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What Tom Barnett should have told Congress about America’s 21st century Navy

3 April 2009

Thomas Barnett is one of our foremost geopolitical visionaries, so his presentations are always worth attention.  His latest is insightful and elegantly expressed, as always.  However, I have a few suggestions — minor changes to make  it better suit the current situation and needs of America.  (I have a draft post in the pipeline describing the implication of the revised Barnett speech for our naval forces.)

Statement submitted By Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett, Senior Managing Director, Enterra Solutions LLC to the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, United States Congress, 26 March 2009 (Hat tip to the always-interesting Zenpundit).

I fully agree with the opening of Barnett’s presentation:

I appear before the subcommittee today to provide my professional analysis of the current global security environment and future conflict trends, concentrating on how accurately–in my opinion–America’s naval services address both in their strategic vision and force-structure planning. As has been the case throughout my 2 decades of working for, and with, the Department of Navy, current procurement plans portend a “train wreck” between desired fleet size and likely future budget levels dedicated to shipbuilding.

I am neither surprised nor dismayed by this current mismatch, for it reflects the inherent tension between the Department’s continuing desire to maintain some suitable portion of its legacy force and its more recent impulse toward adapting itself to the far more prosaic tasks of integrating globalization’s “frontier areas” — as I like to call them — as part of our nation’s decades-long effort to play bodyguard to the global economy’s advance, as well as defeat its enemies in the “long war against violent extremism” following 9/11. Right now, this tension is mirrored throughout the Defense Department as a whole: between what Secretary Gates has defined as the “next-war-itis” crowd (primarily Air Force and Navy) and those left with the ever-growing burdens of the long war — namely, the Army and Marines.

Let’s skip ahead to the money paragraph:

As someone who helped write the Department of Navy’s white paper, …From the Sea, in the early 1990s and has spent the last decade arguing that America’s grand strategy should center on fostering globalization’s advance, I greatly welcome the Department’s 2007 Maritime Strategic Concept that stated:

“United States seapower will be globally postured to secure our homeland and citizens from direct attack and to advance our interests around the world. As our security and prosperity are inextricably linked with those of others, U.S. maritime forces will be deployed to protect and sustain the peaceful global system comprised of interdependent networks of trade, finance, information, law, people and governance.’

I suggest a few tweaks to the remaining text.  Better yet, let’s throw it out and substitute the following text.

The remainder of Barnett’s presentation, if I had written it

I welcome the Department’s 2007 document because we must confront the ugly reality that this no longer fits either America’s needs or capabilities.  It reflects the situation of the post-WWII era, now fading away.  The major developed nations — the “core” of Japan, Europe, and the US — have entered a period of extreme internal stress.  We all suffer from some combination of demographic decline, bankrupt social retirement systems, and unsustainable government debt loads.  We can no longer carry the burden of leviathan military forces “to protect and sustain the peaceful global system.”

America’s finances cannot bear this burden, which we have carried almost alone for so long.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost approximately $2 trillion, every dime of which was borrowed from foreign governments.  The cost of these wars, the current economic downturn, and the looming retirement of the boomers have initiated the solvency crisis long forecast by so many expert economists and agencies (both US and international; see here for a partial list).  The US Comptroller General, the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve, the IMF, Moody’s, Standard and Poors — we have ignored all their warnings.  Now the bills come due, and expenses must be cut.

The core nations collectively have the resources to operate a leviathan military force, but Japan and the EU show little willingness to do so.  It is not just a matter of money.  As the pseudonymous Spengler wrote at Asia Times (“Why Europe chooses extinction“, 8 April 2003):

{They} are pacifists, not merely in the Persian Gulf, but on their own Balkans doorstep. If they cannot be bothered to reproduce, why should any European soldier sacrifice himself for future generations that never will be born?

This harsh reality should force an immediate revamp of our national military strategy.  Among those warning about the folly of our current policies is William Lind who recently wrote:

The differences between the neo-liberals and the neo-cons are few. Both are militant believers in Brave New World, a Globalist future in which everyone on earth becomes modern. In the view of these ideologues, the fact that billions of people are willing to fight to the death against modernity is, like the river Pregel, an unimportant military obstacle. We just need to buy more Predators.

