from afar by helping to make the History is Dead. Long Live History! course a success. (There are many attendance and sponsorship options at: http://powellhistory.com/historyisdead/?page_id=51 ) Please consider contributing, if not attending. As Patrick Henry said, “millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as we possess, are invincible by any force.” To overcome the odds we face, there is only one course for us to take. Please join me in this quest. Link to Original
  13. Philosopher Dr. Diana Hsieh recently interviewed me about “History is Dead, Long Live History” on her live internet radio show, Philosophy in Action. You can listen to or download the podcast any time. You’ll find the podcast on the episode’s archive page, as well as below. About the Interview: Why is knowledge of history important? How have historians failed to teach it? What’s the proper approach? How can adults educate themselves about history? Listen or Download: Duration: 1:01:14 Download: Standard MP3 File (21.0 MB) Topics: Diana’s experience with “A First History for Adults” What history could and should be History as practiced in ancient Greece: Herodotus and Thucydides History as practiced in the Enlightenment, including the American Founding History as practiced today, influenced by Ranke and Marx The cultural effect of the death of history: historical illiteracy The importance of selectivity The danger of storytelling in history The proper purpose of history Three Is: instruction inspiration, insight The relevance of the Great Depression to today Teaching history to children The goal of rehabilitating history for adults Methods of teaching and learning history: selectivity and integration “History is Dead, Long Live History” Links: Scott Powell’s web site Wikipedia: Leopold von Ranke The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories and The Landmark Thucydides: The Peloponnesian War Mike Maloney on YouTube Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff History is Dead, Long Live History Link to Original
  14. I wanted to let you all know that tonight I’ll be discussing the topic (and title of my forthcoming book) “History is dead. Long live history!” on the podcast radio show “Philosophy in Action.” Immediately, many of you will no doubt be turned off the idea of listening to the show, since the show’s host Diana Hsieh is notorious for having stirred up various controversies in Objectivism. In my experience, “hell hath no fury” like an Objectivist hating an “objectivist” or “libertarian” or a “fan” of Ayn Rand. For the record, I am myself a big “O” Objectivist. I define Objectivism as “the philosophy of Ayn Rand,” and I take what I call a “strict constructionist” view of Objectivism. I also hold that Ayn Rand is worthy of being grouped with Plato, Aristotle, and Immanuel Kant in the “big four” of the history of philosophy, and that within this group she is immeasurably the clearest and most rational thinker — and that includes Aristotle (“the Philosopher”). Ayn Rand’s philosophy proper is one of my greatest values. Where Diana Hsieh stands on the various aspects of Objectivism, in her assessment of Leonard Peikoff or controversies surrounding him, or anything else for that matter, does not concern me. If I had a chance to be interviewed by Bill O’Reilly, or especially John Stewart, I would take it. Piers Morgan I could not stomach. He is pure evil. But Christiane Amanpour, sure! What I’m saying is this: My mission is to promote historical literacy. I consider this mission to be wider than Objectivism. Much to my dismay, I have been learning that historical illiteracy is not only widespread in the Objectivist community, but accepted, and that history is typically viewed with disdain by many intellectuals. I happen to be an Objectivist philosopher-historian. I do not think this is an aberration, however rare the breed is. I think it is a crucial, distinct philosophical category, and I’m proud to say that the only other practitioner of this art that I know of is: Leonard Peikoff. I also happen to be an educator. I am fundamentally interested in one question: how to make a historically-minded culture. From that perspective, interacting with every single segment of the population is crucial. I’m not interested in “preaching to the choir,” so to speak. I’m interested in communicating to the world. If you’d like to know why I think history is dead, what I mean by that, and why I think it is so important an issue that I have dedicated my life to it…then maybe you should tune in. It would not constitute a “sanction” of anything, other than your own quest for knowledge. This episode of internet radio airs at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Wednesday, 17 July 2013, in the live studio. If you miss that live broadcast, you can listen to the podcast later. Link to Original
  15. How’s your objectivity today? Let’s do a little check-up. If America continued to accumulate 1-1.5 Trillion deficits, and as “unfunded liabilities” accumulated, it went bankrupt in the next ten years, would that lead to positive changes, or negative ones, in America’s form of government and in the culture at large? Would it be an opportunity for a strong, articulate “balanced budget” or “constitutionalist” faction to sway political leaders towards genuine reform, and to make a public argument for a new better way of doing things? Or would it be a crisis that would lead to an entrenchment of the “aristocracy of pull” in a new, complex scheme, which the populace, numbed by a collaborationist disintegrated journalist profession would be unable to decipher, and thus succumb to? Or perhaps neither, something different? No matter. Take a few minutes, say just five minutes — you know, not long — to think about it, and justify your own answer to yourself. Preferably, write it down. Use a timer so as not to spend to long on it. (I did.) Then come