Meanwhile, the money is running out. The ancien regime syndrome looms ever larger: we not only maintain but increase foolish foreign commitments, at the same time that debt is piling up, those willing to lend become fewer and we are reduced to debasing the currency. Historians have seen it all before, many, many times. It never has a happy ending.

Changes must be made.  It’s time for a new grand strategy to suit the needs of a new age, the basis of our naval strategy in the 21st century.  Rather than the neo-colonial ambitions advocated in my books, I now recommend the defensive strategy recommended by Douglas MacGregor (Colonel, US Army, retired) in “Refusing battle – The alternative to persistent warfare“ (Armed Forces Journal , April 2009).  America needs to focus on defense while we rebuilt at home.  This will allow a large reduction in our military spending, both capital and operating costs.

Likewise, I recommend reading these posts by Fabius Maximus:

  1. Thoughts on FMFM1-A, an important tool for survival in the 21st century, 6 July 2005
  2. Lessons Learned from the American Expedition to Iraq, 29 December 2005
  3. Why We Lose at 4GW, 4 July 2007
  4. A solution to 4GW – the introduction, 12 March 2008
  5. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I, 7 June 2008
  6. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part II, 14 June 2008

Perhaps other nations will see the value of a global military force to maintain peace and order.  If so, they can choose one of the following courses:

  • fund our military forces,
  • expand their own forces, or
  • help build a multi-national military force.

Meanwhile, we will rely on our a still-powerful military force — perhaps reconfigured along the lines described by Chet Richards in his seminal book If We Can Keep It, sufficient to guarantee sudden and sure destruction to any nation which strikes at us.  More importantly, we must sharpen our intelligence and law enforcement apparatus — obviously our primary defense against threats such as al Qaeda.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Some posts about America’s grand strategy:

  1. The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
  2. America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
  3. America takes another step towards the “Long War” , 24 July 2007
  4. One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
  5. America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past , 30 June 2008  – chapter 1 in a series of notes
  6. America’s grand strategy, now in shambles , 2 July 2008 — chapter 3
  7. America’s grand strategy, insanity at work , 7 July 2008 — chapter 4
  8. Justifying the use of force, a key to success in 4GW , 8 July 2008 – chapter 5
  9. A lesson in war-mongering: “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief” , 8 July 2008 — chapter 6
  10. Geopolitical analysis need not be war-mongering , 9 July 2008 — chapter 7
  11. The world seen through the lens of 4GW (this gives a clearer picture) , (10 July 2008 — chapter 8
  12. The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008
  13. “A shattering moment in America’s fall from power”, 19 November 2008
  14. Is America a destabilizing force in the world?, 23 January 2009
  15. The US Army brings us back to the future, returning to WWI’s “cult of the offense”, 13 February 2009
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22 Comments leave one →
  1. senecal permalink
    3 April 2009 3:49 am

    Let us know how Barnett receives your editings! I’m completely on your side, in this one. I didn’t imagine that an intelligent person could still speak in terms of “fostering globalization’s advance, or “integrating globalizations frontiers”. That’s what we used to call “crackpot realism.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Dreams die slowly, reluctantly.

    Like

  2. Roberto Buffagni permalink
    3 April 2009 9:48 am

    “Spengler”: “{They} are pacifists, not merely in the Persian Gulf, but on their own Balkans doorstep. If they cannot be bothered to reproduce, why should any European soldier sacrifice himself for future generations that never will be born?”

    As a European (and a son of an officer in the Italian Army who in WWII was awarded the Silver Medal at El Alamein, and a nephew of another officer in the same Army who in WWI was awarded the Gold Medal at Monte Grappa, and a father of four children who in his young age served as a non-commissioned officer in “Divisione Folgore”, “Battaglione Col Moschin”, a parachutist force in the Italian Army about which you can ask any American Green Beret, or any British S.A.S.) I’d like to add something.