back, and keep reading. (Don’t go on just yet. Take five minutes, and then come back.) …So what did you think/write? I’m not particularly interested in whether or not you take an optimistic, pessimistic, or neutral view. The outcome is not really the issue. What I would invite you to look at is the basis of your view, and especially the method you used to approach the question. …Here’s what my subconscious came back with, when I posed the question of myself: Is bankruptcy really possible? What happens when countries go bankrupt? When do countries go bankrupt, and how? What typically results? What are exceptions, if any? What explains the range and variety (assuming there is one) of outcomes, and what would be relevant to any such situation unfolding today? What would be the fundamental similarities between the current case and previous ones? What are aspects of the present context that might differentiate the present moment from previous ones? Then, my mind started to plot out a few initial answers: America is in a historically unprecedented position. It has the world’s reserve currency (that by itself is *not* unprecedented, there have been many cases of that, including imperial Spain and before the US, Great Britain) so that has to be a factor, when currency is combined with a geo-political reality that America is far more militarily powerful that the rest of the world combined. So if America experiences an economic crisis, an important question is: how do the economic variables interrelate with other variables, to shape the context in which Americans would respond to the crisis. Then my mind leaped to that external context, with other thoughts and questions: Japan will go bankrupt first. What effect will this have? What is China doing, and where is China going? We know they are accumulating gold reserves at a frantic pace. Can Russia and China really work together, when push comes to shove? Then: To the essential point: What is the state of American political culture? The DIM Hypothesis indicates either continued DIS-integration, or repudiation of the “D” framework, and an economic crisis as a “trigger” for M2 takeover. This is the heart of the question, because the issue is: how will *Americans* respond, i.e. by what method of thinking will they even approach the issues before them. I do not see any basis for an “I” method to have a significant place at the table. Even if there are some better elements in the mix, they will, at best, be undermined by modal inconsistencies. So that’s what I came up with in five minutes. As you know, if you’ve been reading my recent pieces, I take a negative view. But, when I put the question to my subconscious, the first thing that started to happen was that my subconscious responded with a series of relevant questions that it expects to bring to bear. That may seem strange. I asked my mind for answers, and it came back with questions. Not only questions, of course, it started to flow towards filling in the picture. -So the first thing that happened, was my (subconscious) mind insisted on clarifying what is involved, by signalling my conscious self that to answer such a question requires answering a host of related questions. Then it started to provide my conscious mind with a series of contextual issues to start setting up the context for a proper consideration of the outcome: world’s reserve currency, military power, Japan, China, DIM… That would have been just the start. I had to stop at five minutes. So what did your mind tell you? Did you immediately state the answer to yourself and start justifying it? Did you even have the guts to take this objectivity pop quiz, or were you afraid? Are you in a position of having to admit to yourself that you would not have a clue how to answer such a question? That, at least would be a sign of intellectual honesty. Although, I certainly would not call it objectivity, if you haven’t even bothered to define a view and a justification for it, given the obviously negative trends in society today. Your life is at stake. What do you spend your time thinking about?! If you did have a strong answer to the question I posed, let me ask you something else: did it include a factorization of: an awareness of America’s world’s reserve currency status, and what that means, and how that is evolving? a thought about military power and how it relates to economic questions, say in relation to how Britain, the world’s most recent superpower before America lost its reserve currency status to the US as it went bankrupt from the world wars? a thought about how the current debt crises in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Japan are unfolding both in sequence and in parallel to each other, and how central banks and the people are responding? a thought about China’s massive dollar holdings, and the nature of the US-China trade relationship? I know that none of these things directly relates to the question. But they form the context. The context of any particular issue is “the sum of cognitive items conditioning” it in your thinking–in this case, conditioning your personal outlook or prediction, i.e. a claim to knowledge. So how’s your context today? A rich pageantry of historical precedents and logically interconnected concretes culminating in a nice fully parametrized causal perspective on the world today and where it is going? Predicting the future of America is not a deduction from Objectivist principles. It’s an induction from historical examples, and a historical awareness of the present, philosophically integrated. So how’s your objectivity today? Isn’t it time you made historical literacy a part of your intellectual life? Of course, the question is: how? Answer: Stay tuned! Link to Original