    1) Unfortunately, there is something true in what Mr. Spengler writes. Many Europeans are, indeed, “pacifists” in the lower, sillier and dishounorable meaning of the word, aka they are not pacifists because they dislike killing, they are pacifists because they dislike to be killed. It is true, too, that too many Europeans prefer not to be fathers and mothers, which is of course a bad omen for any society.

    2) I think that there are many causes for this unhappy predicament in which we Europeans find ourselves. I’ll skip them all, except the following: most of European nations are militarily occupied countries, who lack the basical sovereignty of a free nation. The occupier are the United States of America, who won WWII, and 64 years later still keep their military bases on European soil.

    This means that we are not free peoples; and as Etienne La Boétie (an intimate friend of Michel de Montaigne) used to say some six centuries ago, “la servitude est toujours volontaire”, serfdom is always voluntary, mainly because when you are a slave, you have no responsibilities (except in keeping your master happy). Fighting one’s own wars, and raising one’s own children, are both a matter of responsibility. If we are not too good at them both, maybe it’s because we still tolerate your domination.

    But, who knows? As you say in America, “things change”.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Do you have any evidence that a large fraction of the people in western Europe consider the American’s as “occupiers”? Otherwise this should be classified as imaginative nonsense, IMO.

    “most of European nations are militarily occupied countries”

    France is not an “occupied” nation in any sense. We have had no bases there since 1967; France has nukes. Are the French people not “pacifists”, in the sense Spengler uses? Do the German’s consider themselves less free than the French?

    Like

  3. rbach permalink
    3 April 2009 12:12 pm

    The big footprint by the US military may well be too costly for the US to maintain. However, the small footprint contacts with other militaries around the world–such as described by Robert Kaplan in Imperial Grunts– is one way to have a strategy the has potential for major impact to advance our interests globally.

    Like

  4. gpanfile permalink
    3 April 2009 1:23 pm

    Hear, hear. Let us simply adopt this policy by acclimation, now. And turn our attentions to getting the military-industrial-political-financial complex on board, or throw them overboard, as needed.

    Like

  5. Roberto Buffagni permalink
    3 April 2009 3:08 pm

    “Do you have any evidence that a large fraction of the people in western Europe consider the American’s as “occupiers”?”
    I don’t know if, in an imaginary referendum about your military bases, 51% of Europeans would vote for or against you (nobody knows, because this kind of referendum will never be held). I think that your military presence in Europe is the biggest case in the world of “elephant in the drawing room”. And military occupiers you are, whatever the Europeans may think. Yes, we are allies, too: but if you don’t think that foreign military bases on national soil amount to military occupation, why don’t you ask us Europeans, in the quality of longtime allies, to build some military bases, well packed with nuclear missiles, on U.S. soil? In the present economic distress, it could help you to spare some bucks on your Defense budget, don’t you think?

    “France is not an “occupied” nation in any sense. We have had no bases there since 1967; France has nukes.”

    You have no bases there, because General Charles de Gaulle -the greatest French and European patriot of XX century – sent you home, and contemporarily built his nuclear “force de frappe”, because he wanted to get back France’s sovereignty. You did not go away spontaneously, of course. I simply think that it’s in Europeans’ best interest (and duty) to do all over Europe just what de Gaulle did in France. It’s very difficult, and maybe we’ll never succeed, but I dont’ think that it’s “imaginative nonsense”.

    “Are the French people not “pacifists”, in the sense Spengler uses?”

    I can assure you, by personal knowledge and experience, that a “significant fraction” of French ruling class are NOT “pacifists” in the sense Spengler uses; and that when the French government stood against you, when you attacked Irak, the French people was happy and proud (and NOT because they were afraid to fight).

    “Do the German’s consider themselves less free than the French?”

    I don’t know. I know that they ARE, just like us Italians, less fre than the French. I can assure you, too, that “a significant fraction” of the Italian ruling class, and especially some of the best officers and high echelon public servants, are very tired of your military occupation. If you want an example, google “General Fabio Mini”.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for your candor. As expected, you were just making this up — imagining (without any evidence) that many or most of Europe’s people shared your weird view that the US “occupies” Europe. Shifting the discussion from “Europe is occupied” to “Europe does not like our bases” was a nice try, but too obvious. (BTW — there was no need to repeat the material from the Wikipedia link I provided to the entry about France’s exit from NATO; interested folks can click on the link.)

    No more of your rants, please. You have gone far off-topic from the Spengler quote you originally questioned.

    Like

  6. 3 April 2009 3:58 pm

    Your suggested text is a great improvement on Barnett’s thinking, which is saturated with paranoia and hubris, as your essay “America’s Most Dangerous Enemy” pointed out. William Pfaff stated in “America’s National Strategy of Global Intervention“, posted at his website on 15 October 2008:

    “The noteworthy thing about this National Defense Strategy statement is that it says nothing directly about American national defense. It is a strategy for intervening in other countries, and preventing others from blocking or resisting American interventions.”

    One interesting historical footnote on how we got here is that the “Department of Defense” was not the first name used when the War and Navy Departments were combined after World War II. Rather, it was termed the National Military Establishment. The name was changed because of the unfortunate acronym: NME.

    Speaking of calling things by their proper names, gpanfile’s comment #4 refers to the “military-industrial-political-financial complex”. An earlier draft of Eisenhower’s Farewell Speech about the military-industrial complex referred to the military-industrial-congressional complex. I suggest the term MICFiC – M ilitary I ndustrial C ongressional Fi nancial C orporate media complex

    Like

  7. Roberto Buffagni permalink
    3 April 2009 6:37 pm

    FM: “As expected, you were just making this up — imagining (without any evidence) that many or most of Europe’s people shared your weird view that the US “occupies” Europe. … No more of your rants, please.”

    Bravo! You have displayed a good mix of sophistry, arrogance, and lack of good manners. Thank you for your (and your countrymen’s) invaluable help in making my “weird view” shared by most of Europe’s people.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s not that kind of site. Assertions with no factual basis get no respect here. It’s not like a summer camp in California where everybody gets an award to boost their self-esteem.

    Like

  8. Charles du Fontaine permalink
    3 April 2009 7:10 pm

    Europeans only want the good life. No children, minimal work, minimal civic responsibility, early retirement. US military bases are rarely encountered or considered in the overall equation. Instead, it is the abstract concept of a US defense umbrella over our heads, making European defense forces unnecessary, that has a weakening tendency on the spirit of Europe. “Someone else is watching over us, why should we bother?”

    This is not to be a long term problem, as the indigenous population of Europe is going the way of the dodo, the neandertal, and the passenger pigeon. Time will alter the map so that those who have the will to strive and procreate will remake Europe in their own image.

    Hear the cry of the native European homo sapiens. Preserved on this recording for posterity’s sake. Just before he disappeared forever, a victim of his own good life.
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    FM note: Another excerpt from Spengler, “Why Europe chooses extinction“, 8 April 2003:

    “For today’s Europeans, there is no consolation, neither the old pagan continuity of national culture, nor the Christian continuity into the hereafter. The French know that Victor Hugo, Gauloise cigarettes, Chateau Lafitte and Impressionist painters one day will become a matter of antiquarian curiosity. The Germans know that no one but bored schoolboys will read Goethe two centuries hence, like Pindar. They have no ambition but to die quietly, no concerns except for those amusements which might reduce boredom and anxiety en route to the grave. They have no passions except hatred born of envy.”

    Like

  9. anna nicholas permalink
    3 April 2009 9:42 pm

    I think many British people like myself would agree with Buffagni’s comments; we are sick of being US poodle; sick of being EU pawns; we look with respect at the French. They even get away with demonstrating!
    If Europeans do not have many children, have you ever asked them why? Firstly, caring parents tell girls they must, must have education when young, and then careers. When the good girls finally dare to opt out the rat race – they are past peak fertility. Others would love lots of kids, but have to both work, as homes are small (difficult to live with parents) and expensive. They cannot afford more than one or two kids. Also, baaad teenage girls who get pregnant are encouraged to abort, rather than helped to set up home with the father . Others feel it irresponsible to add too many to the worlds population, and dont feel their genes are anymore valuable than those of a woman who has no family planning available. Others are afraid their child will be born to a life of suffering in a bleak future. For most of us, ‘not reproducing’ actually involves quite a bit of bother!
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Do you believe that something so important has not been extensively studied? See the FM reference page about Demography – studies & reports, which has links to a wide range of reports — which will give answers, not guesses, to these important questions.