  16. Hey, Scott, are you one of those “doom and gloomers”? Absolutely not. I’m not sure if I can relate this to anyone that does not know history, but I will try. Let’s start with philosophy first. Ayn Rand identified a psychological trait of individuals that she called a “sense of life.” This she defined specifically as a “pre-conceptual equivalent of a metaphysics.” The two main archetypes of this “sense,” she termed “benevolent” and “malevolent.” Here is one of her more elegant passages describing the “benevolent universe premise:” “There is a fundamental conviction which some people never acquire, some hold only in their youth, and a few hold to the end of their days-the conviction that ideas matter . . . . That ideas matter means that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one’s mind matters . . .” Notice that the benevolent universe premise does not mean “all is for the best, in this the best of all possible worlds.” Benevolence (as a metaphysical conviction) means that you believe in human efficacy in this world, you believe that the human mind is capable of understanding reality, and you live your life with an expectation that you can understand the world, and successfully make your way through it. I have always held this premise. That’s why I have a negative outlook today. How is that possible? How do I combine a positive metaphysics and a pessimism about history without contradiction? What does the “benevolent universe premise” have to say about the final destruction of Carthage by Rome? The Fall of the Roman Empire? The Crusades? The Spanish Inquisition? The “terror” of the French Revolution? The Maoist Cultural Revolution? The Nazi Holocaust? Or 9-11? Basically, nothing. The benevolent universe premise is not a means of cognition. It is an emotional stance. Still, negative events and periods in history can serve as psychologically significant metaphysical data, and for me they definitely do, including for instance the manner in which all the above negatives contribute to my grasp of the following truth about human nature: if and when human beings succumb to such profound evil, it is because they have forsaken their rational nature. Obviously, when Islamic fundamentalists flew planes into the World Trade Center, the irrationality of their beliefs was the fundamental driving factor. Obviously, when the Crusaders of Christendom cried out “God Wills It!” (i.e. God wills the mass murder of men by men) they were irrational. When man refuses to be man, he cannot possibly flourish. Are we there? Is that what I’m saying about America today? Not quite. There are so many wonderful things to say about America, still. But you know that the people who want George Zimmerman strung up care not for the truth. And you know that the 47.5 million Americans who expect government food stamps care not to live life as men (certainly insofar as they are what Ayn Rand called “moochers,” they refuse to practice the cardinal human virtue of productivity). And you know that every advance by government power into a realm it doesn’t belong is fundamentally driven by the same irrationality. No one in their right mind can look at free industries, such as computing, and regulated industries like banking, and conclude that more regulation is good — ever. And yet regulation grows unchecked. The health care industry is just the latest victim. There are powerful cultural forces driving history forward. And those forces are almost without fail unidirectional — in the wrong direction. Is that “doom and gloom”? As the French Revolution started to get out of control, would you have been among those to sling mud at Lafayette for leaving France? Would you have said he was a “doom and gloomer”? When Aristotle left Athens, saying “I will not allow the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy,” would you have mocked him? (He was referring of course, to the previous murder of Socrates by Athenian democracy.) Was Ayn Rand a “doom and gloomer” for writing Atlas Shrugged, which depicts the collapse of America? I must admit that I find the response of some people to historically contextual pessimism to be disappointing, verging on frightening. “Oh, you’re one of those,” someone might say. In other words: I can just dismiss what you’ve said, because your pessimistic, and that instantly discredits you. I can now safely tuck you away in that category in the back of my mind that includes those tin foil hat folks on TV. Such a person won’t bother to ask me what I think of the Athenian Golden Age, the Renaissance, the American Revolution, or the Industrial Revolution – the kinds of periods in history which inspire me, and which I celebrate with great passion with my students. All such a person wants is to deny that we are living through the obverse today. This kind of refusal to look at facts is precisely why I am pessimistic. Ayn Rand identified that too. It’s called evasion. And it is widespread. Even prominent Objectivist intellectuals succumb to it. I’ve had it strongly put to me that anyone who is pessimistic is “nuts.” I hope so. I hope that having studied all of human history, and integrated that sum into a unified whole of knowledge, complete with Objectivist epistemology and the DIM Hypothesis, that the whole thing has not actually helped me to understand the world, but rather, that it has made me “nuts.” If I’m “nuts,” then everything will be OK, I guess. Or maybe, somehow, magically, everyone will repent socialism and superstition when the economy grinds to a halt, because they’ll be thinking about the issues so clearly. Yeah, that’s where we’re headed! (It’s not impossible that there will be certain positive outcomes in certain delimited domains, but no one who understands what a dominant cultural “mode” is can possibly think that there will be a general, or even majoritarily positive trend in the culture any time soon.) I know I can’t reach everyone. It’s amazing how many of my clients will happily imbibe some of what I produce without ever wanting to know what makes that possible, as if it is some ineffable charismatic quality. My long and constant study of my fellow men, over all of history, and here and now, leads me to understand full well that I cannot reach very many people at all. That’s not me being malevolent. I know what it takes to understand history and what that understanding of history permits. On a regular basis I encounter people who don’t know history, and are somehow content to dismiss it, without knowing — and indeed, refusing to know. What can one do? Whatever one can. I will do my best to promote historical literacy to those who want it. That’s all I can do. In the coming weeks, I will be making every single one of my products available for free. Every course has a price, but every single one will also have a “free rider” option from now on. If you want to take advantage of it, go ahead. If you benefit from my work, and it helps you to bring the world around you into focus, then I’ll appreciate anything in return that you think justice enjoins — such as a post hoc full price donation. It’s on you to decide. I wish you all the best in understanding the world you live in. The harder you work at, the more positive the outcome will be for you. Don’t worry about being called a “doom and gloomer”. The antidote to that malevolence is simple: “Knowledge is power.” Link to Original
  17. Having taught history for over ten years now for students from age 6 to 66, I’ve reached a unique vantage point from which to observe and assess the culture. The news is not good, so I’ve decided to accelerate my efforts to help people prepare for the coming future.In order to achieve a synoptic view of the present-day, I’ve studied and taught Ancient, European, (North and Latin) American, Islamic, Indian, Japanese, and Chinese history to Objectivist adults via the “First History for Adults” program and homeschool students via History At Our House. The outcome of this study has been a keen appreciation of just where we stand in relation to multiple interrelated threads, most essentially: the trajectory of American government and the ongoing disintegration of the modern monetary system. This perspective recently received an injection of an incredibly vital insight through the amazing work of Leonard Peikoff in the DIM Hypothesis, which has served as a kind of capstone to my own understanding. Based on my entire career of historical research and understanding of Objectivism, I am ready to pronounce my agreement with the hypothesis: “RELIGIOUS TOTALITARIANISM in America — that is my prediction.”–Leonard Peikoff I think when most people read this line of the book, or hear about it, they think of it as something that might happen — at some point in the future — but that is is only a possible outcome which is not really connected to their lives and values now, and thus not really relevant to their immediate choices and actions. It’s something to think about later. Religious totalitarianism in, say, two generations — maybe? Plenty of time to enjoy whatever freedom we have left in the mean time then. Right? No. Sorry. Absolutely not. The key to avoiding this trap is to understand how history unfolds. A rationalist interpretation of DIM would be some kind of mental leap from where we are now to some distant Peikoff-defined M2 totalitarian cultural “mode” (as Peikoff calls it), without considering the path from one to the other. What we have to grasp to avoid that kind of dangerous interpretation is that an “M2″ totalitarian dictatorship will be outcome of a chain of historical events that we will be living through, and they won’t be pleasant. I anticipate, for instance, that an extended economic crisis, already underway since 2007, but entering into a new stage by the collapse of the Japanese (or Italian or French–pick any one of the bigger economies) economy this year, will generate a set — not a single one, but a set — of economic and geo-political triggers for modal change. (The truth is NOBODY can predict the specific path that any particular economy will follow, never mind the global economy, over the next few years, except to say, it will be volatile, and inevitably downhill. My guess is that Japan’s debt bomb goes off first, but better informed experts have been wrong about such things.) The response to the crisis — whatever specific form it takes — will be governed by the current “D1″ (modal) framework of thought in American (and other) governments — and it will fail. What this means is: governments will tighten controls on our lives piecemeal, as per capital controls, Smoot-Hawley type nationalist legislation (if not in America, certainly in France and elsewhere), and by printing hallucinating amounts of new fiat money to try to cover up what Austrian economics incontrovertibly tells us is an inevitable ongoing global deflation. There won’t be a grand theory behind it. “D1″s don’t work that way. Think about how the Obama administration has responded to the Egyptian “Revolution.” That is how it will respond to the end game of debt-based money. One has to be clear, however, that this will mean an accelerated loss of freedom — in small, digestible stages. The move from where we are now to full M2 dictatorship will involve little changes that people will be able to tolerate in isolation. Each step will be weighed in the moment only, and found tolerable in itself. Each step will condition those who acquiesce to it to be ready to accept the next one. Until they are living in a dictatorship. This has happened before. The most tragic example of this kind of “boiling frog” scenario was the lead up to the Holocaust. It is captured by a famous passage attributed to Pastor Niemoller about his own intellectual incapacity to deal with the history he was living through: First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me. The American story will go something like this… First they persecuted big businesses for their tax avoidance, and I didn’t