    As for your guesses about the opinions of the British people, I would perfer to see polls or studies. Experience has taught me that people tend to represent their views as those of their group.

    Like

  10. Kdog permalink
    3 April 2009 10:16 pm

    FM, Great assessment and adjustments as always. This defensive posture will not only save money for current and future US generations, but will also get us more inline with constitiional constraints and restraints (of legacy Jeffersonains) rather than the excess free-trader/globalists (of legacy Federalists). I think we are returning to the same old historical grand strategy debates — too think we even have PIRATES reminding us of sea control priorities to protect global trade.

    Reading the latest GAO report on IRAQ spending seems we are down at least a trillion on the gamble that could be spent on FCS or 313. I do not see any big fleets being bought for decisive battles at sea. I noticed on TB web-page some favorable comments for the THE GAMBLE; maybe someone should pick up were DANGEROUS NATION by ROBERT KAGAN left off…and CORBETT and the BRITISH got their modernation plan approved in the early part of last century — MAHAN was the inspriation just not the end-state for the older great power.
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    FM note: Kdog refers to “Global War on Terrorism: DOD Needs to More Accurately Capture and Report the Costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom“, GAO, 19 March 2009 — Excerpt:

    “Since September 11, 2001, Congress has provided about $808 billion to the Department of Defense (DOD) for the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) in addition to funding in DOD’s base budget. Prior GAO reports have found DOD’s reported GWOT cost data unreliable and found problems with transparency over certain costs.”

    Note footnote #3, that this estimate does not include “reconstitution or reset costs for combat losses, accelerated wear and necessary repairs to damaged equipment or replacement with newer models, and costs to accelerate specific force capability.” We are rapidly burning through the service life of the military’s aircraft and ground vehicles. The cost to replace these will be massive. Larger than massive.

    Like

  11. electrophoresis permalink
    3 April 2009 10:43 pm

    Perhaps providing a supply of these pills to everyone in the American military-industrial complex would reduce our military to a sensible size: “Shoplifters can be cured with a pill”, The Telegraph, 3 April 2009 — “A drug commonly used to treat alcohol and drug addiction may help curb the urge to steal among prolific shoplifters, scientists have said.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Or these pills —

    One pill makes you larger
    And one pill makes you small
    And the ones that mother gives you
    Don’t do anything at all
    — “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane

    Like

  12. Erasmus permalink
    3 April 2009 11:52 pm

    Comment #8: “This is not to be a long term problem, as the indigenous population of Europe is going the way of the dodo, the neandertal, and the passenger pigeon.”

    Drawing trend lines is fun but not all that meaningful. There are over 700 million Europeans. A long way from dodo-hood, especially if you also include the Russians as one should. Urban populations naturally reach a certain saturation point and only by building more cities does more such growth occur. It could keep happening, but surely also we need populations in line with natural and regional resources so they can more or less feed themselves (at least).

    At some point we are all going to have to wrap our heads around economic models that do not depend on perpetual geometric population growth. Sure, we can double again from here, maybe triple or quadruple, i.e. have 24 billion people worldwide. But at some point there will be a limit, and what then? Then maybe everywhere will be like Europe where most people enjoy a very high standard of living and vibrant community and national culture. They are still ahead of the international curve in this respect.

    Personally, I have lived half my life in Europe and it ‘feels’ to me like basically there is a good mix of country and urban, albeit of late a bit too much of the latter versus the former. I would hate to see already overcrowded Paris and Rome double again, for increasingly encroached British countryside to be further undermined etc., nor do I think the France, for example, really ‘needs’ another great city like Paris. Enough is enough.

    But our economic models have no notion of ‘enough’, only more. Perpetual progress neurosis essentially.