speak out because I never avoided taxes Then they raided public pensions to pay municipal bonds and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t have a public pension Then they made cash transactions illegal above $1000. and I didn’t speak out because I liked using my debit card Then they started rounding up illegal immigrants, Mexicans and Arabs, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an illegal immigrant They they came for me… In the wake of the Boston bombing, Americans will get used to not carrying backpacks to public events. It will be prohibited, as for the recent Miami Heat victory parade. But it will seem sensible. We already know how to take off our shoes when we get on a plane. We don’t like it, but we do it, and we’re used to it now. It has become “normal.” After the next attack in some public setting, the TSA will start checking our bags as we board the subway. We won’t like it at first, but then it will become “normal,” along with highway checkpoints, which have been showing up for quite some time, and only conspiracy nuts are complaining about. Each step will be small. That’s how the D mode operates as a cultural conditioner, as it lays the groundwork for M2 dictatorship. And then, at some specifically unforeseen moment, it will be too late for Americans and their children. Like millions of Jews caught in Germany and Poland, the normalcy bias will have numbed them to the gradual change. And they will find themselves inside of an M2 dictatorship. And so will you, unless you are equipped to avoid this fate. It won’t be easy. Based on my assessment of the culture, and even of the Objectivist sub-culture, I think that very few will actually avoid the worst. History’s big changes have always been events that just seem to happen to people who don’t understand how they got caught in the middle of them. But you can understand history! It is possible, if you drag yourself out of that sense of normalcy that is numbing you to the decline of America, and take charge of your own personal trajectory through history. You can generate one of two crucial outcomes: either 1) the society around you collapses, and you find a way to insulate yourself, or simply to get out, thus avoiding the worst, or 2) you can actually help to shape the culture towards an alternate outcome. Isn’t either of these two immeasurably better than just being another one of history’s anonymous victims? I know. It’s summertime. There are beaches and barbecues to enjoy. Pretty soon football season will be upon us. Unfortunately, so will the war to implement Obamacare. Yup, history is happening. Life here and now absolutely has to have two aspects: enjoy what you’ve got, and prepare. The latter has to be a ruthlessly intellectual process. It has to be a quest to truly understand the world around us, bring it into focus, such that we have an actionable, forward-looking framework of philosophical and historical guidance to optimize how we define our values and take the steps necessary to mitigate what history is going to do to us. If you are ready to take charge of your trajectory through history, stay tuned to Powell History. My goal as a historian is to make the means available to you, and I have many new products — including FREE ones! — in the works for the coming year. If you can take advantage of these, then you can at least achieve a personally optimal historical outcome over the years to come. That advocates of reason and rights can affect a culture-level change is, tragically, very unlikely. Again, I agree with Leonard Peikoff on this. We’re just too far gone and the society at large is just too unreceptive to good ideas. That’s not a reason to give up. That’s a reason to fight harder. And to prepare oneself. I know nobody wants to think about this stuff. It’s complex and depressing. The key is to understand that there IS a path for each of us to get through history as safe and as happy as possible, and to begin taking steps ourselves in the right direction, as history proceeds along its steps in the other. People have done it before, and we can do it too. Sincerely, Scott Powell Creator and Teacher, A First History for Adults and HistoryAtOurHouse Link to Original
  18. In 1907, America’s “Great White Fleet” began its circumnavigation of the world, as ordered by President Theodore Roosevelt. It was an important symbolic step in America’s transition from from a policy of self-defense to one of international policing. “Teddy” claimed that his policies as president were derived from the Monroe Doctrine, the culminating foreign policy statement of the Founding Fathers. In truth, however, he was the president most responsible for the dramatic shift in American foreign policy towards “making the world safe for democracy.” This resulted in its entanglement in first European, then Middle-Eastern, and — in the shift that will characterize the 21st century — far-Eastern affairs (beginning with Obama’s “pivot to Asia”). The expansion of America’s capability to project force anywhere in the world was obviously a part of its shift towards actively engaging the world as a police power, and the Great White Fleet announced this capability to the world. The “Great White Fleet”: Teddy’s “Big Stick” In 2002, less than a hundred years later, the Chinese navy completed its first circumnavigation of the globe. It was far less spectacular, to be sure, with the expedition consisting of a single missile destroyer and fueling ship. Nonetheless, it was a statement, to be considered within a wider context of China’s changing conduct. In 2008, Chinese navy vessels began operating in the Gulf of Aden against Somali pirates, in the first ever military deployment for China outside of the “Asia-Pacific” region. In 2010, Chinese navy ships were deployed for the first time in the Mediterranean Sea, which, in consideration of world history seems to have an even greater symbolic significance than the prior circumnavigation. Undoubtedly, they watched as Western powers overthrew the Libyan regime, and are there to gather as much intelligence when Syria is targeted. In September 2011 the PLAN made further steps to a “blue water navy” when its first aircraft carrier, the rebuilt ex-Soviet carrier Varyag was deployed for sea trials. That’s an interesting list of firsts. In the explosive geo-political context of Asia, I’m struck by the following: How long was it, after the US navy circumnavigated the world was it that the United States was playing the decisive role in World War I? Ten years. We are now ten years after the Chinese navy first did it. To be sure, China has not indicated that it intends to police the world. Wen Jiabao is no Teddy, and the world can be thankful for that. However, with virtually all of its oil flowing from the Indian Ocean into the Straights of Malacca, it is notable that China’s naval development is accelerating and its posturing for control of the South China Sea is increasing. In the second installment of 1HFA5: Japan, China, India, and the New Era of the Balance of Power, we’ll be looking specifically at China, and its increasingly confident and aggressive response to subordination by the West. We’ll explore the history of China, from its founding through to the present, in order to answer the question: What is China? And what will it do? It is perhaps the question of the 21st century. It certainly is not a question Americans can afford to ignore. Registration for this course segment, as well as the entire “First History” of Asia, is now open. We’ll cover the story of China in eight lectures, once a week, starting September 22. See the program webpage for details. Live classes using WebEx are available, along with podcast recordings, easily accessible through iTunes. Registration is available here. Link to Original
  19. In 1907, America’s “Great White Fleet” began its circumnavigation of the world, as ordered by President Theodore Roosevelt. It was an important symbolic step in America’s transition from from a policy of self-defense to one of international policing. “Teddy” claimed that his policies as president were derived from the Monroe Doctrine, the culminating foreign policy statement of the Founding Fathers. In truth, however, he was the president most responsible for the dramatic shift in American foreign policy towards “making the world safe for democracy.” This resulted in its entanglement in first European, then Middle-Eastern, and — in the shift that will characterize the 21st century — far-Eastern affairs (beginning with Obama’s “pivot to Asia”). The expansion of America’s capability to project force anywhere in the world was obviously a part of its shift towards actively engaging the world as a police power, and the Great White Fleet announced this capability to the world. The “Great White Fleet”: Teddy’s “Big Stick” In 2002, less than a hundred years later, the Chinese navy completed its first circumnavigation of the globe. It was far less spectacular, to be sure, with the expedition consisting of a single missile destroyer and fueling ship. Nonetheless, it was a statement, to be considered within a wider context of China’s changing conduct. In 2008, Chinese navy vessels began operating in the Gulf of Aden against Somali pirates, in the first ever military deployment for China outside of the “Asia-Pacific” region. In 2010, Chinese navy ships were deployed for the first time in the Mediterranean Sea, which, in consideration of world history seems to have an even greater symbolic significance than the prior circumnavigation. Undoubtedly, they watched as Western powers overthrew the Libyan regime, and are there to gather as much intelligence when Syria is targeted. In September 2011 the PLAN made further steps to a “blue water navy” when its first aircraft carrier, the rebuilt ex-Soviet carrier Varyag was deployed for sea trials. That’s an interesting list of firsts. In the explosive geo-political context of Asia, I’m struck by the following: How long was it, after the US navy circumnavigated the world was it that the United States was playing the decisive role in World War I? Ten years. We are now ten years after the Chinese navy first did it. To be sure, China has not indicated that it intends to police the world. Wen Jiabao is no Teddy, and the world can be thankful for that. However, with virtually all of its oil flowing from the Indian Ocean into the Straights of Malacca, it is notable that China’s naval development is accelerating and its posturing for control of the South China Sea is increasing. In the second installment of 1HFA5: Japan, China, India, and the New Era of the Balance of Power, we’ll be looking specifically at China, and its increasingly confident and aggressive response to subordination by the West. We’ll explore the history of China, from its founding through to the present, in order to answer the question: What is China? And what will it do? It is perhaps the question of the 21st century. It certainly is not a question Americans can afford to ignore. Registration for this course segment, as well as the entire “First History” of Asia, is now open. We’ll cover the story of China in eight lectures, once a week, starting September 22. See the program webpage for details. Live classes using WebEx are available, along with podcast recordings, easily accessible through iTunes. Registration is available here. Original entry: See link at top of this post