    This relates to the larger theme of the thread in the sense that the American Empire model (in shorthand) also depends upon such perpetual growth along with establishing/imposing a certain model upon the involved populations in order to maximize profit and power in a ‘hegemonic’ fashion. Barnett’s definition of the role of US naval power to facilitate such influence seems accurate to me, whether or not it is either truly helpful or necessary.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This comment illustrates the nature of our problem, our broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop. Fertility rates are way below replacement, and still falling (although decellerating). The reasons are deeply rooted in our culture. At what point will folks like Erasmus decide Europe has a problem? When the population is down by 1/2 (a little over one generation for Japan and much of Europe)? Down by 3/4? Hopefully when there is time to take the long and difficult corrective measures to change something so fundamental and slow to alter as fertility rates.

    This is just a replay of the problems that got us to this point. Our economic policies — for example, our social retirement systems — were obviously flawed, as many experts warned decades ago. Yet we have folks who even today say that “Drawing trend lines is fun but not all that meaningful”. Just imagining that everything will turn out well is much more pleasant and popular.

    In the words of the immortal Dr. Pangloss: “all is the for the best in the this, the best of all possible worlds.” Dr. Pangloss represents the thinking of a cultural that faces death, and deserves it according the harsh ways of Nature.

    Like

  13. senor tomas permalink
    4 April 2009 1:21 am

    “our social retirement systems — were obviously flawed, as many experts warned decades ago”

    Yep. Defined-benefit retirement plans – including Social Security – are Ponzi schemes.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Defined-benefit plans are not ponzi schemes if fully-funded according to the relevant accounting rules (FASB 87 and 106). But the penalties for not doing so are inadequate.

    Like

  14. Missing Link permalink
    4 April 2009 4:17 am

    FM – Well said, WRTO your commentaries on other’s commentaries. On the bright side, all things progress in waves, and nothing goes up or down forever. Europe won’t go to zero, but the change in public opinion to something favoring policies that encourage continued existence will be long in coming – and unfortunately, for us, too, here in the US. I suspect we are in for a longer, naggingly painful time in the next 12 to 16 years. We’ll be lucky if “boom” it gets really bad and then we recover.

    Thank you for providing us your direct vision of reality, so that we may all share.

    Like

  15. 4 April 2009 3:19 pm

    I don’t claim to know public opinion in Europe about the U.S. military presence there. However, Prof. (retired Col.) Andrew Bacevich advocates moving our troops out: “How do we save NATO? We quit“, op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, 2 April 2009 — Excerpt:

    “The difference between 1949 and 2009 is that present-day Europe is more than capable of addressing today’s threat, without American assistance or supervision. Collectively, the Europeans don’t need U.S. troops or dollars, both of which are in short supply anyway and needed elsewhere. Yet as long as the United States sustains the pretense that Europe cannot manage its own affairs, the Europeans will endorse that proposition, letting Americans foot most of the bill. Only if Washington makes it clear that the era of free-riding has ended will Europe grow up.”

    Also note “Sarkozy, Merkel Frozen in the Cold War“, Edouard Husson, Antiwar.com, 3 April 2009 — Husson is “a specialist in 20th-century German and European history at the Sorbonne”. Excerpt:

    “This is a sad time for France and the rest of Europe. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided – without asking the French Parliament and against the majority of the French people – that France must be reintegrated as a military power into NATO’s command. This is not only a coup d’etat, it is also the most reactionary choice you could imagine. In trying to pull it off, Sarkozy is swimming against deep and forceful historical currents in Europe. In doing so, he may be bringing some comfort to the transatlantic elites, but it will be short-lived, because the peoples of Europe will resist the arbitrary will of their governments.”

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  16. 4 April 2009 4:25 pm

    Sun Tzu: “When weapons are blunted, and ardor dampened, strength exhausted, and resources depleted, the neighboring rulers will take advantage of these complications.”

    Same old.

    Re : Paranoia + Hubris = Thomas Barnett

    Do guys like these listen to the way they talk? The whole U.S. economy’s crumblin’ right before everyone’s viscera, so what’s gonna fuel the MICFiC? More borrowin’ from other nation-states who are up to their own neck in financial c***? Gonna take more than just firepower to solve America’s present list of woes, economic & otherwise.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree, except for one detail. The US trade account deficit (and hence foreign borrowing) decreases during recessions. The government will be funded by:
    (1) private sector savings increase, as fear replaces greed in people’s minds;
    (2) private sector consumption and investment decreases, and these funds are channeled into government bonds;
    (3) the government just prints money (monetizes the government debt).