  20. Debt Aggregation Follow-Up: My first “vectors” feature on debt aggregation featured the story of Spain’s debt aggregation landscape. Today two stories have emerged to complement Spain’s debt aggregation narrative. First, from Zero Hedge: Valencia Announces SOS, Needs To Tap Government LIquidity Support Just Eurogroup Accepts Spanish Bailout Plan Spain’s heavily indebted eastern region of Valencia said on Friday it would apply for help under the government’s 18 billion euro plan passed on Thursday aimed at helping regional finances. This, just shortly on the heels of a Spanish bank rescue announcement, from Bloomberg: Euro Finance Chiefs Give Final Approval to Spain Bank Rescue Euro-area finance ministers gave final approval to as much as 100 billion euros ($122 billion) of bank aid for Spain, putting Greece back on the front line of the bloc’s crisis-fighting agenda. Note that the “bank aid” is a loan, via the EFSF mechanism. This is the essence of debt aggregation: with national “too big to fail” institutions given cheap money permitted by international collusion to keep them afloat.” For the foreseeable future, Europe’s leaders will use debt aggregation to “kick the can down the road.” It never ceases to amaze me that this works to assuage the financial markets, and how well it “works” to keep the economy going, but piling more debt onto already un-payable debt leads to only one place: default. In a coming update, I’ll try to predict when that is going to happen, by dissecting Germany’s untenable position in the Eurozone from a historical perspective. Original entry: See link at top of this post
  21. My first “vectors” feature on debt aggregation featured the story of Spain’s debt aggregation landscape. Today two stories have emerged to complement Spain’s debt aggregation narrative. First, from Zero Hedge: Valencia Announces SOS, Needs To Tap Government LIquidity Support Just Eurogroup Accepts Spanish Bailout Plan Spain’s heavily indebted eastern region of Valencia said on Friday it would apply for help under the government’s 18 billion euro plan passed on Thursday aimed at helping regional finances. This, just shortly on the heels of a Spanish bank rescue announcement, from Bloomberg: Euro Finance Chiefs Give Final Approval to Spain Bank Rescue Euro-area finance ministers gave final approval to as much as 100 billion euros ($122 billion) of bank aid for Spain, putting Greece back on the front line of the bloc’s crisis-fighting agenda. Note that the “bank aid” is a loan, via the EFSF mechanism. This is the essence of debt aggregation: with national “too big to fail” institutions given cheap money permitted by international collusion to keep them afloat.” For the foreseeable future, Europe’s leaders will use debt aggregation to “kick the can down the road.” It never ceases to amaze me that this works to assuage the financial markets, and how well it “works” to keep the economy going, but piling more debt onto already un-payable debt leads to only one place: default. In a coming update, I’ll try to predict when that is going to happen, by dissecting Germany’s untenable position in the Eurozone from a historical perspective. Original entry: See link at top of this post
  22. A Little-Known Fact About Seppuku: A Japanese nobleman prepares to kill himself. Why? Because he’d rather die than try to make sense of Japanese history using conventional sources! The answer is Powell History’s “First History” method! The first lecture of my new course on the First History of Japan for Adults will be available FREE as a podcast, exclusively on Facebook, as of this Saturday!Please join me at: http://www.facebook.com/AFirstHistoryForAdults for the solution! Original entry: See link at top of this post
  23. The “Debt Aggregation” Vector: In the “Insight” segment of my series on the Five “I”s of History, I briefly introduced the idea of a new “Vectors” feature in the PHR blog. The basic theme I had in mind for this segment was that a proper study of history gives us “insight” into how the world around us came to be and the processes that govern how history is unfolding around us. In that original post I also hinted that the first example of a “vector” that I would be discussing is what I call the “debt aggregation vector.” This “vector,” in my view, is a key mechanism governing how the ongoing global economic crisis is unfolding. Here is what it is and why it matters, using the obvious and instructive example of Spain–one of the global dominoes that is now falling before the US, and whose fate will be determined by the precise implementation of the debt aggregation mechanism… Let’s start with the official Spanish Debt-to-GDP. This is the number that news agencies usually talk about when discussing the solvency of national governments. As per this article, and countless others, it hovers somewhere around 75 to 80%. Not bad–compared to the US anyways, which is now over 100%–or Italy, at 137%–or Greece, somewhere around 170%. The problem with these figures is that they do not incorporate the reality that is debt aggregation. Every country that has a debt problem–there are no major economies that don’t!–has layers of private and public debt residing below those of its federal government, which–when push comes to shove–are being aggregated to the federal level by some mechanism or other. In Spain, we see the reality of this with recent news about Catalonia demanding a bailout from the Spanish government. As discussed on Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis (which Powell History recommends) –the federal response has been to propose to collectivize/aggregate regional debt into “hispanbonos,” or joint bonds, to facilitate debt financing. This will allow local governments to continued to live beyond their means for some time, avoiding any more “austerity” (in the form of cutbacks in government spending) at a time when the Spanish economy is already in a depression, and where the spending of local governments provides jobs and nominal GDP that no one can accept dropping any further. But the debt aggregation mechanism keeping the Spanish economy afloat does not just pertain to local governments being bolstered by national ones. There is another axis of debt aggregation. Recently Spain announced it would nationalize the third largest Spanish bank, Bankia. This will add 24 Billion dollars or more to its debt–who knows, the figure increases almost daily. In a refrain that is familiar to Americans, Bankia is considered “too big to fail,” and Spain’s socialization of its debt is characterized by government officials as an “investment.” Following not long after this bit of news, it became evident that not just Bankia, but rather the entire Spanish banking system was in need of a bailout. The latest of 19 EU emergency meetings on the European financial/debt crisis was focused precisely on the question of debt aggregation. Indeed the entire trajectory of the European Union over the next two-to-three years depends on the answer to the question: to aggregate, or not to aggregate. That really is the question. If Germany agrees to issue so-called “Eurobonds” and to supranationalize the banks in the European Union, then the market will be fooled into thinking a solution has been found, and there will be a sense of normalcy returning to the financial world for perhaps a couple years. What debt aggregation buys is time. It is what a lot of commentators call “kicking the can down the road.” Of course, if Germany does not agree, then it’s financial Armageddon for Europe. Already, French journalist Pierre Jovanovic (sorry, it’s in French!) has been feverishly documenting the aggressive measures being taken by French banks to prevent bank withdrawals in that country. The bank runs in Greece and Spain being well documented already, it will only take the slightest indication that the banks are on their own, for them all to face the kind of mayhem we all remember from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s not just George Soros, who recently weighed in on Bloomberg, who thinks the Euro experiment is at the edge of a cliff. The entire financial market is begging for debt aggregation. Spain’s debt financing, which is the measure of the market’s willingness to deal with Spain one-on-one, is becoming untenable. With yields on Spanish 10-year bonds reaching for 7%, Spain needs a bailout of its own. In the EU context national debt must be aggregated into supranational debt. This is one of the favorite themes of new French president Hollande for propping up the Eurozone. In this theory, all European borrowers can benefit from lumping their debt together with Germany, as the core economic powerhouse whose debt financing capability is (relatively) solid. That way, profligate regions and nations can continue to pile on debt, while not having to pay the rates they otherwise would have to while bankrupting themselves. Aggregation to this level in Europe is difficult, however, because the United States of Europe are not the federal equivalent of the United States of America. Germans don’t want so-called “Eurobonds.” Which is why different forms of more stealthy debt aggregation have been used already and will continue to be used. The EFSF (“European Financial Stability Facility”) is supposedly morphing into the ESM (“European Stability Mechanism”), which will runs alongside the ELA (“Emergency Liquidity Assistance”) and LTRO (“Long Term Refinancing Operation”), and other sundry mechanisms concocted by central banking philosopher kings that the general populace cannot possible keep track of. (Don’t think it’s just a European problem! How many Americans know the difference between QE1, QE Lite, QE2 and the Fed’s “Operation Twist”?) Regardless, at some point, even though you can fool most of the people most of the time, you can’t fake reality. The games governments are playing with the debt they have accumulated and the debt they have encouraged others to accumulate which they are now socializing lead only to one place: default. Right now this only seems to be a problem for Greece and Spain. But I invite every reader out there to go a little debt comparison shopping between the four largest economies in the world–Europe, the US, China and Japan. If you’re American, and you’re worried about America’s debt, think about what debt aggregation will do to that debt, and how quickly the situation in America could get out of control. California just voted to aggregate its debt to the federal level, by means of a phantom monorail. And America’s most cash-strapped cities are now proposing to pay your student loans for you! These and all the past and present debt-aggregation mechanisms that will pile more debt onto the federal government will eventually reach a dramatic end point. Watch for it. You’ll know when the next phase of the financial crisis is coming when debt-aggregation ceases to work. Original entry: See link at top of this post
  24. Powell History Asia Watch – 052212: Japan’s federal debt is scheduled to reach 240% of GDP by the end of this year. Not surprisingly, Fitch downgraded Japan today, from AA to A+. Here’s the standard treatment from the Financial Times: Fitch Downgrades Japan on Public Finances. To rate Japan A+ is generous, to say the least. It is *impossible* for Japan to meet its obligations by growing its economy. It is undergoing the early stages of a demographic implosion, and its economy is a shambles after the 3/11 disaster. As Kyle Bass is well known for explaining, Japan’s financial situation is “spring loaded,” with disastrous consequences, if even the slightest changes occurs to its debt financing costs, and these changes are coming fast! Here’s Bass, discussing the matter, in brief: In my upcoming course, The First History for Adults, Part 5-1: The History of Japan, I will discuss how Japan got into its present predicament, what the essence of the present historical moment is for Japanese culture, and what the likeliest outcomes are that will shake the world in the 21st century. The course starts July 14th, and discounted registration is still available! Original entry: See link at top of this post
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