    Like

  17. anna nicholas permalink
    4 April 2009 8:27 pm

    FM: “Experience has taught me that people tend to represent their views as those of their group.

    Hmm, true, like Socrates? only talking to his friends. But I do talk to a lot of people from various, although far from all, groups.

    Opinion polls can be misleading. My colleague’s’s husband was recently asked by a doorstep pollster, what worried him most. He replied ” immigration”. My colleague, once door shut, asked him in amazement why he’d said that, since they lived in a rural village with no immigrants and he was a busy gaming-machine repairer. He sheepishly replied “Its just been on the telly.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: By the numbers.

    (1) “Opinion polls can be misleading.”
    Of course polls are not perfect, but when properly conducted they have been proven of greater accuracy than people telling stories.

    (2) “My colleague’s’s husband was recently asked”
    I don’t understand why people consider these little stories significant. The plural of data is not “anecdote.”

    (3) “like Socrates? only talking to his friends.”

    A bizarre comparison. I have never met Socrates — or Jesus, anyone like these exception folks. Until I meet such a person, I’ll stick with my so-far-reliable rule of thumb and not trust the sort of impressions you assert as truth.

    Like

    • 28 July 2013 1:27 pm

      From the linked arltcie about the role of money in the last election:”Big Money’s most significant impact on politics is certainly not to deliver elections to the highest bidders. Instead it is to cement parties, candidates, and campaigns into the narrow range of issues that are acceptable to big donors.”Eeyup and amen.

      Like

  18. 5 April 2009 11:19 am

    Re : “private sector consumption and investment decreases, and these funds are channeled into government bonds.” These the ones that China’s buyin’ from the U.S.? Interestin’ times indeed. In layman terms, China’s “lendin'” money to the U.S. in order to keep herself from drownin’ in financial c*** by continuin’ exports to America?
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    Fabius Maximus: It means the exact opposite. US households and corps are spending less and saving more. Much of those funds will be invested in treasuries. The 3 factors mentioned explain why the US needs far less foreign investment during recessions.

    Like

  19. anna nicholas permalink
    5 April 2009 7:13 pm

    “Socrates only talked” (might have been debated or similar word) “with his friends” was a FM’s own comment a few articles back.

    I still think opinion polls are flawed, in the same way as computerised tick box examinations /personality profiles are flawed. A simple example would be the number of people who said they were Jedi warriors in the last UK census.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I am awed that you made the connection to a 2 week old comment (I found it only with Google). I wish I had such a good memory! Still, the references to Socrates are unrelated.

    FM: “Experience has taught me that people tend to represent their views as those of their group.”
    Your reply: “Hmm, true, like Socrates? only talking to his friends”
    Socrates was a great philosopher, whose understanding was beyond that of his peers (or almost anyone).

    The earlier reference was to my comment “As one who has burned time ‘debating’ on forums like Amazon, I disagree. Not that it might be useful in some theoretical sense, but that it is a waste of time. This is the equivalent of discussing politics with strangers at a bar. Socrates never did that, so far as we know, because he was smart and knew that life is too short to waste.” That is, Socrates conversations were the opposite of idle chatter.

    (2) Your comment about the census re-enforces my point. A national census (a large poll) is an imperfect measurement, but clearly more reliable than people’s subjective guesses about these things.

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  20. 6 April 2009 3:05 pm

    “Fabius Maximus: It means the exact opposite. US households and corps are spending less and saving more. Much of those funds will be invested in treasuries. The 3 factors mentioned explain why the US needs far less foreign investment during recessions.”

    As you can see, I’ve made a fool of myself with my pathetic grasp of U.S. policies & basic economics. Thanks for the pointers, FM.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You made a mistake, like the countless ones I’ve made on this site (which is littered with corrections). I don’t consider economics an essential part of an educated person’s body of knowledge. Also, its a complex field — as much as any of the sciences.

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